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Old 03-05-2007, 01:46 PM   #11
Bookman
 
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Default Re: Player Paranoia and Character Surprise: How to GM

I think that as GM's we also have to make sure we're not reinforcing player Paranoia by hosing them when they forget or neglect something that their characters are unlikely to forget or neglect.

"Well, you didn't say you were buying more arrows while you were in town."

You can also communicate that you will always assume that they're being careful in situations where care is called for. If they're creeping up on an enemy outpost, they don't have to describe in minute detail how they're checking for booby-traps and scouts to get the benefits of their characters abilities, i.e. perception. They should describe their actions, but only to the degree that it helps them role-play. Painstakingly detailed descriptions of such things put me to sleep.

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Old 03-05-2007, 01:48 PM   #12
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Default Re: Player Paranoia and Character Surprise: How to GM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Tommi_Kovala
If their character's weren't originally meant to be paranoid, obsessive-compulsive wackos, tell them to stop ruining the game. It would be fine if they played variations of Adrian Monk, but a normal person doesn't second-guess everything. IT could be that the player's motives are elsewhere and he doesn't value immersion, story and setting that much. I hope this is not the case, though.
On the other hand, it could be that the GM's motives are suspect, putting his desires for a particular kind of story ahead of the player's right to play his character in what seems to him a sensible fashion. It's one thing if the PCs start out being utterly paranoid without any in-game reason for it. However, it's quite another if the GM creates a world where the couch cushions may very well be booby trapped from time to time, or where very bad things are likely to happen if the PCs find themselves in a situation where their equipment is taken away from them.

True, normal people don't second-guess everything. But PCs aren't normal people, nor do they inhabit a normal world. They inhabit a world full of lethal hazards, both hidden and obvious. Self-preservation is always a valid motivation for a PC, and in a dangerous world, checking to make sure that couch isn't mined and the old man isn't an alien wearing a mask simply makes good sense.
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Old 03-05-2007, 03:10 PM   #13
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Default Re: Player Paranoia and Character Surprise: How to GM

One realistic way to handle PC alertness, though I've never seen it used in a game, would be to have people specify their alert level. Higher alert levels increase your assumed level of preparation, but mean that everything takes longer, fatigues you more, and gives you penalties on skills which are not related to what you're worrying about.
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Old 03-05-2007, 03:44 PM   #14
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Default Re: Player Paranoia and Character Surprise: How to GM

Well, if GMs make every routine thing explosive...then they'll be paranoid indeed.

So in order to have the players not freak out about going to the grocery store, it has to happen in the game frequently enough not to be a warning bell.

Some GMs/Players avoid normalcy and routine and only do go-go-go action. This means that all routine and normal things are seen as further parts of go-go-go action.

Having fully fleshed out worlds, realistic reactions to odd PC behavior, etc, tends to mitigate this situation.

For example, in whswhs's THS campaign that I'm playing in, I can tell you my PCs entire weekly routine and his daughter's routine. I know when he goes to the gym, when he comes in to work, how he gets to work, what activities his daughter does every day, when he goes to church, what bars he goes to after work and how regularly he does so, when he has all the kids in the play group over at his house for the weekend, when they are at other houses. The PCs regularly eat dinner together. Groceries have been bought, the news has been read, regular 10am meetings are had. We know our characters' routines and habits so well that bringin them up doesn't ring warning bells. Also, whswhs is just as likely to give us interesting in a positive way interactions or plot hooks as he is negative things...that we never start freaking out when he asks us when the next time we pick up our dry cleaning is.

Most recently, Bill asked us if we read the news in the morning and if so which sections. This seemed as much a character development question as anything else. My character read the front page and the sports section in the morning while he was jogging in the moring. Another PC read the front page and the Science Sections. Another PC read the front page and the Business section. Another PC doesn't read the news...just plays video games. We shared and we all learned something about each other's characters...unfortunately, on this day, there was a toxic meme in the front page news. Does that make us too paranoid to read the news from now on? No, because we've established that our characters read the news daily (well, most of our characters). Most of the time we read the news we learn about current events, get hints of how our actions have influenced the world, pick up plot hooks and clues, etc.

