Cheating gm?


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Snowblind wrote:
Ryan Freire wrote:

...

It only doesn't sound nice if you're the type of person who wants to gm from the players seat.
Sorry to burst your bubble, but I haven't played Pathfinder as a player in nearly a year, and I 100% agree with him. If the best justification you have for your behavior is "I'm the best you got", then you are probably being a dick.

Congratulations, not running like that is the luxury you get because you're one of those few people willing/who enjoys GMing.

What the GM decides goes because they're putting in way more work than players are. If a player or two decides to leave because they dont like it, well as i said at first.. GMS are rarer than players. They are more likely to have an easier time finding a replacement player than that player is to find another gm who runs the game the way that player would like looking for a new player.


Not all of us GMs put in way more work than the players. I imagine I put in less than double the work of an involved and committed player. Maybe down around 1.5x

For the four weekly APs I'm running it's litterally nothing more than pre-read the material, help the players with character creation and leveling and run the game. More work than I used to put in, but not all that much.


Yeah f$*! that. That honestly sounds like someone forced into GMing so now they feel entitled as s+$# for running. No thanks.

Don't get me wrong, I respect my GMs and the work they put in. I consistently thank my GMs. But as a GM, I don't find that my hard work entitles me to control my players. I'm not a control freak.

Players can survive without a douche GM like that. We'll just play Wizwar or Boss Monster. A douche GM really isn't anything without players to lord over. Just a guy with notes.


kyrt-ryder wrote:

Not all of us GMs put in way more work than the players. I imagine I put in less than double the work of an involved and committed player. Maybe down around 1.5x

For the four weekly APs I'm running it's litterally nothing more than pre-read the material, help the players with character creation and leveling and run the game. More work than I used to put in, but not all that much.

If you have to quibble about how you dont necessarily put in WAY more work then meander between putting in double to 1.5X the work of a particularly committed player, then go on to talk about pre-reading, you're kind of proving my point of GMS putting in most of the work.


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kyrt-ryder wrote:

Not all of us GMs put in way more work than the players. I imagine I put in less than double the work of an involved and committed player. Maybe down around 1.5x

For the four weekly APs I'm running it's litterally nothing more than pre-read the material, help the players with character creation and leveling and run the game. More work than I used to put in, but not all that much.

How does your style work when running an AP?

I don't mean that as any kind of challenge, I'm just curious. I had you pencilled in to the 'sandbox DM' category (granted I do often get posters confused). That's a style I really like, although my current players are much more comfortable being heavily railroaded.

I toyed with the idea of running an AP in a sandbox fashion, but figured it was likely to be so far adrift by the end of book 1 that book 2 would barely be connected, similarly at the end of books 2, 3, 4... I've never tried it, but I figured books 5 and 6 would be effectively worthless, since the players would have negligible chance of having all the required leads - they tend to focus on the most unexpected details, in my experience. That thing I introduce as casual flavor often seems to them to be the 'big issue' they simply have to get to the bottom of..


kyrt-ryder wrote:
For the four weekly APs I'm running it's litterally nothing more than pre-read the material, help the players with character creation and leveling and run the game. More work than I used to put in, but not all that much.

Try doing it when you aren't running material someone else wrote for you, and tell me how little work it is.

Of course GMing is easier if you're running an AP or some other adventure someone else wrote. If you're not doing that sort of thing though, you have to write that material yourself.

I mean, I personally haven't run a module, AP, or other pre-written adventure since the early 90s. While people dislike the idea that as GM I want to run my story, I dislike APs and their like because I assuredly don't want to run someone else's story instead. The "coming up with a story" part of the GM job isn't that far from "providing everything that a canned adventure has, but you came up with it yourself."

I'm personally not all that comfortable starting a campaign until the word document with my notes on the setting, the major players, and the various schemes that are about and how they interlace is at least 150 or so pages.


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Steve Geddes wrote:

My understanding isn't really important but, to be honest, I still don't understand how it's consistent with "Don't roll the dice if you're (collectively) not willing to accept the consequences". It seems to me that isn't your objection - rather you think the dice rolls should be ignored provided the players get to choose which dice are ignored not the DM.

I don't think there's anything wrong with that - but it seems to me the objection is more clearly expressed as being all about player agency. The reason I think it matters is in the interests of communication - as DM I run whatever game the players ask for. If you said to me "I don't think we should mess with the dice rolls" I wouldn't dream of offering to use Hero Points (and I'd get confused if you asked for them).

If you said you didn't want me to mess with them, since you wanted to hold the fate of your character in your own hands as much as possible and just want me to provide challenges for you to interact with as you wished, based on the objective rules of the game, then I'd have a much better idea of what you are looking for as a player.

It's not consistent. Its something I see as a more preferable alternative to cheating. Its an insulating layer but one that's not obsufcated or likely to be mired in contention


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I appreciate the effort in spelling out your position (I can be a little slow!)
Cheers.


PossibleCabbage wrote:
kyrt-ryder wrote:
For the four weekly APs I'm running it's litterally nothing more than pre-read the material, help the players with character creation and leveling and run the game. More work than I used to put in, but not all that much.

Try doing it when you aren't running material someone else wrote for you, and tell me how little work it is.

Of course GMing is easier if you're running an AP or some other adventure someone else wrote. If you're not doing that sort of thing though, you have to write that material yourself.

Did you read that big post I wrote to you? The one I opened by apologizing for the impression of jumping down your throat?

Prior to the playtesting I'm presently doing, I never used to use published material and find spontaneously GMing even less work.

