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RPGBOT.Podcast S2 E8 – Adapting Media to a Tabletop RPG (Part 2)

Show Notes

Due to the length of the episode, we’ve split this episode into two parts. If you haven’t already, start with part 1.

Special thanks to @wilkie_ds for the question of the week

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Transcript

Randall

Welcome to the RPGBOT.Podcast. It’s me, Randall, along with Tyler and Random. This is the second part of our two-part series on adapting media to a tabletop role playing game.

Random 

I will. The thing that I wanting to adapt was not a game. It was, in fact… well, I guess it could be a game, depending. Once again, I think the Venn diagram of people who watch science fiction movies and people who play video games is pretty narrow and close to a circle. But in case you haven’t seen Edge of Tomorrow, which is a movie that I adore, and have played Death Loop, which is a very recent, very mechanically similar. Basically my plan for this is… so the the why that I want out of this is…

Randall 

Actually no you can, you can stop because you had me at Edge of Tomorrow.

Random 

Exactly. I love that movie. And I think it is criminally underrated because of its awful marketing campaign.

Randall 

I think people figured it out there. Like, real quick just to lay it out. So the premise of Edge of Tomorrow for the folks at home. One. pause this recording. Go watch it. We’ll have a link in the show notes. You’ll be able to get it. The premise of it is Tom Cruise is an a**hole.

Random 

And that’s the whole movie.

Randall 

And we’re ready to go! No, so Tom Cruise is… Okay. Start over. Aliens have invaded the Earth, the aliens are kicking our teeth in. We keep making strategies. And every time we make a strategy, they just, like, react perfectly to the strategy and they take us out. Tom Cruise is the media person embedded in the military, who’s helping them make recruiting videos, like, fight for the world! fight for humanity! Take down the aliens! It’s gonna be great! And the leader of the resistance says to Tom Cruise’s character, you’re going to go in on the frontline, and you’re going to record on the frontline when we go have this battle. Because seeing you there will let people know that this is serious and it’s real. And Tom Cruise is like, Nah, I don’t do that. I stand back here, where I’m not gonna get eaten by an alien. Thank you very much. And the punchline is Tom Cruise has to go fight. And early on something happens to him to where he can. When he dies, he just resets to the morning that just shenanigans started.

Random 

And this is not a terrible amount of spoilers, because this is literally the first five minutes of the film.

Randall 

Yeah.

Random 

And then you go from there. So I, I loved this concept. And I really wanted to take this concept and run. It’s like

Randall 

Groundhog Day meets sci fi. You get to do the same thing every day. You have the same dependable… until you mess with the tree. The tree of things that people are doing is constant. So you just hop in where you want to.

Random 

Right.

Tyler 

Didn’t we just do Dork Souls?

Random 

No, but here’s what I’m in a little bit. Yeah, here’s what I wanted to pull out of this is where Dark Souls, you are expected to just throw your face at an encounter, until you learn it and can beat it as a fight. I want this to be… the feel of it that I want is really just the when you mess up and die, you begin the whole loop again. And that you can just put into anything. I mean, you you wouldn’t actually need to change anything about fifth edition if you wrote your story well. And where I would say with a small caveat of “but” is, I would want a lot of this to rely on skill challenges, because any of the actual stand up fights in in Edge of Tomorrow, you’re not supposed to win. There’s aliens. There’s a billion aliens, you’re gonna die. And well, the point of the movie was, you know, training, memorizing, getting good so that you can win those battles. That doesn’t actually feel to me like doing the fight good. That’s completely in your mind. That’s completely doing the right training. You know, it’s practically a dance at that point. And so I would say, you know, for my players, you’re going to have to do these fights a couple times to figure out what sort of skills you can use. And then I would say, okay, great. You’ve had this fight three times, I’m going to give you bonuses for how well you did on each of the increasingly, you’re like you got to do one step, then you got five steps, then you got 20 steps, I’m going to give you bonuses for those. And then we’re going to do a skill challenge to actually make it past that story beat. And then you go from there. And basically…

Randall 

I’ll even say like I can imagine, essentially letting your characters off the hook. Like, I brought up this idea of a tree and I do think you could do something like that in your story where you say like, yeah, sure if you want to do this activity, then this activity, then fight this thing. The third time you completed or the second time or maybe even the first time depending on how it will go, like, can we come up with some criteria such that if you try to do this in the same order, again, I just let you through.

