Monday, December 19, 2016

Lurker's Corner - TPKs

Those of you who are watching the Juvenis Campaign at this time will not doubt have noticed that there is a total-party-kill in the offing.  There has been a lot of discussion there with the party kicking themselves for having made a few improvident decisions and having bad luck.

I hate at this time to heap abuse upon the participants, but another part of me says it is like deconstructing Boris Spassky's games against Bobby Fischer.  And so, coldly, I challenge the reader to explain what went wrong.

I have my own personal opinions, but I'll withold them until the combat ends (if the players don't bow out as a group in frustration ~ they seem pretty game, however).

56 comments:

Maxwell Joslyn said...

Without even factoring in our bad choices (which are certainly unevenly distributed), our luck has been brutal. Awful awful attack rolls, and when two guys put down criticals, one dealt 0 damage and one dealt like a total of 2 damage.

Rowan said...

So, here's the thing for me, personally.

I keep coming up with ideas. But not all of them are good. Some are actively bad: see smashing into the floor and risking my club for no conceivable reason except that "well, more than one sentence was used to describe the floor, so it must be important!".

In this combat in particular, even though it turns out Entangle won't work here, it's been several rounds, multiple days of real time, and it didn't even remotely occur to me to cast it until very recently. I feel less bad about Shillelagh, as I don't feel the round lost to casting it is worth the +5% chance to-hit next round. I took that one in the event of a single large foe that would gel well with my +1 to big guys.

I have a similar idea in terms of "if it works maybe all our problems are solved but maybe it's just stupid" at this very second, but I'm leery of saying any more as it would involve specific instructions, which cost AP, and I have a good shot of being stunned next round, made even worse by the encroaching holidays which make the entire middle of my day a no-go in terms of watching the campaign.

I cost myself way more of my money than was at all necessary at the very start. I was excited to get started and -really- worried my schedule was going to bounce me out of the game early on, so I took shortcuts to make sure I'd be ready. That could have freed up a decent chunk of gold, and it's possible our entire course of action might have changed, for instance, not needing to immediately venture out or potentially starve.

We could have, indeed should have, asked about hirelings. I chalk this up to not knowing initially just what we could accomplish and where. Mimmarudla was a neat find, but I wasn't certain what it meant to go there until we actually started going towards Stokka.

I could go on pretty much endlessly about how we've ended up here in this specific tragedy (other than the obvious bad luck with dice), but this at least is a personal recounting of mistakes I made.

Alexis Smolensk said...

Interestingly, I started two members of the party WITH hirelings, which they decided weren't worth the coin.

Jonathon said...

Aside from the preparation issues pre-barrow, the way in which the combat got rolling was pretty devil-may-care. Half above, half below, some weapons on the floor, the party chucked a rock at the mysterious glow and then a lone party member got closer.

When the beetles attacked, rather than moving to a defensive position and/or covering the entrance, the party moved to meet them; this spread them out and ensured that party members would need at least another round AFTER descending to join the fray. (Heck, if they had been fighting at the hole maybe PCs could even have smashed a couple by jumping down.)

Other than getting everyone down before kicking things off, though, the biggest missed opportunity may be failing to overbear early and often; the first attempt came with such an attack bonus that I was taken aback. It might have been painful, but a bonus over +5 is pretty hard to pass up! Once the beetles got the numbers in place, though, that opportunity was gone.

Sofia Viktorova Koleva said...

I only read about half of the posts, most of them the early combat ones, so perhaps I'm missing something but... the biggest problems that I saw were lack of awareness, communication and coordination between the players.

While players may only state actions for their own characters nothing prevents them from planning as a group. You are all new to one another and to Alexis's rules and don't have the benefit of playing at a table all at once, but this sort of thing can happen to a live group as well. Fundamentally D&D is a team game. The Juvenis party hasn't yet formed one.

My advice:

1) Ask questions of Alexis and each other BEFORE you declare actions
2) You shouldn't be expected to know all of the rules at this point, but you should at least know your character sheet and those rules governing the actions that you'll be using regularly.
3) Pay attention. Accept that you are not yet a hero and most things in the world can kill you. This game punishes the careless.

