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  1. - Top - End - #601
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    Default Re: Do people really enjoy close battles?

    Quote Originally Posted by Talakeal View Post
    Like, in the session before last, I prepped the adventure with two main combats that each were balanced to use up ~40% of the parties resources and two optional combats which were balanced to use ~40% of the parties resources. The first combat went really, really well for them, and they only ended up using 10-15% percent of their resources, yet I had two players (Bob and the new guy) both insisting that the combat used up "almost all of their resources" and wanting to turn back, abandon the mission, and end the session after a single combat rather than pressing on.
    So you planned for the non-optional fights to each take 40% of the parties ressources if they went in a typical way. Which means you expected a 60% party to take on an 40%-average fight.

    Honestly, i can see where that seems way too risky, especially if they don't have full information. A 20% buffer without doing optional content is not enough. That kind of mission is "too hard". While that might not be enough reason to go back 85% full, considering that they might judge the numbers differently than you did, it is not super exceptional.

    I would advise to plan missions to spend around 50% of ressources at most before optional content. Only go higher if your system is not swingy and everyone has high system mastery.

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    Default Re: Do people really enjoy close battles?

    40% plus or minus what?

    In wesnoth terms I could look at the enemy horseman at dusk and say ďsure itís just 22.8 damage on average and it will take 18.4 average from the elven fighter Ē but thatís missing the 36% chance of taking 38 damage, losing the 33HP elf and missing out on his last two swings! Thereís variability involved in the outcomes and if the players have seen high variability they are being told by you that a mission that uses up 80% could be RNGd to 100% through no fault of their own.
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    Default Re: Do people really enjoy close battles?

    Quote Originally Posted by Satinavian View Post
    So you planned for the non-optional fights to each take 40% of the parties ressources if they went in a typical way. Which means you expected a 60% party to take on an 40%-average fight.

    Honestly, i can see where that seems way too risky, especially if they don't have full information. A 20% buffer without doing optional content is not enough. That kind of mission is "too hard". While that might not be enough reason to go back 85% full, considering that they might judge the numbers differently than you did, it is not super exceptional.

    I would advise to plan missions to spend around 50% of ressources at most before optional content. Only go higher if your system is not swingy and everyone has high system mastery.
    Again though, it really depends on how you define risky and close.

    80% is what I have been using since the 3.0 DMG implied that as the standard back in 2000. In that time I find that, regardless of system, it produces a close fight every 3-5 sessions, and a PC death or party defeat every 2-3 years.

    When asked in a white room, that is significantly easier and safer than my players say they enjoy. Yet during and immediately after a game they always feel like they were riding the razors edge and only narrowly escaped an overtuned adventure run by a killer DM.

    The point of my story was to illustrate this, that they had a single fight and were still at 85%+ and wanted to give up because in their minds it had used almost everything they had.

    Maybe 50% would work in a much swingier system, but in the ones I play it would, imo, be incredibly boring as neither the dice rolls or the players tactics could ever realistically be bad enough to matter or make for a challenge.
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  4. - Top - End - #604
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    Default Re: Do people really enjoy close battles?

    Ultimately I think what people want is agency.

    Specifically, they want:

    1. The ability to make choices
    2. The ability to see the results of their choices
    3. More than one viable choice (otherwise it's a puzzle). Puzzles are fine, too, but that's a distinct style of game.
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  5. - Top - End - #605
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    Default Re: Do people really enjoy close battles?

    Quote Originally Posted by kyoryu View Post
    3. More than one viable choice (otherwise it's a puzzle). Puzzles are fine, too, but that's a distinct style of game.
    Even many puzzles have more than one viable solution, especially easier ones. I think a better way of phrasing this would be that people do not want thing to be so tightly tuned that optimal play is required. You should be able to succeed with the strategy you chose, not merely choose between optimal strategies. You may need to optimize your chosen strategy some, but part of agency is getting to solve problems in the way you want to solve them.

  6. - Top - End - #606
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    Default Re: Do people really enjoy close battles?