Random 

And that is absolutely part of it. The the first time you try and pass the skill challenge. It’s difficult. The second time you try and pass the skill challenge, it’s less difficult. And so on and so on.

Randall 

Yeah, okay.

Random 

At some point, every single time, you’re going to have that okay, well, I did in fact, roll a two because, well, I did memorize, you know, all of the steps to this dance, I then got it in my head, because I was thinking about that thing four plot points from now and I dodged left instead of right. So I still want there to be some capacity for failure. But have it be substantially mitigated, the more times you do it. And with that said, if people do actually win a fight, great. You pass that part. And then I’m going to say, Okay, for this particular piece, you won the fight, you now know how to win that fight, you’re never going to have to skill challenge it, you’re never going to have to do anything, because you actually mechanically won that fight. Great. Nailed it. And then you just build your story out from there. And like I said, you I mean, apart from just adding skill challenges, that’s literally just writing. Just write how will you want this story to go, and you could apply that field to anything. I mean, in fact, I actually started thinking about what I would do to write that story, because like, you know, I, I don’t know if fifth edition has actually imported all of the inevitables, But I don’t think they got nearly enough love. And so, boy, wouldn’t that be a fun being to be working for?

Tyler 

Yeah.

Randall 

Yeah. I guess I should say, I don’t know what that means.

Random 

Good.

Randall 

Cool. Okay, maybe we’ll play that game.

Tyler 

It’ll be a nice surprise for you.

Randall 

Hooray! One of the things that I feel like the film did really well, is resetting the meaning of being in a particular area or being at a particular point in the timeline. So for folks at home who have seen it, Tom Cruise’s character wants to find a particular character, and does in the heat of battle. And that character basically says, Congratulations, you’ve been granted my trust through time somehow, just find me and tell me this story again, not in… not now, but like, a few hours ago, because it’s gonna be better for all of us, if you just told me a few hours ago. So that was a huge mission to get to that point. And I feel like RPG-wise, like, that’d be fantastic. It’s like, you know, you get to literally the the lowest level of the dungeon, and it’s flooding and everyone’s gonna drowned. And you found the priestess, and the priestess says “eight hours ago, I was having breakfast, let’s talk then.” And then you die. And now everything that you had to go through just to earn that trust, you got the passphrase, you got the key word. And at the beginning of the next cycle, you can you can just give it you can just say like, phlebotomy hippopotamus and she’s like, ah, I see you’re with me. And now we can continue on without having to go through the whole dungeon. Like that’s a that’s an amazing storytelling device, which I’m not gonna lie, it actually feels a little bit like what I was pitching with my Dark Souls game where you’ve got to get to the next bonfire, but then you’re safe. It’s like instead of a checkpoint in space, it’s a checkpoint in time.

Tyler 

Okay, so I haven’t seen Edge of Tomorrow. So I’m like,

All 

Boo!

Tyler 

I know, I know. I live in a cave. Okay, so I like I’m being exposed to these concepts piecemeal as we discuss them, and like I’m teasing out the pieces that we want to take from this.

Randall 

How do I internalize that?

Tyler 

I do actually see a distinction between Randall your what you want to take from Dark Souls and Random what you want to take from Edge of Tomorrow. The difference there is Randall you want the danger in getting from point A to B. And you want the sense of progression to, like… the stop and start of progression and the sense of danger of losing that progression as you move. Random, it sounds like you want the, like, as you move forward in time, move forward along the timeline in in a sense, there’s kind of a meta puzzle going on above the game where like, I need to, I need to get the green storyline key to unlock the green storyline lock for us that down that line of the metaphorical decision tree. I think that could be a really, really fun game. But that would be really hard to write. Like, you would have to be a much better writer than I am, not that that… Not that that’s a high bar. But you would have to be a much better writer than I am to make that work. But if you could, man, yeah, I think that could be a lot of fun to play and Random, I think you did a really good job solving the, like, the fatigue issue basically like okay, I’ve killed this skeleton five times now. And then your idea of just turning that into a skill challenge of diminishing difficulty every time you go past that skeleton. I think that solves the fatigue issue. And we might even use that same idea for Randall’s Dark Souls thing. Like, oh, yes, we have killed the skeleton five times now we can just do a skill challenge we won’t get experienced, maybe, but we can just do a skill challenge to skip the skeleton.

