Cheating gm?


Pathfinder First Edition General Discussion

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Bob Bob Bob wrote:
*snip*

Here is why the style of sandbox stories don't work for me.

So let's say you're playing Oblivion. We're told that there is a great threat to the land. You are told to go to a specific place to stop an Oblivion Gate. Time is of the essence!

So you go there! ... Of course you don't. You become head of the Fighter's guild, Wizard's guild, Assassin's guild, join the Knight's if the Nine, etc.

Then you go there and the Oblivion Gate opens just as you do. The world should have already been destroyed but the sandbox allows it.

A really good epic plot is epic. There are high stakes. If you don't do it then the shop you'd rather open will get burned to a cinder. Sandbox, by nature, can't have stakes, can't have consequences, the player agency says no.


HWalsh wrote:
Bob Bob Bob wrote:
*snip*

Here is why the style of sandbox stories don't work for me.

So let's say you're playing Oblivion. We're told that there is a great threat to the land. You are told to go to a specific place to stop an Oblivion Gate. Time is of the essence!

So you go there! ... Of course you don't. You become head of the Fighter's guild, Wizard's guild, Assassin's guild, join the Knight's if the Nine, etc.

Then you go there and the Oblivion Gate opens just as you do. The world should have already been destroyed but the sandbox allows it.

Steve and I have been over this. In our type of Sandbox if you screw around either someone else saves the day, gets your glory and your gold while you lose reputation for accepting a quest and not doing it.

Or nobody stops it and the world goes to hell in a handbasket. There are a handful of ways that could be managed without completely destroying the world... Or the world is completely destroyed and the game either moves on to a new plane of existence or ends completely. In the case that nobody is taking care of it there should be warning signs that calamity is approaching.

Quote:
A really good epic plot is epic. There are high stakes. If you don't do it then the shop you'd rather open will get burned to a cinder. Sandbox, by nature, can't have stakes, can't have consequences, the player agency says no.

The player agency is the right to choose which challenges he undertakes... And then deal with the consequences of those choices.


GM Rednal wrote:

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?

A fair point, but honestly for me I want to be capable of winning every encounter. For me, gaming is a form of escape from the things I don't have control over in the real world; and having my character effectively neutered doesn't help there at all. There are any number of ways I could circumvent ever needing to make a skill check with my example character, as he is a 9th level Witch with indirect access to the entire sorcerer/wizard spell list; randomly telling players that they can't use their standard skills for their intended purpose doesn't build tension in the game, it builds tension between the GM and the rest of the table.

I realize that I have a real problem with power gaming (in that I typically lean towards being a Munchkin), and I realize that the GM likely feels as frustrated as I do about the situation; but if the players as a whole (not just me) constantly feel like their skills are being forcibly blunted in order to maintain pressure, maybe it isn't the players that need to change something.

In any case, it is a topic that has come up repeatedly at our table, and one which will likely to rear it's head many times in the future.


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HWalsh wrote:

Here is why the style of sandbox stories don't work for me.

So let's say you're playing Oblivion. We're told that there is a great threat to the land. You are told to go to a specific place to stop an Oblivion Gate. Time is of the essence!

So you go there! ... Of course you don't. You become head of the Fighter's guild, Wizard's guild, Assassin's guild, join the Knight's if the Nine, etc.

Then you go there and the Oblivion Gate opens just as you do. The world should have already been destroyed but the sandbox allows it.

That's not a problem with sandboxes. That's a problem with video games. "There's a red Gyrados at the lake! Cool, I'll go train my pokemon for a few weeks, then get to it when I feel like it". The linear games just don't let you do anything else with the plot until you resolve that one event, they rarely make you actually resolve it in a certain amount of time. Again, time limits are generally excluded even from the most linear games. They're not fun.

Nothing about a sandbox or non-sandbox game inherently requires that they have or don't have time limits. Red Hand of Doom is the classic "ticking timer" adventure, and (once the players buy into the story) it's about as sandbox as it gets. It has a few set pieces (mostly places it expects the army and the players to meet up) but it generally doesn't describe "what happens" and instead just lists prominent people, places, and things and lets the players have free reign. There's also quite a few "and if your players don't do anything about this this thing happens". That's what a sandbox is.

HWalsh wrote:
A really good epic plot is epic. There are high stakes. If you don't do it then the shop you'd rather open will get burned to a cinder. Sandbox, by nature, can't have stakes, can't have consequences, the player agency says no.

This, however, is just insulting and denigrating. Characters in a sandbox are exactly the same as characters on a railroad. They can still die or lose loved ones, they can still try (and fail) to save the world, they can do anything any other character does. I'd even argue that there's more consequences for the sandbox character, as when they fail they have to keep living in the world. The railroaded character's story presumably ends and you make a new character for a new game.


Bloodrealm wrote:
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.

Exactly my reason for getting upset about it.


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Walsh likes a cause amd effect system in his games that negates optimization, but he seems to protect his players from bad luck.

Best thing to do in his games is test that theory out,have fun with flexible characters kind of good at a lot of things but specialized in nothing. If that fails just play a wizard or quit the game.


HWalsh wrote:
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."