Quote:

I mean, I personally haven't run a module, AP, or other pre-written adventure since the early 90s. While people dislike the idea that as GM I want to run my story, I dislike APs and their like because I assuredly don't want to run someone else's story instead. The "coming up with a story" part of the GM job isn't that far from "providing everything that a canned adventure has, but you came up with it yourself."

I'm personally not all that comfortable starting a campaign until the word document with my notes on the setting, the major players, and the various schemes that are about and how they interlace is at least 150 or so pages.

Woah. For a non published campaign I usually spend one week helping the players create deep and highly motivated/driven characters with a real sense of existing and then we dive right in.


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... wow. I post a blockbuster (9 favorites - thanks, guys!!) and then come back to people saying either 'fudging is Eviller than sacrificing babies to Asmodeus' and 'every GM fudges because otherwise TPK within the first three adventures'.

First, fudging a die roll does not cheapen the experience; half the time the GM is not going to be telling you half the calculations that are going into the situation, and the other half of the time he isn't even going to tell you your DC / target number / hit minimum / whatever the game requires to say something is a success. The GM is there to help you tell a good story. The game system is only the mechanic by which you are telling and experiencing a good story. If you want, ever, a GM that doesn't tweak the dice for you, go play a video game.

On the hardest level.

On Death-March, or whatever mode has 'you don't get to reload after dying'.

There, you have a GM that isn't tweaking the dice for your fun.

Second, however, fudging every die roll, or most, or many, or even infrequently, will cheapen the experience - and, worse, is a clumsy way for the GM to handle his players. Either the PCs are getting away with murder, and sometimes they should, or else the GM is not applying the appropriately dreadful consequences of the players Doing Stupid Sh1t in a situation within which Doing Stupid Sh1t is going to cause both Heaven and Hell to draw lots to determine which one of them falls upon the players.

If the PCs get a genius idea and their dice are going to make the Horribly Terrible Difficult Social-Death-Trap Of Doom into a cakewalk, let them enjoy the cakewalk. Let them not only have their cake, let them eat it in front of General Zod. Hell, have the good General smile at them, and congratulate them on such a stunning idea, he'll be sure to give them medals, and would they stay overnight? And then have Lady Subtlety, General Zod's chatelaine, be taking care of his late-night snack and talking to him about the PCs' wonderful idea. And let her bring up how stupid an idea it is for him to follow, and how the PCs are taking advantage of him. And in the morning, the PCs wake up to find their rooms locked and barred from the outside. This is a good GM fudge, because it means that the PCs' dice rolls succeeded - but it also means that the PCs do not exist in a vacuum.

(Look, when a system noodge like me can manage to build a 5th-level follower that not only effectively has +20 to her Diplomacy roll (without magic items to assist!!), but also can a) Take 10 on any such roll, b) Take 20 (with no extra time) on one such roll per day, and c) for 150 minutes/day can make each roll twice and take the better one, you'll run into situations where a PC can talk Darth Sidious into coming over to the Light Side, because not only do they have cookies, they also have milk. This is fine, but unless they mean to try to isolate the Emperor, someone's going to be able to talk to him for a few hours and, eventually, talk some sense into him. He may have doubts, but he's the Emperor - "hold them in the cells for a few days while I think this over.")

And if the PCs get a crazy-stupid idea that leads them straight into disaster, you don't generally need to fudge the dice rolls to keep from killing them off outright. (Well, you do sometimes.) Remember that if you go into negative HP, you're dying - which means you're unconscious. A smart/good GM nods, and if the other PCs are going down left and right, will tell you that he's going to roll your stability checks. And remember also that though you might become stable, that doesn't mean you become conscious - that'll take at least an hour, going by the rules for 'stable'. And then, if it's a theoretical TPK, he can do whatever he wants since you're all down and out.

----
"Much to your surprise, you come slowly to consciousness inside a hogan. A spooky-looking man sits by a low-burning fire, chanting softly and sprinkling herbs onto the coals every now and then. When you try to move, you discover a thong looped around both your upper arms, which goes beneath the cot on which you rest."

Congratulations - the bears who 'killed' you 'worked' for a spooky Navajo shaman/druid!! And you are now his prisoners while he decides what to do with you!! RP time!!
----

This is 'fudging' as much as anything done to die rolls, and is the hallmark of a good GM. You are punished (-7 HP for everyone!) for your stupid idea of attacking six bears when you're only a 2nd level party, and so you have suffered the consequences. But the game - and the story - can go on, and doesn't have to end when the dwarven fighter finally gets dropped. Capture by the enemy, salvation by a stranger from Samaria, the GM rolls successful stabilization rolls for everyone because the opposition didn't 'make sure' of the PCs by stabbing them repeatedly in the heart/head, whatever - it's 'fudging'. The best GMs do it AFTER you go down, not in order to PREVENT you from going down; they also allow you to get away with your impossible schemes, but for only so long before 'y'know, that was a really stupid idea - what was I thinking???' rolls around and they eventually decide that that was a really bad decision, by which time hopefully you'll have saved the princess or whatever and are able to better resist their onslaught.

Roll the dice. Accept the hit. GMs, let them roll the dice. Always be willing to let them go under - and always have a backup plan for their survival. If a player wants to try something else, fine - your PC died. But claiming that 'any fudging at all' makes the experience 'cheaper' somehow ... well, remember that your GM gets paid by having fun too. And if you reeeeeally want a GM who doesn't fudge the game in order to tell a story, you might want to consider, instead of an RPG, wargaming miniatures or playing hardcore death-march video games ...