You have to have the routine actually be routine most of the time (and play it in game now and then), if you actually want the players to react that way to it. And if done right, the routine can be a solace...and island of refuge from the really not routine go-go-go action things that happen the rest of the time...so when you start threatening the refuge? Look out!
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Old 03-05-2007, 04:37 PM   #15
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Default Re: Player Paranoia and Character Surprise: How to GM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Anthony

One realistic way to handle PC alertness, though I've never seen it used in a game, would be to have people specify their alert level. Higher alert levels increase your assumed level of preparation, but mean that everything takes longer, fatigues you more, and gives you penalties on skills which are not related to what you're worrying about.
This is certainly how I GM my games. The players are welcome to say that their PCs are sleeping in armor, carrying an extra 20 lbs. of weaponry, setting heavy watches, etc., but then they have to accept a random fatigue penalty all the time. They're welcome to sniff for poison in drinks, frisk their host, and take a metal detector to the sofa, but then they have to accept severe reaction penalties from potential patrons and benefactors. They're welcome to say that when camped in the wild, they use the latrine with one hand on a loaded gun, but then they have to accept a roll to avoid an embarrassing incident ("On a failure, let's hope you have spare clothes and a shower bag. On a critical failure, let's roll to see what bits you shot off by accident . . .").

Generally, once people realize that I intend to be hard-nosed about this, they do what normal, sane humans do and don't sleep upright against walls, in full armor, with hands on loaded guns. Being heroic and skilled doesn't make such activity any less fatiguing or risky, after all.

That said, I've never once had a player complain when the camp is attacked at night and I've said, "Well, unless you were on watch, you're probably not in armor." Of course, this is in part because I'm fair about letting people "play dead" and surprise their attackers, and about making sure that those in their skivvies get bonuses to evade heavily laden foes. I'm also fair about surprises . . . I don't have leopards attack camps of armed men sleeping around campfires, and I don't have would-be assassins attempt suicide attacks at every juncture. In any event, most players of warriors seem to be keen on showing that their heroes can best foes even while naked and armed with nothing but a snapped-off bedpost, or while dressed in formal wear and armed with only a piece of silverware.

In the field on an adventure, though, I would never penalize a player for checking for traps or covering tracks. Of course professional adventurers take measures while actually on the hunt or being hunted. I can't imagine why even the bookish academic would forget his concealed .25 or use the front door instead of the back door while going to the library, if his objective is to research a dangerous conspiracy that might be spying on him even as he works, and I wouldn't fault the ex-commando for putting Claymores outside the party's log cabin at night after assassins have made a couple of attempts on party members. I only start assessing "readiness level" penalties when the measures taken are excessive and inappropriate. Things like concealed weapons and trip-wire mines are designed to let people be ready without being excessively on edge.
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Old 03-05-2007, 05:22 PM   #16
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Default Re: Player Paranoia and Character Surprise: How to GM

Hose your PCs for not being paranoid enough, and they will be more paranoid. Make generous concessions to their alertness and common sense - or just avoid sneaky things like poisoned dinners, sudden betrayals, and hidden traps altogether - and they'll relax.

Capture situations and other sorts of one-track plot devices require a bit of faith on the part of the players that this will be fun and exciting (honest!) and they'll get all their important stuff back at the end.. and that faith needs to be rewarded by the GM. Other posters have commented on turning the capture into an advantage (by putting the prisoners into an otherwise secret or heavily-guarded area where they can foil the enemy plan/take out the enemy leader/learn the big secret/steal the artifact/whatever) and I think that's an excellent idea.
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Old 03-05-2007, 05:28 PM   #17
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Default Re: Player Paranoia and Character Surprise: How to GM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Xplo

Other posters have commented on turning the capture into an advantage (by putting the prisoners into an otherwise secret or heavily-guarded area where they can foil the enemy plan/take out the enemy leader/learn the big secret/steal the artifact/whatever) and I think that's an excellent idea.
QFT. I've had my players plan for their PCs to get captured naked so that they could get close to the bad guys to spy, assassinate, etc. I allow this to work, if the PCs can defeat the obvious barriers to success.

