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Old 08-12-2022, 07:43 PM   #1
Michael Thayne
 
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Default The ability of DFRPG PCs to "break" the world

Many RPGs suffer from the problem that they unintentionally make it relatively easy for PCs to "break" the world—that is, they can thoroughly upend a key aspect of the world's status quo, be it economic, political, military, or something else (though often once you've upended things in one arena, it's often just a short step to upending things in other arenas). In D&D, and some superhero games, it can be because even supposedly "mid-tier" PCs are just that powerful. In sci-fi games, it can be because nobody is using the world's handwavium particularly intelligently, creating room for intelligent PCs to conquer the galaxy, or at least the sector. This can be sort of embarrassing for the GM, or whoever designed the setting—if the status quo is so easily swept away, how the heck did it even become the status quo in the first place?

However... and this seems so surprising to me I never seriously considered it until now... might DFRPG avoid this problem? It tries very hard to omit the potentially world-breaking spells from GURPS Magic. For all its embrace of silly TTRPG tropes, avoids suggesting that the PCs can roll up on Ye Olde Magic Item Shoppe and buy whatever world-shaking magic item they please if they have enough gold. And unlike in D&D, no PC has an order of magnitude more hit points than the average soldier.

Can this really be true? Or am I overlooking something important?
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Old 08-13-2022, 03:35 PM   #2
mburr0003
 
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Default Re: The ability of DFRPG PCs to "break" the world

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Originally Posted by Michael Thayne View Post
This can be sort of embarrassing for the GM, or whoever designed the setting—if the status quo is so easily swept away, how the heck did it even become the status quo in the first place?
Insufficient thought and playtesting on the part of the setting/game designer.

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However... and this seems so surprising to me I never seriously considered it until now... might DFRPG avoid this problem?
DFRPG doesn't try to stop "world-breaking" spells and abilities, it removes "adventure avoiding" spells and alters ones that would lead to a PC Wizard (for instance) just becoming a stone mason for big bucks.

Other than that, it really does somewhat embrace the "go gonzo my lad" mentality of the older "Medieval" Fantasy Super-hero games.

However, that can also be easily tempered by the GM just withholding magic items and exp, or gating off some of the more ludicrous "reality-bending' power-ups or putting in lower Attribute and Skill limits (Attributes have a pretty high ceiling and it's expected PCs will buy up Attributes over Skills, and Skills canonically have no limit in DFRPG).

I mean it's whole premise is very much Mike Mearls "Back to the Dungeon" mindset, handwaving Town and abstracting non-'Dungeoneering' social and adventuring rolls down as much as possible.
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Old 08-14-2022, 03:01 AM   #3
Michael Thayne
 
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Default Re: The ability of DFRPG PCs to "break" the world

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Originally Posted by mburr0003 View Post
Insufficient thought and playtesting on the part of the setting/game designer.
To be clear I was asking a rhetorical question.

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DFRPG doesn't try to stop "world-breaking" spells and abilities, it removes "adventure avoiding" spells and alters ones that would lead to a PC Wizard (for instance) just becoming a stone mason for big bucks.

Other than that, it really does somewhat embrace the "go gonzo my lad" mentality of the older "Medieval" Fantasy Super-hero games.

However, that can also be easily tempered by the GM just withholding magic items and exp, or gating off some of the more ludicrous "reality-bending' power-ups or putting in lower Attribute and Skill limits (Attributes have a pretty high ceiling and it's expected PCs will buy up Attributes over Skills, and Skills canonically have no limit in DFRPG).

I mean it's whole premise is very much Mike Mearls "Back to the Dungeon" mindset, handwaving Town and abstracting non-'Dungeoneering' social and adventuring rolls down as much as possible.
I think as-written, the handwaving of Town involves stipulating that the world won't break no matter what the PCs do. To quote Exploits p. 13 (emphasis in original):
Delvers can act however they want in the dungeon but should be polite in town. Town is home to markets that absorb limitless treasure. Its clerics and wizards command magic beyond adventurers’ ken, while its homegrown criminals own the streets. It’s able to protect its citizens and the farmers who feed them from roaming monsters (unlike tiny villages, which always need outside assistance!). Its power drops off rapidly outside its walls – but within, heroes who don’t behave heroically will pay.
What I wonder though is whether you need to go so far as postulating spellcasters with NPC-only abilities and such. Weight of numbers, combined with the fact that there's not really any way to "buy off" certain basic mortal vulnerabilities, might be enough. Maybe.
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Old 08-14-2022, 04:49 AM   #4
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Default Re: The ability of DFRPG PCs to "break" the world

This answer will tread dangerously on the GURPS not DFRPG line but Im trying to stay in the boundaries.

