Author Topic: Outsourcing tasks during fights - pros and cons  (Read 2841 times)

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Offline GoingNegative

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Outsourcing tasks during fights - pros and cons
« on: April 29, 2011, 03:22:00 AM »
For the sake of control, there is some information every GM in his right mind keeps to himself during a fight. This includes hidden traps and secret doors in the combat area and probably most of the information regarding NPCs that is not visible to the PCs.
 
I can only speak for myself, but at some point the need for control conflicts with the need for free headspace. Though I dare say that all save the idiot savant get at least slightly dizzy after a long night of calculations, keeping track of NPC agendas, tactics and movement, consulting the attack & critical tables, looking up rules and definitions, etc.
 
For many the solution is to give up some control. For instance, I imagine most GM think it's fine to let the players know exactly how many hits their opponents has taken at any given point during the fight, instead of saying "he looks pretty messed up, limping and bleeding from his right arm". This allows for delegating the task of tracking the damage inflicted on PCs and NPCs, which again give the GM an opportunity to allocate his mental resources elsewhere.
 
I imagine that different GMs solve this problem in various ways, according to their own strengths and weaknesses. Many may not see this as a problem at all. Me, I'm quite happy outsourcing some tasks to my players (owing to limited headspace, no doubt). That said I do of course recognize the need for control, so while I outsource the keeping score of damages and let them do much of the calculation, I am for instance the one in control of looking up and reading out loud attack results and critical results, owing to the players not knowing their NPCs OBs, DBs, etc.
 
Different GMs draw the line differently, meaning the tasks done by players and GMs vary in different groups. Are you a control freak GM or more of a lazy/limited working memory GM? What do you let your players know and what do you consider absolutley secret information? And what are the consequences of this? Which tasks do you reckon the players can be "trusted with" during a fight? Ever heard of GMs giving up almost all control, save the most obvious such as hidden traps?
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Offline Vector Z

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Re: Outsourcing tasks during fights - pros and cons
« Reply #1 on: April 29, 2011, 03:59:14 AM »
Personally, I not only think it's totally acceptable, I think it's a great idea. I've not been in the situation where I got buried in numbers (cause I just make them up as I go along :P), but I don't think there's anything wrong with getting help from the players, for 2 reasons:

1. It keeps the game flowing. You don't want everyone, in the middle of heated combat, waiting on you to get the math right.

2. It keeps the players engaged. They're a lot less likely to turn on the TV or play around with their phone cause it's not their turn yet, if they have something useful to do in the meantime.

The most important thing is to keep the game fun for everyone. If that means relegating tasks, then go for it. I mean is there that much difference between saying "The orc is heavily injured, and just barely able to stand" and "the orc has 5 hits left"? Heck, why not say both? You know what information really needs to be kept from the players.

Offline providence13

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Re: Outsourcing tasks during fights - pros and cons
« Reply #2 on: April 29, 2011, 07:44:28 AM »
All the players grab a different book and help with the work.
The Monk/Ranger might take Arms Law, the Mage SOHK and the Thief has Spell Law or visa versa.
If they want the Character to use knowledge the Player has, I ask for a Combat awareness, Spell Lore, Religion Lore, etc
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Offline GrumpyOldFart

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Re: Outsourcing tasks during fights - pros and cons
« Reply #3 on: April 29, 2011, 07:52:37 AM »
Ever since I had kids, I've stood by the belief that the quickest way for a child to learn good judgment is to allow them opportunities to exercise poor judgment, and deal with the consequences.

In much the same way, I feel like "trusting" your players is something of a moot point. The quickest way for players to learn to keep player and character knowledge separate is to allow them to combine the two once or twice and screw up the fun of their own game by doing so.

Granted, you are limited in the amount you're willing to allow someone to screw up the game for everyone around him, just like you're limited in your willingness to allow your 6 year old to exercise poor judgment by letting him drive your car.

 :o
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Offline Thom @ ICE

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Re: Outsourcing tasks during fights - pros and cons
« Reply #4 on: April 29, 2011, 08:49:58 AM »
My preferences are more along the line of letting the players assist with looking things up and tracking player side data - but I still like keeping the specifics about the NPCs/Monsters to myself (GM). It's not about the #'s but really about the story.  For my games I prefer not to talk in numbers except where absolutely necessary.

Players track their own hits, their own power points, etc. and when it's running right, they describe their status in terms of "Darkroth is badly wounded, with a major bleed, and he's stumbling, as he is only able to defend himself, and unable to muster an attack."

