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Author Topic: Question to experienced GM's on providing a challenge for their players.  (Read 4170 times)

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Offline ThatRPGuyTopic starter

If I get approved, there's something I've always wanted to try a more open-form campaign for another player or group. I'm no stranger to DMing, but as a DM, I of course had rulebooks, notes, character sheets, dice, etc. to help me balance the game and make it a challenge.

If I'm to GM a campaign for someone, I don't have to have to have everyone roll init and then spend 15+ posts each time a handful of kobolds shows up; in fact, I'm not sure I'd want to use dice at all, but rather just RP the conflict. I'm not exactly sure how I could really provide a challenge or interesting experience though, if players always have the option to RP a monster slaughter and move on.

What methods to you guys usually use (for conflict and otherwise), to keep players challenged and involved? Writing the story is going to be the easy part for me, I can weave a world and a tale just fine. I'm just not sure what to do when it comes  to replacing those dice  and stat sheets I've come to rely on.

If any of you are feeling especially generous, I'd love to play a short campaign or crawl to see how you'd handle my party and conflict resolution.

Offline Thufir Hawat

Personally, I simply use a system. I usually add a generous sprinkling of indie and old-school GMing tricks.
I know, not terribly useful, but the exact details depend too much of the game at hand, and change between games ;).

Offline Chrystal

I'm probably not the best person to answer this, but I'll give it a shot.

Thufir can give the system argument, and I am going to try and give the other side. Freeform!

In a freeform RP, it's usually best to have your players on the same team, because otherwise PvP can get messy. It's either that or you make it clear that any PvP must have the outcome agreed publicly in advance.

But in order to keep them entertained, plot twists are good. Throw in random NPCs, and have them do random things. One of the nice things about freeform RP is that your characters are constrained only by the setting and their imaginations.

So, to take the example you give of a handful of kobolds showing up: You (as GM) post that as the party round the corner, they come across a Kobold raiding party. You describe in as much detail as you like, the scenery, the weather, the kobolds themselves, what they look like what armour they are wearing, how big they are, the fact that the female one has clearly just been mounted by at least two of the males... whatever...

Then you wait. Your magic user posts next and describes the spell he casts at the Kobolds. Before you even get a chance to reply to that, your elf has fired six arrows at them and your paladin has rushed in with his sword drawn yelling "Death or glory!".

So you then post back describing the effects of each attack. You know your stuff well enough (I assume) to be able to simply make up what happens without rolling dice. It would just be realistic invention. So the freeze spell hits two of the enemy and they freeze, but the rest are sheltered behind the Kobold sorcerer's magic defence. The arrows are a different matter and one Kobold goes down with an arrow through the eye, another takes one in the sword arm, a third is hit by two, one in the chest and another in the belly, a forth enemy takes the last two arrows, one in his thigh and the other in his shield.

The paladin then charges in and his sword smashed the two frozen Kobolds. Then he decapitates the one with the arrow in the sword arm, before the female Kobold sorcerer casts a fireball at him...

And in the spirit of good freeform RP, you leave it for the Paladin's player to state what effect the fireball has.

Very few players will thank you if your NPCs kill off their character, unless it is by prior arrangement - However, see also the thread entitled "Return of the living dead"...!




Offline ThatRPGuyTopic starter

You have a bunch of great idea for freeform, Chrystal, and I have one more question for you; how would you deal with a party member that abuses healing powers? It wasn't a campaign, but I did do a 1x1 RP with someone once who'se response to every situation, be it trap, conflict, and so on was "I heal up and press on." Eventually that RP ended since I was too boring to challenge him, or so he said. I really didn't know what to do, outside of killing off his character.

(On a sidenote, I tried unhealable damage. He healed it.)

Offline Chrystal

Ah, now, that is a problem whatever kind of RP you use. In Furcadia they call them "Twinks", not sure if that word is used elsewhere.

Twinks and god-modders are the bane of the GMs existence.

But the way I would deal with such a player is, quite frankly, peer pressure.

I had a player who joined a RP of mine for the single , sole purpose (And I am certain of this) of RPing his character having sex with mine. When he learned that this wasn't going to happen, he started being awkward. I have no idea if he was doing it deliberately or if he was just an idiot... Anyway, I had specifically asked people to post their characters being on the way to a location so that my character could arrive there first. He ignored this.

