Adjudicating

Apr. 27th, 2017 02:16 pm
jack: (Default)
[personal profile] jack
How to adjudicate when the GM and player have diverging expectations?

Someone has to act as arbiter, and by default that's the GM, but when the GM decides, what should they decide?

I have no one answer, but a few principles.

If it doesn't matter much, get it out of the way quickly, and defer any discussion about the rules till later.

If the player had a particular expectation, try not to undermine them. I think this is one of the most important things to try to deal with in the moment.

If the player misunderstood an explanation and tried to jump across a 100" wide chasm not a 10" wide chasm, you may need to clarify some other things, but at a minimum, you probably want to say, "you'll just fall to your death, do you want to do something else?" not "are you sure?" "uh, yeah, why?" "ok, you fall to your death".

That applies whether you have someone who knows what the official rules say and was relying on it. If they've set up a shot that depends on the cover rules working the way the rules say and you've never previously altered, it sucks for them to have that yanked out from under them if you improv something instead. Or whether you have a new player who doesn't know what's covered mechanically or not, and tries to do something dramatic like swinging on a chandelier that in-rules doesn't provide any combat advantage. In both cases, the player shouldn't have a hissy fit, but also in both cases, it's your job to do the best you can in the spur of the moment to allow the player's action or give a good substitute. FWIW, I would allow the first player their interpretation of the rules that once, and if it kills an important NPC, I never rely on an important NPC surviving. And for the second player I'd do something like, "make a dex check, if you succeed, attack with a modest bonus (or choose to knock the enemy back)". That fits the sort of action they wanted.

If it's a one-off, it probably doesn't matter much. If it's going to come up repeatedly (eg. rules for hiding), get past the immediate problem, and then review the situation later. Check what the rules really say. Decide if you'd prefer those, or some modification. Check with the player if they have a sensible request, and if so, consider if it makes sense. Then make a decision, make it clear and stick to it.

If you're not sure which rule to go with? Look for easy to adjudicate (if it doesn't matter, you can always go with what's in the book). Look for fun -- the beginner is right, random stunts should TOTALLY be in lots of combat, and it's a flaw in the rules they're not. Look for ones that avoid breaking a tone you're evoking. Look for which way your players would prefer.

Part of this is just, how to make good rulings in the heat of a moment whichever side you come down on.

Part of it is, where do you draw the line between "what happens because of common sense" and "what happens because what it says in the rules". There's a gulf of people's expectations. Both in terms of tone (is this action adventure where heroes do things humans MIGHT be able to do? Or more like an epic norse legend, where great heroes wrestle sea-serpents?) and in terms of pedantry (do you expect the GM to allow an unconscious villain to have their throat slit? or rely on the weapon rules on how much damage that deals?). There's an amount you can stretch to accommodate different players, but only so far: beyond that, you just have to accept you want to play different things.

It's important to figure out if that's happening or not. You can totally have a tone that has character drama all over the place, *and* swashbuckling *and* fart jokes (see: all of Shakespeare). But if 4/5 players want wall-to-wall drama and one wants fart jokes, it may well not work. And the same in reverse.

Likewise, you can easily have some characters who chose well-optimised powers for their class, and some who chose whatever felt cool, and as long as there's not a big difference in power, it's fine. But if some characters want to hand wave away combat to get to the character interaction, and the other characters want to use the class abilities they just levelled up into, it's a stretch to keep both happy. Sometimes you can, sometimes you can't.

But that's often the underlying dynamic when players react in very different ways, they're focussing on different parts of the adventure, and you want to give both what they want, but avoid what you give one player obviating what the other player wants. Eg. if conversation is always pointless when combat happens, people who want to learn about NPCs are screwed. If you let one character do things because they're cool, but everyone else sticks to the rules, the other players are eclipsed. Can you do both, or not?