I don't really see why. There are nine skill points, two traits, a feat, and three magic items (worth ~34000GP combined) dumped into that +39; I have legitimately put a great deal of work, both in and out of character, into that +39.

The best part is, the character is a Witch; so anything I am capable of via Intimidate, I am better at with a spell. If I were to be told that my Intimidate skill was "overpowered", I could just start using Charm Person and Dominate Person, and we could see just how "game breaking" a plain-jane skill check really is.

Dark Archive

Pretty sure I've mentioned this before on these forums, but here we go again. When I'm GMing a home game, yes I have been known to fudge the dice on occasion. If my dice are rolling particularly hot in a given session, I may ignore the fact I rolled a nat 20 for the sixth time in one fight. Or maybe look at the crit damaage and reduce it by a third (at least) if I rolled max damage yet again. Yeah, that happened in one game session, the badguy couldn't seem to roll anything less then a crit. This and rolls that are suppose to be made in secret are one reason I like having a GM screen.

Don't always do that though. And if I notice a player is always rolling out of sight and always rolling rather high, I may insist they start rolling where everyone can see. But yeah, I will fudge the dice now and then as a GM. But never to the detriment of the party. And sometimes if the group is cracking jokes about it, I will play those excessively good rolls strait. Had one throw away minion in a spy game who ended up being a greater threat then the mastermind because that one guy always got crits while the party kept rolling 1's when facing him.

Or sometimes I've known the party has no chance at sneaking past an NPC because his/her take 10 perception bonus is higher then their best possible stealth check. In which case I don't actually have to roll. I already KNOW they are going to be spotted. Yet I'll do a secret d20 roll anyway, then describe what happens. Sometimes giving the illusion of the players having a chance to succeed is better then playing things strait.

I also tend to weaken enemies in the first adventure of a campaign. I'll either mostly use enemies who do at most 1d4 damage as a matter of course, or I'll have several of the combat encounters be with poorly equipped bad guys. I always have a reasonable explanation for why the bad guys do less then normal damage with their weapons and are easier to hit then their armor would normally dictate. But it's still using GM prerogative to weaken the enemies in the encounter.


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."

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...

Your initial supposition is flawed. In the real world hyper specialization is the gold standard of education, production, and most fields of science. If a student aims for a Masters in Engineering, he/she doesn't reach for the low hanging fruit of a Mechanical focus; they specialize in Acoustical Engineering, or Manufacturing, or Thermal, or Sports, or Nano, etc.

Specialization is how you become the best in your field; the more narrow the field, the more knowledgeable and capable the people in that field will be.

All that being said; I quite like the countermeasures you put forth to counter the +39 Intimidate. Option C is the direction my GM has gone in; which in turn has forced me to escalate in retaliation by Dominating the enemy agents and forcing them to attack family, friends, and allies, thus sending a message to other would-be assassins. :)


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HWalsh wrote:

Here is why the style of sandbox stories don't work for me.

*snip*

This is likely because sandbox video game RPGs (especially Bethesda's more recent work) is fundamentally not about producing a world that feels realistic, they're about empowering the player of the game by providing that player with the ability to do whatever thing they find interesting in the moment. The game tells the player over and over again "you are special" because the game cannot adapt and improvise like a human can, and the hope is that by constantly praising the player they won't notice that the computer is not, in fact, a very good GM.

The way you run a sandbox game in tabletop is that you put the PCs in a place, a city for example. Within the city there are various factions with disparate interests, who contain people who have schemes and plans to accomplish their goals. If not interfered with by the PCs, they will execute these schemes which may or may not accomplish the desired ends. You drop the PCs in this place and you give them the ability to learn who's who and what's going on, and you let them interfere, assist, or ignore as they see fit. You create feedback loops where player goals bounce back and forth against NPC goals. If the PCs help the captain of the guard uncover a smuggling ring, that might give him the political capital to escape the charges of corruption his 2nd in command is trying to uncover the evidence of, so the local organized crime syndicate who has the captain on their payroll continues to be unmolested by law enforcement. If they play this situation differently, something different happens. Very few video games actually manage to generate this sense of unintended consequences and interconnectedness (of modern AAA fare only New Vegas and the Witcher 3 comes to mind).

The problem, I find, with sandbox games is that at some point players tend to get bored playing local politics and they want something more significant to test their mettle against, which generally requires some sort of external force not a fight that the PCs picked for themselves. Things like that though are seldom generated from player input, so you have to plan out larger plots that are less directed by what the the goals of the PCs, but are instead things that threaten them. But when something significant happens like "ships crewed by the undead are blockading the harbor" that tends to draw the players attention anyway.


kyrt-ryder wrote:

Walsh likes a cause amd effect system in his games that negates optimization, but he seems to protect his players from bad luck.

Best thing to do in his games is test that theory out,have fun with flexible characters kind of good at a lot of things but specialized in nothing. If that fails just play a wizard or quit the game.

Pretty much.

Generally my players seem to like it. I actually run my homebrew as a quasi sandbox. In that I'll have AP-like segments, then some downtime then another story after some time has passed.

So I might, say, run a section from levels 1-3 that is designed to be sandbox. I'll have the players in some sort of micro hub with a bunch of wide open options. A bunch of "mini-quests" ala ye olde adventuring board. Etc. Not all of them combat-oriented. At this point it's wide open.