This brings up an important point, though: Action heroes should generally be at least somewhat competent at picking locks, sneaking, escaping, etc., and at combat with bare hands, improvised weapons, and light weapons. The most vocal whining comes from players who create Mr. Action as a one-trick pony with all of his feats/points/dots in Big Sword or Huge Gun. You can blame the player, but I don't. I always tell my players from Day One that, really, an action hero without basic unarmed, stealth, and evasion skills isn't viable -- please redesign. I haven't seen a GURPS PC without an unarmed combat skill and a Stealth skill in years, now.

I consider this obvious . . . but really, it isn't. In skill-intensive games such as GURPS, especially, I can genuinely see how a player might not realize that stealth, evasion, and fighting unarmed are separate, trained fields that require an investment. The best way to set up fun and interesting capture and surprise scenarios is to make sure you subtly coach your players to design their PCs in such a way that they're not utterly useless if captured naked or forced to rely on subtlety instead of major force.

(I'll add that we can thank well-meaning but ultimately poorly conceived class systems for the common perception that only Thieves need stealth and Monks need unarmed combat, and that such things are beneath Warriors . . .)
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Old 03-05-2007, 07:12 PM   #18
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Default Re: Player Paranoia and Character Surprise: How to GM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Xplo
Capture situations and other sorts of one-track plot devices require a bit of faith on the part of the players that this will be fun and exciting (honest!) and they'll get all their important stuff back at the end.
Except my freakin' horse!

Otherwise, I've had pretty good expirences both as a player and as a GM with ambushes, prison breaks and the like. It does require a measure of trust between the GM and the players, though.

I don't really have a problem with PCs acting unreasonably paranoid, in general. It may be because I'm blessed with fairly good roleplayers.
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Old 03-05-2007, 08:23 PM   #19
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Default Re: Player Paranoia and Character Surprise: How to GM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kromm
I always tell my players from Day One that, really, an action hero without basic unarmed, stealth, and evasion skills isn't viable -- please redesign. I haven't seen a GURPS PC without an unarmed combat skill and a Stealth skill in years, now.
My friend Bryon from the group I used to game with in Iowa made CHAMPIONS stats for practically every hero in the Marvel and DC Universes. On one occasion, someone was playing Black Panther and discovered that he had neglected to give him the Stealth Skill when the character was trying to sneak up on a villain. So, the Black Panther had to make the standard 8 or less default roll for "Everyman" skills, and blew it. The GM announced that Black Panther had accidentally knocked over some garbage cans.

From that day onward it became a running gag in that group. Whenever anybody blew a Stealth roll, someone was bound to say, "That dang Black Panther is knocking over trash cans again!"

But Bryon never forgot to give a character that skill again.

* * * * *

One thing that eases the Paranoia factor a bit is that I cut my players a fair amount of slack about preparedness. If the player did not actually say they were taking a specific precaution ahead of time, but it is plausible that their character would have taken it, I allow him to make what I call a "Retroactive Smarts Roll" to see if the character had thought about it.
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Old 03-05-2007, 09:29 PM   #20
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Default Re: Player Paranoia and Character Surprise: How to GM

Quote:
Originally Posted by quarkstomper

One thing that eases the Paranoia factor a bit is that I cut my players a fair amount of slack about preparedness. If the player did not actually say they were taking a specific precaution ahead of time, but it is plausible that their character would have taken it, I allow him to make what I call a "Retroactive Smarts Roll" to see if the character had thought about it.
Absolutely. In GURPS, I make IQ useful even to non-intellectual PCs in this way. If they woulda, coulda, shoulda done something . . . well, on a successful IQ roll, they did. I'll even be nice and let them use relevant skills (like the Soldier skill, for weapons n' tactics stuff), if better than IQ. I specifically reserve automatic hosing for PCs who have suitable disadvantages -- Absent-Mindedness ("Oops, you forgot!"), Impulsiveness ("You went off and did it before you prepared!"), Laziness ("You just didn't bother."), Slow Riser ("Er, you just got up . . . no way you're that on the ball."), and of course Cursed ("I want to hose you. Please thank me and ask for more."). And I grant automatic preparedness to PCs with traits such as Common Sense ("Of course you did that first -- it's only sensible.").
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