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D&D 3E
Plot vs. Hack-and-Slash 
28th-Jan-2005 10:07 am
My players like the hack and slash aspect of the game by a long shot. I'm okay with giving them that, we're there to have fun. However, I've always been a story-based DM, and too many battles in one session leaves no room for story.

Does anyone else experience this, the players that want to destroy (tactically, mind you--but still destroy)? How do you entertain them with something besides battle? I'm open to suggestions.
28th-Jan-2005 06:17 pm (UTC)
The #1 way is to not be boring.

Kicking ass beats boring by a factor of (checks latest figures) 9000 to 1.
28th-Jan-2005 06:18 pm (UTC)
My story oriented players find my story rather intriguing. I have a couple of them. But a few of my players don't care about stories at all. They come to game to destroy crap, and that's it.
28th-Jan-2005 06:19 pm (UTC)
Never has this problem been more obvious to me as a DM than when I work with D&D's most enthusiastic audience: middle-school age boys.

Now, it's nice that they're so motivated to play. You can count on every player to show up. But it gets tricky when I'm trying to coax one of the PCs to embrace their characters history and act accordingly in the context of the plot; they just want to smoke bad guys. There's no one solution, but there are better and worse ways of thinking about the problem.

One thing that needs to be communicated: You are the DM. You control everything. Now, I'm not saying be needlessly harsh to your PCs, but you can put them in restrictive situations where only careful action (not battle, specifically) will be able to get them out (puzzles would be an extreme form of this).

Also, in behavioral psychology, there's something we like to call the Premack principle. Basically, if there's a low-frequency behavior that you'd like to increase (spending time with the story), you reinforce that behavior with the opportunity to perform a high-frequency behavior (combat). You might do this by eliminating most or all random encounters and make all battles within the context of your plot. That way, the only way your players get to do what they really want is to go through the story element.

Of course, that isn't to say you can't make the story more attractive to more, er ... short-attention-spanned? ... players. On top of using all the dramatic elements at your disposal (with plenty of twists) to keep them engaged, you can physically sate their itchy fingers simply by including lots of checks, saves, and other dice rolls to make them feel like they're not just listening to you. Make sure you aren't just narrating; it should be the PCs that drive the story, with the DM merely acting as an interface to the game environment.

Hope this helps, one way or another. ^_^
28th-Jan-2005 06:22 pm (UTC)
It does, thank you for the advice.

I actually don't do random encounters the majority of the time; I only do them if things get slow, or if the players go in a different direction than what I planned (which is fine, but I have one track minded players that are often predictable in their means of destruction and playing the valiant knight that saves the princess/(prince?) in danger :-].)
28th-Jan-2005 06:25 pm (UTC)
Tie the story to the combat. Given them an NPC they like and then KILL HER DEAD RIGHT IN FRONT OF THEM. Have a recurring villain who they hate even more every time he shows up and ruins their day.

Once they really have a grudge against the villains, they will pursue your story aggressively if it brings them closer to their goal: KILLING THAT BASTARD DEAD.

... yeah, I'm a little bloodthirsty sometimes.
28th-Jan-2005 06:42 pm (UTC)
Amen to that! Make them absolutely hate somebody, and have to work to hunt/track them down. Throw in Red Herrings, obstacles, and make sure the Villain is always three steps ahead (one may not be enough against a group of determined PCs).

And, if you're worried about what happens at that point, make said hated villain a pawn of some bigger badder villain. This makes a nice lead in to your next story arc.

BTW, the best part here is, people with information aren't so likely to give it away, but they may make the PCs earn it, by doing small quests. This gives them hacking and slashing, and gives you a chance to bust out storyline.

A quick last bit on this, don't be surprised if, after this goes on long enough, the PCs will ignore EVERYTHING, either your story OR a bigger threat just to go after somebody or something they hate. But that can make for great story too.
28th-Jan-2005 06:45 pm (UTC)
Thanks for the advice! I have an evil NPC I've been building up as a villain, though he hasn't been introduced enough times or done anything vulgar enough yet to cause too much hatred. Hopefully when I build up to that point, this idea works! :-)
28th-Jan-2005 06:25 pm (UTC)
"Does anyone else experience this, the players that want to destroy (tactically, mind you--but still destroy)? How do you entertain them with something besides battle?"

Oh, yeah. I had one player who left the table during talks with an NPC; as he walked away he said "call me when something good happens."

