Tabletop QOTD 2020-07-24

Borrowing from the idea of the Pluspora Check-in get some tabletop conversation going. If you have any questions that you want to get on the list to be asked, let me know. Also, if you'd like to be added or taken off the list of participants, let me know.

What do you do when a player gets knocked out of a game?


In general, I don't like games where someone can be knocked out of it before the game is done. However, there are those that we play a lot where it happens. It can become a distraction- especially when there are multiple people out- which is one of the reasons I don't like those types of games. We usually try to wrap things up if they go on for too long.


If a character meets an untimely demise, a lot depends on the game, but I'll generally do one of three things.

a) games like Fate where you can use aspects without being there, I generally expand it so that the player is still involved.
b) games where it takes a while to create a character, the new character gets a portion of the experience, so the player can start to generate a new character.
c) I might also turn over an NPC to them to play in the game, if the NPCs permit that.

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I prefer games which are relatively short so you can play 3+ times in a gaming session. Even if a game technically doesn't have a feature where a player is "knocked out", most games still have it where one or more players can get hopelessly behind. That can be even more frustrating than being knocked out entirely.
We don't tend to play a lot of player elimination so when it happens someone just wanders off and that's that. Having to wrangle folks back to play a game is way more irritating than just not playing those sorts of games.
It depends on the game. We tend not to play games where Player Elimination is a thing. When we do (and someone is eliminated), they tend to hang out and shout (deliberately bad) advice or encouragement at one or more of the other players.

But for us, games are primarily an excuse to hang out. We're not tournament-level at most of what we play, and we all enjoy being around one another.

The bigger problem is what do do when someone is technically not out, but has zero chance of winning. Because that can get super-frustrating, unless the game is almost over already (and sometimes it isn't). How we handle that really depends on the mood of the room. Sometimes, we kill the game before it's technically over because - again - we're all friends who aren't playing for blood and/or prizes.
@Eric Franklin That's how I always played too. Friends. And why I don't play much anymore. I have some friends that were playing dominoes, but we are no longer touching those common objects. We still meet to socialize safely and sometimes play "madlib."

And I have yet to meet people interested in role playing. I'd like to meet some people to play Munchkins.
Deaths are not common in my RPGs. Usually they are big dramatic moments and will shape future events when they happen, unless I am running a "one Shot" for some reason.

If they do happen and the character has a religious connection that may turn into a big scene for the character and their player. If that happens I try to make it the last scene in the gaming session, so that at the conclusion the player has time between sessions to create or take over an existing NPC for the next session (if something unusual doesn't happen to return their character into play in another form).

I've also run settings and storylines where the character becomes a disembodied Spirit/Ghost that can interact with one or more of the existing characters (If possible) and becomes a 'Kibitzer' to the events that follow. Thus they can communicate in some way and be involved in non-physical interactions (or even provide clues based upon their new existential perspective).

Non-Temporally Sequential Reincarnation also has been a tool.... where the player is now suddenly embodied in a pet, familiar, nearby wildlife, or even manifested into a previously unseen magical being (waking up the next day as a Faun or some other being with no knowledge of their bodie's life but all their old memories intact). Did this to a few druids back when I ran DnD style games.

Every now and then deaths do happen due to bad dice and/or really dumb player choices. These produce the.... ok.. time to create a new character while the story moves on moments.... but I always try to get them into a stay of introduction of such as soon as possible if they are staying with the game.

As for board games... not many I have played in years that had eliminations except as part of a 'sudden death/end of game' mechanic. But then again the games I've played as board games have either been cooperatives or didn't have elimination mechanics (Settlers of Catan, Fluxx, Chrononauts, for example).
I don't play games that feature such terrible dated mechanics such as player elimination :D
Multi-player war board games are the primary games that I play that feature that mechanic. Not really a way around that.
@Chuck Dee It depends on the style of game. With some games, like Barbarian, Kingdom, & Empire, a player who is "knocked out" comes back as a new faction. Obviously you restart at a disadvantage, but it's something. It wouldn't be too hard to make up house rules to adapt that sort of thing into other multi-player war games.

But generally I like short and vicious games where player elimination is fast and furious. For example, my favorite version of Uno is one which me made up; we call it "Deadly Uno". Basically, you're only allowed to draw cards if someone hits you with Draw 2 or Draw 4 wild. Otherwise, if it's your turn and you don't have any playable card, you're eliminated.

This results in very dynamic strategies because there are two ways to win - either you play your last card, or everyone else is eliminated. In regular Uno, getting hit by a bunch of Draw cards is a frustrating disaster. But in Deadly Uno, having a huge hand means you might outlast everyone else.

Turns out that both methods of winning are common. Deadly Uno is a much deeper game than regular Uno, even though each match is a LOT shorter.

I feel the same way about Wiz War, which has a similar sort of feel with the normal rules. You can either win by getting two opponent treasures on your home spot, or you can be eliminated if both of your treasures are on opponent home spots. It's also possible to get eliminated by losing all your hit points, but with the default 15 hit points it's not so easy to eliminate someone with direct attacks. But the treasure mechanisms alone give an interesting mix of things to take into consideration.
In our RPGs, deaths happen sometimes, but they're not really common. Not unheard of, but we play mostly smart enough to avoid them. Mostly.

Boardgames, we mostly play euro-style where you don't even know who won until you tally up.
I view it as a flaw in the game if you can't tell who's ahead and who's behind during play. Like ... the elegant design of Carcassonne is admirable, but it takes a number of plays before a player has a feel for who is ahead and who is behind. Even Settlers has a few non-obvious "gotchas" beyond the obvious point count and being on better numbers.

But at least you can get a very good idea who is doing better after a few plays.

I prefer games where you have a good sense of who is ahead and who is behind, because I prefer the excitement of the blow-by-blow "horse race" over the excitement of uncertainty.
I used to play d&d with a group. Our DM had us keep spare characters in case of death. We alternated characters in campaigns so that they both had experience. I liked playing a Dwarf though I played a Gif that became almost invincible. I had to retire Moboom. That was "Mo [re]boom!" He liked his guns.
@Isaac Kuo 'doing well and doing not well' we usually have a sense of, but the exact relationship is not always clear. It often is if one person is doing much better, but most of our games are quite close (like, "if I'd had one more turn I would've won" kind of close).
@UnclePirate (Stan McCann) Dark Sun had a 'PC stable' idea where every time one character advanced a level, one of your other characters advanced. That way you always had some replacements in the waiting.

Of course, with AD&D a first level character could typically catch up to the rest, more or less, in the time they took to advance another level. Yay exponential XP requirements!
@Keith Davies - that's why I like Milestone experience a lot better than the book keeping of exact XP.
@Chuck Dee I mostly use a modified milestone approach. I try to frame adventures (and even down to encounters) in terms of questions they answer. You get XP (or outright advancement) on answering the question.

You don't have to get the 'good answer'. If Duke Whosit is angling to usurp the throne and has kidnapped the king's daughter, the question "how does she get out of this?" could be answered as "the PCs kill the duke and rescue her", "the PCs rescue her but the duke escapes and knows who they are", "she sees how things are going and marries the duke to be on the winning side", "caps a stray crossbow bolt and dies", or many others.

Now, consequences of the different answers also come into play, but the actual XP award still happens.
Chuck Dee Friendica
@Keith Davies - that's actually really cool- I might have to try that!
@Chuck Dee I posted about it (a little more than five years ago) at http://www.kjd-imc.org/blog/reframing-campaigns-and-adventures/
Chuck Dee Friendica
Thanks for the link! I'll check it out!