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The Art of the Game Master / Alchemical Gastronomy and You
« Last post by tanis on August 08, 2019, 02:02:12 AM »
I was watching this episode of Web DM:, and felt really inspired, and it made me curious to hear your thoughts on the matter, guys.

Have any of you ever thought about eating monsters? What would it mean to eat the heart of a Krallinar? Is there a Teddy Roosevelt or Ernest Hemingway of Normidia? What DOES Emerald Prattle Fish sashimi taste like? How many licks does it take to get to the center of a Tootsie Roll Pop?

The world may never know.

First of all, your three stages seem spot on. I've seen both players and groups go through similar evolutions.

As for video games, there are more and more games out there that focus on an "open world" and survival/interaction with the world. No central plot at all. Some games have lots of small quests, but there is no central quest. I personally think that this will be more common in future games. I've seen several new games that get away from the whole idea that the player is special or the "chosen" and there is no central quest or narrative. But rather, it's just a huge open world to explore and be a part of.

Even in Skyrim, lots of players ignore the main quest and just go off and explore and live in the world. Speaking of which, I am really looking forward to the next Elder Scroll release. :)
General Discussion and Questions / Re: Where do the Khoras photos come from?
« Last post by David Roomes on July 19, 2019, 08:57:30 PM »
I'm really glad you like the new artwork. Yeah, I'm proud of the new Citadel. It turned out pretty good. I will post more artwork for Khoras and post here when they are uploaded.

The photo of the city of Aridorn is actually a composite of a couple of photos. The main photograph used in that composite is a photo of a medieval village in France. I believe it's called "Gourdes" or "Villes de Gordes". I added a few other buildings, I might have changed the sky too. Anyway, Gordes France is what you're looking for.

This is a theory I came up with recently, and I wanted to share it for discussion.
By using the word "evolution", I just mean that I see a temporal sequence, and I think the later stages would not be there this way without the earlier stages. I do not mean to imply any "tech tree"-reading, where newer stages are more sophisticated or "higher" on the ladder.

  • The if-stage of roleplaying is centerend around the questions if players succeed, i.e. survive. If a really unlucky accumumulations of natural 1s on a saving throw against cloudkill wipe out the party, so be it. I associate it with earliest D&D dungeon crawls with little to no social interaction beyond buying and selling goods, using gather information to find the way to treasure/enemies or to find weak spots of the enemies, or to convince enemies to surrender rather than fight.
  • The how-stage of roleplaying is centerend around the questions how players succeed. This implicitely assumes that the players will live through all challenges and finally reach the climax. Characters and parties only permanently die if they deliberately or grossly negligent ignore subtil hints when to retreat. This becomes a necessity as soon as campaigns enter the game, i.e. challenges do not occur in a vacuum, but as part of an ongoing story - preparing and foreshadowing the rise of a nemesis, or hinting at some ancient artefact, are wasted if the players never reach it.
  • The what-stage of roleplaying does away with the idea of success and failure, and centers around the question "what happens if...". It might reach the point where the term roleplaying might get inappropriate or at least inaccurate, as it centers around society rather than individual roles.

I think side quests in video games often incorporate traces of what-elements, and the term open game world in video games could be understand as being open in the sense of moving away from game mechanics defining success and defeat (though they still are far away from that point). Right now I think of rivaling factions in The Elder Scrolls game series, especially Skyrim.

I also read of a really generic gaming system that some players used for a scenario where the players play scientists that develop some genetic engeneering that allows for future children to grow up into beautiful or handsome individuals, as defined by some standard (talking about this standard would also by part of the game). There is now objective success or failure. There ist no predefined goal. It's all about roleplaying in the purest sense of the word: What kind of individuals could be part of the team that discovered the mothod, what are their motiviations? Do they really like what they discovered, or are they horrified by the implications? Do they sell it to the highest bidder, do they destroy all notes and vow to keep it secret? Do they believe that it should be accessible to anyone, because it "levels the playing field"? Do they have personal involvement, like a history of being mobbed due to a hooked nose, or does their promotion stand and fall with academic accolade for whatever project they are part of?
Of course this gaming system also includes failure and succes, but only relative: If said scientists decide to use their discovery to get rich, game mechanics decide if it goes as they plan (it rarely does). Failure could mean that a team member leaks the formula to an open source science platform...or to the the Chinese government that pays even better. The idea is that success and failure, as defined by the game mechanics, lead to equally intersting plots and twists.

