Page 1521 - 2021: A Role Play Odyssey, Part 1

15th Apr 2021, 6:00 AM in Intermission 14
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2021: A Role Play Odyssey, Part 1
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Author Notes:

Newbiespud 15th Apr 2021, 6:00 AM edit delete
Author: Digo

Guest Author's Note: We often talk about the GMs who make the adventure too difficult for us. The "killer GM" is an often discussed subject, but today I wanted to discuss GMs who make the adventure too easy. Whether they have too many powerful NPCs helping you, or the enemy is nerfed to remove it as a threat (this was my mistake starting out), the adventure loses your interest because you feel no danger of death or dismemberment. Think of it like an action movie where you know the hero is going to win every fight. It is not very exciting to watch such a movie, is it? When you run an adventure, you have to provide a fair challenge that presents stakes for the players-- the possibility of them losing will keep your players invested to plan and use their abilities to overcome the challenges you provide.

Notice: Guest comic submissions are still open until this arc is finished! Guidelines here.



CrowMagnon 15th Apr 2021, 6:16 AM edit delete reply
Appropriate challenge is something that I'm trying to manifest in the game I'm running. I'm doing the Strange Aeons adventure path from Pathfinder, but I had the bright idea to use classes from because I'd been interested in playing around with that at the same time. So far, I've only had two problems with that, the first one being that FFd20 tends to change things at the drop of a hat, and the second being that my group is almost ludicrously overpowered for most encounters, even when I apply the site's character classes to enemies. I've been trying various things to tweak the challenge level to something more appropriate for the group, but it's a constant work in progress.
Digo 15th Apr 2021, 6:28 AM edit delete reply
I was an overly lenient GM when I first started out. Every monster I used was probably nerfed in some way. The internet has been useful for finding a community that helped me find a good balanced challenge for my players. I think I do decently well now, at least in systems I'm well-versed in.
FanOfMostEverything 15th Apr 2021, 6:42 AM edit delete reply
Appropriate challenge is definitely something you need to calibrate with your particular group. There are a lot of factors that go into determining it, from party composition to campaign theme to the fluff/crunch balance to... Well, you get the idea.

(As a side note, kirin astronauts seem like they'd be very risky to begin with. Fire and spacecraft rarely mix well.)
Otterfriend 15th Apr 2021, 6:57 AM edit delete reply
Is the character design based on anything in particular? (The origin of the suit, name, and situation is obvious, but the shape of the being is quite distinctive without referencing anything that I am familiar with.)
gamemaster80 15th Apr 2021, 7:55 AM edit delete reply
Could just be an OC.
Digo Dragon 15th Apr 2021, 7:21 PM edit delete reply
Digo Dragon
Not based off anything. Just a character I came up with for this guest comic.
Winged Cat 15th Apr 2021, 7:50 AM edit delete reply
Winged Cat
What are the six names in the red chart? They're a bit small to read.
Platonix 15th Apr 2021, 7:58 AM edit delete reply
Cardio Vascular
Metabolic Levels
Central Nerv. System
Pulmonary Function
Systems Integration
Locomotor System
tipulsar85 15th Apr 2021, 1:55 PM edit delete reply
Also not so much names as different body functions. The display is combination heart and EKG. The kind of thig we wish we could do during IRL 2001 like that.
Cliff_Robotnik 15th Apr 2021, 8:14 AM edit delete reply
This girl s something I am often guilty of... Making things too easy.

As a PC, I value the escapist power fantasy more then anything else, and any more then an ILLUSION of difficulty ruins this for me, actual challenge tells me I am too weak... And unlike in Vidya Gamz, I can't grind my level to be 20 past what I am currently supposed to be...

This influences my DMing, as one always DMs the game THEY wish they could be a PC for, deep down... My style involves uplifting the players, letting them become strong and successful, powerful... With, as I said, danger being an illusion, one that can optionally be ignored or mocked, again for the sake of Power Fantasy.

For the most part this works, but the oft mentioned Dave kind of sees through this too easily, and just gets bored... If a PC ever drops below 2/3rds HP, I feel like the fight is entirely too difficult and reach for the Deus Ex Machina button.... But Dave feels a fight that does not drop everyone below half is too easy...