There's no reason for the player next to him to know that he's down to 4 hits and has a -3 bleeder going, while he's stunned.  From that description the players should all know themselves.

If everyone is doing that, and maintaining their own information - then it becomes easier to keep the suspension of disbelief going.

This also can be applied to the attack rolls.  Players announcing, my total is 147. (After calculating for all known modifiers)  The GM then applies the DB and special modifiers and announces the color commentary for the strike while marking down the #'s and crit impact.  Similarly the GM announces the monsters vicious claw slash is a 112, and then the player states the impact of the DB and any other modifiers they feel are relevant and announces what the damage was in descriptive terms, marking their sheets appropriately.
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Offline GrumpyOldFart

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Re: Outsourcing tasks during fights - pros and cons
« Reply #5 on: April 29, 2011, 09:55:57 AM »
Exactly. If you're withholding information because of trust issues, you're doing it wrong. If you're withholding information because it would be a "spoiler", well that's the way it's supposed to work.
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Offline Grinnen Baeritt

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Re: Outsourcing tasks during fights - pros and cons
« Reply #6 on: April 29, 2011, 10:19:45 AM »
I give one player the task of who has achieved what for recording xp (Yes, I like to go by the book with this regard :P)... and that is usually the non-com of the party.

The rest I just give their own combat tables for the weapons that they use (but not the crit tables).

Offline Ecthelion

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Re: Outsourcing tasks during fights - pros and cons
« Reply #7 on: April 29, 2011, 11:44:20 AM »
We always "outsourced" some GM tasks. So one player managed the Damage Record Sheet, another tracked the XPs and the rest looked up results in Arms Law or Spell Law attack / critical tables. Now that we use Goal Based XPs, the task of tracking XPs is much easier and no longer given to the players.

Offline GoingNegative

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Re: Outsourcing tasks during fights - pros and cons
« Reply #8 on: April 29, 2011, 12:09:20 PM »
I see that I could have chosen my words with more care. When I speak of "trust" and "control", I mean control over the story in order to make it an interesting one for the players to be a part of. It is my belief that giving away all the NPC information simply does not make the story very interesting for the players.

The question then becomes how much information can you make public, and still make the story interesting. If you hand out weapon attack tables and let them work out the results on their own, it implies making NPC defensive bonus offical information. Right?
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Offline markc

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Re: Outsourcing tasks during fights - pros and cons
« Reply #9 on: April 29, 2011, 01:00:34 PM »
First make sure players record their OB-DB split before rolling Init. This solves many problems in the game.
Second I do let players have weapon charts but I do all the crits. This does involve letting the players know a DB but in terms of speed it helps a lot. I also vary the OB-DB split quite often of opponents, especially if they use Adrenals. 
Third I try and not give away too much info and if players react to info they would not know I call them on it. 


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Offline GrumpyOldFart

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Re: Outsourcing tasks during fights - pros and cons
« Reply #10 on: April 29, 2011, 01:01:34 PM »
Quote
If you hand out weapon attack tables and let them work out the results on their own, it implies making NPC defensive bonus offical information. Right?

By the time the first shot has either hit or failed to hit, his DB would already be a fairly well known quantity to the characters, they just would be expressing that knowledge by their reactions rather than in numbers and words. By the 5th round or so their assessment would probably be pretty definite. I'm not sure I see why this is a problem.
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Offline Thom @ ICE

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Re: Outsourcing tasks during fights - pros and cons
« Reply #11 on: April 29, 2011, 02:21:18 PM »
If you simply have them announce their roll results and you handle the DB side it is a non-issue.
For attacks against them, they've already announced their split, so when you announce the NPC roll result they do the math and read the result themselves (including updating their records).

If you are going to have them do everything, and share the hits (max and current) for NPC's, then giving them the DB info each round is little extra.
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Offline Vector Z

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Re: Outsourcing tasks during fights - pros and cons
« Reply #12 on: April 29, 2011, 11:56:21 PM »
I typically let players roll their own attacks, their own crits, let them have the satisfaction (or frustration) of knowing how much damage they did. I don't typically let them know how many hits their opponent has, but besides that, I don't see any problem with sharing numbers information with them. Just think of it as the game mechanic's interpretation of the PCs realizing their opponent's ability level through their performance.

Let's pretend...

