Tuesday 7 January 2014

Winning isn't All That

So, why did I come home last night with a bloody mouth and a big dumb smile that I couldn't wipe-off my face?

No, let's start over...

There are some DMs who think their job is to set-up encounters just difficult enough to provide the party a bit of a challenge, but not, heaven forbid, to put them in any real danger. They may even apologise to you if a particular combat starts going against the party. And if things really go South, they will start fudging dice rolls or having the monsters make intentional tactical mistakes.

Their reason for doing this is that they don't want to ruin people's fun by having them lose, but, ironically, their combats aren't fun, since there is no incentive to think too hard, try anything new or novel. Just roll your dice everybody, round after round after round until the inevitable...

Compare this with the DM who doesn't pull any punches. When the party finds themselves in a crunch, they've played with this DM a while and they know it's do or die. Suddenly the creative juices start flowing! Tactics, strategy, dirty tricks, religion checks for divine intervention. A PC sacrifices himself so that the others can escape!

Now that's fun! That's engaging! The players push themselves to their limits. In this way, a lost battle can be more fun than a hum-drum victory.

OK, so back to last night...

Last night was Jiu Jitsu practice. Now, I started out training with several guys who have only been training for a year or two: enough to give me a hard time, but not that hard a time. I got to try out a few new techniques, as well as apply some old favourites. Good times.

And then I had a match with J. Now I never really stood a chance with J. He's been training various martial arts since he was a kid, and BJJ several years more than me. He's younger, stronger, and he also fights a bit dirty when he's frustrated. So I had to use all my resources in the match: my most solid techniques, a few fake-outs, and also ultimately pain tolerance when he did manage to pin me in a bad position. Ultimately the match ended in a draw. But that hard-won draw was infinitely more fun than all of the night's textbook victories.


  1. Totally agree. I've taken some criticism regarding game lethality, pointing out concerns that players don't want to lose PCs they worked so hard to roll up. Not only do GM promote pampering as you mention, it is also required of game designers to "protect player interests" through rules. Wouldn't it be wiser for players to protect player interests and in such a way limit rule lawyer power?

    1. Thanks. I liked this post of yours on the topic of lethality. http://saurondor.blogspot.co.il/2013/09/the-bad-gm-roll-having-tpk-day.html