Friday, 30 May 2014

Even More on Fudging: Honest Answers

Nothing to do with fudging
"Good" and "bad" are not objective terms, but one can determine rationally whether or not something is "good" or "bad" if there is some particular objective one is trying to meet.  A watermelon might be good if I am trying to find something to eat that will cool me down on a hot day.  That same watermelon is bad if I am trying to find something to use as a replacement for a flat tire.  You cannot counter an argument that watermelons make poor car tires by pointing out that you like to eat watermelons.

Likewise "good" and "bad" are not black and white.  A lousy spare tire may get me to the mechanic; it may be good enough for that limited purpose, even if it is a bad tire overall, but that doesn't make it good.  You cannot counter an argument that you should probably get a better spare by pointing out that you made it through by the skin of your teeth this time.

Going back to my original thesis, I make two broad assertions:  (1) playing with fudging is a difference in kind (not merely style) from playing without fudging, and (2) fudging is not a good solution to the problems that pro-fudging people usually claim it to solve.  That is not to say that there is never a reason that you should fudge; for example, I agree that Yora [on Dragonsfoot] should continue to fudge if that is fundamentally important to his enjoyment of the game.  


Also nothing to do with fudging
Nor is examining "best practices" a tyranny.  Examining ways to make the game better in general is only of interest to those who want to make their game better.  Improving the game might mean not fudging, but it might also mean fudging, if a better rational case can be built for it.

But any case that we build, either pro- or anti- fudging is going to have to take into account the salient fact that, by and large even the pro-fudging people agree that if the players are aware of the GM's fudging it detracts from the game.  Yes, I know that there are a few people who would contest that, but if you go back through the thread [on Dragonsfoot], you will find pro-fudgers repeatedly claiming that it is important that the players not know you are fudging.

We begin with an agreement that harm is done, or potentially done.  This raises obvious questions:  (1) Do we need to do this harm?  (2) What are we hoping to accomplish by doing this potentially harmful thing?  (3) Are there ways of accomplishing the same without causing harm, or reducing the harm cause[d]?  

If we are seeking to drive nails and have a hammer and a screwdriver, we generally do not use the screwdriver merely because it is there.  We seek the best tool for the job.  We only use the screwdriver if no hammer is available.  Improvement, in this case, would probably mean buying a hammer, or using screws instead of nails.

The back-and-forth in these arguments also raises an additional question:  (4) Are we being entirely honest in our motives for fudging?  Saying "I find the alternative boring" seems to me an honest answer.  Attempting to come up with ever-more elaborate scenarios where a screwdriver is better at pounding nails than a hammer suggests otherwise....especially when the more elaborate scenarios arise when, again and again, the hammer is shown to work just as well or better [in the previous scenarios], while the potential harm of using the screwdriver still casts its lingering shadow.

The foregoing, of course only takes into account the potential harm that we (nearly) all agree exists with fudging.  It doesn't even begin to examine other, less obvious, forms of potential harm, such as the tendency to flatline the game experience to the default expectations of the GM (i.e., if low troll hp are always bumped up, the variation in trolls is reduced to a flatter curve).

Yes, I am well aware that arguments are made about how a person does not fudge all the time, and so attempts to ameliorate the risk or degree of harm done by fudging.  There are many statements to that effect in this thread alone.  That some of those same people then go on to ask why fudging is bad......Are you honestly asking what the harm is with fudging while explaining how you attempt to mitigate that harm?  Either you are disingenuous in the question, and actually understand the problems involved, or you do not understand the problems involved, and therefore are probably less effective in resolving them than you think.  You cannot have it both ways.


Still nothing to do with fudging.  Have you played through FT 1: Creeping Beauties of the Wood yet?
The difference between selecting the hit points for a troll, or rolling the hit points and then fudging the result in-play is that I can say to my players, "I select the hit points for some monsters when it seems to make sense within the context of the game milieu.  For example, I selected the hit points for that troll." and no harm is done to the game.  No feelings are hurt.  Creatures in the game milieu may attempt to trick the PCs, and not everything will always be what it seems, but the players can trust that I am not out to trick them.  