You're very well-spoken for someone with a mouth full of his own tail! I'm sure I'm not the only one thinking what you were but unable to eloquently describe it. Bending the rules doesn't necessarily mean tearing them in half, as long as you're not trying it all the time and you don't pull too hard.


I 'd assert that 90% of the example(s) are not cheating. Everything was done in accordance to the rules*

*The only 'cheating' described was in regards to not killing the PC's with damage (by possibly doctoring the damage and stabilization rolls). Which could also be replicated by dealing a little bit of non-leathal damage.

What was described was:

A) Actions having consequence. The did the stupid ludicrous thing so things are gonna get complicated.

B) Failing forward, being defeated doesn't necessarily mean death in this case it's just another plot hook.

Both of which are excellent.

I'd also assert again that most of the time cheating is a result of the fragility of Characters in general. (People dying due to crit's/bad rolls and it being hard to main/incapacitate without killing unless built for it).


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In general, I don't see all that much fudging of dice rolls at the tables I sit on; the issue I see most often is the GM deciding to up the DC of skill checks if the character's are able to make the checks more often than 75% of the time.

I try not to get too salty about it; but if I spend eight-plus hours building a character with a specific skill set and niche to fill, I darn well expect him to be good at what he does, not just "average".

As a for instance, through the use of a combination of Traits, Feats, Skill Points, Stat selection, and personal wealth spent on Magic Items, I have achieved a bonus to Intimidate of +39 at 9th level. Magically, even though I should realistically never even need to roll in order to successfully Intimidate someone, I not only need to make a roll, but straight out fail more than a third of the time.

If the GM is just going to alter the DC's of the checks because "the PC's winning all the time is boring", then what is the point of me putting all the time, effort, and resources into my abilities that I do? I despise feeling like I am being punished for trivializing skill based challenges; I say, with the amount of work I've put into it, I SHOULD be able to trivialize some paltry skill check.

Sorry, that got a little bit ranty there.


On the other hand, some GMs feel that if you're good enough to win all the time, there's no tension in the story - no sense of possibly losing when you're doing something, and no anticipation to find out what happens. Many guides for creating adventures point out that a certain amount of pressure (even if it's just running out of stuff for the day) is a key part of game design.

To put it another way... the fact that you can trivialize something doesn't necessarily mean you should. How many times can you automatically win every type of encounter before you start wanting to do something else?


Deadbeat Doom wrote:

In general, I don't see all that much fudging of dice rolls at the tables I sit on; the issue I see most often is the GM deciding to up the DC of skill checks if the character's are able to make the checks more often than 75% of the time.

I try not to get too salty about it; but if I spend eight-plus hours building a character with a specific skill set and niche to fill, I darn well expect him to be good at what he does, not just "average".

As a for instance, through the use of a combination of Traits, Feats, Skill Points, Stat selection, and personal wealth spent on Magic Items, I have achieved a bonus to Intimidate of +39 at 9th level. Magically, even though I should realistically never even need to roll in order to successfully Intimidate someone, I not only need to make a roll, but straight out fail more than a third of the time.

If the GM is just going to alter the DC's of the checks because "the PC's winning all the time is boring", then what is the point of me putting all the time, effort, and resources into my abilities that I do? I despise feeling like I am being punished for trivializing skill based challenges; I say, with the amount of work I've put into it, I SHOULD be able to trivialize some paltry skill check.

Sorry, that got a little bit ranty there.

That's insane, especially when you consider that Intimidate DCs are determined by hit dice and Wisdom modifiers. If 1d20+39 were to legitimately fail that often, then everything would be insanely tough and/or wise.


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You should be able to trivialize a particular skill check, I agree. And this comes in on the whole 'General Zod/Emperor Palpatine' thing I said above - where you should be able to successfully Intimidate them at least long enough to get your and your friends' tailbones out of the situation, until they get un-intimidated (what, an hour, maybe?) and order the troops to not even let you talk, just shoot masses of arrows at you from 5 range brackets out.

(Please PM me how you got that Intimidation, btw. I need it. ;) Or just the character ... )

The trick to GMing that particular situation is, of course, to give you two different sorts of spotlight time - one in which using Intimidate is the way to succeed, and another in which using Intimidate is the way to fail. We remember characters not only because their top-notch field, but also by the fields they couldn't succeed with if they rolled Natural 20s all day and night. Maybe the only way The Master of Intimidate can get the information is by charming it out of some poor kid, or shy princess, or cowardly shopkeeper. Intimidate him at all - heck, even try!! - and the kid breaks down crying, the princess stares and runs away, the shopkeeper starts howling for the city guard. Watch The Master fumble around with his Diplomacy. Watch him try (and fail) to Sleight-of-Hand off the counter the key to the prison cell his buddies are in.

If I narrow the focus of my character further and further, yes, I expect my character to succeed marvelously - to be able to intimidate people just by wanting to while I walk down the street (the street clears -- shopkeepers close their doors and windows -- tumbleweeds race by to get out of the line of your gaze), to have a good chance to stare down Empyreal and Demon Lords alike. I also expect my GM to take ruthless advantage of all of the areas I SUCK at, to occasionally make using Intimidate a bad option, and to make me work for the FINAL victories all the harder.

Changing DCs because your PCs are succeeding 'too often' is, IMO, the blatant, bad, inelegant sort of 'fudging' - the sort that makes the game more sucky, not more exciting. Taking advantage of all of the glaring holes in my character in light of my extreme specialization? Far more elegant and exciting sort of fudging.


