Sunday, June 14, 2009

I realized I have a lot of GM notes!

Some Background. I ran a successful Post Apoc Game (to my players)- my personal name for the game is Situational Awareness and Response Exercise.

My most recent notes and the latest responses of my players have molded my current gaming style as democratic referee. I'm mainly there to provide obstacles for them to run into- I'm on their side, and I also come into the same situation without any predisposition or my own ideas how they should get out of the situation. This has enhanced the cooperative element of the game between GMs and Players. It is acceptable for the Players that I pose Murphies to their situation- because that is what you can expect in an REAL LIFE extreme situation. Of course, these murphies shouldn't be TOO unlikely- that is why its called a Murphie not Force majeure.

Here are a lot of things to "roll-about" in adventures and extreme circumstances.

Mental Rolls.
These are rolls simulationist GMs should consider when dealing with realistic but extreme situations. I would recommend this to even Fantasy Gamers, especially when the GM and the Players want to take home something interesting to think about. One added element of these kinds of Rolls are the marked revelation I had about my players when our games focused on analyzing a situation and analyzing our own mental hurdles in being able to work in extreme circumstances. Awareness of these real weaknesses in a given situation not only adds to the depth, drama and complexity of the game- but further enhances the Players' (and the GM's) problem solving skills.

Roll IQ, Will, Int or Wis...

Against Panic. Failure is a judgment penalty (penalty to IQ rolls). the penalty should be dependent on the severity of panic (margin of failure) and lasts as long as the percieved threat (so if the PC still thinks the threat is there- the penalty is ongoing). Other PCs who can objectify and rationalize the threat can make a diplomacy, public speaking, or leadership roll. On a success, the threat is mentally neutralized and the PC's judgment is not impared by it.
Panic is deceptive, that is why i don't call it Fear or Fright. Panic causes people to rush judgement, to overestimate threat values, and basically poisons the rationality of a mind. I would recomend self reflection to be aware of this, if the GM has very few experiences with Panic in an extreme situation- GO out there and GET SOME! Its good for you and helps build character and better awareness of personal weaknesses.

Against the "Hive". Failure is basically the same penalty as Panic where the crowd's Mob-mentality is making the PCs unable to effectively assess a situation because of the misinformation a Crowds actions, words, and information is sowing into the PCs. Unlike Panic, there are more frequent re-rolls for the Mob-mentality roll- because of the mix of Accurate information along with Misinformation that tends to suck the PCs back into the Mob-mind.

Against Confusion. Failure is basically the same consequences as Panic. Confusion comes about when PCs are sowing misinformation and start second guessing each other. Normally the Players acting on this and suffering this tends to be enough- but it can be pretty insidious if the GM doesnt make them aware that they are working with misinformation- The PC are not the Players and despite the Players strategic knowledge- its the PCs that have to process his surroundings.

Against Tunneling. Failure is you lose an extra half round (a round is 6 sec) after your action. If you play GURPS then you may find the Second by Second system Realistic- but surprisingly it isn't because Humans, regular People- Tunnel. Our group calls it Tunneling, and the term comes from Tunnel Vision. Basically, when you do an action, you are not certain how many seconds it will actually Take you. Any action IN a dynamic and changing situation falls around the 5-6 second tunneling standard, the few exemptions are highly practiced Drills (or Route movement, call it Combo's if you like) found only in skilled professionals and zealous hobbyists.
Coming out of a Failed tunneling wastes valuable time in the form of only being able to do half as much as everyone in a round-for that round. Tunneling occurs when the Action is usually beyond the Character's Threat appetite (a very relative term), but basically anything very dangerous and uncertain will cause a charater to tunnel to get the job done right.

Athletic Rolls.
Health, Vitality, Energy, Endurance or Constitution... call it what you will in any other game system but Fitness is a ROLL every time you do a time crucial action. The Old-assumption or Calls that failure means failure to perform, makes such rolls as Running from point A to point B quite absurd, BUT the truth of the matter is that there is risk in daring physical actions.

This is where Arm-chair Scholars differ with those who try to do what their characters do. One the simulationist learns is that- Failure MAY-NOT be tripping or falling (make it only that if the margin of failure is 5 or worse) because our own fears prevent us from pushing too hard that we hurt ourselves- Instead failure is valuable time lost. Lost time, is lost opportunity.

In GURPS B354 is my basic guide rule for Athletic Rolls. Read the Fatigue Cost entry for Running.
  • 15 sec (2-3 rounds) of Spriting (Which is Maximum Physical Perfomance) roll HT
  • 1 minute (10-12 rounds) of Paced Running (which is highest SUSTAINED physical performance) roll HT.

The B354 rule is a great rule of thumb in any athletic situation. This is because, knowing that rule allows you to effectively simulate the physical drain any athletic situation will have on people. Normally, in my observation, many games ignore the value of endurance- but if you played any sport- your endurance severely limits your strategy and tactics. Suffice to say, ask your players to roll, given the examples above when their performance is over that said time, you will notice that they will BURN through Fatigue or energy in no time- Just like in real life. HT is a 10cp per level attribute in GURPS, but is WAY too underestimated IMO.

Marching through Thick growths: Hiking + ST, Failure is double time.
Any action that would absurdly be successful- but can stand to risk precious seconds. This is energy/stamina dependent rolls and thus HT based. this can be Jumping+HT, Climbing+HT, Stealth+HT etc... Failure is the PC starts his next round flatfooted or with less time available, failure by 5 or more is failing to be effective (like the jump is too short, slip while climbing, you step on a very loud twig... etc).
Crawling: Stealth + HT, Failure is double time.

NEW Situational Task Difficult Modifer.
Some new TDM examples.

Uncertain Penalty -1 to -2. Based on the Familiarity, this penalty really emphasizes the value of Drills and experience. Familiarity is underappreciated in GURPS, and there is a Perk that was recomended to eliminate all weapon unfamiliarities. From personal experience (like trying to use GIMP isntead of Photoshop) unfamiliarity is a BIG disadvantage- not a severe as flat Defaults of -4 to -6 but still painful if your acceptable risk are like mine 5%.

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