Sunday, June 22, 2014

Boredom Is Its Own Balance

Note: If you're here because of "stubbazubba" on Reddit, you should know stubbazubba's just angry because he is or is like one of the offended min/maxers in the comments below. You can read and judge whether I'm being unfair.

What sutbbazubba calls a "tantrum" is me enforcing the rules you have to enforce in order to have
a blog that gets thousands of comments per day: 1) Don't suffer fools who didn't read the post 2) If someone asks a question, you answer it and don't dodge it. If you don't do that, the
comments become meaningless spam.

It is worth pointing out that there is an overt lie in stubbazubba's Reddit comment: I never claim to want a " a volatile board full of insults and intense arguments" I want a smart board full of people who answer questions about their argument when asked and never ever make personal attacks. Once someone fails to answer a question, however, they're demonstrating bad faith and they become a chewtoy. People who evade questions destroy all rational debate, and you can go ahead and call them whatever.

If you agree in any way with stubbazubba, feel free to leave a comment below and I will,
as always, address it and answer any questions you have.

 Now, on to the blog entry that has poor stubbazubba so exercised:

Consider this piece of equipment/rule:

Musical Instrument (small): 
This could be any old musical instrument you can carry: a violin, bagpipes, a triangle, whatever. Playing a musical instrument requires a dexterity check. Successfully playing the instrument gives you a bonus to reaction/charisma rolls with nonhostile beings able to appreciate music. Failure gives you a minus.

Now, right off there are people who'll tell you Musical Instrument (small) is wretchedly broken. Why? Because for a small price, any character with a dex over 10 can buy a piece of equipment which will give them a bonus to their charisma checks more than half the time. So (they say) half of all PCs (or more than half if you do anything but 3d6-in-order) will buy instruments and so will half of all NPCs. The upside is mechanically superior to the downside in a predictable way, and the price is an amount of gp that's negligible for any PC who has had any adventures. Period. It's a good deal--why wouldn't they take it?

Then every group is at least half musicians even if their characters are supposed to be badass Conans and austere sorcerers and various other individuals of the non-ordinarily-lute-wielding persuasion.

Now the people who'd say this are awful.

Why? Because nobody who's ever played a game would think that. Because it ignores the fact that hardly anyone is going to go to all the trouble to have their character play a fiddle if they don't want a character who plays the fiddle. It's not like you have to just say "I play the fiddle" you have to, like, talk to villagers and say what you're playing and hear jokes about the damn fiddle and, in general, take precious minutes out of the 2-4 hours they get to spend playing D&D to talk about music and villagers and trying to acquire henchmen instead of talking about sunlight falling on their steel as the bloodmist-thickened wind writhes in their ears.

If you get a fiddle it's because you want to do that. And that's fine.

And anyone who is going to do all that--someone who is going to play through a scene they don't want to play through just to get a mechanical advantage--is a boring person with no sense of style who you should kick out of your game.

And this pretty much goes for all kinds of supposedly unbalancing tactics in the game.

Yes, a balanced game is about trading that advantage for this resource: but the ultimate reward is fun and the ultimate resource is the players' time. If a player cannot see that they play for every characters' every maneuver is paid for in this most precious and unrecoverable of commodities, they are hopeless no matter what system they're in.
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48 comments:

  1. "Now the people who'd say this are awful."

    Exactly. This is the sort of second guessing, look out of lawyers and loopholes kind of design I just don't want to do anymore. The epiphany actually came to me in the middle of a panel at a convention. Someone was asking a bullshitty question about some crazy loophole that no one I'd ever let in a game would consider and I said, "I don't want to design games for assholes anymore." It was supposed to be one of the defining hallmarks of 5e, but I don't know if that happened. But it is basically where the philosphy for the Numenera rules came from.

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    1. Next time you're in LA I owe you a drink.

      Delete
  2. Monte said bullshitty. I can go to bed happy. We need a t-shirt. ;p

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  3. First off, Monte's comment is awesome!

    I do need to add - and please don't misconstrue this as any kind of counter-argument, because I'm in total agreement with you - that the problem doesn't always lie with the player. I've seen referee styles that encourage these kinds of decisions. In a game where you literally can just say "I play the fiddle", or where that's not even required in the case of a flat bonus rather than an additional skill check, this would be an issue. That's their problem, though, and they can either alter the game or playstyle, or find a game that better suits them. There's certainly no requirement that you need to design games that appeal to any particular group other than those you want

    Also, people are generally risk-averse (though this may not be the case with gamers), so fewer people would be tempted to take such an option

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  4. I totally agree with the main thrust of your post - "because it ignores the fact that hardly anyone is going to go to all the trouble to have their character play a fiddle if they don't want a character who plays the fiddle." (and anyone who would is a person you probably shouldn't game with.)

