Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Query Regarding Crazy Notions

I am beginning to worry my regular participants in the online campaign with all this nonsense ... since they now are beginning to feel I might change my mind and not run, preferring to play around with this.

Nothing has changed.  I will start the online campaign again.  I'm never quite sure how much of my time it will take, or what's practical, and the situation has changed for at least one of the players, so things will have to be taken a step at a time - but what the hell, we've been playing since 2009 and a lot of ground HAS been covered, given the fact that the whole thing is in text.  Most campaigns, I think, don't last as long or have this kind of continuity.  However slow or fast we're able to move, I'm sure we'll make progress and I'm sure the party will feel engaged.

Now, this other thing, this suggestion yesterday.  I think it goes without saying that any DM is a megalomaniac in some regard; that we tend to conceive of weird, wild, woolly things to try, and that in the trying there's things to learn and fun to be had.  A bunch of people expressed a desire to run in my world and no, sorry, I haven't got the time to run everyone.  Running takes more than just describing a few events.  There's character creation for one, and explaining the complex rules of my world, all of which takes a lot of time.  There's mapmaking for combat, there's the processing of weather and other tables, there's keeping records, there's a lot of stuff that needs to be done to maintain the various elements of the campaign ... and doing it in text makes it doubly harder.  Something I could explain live at a table in three minutes can be virtually impossible to get across with sentences.  Thankfully, I think that the screencapture program I started using this year will help enormously with some things ... since I can demonstrate movement as well as describe it.

What I can do is fuck around with a sort of mass game, see if I can't get a dozen, two dozen, even more people playing a bit of simple combat with simple characters.  Some strategies might come to light, some realities about player interaction, and some FUN may be had.  A lot of work?  I guess.  The blog might suffer.  My writing might suffer.  I may have to play a LOT less time-wasting video games.  I may have to stop watching crap on Netflix.  Who knows.  Time is a movable feast, and there's always tons of it that gets wasted.

I have more time than most people, for a number of reasons.  I don't have any family that needs my constant attention.  I don't drive for two hours every day commuting to and from work.  I don't donate my time to causes.  I don't support any charities.  I make time for stuff; I'm not duty bound by anything or anyone to fulfill any commitment except the one that pays me.  This seems to make me more flexible than everyone, who tell me constantly how little time they have.

Do I get stupid busy?  Yes.  Do I sometimes find it hard to fulfill my commitments?  Of course.  But I let everyone know, I make my apologies, and I move on.  If you were to play this game I proposed on the Dungeon board, I promise your commitment would be a lot less than mine ... and when it ended, no matter how little time passed before it ended, the worst angst you could possibly suffer would be a mild disappointment.

What, you live in this world and you're not used to disappointment yet?  You poor bastards.

That said, I have some simple questions.  I want to see nicks and avatars, not just results from a poll, and the way people respond matters as much as what position they take.

1)  Would you want to play?

2)  If you did play, would you want a clear, transparent indication of what monsters, and how powerful they would be, there were at each level?  I remember the original Dungeon monster cards were pretty nasty on Levels 5 & 6, so they wouldn't be that harsh ... but I do think I need more than merely 6 orcs in the 6th level room.  Should my actual solution be revealed, or would people rather be surprised?

3)  If the monsters go up, so should the treasure.  Shall it be a Treasure Shower, so that succeeding a room practically makes one a higher level, or should it be a hard slog, with maybe three or four rooms first.  In other words, 4 people kill 3 rats on the first level.  If there's a thousand gold pieces in the room, that's only 250 each.  If you want to go up levels more quickly, there has to be something like 5,000 g.p. in a first level room, to cover the whole party.  Don't try to get too specific answering ... just, ridiculous treasure, or the expectation of having to suffer before reaching the next level?  The power of the monsters would have to be adjusted.  Also, greater monsters means greater slowing in the lower levels ... and a greater dependency on lower level fights.  If the danger level for the rooms in toto is flatter (less treasure per room, better chance of four 1st levels taking on a 4th level room) the spread of people on the map board is greater.

