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What was the 'failed promise' of early Traveller?

Strange Visitor

Grumpy Grognard
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I'd disagree with you pretty strongly here. You are correct about it being GM-facing. However, that GM-facing mechanic is a big indicator to the GM that most encounters are primarily nonviolent encounters.
I don't think that was going to happen no matter what you said, given the visual dress and mechanical support in other areas in D&D.

And I think history rather suggests I'm right on that; those rules were in there; they got used selectively or ignored pretty consistently.


I say this from much experience of getting new players in who have been "trained" by other GMs that all (D&D especially) encounters are automatically combat. However, once I present those players with a chance to do something besides combat, most readily embrace that and enjoy it.
That's about you as a GM, not about what a tool in the game did, however.

Likewise, the number of people who run combats all to the death baffles me, when we had a morale system from the beginning. It gives a mechanical indication that most critters aren't going to fight to the death. They'll break and run when things go against them. I have so many players that expect everything to fight to the death over the years that it's clear that not only do GM's skip rolling morale, they don't even think about having beaten foes turn and run.
Well, the fact its mechanically extremely difficult except for particularly fast opponents to run away if they wish to, and this gets even worse outside when spells and archery can still be deployed by pursuers. Often GMs have been taught its pointless, and they assume the NPCs and monsters know that, too.

(Its not helped by the way alignment was read by, well, the majority as producing pretty Manichean opposition in a lot of cases, too; even players who might let random barbarians or bandits get away wouldn't do so with orcs. And of course the fact that, trivial or not, kills still brought experience).
 

CK!

Creator of Things
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Of course, when I have something where reaction is obvious, then I don't roll it. Or I can constrain the actual reaction to fit the monster, when necessary too. It's loads of fun though when they rescue the princess only to find out that she loathes the PCs and sees them as swine, or when they go to confront the big enemy who takes a liking to them and really wants to be friends.

The other thing I really like about that table is in emphasizes how only 1:36 encounters are immediately hostile...
Like almost all of the components of Traveller, the reaction table is there to nudge the Referee or Players into unexpected acts of imagination.

Of course, even though the prompt is random, that doesn't mean the fictional details conjured from them should feel random, inconsistent, foolish, or stupid within the game world. The fun is letting that part of ourselves that makes us pattern making creatures find the rational based off other settng details that have already been created,

So, in my Lamentations of the Flame Princess game, the PCs were being watched by some sorcerers and warrior-slaves from the world of Carcosa. THe PCs discovered this, confronted them and attacked. One of the slaves blew his morale roll and fled. The PCs pursued him, and after a lengthy chase through Munich (long story) cornered the man.

I made a reaction roll for him (a new encounter, and I didn't really know how this lone man on an alien world would react) and he was very friendly! I thought at that moment, "Of coiruse! He's a slave from Carcosa, beaten by his masters, now alone on Earth... he turns to them for help, pleading for his life!" The PCs spared him, smuggled him to the room at their inn (his skin is a color that does not exist on earth). They fed him, worked to learn his language, learned a lot about the upcoming invasion from Carcosa, and he become a loyal companion for many sessions.

The Players had a great time getting to know this guy and hang out with him and treat someone well. I got to dump a lot of incoming danger exposition in a very fun way. And when agents of Carcosa arrived and tracked him down and killed him it was a really great moment and set the PCs off on a path of revenge.

All because I rolled 2d6 and looked at a table.

And sure, I could have thought of all that ahead of time. But I probably wouldn't have without a random die roll at that instant. My brain set off down a path in that moment because my pattenn making brain was clicked on in that moment to find a solution from the facts at hand right then.

In this way the Players and the Referee get to be surprised by details and events, and gets to follow along on occasion to see where new turns take the events of the game. And further, while the reaction table might be Referee-facing, it helps the Referee keep events and encounters fresh and unexpected for the Players as well. The Referee avoids ruts and habits and and is jostled from behaviors he might fall into. While the Players might not know exactly how all the events came about or the logic used to pull together random prompts into a pattern that feels natural and real, they definitely pick up on the pleasure of reactions and encounters spinning off into directions the Referee might not have expected. If the Referee is watching with delight as things take a turn he didn't know about, that means that sense of surprise and delight will infect the Players as well.

