Saturday, October 31, 2015

Again

Last Saturday during D&D, I was introducing my players to the new rule about injuries, something I conceived of and intended to add to the game since the last time this group had played, way back in the beginning of July.

We discussed the rule and the possible problems in calculating out injury damage vs. hit point damage, but on the whole the players were open about giving it a try.  No one was actually injured the other night; in fact, in a four-hour running, no combat occurred at all.  The players made their way to Herat, in Aria (NW Afghanistan), spoke to the Cult of the Magi in that city, had a long discussion about the Zoroastrian medallion they need to return, ending at the lip of a mysterious religious well filled with milky water and the promise of a dungeon below that.  But I digress.

In discussing the injury rule, the player who manages the character Olie expressed his appreciation for my coming up with clear rules that dealt with this sort of conditional situations realistically.  I answered that it bothered me to have a character, player or non-player, fall from a fifty foot height without there being any chance of a believable, crippling injury.  "Otherwise," I said, "The character takes their damage and just gets up, ready for combat.  Without any explanation."

"Magic," muttered Olie flippantly, that being precisely the answer we would both expect from a game that just doesn't give a damn.

Which sent me off on a brief rant, talking about how 'magic' is firmly defined in the game - existing as spells that must be cast in a set amount of time by a present magic user who must be within range of the event to cause the magic to occur - and how it cannot, therefore, be used as a hand-waving gesture by the DM without greatly undermining the verisimilitude of the rules themselves.

I am sure, gentle reader, that you're quite ready to forego a repetition of that rant here.  Most of you have already heard it.

The whole 'magic' explanation - or any other similar handwave - is just too darn easy for the DM who doesn't want to dig in and do the job properly.  It is similar to the alignment solution, that sooo easily removes any necessity for real character development, just as the player's tactic of dead parents/need for revenge neatly sidesteps any need to be original.  Such lazy crap isn't limited to role-playing games, obviously . . . we see film after film released every season that begins with the same synopsis, asshole finds random member of family has been killed and goes after the killers in response.  Because concocting a believable plot-line that includes masturbatory violence is really, really hard.

Exposition is what we call it when the participants in a situation are informed as to that situation's important details.  Such as having a disrespectful sub-commander cough out several sentences of story detail to Darth Vader at the start of the picture to explain what the hell is happening for the viewer, who has only just arrived.  Exposition is considered to be acceptable whenever the viewer, reader or role-player fails to notice - due to the drama of the moment - that what they are hearing is exposition.  Exposition sucks enormously when it is painfully obvious that the writer needs to dump so much information that the story is put on hold for several minutes - such as the enormously shitty history lecture given at the start of Serenity.  Exposition is even worse when the characters are telling each other things that both ought to damn well be aware of by then, highlighting the fact that this conversation is only happening because there is an audience of some kind.  One expect the characters to then turn to the audience and say, "Did everyone get that?"  I believe Rick Moranis in Spaceballs does.

Dear reader, if you have run a campaign in the last year that includes any of the following, have your players bitch-slap you: 1) a lone character that approaches the party and starts outlining an adventure that has yet to happen in any way, shape or form to the party; 2) you have put exposition into the mouth of a king, noble, wizard or other person vastly more powerful than the party; 3) your players are told for the very first time of a MacGuffin's existence, followed by it's present location and the importance of getting it all in the same conversation.

Somewhere out there in the gaming universe there is a piece of shit work called the "The Lazy Dungeon Master."  I've read it, end to end.  I spent a lot of time reading everything I could find on how to DM before writing my own book.  I want the reader to consider the value of a book entitled, "The Lazy Playwright" or "The Lazy Film Director's Guide."  The reader should also consider the value of any book called "How To Phone In Your Campaign" and "How to Treat Your Players' Favorite Pasttime As A Fucking Burden."  If those titles don't bother you very much, try "How To Drag Your Ass Through A 3-Hour Running" or "Making 20 Minutes of Cheesy Detail Last Until Midnight."

Then ask yourself if you'd like to run in that campaign.  Or would you rather, possibly, running in a campaign where the DM took the time to think of serious answers to questions like, "Is my character injured from the 50 foot fall" or "Why is this Zoroastrian Medallion important."  Answers that would keep all the players fixed and dramatically involved.  Answers that don't offer easy, direct and obvious solutions, leaving the players to debate vigorously upon the best course of action.

Oh hell.  I was going to talk about magic and handwaving, and I've ended up talking about work.  Again.

10 comments:

Arduin said...

There's a minor miss-math in the wiki article (the cleric's wound is described as a 4 point injury when it should be 3), but the system as a whole looks interesting. I don't think I could add anything to the discussion that you or your players haven't talked about already.

Equally I'd like to thank you for pointing out the way exposition tends to go. I'd been completely avoiding the kind of high-adventure "Macguffin" style of quest -precisely- to avoid that sort of droning speech. It somehow never occurred to me to introduce such an object gradually over the course of several other events.

Really glad to see you getting back into the swing of things here, it's good to see you're still in top form.

Alexis Smolensk said...