    Quote Originally Posted by RandomPeasant View Post
    Even many puzzles have more than one viable solution, especially easier ones. I think a better way of phrasing this would be that people do not want thing to be so tightly tuned that optimal play is required. You should be able to succeed with the strategy you chose, not merely choose between optimal strategies. You may need to optimize your chosen strategy some, but part of agency is getting to solve problems in the way you want to solve them.
    For sure, and we can wordsmith it a bit, but I think the intent is clear.

    When people feel that their choices don't matter, or that their choices are effectively forced, they don't feel they have agency. It's not really about how close or not the fight is.
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    Default Re: Do people really enjoy close battles?

    Quote Originally Posted by RandomPeasant View Post
    Even many puzzles have more than one viable solution, especially easier ones. I think a better way of phrasing this would be that people do not want thing to be so tightly tuned that optimal play is required. You should be able to succeed with the strategy you chose, not merely choose between optimal strategies. You may need to optimize your chosen strategy some, but part of agency is getting to solve problems in the way you want to solve them.
    Quote Originally Posted by kyoryu View Post
    Ultimately I think what people want is agency.

    Specifically, they want:

    1. The ability to make choices
    2. The ability to see the results of their choices
    3. More than one viable choice (otherwise it's a puzzle). Puzzles are fine, too, but that's a distinct style of game.
    Agreed.

    But I think my issue is more on the flip side; I feel like if I make the game as easy as people seem to want (i.e. that failure is effectively impossible) that the players will feel like their choices are irrelevant as they will triumph regardless of what they do or how they do it.
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    Default Re: Do people really enjoy close battles?

    Quote Originally Posted by Talakeal View Post
    The point of my story was to illustrate this, that they had a single fight and were still at 85%+ and wanted to give up because in their minds it had used almost everything they had.

    Maybe 50% would work in a much swingier system, but in the ones I play it would, imo, be incredibly boring as neither the dice rolls or the players tactics could ever realistically be bad enough to matter or make for a challenge.
    They used 15% and thought they just had a tough and challenging fight costing them enough ressources to consider retreat. I really don't think they would be bored by 50% scenarios. Asking them to go to 80% or even beyond for the optionals won't work. It will seem suicidally stupid from their point of view.

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    Default Re: Do people really enjoy close battles?

    Quote Originally Posted by Talakeal View Post
    Yet during and immediately after a game they always feel like they were riding the razors edge and only narrowly escaped an overtuned adventure run by a killer DM.

    The point of my story was to illustrate this, that they had a single fight and were still at 85%+ and wanted to give up because in their minds it had used almost everything they had.
    I envy you. I've worked many hours doing math to craft the illusions of hard fought victories without putting the pcs in any real danger. The fact you have this is great and should be celebrated.

    Think about it: you can give your players that hard won close fought victory feeling without having to worry about party wiping them. You are free of needing to worry about over balancing things. Players tell these stories of hard fought victories, and you didn't even have to risk killing them for it.

    I wish I had it so easy. Instead I've had to layer illusions to get to where you are.

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    Default Re: Do people really enjoy close battles?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jakinbandw View Post
    I envy you. I've worked many hours doing math to craft the illusions of hard fought victories without putting the pcs in any real danger. The fact you have this is great and should be celebrated.

    Think about it: you can give your players that hard won close fought victory feeling without having to worry about party wiping them. You are free of needing to worry about over balancing things. Players tell these stories of hard fought victories, and you didn't even have to risk killing them for it.

    I wish I had it so easy. Instead I've had to layer illusions to get to where you are.
    It would be nice if my players liked the feeling of danger and of hard won victories, but they don't.

    AFAICT they want a "power fantasy" in the sense that they are innately better than everyone else and don't want to be challenged by their inferiors, where as I want a more "pulp hero" game where competent people risk it all on dangerous adventures and come out ahead through grit and determination, cunning schemes, and dumb luck.

    And they also have a habit of characterizing this discrepancy in the least charitable terms possible; so the "hard fought victory" becomes "that time Talakeal tried to humiliate me by railroading my character into a deadly encounter" with later re-tellings.

    It also results in a lot of dead time in my games as the players are constantly playing it ultra-safe and wanting to give up and go back to town after the first fight, which, if playing in a sandbox games means a lot of pointless random encounters walking back and forth from town and in a plot driven game results in a lot of failed missions and short sessions.