I think what you have noticed is what I have referred to as lvl1 vs lvl20 reality separation. This is one of the biggest differences with a GURPS based game, though the terminology of explanation with be from one of the other games.

It is observed thusly... a "Lvl1" prospective adventurer walks into a bar, he's a burly fellow who grew up hard but now he's outgrown his families pig farm and doily shop so he's looking to see more of the world and maybe make a name for himself. (Translation he's a Lvl1 Fighter of some variety, roll a D20 three times and take the best number for HPs, a beafy brawler)

Sitting in the corner sipping on a dainty beverage is a small man with bright twinkling eyes. He's a "Lvl20" wizard who's just gone on a walk about to get away from studying the inter-dimensional widget factory he found when he discovered a way to move to other planes of reality. (This is the stereo typical "squishy", rolls a D4 for HPs and cant wear metal armor cause... reasons)

Exactly what you would expect happens and the Lvl1 takes umbrage to the Lvl20s dainty beverage and decides to start making a name for himself.

Heres where the difference in a game systems really show through

Those other systems... The Lvl20 is amused and proceeds to demonstrate that the lvl1 is a putz. Even though the wizard has never rolled better than a 2 for HPs dice, he has 40HPs and because he's leveled he's become much harder to hit inherently (as a result of leveling). He is never once in any danger that this buffoon could harm him, let alone defeat him and take his stuff.
The Lvl1 has an impressive 17Hps and can do a great deal of damage with his strength, and he has a little brass knuckle surprise for anyone he feels might be a challenge. He never actually has a chance, he can't even land a blow on this tiny twig of a man. Even if he could for some reason this scrawny book worm just takes anything he can dish out, its like punching an Ox, it connects but all it seems to do is disgruntle the bovine.

There is no scenario short of the Lvl1 is scripted to win where he can win in this encounter. The Wizard though he's ill prepared to melee with any monster in his weight class, has nothing to fear from something so far beneath him. Their realities no longer intersect in the same place. The Lvl20 has no reason to interact with someone so low except because they wish it. The Lvl1 has nothing he can offer to the Lvl20 that can impact his reality in any meaningful way other than possibly psychologically.

This Lvl20 can engage evenly with the Lvl1 in his element with no issue.

Enter GURPS/DFRPG

This same 100pt fighter is a real danger to a 300pt wizard. Without some preparation, equipment, and possibly a bit of martial training picked up along the way this Fighter could handily beat him if this devolves into fisticuffs.

The fighter has 14HPs and a 12ST, the Wizard has 10ST and 11HPs (innately) he's put the majority of his points into the ability to cast spells, a deep FP pool and other IQ related skills, advantages etc..

If this wizard tries to engage the fighter in his element without the aid of his magics or equipment built/acquired he's likely gonna get a beating.

summation

This is one of the main reasons I switched away from those other games. In GURPS No matter how good a wizard some one has become you are still human. Once you strip away the equipment and ability to prepare in advance a high point character is just as susceptible as a low point character.

You are not operating in a separate reality, you may run in different spheres of influence, you may have differing ability to alter the world around you. You might not have the same impact on the world but its not because you have moved into a different reality, it's because you have a reputation, skills, knowledge and have shown the "people that matter" that you are one of them.

But you still need to eat, look out for an arrow in a dark alley, need a safe place to sleep, just like everyone else.
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Old 08-15-2022, 06:17 AM   #5
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Default Re: The ability of DFRPG PCs to "break" the world