We are Legion (We are Bob)

Apr. 27th, 2017 02:07 pm
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[personal profile] jack
I saw this recommended online somewhere and the premise was v my sort of thing so I gave it a go.

Bob is a hacker who gets lucky rich, signs up for cryogenic suspension, and at some point in the future is scanned and turned into an AI in a semi-theocratic-dystopian future. This is before that tech becomes reliable or cheap, so it's only used where an AI is needed and the subject doesn't have much choice, specifically running a space probe.

The generally comedic tone allows a lot of interesting premises to be examined which I've rarely seen in other books, like automatically using multiple copies of the most effective uploaded personality, instead of using each once each.

There's a bunch of space exploration which is solid and pleasingly up-to-date, but not otherwise spectacular.

Bob is an example of the sardonic-witty low-self-esteem hacker who shows up in lots of books. An archetype I like, but have got sick of. The sexist comments are fewer than The Martian, but still not zero.

If you like this sort of thing, you will probably enjoy it a lot, but if you don't, it probably won't persuade you.
lovingboth: ([default])
[personal profile] lovingboth
The third series of Fargo started last week in the US - it'll be on Channel 4 at some point.

As with the other two, it's looking very, very good if you like your humour warped. 'What could possibly go wrong?' is not a line that's ever used, but it's what so many people are thinking as they do something not necessarily to their advantage.

And I have missed the accents...
spiralsheep: Evil commandeers the costume budget (chronographia Servalan Evil Costume)
[personal profile] spiralsheep
- A Fete Worse Than Death poster for amateur dramatics and, seen opposite on the verge, ding-dong the wellie is dead.

A Fete Worse Than Death poster for amateur dramatics, Worcestershire 04-17

Ding-dong the wellie is dead, Worcestershire 04-17

- Reading, books 2017: 34

14. Christopher and Columbus, by Elizabeth von Arnim, 1919, novel. The heroines are vacuous and spoiled 17 year old junkerbrats who can't even recognise their own possessions without a maid (both vacuousness and spoiledness being faults inflicted on the teenage girls by their parents, obv), and their selfish thoughtlessness leads to them carelessly ill-using the possessions of other people who aren't in an economic position to constantly replace stolen or damaged items such as hairpins and nail-scissors, so I didn't warm to them as protagonists despite the many amusing observational moments. (2/5 off to the charity shop)

• Because I always quote these examples of changing usages 1: It was terrible to see Uncle Arthur very nearly gay, and both his wife and the twins were most uncomfortable. "I wonder what's the matter now," sighed Aunt Alice to herself, as she nervously crumbled her toast.

• Hmm: they were more than ever convinced that nothing in the way of unfriendliness or unkindness could stand up against sun and oranges.

• "Young gurl, you may be a spiritualist, and a table-turner, and a psychic-rummager, and a ghost-fancier, and anything else you please, and get what comfort you can out of your coming backs and the rest of the blessed truck, but I know better. [...]"

• Because I always quote these examples of changing usages 2: Houses have their expressions, their distinctive faces, very much as people have, meditated Mr. Twist the morning of the opening, as he sat astride a green chair at the bottom of the little garden, where a hedge of sweetbriar beautifully separated the Twinkler domain from the rolling fields that lay between it and the Pacific, and stared at his handiwork; and the conclusion was forced upon him - reluctantly, for it was the last thing he had wanted The Open Arms to do - that the thing looked as if it were winking at him. / Positively, thought Mr. Twist, his hat on the back of his head, staring, that was what it seemed to be doing. How was that? He studied it profoundly, his head on one side. Was it that it was so very gay? He hadn't meant it to be gay like that.

• LOL widows: descriptions of the dreadfulness of the early days of widowhood, when one's crepe veil keeps on catching in everything - chairs, overhanging branches, and passers-by, including it appeared on one occasion a policeman.
[...]
The Chicago evening papers, prompt on the track of a sensation, had caused her friends much painful if only short-lived amazement by coming out with huge equivocal headlines:
WELL-KNOWN SOCIETY WIDOW AND POLICEMAN CAUGHT TOGETHER

Tomb of Horrors

Apr. 27th, 2017 10:38 am
jack: (Default)
[personal profile] jack
A long time ago, there was a DnD module tomb of horrors, and every so often since there's been some controversy about it.