    But I don't quite agree that this applies to all forms of imbalance in the rules. Some choices are actually pretty neutral in their effect on your character concept, and it's boring and bad for the game if those all end up the same way. Like, if the greatsword is the best weapon and Sleep is the best spell pound for pound, some fighters will still use spears and axes and some wizards will still cast Magic Missile for reasons of concept. But players generally like to succeed, so the players whose concepts don't mandate what weapons or spells they should be using will gravitate to the unbalanced ones, and when every fighter who isn't spesifically going for something different is using a greatsword, I for one think that's a bit annoying even though any one greatsword-wielder is perfectly well and good in himself.

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    1. "But I don't quite agree that this applies to all forms of imbalance in the rules. "
      WELL THEN IT SURE IS A GOOD THING I DIDN'T SAY "THIS APPLIES TO ALL FORMS OF IMBALANCE IN THE RULES" ISN'T IT, MARTIN?

      ISN'T IT, MARTIN?

      ISN'T IT, MARTIN?

      ISN'T IT?

      Delete
    2. When I am tempted to grouse about the prevalence of greatsword-wielders, I have to think about what weapons are taught in manuals of arms, and what weapons were actually used by those who could choose what they were using.

      If I'm possibly going up against somebody in plate armor (and wearing plate harness myself), you bet I want a pollaxe, a bastard sword, and a poniard, plus maybe a warhammer as a backup weapon. Because in real life those really are the ideal weapons for my opponent, and I suspect most well-off late-fifteenth-century Italian men-at-arms would have made the same choice.

      And frankly, if you know how to use a spadone (bastard sword), it's pretty decent against any sort of opponent, except maybe a mass of spear/polearm wielders. So what if the mechanics of your favorite are biased towards German styles rather than Italian styles and favor the zweihander (greatsword) a bit more than I think is realistic?

      Or I just switch to a ruleset that does d6 for all attacks, or dHD for all attacks, or otherwise models things the way I like.

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    3. Haven't seen a disproportionate # of greatsword wielders
      http://dndwithpornstars.blogspot.com/2013/02/the-right-tools-for-job.html

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    4. It comes about in the original AD&D rules, when you decide to use all the armor bonuses, but haven't started using initiative and don't have a rule which allows you extra hits against really slow people. I seem to remember it was countered by strictly enforcing the amount of space required to use a two handed sword and/or halberd. I remember it being a problem in the era before the DMs guide came out as we were freeballing the combat rules piece meal.

      Delete
  5. I like games where everyone plays a musical instrument. Like Wampus. Gives a lovely 18th century feel to the whole thing.
    Aside from that yes, to your substantive point. My 12yo is discovering games and going through munchkinism because
    (a) he can't see the edges of the box so he has to feel for them
    (b) he hates to lose.
    I expect him to grow out of it. If he still does it in a few years when he _can_ see the shape and implications of a game design, then I'll worry

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  6. This is just more anti-bard propaganda masquerading as game theory! I see what you're up to...

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  7. If your players are boring and they use it repetitively, the DM is boring too, for putting an item that rewards boring behavior in the game. Give out items that reward non-boring actions.
    It's hard to say which one is more boring, an item that gives you a passive bonus, or an item that gives you a bonus through doing something. At least you can kinda forget the first one. But with the second one you might remember to create complications because it's brought up constantly.

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    1. I don't see why you'd bother to discriminate between players and GM. If _anyone_ is participating in scenes they don't want to just in order to get a mechanical bonus, _someone is being boring and should not be in the group_

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    2. The _opportunity_ to be bring is always there and is nobody's fault. It's going ahead and doing the boring thing that's bad.

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    3. Why is it boring for the intrepid adventurers to want to improve their chances of success in their high risk career by doing everything they can, up to and including adding "wandering minstrel band" to their resume, to improve their chances of success with frequently hostile strangers?

      Why is that boring? Why is it bad or wrong to improve your chances of success at your chosen career or goal through every rules-legal option?

      (why can't people differentiate between munchkinism, power gaming, and min maxing?)

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    4. Did you even read the thing you're commenting on?

      If the players WANT to play a wandering minstrel band it's good. If they don't and are just doing it for the mechanical bonus it's boring.

      That is why.

      Delete
  8. I loved that the 13 dwarves in the Hobbit book each had musical instruments and different hoods. I don't recall if they played to enamor some onlooker at any point but their music sure had an effect on Bilbo.

    As for the rule, there's also an opportunity cost in carrying the weight of the instrument, taking up character sheet space, and mental space when considering your equipment and trying to figure out how to get out of this damn pit trap. In return it offers a fragile tool that has only a few different uses. The bigger question would be, would you rather have that violin or a dozen iron spikes or an extra week of rations?

    Next, the rule is great for offering a cool way to use Dex in social situations. It lets a character with high Dex have a small impact on his Cha roll. If the rule were "You can use Dex instead of Cha ..." it would be 3E supplement-style overpowered and weird.