And as a DM he tends to always fall back to Underdog stories, even when he pitched something else.

Underdog stories pretty much require the PCs to forever win by the skin of their teeth, which causes me actual, real stress.

So I am in a unenviable position where I, as the main DM of our group can't DM games I am comfortable with, and as a PC, no one DMs the stories he can enjoy legitimately.

It's a no-win scenario.
Cliff_Robotnik 15th Apr 2021, 8:16 AM edit delete reply
This stuff is*

Wierdarse spellchecker.
rmsgrey 15th Apr 2021, 8:18 AM edit delete reply
The biggest problem of finding an appropriate level of challenge is that it is very party/group dependent - one group may be fine with having three TPKs on their way to change a lightbulb; another with characters dying but only at dramatic moments or in dramatically appropriate ways; a third may just want the power fantasy where they can win every fight and impose their will upon the world; and a fourth may want to focue on politics and roleplaying where the risk is to their reputation and influence, not to their lives.

A key consideration is that it's not death that counts; it's consequence. What makes, say, John Wick, an interesting story is not whether John's going to die, or even if he's going to win in the end; it's what it's going to cost him to survive and to win. Or there's the airport fight in Captain America: Civil War - there are a dozen heroes present, only one of whom has any intent to kill, but there are still real stakes - can Cap and Bucky make it to the plane, or will they be stopped and arrested? In an RPG, the potential outcomes don't have to be total triumph against TPK and the story ending - in fact, that sort of all-or-nothing stakes should probably be reserved for once or twice per campaign - do it too often, and either it stops being dramatic, or the odds catch up and the world actually does end. Generally, it's better to have less extreme, but more credible, potential penalties for failure - rather than TPK, the party wakes up in the villain's dungeon and has to retrieve their gear and escape, then explore the world ruled by the evil lord. Thanos snaps his fingers and half of all life is wiped out, so you need to carry out a wacky time heist in order to bring everyone back to life - but there are consequences - the 5-year Blip changed the people who lived through it, and changed the circumstances of the people who didn't.

Also, if the players can fail without it meaning TPK and/or armageddon, that also means the players can succeed without the victory being total - maybe the villain sacrifices some minions to cover their retreat and escapes to plot again? Or maybe they surrender and the players have to decide between murdering/executing them and coming up with something else to do with them - taking them prisoner means, at a minimum, figuring out a way to get them to a competent authority; letting them go (for ransom or parole) requires varying degrees of trust in their honour. Do you have access to something like a Geas spell? On the other hand, if you have a reputation for taking prisoners rather than murdering your targets, you're more likely to get people surrendering to you rather than fighting to the death in future, and it makes surrender or capture a more plausible possible outcome when you lose a fight.
Keybounce 20th May 2021, 8:40 PM edit delete reply
> three TPKs on their way to change a lightbulb;

That's a WONDERFUL idea for a paranoia episode, actually.
Jennifer 15th Apr 2021, 3:56 PM edit delete reply
For me it's tricky, because I play with kids. The line between challenge and enjoyment is even finer than you might expect, because I'm poor at reading people.

That's extra odd, because one of the few things I pride myself on as a librarian is my ability to do live programming. Storytelling and crafting are a very short distance from tabletop gaming.
Winged Cat 15th Apr 2021, 11:22 PM edit delete reply
Winged Cat
So, just parsing here: either this is a one-player-one-GM session where the PC is trying to rescue some NPCs, or all the other PCs are in serious danger and unable to act (perhaps in cryo that's potentially disrupted, which can kill them)?

Also, I like that phrasing: "This TPK is too important for me to allow you to jeopardize..."
terrycloth 16th Apr 2021, 1:20 AM edit delete reply
'Serious risk of death' is too much challenge. You can definitely go too easy though.

'Serious risk of getting taken out and not being able to help for the rest of combat' is reasonable, and D+D is set up to make that way easier than actually dying, until 5e ruined it by making healing too easy and DMs retaliated with enemies double-tapping players.