4)  Should there be Player vs. Player?  If not, what sort of victory conditions do we want to specify.  If there is, how should it be restricted?

5)  Are we just playing until we're sick of it?

6)  Do people who die get to start again?  How often?  Infinitely?

7)  It will save time if I pregenerate simple characters.  Who isn't good with that, and why?  I can always create a group of 20 that people can pick from.

I think the only thing I might be uncomfortable with is the too much treasure option.  Other than that, I don't care one way or the other.  I know I'm going to run until I'm sick of it, or until interpersonal drama kills it.  That's how it goes.

But tell me emphatically that you don't want to play.  Make it clear that there's no interest and then I can drop it and move on to whatever is next.


Lukas said...

I would not be interested in playing. This is not so much because of the expected quality of product, rather it is a reflection of my lack of interest in taking on that commitment. Recording, updating and so on.

There is one other element however I don't want to engage in that I alluded to earlier, and that is what I expect will happen with the PvP. Depending very specifically on your win conditions it will have a HUGE impact on the interpersonal relations. I have been in enough MMOs to know that the insidious ferocity and cunning of player against player will make this a bloodbath or a standoff... Or both. I'd rather watch from the sidelines.

That said, I would be willing to place bets on players when we get down to about 10 or half whichever is lower.

In summary...

1. No

2. N/A

3. For an experiment, it depends on whether or not you want to have a potential for grossly different character levels. If you expect or want it to be short and bloody I recommend high rewards.

4. I would eat a lot lest popcorn in the final days if there weren't and expect it might actually get a tad boring unless you have interesting critters.

5. I recommend a secret sudden death mode after X turns without player death. (resets after player death)

6. I would recommend no unless you want this to go on 'forever'

7. I like the one character idea, less overhead and variables, makes it more of a social/tactical experiment.

Butch said...

1) Yes, I would want to, but I don't think I should. See #6.

2) I'd rather be surprised.

3) I'm more the consensus builder type I guess, but I'd rather have four 1st level guys working together than one 4th level guy slashing his way through. So I guess that means I want high risk, low reward, encouraging teamwork and/or death (see #6 again).

4) This fits with #3... PvP is allowed but discouraged by the fact that the monsters are more dangerous.

5) I think you should have an ultimate goal -- maybe a nod toward the old NetHack game, have some kind of macguffin that needs to be found and returned to the surface in order to "win". Then we can all start over!

6) I think you should cap it at 5 or 10 or 20 players or whatever you think is reasonable. (If you think 200 is reasonable, then have at it.)

But having a cap introduces an interesting dynamic. If you have 10 people wanting to play but there's only five character "spots", the first five in get to play and the other five are on the waiting list. When Player 1 dies, Player 6 gets into the game and Player 1 goes to the back of the line. Player 6 has 24 hours from Alexis's "next up" post to get in. If he's MIA, Player 7 gets in. Make sure death is happening often enough that the guys "on the bench" have a realistic chance to get in... maybe one or two a week. Alternately, or in addition, a heavily wounded player could get to a "safe room" (or even leave the dungeon) and go into recovery mode for a week or so, again allowing others to play. When a spot opens he can cut to the front of the line when he's ready to come back in. Same thing for when people go on vacation, which I'm sure will come up a few times during the summer months.

That said, as much as I'd love to do both, I'd rather play in the online campaign than this, um... what are you calling it? Experiment. I wouldn't think it's fair to occupy two spots.

7) I definitely prefer pregenerated simple characters.

Butch said...

Addendum to #7: Not only pre-gen characters, but randomly assign them.

Alexis Smolensk said...


The primary difference between this and an MMO is if you stab someone in the back, EVERYONE would know it, because it would be displayed to all viewers. Which would pretty much mean no one would ever, ever trust you again (unless they were supremely stupid), and that in fact I would expect people to shoot on sight. In effect, if you stab someone in the back, you should become a monster.

