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It's Not Just A Game!

Dualistic Anti-Munchkinizing Solution

by Coilean mac Caiside
Jul 03,2002


Dualistic Anti-Munchkinizing Solution

So what, you ask? So this person has a different view on roleplaying, and the men in white lab coats will probably drive up soon in a black van to carry them off. Why should you care? What is there that compels you to continue reading?

It's real to them.

I want to help you improve your campaigns. I will do this by pointing out the lore I've gleaned through seeing all this from other angles. But I'm not offering to advise you on strengthening internal consistency [which is how the world looks for those inside it] OR external consistency [which is how the world makes sense to players]. A short digression, as my seeking of an analogy to explain this led me to an anti-munchkin method.

The dualistic solution.

When you start playing a game, the GM asks you if you define your character more in the sense of who they are, or what they can do [actually, they come up with a hell of a lot better questions than I could think of]. Next, the player is given a sheet of paper and told to write down their stats - no, not roll for them - and explain the range [say, 1-20], and the average [say, 9-11]. Lastly, they are told that it costs nothing to raise them as high as is desired, and if they lower anything, it does not affect anything else - not even the other stats, so the player may choose to have all 20's or all 1's if so desired. After they write all this down, the GM takes the paper back and inverts the numbers by their distance away from the average, to find the other side of the stat. So, if the player had decided they defined that particular character more by who they were, that would equate to external - and if they had taken all 20's, the internal values would be all 1's. The two main questions must be 1) Why? and 2) What effect does it have?


Some people spend all their time and effort trying to LOOK intelligent, convince others of it. Some people frankly don't give a damn what other people think, about them being stupid or whatever, and focus on BEING intelligent.

External is to make other people THINK you possess that trait or quality [in abundance]. Internal is to BE something.

In situations where the character is dealing with other people, and it MATTERS what they think, the External values are used. In cases where they are alone, or must do something without the influence of the beliefs of other people, the Internal values are used.

Finding your way out of a labyrinth is Internal. Solving a riddle is External [the answer sounded good to the questioner]. Though, in the latter case, some comparisons might apply; check how relatively smart they are, and maybe the questioner was overwhelmed [character being much smarter] or not too impressed [about as smart or even more]. Also, modifications could take place to affect the roll; a bonus for when you're trying to lift that rock, but there are people watching you [have to match up to expectations!], or a penalty in a craftsmanship contest [your cake may look pretty, but people can't force a smile and choke it down if it isn't even edible].

The duo-istic solution.

"But, wait!" you're saying. "I don't believe in that dualistic stuff!" [or, if you're Western, you're protesting "Now, I rejected that dualistic crap! The brainwashings of my forefathers were too much for me!"]. Well, I'm not one to stop looking for the next side either.

So you maxed out and chose all 20's for your first character. Are you hopeless? Well, that wouldn't make much sense - I mean, surely, the character can't be an ABSOLUTE wuss when half the situations can't be avoided? There must be some BASIC competence that all people enjoy.

There is. For each stat, your lowest gives you the value of your third side - in effect, your level. For ANY roll, the penalties cannot push your skill below this effective number - and if you couldn't normally make a roll, you make it at this number [unskilled attempts].

Now, I can still see some people min-maxing a bit - after all, they can just buy up their level over time, and if some people start out at "Level" 10, they'll have caught up to 10 before those people are mid-way through "Level" 14. But the cost for improving your general competency isn't based on what your current "Level" is - it's based on what the higher of your two statistical sides are. So, in other words, if you have a 1 and a 19, your "Level" is 1, and you have to pay a cost corresponding with the 19 to improve your 1 to 2.

The prospect of min-maxing seeming much more dismal now? Look on the bright side - if you play all 10's, you only have to start out paying for a 10, and you have the shortest route to the top.


I call it the integral consistency of a campaign. The part that, even if some bits don't make sense, lets you smooth over those apparent contradictions because you know - it fits in to the rest of itself. Not so much the enjoyability of a game, as what encourages the players to stick around when all else doesn't click, with the sense of a greater picture, glimpsed but not quite perceived in complete form.

What if 'real/realistic/realism' were defined as "A seemingly logical development from combined factors of the environment, world included."? From what I've observed, objections made [by someone] to realism seldom take this into account; instead, the [former and yet valid] context is mistakenly replaced with that of their own world. If reality details were determined accordingly, from the ground up rather than by what differed, this problem could be avoided. Instead of keeping the same context and pretending a few [minor] details were different, one would deconstruct their own worldview and form a[n entirely] new one, [entirely ]native to the world.

That's the first thing to keep in mind. It's not, mind you, the first thing I learned - if it was, I would have no reason to mention it to you, since anyone else that travelled down that path could pick it up quickly. But I can take a good look around at where I am, locate a few landmarks, and maybe use them to give you a shortcut. Of course, many of you saw that and thought "Well, duh.", which just goes to show - I'm taking a different pathway than most [I never even got to the trailhead - I mistook the opening in the trees for the path a few turnings before it was within sight]. Still, just as I might not pass by an overlook to some enlightening vista as soon as you would, so might my path meander elsewhere in the meantime - even somewhere your map didn't show [except, mayhaps, with a warning of "This way be dragons!"], let alone get close to - and once you know it exists, you can decide for yourself whether or not you'd like to go there.

Next time: Secrets

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What do you think?

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  • (The Final) Conflict by Coilean mac Caiside, 20sep02
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  • Why All Adventurers Are Chaotic Evil by Coilean mac Caiside, 07aug02
  • Secrets: I'm No Tattletale! by Coilean mac Caiside, 17jul02
  • Dualistic Anti-Munchkinizing Solution by Coilean mac Caiside, 03jul02
  • Wargaming and Historical Reproduction by Coilean mac Caiside, 19jun02
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