Stories in Novels Vs Difficulty curves in games (and idiot RPG authors who say you can do the former)

I wrote this recently as a comment on reddit and it warrants it’s own place rather than being buried amidst a pile of comments.

The situation was the GM had a group of ‘bandits’ (actually a political faction causing trouble under the guise of bandits) . The players run right into the group and get defeated, one captured the others escaping. The players weren’t happy. And here is my reply to this:

The problem is in Venn diagram terms, what the players find fun is one circle and what you presented is another circle – they really didn’t overlap.

Imagine you’d done this instead – they ran into outlier camps of the bandits, who are in small groups that are more balanced to the PCs and wont be calling the main group. The players would win the battle – which they were looking for at least once otherwise they feel their new PCs are chumps.

Further imagine you make larger and larger groups, with an increasing chance of calling the next group along.

The players would encounter tougher and tougher resistance until they question whether they can take the next group. Maybe they should see if anyone in town can help – sellswords, for example? Exactly as it turned out, but with players being happy about it.

This is a smooth difficulty curve, rising from low to challenging. What you had was a difficulty spike – nobody can really handle that and enjoy it, precisely because it’s too realistic – if realism was fun, why are we playing fantasy rather than being out in the real world?

That said, the author of the books give the impression you could run the game exactly as you did (or so I guess – most RPGs do). And the authors are idiots for it. You were told what you did would work but you were told something that does not work because it’s not actually compatible with human psychology.

So many new gamer’s try to use the aspiring novel writer method of designing games – but it doesn’t work, because as a novel writer you can screw your characters over royally and no one bitches about it. What you did would work as a novel. As a game it doesn’t work. But you were given bad advice, so it’s not your fault.


Rorschach Play Game

All of roleplay theory seemingly tries to grasp at imagined stuff with the wrong tools. Humans are so used to dealing with physical objects, they take the same perceptions and expections of physical objects, then apply them to imaginative stuff. It’s like the old saying about a man with a hammer sees everything as nails. It’s a bit like back when phrenology was in vogue and psychology was taken to be a matter of measuring bumps on the head!

I mean, do you remember about seven years ago, when people would talk about what the characters want. Not what the players want, what the character wants. That is the sort of slip I’m talking about. Now you might say no one does that anymore, but what other slips just like it still remain, eh?

What are you actually dealing with? Well what can be done is alot like a verbal rorschach test.

Now the thing to be clear on here is that a rorschach test doesn’t force the other person to respond in some way – your asking them to give their responce to various images (or here, verbal descriptions). What they say comes from the initial trigger of what you asked them. If you asked them to say whatever they hear, then you mustn’t be surprised when they say what they hear and it isn’t the same thing you would hear.

Yet saying all this is probably pointless – there seems to be no community who’ll work this way and instead a multitude who ‘know’ the right responce to the described things.

What do you do when you discover a hobby no one plays?

Jeez, more refering to chicken bones…

I was looking here

Here’s some quotes from it

“If your character has the higher position, you get +2 to your attack roll.”

” your tactical advantage depends upon details of your character’s immediate circumstances.”

I’m just staggered at this reference to a flight of various peoples seperate imaginations as if it can determine something at the table. It’s like me refering to my invisible six foot bunny friend, whether I get +2 to hit.

I said as much

This is another version of what that rule is saying.

“If Harvey, the invisible six foot rabbit next to the GM, gives it the nod, you get +2 to your attack roll.”

Both Harvey and the characters positioning exist as much as each other. They each exist enough to determine the +2, as each other.

Yet while you’ll balk at Harvey determining it, I’m staggered how you all still talking about how apparently “no way, the character totally is in a certain position and that totally determines the +2!”

I’ve slowly, yet horrifying come to realise how alot of other gamers (read: American gamers) treat the wording of rules like this. They treat it literally!?

I’ll tell you what can actually happen. Someone is the backstop – hopefully declared by the rules. This person listens to everyone else, and he allows himself to be moved somewhat by their ideas. A vague approximation of everyone elses ideas collect in his head, then he looks at them with his own idea of the words ‘height advantage’ in mind and chooses whether you get +2 to hit.

That’s what happens. Maybe we talk as if were climbing onto the table and crap, but that’s no more happening than when we dream at night were climbing onto a super model a table, it’s happening. What’s really going on is our own mind tumbling through a lot of ideas.

Treating it this other way? It’s demented! I’m sorry, how else would you describe it if someone refered to voices in their head, whispering to them whether you get +2 to hit? I doubt you’d be comfortable. But if everyones refering to how the caracter is actually higher up? I’m sorry, it’s no better than the voices.

Imaginative workouts don’t happen unless you let something press on your imagination

From the forge, and as it’s quoting my post, context takes a moment to kick in.

