Episode 16 — “Do NOT Abandon Your Car”

Caution citizens! Nothing in this podcast is intended to make you abandon your car! While driving, please remain in your car no matter what you hear. There is more multiclassing in this episode as well as at least 6 of the eight kinds of fun.

Brian: https://twitter.com/Fiddleback
Scott: https://twitter.com/TheAngryGM

Website: http://www.DigressionsAndDragons.com
Email: DigressionsandDragons@gmail.com

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Fiddleback

The voice and producer of GM Word of the Week, he is also a Freelance Tabletop Game Editor and Writer as well as a long time podcaster. He has written and edited for Fantasy Flight Games' Star Wars RPGs, Modiphius Entertainment's Mutant Chronicles and Infinity RPGs and several others. He is currently working on his own Transit RPG.

9 thoughts on “Episode 16 — “Do NOT Abandon Your Car”

  1. The first thing I thought of when hearing all the discussion and comments on accessibility was Kurt Vonnegut’s short story “Harrison Bergeron”.

  2. What languages do you speak, would like to speak and/or like the sound of?

    Regarding the no-offense day: the closest I found was the international day of happiness on the 20th of March.

  3. *Gets out the car on the side of the highway, leaving it running. *

    Video games are hardly done when they are sold. Designers are constantly updating and fixing games and it has gone on for decades, even before the internet was popular.

    There’s a term called going gold, it’s when a product is at a state of sufficient completeness to be sold. A gold master is produced and all copies of that product are produced based on that master. For video games no changes were made to the game after this point. However with the lower and lower cost of media it became conceivable for developers to correct bugs or even outright redesign things and be able to “reasonably” distribute these changes to those who had purchased the game. With the growth of the internet this became considerably easier but it did happen prior to the mass adoption by the public of the internet. When gaming magazines were a thing they would frequently come with CD’s filled with demos and promotion materials for upcoming games as well as patches to correct or redesign parts of the game.

    One notable example of this is Ultima 8 in which the platforming system was completely redone due to massive negative feedback as the original system was highly error-prone and so counter-intuitive that the controls would do almost the opposite of what you intended to do. Effectively they more-or-less removed platforming by just having the player’s avatar just move directly to the spot they clicked.

    While it took a bit longer even consoles started getting patches, even the PS2 and I’m not referring to games that used the hard drive. Insomniac Games actually “back-doored” a patch into Ratchet and Clank Up Your Arsenal by appending it to the end of the EULA agreement you had to download every time you wanted to play online. Here’s a link describing a bit more of the story goo.gl/pyKYT5

    A good number of today’s games are in a constant state of being redesigned, both single and multiplayer titles. Path of Exile has been running for over 5 years now and every few months there’s a new league that adds a new core game mechanic or two that gets rolled into the main game or at least becomes accessible at a certain point. Additionally new skill gems and unique items that open up new builds, plus the whole host of changes to existing skills and mechanics. MOBA’s are in a perpetual state of change adding new heroes, maps and modes. A multitude of games support modding to add and change content, ROM hacks have opened up new content to games that were supposedly never going to change.

    As for the 8 kinds of fun this show provides, you forgot discovery as that whole list of links in the show notes has provided a wealth of interesting things and is one of the primary reasons I listen each week. In fact the first thing I do when I see a new show is up is peruse the links and see the new things that are worth looking at. It’s also a challenge to decipher what exactly you two are going to talk about in the show based on the links and what you’re going to say about them or how much time you’re going to spend on things mentioned in the show.

  4. So, I was driving to get my hair cut and suddenly I heard that someone named “Ambassador Syd” was having his comment read, reviewed, analyzed, etc. on this episode. I thought, “Oh, there’s someone with the same name as me.” Then, I realized that you were, in fact, talking about my comment from Episode 13.

    Needless to say, I didn’t abandon my car. I actually sat in my car, listening to the podcast, in the parking lot in the last 10 minutes before my appointment.

    My comment, on the topic of “difficulty in games” and “should games be given options so everyone can play them”, got quite a bit of response from you. And let me say this. Thank you. Yes. I agree with what you said. 100%. Well said. In fact, you said it better than I could. Not only that, you expanded upon it in a well-thought, considerate, and clearly articulated way. So again, thank you!