Randall 

Yeah, I think that makes sense. So first of all, want to say RGP-bit [sic]. You’re a fantastic writer.

Tyler 

Not so much a novelist. My writing style is more technical documentation than fiction.

Randall 

Now. Also, sometimes there’s typos. I want what Random is pitching, too. Like that would… exactly as you say, like the hardest part of it is the storytelling. If only, yeah, if we had a reason to play a game like that. I feel like that’d be a lot of fun.

Tyler 

We could come up with a reason. It’s a day that ends with Y. Good enough reason.

Randall 

All right. I think there’s only one of us left, unless Producer Dan also produced a game for us.

Tyler 

I’m getting a shaking head. Okay. All right. So there’s a game that I don’t think either of you have played, which I think is a terrible tragedy and hope you’ll play it someday. It’s called Massive Chalice. I see a nod from Random and a shaking head from Randall. I haven’t played it, but I’ve talked to people who have Okay, okay, so Massive Chalice, it’s, if I remember correctly, it’s made by Double Fine. The basic premise is you the player or some sort of semi-omniscient entity, very long lived, and your job is to manage a kingdom as the world dies around you. So the entirety of the world, imagine that you have a disk of world and all around it is craziness and the craziness is gradually eating the world. And your job is to stave off the craziness for some duration of time until the massive chalice charges and scares off the craziness and saves the world.

Randall 

Okay, so it’s like Sunday brunch when the keg dies, and we just need to make it until the busboy gets back with the keg to tap it to kind of get all the people back off. Is that the right analogy? Do I have it?

Tyler 

I’m gonna say no, but that was beautiful. Okay, so… So you as the omniscient entity control both the individual characters and also kind of noble houses within the context of the world. And because the timeline of game takes place over several centuries, characters are born, live, and die during that time. When a fight happens, you control the individual characters, D&D-style, turn-based combat all that. But between those encounters, you have to make sure that the noble houses are all getting along, you have to arrange marriages to continue bloodlines so that you have like, you have these noble heroes because for whatever reason, only the nobility can take class levels, essentially.

Randall 

Okay, that makes sense. The… you brought up the idea of combat. So there’s an idea of combat in the game. What motivates there to be combat between… Yeah, well, but why do people fight?

Tyler 

Great question. So monsters walk out of the craziness. If you don’t destroy the monsters, the monsters eat the ground.

Randall 

Does that then spread the craziness?

Tyler 

Exactly.

Randall 

So that makes sense.

Tyler 

Basically, if you lose an encounter, one of your territories is absorbed into the craziness, and you no longer have that territory, the resources from it, and the noble house that lives there.

Randall 

Okay, and you can obviously never recover it in the time of the game. Okay, that makes perfect sense to me.

Tyler 

Yeah, so, so you are continually fighting off the craziness over the timeline of the game. And managing you can accumulate resources throughout the game, like your characters start at higher levels when they’re born, they… you can unlock new classes by I had the Wizard noble house and the Fighter noble house, they formed a political marriage. And like one of the houses is now eldritch knights or blade singers or whatever. Essentially, what I really like about it is the long timeline where instead of getting attached to one individual character, because like, your character might live long enough to play like two or three adventures maybe and then they’re going to die of old age. So you have to manage the, the noble houses of heroes, and basically, make them all get along to produce better heroes to fight the increasing craziness.

