Saturday, January 15, 2011

Investment Mulligan

Tim from Gothridge Manor commented on my last post about investments in D&D encounters.  I was somewhat confused by his response until I realized that I had not said what I thought I had said.  In a fit of editing, I lopped out clarity.  Oops.  Do-over.

So, to cut out the cutesy clever crap and get to the point, when the DM plops down the battle-mat and minis - the players get ready for combat.  It's an almost Pavlovian response to the smell of a dry erase marker.  It's a welcome response to many players - because they don't have to think.  They attack.  It's easy.  The DM said they could attack by pulling out the friggin box of dungeon tiles in the first place.

With earlier version of D&D, there were no cues.  The DM just said "You open the door and there are some orcs.  What do you do?"

The players don't know what they are going to do.  They need more information.  How many orcs?  Three?  Twelve?  Makes a big difference.  Should they shut the door and maybe barricade it and be on their merry way?  Could the PCs perhaps want to infiltrate the dungeon quietly and not get into a fight until they have to?  There are a lot of factors here and things don't have to end up in a fight.  Encounters were in no way balanced or fair, and traps could be just plain sadistic.

I much prefer the "What do you do?" method.  Now a DM in 4e can ask that question before she gets her supplies out.  But it the last few years of playing 4e, I've noticed that any hint of combat was a subtle clue that the DM has a whole batch on minis already laid out and ready to do battle with, so you might as well just get on with the fight and stop boring everyone else.

In old D&D, you knew that the DM had a whole friggin dungeon full of monsters in that manual of hers and that if you didn't fight the room full of them in front of you, you'd find some elsewhere, and it was important to go about things in a smart way and grab as much loot as you could with as little bloodshed.  Death was at zero hit points in Basic D&D!  Staying alive meant only fighting when it was important and you knew you had good odds.  Running away in a Sir Robin style was by no means dishonorable and was a very useful, pro-survival skill.

So hopefully that cleared up my last post.  Fourth edition has the players invested in fighting, while 0e and 1e did not.  The combat system in 4e is really beautiful and can be great fun.  Beyond the combat - well - there is no beyond the combat.  Skill challenges are a weak attempt at forcing role-playing at gunpoint.  The game designers, dungeon masters, and players invest in the combat system and encounters with money and time.  That investment system, or lack thereof, makes a world of difference in how the games are played.

- Ark

12 comments:

  1. 0e and 1e are mainly games about exploration. Combat was just something that sometimes happened when you were lootin... I mean exploring some guys dungeon.

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  2. In my view, anyone who posts a photo of Sally Sparrow can have a "do-over".

    As long as no one blinks!

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  3. I remember do overs on the playground, playing kick ball or anything like that. I liked that freedom of being seven and yelling, "do over."

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  4. Hi Arkhein, yeah it seems I misunderstood, but I am glad cause I got to read another blog about it. Whisk above is my wife and she has been exposed to my gaming for a while now, but it hasn't been until recently that I've run her through a few short adventures. I did a couple with Swords & Wizardry ruleset and I bought the fake Redbox as an experiment. Out attempt at making a character through the adventure by numbers did not go well. Hoping to have a his and her blog about it soon. Keep up the great work.

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  5. @John - Yes they are, aren't they. I wasn't around for 2e, 3e or 3.5e. So when did it change?

    - Ark

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  6. @biopunk - 10 points for recognizing the series from just a random photo - 15 points for identifying the name of the particular episode, and 20 points for naming the main character of that episode! That is 45 points all together!

    For an additional 55 points, and a peek behind curtain number two, can you tell me the Rube Goldbergian logic that led me to post that picture in the first place. And it's not just because she's as cute as can be. :)

    - Ark

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  7. @Tim - Ah well, it's easy to misunderstand something that wasn't said right in the first place.

    I'm not familiar with Swords and Wizardry. I'll have to check it out. Th fake Red Box was . . . interesting . . . and a let down for me. I think it is perfect for some ten age kid who is new to the whole thing and doesn't know anyone else who knows how to play. The Choose Your Own Adventure format is perfect for that. But . . . well . . . you know. You did it. It's got problems otherwise, and doesn't give a real good idea of what the game can be.

    I'm eager to read you blog about ya'lls adventure, and thanks again for the kind words.

    - Ark

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  8. @Whisk - Oh yes, Do-Overs are great. I call for them at work too, but . . . yeah. You know how THOSE people are.

    So word on the grapevine is that you played some D&D. I can't divulge the source, but he seems to be reliable. Did your brush with D&D scar you for life? Inquiring minds want to know.

    - Ark

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  9. Hi Ark: I did. Don't care for how the characters are built in 4e. But I do like the other game we played before that.

    Gaming stuff is everywhere, so it was only a matter of time before Tim got me to play. And, he bought me my very own pink frosted dice, just for killing zombies, goblins and ghouls.

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  10. My being Canadian, the worst golfer in a family of golfers, and a sometimes Magic player, I am not unfamiliar with the term 'Mulligan'.

    Being a Doctor Who fan, I can say that Blink was one of the best episodes of the new series and the one which I have watched the most times over and that Ms. Mulligan would have made a great companion as Sally Sparrow.

    However, I do have to admit, even being as cute as cute can be, I did have to google 'Sally Sparrow' to remember that her first name is Carey...

    Can I still peek behind Curtain #2, Ark?

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  11. @Whisk Oooh yeah, I saw your dice over on your site. My son would avoid them because of the . . . well . . . they are pink, and therefore must have cooties. Once he gets out-rolled by a lady DM wielding pink dice he might have a different view. :)

    Ad yeah, 4e is in . . . special. I'm glad you liked the other one though.

    - Ark

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  12. Ah - you got the bizarre logic chain alright. That's 100 points total - and a peek behind curtain number two.

    "As you cautiously draw back the blue velvet curtain, you see an old man yanking levers and twisting knobs. Steam pours out from a clunky looking machine. A voice booms out:

    "PAY NO ATTENTION TO THE MAN BEHIND THE CURTAIN.

    "The blue curtain whips closed, leaving you blinking quickly and startled."

    Sorry, I did say only a peek.

    - Ark

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