Friday, August 22, 2014

A D&D die rolling method that produces good results with variety

I've decided for the sake of D&D players everywhere to make a permanent recording of my stat rolling method.   Here it is in order.

1.  For each of the six stats in order roll 3d6.
2.  If the sum of all stats is greater than or equal to eighty then you are done.   Go to step 4.
3.  Reroll the lowest stat using 3d6.   Go back to step 2 and proceed from there.
4.  Exchange any two stats.

Example #1 -- I'll play a fighter.
rolls 10, 10, 7, 13, 14, 8

Step #1
Strength 10
Intelligence 10
Wisdom 7
Dexterity 13
Constitution 14
Charisma 8

Total is 62  we are short of 80 by 18!

Step #2 reroll wisdom 17!
Strength 10
Intelligence 10
Wisdom 17
Dexterity 13
Constitution 14
Charisma 8

Total is 72 and we are still short of 80 by 8!

Step #3  reroll charisma  11
Strength 10
Intelligence 10
Wisdom 17
Dexterity 13
Constitution 14
Charisma 11

Total is 75 and we are still short of 80 by 5.

Step #4 reroll strength (player chooses if there is a tie)  12
Strength 12
Intelligence 10
Wisdom 17
Dexterity 13
Constitution 14
Charisma 11

Total is 77 and we are still short of 80 by 3.

Step #5 Now we must reroll Intelligence.  14
Strength 12
Intelligence 14
Wisdom 17
Dexterity 13
Constitution 14
Charisma 11

Total is 81 so we can stop.

Step #6 exchange any two stats  (Strength and Wisdom)
Strength 17
Intelligence 14
Wisdom 12
Dexterity 13
Constitution 14
Charisma 11

Notice that we have a pretty decent fighter character.  Notice also that we have a smart fighter which is not something you normally get from point buy systems.

Friday, July 18, 2014

The Emerikol Fallacy .... or .... Fallacious uses of the Oberoni Fallacy

The basic gist of the Oberoni Fallacy is...

The fact a GM using rule zero can fix a rules problem does not mean there is no rules problem.

I agree with Oberoni that such thinking is a fallacy.  But that fallacy has been taken too far in some discussions.  We are no longer talking about rules problems. We are talking about rules that allow more or less GM adjudication.

The fallacy has been stretched to mean the following...

Any rule that is open to GM interpretation and could possibly be abused by a bad DM is a bad rule.

Let me call this the Emerikol Fallacy.

One of the advantages of roll playing games is that you have a human who can make judgments that are beyond today's computers abilities to make.  This ability to judge allows players greater flexibility.  They can literally try anything.  The GM is expected to fairly set the difficulty and allow for a roll.  The number he chooses can vary from GM to GM but that is not a bad thing.  Each GM is tasked with representing his own campaign world.  As long as he is consistent in application across all players and npcs, it's fine.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Should we design Roleplaying Games like Dungeons and Dragons for bad Game Masters?

We do indeed need good Game Masters. We should absolutely not design a game system to protect players from bad Game Masters. Every rule written should be as desirable for a good Game Master as it is for a bad one. It is ok for rules to be optional and to exist from game to game based on player interests and desires. Rules for variety and flavor are not in question here. Rules that exist because it is believed they can rein in a bad Game Master are bad and harmful to the game.

So what is a good Game Master? A good Game Master is someone who is devoted to the fun of his group. This one trait and the will to learn is all it will take to be a good Game Master. He has his creativity and his energy to offer to provide a campaign that his players will enjoy. A good Game Master will know his own strengths and weaknesses and seek out players whose interests resonate with his own. A good Game Master should want to learn and to get better. He should be flexible when possible and strong when not. He should make sure that all players are having fun including himself. A Game Master has to always realize he can make a mistake and he is allowed to fix it and learn from it.

A good Game Master can be unskilled. You can pick up the game for the first time and be a good Game Master. Your intent will triumph ultimately. You will make mistakes when you first start. You will also make mistakes when you've been at it for thirty years. Hopefully not as many. If your players have faith that you are in fairness striving for the game to be fun and trying hard to be fair, they will be understanding. There should never be enmity or rivalry between the Game Master and the players. If you have players that don't respect your efforts and can't accept your work as an unbiased gift of fun then you should find some new players. Not every Game Master is good for every group of players. When a Game Master finds a group that he can have fun with then he is fulfilling his mission. The mission is fun.

