Copper Dragon

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I don't think I can change things around to the point where they're all initially from different timelines. The game will start with the discovery of time travel, so they all need to be together at that point.

No one's experience point total will change during the trip. They won't be rewinding the tape so much as ejecting it to put in a new one.

I think my initial question has gotten lost in the shuffle. I'm really not worried about the logistics of time travel. I don't care about any of that. In a game with a focus on unknowable horror and otherworldly schemes of such a grand and intricate scale that they seem nonsensical to us, I don't think I need to try *that* hard to make everything make perfect sense. That's really not where I'm struggling.

It's how to go about mapping out and planning the game, and how to achieve that level of seeming complexity without actually driving myself crazy.

VoodistMonk wrote:

If you go back in time to stop "X"... and you succeed... then there wouldn't be a reason for you to have ever went back and stopped "X"... you would never leave, or need/want to leave, in the first place.

Or... these eddies in the flow of time are self-correcting... and you ultimately accomplish nothing.

Or the act of going back somehow removes you from the time-stream as you sort of undo one of the forces anchoring you to reality and begin to drift between dimensions as your brain starts to slowly break down while you experience things the human mind was never meant to.

...or whatever. I don't know. I don't get the whole thought exercise of "why time travel doesn't work" when it comes to fiction. It's *fiction*. I completely fail to comprehend how people can suspend their disbelief that someone may be able to travel through time, but not that time travel could make sense within a fictional universe.

Plus, with the focus on "unknowable, inconceivable horror", not checking every single box of "why this" or "how that" is actually necessary. I think there will be enough strange mysteries and weirdness going down to keep the players busy and content.

I think the game will have to start somewhat near the date of the event back in '82, to offer up some kind of explanation as to why they were given the keys and such at this specific time.

"zza ni wrote:
...('Ming vase' refer to a a state of gaming where something very expensive and fragile is right in the middle of the combat area, and the combatant need to take care not to let it drop and shatter, maybe even need to leap and try and catch it if it falls)

I like that. That will definitely feature in here.

Some more info on what I've got so far:

- each character received a padded manilla envelope containing an ominous letter and a key. The key has a paper tag with 1-9-8-2 written on it. The

- the letter helps the characters find an old radio station in the woods. There's a tunnel/secret underground complex (elements of a bomb shelter and a green house sort of mashed together) nearby. Each key opens one of the doors inside.
Some of the rooms look like abandoned fungi grow projects. Others look like old barracks, but they've been abandoned in the damp dark for long enough they're resembling mushroom gardens as well.

- the numbers station is the U.S.'s attempt to replicate a code that was used during WWII, but not for communication with Army Intelligence. There are a few bare snippets of information that suggest someone had broadcasted a signal (off-planet? Through time? Into another reality?), and that *something* had replied.

- investigating into the radio station will quickly reveal that it's still under surveillance by at least one branch of the government. At least, they seem like a branch of the government.

- there is *something* in the woods. The result of a government project gone wrong. Some kind of carnivorous, parasitic fungus?
Or maybe that radio broadcast was received by something from another world. And it answered.
Or maybe the tunnel was too deep and unearthed something that was sleeping in the dark earth.

- the mushrooms look like they could maybe be part of some MKULtra spinoff. Unlock the true potential of the human mind, Stoned Ape theory, connecting to the collective consciousness of the natural world, etc.
Or something from another world? Something drawn by the signals or through the tunnel, or something that manipulated humanity into sending/digging said things to allow it to come here?

- consuming a certain type of mushroom within the tunnel results in an intense psychotropic experience. Lucid dreams and hallucinations and something that certainly feels like time travel.
The characters travel to different dates in 1982. Different rooms lead to different dates.

- using the mushrooms to travel through time allows the fungus to release spores into the character's brain. The effects are almost unnoticeable at first, but eventually lead to severe mental and physical health issues. And possibly becoming unstuck in time.

- on March 13, the station sent out a reply to a complex coded message from an unknown source.
On March 15, a child went missing during a bad storm. The search party racked up hundreds of man hours over the next two weeks, but no one ever found anything. Not a body, not a scrap of clothing, not a single hair.

- if the players prevent the child from being stolen, the present is worse. More children go missing at a later date, or a huge storm destroyed most of the area, the whole town is made up of fungi-infected zombie-people?
The response sent out on the short waves somehow set all of this in motion. If they can just figure out what it is or what it means..

- there are more effigy mounds in Wisconsin than anywhere else in the U.S. Uncovered from one were a few shards of pottery, possibly containing the missing pieces of the code.

- one of the places where I'm struggling is that I don't want to give them too many definitive answers. I want to keep that "incomprehensible, unknown horror" sort of thing intact as much as possible. But the more I lean that way, the harder it is for me to form any kind of meaningful cause/effect relationships for the players to interact with.
I really want this one to be something that might give you a migraine if you think about it for too long. But I also want to to be clear what the goal is and what the options are in terms of achieving it.

Maybe if I offered up some more specific information:

- each character will have a mysterious something or other from a mysterious somebody. This will bring them all to an abandoned underground complex in the woods.

- one of the features of this complex are several large psychotropic mushroom gardens. It is the consumption of these fungi that allow someone to travel in time, but only to a specific date in the recent past, and at a cumulative cost to the traveler.

- something bad happened on that day in the past, which has something to do with preventing something even worse in the future.

- the meat of the game will be attempting to prevent the bad thing, understand the worse thing and avoid the vague and ominous forces at work.

I hope that helps provide a little more direction.

I've had this game in the works for quite a while now, and it feels like it just might be too much story for me to handle.

The jist is as follows: each character receives an item/message/clue from a mysterious stranger that leads them to a location where they will be able to travel back in time to a specific date.

Around that time, terrible thing X happens.

If they stop X from occurring, Y happens instead.

The meat of the game will be discovering/dealing with various butterfly effect-type stuff, going back to the same point in time, etc.
There will hopefully be a significant moral quandary where they realize that terrible thing X really prevents more terrible thing Z.
And I will try and throw in a powerful organization that's aware of X, Y, Z and so on--is probably responsible for a lot of the stuff in motion--and the PC's ability to travel through time. would you begin to plan out this sort of thing? I want to make a flow chart, but I'm struggling to even know where to begin.
I think I need to start with various events and alternate timeline versions of those events and connect them with the different avenues the players will most likely take.

What do you think?

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VoodistMonk wrote:
I don't know what exactly is being argued at this point...

I mean. I've tried to outline just that a few times now.

I caught a lot of flak for referring to ttrpg's as a form of collaborative storytelling. I discovered the history that lead to what seemed to be such a volatile reaction. I was curious if other people had encountered this particular issue before.

The debate between the two sides (that is, currently. Not the old debate between the two old sides) seems to essentially be: what constitutes "a story" and whether or not it is morally wrong to insist that someone can be engaged in an activity that they say they are not. Or something like that.

There are still some aspects of the offended party's arguments that I don't really understand. Or maybe it's that I feel like I'm not making myself understood.
But the concensus of the original post is that yes, some people have encountered it, but not many. It seems to be just one more facet of the wars people get into regarding this hobby.

Mark Hoover 330 wrote:
I've never understood this debate.

I've really tried to explain it as I understand it. Does it still not make sense or what?

Once upon a time, some elitist jerks said that their artsy, indie games were better than D&D and all it's kin because all ttrpg's are storytelling and their games were the most focused on the story, therefore their systems were best.
Other people said that they wanted verisimilitude over story and eventually drew a line in the sand to differentiate their games from those of the elitist jerks. The categories are storytelling games and roleplaying games.

