Archive for the ‘Game Theory’ Category

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Game Theory – Charming Morals (or the Morality of the Charm)

19 May, 2020

Is it charming?My, it has been a while since I did one of these.  I was reading a discussion on social media where it called out the original designers of D&D as essentially bad people for having included charm spells in D&D.  That seemed . . . well wrong to me. As I believe charms were included as part of the long tradition of such magics in myths, tales and legends not for any other reason.

Thus this discussion which is focused on the GM’s use of charm magic:

To start with, Charm spells and their variants (love potions, suggestion, dominate, and so many more) are troubling, deeply so in fact because they take away one of the primary aspects that make playing roleplaying games fun:

Agency/Autonomy, when your character is under the effects of such a spell, you (the player) are not getting to play the character you signed up for.  You are being forced to act against your will and it is just not enjoyable.  This is an extremely important point, such effects basically steal the character from the player for the duration and is very likely a “you do not have fun” moment for the player.  Do not do that, it is rude and will stress the social bonds of the group.

Now, some people will say, well just get rid of Charms all together.  This is an option but using magic to subvert peoples’ control / emotions / will has a long tradition in myths and legends and is a good indication that anyone doing so is evil.  Arguably, fear of such control is one of the reasons people have historically been so afraid of the idea of magic, if it can make you do things you do not want to do or want to do something so much that you violate laws and morality, it is something deeply terrifying.  Again, depending on your group, these may not be subjects they people wish to explore but they can be interesting and terrifying to encounter in a game setting.

Now, there are still ways to use Charm effects successfully in a game, but you need to warn the players and get them onboard first. For example:

The Big Bad has enacted a powerful ritual that gives them control over the Royal army, the characters are part of the army so . . . If the players agree, they get caught up in the spell.  Montage of autocratic control over the land and then the character end up somewhere that breaks them from the spell.  Now, they have to try an free their home from the Big Bad, possibly while being concerned with the safety of their former comrades, possibly (if people want to) grappling with the terrible things they did while controlled.

Or:

The Evil Noble wants to get the Royal to marry them and slips them a love potion . . . it works!  And the characters have to free the Royal from the induced false love before something terrible happens.  Or, the comedy approach, thing go wrong and one of player characters now has a Royal in love with them or has fallen in love with the Evil Noble (or both!).  The humor version requires a light touch on everyone’s behalf though.

Some players will still not be be willing to let their characters be charmed (or love potioned).  Do not force them, it is impolite and not being a good friend.  But others will enjoy the chance to try something different with their character.

As always, communication is king.  Talk to your players to learn what they want to see and try in your game and what they definitely do not want.

Notes: Another in my occasional discussion of game theory.

Image A strange portrait from “Spring-heel’d Jack: the Terror of London. A romance of the nineteenth century. From the The British LibraryPublic Domain Mark.

 

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Superheroes – Out of the 1960s – A Campaign Statblock

12 February, 2020

Mekano

This is a more focused pitch for the first part of my Superheroes – Tomorrow and Today idea for a campaign.

Superheroes – Out of the 1960s

It is a time of difficulty and change, the US is locked in an endless war with an implacable enemy spending blood and money fighting in foreign fields, technology is changing rapidly and changing how we view the world, the generations are in conflict over what direction the country is going, radicals on the left and right are tearing the nation apart . . . It is the 1960s . . . (and what does the future hold?)

A brave group of new heroes gather together to build a better future out of the chaos of a changing world. Read the rest of this entry ?

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Superheroes – Tomorrow and Today – A Campaign Idea

27 December, 2019

The cat's out of the bag!I have been playing in a Necessary Evil campaign (which uses Savage Worlds, perhaps not the perfect match for Superheroics).  This has totally reawakened my love of superheroic gaming (which playing Masks at GenCon a few years back had also stimulated).  Unfortunately, playing s superhero campaign means having players who are willing to buy into the genre and right now, I do not have groups that have the right sorts of players.

This does not mean that I have not been thinking about the sorts of superheroic campaigns I would like to Games Master, if I can find a group (or, heaven forfend groups).  This is my current thought for a campaign that would work with two groups or one group with players that drop in or out, as the campaign takes place in two different -but deeply interconnected- time periods.

Superheroes – Tomorrow and Today

It is a time of difficulty and change, the US is locked in an endless war with an implacable enemy spending blood and money fighting in foreign fields, technology is changing rapidly and changing how we view the world, the generations are in conflict over what direction the country is going, radicals on the left and right are tearing the nation apart . . . It is the 1960s . . . It is 2020.

A brave group of new heroes in the 1960s gather together to build a better world out of the chaos of a changing world.

Two generations later, a new team of heroes emerge, taking their inspiration from the heroes of the 1960s, some of which were their ancestors or mentors, to do the same. Read the rest of this entry ?