The Wyrm Ouroboros wrote:

You should be able to trivialize a particular skill check, I agree. And this comes in on the whole 'General Zod/Emperor Palpatine' thing I said above - where you should be able to successfully Intimidate them at least long enough to get your and your friends' tailbones out of the situation, until they get un-intimidated (what, an hour, maybe?) and order the troops to not even let you talk, just shoot masses of arrows at you from 5 range brackets out.

(Please PM me how you got that Intimidation, btw. I need it. ;) Or just the character ... )

The trick to GMing that particular situation is, of course, to give you two different sorts of spotlight time - one in which using Intimidate is the way to succeed, and another in which using Intimidate is the way to fail. We remember characters not only because their top-notch field, but also by the fields they couldn't succeed with if they rolled Natural 20s all day and night. Maybe the only way The Master of Intimidate can get the information is by charming it out of some poor kid, or shy princess, or cowardly shopkeeper. Intimidate him at all - heck, even try!! - and the kid breaks down crying, the princess stares and runs away, the shopkeeper starts howling for the city guard. Watch The Master fumble around with his Diplomacy. Watch him try (and fail) to Sleight-of-Hand off the counter the key to the prison cell his buddies are in.

If I narrow the focus of my character further and further, yes, I expect my character to succeed marvelously - to be able to intimidate people just by wanting to while I walk down the street (the street clears -- shopkeepers close their doors and windows -- tumbleweeds race by to get out of the line of your gaze), to have a good chance to stare down Empyreal and Demon Lords alike. I also expect my GM to take ruthless advantage of all of the areas I SUCK at, to occasionally make using Intimidate a bad option, and to make me work for the FINAL victories all the harder.

Changing DCs because your PCs are...

Honestly the GM dropped the ball there. He shouldn't be fudging that. He should have seen you had a +39 and said, "No. I feel that this is overpowered and game breaking and will not allow your character to have that level of skill. Maybe you can invest in some more areas."


Perhaps; that's an option, certainly. But remember that it's only overpowered and game-breaking if the GM allows the player to use it all the time. And, just as importantly, only if he doesn't take advantage of all those other huge holes in the character's built - not all of which advantage must be combat-oriented ...


HWalsh wrote:
...

I think it's ok for characters to be good at stuff if they try to be.

Btw what is too good for skills? Is it different for different skills? For example, monks can get pretty big acrobatics numbers early in the game. Maybe like +35 is the maximum?


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Mathmuse wrote:


Tonight's game starts in half an hour. This session has a chance of being a total party kill. I like the fictional characters in the party and don't want to see the story end as they die.

But I am not going to fudge the rolls.
...

The party lived. The BBEG successfully exploited the terrain and spent his minions to bottle up the party while casting his spells safely. But the party had deduced the clues about the final showdown, and buffed themselves to protect against the spells. We finally had to quit at midnight, the fight will continue, but the party has the advantage now. The BBEG retreated to a room with more minions, hoping the party's buffs wear off before they catch up.

And the party is as angry as hornets at the BBEG, because he was seriously trying to kill the PCs, and his minions deliberately ganged up on the most vulnerable party members, not the most dangerous. They vowed to hunt him down.

I have to play the bad guys seriously, and that means risking killing party members, to earn a passionate reaction like this.


PossibleCabbage wrote:
A lot of folks jumping on me for the "my story" line, but the fact of the matter is that unless I (or whoever's running the game) has an idea of what the setting, central conflict, dramatis personae, factions and conflicts, etc. are then there is no game.

False. You are totally irrelevant and unnecessary for a group of people trying to collaboratively tell a story through an RPG.


CWheezy wrote:
HWalsh wrote:
...

I think it's ok for characters to be good at stuff if they try to be.

Btw what is too good for skills? Is it different for different skills? For example, monks can get pretty big acrobatics numbers early in the game. Maybe like +35 is the maximum?

Too big is anything that becomes disruptive to play.

If you are using it enough that the GM is constantly having to fudge then there is probably a reason. Social interaction skills can be incredibly game breaking, not to mention frustrating, to the game. Suddenly all of your plots are revealed as every single enemy that isn't outright killed by the party (fairly easy to accomplish) is instantly cowed into submission with a threatening glance and one minute of down time, for the duration 10-60 minutes is friendly toward the player character. Then, providing they roll well on the duration, they can also long term coerce enemies which, I shouldn't have to remind you, is enough to torpedo a LOT of plot fodder.

Anyone who invests that heavily in a skill is also going to try to use it... As often as possible. This means that a lot of things become simply unworkable for a narrative of any sort.

Its fine for sandbox play, or at least much less disruptive, as, in sandbox play, the GM is usually reactive rather than proactive. A +39 intimidate by level 9, for example, can be used to outright ruin entire APs.

I know this because I have seen similar happen with mega high diplomacy. Generally speaking since, to smack a 9th level/9 HD, target between a 19-25 total or a 23-29 for larger enemies and it isn't a contested roll this becomes a situation where a player has an ability that is next-to-impossible to defend against by any intelligent creature and, at +39, will practically always work even on a roll of a 1. (Because remember, a 1 is not an automatic failure with a skill.)


The more I read the more I respected and appreciated my old group. We were friends first players second. As a GM we often made rule adjustments or changes. In those cases we informed the players what we were doing and why. Sometimes we didn't but just as often told players we as a GM reserved the right to do this. Most times it was for a campaign.
Now I have ran into GM who took an active dislike to me. Did he cheat? Not outright but he made it difficult for my PC to survive. This wouldn't have bothered me so much except he liked another player who had inside information and used it to make a better character.
Some GMs do cheat and it's sad. Sad because they ruin the gaming experience for players who make give up gaming because of him or her.


