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  1. - Top - End - #61
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    Default Re: Do people really enjoy close battles?

    Quote Originally Posted by KorvinStarmast View Post
    Last night was a case in point. (D&D 5e).

    Very hard fight, very close to losing a PC to PC death (he was at two failed death saves, 1 success, when someone got a healing word to him). Lots of conditions imposed on players, opposing casters casting spells like fireball, darkness, hold person ...

    Some key tactical decisions made by the players made a substantial difference in the outcome.
    Dice weren't particularly cruel to either side, a few crits here and there, nothing out of the ordinary.

    As they explored after the big fight another pocket of enemies cropped up when they went down stairs - near the session's end - three of the party had single digit HP before they left the temple behind them, on fire from the fires they'd set before they headed back to town.

    To a man, the players were exultant and gave me the old "great session!" feedback.

    Do we have one of these in every session?
    No.
    And most notably, at the end of the session, the PC's went home.

    Which means they recovered the resources (Health ect) that they spent.

    Which means that being forced to SPEND those resources becomes a sign of how much they Triumphed Over Great Odds, rather than a Cost They Were Forced To Pay.

    Because if you're going to full heal anyway, having taken damage doesn't feel bad.

    Spending spell slots doesn't feel bad if you are just going to get them back.


    If you follow the pattern of a few "Resource Drain" encounters (PC victory is basically guaranteed, the question is what it will COST the PC's to win), followed by the Big Fight, then the big fight makes the resource drainers feel better.

    IF you end the Big Fight having spent every spell slot you had, it meant you needed them, which means you made good decisions in the Resource Drainer fights earlier (since you clearly emerged from those with enough resources to Win The Big Fight).


    When people say they want "Close Fights" what they mean is "I want to feel like I, the Player, can take credit for the victory, rather than just winning by virtue of having good enough stats". A Close Fight Demonstrates that something the Player did was integral to the victory. That is the feeling of Triumph that doesn't come from a cakewalk fight.


    But players are paranoid, which means that feeling of Triumph can only come if the Victory was complete. If you know you have more fights ahead of you, then a fight in which you expended ANY resources is not a complete victory, since you might have won that fight at the cost of losing one down the line.
    Last edited by BRC; 2021-07-15 at 12:22 PM.
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  2. - Top - End - #62
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    Default Re: Do people really enjoy close battles?

    I am a little unsure what to make of your post, BRC.
    Quote Originally Posted by BRC View Post
    Spending spell slots doesn't feel bad if you are just going to get them back.
    Did you miss the part where after the big fight they ended up with another fight (no rest) and that three PCs into single digit HP? (The dwarf had 1 HP, the elf 8, the paladin 7. Char level 6).
    When people say they want "Close Fights" what they mean is "I want to feel like I, the Player, can take credit for the victory, rather than just winning by virtue of having good enough stats". A Close Fight Demonstrates that something the Player did was integral to the victory. That is the feeling of Triumph that doesn't come from a cakewalk fight.
    As I noted, they made at least three key tactical choices that prevented the Big Fight from turning out badly.

    This was a potential party-wipe encounter if their tactics had not been applied to take a measure of control over the battlefield.
    Last edited by KorvinStarmast; 2021-07-15 at 03:11 PM.
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    (paraphrased) Rulings are not 'House Rules.' Rulings are a DM doing what DMs are supposed to do.
    Quote Originally Posted by greenstone View Post
    Agency means that they {players} control their character's actions; you control the world's reactions to the character's actions.
    Gosh, 2D8HP, you are so very correct!

  3. - Top - End - #63
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    Default Re: Do people really enjoy close battles?

    Quote Originally Posted by KorvinStarmast View Post
    I am a little unsure what to make of your post, BRC.
    Did you miss the part where after the big fight they ended up with another fight (no rest) and that three PCs into single digit HP? (The dwarf had 1 HP, the elf 8, the paladin 7. Char level 6).
    And after they got away, at the end of the session, they were talking about how great it was.
    In that case, I'd say the whole session was the "Close Fight" that they enjoyed, including the surprise follow-up encounter, but it sounds like the Big Fight was appropriately Climactic.

    As I noted, they made at least three key tactical choices that prevented the Big Fight from turning out badly.

    This was a potential party-wipe encounter if their tactics had not been applied to take a measure of control over the battlefield.
    And the players had a great time. It's a perfect demonstration of what I'm talking about

    So long as there was room for SOME level of Tactics, a close battle usually communicates "You won because of something you, the players, did well, not just because you had good stats".

    In a cakewalk fight, tactics might mean you win with less expenditure of resources, but that's not quite the same.

    The Players knew that, without their tactical choices, they would have TPK'd. They knew that even WITH their smart tactical choices it was difficult fight.
    And they won anyway.

    That's the sensation of Triumph that players enjoy. Knowing that something THEY did, not just the stats on their sheet, or the luck of the dice, made the victory possible.


    Edit: If it wasn't clear, I was using your example as evidence in favor of my point about what players like about "Close Fights", and the circumstances under which that enjoyment is possible.


    Players like a "Close Fight" because it's evidence that they made smart tactical choices, and the enjoyment of a close fight comes AFTER total victory has been achieved.

    So if you run a Close Fight and look at your players, they're not going to be loving it in the moment, because it's a stressful situation (Well some players thrive in those situations, but). They're going to be loving it after the fact, once they know that Victory has been achieved.

