Friday, February 4, 2011

Discussion: Can being caught up in the moment be bad?

Last Friday, in Atraties's Dark Heresy game, the group of PCs went up against another, more experienced and better equipped, Inquisitorial team in a fight, and we lost. Now, this fight was brought upon by our own actions, and Atraties gave us all back the Fate rank, since a TPK was pretty much guaranteed in that situation and we all fell, but the fight was really a lot closer than any of us could have imagined. Not one member of the NPC team (all of whom are about 5-6k more experienced than us) was not in critical damage when the fight ended, and only one of them was still conscious/not dead themselves. A true testament to the lethality of the 40k weaponry, and how being better is no substitute for being luckier on the short term.

The person who was still standing, was still standing because they had beat my character in their fight. It was a 1 on 1 fight, amidst the giant combat going on, and my little Sister of Battle did much better than she probably had a right to (thanks in no small part to Faith abilities, and a new best quality defensive/balanced weapon for parrying). The fight went back and forth with both of us parrying the other's blows, until the key moment. Taunted, I burned a fate rank to upgrade my sister from Unnatural Agility x2 to x3, giving me back initiative and enabling my character to make successive all out attacks. The second one hit, and I rolled the damage dice getting a righteous fury (for those who don't know the system. If you roll a 10 on a damage dice, you make another to-hit check, and then add another D10 of damage to the total. If that gets a 10, you keep going until you don't) The righteous fury damage came out minimal, and so the blow only dropped my character's opponent into critical damage, not winning the fight.

This loss then turned into the remainder of the loss for our group, as that still standing fighter unloaded into the two still standing other PCs, and dropped them as well.

So, why am I bringing this up? Well, after the game - the next morning specifically - I found that I liked how the fight turned out a whole lot better than I had during the game. Sure, during the game I was "in character" and Cassandra really wanted to win that fight, but story wise I think it's better this way. Cassandra pulled out all the stops, and dealt a blow that her opponent will not soon forget, but Cassandra still lost the fight. This is the first fight that she's really ever lost, and the fact that it was one she went all out for really means something. It is a chance for the character to grow, and also gives a different relationship with the person who beat her than if she had won. Winning is easy, dealing with loss is where character development happens, and that is what I want for Cassandra.

However, in the middle of the game, if I had had a way to reroll those damage dice to try for more damage I would have done it. In a system with narrative control, the GM may even have been inclined to give me the knock out, considering how much had gone into that attack (by burning a fate rank for the chance to make that attack, I have significantly reduced what Cassandra can do, and how many times she can 'die' before it is permanent.) After the game though, I'm incredibly happy that Cassandra lost, during the game - when the decisions are being made - I would have paid near anything to win.

So, the question then becomes, is it a bad thing to be caught up in the game? Should you take steps to calm down, detach, and objectively look at a situation? I've said here before that failure can be necessary, but that is hard to remember in the moment when your failure is what is looming over head.

Thoughts? Advice? Anecdotes where you've done similar - or the opposite?


  1. Removing yourself from the situation and thinking objectively is the opposite of role play (unless thats the nature of the character). Advancement and winning a fight are secondary.

  2. I feel that taking a step back in that kind of situation and thinking long term is where you get into collaborative storytelling over individual role play. I support that, if that's what you want as a player. If you want to help craft a bigger story with more dramatic events not taking that reroll, accepting a loss are good RP in the long run.
    That said, as long as it's not upsetting you as a player and making you angry I think stepping out of character to examine things is sub optimal unless there is something you specifically want long term.

    I do have to disagree with Emmett though. Removing yourself and thinking objectively isn't the opposite of role playing. It's a different kind of role playing. The, my character has grabbed me and I'm deep in character and I do what my Character wants end of story is similar to method acting. Stepping back and making decisions that support the game, and the long term character progression isn't the opposite, it's a more analytical approach to acting. As an actor, I prefer the second style, as a role player I mix the two because while method acting can be fun it can also be frustrating and it is also a big step down a very unhealthy role playing path where one gets lost in a character, and that shouldn't happen.

    I guess in conclusion, it depends on what you want, and I suggest a balance of the two.

  3. I'll have to go with Atraties on this one. In the end, it all depends on the situation and game at hand.