May 27th, 2005

Passive Voice

A(some) (not so)Simple Question(s)

Not only has the fascinating new discussion we've all just had about what is and isn't an RPG gotten me excited about game creation again, it's also gotten me interested in the community again. Alas, without further ado:

I'm going to start a DnD game relatively soon, and I have a small quandary. My stated purposes for running the game are as follows:

- Get some gaming going again. For at least two of us, gaming has been sparse, very sparse.
- Create a collaborative game that can actively and intently added to by the players. If everyone wants to do Spelljammer, then ships ahoy!
- Create a game where the roleplaying and narrative are at the forefront of the game. I've specifically chosen d20 for it's rapid prototyping features. Nearly all of my players know it well, at least a couple know it inside and out, and it's easy to pickup, and has tons of extra material that can be drawn upon at a moment's notice.

But, even with such an ambitious mission statement, I'm still having trouble. Two main points have cropped up that I think will get in the way of keeping the players focused on roleplaying. I'm asking for anyone's help in confronting these problems.

1) Resurrection (and inversely, Random Player Death)
I'm of the mind that when you can ride to the nearest large town and pay a large sum of money to have a friend resurrected from the dead, you're ultimately losing something. I also believe that while the illusion of danger is important for creating tension, having actual random player death isn't. Why play a game for a year, get to the end of an important, dramatic plot, only to have your character die pointlessly fighting a door guard? Can anyone suggest a way around this problem?

The ideas that have been grappled with thus far are, a) removing resurrection from the game entirely, which at least one of my players doesn't want to do (he wants to roleplay, but has an extreme distaste for messing with the ruleset), b) making resurrection essentially non-existent save for story driven reasons, or c) leave as is. Opinions?

2) New Characters and their Levels
One of the first things I told my players about this game was that I wanted roleplaying from it, but that we could all collaborate to make the game what we wanted, such as giving the players the chance to play a new character at any time, essentially with no drawbacks so that they'd be encouraged to try what they like. The specific example I've used is Oathbound, with it's wacky and zany races that are completely inhuman by normal DnD standards.

The conflict that has arisen is what to do about what level these characters can start out at. Should they start at the same level as the rest of the players? Should they start at level 1? Should they start a couple of levels behind? I've heard it said by one of my players that they should start out at level 1, because the character would be new, have no history with the rest of the players, and so would need to earn their trust and gradually become part of the group. I myself think that problem is ultimately divorced from the character's level, as you can have that problem starting at 1 as much as at 20. All in all, I'm looking for a simple solution to the problem. One of the ideas I've already considered is to do Average Party Level-1, or something like that, and have any characters currently out of rotation (ie, not being played at the time) earn a significant portion of the total game XP, so that if they come back to the game, they won't be at a significant disadvantage. I'm asking for everyone's opinion here, and I'm not saying it even needs to be a system fix. If someone can give me a good way in which to swap out lots of characters on a regular basis that exists purely within a narrative, I'd be just as happy with that.

Okay everyone, any ideas?

My group must just be better than everyone elses.

In regards to DnD, and bringing in new characters...

I fail to realize why ANYBODY should be penalized for bringing in a new character. Starting new characters at level one? Or even a level or two behind the rest of the party? What a bunch of crap. Who cares and really, what difference does it make?

What I'm hearing people, more specifically, dungeon masters say is that they are not only willing but entirely justified in screwing a player over because of a SINGLE unlucky die roll that for all intents and purposes shouldnt have had any sort of significant effect.

"Gee, Im sorry my orc got a critical hit with his greataxe and rolled max damage, thereby destroying you. Here, go ahead and make a new character but you get to be weaker and contribute less than everybody else. But its for story purposes, really. Its not fair to all of the lucky characters who didnt have enemies crit against them and take them out for you to be on par with everybody else."

I would punch my DM in the face numerous times if he tried to pull that kind of crap with me. And I would allow any of my players to kick me in the groin repeatedly if I pulled something so inane.

Then again, maybe its just because my group is better. We dont deal with undeveloped characters with no pesonality and minimal background. And we dont feel the need to flout our personal character's superiority over the rest of the group by constantly competing for little bonus xp awards. We run a party XP system. Every character has exactly the same amount of experience as everybody else. I wont go into details about how this effects item creation or spells with xp components unless somebody asks, but suffice to say the MOMENT we began to implement this system we began to notice that our group works primarily as a team rather than as a group of individuals. And we dont have attention whores desperately scrabbling to outdo the rest of the players to get that slight xp bump so that they can level their character ONE SESSION before everyone else.

Characters can and do get switched out on a regular basis. The downside is missing out on treasure, which is the only real and true tangible result of adventuring. You want to underpower a new character? Give them less equipment than the rest of the party and let them work for that power level.

I would apologize for being so incensed, but i cant even wrap my mind around messing about with a character's level.

There are only ever two actual causes for character death. Bad luck that happens in an inane manner (see orc reference above) or death in a justifiable challenge such as against a primary adversary. If characters are dying for deliberately stupid reasons, look at the player's motivation. If the only way you allow a player to introduce a new character is to have their old one die then congratulations, you get what you deserve, as well as all of the headaches that entail. Either reform your style or kick the player out, because either way your game and the rest of the group is going to suffer for it.

Why not just allow your players to introduce new characters at plot appropriate times, at the same level as the rest of the party, and get on with the actual game? Just think of it like playing final fantasy 3 us. There's a huge group of people brought together for a common goal, but only four of them can be out and about actively doing stuff at any given time. Justifying it really ISNT that difficult, and can often lead to a very satisfying roleplaying experience in and of itself.
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