That's been my experience at least. And that's speaking as someone who eschewed them decades ago ("Who needs random reactions? I know what's best for how my NPCs react!!!") to someon who only started using them a few years ago.

I'm not saying this Is for everone. But all these procedurally driven content systems some RPGs have...? I love them.
 
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Strange Visitor

Grumpy Grognard
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By the by, in case my reaction seems confused, I was under the impression the reaction table Rstites was referring to was the one in OD&D in our; given the difference in genre and expectation, I suspect many more people actually made some use out of the one in Traveller.
 

Anfelas

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I have found the reaction table to be useful not only for NPC reactions but also to give a 'second axis' to event resolution if a dice throw is called for.

I have made great use of the random NPC and patron encounter tables plus reaction throws to design an evening's entertainment on the hoof so to speak, and still regularly make use of them.
 

rstites

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I don't think that was going to happen no matter what you said, given the visual dress and mechanical support in other areas in D&D.

And I think history rather suggests I'm right on that; those rules were in there; they got used selectively or ignored pretty consistently.
I'd like to at least them well presented front and center before we draw that conclusion. OD&D tucked them away where it was easy to forget them. AD&D made them huge % look up table with a ton of modifiers that was destined to be ignored, like most of the DMG. If you'd stayed with the compact 2d6 table for both, I wonder how it would have worked out. I realize that B/X put them front and center and made them clear, but inexplicably labeled Morale as optional, not really helping it's cause!

(Its not helped by the way alignment was read by, well, the majority as producing pretty Manichean opposition in a lot of cases, too; even players who might let random barbarians or bandits get away wouldn't do so with orcs. And of course the fact that, trivial or not, kills still brought experience).
I believe you, but we had orc hirelings, goblin bearers, etc. all the time in our games, when I even bothered using the various humanoids. Undead were the big scary ones since they didn't have any chance of not being hostile, or breaking and running. Again, I just feel like these mechanics could have possibly been presented to make them more of a GM guiding tool. Maybe just a little verbiage around them is all it would have taken. I don't really know.

And sure, I could have thought of all that ahead of time. But I probably wouldn't have without a random die roll at that instant. My brain set off down a path in that moment because my pattenn making brain was clicked on in that moment to find a solution from the facts at hand right then.

In this way the Players and the Referee get to be surprised by details and events, and gets to follow along on occasion to see where new turns take the events of the game.....
Exactly. This is it. I love reacting on my toes to the unexpected results that come out of these tables, as well as well designed random encounter tables. Those combinations and a little imagination really drive things at the table for me. I get very bored, very fast, if I pretty much know what's going to happen ahead of time as the GM. I need that randomness to keep me engaged. Those completely unexpected turns are exactly what I want out of GMing a game.

It's like when I have the PC's stumble into the orc den they're planning to raid and run into the guards who're actively friendly. It first causes a dissonance, but then I have to roll with it and come up with something. I've had something similar where the PCs were quickly led to the orc chieftain who wants to ally with them. He's heard of them and wants to avoid confrontation with them. Of course, they could attack and try to reduce the place, but they're surrounded by his entire tribe. That entire idea spun into a very strange game where the PC's went to the various humanoid groups around and "befriended all of them" earning XP by selling protection to them: yes, the PC's ran a protection racket, that later evolved into a loose confederation.

By the by, in case my reaction seems confused, I was under the impression the reaction table Rstites was referring to was the one in OD&D in our; given the difference in genre and expectation, I suspect many more people actually made some use out of the one in Traveller.
I was, but it had occurred to me that we were in the process of running the thread way off topic, so I meant to double-check the Traveller rules and discuss those when I replied anyway. I note that they're pretty much identical to the OD&D rules for both morale and reaction rolls. I do find it very interesting that PC's can have their morale broken in Traveller, definitely moving it in a far more gritty direction than D&D. (The biggest power PC's have in D&D at early levels is the fact that they're the only perfectly rational actors on the battle field.) I like the expanded Traveller reaction tables, compared to D&D, but it may be too fine for me to memorize unlike the D&D one. (I prefer the expanded B/X Reaction Table to the OD&D table.)
 