Sorry, Arduin; I cannot identify the error. Can you be more specific?

Scott Driver said...

You should enjoy this one.

"Before we go too far, though, it's time to introduce you to the First Rule of Dungeoncraft: Never force yourself to create more than you must."

http://www.darkshire.net/jhkim/rpg/dnd/dungeoncraft/dungeon_craft_02.html

Arduin said...

Going back, it's actually a misread on my part. Must have stumbled over injury/wound/damage language. Sorry about that!

Carl Nash said...

I don't see this injury rule solving the problem of falling damage. There is still no chance at all of death for most high level characters falling distances that would lead to death at a very high probability rate in the real world. It still doesn't keep the character that just fell a ridiculous distance from jumping right up with no ill effects other than extra HP of healing required to heal past the point injured to (no penalties to movement or combat from broken bones, bruises, etc). Maybe if you worked out injury tables as mentioned in the wiki, and specific injuries had associated penalties and/or save vs death for some injuries it would solve some of this.

Alexis Smolensk said...

Carl,

You're right, of course, if we're using original AD&D rules - which were always silly. You may not be aware of my falling damage rules, which greatly increase the amount of damage done, particularly on stone covered with gravel (where a 50 foot fall would cause 15d10 damage). It's also important that you take into account my stunning rules, my wounding rules and my <A HREF="http://tao-of-dnd.wikispaces.com/Binding+Wounds>binding of wounds rules</A>, all of which greatly increase the chance of a character dying soon after even if they survive the fall.

Whereas I do understand your need to rush in and express dissatisfaction with the surface of what I'm saying in this post, you're forgetting that my rule system is deep, considered and always open for more adjustment if it proves that an average of 82.5 damage for a 50 foot fall onto rocks (followed by an average of 7 hp/round immediately thereafter) isn't sufficient enough to convince you that real ill effects are being experienced. Incidentally, the average number of hit points for a 10th level fighter with a constitution of 17 is 79.5. Said fighter would almost certainly die from a 50 foot fall onto rocks in my world.

Of course, this would only be 15d6 if he was falling onto flat ground and 15d8 if he was falling onto flat ground with small stones or onto flat stone. Still sounds like a lot of damage to me.

Besides, what's wrong with a high level character gaining a bit of luck? People do fall from 10 stories onto cars and grass lawns (the latter would be 45d6) and LIVE. I think you're not giving your position enough research into my game rules OR enough consideration of what's really possible in the world.

No harm done - but give me a little credit, Carl.

Alexis Smolensk said...

Darn. Blew that last link. here it is, binding wounds.

Carl Nash said...

Ah that makes a lot more sense. I definitely should have given you more credit - I know you are a smart guy, so it seemed a little strange that you would put your efforts into a more realistic damage/injury system and still not solve one of the most basic problems (falling damage). I followed the link to your wiki and read more about the injury system there, but hadn't come across your falling damage rules till you linked to them here. My apologies. I do read most if not all of your blog posts and have for years, but I haven't been reading the wiki. I will make sure to do the appropriate research before commenting next time :)

Carl Nash said...

Actually I would like to add another comment now that I HAVE read your falling rules - I think those rules do a decent job of simulating real world death rates for different surfaces and situations. I particularly like how your falling damage rules take into account surface type, as that may be the most important element in survival but is usually neglected in the rules. Good job there!

I have used a "system shock" rule since I began gaming, a simple Save vs. Death whenever taking half Max HP at once. That is as far as I have gone personally toward any kind of realism when it comes to injury and death. I am pretty sure the system shock rule came from some "official" source at one time but I can't remember what edition (we started playing with 2e but had 1e and BX books and adventures as well, it was a collection of books obtained second hand by our DM from another kid when I was in junior high). Along with a houserule d10 for falling damage, even at 1xd10 per 10' fallen it at least kept the chance of death there at higher levels and the big damage swings with d10 for the damage dice seemed to be a perfectly adequate simulation of the widely variable outcome of falling. The Save vs Death is definitely lacking the fine resolution of your falling damage rules and I never did tack on any lingering effects of damage as far as injury.

Alexis Smolensk said...

Thank you, Carl,

The whole falling thing, I think, needs the fine tuning - simply because a player has to be able to assess the risk against whatever it is they might be trying to do in a specific adventure. Looking at a 30 foot drop vs. a 50 foot drop ought to be something the character relates to, BEFORE any chance of their falling or actually taking damage.

The saving throw fails to capture this very real judgement. The players have a plan that requires one of the players dare a challenging shuffle along a narrow ledge for 35 feet, with one corner. The effectiveness of that plan depends all too much upon the drop in question - and the actual participant, even if there is a thief in the party, will be the one who has the nerve to face the damage involved. If that high level character is desperately needed at a different point in the plan . . . then if the fall is very high, perhaps the party needs another plan!

I like that kind of dilemma - the one that makes the party look at the prospect, UNDERSTAND the prospect fully, then assess the risk. When rules get too vague, it becomes impossible for the party to assess that risk and it all becomes die rolling rather than a party arguing about the viability of their plan.