Archive for November 22nd, 2011

22
Nov
11

deck of many tortures

A silly thing first, then a serious question, then Joesky tax.

I attended my second session of I6: Ravenloft last week.  (The rest of the guys have played several more sessions since my first bout of Shukenja-envy).  Naroia, playing a Kryptonian Assassin, decapitated vampire lord Strahd with a single strike.  Which apparently didn’t do the trick, but whatever, the guy’s going down.

Surprisingly, assassinating Strahd von Zarathustra was not the highlight of the evening, because our DM (“Naked Sam”) busted out a deck of many things.  I knew to stay away from it–I had seen Tavis mercilessly pummel the after school class with it last year–but I got peer pressured into drawing.  I wound up with +60,000 experience and was now Chaotic Evil, which just goes to show you should always give in to peer pressure.

But don’t give in the way these guys did!  It is not best practice.

  • Kryptonian F/M/T drew The Void, so his soul got stolen by a demon, and dragged off to hell.  But we remembered that souls can’t leave Ravenloft so must be in the castle somewhere.  I looted his soulless shell of all its magic items . . . just for safekeeping.
  • Kryptonian F/M/T’s player then grabbed a replacement character who drew The Void again.  That demon really likes collecting souls.  I am not sure who got this guy’s magic items, but I feel that I earned them.
  • Sensible Half-Orc lost all his magic items, got +50,000 XP which is total bullshit, gained the service of a henchman, and then his henchman immediately betrayed him.
  • Kryptonian Assassin couldn’t kill Sensible Half-Orc’s new henchman in single combat, even though it would mean gaining a new level.  But our assassin is now Chaotic Good.
  • Normal Magician lost all magic items and also lost 10,000 XP.

Painstaking game theory analysis confirms that the other players made the crucial mistake of drawing terrible cards.  Like playing a Cleric with less than 30,000 XP, this is simply sub-optimal play and they should try harder next time.  You’re welcome.

As a suitable reward for my skill, I also got a ring of wish.  That is how the game is played.  Who’s the Shukenja now?

the torture debate

Also that session, we had the age-old “What do you mean, you kill the helpless prisoners?!” intra-party feud.  There were these Witches who had been rendered harmless, but Sensible Half-Orc decided to kill them anyway despite my character having loudly sworn to protect them from mistreatment.  (This was before I became Chaotic Evil.)  It was, at least for a second or two, potentially a bad scene.

We avoided it because I respect Sensible Half-Orc’s player (co-blogger Charlatan), and also as a relative interloper in the game I didn’t want to make a gargantuan stink, as a colossal stink was quite sufficient.

But torturing and killing helpless prisoners seems to be an inescapable intra-party fault line within Dungeons & Dragons, even serving as a practical example of Alignment in the Moldvay Basic rule book.  But it’s actually kind of a serious problem, partially because it’s so revolting that there are bound to be strong feelings at the player level, which naturally creates a social temptation to break the taboo.  Plus some people might think that it’s the most sensible course of action given the fictional circumstances.  And all of this gets masked as “playing the alignment” of a fictional person, giving everyone some plausible deniability to stake out stronger positions.  It’s pretty much a recipe for coercion if not literal backstabbing.

I’m wondering how other groups / OSR bloggers / whoever have addressed this topic in play.  Our group avoids some stuff by explicit consensus: intra-party violence is on that list come to think of it, as is torture.  Other stuff seems to be handled by implicit consensus: I’m not sure a Thief has ever properly picked the pocket of a party peer.  But murdering captives, as distinct from torturing them, apparently is a live issue for us.

Given that Dungeons & Dragons will inevitably and repeatedly lead to these types of situations, and given that the rules of the game will almost inevitably lead to enormous tension at the table-level, I’m astonished that this topic is so rarely discussed.  To my knowledge, nothing in TSR-era D&D, Dragon, etc. ever seriously looks at this.  You see the “what do you do with Orc babies?” thing on places like RPG.Net sometimes, but even there it usually becomes a big messy thread (endemic to the venue, I guess).