I'd also like to point out that the Senex campaign isn't firing on all cylinders yet either, myself to be included, but the stakes are so far lower there given what's actually happening.

As a veteran player of the online campaign I'm concerned about the new rules like CLO, etc... and whether I'll be able to keep up. I can't access the wiki at work and hate playing on my phone. I want to try still, but worry I could be the subject of a future Lurker's Corner.

Sofia Viktorova Koleva said...

Nevermind my final statement. I couldn't access the wiki when we first started up for some reason but can now do so.

Sofia Viktorova Koleva said...

One more comment, a positive one. Reading through the more recent combat posts I saw an improvement. With the exception of a player apparently bailing for some reason, the Juvenis party was acting in a more coordinated, thoughtful manner.

Shelby Urbanek said...

For what it's worth, here's what I personally could/should have done better:

1) Ask more questions. I rather foolishly assumed I had more knowledge of the systems and the environment than I did. This led to some poor choices regarding both equipment selection and actions in combat. I also made some rather foolish ability score allocations based on a faulty assumption. You know what happens when you assume...

2) Slow Down. I think the main reason we made so many mistakes is that we were super eager to get going, and an unhealthy fear of being booted for taking too long to make decisions. We should have sat down and had a strategy meeting before leaving town, and before dropping down into the barrow at the very least.

3) Communicate better. At the time I thought we were doing pretty good, but looking back we were all over the place. If we somehow manage to pull ourselves out of this mess, or when Juvenis Party Mark II gets rolled up (assuming Alexis is still willing to run us...) we definitely need to do a better job of talking to each other and figuring out what we ought to do before we're knee deep in beetle/Gudbrand guts.

All in all, I think we acted like a bunch of bright-eyed kids running off half-cocked to make our fortunes in a world we didn't actually have the measure of, and now we're paying the price for our foolishness. I hope we get the chance to learn from our mistakes.

Rowan said...

Genuinely, this fight would have been no problem if it weren't for our absolutely disastrous early rolls. Those bugs have 6hp, tops, that's what, a 85% chance to stun or more with a 1d6 weapon? 50% with 1d4?

But we didn't even start landing hits until we were massively outnumbered, and because our opponents have enough numbers to mitigate probability, our numbers have dwindled further still through stunning.

If the beetles had all de-egged at once, this fight wouldn't have happened like this (I genuinely thought they came out through some sort of, I dunno heat-based proximity thing, and didn't really expect these numbers). If our initial rolls against more even odds had gone better, we'd still be peachy and could take each wave as it came.

I also didn't really expect they'd be able to clump in hexes the way they do. With the rule on small creatures explained it makes sense and I can prepare for the future, but fat load of good that does me when I take three rolls to the face when I expected one or two.

It's a learning process, but hopefully one or two of us get out of this more or less intact and we can soldier on.

Engelhart Askjellson said...

I stand in absolute agreement with Rowan on this.

Mistakes were made but absolutely nothing grievous and nothing that couldn't have been shrugged off and filed under "future improvements" with nary a second thought. Certainly nothing that merited total party existence failure.

In my view, the statistical aberration that came to follow renders pretty much moot any sentiment of mea culpa.

Had we played flawlessly, I'm sure that the accumulated statistical clout would have won the day for us. Alas, where possibly one of three pillars might have sustained us, we generally lacked either mastery of the rules system, skills for communication in the context of online play, full understanding of the broad expectations of play. In some cases, like mine, lacking all of the above.

Unfortunate but not really something to beat ourselves about, would be my verdict.

James said...

As a lurker, it seemed like the main problems were the much-mentioned lack of mobility in the beginning and absolutely garbagw luck.

Less mentioned issues:

1. Failure to appreciate the threat level. This ties to the lack of mobility, but the party didn't prioritize getting into the barrow quickly, and it hurt.

2. Sickness. Illness is killing certain members of the group. I don't know if this could have been alleviated somehow.

3. Poor proficiency choices. Some players chose to be proficient in a weapon they intended on using in the future, handicapping them now as they lacked the funds to acquire said weapon.