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There's a lot of "wrongbadfun" on this thread.


On the other hand if I get 'climbing, absurd.' As a player I want the occasional oiled ceiling overhang with small handholds' to Impress others with my skill on.


Sorry I missed this post earlier Steve, responding now.

"Steve Geddes wrote:
How does your style work when running an AP?

It's been a learning experience to be sure. Investing an hour or so per week to preread enough material to be sure the party won't get ahead of me (and far enough to be sure I'm not missing anything that should involve itself in whatever they do) has required more prep time than I'm used to, but it works out.

Quote:
I don't mean that as any kind of challenge, I'm just curious. I had you pencilled in to the 'sandbox DM' category (granted I do often get posters confused). That's a style I really like, although my current players are much more comfortable being heavily railroaded.

You nailes it on the head, Spontaneous off-the-cuff sandboxing is my usual style. I have found the APs easier to use with less-involved players, the ones that don't want to have to think about what their character wants to pursue.

Had a bit of a stall at tbe start of Curse Of The Crimson Throne as I failed to involve myself enough in the backstory development of the players and 2 out of three had weak motivation to pursue the target, but I chalk that up as a lesson learned.

Quote:
I toyed with the idea of running an AP in a sandbox fashion, but figured it was likely to be so far adrift by the end of book 1 that book 2 would barely be connected, similarly at the end of books 2, 3, 4... I've never tried it, but I figured books 5 and 6 would be effectively worthless, since the players would have negligible chance of having all the required leads - they tend to focus on the most unexpected details, in my experience. That thing I introduce as casual flavor often seems to them to be the 'big issue' they simply have to get to the bottom of..

Regarding those minor derails I often let them quickly play out, or take advantage of the Knowledge/Survival/Perception/Sense Motive skills of the party to outright tell them what they are trying to uncover or at least a rough ballpark that they're headed down a rabbit hole. It's worked so far.


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Cheers. (I like the idea of resolving tangents quickly with a single roll).

How far through the APs you're play testing have you got? Have you made it to books 5/6?


RDM42 wrote:
On the other hand if I get 'climbing, absurd.' As a player I want the occasional oiled ceiling overhang with small handholds' to Impress others with my skill on.

I don't, unless I can auto-pass that too.

What I want is something I can do and do damned well to the benefit of the mission, such as scaling an 'unscalable wall' to throw down a rope and lead my group to attack the unaware enemies.


Or thane the unplanned derail and tie it back into the main plot. You didn't have anything laid down for it anyway, there is no obligation to make the thing you are planning on the fly now lead away from the plot.


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Steve Geddes wrote:

Cheers. (I like the idea of resolving tangents quickly with a single roll).

How far through the APs you're play testing have you got? Have you made it to books 5/6?

Roll nothing. I use their ranks as a reason to let them know what I want them to know through the character with that knowledge.

I might ask for a roll if they wanted to probe their understanding further.

I have not made that much progress, longest playtest has perhaps 6 or so 3-4 hour text chat sessions behind it, maybe 3/4ths of the way through the first book of shattered star.

Curse of the Crimson Throne is two sessions in, while Giantslayer and Rise of the Runelords are yet to begin.


kyrt-ryder wrote:
RDM42 wrote:
On the other hand if I get 'climbing, absurd.' As a player I want the occasional oiled ceiling overhang with small handholds' to Impress others with my skill on.

I don't, unless I can auto-pass that too.

What I want is something I can do and do damned well to the benefit of the mission, such as scaling an 'unscalable wall' to throw down a rope and lead my group to attack the unaware enemies.

So you want narrative control of the game as a player. You want no chance if failure at tasks that are narratively impacting on the game.

That would never be possible in any game I run. There should always be a risk of failure on any epic task, see because I run (when not doing APs) under the assumption that anything a PC can do other characters can and have done.

Thus the unassailable wall would have been constructed with someone with that kind of modifier in mind.

My players are aware of what I call, "The rule of escalation."

Or, to put it simply, over specialization hurts you more than it helps you. It is actually similar to how the real world works.

If one nation built, in the real world, the most awesome gun ever. Then in a few months after it debuted there would already be knock offs and defenses against such things would be invented.

Take into account situations with real world spies. If captured the KGB actually had people with hollow teeth that could be broken and contained cyanide. So, to use intimidate +39 as an example.

Either A: some countermeasure to stop the agents from being turned would QUICKLY be created. IE the party would find problems as trying to capture people and intimidate them ended with self termination before a minute was up to turn them...

Or...

B: The enemy organization would employ some way to make agents immune to fear and thus intimidate.

Or...

C: The PC is too dangerous to the organization and thus has become a target for assassination. They'd start focus firing him. They'd find an Assassin who is just as "hyper specialized" at alpha-strike assassinations as the target is at intimidation.

When a player starts "uber specializing" then the world starts uber-specializing. Thus we get escalation. So, in reality, it's better to simply not try to start an arms race in the first place.


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HWalsh wrote:
kyrt-ryder wrote:
RDM42 wrote:
On the other hand if I get 'climbing, absurd.' As a player I want the occasional oiled ceiling overhang with small handholds' to Impress others with my skill on.

I don't, unless I can auto-pass that too.

What I want is something I can do and do damned well to the benefit of the mission, such as scaling an 'unscalable wall' to throw down a rope and lead my group to attack the unaware enemies.

So you want narrative control of the game as a player. You want no chance if failure at tasks that are narratively impacting on the game.