    And what they specifically are going to love is the validation that the victory was made possible by their smart decisions.

    Edit II

    Breaking down my key components

    1) A "Close Battle" Should be narratively relevant and climactic. From the sounds of things, your "Tough fight" session was storming some sort of temple, so the extra narrative weight was present.

    2) Players like a Close Battle because it demonstrates that they (The Players) triumphed. In your example, there were several major tactical choices that they made which prevented the TPK and contributed to victory.
    The closeness of the battle (One PC almost dying) helps heighten the Triumph, driving home how bad things COULD have been had they NOT made those tactical decisions, so the victory can firmly be attributed to the Players.

    3) The joy from a Close Battle comes once the players know that their victory is complete, At the end of the adventure. Because until that point, they don't know if they've won by the skin of their teeth, or if they're just woefully unprepared for whatever comes next.
    Your Players had their big climactic fight, and then another follow-up fight which ended with the party almost wiped out, and yet, in the end, they had a great time, because the closeness of the victory made the Triumph that much sweeter.
    Last edited by BRC; 2021-07-15 at 03:52 PM.
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  4. - Top - End - #64
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    Default Re: Do people really enjoy close battles?

    Quote Originally Posted by BRC View Post
    And after they got away, at the end of the session, they were talking about how great it was. In that case, I'd say the whole session was the "Close Fight" that they enjoyed, including the surprise follow-up encounter, but it sounds like the Big Fight was appropriately Climactic.

    And the players had a great time. It's a perfect demonstration of what I'm talking about

    So long as there was room for SOME level of Tactics, a close battle usually communicates "You won because of something you, the players, did well, not just because you had good stats".

    In a cakewalk fight, tactics might mean you win with less expenditure of resources, but that's not quite the same.
    OK, I was not grokking your post very well, thank you for clearing that up. Sorry, low caffeine is the current excuse.

    And don't get me wrong, some nights with this group a ROFLstomp ends up happening - that has its attractions as well. (And as someone noticed upthread, some of the fine smart aleck ad libs and quips and oddball crazy RP come out of a ROFLstop session)
    Edit II
    Spoiler: The key compoents
    Show

    Breaking down my key components

    1) A "Close Battle" Should be narratively relevant and climactic. From the sounds of things, your "Tough fight" session was storming some sort of temple, so the extra narrative weight was present.

    2) Players like a Close Battle because it demonstrates that they (The Players) triumphed. In your example, there were several major tactical choices that they made which prevented the TPK and contributed to victory.
    The closeness of the battle (One PC almost dying) helps heighten the Triumph, driving home how bad things COULD have been had they NOT made those tactical decisions, so the victory can firmly be attributed to the Players.

    3) The joy from a Close Battle comes once the players know that their victory is complete, At the end of the adventure. Because until that point, they don't know if they've won by the skin of their teeth, or if they're just woefully unprepared for whatever comes next.
    Your Players had their big climactic fight, and then another follow-up fight which ended with the party almost wiped out, and yet, in the end, they had a great time, because the closeness of the victory made the Triumph that much sweeter.
    Yes to all of that.
    Last edited by KorvinStarmast; 2021-07-15 at 03:58 PM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by greenstone View Post
    Agency means that they {players} control their character's actions; you control the world's reactions to the character's actions.
    Gosh, 2D8HP, you are so very correct!

  5. - Top - End - #65
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    Default Re: Do people really enjoy close battles?

    Quote Originally Posted by KorvinStarmast View Post
    OK, I was not grokking your post very well, thank you for clearing that up. Sorry, low caffeine is the current excuse.

    And don't get me wrong, some nights with this group a ROFLstomp ends up happening - that has its attractions as well. (And as someone noticed upthread, some of the fine smart aleck ad libs and quips and oddball crazy RP come out of a ROFLstop session)
    Yes to all of that.
    I was thinking about why Talakeal's Players might be complaining,

    Either because he's found a group of players that just want to walk into a room, step on a rat, and get paid 500,0000 GP for the trouble, or because he's missing some part of the formula.

    For example, if his "Close Battles" occur early in places without appropriate narrative weight, it just feels like he's running a Very Hard Campaign where the PC's need to scrape and struggle to fight off every random bandit ambush.

    If his "Close Battles" don't involve the players demonstrating some degree of tactical skill, then it's just Extra Stress on them, rather than a Triumph that they can point to.

    If his Close Battles don't have the Players getting to replenish their resources (Achieving a Final Victory) by the end of the session, then they don't know that they actually Won. Instead they might just have spent resources they will need later.


    And, if his stories about his players starting to complain and disconnecting from the game the moment things get tough are true, then his sample of "Do my players enjoy this" is going to come from DURING the fight (High-stress) rather than AFTER the fight (victory is complete, looking back on the triumph). It's also possible that his players throw enough of a fit mid-fight that they've already set their opinions by the time they've won.
    Last edited by BRC; 2021-07-15 at 04:31 PM.
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  6. - Top - End - #66
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    Default Re: Do people really enjoy close battles?

    It’s obviously a continuum. Every player wants their choices to matter—a boss fight that’s an easy victory better be because they planned and prepared beforehand.

    Most highly tactical players I have DMed for don’t like every fight to be tough, but they love the idea that it *could* be tough if they don’t use good tactics, and still tell stories about the one time in five the ambush didn’t work and they had to fight the entire enemy fortress at once.

