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A few months ago, someone ran a "Groundhog Day" scenario at a local con as a pickup game using Monsterhearts. [personal profile] drcpunk played in it.

Now, first, it seems clear to me that people had fun at this game. It was -not- a failure, by any means.

However, it also seems clear, both based on [personal profile] drcpunk's description of play, and in what I've heard elsewhere, that the game was not ideal -- both in that it violated the implicit contract of play of Monsterhearts, and that it didn't really fulfill the promise that one -could- have in a Monsterhearts/Groundhog Day scenario.

FWIW, my purpose isn't to trash the original game. It seems to have been fun! But I want to sketch out how I'd do something similar that would fit my aesthetic better.

This is yet another very geeky RPG methods post. Be warned! )
mneme: (Default)
I wrote this for Alarums and Excursions a few months ago but it seems appropriate to post it tonight.

The good player asks, "what are the rules and customs at this table?" To them, you must explain how the game works, both that which is written down and the rules of gaming etiquette and give them all the responsibilities they can handle and your game supports.

The simple player asks "what do I do next?" To them, you must explain only that which is necessary to plan their next move and begin roleplaying in earnest—If you confuse them with too many options, they might cease playing and/or think the rules are the game, rather than the platform for the game.

The wicked player asks,"what can I get away with?" By framing the game as a source of loopholes to abuse they subvert the purpose of the game and attempt to hurt everyone else's play in favor of their own fun, and you should teach them their error—or even exile them from the table—as soon as possible.

As for the player too shy to ask questions, you must treat them gently, but try to draw them into the game, asking them "what are you doing now?" and "what would you like to do next?" In so doing, you can allow them to develop into a productive player whether or not they give up their shell..
mneme: (Default)
I've been playing D&D Next recently, and every once in a while am struct by the issue of mental vs physical.

The problem, when you get down to it, is the mental dump stat.

Basically? Everyone dumps something mental. Worse, you're penalized for -not- dumping mental stats.

The core problem is that you don't get that much from mental stats, compared to physical.

I mean, all stats in Next are effective defenses, which does help. But the physical stats all provide secondary benefits, (and thus weaknesses if you dump them), while the mental stats never do, so each build point you spend on a mental stat that isn't part of one of your core abilities is something you could spend on a physical stat that would help you more, if not in the way you want your character to act.

Strength is the least bad -- but strength protects you from grappling, and affects your carrying capacity. Of course, it also determines melee to-hit and damage (and thus whether monsters run past you whenever they want), but that's less of an issue given Dex melee weapons.

Con is the uber-stat. No experienced player ever dumps Con unless they're willing to take on extreme risk, since your Con has a massive effect on your hit points, and thus survivability. At least they've acknowleged it by having no skills based on Con. (but I believe that concentration checks are still Con-based if you have to make them)

And Dex is rather superb, as it determines Inititative (which can win or lose combats almost by itself), Armor Class (the defense of defenses), ranged to-hit/damage, and melee to-hit/damage for light melee weapons.

But of the mental stats, only Int has a secondary benefit beyond defenses and skills: bonus languages. Charisma is great if you want to talk to people, and Wis is great if you want perception and to understand people--but every skill is useful, so that's not really that much help.

The biggest problem there isn't, of course, casters; casters are reasonably balanced with big power sources, assuming you're spending lots of points on mental stats and not so many on physical ones (although casters -do- have a strong incentive to push piles of points into physicals rather than the mental ones they're not gaining casting from). But physical types are -really- penalized if they want to be smart, or perceptive, or charismatic, since they're giving up stuff extremely useful for their core competency for what amounts to fringe benefits. And casters end up being one-not mental characters, either smart -or- perceptive, -or- charismatic (or at best two out of three), since if you invest in all three you end up not having enough Dex and Con to survive.

Thinking about it, I think they either need to make the mental stats more valuable (have Charisma provide a bonus to aiding your comerades, and/or a bonus to whatever "helper" cohorts you pick up whether they be familiars, mounts, or 3rd edition-style followers; have Wisdom provide some kind of reaction or something--although the current approach of having Wisdom provide hidden benefits of surprise avoidance, defending against the worst attacks, etc isn't awful, and maybe improving the Int benefits to be any kind of non-skill proficiency, for instance), or make mental stats cheaper (going to a (1/2,1/2, 1/2, 1/2, 1, 2, 2 curve to buy up from the starting stat of 8, perhaps, rather than the current curve of 1,1,1,1,1,2,3), saving casters 3 points, but also making it much cheaper to not dumb mental stats relative to physical ones.

The former possiblity is more complex, but means having a simpler, single stat curve. The latter is simpler, but does mean that mental-focused characters would be a little more well rounded than they are now.

