Friday, March 24, 2017

Repetitive Fights, Style Clashes, Questions vs. the Rule of Cool

Just highlighting other people's work today.

Repetitive Fights

There is an excellent post over on Blog of Holding (aka the home of Dungeon Robber) about combat grinding is okay in video games but it feels boring in face-to-face group play . . . and how to spice things up with unique combats. It's really excellent, directly actionable advice. You can read this and change how you do your game right away with little effort and lots of results.

Repetitive battles in dnd

He says, "in DnD" but it's really "in tabletop gaming." GURPS fights are inherently individual and interesting, but that doesn't mean you can't make them better.

Style Clash

So I posted the other day about my observation that my preferred game pace (Fast, with a side helping of simplicity) doesn't match the preferred game pace of some of my players (varies, but includes slow, with a side helping of careful deliberation). Joseph Teller had an interesting take on it over on G+ - that's it is symptomatic of a larger style clash:

Style Clash

I disagreed, because I really think it's not such a big deal. My game isn't heading off a cliff - my gamers have been playing with me for ranging from a few years to 20+ years. We've lost a few people who either had schedules change or just decided the game wasn't for them, but that's happened over the years. More players were lost to "Good news, we're expecting!" than to "Sorry, this isn't for me." We have guys drive hours to game, people who stay overnight in the area to make game, etc. We'd have more players if we'd just play a little shorter so it was more conducive to their schedules. So I'm not seeing a train wreck coming. But it's interesting in two ways:

- for some groups, this might be true;


- just because you see part of the elephant, it doesn't mean you've seen all of the elephant.

By the latter I mean you see only a small portion of my gaming group's interactions. My choices of words might not accurately convey the full sense of our game play - it can even convey a completely opposite impression. I'm not impuning Joseph, here - he's reading my words and telling me what he sees from them. And it's quite possible what he's written will help others more than what I wrote!

Don't Ask, Just Be Cool

Aka, don't question the rule of cool, aka the more that is defined the less that is open to definition.

Joseph Mason observed that in his own case, the more questions you put to him about the circumstances means the less likely some crazy plan is to work.

As a believer in the Rule of Awesome, this really speaks to me. As someone who says a good questions show the GMs your intentions, this speaks to me. As someone who's likely to think better of allowing something wacky the longer I think about it, this speaks to me.

Seriously, ask questions. But know your answers close off as they open things up. And just know that in my games, it's better to try something crazy than to ask me, "will this crazy thing work?" The first might work; the latter probably will elicit the answer, "No, that's crazy." Not trying to be mean - it's just that the longer I have to consider the more doubts will enter my mind.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Outdoorsman (from T-Bone and the Barbarians)

T-Bone over at Games Diner has an interesting post up about the Outdoorsman talent, including options for a rebuild.

Tiny GURPS Idea: Better Outdoorsman

You can see my comments on the rebuilt Outdoorsman that T-Bone proposes in that post. You can see my take on barbarians in general in the Denizens book about them.

But I had a few more comments, more or less random notes:

Seafarer isn't something I can claim any credit for - it's in Power-Ups 3: Talents. It was an obvious addition to Barbarians if only because barbaric sea raiders are part of the fantasy barbarian milieu. They stalk around in horned helms and midriff-revealing mail, pose menacingly in loincloth and sandals, and raid from suspiciously Viking-looking ships. It's part of their thing.

Outdoorsman's Cost got a whole box in Barbarians. This is for a few reasons. One is the rounded costs of Basic Set makes Outdoorsman pretty pricey for skills that don't come up much in a dungeon. The second is the sheer number of levels a barbarian really wants or needs is pretty high, magnifying the effect on discretionary points. And third it's always nice to bring in options that other books have already explored. It's why Low-Tech's approach to weapon damage gets a nod in Barbarians, too.

Adding Weather Sense made sense as I'd done that in my own games; we never changed the cost of Outdoorsman but adding Weather Sense made it felt more complete.

Finally, when looking at expanding or changing a talent in DF, I always try to look at three angles:

- Who else is affected directly by the change?

- Who else is undercut?

- Is this really core to the mission of the template?

Outdoorsman is a good example of this. It's used by Barbarians and by Scouts, so changes ripple out. You can't buff it up just for barbarians without scouts equally getting a benefit. You need to be aware of that spread. Secondly, if you expand it with too much nature-ability or too much animal ability, you'd chipping into the already-narrow purview of the Druid and the Animal Friend talent. If it becomes all the physical skills a barbarian outdoorsy type will use, it's going to impinge on every else's use of those abilities. Instead of coming in as a half-price version of IQ for outdoor skills only with some leveled benefits and side bonuses, it comes in as a way to make the barbarian more nimble than the thief or better at spotting traps than the scout. And finally, I think you need to look at the core mission of the template. All of the barbarians assume you're the go-to guy when the going gets outside, to a varying degree (to least with Savage Warrior, the most with Survivor). So Outdoorsman needs to support that - once they say, "the barbarian isn't good at fishing" or "we need a scout, not a barbarian, because the barbarian sucks at survival," you're in trouble. You've undercut what the talent needs to do.