The problem with MMOs is either you don't know where the killers are, or you don't know who the killers are. Here, the killer would never "disappear" from the map, couldn't camp, etc. People could group, saddle up and hunt that one bastard down.

Logically, people who AGREED to duel to the death could probably get away with that and not be targeted, because it was all above board.

I could be wrong; would be interesting to see if people would trust or let go a known, located murderer.


I wouldn't want to force anyone who did not want to be a mage to be a mage. Perhaps a rotating group of five pregenerated characters, with the one chosen being replaced. I still think I'd like to introduce a new player every other round, so that those who watched and changed their mind could get in the queue.

Alexis Smolensk said...

A note on spellcasters and thieves:

It's harder to run a thief in this sort of campaign.

With a spellcaster, I can drop the cast spell/discharge spell rule and simply allow casters to cast spells like a fighter swinging a sword (to, you know, make them relevant). Some spells, like sleep for instance, would then have to be given a saving throw, to balance it. There'd be a lot of small changes that might be introduced last minute, so people would have to be ready for that. I'd try to keep spells as flexible and effective as possible. You'd want the mage to be able to enter a room, win initiative and then get the spell off, and also to regain spells automatically upon achieving levels.

A thief's effectiveness, however, would have to be based on the ability to hit first and jump out of a room again. So, dex bonus to initiative first of all ... and then a dex check to get out for thieves and assassins, while everyone else used wisdom.

Other nuances might have to be introduced if it proved that weren't enough.

James C. said...

1) Yes, but I would also defer to another if necessary as Butch suggested above.

2)Surprise, but keep to the commonly held belief that the deeper/ further it goes the tougher it will get.

3) XP Shower. Whether that's accomplished via an over-abundance of treasure or some other mechanism could be considered, but the net result should not. This is a finite thing without the nuance & lasting power of a real campaign... rewards and advancement should probably be on par with a video game such as Gauntlet or Diablo, no?

4) Yes. But, if you're going to run more than one class I'd recommend needing more than just a fighter to win this, an idea you're already onto. Have a door that can be bypassed without great trouble only by a magic user or a thief. Have a room full of zombies which a cleric could make easier. In this manner, plus your point above about it all being public, cooperation becomes not a dictate but a logical response to the challenges posed. PVP is not, therefore, explicitly prohibited, just a normally bad idea. In this manner you are less overtly like a school marm and more an enabler of fun.

5) I agree with Butch re: a MacGuffin. A finite board, a finite goal. repeat as desired.

6) Nope. You die and you're out. Makes it more tense and exciting this way. With the achievement of the McGuffin or a TPK everybody can reboot together.

7) I'd recommend 1 pre-gen for each of the classes you choose to run and would even suggest limiting it to the iconic four main classes of fighter, thief, cleric and magic user.

Maximillian said...

1) I set out to say that i wouldn't play, but after writing the epilog below, I realized I would, but not if the online campaign were also running. Consider it practice for the combat I haven't yet participated in.
2) I think the lack of surprise makes it more fair for the first players to move, but if I were playing, I'd want to be surprised
3,4) ditto what Butch said
5) I like Lukas' idea, it reminds me of that dungeon you started...
6) as an observer, I'd say respawn, as it would demonstrate your system to have people try different strategies
8) I agree, use penetrated cottagers for the same reason as 6.

I stake no claim to your time, Alexis, use it however you want. If that benefits me today, great. If it benefits you by making you happy, maybe that will benefit me tomorrow. Or not, either way it's your time, and I'm just one of the people who come to your site each day. I'm confident that you will come back to the campaign when it works for you, and I'd rather that than have you not fully invested.

Lukas said...

It's not always about trust. If you do a last player standing wins, you have established that the key to winning is eliminating all other players.

If you have a goal, for instance get to level X, you will see the cannibalism begin when people start feeling threatened by opponents who are x-2 or x-1.

