Existential risks: RPGs versus real life


Hmm I wanted to read more, but I can’t find this article on that web site at all.

It’s a question I’ve thought about (but not while facing cancer): Why do we care so little if awful things happen in games? The answer I think is about identifying with a character, and that’s why sometimes people care a great deal.

GURPS addresses this in a novel way: experience points are awarded not for killing mooks, but for quality roleplay. If your character is Gandhi, you won’t level up by going on a killing spree.

To put it simply: “Death solves all problems”… so rolling a 1, you no longer have a worry in the world… literally…as you are no longer a part of it… 2-8, win!

Sounds like a win/win to me. Hand me the D8.

Citation: http://www.goodreads.com/quotes/410859-death-solves-all-problems-no-man-no-problem

Also could not find it anywhere on ML, but was able to find it here: http://20by20room.org/2012/09/save-versus-death/


As players, if we are each playing one character, then we are out of the game if we lose that character. So obviously we don’t want to lose that character, especially not to blind luck. As players, we tend to expect plot armor…

So even though most adventures put characters in situations where they should be vulnerable, campaigns tend to make the situations more dangerous and rules tend to make the characters more invulnerable. Savage Worlds might be a good bad example, since it enables big battles every session, but gives “wild card” characters extra dice and extra hits and allows rerolls several times each session…

As someone interested in ancient history, I’ve thought about gaming Spartacus’s revolt. And in a roleplaying campaign, it’s not honest to give characters plot armor, but it is often reasonable to give players more than one character, reducing the need for plot armor.

Something weird is going on in my gaming group…

More and more of my players are getting married and having children (we are all on our 30s) and suddenly, those who were the most daring, bold, and “Roll Initiavitve I Dont Care What a Beholder Looks Like” become very conservative players… fearful of monsters and direct conflict, they weight so much the pros and cons of attacking a group of comatose kobolds that they feel overwhelmed and confused about what they have to do. Obviously the comatose kobolds win as the inaction of the players give them the edge to end such misery.

My players fear conflict. Fear the odds. Fear the unknown.

I want to slap my players with a giant green hand made of pure magical force!


We’re all NPCs, and the GM’s a dick.


Our family went through this with our younger son, when he was diagnosed with leukemia at the age of two. The odds of survival depended on us rolling that die AND feeding him 4,000 pills in the right sequence. It worked.

Why would you do it? Any sane person would not choose to. The surprising end result: It changed our lives dramatically. We dropped out of the rat race and started doing things that make the world a better place for people to live in.


Well, yeah, of course our PCs would take risks that we wouldn’t, that’s what makes the game fun - a sense of jeopardy without actual physical jeopardy. (Although because we have invested some time building up that character, there is adrenaline associated with that die roll, and dopamine when we survive).

Evolution in action, I suppose.

Actually, very few RPGs today reward XP for killing monsters, except for computer games. Most games are now some flavour of flat-award with bonuses for things like major plot progression, roleplay, etc.

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Some years ago I had a conversation about this with a computer game designer, who wanted game choices to have greater consequences, so that existential risks, or choosing to leave the farm and go on a quest, would force thoughtful consideration.

Since, pre-Farmville, it was hard to think about how staying on the farm could give player value, the only thing I could think of was that death would cause something really, truly bad to happen. Like the random deletion of great chunks of your hard drive. That, of course, would be vandalism and a virus, not a game. More feasibly, suppose the game costs $500 but you get the money back if you leave the game alive. Nothing came of that, but I still wonder every now and then how creating greater jeopardy from your RPG would alter the nature of the game.

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The price of dying in a RPG is that you spend an hour re-rolling a character. The price of dying in real life is that, well…

That said, the author way underestimates the human willingness to take massive risks. Smoking is a 1d3…

Except that “random deletion” game actually exists and has for a while? There’s actually a few variants of it. My favorite is actually the one that turns the file structure on your computer into a level and the files into enemies of a difficulty based on the file details, and killing the enemy destroys the file. The game usually ends with system failure. Paradoxically, victory and progress is ultimately the way you achieve a true and lasting loss - it’s a game about your character essentially committing suicide, and every challenge that blocks your way and is overcome gets you a little bit closer to the end.

Fun to install when you’re about to wipe a computer and reinstall from scratch, wish I could remember the name of it…

After iD software release the source for DOOM a developer made psDooM, that spawns monsters based on the running processes in your system, and killing them would kill the process.
Much less destructive in the long term, but possibly more likely to cause a short term system failure

Ah! I remember that one!

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