If you happen to roll low hit points for that troll, and are then honest with your players about fudging the roll to increase the troll's hit points, there is no difference between what you are doing and what I am doing, provided that your players knowing about your fudging does not harm your game.  Otherwise, there is the difference:  My players can trust me to fairly arbitrate their experience with the game, and their faith is well founded.  Your players may also trust you, but the foundation of their faith is the level of your skill to successfully lie to them.

(Cross-posted from Dragonsfoot; slightly modified [in brackets] for clarity.  Also, I added pictures.)

Thursday, 29 May 2014

More On Fudging: Ookla the 26

"This is a valid argument, right?"
This thread on Dragonsfoot has recently been brought back from the dead, and it is worth checking up on again if you are interested.  In any event, the comments left by Mock26 require a bit more space to answer than is generally considered polite on a gaming forum.  These comments are interesting not only from the standpoint of gaming theory, but they are interesting from the standpoint of the "dumbing down" of rational discourse.

Also, frankly, I find it impossible to answer Mock26 properly while meeting the politeness guidelines expected of posters on Dragonsfoot.

Part I

At 6:55 pm on 28 May 2014, Mock26 takes issue with material from this post. I will ask you to indulge me in reading both the post, and his response to the post, before we continue.  I ask this because, I hope, it is clear to you that Mock26's questions are revealing of nothing more than failure to understand context.  There is nothing terribly unique in this - if you go back upthread, you will note that Mock26 has been attacking the argument without bothering to read or understand it all day.

The post in question is a response to Greg Barry, who is asking specific questions related to two examples.  The context of the questions is that If A, Then B, Therefore C.  If A occurs, then B will occur, therefore C should occur (in this case C is fudging).  The responses are demonstrations that B need not occur as a result of A, and therefore A need not lead to C.

Mock26's question amounts to asking, "Even if B need not follow A, what if B does follow A?"  In the listed cases, it is assumed that B (i.e., that the game grinds to a halt, either because of an inability to move forward or because the party is killed by a lich) is worse than C (fudging).

And, of course, you may well agree that B is worse than C.  But, this doesn't make C good; it just makes B worse.  This is akin to saying, "Isn't it okay if I sometimes punch you, if the alternative is that I shoot you instead?"  It is a false dilemma; it is neither okay to punch or shoot you, and it neither B or C is demonstrated herein to be a good idea.

The basic assumptions upon which the argument is built (meeting a lich automatically ends in a TPK; destroying a single item prevents all play) are flawed.  It does not matter whether or not Mock26 is able to avoid these problems.  The question is not "What traits are shared by poor GMs?"  It suffices merely to demonstrate that these situations offer no dilemma for a good GM, and that there is no need for a good GM to fudge.

Mock26 is, however, correct in that this particular blog post does not demonstrate why fudging is bad; it is merely an answer to why fudging is not necessary in the cases described.  I would lay down good money that over 90% of the readers of this blog were able to understand that from the context.

Part II

At 6:56 pm on 28 May 2014, Mock26 takes aim at this post.  Again, feel free to read both the post and Mock26's questions.  If nothing else, it will supply some context.  Then jump up to 3:26 pm, where I wrote
Well, technically, I think there is a real difference between set-up and play. In set-up, one is looking for inspiration, and personally I don't care if you fudge during that time. I have said the same in the past (I believe in this very thread, although I am not going to go back to look for it), and I am sure that I will say the same in the future.
because once you have done so, you will realize that Mock26's first salvos in this post again miss the mark.

