It is currently Thu May 28, 2020 4:18 am

All times are UTC




Post new topic Reply to topic  [ 15 posts ] 
Author Message
 Post subject: Questing for Realism
PostPosted: Fri Feb 06, 2009 5:47 pm 
Offline
User avatar

Joined: Sat Jan 19, 2008 8:06 am
Posts: 1495
Location: Vienna, Austria, Europe
Ok, I’m feeling like ranting and raving a little bit and abusing this forum to give my views on certain key concepts of role playing in general and TRoS in particular. It’s something I’d very much like to get off my chest, especially in connection with a game like TRoS that sits right on the junction of Simulationism and Narrativism. It’s all about

    Realism in Roleplaying


Even if you haven’t been around to roleplay in the eighties and even earlier, you will certainly know that the available systems back then were basically permutations of D&D. Above all else, these systems were crude and unrealistic in the extreme. Wounds would heal overnight, and if your character was sufficiently tough, you could easily shrug off any fal down a cliff of 100 feet. I need not spell out that this was extremely unsatisfactory and even off-putting; see for instance Jake’s afterword to the Core rulebook. Everywhere, groups started to house-rule their systems so that they made more sense, and soon the first decently realistic rulesets became commercially available. There was a movement towards greater reasonable and rules that made more sense, and this was a very good development.

But it was taken in the wrong direction.

Rulesets began to simulate the workings of the real world ever more closely. But the developers and also us players totally missed one key fact. Roleplaying is basically stortelling, and as such it is the kind of realism found in stories that should be achieved with it, not the kind of realism to be found in the real world. The real world is boring most of the time, and adventure stories and movies, even good and realistic and gritty ones do not mimic real life. This was overlooked, and in drafting rules to be more realistic, they were also drafted to more closely simulate real life and thus removed from the tenets of storytelling.

This problem was indeed perceived almost from the beginning, but no proper conclusions were drawn. There were now rules by which characters could slowly die from gangrene or bleed to death. This was regarded as desirable, but the same people who had clamoured for mechanics like these did now not implicate many of the more sordid rules. Apart from a minority of die-hard proponents of “realism above all” it was widely held undesirable to have a player character who was after all supposed to be some kind of protagonist or even hero croak very unheroically and meaninglessly from blood poisoning or some disease. Many roleplayers did very much feel that something was amiss with these rules, that they did somehow not make for good stories.

Strangely, their solution was not to think that anything was amiss with the rules. I guess that this was largely due to the almost religious tenet that realism was a good thing for which they had struggled long and hard; speaking against the hard-won realism or even reducing it was somehow unthinkable.

So the solution was not to again change the philosophy underlying game-design, but to simply reach an unspoken consensus that referees were expected to “fake it”. In many gaming groups, the threat of meaningless death was not removed, but there was an understanding that the referee would fake rolls to have the characters heal without gangrene setting in, for instance.

It did of course ot take long for players to catch on the these referees’ tricks – and they came to rely on them. In most gaming groups you could – and still can – watch a charade being played out. The players know that as long as they don’t have their characters behave outright stupid, they will not be killed in a casual way, but only when the death has actual meaning and the characters had a fair chance to do something to avoid death, but if they are halfway playing their roles and taking the game seriously they do still try to behave as if worried about their characters. And woe to the referee who has a character taken down by a sniper from half a mile away.

I argue that gamers did very soon realize that realism would often lead to highly undesirable results that didn’t make for good stories, even though they simulated real-world events beautifully. Their solution was a reliance on the referee not to have the game be realistic where this was not desired, soemthing that often led to overall awkwardness. Gamers did realize that realism wasn’t all they had hoped for, but most were and still are reluctant to abandon this Holy Cow of theirs.

I have already mentioned it above, but I will spell it out more clearly here: There is a very simple solution to the dilemma, and it is abandoning the mistake of wanting rules to simulate the mechanics of the real world and rather have them simulate the mechanics of adventure fiction. After all, it is Ivanhoe and not the reality of the 12th century that is the model for roleplaying.

The difference, and this is a key difference is not that fiction is less dangerous or gritty than real life; Ivanhoe, to stay with it, is for example very brutal and cruel and bloody. No the difference is meaning. In fiction, things happen for a reason, and they have a meaning, very unlike real life, which can easily unfold random and meaninglessly. It is this very meaning that attracts us in stories, and it is held that we humans do crave stories so very much first and foremost for the reason that they help us projecting meaning into a world that presents itself to us as basically meaningless.

