Thursday, November 20, 2008

A new home

Since my wife had had it with Wordpress, she decided to switch to Blogger for our mutual blog, archive the past posts and call an end to This pretty  much means an end to my former gaming blog, but that's cool, now I can switch to Blogger too. But, I would like to transfer some of my older posts over to here so that I can keep those handy. Here's an old favorite: 

This weekend we had the second session of our Ravenloft/Gestalt mini-campaign and something occurred which really blind-sided me - the way in which I use the rules, influences how my players set about solving problems. I’m running a module called The Created in which a small town is taken over by a puppet maker and his marionette minions. In the module, the PC’s are quite likely to be taken over and turned into marionettes themselves, which in fact happened in our game. At some point after this, the PC’s have an encounter with a stray dog, which is two size categories larger than them at this point. This is a pretty tough encounter, since because of their small size, even if the PC’s had weapons (they were unarmed after being turned) the only weapons they could carry would do minimal damage at best. So the best way to handle this situation? Drop to the ground and go limp - basically, be a doll. The dog sniffs for a few moments and then wanders off. It’s a simple solution that requires no rolling, just a little bit of thought. However, my players attempted to run away, which failed, and then tried to fight the dog off, which wasn’t going too well.

Is this a failure on my players part? No. My players are intelligent people and can think on their feet - the problem is the rules (d20 in this case - my eternal whipping boy) which support a certain style of play, namely, if you run into a problem, look on your character sheet until you find a skill that you can roll to get you out of the situation. This is where skill-based systems run into problems. They encourage players to think only in terms of what’s on their character sheets and distract them from solving the problem at hand.

d20 is not fully to blame in this situation because the rules are simply a tool. Like any tool, if used poorly, for the wrong task, the results can be, and usually are, slipshod. So I am also to blame for the way my players react to situations. By including skill roll after skill roll, eventually anybody is going to “trained” to work only with what is given to them. This is the importance of including riddles, tricks, traps, etc. with no obvious solution (i.e. no associated skill roll) so that the players are forced, at least every now and then, to think past an encounter, rather than roll past it.

That's going to be it for now. I'll be adding more old posts periodically as well as adding new posts semi-regularly. 

Edit: I'm already having problems posting, apparently it's too hard to add quotes on Blogger. This does not bode well. 

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