At this point, I think it's safe to say there's elitist jerks on both sides, accusing each other of being number-grabbing munchkins or fluffy hipsters.

Mark Hoover 330 wrote:

Games like this always reminded me of that card game I used to play with my kids, Ever After, where we deal out a hand of fairy tale tropes and we all take turns placing cards and telling parts of the story until someone's out.

Yes! Exactly. Ever After is a (very simple) storytelling game. That's the difference.

Mark Hoover 330 wrote:

The central conceit of TTRPGs though is that, regardless of the level of crunch, some level of the story is as much in the hands of the players as it is in the GM. So, whether or not I'm playing a Story game or a Gamist game or a whatever is simply a matter of perception and group buy in. Its personal to the assembled group playing. It might be informed by system, but any TTRPG is going to have at least SOME rules so depending on adherence to those and how the story is being told, those assembled players will decide what kind of game they're playing.

Square. But I can see why some method of categorization within this very broad and growing pool of games and systems is useful.

Like I said before: we could role-play while we played checkers. We could tell a story revolving around Uno or Go Fish. But that doesn't make those games ttrpgs or stg's.

Now that the doubt has passed, I've got a bit of a harder opinion on this.
There are eight types of fun; eight ways to be engaged. Marc LeBlanc came up with the list and there hasn't been much in the way of significant revision. There's sensation, narrative, fantasy, challenge, fellowship, discovery, expression and submission.

When people are talking about badwrongfun, what they're usually talking about* is the difference in emphasis on these eight things. Some people love expression and discovery, some people need challenge. Some don't care at all about fellowship. Etc.
(*there's also some discussion about style and genre and the like which leads to this same problem.
And then there's the people who use the term without really understanding what it means.)

So yeah. This guy is big on expression for himself and fantasy for his players. That's cool. Those two are hugely important to me as well. And I'm good at delivering on them.
But I'm also dialed in to sensation, narrative,  challenge and discovery. I don't think fellowship is something the GM is responsible for, and my games are never big on submission. I don't do beer-and-pretzel games.

His players might enjoy his performance, but that doesn't mean this is just a matter of preference or opinion. There are real, tangible issues at that table. His players are so new they just don't know what they're missing. They're just happy to be together, to be playing, period.

The player who invited me to this table has been asking me to run a game for ages.
I'll give this guy another chance, but I can't sit at his table. I'd rather do 1,000% more work and actually enjoy what's happening.

It's comforting to see that this sort of thing isn't as common as it seems to me; every table I've tried to sit at in the last few years has just been...I mean, a train wreck at least used to be a train, something that had purpose and functioned before it went off the rails. These few games were never on the rails.

And as far as the open structure format for adventures/campaigns go, I would definitely agree with previous comments saying that these sorts of games can easily be an excuse for GM's to not do prep work and such.
I also think some people are so scared of "railroading" that they don't want to limit player agency at all, silly. No one has 100% agency all the time, and as long as we have enough often enough, we'll be fine.
This guy probably doesn't have time to do any more prep work then he currently does. But I don't think he cuts corners due to laziness or being overburdened; he genuinely seems to think that this is the best way to run a game, that his improv is strong enough to support a whole campaign (or six).

Sysryke wrote:
I'm curious what you mean when you describe a "storytelling game" as distinct from a "role-playing game".

If I recall correctly, the difference was that roleplaying games have players fulfill a role, whereas a storytelling game has specific mechanics in place to help *tell a story*.

For example, in a roleplaying game, you play a role when you decide your character casts a spell instead of swinging his sword, or when you spend your time in town in an arm-wrestling tournament instead of picking pockets or playing a lute at the local tavern. You make decisions based on your character's abilities and the environment.

In a storytelling game, you can make decisions based on things more meta than "what would my character do". Like...I think it's the FATE system? Your character has certain traits like stubborn or cowardly or old-fashioned. And when a situation comes up where the GM thinks your character's trait might come up, you can either spend a chip to avoid being true to your trait, or you can buy into it and get a chip instead. And chips give bonuses to rolls or whatever.
It's a dissociated mechanic that's tied, not to your character or the in-game world and it's laws, but to the story itself.

You can obviously tell a story or play a role in either type of game. But you can do that when you play checkers, if you so wanted. It's more a matter of what the game is designed to do.
It's a fairly small difference in the tabletop gaming community, but it's one some people felt would be beneficial to define. And within those parameters, I certainly agree. Categories are nice. They help us talk about stuff more accurately.

It seems that some people think you can divorce role-playing games from storytelling entirely. And by saying that even a pure role-playing game with no baked-in storytelling elements or specific effort by the group to tell a story is still, in fact, some manner of storytelling, is bringing up unpleasant memories where "storygamers" were being elitist jerks and telling "role-players" that they were doing it wrong.
So I can see where the offense lies. But it feels entirely due to misunderstanding. I'm not those elitist jerks. I just refer to the thing we both do differently than they do. I have no intention of ever trying to tell them how to play their game.

Not that I think there aren't better and worse ways; this whole "badwrongfun" thing has had an unfortunate side effect in the community, I think. Not all sessions are created equal. The sooner we can get these controlling style/system elitist types to shush, the sooner we can move past this and grow as a community.

Sysryke wrote:
The words, terms, and ideas have existed before most of (if not all) us were even conceived. The definitions are what they are.

As I said early, Sysryke. This is EXACTLY the same conversation I had. And your/my stance is VERY offensive to some people.

Carrauntoohil wrote:
Telling someone who doesn't play to tell stories otherwise is counterproductive at best and patronising at worst.

I still don't quite grasp it. I'm sorry. I want to. But it's like...I don't know. Call it whatever you want? Right?

I can see how this issue of definition was used to cause problems in the past, but I don't think that means the definitions themselves are problematic or threatening. They were used for an ill-intended purpose--that's where the problem lies.

People have been telling stories since they first huddled around a campfire. It's a primordial aspect of our nature.
A storyteller makes up a narrative about some mighty warriors doing battle with their foes. There's magic and wonder and terror and honor and betrayal. The audience listens and enjoys it.

I don't see enough of a difference between that and a ttrpg where the mighty warriors are all portrayed by the players.
The mechanics are a whole 'nother thing. Those are there to add a neutral uncertainty and to engage the group on more levels that just listening to a story does.

I favor games that are mostly simulatory. I don't use systems that give the players control of things beyond their characters. I prefer associated mechanics. The structure of the game is focused on the character's actions and the consequences of such. From my understanding, those are all traits of role-playing games, not storytelling games.
But I would still say that it's not *so* different from that guy telling a story around a fire that they're totally unrelated. They're different manifestations of a very big, very vague body. At least, part of the game is. The game is a complicated thing with multiple parts. But one of those parts is* a form of storytelling.
(*to me)

I'm not really sure what people mean when they say they're "not playing to tell stories". So...what is the goal, then? And how does it differ so much from mine?
I mean. I want my games to be exciting and memorable. That they make my players *feel* something. And aside from that, I want that mechanical/crunchy/big numbers and well-executed plans-type satisfaction, too. They feel...pretty separate. The second one I can get from video games and such, the first I can get from a good book, but getting them together is strictly ttrpg territory.
From what I understand, my expectations out of this hobby aren't so alien to others, even those who seem ranked by my definition of storytelling. So where is the rub then, really?

