Monthly Archives: August 2012

My character is a hostage negotiator, but I am not.

Why is it that in most RPGs (as run) social and to a lesser extent technical (crafting) skills are scrutinized far more than combat or physical ones?  At least in my experience.  While I firmly believe that one should role-play any diplomacy attempt, one should not be penalized for not being a great diplomat.  After all, you aren’t the diplomat, your character is!  So, while it is appropriate to role-play negotiating with Orcs or the town Mayor, one should not be penalized for one’s own, personal, out of character inability to negotiate.

Your character has a skill and it should be the end-all-be-all of your diplomacy.  I personally believe that adding a slight bonus if your player says something REALLY cool.  But no penalty should weigh down their efforts for lack of oratory on the player’s part.  After all, if he was such a good diplomat, he wouldn’t be role-playing anything but himself.  And he would more than likely be playing a fighter, something he is not in real life.

Let’s look at that fighter.  I have never experienced, even while playing a fighter, a penalty on an attack roll because I didn’t know how to hold my .357 Magnum, or how to properly wield a pole-ax.  Yet, if I don’t know the right thing to say to a kidnapper with a gun pointed at innocent children… Hey, my character is the hostage negotiator, not I!

Truly this is not the most weighty of RPG subjects, but I had a discussion at lunch with a fellow gamer and it came up.

If you have any ideas why this prejudicial phenomenon occurs… comment!

I’d be interested to hear what other people think is the cause.  Or if you haven’t even bumped into this.


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It’s ok to “split” the party!

In a recent D&D game I have been playing in (4th ed. and yes I do play games other than my own… I call it ‘research’ ;-).  My character is an Orc Paladin. “In 4th Ed.?”  Yes.  It’s amazing what you can do when you treat the guidelines like guidelines rather than enforceable government statues.

Chuck, our DM, set up a nice scenario where it behooved us to split into three directions (4 of us at the table other than Chuck).  We were all mockingly stating, “We learned this in Lord of the Rings, NEVER split the party!”  Gently prodded, we took the bait and, lo and behold, my Orc Paladin secured a new follower, our two types made their way up the trail to the overlook and secured that against fair odds, while our final member kept watch on a fair sized skirmish and learned some valuable information from one of the survivors.

What is important is that each of our characters got to do something of interest to them and not wait around while someone else “got to do something.”

We would have missed 2/3rds of the fun had we stuck together.

We had to buy into the idea that separating allows us to get more things done in less time.  This will not ALWAYS be the case.  But when it makes sense to do so, brave adventurers should be encouraged to strike out in smaller groups, or solo and meet up again later.

I bring this up because Of Gods and Relics™ and the forthcoming Deniable Asset™ are built to allow this.  The Power of 12™ Roleplaying System has a very easy method to balance any Conflict for the characters or Agents present.  Just add up all the Foci (or Modus Operandi for Deniable Asset) of all the characters (or Agents) and you know how much should be on the other side of the conflict for a fair fight.  Nudge it one way or the other depending on how easy or difficult you want the Conflict to be.

It has been one of the guiding principles of RPG game design here at Random Encounters: it’s a game, let the people play!

I for one prefer to spend my role-playing time building up my empire – even if it starts with one follower and takes a year to grow into a small band of dedicated Orcs – or standing up for the rights of peasants, or overthrowing the evil overlord – or the good overlord if I am playing evil – rather than tabulating dollars, gold, or credits.

Currency in most RPGs is there primarily as a limiting resource, just like in real life.  If the characters get too much, they get too powerful.  If they don’t get enough, they remain too weak.

This kind of system set up forces the players to manage not their characters but the lower ends of the power “food” chain: the things that make the stuff that make them powerful.  Gold doesn’t make you powerful: gold buys magic items that then make the characters powerful.

Not that this isn’t interesting or fun for many.  But I feel there is more fun to be had for myself and a fair portion of the table top RPG fan base in abstracting economy and minutia in favor of playing the hero directly.  The Power of 12 Roleplaying System was designed for that so you can split the party and enjoy the same fun and freedom of simultaneous split scene action that we get in so many movies and books.

Besides, computers are so much better at crunching economy and minutia: managing the “things” that control the “stuff” that make characters heroic. 

However Chuck, Dungeon Masters, Games Masters, and Game Administrators everywhere are far better at making you, the player, feel heroic while playing your character.

More playing, less preparing to play!

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