I asked him to delete his post. He refused. I asked him again. He edited it. I asked again that he delete it. Finally he did.

But until he did as I asked, I wasn't going to post anything and had asked the other players to not post while I sorted out a technical issue. Of course they all knew what the issue was, even though I didn't explicitly tell them.

(By the way, the player was subsequently banned, so I don't think there is any real issue with using him as an example of this sort of behaviour).

Anyway, in the situation where one player is getting out of line like that, the obvious solution is for all the other players to have a go at him/her. You post in the OOC thread, something like "Sorry guys, we have a slight continuity issue that needs to be resolved before we can continue." NEVER say exactly what it is, publicly. You PM the player in question and explain the issue, tell them that the game can't continue until they start playing properly.

Most players will work out what the issue is by themselves. If they PM you about it, you just tell them that you are dealing with it. If they tell you they know who and what is the problem, you can then tell them that they are welcome to have a word with the culprit, player to player.

As a last resort, I would PM all the other players and ask them to ignore any posts from that player from now on.... But that is the last resort.

I'm pretty sure that Staff will not step in unless there are actual issues that infringe E's rules, but it might be worth bringing the player to their attention, because if they are doing it to you, they are doing it to other games.

Offline TwoHundredTabs

Anyway, in the situation where one player is getting out of line like that, the obvious solution is for all the other players to have a go at him/her. You post in the OOC thread, something like "Sorry guys, we have a slight continuity issue that needs to be resolved before we can continue." NEVER say exactly what it is, publicly. You PM the player in question and explain the issue, tell them that the game can't continue until they start playing properly.

Most players will work out what the issue is by themselves. If they PM you about it, you just tell them that you are dealing with it. If they tell you they know who and what is the problem, you can then tell them that they are welcome to have a word with the culprit, player to player.

As a last resort, I would PM all the other players and ask them to ignore any posts from that player from now on.... But that is the last resort.

I'm pretty sure that Staff will not step in unless there are actual issues that infringe E's rules, but it might be worth bringing the player to their attention, because if they are doing it to you, they are doing it to other games.

Very mature responses. Thanks for the info.

Offline Thufir Hawat

I'm probably not the best person to answer this, but I'll give it a shot.

Thufir can give the system argument, and I am going to try and give the other side. Freeform!
Well, Chrystal, I'm not giving him "the system option", because there's nothing you can only do in freeform and you can't do with a good system. The opposite isn't true, however.

Quote
In a freeform RP, it's usually best to have your players on the same team, because otherwise PvP can get messy. It's either that or you make it clear that any PvP must have the outcome agreed publicly in advance.

But in order to keep them entertained, plot twists are good. Throw in random NPCs, and have them do random things. One of the nice things about freeform RP is that your characters are constrained only by the setting and their imaginations.

So, to take the example you give of a handful of kobolds showing up: You (as GM) post that as the party round the corner, they come across a Kobold raiding party. You describe in as much detail as you like, the scenery, the weather, the kobolds themselves, what they look like what armour they are wearing, how big they are, the fact that the female one has clearly just been mounted by at least two of the males... whatever...

Then you wait. Your magic user posts next and describes the spell he casts at the Kobolds. Before you even get a chance to reply to that, your elf has fired six arrows at them and your paladin has rushed in with his sword drawn yelling "Death or glory!".

So you then post back describing the effects of each attack. You know your stuff well enough (I assume) to be able to simply make up what happens without rolling dice. It would just be realistic invention. So the freeze spell hits two of the enemy and they freeze, but the rest are sheltered behind the Kobold sorcerer's magic defence. The arrows are a different matter and one Kobold goes down with an arrow through the eye, another takes one in the sword arm, a third is hit by two, one in the chest and another in the belly, a forth enemy takes the last two arrows, one in his thigh and the other in his shield.

The paladin then charges in and his sword smashed the two frozen Kobolds. Then he decapitates the one with the arrow in the sword arm, before the female Kobold sorcerer casts a fireball at him...