    Quote Originally Posted by Satinavian View Post
    They used 15% and thought they just had a tough and challenging fight costing them enough ressources to consider retreat. I really don't think they would be bored by 50% scenarios. Asking them to go to 80% or even beyond for the optionals won't work. It will seem suicidally stupid from their point of view.
    Indeed.

    The thing I don't understand though is why, despite playing in my game for decades, they haven't ever noticed that despite going on "suicidally stupid" adventures every week that 90% of characters still manage to survive years long campaigns.
    ,
    Last edited by Talakeal; 2021-09-13 at 05:15 PM.
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  11. - Top - End - #611
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    Default Re: Do people really enjoy close battles?

    Two things I guess:

    1. Ultimately feel is more important than numbers. Having an actual death rate of 2% is independent from feeling as if there's a risk of death. It doesn't matter how good or precise your math is or how correct you are about the actual quantifiable attrition - that same math could result in a game which feels like there's no danger at all, a game where people feel challenged to within their comfort zone, or something uncomfortably harsh. There are many things which impact feel, and the actual difficulty may not even rank highly among those things.

    2. Everyone wants something different - some may want to make heavy decisions, others may want to feel superior and succeed no matter what they do. Some may want to be challenged consistently, others may want to get a payoff for what they put in even if it means that challenge is utterly removed ('I made a smart choice 5 games ago that makes this trivial, I would feel cheated if suddenly we either skip over it or there's some complication that makes it stop being trivial'). Some may like to feel threatened or like they're taking risks, others may want challenge to be primarily in the difficulty of coming up with solutions and not in the form of stuff going wrong once they've committed to a course of action, etc. These may vary person to person and even day to day. This in turn also means that the feel of something can vary person to person or day to day.

    The DMG, DMing blogs, the forum, etc don't know your players. So the reality of who is at the table always matters more than some external advice or recommended ranges or things like that. Once what your players want is narrowed down, then external advice suited to those tastes can be helpful. But it's never going to be universally correct for all people and all tables.
    Last edited by NichG; 2021-09-13 at 05:28 PM.

  12. - Top - End - #612
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    Default Re: Do people really enjoy close battles?

    Quote Originally Posted by Talakeal View Post
    AFAICT they want a "power fantasy" in the sense that they are innately better than everyone else and don't want to be challenged by their inferiors, where as I want a more "pulp hero" game where competent people risk it all on dangerous adventures and come out ahead through grit and determination, cunning schemes, and dumb luck.
    Have you tried providing them with exactly what they want and see how much they actually like it? In my experience, being overwhelmingly powerful and curbstomping every enemy can be really fun at first but usually gets old very quickly. If you're lucky, maybe they'll get bored with it and view your preferred style with more interest.

    Of course, there's a risk that they'll never get sick of it and then you're either stuck with a kind of game you dislike or they'll complain even more when you go back.

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    Default Re: Do people really enjoy close battles?

    Quote Originally Posted by NichG View Post
    Two things I guess:

    1. Ultimately feel is more important than numbers. Having an actual death rate of 2% is independent from feeling as if there's a risk of death. It doesn't matter how good or precise your math is or how correct you are about the actual quantifiable attrition - that same math could result in a game which feels like there's no danger at all, a game where people feel challenged to within their comfort zone, or something uncomfortably harsh. There are many things which impact feel, and the actual difficulty may not even rank highly among those things.

    2. Everyone wants something different - some may want to make heavy decisions, others may want to feel superior and succeed no matter what they do. Some may want to be challenged consistently, others may want to get a payoff for what they put in even if it means that challenge is utterly removed ('I made a smart choice 5 games ago that makes this trivial, I would feel cheated if suddenly we either skip over it or there's some complication that makes it stop being trivial'). Some may like to feel threatened or like they're taking risks, others may want challenge to be primarily in the difficulty of coming up with solutions and not in the form of stuff going wrong once they've committed to a course of action, etc. These may vary person to person and even day to day. This in turn also means that the feel of something can vary person to person or day to day.

    The DMG, DMing blogs, the forum, etc don't know your players. So the reality of who is at the table always matters more than some external advice or recommended ranges or things like that. Once what your players want is narrowed down, then external advice suited to those tastes can be helpful. But it's never going to be universally correct for all people and all tables.
    Thatís one of the wisest things I have heard.
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  14. - Top - End - #614
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    Default Re: Do people really enjoy close battles?