But the current curve shapes the game in ways that I, at least, am not fond of. 3rd edition had similar problems, but at least had hidden benefits (the Leadership feat, particularly) to taking off-stat bonsues. 4th edition at least had different classes favor different stats, so if you wanted to make a high-Wisdom fighter-type you could play an Avenger, etc, plus ways to move your basic attack around for -some- variety. But Next is very thin here, so and it would be nice to not have the system shape the characters so consistently and directly; I'd rather make "do I make my Fighter a better talker? Or more perceptive or smarter?" More of a choice, and not just for counter-optimizers.


Jun. 4th, 2013 02:20 am
mneme: (pony)
So, I've long been a fan of Jenna Moran's (formerly Rebecca Borgstrom) fiction and freeform rpg, Nobilis. So naturally, I contributed to her (currently running) kickstarter, Chuubo's Magical Wish Granting Engine. Which is as awesome as a plot-oriented RPG about a boy who makes (often ill advised) wishes can be, and if you're interested in it, you should support it, but that's not what I came here to write about.

No -- instead, one of the backer rewards for Chuubos is an expansion for Nobilis, 3rd edition, on Treasure, called "The Book of Treasure". Treasure is one of the new stats in Nobilis 3rd -- it represents your ability to connect to people -- and to connect to -stuff-; both to have a favorite aunt who is important and helpful in your story, and to have a really nice car, or a magic sword that can cut anything, or a pet cat who follows you everywhere.

So, there are a lot of awesome things about this book. It both expands on every element of Treasure (so far; I'm only 22 pages into a 49 page book), and gives design notes for -why- various things are the way they are in the game -- for instance, it explains that the reason making anchors (connected people and things) is a level 0 miracle is because the designer -wants- people making connections, even if they're not heavily invested in the idea of Treasure.

But the thing that inspired me to post tonight is where it talks about abilities -- particularly Treasure -- that follow an absolute. Being as strong as you need to be. A sword that can cut -anything-. Omni-corrupting artifacts, or hats that shield you from corruption.

In other words, powers that start forum arguments rather than ending them--as people argue whether the Hulk being stronger than anyone beats only Thor being strong enough to lift Molnjir.

What Jenna points out, quite successfully, is that arguments like that -- powers like that -- particularly when they work -- are not arguments about rules. They're metaphors -- and moral arguments that center around the metaphor, not about any particular rule.

The Hulk isn't just "the strongest guy around". He's the superhero that represents the limitless strength of righteous rage. The One Ring isn't just infinitely corrupting (although it is) -- it represents that principle that power itself corrupts without providence and faith in Eru [that is, god]. Superman isn't just as strong as he needs to be (although he is); his is the strength of the pure heart taht acts from unsullied motives.

As such, when two "unlimited" powers clash, what determines what wins (ideally) -- what -should- determine what wins--isn't a number like how many tons the Hulk can lift or who has a bigger stat. Instead, it's the right solution to the moral question posed by their metaphors in the situation. Clark Kent should lose to the limitless power of conquest represented by Apocalypse when his heart is divided and his moral fevor weak -- but win if he's resolved his dilemma and acts from pure motives. The Hulk should defeat many other limitless powers, even that of war, but may prove powerless, in the right situation, against someone representing the power of calm.

This is why, Jenna explains, the rank of a Treasure miracle doesn't determine which one wins; instead, the rank determines the scope of the miracle--how many different things you can do with Treasure--but in a contest between absolutes, what should win is the thing that's won the battle of metaphors.
mneme: (Default)
So, over on the wizards site they posted a bit on their D&Dnext playtest where players objected to rogues who are trained in perception being worse at spotting traps than clerics who aren't trained in perception.

Mulling over the problem of "how does one make the cleric not have a worse chance to spot traps than the cleric", I'm struck with a curious notion -- a D&Dlike game (or D&D, even) doesn't need the primary stat->attack power equasion any more -- and it is, in fact a sacred cow.

The thing is, even if the cleric were trained in perception, logic indicates that a cleric (who is, after all, a priest, and not a trapfinder) shouldn't be necessarily better than a rogue (eg an "expert trapfinder").

The core of the problem, I'm convinced, lies in the tradition of a "primary stat" -- and that the bigger your primary stat is, the more often you should hit, the more damage you should do, and if you're a spellcaster, the harder it is to resist your spells and more more you should get.

The thing is, early versions of D&D struggled to make your stats relevant -- in AD&D, bonus spells and extra to-hit/damage was pretty much all you got out of your primary stat, and you didn't get that much of it unless you were lucky enough to roll an 18 and follow that up with a high percentile roll (if you were human). But successive versions of D&D have already made your stats hugely important -- giving them individual uses, introducing skills that are rooted in your stat, and tieing defenses into your statistics.