What I've done is keep their characters directly involved plotlines. Unfocused chatting with NPCs can get old, but when their characters' futures are on the line it's a different story.
28th-Jan-2005 06:26 pm (UTC)
give them battles that they can win more easily if they paid attention to something earlier in the game, and that they'll lose if they don't. keep doing that but escalate the threat each time until they die if they don't pay attention to story. they'll probably end up more interested in story after that. my favorite monster variation is the salt troll. fire doesn't hurt them or stop them from regenerating but salt does. if they miss that detail early on they're screwed.
28th-Jan-2005 06:31 pm (UTC)
There are many axis to divide up the RP community. Rule lawyers (and not) and system fans (and system bigots and system-neutral) are common ones. So is the Story v H&S divide.

You're sort of stuck. People like what they like. While that can change over time, you can't force it. You can either play to their interests, run the game you like, or compromise. You don't seem willing to do a pure H&S game, so the other two options are open.

You should tell your players what you're doing, regardless. They should know that you don't want a H&S pure game, and you intend it to be more story/plot based. Give them an option to adjust or an easy way out, without causing bad feelings.

That being saidm you can also try:

You can run the game you like. If they don't cooperate, you can ask (or encourage) the H&S player sot leave, by giving huge consequences to that kind of behavior, pulling DM fiat if they try to get into combat and shouldn't, and refusing to pull dice when the PCs do something stupid (either tell the player what happens, or put them in an impossible situation). A DM can always 'win' in a H&S conflict. You can just do that until they get tired or bored.

Or you can compromise. Give them a battle or two a night (but give yourself a limit. If it is going on too long, fudge the rolls so the PCs win faster. Start provoking AoOs on yourself. etc.) The rest of the time, spend on storylines. If your H&S players aren't willing to sit back and let the story players have the floor doing what they like for a while, they're not being fair. You can go back to the options above, or just let them settle.
28th-Jan-2005 06:41 pm (UTC)
Thanks for the advice.

That's actually the limit I do, is at least one good battle a night for them, but no more than 2 battles so my story-enjoying self and the two story-enjoying players I have don't go insane.

But when I try to make battles go faster when they're getting long by provoking attacks of opportunity, fudging dice, I have players that say that I'm not playing the monsters according to their intelligence score - "they wouldn't have done that, they would have been more tactical."

You can imagine the nightmare it is preparing a dragon for the hack and slash player that wants an intelligent, long drawn out fight (which, the first time I did that for these players was last game - it was good, but looooong, in the double digits for rounds.)
28th-Jan-2005 07:45 pm (UTC)
I have players that say that I'm not playing the monsters according to their intelligence score - "they wouldn't have done that, they would have been more tactical."

And how do these players know that the monsters in question aren't tired, ill, or perhaps just less intelligent? PCs can range the full scale from a gibbering idiot at 3 to a genius at 18... Why can't monsters?
28th-Jan-2005 07:59 pm (UTC)
If they're going to be sticklers for 'acting according to their intellegence', you can't force the opponent to invoke AoOs and the like. But you can do incedental things. Failing the concetration check to do Combat Casting. Bad to-hit or saving throw rolls. Low rolls for their damage dice. failed checks to bolster undead. Bad spellcaster checks to penetrate SR. Etc. An enemy summoning specialized caster, who wasn't prepared for the PCs Magic Circle Against Evil. etc.
28th-Jan-2005 10:18 pm (UTC)
You just need to talk to them. I mean maybe they should just be playing board games or maybe go play the miniatures game. Maybe they don't find stories boring, but just aren't interested in the current one. That happens and there are ways to fix it, but you really need to talk about it first and figure out exactly what the problem is.

You really haven't said much about the situation. It sounds like perhaps you let them push you over into drawing the battles out. When players fight they don't get to think about things. They're in the middle of a battle. Go round the table in initiative order and ask what they're doing. If they don't tell you in a few seconds, then they stood there dumbfounded for a round.

Yeah, I guess I had this problem at some point, but I trained my players well. I realized they didn't really 'get' that an RPG wasn't a video game. Ran them through a few abusive games of Toon and Over the Edge. They're all better now.
29th-Jan-2005 02:41 am (UTC)
I players wibble over their action in combat, I'll shout '30 seconds!' and loom over my watch, usually gets a reaction pretty quick. Shame it doesn't work so well in online games.

I always like villains who weave dialogue into their combat personally, but that's a bit easy to ignore, I guess.
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