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  1. - Top - End - #31
    Firbolg in the Playground
     
    BlueKnightGuy

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    Default Re: How to encourage risky gameplay

    Quote Originally Posted by Democratus View Post
    If you make sure good things happen when the risk is taken, and reduce the penalties when it fails...

    Is it really risky gameplay any more?
    Yes.

    When the options are:

    • Lose a leg
    • Earn $1 million


    It's still a heavy risk, no matter the odds.

    The important thing about risk vs. consistency is that you can strategize around consistency, even if it's consistently bad. But usually the value of strategy is something that favors the players, not the players' enemies. Enemy plots are generally hand-waved things, while the players have to utilize gathered resources and powers to develop a solution.

    So it's almost always in the player's favor to take the most boring, predictable solution to their problems, as they're the ones that have to manage the situation and adapt.


    Even if something like swinging from a chandelier for an attack has a Cost:Reward of 30:70, and is generally more beneficial to do, you still aren't sure of the results and whether or not you have the tools to adapt afterwards.

    So even if failure just means "The chandelier falls to the floor from your weight, creating Difficult Terrain in the area", the players don't know that, and likely couldn't have prepared around that result. On the other hand, running up to the enemy and attacking them has really predictable results, even if the odds of success weren't great.



    Put another way, the less predictable (and more impactful) the result, the more it needs to swing in the player's favor, as predictability always favors the players. It's mechanically in the players' best interest to be boring, so it's our job to fight against that.



    As far as my personal recommendation for rewarding risky gameplay, it depends on the severity. If it's mildly risky, the offending player gets a boon. If it's extremely risky, everyone else but that player gets a boon (as the offending player is likely being a bit too "extra", and the rest of the party shouldn't feel frustrated for pulling him out of the fire).
    Last edited by Man_Over_Game; 2020-09-08 at 11:53 AM.
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  2. - Top - End - #32
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    PaladinGuy

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    Default Re: How to encourage risky gameplay

    Quote Originally Posted by kyoryu View Post
    Ultimately, it's just risk vs. reward.

    If risk > reward, then players won't do the things.
    While that can be true, the idea is to train, and find ways to further train, the player to take succeeding at a risk as a reward, or part of a reward, in and of itself.
    Last edited by NorthernPhoenix; 2020-09-08 at 12:04 PM.

  3. - Top - End - #33
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    OldWizardGuy

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    Default Re: How to encourage risky gameplay

    Quote Originally Posted by Man_Over_Game View Post
    The important thing about risk vs. consistency is that you can strategize around consistency, even if it's consistently bad. But usually the value of strategy is something that favors the players, not the players' enemies. Enemy plots are generally hand-waved things, while the players have to utilize gathered resources and powers to develop a solution.

    So it's almost always in the player's favor to take the most boring, predictable solution to their problems, as they're the ones that have to manage the situation and adapt.
    This is often exacerbated by the common GM strategy of withholding as much information as possible. When the risks are unknown, you have to presume that they're catastrophic, especially if you have reason to believe that they may be.

    Also for your previous example (which I already deleted, sorry), the million dollar/leg thing is actually made more interesting by not having randomness at all! If you need the million dollars to do X, and the cost is your leg, then that's quite an interesting dilemma for the player - is the thing that the money enables worth a leg?

    Quote Originally Posted by Man_Over_Game View Post
    Even if something like swinging from a chandelier for an attack has a Cost:Reward of 30:70, and is generally more beneficial to do, you still aren't sure of the results and whether or not you have the tools to adapt afterwards.

    So even if failure just means "The chandelier falls to the floor from your weight, creating Difficult Terrain in the area", the players don't know that, and likely couldn't have prepared around that result. On the other hand, running up to the enemy and attacking them has really predictable results, even if the odds of success weren't great.
    And this is a great reason to tell the players what may happen. If they know that the result of a failure is the chandelier falling, they can make a reasonably assessment of the risk. If they don't, they'll have no idea of what to expect and essentially have to plan for the worst.

    Withholding information generates risk averse gameplay.

    Additionally, being upfront about the risks generates trust, and when players feel that they can trust the GM, then they're more likely to do "risky" things as they can trust that the failure results will be appropriate.

    Quote Originally Posted by Man_Over_Game View Post
    Put another way, the less predictable (and more impactful) the result, the more it needs to swing in the player's favor, as predictability always favors the players. It's mechanically in the players' best interest to be boring, so it's our job to fight against that.
    Consider also that failures can disproportionately impact players. Like critical failure charts....

    Quote Originally Posted by Man_Over_Game View Post
    As far as my personal recommendation for rewarding risky gameplay, it depends on the severity. If it's mildly risky, the offending player gets a boon. If it's extremely risky, everyone else but that player gets a boon (as the offending player is likely being a bit too "extra", and the rest of the party shouldn't feel frustrated for pulling him out of the fire).
    One of the other things is to attach a risk to the "safe" behavior. Sure, you can plan until you're dead, but then the bad guys will get away/be more prepared. Sure, you can avoid doing the chandelier swing, but then the bad guys escape with the artifact. The cost of the "safe" option needs to be there too, usually in terms of time/enemy preparedness.

    But a lot of that also depends on whether you're talking macro-level decisions (go in without exhaustive prep) vs. micro-level decisions (swing on the chandelier vs. attack).

