Monday, June 7, 2021

Adventuring Mistakes I: Oooh Shiny!

Today and tomorrow I'm going to talk a little about what I call "Adventuring Mistakes."

These are mistakes that players make that disrupt the accomplishment of their goals.

I discuss them mostly from a megadungeon perspective, or a limited sandbox perspective, where you have a choose-your-own-goal approach to play. A more mission-oriented game might not allow for this to happen, or give you such built-in focus that it's hard to get pulled out of the overall plan. You might get tactically distracted, but you're less likely to get distracted from the main goal of the day's delving.

Obligatory "Wrong, these aren't mistakes" pre-response: Anything that doesn't accomplish what you're trying to do, or actively undermines what you're trying to do, is a mistake in my book. It might be chosen deliberately, it might be fun, but it also might mean that you don't accomplish your stated and intended goals and miss out on more fun regardless of your intention either way.

With that out of the way, let's go make some mistakes.

Oooh Shiny!

Sometimes called "Adventurer ADD," or some similar construction, this is the mistake of letting every side issue pull you out of your planned delve. Instead of accomplishing your goal, you get lost in a seemingly never-ending series of distractions, each pulling you away from what you're really after.

How far back does the issue of getting distracted go?

Pretty far.

"some firm objective should be established and then adhered to as strongly as possible."
Gary Gygax, "Successful Adventures," AD&D Players Handbook, p. 107

You don't give advice like that because everyone is always keeping to their plans with hard-nosed rigidity.

What kind of behavior do you see with Oooh Shiney?

It's usually one or more of these types of things, all done despite a plan that specifically involves doing none of them.

- let's chase down those fleeing wandering monsters (or fight them in the first place, often enough, because "they might have treasure!")

- let's check that door

- let's see if this hallways on the map connects up to that hallway on our map

- let's investigate that sound

- let's run away from that monster to this new area

- let's check this one thing out real quick on the way


The list can go on and on.

In other words, you have a plan, but then let yourself get pulled out of the plan to do some other thing that seems attractive or interesting. Or, often enough, easier than the plan itself. This is especially the case if you've chosen a plan despite a lack of enthusiasm for it, or because you couldn't think of anything else, or somehow hoping something better would come along. It's grasping at a straw of convenience because you didn't want to go through with your plan in the first place.

It can also be something that disrupts a good, solid plan that you really do want to follow through on. You can just get yourself distracted by something that seems like it must be done right now.

This can often take the form of combat, too - getting into a fight can solve a lot of questions about "what next?" and what to do right now, as well. It provides relief from the decision-making process that following through on a plan often requires.

The inability to follow through on a plan isn't in and of itself a failure to adventure. However, it can mean:

- wasted time planning (you spend 45 minutes talking it out, which isn't spent playing, and you don't follow through anyway.)

- wasted resource acquisition - you bought and brought stuff that isn't going to be needed because you didn't stick the plan out.

- lack of resource acquisition for the next task - lack of rations for a side trip that might call for them, lack of purchasable magic that is needed for a new plan, etc.

- inefficient adventuring, especially if you have a series of tasks you need to accomplish.

How do you know you do this?

Looking back at your delves, how often do you have a plan and follow through, at least to a degree?

How easily are you distracted from an ongoing task with a new task?

Getting pulled from Task A to Opportunity Task B isn't a bad thing, if B is something you may have wanted to accomplish in the first place had you given it some thought. Sometimes opportunity knocks, and you have to answer right now if you want to reap the benefits.

But if you find that opportunity is always knocking, or you're depending on it knocking, or assuming it's knocking whenever something new comes along . . . you might be making the "Oooh, shiney!" mistake.

Tomorrow: Clearly, getting distracted is a problem. So let's go to the other extreme! The natural opposite to Oooh Shiny: Stay on target!


  1. I think the most common reason for this is "...if you've chosen a plan despite a lack of enthusiasm for it, or because you couldn't think of anything else, or somehow hoping something better would come along..." I think that is the vast majority of the reasons, regardless of the form (chasing down monsters, connecting the map, etc.).