Random 

So one of the things that both of your games really hit on and especially Massive Chalice, there are things that video games allow you to do that tabletop games have a real struggle with, which is allow you to fail meaningfully, and still immediately get back into the action. There’s a game design term called “flow” where basically, humans enjoy challenges the most, that are just at the edge of their capabilities. And when you have a game like this that has difficulty levels, you’re going to find what suits you and you’re going to enjoy failure because it’s like, Oh, so close! Man, I just, if I had had that one turn different, I would have pushed back and my challis would be massive. In a multiplayer setting, that breaks down for a number of reasons. A, you are not the only one making decisions. And so you feel like you only 25% control the outcome at a standard table. And, you know, that’s only within the bounds provided to you by a DM, if you are a DM and four players. I appreciate that you have, like, you know, you’re only going to play a particular character through a couple of of encounters, because that’s going to help with preventing you from getting attached to it. But that also means that you’re less invested in the success of that character. And you have to be motivated by the success of the overworld, which is a much harder thing to sell. I find it an interesting concept. And I struggle to turn it into something that would be meaningful multiplayer unless, if you are fine with not just the combat being turn-based, but also the like, political machinations functionally being turned-based. Like, if you’re fine with turning that into, you know, rather than trying to do these, these long things, if you’re just like, people talking at the speed of people talking. I could see that being a thing that you could adapt 5e to. That is a hard genre.

Randall 

So I I want to push back, actually, so what what Tyler is describing to me, I feel like we actually might be able to turn into a DM-less system. But I think we’re gonna have to add a lot of rules. Like essentially, D&D 5e is going to be the base of the combat system, and that’s what we’re going to run, and maybe even the classes in combat, it’s going to be, right, we’re gonna let D&D dictate it. I think we have to add a whole layer of scaffolding around the politics. And that feels exciting to me, but I feel like we actually we need to do a lot of work here. Like one of the things is, what is the opportunity cost? So sure, we want the eldritch knight. And I as a character, own the, the wizard noble house, and you as a character own the Fighter. We are the Fighter Wizard. No, the, the Fighter noble house. If we agree that we’re going to, you know, marry our houses, what opportunity cost? What are we losing in the politics? What opportunity are we potentially then going to fail at later, because we chose to make that choice? I also think there could be, and I think it would have to be, there’s what a fantastic cooperative games out there. What I’m actually thinking about right now is kind of the Forbidden series. Where like, I’ve got this map, something bad is happening on the map. When it’s my turn, I have special actions as the folks who own… or as the character representing, excuse me, the player representing the wizard noble house. And those special actions, maybe let me stave off the darkness a little bit more. And now when it’s your turn, you’re gonna have to do the same. And we’re all fighting for the same thing. But we each have something different to contribute. And and I think you might be able to wrap those opportunity cost into this. It maybe what’s most exciting to me, is the idea that like, you know, what some random draw on where the monsters show up and what level, like, is this going to be a medium fight for our current status or a hard fight for our current status? If you could come up with a way of randomizing that, you really could have a cool cooperative game with D&D combat that nobody has to sit out and be a DM that everybody can kind of gets to participate as an equal participant. I like a lot of those ideas. Yeah, I think those are all really great points. Yeah, the… I think the meta political system would definitely be a huge thing and, like, there there would have to be mechanics and rules around that. I’m… and I’m sure we could probably steal those from one of any number of cool RPGs about more political things. Well, I’ll even say like going back to the source material, like, what is the actual opportunity cost of making that choice to mix houses can you not then mix it with some other house?

Tyler 

If I remember correctly, like, the… basically one of the houses’ classes is forever changed. So, like, your your Wizard and your Fighter class marry one of the houses becomes the eldritch fighter or the eldritch knight class instead of either class. So like, yeah, and maybe down the line like they they intermarry with the Wizard class again, they get a little closer to Wizard and a little further from Fighter. So like the, basically your class availability changes over time. So you can’t be like, Okay, I now have the perfect composition of classes. Because next time the bad guys show up, it’s like, Ah, we’re in this awkward period where we’ve got four rogue houses by accident.

Randall 

That’s actually kind of interesting. So let’s say that you, you do not let the houses stand pat for more than like a generation or two. And you think at the implication of that, but let’s move on. You, you always have to be taking these kinds of actions, which means you almost have to have a graph of like, okay, well, if we go down this path, we’re eliminating a ton of opportunity. Like that, that might manage that problem by itself. And then, you know, you didn’t go into the detail of what the other political issues are. But I think this is a good place to my mind where like, I kind of want to go play that game to see what’s up. And then what rules can we actually drag out of it to bring in our system?