    Plus it won't work to keep someone from attacking you, only to make someone more likely to like you if they're neutral or better. Let's take the most useful example I can think of: a player is attracting henchmen and strides through town blasting the place with his completely metal music. Townsfolk scramble about securing their daughters and admonishing their sons, all of whom are straining to peek out upper-story windows at this guitarist in bloody platemail shredding in the street. He throws down a pile of well-used spears and bellows: "We slay dragons! Gold if you live, fame if you die!" I'd give that +1 to the hiring roll.

    Maybe not if he wandered around dingling his triangle. Dunno.

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  9. Whoa!

    I must admit I was a bit sloppy there. Technically you didn't say "all forms of imbalance."

    What you did say was

    "And this pretty much goes for all kinds of supposedly unbalancing tactics in the game."

    My wording was meant to be basically equivalent to that, but of course it wasn't. At any rate that's what I was speaking to, and I think my examples and my objection can still stand in that context? I didn't mean to attack an overgeneralizing strawman.

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  10. hey zak instead of booting a boring player do you know any tricks to wean them off said boring behavior? (it sounds more agressive than i meant it too)

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    1. If a person is someone you value as a human being despite them being a boring player then you probably have (or should have) a relationship with that person that extends outside the game table.
      In that case, you should probably be able to deal with them the way you would with any friend you are trying to get to realize their behavior is destructive to a common goal: leverage that person's desire to have fun with your mutual friends to build an understanding of a common goal (fun) and try to explain that you think their choices are not leading to that for them or anybodyt else.

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    2. sound advice thank you(and quick lol)

      Delete
  11. It's the hell of the "perfect build" RPG mentality, which has largely turned me off to build-type chargen... the idea that there is a 'perfect' character one can play that will be ideal for every situation the DM poses. Which, goes without saying, is bullshittery.

    It's the same with Holmes Basic/OD&D, with d6 for all weapons and monster attacks and the resultant squealing about lack of mechanics for wielding a broadsword vs. a bludgeon.

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    1. "the idea that there is a 'perfect' character one can play that will be ideal for every situation the DM poses."
      I have never heard any advocate of build chargen say anything remotely like that.
      Optimizers choose a specialization and build toward that specialization--they don't see full spectrum dominance.

      Delete
    2. Some mistaken novice minmaxers do, and it is kind of my personal inclination to build generalists in games I'm new to.

      But no, an optimized character shouldn't try to be perfect in all areas. However, a game should give all characters *something* they can do to advance their side's goals in all areas, which is something a lot of modern games still lack, and something that old games almost institutionally lack (perhaps based on the assumption that DMs would fiat ways for characters to contribute)

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    3. All games I've ever seen do give all characters *something* they can do to advance their side's goals in all areas.
      You are incorrect.

      Delete
  12. These distinctions of "boring" or not are, sadly, relative.

    A lot of us started out playing RPGs as kids - and a lot of childhood rowdiness and one-up-man-ship influenced our most formative game experiences and what we considered fun.

    Some people carry this mentality into their adult gaming - I was (and occasionally still am) guilty of terrible min/maxing to exert power in the game - so I have a lot of sympathy for people who are, or play with, power-gamers.

    For me, the change came when I realized that there was more fun to be had in slipping into a fun character and experience tense situations and the joy of failure - rather than crushing monsters (and sometimes my fellow PCs) and leveling up.

    I can't even explain how that happened, but over time I became a much less "boring" player. I'm glad my friends didn't give up on me.

    Sadly a lot of games (and I mean gaming groups, not rules) scare "less-boring" players away when certain situations arise. E.G. when really cool characters are swiftly and routinely butchered while "boring" characters continually survive - coming up during 2.5 edition D&D, 3e Shadowrun, and WoD, I saw this happen a lot.

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  13. Boringness is not balance, boringness is a way to disincentivize certain behaviours. If an option is so superior that everyone able to should take it (ie, a musical instrument that gives a bonus on interactions if a dex test is passed, which doesn't require, say, ranks in perform) then it unbalanced, because the benefit (bonus on interactions) outweighs the drawbacks (...none, except adventurers all have hobo-fiddles now).

    While this sort of thing might anecdotally non-problematic, in that a lot of people won't care enough to take it even if it is superior, or a lot of people will not take it due to reasons of character, on paper, it is unbalanced.

    If you're making a game as a product, then you should go out of your way to make things as balanced as you can, because not everyone is you and your group, there may be people who buy your game and are forced into the choice of "play with people I consider assholes, or not play at all," who need to be able to expect a certain level of balance.

    If you're making a game for just you and your friends, then fill your boots with whatever makes you happy.

