Somehow this feels like something that’s taken place at my house, with pretty much the same results.
Just do it!
Somehow this feels like something that’s taken place at my house, with pretty much the same results.
Just do it!
Richard Bartle wrote extensively about the “social contract” inherent to group games, or rather the lack of it in a recent posting.
Take, for example, role-playing. Suppose a designer created a game specifically for people who like role-playing. Hordes of role-players sign up and have a ball, but a small proportion of the MMO’s players don’t role-play. They don’t see the MMO as being “about” role-playing, or at least not about role-playing by them personally. This is a legitimate position for them to take, but their attitude can wreck the atmosphere and ruin immersion for those who do role-play. The role-players may outnumber the non-role-players a hundred to one; they may desperately want them to leave, but they have no leverage on them. They can’t do anything to annoy them; they can only be annoyed by them. It’s an argument that doesn’t move. It ends when the role-players look for somewhere else to role-play, whereupon those who don’t role-play but who like playing among role-players will follow them and the story repeats.
So what should happen here?
Really the whole thing is good, I recommend it.
The problem Richard describes exists also in tabletop RPG. Just recently a friend was describing a sort of issue about conflicting issues in her game. Her particular problem, though, was that there were too many players wanting to do exactly the same thing. This can also a problem in an MMO (camps in Lower Guk, I’m looking at you. See also the two dozen rangers all LFG.) And as hard as it is to believe, some people do not think red hair is fabulous!
But more generally, you have the people who want lots of crunch and tactical combat, and the people that want drama and interpersonal interaction while not having a lot of rules. A lot of the RPG blogs I read recommend discussing what people want to get out of the game up front, producing a social contract.
The largest number of people I’ve ever seen get on the same page with something like this is about 50, over the course of a weekend in a LARP. I think it’s instructive to look at how this was accomplished.
So these added up to some of the most engaging and fun gaming experiences I’ve ever had. They do not scale, however. Because putting a game like this is very labor intensive. All the characters must be written with individual motivations, and there is very low replay value, because much of what drives the game is the fact that there are secrets, that will come out during the course of play. The structure of the game is such that it’s both dangerous to trust people and necessary.
I have no idea how to solve this in a persistent-world MMO, nor does Richard. But I’m still driven by a vision of the 50 player, or 20 player game, adjudicated by a human, with everyone on the same page. This might be possible at a slower pace, with a digitally administered game
UPDATE: Originally I pointed to a post on Richard Google+ feed until he kindly pointed out in comments that it was on his blog too. Changed the above link to point to Richard’s blog, which I’m kind of an idiot for not seeing. A fabulously coiffed idiot, of course, but still an idiot. Though it’s also true that Richard could help out us poor redheaded fools by linking to his blog on Google+.
It’s Friday, and I’m feeling a little lazy, so I thought I would relate something that happened at our game table.
In this particular campaign, we are now 16th level, and we are planewalking. Not the normal D&D planes, but something a lot more like the Nine Princes in Amber version. Only there are regular gates, which we must find and open. Mrs. Darkwater is playing Tamsyn who is a person Of The Blood that allows her to sense and open these gates. Recently we found a Pattern, which helped us figure out where we should go next. (I was serious about the Amber thing) We’re trying to make a map, and establish some trade routes on behalf of the King in our parts.
I’m playing Lurinda Sabelaqua, an illusionist. If your Latin is good, you will note that Sabelagua is kind of Latin-ish for “Darkwater”. This might make you suspect that perhaps Lurinda has fabulous red hair, and is an elf. She does and she doesn’t.
Lurinda is in fact, one of the first characters I ever played in tabletop RPGs. She was Second Edition Illusionist. When I rolled her up, (using the 4-choose-3 method) one of my stats was a 5. No really, a 5. My die roll was two 2′s and two 1′s, of which I got to pick the best three.
But I got to put that into whatever ability score I wanted. The only thing is, under AD&D (aka Second Edition) rules, whatever ability score I put that 5 into would determine what class you could play. If you had a 5 or lower in Strength, for example, you could only be a Wizard. In Int, you could only be a fighter. In Wisdom, only a thief, Dex only a cleric. And if you put it in Con (!) you could only be an Illusionist (which was broken out from Wizard, with a quite different spell list in that day). So that’s what I did.
