August 13th, 2021


RPG-a-Day 12: Think

A day late, but you’re still getting prompt number 12 for RPG-a-Day, which is ‘Think’.

Nobody expects a player to act out all of their combat moves in a game — the character you’re playing is a trained professional (at least in most games), and most players are not. Combat is pretty abstracted: you roll your dice, add or subtract some numbers, and that determines whether you hit or not. But what about intelligence? Playing a character that’s not as smart as yourself is maybe not that difficult, but what about playing characters that are smarter?
Intelligence usually covers things like recall (do you remember something you learned?) and the ability to make deductions (can you deduce who is the culprit from all the clues you have?). (As an aside, I think Rolemaster is the only game that separated those two into two separate stats, Memory and Reasoning. Still, most knowledge skills used both of those stats.)
Recall is easy to abstract away. Your character knows much more about the world they live in that the player, because they have actual lived experience, while the player can only experience the world through the words of the GM — and many minutiae that are obvious to an inhabitant are unknown to the player. So you roll you dice, add your bonus and if you beat the target number (which expresses how obscure that piece of knowledge is in general), your character recalls the information.
Deduction is much harder to abstract away. Well, you could do the same as with recall, but is that really satisfying? Suppose there’s a murder mystery, and you collect clues. You roll the dice, and then your character solves the case. Is that fun?

One ‘solution’ would be to just not have a stat for intelligence, and stating in the rules that players can apply their full intelligence to any situation the characters are in. You can’t play characters that are smarter than yourself, but is that a really big loss?

Crossposted from my blog. Comment here or at the original post.

RPG-a-Day 13: Flood

Today’s prompt for RPG-a-Day is ‘Flood’.

Once, way back, I was GMing and improvising the scenario for a group of fellow computer science students — people from different parts of the country, who all ended up in Nijmegen at the university. I told them that they came to a river, and they started to plan how to cross it. I made the mistake to not clearly communicate the situation (even if the players don’t ask, the GM should always provide any pertinent information that their characters could see, and I didn’t) so they started working from their own images of what a river would be.
To me, a river is a small affair of a few meters wide, like in the village I grew up in. With a few long sticks you could build a makeshift bridge and cross. Most of the players were doing exactly that. But one guy was totally not on board with any of those attempts, and he blocked the progress quite decisively. Until one of the players expected something was up, and asked how wide the river was.
That’s when the one guy stopped the game, and told me: “Hey, you said ‘river’. It’s great you grew up in a village with a river of only a few meters wide, but I grew up in Nijmegen. To me, when someone says ‘river’, I think of the Waal!” The Waal is the busiest river in the Netherlands, and is about 425 meters wide at Nijmegen…
I learned a lesson about being a GM that day!

Crossposted from my blog. Comment here or at the original post.