I'm thinking about a similar setting where the Jaidor Talisman falls in the hands of the player characters (doing away with Khoras canon about it's whereabouts).
General Discussion and Questions / Re: Where do the Khoras photos come from?
« Last post by Drul Morbok on July 15, 2019, 03:09:26 PM »
BTW: Is there a way for me to find out which place is on a specific photo? Right now I stumbled upon the photo for the City of Aridorn and am wondering which real city is on the photo....not for the first time I see a photo.

And awesome work you did on the citadel and death's door!!
I'm deeply impressed. I remember the old death's door a bit more frightening by sheer size, but the new one definitely looks better as artwork and as piece of fantasy.
And the new citadel is just...well, words fail me, I can just repeat and maybe capitalize AWESOME!
The Art of the Game Master / Re: Ingame Alignment
« Last post by Drul Morbok on July 15, 2019, 11:38:27 AM »
First of all, I'm totally glad you let the forum grow, and do not "clean up" (except for maybe some administration stuff about joining, correction of spelling errors or broken links).

About roleplaying without (or with only) GMs, I'd like to restrict myself to saying that maybe we try such a thing on our Ireland trip. I'll tell about it if we do so.
Apart from that, it's surely an interesting topic, but if I feel like discussing something general, I'd prefer a different thread.

Now back to alignment ;-)
My idea when I started this thread was to intentionally not look at alignment as a moral question. I wanted to go for a twist, where I assumed that alignment spells do work. Kind of.
I agree with everything said about why alignment ist at least dubious when you use it to judge behavior and/or intensions.
I wanted a world where there is a class of spells that measure alignment.

And I wanted to create a setting about what "kind of work" could actually mean. What I looked for was kind of a magic metaphor for Phrenology, which assumed that you could predict mental traits and behavior by measuring bumps on the head.
Of course, nowadays we look at phrenology as a pseudoscience. And I'm not sure how many people actually considered it a serious science back then.
Now from a modern real-world scientific point of view, detect alignment spells in my game world might be as dubious as Phrenology. But within my game world, nobody doubts them.

So my whole idea could be seen as a parable on faith in progress. I never watched the movie (nor read the novel) "Minority Report", but I think my setting comes close:
Not intending to answer the question about how to define "good" and "evil", but portraying a society that believes that magic can make the distinction (or if it's divine magic, it's the god's judgement, and who's to doubt the gods?).

So I really would like to thank both of you for giving me more inspiration for my setting. Right now I'm thinking about a campaign where at the beginning, a PC priest/mage casts a seemingly routine detect alignment spell on the heir to the throne. The result is "evil". But the PC is told to publish the result "good", since this is the only appropriate outcome for a ruler.

Now everything that is mentionned in the thread (and elsewhere) could be question that the PC faces ingame...
The Art of the Game Master / Re: Ingame Alignment
« Last post by tanis on July 14, 2019, 01:52:17 PM »
I agree that D&D has always had a very black and white conception of things, largely, I suspect because of the Satanic Panic forcing Gygax to attempt to clearly delineate player roles from villain roles, provide ways to deal more effectively with murder hobos, and give players guilt-free targets (they're orcs, don't feel bad for slaughtering their whole village; they're all evil).

And I agree that morally sophisticated characters are typically more interesting in storytelling.

I would say, though, that the former is mostly an issue with TSR's and Wizards of the Coast's campaign settings and worldbuilding, and not with the alignment system in general. I tend to dissociate the setting's flaws from those of the system, in cases like this. You can "fix" how alignment works without changing any of the core mechanics and thereby creating an altogether different game, and that's what I'm mostly interested in pointing out.

