20 June 2024

The Cost of Withholding the Odds

When I run a role-playing game, I have a standard operating procedure when it comes to a player-character taking an action that requires a roll. Before the player commits to the action, I will offer an accurate estimate of its difficulty: easy, moderate, hard, etc. Once the player commits, I reveal the actual numerical difficulty or armor class. As I see it, once the risk is undertaken, the odds are revealed. There is no point in punishing the player in the name of immersion. I contend that not revealing the odds is a violation of verisimilitude. Once you attempt something, you can usually gauge your chance of success with a reasonable amount of accuracy simply by being aware of your own capabilities and the challenges you face in the moment. Furthermore, if you withhold the odds, you are withholding knowledge of the character's environment that a player-character needs in order to make meaningful decisions. It is frankly an infringement of player agency, and that, as far as I am concerned, is a breach of the role-playing social contract.

Withholding the odds can be even more consequential if a role-playing game employs a meta-currency such as luck. Why would anyone be motivated to use a scarce resource without knowing the odds? It makes game play less meaningful and, in my experience, less enjoyable. It makes more sense not to engage with that aspect of the rules at all, especially if the resource is rarely, if ever, replenished. But where is the fun in that?

The person running the game already has a vast informational advantage. In the name of good sportsmanship, at least let the players know what their chances are.

14 May 2024

Artificial Influence

I am glad there was no such thing as "influencers" when I entered this hobby, because if there were, I would have probably dismissed it as puerile. There was a time when it was assumed—rightly or wrongly—that role-playing gamers had above average intelligence, but the tone of these influencers (and their willingness to shill for certain companies) makes it clear that they, and certain companies, believe their audience is composed of gullible dullards. Every video they make has a clickbait title and seems like a commercial or an infomercial. The influencer has, at this point, become a product whose goal is to promote official products released by companies that, in some cases, are actively pursuing a strategy of transforming the hobby into a mass of passive consumers dependent on their products rather than a community of creative individuals who sometimes like to do it themselves and share what they create.

I have learned to distrust these companies and their influencers. I ignore their videos. I'm just glad my generation wasn't subjected to this particular form of commercialization when the hobby was young.

08 May 2024

Glitch, Sabotage, or Self-Sabotage?

I just noticed that when one clicks the icon of a follower of one's blog (of the blogspot variety), the pop-up still shows the list of other blogs followed by that person, but it no longer displays that follower's own blogs. I cannot fathom a reason for this, but it certainly doesn't benefit anyone. It would be nice if one could be allowed to follow a follower's blog in return. It's one way to help keep blogging alive... I consider that a good thing...

03 May 2024

The Burden of Adventuring: Addendum

In "The Burden of Adventuring," I presented a modified version of "Save vs. Encumbrance" from Aeons & Auguries by JDJarvis. It occurred to me there is one matter I failed to address, which I shall address below.

Encumbrance checks may be required if a character attempts to do something that is made more difficult by being encumbered even if that task would not ordinarily require a check. If a task already requires a check and being encumbered is a significant hindrance, two checks must be made: the initial check and the Encumbrance check. If the initial check is successful and the Encumbrance check is not, the character succeeds, but at a cost: −1 fatigue penalty or loss of (or damage to) the item corresponding to the number rolled for the Encumbrance check.

28 April 2024

Table: Who Does the Mad Mage Think He Is This Time?

The Mad Mage is having a personality shift again. Or is he channelling a spirit? Or is he possessed? Or has he switched places with someone (or something) from another time and place? This is the twelfth table of the What Is This Table? Table.

Who Does the Mad Mage Think He Is This Time?

Roll 1d8

1. Xigxag the Even Madder Arch-Mage
2. Floyd Wrong, Architect of Insanity
3. Pezla, Confectioner Électromagnétique
4. Severn Darden, Interdimensional Man of Mystery
5. Aldebaran Oooeeeooo*
6. Dis Tater, Arch-Spud of Hell
7. Yoga Sothoth
8. Pizzazzathoth

* Conceived by my friend Andrew back in 1980-something.

(See also the Build Your Own Space Opera Table for twice the Random Generator Month fun.)

27 April 2024

Table: What Did the Mad Mage Summon This Time?

The Mad Mage summoned it and now we must deal with it. This is the eleventh table of the What Is This Table? Table.

What Did the Mad Mage Summon This Time?