    Quote Originally Posted by NorthernPhoenix View Post
    While that can be true, the idea is to train, and find ways to further train, the player to take succeeding at a risk as a reward, or part of a reward, in and of itself.
    Is it?

    I think the idea that players should perform blatantly suboptimal decisions is kind of odd.

    Like, let's look at gambling on a coin flip. You want players to do that. You could give them $5 on a $1 bet if they win, at which point it's a good bet.

    You could give them roughly even money. This is risk, but it's balanced.

    If you offer them $1 on a $5 bet, they'll turn it down, every time, and they should.

    The problem is that in a lot of cases, players don't know the bet they're making, and many GMs are perfectly willing to rain down thunder and lightning if the players "screw up".

    In that case, it's not really a matter of a $1/$1 bet, from the players' point of view. It's the GM saying "Hey, how about you make a bet? If you win, you will get something, but I won't tell you what. And if you lose, you'll lose something, but I won't tell you what. So you can take that bet now.... or...... you can do a lot of research and I'll tell you what you actually might win or lose. Which is it?"

    Of *course* the players will do the research/planning. If you don't know what you can win/lose, that's not a risk.
    Last edited by kyoryu; 2020-09-08 at 12:24 PM.
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  4. - Top - End - #34
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    Default Re: How to encourage risky gameplay

    It certainly makes sense that players would try to approach problems optimally, especially in my case where one of my players finds effective planning and clean execution to be his most engaging form of gameplay.

    I once had an adventure where he figured out how to use two spells and time to clear out a town's worth of undead that I had figured would be a few combats. I considered this, said "Yeah, that's an excellent plan, it takes about six hours of back-breaking labor to pull it off, but there's virtually no risk to you. It's a few hours before dawn when you finish."

    I was a little disappointed that the adventure wound up so procedural, but this player was elated. "That was so cool," he told me. "I don't know I've ever had a plan just work like that before."

    Times like those are nice, but it also means every dungeon immediately becomes a series of dull chokepoints as they break down a door, then backpedal to set up an ambush. This is tactically advantageous, but also laborious. This pleases the planning player, but I've also got players who like their action high-flying, but can't really gainsay the planner because they're committed to playing in-character. This isn't exactly a frequent problem, but it does come up.

    I've found that the key is in shifting the goals and perils of a given encounter. Give them a reason that some of them HAVE to be across the room in a round or two to stop an enemy from activating a trap, or that they need to get off a rock-ledge before it collapses, Or that there's a slow moving but devastating enemy they need to keep ahead of. Ambushes are prime material for injecting this kind of action, because players know from the start that they're exactly where their enemies want them, so any distance they gain from that position, however risky, can only be a tactical benefit. Time pressures are good, too: hostages, burning fuses, and so on. At a macro scale, this can help keep a fire lit under your players when they're not in direct combat.
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  5. - Top - End - #35
    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    PaladinGuy

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    Default Re: How to encourage risky gameplay

    It's something you want to have a mix of.
    Sometimes pushed into taking risks. Sometimes having all the time and resources in the world. Sometimes having time pressures but being resource rich and sometimes lots of time but nothing to use.

    But you do want the GM&Players to know which they are doing. And arguably having a semi realistic choice about going into it. With a suitable payoff matrix (with the cautious approaches vaguely in the middle of risky success and failure).

    I do wonder if the removal of 'boring' rolls is a little counter-productive here. If the player can just "spend ages" carefully picking a lock, there's no opportunity-cost for doing that. If they had to roll that 20, they might have more desire to just blow the bloody doors off.

  6. - Top - End - #36
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    Flumph

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    Default Re: How to encourage risky gameplay

    Quote Originally Posted by Democratus View Post
    If you make sure good things happen when the risk is taken, and reduce the penalties when it fails...

    Is it really risky gameplay any more?
    It's as risky as you can practically get in a TTRPG.

    Books or movies often have the protagonists encounter, for example, ten hazardous situations they only have a 50% or less chance to survive. That's less than 1/1000 odds. This works in scripted fiction because the author only covers the one timeline where they do survive rather than the many where they don't.

    But in a TTRPG, where the dice don't obey the plot, being "risky" means one of:

    1) The risks are really risky, many campaigns end with a TPK, few characters make it from the start to the end of a plot arc, but if you play enough campaigns you eventually get one where everything lines up and it's awesome. Problem: This require playing a lot to "pay off", more so than most adults can manage.

    2) In-fiction, the actions are risky, but OOC on a mechanics level, they aren't, and the players know this. Fate, for example - jumping across that chasm is a very long-shot and the bottom can't even be seen, but OOC the players would know that with all the aspects they have built up their odds are pretty good, and that failure will mean "clinging to an outcropping" rather than "splat". Problem: May not give the same excitement.

    3) The GM lies. They say they're running a Type 1 game, but actually they fudge things so it's more like Type 2. Problem: Once the players see through the curtain, nothing else in that campaign (possible with that GM at all) will feel very meaningful.

    Or you can give that up and say "Yeah, both IC and OOC you feel you have pretty good odds, like at least 90% to survive this, but hey, limited risk still adds up quickly."
    Last edited by icefractal; 2020-09-08 at 06:39 PM.