This way I can get a feel for characters then introduce the world.

Then sometime after level 3 but pre-level 4 an AP-like segment will start. It might be a raid by bandits on the hub or something but generally the PCs have to get involved or they die.

This kicks off an AP like section that lasts until level 7-8. Then some downtime/sandbox for a while until the next AP segment comes up.

I encourage players to create characters with more than one focus. Heck I encourage characters to pick up ancillary utility items that allow non-magical users greater narrative impact. Which is also why I have never seen a C/MD issue at my tables because by level 8 even the Fighter has some miscellaneous magic items that let him fly or use some spell a couple times a day.

The way to do that (in my opinion) is to match the optimization of the party. Fudge when needed. Tell an entertaining story. Give the players challenge without it being too easy or impossible.

The fudge is used when needed not too much, never maliciously, but it allows for options for me AND my players.


@ Walsh: could you perchance respond to this post? I'm quite curious your thoughts on this type of living and dynamic [as opposed to the static type you described in referencing video vames] Sandbox.

Dark Archive

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One problem I've always had with creating adventures is that sometimes the players simply ignore the plot hook that was suppose to draw them in. For example in a superhero game I was running the players saw on the news a "breaking story" which informed them of a super villain team that was holding the local mall hostage. They were suppose to go stop the villains. Instead, they went out for a burger then hunted for muggers. Thus ignoring the villains who were threatening to kill hundreds.

Or they add 2+2 and somehow come up with Rutabaga. In a 2nd edition AD&D game I ran the players learned that villagers have been going missing from a small hamlet. The thief in the party decided that of course he needs to check with the local thieves guild. Never mind that he's in a hamlet that doesn't even qualify as a 1 horse town, there IS no local guild. Then while they investigated they learned Small child like figures had been seen exiting the home of a recent disappearance and carrying lumpy bundles to the west (which was the direction of a wizard's tower they passed on the way into town). So naturally they came to the concluson of "orc slavers in the sewers".

Again, never mind that this is a small hamlet, not even 20 buildings total. There is no sewer system.


Ok the thread have meet its end.

Bye.


HWalsh wrote:
Sandbox, by nature, can't have stakes, can't have consequences, the player agency says no.

I can't agree with this as a correct general statement.

Shadow Lodge

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Veilgn wrote:

Ok the thread have meet its end.

Bye.

Have fun, we'll be fine without you!


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The only thing the DM can cheat is their players out of having fun.

There aren't really rules for walking this line. Experience is the best teacher.

If I am in a pinch, and have to improvise some dice rolls, I usually ask the players if they think that what I propose is "fair" - they usually go for it because we have built up a trust. Sometimes they they make an alternate proposal, sometimes I refute of modify it, or they, using respectful and timely argumentation, but before the dice hit the table, I like to get a consensus that the proposal is "fair."

Having their buy in, if the dice create some nasty circumstances, nobody feels cheated. In fact being flexible most of the time allows me to be inflexible on choice occasions - when I deem it is appropriate for the game as a whole.

So yes I "cheat" - but at the end of the day my players and I are having fun. So it is not really cheating.

Dark Archive

Rub-Eta wrote:
HWalsh wrote:
Sandbox, by nature, can't have stakes, can't have consequences, the player agency says no.
I can't agree with this as a correct general statement.

Sure it can have stakes and consequences. You have eight different possible adventures the party can go on. There's clues and plot hooks for all of them, just need the players to decide which hook they want to bite. Each adventure needs something besides "for the loot" as a reason to go. So let's assume the different plot hooks are

1. players hear rumor of a dragon ravaging a nearby kingdom
2. the royal advisor in this kingdom is planning a coup
3. bandits are waylaying caravans headed to a major city
4. a necromancer is raising an army, the first hint of this is a village which has recently been wiped out to a man
5. slavers have kidnapped the princess (ties in with plot hook #2)
6. the thieves guild is causing more trouble then usual (ties in to plot hook #3)
7. villagers are vanishing in a small hamlet, they've sent for help from the city the players are currently in
8. a dark cult is trying to raise Cthulhu

All of these things are going on at the same time. Depending on which one the party discovers and decides to deal with, the other stuff could become a bigger problem. While they're off fighting the dragon, the necromancer is building up an even larger army. The bandits are cutting off trade going into the city, and the thieves guild in response is getting more desperate. Whatever is abducting the villagers continues unhindered, possibly moving on to an other town afterwords and is now a greater threat. And the advisor manages to kill the king, forcing his daughter to marry said advisor. He now rules the kingdom with a tyrannical fist. Or maybe the royal guard thwart the coup, but the advisor gets away and now has the princess as a hostage.

So by the time the players finish tracking down and subduing (or reasoning with) the dragon the other adventure hot spots each have now become a full blown crisis.


Yes, it is possible and at least I (although there are a significant amount of players I know of as well) would be offended enough that this is a problem. Unfortunately as the GM has full control over the world/game, there is no way to actually identify it as 'cheating' or not.

Now to actually see if its a problem or not, what you must ask yourself when you suspect if your GM is trying to 'cheat' you is whether it is plausible or not? Does it look like the GM is pulling things out of his arse to force what he wants, happen? Then yes he is in all likelihood, 'cheating'.