In that group, my first gaming group, we cross-dressed all the time. We’d roll 50-50 for character gender, because, well, why not? We’re role-playing, right? Our GM was a woman, she played all the male NPCs, so no big deal right?
So about one minute after I decided to make her an Illusionist and name her Lurinda, my friend Chuck announced that he was making a female wizard named Luinda. Oddly, this gave me a good portion of Lurinda’s personality. My reaction was, “Wait, you can’t do that, my character is an Illusionist named Lurinda!” And thus the rivalry was born. It was so much fun to snipe at each other, that years later, Chuck and I could drop back into it in an instant, much to the mortification of his wife, who had never, it seems, seen him play D&D. His kids thought it was pretty cool, though.
Also Lurinda was vain. Once she got a little money, she bought a wagon (and team) to go adventuring, and two tents. Why two? Because, silly, one’s for her clothes, so they don’t get wet.
Our GM had made a Markov chain to model the weather in his world, and one night he announced it was raining. Nobody else had even bought themselves one tent, so they all crowded into Lurinda’s tents, getting her clothes all wrinkled, wet and nasty. It was horrible, I tell you, horrible.
But Lurinda was also brave and loyal. So brave that she got caught in a Cone of Cold which one-shotted her. Constitution 5 in Second Edition was only worth -1 hit point per level, instead of the -3 it would be in 3rd Edition, and she rolled well, but she was still pretty fragile. So she died. And now the party had a problem. A Raise Dead spell had a significant chance of just flat-out failing because her Constitution score was so low. Not to mention that the spell, even if successful, would knock another point off her Con.
So they got a Reincarnation instead. A druid Reincarnation. There’s a table you checked to see just what sort of woodland creature you come back as. The DM taunted me for about two weeks with that table. He pointed out that one of the possibilities was a bugbear. This of course, would be mortifying to Lurinda.
So when the big day came, she woke up in a fury,
“You got me REINCARNATED!?!! WHY DID YOU DO THAT? I could have been ANYTHING! I could have been a BUGBEAR! OMG, give me a mirror so I can just LOOK. WhatamIwhatamiwhatami?
Oh. I’m an ELF! Well never mind then.
I still don’t know whether he cheated the die roll or not. I’m guessing yes.
But that was a long time ago. In addition to Tamsyn (Mrs Darkwaters character), we also have a barbarian, Elta, and an elf (not dark elf) with two scimitars Selena. Lurinda is a social climber and a ersatz elf, whereas Selena is actual royalty (she likes to growl, “I’m a duchess not a princess, get it right!”) and a natural-born elf. They don’t get along. It’s glorious.
So we ended up on this plane where there were dinosaurs. Lots of dinosaurs. T. Rex, gallimimus, and triceratopses. Lots of Triceratopses. Some got mad at us and tried to kill us. Unfortunately for me, spells did not work all that well on that plane, so I was limited to mostly first and second level spells. Also, all my crowd control was limited by hit dice, and the monsters were too big, so they just flat wouldn’t work. (This is a design I would not recommend, by the way. It has the “I gave you an ability, but no place where you can use it” problem) So one of the things I did was to cast Blur on Elta. Blur means that every time the target is hit by something there’s a 20 percent chance that it didn’t hit after all, because you were just slightly somewhere “else”.
We went through the whole fight with Blur being useless. Elta, being a barbarian, gets hit a lot. Mostly her defense is, more or less, “Arrgh, I’ll kill you!” Every time she got hit, I’d pipe up with, “Twenty percent miss chance!” and the DM would roll it and it wouldn’t help. Bleh. I was thinking, “this spell is useless.”
The last Trike standing (a bigger, nastier one) got a threat on Elta, which confirmed. They hit hard, the damage was rolled, it wasn’t quite enough to down Elta, but it was close. I piped in with “Twenty percent miss chance!” and by the Seer, it worked! The critical hit turned into a miss! There were high fives all around. Well, ok some of them were more metaphorical.
I don’t think it’s possible to engineer this kind of thing. This is the reason we roll dice. If we simply made up a story where Blur didn’t work until the end of the fight when it mattered most, that would seem kind of cliched and rigged. But we didn’t, it just happened that way. This is why I think I’ll keep playing tabletop games, even though I love MMOs.