Later on, at 8:00 pm, Mock26 posts again, and again fails to hit the mark, using my above quote to again suggest that I somehow do not agree that the GM has a right to alter a roll during set-up.  I do say
The reasoning that, say, introducing a Vorpal Sword at 1st level will somehow doom the campaign/milieu, however, is one that I strongly disagree with.
Even when dicing for inspiration, though, I think it occurs far too often that the GM in question will decide "That doesn't fit" far too soon....better/more creative work would result from asking "How does that fit?" a bit more often than may occur. When I choose to use die rolls to help in creation, I have noticed that it is the unusual results that give the milieu depth, and make it seem less like the work of a single mind....because that mind is forced out of its rut.
and Mock26 seems to believe that the material he quoted from Gary Gygax is a counter to that.  He also seems to think that Mr. Gygax's advice to other DMs (many of which, based upon other sections of the book, Mr. Gygax addresses as if they have not yet learned the craft) suggests that Mr. Gygax himself would have been unable to place a vorpal sword in a 1st level adventure and make his own campaign more interesting thereby.

I doubt that is the case.

I fully accept that neophyte GMs, Mock26, or others, might be unable to place a vorpal sword without spelling disaster for their games, and I have repeatedly stated that rolling for inspiration is not the same as rolling for outcome during the game.  Others may disagree with that assessment (others do in the thread), but once again, Mock26 is knocking down straw men of his own devising.

Part III

Jump now, if you would be so kind, to Mock26's post of 7:36 pm on 28 May 2014.  Or don't.  Mock26 is attempting to set up a situation in which the GM fudges, but in which we are supposed to describe why fudging is bad without referencing the situation in which the fudging occurs.

Huh.

I point a gun at you.  Why should I not fire the gun?  Please answer using only a description of the process of pulling the trigger.

If you cannot see the problem with pandering to this type of discourse, I cannot help you.

Part IV

Back up to the 6:56 pm post, where Mock26 makes his only intelligent contribution to the conversation.

In response to my posting "It should be noted that the percentage of GMs who believe that they can make the players believe this while fudging is quite a bit higher than the percentage of players who believe that they do not know. Likewise, the majority of players seem to prefer, as do you and I, that the GM does not fudge.", Mock26 asks:
Have any actual numbers to back up this claim of yours? Because I, for one, would love to see the evidence you have that allows you to make this claim.
That's actually an intelligent question, and one anyone should ask when confronted with any sort of data.

For the record, though, given a poll sample of 112 votes (which, admittedly, is not large enough for firm conclusions), 14% of respondents preferred (2% strongly) that the GM fudge, and 55% (41% strongly) preferred that the GM not fudge.

In another poll, 61% of 41 respondents felt that, as players, they know when the GM is fudging.

Until better data comes along, the majority believe that they know when the GM is fudging, and the majority would prefer that the GM does not fudge. Better than a third of players feel strongly that the GM should not fudge. But better data should be a goal, and it might change the above conclusions.

Conclusion

For those who claim that this is all simply opinion, and any opinion is as good as any other, that is simply untrue.  Reasoned debate doesn't work like that (although, granted, shouting into the wind does work like that, and there are always folks who will listen to whoever shouts the loudest).

An "answer" to an argument in an analysis of that argument, showing where it stands up and where it does not. It is not simply an "opinion".  For instance, if I said, "2 + 2 = 4 because a cow is in the field", your answer could well be that (1) 2 + 2 = 4 regardless of whether or not a cow is in the field, and that (2) the cow in the field has no rational connection to the mathematical operation being performed. Note that this does not mean that 2 + 2 =/= 4, but merely that my reasoning is incorrect. Note also that, while I may then say that "The cow making no difference is just your opinion; there's no correct answer here", that does not make it true.

Likewise, the reasons giving for why fudging is good, on examination, turn out to be cows in the field that are supposedly affecting the math. The answers, specifically, are why the given reasons that fudging is worth doing do not actually appear supported when examined. You may have good reasons for fudging, but the reasons given thus far do not support examination. That the examination is not being addressed is evidence of its validity; you cannot counter the argument, so you declare it all mere opinion.

YMMV because (1) you may be right that fudging is good for the game overall, but have not articulated an argument as to why this should be so, just as 2 + 2 = 4 regardless of the cow explanation's obvious failure, or (2) your motives in fudging may be seated not in the good of the game overall, but in a different motivation.

