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Design, Development, and Gameplay / Re: Boosting social interaction
« Last post by Wrath of God on Today at 07:42:24 PM »
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Mechanizing social interaction is the wrong way to do it, because the mechanical version looks nothing like a social interaction that functional humans are familiar with.

That I disagree. I mean sure some people may be taken away from immersion if that's their schtick - but you know what RPG combat also looks usually nothing like actual combat, and yet even people fammiliar with combat has no problem playing it. Because it's well GAME not theatre or real life.
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Without attribute modifiers, D&D in every edition still has plenty of colorful choices between options. If a given elf character has a 16 Dexterity instead of 18 Dexterity, how much does that really change? If the 16 Dex elf is completely flat flavorless and identical to human, I assert that it doesn't suddenly because flavorful and interesting with 18 Dex.

It's hard to see clear why Elfs seeing in the dark is fine but a bonus to DEX is a bridge too far. Is a bonus when using bows and swords also a problem? Hey, if I'm going to be a fighter and specialize in longbow, I may as well play and elf an stack up another +1 to hit on top of that.

It seems like you're inferring that I like everything about D&D except racial attribute modifiers, which I hate. But from my view, I mildly dislike racial attribute modifiers, and I've considered them just one among many minor annoyances with D&D rules (as with any system). In other threads, posters were saying that racial attribute modifiers were essential, and that removing them is horrible (like Pundit's "Grey Goo" thread) - which implies that games like Hero System and Star Wars D6 somehow reduced all races to grey goo.

To answer your questions - the criteria I have is that I prefer for character creation options to be roughly balanced, rather than certain builds being superior to other builds. So I dislike rules that create more search for superior builds.

For example, the elf bonus to bows and swords in AD&D was changed in 3rd ed D&D to automatic proficiency instead. I like that change, precisely because it removes the preference to always make bow specialists into elves. Infravision is broadly useful to all classes, so it doesn't particularly change the balance.


It sounds like you're saying that halfling paladins are objectively bad for the game. Can you elaborate on why?

I haven't said that at all. I likened it to pineapple pizza. What could possibly be more a matter of taste than what people want on their pizza? For that matter, this idea that cookies & milk is somehow a better combination than gouda & OJ is also a matter of opinion.

But I confess, I did bait you on that. Because while we understand it's subjective, we also understand that so many people have such strong negative feelings about pineapple pizza that it's gotten to be something of a cultural meme of what not to do. As was the halfling paladin for a time.
So when I called for tact in terms of tweaking orange juice to grape juice to go with the gouda, that might be analogous to playing a halfling who wants to be a paladin rather than playing a halfling paladin. Which I actually think is a much more interesting character, who comes to the table with motives. But the point is, it's not just about what that one player wants to play. It's about compromise and playing well with others in cooperative creation of a shared fantasy.

To paraphrase what I understand from this, you're saying that a halfling paladin isn't bad in itself, but that other people could have strong negative feelings about it - so it's best to compromise and not play a halfling paladin in order to play well with them.

But that just begs the question. Why do these people have such negative feelings about other people playing halfling paladins that should be respected?

From my side, since the 1980s playing Fantasy Hero and many other games with open character creation, I've seen a lot of characters like halfling paladins, and they haven't seemed like a problem to me.
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You've read it exactly correctly.  And skill checks are definitely a part of the game.  In fact, they'd prefer that's where you roll most if I read their intentions correctly. 

Yeah, it's a little more involved as the players usually say something like, "Ok, so that skill is a STR/STR/CON check, so I roll...13, 15, 10.  So I can buy that one down, that one too, and that one's OK, so that leaves me with 5 points."  And the GM replies (looking at the handy chart on the back of the high quality GM screen), "Cool.  That's a QL 2.  So you're able to lift the iron portcullis pretty cleanly, but not fully over your head.  What do the rest of you want to do?" or something like that.

The tedious part is that there are many skills and each has its own formula of 3 checks to make.  And unless it comes up often, the PCs are constantly checking to remind themselves which three their rolling.  Yes, it takes about 30 seconds each time.  You'd think it would be maddening, but I have to say, they do like rolling dice.  So 3 times as many is fun somehow.  As the GM, I'm just waiting to hear what their remaining points come out to be while I'm thinking over what I'll say if they fail, succeed a little, or succeed a lot.

