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  1. - Top - End - #31
    Orc in the Playground
     
    WolfInSheepsClothing

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    Default Re: How common is the Idiot Ball?

    While I fully concur that there are many times a plot requires blatant stupidity, it is worth noting that many times the joys of friction, hubris, misunderstanding, fear, anger, fatigue, boredom, bureaucratic inertia in large groups, individuals who don’t account for key factors in small independent groups, and endless of other human traits really do cause idiot ball moments.

    Men fall asleep on guard, or take bribes from the same people who might try to kill them later, orders are misinterpreted or interpreted overly exactly, knights charge into waves of longbow arrows because they know this is how wars are won, fleets sail around the world with second rate ships to fight a modernized navy and get pounded, maps are misread, supplies are mispacked, traffic jams of epic portions happen because someone took a road they weren’t supposed to, people make decisions without knowing it and rationalize it later, leaders ignore good suggestions because they think it makes them look weak or because the subordinate doesn’t fit their idea of what he should be, subordinates assume their superiors and blind idiots because they aren’t doing exactly what the subordinate thinks he would do, people grandstand and take credit while not doing what they said, focus on what they think will cover their rears, and on and on and on.

    Idiot balls happen all the time in reality. And most of the time they are never even questioned until something goes horribly wrong. So...there can be a lot of leeway in the plot. Though sometimes it still beggars belief.

  2. - Top - End - #32
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    Default Re: How common is the Idiot Ball?

    Quote Originally Posted by KineticDiplomat View Post
    Idiot balls happen all the time in reality. And most of the time they are never even questioned until something goes horribly wrong. So...there can be a lot of leeway in the plot. Though sometimes it still beggars belief.
    My definition of idiot ball isn't just "people being really stupid", it's "people being really stupid for the sake of the plot". People can indeed do all sorts of stupid mistakes in reality and that should be the case in fiction too. It's when it reaches the level of "Big Bad's plan hinges on heroes not seeing the really obvious solution" I get annoyed.

  3. - Top - End - #33
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    Default Re: How common is the Idiot Ball?

    Quote Originally Posted by Batcathat View Post
    My definition of idiot ball isn't just "people being really stupid", it's "people being really stupid for the sake of the plot". People can indeed do all sorts of stupid mistakes in reality and that should be the case in fiction too. It's when it reaches the level of "Big Bad's plan hinges on heroes not seeing the really obvious solution" I get annoyed.
    A quote from the first season of Space Battleship Yamato comes to mind: "So they defeated you with their wave motion gun. Why are you surprised? You knew they had one.)
    Quote Originally Posted by MaxWilson View Post
    I've tallied up all the points for this thread, and consulted with the debate judges, and the verdict is clear: JoeJ wins the thread.

  4. - Top - End - #34
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    SwashbucklerGuy

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    Default Re: How common is the Idiot Ball?

    I think we should discriminate between "Holding The Idiot Ball" and "Making Mistakes".

    People make mistakes all the time. Specially in stressful situations. Rarely will any of us make the absolutely optimal decision.

    The term "Idiot Ball" should be reserved for mistakes that are both truly egregious and out of character.
    Last edited by Lemmy; 2021-01-12 at 09:46 AM.

  5. - Top - End - #35
    Bugbear in the Playground
     
    Planetar

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    Default Re: How common is the Idiot Ball?

    Quote Originally Posted by LordCdrMilitant View Post
    On shooting escape pods, it's usually considered "not good" to shoot at sailors abandoning ship IRL. And my "not good" I mean "war crime".
    So with this logic, they should specifically shoot at escape pods without detected life form (to destroy any objects that peoples are trying to smuggle out) and not shoot escape pods with life form (assuming they care about war crimes).

  6. - Top - End - #36
    Orc in the Playground
     
    RogueGuy

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    Default Re: How common is the Idiot Ball?

    in response to the original question of this thread, it is more common than I like. Especially when the reason for the idiot ball is not an ascribed character trait of whoever is stuck with it. now if we had a person who was described as brilliant but arrogant, and the moment of stupid was caused by said arrogance, that would be understandable. the stupid works better when it is caused by an innate character flaw, not when it is just for plot.
    the first half of the meaning of life is that there isn't one.

  7. - Top - End - #37
    Firbolg in the Playground
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    Default Re: How common is the Idiot Ball?