But such musing lead to far here. I would like to limit myself to how roleplaying can be made to simulate fiction rather than real life in a way often called “cinematic”, a term I dislike for the very reason that it is often conflated with “wildely implausible” and “containing super-human characters and exploits”. There are paths to go down in pursuing this, and go down far; there are actually rulesets where all character attributes are not anymore traits of fictionous persons, but rather a function of how these fictionous persons are going to fare in the story. Take for instance My Life With Master, an excellent little indie game where all players play Renfield-like minions of some Frankenstein-like cruel master. The only attributes/skills/whatever that these PCs have are Self-Loathing and Weariness, and the only other traits in the game are Fear and Reason – no NPC has any attributes or skills at all, every conflict, no matter with whom or even what, the characters have are rolled with either Self-Loathing or Weariness against either Fear or Reason, and these latter twovalues are unchanging and identical for everything. Realistic from a real-life viewpoint? No way, but making for incredibly moving and deeply meaningful stories that do really feel like proper stories.

But I do of course not advocate giving up personal traits in TRoS for the sake of some story-trait, I merely want to raise awareness. Spiritual Attributes, for one, are such a mechanic that does simulate how fiction unfolds, not how events in the real world unfold. I think it bears keeping this in mind at all times. SAs, especially multiple SAs firing at once, are of course not realistic – they are in my opinion not intended to be. That little extra shove of resolve when something you care about deeply is at stake is stake would be worth – what? One bonus die, maybe two, possibly even three? Something like that, certainly no more.

It should be abundantly clear that if SAs were to simulate this added resolve, they would do an abominably poor job at it and go way too far. If one does not want to assume that they are a completely messed up mechanic, one has to accept that they are not simulating anything from real life; instead, they simulate how fiction unfolds, where even the meek do quite regularly best the formidable. Sam Gamgee takes on Shelob and wins, and Aragon drives off no less than five (!) Nazgul on Weathertop, among them the dreaded Witch King of Angmar.

What I want to say is this: Players of TRos, if you want to use SAs as a mechanic grounded in real life, go ahead; they don’t do a bad job at it. But please be aware tha they can be viewed, and I think are indeed intended, as unweighed-down by any concerns of mundane realism. Don’t blind yourself to this useful and exciting application of SAs and their full scope.

By a similar token do not think the priority pick system of character creation as flawed. Very true, without Insight it is not possible to create certain characters that would be very realistic in real life. In the real world, the knightly warrior should indeed have better picks in Social, Atributes, Skills and Proficiencies than the fighting peasant – but in fiction, the same holds not true, and roleplaying is fiction, not real life. Without Insight, the priority pick system of character creation will always result in characters with at least one excellent and one terrible side to them, it will not give you balanced characters. I think that this is intentional. Balance, even though it may be realistic, is boring – it is the unbalanced situation that is the dynamic one and has greater potential for drama.

Again, I don’t want to tell you not to use the point buy system of character creation (ok, well, in reality I of course do); what I’m getting at is this: Again, don’t blind yourself to what the priority pick system will give you, be aware of the increased story potential it gains by trading off some mundane real-world realism. As with the aplication of SAs, be aware, and chose consciously. Both are a mechanic leading away from the very small-minded and mundane realism plaguing many rulesets and towards a more fulfilling, fictional realism. Don’t discard them on a whim.

End of rambling.

_________________
My real name is Michael; use it, if you like.


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: Questing for Realism
PostPosted: Fri Feb 06, 2009 7:21 pm 
Offline
User avatar

Joined: Mon Mar 17, 2008 6:37 pm
Posts: 205
Nicely put. One could also say the same about the damage system; it's not entirely realistic (complete realism would require far too much book keeping), but it makes the fights considerably more believable than the usual hp system, which is far more important IMO. To quote TV Tropes: Real Life if Unrealistic :P.


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: Questing for Realism
PostPosted: Fri Feb 06, 2009 8:47 pm 
Offline
User avatar

Joined: Fri Jan 18, 2008 10:43 pm
Posts: 2112
Location: Melbourne, Australia
Realism: The Curse of Role-Playing Games.