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    Default Re: Do people really enjoy close battles?

    Quote Originally Posted by BRC View Post
    I was thinking about why Talakeal's Players might be complaining,

    Either because he's found a group of players that just want to walk into a room, step on a rat, and get paid 500,0000 GP for the trouble, or because he's missing some part of the formula.

    For example, if his "Close Battles" occur early in places without appropriate narrative weight, it just feels like he's running a Very Hard Campaign where the PC's need to scrape and struggle to fight off every random bandit ambush.

    If his "Close Battles" don't involve the players demonstrating some degree of tactical skill, then it's just Extra Stress on them, rather than a Triumph that they can point to.

    If his Close Battles don't have the Players getting to replenish their resources (Achieving a Final Victory) by the end of the session, then they don't know that they actually Won. Instead they might just have spent resources they will need later.


    And, if his stories about his players starting to complain and disconnecting from the game the moment things get tough are true, then his sample of "Do my players enjoy this" is going to come from DURING the fight (High-stress) rather than AFTER the fight (victory is complete, looking back on the triumph). It's also possible that his players throw enough of a fit mid-fight that they've already set their opinions by the time they've won.
    Typically close battles are always the climax of the night, both because I like to have the "boss battle" be slightly tougher and because the PCs are already worn down from easier fights and obstacles when they get in.

    They always replenish their resources at the end of the session barring some weird irl emergency disrupting the game mid dungeon.

    Tactics are a double edged sword. As someone said above, you can't balance for player tactics, and so if the players are using good tactics it is unlikely to be a challenging encounter to begin with.

    Only about 1 in 20 fights is actually close.

    I get bitching in the moment, but it seems like players actually get more bitter as time goes on rather than less; when they tell stories it is always about how I was "always screwing them over" rather than about the glorious victories that ended 99.5% of these "screw-jobs".
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    Default Re: Do people really enjoy close battles?

    No. Not that there haven't been close battles I have enjoyed but the fact that they were close isn't really the thing that made them enjoyable. No what made them cool is to know that me or my character (this is a case where the two begin to blur together) made a difference. My favourite combat of all time was four (~) rounds long, only one PC participated in it and they did almost exactly the same thing each round. What made it great is that every one of the very diverse PCs came together around that combat in a way that each of them got use their unique abilities and each of them made a critical difference. Other similar incidents also just changed things from win-to-win or loss-to-loss, but how became something unique to that character and that made it interesting.

    That being said. I'm a very character/narrative focused player but that is how it seems through my lens.

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    Default Re: Do people really enjoy close battles?

    We’re human. We are complex, with both virtues and vices, positive emotions and negative ones, worthy impulses and unworthy ones.

    When I fence, I have lots more fun defeating somebody on my level than I do defeating a new, mostly untrained fencer. It’s hard to remember that sometimes when I’m losing, facing somebody with more skill than I have.

    I get more satisfaction out of finishing a 30-miles bike ride with aching legs than a five-mile ride. But 25 miles in, with aching legs and too much sun, I’m probably not enjoying it at my cheerful best.

    I enjoy a complex game of chess far more than beating a poor player quickly – but I may get frustrated when I lose my queen.


    *IF* the players are people who love a challenge, and
    *IF* the game is interesting, and
    *IF* the players are people who work well together as teammates rather than rivals, and
    *IF* they trust the DM, ...

    ... then yes, in my experience, such players will prefer a hard challenge. But even then, they often lose sight of that during the tough encounter.

    My list of Rules for DMs includes the following:

    What the players want today is a quick, easy victory. But what they will want tomorrow is to have brilliantly and valiantly turned the tables to barely survive a deadly encounter where it looked like they were all about to die.

    But don’t forget that first sentence. Nobody projects their best emotions (or their worst ones) all the time.

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    Default Re: Do people really enjoy close battles?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jay R View Post
    What the players want today is a quick, easy victory. But what they will want tomorrow is to have brilliantly and valiantly turned the tables to barely survive a deadly encounter where it looked like they were all about to die.
    Thanks, I was looking for that quote!

    But yeah, that doesn't actually seem to be the case at my table; all past victories become miserable screw-jobs, the magnitude of which grows with each telling!
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    Default Re: Do people really enjoy close battles?

    Quote Originally Posted by Talakeal View Post
    TLDR: In your experience, do players actually prefer tough battles were they struggle to pull through in the end, or do they prefer easy victories where they clearly outclass their opposition?
    It's a balance. The easy fights are great... they show your power. Throwing a previously difficult monster at a group who can now wipe the floor with them shows their advancement in a visceral way.

    However, all the stories you see aren't "We wiped the floor with 10 goblins", they're "And we had 10 HP left between 6 characters, but we survived!" The first isn't heroic. The second is either "Goddamn, we could not roll over a 3" or "We conquered amazing odds and it felt so good."
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    Default Re: Do people really enjoy close battles?

    I personally hate close battles. It feels like a failure state to me even on a win and I'll dwell on it for a long time to come.

    The reason why is probability. If a fight comes down to making a single 50% roll, or there will be a TPK, That means that we will likely tpk within the next 3 encounters of similar difficulty.

    If we have a 95% chance to win a battle, but we need to win 10 of them, then our chance of success becomes roughly a coin flip.