    Quote Originally Posted by Talakeal View Post
    Indeed.

    The thing I don't understand though is why, despite playing in my game for decades, they haven't ever noticed that despite going on "suicidally stupid" adventures every week that 90% of characters still manage to survive years long campaigns.
    ,
    You don't need to understand why. It is enough to know that this is how your players think and act and plan accordingly. Why do you prepare scenarios of which you know your players will consider them suicidally stupid and be reluctant to do ? Why not instead provide stuff you know your players consider appropriately challenging ?

    You will never convince them that your scenarios are not too hard if they feel otherwise. They won't ever align to your view of appropriate challenge.

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    Default Re: Do people really enjoy close battles?

    Quote Originally Posted by Talakeal View Post
    "pulp hero" game where competent people risk it all on dangerous adventures and come out ahead through ... dumb luck.
    If luck is a large factor, are the characters actually competent? High impact luck is the bane of strategy and planning. Variance is a good spice, but you put some pepper on the steak, not some steak drippings on the mountain of pepper.
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    Default Re: Do people really enjoy close battles?

    Quote Originally Posted by Talakeal View Post
    Agreed.

    But I think my issue is more on the flip side; I feel like if I make the game as easy as people seem to want (i.e. that failure is effectively impossible) that the players will feel like their choices are irrelevant as they will triumph regardless of what they do or how they do it.
    I'm still not quite convinced that's what they want.

    It sounds to me like they feel like they're powerless - that the results they get aren't a result of their actions (or that their actions are overly constrained). I know you have a tightly designed system - is it maybe so tightly designed that either there's always a "correct" choice, or that too many choices are, effectively, equivalent?
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    Default Re: Do people really enjoy close battles?

    Quote Originally Posted by kyoryu View Post
    I'm still not quite convinced that's what they want.

    It sounds to me like they feel like they're powerless - that the results they get aren't a result of their actions (or that their actions are overly constrained). I know you have a tightly designed system - is it maybe so tightly designed that either there's always a "correct" choice, or that too many choices are, effectively, equivalent?
    That's really hard to say. Any idea what sort of metrics one would look for to identify that?

    I will say that if there is a single optimal strategy, that I can't typically identify it even with the viewpoint of the guy who wrote the rules and the adventure.

    Quote Originally Posted by Xervous View Post
    If luck is a large factor, are the characters actually competent? High impact luck is the bane of strategy and planning. Variance is a good spice, but you put some pepper on the steak, not some steak drippings on the mountain of pepper.
    Are we talking about in or out of character?

    OOC it is a dice game, but not a terribly swingy one (unless playing with the optional high lethality rules which we usually don't) and luck is rarely a huge factor.

    In character, the PCs are more significantly competent than most, but adventuring is a dangerous profession and you need to be lucky to survive frequent adventures no matter how competent you are (but a competent guy with bad luck will still fare better in the long run than someone coasting by on luck alone!).

    Quote Originally Posted by Satinavian View Post
    You don't need to understand why. It is enough to know that this is how your players think and act and plan accordingly. Why do you prepare scenarios of which you know your players will consider them suicidally stupid and be reluctant to do ? Why not instead provide stuff you know your players consider appropriately challenging ?

    You will never convince them that your scenarios are not too hard if they feel otherwise. They won't ever align to your view of appropriate challenge.
    Because I don't have either the skill or the inclination to do so.

    The players want a high combat game, they want full (or more than full) treasure and XP, they want to be treated with awe and respect by NPCs, and they want to be powerful enough to shape the world.

    I literally have no idea how to make a game like "Ok, you killed three goblins and a mangy wolf, the townsfolk declare you the greatest heroes of all time and shower you with riches! Good game, see you in two weeks!" fun or coherent on either a mechanical or a narrative level.


    But yeah, I would rather put up with their bitching* than run super short games with no mechanical challenge or narrative verisimilitude.

    Now, maybe if the players actually through temper tantrums or threatened to quit the game over the difficulty, or they came to me with a unified explanation of what their ideal game would actually look like rather than vague accusations of over-tuning difficulty that might change.


