Friday, February 12, 2010

Oz's Dilemma

So, these days I can’t seem to catch my breath ... but since I have a few minutes, I’ll tackle a small subject and bring things up to date.

First of all, yes, I will be posting the other three tables in the Abilities series, for Dexterity, Constitution and Charisma. I haven’t had a chance to finish them completely, and that’s why they aren’t posted. I expected to have the time, but that evaporated, and things don’t look to get better right away. But I’d like to get them out of the way and therefore off my mind, so hopefully next week.

I have some maps for the ongoing mass combat from my players, which I’ve also meant to post. I may or may not be running my offline campaign tomorrow, which will probably mean additional maps that I’ll publish. I assume some of you out there are wondering.

I still haven’t written a Civ IV article about the Calendar, but I have been thinking about it. I want to tackle that soon, as well.

As far as a short subject goes for right now, I’d like to pose the question, do hormones have a place in D&D?

A principle conflict in literature is ‘man against nature’ ... which I believe is the principle conflict to be found in D&D. Nature is the world that characters must fight through and must, to be successful, defend against. Crushing nature, smashing down its forces and living in spite of the many ways in which the natural world can kill a character is, it seems to me, the whole point.

The DM can pose some Man vs. Man conflicts, but these have their limitations in that the DM is not limited in the sense that the player is limited. Player vs. Player conflicts are still Man vs. Man, but are generally detrimental to the overall pace of the game. As regards Man vs. Himself, the game itself provides little fodder ... except that, of course, every player acts within this conflict continuously, as we are all human.

Where it comes to Man vs. Nature, then, how far does it go? Obviously, it goes as far as monsters, natural disasters, weather, diseases – and in my case birth defects – but what of hormonal ‘urges’? Are players unquestionably immune to a tendency to get angry, aroused, hungry, anxiety-ridden ... are these necessarily off-limits to the DM as regards the game? Should they be off-limits? Should players, in the fashion of wooden characters from bad movies in the 1930s, be utterly unaffected by a bare breast, or the death of a friend – simply because that player chooses not to role play at that particular place and time?

Or should players be required, after a fashion, to behave in a particular manner – when the King of the kingdom dies, for instance, as virtually every person would be affected; or if a pet developed a disease? How would it be ‘forced’ upon a player that they must, at that moment, mourn, rather than simply buckle up and say, “oh well, another dead dog, so what?” Could it be forced? Is the idea simply ridiculous?

I’m always rather moved when a player portrays real sorrow for a loss, or a legitimate response due to an ‘overwhelming feeling’ they possess ... as either suggests the character is not made of wood, or straw. Is there a way to give the tin man a heart? Is it beyond the game?

I put it to you.


Dungeonmum said...

This really is at the heart of D&D.

You're rolling dice, looking at books and checking sheets of paper. Meanwhile someone is describing things to you and you're yelling out numbers - where's the humanity in all of this?

To me, a really good sesh of D&D is when you totally become your character, not in the method-acting way, just you see things through their eyes. Experience the highs of victory in battle, misery at defeat, fear during attack. TBH I think the fun stuff happens more than the misery but it's all part of the experience, it should be part of the game.

However, it's got to be down to the skill of the DM (sorry to put more pressure on those already v talented and hardworking DMs) to bring this out of the player, rather than just an instruction as to how their character should behave for the next few months, years whatever. It should be implicit but hard hitting.

Great post.

trollsmyth said...

And I'll counter it's up to the player. I'm blessed with players right now who do this because, to them, it's part of the fun. Rules to adjudicate or "enforce" this sort of thing would just get in our way.

I suppose you could (and I have, now that I think about it) right rules that take such things into account. Imagine a set of "needs" like a character from the Sims; characters whose need levels drop too low suffer debilitating consequences that may be mitigated by willpower. In the game I designed, stats functioned as a variety of "hit points" for the physical, mental, and emotional well-being of the PC. Just as loosing too many physical hit points could cause the character to collapse, pass out, or die, loosing too many mental hit points could lead to madness and losing your emotional hit points should invoke extreme behaviors or surrender to temptation.

But, as in all things, it remained with the players to really play out the effects. Recently, one of the PCs in Doom & Tea Parties lost a hand, and while the rules said nothing about the agonies of the experience, the player stepped up the challenge and portrayed the character's shock and agonies. As the DM, I can set the stage and provide some motivation, but if the player isn't interested in going there, it's just not going to happen.

A Paladin In Citadel said...

I don't think a DM can (or should) require the player to emote. Any emotions must come, from an honest place within the player.

The fact that players feel safe to react emotionally to in-game situations reveals their own maturity, and the trust that exists between all of the players and the DM.

Carl said...

I'm with Trollsmyth on this. It's up to the players. If they don't want a heavy role playing game, you're not going to have one. If that's what you want, you should get new players.

I think that a DM can set the stage, but the acting is up to the folks who are on it.

With that said, the quality of your stage dressing, and the cues you give to your players is going to have a direct impact on the quality of the response.

Of course, let's all remember that we're not putting on a play.

Dungeonmum said...

Recently the enthusiastic rookie in our group got her PC charmed by an NPC mage. And so did the player. The rest of us were expecting the NPC to do or become something really horrific but the PC kept getting close, putting her arm round the NPC etc so none of us could get in for the kill. She just thought the NPC was a harmless young girl, which is what she in fact turned out to be. It's just an example of somebody naturally inhabiting a role and acting on their instincts, reacting to another person's (albeit imaginery) emotions.