And hey. I definitely pay attention to things like tone and pacing, because I believe that, roleplaying game or storytelling game, a game that is run with these things in mind will be more satisfying--on a subconscious level, usually--than one that isn't.
Like, know when to end a scene so the players don't get lost or bored.
Or, make sure to alternate fast and slow scenes so your players don't get exhausted/disinterested.
Or, use transitions to minimize how the mechanics of the game slow things down and break the tension.

But none of that is a mechanical aspect of the system. It's the game--any game--is run. The core of the game is untouched (that being: character/player choices and their choices). That is never compromised "for the sake of the story" or anything.

So I don't know. I don't want to offend anyone with my definitions, but who's to say their definition has any more authority than my own? If they're upset that I'm "oppressing" them, then their insistence of the opposition is equality oppressive to me. I'm willing to just chalk it up to perspective and a difference of a very minor and unimportant opinion, but some people are apparently not. And at that point, I feel like I've become the target of exactly what they're saying I'm doing to them.

I want to thank everyone for the support. I've been called an elitist or worse over the years when it came to my confidence/pride in this hobby. It's burned a few bridges. And...yeah, it took some hard knocks to realize I should tone it down a bit, just out of a sense of decency and respect for my fellows.

So whenever I see something like this game and my gut reaction is "this is TERRIBLE. WHY IS NO ONE GOOD AT THIS EXCEPT MEEE?!"...the next thing I'm hit with is a wave of doubt and guilt. And then I'm not sure about anything anymore.

Four of the other five players are extremely green; this is their first or second time with a ttrpg. The silly voices and the antics of the NPC's that follow us around (there's a chaotic evil little fey-monster who says crazy things and stabs at people randomly, and a very stereotypical goody-goody priest/heal-bot lady who is perfect and sweet and pure and innocent) entertain them greatly.
The GM hadn't gotten to the point where these characters have held an extended conversation with each other, but...if I tried to talk to another player or some random townsfolk or something for over 45 seconds or so, one of these NPC's always interrupted to say or do something crazy/endearing, to the laughter/aw's of most of the table.

And to be fair, the GM has a good grasp of character voice and stuff. A solid actor. We encountered some kind of all-powerful, shape-shifting monster and the GM really sold the proud, regal and ruthless nature of the creature.
I'm willing to give credit where it's due.

But now I'm thinking about running a game for this same group for various reasons, and this guy is already giving me trouble. He says he's "very picky" about his games and wants to know if he can play two characters at once to "keep him invested". Heh.
I think this has helped me see how difficult I was, back in the day. I mean. I knew I was A Lot. But now I'm experiencing something similar (if more extreme) firsthand.

He has a job and a girlfriend. I'm not sure what the job is, but he apparently can listen to podcasts about this one ttrpg system that he plays exclusively. It's a level of obsession/dedication I have never seen before.
I mean. I get pretty obsessive, so I understand. But this level is kind of a flag, yeah. Like, I doubt he can even accept the possibility that he has room to grow within the hobby.

The Angry GM's article on adventure structure was really interesting. And I think pretty much everyone should read it (and basically everything else he's written. Dude's obnoxious, but he's articulate and helpful). What I hate most about most "open" structures I've encountered is this attitude of "there's so much awesome stuff for you to do. Go find it." I don't care how awesome it is. Finding it is not.
Because of the way such a structure works, you need to make sure that any and every scene is good enough to be the last one. If you can't manage that, stick to branching or hybrid structures.

SheepishEidolon wrote: could try to focus on interaction with your fellow players...The GM seems to be overwhelmed with his task. So he will stick to what he knows and is capable of, meaning he is not openminded to suggestions or to a player trying to move the plot (overly) eagerly. You can offer a bit of advice...

Oh, I tried. But the moment our conversation goes on for more than ten seconds, the GM jumps in with a silly NPC doing silly things to get a laugh out of the table.

I think he's so hesitant to give me the space to do anything because he needs all of the cool/fun/awesome/funny/smart ideas to come from himself. And when he doesn't have any ideas, he'd rather there be nothing than have to share credit.

Now, to be fair, this guy is apparently running a total of five weekly games and playing in another. So I can imagine he's pretty busy.
But man. I've been there. And after a month or so I was like "I need to take this down a notch to deliver a quality product."
But it doesn't seem like he'd ever do that, because he can't open himself up to the possibility that his games need improvement.

The more I've spoken with him, the more I've gotten the overwhelming vibe that he is deeply insecure and desperately needs attention at all times.

I've told him that I can't make it to that game anymore.
One of the other players has been wanting me to run a game--he's heard the stories--and I figured I could at least give it a shot. So I asked them if they'd be interested in such on a different night that was easier for my schedule.
This guy asked me if I was a good GM. I assured him that I was very good. He asked, "as good as me?"
At first, he said he was probably "too picky" about his games (which, obviously I understand), but "if it makes you feel any better, you're the best player I've ever had by a mile."

I dunno. I don't like to think about the stereotypes surrounding this hobby. They feel dated and silly. But then I meet people like this.

Sysryke wrote:
...could you give an example or two of the divide? I'm not sure I fully understand the difference in this squabble since both sides talk about mechanics.

I can try. But I have the information third hand at best:

I used the term "telling stories" as synonymous with "running games". This is what sparked the whole thing. I had a conversation very similar to the one above between you and Carrauntoohill. It got...rather heated.
Eventually, it basically felt like several someones were screaming at me, telling me I was wrong and to stop oppressing them.

So I asked for some details.

From what I understand, there came a point in ttrpg design where a group of people said that, because all ttrpg's were a form of collaborative storytelling, every system and every session should be dedicated to telling a better story. And this involved certain approaches in gamemastering and certain designs in systems. Like adjudicating player action "for the sake of the story" and mechanics that allowed you to control the narrative directly. And if you aren't doing those things/using those mechanics, then you're doing it wrong/playing the wrong system.

Which is stupid and elitist and the sort of claptrap I would happily defend anyone against.

But, in my insistence that any kind of ttrpg--even ones that focus on verisimilitude and have no mechanics that affect the narrative, etc.--are at least a form of storytelling, or involve it in some way, I was accused of telling these people that they were playing the game wrong or telling them that they were engaged in an activity they weren't.

Which...I disagree. It's a matter of definition. If your definition is different than mine, that doesn't mean that my definition is in any way exerting control over you or oppressing you. Right? I mean. It's're eating a sandwich. It's 11:45am. I could call that lunch, but maybe you just consider it a snack. Or brunch. Or second breakfast. -- at no point am I telling anyone whether, when, what or how they can eat.

Honestly, it feels like I accidentally reignited an old argument that I was never a part of. Something I said seemed similar enough to stuff other people have said in the past that it struck a chord, and some people are apparently so traumatized by these past arguments that they responded to me by...well, essentially by doing to me exactly what they had done to them.

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I dunno. Nowhere is that written. That can be your take on it, sure. Interpret away, and define a "hero" as whatever you think is best for you and your game.

I would define "hero" as a mindset, not an ability. And I enjoy a well-played character with a serious weakness or flaw.
They're not Conan or Superman or anything, but I never found characters like that to be all that interesting or compelling.

I don't think a discussion about preferences or what "feels right" to one person versus another will get us anywhere or be useful to anyone. I was looking for the numbers, and any consequences of those numbers that people may be concerned about. But like. Hard, quantifiable consequences. Not "this isn't what fantasy is supposed to be!"-type consequences.

