Quibbling

Newly moved, newly minted, newly anointed…appellate as you like, the posts be flowing again.

The biggest impediment to my writing thatthat wasn’t financial or connective in naturewas the marked lack of game-playing which accompanied the afore-indicated impediments. I wrestled with the question: “Can someone who isn’t really gaming write about gaming?” But, I admit, i wasn’t wrestling all that hard, due to a return to the homestate, new job-action, and the ever-present excitement that is living with my Special Lady Friend. At this point, I believe we’ve trumped any previously standing records for most consecutive nights spent in the same building, and she’s barely been in town a month.

Anypants, before I delve into the meat of this admittedly brief post I want to stress that the Magnificent Amazonian and I do not yet have a relationship which would be grist for angsty, troubled posts. Besides, those would go on my live journal. Because I totes still possess one.

No, our last several disagreements involved:

  • Whether Clay and Gemma were married
  • Whether the two minutes of the beginning of this week’s episode, which I missed, referred to last week’s aired episode or the last week of in-universe time
  • Skin grafts and premature babies*
    *I should stress that this was actually two separate conversations, but the primary crux of both involves her medical background versus my “I’m a guy what knows things” background. She handily won both conversations.

Obviously, I am a fortunate man. However, I’m also a thoroughly introspective and reflective fellow, so every time my fiancee and I engage in an exchange of comically raised voices I’m given to consider other arguments and disagreements I may have had.

This leads back to gaming because I’ve just made my very first Pathfinder character for this organize play chapter. Maulmouth is differentiated from Napan, the character in this
game, who has been featured before. The latter character is a 4th edition Runepriest githzerai liberally stained with PF flavor; the former is a half-orc alchemist built in full-on PF style.

Returning to the heady days of 3.5 brought the value of a single +1 into a perspective I’d all but forgotten, what with 4e’s generous paired stats to defenses and level-based modifiers to stats. Suddenly, I was sweating over every skill rank and ability mod in a way I never worry about my 4e characters. Suddenly, I was explaining just why I needed a 7 Cha over an 8…explaining this in my head, mind; vetting arguments ahead of time to be ready if I was challenged.

Of course, there is no need to challenge me on a 7 Cha; my 1st level character’s 10 hp aren’t much impediment to a pair of solid swings or a lucky crossbow bolt, so my MAD-suffering pirate is hardly game-breaking.

But I’ve been away from the thick of gaming long enough to be extremely conscious of how valuable every +5% has suddenly become to my character. The fact that the last time I worried this much about numbers was as a DM in Tinderbox only further illuminates the issue; as a DM, I can always find a few +1s, especially since PbP 4th runs best with group initiative. Flank here, bull-rush there, and the elite with the impressive attack will get his hit even on a shoddy roll.

As a player, though, I’m left scrabbling for every modifier I can find. I’ve already spent a few days pondering ways for Maulmouth to compensate for his weaknesses (Poor Dex in a system where I can’t use my spellcasting stat for my spellish attacks) while maximizing his strengths. In turn, I’ve spent a few days reflecting on how rarely I need to do the same thing in 4th, where 2 good stats and a single decent one usually see you through the battle.

The stark divide between the way I’m thinking of my half-orc pirate and the way I’ve played games for the last few years has me thinking about modifiers, fighting for them, and allowing them. Specifically, I’ve been thinking about adding a rule to games that prohibits players from fighting over less than a +2 modifier in any situation, in any edition. Obviously this is a wild hair of a concept at present, something barely formed, but it’s weighing on my mind. Would letting players know that no +1 bonus would ever be debated (you either have it or you don’t, in most cases gaining it through the pronouncements of the DM) break the experience of the game? Or would it speed and streamline things, allowing players greater opportunities to get lost in the hackery?

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2 thoughts on “Quibbling

  1. I never have been able to play a 4e game, but regarding 3.5, I totally hear where you’re coming from. Scrabbling for +1’s, especially at super-low levels, can be a harrowing experience. I hate trying to operate at level 1-4 so much that in nearly every game I’ve run, I’ve always started the players at level 5 or 6. I’ve always enjoyed the fact that when you’re making a toon at higher levels, you not only get a better feel for the build you’re making, but are also a bit more likely to feel competent when you start playing. That’s always been my feeling, at least, but then I do believe that the only time I’ve ever crafted a D&D character at level one is either in computer game form (i.e. Baldur’s Gate, Icewind Dale, etc.) or back in the days of 2E playing in your nut-crushing games, lol.
    Nearly the whole of my gaming experiences in the last 5 years or so have been with Exalted, where if you really need that +1, you can always get it if you’re creative enough. It’s a White Wolf system, so every pip on your player sheet translates into dice that you combine into a pool for any particular action. Need to ram a dire lance through an insolent Dragon-Blood’s sternum? That’s (Dex + Melee + Dire Lance Specialty (if you have it)). Not enough dice? Burn Essence through your Melee Excellency to get MORE dice. Still not feeling froggy enough? Burn a point of Willpower to add an automatic success, OR channel it through a Virtue to get MORE dice.
    And that’s not counting the Stunt system, either. Essentially, Exalted rewards you for being flamboyant and descriptive. If you say “I hit him with my daiklaive,” that’s not a Stunt. If you describe the strike, that’s a 1 point Stunt, that adds 1 free dice to your pool and you regain 2 motes of Essence. If you describe the strike while making dramatic use of the scenery, that’s a 2 point Stunt, which gives you 2 dice and 4 motes of Essence OR regenerates a point of Willpower (and allows you to make dramatic edits to the scenery.) If you go absolutely over-the-top, describing an insane stunt that puts you in nearly as much danger as your opponent, such as running to the top of a mast on a ship rolling in a hurricane and doing a flying elbow drop onto a pirate below, smashing you both through three decks and into the bilges below, that’s a 3 point Stunt, granting 3 dice and regenerating 6 motes of Essence OR 1 point of Willpower OR granting one point of bonus XP.
    Seriously, that barely scratches the surface of how crazy Exalted can get, especially when you consider that it is essentially “classless” and you can customize your demi-god in nearly any way you can think of. There are some obvious problems with some of the mechanics and it is being errata’d constantly in attempts to balance it, but the SETTING of Exalted is truly spectacular.

  2. Oh, and regarding your question, I honestly don’t really see much of a problem with leaving the decision over what constitutes a +1 bonus in the hands of the DM, no matter what (it’s actually what reminded me of Exalted’s Stunt system.) Assuming your players can get on board with the fact that they cannot ever argue about it (it’s only a +1, after all,) I think it’s a good way to streamline things a little bit more. If the game is going to stop for debate, better it be stopped for something MORE than a +1.

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