    Originally Posted by LordCdrMilitant
    On shooting escape pods, it's usually considered "not good" to shoot at sailors abandoning ship IRL. And my "not good" I mean "war crime".
    The Empire was founded on war crimes, and the Death Star can’t be operated according to its design without committing war crimes in the extreme. Shooting escape pods is just another day on a star destroyer.

  8. - Top - End - #38
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    WolfInSheepsClothing

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    Default Re: How common is the Idiot Ball?

    Hard to commit a war crime when you write the space international law. “Was blowing up that planet criminal?”

    “Nope, the galactic imperial court rules it was a legitimate military target. We discount the testimony of Princess Lea as we believe she deliberately attempted to claim the planet had no military significance in order to deceive us and conduct acts of terror from a sanctuary system. If there is any criminal act here, it is in the rebellion staging military assets so throughly across the planet that only a full annihilating strike would be considered proportional”.

    Sure, some other lawyers might argue elsewise, but hey, the Empire owns all the space international norms...so...legit it is.

  9. - Top - End - #39
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    Chimera

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    Default Re: How common is the Idiot Ball?

    As others have mentioned, the SW Empire is pretty much defined as the worst of the worst (they are coded as space Nazis), so war crimes are completely on-theme.

    Quote Originally Posted by LordCdrMilitant View Post
    I would personally say that among a few other things, Star Wars is the leading reason why my players consistently think that pretending to surrender is an entirely acceptable thing to do.
    This is more of an actual concern, depending on how realistic you want your game portrayal of war to be. Yes, pretending to surrender, smuggling guns under a Red Cross equivalent banner, torturing/killing prisoners of war, and other things that would endanger your own defenseless people once the other side realizes you don't 'play by the rules' are IRL really recklessly bad ideas.

  10. - Top - End - #40
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    OldWizardGuy

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    Default Re: How common is the Idiot Ball?

    Quote Originally Posted by MoiMagnus View Post
    So with this logic, they should specifically shoot at escape pods without detected life form (to destroy any objects that peoples are trying to smuggle out) and not shoot escape pods with life form (assuming they care about war crimes).
    Given infinite time and resources, and a lack of other things to pay attention to, yes.

    It's really easy to read that less as "don't shoot it because doing so is bad" and "don't shoot it becuase we've got higher priority stuff to do."
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  11. - Top - End - #41
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    Default Re: How common is the Idiot Ball?

    About as common as the DM getting outsmarted by their players

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    ElfPirate

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    Default Re: How common is the Idiot Ball?

    Quote Originally Posted by kyoryu View Post
    Given infinite time and resources, and a lack of other things to pay attention to, yes.

    It's really easy to read that less as "don't shoot it because doing so is bad" and "don't shoot it becuase we've got higher priority stuff to do."
    Or "don't shoot it because turbo-laser shots cost money and that target isn't worth it."
    Quote Originally Posted by MaxWilson View Post
    I've tallied up all the points for this thread, and consulted with the debate judges, and the verdict is clear: JoeJ wins the thread.

  13. - Top - End - #43
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    Default Re: How common is the Idiot Ball?

    Quote Originally Posted by LordCdrMilitant View Post
    Not that Star Wars has a particularly good track record of not committing war crimes. I would personally say that among a few other things, Star Wars is the leading reason why my players consistently think that pretending to surrender is an entirely acceptable thing to do.
    It may just be "after work brain" on my end but, when does anyone pretend to surrender in Star Wars? Because I can't remember it. To be honest, I can't remember anyone "surrendering" at all Star Wars, except for:
    1) Separatist Leaders on Mustafar, slaughtered by Sith Lord Darth Vader

    2) Princess Leia & her "consular ship" crew: Actual surrender, International Law allows for escape attempts, especially with outside aid

    3) Luke at the end of Episode 6: Legitimate Surrender, attempt is made to recruit him into the Sith (which requires a lightsaber duel, because Sith)

  14. - Top - End - #44
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    Default Re: How common is the Idiot Ball?

    The Idiot Ball --https://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/IdiotBall -- a character acting stupid, ignorant, incompetent, temperamental, etc, in a way that is blatantly out of character.

    The Idiot Ball is often tossed around to enable The Idiot Plot -- https://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/IdiotPlot-- usually a plot that only lasts more than 5 minutes because the characters act like idiots.

    And that is a subset of Narrative Causality -- https://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/TheoryOfNarrativeCausality -- things happen not for in-fiction reason, but because they're necessary for the story the author or GM wants to tell.