What can I say? No argument here. Realism is subjective. There is no consensus on what it is and therefore a ruleset purporting to be realistic will be seen as realistic by some and unrealistic by many, many more. Who knows how many systems never made it into the public forum because the designer felt thatr in the end it wouldn't pass the realism test? Thank goodness for the internet and the advent of the PDF.

Sometimes the results produced by the rules are jarring. As a player you are forced to take a step back from the role and think, "Well, that's not quite right."

With the ever greater detail geared towards realism and the referee's need to fudge the results to ensure that only NPCs died of Yellow Fever, the referee was further entrenched as the arbiter of the world (like it needed further entrenching). The referee was the only one who could ignore a dice roll, bend an interpretation, break a rule, or simply make up the outcome. I believe this slowed the development of the group story-telling framework for RPGs.

Regards,

_________________
Ian Plumb
Illustrations for Gamers
Lyonpaedia
Griffin Grove Gaming
Kraftworks for Kids School Holiday Program


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: Questing for Realism
PostPosted: Fri Feb 06, 2009 10:09 pm 
Offline
User avatar

Joined: Sat Jan 19, 2008 8:06 am
Posts: 1495
Location: Vienna, Austria, Europe
Ian.Plumb wrote:
With the ever greater detail geared towards realism and the referee's need to fudge the results to ensure that only NPCs died of Yellow Fever, the referee was further entrenched as the arbiter of the world (like it needed further entrenching). The referee was the only one who could ignore a dice roll, bend an interpretation, break a rule, or simply make up the outcome. I believe this slowed the development of the group story-telling framework for RPGs.


Absolutely. The either unspoken or very clearly voiced (as in the so-called "Golden Rule" of all White Wolf games) understanding that the referee is allowed and even expected to fake or ignore the dice to "further the story" is in my opinion a stifling curse - and of course largely a direct result of the rulesets becomig ever more nitpickingly realistic, to a degree that did detract from the roleplaying experience. Nobody did actually really want to see this particular brand of realism implemented, no matter if they had initially clamoured for something along those lines. Still, few people acknowledged that the craze for realism had clearly gone too far, as evidenced by the need to fake results. Instead of trying to arrive at rulesets where no faking would be necessary, it was instead accepted that fudging results was somehow inevitable. But fudging results, even for good reason, is a major step towards railroading.

That's why I have advised in my thread on the Tools of Shared Story Creation that invariably all rolls are made in the open and that all rules apply to all participants, players and referee alike, to exactly the same degree. Rules like TRoS' have mechanics that make character death, or at least meaningless, accidental character death, unlikely even if the rules are followed to the letter. In TRoS, the referee has to understand that he is not to force a conflict on the characters that the players don't want, and in a conflict that the players do want, the characters will have the SAs to see them through. That equals good chances to weather the crisis, and even if not, even if the dice spell the doom of the character, it was in some conflict that the player did really want his character to have, not some meaningless random encounter derived from cross-indexing a diceroll on some table. And on top of everything else the Insight-mechanic ensures that starting out with a new character isn't all that terrible anyway.

_________________
My real name is Michael; use it, if you like.


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: Questing for Realism
PostPosted: Sat Feb 07, 2009 10:03 am 
Offline
User avatar

Joined: Fri Jan 18, 2008 10:43 pm
Posts: 2112
Location: Melbourne, Australia
Grettir wrote:
Absolutely. The either unspoken or very clearly voiced (as in the so-called "Golden Rule" of all White Wolf games) understanding that the referee is allowed and even expected to fake or ignore the dice to "further the story" is in my opinion a stifling curse - and of course largely a direct result of the rulesets becomig ever more nitpickingly realistic, to a degree that did detract from the roleplaying experience.


We should open a thread -- Greatest Referee Fudges Ever Experienced. Mine was, I feel, a classic...

My character was an experienced character played for many years. In the particular scenario events were largely revolving around him. Nothing unusual there, we each take our turn in the limelight. Anyway, my character gets wounded -- an innocuous slice, barely got through the armour. The fight ends, the party retreats to a cave. A few first aid rolls are made to patch up the wounded. All very realistic.

My turn comes up and the healer rolls a critical failure. As the wound was so small even a critical failure only gives a small chance of infection. The roll is made, a critical failure. OK, so the wound is going to be infected -- it can't be yet but it will be as the healer has managed to stuff something in there that shouldn't be there. Even so, most infections are minor and can be dealt with separately from the wound itself. Another roll is made on the infection table. Septicemia leading to gangrene.