Random 

Yeah, I will say I would absolutely… I would play that. There, I mean, like you both said, there would need to be a lot of work to make the political intrigue stuff both a worthwhile part of the game, and also have some sort of costs so that it’s not just Yes, I always marry you. And with having not played the game, I, you know, I don’t know. Is there perhaps some some chance of failure if you try and, you know, marry one house to another and the scions decide, nah, dog, and just run away or something.

Randall 

No, but better, instead of getting an eldritch knight you get like, a hobbit that’s not very good with long shorts.

Tyler 

There, there is some sense of that in the game. Like, it has some of those rogue style elements where it’s like the stats are somewhat randomly generated. So you might end up with like, Ah, this, this couple had four children. Three of them died in childbirth, or died as children and the fourth has garbage stats. What do I do now? Or if I remember correctly, I had a couple things happen where like the, the nobility would marry and then like, 10 down, 10 years down the line they’re like, Oh, geez, one of us is barren. So like our noble hous is just dead now. So you’ve literally reroll the houses stats and get it like you get new nobles from… somewhere. Yeah, so… yeah.

Randall 

What’s, what’s the quote from Monty Python?

Tyler 

Pick one?

Randall 

Aquatic women handing out swords is no way to pick the nobility or whatever. Yeah. Yeah, but the right quote. Yeah. Alright, so I want to ask the question. I think I had a good time talking about each of these adaptations. I think we should force ourselves to vote on our favorite version. I’m gonna go first to set the mood. I want to play Random’s game. I’m super excited about that. Writing that game would be a ton of fun. Participating in a game would be a ton of fun. Tyler, I really love your idea too. I… full stop. I really love your idea too. But that, like if what I’m coming for is like I’m jonesing for D&D. I feel like I could play the most D&D D&D with Random’s D&D and get a really cool story to boot.

Tyler 

Yeah, I kind of agree. I think I’d play Random’s the most, too. The puzzle aspect there just intrigues me. That seems somewhat like so much fun.

Randall 

Yeah. When we’re done, you should go watch Edge of Tomorrow. Start there.

Random 

Yes. It is notoriously hard to find on the streaming services for free. They just don’t really rotate it in. But hey, wander down here and I’ll lend you a Blu ray.

Randall 

Alright, do you have a Blu ray player?

Tyler 

My computer has a Blu ray disc reader in it.

Randall 

Good news!

Tyler 

Because I built it back when physical discs were still important.

Randall 

Yeah, I think I’m running out of that.

Tyler 

Yeah.

Randall 

All right. Random. You have to pick one of the three.

Random 

Um, boy, I mean, honestly, I want to write mine. As soon as I came up with this idea, I started getting the bones for how would I do this? I’d, like, I had the, the opening scene, the plot hook to describe to players just pop into my head. Not quite fully formed, but definitely like, Okay, here’s how I can take this. You know, that by itself would involve porting a 3.0 monster into fifth edition. Not 3.5, 3.0 which is already rough.

Tyler 

Wow. That’s what the Monsterizer is for.

Random 

There you go!

Randall 

Perfect. All right. We have a question of the week this week. Question of the week this week comes to us from Twitter @Wilkey_DS: is following the rules becoming the uncool way to play D&D?

Tyler 

Rules were meant to be broken, Wilkie. This is kind of just a natural shift in the tabletop RPG landscape. Like, the RPGs used to be way way crunchier than they are now. And over time, things have moved towards more story driven rules-light games like if you go back and edition of D&D, it’s way crunchier than fifth edition. Before that it’s way crunchier than fourth edition. Before that, I don’t know if you could call it crunchier so much is just… lookup tables. The story-driven, rules-light games are very popular right now. And in a lot of cases, people are getting very okay with just rule of cool in D&D. I wouldn’t say that completely ignoring the rules is becoming more popular. But people are getting more comfortable deviating from the rules, especially as we see, like, examples and actual plays and live streams and stuff of people playing D&D and saying, Hey, like you want to jump over the pit, we’ll make an ability check or something, even though that’s not strictly written into the rules.