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Pondering Wild Magic in D&D 5E

9 August, 2019

Wild?In my current D&D (5th Edition) games, I have two wild sorcerers, one in the Down and Out in Taren Kost adventures and the other in my learn to play game on one Friday night a month at Tyche’s Games.  So, I have been looking at wild magic in D&D and finding it . . . dull.

You can find the current wild magic table here and the effects range from “you accidentally kill the party” (07-08, fireball centered on you or 13-14, confusion centered on you), to nice for you (71-72, resistance to all damage for the next minute), to “you don’t get to have fun for the next in-game hour” (save or be polymorphed into a sheep for an hour) to “what? why?” (95-96, you and everyone else in 30′ become vulnerable to piercing damage for the next minute).  But they are both weirdly specific and static and do not give a sense of wild and chaotic magic, at least, not to me.

So, I am going to just go more free form and flexible.  I will use a deck of cards whenever a wild magic effect is triggered and the roll to trigger will be the spell level or less on a D20 when casting a spell, more powerful effects should be more likely to trigger.

My basic idea is:

  • Black card, negative effect (Spade, affects wild mage, Club, affects someone/thing else)
  • Red card, positive (Heart, affects wild mage, Diamond, affects someone/thing else)
  • Joker, draw twice more.

The higher value of the card, the greater the effect. Designed to be very free form and flexible.  I will post how it works out but it will be at least a week before I get to use it.

Notes: Image from a search for “chaos magic” and is “Veuve Clicquot HQ, Reims, France” by Matt Hamm is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0.

 

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Player Expectations, Game Reality and Killing Characters

22 July, 2018

So, about every four weeks I GM a Learn to Play D&D (Fifth Ed) session as part of Tyche’s Games‘, our local game store, Friday Night Initiative program to teach RPGs to people.  This last Friday was one such session, it had four players, three of whom had played in my games before and one new player to D&D as well as my games.

What happened?Everyone generated starting characters and it was decided that everyone knew each other, so they were starting as a group,  The initial adventure had them following up on a mystery in the town they were in, two teenagers had disappeared in recent nights.  They set a trap and they managed to lure out the creature and then chase down to its lair in the basement of a house.  That all went well and the monster was dispatched in a brutal and noisy battle that, in usually D&D fashion only took about thirty second in the game world and the kidnapped teenagers were found and recovered.  However, the house owner had no idea what was happening and shouted down “what is going on down there?” after the fight ended.

One player at first made a jokey reply (“We’re naked don’t come down.”) and then when the house owner showed up at the top of the stairs, tried to use a Persuasion skill roll to get him to come down.  Note that this was just after sounds of combat and the player character was holding a battle axe, so even though the player rolled well for the Persuasion skill, the house owner would not come down but was willing to keep talking.  When the house owner said that they would go to the authorities, the player tried Intimidation and the house holder ran, again even though the player rolled well (17ish) because that what you do when someone with a weapon threatens to preform violence against you.  The player seems annoyed that his “good” rolls did not allow him to control the situation (i.e. the actions of the NPC).  Now, it did not matter as the the important part was the rescue and everything else was glossed over in the glow of saving the teenagers and the monster being defeated, as it should be.  Escalating the situation with the house owner was an unnecessary digression, I just tossed him in for color, and no reason to have it distract from the game as a whole.

Read the rest of this entry ?

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What Character Archetypes do you enjoy playing, reprised.

24 March, 2017

We were discussing what character types our current group tend to gravitate to, so I thought I would repost this article and see what people think of it (almost seven years later):

The Naive Expert / Talented Innocent

Who to be today?This is one of my favorite character conceptions, someone who is very, very skilled in a specific field but naive about the greater world.  These character are very good at what they do and very confident of their own abilities in their field and totally lost once they step out of that narrowly defined area.  They are usually young and without much in the way of social or combat skills, at least at the start.

Why play this archetype?

Read the rest of this entry ?

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Encouraging and Inspiring Players

18 February, 2016

Though that I should make an attempt to contribute to this month’s RPG Blog Carnival “How do you inspire your players?” hosted by Roleplaying Tips.

Inspiring players is often a challenge and part of the answer for a GM has to be:

GM something that Inspires You.

If you are excited and involved with the game and its world, it will be easier for the players to become inspired and involved in it.  If it is your passion, people will feel that and respond to it, just do not become too proprietary, no vision of the perfect campaign survives contact with the players; The world will both shape and be shaped by player action.

Communicate and Share what Inspires You.

Part and parcel of the first point, but let your player know what inspires and excites you about the game you are GMing.  If there are movies or music that communicate ideas about your world, share them, put together a Pinterest board (or use some other site) to share images (I have one for the Sea of Stars, another for Petrichor and for other games and genres including the Noir Revolution campaign).  Anything that helps put you all in the same mental landscape for the game.

In my experience, communication between GM and players (and between players) is what makes  or breaks campaigns.  So, talk, share, debate, build castles of the imagination together.

Not a long post, but I hope helpful.  Now, go and inspire people.

 

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