Aleksandra Ivanovna said...

Yeah. We made poor choices, and those choices were not redeemed with lucky rolls. We will do better in the future.

James said...

I should note, I cannot even fathom the number of errors I'd have made. The whole "x pounds of dry beans cooks to y pounds of food" would never have occurred to me.

Alexis Smolensk said...

Yes, everyone can play again. I want to make THAT clear.

Scott Stringer said...

I just lost my carefully crafted comment. ARGH!

Most of my thoughts have been captured in the posts above.

1. Player feedback on purchases. Ask your colleagues "Does my ass look big in chainmail?". Having players review other's purchases might have caught some of the poor choices.

Tarquin: I bought a knife!

Droste: You already have four. Go buy some clothing for Gods sake!

2. Inexperience. Multiple instances of ignorance of the rules hurt the party. Spells were not cast, weapons proficiency was not aligned to the carried weapon, etc...,

Were there just too much inexperience with Alexis' world in the party?

3. Play fighting: Ready to go adventuring? Stage a mock fight among yourselves to work out:
If your weapons are suitable.
How overbearing works.
How flanking works.
How to use AP.
Some basic attack and defense formations.

Learning these lessons in actual combat hurts.

Scott Stringer said...

RE: CLO

It seems a bit harsh this early in the combat. In round 8 comments Alexis wrote:

"At 1.51, you're safe until the 17th round."

Hmmmm. 17 rounds of 12 seconds is 204 seconds. Three and a bit minutes swinging away in leather armor. Surely the adrenalin is still coursing through the combatants?

Uncomfortably hot they might be. Starting to fatigue? Yes highly likely. But real and life-threatening damage? Too early in my mind.

Rowan said...

The Clo thing isn't something that bothers me too badly. It only hurts in this fight because our opponents aren't hindered by it. I agree with the idea that maybe it's too fast for life-threatening damage, but since at this level any amount of damage is life-threatening I am willing to handwave it to "I'm too inexperienced to know I'm pushing too hard and it'll cost me."

Against humanoid opponents I'll be glad for it. Seeing a plate-clad badass and knowing "It's okay. I may not be able to outfight him, but he'll tire eventually." Is a cool thing.

I don't think most combats would go long enough if the timer were extended to more "realistic" levels to really enjoy that effect.

Alexis Smolensk said...

Scott, Rowan,

I'm glad I've already presented my argument for fatigue: you can read it on this post. The argument was supported by a discussion that is no longer available online . . . but the guest and his book was Robert L. O'Connell's "The Ghosts of Cannae: Hannibal and the Darkest Hour of the Roman Republic"

My second point would be to remind readers that hit points in my world are not wholly physical, as I have also explained in the past. The loss of 1-3 or 1-4 hit points is not "life-threatening" . . . it is your body's way of telling you you're going to overheat in your armor and have a stroke. Amazing as it might seem 18-20 year old british officers in Africa would drop dead from stroke quite commonly during the Egyptian and Sudanese wars, because they had done nothing more than lose their helmets in the hot sun. HEAT is serious, as serious as anything you will ever face, and the error that many make is assuming that "battle" is similar to really hard work.

It isn't. You're in pure tunnel vision while you're fighting, you're on more than an adrenaline high, you're massively freaked out and panicking! That is, until you begin to get used to battle ~ but you will note that the amount of damage suffered per round of overheating doesn't climb with level. An 8th level ranger with 80 hit points hardly feels that loss of 1 or 2 hit points a round; it is only really dangerous to young clods who lose their heads.

Finally, the rules in my game also drop combatants into the negatives, where they tend to PASS OUT. This cools them down and stops them from losing hit points to overheating.

The reality is that the small amount of damage you're taking per round is only a threat to your permanent health if you ignore it! If you think, "Wow, this is my body's way of telling me to slow down," then slow down, you'll be fine.

Alexis Smolensk said...

Let me add this to the above, Scott.

I want you to find me a modern-day soldier who will tell you that 204 seconds in a continuously-threatening firefight isn't stressful enough to leave you completely drained when it is over.