None of that is commentary on T-Bone's idea of how to redo the trait, just saying, it's a process I go through when someone says, "Talent X should cover Y!" Who is affected, who is undercut, and does this really go to the heart of the template?

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

GM's preferred pace vs. player's preferred pace

I often find myself telling my players to speed up. I often find myself making rules to force my players to speed up, and rules and table rules that punish slowing down or reward speeding up.

But, inevitably, these fail. Sometimes right away, sometimes over time. And when the chips are down and the risk to their paper man is highest, things slow to a right crawl. We even had an entire session devoted to to PCs trying to grind out a victory from certain defeat - hours spent on a fight measured in seconds because everyone wanted to make exactly the best move possible and ensure all t's were crossed and i's dotted because, well, TPK is a comin'.

My personal feeling on taking your time, considering your move, and making j-u-u-u-s-t the right selection of action or location or modifier or whatever doesn't really work out. You're always choosing in an absence of complete information, and choosing in absence of accurate information much of the time. You don't know what the opponent will do, you don't know what the dice will say happens, you don't even necessarily know the things you think you do. You might think dragons can breathe three times a day ("thrice per day" - someone had to say it) but it turns out it's four times. You might think he's wearing a inertial screen and vulnerable to x-ray laser fire but not know he's also wearing an x-ray laser disrupting suit.

I figure, better to the something that's within the ballpark of "best move possible" right now than something you've rationalized and calculated and convinced yourself is much closer to "best move possible" minutes after your turn around the table has come up.

I'm also one of those people who knows right now what I want to do next turn. I can't wait for everyone to finish their turns so I can get to do the thing I thought of. And I'm stubborn and persistent enough to not change plans turn to turn, so I generally play quickly in a "this, and that, and here's my roll! And done!" fashion. I'm often going so fast that turn-order changing actions (Waits in GURPS, Attacks of Opportunity in Dragon Heresy, etc.) cause me to just keep going as if the person interrupting was doing their turn and the person up after them is up. Yes, that's a flaw. Rush, rush, rush.

But at least some of my players now, and some of mine in the past, don't play this way. In fact most of them don't. They will deliberately slow the pace down when it comes to crunch time. They'll do so unintentionally and unconsciously as well. This ranges from players who don't even consider their actions until their turn starts ("Okay, it's my turn? Where is everyone? What can I see? What's my penalty again?") to those who don't know it's their turn (the ones that, say, walk away from the table while the guy who always goes right before him is going or even right after) all the way to folks who play like I do.

Naturally, the more things slow down, the longer combats take - and thus, each second in the combat is magnified in importance until "this second's action is basically what my day's gaming comes down to." You can't mess that up or risk a bad move, you don't get that many and it's a long time before the next one. Better take it slow.

It's a mismatch. It doesn't ruin game, but it does mean we perceive things very differently. Me? "These guys are slowing things down for no real benefit." Them? Probably some variations of "Peter's pushing us to hurry up and then punishing poor decisions, I need time to make better decisions."

What I've noticed, though, is I really can't rule or request speed. Nothing I've yet tried has kept the pace where I'd like it - players leaning in over the table, dice in hand, waiting for their moment, and then springing in with the first move that seems good. I can get the tension you'd think you'd need for that, but some people will speed up and others will slow down.

I can enforce rules - real-time wandering monster rolls is one I've done, 1-2-3-next guy, etc. - but it's not productive in most cases. It puts a real workload on me, and as the GM, I'm running every NPC and need to give 100% attention to each PC's actions, so when I need a quick pause and take one people take it as tacit permission to do the same. I say permission for lack of a better word - we're mostly adults, they can play how they like, I don't have to approve.

But it's one of those quandaries I can't seem to settle - my desire for pace and risk to PCs, vs. the logical desire from those risking their PCs and who have a naturally more methodical pace to slow things down.

It's probably something that can't be solved, although I'm theoretically open to ideas. It's just an observation of the mismatch between how my friends play the games we play and how I like them played. Yet, like I said, it's not such a deep mismatch that it makes us incompatible. But it might explain why I'm always looking for pace, simplicity, unloading the GM's burden, speeding up decision making, and otherwise making things go fast. We're always playing below the pace I'd really like to play at, even if it's the pace that is the middle ground between the fastest and slowest of us.

