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Lizard

Global Village Grouch
Validated User
Exactly. Who even argues with that? I've literally never come across a player aged over 14 who tried to argue this (not that I'm accusing those who do, if they exist, of being juvenile - I've just never seen it). Players reminding me of penalties they imposed or situational AC bonuses or so on, and asking "Is that still a hit?" sure, but that's fine and expected, but I've never come across the situation Lizard talks about where I have to give a bonus-by-bonus breakdown on how the enemy came to hit the PC. I mean, that's kind of mind-boggling, to me.
Odd as this may seem, not everyone is you.

Generally, it's unusual to ask, because we trust the DM did the work to get it right... and we know there's a system that he uses which is basically open. If we ask, it's because we want to know if we can learn that trick for ourselves. (This particularly happened in a WOD game I was in, when we were fighting some people who seemed to "break the rules" in bizaare ways, and, now, the ST was able to tell us that they used thus-and-such combat style combined with three dots in whatever, so I started to track down those books because I wanted my character to do that.)

In my GURPS game, I had an alien from an advanced species who has assorted near-godlike powers. In terms of how likely it is the PCs could harm him in any way, he really doesn't need stats. Nonetheless, I took time to work out the subdermal armor he had implanted, the TL 12 force field he kept on, exactly how powerful his psi was and his skill level with it, etc, etc, etc. He was effectively a plot device and rolling for any interaction that was against his will would be an exercise in futility, but I felt obliged to actually define what his limits were, even if they were beyond the reach of the PCs. (For one thing, if he ever helps the PCs against a similarly powerful entity, I will need to know exactly how evenly-matched they are. For another, as the game enters a phase where the PCs are discovering this lost race's secrets, establishing what a baseline, Joe Average citizen of an inter-dimensional consortium that spanned a hundred billion alternate worlds was capable of seemed like a useful thing.)

In another case, I had them encounter an NPC who had stolen someone's body and brain and done a really poor job of it. I wanted them to wonder if he was just mad from being isolated for years in an abandoned mall, or if he was.... something else. As they questioned him, I rolled his Knowledge (Person Whose Brain I Ate) skill. On a roll of 11-, he was able to give a coherent answer; otherwise, he answered strangely or inconsistently. Certainly, this is something I can and do roleplay all the time, but adding in the dice made it more fun for me... I didn't know, which each sentence of the conversation, if the lie would hold up or not. (Naturally, these conversations were entirely roleplayed out, in character, on all sides; the dice just told me how to roleplay the NPC from moment to moment. If I'd had to decide how each response was to go, it would have been much less random (thus less insane seeming), and I'd have been inclined to give answers based on what I wanted the players to know/hear. This way was more fun, and I got to spend my creative energy on improvising the entire life of an NPC I'd only sketched out, as the PCs asked questions I'd never even considered, like his military service or who won the Corn Fair in 1981.) It also let me establish a mechanic for modeling how well a *competent* brain eater does it, so they might have a skill of 18-, and only roll occasionally, if there's negative modifiers to justify it.
 

Daztur

Seoulite
Validated User
I'd agree with Lizard here. There's something that digs into my brain about "this character has these stats for these specific reasons and because that he's a really tough bastard" that "here's a really touch bastard so let's make up some tough stats for him" doesn't do. I'm just not sure it's worth the extra complication that it requires when stating up stuff.
 

Lizard

Global Village Grouch
Validated User
I'd agree with Lizard here. There's something that digs into my brain about "this character has these stats for these specific reasons and because that he's a really tough bastard" that "here's a really touch bastard so let's make up some tough stats for him" doesn't do. I'm just not sure it's worth the extra complication that it requires when stating up stuff.
In a good system, it should be an optional level of detail for those who want it, applicable to whatever degree you want it. If you want to save this level of detail for boss NPCs, cool. If you want to stat out the barkeep to some ridiculous level, also cool. If you want to skip the statting and just know "The numbers for this kind of creature should be in this range", also cool.