Scott Stringer said...

Drained yes. I'm happy to accept drained. I get drained physically playing chess. Damaged? No.

These guys are in relatively light armor in cool conditions. I'd argue they would overheat much, much later.

I know about overheating. I run trails for up to four hours at a time. I'm not disagreeing, I just reckon it takes longer. That's all.

Engelhart Askjellson said...

For what it's worth, I agree with Scott.

Desert-latitude sunbeams directed at the noggin versus excess body heat from exertion in the cold north feels like apples to oranges. They're both fruit but that's it.

Moderation in the abstraction is needed; as it stands, past the prescripted number of rounds, a character is liable to lose more hp from heat than from a bleeding wound.

Sofia Viktorova Koleva said...

Engelhart, if you accept the stated premise that hit points are more than just physical damage (based on your comment it seems like you don't) and further that those unaccustomed to battle (level 1 characters) will be disproportionately affected by fatigue, stress, over-heating etc... then your rookies being undone by heat as much as beetle bites is consistent with the DM's desired effect.

Managing CLO and the interplay between it and damage makes the game harder to play, both in terms of evaluating risk and the level of extra record keeping and planning now required of players. But it is consistent with Alexis's stated goals.

Engelhart Askjellson said...

No, the effect is fine. It's the magnitude as compared with supposedly more aggrieving things, such as bleeding out from wounds, that feels off.

Tardigrade said...

I think if you want to identify one specific point of failure, beyond "bad decisions", i would say that the party left themselves no escape route.

If they could just run away, they would survive the bad rolls, the wrong weapons, the lack of hirelings and gear, and putting the entire party into a pit before knowing the dangers it held. They'd have a scare, learn a few lessons, and have another go at it later.

Always have a line of retreat.

Aleksandra Ivanovna said...

I like how CLO works. It certainly tracks with my sparring experience - just wearing pants and a gi top (not quite as covering as a hauberk) and a couple of minutes of really going at it is enough to leave me sweaty, tired, and much closer to passing out (which is probably a better way to think about hp in this context than physical damage).

Alexis Smolensk said...

"Feels off" isn't an argument.

I hope with time you will come to see the wisdom in the system.

Tardigrade said...

Consider boxers. They fight for 3 minutes, almost naked, and rest for 1 minute. Granted, they are beating the hell out of each other the whole time. But their fatigue is also from their own activity. I imagine most of them would have constitution scores of 18, too.

Imagine trying to do that in ring mail, with a 5 lb sword, a 6 lb shield, 30 lbs of junk in a pack, and a cloak with a 12 Con. I do not think going 10 rounds is likely.

Alexis Smolensk said...

Regarding boxers, as well, none of those that we see on media could be considered 1st level, either.

That is the first issue that is simply being ignored: that a loss of 2 hit points per round for someone with 60+ hit points is very incidental ~ but that isn't making it into this conversation because we insist on measuring everything against the first level.

Secondly, everything I've said about actual history or actual research, that actual combatants in war regularly TOOK RESTS during combats, is also being ignored. I assume because movies are free to ignore it.

Finally, the examples that people are putting forward ~ running trails, sparring, even boxing ~ are not life-threatening activities. Boxers are free to rely on rules that restrict the sort of punches that can be thrown, sparring is accomplished either with highly restricted movements or with modern padding/armor, while running trails is a) done at your own pace and b) not done while someone is chasing you with a sword.

It is quite clear that many participants of fantasy battle have zero idea of what "life-threatening" means, both in terms of the psychological consequences of the body's complete willingness to shut down and stop working.

Zero idea, or they just don't want to accept that they're at the mercy of chemical and physical limitations they don't want to understand.

James said...

The idea that characters get tired, and this exhaustion has consequences, is jarring to players used to games where a character in full plate takes a -1 to Speed and -2 to Stealth as a penalty

Alexis Smolensk said...

Seeing that there have been no comments since this morning, it is clear that I've gone and shut down this discussion. That was not my intention. I try to keep silent on these things, but now and then I let my passion get the better of me.

My apologies.