Random 

Just personally, one of the things that we talk about a lot is that there’s really only two rules, which is apply things consistently and make sure everyone at the table is having fun. And even applying things consistently, that can bend. The only real rule, rule zero is what the DM says goes. And as long as everyone’s having fun while that’s happening, then you’re good. You really want to make sure that you are playing enough with the same consistency so that people can have an expectation to be grounded on. You know, if if you say, I’m going to run a a totally boundary free, no rails game, and someone says, Great, I built my character like this, and you say, oh, that’s fabulous. And you’re going to use it twice and I’m going to decide that intimidation no longer works that way. Get bent. I feel like as long as everyone is coming together cooperatively rather than the us versus DM mentality that used to be a lot more prevalent in previous editions. The rules are there to be guidelines. Thanks, Pirates of the Caribbean.

Randall 

I want to really approach this from the social aspect of it, right? So if you were a DM, and you’re trying to get your table to play by a particular rule, you’re being a stickler for pillar rules. And the feedback you’re getting from your table is, “this sucks, and I hate it, and I hate you, and why are you doing this to me?” I think that’s good feedback. I think it’s a strong signal that we need, we need to back off, and we need to figure out what it is that the players don’t love. And so if that makes you feel as a DM, like, following the rules isn’t cool. You know, that sucks. And part of it might be finding players who relish in the level of detail that are available to us and the rules at the same level that you do. Vice versa, if you were a player and you’re sitting at a table, and you constantly find yourself being the like, “well, actually” player at the, at the at the table and the DM is like Oh, I’m gonna allow it, I’m gonna allow it. You know, I think there might be something to take one on one with the DM like, Hey, did you know there’s something to adjudicate these rules, this is something we share with people. I think if you if you spoon feed people a little bit more complexity a bit at a time, folks who will tend to take the the rules as you offer them, and integrate it into their way of thinking. That’s the thing that leads to people learning more about the game and potentially enjoying the game more, because there’s a lot of fruit to be bore by it by following this. Vice versa, if it’s constantly like you can’t do that, you can’t do that. You can’t do that. It doesn’t work that way. I think that’s really disappointing for the table. And I think that’s a great place to follow the DM’s lead and the DM is occasionally just saying you know what? I’m gonna allow it. I don’t think following the rules is becoming uncool. But I think if you’re the only person as a table rules lawyering, you may be misreading the room.

Tyler 

I think that’s a really good way to put it.

Randall 

All right. And with that, so again, thank you for that question. I had a good time with it. I think everybody else did to our next episode, we’re going to be discussing mundane medicine. I’m Randall James you can find me at amateurjack.com and on Twitter and Instagram at @JackAmateur.

Tyler 

I’m Tyler Kamstra. You’ll find me an RPGBOT.net. Facebook and Twitter at RPGBOTDOTNET, and patreon.com/rpgbot.

Random 

and I random pal you will probably find me writing this story for the next long period of time. But if I’m taking some downtime, you may find me where people play games at, er, as Hartlequin or Hartlequint. Otherwise, you’ll find me here on the website contributing to the podcast and writing articles.

All 

Hail!

Randall 

All right. Oh hail the Leisure Illuminati. Hail!

Tyler 

Hail?

Random 

Hail?

Randall 

Hail! You’ll find affiliate links for source books and other materials linked in the show notes. Following these links helps us to make this show happen every week. In particular, you’re gonna find a link to Edge of Tomorrow. If you haven’t seen it, go find it or click the link and watch it there. It’d be great. You could find our podcast wherever fine podcasts are sold. If you enjoy this podcast, please rate review and subscribe and share it with your friends. If your question should be the question of the week next week, please email podcast@RPGBOT.net. or message us on Twitter at RPGBOTDOTNET. Thanks folks. We hope you had a good time.

Random 

The first chunk of that is definitely us just bullshitting.

Tyler  I could see that, yeah.

One Response

  1. GreatOldOne February 5, 2022

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