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Miscellaneous / Re: Gaming Inspiration from Material Culture
« Last post by tanis on April 16, 2018, 03:40:58 AM »
No problem, Drul. I'm as interested in starting a discussion as I am in reaching "an answer" (assuming this sort of question even, properly speaking, has an answer).

As to your point regarding narrative, I think that's got a bit to do with one's paradigm. I can easily imagine a group getting heavily invested in roleplaying "tactical" characters in that military campaign, and trying to forge an interesting narrative, but letting the tactical considerations guide how their narrative's structure develops over time. So for me, it doesn't necessarily have to be essentially adversarial, any more than the Player/DM relationship is always slightly adversarial given that the DM occasionally takes on the role of the party's enemies in the course of normal play (though, this is of course far less adversarial than the stereotypical "rocks fall, everyone dies" sort of Player/DM relationship).

But, while I do agree that this sort of roleplaying is subtly different from the sort of roleplaying that more deliberately narrative-focused games tend to lead to, one of the things I'm curious about, as a corollary to everything else, is what everyone's attitudes not towards "tactical versus roleplaying", but rather "pseudo-realism (especially in terms of mechanics and lore) versus a lack of concern for realism", and how these different modes lead to different ways of roleplaying characters, designing campaigns, etc.

For example, Superman isn't a very realistic character, which is fine, because he's intended to be an allegorical figure, rather than a human figure. On the contrary, while still a "superhero" in some sense, Kick Ass (from the film of the same name) is a much more realistic character, and his story is no less believable for the slightly wacky situation he finds himself in. Both characters are larger-than-life, and both are well-suited to dramatic storytelling, but the sorts of stories that are interesting to tell about the two characters are very different, and the enjoyment one gets from telling or being told those stories rely on different artistic principles and rhetorical devices.

PS: I should probably clarify that I'm interested in people's thoughts on the "verisimilitude" style of play in general in this context, so primarily tactical games are just as valid in this discussion as the sorts of narrative-focused games in that style that I've alluded to above.
Miscellaneous / Re: Gaming Inspiration from Material Culture
« Last post by Drul Morbok on April 15, 2018, 03:13:42 PM »
These are the people playing a gritty military campaign with a heavy tactical focus

I've come to call this the "stochastic" type of game: If you repeat the random experiments often enough, the outcome will diverge towards a "fair" game system, i.e. a system that offers you choices that influence your chances in a different way  where a "good" player is good at figuring probabilities.
If you perform each random experiment just once, nothing is "fair".

From what I know, D&D started from a strategy game named "chainmail", so it seems natural to me that it started as the "stochastic" kind of game.
However I think that such a system works best for "versus" situation, with opposing players, so if you play D&D in a "narrative" style that is not about the players overcoming a GM that wants to destroy them, but about a good story, you have to go away from the strategy, whether you admit it or not.

Let me give you an example:
Back at university, a fellow student was fond of the warhammer game, and he like to tell about a battle where a minor artillery hit combined with very poor moral rolls resulted in half of the skaven army running away from battle. I can easily imagine the players involved laughing their donkey of when this happened at the table...if you play skaven, such things can happen, and it's what I called a "versus" game, and also a "stochastic" game meaning that that chances of such an event are balanced against all other numbers.
So while I never played warhammer myself, I can easily imagine that this part of what makes the game fun to play.

However I can rarely imagine a modern D&D party telling a story like "do you remember when we all rolled a natural 1 and our whole party was cloudkilled? Boy, that was fun".
In a video game, it would be a "load save game" situation, and video games might have influenced RPG systems so that they now have such things as "fate points" you can use to re-roll a terrible result and therefore have your players survive bad luck. Either that, or the GM "cheats" dice rolls, introduces some "deus ex machina" intervention that solves a situation that would mean instand defeat, or stops using things like cloudkill alltogether.

