Strategy Thoughts – Tearing Down the Screen

Looking forward to Nerd Night immensely.beholder

Last session I re-implemented Fate Points. These addressed a long standing problem in our game, in D&D, and in role playing games in general. The problem has to do with trying to keep a successful and believable narrative alive in the face of great peril and the fickle fate of random dice rolls.

In games, we seek to nurture opportunities for the unlikely where it adds to our heroic tale and we minimize the unlikely where it drains our tale of fun. What would the Lord of the Rings have been like if Frodo had been killed in Moria by that big orc’s spear? What if the Ringwraiths had skewered Frodo on Weathertop? What if they’d caught him at the Ford of Rivendell?  Frodo narrowly escaped each of these brushes with death against the odds. Role Playing, like life, is a game of odds. We feel best when we beat them. We love to gamble and win. But what about when we’re not gambling and that orc roll’s a 20? Or we’re climbing that high tower and roll a 1, or swimming the moat, or a friend drops that celestial bison a touch early? What about when that secondary monster has an attack that includes a save vs. poison or die attack? We don’t mind dying for something awesome, but coming to an inglorious end is more realistic than most of us want.

Thus, Fate Points. Risk and reward feels more authentic if players have a cushion against random death and the GM has the freedom to let the chips fall where they may. But fate points have a problem – and because of that problem we dumped them once before. Fate points lend a feeling of invulnerability. They can be used for meta-gaming in ways that drain fun from the experience. If you know you have a couple of “do over” opportunities – the penalty for recklessness is removed.beholder-1

The solution to these two sides of the systemic problem lies in good role-play. The true path lies in carrying the suspension of disbelief for yourself, for your comrades, and for the GM. The true path lies in working together and being the great heroes you imagine you are.

And that brings me to my next thought. We all had a great time last Friday – but as a team, your strategy was terrible. If you guys are a team of heroes, up against horrors threatening all that is good and sacred in your realm – I humbly suggest working together more closely and more synchronously – saving those fate points until you absolutely need them. The coming horrors are worse, and some far worse, than things you’ve faced so far. I have confidence you can overcome them, but not individually, and not one at a time in series. To be successful on the road ahead, you’ll need to keep your mind on the big picture and central goals. You’ll need to optimize and avoid distractions. You’ll need to work closely together to get things down. I would truly hate to see our great tale come crashing down due to inattention and distraction.

All that being said – I am evolving in my GM style and philosophy. If the great horror ahead destroys the heroes of Dun Alden, so be it. You all had a good run and we could explore the world under the yoke of Zaghlool and the Beast Men of D’Othar. Sort of a Midnight like experience, except with Demon minions instead of Orcs – and gathering fetuses instead of berries and peat.

Here’s to you, brave heroes – and to your success in the challenges ahead.

On another note, I would be interested in running a D&D game without the screen; without the safety net of the GM’s protective hand – and with or without a system like Fate Points. Might be a lot of fun.

Thoughts? Comments? Feedback?



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