[Runequest] Highlevel combat

Gary Sturgess gazza666 at gmail.com
Tue Nov 9 02:10:40 EST 2010

On 8 November 2010 22:55, grogthing <grogthing at yahoo.com> wrote:
> To me rpg is still story creation just like a novel. If every novel
> eliminated deus ex machina plot protection of the character, James Bond
> would never make it out alive to the end of a story.

Hmm. I think I disagree.

While RPGs obviously have something in common with novels, it seems to
me that they are definitively not the same thing. There are numerous
tricks that work in novels and work poorly, if at all, in RPGs - and
vice versa.

For example, the notion of heroes getting captured and rescued. This
is a fairly common theme in novels - James Bond gets captured at least
once per story, it seems, no matter the medium - but most GMs would
agree that having NPCs rescue the PCs is a terrible plot device.
Another common novel technique is to have a group composed of
characters with widely differing power levels - Gandalf and Bilbo,
Superman and Robin; again, this works fine in a novel because the
author can make sure every character gets his chance to shine, but it
is often problematic in an RPG as players do not have authorial
constraints - it CAN work, but it is fraught with peril and not for
novice players. On the other hand, few novels would be improved by
random Monty Python jokes and heated arguments over what pizza topping
to order.

I am also somewhat inclined to disagree that deus ex machina is EVER a
good fiction technique, novel OR RPG. It is one of the most hackneyed
cliches imaginable, second only to "it was all a dream". I am
struggling to consider an example where the technique was ever
satisfying - generally, we want to see our heroes (whether they be PCs
or characters in a novel) succeed - or even fail if they must - by
their own efforts, not saved from certain doom by a last minute
unheralded reprieve.

> SInce in rpgs' the story is a group creation, instead of just the GM as
> author, I think fate points or hero points or whatever, allows the player to
> give their protagonists a little needed plot immunity, to handle unreal
> threats (magic and monsters).

And yet I don't really disagree with this. I have always much
preferred RPGs (or genres of such) where death was unlikely -
superheroic RPGs, for example. I understand the counter argument - if
you can't die, where's the risk? And with no risk, how can you
appreciate the reward? - but I don't really agree that the only way to
give a situation meaning is the threat to force a player to abandon a
character he has spent weeks or months playing, and subject him to
hours of character creation to rejoin his friends. Certainly as long
as the primary mode of gaming uses randomisers (dice or whatever) to
deal out such fates there is always going to be the chance that -
through no fault of their own - a PC will die. Some sort of mechanism
to avert this doesn't seem like a bad idea to me.

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