Whoa, Jaakko, a ‘should’ slipped in from somewhere and I think Marshall took it up too. I’ve described that I think imagination in a group becomes harmoginised and stagnant and for myself, I look for rules that fuck up that harmoginisation, for the new ways we go when were can’t do the very first thing that comes to our imagination. It’s not a matter of should, it’s a matter that when imagination is in charge of whether rules are followed, that harmoginisation pretty much remains perfectly intact. Perhaps I’m wrong about the whole harmoginisation thing, but I take it to be true and I’m pretty much over games where imagination comes first and foremost/imagination controls whether rules are followed. That’s me. Now I’m assuming something about 3:16 prompted or encouraged Marshall to simply do as imagination dictated (he does mention above that ‘the rules say to award Effectiveness’). If not and he did it off his own bat, well I’ll still go with my first comment – if the nuke thing had been within the rule structure, I admire the art made and skill it took to make it/to fit imagination within a rules construct. But just ignoring rules makes me go ‘Uegh’, mostly out of anticipating something else and not getting it at all. Not that that matters a great deal, I was just expressing my hope (that’s why my posts were small, as it’s not a terribly important subject)

Marshall, the above might explain me better, because force shmorce, my positions not about force. But taking your high ground example…what I’d like to see is when everyone including the GM think he’s on higher ground and want to give the bonus, but can’t as the rules stop them from doing so! How does their imagination get around that, aye? There’s a bit of an imagination workout, stretching the imagination from the usual harmoginsed group way of thinking into a direction they, without the game, would not have gone. But then uegh…ignore the rule because clearly blah blah subtext imagination first blah blah. Ie, No work out (ugh…okay, to dilute my point but be pedantically accurate – in this particular instance (perhaps not in the rest of play), no work out).

Quote = Marshall
But, really, fucking with the kill economy doesn?t hurt anything. It doesn?t matter when people level up, get promoted, get demoted, only that it happens. The when and why become fodder for the playgroup, as they turn it into bonafide elements of Situation (and especially Conflict), which they can and will do, all by themselves.

Well, as I’ve basically said above, I’d like to see the kill economy fucking with your imaginations, rather than the other way around. Okay, you’ve worked this nuke into the fiction and it’s gone off, with the apparent idea of massive devistation. But hey, let’s say the kill economy fucks with your imagination instead – how do you fit your imagination into the kill economy? How can you fit this nuke explosion in somehow WITHOUT breaking the rules structure? That’s the imaginative hurdle/hundred kilogram imaginative weights to work out with.

But hey, if the author wrote it with the vibe (or however you might put it) that you ignore the rules at that point, hey, your playing right. I just already own games like that. For myself it’s not enough anymore. I’m basically just expressing my hope for what products are available, when I’ve responded in this thread.

Forum ‘right givers’

As a supplement to my thread here.

Looking at the D&D forums, they also have a little forum culture where they start granting themselves rights. Like ‘Oh, the GM can’t cheat’ and such. And they have a thread where they all agree with each other that that is the case. And ‘thus’ it’s the case for their group. Except it’s only the people on the forum who have agreed with that, not their group.

Jeez, once you ignore story, it’s so easy.

Wow, writing for a ‘play to turn the page’ format is sooooooo easy! No wonder it’s so prevalent!

‘Play to turn the page’ means you play a game, but it means absolutely nothing to the story – you just play so as to bring up the next cut scene or text. It’s like playing a game simply to turn to the next page in a book – it’s pretend interactivity.

And it’s so easy to code for! I’ve been writing another game for use in the ‘effort’ revenue model, as I posted about before – and once you make it just to gather effort rather than having the action make some sort of story in itself (or atleast more story than ‘I shot all the space invaders’), it’s just so easy to slap together something!

Well, that’s good for getting over writers block. But man, it does repeat the million and one play to turn a page games already out there. Still, I’m doing it as part of a ‘effort’ revenue model and doing it is helping me practice my skills toward something that combines both play and a sense of story.

CRPG without the dense content prerequisite

I’ve been thinking of making some sort of CRPG world – you might remember a survey from a few posts back (thank to the one soul who did vote 🙂 ).

Now the thing is with content, this is the dilemma – it’s speculative work in regards to actually getting any sort of income from doing it (and hell, I’m not even talking in purely fiscal terms – if I asked for poems from people in exchange for more CRPG content, I might not even get poems – ya know what I mean?).

So what content to provide, that’s engaging? And all my history of RPG gamers is that they always want complicated, dense stuff, or they wander away very quickly. And making complicated, dense stuff with relatively low chance of return? Umm, no thank you. I don’t mind making some stuff, clearly, but doing tons and tons on the hope of a tossed coin or two?

I would like to make something simple, like this thing I made awhile ago. Latter I’d develop it more relative to the amount of interest that was shown.

Possibly I could have some parts of it named or partly decided by readers even before any money transactions, as that give a bit of sense of being in on the project, rather than just another project that wants money. People are more likely to invest when they already have a personal stake (come to think of it, that’s how world of warcraft works…).