Or you can ask yourself if you are having fun. No? Then the GM's goals is to 'cheat' you out of your fun and experience.

However in any event, if the GM is 'cheating' there is nothing else you can do. As I said they have full control over the game. So the only thing you can do is call him out on his shenanigans. If he doesn't want to treat you fairly, you might as well leave. The other players in the table might feel the same way. If so then good for you. You can all leave (the GM can't run without any players anyway) and host another game which you all would enjoy.

To give an example, in a 5e game (the pathfinder games this same GM decides to run, while we had our issues, isn't blatantly 'cheating' because it isn't as easy to identify as in 5e's limited resources, although the general consensus of us players was the game isn't fun) the GM continually changed the rules in one encounter. From increasing the amount of enemies to unlimited, to changing the stats of 'run the mill' mooks, to fudging rolls and even the rules, it was blatantly obvious he wanted to kill PCs. And even when the PCs succeeded, he demanded they be NPC'd and characters rerolled because: reasons. Needless to say me and my friend left and never looked back.

So what I am trying to express in the example above is that, if the GM is 'cheating' you of your precious gametime, it will be obvious, and then it becomes your choice of whether you want to continue or find something else to do.

And on to the other parts of the thread I see. While I am alright with GMs fudging dice and such (up to a degree) I expect the GMs to be upfront about it. There is an infamous PFS GM I know of which we all call the 'Dice God' because he rolls a lot of 20s. When he asks if we want open or hidden rolls, we go for the hidden. Another GM of mine, who usually runs mysteries like CoC and such would normally ask us if we can do things a certain way for plot. Now because he had at least asked and attempts to explain his position, I have no problem suspending some of what I would rather do, in favor of actually getting the plot underway, barring certain conditions like not making my PC looks inept or useless. Through this way I don't feel like I as a player had been 'cheated' in anyway.

What I don't like however is GMs in favor of their precious world and plot forcing issues. And not only that, doing it in a way which makes me (and also my PC look bad) because my decisions are not one which he had foreseen or favors. A more recent example, in a Fate game I was in last year, the GM supplies a lot of elements. Elements which I actually could take advantage of (which I did) but eventually I began to realize he has been trivializing all of these elements the moment I came into control of them, because reasons, where previously they had been rather good. E.g. magic, resources, countries. And he is never shy in trying to make it look like he had somehow outsmarted me (although he is the one with full knowledge of the setting and anytime I ask him about it, he refuses to give any details even if by his admission my PC should know because he is one of the smartest entities in the campaign)

In these examples, the point I am trying to make is that I will definitely not enjoy a game where I feel like I am not making a contribution/dent/effect on the game/world no matter what it is I do because the GM is of the opinion even with my PC's specialties, he can't do anything against the uber phat 1337 BBEG barring GM intervention somehow. Obviously I don't suit a number of GMs which have spoke of their opinions in this thread and they don't suit me, which is fine. It is important to know a way to avoid GMs 'cheating' is for the groups to be upfront about their expectations, or be ready to leave when they find each other's philosophies irreconcilable.

Edit: Rainzax ninja'd me. He said it simpler and better. That the cheating is cheating the players out of their fun.


Sure Kurt, I'll respond but, fair warning, you're not going to convince me your adherence to rolls is the best way to go. Ever.

kyrt-ryder wrote:


Steve and I have been over this. In our type of Sandbox if you screw around either someone else saves the day, gets your glory and your gold while you lose reputation for accepting a quest and not doing it.

See, players don't need to accept quests Kurt. In an epic quest they don't have a choice. It's not epic if anyone else can do it.

In this scenario the PCs aren't heroes. They're ordinary guys, because another group of ordinary guys can do it. Glory and gold are incredibly low stakes by way of fantasy epics.

Quote:
Or nobody stops it and the world goes to hell in a handbasket.

I doubt any GM who firmly worships player agency would dare do this.

So instead of going to save the trapped miners, which would have lead them to learn the dark lord murderface mcragnarok had been incidentally freed from his 10,000 year imprisonment, the PCs went to a bar and started their own guild.

While they did this murderface rallied his forces in his extra dimensional plane. The only thing that could kill him, 4 legendary weapons and armors which the PCs should have been spending months gathering while the dark lord gathered his forces.

The PCs are thus chilling when all of a sudden you say, "ok everyone, a hundred million demons descend from nowhere and attack your bar."

And you TPK them without them knowing why against an enemy they can't hurt.

As a player, in a sandbox, I'd be so angry with you that'd be the LAST game I ever played with you.


I see a lot of 'A or Z', 'Sandbox or AP/Story', as if they are somehow mutually exclusive - when, clearly, there's an entire alphabet between them.

If players want to play around in a sandbox - what properly is called freeform, because 'a sandbox' is something from which you take your toys and leave - they're wanting to be the directors of their own stories. Good stories, always always always, have risks / rewards / consequences, even if the characters in the story are the ones who are directing the story; in these cases, the GM is there to develop the RRC, and to expand the story the players are telling by way of their characters.