I’ve rarely had that sort of drama in an MMO, either, even though they use a random element. I’ve had things be squeakers, though, where I finish a fight with no health left. But MMOs focus on action, rather than drama and suspense. As a business, focusing on making combat faster-paced was probably a good move, but it often eliminates drama. Of course, MMO devs have been trying to push drama back into their games, anyone who’s fought a dragon in GW2 knows this. Still, that’s mostly preprogrammed drama, awe-inspiring though it may be. Dragon fights in Skyrim, some of which would kill you, got a better feel.
And the story above, about Lurinda’s origin is something else that feels like it belongs to the tabletop. Somehow, the tabletop games engender far more tales about, “Do you remember that time we …” The characters are much more vivid and differentiated. MMOs are pushing in that direction, I think. Most of the people that work on them play tabletop, too.
I’m on a personal quest to figure out how to push the joy of tabletop that I know into the digital realm more. I’ve got some ideas, I need to get them down on paper. Maybe I will share more here.
Have a great weekend. May you have many adventures, and slay many dragons.
I run a D&D 4e campaign about once a month. A couple of old friends, my wife and my daughter play in it. We met last weekend. The party had a new mission – In exchange for a draconic artifact that they needed to gather, an ancient green dragon named Or’rin had asked them to take out a temple of Lolth that was near his territory. In part, this is because the priestesses were subverting the kobolds that Or’rin felt he should have absolute sway over.
What’s interesting about this run is that after the usual travel time and roleplay of character beats, things took a turn to the unexpected.
Even though the group meets face-to-face, I run them using Maptools. I love how maptools can handle line of sight and fog of war. I can put stuff on the map and have it be hidden from them. Also, it has a macro capability that allowed me to run a lot of monsters without utterly losing track of who has how many hit points and which powers and so on.
So I’d spent about 10 hours laying out the map to the temple of Lolth, which was carved into the side of a mountain. I hadn’t fully populated it, because I ran out of time. And I figured that they had to come in the front door, that was the only one, right?
So I put an encounter outside the door, so they could have a taste of combat for the day, and figured the rest of the day would be taken up in roleplay and travel.
We had some good roleplay – first, the party stopped by to check on some Rage Drake eggs that were about to hatch, and which they hoped to turn into mounts. So they were present for the hatching so that they could each imprint on a hatchling. Gnf, the gnome wizard, tried speaking Draconic to his, but he rolled badly and the hatchling widdled on him.
After this and some other roleplay, the party got to the Forest of Wyrms (yes, I’m using the Forgotten Realms map), and did some scouting. During the scouting, the Ranger Aprilane said, “Hey, didn’t we have a scroll of Control Insect?”
About that scroll. Many levels ago, the party was charged with transporting a shipment of gold from one city to another. A group of thieves tried to steal the gold by subverting an entire colony of Giant Ants to carry away the gold at night. The scroll was the explanation for how they did that. As in, I made it up. D&D 4e doesn’t even recognize the category “insect”.
I arbitrarily assigned the level of the ritual to be 12. After all, controlling insects wasn’t something I wanted the then-4th-level party doing on a regular basis.
As it turns out, the party is now level 12. In particular Gnf, the wizard who can cast rituals, is level 12. So he learned it, and they started scouring the Forest for insects.
This was something of a crisis point for me. The adventure had come off the rails a bit, but they were worried about assaulting a temple, and some extra cannon-fodder wouldn’t be a big deal, right? Right?
I kind of believe in having plans AND in improvising. So I figured, we’ll take this idea and run with it. I scanned through the Monster Manual for insects that I thought might be found in the area, and rolled some chance of which the ranger could find.
I came up with Stirges (mosquitos, right?), various beetles, and Kruthiks. I figured they’d go for stirges, since the swarm of stirges was the highest level – 9th, and so had some chance of dealing damage on “level-appropriate” encounters.
But then they started talking about digging holes into the temple. I looked more closely at the Kruthiks. It says here that the adults have a movement mode of “burrow 3 (tunneling)”. Looking this up in the glossary, I found that they could go half speed through hard rock.
So, every round, with 2 movement actions, these Kruthiks can carve three squares through solid rock. And Gnf has the means to control them for 24 hours.