That would never be possible in any game I run. There should always be a risk of failure on any epic task, see because I run (when not doing APs) under the assumption that anything a PC can do other characters can and have done.

Thus the unassailable wall would have been constructed with someone with that kind of modifier in mind.

My players are aware of what I call, "The rule of escalation."

This kind of thinking will push me as a player out of a game far faster than mere fudged dice ever would.

Invalidating a character's specialization is a special kind of offensive to me as a player, made even worse by the fact that a freaking Wizard could just pop a spell and automatically overcome the obstacle with virtually zero permanent commitment at all.


IMHO,
I think the main thrust of this topic points to two different extreme types of GM's. The first is the GM who goes by the rules not matter what and the second goes by the story no matter what.
I think most GM's are somewhere in between the two extremes.

IMHO, GM's have there various strengths and weakness just as players do.

Also IMHO a good GM has the flexibility to adjust to any situation the players throw at them but then again that is my opinion and probably not everyone's opinion.
So you can say I am in the camp that does not like "This happens no matter what" type stories if it is possible for the PC's and or some other person/group/entity to stop it from happening.

MDC


I think one of the roles of the GM is to try to encourage and support player choices - but not to the extent that it ruins the game and/or everyone else's fun. Massive overspecialization has a tendency to cause trouble at a table, whether it's killing every enemy so fast nobody else gets to do anything or passing every type of skill challenge without breaking a sweat (or at least expending resources). It probably is best to try and head that off at the start, explaining that excessive specialization isn't right for that game.


Specialization is a resource, the most limited and precious resourse in the game is character building choices. That's FAR more limited than spell slots or potions.


Ultimately, every character gets a certain number of resources to invest in creating their character. That's not the same thing as expending some of the party's daily abilities so they're not fully topped-up right before a boss fight or other particularly challenging encounter (that's usually considered a bad thing, since a party with full resources tends to stomp over things without breaking a sweat, especially at higher levels).

And really, if somebody is so specialized that they can't contribute outside of their narrow focus, well... there's a reason classes like the Fighter are often considered poor choices, even when they can wreck anything their focus applies to.


kyrt-ryder wrote:
HWalsh wrote:
kyrt-ryder wrote:
RDM42 wrote:
On the other hand if I get 'climbing, absurd.' As a player I want the occasional oiled ceiling overhang with small handholds' to Impress others with my skill on.

I don't, unless I can auto-pass that too.

What I want is something I can do and do damned well to the benefit of the mission, such as scaling an 'unscalable wall' to throw down a rope and lead my group to attack the unaware enemies.

So you want narrative control of the game as a player. You want no chance if failure at tasks that are narratively impacting on the game.

That would never be possible in any game I run. There should always be a risk of failure on any epic task, see because I run (when not doing APs) under the assumption that anything a PC can do other characters can and have done.

Thus the unassailable wall would have been constructed with someone with that kind of modifier in mind.

My players are aware of what I call, "The rule of escalation."

This kind of thinking will push me as a player out of a game far faster than mere fudged dice ever would.

Invalidating a character's specialization is a special kind of offensive to me as a player, made even worse by the fact that a freaking Wizard could just pop a spell and automatically overcome the obstacle with virtually zero permanent commitment at all.

Characters who over specialize in the manner described is a special kind of offensive to me Kurt. It feels way too much like you make characters that use the rules to break verisimilitude then feel offended when verisimilitude is asserted.

For me, the game world must have verisimilitude. Warlords tend to spend huge amounts of gold to hire Wizards to "wizard proof" their keeps because there are some common ways in. They spend money to counter things like invisibility and the like. They would do no less to ensure that people with a +50 climb skill can get in than they would to take precautions to deal with someone who can fly.

It wouldn't be a matter of driven out, likely you and I would be incompatible and I'd simply have already asked you to leave.

That's not a rip on you either, however, not every player's style and every GMs style works. I can already tell that you'd not enjoy me as a player/GM and vice-versa.


Verisimilitude to me can take one of two different forms: either a world where mid-levels are quite common and expected, where a +35 climb would be as planned-for as Flight or Passwall..... But a +40 climb without any magic at play would not....

Or a low power world, where each level is 1/10 as common as the one below it and people over level 8 are only rumored to exist.

I've taken a greater liking to the latter, though I used to prefer the former.

I did ask you a question yesterday regarding my GM style that you didn't answer, will quote in case you missed it.


Here it is Walsh.

HWalsh wrote:

See, where some people here have said that they'd leave a group if the GM had a story I'm the complete opposite. I don't sandbox. If the GM has no plot and it's more or less, "Do what you want and I'll just react." Then I get bored. I walk.

I'm here to participate in an epic tale not an alternate reality simulator. I want a threat to the land, ancient artifacts, some reason to put my life in danger other than for gits and shiggles.

But what if it's YOUR epic tale, with threats to the land that evolve during play, ancient artifacts which are revealed during play, dozens if not hundreds of reasons to put your life in danger other than for gits and shiggles.

Quote:
I want to be a big dang hero who saved the Princess from Assassins. Who undertook a quest to destroy the Crimson Shadows (Assassins) who found their lair only to confront their grandmaster. Then have the grandmaster surrender only to explain that the Crimson Shadows are part of a Good organization known as the Keepers of the Eternal Flame and that the person we thought of as the Princess is actually a Demon who possessed her body by removing her soul. Thus I resolve to trek to the Demon's old lair, find the soul, and pledge to return it to the body and force the Demon out where it can be destroyed once and for all!

This sounds like something that would happen in a game I run.