And if there is actionable advice from here it is this: be aware of the preferred pace of yourself and your fellow gamers. You might not be in your comfort zone of space, but they might not be either. Finding common ground you can live with is tough but important, and being aware will help you do so.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Ogre Minis - What's left post-auction?

So my eBay auctions came and went. I still have a few minis left, though, which for now I'll just try to sell directly.

Subtracting out what's already been asked for and selling is underway for, I have these:

Ogre Minis:
Deluxe GEV
Deluxe Ogre
Combine 1 - Ogre Mark V
Combine 2 - Ogre Mark III
Combine 3 - Heavy Armor Company
Combine 4 - GEV Company
Combine 5 - Missile Tank Squadron & Mobile Battery
Combine 7 - Howitzer Battery & Reinforced Infantry Battalion
Combine 9 - Laser Towers and Turrets
Combine 10 - Fast Convoy
Combine 11 - Ogre Mk. I and II
Combine 12 - Ogre Mk. III-B
Ogrethulu 1
Ogrethulu 2
Paneuropean Set 1 – Fencer Cybertank
Paneuropean Set 2 – Panzer Company
Paneuropean Set 3 – Superheavy Troop and Missile Tank Lance
Paneuropean Set 4 – Luftpanzer Company
Paneuropean Set 5 – Mechanized Infantry Companies
Paneuropean Set 6 – Howitzer Battery and Mobile Artillery Troop

Ogre Mark I
Ogre Mark II
Ogre Mark III
Ogre Mark V
Ogre Mark VI
Paneuropean MHWZ
Paneuropean HWZ

Combine Superheavy x 2
Missile Crawler x2
Missiles in Flight x2

Combine Missile Tanks x4
Paneuropean Superheavy x2 1 primed, 1 unassembled
Paneuropean Missile Tanks x4 4 Primed
Paneuropean Mobile HWZ x2 Primed
CP (flat) x 1 Primed
CP (tall) x 1 Primed
Combine Heavy Tanks x10 Partly Painted
Ogre Swimmer Token x Primed
? Light Tanks x4 Primed (one piece missing)
Paneuropean Heavy Tanks x10 4 Primed, 6 unassembled
Combine MHWZ x1 Primed
Combine HWZ x1 Primed
Combine GEV x6 Basecoated
Paneuropean GEV x6 Basecoated
Combine LGEV x6 3 basecoated
Arty Drones x4
Paneuropean HWZ x2 Primed
Infantry Squads x39 Primed 13 bases of 3 squads
Paneuropean Light Tank x4
Paneuropean GEV-PC x1
Infantry Bases 5
Gev Fins x12 6 pairs

I figure I'll just sell these bit by bit directly. So if you are interested, let me know. I do have a spare Mark VI ogre I mean to eventually assemble and paint, but I will entertain offers for it. I have half a mind to sell the "ogre garage" - my one-of-each collection - but half a mind to keep them because they're fun to take out and look at.

I also have Ral Partha 01-127 The Black Prince's Chariot of Fear, too.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Bad Guy Rosters II

I wrote about how I like bad guy rosters, and Douglas Cole wrote an excellent post about making them.

Benefits of a Keyed Monster List

Being Doug, it's thorough and has pictures and variations and expands on the idea.

This leads me to my main comment on this all: Try different versions.

For me, I like a spreadsheet. I don't bother with the nearby rooms of Doug's "neighbor" column, nor do I do a relationship map. After all, I have a map and I know what's in each room. Even if I don't, because it's someone else's dungeon, I'll do the homework and learn it. Having a map and a spreadsheet and a relationship map is more than I need to function. In fact, it's three places to find two pieces of information (who/what, and where). Even a keyed "this room is near rooms X and Y" type list on a spreadsheet means two places I can look, but also two places I need to make sure are correct. I just need the one spreadsheet so I can cross out the dead all in one place. Yeah, I'll go back later and adjust my adventure key, but during play I just need one area to track things.

Putting lots of information on a roster can be a good idea if you have a lot of prep time. You can always ignore what you don't need. With experience, you can always winnow it down to what you actually use all of the time. Mine tend to have room key #, HT, HP, weapon, and notes plus a side note with weapon damages. It's all ready to go for me.

Knowing how you use tools is critical. When I first ran B2 The Keep on the Borderlands for my DF game, I downloaded a copy of the notes-on-the-map "Better Caves of Chaos" by Zak Smith. It's really cool looking. I thought it would help me. It didn't. I work better and faster with a keyed list and a map with only physical notes on it (X-ed out broken down doors, marks for pits and puddles, etc.*) Visually some things work for me, but others don't. I need more than just notes on a map, and once I need more than just notes on the map I may as well fully move those notes on the map elsewhere and just use that.