By this stage the referee is beside himself. "Just stop f*&^ing rolling until I say so!" His head buried in the rule books he calls the gaming session to a close. We all head home.

Next game opens...

"I got the healing rules wrong. None of those rolls were done properly. The wound is so minor that no healing check is required. He just heals, OK?"

And so we continued to game, content in the knowledge that our game was very realistic...

Regards,

_________________
Ian Plumb
Illustrations for Gamers
Lyonpaedia
Griffin Grove Gaming
Kraftworks for Kids School Holiday Program


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: Questing for Realism
PostPosted: Sat Feb 07, 2009 10:44 am 
Offline
User avatar

Joined: Sat Jan 19, 2008 8:06 am
Posts: 1495
Location: Vienna, Austria, Europe
Ian.Plumb wrote:
We should open a thread -- Greatest Referee Fudges Ever Experienced. Mine was, I feel, a classic...


That episode is, indeed, a classic. What roleplayer hasn't at some time experienced the botched healing roll for what was supposed to be a very minor wound/illness/case of poisoning being fudged? I know I have, several times.

It does often begin with a fumbled roll. I remember an adventure when the group my player character was part of was travelling to some mesa to do some exploration; the main part of the adventure was to be the enchanted desert on top of the mesa, not the journey to the mesa itself, that was more of a lead up. Fairly classic fare, that.

So we climb up the steep mesa wall - that's meant to be harsh and difficult, to show that the haunted desert is hard to even get to. To emphasize the difficulty, the referee has had us lose our climbing equipment. We manage to improvise ropes, but no pegs and hammer for us. My guy's a very experienced outdoorsman and moutaineer, so he goes first. He's undaunted, for the climb, while dificult for the others, is no big thing to him. He does most of the climbing, largely hauling the others up after him by use of the rope. So he's some five hunded feet up the basically vertical wall when he fails his climbing check. Down he goes, but not to worry, he's roped to the next in line, the immensely strong main fighter-type of the group. That guy botches his strength roll and instead of catching his falling companion, he is by the tug on the rope around his waist swept off the ledge, tumbling after his companion.

To cut a long story short, a few rolls later all four of us, firmly roped together, are falling down the cliff towards the ground five hundred feet below. The referee looks sheepishly and gives us a few rolls to hold on to some rocks or roots we are falling past, but these rolls do of course all fail as well. In the end, the belated referee has the rope catch on some outcropping and us dangling to either side, with some damage for having fallen into the rope.

Realism, inasfar as it is mundane, real-world realism, is a curse to roleplaying. The random occurences and strokes of bad luck that will realistically happen can easily ruin a story, and often do, if not faked. Most of us very much want the threat to our characters' lifes and we're completely happy with them going down in some epic way, but we don't want to see them tumble to death from some insignificant climb or croak from blood poisoning long after the fight's over. In spite of this, many of us have not yet made the logical step to disassociate from the treasured tenet of "realism" and turn to "fictional realism" instead.

_________________
My real name is Michael; use it, if you like.


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: Questing for Realism
PostPosted: Sat Feb 07, 2009 7:56 pm 
Offline
User avatar

Joined: Fri Jan 18, 2008 10:43 pm
Posts: 2112
Location: Melbourne, Australia
The other side to this coin of realism, the random encounter, is a complete waste of time. They are the antithesis of scene framing and a successful transition between scenes.

The overland journey -- the bane of our own non-TRoS game. I am brought to the edge of despair every time the referee indicates we have to journey overland somewhere. It means he'll roll his dice for every hour of daytime travel to determine whether we encounter something that we have to deal with or interact with in some way that will absorb gaming time disproportionally to its usefulness...

The irony here is the overland scene(s) is usually bookended by a scene that is interesting with the plot progressing. So the party will be in their home city, on the path of some villains. We're one step behind them when we discover that they've fled for another location. The overland journey commences. Then we get to the other loaction and maybe deal with the villains. So it is interesting scene -- long drawn out journey in which nothing relevant to the plot takes place -- interesting scene (though by the time we get there the players are bored and jaded).

Why? Why would you ever run a random encounter? Which book have you ever read, which film have you ever seen, that contained random encounters? What possible gaming purpose do they serve? They are supposedly realistic.

