Dramatic Movie Come Backs in Fights and how your Role Play wont do that

The thing is novels and movies tend to make gamers think of ‘titanic battles’ – but the authors of novels and movies just decide what happens. They don’t use mechanics.

In fact what authors depict time and again might be utter bullshit in real statistical terms.

In fact if you watch fights in movies you can see the same pattern over and over – the good guy gets beat up in order to provoke the audience into feeling ‘You’ve got to win!’ as an emotion. Then the author has the main character win, now that the audience will buy it happening because the audience wanted it to happen.

How would this look in terms of stats? The protagonist would just suddenly get large bonuses to their combat stats, coming out of thin air.

Every time the hero makes a come back in a fight in a movie or book, statistically it makes no sense at all.

So how do you represent that in a system based on statistics?

Something like The Riddle of Steel RPG had spiritual attributes. You didn’t so much have a sudden spike mid combat, but characters pursuit of their goals would produce statistical increases out of thin air. You could try to argue it’s a ‘morale bonus’, but it isn’t (it has an essay in it describing how it isn’t a simulation)

But in the end it really is a question of whether you want simulation or want completely meta game elements to have a strong say in play. If you want simulation, you’re stuck with never having the mid combat comeback by PCs (except in statistically rare/once in a blue moon occasions).

By simulationism I mean if daily attacks bother you (why can’t you do it all day or have to use energy points to activate it) or prone snakes bother you, yeah, you’re likely coming from a simulationist inclination.

I originally posted this here.

Tomb of Annihilation Tips (short version)

I’ve seen a few posts here and there asking for tips on running Tomb of Annihilation. Instead of repeating, I think it’s worth a short post.

For a start, the hex grid is rather empty. You’re going to end up doing a lot of encounter rolls at the start. This is how you mitigate this issue with the product (one way of doing so, anyway).

#1. What I do in actual play is I get one player to roll all three encounter chances for the day. One die for morning, one die for afternoon and one die for nighttime.

Players have a turn each at rolling each day. This is more engaging for players rather than sitting and listening to the GM rolling dice behind a screen and chuckling.

#2. I preroll encounters (for the types of landscape they will travel across). Roll TWO encounters and note the results. Then when the players roll an encounter, you give the players a choice of two ways of traveling across the hex – describe terrain that gives hints as to each encounter. For example, if you roll frost giants, you can on one path in the distance they see the trees sway, as if something large beneath them pushed them out of the way. And if you rolled giant plant eaters as the second roll, say the other way seems to have a lot of trees stripped of leaves.

Then let the players choose which way they go.

Edit: I’ve developed a PDF that has two path encounters that can be used in a jungle trek.  It also gives further examples of providing two encounters for players to make a significant choice about.

#3. I have trader calling rituals. The players can find various sacrificial items to offer to the Chultan gods. When they have a certain amount they can sacrifice them to call the nearby natives, who arrive by next morning to trade. This way players can get some rations and insect repellent.

The point is that as I estimate it, traveling all the way back to the port for supplies will make your game take so long it just starts to get boring.

How the players find sacrificial items is through me as GM placing some in areas they search, or if they roll 16+ on an encounter roll.

#4. If you’re running a home game I suggest you add TWO locations of interest to the map, nearby to the port (two or so days). This gives players choice. Then add two more location that the players find out about after they visit one of the locations. This means they explore with purpose and keep finding new places and could find reasons to go back to places they’ve heard of or never explored. I give more reasoning for this in a prior blog post.

#5. Experimental: I’d suggest adding some kind of tomes of knowledge, each with 100 pages – as players explore, tell them they either find knowledge of where the soulmonger is and how many pages they find OR their characters are able to write their own pages of notes (again, say how many). And tell them they need, say, 5 tomes. With that much knowledge accumulated, they know where the soulmonger is hidden. This gives a progress marker. I tried this but I kept it more abstract as a percentage, but I wasn’t satisfied with it. If I were to do it again, I would use tomes. I might even give extra pages if players write actual notes to create a real life notebook/tome!