  7. - Top - End - #37
    Orc in the Playground
     
    BardGuy

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    Default Re: How to encourage risky gameplay

    Quote Originally Posted by Duff View Post
    snip also, limit the info available before the action.
    Quote Originally Posted by Satinavian View Post
    I disagree.

    Risk-averse players tend to be even more careful if the situation is less known and the risks can't be gauged.
    That's a really good point - Some players will respond to limited info by trying to plan around all the possibilities. These players need to be confident that they have enough info to be able to make decisions
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  8. - Top - End - #38
    Bugbear in the Playground
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    Default Re: How to encourage risky gameplay

    Quote Originally Posted by Drascin View Post
    Since speaking in terms of whole scenarios would make this post pretty long, let me make a comparison to a very low level but similar thing: do you know how many GMs complain endlessly that all their players do is go "I attack"... but then whenever their players want to do something silly like swing off the chandelier, they immediately ask for an acrobatics check as difficult as landing the attack in the first place and if the character miss the check they make them take fall damage and end up prone in front of the enemy from falling, or something of that stripe, while beating the check gives them, like, a +2 modifier to their attack? And never seem to realize why their players stopped bothering years ago?

    That's a micro version of what I mean. Doing the "cool maneuver" adds a massive possible failure penalty, but the benefit of succeeding is minor compared to just doing the baseline safe thing: textbook case of "not even slightly worth it". And players pick up on this. It is extremely easy, as a GM, to fall into this mindset on the macro level - especially if you have simulationist tendencies, when you set up situations you risk worrying so much about making the risks "realistic" and "make sense for the enemies" that you forget thinking about the important bit: what am I trying to transmit and reinforce, here?
    That is a different topic.

    But ... for me that is the intended playstyle that should be encouraged. People who fight, tend to use weapons, formations etc. for a reason. Standard routines became standard because they are generally best practices.

    Special, unorthodox moves are only useful for special situations and that is exactly where they bring good results.

    I don't need "cool maneuvers" that are actually quite stupid if you think more than five seconds about them.


    I also hate Pulp.

  9. - Top - End - #39
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    Lizardfolk

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    Default Re: How to encourage risky gameplay

    Based on a True Story

    In Combat:
    DM: Okay, between you and the hostile, is a 20 ft drop.
    Fighter: This might sound crazy, but can I jump off the cliff, and as I do so, swing with my weapon?
    DM: Uhh...The rules for Falling are pretty clear. You'd have to make an Acrobatics check, and if you fail, you take 2d6 damage, and fall Prone.
    Fighter: Well, I'm a STR character, not a DEX one. So my Acrobatics isn't great. What happens if I pass?
    DM: ...Umm...You don't take damage or fall Prone?
    Fighter: That's lame. I'll just climb down.
    DM: I guess if you pass, if your attack hits, you deal +2d6 damage, and regardless of whether or not the attack hits, the hostile falls Prone, as you crash into him regardless? That's kind of equal outcomes.
    Fighter: Yeah, but if I fail, that still happens to me. Hard pass. Nevermind. I climb down like a normal person, and using the remainder of my Movement, I get to him anyway and make my usual attacks. *rolls to hit*

    Narratively, since it doesn't make a difference anyway (turns out he had enough Movement to Climb anyway), the Fighter could say he jumped off the cliff (even if rules-wise, he didn't). But by this point, the moment's gone. Something, something, "Gambling Rolling dice is fun."

    Moral of the Story:
    It doesn't make sense to take risks or 'do cool stuff', unless the DM rules overtly in the players' favour.
    Last edited by Cheesegear; 2020-09-09 at 05:37 AM.
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  10. - Top - End - #40
    Troll in the Playground
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    Default Re: How to encourage risky gameplay

    Quote Originally Posted by Satinavian View Post
    That is a different topic.

    But ... for me that is the intended playstyle that should be encouraged. People who fight, tend to use weapons, formations etc. for a reason. Standard routines became standard because they are generally best practices.

    Special, unorthodox moves are only useful for special situations and that is exactly where they bring good results.

    I don't need "cool maneuvers" that are actually quite stupid if you think more than five seconds about them.


    I also hate Pulp.
    Sure. It's your table and your call. I would immediately excuse myself if I was to play with you, but you do you, my preferences don't really matter for your game! All I'm saying is, then don't don't complain when your players do not take that one "special singular moment" where you wanted them to do an unorthodox maneuver.

    If you teach people that deviation from the standard will be punished, they will not deviate from the standard.
    Last edited by Drascin; 2020-09-09 at 05:38 AM.

  11. - Top - End - #41
    Bugbear in the Playground
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    Default Re: How to encourage risky gameplay

    Quote Originally Posted by Drascin View Post
    If you teach people that deviation from the standard will be punished, they will not deviate from the standard.
    I don't want to teach anything or punish stuff. I just try to judge results as realistically and fair as possible. That promotes standard solutions quite organically most of the time but will favor oddball solutions when uncommon tools are available or the problem is an uncommon one.

    I do not have any problems with my players behavior and they like this style. Because they know i try to give a fair and realistic evaluation they usually have a good idea about risks and possible consequences. And we rarely have different opinions about any of that.

