DMs: Did you challenge the players or the PCs?
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Post Posted: Wed Jan 10, 2007 10:44 am 
 

While reading about Rob Kuntz's exciting new release of Bottle City, the following statement caught my eye:  "The idea of challenge was then vested with the player, unlike many later reinterpretations that vest it with the character."

So I'm wondering how many DMs challenged the players in the group as opposed to the characters.

The reason I ask is because my two primary player groups (one in high school, one in college) never role-played per se.  The players created characters of course, and the used abilities that went with their class & race, but they were nonetheless essentially themselves.

What about the rest of you?  How did this develop in your campaigns?

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Post Posted: Wed Jan 10, 2007 11:14 am 
 

While I have not played D&D in eons, when I did GM (DM), I challenged all of them:  Players and Characters alike........

However, I was always and remain VERY strict about the separation of Player knowledge and Character knowledge.

After all the games Characters had no access to copies of the monster manual to let them know beforehand how best to fight a particular monster type.

And not even the Players had access to a DMG while I was DM'ing a game. Either they took my word for it as the DM, or their character died a truly twisted and horrible death..........

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Post Posted: Wed Jan 10, 2007 11:23 am 
 

Yeah, I also kept the MM and DMG tightly controlled.  In fact, it's weird looking back on it, with the proliferation of material and the availability of everything on the Internet.  

But back then, some of my players didn't even know how to get a hold of a MM or DMG.  Or it was such a PITA that they didn't bother.

Here in Huntsville (AL) in those days there wasn't really a store where you could go buy the stuff, and later, even when I moved to Birmingham (a significantly larger metro area) I think there was only one shop that sold D&D material, and my players either didn't know about it or didn't have the cash to buy a MM or DMG for themselves ... said cash being allocated for beer, as, of course, it should have been.


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Post Posted: Wed Jan 10, 2007 12:04 pm 
 

Keith wrote:While reading about Rob Kuntz's exciting new release of Bottle City, the following statement caught my eye:  "The idea of challenge was then vested with the player, unlike many later reinterpretations that vest it with the character."

So I'm wondering how many DMs challenged the players in the group as opposed to the characters.

The reason I ask is because my two primary player groups (one in high school, one in college) never role-played per se.  The players created characters of course, and the used abilities that went with their class & race, but they were nonetheless essentially themselves.

What about the rest of you?  How did this develop in your campaigns?

Keith


Interesting idea.  I would say the players in my group instead of playing themselves, essentially played archetypes.  The dwarven and elven characters were straight out of Tolkien.  The party thief was basically Gray Mouser from the Leiber stories.  Both half orc fighters (that's right, there were two) were Conan the barbarian.  All roleplaying was filtered through these archetypes; i.e. the elven and dwarven characters sniped at each other, the mage was imperious and aloof, the half orc fighters suspicious of magic but able to kick ten types of ass daily, the clerics were dutiful and helpful, etc.  For us at least, the game was the thing, and it was easier to fall back on familiar models. Very little original roleplaying; what roleplaying resulted was artificial and dictated by the stereotypical archetypes. So I would have to say in my original group, probably very little player challenging and much more character challenging type situations....

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Post Posted: Wed Jan 10, 2007 12:44 pm 
 

I ran several campaign settings throughout the late 1970's and 80's some more conducive to role playing than others.

One of my early campaigns used the Cthulhu mythos from the first edition Deities and Demigods. As an experiment I had the players keep their alignment secret from each other with the only obvious alignments being those of clerics and which order they represented.

Needless to say with that particular mythos there was a leaning towards evil characters which created some interesting conflicts within the party. Alliances were formed and broken and there was a lot of note passing between players in the presence of others that kept everybody paranoid and wondering if assassinations were being plotted.

The campaign was not long lived but made for some memorable gaming moments that the guys still talk about even to this day.

Looking back the challenge was mainly to the players to stay in character as much as possible. I enjoyed running that campaign as much or more than any of the others that I have run over the years.

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Post Posted: Wed Jan 10, 2007 1:25 pm 
 

jasonw1239 wrote:Looking back the challenge was mainly to the players to stay in character as much as possible. Jason


That's indicative of the kind of challenge that I never really faced.  In my games, the players essentially "downloaded" their own personalities to their fighter, thief, bard, etc.  

There was some minor role-playing when it came to alignment, mostly because the players invariably wanted to be more chaotic than they were in real life.

