Saturday, August 29, 2020

Seeking Some Insight into Insight & Perception Checks

 Every week I listen to 3 or 4 new podcasts.  I'm still hunting for those shows that put game first and comedy second.  They are extremely tough to find - and the ones I do find are often plagued with other problems (bad sound, bad or no editing, etc) and so the hunt continues.  But I enjoy the search... and in doing it, I find I am finally 'getting' 5e D&D (nope - still haven't played it, though I would like to).

A couple of things have stuck out to me about 5e that I continually fail to understand, though: Insight & Perception Checks

Perception checks are often used in post combat loot collection in a way I don't 'get'.

"I search the brigands' bodies"

"OK. Make a perception check."

"Um. Sure.  Um... I got a 13."

"OK. With a 13, you find 30 gp in his belt pouch)

This kind of exchange makes no sense to me unless the brigand has a hidden cavity in his boot heel.  Otherwise, why roll to go through someone's pockets.  I hear this kind of thing all the time and it drives me nuts that I can't figure out what's going on.

Insight (or Sense Motive) is equally, though differently problematic. Consider this:

"I question all the half orc guards to see if they know who stole the jewel."

"They all deny any knowledge of it."

"Can I do an insight check?"

"OK.  Roll Insight."

"Bam! Natty 20, my dude!"

"You are pretty sure they are telling the truth."

In the above exchange, the PC now has the same info normally only attainable through high level spells. That's a lot of power for anyone to have and to use at will.  A nat 20 isn't usually necessary for success, either - typically the PC would have about a 20% chance of success with this action.

A better solution is for the DM to roll the insight check and not share the number.  But an even better solution is to eliminate this skill check altogether, unless it's a trained and special ability.

Am I missing something?  Somebody please explain these aspects of 5e to me ... I just don't get it.

Friday, August 21, 2020

Shownotes for Episode 13


Theme                                     Enchiridion

Welcome                                  148 Barovian Castle

Previously On                          Scott Buckley Legionnaire

Part 2                                       Odin

Some  FX:                      

Sunday, August 16, 2020

Fantasy and Horror

In my last post I mentioned a connection between fantasy and horror that I'd like to explore a little.  If you are reading this and have some thoughts on the matter, feel free to share in the comments below.

Any fantasy (or SCI-FI for that matter) game that involves combat at all usually measures blood-spilled-per-session in pints, if not buckets.  In my last game, in which I played a fairly timid, combat avoiding halfling, there was one character death and at least a dozen other deaths (bandits in this case and their cultist leaders).

RPGs often have combat situations that are described in vivid detail by the DM/GM, and yet they usually do not feel like horror at all.  They should though, right? So why don't they and what's the difference?

There was a bit of this discussed on an early episode of the Glass Canon.  I forget which player it was that said that the big difference between horror and fantasy is that in horror stories, the protagonists fear what is to come and in fantasy, they have the superhuman courage to face it.

That's a pretty astute observation, I think.

In TOTM, my PCs do start off as terrified and fairly helpless.  They would have avoided the first couple of combats if they could have.  After a half dozen episodes, they are confronting opponents more or less willingly though.  I think a bit of realism has to be sacrificed in order to move the story out of survival horror and into fantasy; it would be a very different story if the PCs tried to run from or avoid every combat situation.  This is where the concept of 'heroism' comes in, I guess.

In my mind, there's a slider bar or spectrum of fantasy with horror at one end and gonzo comedy at the other.  The silly comedy stories (like Dungeons and Daddies for an example among thousands) still have plenty of gruesome bloodshed, but it somehow coexists with wacky comedy (arguably this arrangement is far, far darker than plain old horror in that it is totally bizarre and grotesque the moment you stop to think about it).  In TOTM I have set the slider somewhere about halfway between horror and the center point, you might say.  I like to dip into horror, but not stay there too long. 

This brings me full circle back to the ideas in the last post: why do I (or does anyone) enjoy horror at all? How is this stuff 'fun'?  I don't know.  What do you think?

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Are RPGs "fun"?

 Every now and then I listen back to my old episodes and, despite their cringe-inducing qualities, they do make me feel more connected to the fabric of my own story and help me to fully absorb my own lore.