Also... is there even an action movie where you don't know the hero is going to win every fight? It's exciting because you wonder how they're going to do it when the enemy pulls out some crazy move, but you never doubt that they *will*.
Wulfraed 16th Apr 2021, 7:05 AM edit delete reply
"""is there even an action movie where """
Would Armageddon count? One of the few Bruce Willis movies I can stand -- since he dies in the end.

"""'Serious risk of death' is too much challenge."""
It's the status quo in the current RuneQuest version. The game is essentially set up to encourage players to come up with non-force means of resolving conflicts. Even Resurrection is a costly affair (presuming one's cult permits it -- my favorite, Humakt, does not permit resurrection to even be attempted. No surprise since the god's symbols/runes are those of Truth, and Death.

The cult makes a show of withholding favoritism from anyone, promising to heal any who need it. In practice, Rune levels and members of associated cults are given preference. Given the small size of the cult, only a few people are ever resurrected.
The Chalana Arroy cult never asks for payment. However, it is a custom enforced by the gods themselves that if a healer revives a person, the beneficiary must immediately pay a sum equal to their Ransom to the healer’s temple
This ritual spell allows an adventurer to be restored to life. First, the body must be healed to at least 3 hit points. If the body is dead from disease, the disease must be eliminated or the Resurrect is futile.
This spell summons the deceased spirit to approach its former body. The caster of the spell or their allied spirit must engage in spirit combat with the deceased. If the caster succeeds in causing the deceased to lose magic points, the spirit is forced back into the body and returns to full life. If the caster fails by ending the spirit combat early or being defeated, the soul returns to the Courts of Silence.
Each day after the first that the dead adventurer stays dead permanently reduces their STR, CON and DEX characteristics by 1D3 points each. When any characteristic is reduced to 0 or less, that adventurer is irrevocably lost. Thus, death from characteristic loss means that the adventurer is not resurrectable.
Finally, anyone dead longer than 7 days is unable to be resurrected with this spell, regardless of their characteristic points. They can only be brought back through a successful heroquest.

With an average of 2pt loss per day -- 7 days would amount to 14pt loss on STR, CON, and DEX. The characters I have generated -- using a biased roll: best n out of n+1 D6, so already above average for the game, come in with (STR, CON, DEX, occupation)
16, 12, 12 (lt. cavalry)
14, 14, 18 (entertainer)
10, 10, 16 (noble, also a duck I named Hua'rd)
13, 18, 16 (lt. infantry, another duck named Akn'Ard - Humakti, so ineligible for resurrection)
14, 15, 15 (thief)
9, 14, 10 (scribe)
11, 17, 16 (farmer)
18, 16, 12 (lt. cavalry - Humakti so not eligible)

Presuming average losses, none of them would make it to the 7th day. Ransom for Hua'rd is 1000 silver -- annual income is variable depending upon harvest, but average is 200 silver a year; annual cost of living is 200 silver <G> but, depending upon where the lands that generated the income came from, may not need to tithe to the cult (in contrast, the warrior types have an annual income of 60 silver, a cost of living of 60 silver, AND must pay a 10% tithe to their cult, meaning they /have/ to find extra income [or have a very good year -- critical roll on income means double amount])
Guest 16th Apr 2021, 9:57 AM edit delete reply
"is there even an action movie where you don't know the hero is going to win every fight"

Yes, lots of them. For example, in the episode this last chapter was based on the Mane 6 lost the fight to get the elements. It's not a full-length movie, but surely it still counts.

I think you mean "...the hero is going to win the *final* fight". That's much less common.
Keybounce 20th May 2021, 8:43 PM edit delete reply
> "is there even an action movie where you don't know the hero is going to win every fight"

Oh, sure. Last Action Hero. The hero, on a bicycle, is facing down a villain in a car. Will he win? Will he survive? Or will he suddenly feel that he's not the hero, only the comedy side-kick, and then wind up on the side and in trouble?
albedoequals1 16th Apr 2021, 6:18 AM edit delete reply
I've had the weird experience of a too-nice GM who wanted everyone to think he was a killer GM. His ruse was revealed almost instantly because the party had a career idiot in it. The idiot attempted strategies which would get him killed in any game that allowed death, but the universe would conspire to save him.

He ended up thinking he was a genius with no bad ideas, and everyone else ended up resentful that we couldn't have a serious game.