The guys in our group are part of my closest circle of friends to this day, and even 25 years later we'll make some inside joke about how ole-so-and-so burned down a village or dropped a piece of the "Rod of Seven Parts" down a canyon.  All of which leaves our wives either bewildered, or sighing and shaking their heads.

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Post Posted: Wed Jan 10, 2007 3:02 pm 
 

I don't have alignments, just traits, but I have never allowed players to just "know" things about other characters. I've always stressed roleplaying, and tried to create as realistic a scenario as possible.
the other thing I have never really done is tailor challenges and encounters to PC's or players. PC's can encounter any situation, regardless of level or ability, from a single kobold to a horde of vampires. The challenge, I guess, is for players to realize when they are outclassed and react accordingly.


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Post Posted: Wed Jan 10, 2007 3:12 pm 
 

Keith wrote:Yeah, I also kept the MM and DMG tightly controlled...  .


Even as a player, I thought this was fair.

I hated rules lawyers who would try and look up the monster to determine how to defeat it (or is that de-feet? :lol: ).

  

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Post Posted: Wed Jan 10, 2007 3:29 pm 
 

Our group limited the use of the rulebooks during gameplay to only the DM being able to access the DMG and MM but the PHB was perfectly acceptable, and then the hoards of other products that made us part with cash and purchase larger and sturdier tote bags.

We did have one player with an encyclopedic memory that in the middle of gameplay would start quoting page numbers and applicable rules that he had memorized usually prefaced with "I specifically recall..."  :lol: This of course would force the DM to examine that entry in the DMG and make a ruling if it was applicable. The amazing thing was that a lot of the time that players recall was correct. 8O


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Post Posted: Wed Jan 10, 2007 4:07 pm 
 

The so called Core Rule Books were never entented to be THE RULES. They were meant to only be your guidebooks.......
Back in the day.......Rules lawyers quite often rolled up new characters before the end of the day.


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Post Posted: Wed Jan 10, 2007 4:53 pm 
 

First, it was impossible for me to limit access to the DMG or the MM because I was the only person in the group (and I was the DM) who did not own a rulebook.  (Every book I used beyond the Holmes basic set was purchased by players and loaned to me...some of them are still on "loan.")

Second, we played so many series of adventures and so many different characters that someone eventually began to role-play just to avoid boredom.

The high school characters were basicially downloaded versions of the players.

The college characters as well.

What I think of as the "modern era" marked a turn to adult players and much more interest in trying something different.

It would be impossible for me to talk about "the two half-orc fighters" because there have been dozens of them over the years.  One of my players and I listed the campaigns of the "modern era" just this past weekend.  The campaigns have included:

Northmarch I  ("The Griffin War")
Northmarch II ("The Lost Prince")
Borderlands I  (Caen)
Borderlands II (Argentan)
Borderlands III (Brevands)
Castille I (Beaumont)
Castille II (Castille City, "The Marduk Campaign")
Castille III (Arromanches and the Marches)
The Northern Isles ("The Viking Campaign")
The Faeroe ("The Elven Campaign")
Eire ("The Irish Campaign")
Seven Worlds I ("Return to Arragonne")
Seven Worlds II ("The Messina Campaign")
Seven Worlds III (Mezzaluna I)
Seven Worlds IV (Mezzaluna II...set to begin this month.)

Each one represents an average of about a year of real-world time...40 or so adventures.  A few characters appeared in more than one campaign, but not many...and then usually appeared either stripped of their old powers or as cameo appearances late in the campaign.

We began using the 3rd Edition rules for The Northern Isles...a fun and sometimes hillarious campaign involving the crew of the longship Ormer Lange and the adventures of the exiled jarl, Thorvin Magnusson.

Anyway...there it is.  Some role-playing has occured.  :?

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Post Posted: Wed Jan 10, 2007 5:26 pm 
 

Deadlord39 wrote:the other thing I have never really done is tailor challenges and encounters to PC's or players. PC's can encounter any situation, regardless of level or ability, from a single kobold to a horde of vampires. The challenge, I guess, is for players to realize when they are outclassed and react accordingly.


I like this approach, too.  It just feels more sensible (or "realistic", if you don't mind using that term for fantasy gaming!  :D ).

I always challenge the players.  It's a lot more fun that way.


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Post Posted: Wed Jan 10, 2007 8:23 pm 
 

My feeling on this is that you can only ever challenge the players.  This is simply because the characters don't actually exist as anything other than figments of the players' imaginations.  Even when you are challenging the "characters", you're still just challenging the players, who may or may not be pretending to be someone else at the time.