I tried a map with monsters listed but that's not how my brain likes information organized for use. Lists and maps, yes. Maps with notes on it saying what monsters are where? No, that's messy to draw and messy to use for me.

Relationship maps? Yeah, for me, they are great for relationships, not for where monsters are. I have one for the various Felltower factions. I don't really use it. I haven't updated it. I don't really need it, I just did it to organize my own thoughts visually and make sure I didn't miss anything. If I was publishing Felltower** I'd have to organize it so others could use it. For me? Nope, although it was useful as an exercise. I use my sideview map more, even if only to think, "I wish those guys would find their way to level 8, I had that great idea in 2011 and it's still waiting to be found."

It's all about how you personally most beneficially organize and use information. I know what works for me and what doesn't because I tried them and know which ones got shunted off to the side when the dice hit the table. Doug's post covers a few different ways to deal with rosters and understanding of the inter-relationship of monsters so you can have them react (either to dogpile or run) or influence the PCs appropriate . . . and with all of your information at your fingertips in the form you need it in.

* Marking hearing distances from major areas can be useful - if you have an alarm gong, marking how far it's heard can help (hint - sound doesn't travel in a uniform radius around a point in tunnels blocked here and there with doors.) GURPS Underground Adventures has a useful way of figuring this out.

** No.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

DF Felltower: Why so few summaries & what I'm doing with it

We're on track for the worst gaming year in a long time. It's mid-March and we've had three game sessions, only two of them Dungeon Fantasy: Felltower. If this keeps up, we'll get in only about 10 sessions this year.

It's been a rough combo of events falling on Sundays, work and special events for me coming up on Sundays (which kills DF outright, and makes Gamma Terra less likely), and gamer availability issues. One of our gamers picked up Sunday work, for example, and another had been socked by snow a few times. We've had a number of days pushed back - "Game Sunday" becoming "next Sunday" becoming "Not this Sunday after all."

We had a session planned today but it fell all the way off to four people - not enough for Gamma Terra and a rough session for DF, especially since one of the players was a maybe. Doable, but not ideal. So if it's seemed a little thin for DF here, lately, it's because of this falloff. We do aim to pick back up.

I still would have run game today but I get that no PC wizards and NPC wizards as a "maybe" = tough adventuring and real concerns over what there is to do. Felltower is quite dangerous, and the "easy" things have mostly been done by PCs desperate to find any loot at all. While I can see with my GM's eye a lot of things that could be done solo, or by a pair or trio of carefully delving and boldly acting delvers, I can see why people feel like it's a maze of ambushes by orc armies and every turn has the Lord of Spite stomping out to destroy the group. It's not like that, and there are things one levels one, two, and the levels as yet unnumbered below that that have been either avoided, ignored, or otherwise bypassed. After all, this is why the statue puzzle was finally solved - someone said, I know you guys marked this as "done" or as "always ignore" but I want a crack at it. The upper levels are mostly explored but there even level one has a good 20% or more of its keyed areas that have never been touched once. So it's a mix of "I get it" versus "but I did design this with the intention we could play with even a tiny group unwilling to hire or uninterested in henchmen."

I've been using the time in between to catch up on prep, though:

- I've fixed a few minor map issues.

- I've finished stocking several new areas.

- I've gone through most of the explored areas and re-stocked or at least re-checked them. Some areas are not really prone to stocking.

- I've keyed a lot of treasure that was rough-keyed before. By "rough-keyed" I mean it said stuff like "3 Ogres + ~2000" and now it says "3 Ogres (stat line inserted). Treasure: Ogre boss wears a silver necklace worth 400 sp, each has a sack with 100 newly-minted sp from (fill in paymaster), and in the corner is a sheet-covered wooden chest full of old clothes, pretty stones, and so on with a false bottom (Per-3) containing a bag with 20 gems worth an average of 75 sp each."

- I wrote up my house rules for something in a form other humans can actually read and potentially understand.

- I wrote up about six or seven new monsters I'd had half-written in my head, on note paper, or in my "Monsters I Need to Stat" document.

So Felltower continues to grow, and wait, until we actually can get our real-life schedules ready for game.

And in other good news, it's possible we may get one of the guys who used to play back at the table. Fingers crossed, knock on wood, all of that stuff* and we'll see how it turns out.

* Which in Felltower, might actually work!

Saturday, March 18, 2017

eBay Auctions - 24 hours left

There are only 24 hours left on my eBay auctions. You might get lucky and see me re-list what doesn't sell, but maybe not . . . and plenty of items have some low bids on them and will sell tomorrow no matter what. Please take a look:

eBay Auctions
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...