    More than that however, winning because I got lucky just doesn't feel good to me. I didn't win because I was smart, or clever, or planned well. I won in spite of being too foolish to truly come up with a proper way to win.

    Note that I am fine with running from fights. It means that we had a properly planned contingency for the situation (you can't escape in most systems otherwise) and we weren't risking a tpk. It's tpks that I don't enjoy.

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    Default Re: Do people really enjoy close battles?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jakinbandw View Post
    Note that I am fine with running from fights. It means that we had a properly planned contingency for the situation (you can't escape in most systems otherwise) and we weren't risking a tpk. It's tpks that I don't enjoy.
    I love your first sentence there. I too am fine with 'live to fight another day' and that's why I almost always have Fog Cloud as a selected spell.
    Drop the cloud and GTFO saved us twice in ToA.

    But I think that the general willingness to withdraw is why one of the players dropped out of the campaign. (Though scheduling problems were likely a factor as well)
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    Default Re: Do people really enjoy close battles?

    A lot is going to depend on the culture of the table.

    Some players are fine with dying for the drama and the experience, others see their characters as a huge investment and don't want to risk that.

    Some players like a challenge, others like to play for the story.

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    Default Re: Do people really enjoy close battles?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jakinbandw View Post
    The reason why is probability. If a fight comes down to making a single 50% roll, or there will be a TPK, That means that we will likely tpk within the next 3 encounters of similar difficulty.

    If we have a 95% chance to win a battle, but we need to win 10 of them, then our chance of success becomes roughly a coin flip.
    Have other results of failure besides "TPK". It opens up a lot of potential.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jakinbandw View Post
    More than that however, winning because I got lucky just doesn't feel good to me. I didn't win because I was smart, or clever, or planned well. I won in spite of being too foolish to truly come up with a proper way to win.
    To me a close fight shouldn't be defined by probabilities, but by tactics. Hoping you get lucky and needing to be good are two different things. The latter is fun. The former is basically helplessness.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jakinbandw View Post
    Note that I am fine with running from fights. It means that we had a properly planned contingency for the situation (you can't escape in most systems otherwise) and we weren't risking a tpk. It's tpks that I don't enjoy.
    Few people do enjoy TPKs.
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    Default Re: Do people really enjoy close battles?

    Quote Originally Posted by kyoryu View Post
    Have other results of failure besides "TPK". It opens up a lot of potential.



    To me a close fight shouldn't be defined by probabilities, but by tactics. Hoping you get lucky and needing to be good are two different things. The latter is fun. The former is basically helplessness.



    Few people do enjoy TPKs.
    I thought everyone loved books that end with "and everybody dies. The end."

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    Default Re: Do people really enjoy close battles?

    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Hall View Post
    It's a balance. The easy fights are great... they show your power. Throwing a previously difficult monster at a group who can now wipe the floor with them shows their advancement in a visceral way.

    However, all the stories you see aren't "We wiped the floor with 10 goblins", they're "And we had 10 HP left between 6 characters, but we survived!" The first isn't heroic. The second is either "Goddamn, we could not roll over a 3" or "We conquered amazing odds and it felt so good."
    Don’t forget the stories about when they were facing a tough fight but remembered some obscure ability or rules knowledge that turned a tough fight into a cakewalk. My players still talk about the time half the party couldn’t melee the Big Bad through its anti-life shell and the Battlemaster used his Pushing Attack with a thrown dagger to shove it next to someone and break the spell.

    A satisfying major fight, at the end, doesn’t need to be close, but the players do need a moment in the fight where they think “man, how are we going to get out of this one?”

    That moment can even be before the fight. I remember several curb stomp ambushes fondly where we were utterly terrified of a spellcasting enemy and carefully planned when and where to take them out to avoid getting Meteor Swarmed.

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    Default Re: Do people really enjoy close battles?

    Quote Originally Posted by Zuras View Post
    A satisfying major fight, at the end, doesn’t need to be close, but the players do need a moment in the fight where they think “man, how are we going to get out of this one?”
    Sure. You know with far more certainty than you ever could in any game involving randomness -- I mean, literal 100% certainty -- that James Bond isn't going to die in the next James Bond movie. But, if the fights are cool, you'll enjoy it anyway. It's not a prerequisite.

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    Default Re: Do people really enjoy close battles?

    Quote Originally Posted by meandean View Post
    Sure. You know with far more certainty than you ever could in any game involving randomness -- I mean, literal 100% certainty -- that James Bond isn't going to die in the next James Bond movie. But, if the fights are cool, you'll enjoy it anyway. It's not a prerequisite.
    How the stakes of the fight are set up matters, too. If you know the hero isn't going to die, you can put something else up at risk that can believably be lost.

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    Default Re: Do people really enjoy close battles?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jay R View Post
    *IF* the players are people who love a challenge, and
    *IF* the game is interesting, and
    *IF* the players are people who work well together as teammates rather than rivals, and
    *IF* they trust the DM, ...

    ... then yes, in my experience, such players will prefer a hard challenge. But even then, they often lose sight of that during the tough encounter.

    My list of Rules for DMs includes the following:

    What the players want today is a quick, easy victory. But what they will want tomorrow is to have brilliantly and valiantly turned the tables to barely survive a deadly encounter where it looked like they were all about to die.
    While pithy, I disagree with this as a general rule. You yourself lay out a set of pre-conditions for when players would enjoy it, but then the rule states it as something true for most/all players with no caveats - which it isn't, IME.