But the main issue is:

Effort for low chance of return Vs low interest for non dense and complicated material.

I’m thinking one work around is text, since that’s easier to generate (look ma, I’m doin’ it now!). But I have to figure some simple way of getting around the ‘wall of text’ problem.

Anyway, thinking through the problem out loud…

Philosopher gamer, video games, mmorpg, pieces of string

Video games, mmorpgs, traditional table top roleplaying, more!

And sorry to regular readers* – I’m trying to direct google to spider into that site – it seems to do it for this blog really quick and it occured to me I’ve only linked to the other blog in edits, which the spider might not pick up on.

Traffic, traffic, traffic!

I just want it to start showing up! I didn’t even try with this blog and it shows up on google! Crazy!

* Or am I humouring myself in thinking there are? 😉

High production just makes followers/moth to the flame

I’ve been thinking that most of the games, whether it be video games or even table top RPG’s, have such alot of production and work in them that it’s a bad thing.

Think of it from your own perspective – there are these sparkly games that draw your attention and maybe spark your imagination. But do you have the raw production capacities to actually make one yourself? To various degrees, the answer is no. Perhaps if we rewind to early D&D, or to video games on the c64, yes. But otherwise no.

So your entranced and in love with something you can’t actually make yourself. This throws you into the position of follower only – you can’t lead, because you need to be able to make it to lead. You can only follow.

A mix of sometimes following and sometimes leading is alright, but always following? That’s a bad thing, if you happen to share any values I have on self guidance.

I’m looking at all these things again and thinking wow, all the fancy production just leads me into being a follower. Pah!

Edit: And why on earth can I google this new post I made only an hour or two ago, yet I can’t google my new blog?

Certainty: A game

This is a game for three or four players, or more.

One player becomes ‘The certain’, figure out who in whatever way you wish. The first time playing this with someone, you may wish to only tell them rules 1-4, and say the latter ones have a special surprise if k

Another is the game manager (GM), probably the person who read these rules and initiated the game.

Everyone else are players.

Step #1, The player who is ‘The certain’ thinks up something he or she as a person thinks is definitely wrong. They tell everyone else this thing. 

Step #2, The ‘certain’ player then envision some sort of authority figure, like a politician or judge or police officer or such. This authority figure sees what the player thinks as wrong, as being right.

Step #3, The other players now take turns at arguing with ‘the certain’, as his authority figure, trying to convince him that thing is wrong. ‘The certain’, even though as a player he thinks it’s wrong, has to argue that it is actually correct and right.

He does not actually have to convince anyone at the table, perse. He merely needs the other player to be too dumbfounded for words or a gasp, and he gains a point. The person who is dumbfounded or a gasp may continue to argue if they wish, but each time they give a point and after giving two points, someone else has a turn. The game moderator determines if someone was dumbfounded or a gasp.

Turns do not have to go around the group in order (if two people are keen to go at once, flip a coin or such), but all the players get one turn each, before anyone gets a second turn.

Also if anyone can’t think of anything, that’s fine, they can pass on their turn.

Step #4, Every player gets three turns. Remember that anyone who can’t think of anything or does not wish to can simply pass on their turn.

Step #5, The reversal: The game moderator has had enough time (assuming he read these rules in advance) to think of a fictional situation where the authority figures certainty on the matter is likely to cause harm to other characters (children, women, elderly) in the fictional world, or even death. Important: In the fiction, at this stage, it only seems likely that it will. By the rules (based on a certain choice), it certainly will happen latter – but in the fiction at this point in play it only seems highly likely.

The game moderator presents this fictional situation to ‘the certain’.

Step #7, The ‘certain’ player now decides if his character goes through with what the character was certain of. HOWEVER, if his character decides not to, each time he goes to declare that, players get turns at returning the arguements ‘the certain’ previously gave (as best the player remembers them, and twisting the words for effect is valid play).

Each time ‘the certain’ simply repeats a refusal to do it, the players as a group, get a point. Every time ‘the certain’ is left a gasp, the players as a group get a point. The game moderator determines if either of these occurred.

All players get three turns as before (ie, in no particular order except everyone has to have one turn before anyone gets their second turn). if they score two points that’s the end of their turn. They get to present roughly one argument in an attempt to gain each point. What qualifies as one, single arguement is slightly ambiguous and the game moderator can make a call on the player who’s turn it is, to now finish. However, if everyone’s sitting forward in their seats, this doesn’t really need to be done.

Step #8, If the authority figure goes through with it, after all players have had their turn, the thing that seemed likely to happen in the fiction, does indeed happen. If the authority figure does not, the fiction ends there, much as a movie might end upon the expression of a broken man.

Step #9, the points gained by ‘the certain’ and by the players as a group, are a sort of artifact generated by play, there to leave a nagging question as to who wins in a situation like this.


Copyright, Callan S. 2009