And in the spirit of good freeform RP, you leave it for the Paladin's player to state what effect the fireball has.
And that here is the problem I thought the OP is asking about. BTW, I still think it's the case.
See, what you describe is a challenge to some people. It's a chalenge of stretching your creative muscles, throwing curveballs to the GM and other players to invent a fun response, and so on. I get that, of course ;).
Yet the simple fact is that other players would simply get bored with it, not because you didn't describe well! To some people, if they're controlling the outcome, it's not seen as a challenge.
Their character might be hurt, but not as badly as to be taken out. That means there was no question how it'd end the whole time.
And that's the challenge some people want.
Are they bad players because of it? No, they're looking for a different kind of challenge. This makes them bad players no more than someone becomes a bad GM because of their preference towards using a heavily-plotted adventure, or their preference to non-scripted adventures...
So, I thought the OP is asking "how to give these people a challenging battle during freeform".
The short but true answer is "you can't give them anything they'd see as a challenge". You can give them a non-combat challenge, but to some people, the random kobolds simply aren't one.
Now, this might well change in games where the GM decides the outcome, based on the character's actions and his or her best judgement (hopefully including common sense and some knowledge of the subject). Or it might change in games that use some kind of random outcomes. But the majority of the games on E. are like what you described, the player decides what affects the character. And, as stated above, to some people that's incompatible with the word "challenge".
Hence my short answer before ;).

Ah, now, that is a problem whatever kind of RP you use. In Furcadia they call them "Twinks", not sure if that word is used elsewhere.

Twinks and god-modders are the bane of the GMs existence.

But the way I would deal with such a player is, quite frankly, peer pressure.
See, I'd reserve peer pressure for cases where someone is spoiling other people's fun. Sometimes that means god-modders, indeed :P!
Twinks, however, are easily dealt with, and you can actually transform them into nearly a boon for your game. Just use what they're doing into your game by having the NPCs react appropriately to it.

You have a bunch of great idea for freeform, Chrystal, and I have one more question for you; how would you deal with a party member that abuses healing powers? It wasn't a campaign, but I did do a 1x1 RP with someone once who'se response to every situation, be it trap, conflict, and so on was "I heal up and press on." Eventually that RP ended since I was too boring to challenge him, or so he said. I really didn't know what to do, outside of killing off his character.

(On a sidenote, I tried unhealable damage. He healed it.)
My GMing approach wouldn't change because of it. It's never about just winning a fight. So, whatever he does, he will be furthering the in-game events!
You've got epic healing powers? Great, that's a big rarity! Now, let me review the list of important NPCs and organisations in the setting...
You see, there's a group of people that would literally kill to get to you. And they want you to heal someone for them. They offer good payment, BTW.
But who the hell is this person, and why wasn't a lesser healer able to help them >:)?
Also, he fights on autoheal mode. Great, did he kill anyone? Ever heard of blood feuds? Healing your wounds can't help you if you're simply restrained and tied. That's not injury.
Yes, whatever he does, it's only going to help me as a GM. I've come to consider such players boons, not banes, as long as they don't pretend they can do everything better than everyone.
And if they do that, frankly, why are you playing with god-modders ;D?

Offline Chrystal

*chuckles* A hit, a palpable hit!

Okay, sorry, that was just a little bellow the belt.

But there is ONE thing you can do in freeform that you can't do in a system: Play without a system!

Other than that, I'm going to give the same answer that you gave in a different thread:

These are indeed good examples of different approaches. And the point is, every style has its fans, so you just have to find out what the game has to offer and decide whether you want this style, or the other.
If it's not your style, you can always play something else, and it's not the end of the world ;D!

Agreed?

As for dealing with the "problem player", Thufir, this is probably why you have an orange badge and I don't, my friend! And again, this is WHY this forum exists. I would never have thought of using the guy's "abilities". Gives me an idea on how I could have better handled the situation I encountered....

So, this creepy character shows up early. While she is hanging around outside the meeting place, she encounters a couple of even creepier characters (NPCs) who appear to be staking out the place. What does she do? Especially when the two NPCs spot her and move threateningly towards her... Oh yeah, that would actually have been fun!

And I think this is a great way of "dealing" with "problem players". Bring in a NPC or a sub-plot that they have to respond to in some way that requires them to use whatever their "problem" has been for the benefit of the team.

Offline ThatRPGuyTopic starter

Both of you honestly have some really great ideas for each of your styles.