I like systems that tell me the "expected" range of values, so I can assign them on the fly if I have to (which I often do), and then give me the tools to go back, later, and define where those values came from. The results might not match 100%, but if there within 10% either way, it's good enough.
 
It doesn't always work with numeric bonuses, but my stock response when the players query how an NPC has just done something contrary to how they perceive the game to work:

"Yep. Sure was strange. How are you going to find out in character how he/she did it?"
 

AndersGabrielsson

Member
RPGnet Member
Validated User
I should be clear in that I too much prefer to stat opponents out in detail rather than just wing their stats. What I reacted against was the GM feeling the need to give a detail, rules-based explanation of the opponents' stats just because he had high accuracy.

If it had been something that was clearly rules-wacky (like Lizard describes above) that would have been different.

I suppose I'm a bit coloured by mainly playing 4E the past several years, though. The monsters there can have quite funky abilities but since you don't build them like you build a PC there's less of this type of problem. It's more "Goddamn, he hit on a four! I *hope* part of that is some bonus from an ability or we're in deep shit!" and the GM giving them a smug "I ain't telling" smile.
 

Lizard

Global Village Grouch
Validated User
Getting back to flavors and styles of D&D:
In "Knaves and kobolds", monsters rarely had mechanically explicit abilities other than those listed, but DMs would give them terrain or preparation advantages, which got buy-in because they were "logical" (few macguffin magic items) and because players could do them, too. When the DM created new monsters, they'd tend to use existing monsters as a template, deciding "This guy's about as tough as a griffin".

"Galactic Dragons and Godwars" tended towards the extreme of arbitrary monster design for DMs, because you have to keep raising the ante both in terms of weirdness and in overcoming the PCs multiple options for dealing with anything. A lot of the challenge was figuring out what the monster could do by painful trial and error. About the only "rule" of the social contract was that the DM couldn't add/change abilities on the fly; it didn't matter how ridiculous the thing was when it was encountered, as long as the DM didn't change it when the PCs started to win.

"Sorcery & Simulation" brought in the idea of building everything the same way PCs were built, sort of. Obviously, monsters had access to templates and sometimes PrCs that players did not, and could be built for a purpose, making option choices that an actual PC would be unlikely to make due to being overly narrowly focused or sub-optimal except in specific cases. A lot of feats and PrCs were designed precisely for NPCs, even if technically available to players. (The PF feat that gives a gnome or halfling +4 to imitate a human child is something I can't imagine a player taking, but I can imagine a DM building an entire NPC around that feat. That's no feat, it's a character concept!)
 

Eurhetemec

New member
Banned
In my GURPS game, I had an alien from an advanced species who has assorted near-godlike powers. In terms of how likely it is the PCs could harm him in any way, he really doesn't need stats. Nonetheless, I took time to work out the subdermal armor he had implanted, the TL 12 force field he kept on, exactly how powerful his psi was and his skill level with it, etc, etc, etc. He was effectively a plot device and rolling for any interaction that was against his will would be an exercise in futility, but I felt obliged to actually define what his limits were, even if they were beyond the reach of the PCs. (For one thing, if he ever helps the PCs against a similarly powerful entity, I will need to know exactly how evenly-matched they are. For another, as the game enters a phase where the PCs are discovering this lost race's secrets, establishing what a baseline, Joe Average citizen of an inter-dimensional consortium that spanned a hundred billion alternate worlds was capable of seemed like a useful thing.)

