Troll Lord Games

What's Your CK Style?
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Author:  Aergraith [ Wed Jun 13, 2018 7:54 pm ]
Post subject:  What's Your CK Style?

Sometimes I think when I'm starting a new campaign, I should have a document not only of my house rules and setting notes, but kind of a disclosure of my CKing quirks. I know there have been little badges and questionnaires that have been made in the past. But maybe here you can put a freeform description of your CK style. One think I think is interesting: whatever I think my CK style is, my players might think it's totally different. Some of what I think my ideals are aren't what I put into practice.

My CK Style:
1. I like verisimilitude.
This means a lot of things, but mostly I want characters that fit the setting. The setting will also bend to fit the characters, but that is through their adventuring choices. I also tend to make NPCs evaluate the things PCs say and do in the context of the setting. They aren't likely to believe outlandish things no matter what the roll is.

2. I like a grim, shades-of-grey setting.
I don't think I go to the extreme of "grimdark" as people say, but I like a setting where the world continues to challenge the characters, the gods barely care about them (usually), and mostly people make their lives harder.

3. I like resource management, but don't always apply it.
I am a fan of the "how long will my torch last" minigame, the "how are you going to carry that" question, and other tropes of the genre. My players seldom help me keep track of that, and I accept the defeat.

4. The world is dark, but the characters don't have to be humorless.
Indeed, some of my favorite influences are hilarious. Fafhrd and Grey Mouser, Dying Earth, etc. are full of mischief, word games, and outlandish goofiness. As long as it's reasonably in-character.

5. Some metagaming is fine.
Perfect world, I'd make sure people in a fight weren't talking strategy out of character, or that people in a different room couldn't act on information the scout just found. In practice I usually let it slide. Extra points if you try though.

6. Good and Evil are either a thing, or they are not.
I try to be up front with alignment, and it depends on the setting. I am kind of a fan of the Three Hearts and Three Lions idea of Law vs. Chaos, or the Melnibonean take on it. Law and Chaos are actual real things, and not just matters of philosophy. So my Paladins need to stay on course and follow the dogma. (And paladins in my usual setting are rare as hen's teeth anyway). But, when I play in the "standard D&D setting" whatever that means, alignment is really defined by whatever rules, spells, and monsters are supposed to do with it.

7. I have a "standard D&D setting" in my head.
It's sort of back-constructed from the rules (all the rules from every edition), books, films, and heavily influenced by the red box D&D solo adventure (poor Aleena!). Whatever it is, I can't easily define it and many problems come from me not agreeing on how it matches with my players. As time goes on I learn to do better I hope.

8. I am not a fan of long character backstories.
Some people want them and that's fine. I just won't read them :). The reason is I want to place primary importance on what you do from now on. And also, no, you weren't the thrice-blessed scion of a royal family in my non-feudal setting, and if you were so great why are you first level? I am mean like that.

9. I quietly shake my head at min-maxing.
Don't get me wrong. It's responsible RPGing to make a character that can pull his or her own weight. But it's not important to be the best in the setting, world, campaign, or even the party.

10. Party over character.
I play with small groups, so there is some reason to go against this one, but in general, I prefer a group of single classed core character classes, and any decisions they make about their "builds" are meant to complement the team. If you try to make a Rambo for soloing the dungeon, well, you can, I just won't like it.

11. I follow the rules in the book.
At least when the book has the rules. Especially with a new system, I never make a house rule until it's absolutely required or I know it will make things better. Taste the soup, THEN add seasoning. If you do need house rules, though, there are good one for C&C on the forums written by people who found a need for them in play, and that's the first place I look when I need one. But by starting with by the book rules, everyone with the book has one place to look for them.

12. I don't like scene-editing.
Some games are heavy on players influencing cinematics through points and rolls: "I spend 2 scene points so there is a chandelier to swing on". I find these make a game turn silly quickly, at least in the hands of me and my players. I am unlikely to incorporate anything at that level.

13. I want your suggestions.
But I won't always use them, and I especially won't if they don't work with the setting. The suggestions I will ALWAYS use are the ones that can be done in character. "Next session we want to go to *this spot on the map* and see if there is *some activity that is likely to be there*. I'll roll to see what's there, but you always have a fair shake. And NPCs and other clues will tell you whether to bother.

14. I get ticked off when you don't track your damn arrows, hit points, etc.
And if we play online if your sheet isn't ready to play for someone who has to fill in for you. Also see resource management, above.