My biggest problem with systems games, Thufir, is that I don't have a ton of time these days. If I'm lucky, I'll be able to do a couple of posts before work, and then a decent handful of long, well written ones at night. What I'm worried about is how long even the simplest fights would take if I required a roll for each attack from both sides. Do you have any method for speeding it up?

When it comes to freeform, I guess really it's all about finding players you can trust. Personally, I tend to gravitate towards making characters with vulnerabilities or limits so I couldn't God-mod if I wanted to. (plus, IMO, it makes them more interesting.) A healer that takes the injuries he heals onto himself, for example.

Would either of you be interested in GMing something simple, like a quick dungeon crawl, or a short campaign if I get approved? I'd really like to see you in action. I'm one of those 'learn by doing' kinds of people.

Quote
And if they do that, frankly, why are you playing with god-modders ?
That's honestly a really good question...

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Unfortunately if you plan to play a system game via forum, combat is one of those places that really slow the game down.

Offline Chrystal

When it comes to freeform, I guess really it's all about finding players you can trust. Personally, I tend to gravitate towards making characters with vulnerabilities or limits so I couldn't God-mod if I wanted to. (plus, IMO, it makes them more interesting.) A healer that takes the injuries he heals onto himself, for example.

With freeform, it is, basically that, yes. All of my characters, both group and solo, have weaknesses and vulnerabilities. I am more than happy to have First Sergeant Kerry Paige take a space-orc arrow through her leg, for example. And have her pull it out, bandage the wound and carry on fighting. Then when it's all over, she collapses in agony....

Quote
Would either of you be interested in GMing something simple, like a quick dungeon crawl, or a short campaign if I get approved? I'd really like to see you in action. I'm one of those 'learn by doing' kinds of people.

If you get approved (and if it was up to me....) you will be more than welcome to join my Western freeform RP, or at the very least, read it if it isn't still going... And I will almost certainly start another group RP before long if it isn't.

I don't know what our friendly Mentat has running...?
« Last Edit: May 07, 2012, 03:42:53 PM by Chrystal »

Online TheGlyphstone

Both of you honestly have some really great ideas for each of your styles.

My biggest problem with systems games, Thufir, is that I don't have a ton of time these days. If I'm lucky, I'll be able to do a couple of posts before work, and then a decent handful of long, well written ones at night. What I'm worried about is how long even the simplest fights would take if I required a roll for each attack from both sides. Do you have any method for speeding it up?

Well, one way to speed it up on the GM's side is pre-rolling. Roll a die (d10, d20, whatever) 100+ times (use an electronic die roller), write down what you get, and store the file somewhere. When you need a die, take the top number from your list, add whatever modifier you need, then cross it off.

Offline ThatRPGuyTopic starter

Quote
And I think this is a great way of "dealing" with "problem players". Bring in a NPC or a sub-plot that they have to respond to in some way that requires them to use whatever their "problem" has been for the benefit of the team.

Now I have done that before. In my DnD days, me and my 2 friends would play at this book and comic store that was within bike-riding distance. Since there were only 3 of us, and the store had its share of regulars, we often let people join in a guests, as long as they did their own character sheet. Which brings me to one of my biggest DnD pet peeves: Chaotic Evil characters.

Now I don't have anything against evil characters, or anyone who wants to play the bad guy. In fact, I always loved it when someone wanted to play a bandit group or major encounter. It was always fun to watch, and my friends usually enjoyed it. The store owner even got in on it sometimes, testing out character ideas or prestige classes by pitting them against my group.

What I hate are the players that do whatever they want, often very obnoxious or disruptive things, with "Because I'm Evil!" being the sole motivation for their actions. Enter "Vindale", a CE wizard with a talent for game disruption. This was my 'favorite' exchange with his player, to give you an idea.

"So your cart arrives in Melvaunt safely, the driver thanks you for your business-"
"I'm not paying him."
"huh?"
"I'm not going to pay. How's he going to stop me?"
"He's not. The captain of the knights paid for your trip already, remember?"
"Oh. Then I kill him and take my money back."
"Whatever, fine. When you pull your knife or whatever he gets scared and gives you everything the captain paid for your trip. Give yourself one gold and let's please keep moving."
"I go kick in a peasant's door and rape his wife."
"Dude. What? Why?!"
"Because I'm F___ing Evil! Get it?"