Anyway, it ended up being no big deal, but I personally would have had more fun if it hadn’t occurred.  That’s probably as much my fault for taking an unexpectedly principled stand as anyone’s.

joesky tax: why are we fighting, anyway?

Perhaps the most common occurrence in Silver Age super hero comics is when two super heroes meet for the first time, they always get into a fight.  This is pretty much the super hero equivalent of the obligatory “assessment joust” in Arthurian legends.  This chart uses the Marvel Super Heroes system but hopefully is simple enough to work with others.

When a costumed player encounters a costumed super hero NPC for the first time, the player makes a Popularity roll.  If the player is part of a team, the player with the lowest Popularity should roll.

  • WHITE – NPC has no idea who you are, so you’re obviously a menace.  Fight!  Roll on table below at -3.
  • GREEN – NPC has heard rumors of you, but is intensely suspicious.  Fight!  Roll on table below at +0
  • YELLOW – NPC has heard of you, but doubts your ability and commitment.  Fight!  Roll on table below at +3.
  • RED – NPC respects you, but has a lot of work to do.  No fight, unless you start one by bothering or delaying the NPC.

On a yellow or red result, the NPC might become genuinely friendly if the player impresses him or her in some way.

Why are we fighting?

1d10 Roll Motive
0 or less NPC mistakes you for a new villain. NPC is probably snide and dismissive about it, too. Media may begin covering fight, which could harm your Popularity. NPC will be breezily apologetic if proven wrong.
1 NPC was alerted to weird phenomena… violently paranoid crowds, mountains appearing in street, cops & robbers mind-swapped, wildly levitating cars, money turns to liquid, etc. NPC blames you. Will fight until convinced this isn’t your fault, probably by a Reason feat. Villain… Loki, Mole Man, Silver Surfer, Diablo, Miracle Man, Enchantress, Tiboro, Leader
2 NPC is an impostor out to sully the original’s good name. All primary stats at -1 column, and powers crudely simulated by technology. Impostor may think the player is a fellow villain or potential dupe, respectively, and will try to team up instead of fight. NPC is really… Chameleon, Mysterio, Skrulls, Commie, alien, random bozo
3 NPC believes you’re an impostor (Commie, alien, android) or have been mind-controlled somehow. You’ll have to do something only the real you would do. NPC is primed to think this way b/c tracking down… Chameleon, Mysterio, Skrulls, Puppet Master, Purple Man, Demon Duplicators
4 NPC is mind-controlled by villain… Enchantress, Puppet Master, Hate Monger, Purple Man, alien, Commie. Villain is using NPC for a specific purpose, you just got in the way.
5 NPC is just an illusion created by villain… Loki, Baron Mordo, Mysterio, Mastermind, alien, Commie. Goal is to set you against the NPC later on, or to evaluate your abilities.
6 NPC is helping… army, scientists, SHIELD test new equipment, but your presence is screwing up the test. Dummy, do I have to knock you out of here?
7 NPC coping with super-angst and will lash out in grief, rage, or despair. Keep making Psyche feats at the start of each round until a green result, at which point NPC will calm down. No apologies, will just zoom away. NPC’s loved one stricken with rare blood disease; only cure is in… Latveria, Wakanda, Zemo’s South American fortress, Limbo, Asgard, Mandarin’s Chinese redoubt.
8 NPC has to attack you to prevent catastrophe (your girlfriend’s house is actually an alien egg, your car is a four-dimensional bomb, unless your HQ is destroyed villain will demolish city), no time time to explain! Villain… Mad Thinker, MODOK, Mandarin
9 NPC is acting under orders (Nick Fury, Thunderbolt Ross, Senator Byrd), media hoopla (J. Jonah Jameson, Red Chinese propaganda), or the suggestion of some other contact to arrest/capture you: the way you handled last case has serious implications
10 NPC thinks he’s the better man to handle this case or otherwise has precedence, so butt out junior, this is too dangerous for you. I said butt out!
11 or higher NPC wants to test player’s abilities for special mission together.

I’m not sure those modifiers all line up, but it’s a start.




Past Adventures of the Mule

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