Without risk, there is no delight in a reward; without consequences, there is no sense of making a permanent change. You might as well create an entirely new character for the campaign world with X gp after every adventure if you want neither risk nor consequence. Risk means having a wonderful chance to fail, and pull it out - or, even more wonderful, ACTUALLY failing, and yet figuring out how to pull it out anyhow. Consequence means walking down the street and being hailed as the savior of the town - or needing to chase the dragon to the next town, hearts burning with righteous vengeance. Otherwise, the day after you save the town and are thrown a party, the 'suspicious grocer' is going to be suspicious of you once again.

It's a spectrum - one we fill with words, written or spoken, made out of all the letters between A and Z, inclusive. It's what RPing is about. But don't delude yourself into thinking that 'by nature' A doesn't have a little bit of Z in it, and vice-versa.


HWalsh wrote:
Sure Kurt, I'll respond but, fair warning, you're not going to convince me your adherence to rolls is the best way to go. Ever.

I didn't expect to. Right now we're talking about GM-Style in aspects that go beyond rolling.

"HWalsh wrote:

See, players don't need to accept quests Kurt. In an epic quest they don't have a choice. It's not epic if anyone else can do it.

In this scenario the PCs aren't heroes. They're ordinary guys, because another group of ordinary guys can do it. Glory and gold are incredibly low stakes by way of fantasy epics.

I find worlds seem to work better when the PC's aren't the ONLY heroes in the world until they reach high levels. At low levels there may be a dozen parties of heroes per country, at mid levels there might only be a dozen in the whole world and at high levels the party might become the big dogs of the whole plane. [Though at that stage the game becomes an interplanar affair anyway.]

HWalsh wrote:
Kyrt wrote:
Or nobody stops it and the world goes to hell in a handbasket.

I doubt any GM who firmly worships player agency would dare do this.

So instead of going to save the trapped miners, which would have lead them to learn the dark lord murderface mcragnarok had been incidentally freed from his 10,000 year imprisonment, the PCs went to a bar and started their own guild.

While they did this murderface rallied his forces in his extra dimensional plane.

I've done this exact sort of thing and the players were shocked/stunned/horrified by what they had wrought... but then they grit their teeth and did what they could to deal with the situation.

HWalsh wrote:
The only thing that could kill him, 4 legendary weapons and armors which the PCs should have been spending months gathering while the dark lord gathered his forces.

See... I don't like this type of plot. What can kill him is the four legendary heroes that the party becomes... if they survive his rule and his hunts-for-potential-future-threats carried out by his lackeys.

HWalsh wrote:
The PCs are thus chilling when all of a sudden you say, "ok everyone, a hundred million demons descend from nowhere and attack your bar."

Hundred million attacking a bar is ridiculous. A few thousand attacking their large town or maybe a hundred thousand attacking their metropolis? I've done it, it's awesome.

HWalsh wrote:
And you TPK them without them knowing why against an enemy they can't hurt.

Against unbeatable odds the answer is a fighting retreat or desperately fleeing with all the tools at their disposal. Somebody will probably die in that sort of scenario, especially NPC allies/minions [such as guild members that they spent time gathering]

HWalsh wrote:
As a player, in a sandbox, I'd be so angry with you that'd be the LAST game I ever played with you.

If it was handled exactly the way you describe I'd be really upset with that too.

Dark Archive

On the other hand, raising to the occasion after being knocked out of your comfortable apathy is a tried and true staple of epic fantasy. And it's also not unheard of in other genres. In one superhero campaign I ran the game started with the main bad guy having already won, and all the heroes are dead (or at least believed to be dead). The players were being hunted like animals for the crime of having super powers and not being sanctioned by the big bad. Some of them JUST got their powers, and now they have a death warrant on their head. As did their entire family.

This gave the players a genuine reason to care about stopping the big bad. It's their life on the line. Their families are now probably dead. And they may well be the only ones even capable of trying to stop the big bad, no matter how badly over their head they are.

For my earlier example of consequences in a sandbox game, the things they didn't stop sooner are now far more threatening. The necromantic army keeps growing, and if the players keep putting off dealing with it entire kingdoms may end up being wiped out. Sure there's other heroes out there, but if the party was seriously thinking that fighting a dragon is a good option then they probably are some of the few who are capable of stopping the bigger threats out there such as that necromantic army. And honestly, if all these threats were the adventure hooks for a level 10 or so party, they ARE legitimately dangerous enough that the average adventurer can't handle dealing with it.


One thing that's weird is hwalsh is making up situations that wouldn't happen to argue against. Like "if x happened I sure would hate it and that's why I railroad", but everyone hates x happening, regardless of gming style
Any way, two things:
I'm not sure if it was mentioned, but you absolutely cannot fudge dice in pfs.

I view the gm as another player, so I frown on them cheating pretty harshly.


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Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Maps, Pathfinder Accessories, PF Special Edition Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Starfinder Superscriber
HWalsh wrote:
Quote:
Or nobody stops it and the world goes to hell in a handbasket.

I doubt any GM who firmly worships player agency would dare do this.

So instead of going to save the trapped miners, which would have lead them to learn the dark lord murderface mcragnarok had been incidentally freed from his 10,000 year imprisonment, the PCs went to a bar and started their own guild.