My experience tells me that fudging is a bad idea overall, but my experience is (while wide) perforce limited. That no one to my knowledge, least of all Mock26, has yet to develop a thesis that explains why fudging is (or can be) good, which also holds up under rational scrutiny, reinforces my experience. I am willing to accept that (obviously) my experience may not apply to all cases, but I am not going to make the assumption that it does not apply without a counter-example or line of reasoning that can stand up to examination.

I don't believe in bigfoot; I am willing to change my mind if evidence presents itself that changes the balance of probability that bigfoot exists. Whether or not bigfoot exists is another example where all opinions are not of equal value.

Even with all that said, though, it is fundamental that what you want out of the game may differ from what I want, and that whether or not you articulate your position in a way that stands up to rational scrutiny, your position may still be as valid as, or more valid than, mine. I just have no reason to come to that conclusion.

Add your own sound bite in lieu of a rational statement here.
As long as you can get a single player to buy into your game, you should run what you want the way you want to run it. Analysis of the pitfalls and/or values of various approaches is useful in helping GMs and players discover what they want, and take steps that bring their goals to fruition.

If you want to paint your house green, but are instead using red paint, it is worth noting. If you want your house to be red, but are saying you want it to be green, by all means you should continue to use red paint even though we note that (1) your house will not be painted green, and (2) your actions will not help you meet your stated objectives. And, of course, we are fully justified in cautioning others who might take your methods and stated aims at face value that using red paint is highly unlikely to result in a green house.

If one then claims that it is only opinion that using red paint will not result in a green house....well, one is entitled to make that claim.  But that "opinion" will not be as good as one that actually examines what colour red paint results in, no matter how loudly you scream into the wind, and no matter how many idiots then wonder why their houses are red despite following your instructions.

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Varieties of Antelope

Antelope?  Really?
Yup.

When I was working on RCFG, I wanted a lot of normal animal types to be represented, so I did a fair bit of research on animals modern and prehistoric, including the material presented herein.  

This entry represents a number of related animals, including both true antelopes and animals that are similar enough (such as the giraffe) to be described in the same basic listing.  


Antelopes of various types are very common prey to large predators, and may also be hunted by humanoids.  Antelope all have horns of some sort, and most can deliver a potent butt or kick.  The pelts of many antelope are valuable, as indicated below.

This entry gives details of fourteen types of antelope and similar creatures.  The Judge is encouraged to invent species of fantastic antelope from these examples.  Antelope often travel in mixed herds, sometimes including unrelated species, such as zebras.

All of the creatures in this post are hereby considered OGC, with the copyright information "Varieties of Antelope by Daniel J. Bishop, Raven Crowking's Nest (c) 2014." to be included in Section 15 of the OGL.


Antelope, Average:  Init +7; Atk butt +1 melee (2d3); AC 16; HD 2d6; MV 70'; Act 1d20; SV Fort –2, Ref +10, Will –4; AL N.

A bongo is an African forest antelope that is mostly nocturnal.  Both genders have curved horns.  Their coat ranges from auburn to mahogany with ten to fifteen thin white-yellow stripes.  The reddish pigment comes off very easily.  A bongo’s coat is worth 1d4 x 10 sp.  They stand approximately 3 feet high at the shoulder and weigh up to 890 lbs.


Bongo:  Init +6; Atk butt +2 melee (2d4) or kick +1 melee (2d3); AC 14; HD 3d8; MV 60'; Act 1d20; SP low-light vision; SV Fort +0, Ref +8, Will –4; AL N.

A dik-dik is a very small African antelope with short horns.  It is named for the sound it makes when startled.  They are found in both forest and plains, preferring locations where there is enough foliage to hide in.  They are 1 to 1 ½ feet in height and weight from 6 to 15 lbs.

Dik-dik:  Init +8; Atk butt –2 melee (1d3); AC 16; HD 2 hp; MV 60'; Act 1d20; SV Fort –4, Ref +10, Will –6; AL N.

