Cursed items in tabletop role-playing games can make for some pretty shitty situations for player characters. “OH! Yeah, you’re always at minus two to hit.” That can suck. However, there are other ways to make cursed items quirky, fun, laughable yet not too obnoxious. Thanks Ahzad for the inspiration!
Voice mail from Sgt Dan re: Losing in RPGs
Craig hits us up via voice with a topic suggestion.
Matt V. comments on Losing in RPG’s
I just wanted to touch on a few things…
I usually ask during session 0 about lethality they desire, as you discussed. As just my choice, I run decently lethal campaigns, not brutally so, but I’m gonna catch some bodies during play.
My go to during a TPK or near TPK (like 2/3rd or more) is to ask the players what they want to do. Almost every time, the players want to retire the campaign. As a matter of fact, I can’t think of a time they choose to continue it.
On average, I run more story driven games than character driven games, so even if we lose most the party, its not necessarily a big deal to the story. It’s actually one reason I tend to shy away from character driven stories. I hate when a character die’s (or doesn’t show up for a session) and it just KILLS that session/quest.
Band of Blades has definitive loss scenarios (besides TPK), which I think is really cool. It’s been a couple years since I browsed it, and don’t remember them off hand. I heard the creator talking about it, and how he thinks its a giant shortcoming in TTRPG’s in general, that there is no “you lose” in our games. Because in games, you can lose….
I’m not sure I agree 100%, but it did make me think about trying to include more “you lose” scenarios that didn’t necessarily include TPK’s. I haven’t fully thought through it, but I do think its something I want to start doing next campaign, and something I’ll lay down during session 0.
I enjoyed the discussion on “other loss”, as that’s pretty big in the industry. I don’t think I’ve played a game without death being a type of loss, but I do try and include other types of loss. Often, that loss is more painful than character death!
Thanks! Very interesting episode.
Aaron emails us on losing in RPG’s
Aaron emails us on losing in RPG’s
Dear Sean and Brett,
Thank you so much for the letter read and the kind words, it was a real confidence boost. I’m not sure if I’d ever GM for money, but I’d gladly write your show notes for free.
I’ve never thought about the topic of “losing” beyond the standard “you can’t win or lose in D&D.” But I must say, this topic was incredibly thought provoking. My first thought is that this topic is the flip side of the coin to your “easy wins” topic from a few weeks ago. In other words, it’s just one more tool in the GM’s toolbox, and therefore there is a right and a wrong time to use it.
In my mind, this topic is as nuanced as the differences between the people it applies to. For some people, they play RPG’s to avoid that sense of loss and failure. Some people think it’s just a natural part of the game. At the same time, some people are committed to the idea that the rules exist for them to outsmart the game, and that loss is just as real as losing a game of Uno. And some just see death and loss as part of the story. It seems this is one of the golden questions that should come up in every session zero, but until now, I’d never thought of it. “How do you feel about character death/permanent injuries/losing magic items/etc., and how do you want your character’s story to end?” Like you boys already pointed out, the answer could determine the system you play. Kids on Bikes, for example, more or less avoids character death entirely, while Traveller on the other hand allows your character to die DURING CHARACTER CREATION.
One thing I have done to mitigate these feelings of loss is giving players the option to adopt an NPC they like as their new character in the event of a player death. While this option is rarely utilized, it has made for some of my favorite characters and campaigns as a DM. Another thing I have done is try and use those feelings of loss to motivate the players against my bbeg, since it softens the blow a little if they have an obvious punching bag for their frustrations.
P.S. If you ever want a game run, or if you’re ever ready to make that downpayment on my Arizona swampland, just let me know.
Dan emails us on changing up your GM’ing style
Another great episode. I think it speaks to most GMs. We are always looking for ways to improve. I had one quick tip for Sean or anyone else who runs pre published adventures without a ton of prep work. Highlighters! If you don’t mind marking in your books. I usually pre read a few pages before the game begins. I will yellow highlight the text I want to read when they first enter the room. I blue highlight names or things I need to remember ( I suck at remembering names and when I make it up I go back through the book and change it). I then pink highlight traps or treasure that seems important. The way I run the game, I know the players have to get from point A to point B. I throw in those highlights as I see fit. This isn’t always perfect. Plenty of time I find myself correcting something I missed. “So, you guys remember the last body you searched (blue highlight) well, he had a key to the door you are now stuck at,” woops, I read too fast and forgot to highlight the key last session.
Listening to the new episode now.