I've heard all this before. People equate "rage" to "mindlessness/recklessness" and "precision" to something that requires patience and/or concentration.

I can see where they're coming from, but I don't think flavor rulings should make characters less potent than the rules allow, and it's not like a raging sneak attack is broken or anything.
Back in 3rd, I had an NPC Barbarian Blackguard who spurred his mount into combat, into a flanking position, while entering a rage. Raging-spirited-sneak attack charge.

Bjørn Røyrvik wrote:
Sounds like you have different expectations for the games...

Absolutely. I just read The Angry GM's article on the 8 different types of engagement, and it was pretty eye-opening. Some people are all about #2-5, others don't care much for #3 one way or the other, and some people would rather not play at all than have a game without #7, etc.

He mostly seems like he just doesn't know what he's doing, unfortunately. And worse, he is supremely confident that he's Da Best GM Evar.

Just to clarify regarding some other posts, this isn't my first open campaign or anything. It's one of the few forays into a new group.
I've been doing this for quite a while now, and I've put a lot of work and research into the what's and why's regarding gamemastering.
I've played in a couple fairly open games, and I've run a few myself, too. They're not my favorite, but I get them. And this...I don't know. There's no sense of discovery, nothing to motivate the characters or the players. Just four hours of filler.

And yeah, I'm basically positive that the rest of the group are super new to the hobby and are just happy to be doing it at all. They're hungry, and they've never had anything better than a Hot Pocket, so they don't long for lièvre à la royale.

As for the characters providing the, I tried. I spoke with thy GM numerous times about the game. Trying to get a feel for it, trying to make a character that will be invested in the campaign and fit in the world.
When I got a whole bunch of radio silence on his end, I figured he might want us to provide that stuff. So I showed him some ideas. He didn't say no to any of the concepts before play, but once we sat down, he seemed determined not to let me derail his directionless game.

And I'm fine with an introductory session. But then...I would hope that it allows for introductions. But everyone was off doing their own thing for 90% of the session, and most of that time seemed to be the GM's opportunity to talk in silly voices for various NPC's.
He's very energetic and theatrical, which is nice. I did not come here to play peanut gallery to someone else's one-man show.

I sometimes wonder if I'm being too critical. Like, *looking* for faults. But two hours into this game, I wished I...wasn't there. It was boring and frustrating and a waste of my time. And I feel like it's fair for me to be like "nah, I'm good", and bail out.
I've given it two sessions. Eight hours. If you can't impress me in eight hours...I gotta go.

At any rate. Thanks for letting me vent a bit. I know that first post was pretty rambling.

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That all makes sense.

I tried to make my case as civilly as possible; that I considered playing even a game like Pathfinder to be a form of storytelling, just by my working definition of the concept. But I was essentially accused of telling people how to play their game/what to do/how to think.

I think the storytelling games are interesting--having mechanics that deal with the narrative itself rather than as abstractions of in-world phenomenon can be cool. But I definitely enjoy games without them. Maybe more so, but it's hard to tell.

It sort of felt like the difference between U.S. pudding (the gooey stuff that tends to come in little cups and such) and English pudding (a term for desserts in general). If someone from the UK told me that the brownie I was eating was "pudding", I wouldn't think that they were trying to oppress my views and control how and what I ate. I would just think that they had a different definition of a term. And I'd agree with them, considering their definition.

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I recently made a brief foray into some other gaming forums. I referred to my desire to "be a better GM, to be a better storyteller" and...things kind of exploded.

Apparently, there is a deep and painful rift between certain groups of the ttrpg community. Once upon a time, one group said "all ttrp's are collaborative storytelling, which means that you have to do what's best for the story and use mechanics that engage the narrative directly."
Another group said "we don't want to do that. We want games that focus on verisimilitude, where our characters take actions based on the world around them and themselves and that's it."

I felt like the issue was that the first group seemingly accused the second of "playing it wrong", and that they were using their definition of storytelling to force their preferences on others.
But staunch defenders of the second group have told me that no, all ttrpg's are not in any way a form of storytelling at all, and that my insistence of any other view was oppressive.

I...feel like they ended up doing to me exactly what they were afraid of me doing to them.

But at any rate, I'd never heard of this debate before, much less the fervor that some seem to take a stance within it. Have any of you ran into this thing? I guess aot of it started with the forums at The Forge, but that was quite a while ago if I'm not mistaken.

I'd never considered the difference between roleplaying and storytelling games before, or how not understanding the subtle difference could be so inadvertently hurtful. What's the take over here?

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I'll admit it: I'm a bit of an elitist. I have very strong opinions about ttrpg's and what makes a game/session better or worse than others.
But I've tried to lighten up. I've tried to open my perspective a bit and give people outside my old crew a chance.

And...I mean...there were fun little moments. But I spent the majority of the time grinding my teeth or wishing I was elsewhere.

I can understand wanting to offer players as much agency as possible. That's cool. But the less restrictions there are, the more issues there could potentially be with things like pacing.
I don't like being told "there's fun stuff n this game. Go find it." Like. I have such precious little free time nowadays. Can we just skip to the point where we find something fun?
Don't get me wrong. Haggling over told at the inn, drinking contests--they can all be part of the fantasy and discovery and expression. But if we've been playing for 2 hours, I would hope that there's more to it than that.

If I may offer a brief example:

We come into town. The scene is set, but there's nothing inherently interesting as of yet. The GM asks what I do. I figure, I'll find the nearest tavern, get some food and a room and listen for any interesting rumors. I basically put up a big sign that says "PLOT HOOK WELCOME". I learn about some stuff that happened recently, but it's all resolved. Nothing needs to be done. No problems or mysteries present.
Then the GM asks the other five players. None of them seem to have my experience, so they flounder a bit and spend quite a bit of time on a bunch of nothing, and the GM gladly indulges them.
It takes over an hour and a half to get through their what do you do's.

At the end of the day, we pack up and head out again. The GM asks us "which direction do you go?" Um. I don't know. I don't have a map. Or a reason to want to go anywhere in particular. So we just pick a direction at random.
Some trolls ambush us. We fight them and defeat them. It's been three hours, now.

--is this normal? Is this enjoyable to anyone? I'm just so confused, frustrated and disheartened from the experience.
I made a pretty neat character. I asked about the setting and the game, to make sure he fit into them both as well as possible. But I got nothing, so I made a character just full of story seeds and specific motivations and all sorts of stuff. And the GM just...shot it all down or ignored it, and gave us...I don't know. Errands and a bog-standard random encounter. I didn't sign up to play Road Trips & Errands.

Has anyone else run into this? I'm struggling to find a way to tell these guys I'm bored out of my skull without being offensive. It doesn't help that they think the GM is absolutely amazing. None more so than the GM.
And I get it. I get prickly, too. It puts you in a very vulnerable position, running a game. But...I want to get better at it, not stagnat. I just wish more people were at least slightly open to even gentle critique.

VoodistMonk wrote:
...I don't allow starting stats below an 8, AFTER racial modifiers are applied... why, you may ask... because it's clownshoes, that's why.

Sure. I can follow that logic.

I just draw the line elsewhere, I guess. As you said yourself, having super low scores makes for pretty glaring weaknesses regarding ability damage and other things. It's never really been an issue for me at our table. A Str3 halfling who's unusually small, even by his own people's standards, a Cha3 druid who was stranded in the wild from a young age and is more animal than sentient being, an orc raider who's hanging onto sanity by the thinnest of threads. They were all interesting and unique characters, and none of them broke the game. But that's because none of the players were trying to cheat the system. If anyone was trying to do that at our table, regardless of how, they'd be asked to stop.