    And, since I am not very good at expressing my thoughts, I’ll elaborate a bit more now.

    Perhaps it wasn’t clear from my previous comments, but I do agree that games that require a skill or ability that a given (potential) player may not have are probably, simply put, not for that person. As I had said, games that require that “twitch skill” are not games for me. I just don’t have that skill. Perhaps I could acquire it with a great deal of practice, but honestly, I don’t think so.

    And, as you said, there are plenty of games out there. And (when I still had time for video games) I found the ones that were for me. And I enjoy the crud out of them!

    I think that my overall point was to emphasize that when people say that there should be modes of play in *all* games that allow *everyone* to enjoy them (i.e. shortcuts, “easy” mode, whatever) I feel that these comments are typically just complaints, and largely ungrounded. Possibly (probably?) coming from their own inability to complete the game (or maybe their laziness and/or impatience).

    I think the only conversation about providing additional modes of play that have any reason to be considered by game designers are conversations that specifically are about disabilities. As Angry said quite emphatically, accessibility to disabled persons is an important thing. And, as he also said, we should make things accessible whenever and wherever we can (i.e. ADA ramps, visibility assistance, and so on).

    If a game designer wants to put in the effort to provide modes of play to make a game more accessible, or if a third party hardware designer wants to make equipment that allows a more accessible interface to games, that’s awesome. Those people should be commended.

    BUT!!! This is not in any way saying that game designers who don’t do such a thing are evil/bad/wrong. As you said, this is a choice made by a company (which is not a moral entity) for their individual goals as a business. And that’s completely cool.

    So, anyway, thank you for discussing the topic quite eloquently. And I look forward to many more discussions that promote the thoughtful, in-depth conversations!

  5. I think a useful analog to Angry’s thoughts about “approachability” is the nebulously separate programming concepts of Overhead and Boilerplate. Boilerplate is all the stuff in code that isn’t the thing you want the code to do, like brackets. If you want to have an array you’re going to need to use some square brackets, but those brackets are required for operating the language not for anything you actually want achieved. Some languages have more boilerplate and they tend to be more accessible, other languages have less and they tend to be easier to prototype in because there are just fewer characters to type. After a certain point though the freedom of typing fewer characters gives way to the reduced raw capacity and additional hoops you may have to jump through because things are less explicitly defined.

    Just to add an example that people will disagree on, Python seeks to minimize boilerplate and be a quick prototyping language by using whitespace and implicit structuring instead of brackets; there’s less to type and it remains fairly accessible but your formatting has to be spot on; Conversely in C there’s a fair amount of boilerplate but formatting is totally irrelevant and as such has become a major topic of dispute. In an RPG this translates to putting much more work on everyone in order to figure out what exactly you’re looking at. If you broke down all the classes into feats to take it wouldn’t be remotely straightforward for the player to build the class they imagine, and then the GM would have to look at what the player made to try figuring out how it works so they can attempt to balance the game around them. If either of them understand what has been created differently this will only lead to strife among the group.

    Overhead is much like Boilerplate but it’s typically used in operation, you would talk about the overhead of TCP or the overhead of your protocol, or the overhead of how one collection allocates memory vs another; or you wouldn’t because those are very boring topics. Computerphile has some entertaining videos about how arrays and lists perform comparatively.

    The easiest example I can think of is the IRC protocol, when you receive a message from another user via the server it is in the format of the MSG command, the entire address of the originator, the channel it was sent to, and the message; but this entire set of things can only be so long; specified by the server. As a result of this, the usable length your message can occupy is that length, minus your name, ident, hostmask, the channel, and I believe the command; all of that is overhead, it’s not the message, it’s not important to the message, but it is necessary to get the message across. There’s a lot of ways the IRC protocol could be simpler but the cost of this overhead is valuable to pay because it makes the system operate well and without too much complexity for the operator. Despite the value you generally want to keep the overhead as optimized as possible because it does infringe on the size of your message.

