Saturday, August 7, 2010

One Thing I Don't Get...

... when other people run my modules, all I hear about are massacres and difficulties.

... but with rare exception, there weren't any fatalities when I originally ran the adventures. Certainly no mass slaughter.

You all going easy on your players when not running modules or what?


  1. My players survived DFD, though by the skin of their teeth. They insisted upon exploring the "well" near the end. They only got away because they rigged a clever system of counterweights at the other end and got out very quickly.

  2. In my experience, a lot of gamers feel a greater "distance" when using modules and thus are more comfortable with character deaths than in adventures they've created themselves. I don't feel this way myself, but I have seen it in action.

    And FWIW, there were no deaths when I ran Death Frost Doom and the vampire Cyrus is still kicking around as a major NPCs of the campaign.

  3. With regard to the Tower of the Stargazer specifically, did your players have hirelings or men-at-arms along with? Many of my low level OS games as both player and DM have had a veritable caravan in play, partly for the greater survivability it affords to individuals. I read your play test post from April 8 but it wasn't clear, and noted the near TPK as well as "a lot of close calls with saving throws"(although as you said, some of this was probably due to a player doing something they wouldn't normally do in campaign play)... Thanks for any info. or insight, I purchased a copy and have been considering introducing it to our regular game as an option for the players.

  4. It could perhaps be due to familiarity and expectation. Presumably, your players are familiar with your style and manner of running a game. When using module not written by oneself, there may well be a disjunction between one's own style of running a game and the style of a module.

  5. Well, I had 8 fatalities, 5 PC and 3 NPC when running Tower of the Stargazer last week. I would judge there was only one arbitrary death, which was hilarious at the time. 5 minutes in to the adventure, one of the PCs was struck by lightning on approach to the tower. Better still, the player in question has a reputation for his characters dying before their time. Much laughter ensued. And no, I do not go easy on them when not incorporating a module, but come on Jim, there are plenty of opportunities to die in the Tower. I would not worry about it, despite the high mortality rate, fun was had by all.

  6. Just a thought, but possibly your players are more cautious than others who are used to a more gung-ho 'let's see what this does' approach.

  7. I've been reading the Tower of the Stargazer now to run it as starting to my group's LotFP. It is certainly a bit more deadlier than what we have been used to, more on the poison killing rather than making character ill or something. Also I have quesses that some parts might also end with TPK because of player curiosity (or ingeniosity).

  8. Just ran Tower of the Stargazer yesterday and we all had a blast in spite of everyone dying. The players were so into the game that they started rolling up new characters the moment their first ones died.

    The deaths weren't arbitrary: they all resulted from the player's own actions (such as mucking about with magical objects). Mind you, most of the group only has experience with WFRP 2nd ed., which, even though grim and gritty, does have a degree of plot immunity for PCs through Fate Points.

    We're probably going to keep on playing the module with a new batch of characters, a bunch of adventurers who stumbled upon the tower only days after the first group died there. While the players will already know some parts of the tower I'd feel like I was robbing them of an awesome module if I didn't let them finish it.

  9. There is I noticed, a tendency to treat your modules and system as if it were the "Paranoia" rather than Dungeons and Dragons with death, and low-level, disposable characters, everyone experiments and plays their characters as "Chaotic Stupid".

  10. I think the "disposable characters" only happens if the game is played "Chaotic Stupidly." These aren't meant to be slaughterhouses, they're meant to allow a tight group of clever players to run roughshod over them.

  11. I agree with Jim to a point, but I'd also like to point out that most modern RPGs empower player characters with a degree of plot immunity and are also less harsh on the use of save or die situations. In our group's case it was definitely that: the players were used to a different kind of RPG experience and I think they projected some of those assumptions into the game.

    With that said, the players all took their characters' deaths quite well and there were no hurt feelings. I suppose they will make more responsible decisions with their new characters come next session.

  12. Ratpick has a point there: In most so-called modern role-playing games the players play superhero characters equipped with all sorts of crutches to keep the beloved characters from dying. For instance, it is almost impossible to kill a character in D&D 3.5 without the players making a ruckus about the challenges being to tough, and not "balanced" enough for the party.

    And this is one of the things that's wrong with that kind of games: Since there is no risk involved for the characters, there is no investment in the fate of the characters. These aren't games as much as exercises in group masturbation.

  13. @Navdi: I love the way you pick on the more modern D&D iterations, and you are very prescient about player reactions! And, for the near boring at times lack of danger... but, you miss the point by referring to it as "masturbation"...