AIUI, it was the equivalent of playing a computer game on iron-man difficulty, with no saves, only one life, etc. It was designed for experienced players who wanted a really deadly challenge, often at conventions where there might be an audience.

The general features are (a) there's a lot of challenges that involve player decisions, not specific skills, whether the characters are appropriately really really careful about everything they do. (b) when something goes wrong, it's usually very deadly.

That meant, if you expected "fair" to mean "forgiving", it's really really not -- if you're the slightest bit incautious, you'll likely all die immediately. But if you expected "fair" to mean, "your death stem directly from your decisions" then it is more so than most adventures[1].

But if you don't know that, there is a lot of ire between people who loved it, people who think this is "the one true way" of how a session should be, and people who tried it and became incredibly resentful. It's good that the far end of a bell curve exists when that's something some people want to find, even if *most* modules should be somewhere left of it.

I did once play with a GM who played a few sessions of it inbetween campaigns. I liked the idea, although I usually like roleplaying with more story.

[1] There are some flaws where it might not be completely fair, or ambiguous descriptions, etc, but less than most modules at the time iirc.
oursin: Cartoon hedgehog going aaargh (Hedgehog goes aaargh)
[personal profile] oursin

Yesterday, bound for a conference. Got the train okay.

About a third of the way into the journey, train stops.

Someone had collided with a train further up the line.

In due course we are informed that train will be terminating at a station not previously on the schedule, where we can change to a train going, presumably by some more circuitous route, to the next scheduled stop, but not, however, onwards to my destination.

When we arrive at designated point, it is chucking down rain. Fortunately the next train is in and we only need to cross the platform. It is, however, rather full, though I did manage to get a seat.

Another, local, and very crowded train at the next change.

My dearios may imagine that all this was by no means conducive to reading a serious academic study for review purposes.

Once at my destination, some 2 hours later than anticipated, there was supposed to be a taxi booked for me - I had been in touch with the conference admin person anent delays - what I had not been told was that it would be round the back rather than the main exit.

Not that it was there when I found the spot, and cameth not as I waited in an increasing state of fume - it would always have been tiresome but after the preceding misadventures this was particularly infuriating - and a chilly wind. Fortunately, what did turn up was the taxi for one of the other participants, so I went with her.

I do not mention the faff over my ticket - got details and booking ref latish previous afternoon.

Inadequate curtainage in hotel room meant undesirably early waking....

And now I have to present a paper, sigh.

Keeping track

Apr. 26th, 2017 08:15 pm
3rdragon: (Default)
[personal profile] 3rdragon posting in [community profile] gardening
How do you track what you have planted where, and what you want to plant where, and what you planted there last season?

As a kid I just did popsicle sticks with the name written on, but nowadays I have ambitions for crop rotation and record-keeping, and little sticks just aren't cutting it. We have a map, and a Google spreadsheet with when we planted stuff and how long it took to germinate*, but neither is an easy way to know if I should plant lettuce in this particular spot, or if kale would be a better choice this year.

---------
*I didn't make it -- a friend of mine gave me a copy of hers, and I just put stuff in boxes.

Wednesday Home Repair Progress

Apr. 26th, 2017 04:31 pm
ysabetwordsmith: Cartoon of me in Wordsmith persona (Default)
[personal profile] ysabetwordsmith
This week we're patching up things around the house with help from some friends.  (Actually, one of them is doing most of the work.)  So far today ...

* One bookshelf has had its broken shelf repaired and others upgraded to metal brackets.  Another has been declared nonrepairable.

