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Author Topic: Some Tropes SHOULD be subverted  (Read 3744 times)

Ratman_tf

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Re: Some Tropes SHOULD be subverted
« Reply #30 on: April 28, 2021, 01:59:13 AM »
So, because that's how it is in the novels that is how it should be in the game?

If the desire is to evoke the experience of being caught up in a certain type of story, it seems logical to me that the game should be tailored to encourage that effect.  It may be that for every Shadow, Spider or Doc Savage, there were a dozen fledgeling pulp adventurers who never made it past their first story due to lack of reader interest, but I don't see the point in making the players play through that.

Makes me think about how I have had entire sessions revolving around shopping and leveling up bookkeeping.
What's fun in an RPG sometimes would make for a very boring story. :)
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Sable Wyvern

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Re: Some Tropes SHOULD be subverted
« Reply #31 on: April 28, 2021, 02:01:06 AM »
Exactly where do I claim someone didn't had fun?

Let me quote you for you:

I bet you could have fun playing a short-ish adventure where the GM is pulling his punches and gave you plot armor so thick you're immortal...

An ongoing campaign? Somehow I doub it.

S'mon

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Re: Some Tropes SHOULD be subverted
« Reply #32 on: April 28, 2021, 02:13:22 AM »
Actual pulp RPGs* normally just make death unlikely, so that PCs can act as they do in the stories with a reasonable prospect of success. They don't make death impossible as that would break player immersion ("why am I supposed to feel threatened?") and/or cause the PCs to act very differently from pulp heroes. 'Can't die' is not really a genre *trope* at all I'd say, just a writing necessity. Focus on the in-universe tropes, such that the PCs will act appropriately to the universe. That means reduced lethality, not zero lethality. For an immersive game you want to align player threat perception with character threat perception.

*Savage Worlds obviously; D6 System is another I'm familiar with. Can't remember Spirit of the Century too well but I think it's similar, more Dramatist than genre-Simulationist though.
« Last Edit: April 28, 2021, 02:22:03 AM by S'mon »

Mishihari

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Re: Some Tropes SHOULD be subverted
« Reply #33 on: April 28, 2021, 02:55:16 AM »
At the risk of almost repeating myself, I think it's useful to think of what do players hate worse than dying in other games.  The first couple that come to mind for D&D would be being captured, being incapacitated for a long part of a session and not playing, being humiliated by an enemy, and permanent level loss.  Ideally you get the players to go along because "it's the genre," but if not you can leverage these other approaches to make them care, especially the ones with mechanical impact.  Frex, the Joker captures Commissioner Gordon.  If Batman fails to rescue him he's publicly humiliated, people will believe in him less, and he's lost a key ally, which makes it a lot harder to get the needed cooperation from the police.  The key difficulty is finding a varied enough set of potential penalties that it doesn't become repetitive.

S'mon

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Re: Some Tropes SHOULD be subverted
« Reply #34 on: April 28, 2021, 03:00:25 AM »
I remember playing in an Achtung! Cthulu game using Call of Cthulu rules. We felt squishy and played cautiously, eg refusing to go in the U-Boat that looked like a steel coffin; preferring to snipe the Nazi occultists from range than charge in guns blazing. The GM seemed surprised at this - again it felt like a mismatch of rules and genre. If you want Pulp Heroes, use rules that support PCs acting like pulp heroes. They don't act like they *can't* die, but they don't act like most IRL soldiers, either.

Stephen Tannhauser

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Re: Some Tropes SHOULD be subverted
« Reply #35 on: April 28, 2021, 03:43:24 AM »
We felt squishy and played cautiously, eg refusing to go in the U-Boat that looked like a steel coffin; preferring to snipe the Nazi occultists from range than charge in guns blazing. The GM seemed surprised at this - again it felt like a mismatch of rules and genre.

Which goes back, again, to the basic paradigm clash: when the players think of what's in front of them as a game, i.e. an exercise in teamwork and use of skill at decision-making within a rules system to cooperatively overcome obstacles, they are fundamentally operating from a different mindset than protagonists in a story, and it will affect decisions they make in ways that will disrupt a desired genre atmosphere unless those mechanics are deliberately structured to channel those decisions into genre-supporting actions.  (Which is why every horror RPG in existence contains rules for how to enforce PCs freaking out the way the actual players never will.)

The question seems to be whether one wants an ultimately classic RPG with pulp trappings, in which, again, genre and actual playstyle are likely to clash (q.v., as I've mentioned before, the World of Darkness games, which were written to be angsty personal explorations of horror and almost without exception turned into Hammer-flavoured superheroes in actual play), or whether one wants an RPG designed to facilitate choices which tend to produce a pulp narrative structure. Both can be fun, but a mismatch of expectations will ruin that fun in either case.
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Reckall

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Re: Some Tropes SHOULD be subverted
« Reply #36 on: April 28, 2021, 06:08:04 AM »
A trope I successfully subverted in my 13 years campaign was "Magic Items must scale! Encounters must scale! Monsters must scale! Characters must... well... be balanced!"