15. There is a metaplot.
Oh, but not a bad one. If I am playing my own setting, there are events that happen with or without you. You can slip in and out of those events whenever you want. If you want to influence the world you can, but if you don't, cities keep fighting, the wizards keep bickering, the crops fail, the gods show displeasure, etc. as usual. Metaplot can be a dirty word, but for me usually that refers to world changing events for setting books you bought and now are incompatible with your world. For a sandbox I think they are great.

16. I use the word sandbox a lot.
And I think I know what it means, and like everything else I think I know, it's probably wrong or disagrees with what you think. We'll work together to establish the parameters. I am in no way a purist about this anyway. My game has elements of hex crawl and published adventures and other stuff in between.

17. My descriptions need work.
I try to put you in the picture but like a 3 year old telling a story I often forget which parts I already know vs. which parts you already know. Bear with me, I will repeat myself.

18. If you don't pay attention, you will find the world boring.
If you aren't listening, you might not know that the wolf people live in the grasslands in the west, and that they hate Miagox the Archmage, and that they self-govern but are heavily advised by the swamp witch. Because I might only say it once in passing. These are the "hooks". You will probably get 3-5 of these each game. It's totally OK to not pursue them, but bear in mind this is my method of exposition.

19. I like maps.
I hate drawing them, but if I don't, people get lost and they can't perform meaningful tactics and end up playing sword patty-cake.

20. But there's no Google Maps for my world.
You barely know where the next city is. Maps are rare and you have to buy them, steal them, and make your own.

21. Monsters have their own thoughts.
Even the predators know when a meal is too costly. If they are intelligent you can bargain with them. If they are dumb, their tactics will be dumb. If they are smart their tactics will be dumb (but just because I am not that great at them.)

22. NPCs want to win.
So, they will put you to sleep and slit your throat. Act accordingly.

23. But _I_ have no investment in "winning".
Because if I did it would really suck and no one would have fun.

24. I am a jerk, but if you are winning, you are winning.
If my encounter is inadequate to kill you, and you find a way to rip through it without a scratch:

I won't:
1. Beef the encounter up. I play it as it lies.
2. Retaliate. The next group of monsters won't know how you got through this group and anticipate you unless they somehow know about it (a survivor gets back to them or something.)
That also means, for instance, in a closed dungeon, when you keep winning with fireballs I won't just drop in fire elementals to neutralize your advantage, unless I rolled for them or they were already there. Now, if you get a reputation for it and it's reasonable they know about it, fine, but I won't steal your victory and good planning.

Because players like it when they outsmart the dungeon and do well. And players who like the game sometimes even think I am a good CK. Wins all around.

I may decrease the power level of an encounter in a subtle way if I really misjudged it. I try not to be obvious about it because I want players to be able to make decisions based on their experiences (why was this dragon so much easier than the next one?) and I don't want to steal your exultation.

25. I want to be better.
Seriously, so you can tell me what I didn't do well. I might get hurt and cry for a few minutes but then I'll take it under consideration. After all, the important thing is having fun. I am not trying to teach players a lesson, I'm not trying to instill my preferences for role playing into them, and I am not doing a social experiment. We're sitting around pretending to be elves, and if that is not awesome and fun, then we are jaded indeed.

This ran to book-length pretty quickly. I guess if I have more to say I'll post this as a document to my website.

Author:  finarvyn [ Wed Jun 13, 2018 9:18 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: What's Your CK Style?

That's a huge list. I'm sure any answer that I give won't do it justice, but...

* I like to keep rules simple, and "wing it" as needed rather than take time to look things up.

* I like to emphasize the party over the individual, which discourages the "lonesome stranger" character as much as possible.

* I discourage the min/max, but won't disallow that stuff. Some folks like to do it, but I try not to let their characters dominate.

* I try not to sweat the details of resource management most of the time; I don't count arrows or torches unless there is a reason in the plot that I should do so and when I do my players take notice of the fact.

* I like for players to "win" so monsters are often dumb and NPCs can be out-thought much of the time; however, I want the action at the end to be dire so that the players think that at any time their characters might die.

That's five key ideas that popped into my head on the spur of the moment. There are probably others. :)

Author:  Omote [ Wed Jun 13, 2018 9:51 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: What's Your CK Style?

I think we're cut from the same cloth for the most part. I certainly cannot come up with such a well-defined CKing style as you, but I think I follow many of the same concepts.

The one thing that I LOVE to do as a player is count details hard. Resource management to me as a player is key, and I love that part of the game. As a CK, I try to instill that in the game, but have to handwave some of it for the betterment of the overall game.