    But those are two very different things, and while this might work for, say, your own game that you just run for your friends, Zak, it should not be the hallmark of, say, Numernera, which was kickstarted for half a million dollars by people who I can guarantee are not a homogenous mass and most likely include people Monte would consider assholes.

    Finally, there is nothing wrong with min maxing, and to min max is, at least in certain games, actually more realistic than not. Imagine you are Conan, or whoever, and you make a living by going around and interacting with strangers and occasionally killing them when it's necessary. If you do not do everything you can to improve your interactions with strangers and ability to kill them when such is necessary, you are objectively not doing your "job" the best you can. If you're a solo adventurer, whatever, it's your funeral, but if you're part of a group, then the fighter relies on the bard being the best Face they can be, and the bard relies on the fighter being the best fighter they can be, and for either to not build the best character and take all the superior options they can is to to their jobs poorly and in such a way that might lead to the death or either or both of them.

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    1. You first paragraph reads like you didn't read the thing you're commenting on.

      "If an option is so superior that everyone able to should take it (ie, a musical instrument that gives a bonus on interactions if a dex test is passed, which doesn't require, say, ranks in perform) then it unbalanced, because the benefit (bonus on interactions) outweighs the drawbacks (...none, except adventurers all have hobo-fiddles now). "

      It's NOT unbalanced because nobody who didn't want to play a guy with a fiddle would take it unless they were a douche and douches don't get to play.

      "If you're making a game as a product, then you should go out of your way to make things as balanced as you can, because not everyone is you and your group,"

      Incorrect for an obvious reason: nobody who isn't me needs to play my game. If they want it, take it, if they don't, then they can play one of the many other games on the market.

      " there may be people who buy your game and are forced into the choice of "play with people I consider assholes, or not play at all,"

      There's never a good reason to play with assholes, regardless of ruleset--unless there's a tournament--in which case, use a different system.

      "But those are two very different things, and while this might work for, say, your own game that you just run for your friends, Zak, it should not be the hallmark of, say, Numernera, which was kickstarted for half a million dollars by people who I can guarantee are not a homogenous mass and most likely include people Monte would consider assholes."

      Monte is not your performing monkey: the assholes in the audience deserve to suffer for being assholes. Even if they put money into the kickstarter.

      Your min/maxing idea is silly because min/maxing involves adjusting numbers _unique to the system_ not _unique to the setting_ (i.e. it rewards mastery of the game system--which is privileges people with time on their hands to read the game). Minmaxed character have no better chance of survival in a well-run game because fictional positioning is more important than that shit.

      You have to address these problems in your next comment or you won't be allowed to comment again.

      Delete
  14. "You first paragraph reads like you didn't read the thing you're commenting on."

    I confess, I skim things online, especially when they call people like me awful. But fair's fair, if I'm going to comment, I should read in full, so I did.

    "It's NOT unbalanced because nobody who didn't want to play a guy with a fiddle would take it unless they were a douche and douches don't get to play."

    That is not the definition of balance. That... I'm not sure what that is, but it's not balance. Balance, between players in this character, is the insurance that no one player's character is more powerful than any other character (generally speaking. Clearly a mage type is going to be a plain better spellcaster than a fighter type). This piece of equipment automatically makes any character who takes it more powerful in the social arena than an equivalent one who doesn't, at a minor cost in character resources, and a cost in player resources that would vary by DM. Anyone who wants to interact with npcs would do better to buy a ukulele than... I don't know, a couple daggers for throwing. You don't give any kind of idea as to the comparative price of a small instrument, probably because you would spitball the exact price based on the exact instrument (which, I must say, is actually better than having one set price for all instruments of a category, so I'm not faulting you). Seriously, a triangle probably costs no more than a couple pitons, the spoons even less, and at least half the time, it will be beneficial.

    "Incorrect for an obvious reason: nobody who isn't me needs to play my game. If they want it, take it, if they don't, then they can play one of the many other games on the market."

    No, if you are charging for a product, then it behooves you to make the best product you can. That or make it abundantly clear that it is for a very specific subset of the market, and at that point you might as well give the pdf away for free, since really you just wrote it for yourself and your friends.

    "There's never a good reason to play with assholes, regardless of ruleset--unless there's a tournament--in which case, use a different system."

    I don't know when you started playing. I started playing when I was in high school, and while, so far as I can tell, you are a socially apt extrovert, or at the very least, good at socializing, I am not. I played for a very long time with a group I was not entirely fond of because they were pretty much the only game in town. Literally, at least for me. If I wanted to game, they were my only option. It was not until the GM started ripping away aspects of the games he did not like which reduced character options and player agency in creation that I decided playing was not worth spending the games irritated by his mid-game changes. At least not with the lengthy bus ride and walk that it took to get there. But in general, a lot of players will put up with a subpar group if the alternative is not playing at all. Maybe it's my age group, maybe it's my lack of social skills sufficient to create a better group, maybe it's my location, but I have definitely found myself in that situation more than once.