- In Lord of the Rings over and over "low-level characters" get from weapons that work against The Lord of the Nazguls to the Ring of Power itself. Also, Pippin is not Aragorn. Also, Pippin meets the Balrog.

- Dragonlance, back in the '80s, already subverted this trope by having you start either as a 3rd level magic user with a weak magic item or as a 6th level fighter with a +3 two-handed sword. The 3rd level MU was narratively more impactful than the 6th level fighter.

- In the "Bourne" movies (one of my two sources of inspiration for the campaign - the other was the Iran-Contra scandal...) the main character has superhuman abilities, true. But he starts alone. But he starts with immense resources.

The last stretch of the campaign, the one inspired by Bourne, saw a group of Harpists (in the FR setting) finding themselves in the eye of the storm of a conspiracy involving an unknown number of the "Gods of Good". They started at 5th level but also with 150 million GPs (don't ask, they almost caused a war between Cormyr and Calimshan). First the Harpists tried to kill them, then the paladins of various Gods. They realised that they had uncovered... something, but they didn't know what. Paranoia ran high - especially when some Gods of Good started... dropping dead?! The group used their immense resources to go undercover and avoid... uhm... divine scrying... At the end it all worked very well. Not that I ever doubted it.

Oh, I forgot about it: "Encounters" don't mean "let's put down the miniatures in a very specific way detailed in the scenario!" If you are 1st level and an ancient red dragon is gliding towards you, RUN! Another reason to ditch your 4E books BTW.
« Last Edit: April 28, 2021, 06:12:01 AM by Reckall »
For every idiot who denounces Ayn Rand as "intellectualism" there is an excellent DM who creates a "Bioshock" adventure.

S'mon

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Re: Some Tropes SHOULD be subverted
« Reply #37 on: April 28, 2021, 06:51:42 AM »
and it will affect decisions they make in ways that will disrupt a desired genre atmosphere unless those mechanics are deliberately structured to channel those decisions into genre-supporting actions.

I really feel that ought to be the default game design - I buy a game listed as genre X, I can reasonably expect the game design supports emergent play which resembles genre X. So a Star Wars game encourages PCs to act like protagonists in a Star Wars film. Plenty of games do achieve this just fine; when they don't it's usually a clear rules-genre mismatch, like using Call of Cthulu for pulp adventure. Not that Call of Cthulu for Achtung! Cthulu is *bad* - the game was fine, it just wasn't very 'pulpy'. We won the scenarios and didn't die, which made us happy; we just did it differently than genre norm expectations.

Tantavalist

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Re: Some Tropes SHOULD be subverted
« Reply #38 on: April 28, 2021, 07:26:00 AM »
If you want to have a system that simulates the Plot Immunity of Pulp Heroes but which gives players an incentive not to use it... Well, it's already been pointed out that what you need to do is replace the threat of death with something that players hate as much as or more than losing a character.

What do players hate more than character death?

Losing XP.

There have been systems that turned unspent metacurrency into XP at the end of a session, but that just made player hoard the stuff and not do cool things. I suggest that one option is to tell a player that they get a penalty to XP awarded at the session end for every time Plot Immunity was invoked to avoid a character dying.

Characters are now as unkillable as their inspirations from the 30s. Players will still go out of their way to avoid lethal situations and act like they won't automatically survive.

It's not a perfect solution and it won't work for every group, but that's because a perfect solution that works for every group doesn't exist in RPGs. I'm pretty sure it will work for some groups though.

spon

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Re: Some Tropes SHOULD be subverted
« Reply #39 on: April 28, 2021, 07:36:38 AM »
To add to what others have said, what's to stop PCs doing stupid things that should lead to their deaths? They FAIL. The scenario ends with the bad guys winning. Sure, the PCs survive (the volcano god recognises the amulet they picked up and mistakes them for some of his worshippers perhaps) but the Nazis escape with the gold (or whatever). The point of a pulp game is to defeat the bad guys whilst doing cool stuff. But it's not guaranteed, that's why we play.
In D&D, the PCs do stupid things, they can die. In pulp, if the PCs do stupid things, they fail. Simples.

Bedrockbrendan

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Re: Some Tropes SHOULD be subverted
« Reply #40 on: April 28, 2021, 08:32:36 AM »
As many of you know I'm doing a Pulp RPG, well there are not many sites in the interwebs better than The Pulp Avengers https://www.fantasylibrary.com/lounge/pulpavengers.htm And it is correct that the Pulp heroes didn't die, and many times neither did the villains. This is a neccessity when you're telling a story, or writting a serial or series of novels. It would be very awkward if The Shadow were to die.

But as an advice on how to run a Pulp RPG I find it perplexing. What's the risk then for the PCs? Why should your players care what happens? How are they going to immerse themselves in your world and take the dangers you present them with seriously?