    Quote Originally Posted by Talakeal
    But yeah, that doesn't actually seem to be the case at my table; all past victories become miserable screw-jobs, the magnitude of which grows with each telling!
    Part of this might be from two things:

    First, if you get frustrated enough during the encounter, that frustration will be the most memorable thing about it, regardless of if it turned out well in the end. I remember one time when I had a string of bad luck, got pissed off, and visibly sulked about it. And that's just embarrassing. I could make excuses like I was underslept, and I didn't throw anything or yell at anyone, but at the end of the day I acted like an immature idiot, and that is what I remember about the fight (although it was a close fight that we ultimately won). It's not a good gaming memory, it's a lousy one.

    Secondly, people will often apply a lot of cognitive bias to preserve their self-image. If someone did get to the stage of yelling at people over their own failure, they have two choices:
    A) Accept that they acted badly and should be ashamed of themselves.
    B) Double down on the belief that things were rigged against them and their anger was therefore appropriate.

    And the more often this get brought up, and the more often they take that "double down" choice, the higher the stakes get. Now for them to admit they were wrong, they'd have to admit they're someone who holds a years-long grudge over their own mistake. Not likely. Hence the "more bitter over time".


    Quote Originally Posted by kyoryu
    How the stakes of the fight are set up matters, too. If you know the hero isn't going to die, you can put something else up at risk that can believably be lost.
    Non-death stakes are fine, but they don't really take any sting out of defeat. Depending, they might make it worse, especially if the blame falls at all on the PCs' mistakes.

    "You screwed up and died." Ok, bummer. Guess that's it for the character ... unless there's a way for them to get resurrected, because I'd be happy to keep playing them in that case.

    "You screwed up and got the city destroyed." Immediate retirement time, I don't want to play that character any more, at all.
    Last edited by icefractal; 2021-07-16 at 03:44 PM.

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    Default Re: Do people really enjoy close battles?

    Quote Originally Posted by Talakeal View Post
    Typically close battles are always the climax of the night, both because I like to have the "boss battle" be slightly tougher and because the PCs are already worn down from easier fights and obstacles when they get in.

    They always replenish their resources at the end of the session barring some weird irl emergency disrupting the game mid dungeon.

    Tactics are a double edged sword. As someone said above, you can't balance for player tactics, and so if the players are using good tactics it is unlikely to be a challenging encounter to begin with.

    Only about 1 in 20 fights is actually close.

    I get bitching in the moment, but it seems like players actually get more bitter as time goes on rather than less; when they tell stories it is always about how I was "always screwing them over" rather than about the glorious victories that ended 99.5% of these "screw-jobs".
    I'd say you shouldn't balance for tactics, even if you could. Using tactics is a good thing, a sign of team work and understanding the game. The correct reward for that is that they have an easier time with encounters and expend fewer resources.
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    Default Re: Do people really enjoy close battles?

    Quote Originally Posted by Mastikator View Post
    I'd say you shouldn't balance for tactics, even if you could. Using tactics is a good thing, a sign of team work and understanding the game. The correct reward for that is that they have an easier time with encounters and expend fewer resources.
    Conversely, a strong, intelligent enemy would be able to adapt to those tactics. They should ABSOLUTELY begin making moves to counter things the party is using. Did they kill your pet dragon with a beefed up maximized empowered disintigrate? Contingency to reflect that back to the caster would be prudent. The party has a pyromancer who sometimes switches to acid? Protect against both.

    A big bad who doesn't adapt to enemy strategies is no big bad at all.

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    Default Re: Do people really enjoy close battles?

    Quote Originally Posted by Calthropstu View Post
    Conversely, a strong, intelligent enemy would be able to adapt to those tactics. They should ABSOLUTELY begin making moves to counter things the party is using. Did they kill your pet dragon with a beefed up maximized empowered disintigrate? Contingency to reflect that back to the caster would be prudent. The party has a pyromancer who sometimes switches to acid? Protect against both.

    A big bad who doesn't adapt to enemy strategies is no big bad at all.
    +1

    Actually if the players use the same tactic very often and the enemy has scouts or post-battle reports from on-lookers or just anyway of knowing what the tactic is, they should device a counter to it. That's literally what the players would (and should) do if they knew that the bad guys used a tactic! But ONLY for tactically inclined enemies. Like humans, or hobgoblins. If they're facing orcs the orcs just charge in like idiots.
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    Default Re: Do people really enjoy close battles?

    Quote Originally Posted by Mastikator View Post
    +1

    Actually if the players use the same tactic very often and the enemy has scouts or post-battle reports from on-lookers or just anyway of knowing what the tactic is, they should device a counter to it. That's literally what the players would (and should) do if they knew that the bad guys used a tactic! But ONLY for tactically inclined enemies. Like humans, or hobgoblins. If they're facing orcs the orcs just charge in like idiots.
    Obould would like a word with you...

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    Default Re: Do people really enjoy close battles?

    Quote Originally Posted by BRC View Post
    I was thinking about why Talakeal's Players might be complaining,

    Either because he's found a group of players that just want to walk into a room, step on a rat, and get paid 500,0000 GP for the trouble, or because he's missing some part of the formula.

