Friday, March 12, 2010

Making Boring Interesting

There are reasons to keep track of encumbrance and lighting and rations. If you don't, PCs with 8 strength can carry every weapon they find on a dead enemy forever, anybody can chuck endless flaming lamp oil at monsters, and nobody ever has to kill a bugbear for meat. You can't run a survivalist-style session if you don't.

But it is boring.

In the middle of writing a comment to Jeff's post on the subject, I had an idea.

Basically, tie checks for "maintenance" stuff to things that will happen at the table anyway. A table specific to your table. Basically, you make a drinking game out of the actual sitcom of your gaming group.

This is mad old school, since it injects some of that player skill rather than character skill into PC survival.

Mine would go like this...

One of the following things happens to the PC...

-PC's lamp or torch goes out.

-PC must roll a strength check or be exhausted by the amount of stuff s/he is carrying.

-PC must roll a con check or get debilitatingly hungry (-1 on things) until s/he eats.

Every time that PC's player does any of these things in a non-combat stiuation...

-Rolls a fumble in a non-combat check that otherwise would have no consequences.

-Drops dice, minis, or any game-material on the floor.

-Idly leafs throught the PHB looking for stuff their PC wil be able to do once she levels up.

-Texts at the table.

-Talks about her (real life) pet--or anyone else's.

Whether you tell your players you're doing this is entirely up to you. In my case, I guess I just did.


  1. I like to incentivize flaws, which is part of how the new World of Darkness works. If you have, lets say, one eye? Your game play is normal, UNTIL you or the DM go "it is hard to aim!" & it actually effects the story-- when it does, they get rewarded. In WoD it is with XP, but I've seen things like-- well, in Mouse Guard you could be "Fat." & that can work as a boon ("Oh I am too Fat for the snake to swallow whole!" or "I'm not actually that cold, I'm insulated with Fat"-- mind you, these are mice) or a flaw ("I can't escape through the secret passage, I'm too Fat!"). Using it as a boon taps it, & using it as a flaw re-energizes it.

    Same sort of idea.

  2. Only it's not automatic. The DM has to remember it.

  3. What if it turns into a real drinking game?

    You won't be able to move around your apartment because of the six inches of dice and figs on the floor, your PHBs will be in tatters, Twitter will collapse as it's overwhelmed...

    Cats & dogs living together...

  4. Now this is interesting. I like the idea of connecting out-of-game events to in-game events, but I wonder what happens when the players learn that there's something else going on, and start to play the meta-system. I suppose you just change the trigger conditions.

    Of course, you might just be taking the piss, so apologies if I've missed the joke. :/

  5. Hmm...too dangerous with my current crop of players. The potential for meta-gaming would get out of hand pretty quickly and with the amount of time some of them get side tracked we'd be rolling every ten minutes.

    Now in truth I exaggerate and its also true that not all the groups I play with would function that way but I think I'd rather just leave the boring stuff out for now.

  6. This is a little bit like how Squad Leader abstracted situations where somebody had limited ammo or fuel. You don't count gallons, but every time the tank moves, you roll a die to see if that's the last time. Or instead of having your weapon "jam" on boxcars, now it'll happen on 10+, and abstract away exactly what "jam" means.

    I've been thinking of doing this this way for a while, even for keeping track of arrows.

    Borrowing from another board game (Voyage of the BSM Pandora), I've even been toying with having parties spend gold on abstract "resources/provisions" points that can then be spent as needed to conjure supplies. Need to climb the cliff, but missed the roll by one? Use a resources point to say you have some pitons and a hammer. Just lump a whole bunch of boring necessaries into a one resource: lighting, food, bandages, rope, etc. and find ways to either trigger depletion or expend resources to make up for failed die rolls.

  7. I've tried doing similar things to keep down the out of character banter during the game session, but penalizing their player characters for it almost never ever went well. Actually never went well at all.

    I like using cards for equipment. The basic idea is I keep a stack of cut index cards and as characters gather stuff they write down the name and weight of the loot and hang on to it. If they lose the cards in between games then tough shit for them haha. As they gain more loot, they just add the weight to their total.

  8. mike--
    like i said, it's up to you whether you tell the players you're doing this. if you don't, it's not a mechanism for cutting down table talk, it's just a handy way to remember to do encubrance, etc.

  9. Like.

    Suddenly my "if the die goes on the floor, then it's counted as a 1" rule is something other than mere anal retentive bullying. :)

  10. I am enjoying Barbarians of Lemuria more and more these days. Give the characters what they want, then let them deal with the fallout.
    The career system itself lends to endless roleplaying encounters and conundrums.

    Basically there are no classes, players hit the ground running with various degrees of ability in careers. Alchemists, Scribes, Dancing Girls, Serving Wenches, Mercenaries, Pirates, etc, etc.

    I run it as if Glen Cook (in Black Company mode), Fritz Leiber, Clark Ashton Smith and Lord Dunsany put their heads together to write their version of The Hobbit.

    Weird, gritty, phantasmagoric, but never boring.

  11. I dunno, I never remember it-- but the players who are harmed/benefited by it remember, & remind me. I'm a big fan of shopping out my labor to the players.