Roll 1d12

1. A blink frog.
2. A coconut cream pie.
3. A displacer yeast.
4. A fire-breathing giant tarantula.
5. A gargan!
6. A gazebo.
7. A miniature yak.
8. A minor demon noble.
9. A pouch of stunfetti.
10. A swarm of mayflies.
11. A vague ennui.
12. A ziggurat for ants.

(See also the Build Your Own Space Opera Table for twice the Random Generator Month fun.)

Gargan attack in Teenagers from Outer Space (1959).

10 April 2024

Table: What Did the Mad Mage Create This Time?

The Mad Mage created what now? Let's roll and find out... This is the tenth table of the What Is This Table? Table.

What Did the Mad Mage Create This Time?

Roll 1d8

1. An antmanticore.
2. A babloon.
3. A chimermaid.
4. An ibiselephant.
5. A salamandrake.
6. A toucanalligator.
7. A triplicat.
8. A trogre.

(See also the Build Your Own Space Opera Table for twice the Random Generator Month fun.)

09 April 2024

Table: Why Is the Room Spinning?

This question was inspired by real life. The table results were not. (I think it was caused by sinusitis.) This is the ninth table of the What Is This Table? Table.

Why Is the Room Spinning?

Roll 1d8

1. You had perhaps a wee bit too much to drink.
2. You contracted a disease generously provided by a "Dungeon Masters Guide"?
3. The room is literally spinning. And so is the building. And so is the tornado.
4. You were kidnapped and imprisoned in a funhouse.
5. You were abducted by aliens with a faulty flying saucer.
6. The room isn't spinning. Your head is. You are possessed by a demon.
7. You are strapped to a torture device known as Lazy Susan's Wicked Auntie.
8. You were targeted by a dizzy spell and failed your saving throw, of course.

(See also the Build Your Own Space Opera Table for twice the Random Generator Month fun.)

08 April 2024

Table: What Does the Eclipse Portend?

We interrupt this mega-table with a table inspired by a certain total solar eclipse just witnessed by the author. This is the eighth table of the What Is This Table? Table.

What Does the Eclipse Portend?

Roll 1d12

1. Unity against a common foe.*
2. The return of the Tarrasque.
3. The return of the Black Death.
4. The return of Gamera.
5. The release of the Kraken.
6. The unleashing of Cerberus.
7. An unprecedented outbreak of faerie shenanigans.
8. An unprecedented surge of paranormal activity.
9. Ley lines at maximum magical/psychic power.
10. Everything. It's all different from this moment forward.
11. Nothing. It's an eclipse.
12. Overwhelming victory in the Tomb of Horrors.

* See the solar eclipse from June 16, 1806. To quote from Wikipedia:

It has been called Tecumseh's Eclipse after the Shawnee chief, Tecumseh. He realized that the only hope for the various tribes in east and central North America was to join [in a federation]. He was assisted by his brother, Tenskwatawa, called The Prophet, who called for a rejection of European influence and a return to traditional values. This tribal unity threatened William Henry Harrison, the Territorial Governor of Indiana and future 9th President of the United States. Harrison tried to discredit the Shawnee leader by challenging Tenskwatawa to prove his powers. He wrote: "If he (Tenskwatawa) is really a prophet, ask him to cause the Sun to stand still or the Moon to alter its course, the rivers to cease to flow or the dead to rise from their graves."

Tenskwatawa declared that the Great Spirit was angry at Harrison and would give a sign. "Fifty days from this day there will be no cloud in the sky. Yet, when the Sun has reached its highest point, at that moment will the Great Spirit take it into her hand and hide it from us. The darkness of night will thereupon cover us and the stars will shine round about us. The birds will roost and the night creatures will awaken and stir." On that day [in Ohio, probably near the Indiana border], there was an eclipse, and Harrison's attempt to divide the Shawnee people backfired spectacularly. Then Tecumseh ordered the Great Spirit to release the sun.

(See also the Build Your Own Space Opera Table for twice the Random Generator Month fun.)

07 April 2024

Table: What Is This Game of Chance?

There comes a time—perhaps many, many times—when adventurers will find the opportunity to gamble their loot, their heirlooms, or even their souls. But first, "What is this game of chance?" This is the seventh table of the What Is This Table? Table.

What Is This Game of Chance?

Roll 1d12

1. Poker
2. Gouger
3. Stabber
4. Blackjack
5. Flapjack
6. Slapjack
7. Rummy
8. Winey
9. Boozy
10. Craps
11. Poops
12. Merde

(See also the Build Your Own Space Opera Table for twice the Random Generator Month fun.)