Quote:
do not want this possibly epic story, as a player or GM, to be ruined because the demon rolled a Nat 1 on a Bluff check in session 1 and a player happened to roll very high.

It's not going to be ruined. It might play out a little differently [maybe even better!] but it's not going to be ruined.


A good module or path should have more than one bad guy. In supernatural, if Lucifer was somehow destroyed, the king of hell becomes more powerful. Maybe the character destroying the indestructible is the key to releasing Rovagug? A door that can only be opened by someone absurdly unlikely, is a good door to lock something behind.

Back on topic, Rule one is fun. If the GM cheats, then everyone can cheat. There have been topics where a GM asked for help creating a railroad world where anyone who tried to leave the island or whatever, automatically died or was turned into a monster. I hid those topics as soon as possible. The whole point of an unbeatable game like Resident Evil is to win anyways. If the GM violates internal logic too often, the lose their players and soon gets a bad reputation.


kyrt-ryder wrote:

Here it is Walsh.

HWalsh wrote:

See, where some people here have said that they'd leave a group if the GM had a story I'm the complete opposite. I don't sandbox. If the GM has no plot and it's more or less, "Do what you want and I'll just react." Then I get bored. I walk.

I'm here to participate in an epic tale not an alternate reality simulator. I want a threat to the land, ancient artifacts, some reason to put my life in danger other than for gits and shiggles.

But what if it's YOUR epic tale, with threats to the land that evolve during play, ancient artifacts which are revealed during play, dozens if not hundreds of reasons to put your life in danger other than for gits and shiggles.

Quote:
I want to be a big dang hero who saved the Princess from Assassins. Who undertook a quest to destroy the Crimson Shadows (Assassins) who found their lair only to confront their grandmaster. Then have the grandmaster surrender only to explain that the Crimson Shadows are part of a Good organization known as the Keepers of the Eternal Flame and that the person we thought of as the Princess is actually a Demon who possessed her body by removing her soul. Thus I resolve to trek to the Demon's old lair, find the soul, and pledge to return it to the body and force the Demon out where it can be destroyed once and for all!

This sounds like something that would happen in a game I run.

Quote:
do not want this possibly epic story, as a player or GM, to be ruined because the demon rolled a Nat 1 on a Bluff check in session 1 and a player happened to roll very high.
It's not going to be ruined. It might play out a little differently [maybe even better!] but it's not going to be ruined.

Kurt - The second you switch to a storyline the sandbox goes away. You can't sandbox an epic story because sandboxes move at the pace of the player. You end up with Skyrim or Oblivion where the plot only moves forward when you move it forward.

I like narratives which are wholly incompatible with reactive world.


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Goth Guru wrote:

A good module or path should have more than one bad guy. In supernatural, if Lucifer was somehow destroyed, the king of hell becomes more powerful. Maybe the character destroying the indestructible is the key to releasing Rovagug? A door that can only be opened by someone absurdly unlikely, is a good door to lock something behind.

Back on topic, Rule one is fun. If the GM cheats, then everyone can cheat. There have been topics where a GM asked for help creating a railroad world where anyone who tried to leave the island or whatever, automatically died or was turned into a monster. I hid those topics as soon as possible. The whole point of an unbeatable game like Resident Evil is to win anyways. If the GM violates internal logic too often, the lose their players and soon gets a bad reputation.

You can't use Supernatural as an example. Those villains always have plot armor. Much like how Lucifer is shot with the gun that can kill anything and yet isn't killed. The Darkness is smote and doesn't die. Lucifer is "killed" by the Darkness and yet is fine in the next episode. The characters approach with a plan that should work and yet it fails because deus ex machina the enemy is unknowingly immune.

The show is fun but is VERY much like a fudging GM.


HWalsh wrote:

Kyrt - The second you switch to a storyline the sandbox goes away. You can't sandbox an epic story because sandboxes move at the pace of the player. You end up with Skyrim or Oblivion where the plot only moves forward when you move it forward.

I like narratives which are wholly incompatible with reactive world.

The sandbox element is the player's right to choose which threads of adventure they pursue and how they wish to pursue them. Unlike (I imagine? Haven't played Elder Scrolls since Morrowind) Skyrim, the world keeps on ticking, changing with or without the players' involvement.

These epic quests don't resolve themselves, and IF someone else resolves it the results may be different than if the PCs did it.

EDIT FOR SUMMARY: I run Active worlds. They do react, but they don't wait for an action to react to.


When I GMed a couple games, I kept to something Gygax said. A GM rolls dice because they like to hear the sound they make. Paraphrasing, of course. I secretly roll my dice and then decide if I want to go with what they say. If things have been too easy for the players, someone's getting hurt. If things have been too hard, oh look. The enemy fumbled or rather, just barely missed, slicing a deep gash into your leather armour, but just narrowly missing your flesh. That is how I fudge dice. You can't make things seem like a cakewalk where it is impossible for them to mess up, but don't constantly bring down the hammer on them.

For other stuff, if a player comes up with a a clever plan that the enemy did not account for, you don't just pull "Nope! Magic forcefield" out of your butt. Reward ingenuity. The common every day tactics are the ones that you can say the enemy has been prepared. If you feel the need to constantly shut down the players, you're doing it wrong. If you are constantly just letting them "win" you are doing it wrong.


So I guess it's time for another lecture on "You keep using that word, I don't think you know what it means". Sandbox, or "Open World" style games, denote games in which the player is given much greater autonomy on how and when to approach their objectives. This is in contrast to "linear" gameplay, in which how and when objectives must be approached is strictly regulated. Within the limitations of the simulation medium, of course. "The Demon needs to make his bluff check or the plot fails" is linear gameplay. "The princess is in that castle and you need to break her out" is sandbox gameplay.

