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Four against One equals a fair fight

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It suddenly dawned on slow-old me that the meta-game premise for d20 in general is that four CRx vs. 1 CRx is a fair fight (for the four). Why? They will almost certainly win, barring terrible luck synchronising with the one’s bad luck, and lose very little resources. As soon as  you look at it the other way, say the PCs are the monsters and the NPCs the heroes, it becomes quite bizarre and truly gamist.

 

The assumption that many d20 players make is that all their encounters will be within the CR guidelines as presented in the DMG. This automatically prevents sandbox play if the GM adheres to that formula. If party of 4 level 1 characters goes deliberately hunting the great-dragon-sitting-on-treasure-mountain then the CR of the dragon has to be CR5 or less. What that does to the internal-causality of the world is nothing less than defenestrating.

 

Sure it’s preference and all that but basic logic shows it to be nothing more than an insurance policy against player death. If that’s the meta-game you want when you play why bother with rules of conflict at all, since ultimately the player has to win?

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Kiltayre: GM notes

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We’re about 5 sessions into the arc. It’s based on a few concepts:

A group of small-town, quite naive, friends adventuring together.

A “destiny” for the characters.

Play-style that is about the characters actually making it to the end of the main-plot.

Dangerous environment that requires co-operation, resource-tracking and planning to survive.

 

Given these influences on the game the style is a bit of a departure from our previous games. They were more about action and tactics than about heroics and interplay. That is still a part of the game but it’s dominance in the fore of attention has waned. They players are well aware they are potent for their level but understand that they can encounter threats far beyond their own combat capability. However, as GM I’ve committed to keep the base meta-game in play. That is encounter levels/CR are within the stated guidelines of the core books.

 

In combination with the game-rule elements of Fate Points and the in-game phylacteries, the PCs have a very strong case for making it to the end of the main plot. The challenge is to keep them motivated to pursue the main plot. So far it’s working well.

 

Last session was a bit of a “haunting”. With strange noises, slamming doors that shifted which way they opened, and the “ghost” in the crypt. Although the end of the game had them pointed straight back at the crypt it was great mental cliff-hanger (IMO) and it seemed to have the effect on the players’ faces.

 

Next session the grand plot will start to become visible to the players. Hopefully it will really push their buttons and get them motivated even more. For me, if an RPG is not about emotions then it is only about tactics and one may as well play miniature war-games instead.

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