* Two chandeliers have been fixed so all the bulbs light up.  We'll need to get new candle sleeves for a couple of the sockets though. 

* Two wooden chairs have been glued and strapped to stabilize loose parts.

* An outdoor porch light has been fixed so it lights up now.

I may have forgotten stuff too.  Yay, progress!

EDIT 4/26/17: We went out to look at fixtures.  Bought a new showerhead for the back bathroom, which is dual-function stationary ring with removable handheld head.  Discussed possibilities for lighting but haven't bought anything yet.  After seeing the available options, I successfully lobbied for upgrading rather than just repairing the old fluorescents in the new part of the house.

Wednesday Yardening

Apr. 26th, 2017 04:02 pm
ysabetwordsmith: Cartoon of me in Wordsmith persona (Default)
[personal profile] ysabetwordsmith
Today is gray and mild with a brisk breeze.  I planted four things in the wildflower garden before it started trying to rain.  Also Doug and I moved the big fallen log from the ritual meadow to the east side of the wildflower garden.

The first of the grass seed that I sowed in the forest yard is starting to sprout.  Yay.  Yay. 

Downward Dog Video

Apr. 26th, 2017 03:22 pm
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[personal profile] jesse_the_k
As my icons show, I'm a dog lover. This 12-minute video features an adorable mutt named Martin. He's played by a ~40 pound hound mix with expressive ears named Sadie. The video comprises seven brief episodes on topics of deep concern to Martin, including: Friendship, Walking, Driving and One Good Thing. The voice you hear is Martin's; the video's creators expertly manipulate the dog's mouth so I totally buy he's saying those things. To prove that the world is upside down, this web series is being transformed into an actual TV show on ABC (US) in May.
video includes dog illness, but no death )

(no subject)

Apr. 26th, 2017 08:59 pm
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[personal profile] mrs_leroy_brown
i.
he dreamed of her as a laugh echoing over canyons vast and empty, bouncing around his ears, and he felt her rather than saw her, but he forgot the question he suddenly remembered he'd forgotten, and her voice faded and she was gone.

ii.
she heard his call and she answered - it was like they'd forgotten each other and now they remembered, and she laughed for joy that she found him.

Successful Interspecies Communication

Apr. 26th, 2017 01:31 pm
ysabetwordsmith: Cartoon of me in Wordsmith persona (Default)
[personal profile] ysabetwordsmith
A male cardinal was engaged in trying to peck my window open, for reasons best known to him.  Not wishing to have my window pecked open, I gave him a territorial whistle in his own language.  He looked up and cocked his head in a listening way.  I whistled again.  He flew off.  This is quite different than a bird's feather-ruffling startle flight.  I have successfully communicated "You should not be doing that in my territory" to a bird.  \o/ 

Llewellyn Season Is Open!

Apr. 26th, 2017 01:13 pm
ysabetwordsmith: Cartoon of me in Wordsmith persona (Default)
[personal profile] ysabetwordsmith
I just got the first message from one of my editors at Llewellyn Publications, and another one will be making assignments in May.  So far I'm talking about the Witchy Tips for the Witches' Datebook, September in the Witches' Calendar, and ideas for the Magickal Almanac. The Herbal Almanac isn't scheduling yet as there will be some changes to it.

Skill challenges

Apr. 26th, 2017 06:32 pm
jack: (Default)
[personal profile] jack
DnD 4e and 5e introduced the idea of skill challenges. Basically a unified framework for handling various things other than combat or parallel to combat that should involve more back and forth than a single roll, like a chase scene, or defusing a bomb.

The idea is, instead of a single "defuse bomb" roll, you need multiple things, open the panel without setting something off, find the deadman's switch, choose the right wire, cut it.

And these might be things that require a variety of skills.

4e designed a version which really rubbed me up the wrong way. It optimised for designing a scenario that could be run mechanically for different groups and present a particular level of challenge, and assumed that each challenge would be defined by "achieve N successes before X failures, using skills A, B, C or D".