That reminds me that I failed to mention how high-quality their production value is.  Admittedly, their stuff is well built.  Good art, good covers, heavy grade pages, and 1-2 ribbon bookmarks in every book.  But it is super-crunchy and the learning curve means it gets a little slow at times.
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The Satanic Panic influence depended mostly on where you were. In Northern California it was mostly a joke and there were some teachers using role playing games in classrooms. If you were in a more religious area I imagine it was much different.

Except the areas were not that broad.  In fact, the Satanic Panic very much became--Did you have someone that wanted to go off the deep end, in a position of local power in your immediate vicinity?  Could be a minister.  Could be a school teacher.  Could be some local busybody.  In most areas, it didn't happen.  Now, we'll never know the full extent, because in most places it never came up.  There weren't that many people playing D&D for it to become an issue in the first place. 

I was in the heart of the Bible Belt for the whole span of the panic, and the extent of the push we got was "We heard this thing was a little strange.  But you kids seem alright. What's the deal?"  And we explained it, and that was that.  In the next town over, which was even more prone to straight-laced things than we were, they got the D&D books in the school library--because all the volunteers in the library were into SciFi and Fantasy as well as literature in general.  The next town north of us was too cool to play D&D.  And so it went.

The only real push I ever got was later, after the panic was done (late 90s), from a so called "mainstream" congregation where the minister went off on D&D enough to prompt a friend that went there to ask me about it.  I think this was a guy trying really hard to distract from bigger problem in that congregation. 

The panic was always localized, and anyone that tells you different has an agenda or is deluded.

There was always a fringe element in the Evangelical/Fundamentalist Churches that tuned into conspiracy theories.  In the 80s and early 90s there was a much larger "Satanic Panic" that encompassed far more than just D&D--there was the sad case of the McMartin Preschool being accused of all sorts of bizarre ritual child abuse.  The Geraldo special in 1988 that seemed to kick off a madness in this subsector of the Church.  It eventually cooled down, though periodically different conspiracy theories arise that take a riff off of this one.  There was a fairly lucrative market in selling books about how pagan culture was "corrupting our youth", with some priceless Jack Chick tracts that focused specifically on D&D as a gateway to the Occult.  And even before Geraldo's special, fraudsters like Mike Warnke made a tidy sum off of selling his supposed satanic background until he was exposed by others in the Church.

But D&D itself was not the main driver of this panic, at least from my memory.  The focus was more on how evil "New Age" teaching was, Neopaganism, and supposed Satanists in high places in Hollywood and the Government (and of course, the Catholic Church in the view of Jack Chick and others on the more Fundy wing of Evangelicalism).  D&D was a mere sideshow in all of this.

And like the Wokism we face today, the Satanic Panic wasn't grassroots; it was astroturfed before that term was coined.

OneD&D will be used as a vehicle for pushing Wokeness in whatever forms Wokeness takes as time goes on, until Wokeness as a whole burns itself out. And like a forest fire, Wokeness will continue to flare in various places even after the main fire is exhausted. RPGs as a whole are likely to be one of those flare points.

It was a tiny little slice of people, only some of whom were fundamentalists Christians.  And rather shady examples of that.  Yeah, the wokeness parallel is apt.  It was driven in part by news people who selectively interviewed and promoted the craziest fundamentalists that they could find.  Point being, the vast majority of fundamentalists Christians had no opinion on D&D whatsoever.  It wasn't even on their radar. The same way that the Catholic Church had the occasional priest that would get bent out of shape over D&D, but it was the exception.  You also have to remember, that unlike the Catholic Church and several other denominations, most fundamentalists faiths are not organized in a hierarchy.  Even the Southern Baptist Convention is a a relatively loose thing with very little to say on local church actions.  Which means if the Bible Belt, where you've got a Baptist church on almost every other corner, usually down the road from three different Pentecostal ones.  If one of them goes wacky, there's no bishop to slap them down hard or to tell them to stop giving interviews to the local gossip rag.