    Of course it also helps that i am using systems with a far better and more robust skill system than D&D. Where experts can reliably produce good results and people are on the same page about their abilities.



    But yes, i would expect that you would not like my table. And vice versa. Different priorities.
    Last edited by Satinavian; 2020-09-09 at 06:28 AM.

  12. - Top - End - #42
    Bugbear in the Playground
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    Default Re: How to encourage risky gameplay

    Quote Originally Posted by Satinavian View Post

    Of course it also helps that i am using systems with a far better and more robust skill system than D&D. Where experts can reliably produce good results and people are on the same page about their abilities.
    What sort of system we talking here? Waving allusions to tasty probability systems has me curious.
    By the metric of being wholly dependent on the GM for noncombat interaction Fighter is an NPC class.

  13. - Top - End - #43
    Bugbear in the Playground
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    Default Re: How to encourage risky gameplay

    Quote Originally Posted by Xervous View Post
    What sort of system we talking here? Waving allusions to tasty probability systems has me curious.
    One is Splittermond which has as basis some 2d10+mod mechanic but uses degrees of succes/failure extensively, does like accumulation of successes for longer tasks and uses things that work a bit like feats occassionally changing what successes actually mean and what you can do with them on Top of it.

    The other is a variant of TDE 4.1 which uses some rather complicated 3d20 mechanics that includes stats and skills but emphasizes skill ratings far more (and also uses degrees of success). It is also different from TDE 5E.

    Both systems are skill based first. When you want to know what a character can do, you don't look at attributes or profession(closest to class), you look at his skills. The skills also try to catch most abilities a character might have so there is always an appropriate skill. The whole supernatural stuff also works via skills. Mechanically Splittermond is the far superior one but TDE in all editions is far more widespread. I don't lie TDE that much but "having a better skill system than D&D" is not exctly a big hurde and it passes that one with ease.


    You can't really get either one in English though. TDE4.0 had a (pretty barebone and not that useful) English release once and TDE5 a proper one.
    Last edited by Satinavian; 2020-09-09 at 08:33 AM.

  14. - Top - End - #44
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    Default Re: How to encourage risky gameplay

    Quote Originally Posted by icefractal View Post
    It's as risky as you can practically get in a TTRPG.

    Books or movies often have the protagonists encounter, for example, ten hazardous situations they only have a 50% or less chance to survive. That's less than 1/1000 odds. This works in scripted fiction because the author only covers the one timeline where they do survive rather than the many where they don't.

    But in a TTRPG, where the dice don't obey the plot, being "risky" means one of:

    1) The risks are really risky, many campaigns end with a TPK, few characters make it from the start to the end of a plot arc, but if you play enough campaigns you eventually get one where everything lines up and it's awesome. Problem: This require playing a lot to "pay off", more so than most adults can manage.

    2) In-fiction, the actions are risky, but OOC on a mechanics level, they aren't, and the players know this. Fate, for example - jumping across that chasm is a very long-shot and the bottom can't even be seen, but OOC the players would know that with all the aspects they have built up their odds are pretty good, and that failure will mean "clinging to an outcropping" rather than "splat". Problem: May not give the same excitement.

    3) The GM lies. They say they're running a Type 1 game, but actually they fudge things so it's more like Type 2. Problem: Once the players see through the curtain, nothing else in that campaign (possible with that GM at all) will feel very meaningful.

    Or you can give that up and say "Yeah, both IC and OOC you feel you have pretty good odds, like at least 90% to survive this, but hey, limited risk still adds up quickly."
    Reading this thread, I had a potential epiphany as I hit this post. I won't say this post is the sole inspiration of it, but I figured I should at least quote the one I was reading when I thought of this for hopeful context.

    The OP posits it in terms of "risky gameplay," but a lot of the "lost moments" that are mentioned when players act "cautiously" seem more about the game being slower, more methodical, as compared to a more action-packed, high-thrill narrative.

    A barbarian breaking down a door to burst in on guards caught with their proverbial pants down isn't really risky gameplay. It's just action/thrill-packed. A fighter leaping across a chasm to smack an enemy is risky compared to climbing down and climbing back up, but only because there's nothing modeling the legitimate problems with trying to climb up a wall with an enemy atop it (provided you can make the climb in your move speed); this is a failure of the system model more than anything else. An impulsive character charging across a room filled with traps is risky, yes, but the goal isn't the risk so much as the kinetic play.

    So I think, first, we need to ask if the goal really is encouraging players to "take risks," or is instead to encourage players to take more dramatic actions with exciting descriptions. Sometimes this does involve greater risk: there's no escaping that a room filled with traps is DESIGNED to force people to slow down. But a lot of these scenarios, the "greater risk" is really just a consequence of perception.

    There's no need for (many) higher-action choices to be legitimately riskier in the game system. Not if you want a higher-action game.

    The advice to increase time pressure will help encourage higher-action solutions: higher-action solutions are FASTER. Go for these to help push the players into "cool moves." But if you remove the real, model-level, gameplay risk from most of them by just letting them succeed as well as you would the more methodical solutions or the more boring ones, you'll see players more readily embracing the cooler moves. Making high-action moves is often its own reward, even if all it is is cool description.

