Saturday, December 14, 2019

Clearing every room - CRPG or TTRPG?

"I've been largely operating via a classic RPG mentality of "clearing" every room even if the monsters are initially friendly." - Chester on the Camelot RPG.

Is that an RPG thing, a CRPG thing, or a TTRPG thing?

I'd say, "Classic CRPG mentality." You learn quickly in actual RPG to not kill everything just to kill it. Or you learn to accept the character casualty costs and opportunity costs of "clearing."

I'd say that from my perspective my players have exterminated a number of potential (and actual) friendlies, and closed off access to some really interesting information and actual treasures by "clearing" CRPG style instead of delving TTRPG style. I believe it's from coming from later gaming, where you have a feedback loop between later CRPG games and TTRPG games making "kill everything and search everywhere" the only way to play.

In a CRPG, you generally need to go to every square, explore every place, and kill every living (and unliving but animate) thing you encounter. You're not really "done" until you've done it all and especially killed it all.

In a TTRPG, especially an old-school megadungeon game, you really can't try to clear it all. It's a mistake to try. At some point you'll hit diminishing returns on the large but less valuable upper levels. That's in game terms. In real life terms, you can spend literal years in the same dungeon but never get very deep because you're trying to "complete" or "finish" or "clear" things. And you can all too easily get into the habit of trying to kill that which would rather negotiate or deal with you.

Sufficiently old CRPGs were generally like that. If you try the "clear it all" strategy in, say, Wizardry, you're making it hard on yourself. We won that game by eventually just taking a run at W*E*R*D*N*A by going down the elevators to level 9, skipping the intermediate levels, and casting TILTOWAIT while the fighters all attacked the evil wizard. "Clearing" the dungeon was impossible, so you learned not to do anything that cost more than it gave. You have to know what your goal is. And as I learned from Dan John, who I believe got this from Dan Gable (of "Gable grip" fame), you always have to keep the goal the goal.

In a really old-style TTRPG, that goal isn't clearing things. It's looting.


  1. Inch by inch clearing has always been the way I have seen dungeons approached. Friendly monsters being negotiated with is fine (the primary criteria for friendly is does it talk first) since 'this is the room Doug the Friendly Dragon lives in' makes it count as clear to me.

    Really if the DM makes or buys N rooms I expect to go through N rooms. Anything less is a fail. I feel that way as a DM to, this is a N room dungeon so I've got to DM the whole lot of It!

    1. See, that doesn't concern me. I've put in one-shot opportunities that got passed up (such as the door in the vanishing temple full of Demons from Between the Stars.) They're gone, and I'm satisfied with that. Putting it in is satisfaction enough for me. As a player, it's nice to "do it all" when I play, say, Gamma Terra, but it's not necessary.

  2. My group back in the day used to clear every room. The logic was you really don't want potential enemies behind you where they could block your retreat or where they can attack you from behind when you hit a bad spot. Better to get injured with a clear escape route than to be uninjured and surrounded.

    This logic does falls apart in a mega-dungeon but we never had any of those. Players saw the megadungeon map I was drawing (all on one giant piece of graph paper) and decide no F'ing way so I gave up on that.

    1. For small dungeons, I get that. It's often the goal. But for big ones - and the game being played is a big one - it's counterproductive to try. It will, in the end, cost you more than you gain unless you're gaining the area cleared itself as your reward.

  3. Peter: "I'd say that from my perspective my players have exterminated a number of potential (and actual) friendlies..."

    If it wouldn't give anything away, can you mention which groups of 'enemies' were friendlies or potential friendlies? i can only think of one, maybe two, and I can't be arsed right now to dig into the archives to see if my memories hold true... also, in the latest gate delve, the crew did treat with Vegepygmies and they did (in much earlier delves) initially work with the orcs (to their later chagrin), so it's not like they've just "kill everythinged" their way through.

    Peter: "Sufficiently old CRPGs were generally like that."

    Wizardry wasn't the only old CRPG that punished "clear it all". In fact, aside from Diablo, I'm having a hard time thinking of any 𝘾RPGs that actively reward "clear everything". Certainly many of the Console RPGs act this way, if that if you 𝙘𝙖𝙣 attack the NPC or monster, you're 𝙨𝙪𝙥𝙥𝙤𝙨𝙚𝙙 𝙩𝙤, but Computer RPgs tend (IMO) to have several groups in them that are there to be Diplomacied with.

    Kalzazz: "Friendly monsters being negotiated with is fine (the primary criteria for friendly is does it talk first) since 'this is the room Doug the Friendly Dragon lives in' makes it count as clear to me."

    That's not the 'clear' that Chester is talking about or Peter lamenting. Like them when I say 'the PCs cleared the dungeon' I mean they scoured it of life and death and emptied it down the the last bit of sellable scrap... which is not the style of game I prefer to run. But then unlike Peter, I'm not running Df right now, and when I do, it's pretty well stepped away from the genre and just uses the ruleset and templates for convenience (with some extra front-loaded points for social skills or races or whatever) so I don;t often have this problem.

    1. Here are a few examples of friendlies later killed:

      - the Crazies (first friends of the PCs, then the PCs curb-stomped their religion)
      - the orcs (foes, then friends, then the PCs killed some orcs, then the PCs didn't like the orcs not liking that, and then killed orcs)
      - the hobgoblins in the Caves of Chaos (foes, then allies, then the PCs killed them)

      They haven't killed Bob the Friendly Troll yet, but it's on the to-do list because they're convinced he has treasure. They befriended the vegepygmies but note they ensured they took all of their loot in trade for basically nothing first. They killed a number of people/things (the things are also people) that had compatible goals with them, and at least two that were by default friendly, without giving them a chance to talk because they had loot or were perceived as possibly dangerous.

      From my side of the screen, I see only people totally without loot but who are willing to provide value in return for nothing may be spared. Otherwise, dead.

      It's a loot-centric game, but couple that with "there may be loot we missed" feelings and concerns about delving deep and getting waxed means friendlies/neutrals who demonstrate ownership of valuables are just foes for later defeat.

    2. "It's a loot-centric game..."

      Granted, and you're getting what you wrote for.

  4. Ah, well my criteria for clear is 'of N rooms that exist, all N have been interacted with and all hostiles taken out or rendered non hostile and their/unclaimed stuff collected'

    If someone is friendly and you kill them that is just mean after all

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  6. I never saw this type of kill everything behavior except in CRPGs. I remember the original Bard's Tale had specific encounters you weren't supposed to go in fighting, but usually when you got very strong you went back just for the fun of it since there was no penalty to killing them. The old man in Fanskar's Castle and the 4 groups of 99 berserkers in the same dungeon are examples. Played intelligently you avoided the risk of combat and still got to advance in the game. But in TTRPGs I've never seen this. I have seen the completist approach, but that is "if the GM has created N encounters then we are not done until we have _visited_ N encounters." But in these cases players still decide "do I even want to expend time and effort?" on each one and visiting could be seeing what is there and turning around and leaving. As long as the map indicates what is in a room, it's fine to leave it be (unless it is aggressive and may later attack at a bad time if left to its own thing).

    1. I wouldn't call the Old Man and the 396 berserkers encounters you weren't meant to fight - I fought them both. Grinding the berserkers was the best way to level in the game! There are encounters you can't beat, but they're Easter eggs, not real encounters.


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