2013-10-11 : Games have Objects: My Conclusion

Two and a half years ago, I said this: "when we want to let our characters off the hook, we need rules to threaten them; when we want to kill our characters, we need rules to protect them."

That's still what I'm saying!

1. On 2013-10-11, Vincent said:

For the curious, here's the context I said it in then: 2011-04-12 : A background in Principled Freeform


2. On 2013-10-11, Gordon said:

So - a game that would be poorly served by letting characters off the hook (even though we want to) might be well served by an object (or objects) that threatens them, and a game that would be poorly served by letting characters die (even thought we want to) might be well served by an object (or objects) that protects the characters?

That makes sense to me. I'm not quite sure what in recent discussion made you concerned people thought otherwise, but - full steam ahead, from me anyway.


3. On 2013-10-11, Andy Hauge said:

Sounds like it makes sense to me. Like before—a lot of articulation of thoughts I had, just didn't know how to have them in detail.

That's why RPGs have rules. Why we don't wing it. Why fudging the rules and the rolls is such a cheat of the players.


4. On 2013-10-11, E. Torner said:

Rules as contravening human desire, substituting alternate pleasure in being subverted in an interesting direction.


direct link

This makes...
ET go "Whoops I clicked "submit!" too soon"
JMW go "It's appealingly gnomic though"

5. On 2013-10-13, anon. said:

I'm wandering into this conversation at a time when I'm contemplating how to "fix" combat in old-school RPGs.

Here's the thing:
1. As the GM I want to be adversarial towards the players during combat. I want them to be stressed out, worried, feel unsafe.

2. However, my tendency is to try to protect them during combat (i'm talking about relatively old-school RPGs e.g. 2nd ed ADD or Dragon Warriors). Otherwise I'm worried they will die on me and their death will be abrupt and lead to an unsatisfactory narrative. I would never admit this to the players, so I take steps to hide it. (Which is counter-productive.)

3. The OP said:
"When we want to let our characters off the hook, we need rules to threaten them; when we want to kill our characters, we need rules to protect them."

So in my case, I have two separate things:
A. my instinct about how combat should be played out (i.e. it should feel stressful)
B. and my natural tendency to protect them, which gets in the way of A.

To overcome my natural tendency/fear I need rules that force(?) me or encourage me to escalate things and threaten them. But if I really threaten them, to the extent that they get killed, then the narrative might break.

In the past, the only conclusion I was able to reach was that the rules I'm looking for have to perform a sort of magic trick. They have to do both: Create the impression of real threat. While at the same time, they secretly protect from death. What do people reckon? Is this viable? Or a can't-have-the-cake-and-eat-it situation?


6. On 2013-10-13, George said:

(btw I'm George, hi everyone)


7. On 2013-10-13, Gordon said:

George- I'll wait on Vincent as to if here, at Vincent's blog, at this point in a mostly-different (to my eye - Vincent may disagree) discussion, is a good place to get into that. In the meantime, I threw a few comments up here - maybe they'll be useful.


8. On 2013-10-15, Vincent said:

George: Welcome!

I think that what you want is viable, yes. Not 100% viable, it's always going to come down to that hard decision sometimes, but there are fun game mechanics you can use to have your cake and eat it, oh, 80%, 90%, 95% of the time.

AD&D's rules aren't them.

If you're interested, I can tell you about how damage works in my game Dogs in the Vineyard, and how combat works in my game Otherkind, both of which are my attempts at that magic trick.


9. On 2013-10-15, George said:

Hello, and thanks both for the warm welcome.

Gordon: Good point about "something meaningful". Besides something dramatic, like threatening to hurt a loved one, I remembered that scene in Indiana Jones where he (almost) falls of the tank. But he doesn't. As part of the audience, for me that's very captivating. As a GM playing that scene, what i'm thinking is "will i always find that angle?". Hmm not sure, maybe that's the way to the real answer and a combination of fear and laziness makes me look elsewhere to consider if there is an alternative. Because i guess "that angle" depends on your ability as a storyteller.(Doesn't everything? you will ask, and you'll probably be right). Also, regarding the next paragraph, i would say that for this particular element to work as powerfully the players probably need to identify with the characters. i.e. more trad RPG than story game. But yeah agree that you can achieve the narrative result (minus the player stress) in a story game environment.

Vincent: I finally bought Dogs a couple of months ago (it's been in my to-read list for a few years now!) but i still haven't got round to go through it. I've heard a lot of good things about it, so I want to give it the attention it deserves. If you don't mind re-treading old ground, yes i'd be very interested in hearing your take on how both games work in that context.


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This makes...
GcL go "I don't like trad vs. storygame"*

*click in for more

10. On 2013-10-16, Vincent said:

It'll be my pleasure. Give me a day or two!


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