So my personal conclusion is that I either want to play consequently stochastic, which I think is also called "rogue-like" (where a cloudkilled party is a realistic part of the game)...or use a system that uses dice to decide how the story will go on, but does not even pretend to decide if it will go on (i.e. a system without hit points and the like). I recently discovered "Fate" as such a system, but didn't play t yet.

Hmm, reading all over things again, I think I haved somewhat moved from your original question. But I do not want to delete what I wrote, but will come back to your points soon.
And I will also whatch your video ;-)
Miscellaneous / Gaming Inspiration from Material Culture
« Last post by tanis on April 13, 2018, 09:40:11 PM »
I just finished watching a video from one of the many YouTube channels that I subscribe to regarding medieval history and material culture, and I thought some of you guys might like it.

As a corollary, I was curious as to what your thoughts are regarding historicity and taking direct inspiration from history, especially as regards the actual tools and material culture of a particular society. Obviously, most RPGs are fundamentally, and historically, drawn from the Western fantasy tradition going back to the Victorian era, with notable influence from science fiction and horror, but I've noticed that there are, in a sense, two fundamental paradigms towards D&D and similar games: the first I'll call "pure fantasy", and the second I'll call "verisimilitude".

As I see it, in the "pure fantasy" paradigm, the goal is to revel in the exotic/fantastic aspects of the world, more or less totally unmoored from concerns about realism, and players' enjoyment seems to stem mostly from power fantasy and exploration of an alien world. These are the superhero-type campaigns where crazy things happen that couldn't possibly exist; one that comes to mind is a campaign I read about where one player rolled a terrible cavalier, but an incredibly high-stat steed, and eventually the steed actually became the central character of the campaign, even getting character classes, while the rider died shortly into the campaign (I might try to find the link to the story at some point, it's worth a few laughs).

On the other hand, you have what I'd call the "verisimilitude" paradigm: these people don't necessarily care that what they're doing perfectly corresponds to reality, but their ability to buy into and enjoy the world is heavily affected by a degree of plausibility, and the more sophisticated and granular the worldbuilding is, the more they enjoy the game. For these people, a human having more HP than a monster, mechanical abstractions notwithstanding, is a serious issue, and their primary enjoyment is in exploring and inhabiting a believable world, and playing a role that fits in that world in an interesting way. These are the people playing a gritty military campaign with a heavy tactical focus, or a sword and sorcery campaign where the evil wizard will absolutely crush the party with magic if they try to fight head on.

Now, obviously these aren't mutually exclusive, and you can play a really high fantasy game where the bits and pieces are believable, or a Conan-esque old school dungeon delve where no one worries about encumbrance or a support corps of hirelings, and the same person can enjoy both playstyles, but from what I've seen, there is a very real difference between players' expectations and concerns between these two ways of playing, and I'd be interested to hear y'all's thoughts on this.

Especially because it seems to me that so many systems, even those like 3.5 or Pathfinder which are ostensibly so heavily focused on tactical play and mechanical support for everything imaginable (sometimes at the expense of playability, even), really fail to capture that sense of verisimilitude, especially in regards to material culture, and that more recent editions have begun to swing more in the direction of the "pure fantasy" paradigm, whether to grow the player base or because of a shift in what players are looking for from RPGs, which seems to be leaving a gap between what experiences tabletop gaming can support and what people might want from tabletop RPGs.

Like I said, I don't think either is better, or anything, so much as it seems to me like heretofore RPGs have left something to be desired with certain types of play, and I'm curious to hear what you guys think. Can RPGs provide the sort of verisimilitude I'm talking about in a way that things like D&D sometimes fail to do? Is that even a worthwhile pursuit given the type of game in question? Is it simply an issue of player/game developer focus, and if someone wanted to make that game, they'd just need to design a system to support that sort of play? What do you guys think?

Here's the video, it's just over 15 minutes, so give it a watch:
The Art of the Game Master / Re: The omniscient holodeck
« Last post by Drul Morbok on April 06, 2018, 03:04:24 PM »
Well, somehow I think Star Trek has often been somewhat..vague on a high level.
They have an enormous knowledge on why some things don't work (yet?) in our universe so they just declare it's suddenly working in the future.