Mr A is fighting Mr B. Mr A has 50 OB and 10 DB. Mr B has 30 OB and 25 DB. You could hide all of Mr B's information from Mr A and vice versa, and describe a battle round with something like "Mr A is a little slow, but his attacks are direct, forceful, and well-timed" and "Mr B is very nimble and ducks your attacks well, but his attacks lack intensity".

Or you can say "Mr A has 50 OB and 10 DB. Mr B has 30 OB and 25 DB." Believe me, it's when the crits start rolling that players really get impressed, not vague riddle-like "descriptions".

Obviously, you'll have to experiment a bit to find where your balance lies. But to me, it's always more important to keep the players entertained than in the dark. You'll know how to do that with your group better than any of us ;)

Offline GoingNegative

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Re: Outsourcing tasks during fights - pros and cons
« Reply #13 on: May 01, 2011, 05:41:15 AM »
Obviously, you'll have to experiment a bit to find where your balance lies. But to me, it's always more important to keep the players entertained than in the dark. You'll know how to do that with your group better than any of us ;)

Indeed. And to keep the entire group entertained, GM included, I think experimentation is the order of the day.

The way we do things now goes something like this: The players feed the GM with PC OBs and roll results and our human calculator Hubbaman chips in with various modifications due to damage. The GM then add confidential numbers such as NPC DB, process the numbers, looks up the results in the tables and reads the result out loud. With NPC attacks the input and processing is all GM, the players only get the output part: hits and crit result.

I like the idea of handing out the attack tables and letting players do their own attacks. Hopefully it'll serve several purposes, both speeding things up, involving the players more in the fight and sharing the burden.
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Offline Rasyr-Mjolnir

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Re: Outsourcing tasks during fights - pros and cons
« Reply #14 on: May 01, 2011, 06:57:35 AM »
One thing to keep in mind when outsourcing like this is that, as GM, only you know the true numbers. If the foe is intelligent, he could be parrying, and the players will never know exactly how much (especially if you shift it from time to time). There may also be other things that the players may not be aware, such as bonuses from magical items, etc..

And for monsters, well, the monster books have the rules for adjusting the levels and other stats of the monsters for a reason.  ;D I rarely, if ever used a monster's stats straight out of the book.

So, when GMing, a couple of players would help out with the tables, and I would give them the final total of the roll, and they would look it up. And when they were making attacks, I would take the totals they gave, apply the DB (+/- parrying, and any other relevant factors, and there were often some) and hand back the final total of the roll, and they would look up the results, read me the critical, and then I would tell them what they see (they were good about keeping player knowledge separate from character knowledge - so this worked well).

Offline GrumpyOldFart

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Re: Outsourcing tasks during fights - pros and cons
« Reply #15 on: May 01, 2011, 08:43:23 AM »
Not to mention that as long as there are penalties for being wounded, all those numbers are subject to change without notice. So if the GM tells a player what the monster's DB is... well that's only what its DB is this round.
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Offline Rasyr-Mjolnir

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Re: Outsourcing tasks during fights - pros and cons
« Reply #16 on: May 01, 2011, 11:32:20 AM »
Not to mention that as long as there are penalties for being wounded, all those numbers are subject to change without notice. So if the GM tells a player what the monster's DB is... well that's only what its DB is this round.

Exactly. The GM doesn't have to share out where the numbers came from, only the current number...

And if you are using options, such as being allowed to parry multiple foes, by splitting the amount of OB moved to DB between the multiple foes, you could easily have 2 different DBs for the same monster in the same round.

I always made it a rule to not discuss the source of numbers in the middle of a combat, but was always quite willing to break it down for the player afterwards if they asked.

Offline jurasketu

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Re: Outsourcing tasks during fights - pros and cons
« Reply #17 on: May 11, 2011, 11:39:41 PM »
I use nothing but open combat/RR rolls. Usually, I calculate and announce the numerical result (making the adjustments in my head) and let the players look up the effect on the charts. Since I use SPAR (my parry system), the OB/DB totals tend to leak out after a few rounds and then we just talk "openly". But I try to keep the numbers "hidden" as long as possible for best possible "player suspense". My players prefer not to know if we can manage because its more fun that way.

But you have to make concessions to the sheer weight of numbers. I like to do large sprawling combats, so we use markers/dice to indicate injuries, stun, bleeds, etc positioned next to the miniatures so we don't have to track on paper. I do make the players right down their actions for each round. I then declare all bad guy actions (no writing). The players then declare their written actions. I adjudicate. Goes pretty quick.
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