Speaking of which we play a non-TRoS game set in Middle Earth. We were in the marshland of Dagorlad just north of Mordor following a party of Orcs that had captured one of our party members. Several of the party members were badly wounded and poisoned, courtesy of the initial ambush with the Orcs. Well, its an overland journey isn't it? So the ol' random encounter table is dragged out. The dice are rolled.

A party of 5 elves are seen. What are they doing here (we ask, incredulously)? They are *wandering* -- after all, the table said (1d6) Wandering Elves. So they ignored us and wandered off into the distance...

Habit is the real curse of RPGs. Never taking a step back and looking at the game objectively, discussing with the players what they enjoy about the game and what they don't. Just doing things like they've always been done, not recognising that games themselves have changed over the last 20 years nor that the player's priorities have also changed.

Regards,

_________________
Ian Plumb
Illustrations for Gamers
Lyonpaedia
Griffin Grove Gaming
Kraftworks for Kids School Holiday Program


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: Questing for Realism
PostPosted: Sun Feb 08, 2009 6:03 am 
Offline
User avatar

Joined: Sat Jan 19, 2008 4:31 am
Posts: 251
Location: Salt Lake City, Utah, US
So, in your opinion, where does immersion--the other treasured tenet of good gaming--come in?

_________________
Ben
My blog: fantasy fiction, gaming, and progressive metal


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: Questing for Realism
PostPosted: Sun Feb 08, 2009 8:38 am 
Offline
User avatar

Joined: Sat Jan 19, 2008 8:06 am
Posts: 1495
Location: Vienna, Austria, Europe
Ian.Plumb wrote:
The other side to this coin of realism, the random encounter, is a complete waste of time. They are the antithesis of scene framing and a successful transition between scenes.


I have early on come to suspect that many referees use overland journeys and their endless and pointless, because random, encounters to get by a few hours of gaming time without having prepared anything.

In fiction, and I stil hold that fiction, not real life, is the model for roleplaying, encounters are never random, they serve one of three (maybe more, three is all I can think of right now) purposes, or a combination of those:

1) They provide some story-relevant information to the protagonist, as in Aragorn, Gimli and Legolas meeting the exiled Eomer and being told of the slaughter of the orcs and supposedly also Merry and Pippin

2) They provide color, as in the protagonists encountering refugees or marauders to remind them that they are travelling through war-torn lands

3) They do by themselves further the plot of the story, as in Pippin and Merry running by chance into Treebeard

Fictional encounters are never pointless, as in elves wandring through Dagorlad, and they only very rarely delay or sidetrack the story – every writer is advised by writing teachers and editors (I happen to be friends with one) to avoid delays or sideplots that do not support the mainplot.

Indiana Jones is travelling the world, but his travels are only ever hinted at as lines drawn over a map, and when he finally does encounter somebody or something , it’s story relevant. That’s the way travels and encounters should be handled in gaming as well.

Daeruin wrote:
So, in your opinion, where does immersion--the other treasured tenet of good gaming--come in?


As for immersion – well, I have actually not experienced anything that does break the illusion of moving through a real and believable fictional setting as much as the referee faking results openly or being suspected of it. Players may be glad that their characters live, but in my experience these things leave gamers very uneasy and dissatisfied. I guess we all have experienced this frequently enough.

And I do not argue outright against realism or immersion. But the way I see it, many of what I would view as the “better” groups of gamers are in this situation: “Ok, guys, it’s a very realistic and gritty setting. Actions have consequences, and it’s easy for the foolhardy or the stupid to die. Fights, and indeed making enemies, especially those of high social standing, are not be taken lightly; a man’s doom is easily spelt. And the ruleset does support this beautifully.” – ”Only, of course, we will not actually use these rules. They are just sitting there looking menacing. I know it’s all a sham, and your know the same from your experince, but for the sake of the illusion, just don’t say it aloud and go on with the make-believe, ok?”

Why write rules that make it even remotely possible to die of infection from even minor wounds when 99 of 100 groups will only allow this for major wounds suffered in important battles if at all? What does it actually do for immersion and realism to have a ruleset that threatens players constantly with character death when the players know that this isn’t ever going to happen casually, as the rules would suggest? How is that any different from using a ruleset that doesn’t allow for casual character death? In both cases the players know that their characters will only die if they have tem behave very stupidly or if it is some significant encounter, and in both cases “good” roleplayers will have their characters behave as if they could easily die, but with a grimly realistic ruleset there is the additional, and at times awkward and demeaning necessity to fake results.