    If running down the stairs to stab the demon-centaur with your sword is something you can do in one round, safely, and if jumping off the balcony to land on his back, sword-point down, is something you can do in one round, safely, and both leave you standing next to the demon-centaur at the end and do the same damage, then you still get to feel cool for the leap off the balcony to deal that damage, even though it had no mechanical advantage. And since it had no mechanical disadvantage, it was cooler.

    The alternative is to increase the reward: maybe allow an Acrobatics or Athletics check to transfer 1d6 of your falling damage per 5 you roll on it (using 3e or 5e mechanics) to the demon-centaur...of you hit it. Maybe even with a bonus to hit for every 10 feet you fall, representing force puncturing the NAC. Now, you're risking more damage to yourself, but doing more damage to it, and maybe even having a higher chance of doing damage.

    To sum up the point of this post: maybe we don't really need the actions to be higher-risk at all to achieve what the OP is going for. Losing the "risk" isn't making it less cool; the point is to run higher-action scenes with players doing cool visuals. So remove the risk, or let them trade risk for more guaranteed rewards of a different sort (e.g. the better chance to hit and higher damage in return for risking taking damage when you fall from the balcony onto the demon-centaur).

    Of course, if it is genuinely "higher risk" you want, i.e. more chance the PCs come out of it hurt if things don't go exactly right, my post is barking up the wrong tree. But I think it worth examining what we're really after, here.

  15. - Top - End - #45
    Ettin in the Playground
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    Default Re: How to encourage risky gameplay

    So, if you look at my characters, you'll see very few heroes, and a lot a risk-averse cowards. This is because I've played my characters under a lot of GMs, and (almost) all of the heroes are dead.

    So, how would one encourage me to play a hero?

    The easiest answer is to make sure I have little to no investment in the game. I can build a throwaway playing piece, and play a tactical wargame with no role-playing for giggles. No problem.

    Much more difficult, you could actually let me know that you'd like to see a more heroic character. Then build up trust that you are the correct type of GM for such a character: demonstrate that you can adequately give information, describe scenes, and have consequences flow reasonably from what you've said and what actions the characters have taken (no "you know what, the gazebo eats you" or "the NPC does this impossible thing, because the plot demands it" or otherwise ignoring physics or sanity). In my experience, less than 1% of GMs can achieve / are worthy of that trust. But if you are that GM, then, sure, I'll agree to try to build a heroic character.

    Best, "middle of the road" answer? Run a series of one-shots for us to show our range, and encourage me to play the most heroic of the characters that I auditioned.

    -----

    Generalizing that, how would one encourage people to take risks?

    Lower engagement certainly works.

    Alternately, make the options, risks, and costs/rewards known, and make sure that those odds & "ends" produce the desired behaviors (for example, the costs are things that the players/characters are willing to pay, the rewards actually resonate with their desires, etc)

    Also, as in my case, if the cost of failure is "death", and the player is a roleplayer who brings in a new character with a different personality, you may yet snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

  16. - Top - End - #46
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    OldWizardGuy

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    Default Re: How to encourage risky gameplay

    Quote Originally Posted by icefractal View Post
    2) In-fiction, the actions are risky, but OOC on a mechanics level, they aren't, and the players know this. Fate, for example - jumping across that chasm is a very long-shot and the bottom can't even be seen, but OOC the players would know that with all the aspects they have built up their odds are pretty good, and that failure will mean "clinging to an outcropping" rather than "splat". Problem: May not give the same excitement.
    The trick there is that the risk shouldn't be "you're hanging from an outcropping". The risk should be "the bad guy gets away" or "you can't get to the necessary artifact" or "you have to take the crappier route" or "you fall down to the bottom of the pit, there's another passage but you think you can find your way out."

    In my experience, these types of consequences absolutely can generate the same type of excitement because the players absolutely, 100% know that they can happen and I won't hedge away from them. While, "death-only" games end up usually looking like.....

    Quote Originally Posted by icefractal View Post
    3) The GM lies. They say they're running a Type 1 game, but actually they fudge things so it's more like Type 2. Problem: Once the players see through the curtain, nothing else in that campaign (possible with that GM at all) will feel very meaningful.
    Humans are good at learning, and nobody, players or GMs, wants to make new characters every session.

    EDIT:

    I think that's an interesting thing, now that I think about it... when consequences and rewards are almost completely personal, there's little incentive to be risky. It's all about maximizing character benefit over time, and all you need is "death risk" to come up badly once to cost you everything (unless you're playing in a game with fairly easy resurrection, which bypasses it).

    It's when there's other things that are the consequences that players might decide that riskier behavior is worthwhile, as at that point you're not comparing advancement on a linear path.
    Last edited by kyoryu; 2020-09-09 at 10:38 AM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by kyoryu View Post
    The trick there is that the risk shouldn't be "you're hanging from an outcropping". The risk should be "the bad guy gets away" or "you can't get to the necessary artifact" or "you have to take the crappier route" or "you fall down to the bottom of the pit, there's another passage but you think you can find your way out."

    In my experience, these types of consequences absolutely can generate the same type of excitement because the players absolutely, 100% know that they can happen and I won't hedge away from them. While, "death-only" games end up usually looking like.....

    (...)

    I think that's an interesting thing, now that I think about it... when consequences and rewards are almost completely personal, there's little incentive to be risky. It's all about maximizing character benefit over time, and all you need is "death risk" to come up badly once to cost you everything (unless you're playing in a game with fairly easy resurrection, which bypasses it).