    I personally enjoy systems and theorycrafting them, this frequently gets out of hand and I know I’ve annoyed one of you with this before following the early episode discussing a component assembly based casting system prior to the specific discussion of Genesis several episodes later, sorry. Then in response to the beginning of this discourse on multiplayer I wrote up, got distracted and lost interest in a concept where D&D classes would be assembled by purchasing nodes in a Path of Exile style skill tree. Both of these endeavors quickly resulted in systems that were so broad as to require considerable boilerplate, a complex modifier system for casting and a skill tree the size of a soccer field; and would result in a very large amount of overhead in requiring players to be at least reasonably familiar with very large probability spaces to even begin planning their build, and the GM knowing it better to understand how these choices will impact the table.

    In the end I think for most players a small set of base classes that pick up a subclass or two later on is a really approachable probability space. If 5e isn’t enough for you to pick from, Pathfinder is a lot more complicated while still being about the same asymptote*

    * https://rob-bell.net/2009/06/a-beginners-guide-to-big-o-notation/
    https://apelbaum.files.wordpress.com/2011/10/yaacovapelbaumbigoplot.jpg
    (Compsci got ideas for errrthing)

  6. I think the only time I’ve been even aware of game balance (outside of some lovely wargames back in the late ’90’s, early 2000’s) was when the PCs were as unbalanced as one fat kid sitting on a teeter-totter. One particular game springs to mind, last 2e game before 3e came out, one of the guys in the group rolled up an Elven bladesinger. When it came to combat, the rest of us may as well have all been playing sages or some other non-combat class, ’cause that gish elf was doing more damage than all the rest of us, combined. It’s one thing when the party is a little out of balance, but something else when one character negates the entire rest of the party in combat (I agree with Scott – D&D is very combat focused). And yes, we were winning (dear [insert favored deity here] were we winning), but it wasn’t very fun.

    You gents are correct, most multiclasses are …. and can cast spells. Not all, but many, and the spellcasting changes flavor (mage/sorcerer or cleric) depending on what the player wants.

    I do remember the Dungeon Siege series of games on the PC, and they handled character advancement like this – you pick up a sword, you swing it a lot at the monsters, you’re now better with swords. You find a spellbook and learn fireball, you start casting it in between swinging the sword, now your fireballs get bigger and go farther. You find a bow and some arrows, and start using those before closing in and giving it the old one-two sword-fireball technique, pretty soon you’re giving Legolas a run for his money. And so on. To adopt that into your game so that your PCs could use it, I fear it would be way too complicated (see GURPS) and at the same time, too boring/vanilla. You’d have to water down your spell list to a few basics (attack, defense, healing, spying, etc), and the balancing act on your end as the GM playing the monsters would be intense.

    Two sides to the “Dark Souls is too hard” argument – it’s too hard for me, but I can’t force the game designers to put in a difficulty slider, that’s their business decision (but I can still hope, as loud as I want, that they decide to do it anyway); playing games at my desired level of difficulty (really easy vs really hard) in no way affects your enjoyment of the same games at harder levels (as long as we’re talking single-player games, not PvP).

    Regarding the Hoarfrost GM Word of the Week – I’ve always preferred the phrase “ladies/gentlemen of negotiable affections” when discussing the world’s oldest profession. But it has been noted how little couth I possess these days.

    Last episode I asked what you used when running games in person, now what about online? Roll20 or Fantasy Grounds (or something else, like Google Hangouts)? Do you go so far as to put up a group only wiki (like Obsidian Portal, or even just a generic wiki software), or just email everyone and give them access to a folder in your Google Docs? Voice only, text only, or all of the above plus video? Or do you insist on the classic play-by-email?

    1. Text and Video only would be a very interesting game to consider but I’d like to addendum onto the question: in online games, how do you handle dicerolls?

      I’ve been involved in systemless text roleplay communities and we found no good way so it would generally devolve into “say what happens and the GM will call bullshit when necessary”; and I’ve been involved in or see a lot of roll20 play where the overwhelming opinion was “these virtual dice can’t be trusted”. It seems like we can all agree on physical dice even though they’re not very random because the cultural perception is set where these new things despite being much more suitable for the purpose are new, and new things aren’t as good, because reasons.

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