Monday, January 24, 2011

Only Rewarding Random Success

I am a avid reader of Schlock Mercenary webcomic by Howard Tayler. Today there is a short video loop on his site of him doing a happy dance (because he got his comics done early). There is also a link to the full video on Youtube. After checking out the link I decided to watch one of his other videos "Talent? Who needs Talent?". Now I consider myself a creative person and (slightly) smarter than your average bear. So his lecture was most illuminating. In it he explores that relationship between talent and practice and success at any endevor. For those of you who haven't watched it yet here is what it boils down to. Talent is not responsible in any measurable way for success. Instead he reaffirms the old adage "practice makes perfect".People get to the top by practice. By working at it for a long time. Despite that, it occured to me that we tend to only look at talent as nessesary for success. And our society is obsesed with success. We love "winners". We pour accolades on and practally worship those who eccel at something. And only talented people will succed. That somehow the top of the heap are better than us lesser people. That they are destined for better things. We love the idea of the overnight success story. And as a society we only reward people for their success.The effort is ignored and only the result matters. This view even is present in RPGs. Why do we only get experience points for winning? In D&D you don't get XP for fighting the monster you get it killing it (or otherwise overcoming it). Only success matters. The players can have a good plan for dealing with the monster but ultimately it comes down to random die rolls. And the game rewards talent by having those rolls modified by bonuses for high stats. For example the level 1 fighting man with 18 strength vs a level 3 fighting man with 12 strength. Assume the same hit points for both. The odds favor the higher strength over the greater level. You can argue that the level 3 fighter should have more hit points and therefore last longer in the fight thus winning. But what if that player rolled poorly for hit points. And hit point rolls are modified by high constitution, once again rewarding a "talent".
I have decided that in my game there will not be any personal stat bonuses. They were optional anyway and were added in later supplements to the orginal rules. I feel that they alter the results of a random die roll by something that was itself gained by a random die roll. Thats too much randomness for me. The critics will decry that then stats don't matter. I will still allow the XP bonuses as per the rules as they don't seem too unreasonable. And stats will matter in a different way see my post Using The Numbers . And the other change is that players will get XP for fighting monsters not killing them. As long as you survive the encounter you get the points. The reward will be geared to the effort not the result. And the result will be judged more from good play and less from die rolls.

1 comment:

  1. Rewarding a player for the accomplishment of a character is what robs the game of its role playing. Great Actors are great because they get lost in the role, you stop seeing Johnny Depp and only see Jack Sparrow. When Johnny Depp prepares for a role he studies the role until he understands it completely and then creats that character. When gamers become a character its often only to reep the artifical rewards. Often they are not really interested in understanding the character or willing to put in the effort required to make the role a rewarding Success. I once saw a Barbarian charge past a party and attack a Dragon because the player thought thats what a Barbarian would do,unbeleavable was the GM and other players bying this crap and allowed it to continue. A barbarian is a way of life which includes maximun reward with the least effort it does not include stupidity (stupid Barbarians die young)
    If players were more willing to prepare for the role in the way a good actor would prepare for a role, they would find the game more personaly rewarding and the virtual rewards would have less meaning.(if you are going to be a cleric study the spell book and learn everything you can about the role of a Cleric before you become one)
    Overall this seems to be a reflection upon a society that only wants the rewards, but are not willing to put in the "practice" that taking on the role requires. They spend a lifetime looking for something that is right in front of them only they Can't quite see it (they often demand rule changes to make up for the fact they didn't study). Its called a "Roll Playing Game" for a reason Folks.