If you find it funny, just imagine it another 20 times in the same session and you'll start to see my point. My group's original solution was to be patient and try to treat him like ones of us in hopes he'd come around, but patience wanes after a few sessions of that. Luckily for all of us, he practically gift wrapped me a solution by the third session by declaring he was going to a magic shop to steal components and potions.

"*exagerated sight* Do you really go into one?"
"Yes, and I gr-"
"Okay. So we're clear. You just confirmed you're going into an emporium filled with magical trinkets and weapons, along with successful adventurers who are just itching to use their new toys. Awesome. So the moment you walk through the heavily warded door with malicious inte-"
"I cast detect magic!"
"Oh, you detect magic all right. Roll a fort save."
In short, the shoppers and shop keepers tire him to shreds and disintegrated the corpse. We offered the player a chance to make a new, not evil character, but he refused. Good times all around.

I guess I never thought of doing something like that with my healer friend because he wasn't really an annoyance at all. He certainly wasn't a pest, campaigning for him was just no fun.

Offline ThatRPGuyTopic starter

Well, one way to speed it up on the GM's side is pre-rolling. Roll a die (d10, d20, whatever) 100+ times (use an electronic die roller), write down what you get, and store the file somewhere. When you need a die, take the top number from your list, add whatever modifier you need, then cross it off.

That's honestly a really good idea. I can see it working really well with things like spot and listen checks too. I could just PM the results and not even announce a check was made...

I can see that speeding up combat a good amount, unless we're playing 4th edition, now that everyone has a half dozen skills to pick from each encounter.

Offline ThatRPGuyTopic starter

Quote
If you get approved (and if it was up to me....) you will be more than welcome to join my Western freeform RP, or at the very least, read it if it isn't still going... And I will almost certainly start another group RP before long if it isn't.

I'll gladly take you up on that! Also, I had another thought. Any interest in letting me GM a scenario for you? Something simple the first time around, just to give you a taste on where I am so you can offer advice.

Online TheGlyphstone

Yeah, Stupid Evil players are the worst and most obnoxious. I just flat-out ban Evil alignments in my tabletop games because I'm sick of having to deal with them.

Offline ThatRPGuyTopic starter

Yeah, Stupid Evil players are the worst and most obnoxious. I just flat-out ban Evil alignments in my tabletop games because I'm sick of having to deal with them.

Hehe. We called it Chaotic Stupid.

Online TheGlyphstone

Nah, Chaotic Stupid is the same concept applied to people who are 'Chaotic Neutral' - the ones who try to give the king a wedgie, flip a coin to decide  between crossing a bridge and burning it down then jumping off, and literally backstab their party members mid-combat because 'they're Chaotic!"

Offline ThatRPGuyTopic starter

Ha! I didn't actually know where were different 'stupid' labels for the various grievances a DM had to deal with.

Offline Chrystal

*chuckles*

But... but.... I'm chaotic evil.... Well, actually, somewhere between there and Chaotic Neutral.

And actually, I would never do something like that. To my mind, being Chaotic Evil alignment means that I can be as nasty as I want, but I can also be nice if it suits my purposes, without suffering an alignment penalty. That is what "Chaotic" means to me. Not that I do stupid random shit for the sake of it!

As for the evil side of things, heck I just like playing the bad guy, even if it means I loose. And I don't loose all the time. Being evil doesn't mean killing for the sake of killing. Being evil means not worrying about killing. Someone who kills a coachman just for the sake of it and then bursts into a house and rapes the occupants, that isn't evil, that's insane.

A truly evil person would pay the coachman with a coin that bore a bad-luck charm, and then befriend the occupants of the house, before hypnotising them and using mind control to have them carry out her bidding, or possibly just tie them up and make them watch while she murdered the real target of her anger. She would, of course, murder them afterwards, but only so that there were no witnesses left alive!

Offline ThatRPGuyTopic starter

Evil/CE characters aren't bad, and from everything we've discussed in these threads, I can believe that you'd play one well. All my pet peeves are the ones that revolve around using "I'm evil!" as the reason why their character is constantly doing really dumb things. Basically players that think they're in a BioWare game.