Scott Stringer said...

A slightly different tack then on the CLO debate: Would you consider allowing a saving throw against constitution? Fitter characters would likely suffer less. This seems natural.

A modifier could be applied per round so that it gets tougher and tougher to make the saving throw as heat stress persists.

Matt said...

@Scott

I hope I am not stepping on Alexis' toes, but I do not believe that Alexis uses Constitution to represent general physical fitness in that way.

Further, the CLO system does allow for more fit characters to be less hindered by it. More fit being higher leveled. More experienced. More used to facing panick and exhaustion and violent death.

I am not a player in Alexis' World, and I cannot say that I am as greatly familiar with it as other readers here are, but I believe that a lot of this conflict stems from thinking that a Level 1 classed character is already ahead of the game, whereas in Alexis' World there is the assumption that the town Guardsman, the weaponsmith, the ship-captain, and the travelling merchant all probably have some levels under their belt.

James said...

Don't higher CON characters already suffer less by having more hit points?

Jonathon said...

James: both by potentially having more hit points and by having better saves to stay on their feet if they do drop to 0 or lower through exertion, as I understand it.

Alexis Smolensk said...

Matt and James have it right.

Giving players saving throws as a default cripples the game. In many places, the game world has to have hard edges, edges that will cut the players and make them play inside the safe spaces. We don't want to give die rolls to players so they can skip past hard times, we want them to think smarter, prep better, be ready for damage they know they're going to get and build their combat strategy in such a way that they know cutting and running isn't just an option, it is something they plan for.

So it is in the military, so it is with every profession that deals with exhaustion and injury. Players have to make space in their heads for this; that's what makes the game hard, that's what makes the game a challenge, that's what makes the game better to play.

Shelby Urbanek said...

And the Clothing thing is something I just needed to get my head around a little faster. I didn't anticipate it being as much to reckon with as it turned to be. Yes, it makes the game harder. Yes, it makes the game more of a challenge. And you know what? For me there's nothing like getting your butt handed to you in the first fifteen minutes of a game to make me sit down and really think about how I'm going to beat this thing. A game I can't win easily is a game I'm interested in playing.

Having reviewed the arguments for and against (and coming down from the stress high of realizing almost certain death is near), I am on board with the clothing rules as they stand. It means I'll have to play the game smarter, and that's never a bad thing.

Scott Stringer said...

Thank you for your arguments re saving throws. I'll concede that wasn't the greatest idea. I have, however, learned even more about Alexis' world :)

I haven't given up though. There must be a way to modify the CLO rule so it is not so severe in such a short time frame.

How about mass? Would heavier characters build up more heat faster when exerting themselves? Should lighter framed characters be slower to overheat? Heat is generated by muscle activity and fat will tend to insulate (keeping heat in and cold out). Surely larger heavier characters will be prone to overheating faster?

Alexis Smolensk said...

Find me hard data on that, Scott.

Matt said...

I think the severity is a feature, not a bug. It is a way of making combat a dangerous undertaking which must be properly prepared for. It also means that in a combat consisting of entirely human combatants heat and exhaustion will effect both parties, and make the prospect of retreat, parlay, or mutual disengagement more palatable. This mechanic which is contributing to the party's defeat today could be the same thing that allows escape tomorrow.

Alexis also awards XP for damage dealt and taken, rather than requiring a kill, so escaping from an enemy can still offer XP rewards and character advancement.

Alexis Smolensk said...

I definitely agree, Matt. It is a feature.

With 2nd level, all the damage caused per round of overheating is halved, after all. It is cut again with 3rd level and cut again with 4th. That seems to me more than enough modification to the CLO rule so that it is not so severe in such a short time.

Alexis Smolensk said...

Changing the subject, I wonder if anyone else has noticed something that would definitely be a first with my experience system.

As things stand right now, with the 10th round being posted, the total bonus x.p. for the party is 1320. So far, Engelhart has not hit or been hit, by chance.