As a couple of posters have pointed out, you can challenge the players to roleplay their characters according to in-character knowledge only.  But that's still just a subdivision of challenging the players.

The only way that characters are truly separate from the players is in their stats, classes, levels, special abilities, magic items and so on.  They have an independent mathematical identity under the rules, but nothing more.  So you could challenge the characters in the sense that you pit their mathematical makeup against the mathematical makeup of your monsters and NPCs through the medium of dice rolling.  But any time that actual human thought is involved, you're back to challenging the players.  Something of a false dichotomy here, methinks... :)

  

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Post Posted: Wed Jan 10, 2007 8:32 pm 
 

These have been some very interesting responses.  The psychology of the game continues to fascinate me.

We did not have trouble with the "rules lawyers" mentioned above.  But if it had happened, I would've simply overruled them.  I tried very hard to maintain game control because I felt that was the best way to make the game enjoyable for everyone concerned.

Looking back on it, I do wish I'd emphasized role-playing more.  I think it would've created a richer experience for us.

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Post Posted: Thu Jan 11, 2007 5:29 am 
 

Players, no doubt. I've always surrounded myself with geek friends, being one myself, so nearly everyone I've gamed with has been very intelligent. Many have been better at math than I am (and I'm no slouch), so the math of the mechanics was never really a big issue, it was just a given that x was going to counter y.

I've always stressed roleplaying, which works less than I'd like. But most adventures I run challenge the characters tactically, which challenges the players tactically. Two of the guys I game with sometimes have to swallow their tongues when they want to point out good tactics for the group but don't have the ability to do so in-character, heh (I keep a pretty tight rein on chatter in a 6-second round).

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Post Posted: Thu Jan 11, 2007 10:21 am 
 

jasonw1239 wrote:....As an experiment I had the players keep their alignment secret from each other with the only obvious alignments being those of clerics and which order they represented....


Thats a great idea! I'm going to borrow that if you dont mind =)

I always found this topic one of the hardest to deal with.  Especially the intelligence part.  I always encouraged players to develope characters with a sense of similair int scores (not an easy feat but it kind of worked out at times).  Relying to much on dice rolls or saying "Well your character wouldnt know that or likely wouldnt have figured out that" gets restrictive.  When it came to characters with a high Int and a player who was, shall we say, less than brilliant...I gave hints via notes.  It worked out rather well in the end and didnt encumber me with added dice rolls.

As for roleplaying, like others I think that people in general played themselves or slight variations.  I did however have one player who took things a little to the extreme and got very invested in his character.  Even going so far as to offer real world things in exchange for game things like I was some sort of magic item vendor (which shocked the heck outa me).


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Post Posted: Thu Jan 11, 2007 10:49 am 
 

In one post-college campaign I had a friend who insisted on role-playing a character where he kept his alignment secret, as well as some other character traits.

He kept passing me notes or talking to me between sessions, letting me know his intentions.

While it was humorous at first, it eventually became very frustrating for everyone involved.

He wanted his character to be a loner, and that character basically became an antagonist to the rest of the group.

Complicating matters was the fact that he was (and is) a good friend, but we couldn't convince him to abandon this style of play.

The campaign fizzled as a result.


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Post Posted: Thu Jan 11, 2007 11:14 am 
 

Keith wrote:In one post-college campaign I had a friend who insisted on role-playing a character where he kept his alignment secret, as well as some other character traits.

He kept passing me notes or talking to me between sessions, letting me know his intentions.

While it was humorous at first, it eventually became very frustrating for everyone involved.

He wanted his character to be a loner, and that character basically became an antagonist to the rest of the group.

Complicating matters was the fact that he was (and is) a good friend, but we couldn't convince him to abandon this style of play.

The campaign fizzled as a result.


Alignment IMO is an artificial and somewhat frustrating restraint.  I suspect it was invented as a reason to control player actions when the DM had no other recourse (i.e. losing levels or abilities if you don't adhere to a code of conduct...)
  Many, many years ago we did away with traditonal aligment in my campaigns. Everyone in the world is pretty much NE or NG.  A few exceptional individuals (Paladins, high priests, saintly or diabolocial creatures) are at the extremes (LE, LG, CG, CE).  There is no such thing as pure neutral, or LN/CN.  Helps make alignment play so much smoother.
   As for the privileged information, I've played that way with various levels of success. Plus, it's fun to use notes to sow party paranoia if you are so inclined!

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