Gamey

The word ‘gamey’ has a meaning in regard to food. But what about table top roleplaying?

I’d suggest the idea that some mechanics is ‘gamey’ is much the same as the concern some folk express in regards to snakes being classed as prone in a game system.

Ie, they don’t imagine snakes can be prone – therefore it’s ‘wrong’ for that to be the case. Further it’s about fiction (their idea of fiction) coming ahead of rules. Rather than rules coming first and fiction should shape itself to conform to the rules. Anything that tries to have rules that the folks fiction will have to conform to…it’s ‘gamey’. The idea of the game mechanics having a strong control over what happens in play…it’s anathema.

I don’t get the players of Survivor

If I were on that TV show, at the start I would say “Hey, I’m here to try and win – we can’t just be friends and get along because we’ve entered something where we are head to head. We can think well of each other as competitors, but what we’ve all signed up for is nobody is on anyone else’s side. Acting like it isn’t like that – that’s unhealthy”

And the players in the game don’t seem to get that – they start being all chatty and as if they are connecting with each other. And either they are naive in doing that or they are sharks in doing that – quite the two ends of the spectrum.

I mean seriously, trying to act like you’re all nice and someone to be friends with while you’re holding a dagger behind your back? At best the naive ones simply forget about the dagger – they have to beat each other in the end.

Some professional distance makes sense.

But the worst thing is? I think duplicitousness would win over that – someone who can switchblade between acting all nice and friendly yet at the same time planning everyone’s downfall, they are more likely to win amongst a bunch of naive players. They’d get the naive players on side who think they really are friends, they’d destroy the person who was straight with them about everyone being against everyone. Then the duplicitous will get rid of the naive, one by one. Honesty is the losing strategy. Particularly if you’ve given up having a soul anyway. The naive wont believe they’re really against each other even as it’s plain as day. And the sharks will simply leverage the naive against the honest.

I really wouldn’t do very well on one of those games.

Rest Rooms & Dragons

If you google ‘roleplay, the fifteen minute work day’ you’ll see quite a few entries on it. It’s not quite what I’m going to talk about, because as I understand it the people who raise that concern have an issue with how it fails to depict the genre they imagine. They imagine the heroes fighting all day long, like in the books/movies. But what they find is the PCs have a fight and then….they long rest. Doesn’t matter if they can only do so once in 24 hours, they’ll just wait out that time AND long rest. Making the long rest even longer. This sedentary life is nothing like the genre they wish to emulate and that’s why they have a problem with it.

For myself, it’s a lack of any drama or uncertainty. I don’t really care if the party has one fight a day, that’s fine. I’m cool with how players play as something that creates it’s own genre rather than trying to slavishly emulate some other one.

But a fully charged party – they can pretty much walk over plenty of encounters and there is absolutely no risk to them. So if combat will take thirty minutes to an hour (or even if you can make combat take just ten minutes), what is the point of running a combat where the outcome is predictable?

There is no attrition that will lead to an uncertain outcome. The party will just heal after the combat or whenever they feel like it. There is no point in running combats where the PCs wont even have the minor inconvenience/drama of being unconscious briefly. Let alone actually dying. Caveat: Okay, sometimes having fights like this is nice – but having them all the time just plain sucks.

Sometimes what there seems to be is just the impression in gamers that there is any risk remaining. They roll dice hoping for a high result…not thinking that it really doesn’t matter, their rolls will hit average eventually and the enemy will be whittled down. And then they’ll rest. But if you don’t look at the big picture and just focus on the dice rolls then it can be like running a war reenactment inside a simulation. War reenactors know the outcome of the battle they are about to act out – there’s no surprise there for them, it’s just a matter of acting it out. Here it’s much the same, just a matter of how aware you are off there being no risk – the players roll their dice, lose maybe 10% of their HP, then having overcome the enemy by sheer resources, they long rest (or wait a bit then long rest, so as to not make the 15 minute work day too glaring).

Or I don’t know, maybe like people like to do war reenactments, maybe they like this. If they actually do, ok, there are many ways to game. And my own way of gaming isn’t that one.

However, maybe D&D 5e is designed for that? It takes an hour of combat to break a long rest – a whole hour. Some read the text as taking an hour of walking or any amount of fighting or spell casting – this isn’t correct (though they can run it that way if they want and it probably works out closer to something I want as a result).

Long rests are effectively unbreakable. It is much the same as a simulation inside a simulation from before – there appears to be a way of breaking them, thus satisfying the simulation. But with scrutiny, like a war reenactment gives the same result every time, it becomes clear a long rest will give the same result every time. The party will long rest. You will get the fifteen minute work day. Even if you were to somehow make the party flee for an hour of in game time…they’d just start a new long rest right after anyway.

So, make the monsters worse? Well there’s only so many times you can double, triple, quadruple, etc the XP requirement for a ‘Deadly’ encounter, making it many multiples of ‘deadly’ before players complain that the fights are too deadly. And technically when you’re running at 3x deadly or 4 x deadly, that’s a fair complaint. When is a DM “doin’ it wrong” if he’s taken the XP for a deadly fight, multiplied it by three and run that fight against the PCs? Never mind that of course the fully rested PCs then beat it because they just activate all their powers and best spells on the fight then long rest right after, because there is no need to conserve powers and spells for in between. So you’ve got a DM who appears to be doin’ it wrong, and yet the fights are still beaten consistently and anything less would be spending 20 to 40 minutes on a fight in real life on a fight that is entirely predictable. But then again the war reenactment guys spend hours on reenacting battles that have a fixed outcome – and presumably they do that because they enjoy it.

People call the early levels of D&D the most dangerous – they make much of a skeleton being able to down you in one hit. But that’s good! Or at least A kind of good play. I have to wonder if D&D 5e goes from being a game in the lower levels to becoming a war reenactment system once you get past around level 7ish. I can’t say that’s what I signed up for.