He managed to target and control the Hive Lord, and so despite the fact that he had direct control of only a third of the others, the rest of them followed the Hive Lord to protect him. So we now had a horde amassed of 12 adults, 14 young, and 21 hatchling Kruthiks, one half-orc fighter, one drow fighter (their liaison with Or’rin), one half-elf bard, one human ranger and a Kalimshite avenger, dedicated to destroying the enemies of Selune, along with the Hive Lord and a gnome wizard riding him.
They then made a 10 hour hike over some low mountains, to avoid detection, and commenced tunneling. I gave this a visual representation in my map below. Bear in mind they knew only where the entrance to the Temple was. Oh yes, they had recruited some goblins to play tricks on the perimeter guards at just the right time, so they were distracted and had little chance to notice the Horde. You see, the bard has hung out with goblins a LOT, and knows just how to impress them and befriend them.
They dug through, round by round, with me laying down a different texture and removing the vision blocking layer that represented the stone walls. After maybe 10 rounds they broke through! This was the picture:
Not exactly state-of-the-art graphics. Red diamonds indicate Kruthiks under control, red dots distinguish adults from young. The smaller ones are hatchlings.
I tell this story because it’s fun. And I want to illustrate why tabletop is still interesting to me in these days of Skyrim. Don’t get me wrong, I love Skyrim. I want to play it with other people. I don’t know that it’s possible though to do the sort of improvisation in a computer game that’s possible when there’s a GM. Of course, that’s what makes PvP games so interesting to their audience – there’s another person there, and they might do anything.
I want to build this kind of game up. Some claim the tabletop game is dying. Wizards of the Coast has admitted to be working on D&D Next, and they are making a virtual tabletop part of the whole deal. I don’t have a lot of confidence in their ability to produce good software though. It’s hard to do even for companies where it’s their core business.
But I want the live GM aspect of tabletop gaming to remain. And so I want tools that enhance a person’s ability to tell a story, not tools that eliminate the need of a GM. It’s perhaps a subtle difference.
I haven’t been posting much, because I’ve been playing Skyrim so much. I’ve had epic battles with dragons. I’ve taken an arrow in the knee and remained an adventurer. I’ve wondered if “arrow in the knee” was a reference to a certain filthy German phrase, fick dich doch ins Knie. (No, I’m not going to translate it for you.) I’ve destroyed the Dark Brotherhood. I’ve joined the Imperial Legion and crushed the rebellious Stormcloaks and negotiated a truce between the Legion and the Stormcloaks so that I could save the freaking world! And all of this with but the merest toss of my fabulous red hair.
Also, I have listened to Phritz’ tales of running his young half-orc through adventures. I am personally acquainted with this particular aspiring barbarian, which makes it extra entertaining. Phritz has a long history of this, being the one to initiate my own two offspring into the mysteries of tabletop RPG.
So I am greatly amused to read ChattyDM describing how he invented an RPG to play with his 10 year old orc.
And as you [the orc -Toldain] pass below the murder holes, you hear a gargled scream of pain as a very crisp, very fried and very dead goblin falls to the floor behind you. Seems to me someone tripped on the burning oil cauldron
(Laughter) Bersork takes pieces of the fried goblin.
Ewwww, you do? Why?
Orcs LOVE fried goblins daddy!
When Nico told me this little crunchy morsel (pun intended) about Castle Death’s setting, I wanted to jot it down so I could refer to it in a later game (with or without Bersork). So I reached out, picked an index card, wrote “Truths” on it and wrote: “Fried goblins is the finest of Orcish delicacies”.
I have nothing else to add.
I take it back. There’s always something to be said. Well, in this case it’s a picture from Skyrim. It’s the College of Winterhold during a snowstorm. I fought a dragon in this spot. I was too busy not dying to take a screenshot then, though.
But it totally COULD be Castle Death!
UPDATE: I initially did the calculations using the wrong figures for Sorcerer Chaos Bolt bounce damage. Both weapon pluses and the Sorcerer secondary attribute bonus are added to the bounces. In addition, the secondary attribute bonus gains +2 at paragon tier. This makes the Sorcerer stack up very, very well, though the Ranger and Avenger still beat it on the difficult targets.