Strange Visitor

Grumpy Grognard
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I'd like to at least them well presented front and center before we draw that conclusion. OD&D tucked them away where it was easy to forget them. AD&D made them huge % look up table with a ton of modifiers that was destined to be ignored, like most of the DMG. If you'd stayed with the compact 2d6 table for both, I wonder how it would have worked out. I realize that B/X put them front and center and made them clear, but inexplicably labeled Morale as optional, not really helping it's cause!
Well, just anecdotally, the random selection of people I talked to about it back in the day had a pretty consistent response: almost all of them had seen the table and played with it a bit; they just thought it produced irrational results too often and either replaced it with something more complex or stopped using it altogether. YMMV.

I believe you, but we had orc hirelings, goblin bearers, etc. all the time in our games, when I even bothered using the various humanoids. Undead were the big scary ones since they didn't have any chance of not being hostile, or breaking and running. Again, I just feel like these mechanics could have possibly been presented to make them more of a GM guiding tool. Maybe just a little verbiage around them is all it would have taken. I don't really know.
I suspect the large number of people who had read Tolkein weren't going to trust goblinkin any farther than they could throw them. The fact that, for all of its claims to the contrary, Law was usually treated as synonomous with good in the three-alignment days, and Chaos with evil (look at what got assigned to what alignment) in no way helped; it pretty much taught people that you could deal with Neutrals but not Chaotics.

I was, but it had occurred to me that we were in the process of running the thread way off topic, so I meant to double-check the Traveller rules and discuss those when I replied anyway. I note that they're pretty much identical to the OD&D rules for both morale and reaction rolls. I do find it very interesting that PC's can have their morale broken in Traveller, definitely moving it in a far more gritty direction than D&D. (The biggest power PC's have in D&D at early levels is the fact that they're the only perfectly rational actors on the battle field.) I like the expanded Traveller reaction tables, compared to D&D, but it may be too fine for me to memorize unlike the D&D one. (I prefer the expanded B/X Reaction Table to the OD&D table.)
I think there were problems with them even in Traveller (when you're in enemy territory, as a mercenary strike team, finding the local police "friendly" makes, bluntly, no damn sense at all), but as a general-use tool they were more likely to work right there because of context; a lot of Traveller characters are going to be spending a lot of time encountering random locals who there's no reason to make any assumptions about in advance. I think that was far less true in OD&D (at least) as commonly played. Most people I knew back in the community at that time would have considered a set of orcs or ogres reacting in a friendly fashion to PCs who were not set up to signal that they were part of the Chaotic end of the spectrum largely aberrational.
 

Anfelas

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The Traveller rules have a way to cope with the situation you describe.
The reaction section has this to say:
other DMs can and should be created to deal with specific situations
so for a group of mercs in hostile territory I would have a pretty hefty DM towards the hostile end of the table, probably -5 at the least.
 

Strange Visitor

Grumpy Grognard
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That gets back to my comment that, at that point, its just as easy to decide a range of possible responses, assign a chance to each, and roll that, rather than interacting with the system though. Or, frankly, for a lot of GMs, just deciding themself; randomizing this is not universally recognized as a virtue.
 

Anfelas

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You claim the rules can't handle it, I quote you the rule that can handle it, then you say you would prefer to just make it up anyway.
A great many referees like to use the random tables as it throws up unexpected outcomes and thus keeps the game moving.
 

Strange Visitor

Grumpy Grognard
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You claim the rules can't handle it, I quote you the rule that can handle it, then you say you would prefer to just make it up anyway.
A great many referees like to use the random tables as it throws up unexpected outcomes and thus keeps the game moving.
I'm just returning to a point I made earlier in the thread as to why a lot of people didn't use these tables; that once you're putting in enough modifiers to actually make them properly represent the situation at hand, they aren't that different than simply deciding the situation yourself or assigning a probability and moving on.

That's been my only point; its not that a table like that can't be useful sometime, but the only people its particularly likely to change the complexion of the game for are people who probably could do the same thing on the fly without it. Its a convenience at best, not any kind of style-changer.

And my comment about was that "as listed" it didn't handle the situation. I never said, nor even implied that modifiers couldn't deal with it; in fact, earlier in this thread I talked about just that.
 
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