    For me, the second most common distraction or reason is partially due to Ulf's paranoia, but is also a mindset of making sure we check our six. So fleeing monsters are a potential threat if they can circle back around and get us from behind. Or if we hear a noise behind us--sometimes we just move quickly away, and other times we decide to check it out to make sure we aren't jumped.

    But it all goes back to #1, I think. When we have a plan that we all want to stick to and do, we don't get too distracted. When we aren't sure *what* to do, we tend to get very distracted because we think sometimes the distractions might prove valuable in some way. There are some times when we get distracted with something that involves checking our six, or something that is time sensitive and requires a reaction, but the vast majority of the time, it's looking for a better plan, I think.

    1. There is always a rationale for "Oooh Shiny!" and there is always a rationale for "Stay on Target!" That's what makes them dangerous fallacies. You can always explain why you "had to," or "couldn't avoid," or "it made sense to" do either.

      The lack of enthusiasm is probably reason #1. #2 is the the plan is hard, and something else - anything else - seems easier right now. Future you never thanks present you for having taking the easier path . . . but it's hard to make yourself do something unpleasant or hard without a reason that is stronger than the obstacle.

  2. I should have added to the last post: This assumes that the delvers have a plan to accomplish (kill the Lord of Spite, open the Orichalcum Doors, figure out the Rotating Statute Puzzle) as opposed to a plan that is "explore the dungeon." You would know for sure, but I think early Felltower was a lot more of that kind of plan. That is now different insofar as: (1) the delvers are reluctant to explore certain areas (e.g., "Level Five" where the glowing crystals are located, the Beholder/Dragon area, the Iron Golem area, etc.), and (2) nearly all of Level One, Level Two, and the "Cavern Level" (and *seemingly* a lot of the "Gate Level"). So I think early on, I suspect there was less deviation from the plan because the plan was probably, "explore these areas of the map," etc.

  3. "Oooh Shiny!"

    I always try to account for some level of Oh Shiny into all my plans. That way it's not a digression from the plan, "see it's right there in the plan, investigate unknown things!"

    "- wasted time planning (you spend 45 minutes talking it out, which isn't spent playing, and you don't follow through anyway.)"

    Okay we just gonna have to agree to disagree here. Planning is always a part of the game. Especially if it involves arguments that involve Character motivations. Heck, I've had purely meta-arguments where we at the end agreed to go and do something and then had to figure out how to have convinced our Characters to go and do it. Those are all still fun and part of game.

    I suspect we're going to disagree a bit as well tomorrow, you and I have seem to have slightly different approaches to gaming. You //seem// to prize the "active" play (characters doing things) over the "passive" play (group discussions, shopping, planning, etc).

    I like them both. But I can also see that you've had levels of Felltower planned out and waiting on the PCs to explore for over a decade. If I ever ran games like that, I'd probably start to chafe a bit over the "slow parts of the game" as well. You also have a far, far stricter time table for "individual delves" because of the type of game you're running and that certainly colours things.

    1. I do prize the active play over the play-prep. And planning and shopping isn't really that entertaining, especially if your plans regularly don't get follow-through and your shopping is all centered on "get the stuff for this plan" plus "get this stuff just in case" and people being vague about who carries it. It's not as fun as fighting monsters and seeing what's beyond that strange door, for me, anyway, and the more time spent on it uselessly the less I like to spend minutes of my life on them.

    2. Yeah... the way shopping is done in your game I'd relegate to "do this via email between sessions". Or "Give me a list of your wants, in order of preference, and how much you're willing to spend total, I'll roll to see what's available and fill out the list until you either run out of list or money".

    3. We've tried something like that, but it hasn't worked well for us. Not everyone gets on the job by email, and even if they do, the work then devolves to me to make rolls, spend money, do totals, etc. - none of which I want to do. It hasn't really been a time saver because the task doesn't get completed ahead of time, and takes more of my prep time doing player-centric PC loadout prep instead of GM game prep.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...