Saturday, March 10, 2012

Roleplay: Choosin' your battles

A post on 'story' in roleplaying, combat and the choosing of what combat you do and what combat you avoid. As usual I find I write more in reply to someone on their blog than I can just think of to just spontaneously say on my own blog. So I repeat my comment here:

It really depends on whether you're using the old 'you're strolling along and then monsters leap out in ambush' (which I myself have used far too many times). This cuts off any clue finding on the monster type and strength to a great degree. But even then as they wander you could describe the trails of giant rats or whatever the encounter is as they walk in, then they could pull back and consider another route IF there is another way to continue with 'the story' (ie, if they have to follow a story). If you don't use the ambush thing, you can open up opportunities to scout (wow, the ranger could actually...range!) and gather data on enemy numbers and apparent strength. Or even fighting just one monster in a too easy encounter, so the players get an idea of it's strength when they come in proper force.

The problem with story is it often starts to be put ahead of player choices, ie "What if they choose the wrong route, TPK and ruin the story!? Gah, screw giving them a chance to screw up the story, I'll just make sure every encounter is doable and intervene if that goes wrong!"

Story tends to push an agenda of reducing player choices/the effects of choices to zilch, because like no plan survives contact with the enemy, no pre written story survives contact with the players. Not entirely, anyway.

I mean really this isn't something any edition of D&D covers at a mechanical level - ie players using limited information gained on enemy forces to decide which battle they will head into and which they will avoid. So when it's not mechanically covered...there's kind of the inclination to ignore it. Which leads to needing doable fights, etc.

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