Skyrim and Fallout are both examples of sandbox gameplay. Neither world grows without player input (in the form of leveling or quests), but that's a hard limit of the medium, not by choice. Individual quests in both can be fairly linear (again, limit of the medium) but creativity is certainly rewarded (almost every location in both games has an "exit" near the boss that you can sneak/pick/fly your way into). Compare to a Final Fantasy where your next objective is always clear (go to the <whatever> cave, fight the palette-swapped larger version of a regular monster). You can only enter from the one entrance on the world map, and the dungeon map is basically a straight line with some branching dead ends. You'll notice that none of these have a time limit. That's because while it can be yet another kind of regulation on how objectives must be achieved, it's very very infrequently used. Mostly because it's not fun.

Now, if you're saying that Skyrim doesn't have an epic story because it only moves forward at the speed of plot (as in, it only advances when the player makes it), that's just wrong. You have to concede the existence of a story before you can say it moves forward at the speed of plot. And "epic", outside of the colloquial use (which is entirely subjective) refers to long poems of heroic deeds. I'm pretty sure Skyrim has that for the player (being set in the Norse analog). If you're saying that "storyline" and "sandbox" are incompatible, that's just flat out wrong. Sandbox just lets you pick which storyline, when to approach it, and how to approach it. That storyline might not be heroic (farming simulator!) but that doesn't make it less of a storyline. If you're saying that "epic stories" and "sandbox" are incompatible, again, just wrong. Not every sandbox is heroic epics, sure. Some are. Most players I know, offered the chance to slay a rampaging dragon, will jump at the chance. Bam, epic story.


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Let's not bring video games into this. Video games that claim the "RPG" label are a pale shadow of everything that makes actual roleplaying games great. Even the greatest video game "RPGs" ever (Planescape, maybe Fallout 2, or the Witcher 3).

Like video games should be learning and attempting to emulate tabletop, not the other way around.


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Video games are a totally different medium, including computer RPGs, and trying to act like either medium should be "emulating" the other is just kind of arrogant. They're each their own thing. They can both learn from each other in certain areas, of course.


Yes, video games and tabletop RPGs are entirely different things. ...was this in question? If the post was in response to me, someone else brought them up first and so I continued using them as examples. If it was for HWalsh (whom I was responding to), they seem to share your view of video games. I could replace every instance of "linear" with "railroading" and stories of awful, awful GMs and modules, but I felt that video games are a much broader and shared experience. Individual TRPG experiences vary wildly, including our subjective experiences of them. The gameplay of Skyrim is the same in every language (barring mods).


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HWalsh wrote:

Kyrt - The second you switch to a storyline the sandbox goes away. You can't sandbox an epic story because sandboxes move at the pace of the player. You end up with Skyrim or Oblivion where the plot only moves forward when you move it forward.

I like narratives which are wholly incompatible with reactive world.

I suspect that the two of you are using 'storyline' and 'narrative' (am I right that you intend those as synonyms?) in subtly different ways.

In my view the distinguishing feature of a sandbox game is not that it has no storyline. It's that it has no pre-written storyline. To illustrate, let me invent a verb and anecdote the following:

One of my all-time favorite PCs was a con-man. He sold sweet smelling vials of watered down perfume as love potions, disease cures, hair-loss remedies or whatever else he thought the potential buyer might pay for. That group had a huge number of adventures - ranging from the usual 'you hear rumors that such-and-such needs doing', to witnessing odd interactions of hooded strangers in the corner of the inn to being arrested for drug smuggling and told that unless we fetched a macguffin for the king we'd spend our lives in jail (we also spent a lot of time breaking out of settlements in the middle of the night on the run from previous customers of mine).

All of those hooks were laid out for us by the DM, exactly the same as if he were running a more linear campaign. The difference was that some of them we declined to act on (and occasionally heard stories about great adventurers winning much fame from eliminating the troll threat we heard about earlier, or found we needed something only available in the bandit-besieged town we'd neglected to aid a month previous). Often when we did take up the hook, it would be to sell superior weapons and armor to the bandit king or something (ie the adventure often played out far differently than what the author intended).

When we turned those hooks down, we didn't spend our time doing nothing - we had one guy who wanted to visit every town on our scrawled map, so often we'd just pick a place and declare we were going to travel there. We had another who was developing mysterious magical abilities (he was changing class) and kept wanting to seek out mystics on obscure hilltops or seek audiences with cryptic wizards (who gave us inevitable jobs before they'd deign to teach him).

I personally think running a sandbox like that is an enormous amount of work on the DM. Some people are able to just wing it, but what our guy ended up doing was developing dozens of proto-adventures. Once it became clear what we were about to do, he'd improvise for the last couple of hours of the session and then work up the next bit during the week (we had a kind of unspoken agreement not to keep flip-flopping and give up on a quest midway through).

However, it's not true to say that there was no storyline or that "the second you switch to a storyline the sandbox goes away". What you lose is the DM's pre-conceived idea of how events are going to transpire. You still replace that with story though.

I don't present that as any kind of preference really - at the moment I do most of the DMing for our group and the current taste of my players is heavy railroad. (They often explicitly debate in the context of "what we're supposed to do next"). But I do think we should be clear about what the differences are since some of the words offer many possible interpretations.


Like Steve said, in our type of sandbox there are tons of stories, the PCs participate in/create (sometimes entirely by accident they then choose to fix) in the ones that appeal to them (either for greed, glory, generosity or self preservation.)

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