Posts Tagged ‘gamism’

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Some thoughts on D&D gamehacks

November 4, 2007

Thinking about it a bit more, I realize I have a lot of things setup to prevent character death.

This isn’t about “precious characters” as much as it is about precious gametime.

Think of it this way- time spent -not- playing is not fun.  Time you spend unconcious losing hitpoints, time you spend building a new character, time you spend trying to figure out how to best use this new character in conjunction with the other charcters, etc.

If you get knocked out of a fight and it takes another 15- 20 minutes to finish, you’ve been punished enough- hence my pulp death rules- character death is still possible, just less likely and less of waste of time- you don’t spend the nest 5 rounds hoping someone heals you before you bleed out.

See, in previous editions, character building was pretty quick (not to mention, you probably were rolling with a war band, so lose a character? Just take another of out 20 odd people in the dungeon).  Here, character building doesn’t even necessarily speed up as you gain expertise, because the more you know, the further ahead you think with your build.

It’s not so much that characters die, it’s that they die so easily and usually spark a TPK which, pretty much means a game reset- all the prep the players did is now wasted, the GM can toss away any plot based encounters or has to retool them, etc.  Early on in play, at low levels, players might not even know enough to figure out what they did wrong, making it a high learning curve early in.  15 minutes of tactics to 45 minutes of character building is a poor ratio (even if you’re expert and pop a character together in 10-20 minutes, that’s still a bad ratio).

In comparison, videogames usually take just seconds before you’re back in play, usually with the opportunity to try the same challenge from different angles, to develop tactics.   Even boardgames don’t have as much downtime/setup between play to play.

Though I understand the joy of building in D&D is like building mechs in Armored Core or decks in Magic the Gathering, at the same point, the foundation of play is play…  Right now character death actually hurts play more than it helps

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No optimal choices

August 27, 2007

So I’ve been playing lots of Memoir 44, and really enjoying the simple elegance of the design.

One of the biggest pitfalls for gamist design is when folks develop optimal solutions for a game’s strategy.  Instead of being forced to rethink how to deal with each situation, the game becomes simply a puzzle- how long will it take for you to find the 1-3 optimal ways to play and then you can just go on autopilot.

This is a big problem for games that focus heavily on character building skills above in play tactical choices.  Find the optimal builds, then let odds work for you and sleep your way through.

Likewise, for position based strategic  games, you can often work out ideal positions or manuevers to employ (see opening moves in Chess, for example).

The interesting thing that Memoir does is that it randomizes the set of choices you have- you might know what would be an optimal move, but lack the cards to power it.  So you often end up choosing between a lot of not so great choices.

So far, I haven’t seen a lot of rpgs really utilize this, though some of the card based ones do, and the whole tree of design that grew out of Otherkind as well.  On the other hand, no one’s really used them for gamism, so it’s a field waiting to be explored.