While they did this murderface rallied his forces in his extra dimensional plane. The only thing that could kill him, 4 legendary weapons and armors which the PCs should have been spending months gathering while the dark lord gathered his forces.

The PCs are thus chilling when all of a sudden you say, "ok everyone, a hundred million demons descend from nowhere and attack your bar."

And you TPK them without them knowing why against an enemy they can't hurt.

As a player, in a sandbox, I'd be so angry with you that'd be the LAST game I ever played with you.

I think you're still imagining a very different thing - it sounds to me like you're comparing a very good railroad DM versus a very bad sandbox DM. I'm not trying to change your preferences or anything, but it's worth understanding what is actually being put forth before dismissing it, imo.

In the situation you portray, for example, the epic plot would continue, but would also intersect with the players' lives. They'd get several chances to join in with the plot - the strength of a sandbox campaign being that it would more seamlessly suit the PCs' motivations, since they'd be the ones making the choice and thus motivating the party's involvement for you.

So they turn down the 'rescue the miners' hook and then meet a guy drinking in a bar who laments how they were part of the rescue mission but seem to have unleashed some awful evil into the world. There's now another hook for the PCs to go learn all the same things and get onto the epic-prevent-the-darklord-from-summoning-millions-of-demons trail. Note that it also stresses the "PCs-as-heroes" trope you like - they can think "Well, if we'd done it I bet none of this would have happened. Now we have to go clean up these other bozos mess!"

Suppose they ignore that and continue to build their guild. I'd continue with that for a while and then have some of their guild operations be disrupted by a group of evil cultists (who surprise, surprise - work for the darklord and are part of his "gather resources to fulfill my evil plot" stage of his scheme). Here they can once more take out the cultists and learn that there's a big, evil darklord who is doing unspeakable things and needs to be stopped.

Suppose they once more ignore that and return to guild-building. Now they hear rumours of four magic weapons of great power - one of which has just been uncovered by a nasty, evil baddie (a lieutenant of the darklord - gathering up the weapons to stop any heroes from interfering). The PCs get another opportunity to choose to engage with the plot - they go foil this new baddie, discover that he's merely a lieutenant of the REAL baddy. Learn about the other three weapons and what the darklord's plans are.

They ignore that (again!) and go back to guild-building. By now they're quite high level, so perhaps one of the great churches comes to them directly with a request (help us....you're our only hope!) with details of where the remaining three great weapons are....And so on and so on...

The point being that the same plot happens, the players still have ample opportunity to get involved, it's just that it may not play out exactly the same as the DM anticipated. It would be poor sandbox DMing to say "Okay you didn't like my epic plot....in a little while the whole world is going to end with no warning".

Note also that in the above case the problem really is that the DM wants to run a "save the world" plot and the players really, really don't want to (they keep ignoring blatant plot hooks). If that's the case, neither option is really going to work - the players in the railroad campaign will be bored being forced to do what they don't want or in the sandbox campaign will be frustrated as the plans they have get undercut by this epic, worldshaking plot they're clearly not interested in playing along with.

Neither approach is very well suited to making a campaign enjoyable that the players aren't into.

Dark Archive

The kind of situation hwalsh gave as an example, sadly enough, does happen on occasion in poorly ran "sandbox" style campaigns. In fact, I've seen such events in a couple campaigns. There's also GMs that are so insistent on events happening in a specific order they ruin things for the players.

In a 3.5 campaign I played in the GM flat out told us that no matter how long we waited, the +1 weapons we had commissioned wouldn't be finished until we came back from the quest we were going on. A quest which had no real urgency to finish since it was purely a "go here and look for information on how to destroy the Artifact you found" style quest. The fact we were going to need those +1 weapons (and fire immunity) for our level 4 party to even survive the first encounter on his adventure was dismissed.

Then again, he wasn't a very good GM to begin with. The reason we needed those ended up needing (and not having) those magic weapons? Because he put two efreet in the entrance of the dungeon we were heading towards. Right behind two permanent firewalls set in the entrance tunnel of the cave. As he described it, that was 40 feet of high level fire wall we would have to get through, at level 4. But of course we couldn't see the firewall because of a permanent image which concealed it. As we approached the cave the GM described it getting increasingly hotter. We were on a snowy mountainside. He also described the snow as having melted as we approached the cave. Then he described people vanishing from sight abruptly the second they enter the cave.

Then had the audacity to claim the people in the back who felt the increasing heat and just saw 3 people vanish for no reason are using player knowledge when they slow down and are being cautious. As such, he docked us enough experience to drop down to just having hit level 2. And yes, he stopped the game so we could level down to level 2.

I'm sorry, but if you're climbing a snowy mountain in winter but it feels like you're approaching an inferno, then you witness several people disapearing, wouldn't you slow down too?


Pathfinder Lost Omens Subscriber
HWalsh wrote:
Ryan Freire wrote:
Veilgn wrote:
Thunderrstar wrote:

No GM can cheat.

The GM is right the rules are wrong.
And then I abbandon the game. Of thee GM think so highly like that.
GMS are far more rare than players.

Pretty much.

I have been doing this, GM'ing, since 1988. So, in all of my 28 years of doing this I have NEVER had a shortage of players. I know all too well the shortage of GMs.