    It's when there's other things that are the consequences that players might decide that riskier behavior is worthwhile, as at that point you're not comparing advancement on a linear path.
    This is something that I think should be in every DMG or similar book out there. A huge portion of complaints about game balance, difficulties challenging parties, and DM woes over things being "too easy" or players complaining that they're not having fun but the DM is trying hard to find just the right balance to challenge the party comes down to the error in thinking that the only meaningful bad stuff that can happen in a PC's experience is death or coming close to it. That challenge only arises when players feel like their characters are at risk of dying.

    If games made a point of emphasizing that consequences which do not result in PC death, but which do result in setbacks to their goals, were more desirable for creating challenge, it would serve a lot of games' purposes very well. You can have ungodly-powerful characters who can't be hurt, and still challenge them, if you remember that they have a goal in the fight that is more than just "kill or drive off the enemies." Maybe their goal IS "kill Dark Emperor Demonguy's Dragon Knight," and the cowardly Dragon Knight is throwing disposable minions in their way to slow them down and making them have to choose whether to rescue a town of civilians from his Necron Cloud or keep chasing him. If he gets away, that's a loss for them, even if they don't ever once feel like their own lives are in danger. Maybe failing to save the town will also feel like a loss for them.

    A classic scenario I bring up a lot - starting with Exalted 2E, in fact - is the "merchant caravan guard" hook. The PCs are hired to guard some hapless merchants as they travel Bandit Country. The bandits want to steal as much stuff as they can and get away alive. The merchants want to keep as much stuff as they can and not die. The PCs want to protect the merchants' lives and treasure. Even if the PCs are 100% indestructible and there's nothing the bandits can do about the PCs' movement and survivability, the bandits can use numbers to attack where the PCs aren't, can kill merchants (perhaps on purpose, perhaps just as part of firing at the caravan or as a distraction to pin down the PCs protecting them), and can grab stuff and run away. If the bandits get away with a significant amount of stuff or if they kill any important or a good number of merchants, this is a serious loss for the PCs. It can even serve as a bit of attrition play: PCs may be incapable of preventing all losses, but are trying to keep them to a minimum, and the further they go, the more they lose, and their goal is not to fall below a certain threshold before the end of the line.

    If the supply wagon is destroyed or looted by the bandits, that can introduce additional problems for the caravan and the PCs: getting there without starving/dehydrating. (Sure, foraging is a thing, but that's one more thing they have to spend time and energy on, even if it's reliable enough to be viable.)

    Depending on the situation, a bad raid for the caravan could even force the PCs to make decisions about whether to risk encamping the caravan with defenders and chasing down the bandits to their lair to recover their stuff, or pressing on in hopes they can get to civilization and resupply soon enough. Or if their merchants' lives are worth more or less than the treasure the merchants won't pay them for protecting if they don't get it back.

    All of this from a fairly standard plot hook. As long as the DM and the players remember that the bandits and the PCs aren't interested in fighting to the death, and don't necessarily win just because they kill all of the other side.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Segev View Post
    All of this from a fairly standard plot hook. As long as the DM and the players remember that the bandits and the PCs aren't interested in fighting to the death, and don't necessarily win just because they kill all of the other side.
    A useful thing to remember is that intelligent creatures don't want to die. And all combat has the risk of death.

    So, then, understanding why both the enemies and PCs are willing to put their necks on the line in this particular place, rather than just walk away, is a great first step.

    Usually the answer shouldn't be "I want to kill these people". 99% of the time. Sometimes it is (maybe the final boss battle), but even then there's usually something else (I want to stop the boss from enacting the Deadly Ritual of Death) that's really driving it.

    Once you understand why each side is fighting, you can threaten that thing directly, and have consequences that aren't just "death". And if you can't come up with a reason, then maybe you shouldn't have a fight there.
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    Quote Originally Posted by kyoryu View Post
    A useful thing to remember is that intelligent creatures don't want to die. And all combat has the risk of death.

    So, then, understanding why both the enemies and PCs are willing to put their necks on the line in this particular place, rather than just walk away, is a great first step.

    Usually the answer shouldn't be "I want to kill these people". 99% of the time. Sometimes it is (maybe the final boss battle), but even then there's usually something else (I want to stop the boss from enacting the Deadly Ritual of Death) that's really driving it.

    Once you understand why each side is fighting, you can threaten that thing directly, and have consequences that aren't just "death". And if you can't come up with a reason, then maybe you shouldn't have a fight there.
    Even not-that-intelligent creatures have self-preservation and purposes usually that may only include killing as part of obtaining them.

    Ravenous wolves are attacking because they're hungry; they'll go for horses or supplies, or drag off a corpse, and try to get away from the remaining pointy-sword-swinging PCs. And the PCs need not consider the fight "won" or "lost" for it to have consequences if the wolves steal somebody's ration bag, or kill and drag off a horse, or even just kill a horse and fail to drag it off.

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    1. Probability of success.
    2. Penalty for failure.
    3. Reward for success.
    4. Presentation.
    5. Consistency.

    None of them are independent, they all interact. But the player has to say yes to the first three based on the last two.