If everyone else were to die, but Engelhart escape, somehow getting up the rope while beetles feasted on the dead party characters, he would be awarded ALL the bonus experience, a total of 1,320 ~ with his 10% bonus, this would be 1,452 . . . which would put him exactly 49 x.p. short of becoming 2nd level, without causing or having taken a point of damage!

Moreover, if the beetles WERE feasting on his dead mates, this would be more damage being taken by the party and would definitely boost Engelhart up a level.

Awesome.

Rowan said...

Hurrah! All was not in vain!

Jonathon said...

This does for sure seem like the kind of experience that would leave someone changed.

(I am now imagining the weary 10th-level veteran who has been in a hundred battles and never been wounded but is shaken by all the terrible things he has seen.)

Scott Stringer said...

Alexis Smolensk said... "Find me hard data on that, Scott."

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heat_transfer#Heat_transfer_in_the_human_body :
"...For heat transfer from the outer surface of the body, the convection mechanism is dependent on the surface area of the body..."

The mass to surface area ratio is going to be larger in bulkier people. Thus less cooling is going to occur.

http://anthro.palomar.edu/adapt/adapt_2.htm :

"Body size and shape are significant factors in how efficiently an individual responds physiologically to cold and hot climates."

The paragraph under Bergmann's rule finishes by saying "Subsequently, the more cells an animal has, the more internal heat it will produce."

There you have it. more massive individuals generate more heat and have less cooling.

If you really want to get into it - taller thinner people lose heat faster than those with less height who have the same mass.

Alexis Smolensk said...

Sorry, Scott,

Your conclusion that the mass-to-surface ration is going to be larger in bulkier people is not supported by the first page. I see nothing on the page about persons of different mass or different weights. I want to see evidence that someone has done a study that says that the MAJORITY of persons of such-and-such weight can run farther or express more intense physical strain than the MAJORITY of persons who are much heavier or much lighter. I want to see a mass comparison chart on metabolic or convection rates regarding heat-transfer of differently sized humans for large tested subject groups.

As regards to your other quote, according to this page, Bergmann's Rule is false, that the correlation with temperature is spurious (Valerius Geist, 1986):

"Because many factors can affect body size, there are many critics of Bergmann's Rule . . . selective factors that many contribute to body mass changes are the size of food items available, effects of body size on success as a predator, effects of body size on vulnerability to predation and resource availability."

I want HARD data. HARD. Not a quote about physics and then YOUR conclusion. Not a questionably researched page and then again, YOUR conclusion.

But Scott, consider this. Even if you came up with research that would satisfy me (and it is possible, I come up with research that satisfies me all the time!), would you really want to penalize one character at the table because they happened to weigh 210 lbs., while letting other characters at the table have a greater combat ability because they happened to weigh 115? I wouldn't.

Scott Stringer said...

I don't want to further penalize anyone. I would like you to introduce a mechanism whereby the affects of heat stress is reduced for some individuals. I would like you to consider using the current figures as a maximum - with lighter/fitter individuals suffering less.

I am not and have not advocated anything regarding combat ability. In the end, I'm actually penalizing (some) characters (slightly) less than your current CLO rules.

Hard data relating BMI to heat stress: https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/mining/UserFiles/works/pdfs/asohs.pdf

Under conclusions the authors recommend monitoring heart rate at not more than 20 minute intervals.

Scott Stringer said...

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3377285/

"A high body mass index (BMI) adds additional burden on the cardiopulmonary system (6, 7, 18). Thermoregulation of the core temperature can be more challenging if there is increased peripheral insulation. Obesity increases the core temperature and decreases a person's ability to effectively cool down rapidly with the usual cardiovascular thermoregulatory mechanisms. "

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8990832

"Obesity is often associated with poor heat tolerance. "

http://pointhealth.com.au/pdf/TWL%20Vaildation%20Heat%20stress%20study.pdf

"Individuals with a high body
mass index (BMI) generally
thermoregulate less efficiently in the heat and are
more prone to heat illness."

(I'm not going to burden you further if this does not convince you)

Alexis Smolensk said...

I know at least one of those sources. How about that.