    And sadly... all three are very common.
    Last edited by Max_Killjoy; 2021-01-13 at 10:41 PM.
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  15. - Top - End - #45
    Bugbear in the Playground
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    Default Re: How common is the Idiot Ball?

    On the Star Wars front, I think the Empire tends to push people into non-critical-thinking behavior. It's an openly fascist organization that has so thoroughly rewritten galactic history and culture that in less than a generation, its highest religious institution is considered no more than a myth, the extremely real space magic used by its leadership is dismissed as total hokum by ordinary citizens, and the entire military chain of command has been thoroughly set up for loyalty to the Emperor and Darth Vader. That doesn't strike me as the kind of place where gunnery sergeants behave intelligently without micromanagement; they've been taught not to think outside of orders. I could easily imagine the orders being, "shoot any escape pod with life signs." An escape pod without life signs might honestly be just seen as an oddity.

    And, as others noted, It's not like the Empire's thinky types took THAT long to figure it out. You're looking at maybe three days, tops, with "luck" (the Force, almost surely) being the only thing that saves Luke from the fiery death his aunt and uncle received. The Empire didn't even stop there and assume the droids were on-site; it's pretty clear they either checked logs and found the droids weren't present, or they covered their bases by maintaining an active search at the only settled areas anywhere nearby; it's only with some lucky hiding (again, almost certainly the Force interfering), and the use of a Jedi mind trick that the group gets away at all.

    But yes, there definitely are risks of Idiot Ball territory if you don't justify why a mistake happens or how a person/entity/group could fail to realize its erroneous judgment. In my home game, for example, I have HARD averted the type-wide idiocy of devils that D&D usually features. D&D devils are lying, cheating, swindling, rules-lawyer idiots who embrace their reputation for conniving lies. Mine know that a rep of cheating/lying costs you business, so they're hella scrupulous...with business. Further, each devil WANTS every contract completed. Contract failure is failure, with a lame consolation prize (a mortal soul). And devils just flat do not give blatantly offensive contracts. They're almost always tailored to the signer, so they'll want to complete it. (E.g., assassination contract to kill wicked devil-worshippers that have killed children.) Outright repulsive contracts are colossally stupid, and thus always avoided. This is smart, effective evil, not **** Dastardly losing the race because he can't bear to win fairly.

    But I've also had villains who make boneheaded mistakes because they don't know better. The Shadow Druids, for example, engaged in some planned pseudo-necromantic ecoterrorism, which the party prevented. As an insular and previously hidden Druid sect though, they really don't interact with city-folk much, and they very explicitly hate the ways of the cities (hence the eco-terrorism). This means they didn't think of things the way a city person would...and neglected to scrub their paper trail properly. They covered their physical tracks extremely well, but the party was able to get a loose idea of where their bases were because of the business deals the Druids had engaged in to ship dangerous substances into town. Their leadership has learned from this mistake and is now far more adept at concealing their efforts when they work with city-folk.

    So, yes, I think D&D has some Issues with this particular trope, for a variety of reasons. Part of it is that having totally consistently rational and effective enemies is one of the challenges of writing. Part of it is that there's a tendency toward Saturday morning cartoon villainy and really dumb ancient cultures that didn't know how to set up redundant safety mechanisms. I'd also say there's some amount of intentionally making "smart" bad guys do "dumb" things in order to give the players a feeling of "outsmarting" the bad guys...even though it would be more accurate to say that the bad guys out-stupided the party :P

    I've had some Issues with it myself. I had a villain I meant to be smart totally underestimate the party and earn their enmity really fast. I did it in part because this was only my sixth session running any game ever, and my first running this specific game. On reflection, this was a very dumb move from him, he should have been much more subtle and manipulative. But I did what I could to salvage the problem; the villain in question realized his mistake, that he allowed his pride to blind him to the party's potential, and worked to put the party in a position where they already had an implied trust in him, having done jobs for him through an intermediary. The party now regards him as an opportunistic sphincter, but one that can be relied upon to seek his own long-term best interests, which is exactly where I wanted things to end up. I definitely had to do the WORK of rehabilitating the character though. (It helps that, since he is one of the richest men in the richest city of the continent, he SHOULD be a prideful jerk that underestimates the "lower classes." But even still, he should have known better, and has put in the time, effort, and money to show that he does know better now.)