But actually I don't know that much about explanation within the series. My claim was more about logical restrictions:
In your example, I would assume that whoever created the holodock had to know that it was possible to convert energy pulses into Kreiger radiation...and what exactly happened if you did so.

I mean, if the holodeck "creates" energy pulses, it has to "know" what energy pulses are. Even if the creator of the holodeck did not explicitly know about Kreiger radiation, the holodeck created energy pulses in such a way that they had the inherent property of being convertible into Kreiger radiation.

So either the holodeck has access to some "lexicon of the Universe" where it can "look up" what it is expected to reproduce (and here I think the term omniscient applies) or what you described only worked because the holodeck creator knew it worked that way.

And yes, in any case, my idea is not about "right or wrong" within Star Trek canon, but about the idea of a holodeck that "knows" more than the society using it.
If the holodeck does have a divine component or if it is an artefact of an immensely advanced civilization from the past...well, no need to decide which one is true, as long as people in the game world believe either.
The Art of the Game Master / Re: The omniscient holodeck
« Last post by David Roomes on April 04, 2018, 07:46:53 PM »
Regarding the Star Trek holodeck, the trek universe has always been a bit vague when it comes to the holodeck. I've seen every Next Generation episode and they refer to "holo-matter" and such. They imply that the creations on the holodeck are not just holograms (i.e. not just photons), but are, in fact, a mix of photons and energy and matter (utilizing a little bit of transporter technology).

This explains why the holodeck is able to do some weird things. For instance, in the episode "A Matter of Perspective", they create a holographic recreation of a converter device which actually ends up converting energy pulses into Kreiger radiation. In other words, the holodeck recreation functioned just as the real thing would in the real universe. Essentially the converter was just a complex series of mirrors and reflective coils, but they were "real" enough for the physics to work. So, clearly, the holodeck actually does create matter, in some fashion. But you're right, you can't take this "holomatter" off of the holodeck. Almost like it's energy and matter held in a certain shape by the holodeck emitters. It acts just like real matter as long as its in the holodeck.

But they've never been absolutely clear on what holomatter is... at least not in Next Gen. Maybe they clarified it in a later series or book.

Interesting if a low tech society had a magical version of a holodeck... I could see all kinds of story ideas with that.
The Art of the Game Master / Re: Metaphysical sidenote: space and time
« Last post by David Roomes on April 04, 2018, 07:36:47 PM »
Agreed. Our concept of time is mainly our own artificial construction. We do that with a lot of things. I recently saw something similar on TV the other night... the idea that we "made up" numbers, but then "discovered" the realm of mathematics (i.e. relations between numbers).

Heinlein's book "The Number of the Beast" had a similar idea about time... that moving sideways in time is really just going to a parallel dimension at the same point of time.

The Art of the Game Master / The omniscient holodeck
« Last post by Drul Morbok on April 02, 2018, 01:22:09 PM »
For my game world I also integrated an idea based on Star Trek's holodeck - which I assume to be known enough not to explain.

I came up with the conclusion that the holodeck could not be used to find out something unknown to its creator/programmer
 I could enter the holodeck and say "build a particle accelerator", or I might go to some console and specify. Then I might conduct experiments and measure results.
But I might as well look into source code of holodeck software.
The result of an experiment within the holodeck should have a deterministic outcome based on its algorithm and the data I enter.

So a society that builds a holodeck can not gain knowledge from it.
At least that's the way I see it, but I might be any case, I wanted to build a story around a holodeck without this limitation.

In some other thread I wrote about a religion claiming science as its faith, and they revere a God that provides the holodeck (of course its not really a holodeck in my game world) with all the knowledge he has about the world...well, only scientific knowledge, its not an oracle, its more like a simulator to create laboratory conditions. A perfect science lab, not limited by issues like energy consumption, able to provide 100% pure elements and shutting of all external influence like gravitation and background radiation.
But as with the original holodeck, you can not take anything out of it, so the society would feature a huge gsp between knowledge and synthesis. They might know the theory of mass defect and about the speed of light, but not use electricity or the steam engine in their daily live.