    Adding more rolls increasrs the probability of failure and makes it less likely to be used. The usual penalty for failure with normal actions is often just a miss or nothing changes, additional failure penalties make it less likely to be used. The payoff has to be better than the usual safe and boring actions, and it has to be worth the increased chances or risks of failure.

    The situation and your mechanics have to be presented in a way that lets the pcs do stuff and encourages the players to try stunts. Either you have to have stuff in your descriptions for the pcs to use or affect or you have to let players have a little narrative input. If you didn't say there was a banner, table, bookshelf, window, or whatever, then they can't try to stunt off of them. Blank rooms, empty corridors, and open fields don't give anything to interact with. Either you provide the chandelier or you explicitly let players add those sorts of details to the scene when they stunt.

    Finally, write it down and hand it out. Whatever method or mechanics you decide on you need a record of, preferably with some examples. This way the players know what you expect, how they can do it, the risks, and the rewards.

    As an example of how not to: 4e D&D had a basic sort of stunt mechanic that went really badly every time we tried it. If the dm put in something we could use it either added an athletic/acrobatic check or defaulted to a basic strength based attack roll, then it did level appropriate encounter power level damage. I recall one time our druid wanted to knock a big brazier of coals onto something. No strength bonus so he needed an attack at like, +4, and it would do appropriate damage of somwhere around 3d6, and of course no special key words other than fire so none of his feats or anything worked with it. He ended up doing a basic at-will power for around +10 to hit and 1d8+6 damage, plus I think it pushed 5' or something. Everything we tried in 4e was like that, more failure and no better than regular powers. The one thing it was, it was consistent.
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    Be their example! Let someone else DM for a while and play a character that takes risks. They will find they are having much more fun with your risk taking character. After that campaign is over have a discussion about this and you will see others taking more risks.
    Last edited by Frogreaver; 2020-09-09 at 04:44 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Frogreaver View Post
    Be their example! Let someone else DM for a while and play a character that takes risks. They will find they are having much more fun with your risk taking character. After that campaign is over have a discussion about this and you will see others taking more risks.
    This could also backfire when their character ends up with broken legs, ineffective, and a clown with bad plans. The game itself has to support risky gameplay.

    Just making the game easier could help. People may not feel the need to be tactical masterminds making the most efficient decisions if the game allows for mishaps and mistakes. I have seen high level adventures do some silly things while dunking on a bunch of goblins. They know they will kill the goblins no matter what, so they add spice by trying cool stuff. The question then is not if they will kill the goblins but how they will do it.

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    Quote Originally Posted by kyoryu View Post
    A useful thing to remember is that intelligent creatures don't want to die. And all combat has the risk of death.

    So, then, understanding why both the enemies and PCs are willing to put their necks on the line in this particular place, rather than just walk away, is a great first step.

    Usually the answer shouldn't be "I want to kill these people". 99% of the time. Sometimes it is (maybe the final boss battle), but even then there's usually something else (I want to stop the boss from enacting the Deadly Ritual of Death) that's really driving it.

    Once you understand why each side is fighting, you can threaten that thing directly, and have consequences that aren't just "death". And if you can't come up with a reason, then maybe you shouldn't have a fight there.
    My problem with this (adding morale mechanics) is that the game is, by default, balanced for fights to the death, at the basic level/damage/HP level. If you take an enemy with 100hp, and make him flee at 50, or 30hp, you've effectively just reduced his hp. To narrativly include "morale" without compromising the fight pacing, you need to increase hp to get back to where it was (the foe now has 200hp, but flees when he reaches 100).

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    Quote Originally Posted by NorthernPhoenix View Post
    My problem with this (adding morale mechanics) is that the game is, by default, balanced for fights to the death, at the basic level/damage/HP level. If you take an enemy with 100hp, and make him flee at 50, or 30hp, you've effectively just reduced his hp. To narrativly include "morale" without compromising the fight pacing, you need to increase hp to get back to where it was (the foe now has 200hp, but flees when he reaches 100).
    Well, two things here.

    I'm not necessarily talking about morale "mechanics" here, though you could certainly go that route. But, yeah, your solution isn't unreasonable if you presume most enemies will flee, but that also gives the question of what to do when they won't. I'd probably just make them flee at fairly low hit points, or when the battle is already lost. Once the outcome is obvious, you're just going through the motions anyway.

    Secondly, I'm not really talking about morale mechanics so much as stakes. Like, why are they fighting in the first place? So it's less "how do they run away" vs. "why did they engage in a fight in the first place?"

    Given that "not fighting" is safer than "fighting" in all situations, why is each side not choosing the "don't fight" option? There must be something that they want. Once you have that, you can create a scenario (especially for the players) where they can lose in ways other than "dying". See Segev's post.
    Last edited by kyoryu; 2020-09-10 at 09:34 AM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by NorthernPhoenix View Post
    My problem with this (adding morale mechanics) is that the game is, by default, balanced for fights to the death, at the basic level/damage/HP level. If you take an enemy with 100hp, and make him flee at 50, or 30hp, you've effectively just reduced his hp. To narrativly include "morale" without compromising the fight pacing, you need to increase hp to get back to where it was (the foe now has 200hp, but flees when he reaches 100).
    It's not about introducing morale mechanics for flight.