I consider a variety of things that you seem to be in favor of as "clownshoes", myself. Traits, variant multiclassing, gestalt.
But that's just table variation and a difference in play style. I like games that revolve around characters that are well-rounded, that don't have much in the way of super-specialized tricks and that utilize a simplified, streamlined system. If that system could be abuse, I just make sure that it isn't. It's just what works for me and mine.

Scavion wrote:
In most games a "-1" check IS terrible. It's pretty bad in like every d20 system too.

Maybe, I guess. But to go from 12 (above average) to 10 (average) to 8 (below average), in terms of verisimilitude and all that, it feels rather stifling. That's one of the things I struggle with in Chronicles of Darkness and the other White Wolf/Onyx Path games. 1 is as low as you can get, 2 is average, 5 is the height of human ability. Not a lot of room to move in that scale.

Scavion wrote:

...My group only ever did this sorta thing when we were still idiots in high school. We outgrew that fast and looking didn't age well.

I think you can portray characters with serious flaws explicitly needing it on their sheet.

I'm going to assume that wasn't meant to be as insulting as it could be read, and that the second part is a typo.

I certainly don't expect to see characters like this at every turn if I use an alternate system like this. I probably don't expect to see them much at all. In two decades of running games, I've seen less than a dozen of these characters. As others have said, they tend to be too vulnerable to be worth the trouble in terms of mechanical viability. And the concept of "I want to be absolutely terrible at X" isn't one that comes up a whole lot.
I just want to give people the option to play a character like that, if they so wish.
And if they are clearly using the option to try and twist the rules in some goofy way, then that's a whole different problem.

But for my first foray into 5th, I really don't want to be houseruling too much from the start.

MrCharisma wrote:
I don't think there's really a wrong way to play. As long as everyone's having fun it doesn't really matter how crazy you go (eg. Mythic games). It's just important that you have some idea how it will affect things so you can plan and play accordingly.

Agreed. Though that particular subject has been a difficult one for me. The moment I try to talk about making a game better, there is usually a great deal of howling and a gnashing of teeth, and terms like "badwrongfun" get thrown around a lot.

The Angry GM wrote an article defining the 8 types of engagement and how they apply to ttrpg's specifically. It's pretty great, and certainly articulates parts of the hobby well enough that I think I can resolve those conflicts much easier now.

MrCharisma wrote:

Also, just a note that a 3 in CHA would give you a -4 to the roll, so yes it would be bad =P


I wasn't specifically talking about a Charisma score of 3, just anything with a substantially low modifier. One of the unfortunate trends of 5th, in my opinion, is the move away from real, genuine weaknesses. I've met new players that think an 8 is a "terrible" score. And while it's as low as it gets under the usual circumstances, it just...doesn't leave much in the way of portraying a character with serious flaws.

But yes. Difference of score and 10/ rounded down--before the internets, one of my original crew pointed out that pattern to me. It sort of opened my eyes; if ability score Modifiers followed a mathematical pattern, what else did? And if I understood those patterns, could I reverse engineer the game and walk away a better GM than ever? --etc.

That's exactly what I was looking for. I knew the pattern was out there, I just couldn't find it.

As far as how the numbers might impact the game, I hear you loud and clear. I was interested in offering a more flexible system for 5e, and that system really assumes that you don't have much in the way of weaknesses. Charisma saves (still feels weird to say stuff like that) aren't all that common, but they exist, and a -3 to them would be pretty awful.

It also helps that the people I roll with don't usually want to play characters that are just barely sentient beings. We've had a few super low scores, but not too many. It's a very deliberate choice, and the player is always as interested in dealing with the drawbacks as they are benefiting from the strengths.

Melkiador wrote:

Pretty sure you can already lower a score down to 3. You just don’t get any extra points for going below 7

Having any score that low is super dangerous in Pathfinder though. There are too many sources of ability damage.

Sure. I would just like to provide a mathematically balanced option for maximum options.

And yeah, of course it's risky. That's neither here nor there, though.

VoodistMonk wrote:

Are you expecting an equal, yet inverse, equivalent?

Like to "buy" a 17 in any stat, it "costs" 13 points... do you want to get 13 extra points for dropping a score to 3?

I would punish you with poisons and swarms. I would make sure to keep track of encumbrance to the letter. Whatever it is you thought you got with those extra points will be completely trivial compared to how badly I punish you for dropping any score that low...

I mean, yeah. That would seem reasonable, right? I mean, doesn't a +2 cost the same as a -2 nets you? So it would follow that a +4/-4 situation would be the same, right?

And as for the rest, yeah sure. Consequences for player choices, whole point of ttrpg's, etc. Agreed on all counts.

Hello again, everyone. I've been dabbling in various systems, and came to realize that I want a point-buy calculator that goes from 3 to 18.
I have yet to find a population better at crunching numbers than this one, so I ask you: how would you go about making such a thing? And what are the potential issues with it?

Thanks in advance.

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I still compare the FCB system to what it replaced: the super wonky favored class system from D&D 3rd.

It was hard to understand, required goofy calculations at every level and potentially after every encounter, and in the end the best you could get was the lack of a penalty. Not a good system any way you look at it.

So then I find Pathfinder, and instead of "are all your classes within one level of each other excepting your favored class? If not, you lose a percentage of xp!", I see "favored class? +1hp or skill." Elegant. Easy. And most importantly, an incentive instead of a deterrent. Brilliantly done.
It's right up there with the difference in skill points and class skills in terms of the reasons I switched over to Pathfinder.

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I don't use Traits at my table. In a game filled with so much crunchy minutiae, I'm looking for ways to streamline some of it, not add more. I can understand the basic concept that a +1 here or a special item there could help breathe life into a character, but I've never actually seen it firsthand. People who make rich, believable character I get invested in can and will do so without any help from the system, and those players who create characters that feel more like video game avatars need much more direction and assistance than something like a Trait will ever provide.

Then again, Accelerated Drinker showed me that drinking a potion should be a move action. So that's cool.
But wow, talk about a yawn of a trait if you're looking for something to add a little depth to your character. You could be a member of minor nobility, or have learned to survive your life on the streets, or...drink real fast. Yuck.

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I assume you've talked to this player about their perspective, expectations and etc.?
Because the problem is 100% in their head. There are so many ways to contribute to a game, to a combat.

Your player could make a few changes to be more "optimal". But that's only a small piece of the issue.

If you've talked to them and they can't see the truth, then...I guess just let them be dissatisfied?
There's only so much a GM can do, you know?
A long time ago, I had a player who told me that they really weren't enjoying the game we were currently playing. So we stopped that game and started another. 3-5 sessions or so in, they weren't having fun.
They said they finally figured it out; they really just enjoyed playing big, strong characters that beat face. But their last two characters were a crafty researcher and a sneaky conman.
So, new game. Big tough strong character. 3-5 sessions in, "my character is just...not very interesting."
I'd known this person for 20 years. I've never spoken to them since. The level of self-absorbtion is stunning,but even more was this bizarre idea that it was solely MY responsibility to ensure that THEY had fun.
We all have a hand in each other's enjoyment of this hobby, of course. It's a collaborative effort. But if you can't make yourself happy, don't look to your GM like some kind of magician.

I'm confused. Is this thread to brag about your accomplishments, or to lure people to some weird spammy thing?