I've only skimmed the rules for 5e but it seems to be somewhat more freeform. Because I thought this was a *great* idea, basically codifying something that a good GM would do automatically, but I really didn't like the way it was hard-coded, and presented to the players up-front.

Ideally, it should be obvious without specifying to the players. For the bomb, maybe each failure makes the bomb arm itself, then begin flashing, then finally explode. You don't know for sure how many steps, but you can tell things are getting critical. (And if you're aiming for fun rather than challenge, the GM can escalate or descelate the requirements according to how challenging this encounter should be compared to other ones that have happened this session.) It should be obvious which skills might apply, but they might lead to different paths -- a knowledge skill might open up an easier path to success, not count as a success/failure itself; different skills might stack or not; etc.

Or it ties into combat, each failure makes combat more difficult (it makes the platform you're standing on move dangerously or lets more enemies catch up), or you need to coordinate making skill rolls with other characters doing combat.

If you're improv'ing, that's all fairly easy to do, even though it's hard to spec in advance.

I said on twitter, skill challenges are a great idea, but I find it more fun if it's "how the GM designs the scenario" not "a mechanic the players need to be familiar with". Now I think of it, I see the same contrast with "what monsters you encounter". That easily can be pre-specified, and the players know, basically, the mechanics are "here's the monsters who exist" or "they spawn every two rounds" (as in 4e)[1], and know everyone faced a similar challenge. Or it can be improvised -- if the players faff around, the reinforcements arrive early, if they players have a lucky plan to bar a door, they can't come in, etc, etc. (as I'd like it).

[1] This makes sense from a tactical combat perspective, but I found very frustrating. Every 2 rounds skeletons climb out of a sarcophagus. No, you can't look inside. No, you can't judge how many skeletons could fit inside. No, you can't judge what sort of spell or effect is responsible (well, you can, but you can't expect it to matter). No, you can't try to block the lid. It's screaming "accept the premise and desperately avoid imagining being there". Except that if you do that, you have no way to judge "having the infinite spawning skeletons finished or will they continue" and are punished for guessing wrong. I feel like you could have 90% of the effect by saying "there's a pile of bones, a skeleton assembles itself out of them, there's still 3/4 of the pile left" or "the sundered skeleton parts begin to reassemble themselves" or "the air shimmers and a skeleton warrior sprouts from the ground".

Good News

Apr. 26th, 2017 12:13 pm
ysabetwordsmith: Cartoon of me in Wordsmith persona (Default)
[personal profile] ysabetwordsmith
Good news includes all the things which make us happy or otherwise feel good. It can be personal or public. We never know when something wonderful will happen, and when it does, most people want to share it with someone. It's disappointing when nobody is there to appreciate it. Happily, blogging allows us to share our joys and pat each other on the back.

What good news have you had recently? Are you anticipating any more?

Robin Hobb

Apr. 26th, 2017 03:49 pm
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[personal profile] damerell
I've been chewing through quite a lot of Robin Hobb lately, and have come to the Farseer trilogy, which was her first. I was pretty amused when I read this:

"A very faint scent of her clung to my shirt from her brief embrace, and I agonised over whether to wear the shirt that day, to carry the scent with me, or to set it aside in my clothing chest, to preserve it."

I laughed because in the last chapter a weasel vomited on his shirt. (This is a bit unfair - on careful review, he does spend a sentence changing clothes "hastily", but wouldn't he still be a bit weasel-vomity?)

More seriously, it's not as good as her other stuff. The youngest prince forms a murderous plot, they thwart it, inexplicably they decide he's learned his lesson, rinse and repeat. The protagonist has trained as an assassin, so after a few rounds of this, really, you had one job, Mr Protag. Kindly stab him up so we can get on with the zombies^W Forged ones.

I have not agreed to the new Livejournal TOS (they do it with javascript) but I suspect this is my last crosspost.

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