Why violate ourselves in that way? Do we like to jump through hoops and contort ourselves?

I argue for rules that are not realist in a real-world sense, but in a fictional; call I rules that are plausible, if you like.

I remember that GURPS, which I once loved to play exactly for its mundane realism, had an optional rule called “Imperial Marksmanship Academy”, inspired by the storm troopers of Star Wars, whose first shot never hit a main character but only served to alert the main characters to their presence; the rule said that the first shot at an unsupecting PC does always miss. Now does such a rule deliver realistic outcomes? No way; there is no reason that all such shots should mis. But does it deliver plausible results? Very much so; it is feasible that even a carefully-aimed shot at an unspecting target misses. And the latter is the more satisfying result from a story viewpoint, and it does also not break the immersion.

So I say this: A rule should be checked against three questions: Are its outcomes (not the rule itself, the outcome, for that effects the world) plausible? Do its outcomes, if applied rigorously, add to or detract from the story? Are its outcomes realistic?

Realism is desirable in itself, but less important than the other two concerns. A rule must deliver results that further the story, and if these results are plausible, the immersion is not broken.

SAs are just such a mechanic. Look at a noncombatant with 25 bonus dice from all SAs firing confronting a master swordsman without SAs – the master swordsman is dead meat. Realistic? No way. Plausible? Yes; everybody can get in a lucky shot once in while. Good for the story? Obviously, as the swordsman was clearly an obstacle for the noncombatants story objective (he had, after all, all SAs firing).

It may require some mental acrobatics to force oneself to accept rules that are in themselves unrealistc, like the SAs are. But gamers are used to mental acrobatics and swindling themselves from many years of pretending to profess to realistic rules they hardly ever really use.

_________________
My real name is Michael; use it, if you like.


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: Questing for Realism
PostPosted: Sun Feb 08, 2009 9:30 am 
Offline
User avatar

Joined: Fri Jan 18, 2008 10:43 pm
Posts: 2112
Location: Melbourne, Australia
Daeruin wrote:
So, in your opinion, where does immersion--the other treasured tenet of good gaming--come in?


What *exactly* is immersion? Which rules within TRoS support immersion -- and which do not?

From my experience whether I find a game immersive has more to do with the game setting than the game mechanics. I would also say that it has more to do with the other players at the table and their style of play, more so than the mechanics themselves. That though is just my narrow experience.

I actually had much the same argument with Jean during the development of Codex Martialis...

Regards,

_________________
Ian Plumb
Illustrations for Gamers
Lyonpaedia
Griffin Grove Gaming
Kraftworks for Kids School Holiday Program


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: Questing for Realism
PostPosted: Sat Apr 04, 2009 2:14 pm 
Offline

Joined: Fri Mar 13, 2009 7:12 pm
Posts: 67
Hmm... what strikes me about the quoted examples is that the problem isn't a quest for realism but the fumble, botch, critical failure - call it what you like - mechanic itself, originating with RuneQuest. I've yet to hear anyone defend fumbling as necessary for realism*: the usual argument is a kind of naive reductivist logic which supposes that if there's a chance of a doing something really well (something encapsulated by rolling dice) then there must be a chance of the opposite - a sort of game balance argument, if you like, but it is hard to see what's balanced against what here. Fumbles simply are not realistic in any sense. 1% of car journeys don't end in a serious accident. Life is not that random. The mechanic is not part of a quest for realism, it is part of a quest either for irrelevant mathematical symmetry or for some Inspector Clouseau style light relief.

*Some gamers may come to believe in the realism of fumbles: I once pointed out on a "Murphy" thread on usenet that if you take the Rolemaster movement & manoeuvre rules literally, everyone would fall down the stairs at home once every 3 or 4 years and a couple of fanbois were on hand to insist they really did fall down the stairs every couple of years. Sort of.


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: Questing for Realism
PostPosted: Sat Apr 04, 2009 2:47 pm 
Offline
User avatar

Joined: Sat Jan 19, 2008 8:06 am
Posts: 1495
Location: Vienna, Austria, Europe
Welcome on the boards, Certic!

Certic wrote:
Fumbles simply are not realistic in any sense. 1% of car journeys don't end in a serious accident. Life is not that random. The mechanic is not part of a quest for realism, it is part of a quest either for irrelevant mathematical symmetry or for some Inspector Clouseau style light relief.