    The common (80%+) literary and theatrical narrative, other than horror, is for good guys to live, and win in the end. With some heroic deaths of course, perhaps, but still a trajectory of epic success.

    And this idea of protagonization and character building is a valid pursuit for RPGs and frankly has been wildly successful and can be fun. Lord of the Rings, King Arthur, the three trillion Drizz't novels are long-standing narratives about with few true major good guys who die. Dragonlance, somewhere in between; that was some of its charm - some great major characters are offed or turn to the dark side.

    Jim's game is horror feel, and the feel of OSR and the original D&D had those elements as well. Just watch even a flick like "Hostel" to see the survival rate... and can we consider it "victory" even for a "survivor"?

    Think even the hard core OSR-er doesn't ever view things that way with different media?

    To be consistent with the feeling of some deadlier modules, try and play all video / computer games from now on refusing to use any save point IF YOU DIE. Imagine no ability to hit Up, Up, Down, Down, Left, Right, Left, Right, A, B, B, A... no ability to "do-over".
    Always start over from the beginning when you die... or even more extreme, put it down entirely and never play again.

    As for me, I like it to be somewhere in between. Sort of like, Pulp Fiction, with lines of "good" and "Bad" guys blurred. But, it is a matter of taste.

    I will for fun, play the Reverse UNO card here... we are on "Red" right?:

    Sometimes we find that Old Schoolers with propensity to kill with their capricious "landmine" results, and semi-predictable "don't touch anything in the room" designs,,,

    Well, these DMs tend to always start over campaigns at low levels,,, never getting past mid-levels, because in their hearts they are intimidated by a "powerful" game. Forfeiting power to the players is tough to bear for them. Deadliness thus can be a crutch, a tool for control-freaks... kill them before characters can eventually move about teleporting, scrying, passwalling, attacking three times a round, disintegrating and/or resurrecting... Ah at that point, it is players who are the instruments of horror to their foes in reverse.

  14. Bear-Sophie, don't get me wrong, I love a good narrative as well as the other guy. In my opinion, good narrative requires at least the possibility of character death, that is, there needs to be something at risk and a credible threar, or the whole effort of accomplishment is just going through the motions of a "hero's journey", where the end result is pre-determined (in this case, the character will reach a high level, and become godlike in power), whereas in a game in which characters can die it is more a case of "This character MIGHT survive to become a mighty and powerful hero or great renown".

    My reference of masturbation isn't towards modern role-playing games in general as much as towards many D&D 3.5+ gaming groups in action that I've witnessed. In those the emphasis is solidly on "Who's got the coolest character build", "Oh, look I found a loophole to exploit, which will make my character even more unbeatable!", and "Aren't we just the most bad-ass adventurers around, we walked all over THAT pancy ass module without loosing ANY of our precious resources (healing wand charges, gold pieces, what have you)!"

  15. To be honest, what appealed to me when I first played LotFP at Ropecon, was the brutality. My first character Sergei I made a somewhat paranoid just to get some laughs out of it. Opening doors with my crowbar might have saved my life (don't really know, and I still died while raging in battle) but when he died and no plot-immunity came to save him, at that time I thought "Wow, I really have to consider my actions a whole lot better." Brutality and high death rate was pretty good of a change for me since in our WFRP 3rd ED we do consider stuff, but when the dice are not on our side, GM comes up with some plot-immunity. It works on that game since it's a long run campaign. In LotFP the deadlier stuff works better.

    In the end, it really comes down to what suites your campaign, long living adventurers or a lot of them.

  16. @Navdi: Great points anew! Perhaps I did not convey enough you did capture the Mores of current 3.x and beyond players. Actually, I'd rather not even speculate as to 4.x tendencies, it is so hideous a system that would change anyone's playing style. The "character fetishism" is rampant, and is reflected in MMORPG/WoW mentalities.

    But again, I think the critique can run both ways - the "older" deadlier way could be viewed as a relic of control freak / board game / Pac Man mentality. Its all about the proper homeostasis, or whatever that concept from 8th grade biology was.

  17. Very intelligent discussion hereabouts. ;>

    Jim, praps you're seeing the same problem I had with the "R" modules in the early '80s. I was a wargamer turned roleplayer, so my AD&D creations were tilted towards expertise in combat strategies -- differentiated of course from combat mechanics, of which current players have plenty. So I got the same complaints. Hmmm....

    -- FM

  18. I think "expertise in combat strategies -- differentiated, of course from combat mechanics" is another form of problem solving, albeit under artificial time constraints. For me as DM, creative tactics and combat manuevers are probably the most entertaiing aspect of the old school style of play!