    (apparently this comment exceeds the character limit, so to be continued)

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    1. "Monte is not your performing monkey: the assholes in the audience deserve to suffer for being assholes. Even if they put money into the kickstarter."

      I didn't say he was my performing monkey. He is however a writer designing a product for sale which consists, at least partially, of rules. His setting is interesting (if odd), but if you're asking money for a ruleset, there should be a ruleset there. The example you posted essentially to call people who are interested in having solid rules awful people is barely a rule. I get that it was just an example, but if it's any amount of bonus that matters, then most people will take it. If you see the cost of the option as being "talk about fiddling, suffer fiddle jokes, make social encounters take twice as much out of game time as normal" then that should be in the entry, because not everyone will assume that. In a large number of groups this would be used the following way:

      Player: "I'm going to pull out my ukulele and play Ukulele Anthem before I appeal to the court about my right to play the ukulele all day long singing at the top of my lungs."
      DM: "The court will get none of the references. Also, it will make the court hearing take about another three minutes."
      Player: "Well, I mean, I'll use appropriate notable historical figures from the setting."
      DM: "Ok, make your dex roll. Also an int roll to know appropriate historical figures."
      Player: *rolls* "Sweet! Made it!"
      DM: "Ok, roll Diplomacy with a +X bonus."
      (Alternatively: "Damn, I can't come up with appropriate figures. Guess I'll just talk." or "Damn, my performance sucked. Hey Fighter, you're my attorney!" [fighter: "Can I borrow your ukulele?" alt:"Ok, I pull out my spoons...")

      "Your min/maxing idea is silly because min/maxing involves adjusting numbers _unique to the system_ not _unique to the setting_ (i.e. it rewards mastery of the game system--which is privileges people with time on their hands to read the game). Minmaxed character have no better chance of survival in a well-run game because fictional positioning is more important than that shit."

      Ok, yes, it entirely depends on how you run your games. But if system-mastery isn't rewarded, then why are you using a system? If you just want to tell a story, you don't need a rulebook. You can just sit down with a few pieces of loose leaf with "if you do this, it will generally benefit your character, if you do this, it will generally poorly influence outcomes for your character" Or hell, just tell people as they make decisions "if you do that, [x] is likely to happen." This is tied to my "if you're charging people money, there should be a reasonably solid ruleset, or at least a ruleset that is better than the players just making things up off the top of their heads" thing.

      Delete
    2. 
"It's NOT unbalanced because nobody who didn't want to play a guy with a fiddle would take it unless they were a douche and douches don't get to play."

"That is not the definition of balance. That... I'm not sure what that is,"
      Whatever it is, the point is it's fine.

      "Incorrect for an obvious reason: nobody who isn't me needs to play my game. If they want it, take it, if they don't, then they can play one of the many other games on the market."

"No, if you are charging for a product, then it behooves you to make the best product you can."
      Certainly: but the 'best product' is not 'the product that the greatest number of assholes will like' it's 'the one that you yourself would play and most benefit from'. Like any art form: integrity is about giving people work you'd appreciate as an audience, not larding up the rules in case part of your audience is evil.
      There is no ethical imperative to be popular or to make money.There is an ethical imperative to do _your best_ and people do their best when they're making things they themselves would and will use.
      "That or make it abundantly clear that it is for a very specific subset of the market, and at that point you might as well give the pdf away for free, since really you just wrote it for yourself and your friends."
      Just because you wrote something for your friends it doesn't logically follow that you aren't allowed to profit from like-minded individuals seeing it, too.
      
"There's never a good reason to play with assholes, regardless of ruleset--unless there's a tournament--in which case, use a different system."

"I played for a very long time with a group I was not entirely fond of because they were pretty much the only game in town. Literally, at least for me. If I wanted to game, they were my only option."
      Then you should not have played.
      "if you're asking money for a ruleset, there should be a ruleset there. The example you posted essentially to call people who are interested in having solid rules awful people is barely a rule."
      By that logic, the strike zone in baseball is "barely a rule".
      Fine, it's not a rule--it's a thing for a social construct people who aren't you and are more fun than you use to construct intellectual challenges to have fun with each other . Please stop reading this blog: it isn't about your other hobby.