    For example, if his "Close Battles" occur early in places without appropriate narrative weight, it just feels like he's running a Very Hard Campaign where the PC's need to scrape and struggle to fight off every random bandit ambush.

    If his "Close Battles" don't involve the players demonstrating some degree of tactical skill, then it's just Extra Stress on them, rather than a Triumph that they can point to.

    If his Close Battles don't have the Players getting to replenish their resources (Achieving a Final Victory) by the end of the session, then they don't know that they actually Won. Instead they might just have spent resources they will need later.


    And, if his stories about his players starting to complain and disconnecting from the game the moment things get tough are true, then his sample of "Do my players enjoy this" is going to come from DURING the fight (High-stress) rather than AFTER the fight (victory is complete, looking back on the triumph). It's also possible that his players throw enough of a fit mid-fight that they've already set their opinions by the time they've won.
    Obviously, there's some of all of the above - just like in any game.

    Talakeal's players obviously have difficulty demonstrating tactical skill. Other than my 5-point plan, how would one go about addressing that?

    Quote Originally Posted by Zuras View Post
    Every player wants their choices to matter—a boss fight that’s an easy victory better be because they planned and prepared beforehand.
    Definitely on "choices matter".

    I had a GM who was a "master" of "unintended consequences", who never let actions have their *intended* consequences. It wasn't, "yes, but…" - it was "no, and also…".

    I think… that it depends on my character, but… I like to hear a lot of "yes", and to be surprised more often by "yes, and also" than by "yes, but" or "no".

    So, when the BDH party fails to convince the villagers that we're the good guys? Not surprising. Appropriate to their stats and theme. When Armus slowly loses a grapple with a Drow warrior? Not surprising.

    Quote Originally Posted by Talakeal View Post
    I get bitching in the moment, but it seems like players actually get more bitter as time goes on rather than less; when they tell stories it is always about how I was "always screwing them over" rather than about the glorious victories that ended 99.5% of these "screw-jobs".
    My hope is, using my 5-point plan, going full module mode with them, you'll be able to show your players the module you wrote, and ask them, "so, how would *you* have written this encounter so as not to…", and get actionable feedback. (Or get them to learn not to "double down" by giving them an out. Or, from your feedback, we'll realize that they are truly, unsalvageably insane. Or some other productive outcome.)

    Quote Originally Posted by Talakeal View Post
    But yeah, that doesn't actually seem to be the case at my table; all past victories become miserable screw-jobs, the magnitude of which grows with each telling!
    And is that just your players of your games, or stories of other GMs, or even your retellings as well?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jay R View Post
    *IF* the players are people who love a challenge, and
    *IF* the game is interesting, and
    *IF* the players are people who work well together as teammates rather than rivals, and
    *IF* they trust the DM, ...

    ... then yes, in my experience, such players will prefer a hard challenge. But even then, they often lose sight of that during the tough encounter.

    My list of Rules for DMs includes the following:

    What the players want today is a quick, easy victory. But what they will want tomorrow is to have brilliantly and valiantly turned the tables to barely survive a deadly encounter where it looked like they were all about to die.
    Yeah, all those qualifiers certainly help me see why your rule felt… incomplete.

    More to the point, different people enjoy different types of struggles. Some people won't enjoy the struggle at all.

    I enjoy struggling with an impartial system, not with a "mother may i". For example, as a rule, I like utilizing an obscure rule that will let me tickle someone to make them stop holding their breath to winning by rule 0 Fiat.

    Or to win by pulling out that wand we got 20 sessions ago, and hitting the "spam" button.

    Or to win in clever ways that nobody understands, like Armus moving to protect someone with better defenses, or the Paladin walking up next to my character after he cast Protection from Evil (*I* missed that one at the time, making it one of my favorites).

    But evenly-matched sides, where only clever tactics and the whims of Arangee make the difference between victory and defeat? I prefer that in my war games, not my RPGs.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jakinbandw View Post
    I personally hate close battles. It feels like a failure state to me even on a win and I'll dwell on it for a long time to come.

    The reason why is probability. If a fight comes down to making a single 50% roll, or there will be a TPK, That means that we will likely tpk within the next 3 encounters of similar difficulty.

    If we have a 95% chance to win a battle, but we need to win 10 of them, then our chance of success becomes roughly a coin flip.

    More than that however, winning because I got lucky just doesn't feel good to me. I didn't win because I was smart, or clever, or planned well. I won in spite of being too foolish to truly come up with a proper way to win.

    Note that I am fine with running from fights. It means that we had a properly planned contingency for the situation (you can't escape in most systems otherwise) and we weren't risking a tpk. It's tpks that I don't enjoy.
    Quote Originally Posted by kyoryu View Post
    Have other results of failure besides "TPK". It opens up a lot of potential.



    To me a close fight shouldn't be defined by probabilities, but by tactics. Hoping you get lucky and needing to be good are two different things. The latter is fun. The former is basically helplessness.



    Few people do enjoy TPKs.
    I enjoy a well-deserved loss, even if it's a TPK.

    I definitely want strategy and tactics to be far more effective than dice at determining the outcome. See also my love of "win buttons". See also the grognard motto of "if the dice come out, you've failed".

    Quote Originally Posted by icefractal View Post
    While pithy, I disagree with this as a general rule. You yourself lay out a set of pre-conditions for when players would enjoy it, but then the rule states it as something true for most/all players with no caveats - which it isn't, IME.