Which is why the Thread's title is what it is.

Do you agree or disagree? Why? Do you have some other examples of Fiction Tropes that shouldn't make it ever to the rules/table?

Subverting tropes is fine (that is part of what made Game of Thrones initially exciting). I think the problem with that arose when it just became this automatic thing that people read as a sign of good writing (subverting a trope can be part of good writing but so can sticking to a trope: it really depends on what you are trying to do; I think someone like Martin used it in a skillful and genuinely surprising way, but there was a period where it was like a list of things writers and directors were subverting and that is where it became a problem. Don't throw the baby out with the bathwater: tropes can be good, subverting tropes can be good. Neither one on its own makes something good.

GeekyBugle

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Re: Some Tropes SHOULD be subverted
« Reply #41 on: April 28, 2021, 09:53:56 AM »
Exactly where do I claim someone didn't had fun?

Let me quote you for you:

I bet you could have fun playing a short-ish adventure where the GM is pulling his punches and gave you plot armor so thick you're immortal...

An ongoing campaign? Somehow I doub it.

Claim: Assert something is or isn't

Doubt: express an ammount of disbelief that x can or can't be.

Do you even English?

Also, you're quoting me from the future expressing doubt, to prove me from the past claimed something...

Do you even logic and linear time?
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Sable Wyvern

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Re: Some Tropes SHOULD be subverted
« Reply #42 on: April 28, 2021, 10:04:12 AM »
Also, you're quoting me from the future expressing doubt, to prove me from the past claimed something...

Do you even logic and linear time?

The fact that you proved your position was just what I'd inferred it to be, by proceeding to plainly state what you said you weren't saying, is not a point in your favour.

If it makes you feel any better, I'll concede that, perhaps, you find it extremely difficult to believe anyone can possibly have fun with plot immunity, but you might not feel it's categorically impossible (although I doubt you actually believe it's possible). :)

GeekyBugle

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Re: Some Tropes SHOULD be subverted
« Reply #43 on: April 28, 2021, 10:06:16 AM »
Lethality is pretty easy to modulate in most RPGs. What happens to a character that hits 0 HP?
They're knocked out.
They're dying.
They're dead.
Are the major results, and they sometimes bleed into each other. So for most adventures, I usually say 0 HP is knocked out. If the cause of damage is severe enough (falling into lava etc) I might say it's insta-death. For a Pulp game, you do want a bit of plot armor to emulate the genre. You never want to take character death off the table, except for extreme examples like Toon, because then there is no risk of death and players start to meta game it. But you can put emphasis on failure to accomplish a goal over pure lethality as the primary risk.
There, I think I repeated most of the replies I agree with. :D

I already said I agree a certain ammount of plot armor is needed due to the genre, I also already said negative HP looks like the best way to simmulate this.

How the fuck do I codify in the rules the rest?

It's a serious question.
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Here is why this forum tends to be so stupid. Many people here think Joe Biden is "The Left", when he is actually Far Right and every US republican is just an idiot.

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GeekyBugle

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Re: Some Tropes SHOULD be subverted
« Reply #44 on: April 28, 2021, 10:10:06 AM »
Actual pulp RPGs* normally just make death unlikely, so that PCs can act as they do in the stories with a reasonable prospect of success. They don't make death impossible as that would break player immersion ("why am I supposed to feel threatened?") and/or cause the PCs to act very differently from pulp heroes. 'Can't die' is not really a genre *trope* at all I'd say, just a writing necessity. Focus on the in-universe tropes, such that the PCs will act appropriately to the universe. That means reduced lethality, not zero lethality. For an immersive game you want to align player threat perception with character threat perception.

*Savage Worlds obviously; D6 System is another I'm familiar with. Can't remember Spirit of the Century too well but I think it's similar, more Dramatist than genre-Simulationist though.

Right, agreed, thing is, how do you codify this into rules?

At the risk of almost repeating myself, I think it's useful to think of what do players hate worse than dying in other games.  The first couple that come to mind for D&D would be being captured, being incapacitated for a long part of a session and not playing, being humiliated by an enemy, and permanent level loss.  Ideally you get the players to go along because "it's the genre," but if not you can leverage these other approaches to make them care, especially the ones with mechanical impact.  Frex, the Joker captures Commissioner Gordon.  If Batman fails to rescue him he's publicly humiliated, people will believe in him less, and he's lost a key ally, which makes it a lot harder to get the needed cooperation from the police.  The key difficulty is finding a varied enough set of potential penalties that it doesn't become repetitive.

I don't disagree a 100% but the problem I have is that I don't see how can anyone codify that into rules, I think that should be up to the GM to handle. Except making negative HP before dying part of the rules.
Quote from: Rhedyn

Here is why this forum tends to be so stupid. Many people here think Joe Biden is "The Left", when he is actually Far Right and every US republican is just an idiot.

“During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act.”

― George Orwell