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Originally Posted by bocephus View Post
There is no scenario short of the Lvl1 is scripted to win where he can win in this encounter. The Wizard though he's ill prepared to melee with any monster in his weight class, has nothing to fear from something so far beneath him. Their realities no longer intersect in the same place. The Lvl20 has no reason to interact with someone so low except because they wish it. The Lvl1 has nothing he can offer to the Lvl20 that can impact his reality in any meaningful way other than possibly psychologically.
I think that's a bit exaggerated. If both of these guys are in their street clothes the wizard hits about twice as often (or maybe a little less depending on DX bonuses to AC) and has twice as many HP, but he also inflicts a few points less damage with each hit, especially with those brass knuckles in play. He probably wins a fist fight, but it's not [impossible] for him to lose. What makes him a combat monster in D&D and not GURPS is the GURPS magic system was built around tactical combat, and there are few if any spells that give casters the sort of unit killing powers D&D wizards inherited from their wargaming roots even at fairly modest levels.
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Old 08-15-2022, 10:59 AM   #6
Michael Thayne
 
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Default Re: The ability of DFRPG PCs to "break" the world

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What makes him a combat monster in D&D and not GURPS is the GURPS magic system was built around tactical combat, and there are few if any spells that give casters the sort of unit killing powers D&D wizards inherited from their wargaming roots even at fairly modest levels.
This is a good point. If you trace back D&D's roots far enough, you find it's just assumed important characters can make a major contribution at the tactical level. Before there were even class levels you had game designers saying "hmmm, let's have 'hero' units stipulated to be worth four regular men, and 'superhero' units stipulated to be worth eight regular men".
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Old 08-15-2022, 12:38 PM   #7
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Default Re: The ability of DFRPG PCs to "break" the world

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Originally Posted by Michael Thayne View Post
What I wonder though is whether you need to go so far as postulating spellcasters with NPC-only abilities and such. Weight of numbers, combined with the fact that there's not really any way to "buy off" certain basic mortal vulnerabilities, might be enough. Maybe.
I think the "basic mortal vulnerabilities" go a long way toward handling this issue.

A town guard with a crossbow is a viable threat to most PCs. Sure, a prepared delver can counter that threat, but this encourages dramatic moments in the fiction. ("I take an all-out defense and prepare to do an acrobatic dodge!" or "I try to fast-talk the guard while the thief sneaks around behind them!") The reality is that if that crossbow bolt hits, most PCs, especially if they're in street clothes, will be in serious trouble. Give that guard a few similarly armed buddies, and they are likely to be taken seriously.

In default D&D, it is hard to imagine why PCs would take any mundane opposition seriously after the first few levels. A crossbow bolt simply can't seriously harm a character.

I like having the NPC-only stuff in my back pocket, just in case, but I've never felt the need to flex those muscles yet.
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Old 08-15-2022, 02:37 PM   #8
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Default Re: The ability of DFRPG PCs to "break" the world

A bigger issue is lack of weapons. If someone goes from twenty odd skill in a swing cut weapon with weapon master to their 1pt in Brawling with their thr -1 cr fist they just cannot take folks down

Fully equipped a 500 odd point character can well have a sporting go with 6 Altar Warriors

Unarmed and unarmored I don't fancy chances 6 62pt guards
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Old 08-16-2022, 06:04 AM   #9
bocephus
 
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Default Re: The ability of DFRPG PCs to "break" the world

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Originally Posted by Kalzazz View Post
A bigger issue is lack of weapons. If someone goes from twenty odd skill in a swing cut weapon with weapon master to their 1pt in Brawling with their thr -1 cr fist they just cannot take folks down

Fully equipped a 500 odd point character can well have a sporting go with 6 Altar Warriors

Unarmed and unarmored I don't fancy chances 6 62pt guards

This is of course relative to DFRPG so sure a 500pt Delver might well include signature gear (which can be argued should be included in their "naked" state), but its also not just about points but about what they are spent on. It has less to do with point values than it has with skills/abilities/advantages relevant to the scene.

I think you might also be overlooking how Defaults might well factor in, but yes a build dependent on external factors that gets stripped of its access is in trouble. Same as a gun fighter that suddenly has no bullets or access to them, or a Mage in a no Mana zone.


All that said, IMO just about any 500pt delver would still be an odds on favorite to succeed in an encounter vs 6x 62pt fighters unless the scene has also been weighted in a way to make it more than just comparing character potentials. If you specifically cripple the character then its apparent they will be crippled.

Which was my point about the "Other game" in comparing a lvl1 fighter to a lvl20 wizard in a naked martial contest where the wizard should be at an extreme disadvantage, is not. (it was pointed out to me that I also neglected the HP bonus from constitution so the wizard even with a crappy average 2 would likely have 60hps which just makes the comparison more evident).
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