In another case, I had them encounter an NPC who had stolen someone's body and brain and done a really poor job of it. I wanted them to wonder if he was just mad from being isolated for years in an abandoned mall, or if he was.... something else. As they questioned him, I rolled his Knowledge (Person Whose Brain I Ate) skill. On a roll of 11-, he was able to give a coherent answer; otherwise, he answered strangely or inconsistently. Certainly, this is something I can and do roleplay all the time, but adding in the dice made it more fun for me... I didn't know, which each sentence of the conversation, if the lie would hold up or not. (Naturally, these conversations were entirely roleplayed out, in character, on all sides; the dice just told me how to roleplay the NPC from moment to moment. If I'd had to decide how each response was to go, it would have been much less random (thus less insane seeming), and I'd have been inclined to give answers based on what I wanted the players to know/hear. This way was more fun, and I got to spend my creative energy on improvising the entire life of an NPC I'd only sketched out, as the PCs asked questions I'd never even considered, like his military service or who won the Corn Fair in 1981.) It also let me establish a mechanic for modeling how well a *competent* brain eater does it, so they might have a skill of 18-, and only roll occasionally, if there's negative modifiers to justify it.
Interesting. The first example sounds like a significant potential waste of effort given that they were a plot device, but perhaps you enjoyed doing it, which makes it less of a waste and more of an unusual hobby. The return is disproportionately tiny compared to the amount of effort involved, so only enjoyment of the process can justify the effort. The justification you offer at the end - establishing a baseline and so on makes sense, but doesn't speak to the need for a precise simulationist system for doing so, nor to player buy-in. It could also have been done as needed, not at the original time, because it might never have happened (if you were reasonably sure it would, then I guess it's just preparedness, but as discussed, doesn't speak to buy-in as I understand it).

The second example is the polar opposite. A tiny amount of effort is expended to create an mechanic which potentially amuses both you and the players. You are basically just rolling a die to inform improvising, and it's cool. Again, though, does it really speak to player buy-in?

I mean, snark aside, I know I'm not you, but I was focused on the "increased player buy-in" bit, but you've not really explained that bit as I understand it.

Daztur - You're not talking about player buy-in, though, you're talking about DM buy-in, no? I get that it's more fun to have detailed stats, but I don't get that it really involves the players at all.
 

Lizard

Global Village Grouch
Validated User
Interesting. The first example sounds like a significant potential waste of effort given that they were a plot device, but perhaps you enjoyed doing it, which makes it less of a waste and more of an unusual hobby. The return is disproportionately tiny compared to the amount of effort involved, so only enjoyment of the process can justify the effort. The justification you offer at the end - establishing a baseline and so on makes sense, but doesn't speak to the need for a precise simulationist system for doing so, nor to player buy-in. It could also have been done as needed, not at the original time, because it might never have happened (if you were reasonably sure it would, then I guess it's just preparedness, but as discussed, doesn't speak to buy-in as I understand it).
It creates long-term consistency in many ways (which improves the feeling that the world is "real"), and gives me something to fall back on in case, as they usually do, players try something totally unexpected. Nothing I could *think* of that the players had on hand could get through DR 100 (Hardened, Cosmic)... but such things DO exist in the game universe (this is personal armor, after all, not military-grade defenses for TL 12), and I prefer knowing exactly how tough it is to "Whatever, he can't be hurt, even with the nuke you found." Likewise, while none of the PCs have psi abilities, they might get them, and that gives them more chance to resist (not much more, mind you). Further, I could establish exact ranges, areas of effects, etc, so I could work out what he might be able to do off-screen and have it be consistent with demonstrated on-screen abilities. Maybe it's "wasted effort", but it's my time to waste, eh?

I mean, snark aside, I know I'm not you, but I was focused on the "increased player buy-in" bit, but you've not really explained that bit as I understand it.
I think it increases player confidence that I'm not simply stonewalling or railroading if I make it clear that everything that is done in-game is done according to mechanics that define the bounds and limits (even if those bounds are above the PCs expected capacity to affect), and that means they can try to come up with a way, using the same mechanics, to affect it -- they don't need to pixelbitch to find the magic key, or, even if there IS a magic key, if they're clever enough to find some other way through the door, based on the rules I used to build the door, I won't stop them.

Anyway, OT for this thread. I won't reply on this theme here again.
 

medivh

New member
Banned
It doesn't always work with numeric bonuses, but my stock response when the players query how an NPC has just done something contrary to how they perceive the game to work:

"Yep. Sure was strange. How are you going to find out in character how he/she did it?"
"I don't want to know in character, I want to know out of character because that was badass and I want it for my next level-up which is coming soon."
 
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