For those that go, "You are robbing me of the game experience!"

No, GMs who fudge, don't "rob you" of anything.

We enhance the game, and YES, that sometimes DOES mean that things aren't based on random chance. Anyone who claims they never fiat... Well.. Isn't being honest.

If we want to constrain the GM to no-fudging, and seemingly even "no abilities that aren't in the books" (which even Paizo APs do) then I want to see you run a game where:

Your class NPCs start as level 1 and you have to have full adventures where they level up, if you want a level 8 Wizard, he better start at level 1, and he better have a chance to have died before the point in the story or you just fudged, read cheated, and created him at high level. Does he follow WBL? How did he get all of his minions? Does he have leadership? Are all of his minions appropriate to the level of cohorts from leadership?

We, every GM, hand waves things. We do it all the time.

The fact is those that are claiming if there is any fudging it isn't an RPG are simply wrong. Fudging has been part of RPGs since RPGs have been a thing. So, I could easily counter by saying that if you don't fudge then you aren't playing an RPG.

RPGs are a narrative experience. You, as a player, take part in a narrative that is driven, written, and maintained by the GM.

Yes, this means that anything you accomplish is because the GM let you accomplish it. That is because the GM is the creator and master of the world. Even if he or she never fudges they STILL have to create everything.

The GM's job, in part, is to tell a story....

I don't hand waive things...

I roll in the open, with enemy defensive and offensive stats generally fully visable(this dramatically reduces crunch time as they can easily tell me if they hit or not, or whether i hit them or not).

when games rules don't work out in an understandable or okay way, i generally stop what I'm doing and consult with the rest of the players on how best to rule on this. Basically, all rules are crystal clear, to all players. We're all high level players though, with a decent grasp of the game, and so we know all the implications and why certain things should be certain ways.

I'm not saying this is best for everyone's group, but we don't GM fiat, because we're all capable GMs playing in each other's games.

this isn't about "no rules not in the books" it's about a GM ignoring rules, whatever the source that the group has agreed to. We have plenty of house rules and we're not going to ignore any of them, even if it means PCs die in horrible/lame circumstances.

edit: at Hwalsh's latest stuff:

I always have the big bad doing things even when the player's aren't aware, but they can't do things in a vacuum. there's never a single lynch pin for a plot to develop, and yes usually the first few go ignored but eventually things get to a point where the players take notice and decide to do something about it.


It just hit me that Walsh started GMing the year I was born. That's kind of amazing.


Pathfinder Lost Omens Subscriber

like okay so, how to run a sandbox:

separate the overall quest into 5-8 acts all of equal or so level progression.

player's doing their thing
Act 1: unrelated ripple effect that gives suspicions into the main feel of the campaign. A Demonic influence possesses animal life in a forest and they run rampant.
Player's can intervene at any point with this eventually crescendo-ing with an attack on wherever the player's are, CR based upon how successful they were earlier. The player's can't learn much about anything at this point, if they free the animals from the demonic pressence, they learn a little of the nature of it all but can get no answers about the big bad.
Act 2: The subordinate of a subordinate of a subordinate plot. basically, jack no nothing is plotting things and is acting in his own self interest and knows little of the overall work of the group. etc. a small fry demon starts working on corrupting and disorganizing the guards of a town.
Players get constant reports of the guards acting more violent in town or performing more search and seizures for no real reason. Investigating takes you up the grapevine to a new adviser on the mayor's board. They can take him down by exposing him or simply ruining his position diplomatically and getting him replaced by showing his "incompetence".

act 3-5: then you start the actual plot of stuff on the borderlands of demons attacking cities, resolving the local conflict you move onto the regional affair and then eventually take it to the heart of the matter.

like i run APs as suggestions and in a sandbox setting.

like screw making it the "rescue the miners" as the opening act, should instead be attack the bloody town with goblins.


kyrt-ryder wrote:
It just hit me that Walsh started GMing the year I was born. That's kind of amazing.

...

...

Darn it. Now I feel old.


Bandw2 wrote:


like screw making it the "rescue the miners" as the opening act, should instead be attack the bloody town with goblins.

Funny aside, I actually did run the miners bit. They were digging and hit an Ankheg den.

The PCs totally didn't care until they learned that an NPC that they met in a bar like 3 sessions ago but thought was funny as heck was at the mine.

Ended up having them beg me to let that character live. He became a recurring NPC that served as Deus ex machina for transportation.

Whenever the party needed a boat, or the time they needed an airship, he'd always be around somewhere with some outlandish tale of how he got the vehicle.

Got to the point that the characters would ask about his insane as heck stories each time. Usually it involved winning a bet or stealing the vehicle as he was escaping someone's husband...


Well, i had to admit that i have cheated more than once, but not for overcome or minimalize character damages or alike, quite the contrary, i cheat to tell them that i miss an attack which probabbly would kill their characters (mostly in early levels).

Dark Archive

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Exactly my point Juda. The GM fudging the dice isn't a bad thing in and of it's self. It's why they do so that can create problems. I can't remember where I read it anymore, but I remember reading an essay on how to be a good game master. And one of the things it mentioned was that it's okay to ignore the rules as the GM when it improves the story. And to me, avoiding the unfair one hit kill falls under that category. It's not something I do all the time. But when the players are REALLY having a hard time of it and my dice are just too dang hot, I feel no shame in ignoring valid results such as disregarding a critical. It'll still be a hit, just not a critical.