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    3. "if it's any amount of bonus that matters, then most people will take it."
      'Most People' aren't the target audience, don't have to be, and there's no ethical imperative for them to be. Most Americans are morons. Most gamers are morons. None of this means it unethical to make a game that isn't for morons.
      "If you see the cost of the option as being "talk about fiddling, suffer fiddle jokes, make social encounters take twice as much out of game time as normal" then that should be in the entry, because not everyone will assume that."
      …if so it's because they're morons. All good culture is gonna lose some morons.
      "But if system-mastery isn't rewarded, then why are you using a system?"
      Because (including spells and monsters) D&D and games like it have literally thousands of rules so it's useful to have defaults for rules you haven't customized yet. Also: many of the rules are good and fun and create interesting outcomes--collaborating with the author of the rulebook to create a ruleset is rewarding.
      The point of the rules is to consistently reward thinking about fictional positioning, not to reward thinking about the rules.
      The published rules are a set of better or worse advice.
      We've been over this a million times: a suit you need to get tailored isn't a useless suit--that's what you do with a suit, by it and then get it tailored.
      All the work to make the rules asshole-proof makes the printed text longer and harder to consult midgame. Many groups experience the search-and-handling times necessary to sift through rules they don't use to find rules they do use an annoying interruption of the game. It is ok to write for this audience, no matter what size it is.
      Thank you for addressing the points raised. If you continue to do so, that's good.

      Delete
    4. Just out of curiosity, why do you liken buying a game to buying a suit, ie, something to tailor? Why would you not see buying a game, at least ideally, as similar to buying a computer, ie, something which out of the box functions perfectly acceptably for the majority of tasks a buyer could want but could, if desired, be customized?

      Delete
    5. Every person's body is a little different, so suits are.
      Every group's personalities, desires, microcompetences levels of patience and tastes are _even more_ different (as aggregate) than their bodies, so the idea of noncustomized game "working" for both us and the (non-me) designer is something I have zero experience of and I doubt is possible, at least for us.
      Every game I have ever played RAW fails my group in some obvious way immediately.
      Now if you're tedious, you'll remind me I'm not the majority, but that's irrelevant. I am allowed to create a creative product for me (as is Monte). And, like all responsible creative products, you put what you yourself like out there and let whatever audience agrees with you buy it if they want.

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    6. I return to my question of why anyone should ever buy a rulebook then. We're all quite capable of making shit up on our own, we don't need to buy a book telling how to do it.

      Even if you say that people buy such books because they don't have time to make everything up on their own, that's actually an argument for rulebooks with strong systems.

      I mean, sure, you can produce whatever you want, but in my opinion, asking money for "How to Make Shit Up" is actively dishonest.

      Delete
    7. I've already addressed this:
      "Because (including spells and monsters) D&D and games like it have literally thousands of rules so it's useful to have defaults for rules you haven't customized yet. Also: many of the rules are good and fun and create interesting outcomes--collaborating with the author of the rulebook to create a ruleset is rewarding.
      The point of the rules is to consistently reward thinking about fictional positioning, not to reward thinking about the rules.
      The published rules are a set of better or worse advice."
      Now:
      "Even if you say that people buy such books because they don't have time to make everything up on their own, that's actually an argument for rulebooks with strong systems."

      And these systems are "strong".

      Your definition of "strong" is (apparently) "Has extra words to make it asshole-proof".
      Ours is "Does not have extra words to make it easier to use".

      _Please do not make another comment which fails to take into account a response I've ALREADY given you. Please read what you're responding to in full and then give an answer that takes into account what you've already been told. Otherwise you're slowing the conversation down.

      Delete
    8. I am fucking reading, damnit. You've put forth two opposed viewpoints and are acting as if they're compatible. You want, and write, rules lite systems, but then you say that the point of more rules heavy systems is that they have defaults from which you can vary to your taste.

      This still makes the case that rules heavy system is stronger than a rules lite system because the former has _more defaults_, while the latter is charging people for the ability to _make shit up with no defaults_.

      Also, you're wrong. My definition of a strong system is not "has extra words to make it asshole-proof," but rather "has set rules so everyone knows what the standard is, and game isn't bogged down by the GM making everything up on his own, or (as) actively harmed by GM naivete or incompetence, and the potential of harm coming from active GM malevolence is lessened" (except that of course an actively malevolent GM will just make shit up anyway. A system with more rules just gives players more arguments against "rocks fall, everyone dies").

      I can point you to a thread RIGHT NOW where I said "I am more than comfortable with not taking into account what assholes with do with this system," the key difference is that I am using the term to describe people whose reaction to a diplomacy system where players can make up the goal is "awesome, I enslave the entire world," while you're using the term to describe _people who play differently from you._

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    9. you've made a mistake.
      I want a specific kind of game: LOTS of spells and monsters, but ALL of them have short descriptions.
      Do you grasp that?
      incompetent GMs should not play or be played with, Malicious ones too, and if naive ones are unavoidable, they _need to work without a net in order to learn to improvise_
      There is no reason to enable malicious or incompetent GMs. Making rules to enable them is bad. Making rules that accept them at the table is bad.
      People who are abusive are assholes. They should not be in a game.