Mark Hoover 330 wrote:
He's frustrated that his character isn't better in combat relative to the other PCs in the party...So again... what do you base your character build against?

I think that's a legit complaint. It can suck to feel like you're lagging behind everyone else. Which is why most tables seem to be moving away from rolling ability scores.

Mark Hoover 330 wrote:
Why is it easier to make story-driven choices with your character and not hinder your combat effectiveness with gestalt vs standard character creation?

Isn't Gestalt just getting the best of two classes every level? If I understand it correctly, the answer your question is: because it's mechanically better. It gives you more options, faster, and with bigger numbers.

Just like getting max hp or double wealth by level or using a 50 point buy ability array will make it easier to do...whatever you want really, without hindering combat effectiveness.

I measure my PC's by instinct at this point. Pretty much every game I run involves a few new archetypes, feats and spells, maybe a new class or two and a few adjustments to existing things.
I just want everyone to feel like the playing field is pretty level, and like they have to make smart decisions to succeed. That last part...I mean. That's the whole point of ttrpg's.

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A monster's hit dice function exactly the same as a PC's; a winter wolf has six levels in the winter wolf class. If you reduce it's HD to 3, you need to recalculate it's hp, base attack, skills, feats, any DC's--everything that's level-dependant.

But that will only get you so far. Monsters weren't really intended to change in level too much, because of their ability scores and a few other features that function independent of level. The Tarrasque with 1HD still has a bajillion Strength and natural armor.

What I would do is take the worg or the wolf and add a few things, make it white and call it a winter wolf.

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Algarik wrote: looks like though races are not too hard to make with your system...I think what could help a bit avoiding races that specialize way too much into specific traits would be to devide each trait into categories and assign a maximum number of point they can spend in that categorie.

Eh. I'm fine if they specialize. The more eggs they put into one basket, the less they have for the other baskets. And I think one of the big appeals of fantasy races is that they have those obvious strengths and weaknesses. Dwarves, elves and so on.

Algarik wrote:
Imo, it's not a player tool, it's a DM tool to create races for their world.

Oh, no. I'll definitely be handing this over to players (see first post).

Algarik wrote:
I felt like the system you designed was a tad too bland for my taste, but if you're looking for generic then it looks fine.

Definitely generic, yes. I've found that using simple rules to capture things in broad strokes gives just enough crunch to satisfy and helps to facilitate rich storytelling without getting lost in the numbers. But obviously I'm in the minority when it comes to this sort of mindset on these forums.

Algarik wrote:

There's a few things that could be cool to add:

- Different Sizes: What do they do? Do they change attributes? Do they cost points?
- Spell-like abilities.
- Maybe some special abilities? Stuff like breath weapons or racial poisons.
Well, hopes this helps a bit!

I figured small and medium sizes, no cost, no attribute adjustments.

I'll have to think about the other stuff. I don't want to clutter up the process with too many options, but I'd like each facet to be represented at least a little.
Thank you for your time and input.

Some example races with things as they are:


Lizard man- +2 Intimidate (1pt), +2 Stealth (1pt), +1 natural armor (2pts), +1 Ref (2pts), scent (3pts), swim (1pt), primary natural attack (4pts), hold breath (1pt) --15pts

Minotaur- +2 Athletics (1pt), +2 Survival (1pt), +1 Fort (2pts), +1 Will (2pts), +1hp/level (2pts), scent (3pts), primary natural attack (4pts) --15pts


Forge dwarf- +2 Craft (1pt), +2 Spellcraft 1pt, +1 Fort (2pts), +1 Will (2pts), +1hp/lvl (2pts), +1 CMD (2pts), Darkvision (2pts), slow (-1pt), Fire Resistance 5 (4pts) --15pts

Grey dwarf- +1 Will (2pts), +1 natural armor (2pts), +1 CMD (2pts), darkvision (2pts), tremorsense (8pts), slow (-1) --15pts


Cloud sylph- +2 Acrobatics (1pt), +1 Initiative (1pt), fast (1pt), fly (12pts) --15pts

Ooze dude- +2 Intimidate, +2 Stealth (1pt), +2 Fort (4pts), +2 Ref (4pts), +1hp/lvl (2pts), +2 CMD (4pts), slow (-1pt) --15pts


Moon elf- +2 Diplomacy (1pt), +2 Knowledge (1pt), +2 Sense Motive (1pt), +2 Spellcraft (1pt), +1 Ref (2pts), +2 Will (4pts), low-light vision (1pt), bonus feat (4pts) --15pts

Wood elf- +2 Acrobatics (1pt), +4 Perception (2pts),+2 Stealth (1pt), +2 Survival (1pt), +2 Fort (4pts), +1 Ref (2pts), +2 Initiative (2pts), low-light vision (1pt), fast (1pt) --15pts


Tinker- +4 Craft (2pts), +2 Disable Device (1pt), +2 Knowledge (1pt), +4 Sleight of Hand (2pts), +2 Ref (4pts), +1 Will (2pts), +2 Initiative (2pts), darkvision (2pts), slow (-1pt) --15pts

Sylvan- +2 Acrobatics (1pt), +2 Heal, +2 Perception (1pt), +4 Stealth (2pts), +1 Fort (2pts), +1 Ref (2pts), +1 Will (2pts), low-light vision (1pt), climb (3pts) --15pts


Boggart- +2 Acrobatics (1pt), +2 Athletics (1pt), +2 Intimidate (1pt), +2 Perception (1pt), +2 Stealth (1pt), +1 Reflex (2pts), darkvision (2pts), scent (3pts), climb (3pts) --15pts

Orc- +2 Survival (1pt), +1 natural armor (2pts), +1hp/lvl (2pts), +1 Fort, (2pts), +1 Ref (2pts), +1 Will (2pts), +1 CMD (2pts), darkvision (2pts) --15pts


Human merchant- +2 Diplomacy (1pt), +2 Knowledge (1pt), +4 Profession (2pts), +2 Sense Motive, +1 Fort (2pts), +2 Will (4pts), bonus feat (4pts)

Human assassin- +2 Athletics (1pt), +2 Acrobatics (1pt), +2 Bluff (1pt), Disable Device (1pt), +2 Perception (1pt), +2 Sleight of Hand (1pt), +2 Stealth (1pts), +1 Ref (2pts) +1 Will (2pts), +4 Initiative (4pts) --15pts


Hunter droid- +2 Perception (1pt), +1 natural armor (2pts), +1 Fort (2pts), +1 Ref (2pts), +1 Will (2pts), Blindsense (6pts) --15pts

Ol' rust bucket- +2 natural armor (4pts), +2 CMD (4pts), primary natural weapon (4pts), secondary natural weapon (4pts), slow (-1pt) --15pts

Lelomenia wrote:’s not clear that you can take arbitrary options e.g. Fast more than once in his proposed system...

Again, anything listed above that has a maximum stated in parentheses after it can be taken multiple times, up to the maximum. Anything else can be taken once.

Apologies for not mentioning that earlier. This is just a rough draft, hardly a complete subsystem.

I've been thinking of changing things up a bit; maybe dropping the price on some of the sensory abilities and the like and possibly reducing the point allowance.

Algarik wrote:
I'm not sure how exactly it works, but are you trying to replicate bases races, or you're trying to achieve something else entirely?

Something else, for sure. I want to give people the opportunity to make something strange, with unusual or semi-potent abilities, so I figured I'd let people who wanted to play "regular" races give them a few little boosts to make up for it.