If your goal is 'fetch item and leave' the in-fighting begins within the group that acquired it for 'who gets the win.' If the 'party' gets the win, what's to prevent all 10+ players from forming 1 party?

That said, what's to stop 2, 3, 4 people from banding together to 'defeat' the others?

Who wants to be the player that dies trying to stop the highlander during their 'banding together'?

Maybe I'm overthinking this, maybe we have a bunch of noble players who will independently split up amongst the level 1 rooms and proceed just trying to level up. They'll tip their hats to one another when encountering them and politely agree that this member of the party is the winner.

But it's the internet, I doubt it.

Alexis Smolensk said...

It's funny that you four are the only ones who have responded. Where are all those who wanted to play games two days ago?

Butch said...

From Max's post:
"...use penetrated cottagers..."

Autocorrect is amazing, eh?

I know you meant pregenerated characters, but I like it this way better.

Penetrated Cottagers: Coming soon to a porn site near you!

Lukas said...

They still have some hours to make 24 hour mark right?

Alexis Smolensk said...

Since it wouldn't be based on a 'contest' where money was being won, there's less reason to have that rule. Moreover, the dice would be done as we do it in the campaign. I just have to trust you. I think some kind of general complaint could be made to me if someone seemed a little past lucky.

Mostly, the rounds would be dependent on each person on the board posting - and asking me to hold the post in reserve until everyone had gone. But yes, if someone went MIA, then they'd skip a turn - just assume they didn't move or missed the monster they were attacking.

If they continued to not appear, then obviously they would be there to be 'post monsters' to be attacked and any treasure they had taken, possibly with everyone's approval.

Alexis Smolensk said...

You make very good points Lukas. Massive roaming gangs would make it hard to be a single player, or even small groups. That's could ultimately be a problem, even if bigger gangs got smaller treasures when they killed monsters. Perhaps wandering monsters appearing more regularly when the gang hits a certain size?

Your points about 'goals' is right on. If the McGuffin is found, then its a free-for-all to get it before it can be gotten out ... and then all the individual trials, struggles and strategies of the other groups is thrown into a dustbin when the thing is actually found. "But we were fighting a dragon here! Shit."

Seems to me it's a dungeon cleaning ... which WILL take awhile. Why does there have to be a winner? Is there some sort of bragging rights that could be offered? Some sort of less tangible gratuity that could be offered by me for the top ten experience getters, best player as voted by all the participants, etc. I'm willing to give a stipend reward, say, $50, to the player "Most Recognized for Masterful Playing Achievement" ... and if everyone votes for themselves, I'll break the tie.

Is that a possibility? I doubt many would vote for the guy who seems to roll 20s every time he tries to hit (or appears to be the luckiest person in existence).

Lukas said...

Or some spiffy bonus for the next round.

Scarbrow said...

The idea is interesting... however I'm going to drop off. You are right, I don't have the commitment for this. I'll be watching from the sidelines too.

Alexis Smolensk said...

I so love it when things land with a thud.

No problem, then. All my energies can go to the online campaign.

I think I may take the rest of the week, and the weekend, to get my thoughts in order and so on. Probably post Sunday-Monday with whatever comes next. For the record, Lukas will have limited access going forward.

So it goes.

Lukas said...

I'll admit, I was looking forwards to making some popcorn as things drew on. Oh well.

Charles Taylor (Charles Angus) said...

Seems this isn't going forward, but if you're still thinking about something like this, here are my answers:

1) Yes.

2) No - I'd like the mystery and anticipation.

3) Hard slag - the more suffering the better. Start with almost nothing and fight your way up.

4) I don't think there should be any artificial restrictions on what people can do. As for victory conditions, there should be options for both single and group victory. I'm not sure how to differentiate those without some kind of real-world reward, but there you go.

Another option would be "secret mission cards" - each person is randomly assigned a win condition that no-one else knows.

5) Sure!

6) If you're introducing people periodically, people who die move to the back of the queue.

7) Yes, pregens. A group of pregens is probably the best.