BTW, any interest in my invite to GM you?
Quote
I'll gladly take you up on that! Also, I had another thought. Any interest in letting me GM a scenario for you? Something simple the first time around, just to give you a taste on where I am so you can offer advice.

Offline mvo33

Well bad is relative, but evil alinements (by the 3.5 definition) aren't nice guys and almost never integrate themselves well in a party that's not like minded (evil or perhaps some neutral).

I think you are describing yourself more as Chaotic Neutral Chrystal (at least by the 3.5 definitions), Chaotic evil characters are out for the spread of chaos and destruction.  They tend to be the true psychotics/mass murders, if they give a lollypop to a child it's probably poisoned.  Chaotic Neutral is more of the I'll do anything as long  as it furthers my own goals.

But as for how you deal with people who are Chaotic Evil in your game (I am presuming it's not a evil campaign), you bring in the checks of society to take care of him.  As he becomes more renowned in his petition for being evil, people will stop dealing with him and when he get to a certain point heck create a NPC party of adventurers who try and take him down because he's evil.  Heck send a town guard after him, they can only last so long, if the rest of the party defends him because he's a party member then they can be branded as outlaws while they are with them.  That brings back the table peer pressure to help whip him into line, or if everyone talks it out perhaps the player isn't right for the game.

If you want to look at Bioware games, look towards their early works.  In Baldur's Gate 1&2, if you were evil and had a bad reputation the guard in the city would actively come after you while you are in the realm, shop keepers wouldn't trade with you (or over charge you).  Otherwise the morality system in video games is kind of out of wack, being evil is often more like being petty or killing someone (feel free to ask my about TOR and being a light side sith)...there was a really good opinion piece in PC Gamer 5+ ago about it but I don't remember enough of it to try and pull quotes out of it.

Oh well my two cents at least...(if I'm lucky I was actually on topic)

Matt

Offline Chrystal

I'll gladly take you up on that! Also, I had another thought. Any interest in letting me GM a scenario for you? Something simple the first time around, just to give you a taste on where I am so you can offer advice.

I did see that. To be honest, it really depends on what you have in mind. If you have a good idea for a multi-player scenario, then you should open it to multiple players. I don't really do one-on-one games with male players.

I think you are describing yourself more as Chaotic Neutral Chrystal (at least by the 3.5 definitions), Chaotic evil characters are out for the spread of chaos and destruction.  They tend to be the true psychotics/mass murders, if they give a lollypop to a child it's probably poisoned.  Chaotic Neutral is more of the I'll do anything as long  as it furthers my own goals.

I assume you are referring to D&D rules? I played that once, a LOOOOONG time ago, back in the early 1980s. I suppose you are correct though. But what TRPG and I were really talking about is the player who uses their alignment as a reason to be disruptive. I was really trying to suggest that one can play an evil and/or chaotic character without being a total arse about it!

Offline ThatRPGuyTopic starter

Quote
If you want to look at Bioware games, look towards their early works.  In Baldur's Gate 1&2, if you were evil and had a bad reputation the guard in the city would actively come after you while you are in the realm, shop keepers wouldn't trade with you (or over charge you).  Otherwise the morality system in video games is kind of out of wack, being evil is often more like being petty or killing someone (feel free to ask my about TOR and being a light side sith)...there was a really good opinion piece in PC Gamer 5+ ago about it but I don't remember enough of it to try and pull quotes out of it.

I actually forgot that there once was a time when BioWare made some amazing RPGs, and not just half hearted games with generic Karma systems and choices like "Kill all orphans" or "Give orphans ALL your monies."

That shit I took was really directed more towards their last 6 or so years.

Online TheGlyphstone

I did see that. To be honest, it really depends on what you have in mind. If you have a good idea for a multi-player scenario, then you should open it to multiple players. I don't really do one-on-one games with male players.

I assume you are referring to D&D rules? I played that once, a LOOOOONG time ago, back in the early 1980s. I suppose you are correct though. But what TRPG and I were really talking about is the player who uses their alignment as a reason to be disruptive. I was really trying to suggest that one can play an evil and/or chaotic character without being a total arse about it!

Absolutely. That's why gamers have invented labels like Chaotic Stupid and Stupid Evil, to distinguish players who are DOIN IT RONG from the real alignments.