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Thread: Monte on Logic in RPGs
Thursday, 7th June, 2012, 10:18 AM #71
Guide (Lvl 11)
'How does a reflex save work?' is a rules question. 'Is there a chandalier I can swing across the room on?' is asking for permission to swing across the room on a chandalier. The only way to avoid players asking 'Is there a chandalier?' is by giving them authority to create one.
Where this gets grey is that the GM probably still has to set a difficulty for swinging across the room. It's a daring ploy, so we want risks and consequences attached.
On one hand this can then be used as a form of 'requiring permission'. That is to say the GM can say "Okay, so there's a chandalier. But it's a DC 75 jump to get to," allowing the player creation rights while negating their use.
Other systems give players authority over fictional positioning but then detail procedures over negotiation of stakes and defined outcomes before the roll. They also tend to tie those outcomes into mechanics which give PCs more to lose than just hit points, so that stakes can become more nuanced in the fiction.
I think its interesting that Mike Mearls coined the Mother May I term (his post is here mearls: The Metagame of RPGs ) in reference to playing rpgs with minis and a grid.
Minis and a grid give players clear fictional positioning power during combat. Playing 4e I have strong authority in combat thanks to the grid and the rules but weak authority outside combat. The transition from strong to weak is, I think, the root cause of many of the complaints about 4e (no edition warring intended - I have a lot of time for 4e).
Previous editions of D&D don't have this particular disparity, but have other inequalities which can cause problems - codified spells give casters authority which non-casters don't enjoy, being an obvious example. (There's an interesting contrast with problems which can arise in Ars Magica where play centres on being magicians and yet the effects of magic are determined almost exclusively by GM fiat. Mother May I as the focal point of the game!)
In Burning Wheel I have moderate authority all the time, in Apocalypse World or Lady Blackbird I have tremendous authority all the time. Great games. I think systems play best when authority is consistent both throughout the game and between the players.
Last edited by chaochou; Thursday, 7th June, 2012 at 10:51 AM. Reason: spelling, added Ars Magica in
Thursday, 7th June, 2012, 12:03 PM #72
Spellbinder (Lvl 16)
With a good, interactive rules system, on the other hand, players can make stuff happen that genuinely surprises and awes me. And if the rules allow that without breaking, I'm utterly impressed!
Last edited by Balesir; Thursday, 7th June, 2012 at 12:22 PM.
Thursday, 7th June, 2012, 01:53 PM #73
Novice (Lvl 1)
For Me Monte's essay seems absolutely spot on. It seems I've been hearing this argument for ages but rarely summed up so well. Unfortunately the lines of demarcation are so clearly drawn between "Rules for everything" and "GM Logic" camps that it has gotten increasingly difficult to even enter into a conversation about the topic without assaulting someone's deeply held beliefs. Which has only served to polarize the already small community further given that everyone is not only "right" but they are "unassailably right" and to suggest that re-evaluating our ideas about something as trivial as how we entertain ourselves is akin to blasphemy. Unfortunately at the end of the day it all comes down to a matter of personal preference and there really isn't a right or wrong there, just which you like more.
Thursday, 7th June, 2012, 02:09 PM #74
Orcus on an Off-Day (Lvl 22)
Part of being a GM is making the game world come alive via description. This includes filling the world up with NPCs and general "stuff" such as chandaliers and other furnishings.
If a chandalier is present and a player would like to attempt to swing on it then he/she doesn't need my permission to try and do so. It is simply an action option that the character has and choose to act upon or not as the player wishes.
As for the spontaneous creation of world elements by the players, it depends entirely on the style of play desired. If I were running a swashbuckling campaign in the Toon style then this sort of thing would be commonplace. Creating chandaliers, carpets, ropes attached to who knows what suddenly materializing when needed, etc. would be the meat & potatoes of that campaign.
That style might not be suitable for every campaign though.
Thursday, 7th June, 2012, 02:15 PM #75
Novice (Lvl 1)
Never going to have the Ultimate Perfect Ruleset For Everybody. Trying to codify the "fog of war," magic, heroic-physics-defying feats, and incorporate the real-world personalities of all involved (game designers, players, DMs, et al)...It's all about preference. Play what the group (DM+players) prefer (and is of course fun). I'm sure there is a system out there that comes fairly close to the desires of most any group.
Thursday, 7th June, 2012, 05:09 PM #76
Orcus on an Off-Day (Lvl 22)
This is a tricky question, because IMO it isn't as simple as "rules-heavy" versus "rules-light." A rules-light game can be an enormous burden on the GM who has to adjudicate everything on the fly, not to mention frustrating for players who have trouble figuring out what their PCs can do.
I think a better way to view it is this: Every game has a GM who is capable of independent thought and judgement. This is a powerful resource. But it is also a finite resource; the GM only has so much time and mental energy to spend on adjudication. Therefore, it is the task of the game designer to build a system that uses the GM's talents to greatest effect. That means applying that resource in a focused, efficient way, in the places where it will yield the most benefit.
In particular, the GM should not be called upon to arbitrate routine events. In a D&D-style heroic fantasy game, when a player swings an axe at an orc with intent to kill, no special circumstances in evidence, the rules should handle that without either GM or player having to do anything but work the numbers and roll the dice. It's when the player wants to backflip off a cliff, catch hold of a vine on the way down, swing across a chasm, swing her axe to knock over a stone idol on the far side, and then swing back before the falling idol hits the bottom, that the GM should get involved.
But even then, a good system will provide both GM and players with a framework to build on. As others have pointed out, RPG players are very vulnerable to Hammer-Related Nail Observance Syndrome. If the rules tell you exactly how to whack an orc with an axe, and offer not so much as a hint on the backflip-vine-swing-idol-knock-swing-back maneuver, you won't see much of the latter.
Last edited by Dausuul; Thursday, 7th June, 2012 at 06:21 PM.
Thursday, 7th June, 2012, 07:08 PM #77
Superhero (Lvl 15)
I'd like to point out that the game world is a logic unto itself. That's why consistency is so important, like in board games, card games, and other traditional games you've probably seen.
Making a game similar to reality can help as a kind of hint with as of yet encountered elements of that constructed fantasy world. Virtual reality games of any kind attempt that similarity for practical purposes, if for no other reason than to attract customers who can identify with something, anything in the game.
Being people this is why most every one puts characters in their world and have the players run characters. Characters are considered us. Even when we characterize objects that are not people we do it by attributing them as how we attribute ourselves.
I think the rules of the game world are really the logic system for the DM to use when refereeing the game. To be consistent and provide a trustworthy game world useful for strategizing within, the DM needs to stick by those rules. Now I think he or she picks those out personally, or with advice by the players, but sticking by them doesn't make them moral or necessarily good or fun. I think that's what table rules are for.
A good game includes both variety and reliability to challenge both memory and creativity in the players.
Thursday, 7th June, 2012, 10:41 PM #78
The Great Druid (Lvl 17)
Thursday, 7th June, 2012, 11:52 PM #79
Myrmidon (Lvl 10)
Friday, 8th June, 2012, 12:29 PM #80
Spellbinder (Lvl 16)
For myself, I'm quite happy for them to have that, provided that they (1) leave the systems I like extant and supported and (2) shut up and go away once they have what they claim to want. Sadly, the first of these is seldom within their power, and hence conflict arises.
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