    *Not that I have any expectation that would actually stop the bitching. I imagine that they would just find something else to complain about, and the first time the significantly under CRed monster lands a critical hit or gets off a save or suck spell they would be right back to saying the encounters are too hard.
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    Default Re: Do people really enjoy close battles?

    I mean, based off previous info, at least one of your players does want a super-easy game where he gains isekai-protagonist-level power through riskless grinding and then uses it to faceroll every 'threat' in the world. But it's unclear whether the other players want this too or just don't mind his complaining.

    More generally, the fact that such series are numerous and fairly popular indicates that probably a number of people out there would enjoy such a game, although most wouldn't expect or demand it.

    The interesting thing about "tough" video games is that for almost all of them (anything without perma-death), you will eventually win every important battle and achieve a total victory, unless you get tired of trying.
    Last edited by icefractal; 2021-09-14 at 02:01 PM.

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    Default Re: Do people really enjoy close battles?

    Quote Originally Posted by Talakeal View Post
    The players want a high combat game, they want full (or more than full) treasure and XP, they want to be treated with awe and respect by NPCs, and they want to be powerful enough to shape the world.

    I literally have no idea how to make a game like "Ok, you killed three goblins and a mangy wolf, the townsfolk declare you the greatest heroes of all time and shower you with riches! Good game, see you in two weeks!" fun or coherent on either a mechanical or a narrative level.
    The trick I believe is to not have them do that. I'm designing a game that runs from levels 1 to 20. In my most recent playtest campaign the pcs reached level seven, leveling up a little under once a session.

    The last fight was them vs a dragon. I was testing differant boss rules and had given them potions of life that counted as a full heal and a full day's rest that could be drunk as a free action. This meant they couldn't really die. Despite that the fight was epic. A twenty mile swath of the campaign map was turned into an elemental maelstrom. The PCs saved the city from the dragon destroying it in the nick of time. The plain itself shattered during the battle leaving nothing but void laced with elemental fury across a full 3rd of the campaign map. It was so terrible that any normal person trying to enter it would die instantly.

    And yet the pcs won, and they were never at any real risk. It went down as an amazing campaign ending fight, and everyone is excited for the next playtest.

    So maybe the trick is to just have them start at a higher level, and allow them to face challenges more exciting than a couple goblins. Swap the goblins for giants terrorizing the land, keep everything else roughly the same (the balance of power between pcs and foes) and just let the PCs be cool.

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    Default Re: Do people really enjoy close battles?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jakinbandw View Post
    The trick I believe is to not have them do that. I'm designing a game that runs from levels 1 to 20. In my most recent playtest campaign the pcs reached level seven, leveling up a little under once a session.

    The last fight was them vs a dragon. I was testing differant boss rules and had given them potions of life that counted as a full heal and a full day's rest that could be drunk as a free action. This meant they couldn't really die. Despite that the fight was epic. A twenty mile swath of the campaign map was turned into an elemental maelstrom. The PCs saved the city from the dragon destroying it in the nick of time. The plain itself shattered during the battle leaving nothing but void laced with elemental fury across a full 3rd of the campaign map. It was so terrible that any normal person trying to enter it would die instantly.

    And yet the pcs won, and they were never at any real risk. It went down as an amazing campaign ending fight, and everyone is excited for the next playtest.

    So maybe the trick is to just have them start at a higher level, and allow them to face challenges more exciting than a couple goblins. Swap the goblins for giants terrorizing the land, keep everything else roughly the same (the balance of power between pcs and foes) and just let the PCs be cool.
    Don't have time for a full response right now, will think about it more and get back to it.

    Quickly though; for one thing my players absolutely hate consumables and need constant advancement, so that particular setup wouldn't really work for my group.

    Out of curiosity, if a level 7 monster can destroy a third of the map, what are the level 20 monsters capable of? How is there any campaign world left? That's the kind of narrative incoherence I always run into when trying to come up with radically asymmetrical campaign setups.
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    Default Re: Do people really enjoy close battles?

    Quote Originally Posted by Talakeal View Post
    Don't have time for a full response right now, will think about it more and get back to it.