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    10. @Korble

      1. That was not a rhetorical question. I don't ask rhetorical questions. Answer it.

      2. "
      I do, however, disagree with the assertion that incompetent GMs should not play/be played with. Incompetence is a state, not an inherent trait, as such, it can be fixed, and the best way to do that is practice guided by advice. I
      "
      Then our disagreement is about whether bad GMs learn to be better by having crunchy rulesets that force them to stop the game and read long paragraphs midgame (which can create more problems because their players will be bored) or by being forced to make up spot rulings and stick to them (which can create more problems because their players will be bored)

      3. You will be allowed to comment on this blog once you address these issues AND go back to the Gaming Den and address all your bad behavior there by editing it and apologizing.

      Delete
    11. Also, there are a lot of other issues in the comments in this post you left up in the air. You must address every counterargument or concede.

      Delete
  15. "Because nobody who's ever played a game would think that. Because it ignores the fact that hardly anyone is going to go to all the trouble to have their character play a fiddle if they don't want a character who plays the fiddle."

    Wait, what? You mean to say that no matter how obvious, people consciously ignore mechanical incentives at all costs just to be faithful to a character aesthetic? That no party of players ever looked back at a string of TPKs and thought, "Guess someone should roll a Cleric?" Does that scenario really seem unnatural or wrong to you?

    My issue with this rule is that, besides being very advantageous for a trivial cost, this doesn't actually reward people who want to play fiddlers. "It doesn't?" you ask. No, it rewards people who want to play social characters. It *incentivizes* playing a fiddler, but it doesn't *reward* the original desire.

    That's an important difference I think you're missing. Rewarding people who want to play fiddlers would mean making the playing of a fiddle actually fun somehow, not just giving you bonuses towards some other goal. The way the rule is written now, it does nothing for the fiddlers; it only does anything for the social players looking to improve their odds in that space. Now you say that it *shouldn't* appeal to players just looking for social bonuses, but *should* appeal to players who just want to fiddle, but the rule as written gives nothing to fiddlers and everything to diplomancers.

    Who do you think this rule is actually written to benefit? Does it, in fact, do that?

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    Replies
    1. "You mean to say that no matter how obvious, people consciously ignore mechanical incentives at all costs just to be faithful to a character aesthetic?"

      If they put mechanics over aesthetics to that degree, they are assholes. We've been over this.

      "That no party of players ever looked back at a string of TPKs and thought, "Guess someone should roll a Cleric?""

      If a person willingly _plays a cleric despite not wanting to_ just for mechanical advantage, they're an asshole.

      I never said I wanted to reward people for wanting to play fiddlers. There's nothing good or noble about wanting to play a fiddler in itself. It is up to the fiddler to make playing the PC they want it's own reward.

      The rule merely reflects a true dynamic in the premodern era (No radio, no tv, no internet,no movies--people were desperate for entertainment) and gives the fiddler the _opportunity_ to shine if they can make something of it. It doesn't guarantee they'll shine--but it provides a moment where they can talk about what they''ll play and how they'll play it and to whom, and they and the GM and other players get a moment to try to make a fun scene of that because the fiddler likes the idea of playing a fiddle and there is a real advantage, however small.

      It's not mechanically fun as-written (or unfun), it simply clears a space where the players (if they are fun) can make fun happen through role=playing, metagame joking, in-game joking, narration, etc.

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    2. "If they put mechanics over aesthetics to that degree, they are assholes. We've been over this."

      And the degree in your example is very, very slight. A free, relatively reliable bonus to social skills, and all it requires is you carry an instrument and have high DEX, like over 50% of all characters have. I could be a perfectly normal player with a Rogue, work out this essentially free bonus, and decide to just pick up a kazoo in town for the social bonus, even though my Rogue was not originally a musical character. And you're saying I just went from perfectly acceptable player to asshole? That's pretty asinine, don't you think? I mean, what does that make you?

      "I never said I wanted to reward people for wanting to play fiddlers."

      "The rule...gives the fiddler the _opportunity_ to shine if they can make something of it. It...provides a moment where they can talk about what they''ll play and how they'll play it and to whom, and they and the GM and other players get a moment to try to make a fun scene of that because the fiddler likes the idea of playing a fiddle and there is a real advantage, however small."

      So which is it: you weren't trying to reward fiddlers, or you were? I just can't tell from what you're saying. You seem to want it both ways.

      "It's not mechanically fun as-written (or unfun), it simply clears a space where the players (if they are fun) can make fun happen through role=playing, metagame joking, in-game joking, narration, etc."

      All of that exists without the rule, too. I mean, didn't you just say it was the player's responsibility to make playing the PC they want it's own reward?

      Maybe you're clueless as to what effect throwing rules around like this has, but it seems like people who are just looking for space to role-play, joke around in-or-out-of-game, or narrate something has nothing whatsoever to do with rules.