All I see here is a repeat of your previously held positions, Scott. I still don't see any data that supports your conclusion. The "20 minute" argument you make describes a situation of heavy labor, notably mining and the like. I have already stated MANY times that labor is not equal to combat stress ~ but once again, you've completely failed to take that into account, presumably because you just don't care.

Regarding obesity, NONE of the player characters can possibly be considered obese; obesity is not a condition of having a large mass, it is a condition of a dangerously high body fat to mass ratio. But again, you don't care, you don't care to recognize any nuance in your arguments.

I am sorry to say this now. You have obviously become quite obsessive about this, despite the fact that many have already refuted your most recent claims. It seems to me that you have begun to challenge comment rule number 2 ~ how you would do this. Great. Go do it, but do it on another blog. You've tried to make your point and I'll leave up your posts, so that if anyone thinks I'm dead wrong they can read your links and agree with you. But I don't want to waste any more time on this thread with this (note that I changed the subject), so DROP IT.

Drop it now. I'm not kidding.

Matthias said...

I'm a longtime lurker who has read through 80% of the 'older' Senex campaign and has been having a great time reading through both new campaigns.

Reading, this exchange:

Alexis: "which would put him exactly 49 x.p. short of becoming 2nd level, without causing or having taken a point of damage!"

Jonathon: "This does for sure seem like the kind of experience that would leave someone changed."

I was wondering whether you consider ever giving some kind of psychological trauma to characters. If he manages to escape, Engelhart will certainly leave this place a changed man, but ought it be only in a positive sense? Perhaps this has been addressed on your main blog, Alexis, but I wonder whether you've considered this issue, or whether you consider this should be only up to role-playing decisions by the player?

I'm not suggesting that characters should be fundamentally crippled by such an experience, but perhaps bear some kind of trauma- or grief-related after-effect. Perhaps after such an experience, the sight of beetles puts Engelhart to shaking (-1 ranged penalty to attacks), or the smell of rotting foliage, such as that found in this barrow, triggers anxiety, temporarily affecting some attribute (but perhaps granting him some advantage with respect to alertness, for instance). Would any of this make any sense to you?

Rowan said...

I'd be more for it if the historical response to PTSD, even into late last century, wasn't just "suck it up". Mental disease of any kind was pretty poorly understood, and the sort of behavior that mental disease encourages like lashing out, verbal abuse, physical violence, seems like it was often simply accepted as a fact of life.

Shout at your wife, beat your kids, go to Church on Sunday and back at it the next morning.

I am, however, really really ignorant here, and I'll freely admit it. Someone with more experience and actual hard data can corroborate or annihilate my assertions here at will. This is all just impressions I've gotten from period literature and internet articles.

Alexis Smolensk said...

Matthias,

On the subject of PTSD, I am loathe to create any rule that tells a player how to act. It sounds good, but in practice it doesn't make for good gaming.

Jonathon said...

This only occurred to me just now: the beetles that killed Gudbrand seemed quite happy to eat him after that. Could the other beetles have been been distracted by throwing food at them? Maybe nothing the party has on hand, though; I doubt uncooked beans have the same appeal.

Baron Opal said...

I thought about throwing some meat at the beetles when the third and fourth nests hatched. That's when my thought processes started moving towards retreat. I seem to remember that someone bought some dried meat, correct?

Alexis Smolensk said...

With all the blood in the air, I wouldn't count on the beetles becoming distracted from the live, moving targets in favor of dead, dried meat.

Baron Opal said...

Yes, that tactic would be better used about seven rounds ago.

Ah, hindsight.

Matthias said...

Thanks for your response, Alexis.

I wasn't thinking about any kind of psychological effect that would dictate conduct. That is why my examples were more in the vein of modifiers to skills. I would also hate that the referee impose a specific way for my character to act.

But I also don't think that we are at all times, and in all ways, in full control of what we do. So although a character should always be able to face those things she fears, I don't see inserting some advantage/disadvantage as reducing their choice, but as giving context or "color" to it.

But I agree, it must be difficult to build such a system, and it is not clear that it would help play. I just saw a certain a parallel with your character creation tables, and wondered if you had ever considered the possibility of attributing psychological trauma to PCs.