So for me the whole thing has two purposes:
Thinking about how such a society might develop...and which roleplaying stories might arise
And creating alternative physics...I mentioned the mass defect as an example, but that does not mean my gamecworld mechanics will use the atom model.
Gaming Tales / Re: Players at wordbuilding
« Last post by Drul Morbok on April 02, 2018, 08:07:01 AM »
For what I mean, I just came up with the term "Schroedinger campaign" where the state of the game world is undefined until the players look at it.
But I do not mean improvising a campaign, making up things as we go. More like retroactive wordbuilding.
Let's call it applying Ockham's Razor to Khoras until a minimal game world remains, putting all other great Khoras ideas on a Schroedinger stack to get back at them as needed, but making no assumption about it until you need it.

If the players do not seem to like the idea of searching the artefact for too long, I might decide that is was build by a crazed loner who had the geniality to build it, but lacked any ambition or creativity to see its potential, so it spent its whole time in a chest in an unknown laboratory only a few days travel away from War Vale.
In this case, there would be no need that there ever was the Great War, so "suddenly" there never was one. At least not until it might come in handy at a different long as there is no need to know whether the Great War ever happened, the question of whether it happened is in Schroedinger state. Same about Aggradar and Qeshir.

Since I'm a big fan of the Sarthak, I might take away Duthelm and replace it by the Trosolli Dominion. But this would be a surprise for my players. All they knew was that there was a huge area full of Goblyns whose raids used to be a constant borderland nuisance until they stopped a year ago. Nobody knows why. And as might have been guessed, the "why" is in Schroedinger state ;-)
The campaign might get really interested by an organized large-scale invasion by abominations from the Trosolli Dominion. Will the players take the chance for separation, knowing that Rukemenia would not want to fight a two-front-war - at the risk of dooming first Rukemenia and than War Vale to be invaded by an overwhelmingly powerful enemy, which would have been defeated by joint forces?
But maybe the players will come up with the idea of making Rukemenia invade the Goblyn wildland in the first place - in this case I might decide that there never were any Sarthak.

And so on...
The Art of the Game Master / Re: Metaphysical sidenote: space and time
« Last post by Drul Morbok on April 02, 2018, 06:38:45 AM »
You know, the more I think about it, one axis of temporal dimension also is pretty heady ;-)

And also kind of a cultural issue:
Of course a stick in the ground can make for a primitive sundial, by mapping measure of time to measure of length (I.e. quantify time by the distance the shadow "moves").
But the idea of time as a linear dimension is a lot more sophisticated...a bit like the difference between counting apples, and postulating the Peano Axioms, even though both is about natural numbers.

I think that thea idea of a time scale is not " natural", but became a necessity with the concept of interest and compound interest.
If lending is about "I give you ten gold pieces if you give me eleven gold pieces next spring", a rudimentary circular time concept would be enough, only defined by the change of sessions.
Only if it starts with "I lend money at 10% interest per what if I lend money for 9 months?"  there comes the need for linear time measure.

So in some way, the saying "time is money" might have a deeper truth than what is commonly meant by saying it ;-)

In any case, my main motivation is playing with the idea that if culture was different, the concept of time also would be different, and that the idea of one time axis is a model among many, but it does not mean that time IS like this.
The Art of the Game Master / Re: Metaphysical sidenote: space and time
« Last post by David Roomes on April 01, 2018, 09:32:20 PM »
Two axis temporal dimensions. Sounds like pretty heady stuff. Or maybe a little bit like string theory. Doesn't string theory predict 10 dimensions? Or 13 or something like that? Also, string theory has some interesting things to say about space-time. Might be worth a look.

Anyway, are you planning on using this multi-dimensional time line to create some kind of interesting story? Like maybe the characters get a hold of a magic item that lets them move around in time, but they accidentally end up in a parallel dimension? Ok, now you're just giving me ideas... :)
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