      By your own argument, there's no need for this rule except to give you an excuse to start shaming people who have the audacity to claim that rules can and, in fact, do influence player decisions. But what are you shaming them for, exactly? I mean, there's nothing wrong with playing a game that's mostly just you and your friends making up fantasy-themed stuff and making jokes about all of that, but to then turn around and say that anyone who appreciates role-playing games *as games* is an asshole strikes me as a little, I dunno, asshole-ish, don't you think?

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    3. "I could be a perfectly normal player with a Rogue, work out this essentially free bonus, and decide to just pick up a kazoo in town for the social bonus, even though my Rogue was not originally a musical character. And you're saying I just went from perfectly acceptable player to asshole?"

      I said nothing about the "original conception" of the character, I said "If the players WANT to play a wandering minstrel band it's good. If they don't and are just doing it for the mechanical bonus it's boring."

      If you strawman again, you will not be allowed to comment again. It wastes time.

      Please type something that acknowledges that you read and grasped what I wrote. Again: if you don't do that and plow on like you didn't read this, you won't be allowed to comment any more.



      " you weren't trying to reward fiddlers, or you were? "

      I'm not. The rule provides an opportunity for the players to possibly reward _themselves_ and the rest of the table by being creative about fiddling.

      Acknowledge you read this and grasped it in your next comment or ask a question about it or you;ll be banned from commenting.

      "All of that exists without the rule, too. I mean, didn't you just say it was the player's responsibility to make playing the PC they want it's own reward?""

      Half-true, but you missed the obvious: Putting the bonus at stake on the dex roll gives that scene and the roll more tension. It's more exciting because there are stakes.

      Again: Type something that acknowledges you grasp this or ask a question about it or you'll be banned. A simple "Ok." or "Ok, but…" is fine.

      So there's a good reason for the rule.

      "But what are you shaming them for, exactly?"

      Being boring.

      "I mean, there's nothing wrong with playing a game that's mostly just you and your friends making up fantasy-themed stuff and making jokes about all of that, but to then turn around and say that anyone who appreciates role-playing games *as games*..."

      Strawman. Your claim that we don't appreciate the games _as games_ is inaccurate. It is simply that the part of the game _you do without other people (chargen) that involves engaging not with the scenario but only with the math specific to the game_ is not the interesting part of the game. The fictional positioning is.

      Again: Acknowledge you read this and grasped it in your next comment or ask a question about it or you;ll be banned from commenting.

      Delete
    4. "If the players WANT to play a wandering minstrel band it's good. If they don't and are just doing it for the mechanical bonus it's boring."

      So...if the party wanted to play minstrels regardless of the rule, then this rule is for them (which they apparently wouldn't have cared about in the first place?), but if they don't want to play minstrels then it's not for them and if they make use of it anyway they shouldn't be allowed to play at all?

      Clearly I'm having trouble understanding who you think would make good use of this rule. Maybe you can help me out?

      This is what I see-

      If you want to play minstrels, then whether the rule is there or not, you're going to play minstrels. The rule doesn't even enter your mind, not during chargen, and not during play. The only time you would even be aware of the rule is when your DM reminds you to use it. But you were already going to sing/play an instrument, so it doesn't affect how you play much, if at all.

      OTOH, you weren't thinking of playing a minstrel. After playing through a couple sessions where social encounters kept happening and you realized you weren't helping the party very much, felt like you weren't having much fun, you think to yourself, "Maybe there's something I can do to change that a bit." You realize there's this musical instrument rule, and decide to pick up a musical instrument in order to take advantage of the bonus for the next social encounter. Yeah, it's kind of silly trying to describe to the DM and group just what you're playing to convince the innkeeper to give you a discount, but everyone has a good laugh and you at least helped. It sounds to me like you're against this idea, because the player doesn't want to be playing a minstrel, he's just doing it for the bonus, right? He's an asshole and should be kicked out. If I'm wrong, please, just tell me how he's not doing what you said he shouldn't do.

      If the above are true, then is there any player who would actually consciously make use of this rule without being an asshole?

      There, I asked questions. Happy?

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    5. No because you're just making me repeat myself and not addressing the point I just made:
      -
      -
      "All of that exists without the rule, too. I mean, didn't you just say it was the player's responsibility to make playing the PC they want it's own reward?""

      Half-true, but you missed the obvious: Putting the bonus at stake on the dex roll gives that scene and the roll more tension. It's more exciting because there are stakes.

      Again: Type something that acknowledges you grasp this or ask a question about it or you'll be banned. A simple "Ok." or "Ok, but…" is fine.

      So there's a good reason for the rule.
      _
      -
      If your next comment doesn't address this, we'll all have to assume you're just trying to be a dick and not trying to understand or argue for anything.

      Delete
  16. The more I think about this rule, the more I just keep thinking of John Belushi in Animal House and how the folksinging guy obviously failed his charisma check.

    ReplyDelete