    Quickly though; for one thing my players absolutely hate consumables and need constant advancement, so that particular setup wouldn't really work for my group.

    Out of curiosity, if a level 7 monster can destroy a third of the map, what are the level 20 monsters capable of? How is there any campaign world left? That's the kind of narrative incoherence I always run into when trying to come up with radically asymmetrical campaign setups.
    In the playtest it was a just bad luck. A dragon that was Magically sensitive was sleeping on a converge of magical leylines, and absorbed so much power they were an apocalyptic threat.

    In my main setting the game I'm designing it's the start of the end of the world. In the past angels and demons lived in harmony as they had worked together to form the world, with angels representing order and demons chaos. Then the angels betrayed the demons and sealed them away, locking the world in an endless cycle of conformity.

    The demons have broken free, and they just want to destroy the world as revenge. As one of the primal forces involved in the world's creation, they have the power to unmake it. They're return has allowed the world to change though and old monsters are waking even as new heroes rise for the first time in a milenia.

    The angles won't let go so easily, and plan to freeze time completely, so nothing can ever change or be chaotic again.

    The campaign starts as the first few demons escape and things start to change. It allows for a scaling threat that leads all the way to entire plains being wiped out depending how the differant wars go. I've been working on it for 2 years now, and it's finally taking the shape I want it to. Having a third of the map destroyed is exactly the type of things I want in my game.

    But then again, I do enjoy power fantasy.

    (Edit: The monster was actually level 9, but pcs in my game are able to punch up a bit)
    Last edited by Jakinbandw; 2021-09-14 at 02:57 PM.

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    Default Re: Do people really enjoy close battles?

    Quote Originally Posted by Talakeal View Post
    That's really hard to say. Any idea what sort of metrics one would look for to identify that?

    I will say that if there is a single optimal strategy, that I can't typically identify it even with the viewpoint of the guy who wrote the rules and the adventure.
    That's fair, but it might also be a combinatorial thing. Or it might be that there are several "usable" strategies that all give the same results, and everything else is Just Bad.

    One thing is that people should be able to identify the results of their actions. If they use more consumables, they should get away with less damage. If they use less, it hsould be closer. If they position themselves badly, they get hurt. If they make really good tactics, they take less damage. That kind of thing.

    On a higher level, too. If they choose to ally with the Baron, they should get resources they wouldn't get if they allied with the bandit leader instead - and they shouldn't just be a reskin of the same allies.
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    Default Re: Do people really enjoy close battles?

    Quote Originally Posted by Talakeal View Post
    Because I don't have either the skill or the inclination to do so.
    But yeah, I would rather put up with their bitching* than run super short games with no mechanical challenge or narrative verisimilitude.
    Well, you made your choice and are aware of the consequence.

    But stop complaining about your players complaining when you know very well what they want and just don't find it fun to provide and instead do your thing.

  24. - Top - End - #624
    Ettin in the Playground
     
    Talakeal's Avatar

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    Sep 2009
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    Default Re: Do people really enjoy close battles?

    Quote Originally Posted by Satinavian View Post
    Well, you made your choice and are aware of the consequence.

    But stop complaining about your players complaining when you know very well what they want and just don't find it fun to provide and instead do your thing.
    Maybe you should just stop complaining about my complaining about complaining then!

    But more seriously, this assumes that:

    1: That I am capable of running a game that my players would enjoy.
    2: There isn't some compromise we can find where everyone is happy.
    3: My players are unified and all enjoy the same thing.
    4: My players complaints are all rational and made in good faith.
    5: My players desires for a game are actually possible and not self contradictory.
    6: That I can't find some way to at least make my players aware of how difficult it is too provide what they are asking or even if can't actually bring them around to my way of thinking.

    Like, a lot of the time it feels like they just bitch no matter what they are presented with and if taken seriously feel like the equivalent of a child throwing a tantrum because you won't by him a boiling hot salmon flavored ice cream cone.


    Edit: To clarify, I am not saying my players are irrational nut-jobs. They are just five people with differing tastes who tend to get upset when they lose and say things without actually thinking them through.
    Last edited by Talakeal; 2021-09-14 at 04:54 PM.
    Looking for feedback on Heart of Darkness, a character driven RPG of Gothic fantasy.

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