Getting Rid of the Grind

See that tab above that reads “Rewarding Roleplaying”? After you get done reading this, click over to that page.

We here at Spes Magna Games want to help you make your game better. Doesn’t that sound like an admirable goal? Well, that depends on what we mean by “better.” Without some specifics, “better” is a meaningless buzzword. It’s an empty-calorie adjective. So, let’s start specifying with this: Better games are games that are more enjoyable, and roleplaying games are made more enjoyable by getting rid of the Grind.

Anyone who’s played 3.5 d20 has encountered the Grind. It takes many forms, but they all have one thing in common. They turn the fun into something more like a chore. The Grind includes:

* Combats slowed down by attacks of opportunity and square counting
* Characters stuck in the action rut, repeating the same plain vanilla actions round after round
* That single die roll that ends a player’s participation in the current encounter
* That single die roll that kills the DM’s BBEG before his time has come

Wouldn’t it be great if a single, short PDF product could help eliminate these problems while at the same time providing a system for rewarding players for roleplaying their characters’ beliefs, habits, and goals? In short, wouldn’t this make your game better?

Enter Rewarding Roleplaying, the first in our Ludi Fortes line!

Rewarding Roleplaying introduces an option-filled Action Point system tied to a roleplaying reward incentive system. Players define their characters’ beliefs, habits, and goals with concrete action statements. The DM then works these action statements into the adventure. When a player plays out these action statements, he gets Action Points. Here’s a sample of how it works:

Terry’s character Jeremiah Dawes believes that no insult should ever go unanswered. He and his fellow adventurers are part of a diplomatic mission to a local Wampanoag halfling village. The halflings have been blocking travel along an important river, and Jeremiah and company have been sent to negotiate terms for safe passage. During the welcome dinner, a halfling warrior questions Jeremiah’s integrity.

“This human talks about fairness,” the warrior says, “but he is like all of his people: a liar.”

This event triggers Jeremiah’s belief. What does Jeremiah do? Terry, Jeremiah’s player, has a range of options. A character’s beliefs don’t dictate his actions, just like beliefs don’t always dictate action in real life. Terry can roleplay Jeremiah’s response a variety of ways. He can:

* Demand satisfaction in the form of duel.
* Immediately attack the warrior.
* Return an insult for the insult.
* Rise to his feet and castigate the warrior for slandering the judgement of his chief who welcomed Jeremiah into the village.
* Grit his teeth and stew in his juices in order to not jeapordize the diplomatic mission.

Any of these responses is good enough to earn Terry an Action Point. Terry feels validated. The hard work he put into making up Jeremiah has paid off two ways. He’s received a specific reward that can be used later in the game. Also, Terry takes pride in knowing that he’s made the game as a whole better for everyone because he’s roleplaying his character.

Action Points are powerful tools. Used wisely, they help characters succeed where otherwise they would not. The range of options Action Points present help get characters out of the action rut. Action Points aren’t just for player characters either. DMs: Your lovingly crafted BBEG gets Action Points as well. Along with the Solo Monster rules, Action Points turn every BBEG into a memorable, challenging encounter that will tax the characters’ abilities without having to ramp up the BBEG’s hit dice, layering on classes, and adding template after template. In fact, the Solo Monster rules don’t even alter a BBEG’s CR.

But what about attacks of opportunity? How does Rewarding Roleplaying fix that part of the Grind?

The answer is with a simple, two-step solution. First step: Get rid of attacks of opportunity entirely. Next, use an Action Point for this effect:

Immediate Attack: When a threatened foe takes any standard, move, or full round action, a character can spend one Action Point as an immediate action to make an immediate melee attack against that foe. He makes the immediate attack at his full normal attack bonus — even if he’s already attacked in the round. An immediate attack “interrupts” the normal flow of actions in the round. If an immediate attack is taken, immediately resolve it. Then continue with the next character’s turn (or complete the current turn, if the immediate attack was taken in the midst of another’s turn). This Action Point use replaces normal attack of opportunity (AoO) rules.

So, those are some of my thoughts about the Grind. Now it’s your turn. What triggers the Grind in your games?

November 30th, 2009  in RPG No Comments »

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