An eland is a large antelope native to the African savannah.  Its meat and milk are especially nutritious, making the animal worth 2d4 x 5 sp for its meat value, or 2d6 x 5 sp alive.  Eland can be ranched successfully for milk and meat.  They stand up to 6 feet high at the shoulder and can weigh up to 2,200 lbs.  Female elands will band together to protect their calves.


Eland:  Init +5; Atk butt +2 melee (2d6) or kick +3 melee (2d3); AC 14; HD 4d8; MV 70'; Act 1d20; SV Fort +2, Ref +8, Will –4; AL N.

Gazelles are small, swift antelopes found in Africa, Asia, and India.  Their hide is worth 1d6 x 10 sp.  The average gazelle is about 3 to 4 feet long and weighs up to 66 lbs.


Gazelle:  Init +9; Atk butt +1 melee (2d3) or kick +0 melee (1d3); AC 16; HD 1d6; MV 80'; Act 1d20l SV Fort –4, Ref +12, Will –6; AL N.

The giraffe is not actually an antelope, but is often found travelling with herds of antelope and zebras.  Giraffes are known for their height – with their long legs and necks, giraffes can reach almost 20 feet in height, with most ranging between 9 and 15 feet high.  Even a newborn giraffe is over six feet tall.  Adults weigh up to 2 tons.  Although they do not butt, they can give an extremely powerful kick or slap larger opponents with their necks.  Their skins can be sold for 2d6 x 10 sp. Giraffes are sometimes called “camelopards”.

Giraffe:  Init +5; Atk kick +4 melee (2d10) or neck slap +2 melee (2d5); AC 14; HD 6d8+6; MV 70'; Act 1d20; SV Fort +0, Ref +6, Will –2; AL N.

Impalas are small, swift African antelopes.  The males have impressive curved and spiralling horns that are themselves worth 1d6 x 10 sp per pair.  They can be up to 5 feet long, weighing from 88 to 145 lbs.


Impala:  Init +6; Atk butt +1 melee (2d3); AC 16; HD 1d8; MV 80'; Act 1d20; SV Fort –2, Ref +12, Will –4; AL N.

A kudu is a large African antelope.  The males have thick, spiralling horns, valued at 1d6 x 10 sp each.  Kudu horns are sometimes turned into musical instruments.  A kudu hide is worth 1d4 x 10 sp.  Males may be over 8 feet long, and weigh up to 690 lbs.


Kudu:  Init +6; Atk butt +2 melee (2d5) or kick +1 melee (2d3); AC 14; HD 4d8+4; MV 60'; Act 1d20; SV Fort +2, Ref +6, Will –4; AL N.

Nilgai (singular and plural) are large, ox-like creatures related to antelope.  On Earth, they are found in India and Pakistan.  The females have yellowish-brown coats, with the males becoming darker grey-blue with maturity.  Adults can be between 6 and 7 feet long, and weigh up to 660 lbs.  Their horns are short, and have no particular value.


Nilgai:  Init +2; Atk butt +1 melee (2d3) or kick +1 melee (1d4); AC 14; HD 4d8+8; MV 40'; SV Fort +4, Ref +2, Will –2; AL N.

Oryx are large antelope with sweeping, scimitar-like horns, native to Africa.  They are found in arid regions, where they are active mainly at night and in early morning.  Their horns are valued at 1d4 x 10 sp each.  They can be up to 7 feet long, and weigh up to 460 lbs. 


Oryx:  Init +6; Atk butt +2 melee (2d5) or kick +0 melee (2d3); AC 16; HD 3d8; MV 60'; Act 1d20; SP low-light vision; SV Fort +0, Ref +6, Will –4; AL N.

The pronghorn antelope isn’t a true antelope, but is an antelope-like animal native to North America.  They are also known as “Prairie Ghosts”.  A pronghorn can be up to 5 feet long, and weigh up to 155 lbs.

Pronghorn Antelope:  Init +8; Atk butt +0 melee (2d4) or kick +0 melee (1d4); AC 16; HD 2d6; MV 80'; Act 1d20; SV Fort –4, Ref +10, Will –4; AL N.