As far as storytelling games, I don't really think of them as all that closely related to RPGs, even though they're descended from them, because they do things very differently, and don't share the same focus or intended player outcomes. That said, I've watched a lot of Wil Wheaton's series TableTop on Geek & Sundry's YouTube channel, and they've played a number of storytelling and indie roleplaying games.

From what I've seen, many storytelling games that don't have a GM have in-built structures that constrain storytelling within traditional narrative structures like acts, scenes, or chapters, and their mechanics tend to provide means of developing narrative arcs, rather than handling detailed physical simulations or similar things. Quite a few of them still have dice, or some other mechanic to introduce chance and variety into the game, but some of the more experimental do really weird things.

There's even one indie horror RPG called Dread where players play Jenga to tie the building story tension to something in the actual playspace.

Most of the storytelling games that I've seen tend not to be focused on long-term campaign-length storytelling, though. They're more like short story- or screenplay-length stories, meant to fill a single night's gaming session, rather than a decade of play. So, while a lot of them look pretty fun, they're not really intended to compete directly with more traditional RPGs, from what I've seen.
General Discussion and Questions / Re: Where do the Khoras photos come from?
« Last post by David Roomes on July 14, 2019, 01:08:01 PM »
Thank you for the photos you sent. I will try to find a place for them.

And regarding an earlier post in this thread, I have dumped 3ds Max and have moved over to Blender 3D software. I like it much more. I am planning on using Blender to render lots of images for Khoras. Recently I redid the Citadel in Duthelm using Blender. The new Citadel image is better. Not perfect, due to my limited skill. But it's much better than the previous image. I also redid Death's Door in the ruined city of Shidar and a couple of images of coins on the currency pages. I am currently working on the Core Crystal and the Focusing Chamber from the history pages. That will be posted by the end of this month.

I plan on continuing this work. I want to get much better at 3D and use computer generated images for lots of things on Khoras.

Despite all the 3d work, I will still use photos where I can and welcome anyone who wants to send it photos that I can use with their permission.
Role Playing Discussion / Re: Are humans really a fantasy race?
« Last post by David Roomes on July 14, 2019, 01:00:29 PM »
I would agree that Khoras is an "evolving world in a post-cataclysmic state". And I tend to view humans on Khoras as the "standard race" from which all other races are evolutionary offshoots. And in Khoras, cataclysmic magic forced the rapid evolutionary branching into other races.

That's just the way I have Khoras set up. Not right or wrong, just the way I went. Other worlds might have humans be a minority race or perhaps a displaced newcomer race or maybe no humans at all. Depends on the world...
The Art of the Game Master / Re: Ingame Alignment
« Last post by David Roomes on July 14, 2019, 12:53:00 PM »
So much to reply too... :)

First of all, I love resurrected threads to. It's nice to go back and reread stuff. Also, this solves a dilemma for me. I've often wondered if I should "clean up" the forum of old threads or just let it accumulate. I've been doing the latter. And actually, I think it's better to let old threads stay. I like the idea of anyone picking up a thread, but I also like the idea of other gamers coming along, discovering Khoras and the forum and reading conversations between creative folk that took place a decade ago. There are a lot of great conversations in this forum and I hope gamers and others (many of whom are lurkers based on the site traffic stats)  come along and read and enjoy them.

Ok, regarding alignment. I think we agree more than disagree. Alignment should be more descriptive than prescriptive. My problem is with the D&D game and they way they implement it. The D&D game is EXTREMELY prescriptive. There are no shades of grey. There are people, monsters, items which are labeled 100% good or evil or whatever. There are spells that have absolute effects when it comes to alignment. It's that black and white approach that I dislike so much, since people are never 100% good or evil. People tend to be shades of grey which are constantly changing based on circumstances. Yes, there are some literary examples of absolutes such as Excalibur, but that's tied to divinity and religion which is a whole other bag of worms that I dislike and exclude from my games.