    It's about consequences. What is the goal of the NPC side of the conflict? When have they achieved it? What attrition/harm can they do to the party's ability to adventure? This can be hit point damage to the PCs. This can be forcing them to expend resources to survive. It can also be stealing vital supplies. When the monster has what it wants, it can just leave. Or try to. Also, anything that lives to run away can come back later. I know some DMs just manufacture monsters at will, and the monsters stop existing when they leave, but if you're not running like that - if you have a relatively fixed number of critters, or if you keep survivors in mind for adding to later encounters - surviving becomes a tactical thing. Be careful with this, though: if everything that they let escape shows up to make their lives harder later, the PCs will become much more murder-hobo-y, deliberately preventing everything from escaping.

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    Quote Originally Posted by NorthernPhoenix View Post
    My problem with this (adding morale mechanics) is that the game is, by default, balanced for fights to the death, at the basic level/damage/HP level. If...
    Ah, I presume that you mean 3.p and later D&D? Because TSR era D&D had morale built in from the beginning, many supers systems presume everyone survives the fights and villans often flee, all the WHF and WH40k rpgs have fear/morale. Call of Cthulhu dorsn't if I recall correctly. But that's more like playing D&D as 0 level commoners in a world of monsters and 5th level warlocks/necromancers, PC fragility makes the morale.

    I think that WotC D&Ds lack of morale & retreat options may be in the minority of the systems I've owned and played. And I think a morale mechanic can encourage risky behavior because it enables bluffs and deceit to work on NPCs without relying completely on DM fiat.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Telok View Post
    Ah, I presume that you mean 3.p and later D&D? Because TSR era D&D had morale built in from the beginning, many supers systems presume everyone survives the fights and villans often flee, all the WHF and WH40k rpgs have fear/morale. Call of Cthulhu dorsn't if I recall correctly. But that's more like playing D&D as 0 level commoners in a world of monsters and 5th level warlocks/necromancers, PC fragility makes the morale.

    I think that WotC D&Ds lack of morale & retreat options may be in the minority of the systems I've owned and played. And I think a morale mechanic can encourage risky behavior because it enables bluffs and deceit to work on NPCs without relying completely on DM fiat.
    Also, "fleeing" mechanics can help because then players know that there are options besides "victory" and "TPK". If things are going bad, they can retreat and escape death.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Telok View Post
    Ah, I presume that you mean 3.p and later D&D? Because TSR era D&D had morale built in from the beginning, many supers systems presume everyone survives the fights and villans often flee, all the WHF and WH40k rpgs have fear/morale. Call of Cthulhu dorsn't if I recall correctly. But that's more like playing D&D as 0 level commoners in a world of monsters and 5th level warlocks/necromancers, PC fragility makes the morale.

    I think that WotC D&Ds lack of morale & retreat options may be in the minority of the systems I've owned and played. And I think a morale mechanic can encourage risky behavior because it enables bluffs and deceit to work on NPCs without relying completely on DM fiat.
    5e has morale and retreat options (in the core books, even), but they're bad for the reasons i outlined so very few people bother to use them, including myself.

    But beyond that, i don't think these existing or not are anything other than neutral when it comes to encouraging or discouraging risky gameplay. Risky gameplay can encompass scenarios with no enemies at all, after all (i.e jump over the lava, toss the dwarf, and so on).

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    Y'know, SAGA edition's split of hp into ... a term I forget and Wounds ... could have the "hp" become "morale," and actual injury not occur until morale is broken. But when morale is broken, the creatures with 0 morale points do their best to withdraw from the fight.

    Without going to a SAGA-style thing, just using a PF1 style hp system, you could make the 0-and-below state be one where the only allowable action is to surrender or flee, and make them go unconscious at -Con, and only die at -hp.

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    Quote Originally Posted by NorthernPhoenix View Post
    5e has morale and retreat options (in the core books, even), but they're bad for the reasons i outlined so very few people bother to use them, including myself.
    I fail to see how morale and retreat rules apply when they almost universally come into play when the battle is already decided. Adding them doesn't impact risk most of the times - it impacts resource drain.

    Quote Originally Posted by NorthernPhoenix View Post
    But beyond that, i don't think these existing or not are anything other than neutral when it comes to encouraging or discouraging risky gameplay. Risky gameplay can encompass scenarios with no enemies at all, after all (i.e jump over the lava, toss the dwarf, and so on).
    Sure, and what types of risk are undertaken is a useful point when looking at this.

    At the end of the day, the hyper-focus on death as the constant consequence of failure/bad rolls/etc. creates risk-aversion. Because when the cost of "failure" is "complete loss", then it's hard to put enough on the other side to counter blaance that.

    Quote Originally Posted by Segev View Post
    Y'know, SAGA edition's split of hp into ... a term I forget and Wounds ... could have the "hp" become "morale," and actual injury not occur until morale is broken. But when morale is broken, the creatures with 0 morale points do their best to withdraw from the fight.

    Without going to a SAGA-style thing, just using a PF1 style hp system, you could make the 0-and-below state be one where the only allowable action is to surrender or flee, and make them go unconscious at -Con, and only die at -hp.
    That's a pretty reasonable option.
    Last edited by kyoryu; 2020-09-10 at 02:15 PM.
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