More broadly, though, and this also relates to the wokeness parallel:  Think of all the busybodies you have ever known.  What do they have in common?  They are going to find something to poke.  The cunning ones are usually pretty adept at using proto Alinsky tactics, even if they've never heard of such a thing.  It comes natural.  Which means they find something where they think they can cause maximum trouble, and go with that.  Guess what, that means if the D&D in the area is a small group of social outcasts that dress and act strange, and there are no other more convenient targets, they'll go after them.  How they go after them will also vary, from the typical jocks/popular crowd doing the usual thing to the librarian getting them ostracized to whatever.  If there is a more viable target, they won't give the D&D kids even look.  Note that "more viable" can be because the D&D kids have one kid that can push back.  Or it can be because there is another target with a more promising payoff.  No point in chasing the already ostracized kids when you can bring out a scandal on someone previously untouched.
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The RPGPundit's Own Forum / Re: Pundit
« Last post by Ratman_tf on Today at 06:08:20 PM »
Broadly, I do think liberals have changed since the Bill Clinton era, especially in the mainstream taking up LGBT causes and to some degree Native American causes.

I think the Democrats have become a bunch of racist assholes. Maybe they always were, but it's become much more blatant now, and it's starting to drive minorites over to the Right.

"Liberals" are a mixed bag. Many disposessed who were cancelled have gone on to identify as libertarian or even right wing.

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Conservatives have also changed since the Bush Sr and Bush Jr era. Mainstream Bush conservatives were pro-immigration, passing the Immigration Act of 1990 that greatly increased immigration and added family-based immigration. They also supported foreign action and U.S. involvement in world affairs. They were in principle anti-abortion, but abortion was largely accepted compared to now. Both Bush presidents added to federal funding for schools, and federal regulation (No Child Left Behind).

Has the Republican party become anti-legal-immigration? The big beef, personified by the idea of "Building a Wall" is that they're anti-illegal-immigration.

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I would say that the difference between either Bush and Trump is bigger than the difference between Bill Clinton and Biden.

Trump was a non-political outsider who threw his hat into the ring in 2016. I'd say a more accurate grouping would be Bush, Clinton, Biden and Obama on one side and Trump on the other.
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What do you mean by the characters getting pulled out of their shells and participating? Can you elaborate on that and the player diplomat thing?

I always have some process in the game that rewards the more boisterous, aggressive, system guru, etc. types trying to include the other players as much as possible.  The exact process varies by system, but usually in a D&D-like game, I gear it to magic (items, spells, etc.).  In some cases, I'll use cachet, favor, reputation, etc. in a similar way.  It varies a little by group, because the point is that it something that the aggressive players want and are trying to get. 

It's just something that I started doing a long time ago when I realized that my games had changed.  When I started, it was everyone was aggressively pushing what the group and the individuals wanted. Simple party dynamics took care of it.  Now, I'll have 2/3 to 3/4 of my players will be somewhat reserved to shy.  If let untouched, the aggressive ones will all sit right next to me and drown out the rest.  I have gone as far as to do arranged seating, but since it's exactly the opposite of what everyone is trying to do naturally, it doesn't go well.  So the next best thing is an incentive for the aggressive players to be spread amongst the rest by their own choice, so that they can steer the shy players towards a similar party dynamic that an all aggressive group has.

If you like non-standard magic items a little on the strange side, then it's easy to harness that towards the same goals.  Strangely enough, I find mild curses on an otherwise good item to be excellent for this.  The aggressive character is always trying to eradicate every last negative.  The shy character is perversely proud that his magic sword causes goblins to want to kill him on sight.   Then the aggressive characters see how much fun that is, and they want their own quirky thing. 

It's about thinking about what your players want, why they want it, how they go about getting it--and then determining what you can throw in the way of situation or stuff or villain to get them to use that same energy going after something you want for the good of the group as a whole.  In the context of the original topic, you can't really stop a power gamer from power gaming, at least not without fighting them over it.  It's a lot less stressful and much more rewarding to instead channel the power gaming into something that helps you.
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I don't experience this issue because I randomly roll for race.
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I always liked the way The Riddle of Steel did it: basically, every Wound of varying severity and type you could take to a specific body part had a Blood Loss number attached to it. This number accumulated by the heaviest Wound taken to any one area -- e.g. if a Level 2 cutting wound to the forearm had BL 4, and a Level 3 wound of the same type had BL 6, you didn't take BL 10 if you got a Level 2 and a Level 3 wound to the forearm, only BL 6. If a Level 3 cutting wound to the leg had BL 6, however, and you were hit with that, you did now have BL 10. The final collective BL was a target number you rolled against with a d10 die pool based on your Endurance attribute; if you didn't get any successes, your Health attribute dropped by 1. When you hit HT 1, all your die pools halved; when you hit HT 0, you went into coma and had your original HT in minutes to be treated.