I can go with a good backstory (as long as it fits the setting), or leave it. I have players who do it both ways, and sometimes I love to create a character and go, or have a detailed history. Just depends on the mood and/or character.


Author:  Go0gleplex [ Wed Jun 13, 2018 10:15 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: What's Your CK Style?

I tend to prep a lot beforehand, mainly since I write my own stuff and need to keep my thoughts straight.

I tend to be about 85-90% by the book. I enjoy the players have a short biography or simply background notes with highlights and goals. Something I can work into the game itself for that little extra bit of accomplishment or engagement.

I play mind games with the characters/players in that the dungeon/adventures get designed with at least one or two situations that take advantage of their character flaws...and if they give in the hurt comes down. :twisted:

Some joking around is okay, but I have no tolerance for grab-assery at my table or people that are more interested in their phones or what-not than the game itself. It's rude to me and to the other players. Those that persist in such behaviors usually do not last long in the game nor are they invited back.

I'm treasure stingy and make players work for it. Though I also don't pay a lot of attention to the treasure tables and have the main trove fit the setting/situation.

Not to worried about resource management unless it is pertinent to the adventure or situation. Some of that I let rest on the players shoulders as well.

Author:  serleran [ Wed Jun 13, 2018 10:37 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: What's Your CK Style?

I don't have one.

Or rather, I guess its more "do whatever you like, I'll roll along."

I try to make sure I have fun, so things might be wacky gonzo or become dreadfully srsbiz.

I don't like a lot of wasted time and get bored with player inactivity so I tend to spice things up with random whateves.

Author:  Penny-Whistle [ Wed Jun 13, 2018 11:30 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: What's Your CK Style?

I was an English lit major when I went to uni.
Stories, meaningful conflict and characters really matter to me. The two guards at the gate are completely different people. He has a young family at home and is going to avoid any conflict at all costs. The other is a older dude sick and tired of earning a pittance. Together, they fight crime. If you spend any time talking to them you might find a small bribe goes a long way.

I am a biology nerd.
When I create a planet or setting I actually do think about whether or not it can sustain life. If so I consider geography, climate and weather. Then I furnish it with appropriate plants that support the whole system. I carefully consider what animals and monsters might make sense. None of this will probably be obvious to my players but this aspect brings me more joy than I can express.

The natural environment is the key to everything.
The world has an economic system appropriate to that environment. It might be a mining town with life support systems beneath ground. Overhead the atmosphere is noxious. The workers are terribly exploited as a result. Or maybe they have formed a tight knit cooperative and are going to be super suspicious of you outsiders. In a more benign setting rich with abundance a modern urban metropolis might pop up. I consider what kind of political system makes sense. What would the dominant religion look like.

Theme informs adventure and conflict planning
to keep things unified. It might be as vague as “Smells like corporate fascism.” From that seed I think of the problems the people might face if that were the case. Maybe the political system has recently crashed and a violent mafia group has filled in the void. There might be a religion funded by a slave trade. Maybe there is a corporation that performs terrible experiments on people. If player characters talk to locals they will find the hooks. And if the group doesn’t come to the table with a lot of energy for finding a hook there will be a 5 room dungeon nearby. In a scifi setting it could be a top secret facility run by those rogue scientists.

After that I try to focus on making the players the centre of everything
I value the time and energy people put into making characters. Everyone won’t be a hero every night but every game night I will try to set up multiple situations where someone will have an opportunity to shine. I also try to value play style. Does someone really like puzzles? Then I will include them. Does someone really dig role playing? I will make sure opportunities are available. And if someone loves to hack and slash ... well then let the blood sports begin!

Known Weaknesses
I love plot twists. Probably too much. My players get awfully paranoid. I want the action to move quickly. If a group dithers I will pull out some kind of random table and start rolling. Becoming a more patient person is a personal goal ;) If players split the party I have few strategies to work with that and still make it interesting to all.

The one thing I know is that I have much to learn so when I ask how did the game go I really do want to know what worked and what didn’t.

Author:  ssfsx17 [ Thu Jun 14, 2018 3:52 am ]
Post subject:  Re: What's Your CK Style?

In many ways, my style is a kind of Anti-Style. But thinking back on everything I've run so far that people actually liked, they had these elements in common:

Self-Motivated Characters - Both on the party's side and the NPC's side. The party starts with some very basic hook, like they want to make money and/or be adventurers outside of the confines of a large faction, and they just figure things out from there. The NPCs likewise have their motivations, and the evil ones will blow off PCs who have nothing to offer to them.