    Part of this might be from two things:

    First, if you get frustrated enough during the encounter, that frustration will be the most memorable thing about it, regardless of if it turned out well in the end. I remember one time when I had a string of bad luck, got pissed off, and visibly sulked about it. And that's just embarrassing. I could make excuses like I was underslept, and I didn't throw anything or yell at anyone, but at the end of the day I acted like an immature idiot, and that is what I remember about the fight (although it was a close fight that we ultimately won). It's not a good gaming memory, it's a lousy one.

    Secondly, people will often apply a lot of cognitive bias to preserve their self-image. If someone did get to the stage of yelling at people over their own failure, they have two choices:
    A) Accept that they acted badly and should be ashamed of themselves.
    B) Double down on the belief that things were rigged against them and their anger was therefore appropriate.

    And the more often this get brought up, and the more often they take that "double down" choice, the higher the stakes get. Now for them to admit they were wrong, they'd have to admit they're someone who holds a years-long grudge over their own mistake. Not likely. Hence the "more bitter over time".


    Non-death stakes are fine, but they don't really take any sting out of defeat. Depending, they might make it worse, especially if the blame falls at all on the PCs' mistakes.

    "You screwed up and died." Ok, bummer. Guess that's it for the character ... unless there's a way for them to get resurrected, because I'd be happy to keep playing them in that case.

    "You screwed up and got the city destroyed." Immediate retirement time, I don't want to play that character any more, at all.
    Interesting. Reminds me of a KotDT comic where someone stopped playing their favorite character.

    Other than boot camp - tearing these players down until there's nothing left, them helping them rebuild better - is there any hope if Talakeal is in the situation of the "trained double-down"?

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    Default Re: Do people really enjoy close battles?

    Quote Originally Posted by Quertus View Post
    And is that just your players of your games, or stories of other GMs, or even your retellings as well?
    They definitely do it with other GMs, probably significantly more so, at least when I am in the room.

    I am sure I do it to some extent, but I am a lot more likely to beat myself up over past failures.

    For example, the big final battle in my first long term campaign, which happened 25 years ago now, was against the hobgoblin king and his elite retinue. He and his advisors (who all had class levels) slept in an invisibility circle, and when we ambushed them in the night we were totally bushwhacked by this. The thing is, we shouldn't have been, as our rogue had a gem of true seeing, we just forgot to use it, and turned what could have been an easy win into a bitter defeat. Now, the DM also made a ruling that screwed me over in that fight (I cast sticks to snakes before the battle, but he ruled that snakes couldn't run and therefore would be unable to keep up with us and get to the ambush spot on time); which, while realistic, really did hurt us. But that's not what I blame for the loss, and to this day I think back about how I was fundamentally playing a druid wrong, and how much more useful I could have been if I had given my magic items to the fighter (something a young gamer would never even consider!) and then stayed back providing support / summoning / and battlefield control rather than wading into melee in tiger form.

    Quote Originally Posted by Quertus View Post
    I enjoy struggling with an impartial system, not with a "mother may i". For example, as a rule, I like utilizing an obscure rule that will let me tickle someone to make them stop holding their breath to winning by rule 0 Fiat.
    That would be nice, but RPG books can't possibly cover every single situation. That is kind of the advantage of having a human GM though; that tickling idea is an example of a brilliant plan that would probably work at most tables with a reasonable GM, but I can't think of any RPG that actually has tickling rules in the book.

    Quote Originally Posted by Quertus View Post
    I definitely want strategy and tactics to be far more effective than dice at determining the outcome. See also my love of "win buttons". See also the grognard motto of "if the dice come out, you've failed".

    Or to win in clever ways that nobody understands, like Armus moving to protect someone with better defenses, or the Paladin walking up next to my character after he cast Protection from Evil (*I* missed that one at the time, making it one of my favorites).

    But evenly-matched sides, where only clever tactics and the whims of Arangee make the difference between victory and defeat? I prefer that in my war games, not my RPGs.
    Out of curiosity; what all do you consider tactics here? And what part specifically are you objecting to; the evenly matched, the tactics, the RNG, or all of them at once?

    Quote Originally Posted by icefractal View Post
    First, if you get frustrated enough during the encounter, that frustration will be the most memorable thing about it, regardless of if it turned out well in the end. I remember one time when I had a string of bad luck, got pissed off, and visibly sulked about it. And that's just embarrassing. I could make excuses like I was underslept, and I didn't throw anything or yell at anyone, but at the end of the day I acted like an immature idiot, and that is what I remember about the fight (although it was a close fight that we ultimately won). It's not a good gaming memory, it's a lousy one.

    Secondly, people will often apply a lot of cognitive bias to preserve their self-image. If someone did get to the stage of yelling at people over their own failure, they have two choices:
    A) Accept that they acted badly and should be ashamed of themselves.
    B) Double down on the belief that things were rigged against them and their anger was therefore appropriate.
    That's incredibly insightful, and honestly explains not only a lot of my player's behavior, but also a lot of conflicts I have had with friends and family away from the gaming table.
    Looking for feedback on Heart of Darkness, a character driven RPG of Gothic fantasy.

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    Default Re: Do people really enjoy close battles?