I agree with you on the “fumble” being largely unnecessary, though I’m not so sure that it does really originate from naively inversing the idea of the critical success. I rather think that it’s from some kind of anal fixation of game designers – for a system to be realistic, they think that every single event that can somehow occur in real life should also be a possible outcome of rolls.

Like you, I don’t think this necessary, and even detrimental for good stories. Only two days ago, in the city where I live, a rather famous local film director, aged 52, slipped on his way to the toilet, fell, broke his skull on the toilet bowl and died – I’m not joking. Things like these do happen. But does that mean that they make for intersting stories? That the rules should reflect them? In my firm conviction, no to both.

But it’s not just the idiocy of fumbles. In my rock-climbing example above, it was a fumble that sent the entire group almost to their deaths, but the fumble wasn’t out of place – it was a situation where slipping and falling was very possible and climbers miss their grip and plummet to their death all the time. The result of the roll was strictly speaking not unrealistic, and neither would it have been unrealistic if the entire group would have died. It just made for a very poor and unsatisfactory story.

Which again brings me to the question of why it is at all necessay to make rules that allow for a PC to die in an uninteresting way. Story-wise, a system where no lame, meaningless deaths are ever possible would be preferable. In the rock-climbing example for instance a system where it is agreed beforehand that a failed climbing roll means not death, but for instance loss of key parts of equipment, or a strained shoulder and thus a penalty for the rest of the adventure. In short a system where an obstacle performs like an obstacle in stories – not killing the protagonist, but merely influencing his chances later in the story, when it really matters.

_________________
My real name is Michael; use it, if you like.


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: Questing for Realism
PostPosted: Wed Aug 12, 2009 1:25 pm 
Offline

Joined: Mon Dec 22, 2008 8:25 am
Posts: 21
Grettir wrote:
Which again brings me to the question of why it is at all necessay to make rules that allow for a PC to die in an uninteresting way. Story-wise, a system where no lame, meaningless deaths are ever possible would be preferable. In the rock-climbing example for instance a system where it is agreed beforehand that a failed climbing roll means not death, but for instance loss of key parts of equipment, or a strained shoulder and thus a penalty for the rest of the adventure. In short a system where an obstacle performs like an obstacle in stories – not killing the protagonist, but merely influencing his chances later in the story, when it really matters.


Well nothing is 'neccessary' per se. However, I think a lot of the reasoning for their presence is placed within this thread although not fully explored.

Their presence creates the scenery and backdrop that you're playing in. It influences the perception that players who are aware of the situations that they are placing their characters in and the mood of the game. A very good example is implicit in TROS combat. By its very nature its a lethal system, which causes players to pause and consider whether they want to engage in it each time, or if there are other options to pursue. In essence, those sort of rules ask questions of the players, and the severity of the consequences make those choices more significant.

However, your point about the lack of drama involved in such situations is plausible. So, I observe that possibly a better question is how do you integrate such serious consequences with a story-driven premise to your game. I think the answer is through providing mechanical ways for players to overcome 'bad luck'. A good example of this is drama or luck points; but any means where the players are vested with some measure of dramatic control suffices. In the climbing example, the ordeal could have been resolved more effectively if such a resource had been available to the party; the intial set of rolls could have gone on, and the fall could have happened, which would have emphasised the consequence of the choice of actions. But, from a dramatic standpoint there would have been no need to fudge the situation because a mechanical 'safeguard' would have been in play; whilst in free fall, one of the party could easily have spent a drama point to justify the rope catching on something or the particular character grabbing hold of a ledge etc.

I see this as an improvement over a system where there is no significant threat of life and limb from the endeavour because it creates a situation where an important questions are asked of the players about what they are willing to risk to achieve something, even if it is simply a moderately scarce resource that they are asked to manage. This creates an entirely different feel to certain games where there's less on the line, even though the end result is similar (the actual threat to the character's life is minimal from non-significant situations). Also, over the long course, the players which choose riskier means to achieve precursory goals - requiring greater resource expenditure earlier - risk that they have less dramatic control over the climactic scene, possibly resulting in arguably more meaningful or 'significant' demises. Importantly though, this is a choice that is left to the players entirely, even if only handled subconciously, which gives them much greater empowerment in and ownership of the story.

So yeah, in short, the presence of serious consequences can be useful in creating a shift in the story by changing a feeling of invulnerability into one of caution. And, if handled with proper ameliorating player empowerment rules, can be significant in creating a more effective story, by raising tension whilst not placing the characters in more significant danger.