Algarik wrote:
Here's a few idea that sounds silly to me...

Oh yes. Right.

I was thinking that anything you can take multiple times comes with a maximum (+4 to skills and initiative, +2 to saves, AC, etc.), and everything that doesn't list a maximum can only be taken once (speed increase, bonus hp, etc).
Algarik wrote:
What exactly is unwieldy with the original race builder? I'm fairly experienced with its system, so i might be able to help.

Sorry, let me clarify: I'm not looking for help with the existing system. I understand it just fine. I just think it's...pretty poorly made.

But then, I tend to find ways to trim the fat off bloated systems like Pathfinder 1e. So it's less about this specific subsystem and more the problems that systems like these run into in terms of over-development.

Specifically though, I don't care for "this trait gives you +X to Y, but has a prerequisite of Z", or "you can select this multiple times, but each time the cost increases by X", along with all the overly specific stuff.
And then there's racial bonuses in general. "+X vs Y" feels needlessly complicated to me. Especially when you have players who struggle with bookkeeping like I do.
And even without their struggles, I've found a smaller, static bonus instead of a larger situational one to convey the desired feel just fine anyway, while being more streamline.

An updated list of options.

+2 to skill 1pt (max +4)

+1 to save 2pts (max +2)

+1 natural armor 2pts (max +2)

+1hp/HD 2pts

+1 Initiative 1pt (max +4)

+1 CMD 2pts (max +2)

Low-light vision 1pt
Darkvision 2pts
Blindsense (30ft) 6pts
Tremorsense (10ft) 8pts
Scent 3pts

Fast 1pt
Slow -1pt
Climb (20ft) 3pts
Swim (30ft) 1pt
Burrow (10ft) 8pts
Fly (50ft) 12pts
Primary natural attack 4pts*
Secondary natural attack 4pts*

Bonus Feat 4pts

Hold Breath 1pt
Amphibious 2pts

Elemental resistance (5) 4pts

*a character may have one primary natural weapon and one secondary natural weapon. A pair of natural weapons such as claws, hooves or wings counts as one weapon for this purpose.

--what sort of stupid combos can people make? Is anything important not represented here? How many points do you need to make a concept come alive?

Hm...yeah, I see what you mean. It's unfortunate; price them too high and characters who would benefit a little from them won't take them. Price them too low and characters who focus around them are too good.

Maybe there just needs to be a limit. One primary attack, one secondary. Claws and bite, gore and hooves, tail and wings. That...probably covers most of the options, no?

Another thing I consider was elemental and construct traits; immunity to disease, fatigue, etc and not needing to breathe. But...I think we can just ignore all that? A robot bounty hunter still needs to fuel his power cells. A tree-man still needs to sleep. Because I said so.

Lelomenia wrote:
How many RP total are you expecting to allow?

That's one of the things I was wondering. I think...15 would be a good ballpark for most concepts?

Lelomenia wrote:
Edit: i think im not understanding some thing with ‘single natural attack’ and ‘paired natural attack’ costing the same.

Sorry, yeah I can see why that wouldn't make much sense without an explanation.

My thought process was that a singular natural attack--bite, gore, etc.--deals more damage, can be used to 100% effectiveness with a single attack, and is still somewhat compatible with manufactured weapons, compared to a pair of them--claws, hooves, etc.). But I haven't crunched the numbers super hard on anything like this so far.

A friend and I have been working on a fantasy ttrpg setting inspired by the work of Pendleton Ward ("Adventure Time", "Over the Garden Wall", "Midnight Gospel".

We'll have the following races available for player characters:

Beastlings (cat-girls, minotaurs, fishmen and werewolves)

Elementals (cloudfolk, rock-men, water nymphs, forest dryads)

Robos (battle driods, messenger bots, gizmos, rust buckets)


Dwarves (mountain, grey, forge, hill)

Elves (wood, moon, high, dark)

Gnomes (forest, deep, tinker, sylvan)

Goblins (hobs, boggarts, bugbears, orcs)

Instead of each race having it's own set of stats, I was thinking we open it up a bit and just let the players build what makes sense for the character. Subterranean, cave-dwelling humans with darkvision, goblins with scent, heavy metal dwarves with +2 Intimidate and Perform, etc.

Below is what I think will be the complete list of options available.
Does it seem like I've missed anything vital? And, most importantly, how many points do you think each thing should cost?
Right now, I'm thinking +2 to a skill should be the baseline: 1pt. Where would you go from there? These are my values, just going off my instincts.

+2 to a skill (max +4) 1pt

+1 to a save (max +2) 2pts

+1 natural armor (max +2) 2pts

+1hp/HD 2pts

+1 Initiative (max +4) 1pt

Low-light vision 1pt
Darkvision 2pts
Scent 3pts
Blindsense 20ft 6pts
Tremorsense 10ft 8pts

-10ft to base speed -1pt
+10ft to base speed +1pt
Climb (20ft) 4pts
Swim (40ft) 3pts
Burrow (5ft) 8pts
Fly (60ft) 12pts

Single primary natural attack 4pts

Paired primary natural attack 4pts

Single secondary natural attack 2pts

Paired secondary natural attack 2pts

Bonus Feat 4pts

The race builder is a little too unwieldy for my taste, and then there's the matter of the wonky prices on some of the choices. So I'm not so sure. But maybe it would be a better place to start.
What do you think? If everyone's going off the same list, it shouldn't be too bad. But which options seem like must-haves and which seem like never-takes? And how many points would be a good place to start?


"For the hoard!"

Truedragon wrote: aid my Bluffs...Anyone have an idea what such a thing would cost or how i would go about making one?

I mean. 50gp for a "masterwork tool" that gives you +2 to Bluff in this specific situation seems perfectly legit to me.

And honestly, that's a far as I'd take it. No one is trying to Identify your sword in combat or anything.

An old player had fun with this concept. A chain shirt and a rapier and dagger to look for all the world like a swashbuckling hero...but it was just glamoured clothes and Magic Auras.
The first time they cast a spell, another player's wizard got all excited.
"You practice the arcane arts?"
"Well, here and there. I dabble a bit."
"Most excellent. We should compare notes at some point. I would be happy to show you some things."

During the first real encounter, the "dabbler" revealed they were, in fact, a full-fledged sorcerer.

It's a fun little gimmick, to be sure. I would assume Magic Aura would do the trick. But why flaming, specifically? Say it's a +1 keen vorpal longsword of speed; no need for additional illusions to sell that one.

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Mysterious Stranger wrote:
You should never run an encounter like this, it should be done using a narrative approach...Players absolutely despise this and all you are going to do is to waste time and create resentment...

Obviously, I disagree. I will conceed that doing this sort of things *well* is difficult, and that anything short of success can easily result in a very poor experience for everyone at the table. But that doesn't mean it's impossible or that it shouldn't ever be attempted.

Claxon wrote:

So much this!

Encounters should only be played if the players are supposed to have a credible chance at winning. The moment you are planning to either make the enemy force so powerful that only through extremely absurd circumstances could the players hope to win, or that you will outright mcguffin the party's failure then you are describing something best done as a narrative piece.

An encounter is a question. The question isn't always "can the PC's kill all the bad guys?" Sometimes it's "can they escape with their lives?", "can they get through the forest undetected?" or "can they deliver the artifact to the temple in time?"

A strong narrative element is important in every encounter, though. Even if it's just fighting goblins. Once the question is answered, the encounter is over. No need to drag it out, regardless of what it is.