A bad Game Master is someone not devoted to fun for the entire group. His own fun is all that matters and ruining others fun is fine so long as his own is not lessened. If such GM's acquire any skill it is only in grieving their players and causing them to curse the game.  I've met a few lost souls along the way who've been abused by such Game Masters. These kinds of people do not help the game and are better off out of it. They should either be confronted and forced to reform by their players or they should be ousted as Game Master.

The game designers will fail to protect a group of players from their Game Master. Rules designed to prevent abusive Game Masters are wasted space. Game Masters can change anything. They can create any circumstance. They are unstoppable by rules. Rule 0, the best rule in the book by the way if used benevolently, is impossible to resist if used for harm. So protecting players from their Game Masters is a fools errand.

Instead the game designers should focus on helping good Game Masters to become more skilled. Help those Game Masters, who want to make their players happy, be more effective at doing so. The Game Masters guide should absolutely tell Game Masters that they can change anything at any time in the name of fun. There is no wrong way to role-play using the  rules. If you use them to have fun then you are winning. So I call out to the games designers to know the difference. Know that good Game Masters want help and bad one's aren't listening anyway. Give us clear rules that are easy to use and easy to adjudicate because good Game Masters still need help. Help good Game Masters to avoid mistakes and continually improve.

When the game designers spend time lessening the fun for good Game Masters and their groups in a vain attempt to make bad Game Masters behave is a wasted day. There is no right way. There are only many disparate fun ways for many disparate groups. Help those groups and their Game Master to prosper and have fun and they will not forget you.

Metagame Dissonance in Roleplaying Games aka Dissociative Mechanics aka the Plot Coupon aka Director Stance Mechanics

I’ve wanted to write a post about this concept for a while now.   There is a lot of confusion on the subject and many people don’t grasp the meaning.  As such they don’t understand others who argue along these lines and often give responses that seem out in left field.   I’m not going to try and convince you that Metagame Dissonance is good or bad.  That’s for you to decide.  My goal for this blog is to help, hopefully, you to understand what it is I’m talking about.

The implied science of the D&D world is our own world plus magic.    Since we know nothing about magic that really works in our world, we have to rely upon the rules as written to tell us what magic can do.   D&D made up magic in the same way that the author of Superman said he could fly.  He gave various off the cuff reasons but in reality he just made it up.  It was a starting premise of that world.  With that in mind, we have a game with abstract rules that reflect the world and what goes on in that world.

Let me start by saying that everything a player character says his character is doing is not metagame dissonance.   If a player says “My fighter attacks the orc with his sword” then no one doubts the fighter himself could just as easily have said “I attack the orc with my sword.”  If a player says “My wizard casts his fireball spell” then no one doubts the wizard himself could just as easily have said “I cast my fireball spell”.

So a plot coupon or something that leads to metagame dissonance is more than just taking an action.  The nature of the action has to cause a disconnect between the player of the character and the character.   A great example of this is hero points.  In some game systems you get a certain number of hero points.  Whenever something happens the player is allowed to spend a hero point and either force a reroll or negate what happened outright.   Here is an example.

DM – “The orc swings his great axe” – rolls d20 gets a critical rolls damage.  Enough damage is done to kill the PC.  “Owe.  Bad luck.  Emerikol is dead.”
Player of Emerikol – “Wait! I spend a hero point.”
DM – rolls d20 again and gets a lower number.  “Ok Emerikol he hits but you are still alive.”

Now what is wrong with what happened above?  Look at what the player of Emerikol said.   Would Emerikol have ever said such a thing?  Absolutely not.  Emerikol does not know about hero points.  In fact all Emerikol knows is what the DM said the second time.  The hero point is a plot coupon.  It lets the player do something outside the game to make what’s happening inside occur differently.  This is a pretty obvious example but more subtle examples are coming.