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: Questing for Realism
PostPosted: Wed Aug 12, 2009 4:54 pm 
Offline
User avatar

Joined: Sat Jan 19, 2008 8:06 am
Posts: 1495
Location: Vienna, Austria, Europe
James wrote:
So, I observe that possibly a better question is how do you integrate such serious consequences with a story-driven premise to your game. I think the answer is through providing mechanical ways for players to overcome 'bad luck'. A good example of this is drama or luck points; but any means where the players are vested with some measure of dramatic control suffices.

What you say is very true, and especially when you go on to speak about having to manage your story-influencing capacity during the less significant earlier challenges so that you have enough of it left for the grand finale it sounds to me a lot like my proposition to threaten failure in said earlier, less significant challenges with impaired performance in the grand finale instead of with death. However, there is of course the vital difference that you propose to let the player decide what he considers significant enough to spend his story-influencing capacities on – that’s important player input.

I basically applaud this idea, I see however one – potential – danger looming on the horizon, and that’s the referee taking the meta-game stor-influencing capacity of his players into consideration when designing the opposition for his scenario. There is the strong temptation to scale earlier, less significant challenges with that in mind and to basically force the players to spend a certain, roughly guessed part their story-influencing capacities on overcoming obstacles that are basically to big for the characters to really handle.

But I am quite confdent that there is a way to design rules in a way that minimzes the possibility for this “abuse”. If this is done, and if players do fully realize that they are expected to frequently use their story-influencing capacity, your proposed solution strikes me as very fit.

_________________
My real name is Michael; use it, if you like.


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: Questing for Realism
PostPosted: Thu Aug 13, 2009 6:35 am 
Offline

Joined: Mon Dec 22, 2008 8:25 am
Posts: 21
Grettir wrote:
I basically applaud this idea, I see however one – potential – danger looming on the horizon, and that’s the referee taking the meta-game stor-influencing capacity of his players into consideration when designing the opposition for his scenario. There is the strong temptation to scale earlier, less significant challenges with that in mind and to basically force the players to spend a certain, roughly guessed part their story-influencing capacities on overcoming obstacles that are basically to big for the characters to really handle.


The problem I see underlying this premise is that it is verging on adversarial game practices. The GM perceives their role as one in which they are required to challenge the players resources, to compete with them to such an extent to require them to spend their points. This is not inherently 'wrong' per se, but it is a definite design goal, which should be identified as desirable by the group in question. If the group wishes to engage in this form of roleplay then the neatest solution that I can identify is to provide the GM with an openly disclosed, equally limited number of drama points for his/her usage. This brings the previously covert conflict between resources and GM into the open and empowers the players to know how their decisions are in turn reducing the GM's dramatic fiat versus their own.

Personally, I don't enjoy that form of game style, so I prefer an alternative approach. I prefer what I term as a 'safety net' style of usage to the expenditure of dramatic control methods. In this, the GM openly accepts that it is preferable for all involved at the table that the characters have 'outs' for bad situations. Thus, the presence of drama points exists to provide the players with a safety net if they do place themselves in such a situation. This means that the GM must not actively seek the expenditure of player drama points but instead allow the players to use them merely when they see fit as 'get out of jail free' cards, so to speak.

Ultimately, as a meta-resource, drama points usage is heavily affected by the social contract of the group in question, thus the method in which they are applied is highly situational to each group. However, one thing which I think is desirable with them is to integrate them with the meta-game rewards system. In my ideal game, this would be through the players nominating storylines or objectives that they wish their characters to pursue and as a reward for successfully addressing or completing that storyline, the provision of drama points should be an award. I personally believe that this should be separate from the SA type reward system present in TROS as I believe it encourages their acceptance as a safety net/meta-mechanic, rather than a character development mechanic, but again that would be entirely up to their application within the social contract and the desires of the group in question.


Top
 Profile  
 
Display posts from previous:  Sort by  
Post new topic Reply to topic  [ 15 posts ] 

All times are UTC


Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest


You cannot post new topics in this forum
You cannot reply to topics in this forum
You cannot edit your posts in this forum
You cannot delete your posts in this forum
You cannot post attachments in this forum

Search for:
Jump to:  
cron


Powered by phpBB © 2000, 2002, 2005, 2007 phpBB Group              Designed by QuakeZone