I think it was in episode three I threw out a comment that DnD was supposed to be "fun".  My own dumb voice haunted me for a while after re-listening to that to the point where I feel I need to retract it.  

The more I think about it, the less I feel that DnD is "fun" per se, at least for me.  This isn't just semantics either; I think it might underlie a schism in the gaming community at large.

What do I get out of DnD if not fun?  It's enjoyment, yes, but not necessarily joy.  A 'thrill' is closer.  A 'sense of adventure' is closer.  A 'connection to my own imagination that I normally do not indulge in' is also closer.  I'm not sure what it is, but it's not 'fun'.  I guess 'fun' implies lightness, which obviously my games aren't.  I'm the kind of person who enjoys horror movies, and not for the Aristotlean concept of catharsis, either.  RPGs are kind of like that.  There's a relationship between RPGs and horror that I want to examine at a later date, but for now, back to the fun/not fun schism.

I perceive a divide in the gaming community that appears to be between old school and new school, but I don't honestly think the systems are the cause of the divide, nor are they even central to it.  I think they are incidental to it.  The divide might be best described as the space between those who play RPGs for fun (like the vast, vast ocean of comedy improv podcasters I can't relate to for the most part) and those who play for ... man I need a word... fulfillment feels like a cop out.  Satisfaction is a cop out.  It has to do with danger, immersion, excitement, wonder... I think I have to settle on the word 'experience'.  A light comedy where characters go shopping or riff in a tavern is not an 'experience'.  A harrowing hour in a dungeon is an experience.  An escape through the forest pursued by wolves is an experience.  Characters solving a puzzle to get the prize is an experience.  Help me out - can you find a better word to describe what you get out of RPGs?

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Shownotes for Episode 12


Theme                                     Enchiridion

Welcome                                 148 Barovian Castle

Previously On                          Scott Buckley Legionnaire

Part 1b                                     Odin

Part 2a                                     Odin

Part 2b                                     RPG SOUNDS “The Boss is Here” and Bensound Evolution

Some  FX:                      

Unlucky Winners

I don't want to spoil anything, so I'll just post the table I used, as promised, and say no more...

1  Thurn

2  Harl

3  Eiflad

4  Munn

5  Aradine

6  Umura

7  Riley the Roach

8  Gyrios

9 Tor

10 Kagan

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Known Goofs

You know how IMDB lists all the known goofs in a movie? I thought I'd lay down all the goofs I could think of that I've made so far in the show. They're mostly harmless, by and large. 

 1) When Umura leveled up, I let her keep her Charm Person spell in her memory. Actually, this wasn't a goof, but a purposeful rule abuse. I thought it was a nice way to illustrate her level up and didn't unbalance the game in any way. It did create a problem going forward though, which is why I list it here.  I'll make the ruling now that I won't let any character instantly regain spell slots when leveling, video-game style, after level 2. 

2) Recently Kagan bashed down a door in an inn. The B/X rules say he should have, based on his strength score, a 1 in 3 chance of success. I forgot about this rule and used a strength ability check, which gave him a 65% chance of success. In the end I rolled a 3, a success by either method, so I guess there's no harm done (except to the door). 

 3) The wheelwright and wagon driver is first called "Alfrin" by Tor, the called "Alfin" thereafter. This is just a pure goof. The game is typed as it is 'played', so this kind of thing can happen. I make up names on the spot and then misremember them. By the same token, Gyrios' home kingdom/country is first called Kamrath, and later Kamranth.  I'll stick with the latter version.

 4) During the attack with the Giant Rats I say there's a 1% chance of getting a disease when hit. I actually did and do know that there's actually a 5% (1 in 20) chance and played it that way. But I misspoke. I thought of going back and editing it, but figured it was not worth fixing in the end. Hopefully it didn't reduce the excitement. I was truly worried about rolling a 1. I can remember it well. 

 I think that's all the goofs I know about. If you know of any, please let me know in a comment. Hopefully there's nothing critical that I've overlooked.

Saturday, August 1, 2020

Two more links to loopable background music

A couple more links. I'm sure I'll add more now and then.

Composition 2

Composition 3