In a bit of a departure, I’m going to talk about tabletop RPG, and I’m going to indulge my love of math and graphs and analytics. You have been warned.
Both Ameron and Sndwurks of Dungeon’s Master have claimed that the Avenger class is “broken”. Ameron wrote “Avenger – worst striker ever” last March. I thought comments to that post had pretty effectively rebutted the claim, until recently Sndwurks posted a redesign of the Avenger class.
We engage in redesign or tweaks of classes all the time, so I have no issue with that. By all means, people should not play classes they don’t like, and feel free to fiddle with them to get classes they do like.
But I have a problem with the idea that Avengers are “broken” – meaning that they don’t acheive the damage output that other striker classes, particularly the Rogue and the Ranger, do. I think this is mistaken. So, I made a spreadsheet and a bunch of graphs. (I told you this post was going to be geeky!)
This post is going to cover the math. In the graphs below, I look at damage output of Rogues, Rangers, Avengers, Barbarians, Warlocks and Sorcerers.
I present graphs of damage per Standard Action (DPS) versus the roll needed to hit the mob. I think that mostly pluses to hit even out between the classes. There may be a few exceptions to this, but they will be relatively easy to deal with after the fact.
Arcane classes don’t get the proficiency bonus to their attack modifier, but they generally attack defenses other than AC, which means that these effects tend to cancel each other out. It isn’t perfect, but that’s the assumption we’re going with. For now.
In the scenarios below, I’ve generally assumed no feats are chosen to that add damage. I think these feats generally even out between the classes, and their effect is usually pretty easy to incorporate. Ability modifiers are assumed to be 5 in heroic tier and 6 in Paragon tier. The Paragon tier graphs assume that characters have picked up another +2 to damage (other than magic weapons/implements) somewhere along the line.
All damage calculations are based on using the expected value of any die roll. So Rogues are assumed to use a Short Sword (1d6 = 3.5) plus 2d6 (=7), plus Ability modifier damage (5).
Barbarians and Avengers are modeled with Greatsword. Greataxe is arguably better, but the proficiency modifier is one smaller. That can be modeled as a tax of 5% of damage output, that makes Greataxe damage output equal to .95*(6.5+5)=10.95 versus Greatsword = 5.5+5 = 10.5. High crit makes it a little better still, but the effect is pretty small. Barbarians use Devastating Strike, which adds an additional 1d8(4.5) damage to every hit. Avengers use Oath of Enmity, which allows them to roll twice and use the better roll, including crits.
Warlocks use Eldritch Blast plus their Curse (1d10(5.5) + Ability(5)+1d6(3.5)).
Sorcerors use Chaos Bolt and add a second ability score. I assumed that the second ability modifier was equal to 3. I think such builds are possible. Chaos Bolt will bounce when an even number is rolled and attack a nearby target, dealing 1d6(3.5) damage on a hit, with a possibility of further bounces. No target may be hit more than once. This is (1/2 + 1/4 + …)*3.5 = 3.5, assuming there are enough targets. But there aren’t enough targets, so we’ll call the damage contribution from bounces 2, which is roughly equivalent to saying there’s an average of two extra targets.
For Rangers, we face two separate questions. First, should we use melee attacks, for which scimitar is the best one-handed (all Rangers dual wield, right?) or do we use longbow with its superior damage? Second, do we Twin Strike or not?
The math works out like this: let
W be weapon damage, including any magical plusses, etc. that would be counted on both damage rolls of a Twin Strike,
Ph be the probability of a hit,
A be the Abiility score modifier,
HQ be Hunters Quarry damage, and
MHQ be (1-Ph)*HQ.
For maximum damage output, Rangers should use Twin Strike instead of any other At-Will power (or Basic Ranged Attack) when W+MHQ is greater than A. That is if the weapon damage, plus the proportion of Hunter’s Quarry that you aren’t going to lose is bigger than the rangers Ability score modifier. Here’s a chart of MHQ and W+MHQ for Heroic and Paragon tiers.
As the caption says, rangers should pretty much always use Twin Strike. For a longbow, which is what’s shown, W+MHQ starts out at slightly over 5 and improves as targets become more difficult, because taking two shots gives you a greater chance of dealing HQ damage. At paragon tier, W+MHQ starts at 8, assuming only a +2 weapon. Do you think an ability score modifier is going to be 9 at paragon tier? I don’t. With a scimitar, W+MHQ starts at 4, not 5, so it might be the case that the easiest targets should be attacked with something else, but it’s not going to matter much.