    Quote Originally Posted by Calthropstu View Post
    I thought everyone loved books that end with "and everybody dies. The end."
    Those of us raised on classical music know that in any opera by Wagner, if there is anyone left alive at the end it was a comedy.
    Quote Originally Posted by kyoryu View Post
    How the stakes of the fight are set up matters, too. If you know the hero isn't going to die, you can put something else up at risk that can believably be lost.
    Lost MacGuffins can also have ripple effects.
    Quote Originally Posted by Talakeal View Post
    I can't think of any RPG that actually has tickling rules in the book.
    I'll wager two centavos that the D&D 3.x Book of Erotic Fantasy has tickling rules, but as I have not read it cover to cover I can't say for sure.
    Out of curiosity; what all do you consider tactics here?
    You've been playing D&D for a long time. What do you mean when you say tactics? I have difficulty seeing a lack of clarity regarding the term, but I have been surprised before.
    That's incredibly insightful, and honestly explains not only a lot of my player's behavior, but also a lot of conflicts I have had with friends and family away from the gaming table.
    Yep, it's one of those people things.
    Last edited by KorvinStarmast; 2021-07-19 at 10:14 AM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Malifice View Post
    (paraphrased) Rulings are not 'House Rules.' Rulings are a DM doing what DMs are supposed to do.
    Quote Originally Posted by greenstone View Post
    Agency means that they {players} control their character's actions; you control the world's reactions to the character's actions.
    Gosh, 2D8HP, you are so very correct!

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    Default Re: Do people really enjoy close battles?

    Quote Originally Posted by KorvinStarmast View Post
    Lost MacGuffins can also have ripple effects.
    Well, sure. And someone else pointed out massive non-death results. Those can be a thing as well.

    I mean, that's the thing with non-death stakes - you can go as severe or as mild as you want, based on what is appropriate for the game and the situation at hand and what makes the most sense.

    Dooming the entire world to ruin because of a lost encounter early on is probably a bad call most of the time.

    As far as ripple effects, a lot of that also depends on how you view the game/story/etc. If you've got a planned out story, then yeah, that can be hard. But if you don't, then in a lot of ways the ripples are the story. Cause and effect bouncing off of each other.
    "Gosh 2D8HP, you are so very correct (and also good looking)"

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    Default Re: Do people really enjoy close battles?

    Quote Originally Posted by Talakeal View Post
    (something a young gamer would never even consider!)
    My player could be accused of not knowing how to roleplay children, then

    Quote Originally Posted by Talakeal View Post
    That would be nice, but RPG books can't possibly cover every single situation. That is kind of the advantage of having a human GM though; that tickling idea is an example of a brilliant plan that would probably work at most tables with a reasonable GM, but I can't think of any RPG that actually has tickling rules in the book.
    Having rules for every situation would be nice, but that misses the point.

    Having a human GM to adjudicate edge cases is also nice, but also misses the point.

    Having a human GM to adjudicate edge cases, while nice, is explicitly *not* how I want to win a close fight.

    Having rules for every possible edge case may be impossible, but having *enough* rules for edge cases that I can pull out an obscure rule for tickling causing the target to lose the "holding their breath" state (or any other instance of remembering an obscure rule that is applicable to the current situation) is how I like to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.

    Quote Originally Posted by Talakeal View Post
    Out of curiosity; what all do you consider tactics here? And what part specifically are you objecting to; the evenly matched, the tactics, the RNG, or all of them at once?
    To be fair, I'm thinking in terms of CaW vs CaS here. I'm guessing (darn senility) that I was saying something about wanting the players to have the agency to set the difficulty of the encounter… by charging in blind, or scouting, or sending Gandalf off to the library, or whatever… and not receiving negative feedback for doing so beyond that provided by the physics engine.

    As to my objections…

    If I'm playing a war game, then the fight being evenly matched, and the outcome coming down to tactics chosen in the moment and the whims of Arangee is fine.

    If I'm playing an RPG, that says nothing about the character (aside, perhaps, from them being an idiot). But if I'm invested in the character, then I want more control over the outcome than, "maybe I'll roll well" or "maybe I'll guess right".

    Every potion I hoard is a chance it may be applicable, and I may be able to spend it to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. Every obscure rule I learn is a chance that it may be applicable, and I may be able to use it to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.

    But, much like the grognard mantra of, "if the dice come out, you've failed", if the solution to a challenging fight is "mother, may I", that's a fail state - that's "does the GM want us to lose", not a victory worth anything.

    Quote Originally Posted by Talakeal View Post
    That's incredibly insightful, and honestly explains not only a lot of my player's behavior, but also a lot of conflicts I have had with friends and family away from the gaming table.
    Quote Originally Posted by KorvinStarmast View Post
    Yep, it's one of those people things.
    All my decades of trying to understand the aliens that surround me, and I don't get it. Anyone care to elaborate?
    Last edited by Quertus; 2021-07-19 at 11:47 AM.

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    Default Re: Do people really enjoy close battles?

    For me a good fight is one in which I meaningfully contribute.

    In an easy fight, whether or not I sit it out doesn't make a big difference. In a really tough fight my presence and actions can make the difference between TPK and survival. But toughness isn't enough.

    If a fight is tough because I am playing a caster against magic resistant creatures then I still have no impact. If it is tough because I am playing a melee fighter and all enemies are flying, then the same.

    But on the other hand it is about making a difference, not just survival. If I put enemies to sleep and capture them rather than kill them then the outcome is different (I.e. having prisoners) even if the party was never so much at risk.

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