Choose the Illusion: Dungeon Mastering




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    Choose the Illusion: Dungeon Mastering

    I put up a post on D&D's official blog and I wanted to share it. It is applicable to more than just D&D 4e and I hope it helps DMs in developing their next campaign or adventure.

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    I wanted to extrapolate more on the process in the blog, but I didn't want to cloud the message too much.
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    I found the blog post decently written for its topic but I do not agree with its content.

    To begin with, I do not see rpgs (at least all of them) as being about collaborative storytelling. For the sake of my next point though lets pretend that I do.

    So if we accept the premise that rpgs are about telling collaborative stories, how are they that exactly if we construct a predetermined ending? If there are 6 storytellers at the table, why does one particular one get to dictate an ending? That isn't collaboration as I see it.
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    The players still act within the confines of the story. You, as the storyteller, are not directing their actions. Their contributions to the story are just as important. That's more to my point and I should have clarified it. The ending need not be a singular outcome, but a conduit to the next adventure. In this regard there is a single ending that moves the narrative to the next step (or the ending, if that's the case).
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    Quote Originally Posted by ExploderWizard View Post
    I found the blog post decently written for its topic but I do not agree with its content.

    To begin with, I do not see rpgs (at least all of them) as being about collaborative storytelling. For the sake of my next point though lets pretend that I do.

    So if we accept the premise that rpgs are about telling collaborative stories, how are they that exactly if we construct a predetermined ending? If there are 6 storytellers at the table, why does one particular one get to dictate an ending? That isn't collaboration as I see it.
    I have been the Technical Lead on many projects. I have also been a Team Member, or Subject Matter Expert (SME) on various projects. Even though, as a Tech Lead, I'm the one responsible for seeing the project to it's conclusion the project is always a collaboration. The input from each of those SMEs and Team Members is vital to a successful project.

    A TV Series might have a single producer, or multiple ones. They are responsible to getting the series out there. However, the TV show is still a collaboration. Some of those producers might also be writers for the show, and along with other writers bring the story forward. Each director has a different take on how he protrays things but he does so within the confines of what the producers will allow. So it is entirely a collaboration.

    As a DM, I'm responsible for getting the world out there to the players. The input from the players is vital to what actually happens in the "story". So yes, it is a collaboration. Without the players providing input it would be a very boring game indeed.
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    Well, you seem to be advocating "choose your own adventure", Fighting Fantasy Gamebook, only with a GM. This would seem to rather take away most of the benefit of having an actual person running the game.

    Still, it's definitely superior to the totally linear, railroaded approach.

    I've just been reading EGG's Yggsburgh book, prepping for a game tonight. Yggsburgh is essentially a near-infinite matrix of plot - wherever you go, you hit 1 or more plot hooks*; each hook leads naturally to several more, and on. Some are static/location based, many others exist in the random tables. Being written for C&C (or AD&D etc) it's designed to be runnable with the players having effectively infinite choice on what they do, where they go. I certainly think that as a DMing aid to give players real choice, this is a superior approach. There are individual nested adventures/dungeons in there where the dungeon map creates naturally limited choice, but the players are free to choose whether to engage with any particular dungeon.

    *There seem to be well over a thousand of these in there, from short paragraphs to 15-page adventures.
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    Quote Originally Posted by S'mon View Post
    This would seem to rather take away most of the benefit of having an actual person running the game.
    I'm not following this point. Can you expand upon it? The cards should never be viewed as concrete. The players won't even be aware of them. They are meant to be a tool in constructing your campaign or encounter. It also gives you the chance to go back and add unique twists and turns.
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    I confess that I really did not understand the grid of cards. Are you saying that given a grid:

    1 2 3
    4 5 6
    7 8 9

    Encounter 1 leads to 2 or 4, encounter 2 leads to 3 or 5, etc.? It is never explicitly stated how the grid works.

    If so, isn't this extremely wasteful? You have to write up 9 encounters, only 5 of which are used.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ExploderWizard View Post
    So if we accept the premise that rpgs are about telling collaborative stories, how are they that exactly if we construct a predetermined ending? If there are 6 storytellers at the table, why does one particular one get to dictate an ending? That isn't collaboration as I see it.
    "Collaboration" does not mean "all people play the same role in the activity". In any given collaborative effort, the group may turn to an individual for a decision on some particular aspect of the work, or it may be a particular person's role to provide certain decisions or specifications, much as D'karr notes. You see it in software development a lot these days, especially in Agile processes.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ExploderWizard View Post
    I found the blog post decently written for its topic but I do not agree with its content.

    To begin with, I do not see rpgs (at least all of them) as being about collaborative storytelling. For the sake of my next point though lets pretend that I do.

    So if we accept the premise that rpgs are about telling collaborative stories, how are they that exactly if we construct a predetermined ending? If there are 6 storytellers at the table, why does one particular one get to dictate an ending? That isn't collaboration as I see it.
    I also see collaborative storytelling as a kind of "one true wayism" in the hobby at the moment. Collaboration isn't bad, but its hardly the only means in which to engage in a game with others. For a start there are competitive games and cooperative games too. Competitive is its own thing, but to differentiate between collaborative and cooperative:

    Collaboration is normally a rule of a game or enterprise. If we stop collaborating in a joint storytelling venture, then we're no longer working together. We might each be storytelling individually, but we're no longer bothering to do it with other people. The upside is the collaborative expectation defines the borders of our working together before beginning and trust is built into their transparency. Some downsides are that these definitions limit our understood engagement as well as make expanding it an all or nothing choice. For games, the game is over if we choose to stop collaborating.

    In cooperative enterprises we a joint harmony with other people, but it can change. And, perhaps most importantly, the choice to cooperate or not is the major theme. In cooperative games each player is repeatedly in the position to choose whether or not to cooperate with one or more of the other players. However, if they choose to go alone, the game still continues. Plenty of boardgames are like this, where the objective of the game is set for a group, but the players can choose to work together or not throughout play. If you believe everyone else's plans are going to lead us all off a cliff, then you can act differently without necessarily divorcing one's actions from the group's goals. One could even have a separate, personal goal with each choice then being about how to give and take within the group for the achievement of those individual objectives.
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    Quote Originally Posted by howandwhy99 View Post
    Competitive is its own thing, but to differentiate between collaborative and cooperative:
    I think you draw some hair-fine distinctions between collaboration and cooperation that may not be widely shared.

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