    So...yeah. Sometimes it's just inexperience/limited experience. Sometimes it's Traditions, like devils having a copy-pasted Faustian bargain and everyone knowing they're swindlers. Sometimes what looks like idiot ball is actually a justified blind spot or intentional weakness in a villain. But sometimes it really just is DMs and authors resorting to weak writing to keep things going.

  16. - Top - End - #46
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    Default Re: How common is the Idiot Ball?

    Quote Originally Posted by Sharur View Post
    It may just be "after work brain" on my end but, when does anyone pretend to surrender in Star Wars? Because I can't remember it. To be honest, I can't remember anyone "surrendering" at all Star Wars, except for:
    1) Separatist Leaders on Mustafar, slaughtered by Sith Lord Darth Vader

    2) Princess Leia & her "consular ship" crew: Actual surrender, International Law allows for escape attempts, especially with outside aid

    3) Luke at the end of Episode 6: Legitimate Surrender, attempt is made to recruit him into the Sith (which requires a lightsaber duel, because Sith)
    The only one I can think of off-hand was in the rather abysmal pilot movie for the Clone Wars TV show (which ended up being quite a bit better), in which Obi-Wan fakes surrender negotiations in order to buy time for Anakin to complete a critical mission, and when Anakin wins the mission Obi-Wan immediately flips to taking the enemy general prisoner (I think? It's been a while and honestly I have deliberately forgotten most of that movie.)
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  17. - Top - End - #47
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    Default Re: How common is the Idiot Ball?

    Quote Originally Posted by Sharur View Post
    It may just be "after work brain" on my end but, when does anyone pretend to surrender in Star Wars? Because I can't remember it. To be honest, I can't remember anyone "surrendering" at all Star Wars, except for:
    1) Separatist Leaders on Mustafar, slaughtered by Sith Lord Darth Vader

    2) Princess Leia & her "consular ship" crew: Actual surrender, International Law allows for escape attempts, especially with outside aid

    3) Luke at the end of Episode 6: Legitimate Surrender, attempt is made to recruit him into the Sith (which requires a lightsaber duel, because Sith)
    Hans Solo and Princess Leia at the entrance to the bunker on the forest moon of Endor. Han stands up with hands raised, and Leia lets loose with her pistol.

    Also: C-3PO earlier in the same battle. Actually, his fake surrender kicked off the whole thing, with the ewoks ambushing the squad sent to collect C-3PO.
    Last edited by Lord Torath; 2021-01-13 at 06:57 PM.
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  18. - Top - End - #48
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    LordCdrMilitant's Avatar

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    Default Re: How common is the Idiot Ball?

    Quote Originally Posted by Sharur View Post
    It may just be "after work brain" on my end but, when does anyone pretend to surrender in Star Wars? Because I can't remember it. To be honest, I can't remember anyone "surrendering" at all Star Wars, except for:
    1) Separatist Leaders on Mustafar, slaughtered by Sith Lord Darth Vader

    2) Princess Leia & her "consular ship" crew: Actual surrender, International Law allows for escape attempts, especially with outside aid

    3) Luke at the end of Episode 6: Legitimate Surrender, attempt is made to recruit him into the Sith (which requires a lightsaber duel, because Sith)
    Off the top of my head, and excluding irregulars and nonmilitary forces, memorably:
    Obi Wan does it on Christophsis
    Anakin does it twice, during the space battle for Ryloth and in the opening episode of season 7

    "Perfidity" as it's called is a war crime because if you use the protection offered by appearing under a flag of truce, negotiation, or surrender to attack, then your enemy will be unlikely to accept or respect the surrender or negotiation in the future. Really it's in the greater interest of both sides to respect such an agreement.
    - The enemy can't trust that forces actually surrendering are surrendering, so they won't respect the surrender and will continuing engaging your surrendering forces.
    - You show to them that you don't respect surrender, so their forces are less likely to surrender to you as well.



    I have found through experience that RPG parties commit war crimes pretty regularly. Sometimes, they know they're committing a war crime, like executing or torturing prisoners of war, and do it anyway because they figure it won't catch up with them and they don't have prisoner handling capabilities in their party. But sometimes, like false surrender or entering into negotiations in bad faith, they really don't know that it's a war crime, because they've never been told it is and some popular media treats it as a sign of "being clever" to use surrender or negotiation to buy time or pass through the liens while the enemy honors your negotiation or surrender.
    Last edited by LordCdrMilitant; 2021-01-14 at 03:06 PM.
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