Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Engagement

This is not an improvement:



Ah well, it builds character.  Lots of character in Canada.

Yesterday, I built a post about injuries and paralleling some kind of hit point system with the one that exists in my game - so that certain injuries, such as broken limbs and physical maladies could not be easily healed.  I had intended to write a second post (today) about why, what's the point of this, but naturally one of my readers recognized the necessity of such a post before I'd written it.

From Harvicus:

"Unless you seriously restrict healing magic and how it applies to such injuries, what is really the point?  It just becomes flavor text at that point."

Here we find the smashing difference between earlier editions and later editions of D&D.  I don't have to 'seriously restrict healing magic' in my campaign.  The game, as originally written, never had a lot of healing.  It was presumed that you lived by your wits, by taking care, by not blundering into stupid situations and by teaching you to recognize your limits.  The characters were not 'tanks,' not invincible, not loaded with healing surges and extra fortune points for bonus lives.  Clerics, even those with powerful spells, could not heal an entire party at a glance.  At least half the game is about keeping yourself from dying.

Cure serious wounds is a spell that a cleric does not receive until 7th level.  It can take up to three years of consistent running in my campaign to achieve that level.  Even if you do, you only get one spell a day.  By 7th level, your fighter will have gained two henchmen; they in turn will have probably gained three or four more - which will mean you're potentially running a set of six to seven associated characters against a stacked and dangerous enemy.  If you are playing with three other players, and you've all decided to bring your full contingent, that's a force of 24 to 28 all told.  ONE serious cure spell is not going to be enough.  Chances are, none of the henchmen will be higher than sixth level, so one is all you're going to have.

Cure critical wounds is a spell the cleric does not receive until 9th level.  That's another two years of running your character.  Until then, if anyone loses an arm or a foot, they're going to have to get back to civilization, wait for an available cleric - who will have a long line of people waiting for that spell ahead of you - then pay through the nose.

Healing magic is ALREADY seriously less than what 4e, 5e or Pathfinder suggests.  And while I know that these are the games that a popular now, my personal opinion is that the healing in these games are designed for pussies who haven't the character to deal with possible death, discomfort or limited ability due to circumstance.  'Fantasy' has been designed, to my mind, for the benefit of milquetoasty, weak-kneed, driveling mollycoddled babies.

I have said repeatedly, how did the hobby get this way?  Corporate thinking.  Babies squalling about their dead characters, wanting a system that guaranteed their characters would never die.  Players who don't want to play with RISK, who don't even understand RISK, who have gotten so used to instant healing that they view a broken arm as 'flavour text.'

I wonder how many readers can understand me.  I have players who lie awake at night, worried about their characters in my world, because we had to break at a moment where the threat is so high that death seems probable.  These players love these characters.  I don't mean they feel moderately affectionate, I mean that the players are so attached to the characters that a loss would be devastating.

Conversely, the success of their characters, the triumph of their characters over their enemies, keeps my players floating on their feet for days, even weeks afterwards.

And while the reader looks at that and thinks, "Wow, what a bunch of whack jobs," I rush to explain that these are educated, capable and successful people who have many options for how to spend their game nights.  These are people whose minds I've been able to stir, to enlighten, to astound with images and ideas, who have been ensnared by my campaign to such a degree that their experience EQUALS the feeling that fans have for their baseball teams or for their favorite celebrities.

Over the last month or two I have heard a great outpouring of distress and sadness at the death of Robin Williams, Lauren Bacall and Joan Rivers.  I have listened to the moans and unhappiness of Netherlanders, Brazilians and one fellow from Cameroons at losing the World Cup.  The entire country of Germany EXPLODED in a frenzy at winning the cup.

I am saying that my players feel about their characters the way you feel about Robin Williams - or the way that Germans feel about German football players.  More so, as my players actually KNOW their characters.  When one of them breaks an arm, only to find themselves frantically trying to free themselves of their shield so they can block the attack of the jackalwere that's fast approaching, it isn't flavour text.

It's a full-blown panic.  It's deep, it's engaging, it's an immersion extravaganza.  And for these players, choosing which character to use their one-a-day serious cure on is like trying to decide which of your children you would save if you could only rescue one.

And I'm responsible for that.  I make my world that way.  I adjust the design, the function and the structure to carefully tweak each part of it for the player who wants to live the fantasy all out. These proposed rules are not just mechanics.  These are finely tuned processes that can't be fiddled with too carefully, that have come about from years of conjecture, consideration, examination and application. I am justly proud of having created a world that is so involved that it keeps players awake at night.

I only feel distress that others fail - stubbornly - to understand how high the mountain is that can be ascended here.

3 comments:

JB said...

The reason that so many of us...who got in the door with AD&D...continue to love the role-playing game.

And the reason so many of us...who love the role-playing game...continue to find dissatisfaction when playing the latter editions.

Harvicus said...

Though I love the early editions, they seem to have a basic assumption that the party will have a good sized group due to both the use of henchmen and a good number of actual players.

Speaking for myself, it has been difficult to find enough dedicated players to have more than 4-5 characters in the party, and those players also have a dislike of running more than one character or recruiting henchmen.

Though the later editions can be said to pander to player power fantasies, they also make a small group such as this viable.

Now you can certainly run small groups in early editions, especially with your HP for Mass rule addition, but there is a steep drop in survival rate. Enough that even what might be a simple battle can turn quickly into a TPK before players can even react.

Your recent article on people who continually start new campaigns hit rather close to home for me. I blame the constant search for a set of rules that strikes the right balance of danger and survival as well as an attempt to recreate the romanticized memories of games I played in my youth.

Alexis Smolensk said...

Harvicus,

While I have heard these issues before, I have never actually experienced any of what you speak. I have often run only two characters at a time, and prior to my mass/level hp rules (which I only began in earnest about four years ago). I have never found the kill rate increased. Managing a proper monster to player is a skill that has more to do with how the players encounter the monsters than the actual number of monsters per player - but it is a skill that can be learned. The 'steep drop' only exists because the DM has clearly not learned this skill.

TPK's happen when DM's behave disproportionally or habitually with players, without considering the circumstances or allowing themselves to adapt their worlds to the players' needs.

I have never, ever, found players who are unhappy at the opportunity to run more than one character at a time. Please note my henchman rules when I say this. I chose the link given because it talks about the love the players have for the rule - but all the additional links are included.

The later editions do nothing special to make a small party 'viable,' except that they make large parties utterly impractical. We don't need a change in rules. We have never needed such a change.

We need a change in THINKING.