Realism-inspired Improv - NPC behavior is derived almost entirely from people I've actually met, as well as personal stories that people post in public. Maps have as little time spent on them as possible, while still communicating some distinct idea about what the maps represent.

The Fictional Twist - The game world gets twists and turns compared to reality that are inspired by the setting or genre material. For example - in the Planescape setting, there is a plane that is considered "heaven" or "hell" for every single alignment, as well as planes in between all of them. So what kinds of distortions of reality would they cause? The perfectly-Lawful-Neutral plane would make people more powerful because they obsessively tried to plan everything rather than using evolutionary approaches. The perfectly-Chaotic-Neutral plane can be shaped at will, and one can create entire terrains like in the movie Inception. A native of the perfectly-Neutral-Good plane would have extreme difficulty understanding what the purposes of violence or force are. And on and on.

Dense and Diverse Urban Environments - The saying is "write what you know", and this is what I know. Simply by meeting the NPCs, the characters get a sense of a larger world out there where the NPCs come from.

Character Arguing and Lazing - Provided that the players are sufficiently-mature, character arguing can be what really makes a fire-forged team in the end. When one player isn't sufficiently-mature, then the kibosh does need to be put on things. The results were a lot more beneficial in my Cyberpunk Cortex campaign, not so much in other campaigns. The characters having extremely lazy days where they do absolutely nothing of value is also what really makes them feel like people. Sometimes they just want to watch martial arts flicks all night. Sometimes they dream about owning a headquarters mobile home, or maybe they decide to create a halfway house for the less-fortunate.

Which Factions to Please? - There are multiple powerful factions, each of whom provides a viable path to glory and adventure. But, the characters must decide which of these factions best fits them. Or, they can play the factions against each other to secure their own independence.

Classless - I can't run class-based systems anymore. Just can't. Characters absolutely need the ability to spread out and pick up skills that let them feel more useful to the party.

Author:  Treebore [ Thu Jun 14, 2018 6:25 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: What's Your CK Style?

I don't know what my " style" is, I just know my over all goal is to have fun. So thats what I try to facilitate.

Author:  Aergraith [ Thu Jun 14, 2018 8:26 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: What's Your CK Style?

Treebore wrote:
I don't know what my " style" is, I just know my over all goal is to have fun. So thats what I try to facilitate.

I think maybe we could take a stab at some of your preferences. I might get some wrong.

1. C&C doesn't specify everything and doesn't need to, but for things you feel you need or make the game better, you keep an updated document of house rules that everyone can download, and when you have a new rule, you put it there so you don't forget it.

2. You like player writeups of your games so you can experience the game through the eyes of the players and use those experiences to feed back into the game.

3. Modules are made for ripping apart, mixing and matching, and in fact it's your job to do that.
Corollary: so are systems. If it works, use it.

4. Stats are important in C&C, so stat your characters as you see fit to let them do what you need them to do.

5. The CK can make a monster that can do anything, so it isn't really any issue if characters get very powerful.

6. C&C characters are superheroes, and are on a similar power curve.

Author:  Aergraith [ Thu Jun 14, 2018 8:28 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: What's Your CK Style?

Also, you might feel some of what your style is is common among CKs, but may only be common among people you usually play with.

Author:  Buttmonkey [ Thu Jun 14, 2018 10:39 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: What's Your CK Style?

1. NPCs are monsters, not PCs, so don't expect them to operate according to the rules for PCs described in the PHB.

2. I custom make most of my monsters. Rely on the M&T as much as you want, but also at your peril.

3. All dice rolls are made in the open unless it's something a PC would not know they failed at (e.g., checking for traps or secret doors).

4. I am semi-improvisational. It is unlikely I have notes covering anything beyond the current session.

Author:  Treebore [ Thu Jun 14, 2018 11:22 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: What's Your CK Style?

Aergraith wrote:
Treebore wrote:
I don't know what my " style" is, I just know my over all goal is to have fun. So thats what I try to facilitate.

I think maybe we could take a stab at some of your preferences. I might get some wrong.

1. C&C doesn't specify everything and doesn't need to, but for things you feel you need or make the game better, you keep an updated document of house rules that everyone can download, and when you have a new rule, you put it there so you don't forget it.

2. You like player writeups of your games so you can experience the game through the eyes of the players and use those experiences to feed back into the game.

3. Modules are made for ripping apart, mixing and matching, and in fact it's your job to do that.
Corollary: so are systems. If it works, use it.

