Saturday, December 26, 2015

Eero Tuovinen Is My Hero (Part III)

Eero Tuovinen has this to say on "optimizing at the expense of a robust and compelling fiction", e.g. by "swinging some sort of a pole-marmoset-flint knife combo platter in a customized effort to keep my character safe":

[T]o me the ideal of beautiful and powerful play in an organically developing Gamist game with heavy focus on positioning, such as this style of D&D, is to grasp with determination at a subject matter and challenge proposition that you find compelling; the question is not whether you could win at a GM's obstacle course by stacking rules and positioning to your favour, the question is whether you can triumph against a challenge chosen and internalized by yourself within the fictional constraints, partially unspoken, that determine whether your play is petty or compelling. Not whether you can build a knight that can slay a dragon, but whether a knight as per your understanding of knighthood can slay a dragon.

From this perspective we find that the actual tactical and strategic choices the players make and feel most strongly come about as a combination of two elements that reinforce each other: is what you're doing compelling as a fictional proposition, and is it smart (or effective, equivalently) as a move? In this context the oft-cited D&D attitude of maximizing your effectiveness for the sake of party success is irrelevant, and it is much more relevant to make room for an individual player's character image, the personal constraints they choose for their challenge: this guy [...] wants to triumph without resorting to underhanded tricks, this one wants to play a naive greenhorn, this one's playing a fatalist who is seeking his own death... All of these can be played in effective ways that are also compelling rather than flimsy in terms of fictive credibility.
I find the knighthood example particularly apt because my group has had discussions about the viability of playing an honor-bound, never-back-down-in-the-face-of-evil paladin in our old school campaign.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Becoming a Killer DM: Owning Up

Yesterday, I fucked up and ruined the integrity of our campaign. Now I'm trying to restore it.


The party confronted a major monster. The monster's description said it would probably talk to the characters even though that meant giving away all but certain surprise.

Stepping on a slippery slope that would prove my downfall, I gave the monster an insanely high initiative so it could maintain its advantage while still talking to the characters.

When hostilities erupted, one player actually beat the monster's initiative anyway, then rolled well on a spell casting roll, and then rolled spectacularly well on damage.

Behind the screen, I silently added +20 hp to the monster's hit points to prevent it from dying on the spot. OUCH!


I have some excuses, all of them bad, and some thoughts on how to foster the kind of mental hygiene espoused by Eero Tuovinen. Dunno if I'll get around to posting them next week.

In any case, my first fix is to own up to cheating.

For next week – the party is still in the middle of the fight --, I'd like to proceed as follows:

The monster's new and improved stats and abilities remain unchanged.

The permanent damage the monster has done up to this point is revoked (i.e. one player character regains two points of Luck and a valued henchman is not teleported away after all).

I hope to get things back on track.