Hm. Okay. So the players almost have to be the prime target, because they have the sword. That makes things a little tougher.

Maybe the encounter occurs right when they're making the pass-off? Like, they give to the prince, and then their enemy strikes?

Are there any established NPC's they somehow know for a fact they're not as strong as? You could do a little tournament with some mini games or jousting or something and show the players how tough the prince's captain of the guard is or whatever, then have the bad guys show up and take him down in a round.

Are the PC's Good? I think a great motivator to propel them into the story would be forcing them to retreat as the enemy kills their friends and/or innocent bystanders. A little frustration is a great tool.

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Why not use one of the Head's minions? Avoiding a TPK from a CR=APL+4 threat is a lot more believable than from a CR=APL+11.

But I think that's really the key: you should just focus on what *feels* believable, so as to not break the suspension of disbelief too much.

If your goal is to start off a story with an enemy that will absolutely, 100% end them, then don't roll up stats or anything of that nature. Just telegraph, round after round, that they are in way, WAY over their heads.

And for that matter, I have a hard time swallowing the "I'll spare you because I'm eeevil and want you to suffer" trope in most cases.
What I would do is make the PC's present when the enemy strikes, but not the target. Then give them chances to escape in some fashion; they could retreat to an area that's defended by allies strong enough to fend off the enemy, or just hoof it into the woods, or hide under a pile of bodies.
Not making them the enemy's priority and making their survival the fruit of their own actions would make the whole situation more palatable.

But, in my experience, some players just can't take a hint. So yeah. Telegraph the crap out of things. I mean, part of the GM's job is to convey what the player's characters see, hear, remember, etc. So "you know this foe is beyond you" is totally fair game.

Claxon wrote:
That's a good analogy, as Middle Earth has become substantially less magical over time.

It's pretty good, but I would say that standard Pathfinder is much more akin to Sword and Sorcery genre fiction than The Lord of the Rings. Magic is much more subtle and nebulous in Tolkien's work than magic missiles and fireballs. Aragorn's most astounding feats of physical prowess were really just running real far and staying awake for a long time.

..anyway. Back to the actual point of the thread!

You're a GM after my own heart, making an archetype to make a player's choices more viable. Bravo to you!

With that said, I'm sure many people will point you toward at least one existing archetype that does this sort of thing. Have you seen it? If it's not what you're looking for, I totally get that. But if you just weren't aware of it, it's worth looking over.

I would be wary of all the abilities that allow an AOE effect to benefit from abilities, bonuses or modifiers that normally only work on a single attack. Even if they only hit 2-3 enemies, that's +200-300% more efficiency.

Finally, if you want to give non-lvl9 casters a little boost in the late game, I don't think you need to worry about damage, DR, AC or the like. It's all the weird, specific, super niche but super powerful stuff that really sets them apart. Invisibility, Spider Climb, Plane Shift, Teleport, Force Cage, Time Stop--those are the spells that allow casters to leave the martials behind and win the game on their own.

Mark Hoover 330 wrote:
The RAW on environmental hazards is not useful. Most DCs are fixed between 10-15. Do you realize climbing a sheer cliff in PF1 is a DC 15 Climb check as the standard?


15- "Any surface with adequate handholds and footholds (natural or artificial), such as a very rough natural rock surface or a tree, or an unknotted rope..."

20- "An uneven surface with narrow handholds and footholds, such as a typical wall in a dungeon."

25- "A rough surface, such as a natural rock wall or a brick wall."

30- "An overhang or ceiling with handholds only."

+5 it's slippery. So throw in some rain to pose a DC20-35, depending on the cliff face and the specific portion they're trying to climb.

But again, boosting numbers just isn't going to do it.
You mention how rope trivializes a climb. Well, using a climbing kit takes time. A couple minutes, to get all set up. And a couple (×10 rounds) is a cost you can't always pay.

If you want to make a go of a cliff being a significant encounter, I would suggest a map that represents the vertical surface of the cliff face. Offer them shrubs and tree roots to grab on to, areas of rougher and smoother stone, ledges to stand on or take cover under, waterfalls, high winds, caves full of bats, primitive traps--you could go absolutely crazy with it, if you wanted. And enemies on top shooting arrows at them or whatever don't even need to be present to get there.

But. Here's the other thing. The "I win" button is okay. Whether it's Feather Fall, Spider Climb or just a coil of rope. It's all about a player's choices having consequences, right? Well, sometimes their choices make a given encounter a breeze. And that's okay. Not every encounter needs to be a desperate struggle for survival. They can't all be, if you want your players to stay focused and invested.

Azothath wrote:
The scope of my chat is on the chat here, the impact of yall reading an informal conversational guide to building better challenges/encounters.

The scope of your chat is on the chat here? I'm sorry, but I still don't follow. I might just not be familiar with your manner of speaking, dialect, or something of that nature.

Azothath wrote:
So widen that PoV up a bit to encompass Real Measurable Events.

This...feels disrespectful?

If that was not your intent, okay. If you were actually trying to take a shot at me or others, please stop.

Azothath wrote:
I'm going to reference basic RPG description and GNS Theory...

This is interesting. I'll have to look into that more soon.

What you describe at the end is something I've become familiar with; I've mentioned the importance of making a group fall back on their Plan B in several other threads.

I would point out though that "dynamic", in the way the term has been used here at least, does not really mean "more difficult". Fighting larger numbers of foes or attempting skill checks with higher DC's is more difficult, but it is definitely not inherently more dynamic, engaging or memorable.

VoodistMonk wrote:

I consider a river a passive challenge.

Having things ready to Bull Rush characters into the river provides a dynamic challenge.

Passive challenges are going to come down to skill checks, or saves against environmental factors.

Dynamic challenges involve characters in combat, still needing to be aware of environmental hazards.

I can't agree with those definitions, either in terms of game design and storytelling or the actual, literal definitions.

A passive challenge would just be one thing that remains what it is until it's overcome or you can no longer attempt to overcome it.
If you're fighting an enemy on a flat, featureless plane and the two of you just exchange attacks and reduce each other's hit points until one of you is down, that's pretty passive. Boring.

On the other hand, if a river has some rapids it uses to tip you out of your boat, a waterfall it tries to throw you over and some huge boulders it wants to grind you against--that's much more dynamic. That's going to be a fun encounter.

At any rate, I feel like this breakdown of "dynamic" and "passive" is veering off-topic.

To address the OP once more, the concept of "weaponizing the environment" might be too narrow. It's really just a matter of brainstorming ideas and then implementing them.

A much more useful tool in my opinion is getting into a headspace where you assign non-sentient obstacles motives and allow them to be sources of conflict.
The river isn't just a lame, 2-D thing lying in their path. It has a motive. Maybe it's to prevent them from crossing. Maybe it's to drown them. Or to destroy their boats and send all their supplies downstream.
The wind wants to blow the PC's off the deck of the ship, or foil their attempts at archery. The fire wants to burn them all.
If combat is involved, you can play with how the different sources of conflict overlap and influence each other.

It's not just about "how to add more stuff to combat". There's enough stuff in combat. It makes up the vast bulk of the Pathfinder system (and most others, for that matter).
It's about understanding at a very fundamental level: what are we trying to do when we sit down to play a ttrpg? What, in the simplest, most basic terms, makes a session enjoyable, and why? And once we understand that, we can apply it to fighting giant scorpions in the desert, surviving a blizzard in the middle of a frozen waste, or talking to the innkeeper about the latest goings-on in town.

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