That said, I wanted my own system to be considerably simpler, so mine simply has a flat rule that Critical Wounds have to be treated within (Vitality score, typically 4-7 for human PCs) minutes or they become Mortal, and when you're Mortally Wounded you're incapacitated and have to be treated within (Vitality) minutes or you die.  This is simpler, but lacks some of the tension associated with random survival intervals, so I have to admit I'm contemplating adding that in somehow.
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Second, I think it was Legend of Zelda I was playing when I was a kid, my godfather started making fun of it. All these hearts. The videogames he grew up on, it's one hit and you were dead. And I played those videogames, too. And they really do work just fine. Perhaps because we go in knowing that it's one hit and you're dead.

In some ways, I think those old games work even better. Because once you get used to the idea of being able to take multiple hits, a nail-biting  victory becomes equated with losing most of your hits, but not quite all. And so then a good challenging adventure is one in which the player is expected to lose most of their hits. And that can be a problem. Because if you fall behind early, you might enter the latter half of the adventure not able to take the hits the good design expects you to hit. And it's not entirely clear to me that playing those second two hours with no chance of winning is something that should even be done. In baseball, if the home team is up in the bottom of the 9th, the game ends there and then. You don't continue to play things out once the end is set in stone.

Granted, it's not exactly that in an RPG. You could be destined to lose and still fight for your survival. I just question, if you can't afford to take a hit in the first encounter, what actual benefit is there to designing the RPG form such that it sets the expectation that, yes, you can take a hit without going down? Are we actually gaining something by doing this? Is your favorite character actually any safer for my leading you to believe you've got a buffer against death?

This may come across as pedantic, but there's a couple things I think are worth pointing out about those old games. For one thing, a lot of older games were made to be punishingly difficult, either to extract quarters from kids in an arcade, or to cover the fact that the game itself was actually extremely short. Also, if you die in a videogame, you get to start over and play the same game again (roguelikes excluded), so part of the game is learning from past mistakes in order to make further progress each time. That's an opportunity you don't get in a tabletop RPG. More importantly, games where you die in a small number of hits usually are not RPGs. They're action games (or platformers or Action-RPGs), where the player's manual skill at the game can allow them to avoid those hits. It's a lot less fair to the player to impose that level of punishment when their being hit is a matter of stats and randomness, rather than a matter of skill.
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Good points about the absence of potential single-roll fatalities undermining the sense of danger and stakes of the game.

To clarify, when I say "single-roll", I generally mean literally only one roll (at most two if in reaction to a GM roll) where the consequences of any failure, no matter how close one comes to success, are immediate and final death regardless of prior PC status, especially if the PC is not given any meaningful choice beforehand that would allow him to avoid that roll. Five low-probability crits in a row, or taking the last hit in a long battle, is not the same thing as facing an enemy where you have no chance to flee and his first successful hit is the end of the line for you, or walking into an undetectable and unavoidable poison-gas trap where you have one roll to survive and that's it. Likewise, situations where the threat of an instant kill is deployed but the PCs have a meaningful capacity to avoid it by other action (e.g. talking your way out of being held at crossbow-point by guards, or simply cooperating with them) don't count.

Part of why it was character superstrength, specifically, that started me thinking about one-roll fatalities was that unlike things like local venomous fauna (which characters can learn about), and obvious uber-destructors like colossi and kaiju, humanoid superstrength isn't always something you can anticipate before engaging. Which goes to another cogent point raised above: The real frustration isn't just a single-roll/single-choice potential fatality, but an uninformed single-roll/single-choice fatality. For any given gamble to be meaningful you have to know what the stakes are first.

My own thought is that this reflects generally changed expectations in roleplaying overall. In the real old-school days of D&D and AD&D1E, the idea that one wrong choice or one bad roll could, and probably would, mean the end of at least some PCs over the course of a campaign seemed to be more generally accepted, if not particularly liked. Nowadays I see much more resistance to that idea, partly because (I think) the time needed, and encouraged, to be spent on character creation and development has increased considerably, which makes the experience of instant, unpredictable, and anticlimactic loss of those characters more frustrating and aggravating.

(Edit: It has just occurred to me that this was, of course, one of the unstated but fairly common reasons to have henchmen and hirelings along on the old-school dungeon crawls: so that if any such unforeseeable instant-death threat came by, the PCs could learn about it by finding a body in the morning.)
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