Can the nearly identical event done by different characters be a plot coupon in one instance and not a plot coupon in another instance.  The answer is yes.  In our world it would be impossible.  But it is not impossible in a world with magic.

Let’s look at two scenarios.

Scenario #1 will be a warlord healing an ally.
Player of Warlord says “I use my inspiring word to heal the fighter”.  The fighter spends a surge and gets back 12 hit points (or whatever).

Scenario #2 will be a cleric healing an ally
Player of Cleric says “I use my healing word to heal the fighter”.  The fighter spends a surge and gets back 12 hit points.

So why is scenario #1 causing metagame dissonance when scenario #2 does not.  In both cases, lets assume that both the warlord and the cleric each have two uses of their healing ability.

The warlord is saying words of inspiration and encouragement that rallies the wounded fighter and makes the abstraction we know as hit points a little bit better.  The cleric is calling upon the power of his God to magical make the abstraction we know as hit points a little bit better.   We know certain that Clerics have finite magical resources.  That is one of the implied rules of magic I discussed above.  The cleric character as well as the cleric player knows he has a fixed resource pool.

The Warlord on the other hand is not using magic.  He is using the force of his personality to rally an ally.   Is the warlord character aware that he has a fixed resource pool?  No.  He couldn’t know.  He can rally his allies all day long with words of encouragement.   How would he know that this word or that word is effectual and all the others are not effectual?  The player of the warlord though knows exactly when and where they are effectual and that he as a limited resource pool.  I am not attacking warlord healing here.  I am showing that the resource management limitation is player knowledge but not character knowledge.

When a player does something that his character cannot possibly know or think, it is metagame dissonance.  For some people this dissonance detracts from the game.  It makes them question the authenticity or the realism of the world.  The suspense of disbelief is made more difficult.  Now it’s clear to me that people have different reactions to this and to different degrees.  I myself was bothered by it before I ever put my finger on what it is.  I was bothered by hero points, years ago, but couldn’t figure out why.  Now that I came to grips with metagame dissonance and realize it affects me I am aware of it.

Other things with metagame dissonance are martial daily powers, barbarian rages from third edition,  action points,  just to name a few.  

Hit Points - What do they represent in D&D?

So this is how I play hit points.  It is not necessarily how you play or how you should play.  It's not advocacy so much as explanation.  Here is my explanation.

Suppose we have Fighter Bob who is 1st level with ten hit points.   We also have Fighter Joe who is tenth level and has one hundred hit points.   Now for the sake of argument let us also suppose that they are to an observer identical twins except that one just has more training than the other.   Their attributes and musculature are identical.

Now if a giant comes along and does ten hit points of damage what has happened?  In the first case Fighter Bob is down and likely dying.  He got hit and hit hard and is bleeding profusely.   In the second case Fighter Joe perhaps barely turned aside the giant's spiked club and that club managed to create a bleeding gash in Fighter Joes arm.   They both took 10 hit points of damage but we might also fairly argue that Bob took more meat damage than Joe took.   Joe was damaged though.

So let's assume Bob barely pulls through.  So Bob and Joe are recoverying and since they don't have a cleric handy they are both resting and recoverying naturally.  If what is healing is the meat, then Joe should recover faster than Bob, right?  I tend to suggest that people recover their level in hit points every day.   So Joe is fully healed up after a good days rest.   Bob though takes ten days to recover.   None of this is super realistic but for me it passes the cinematic realism test rather easily.   It feels right at a glance.

So to answer your question.   I believe if instead of increasing hit points all damage got divided by the targets level the result would be the same.   The dividing of damage would represent the skill, luck, stamina, etc...So increasing hit points are a simpler way of doing this division process.   All damage is something real.  No matter how big the number the result is never zero.  The division process is what is represented by the skill, luck, and stamina.   The actual hit points would then be the "meat".  I dislike the term as even meat is not purely meat.   I can stab your leg and stab your heart and the latter will kill you while the former does not.  It's the same amount of "meat" though.

So to answer your question.   Hit points do not represent intangible factors because they are always tied to the "meat" they represent.  If the meat for Joe is 10 hit points just like Bob, then the other 90 that Joe possesses are linked directly to the initial 10.  You can't lose some of the 90 without losing some of the ten.  You can't recover any of the 90 without recoverying some of the 10.