#6. Frankly I ignored navigation checks and even doing so I think the players have found the wandering to take a bit too long. If I had done failed nav checks, things would take even longer, the map would be a scrambled mess and we’d spend more time in empty hexes.

And that’s my SHORT set of tips! Feel free to ask questions in the comments, there’s plenty to ask!

Edit: And some accounts of play…

Havoc at Hrakhammar

Adventuring in Omu

What is your Major Determinism Malfunction?

There’s a kind of float – a sense people are detached from how you understand an idea, but what is that detachment, it’s left as a floating variable. A hovering question mark.

Plus on top of that, when someone comes out with something, you can’t be sure that’s what everyone thinks. But hey, someone made a video, so there’s enough commitment there to aim at.

Warning: This post dips into some semi industrial grade nihilism. It gets fairly caustic.

It’s at 215 seconds, if this thing isn’t embedding properly.

Responsibility and punishment don’t really make sense?

How were they supposed to make sense? What were they, just some sense of rising vengeance or something? Never mind what that rising emotion did, just let it rise and manifest physically?

“If we’re just a product of our past then we don’t really choose to do the things we do”

I honestly can’t get my head around this, really – not in one singular vein. Part of it I think is just hard wired excuse making. Got an idea for making an excuse? Express it! If it works, you get out of a lot of bad stuff. If it doesn’t work, the caloric effort of breathing a few words was very low. Low chance of working but low cost of making the effort to begin with Vs perhaps avoiding big bad stuff == making lame excuse.

Another angle I try to get it from is best described as there being like two words – one where we are creatures of positive and negative feedback – you touch the hot plate, you scald your fingers, you don’t touch it again. The other is the exact same world, but from the perspective of a creature that is unaware it is a creature of positive and negative feedback. So in this ‘world’ the creature just ‘does things’, to quote the Joker. They choose, they don’t come from a compilation of hotplates and sundaes. Imagine suddenly taking away the idea of ‘free choice’. What would such a creature navigate from then, in regards to a legal system? Nothing, of course. The legal system is to them an expression of vengeance (or something). And it’s for that purpose because…vengeance! ‘Choice’ is a product of the imaginary plane of existence not at all involving being a compilation of +/- feed backs.

The idea of a penal system that’s basically like repairing broken mechanisms, that’s just off the radar for people in this ‘world’. But fair enough, the penal system as of this present day doesn’t do that – in fact it breaks mechanisms worse than before. But that kind of speaks of a commitment far beyond this video.

But anyway, ‘Oh why would it make sense for anyone to suffer, oh! How can we be punished for something we didn’t choose?’.

It’s like saying you should only go through a treatment if you made a pact with the devil. No devil means no treatment, right? Once the devil – ie, choice – is gone, how can you be punished (/have your negative feedback systems stimulated (and be locked away from slightly more sane society))?

Well, I guess the devil is gone, but the deep blue sea that there is no compilation of negative and positive feedback, that’s still there in this second world. Things get pretty wonky when you remove only part of the supernatural ecology.

And completely butcher the idea of determinism. Putting it into major malfunction. Or at least how I understand the word.

Including completely butchering the idea of complexity in those negative and positive feedbacks. The many, many scales involved, each tipping onto other scales, which tip onto other scales and so on. Sometimes in a loop. A deep complexity so rich that made making up imaginary worlds where there are no scales at all both absurd and yet makes sense to operate from – you don’t know how your computer works, how the internet works. But that thin knowledge you have that gets you the images on screen that you want, you just focus on that – and ignore the greater complexity. And so mankind ignores the greater complexity of its own positive and negative feedback system. It’s a positive feedback to ignore ones own methods of positive feedback. Ignorance is bliss.

Which means, until sufficiently advanced technology is deployed, there may as well be hope. You don’t get determinism when thinking ‘oh, it’s all just an iteration of the past!’. Sure, determinism’s hope is like some sort of monstrous version of what you’d call hope – like Frank Castle is a monstrous form of justice. Behind the fantasy second world stands something real, but twisted, mutilated and spindled in comparison.

But while the deep blue sea remains, the devil soon enough rises yet again.