In fact, Next(5e, likely) is one of the most stat centered of all, even not counting to hit/damage/spells. Aside from trained/untrained (and probably feats), you get no other bonuses to your skills aside from your stat [in fact, there are no skill rolls; there are just ability rolls with -bonuses- if you have appropriate skills; a Commoner trained in the Folklore skill will get +3 to an Intelligence check to dredge up a bit of folklore, and +3 to a Charisma check to charm a passing NPC with some folklore]. And the system does try to make skills useful in combat, with simple rules for adjucating stunts. Plus, most importantly, for the first time, every stat can be used in a saving throw. Strength saves you from being pushed around; Dex saves you from things you can dodge; Con saves you from disease, poison, and pain; Int saves you from attempts to overwhelm your mind, Wisdom saves you from things that try to fool your mind, and Charisma saves you from magical compulsions that destroy your sense of self [although the save benefits of Charisma are sadly non-existent in the playtest rules in practice, alas]

More, skills are highly variable relative to class (for the first time in an official D&D game). You pick your class, and you pick your background -- the background determines your skills, while your class determines your primary combat abilities. Pick wizard/scholar, and you're a typical wizard, memorizing lore from everywhere. Pick wizard/Soldier, and you're a wizard trained with the army, trained at intimidation, survival, and perception -- but will likely suffer in these because you still need to keep your Int up.

Fundamentally, the fact that a character has made first (or 5th, or 10th) level in a class should be sufficient to assume they have good attacks and damage. You don't need that association to make people care about their stats -- and having it makes it harder to go against type without providing a good game-reason.
mneme: (Default)
[personal profile] drcpunk has been running a Kerberos Club game since some time last year, using Fate. The game world is sort of a superhero Victorian setup, so in the game are a speedster Sherlock Holmes, Abraham Lincoln as a two fisted hero, a shape-shifting nobleman, my telekinetic but socially powerless noble ward, and Kristen's clockwork fairy, Sophronia. Sophronia is a clockwork fairy, made intelligent and well (and six inches tall) by her creator's art -- who, frustrated that he couldn't make a device of brass and silver fly, made a deal with the Fey that he would enter fairy and serve them, while his creation would be endowed with fairy powers and, thus, flight. Sophronia, not unreasonably, is rather upset about this deal and thus has the aspect "Take me as I am" -- which for some strange reason, inspired this song (back in early January -- I wanted to spring it on the Sophronia's player (And Heather) so hadn't gotten around to posting it...until now.

Sophronia's Song
ttto Heather Dale's "As I Am"

I suppose I might seem different from the girls of gentle birth,
When my head rests at their ankles, it is hard to reckon worth.
(And) my anger makes me fearsome, when they're gentle as a lamb,
But I only ask you take me, take me as I am.

I didn't ask for magic, I didn't ask to fly,
I didn't ask for clockwork, though without it what am I?
I only ask for friendship, to rest upon your hand,
And I only ask you take me, take me as I am.

I offer you a look inside the clockwork of my heart,
The gears that turn and interlock, the magic that's a part,
Of everything I think and feel, I need your help to see,
What part within is fairy, and what part is just me.

I do not need a partner, I already have a cat,
I do not want a sacrifice, there's been enough of that.
I make my own illusions, I want no other shams,
I only want a person, who'll take me as I am.
mneme: (Default)
From: Random Monsters, Inc.
To: Line Between Dungeons

In analyzing your data, we've noticed a significant trend that should be able to increase your gold piece value and experience total. While your customers are spread across the four primary classes (WCRF) and the nine
attitudes, the division is not even. For example, the WCRF breakdown is as follows:

Wizard/Arcane Casters:30%
Cleric/Divine Casters: 40%
Rogue/Thieves: 10%
Fighters: 20%

The attitude breakdown of customers and high-value customers (adventurers) is even more pronounced:

Lawful Good: 20%
Lawful Neutral: 10%
Lawful Evil: 10%
Neutral Evil: 10%
Chaotic Evil: 5%
Chaotic Neutral: 5%
Chaotic Good: 15%
Neutral Good: 20%
True Neutral: 5%

As seen, Good customers make up over 50% of your customer base, and lawfuls are far more numerous than neutrals and chaotics.

Moreover, there are significant correlations between Class and Attitude -- while Clerics are evenly spread across the additudes, over 75% of Rogues are Chaotic, as opposed to 25% of the population. And similarly, Fighters are 60% likely to be Lawful and 70% likely to be Good (and 30% likely to be in the Paladin class -- our nickname for "Lawful Good").

Our recommendation, therefore, is that several products be rolled out to target these categories -- new monsters targeting Good and Lawful adventurers, traps designed to attract Chaotic Rogues, and particularly monsters designed for Paladins -- our greatest single bucket, and we'd be happy to work with you to develop these programs.

Additionally, we recommend that these monsters be outfitted with treasure appropriate to their targeted classes, and have a number of recommendations for same -- by outfitting monsters designed for Lawful Good customers with treasures appropriate to Fighters, we encourage repeat adventuring, and reduce the rate of adventurer loss to other dungeons, retirement, or other factors.


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Joshua Kronengold

October 2018

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