Reeboks, waterbucks, and similar antelope live in wet areas of Africa, seldom straying far from water.  When threatened, these antelope can submerge themselves with just their nostrils showing, and this is a common tactic when a morale check is failed.  They are from 4¼ to 7¾ feet long, and weigh from 110 to 660 lbs.


Reebok:  Init +6; Atk butt +1 melee (2d4) or kick +0 melee (1d3); AC 16; HD 2d8; MV 60'; Act 1d20; SP submerge; SV Fort –2, Ref +6, Will –4; AL N.

Riding Bukkas are large antelope with bluish-grey coats striped with black.  Their long horns curl and spiral backwards.  Bukkas are tamed and used as riding beasts.  Because of their low morale, they do not make suitable war mounts – even extensive training cannot generally raise their Will save higher than +0.  A riding bukka is worth 45 gp as a mount.  War mount training increases this to 75 gp.  A riding bukka stands up to 5 feet high at the shoulder and weighs up to 2,000 lbs.


Riding Bukka:  Init +6; Atk butt +2 melee (2d5) or kick +0 melee (2d3); AC 16; HD 4d8+4; MV 60'; Act 1d20; SV Fort +3, Refl +6, Will –4; AL N.

The sable antelope is a large antelope with a horse-like build and long horns.  They are up to 8¾ feet long, and weigh up to 660 lbs.  Their pelts are worth 1d6 x 10 gp, and their horns worth 1d2 x 10 sp each.

Sable Antelope:  Init +7; Atk butt +3 melee (2d6) or kick +1 melee (2d4); AC 16; HD 4d8+4; MV 70'; Act 1d20; SV Fort +2, Ref +8, Will –4; AL N.

Wildebeest, or gnus, are large antelopes with an ungainly (but powerful) build.  A herd of wildebeest can trample a creature for 1d6 points of damage per wildebeest that passes the area (Ref DC 15 for half). Wildebeest herds can be as large as 1,000 head (1d10 x 100 individuals).  Usually, only 1d10% of the wildebeest in a herd can actually trample any given individual creature, but even 1% of 1,000 head is 10d6 damage!  Cornered wildebeest are not afraid to attack opponents; they gain a +8 bonus to Will saves for morale checks when cornered.

Wildebeest:  Init +6; Atk butt +4 melee (2d6+2) or kick +2 melee (1d6+2); AC 16; HD 5d8+15; MV 60'; SP trample, bonus to morale when cornered; SV Fort +6, Refl +4, Will –4; AL N.



Tactics

Antelope of all types generally flee from aggressive creatures, counting on agility, speed, and numbers to overcome predators. Some antelope are more aggressive, and may attempt to butt. Kicks are usually reserved for predators (or characters) approaching from behind, while continuing to flee.  Wildebeest, as noted, may trample.  

The Judge should check individual descriptions, above, for special tactics that a specific type of antelope may use.  Antelope are skittish, and their high Initiative bonuses and low Will saves reflect a tendency to flee with the smallest provocation.


Conclusion


Part of Appendix N literature is given over to the strangest of beings - creatures of magic or super-science.  Yet, another part of Appendix N includes Solomon Kane or Tarzan traversing Africa, encountering normal animals as well as the bizarre.  Even Conan encountered lions as well as man-apes.


Creating creatures for use of your campaign milieu (and adventures!) is also fun.  Variations of creatures add to the detail of the game world, and are good practice for envisioning monsters (etc.) within the context of the game system you are using. 


Also...Safari!  While we would not go out to hunt animals for their horns and hides in the real world (one would hope), this is fair game  (pun!) in a fantasy world lacking modern ecological concerns.  It is also an opportunity to provide adventure hooks, such as elephant graveyards, lost cities, lost worlds teeming with dinosaurs (such as Maple White Land in Sir Conan Arthur Doyle's The Lost World), etc.  King Solomon's Mines beckon!