Anyway... I did want to talk a little bit about morally ambiguous player characters and dice and such.  Role playing is a broad hobby with an equally broad array of players and playing styles. Groups tend to develop their own style and different groups are often wildly different in how they play. I've seen this first hand.

In my past experiences, my groups have tended to embrace morally ambiguous characters with complex character backgrounds, such as the lumberjack and sister you described. We never let the dice or alignment dictate how a specific character should behave. As I've said, we tend to throw alignment out in favor of a more nuanced approach to behavior based on character history, current situation and many other dynamics. I don't even roll dice for NPC reactions. The story and the current situation usually determine reactions.

Regarding your comment about the rules of D&D and stocastic roleplaying. I've long been an advocate of simplifying the rules as much as possible. Also, story and characters are the MAIN focus of a D&D game. Or at least, they should be. D&D games are not as dice heavy as you think they are. At least, the dice should not be determining the story. In my games, the dice don't do that. The only reason these games use dice is to introduce the randomness for lots of little things - the angle of a sword swing, the integrity of a piece of armor (does it hold or crack?), the way physics plays out (does the collapsing tower fall this way or that? or does the rolling coin fall through the grate or miss it?), the wind (does the arrow hit the bullseye or miss by three inches?) and so forth. You could say the dice represent chaos theory, the flapping of a butterfly's wings, etc. There are thousands of little variables at play in any situation which we, as players, have neither the time nor interest in trying to calculate. So we use dice to simulate the "randomness" of the world.

Again, the dice affect only little things. The decisions and actions of the player characters affect the flow of the story vastly more than the dice. And again, that's what it's all about. In a D&D game, it's about the story. And having fun. :) There are exceptions, of course. Sometimes the tiniest random event can have far reaching consequences. But then again, isn't that the way real life works as well?

I'm not sure about what you mean by getting rid of hit points, strength bonus, character level, GMs and so forth. Some of this I agree with. Character level can go. I hate character levels. But there are many things that need to be quantified in some way. Strength, for instance. Toughness, quickness, intelligence. These are ways that one character is differentiated from another. Think about any story or movie or whatever... you have characters and these characters are different from one another. A nerdy scientist, a brawny barbarian, whatever. These characteristics define the characters. When you read a novel, you are introduced to different characters and each is unique with specific characteristics. You, the reader, may not be given specific NUMBERS about a character's "stats"... but those characteristics exist nonetheless. George R. R. Martin may not have given us Tyrion's strength score, but you can be certain that there is a limit to how much Tyrion can lift, a specific number of kilograms that Tyrion can benchpress. This is true of every novel, short story, movie and play because all of them are telling a story. And stories involve characters and actions. The only difference with role playing games is that we quantify those things with numbers to more closely simulate reality and to ensure consistency.

I've heard about games that don't use dice and don't have game masters. Collaborative storytelling in the truest sense. I'll be honest. I've never played those games. I don't know how they work. And I don't know how they could work as well as traditional RPGs. Without numbers, you lose consistency. Without rules, you lose any semblance of structure. And without a game master, you lose the depth of the story telling. A game master generates content for the story and decides on thousands of little details, many of which connect and affect other details, all of which affect the world in which the players play. Without a game master, you lose all of that.

If you have no game master, then every player has an equal say in how the story unfolds. That's fine. But let's be clear, it's no that "everyone's just a player". In actuality, everyone's a game master. I don't get that. What happens if the players disagree on how the story should unfold? Who decides those thousand little details? Who crafts the overall plot? Seems like such a story would meander around without direction. It seems to me that such storytelling would have no arcs, no foreshadowing, no setup and resolution to threads of subplot... seems like "story telling by committee". I've never seen a game like. I'm not saying it can't work. I'm just saying I've never seen it. I've never witnessed a game without a game master and I have no idea how such a thing would work. Even if it did work, it seems it would be missing the structure and complexity and depth that a game master can introduce to a game.

I am curious about a game with no dice and no game master. I would love to sit and watch something like that unfold just to see how it would work.

Apologies for the length of this. My answer was meandering...

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