The second issue is which weapon to choose for the Ranger, longbow or scimitar. (They’re going to be dual wielding, so scimitar is the clear melee choice.) Longbow has more base damage (1d10 vs 1d8) but scimitar is high crit, dealing 1d8 extra damage on a critical hit. Here’s the chart:
Longbow wins over Scimitar. Any pluses to damage apply equally to both weapons, typically. No particular Ranger can switch like this between weapons, because they use different ability scores. (Unless they have twin 16′s or something.) Both builds are fine builds to play. But for purposes of comparison with other striker classes we want to put the Ranger’s best foot forward, and that best foot is Twin Strike longbow.
Ok, that’s all the preliminaries. Now for actual data. First with non-magical weapons, like you might be a first level.
There’s no real big winner, but the Ranger is at the top of the pack. The Avenger is below par for the easiest third of targets, but after that climbs to the top on the hardest targets. If you’re saying to yourself, “but those never come up”, I’ll address that later. This is just the data.
Soon characters get magic weapons. Magic weapons are modeled by adding 1 to damage, and an extra 1d6(3.5) of critical damage per magic plus. Just for fun, let’s look at some +2 magic weapons, appropriate for higher heroic tier.
The Twin Shot longbow Ranger has now emerged from the pack. This isn’t spelled out directly in the PH, but pluses to damage add to all damage rolls and since the attacks in Twin Strike are rolled separately, each damage is a damage roll. So they count twice.
The Avenger with Oath has caught up, being slightly behind only on those targets needing only a 2 to hit. Rolling twice means an Avenger is never actually missing these targets. Everyone else (except the Ranger) has those “I rolled a 1″ moments. Additionally, the Avenger, like the Ranger, is getting a lot more criticals. So the Avenger is at the top of the pack on the harder targets.
The Barbarian is the laggard. However, the extra damage die of the Barbarian is built-in, it does not depend on any circumstance or positioning. it does not have to be set up, it can’t be taken away by any normal means, so that’s probably an ok tradeoff.
The Ranger in one campaign I run has a Vicious longbow +2. Vicious weapons deal an extra 1d12(6.5) per plus on a critical hit, rather than 1d6. So let’s model that.
This doesn’t change things much relative to each other, other than boosting the Ranger and the Avenger, who make two rolls per standard action, doubling the chance of a critical hit.
Let’s look now at paragon tier. I assume that key ability scores are now providing +6 to damage, and that the Sorcerer has boosted his secondary as well, giving him +10. I also add another +2 to damage for things like Weapon Focus and damage type specialization. Sneak Attack does 3d6(10.5), Hunters Quarry and Curse do 2d6(7). Devastating Strike add now 2d8(9) damage. Can the Avenger keep up?
Yes, it can. The Ranger continues to excel, but the Avenger is right there in the pack on the easiest target, and matches the Ranger on the difficult targets. The big surprise for this tier is the Barbarian. Because he gets extra damage in d8′s instead of d6′s, it starts to tell.
We haven’t discussed either the effect of tactics and cooperation, or the difficulty of enemies. That will have to wait for another post. Looking at these graphs, I’d have to say the Avenger is working as intended, and not broken at all. If anything is broken, it’s the Twin Striking Ranger.
That’s all for now.
There’s nothing to be said about this. They have more videos, too.
Posting has been sparse, but gaming hasn’t. I thought I’d give a quick once-over of the gaming I’ve been doing.
The other is a mage who uses Domination powers and has fabulous red hair. Figuring out his name is an exercise left to the reader. This has been fun, since the control aspects are a kind of gameplay I like. Fighting multiple opponents this way is a lot like juggling.
I tried several times to win a game with Rameses that focused on building wonders more than killing everyone. I did not find this to be possible. I’m taking a break from this now.
It’s pretty clear that it’s going to continue to be difficult for me to play much Eve Online, despite how much I like it. As an economic building/trading/selling game, it has no equal. But it requires a lot of time in predictable chunks, and my time does not seem to come in predictable chunks.
A cleric, or a fighter, or a