Kahel Stormbender wrote:

One problem I've always had with creating adventures is that sometimes the players simply ignore the plot hook that was suppose to draw them in. For example in a superhero game I was running the players saw on the news a "breaking story" which informed them of a super villain team that was holding the local mall hostage. They were suppose to go stop the villains. Instead, they went out for a burger then hunted for muggers. Thus ignoring the villains who were threatening to kill hundreds.

Or they add 2+2 and somehow come up with Rutabaga. In a 2nd edition AD&D game I ran the players learned that villagers have been going missing from a small hamlet. The thief in the party decided that of course he needs to check with the local thieves guild. Never mind that he's in a hamlet that doesn't even qualify as a 1 horse town, there IS no local guild. Then while they investigated they learned Small child like figures had been seen exiting the home of a recent disappearance and carrying lumpy bundles to the west (which was the direction of a wizard's tower they passed on the way into town). So naturally they came to the concluson of "orc slavers in the sewers".

Again, never mind that this is a small hamlet, not even 20 buildings total. There is no sewer system.

In these situations in the past I have generally stepped in as a GM and said your PC realizes A, B or C even if the player does not.

This is one of the hardest areas to GM, IMHO. When PC knowledge trumps player knowledge and when to say so and how to say so? At times it can be seen as GM interference vs helping a player tell the story of how their PC interacts with the environment.

MDC


The dragon should have items in it's treasure very good at hurting undead. Even if they reason with the dragon, he might give them some advantage against the other threats.

Note that the brothers in Supernatural have plot armor too, and the yellow eyed demon is not coming back. That is one of my main points too. If a GM thinks game balance is a stick to hit the players with, they know nothing.


Mark Carlson 255 wrote:

In these situations in the past I have generally stepped in as a GM and said your PC realizes A, B or C even if the player does not.

This is one of the hardest areas to GM, IMHO. When PC knowledge trumps player knowledge and when to say so and how to say so? At times it can be seen as GM interference vs helping a player tell the story of how their PC interacts with the environment.

MDC

In light-hearted games, I find that "the players are apparently not noticing plot hooks that the GM intends to be obvious" is a good opportunity for a comedy beat. You can make increasingly outlandish sequences of events that signal a thing that the PCs ought to realize until they actually realize it. In a game world where "gods are literal actors and meddle" this isn't even unrealistic.

You're not even interfering with a player's story since all you're doing is "making sure they're aware of something."

Dark Archive

Only time as a GM I've ever been accused of cheating by the players, it was by someone in a superhero game because the law threw the book at him. Why? Because in a super brawl he grabbed a school bus that was filled with children, and threw it at a villain who was standing in front of a gas station. The media, police, and even other heroes crucified his character for that reckless and amoral action. Heck, even the other players were horrified by what he did.

The player who threw the bus accused me of adding the children to the bus after the fact. This despite the fact when he picked up the bus I described the bus driver screaming, and him noticing several children trying to hide in their seats.


There comes a point when the lives of the many outweigh the lives of the few.


Unfortunately, this was Queen B, the superhero made of a thousand sentient bees in spandex.

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber
Kobold Cleaver wrote:
Unfortunately, this was Queen B, the superhero made of a thousand sentient bees in spandex.

Some might call her the Lord of bees.


She's the Tony Stark of the pop charts.


I don't think this sidetrack beelongs here guys.


Ugh! You want us to all beehive, all just serve as good little drones for your precious system!

Grand Lodge

CWheezy wrote:


I'm not sure if it was mentioned, but you absolutely cannot fudge dice in pfs.

Citation please.

I'm not saying that I agree with or disagree with the practice, but if a GM chooses to roll behind a screen then there is always the opportunity for dice fudging. I'm also sure there is nothing that prevents a GM from rolling behind a screen, so I'm curious where this idea comes from.


Hey they do make DM screens for a reason. all i'm saying. I do find it in bad taste to let your players know your fudging numbers even if its for their benefit.


Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Maps, Pathfinder Accessories, PF Special Edition Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Starfinder Superscriber
Vidmaster7 wrote:
Hey they do make DM screens for a reason. all i'm saying. I do find it in bad taste to let your players know your fudging numbers even if its for their benefit.

Do you mean each specific case (Like "That attack should have killed you, but I changed it to a miss")?

Or do you mean at the start of a campaign ("I will generally take the rolls as they come, but I may occasionally adjust them in your favour if I think you're having an unlucky streak and I judge that failure will be un-fun")?

I wouldn't do the first, but I'd definitely do the second.


yeah the second really I usually say at low levels keep the kid gloves on (so you know its super easy to accidentally kill a low level so might be right place to fudge the numbers) at mid levels take everything at face value and at high levels play nasty put on the brass knuckles.


Feeling proud this thread reach 249 post.

Silver Crusade

It's amusing how Veilgn can make such incomprehensible posts, and the forumgoers will start making a huge argument out of it. This is at least the 5th thread he has started. I guess people just want an excuse to argue or something, haha!

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