Hope that clears it up.  I hope it also clears up any misconceptions people have on my view of hit points.

The Five Minute Work Day Fallacy in D&D

I decided to just write a blog post that I could link to instead of constantly repeating myself on the forums. A lot of people make the allegation that only via railroading or metagame tricks can a DM keep the five-minute workday at bay. I believe this is a fallacy. While I respect their right to play whatever style of game they like, I will not have my own style impugned by these charges. A DM who limits the five-minute workday is often doing so because he is running a realistic dynamic world. I am presupposing a dangerous world. But that’s not a lot to ask of a D&D world. A set number of encounters per day is a guideline and not a fast rule. If you average the suggested number or even come near the average the threat of such days will lead the group to make logical resource choices. Here are my guidelines for running a campaign successfully without five-minute workday problems. How to simulate a realistic world and by default handle the 5MWD

The world should not be so uniform that players get expectations about encounters per day or encounter balance. Some days should have one and some seven or more. So first of all. Roll randomly for wandering monsters especially with overland travel. Roll on a chart that represents what they could encounter and not what is level appropriate. Running should always be an option. Don’t be too predictable with encounter balance. Taking on a superior challenge should be something the group could consider if fully prepared. A reason to not frivolously become unprepared.

Opportunity (Lost Rewards)
There should be circumstances where the group might try something if fully prepared and not try if not. These golden opportunities to overachieve can be missed because some resource was squandered in an earlier encounter unnecessarily. Some monsters will take their treasure and flee. Sometimes the group loses out because the monsters clearly overmatched will run. Sometimes leaving a clue about what was lost or missed is a good idea. Perhaps a letter or note.

Groups should never feel too safe while in the adventure. If some challenge can be handled without wasting a limited resource then they should think that is the best approach. If a group leaves an enemy force alive while resting overnight, that force will either run (see above) or they will retrench. Part of retrenching could be preparing traps, preparing for the group in particular (magically if the enemy is smart), or recruiting additional temporary allies. Losing the element of surprise is a big loss. Enemies really can better prepare especially in the short term. The Lord may not be able to keep a group of skilled mercenaries on hand indefinitely but he could temporarily if he felt threatened. He could also post bounties for the heads of his enemies.

This is related to threat but a bit different. Enemies will counterattack instead of waiting to be slaughtered. If a group is actually sleeping in the dungeon then the enemy may gather up their entire force that is in fact a greater challenge to the group and attack in mass. If the group returns back to town, some enemies may even strike them there. Even if they don’t many will use divinations. Some enemies that run away will do so and they will still act against the group. One of my group members is often quoted as saying – never leave an enemy alive to come back to haunt you. Truer words were never spoken. Enemies that survive even by flight will often seek revenge.

Let me again emphasize that I am not saying you can’t play however you like. I’m not even saying that I could not play a game and enjoy something without dailies. It wouldn’t be D&D to me but it might be a fantasy game I could play. Unlike some, I think there are core things about D&D that makes it D&D. I am though saying that even if a mechanism existed to mechanically stop the five-minute workday that all of the above solutions would still be used in my campaign. I’m not going to stop playing the monsters to their appropriate intelligence. And by playing the monsters to their appropriate intelligence, I already don’t have a five-minute workday problem. Let me emphasize. The above are not “solutions” to the five-minute workday. They are normal DM adjudication of monsters in a hostile world. The side benefit is no five-minute workday.

I believe we should train and teach new DMs. They should as often as possible start out as players. The DMG should explain all of this (better than I have above) in great detail so that DMs can not only prevent workday problems but also have a more immersive and fun world for their players. I’m not against some helpful starter rules either for inexperienced DMs. But to be honest, for the short time it’s going to take a DM that really bothers to try to get better to learn, I’d suggest just making it a rule – X encounters between rests. I mean a DM is going to learn pretty fast. In fact if you plays with a good DM he may start out doing it without any additional training. The rule would totally annoy me and perhaps not annoy others. That’s ok. And for those of you that never want to deal with it is the rule all that annoying?