4. Stats are important in C&C, so stat your characters as you see fit to let them do what you need them to do.

5. The CK can make a monster that can do anything, so it isn't really any issue if characters get very powerful.

6. C&C characters are superheroes, and are on a similar power curve.

Are those really a style, though? Seems more like methodology to me. BTW, I'd say you got it pretty accurate.

Author:  Aergraith [ Thu Jun 14, 2018 11:29 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: What's Your CK Style?

Treebore wrote:

Are those really a style, though? Seems more like methodology to me. BTW, I'd say you got it pretty accurate.

Style, methodology, preferences, quirks. Really my intention for mine is to put them where I put house rules and everything else so when people decide if they want to play in my game they don't have to assume as much.

Author:  Lurker [ Thu Jun 14, 2018 11:31 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: What's Your CK Style?

Well, now that I'm running for my girls and the 1 off ne'er do wells, I can now answer this without the 'back in the day' statement.

In general (and much to Tree's dismay in the 1 off modern victory) I default to a lower magic power setting and feeling, and build the story events NPCs etc from that. Then once the ball is rolling I let it take a realistic living course. I have key points of time place and events that will act and react to the characters and their actions, but the specific paths laid out for the characters are theirs to pick follow and deviate from as they see fit (yes thinking of you all sneaky peaky and calling the FBI instead of the fight I had planned)

However, your original list is nice and structured, plus I spent 3 hour today researching med info to show that PTSD does cause HTN / DMII does cause HTN heart issues and strokes (to prove a VA examiner wrong on their denial opinion) so I feel like debating . So, I'll use your list as a basis and go from there

1 - never heard of verisimilitude but I like it - I agree with you 100 % on that one

2 - I like realistic and a bit of grit, but I can't enjoy 'grim dark' as you say, and I actually lean toward optimism to a point, so though death etc is a part of the world my games always have 'hope' redemption, and a lean to the good light.

3- I'm not an accountant and numbers make my brain hurt, so I don't overly worry about each and every arrow or sling bolt. But I will cede the point on 'how are you going to carry that' stance.

4 - world is dark, but not humorless - see # 2 for darkness/grit/light ; for humor, rgr that . Though I don't like complete slap stick or silliness in the game. But, I do give props for clever funny uses of powers / ideas / etc (my older daughter using mesmerize on a guard to tell him the security camera watching the hall was out of focus and dirty, and then letting her narrate how the guard went over jumped on a chair and breathed on the camera, adjusted it etc etc etc was perfectly funny and clever)

5 - I hate meta gaming myself, but at the same time you can't avoid it completely. As long as it isn't out of control .... it is a part of the game

6 - good evil - there is no wiggle room for me here - there is (small g) good, (small e) evil, (big G) GOOD and (big E) EVIL. Same on law and law and chaos. you are part of the spectrum Act accordingly

7 - my default setting is heavily influenced by Tolkien and other books etc

8 - you all that know me ... well we disagree here ... the more in-depth the more well thought out the more hooks the better !

9 - I despise min-making ! Now you can make common sense choices that make your character effective ... but blatant min making results in bad karma nd future bad things happening to your character !

10 - party over character - I say balance here - We needed a fighter type, I wanted to play a character that isn't a tank, Rigon let me play my swashbuckler ... balance. Now, don't mess over the party to play that special unique character for 'role playing' purposes.

11 - follow the rules - to a point, but the one rule to rule them all (you are not a slave to the rules, bend the rules and modify them as needed)

12 - scene editing - I prefer theater of the mind, but I'm the director ... the players can morph reality and fate to put something they need (and I didn't want there) ! Now they can ask to see if they notice something helpful that they may not have noticed earlier

13 - I want your suggestions - but don't always use them - rgr that

14 - tracking- arrows, not so much , but HP ... that is a cardinal sin !

15 - metaplot - Oh yes there is. Some things the characters cause, some the are reacting to, and some ... they don't even know is happening until months later

16 - rgr that - sand box, but a plan to it

17 - you all tell me ... I am my worst critic, so can't honestly say how go I am here

18 - rgr there too!

19 & 20 & 21 & 22 & 23 rgr them too

Well, with 23 , I have an investment in the characters winning - I won't bend the rules to guarantee character success, but I may bump the ball a little to give them a better shot

Author:  Lurker [ Fri Jun 15, 2018 12:40 am ]
Post subject:  Re: What's Your CK Style?

Oh yeah, I forgot

Player actions echo and return. Their enemies (if knowledgeable) will know their quality before they meet.

If they are honorable (LG is honorable, but not stupid) and offer quarter or mercy if applicable, then the enemies will return in kind.

If the characters are murder hobos ... do not fall pray to your enemies

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