What is *worldbuilding* for? - Page 20
Page 20 of 287 FirstFirst ... 10111213141516171819202122232425262728293070120 ... LastLast
Results 191 to 200 of 2863
  1. #191
    Member
    Time Agent (Lvl 24)



    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Victoria BC
    Posts
    10,447
    Quote Originally Posted by pemerton View Post
    A lot of the action here seems to be in the "And so on . . ."

    That seems to depende very heavily on GM decision-making to which the players don't have even in-principle cognitive access.
    Again reflecting reality, where in most non-trivial situations while you might be able to vaguely anticipate what'll happen next you can never be sure.

    Using the 100-Ogres example again, while you-as-PCs might well anticipate they'll send out search parties once their hunter groups fail to return it's always possible the Ogres will somehow have another means of knowing what's happened, causing them to do something unexpected like flee the area or attack the PCs en masse. Just like it'd work if it was real....which is what we're after, isn't it?

    The reason I doubt that a world/setting with a large and verisimilitudinous scope can provide a maze/puzzle in the same way is that nearly all the situations are evolving rather than static, and nearly all are evolving essentially in accordancde with GM fiat/extrapolation that is not knowable to the players - like @Lanefan's "And so on . . ." - the players can't control or manipulate that. All they can do is take rather generic steps like concealing their camp and mounting a watch. Whether there are 5 or 20 ogres after them; whether the ogres are searching in the spot where the PCs are hiding; whether the ogres have tracker dogs with them or not; whether the ogres include a shaman-type who can cast Augury; etc - all these things are important parameters of the situation which are entirely under GM control (assuming a GM-worldbuilding approach) and which the players don't know and can't effectively learn in a way that makes it exploitable/manipulable information.
    I wouldn't go so far as to flat-out say the PCs can't learn this info, only that their likelihood of doing so would be more or less small. Further, there's also a possibility that information gathered may be inaccurate or misinterpreted.

    For example: the PCs' foreknowledge might correctly include that the Ogres have a spellcaster among them. Knowing that Ogres aren't generally the brightest of creatures which makes it extremely unlikely that any caster would be a Wizard type, their logical assumption is that it's a Shaman or even Cleric of some sort. What the PCs don't know is that while the Ogres have a well-known and fearsome chieftain their de facto leader-from-behind is actually an Ogre Mage who pretty much never leaves the caves.

    As for the tracking dogs: if the PCs spent several days observing the caves it's always possible they saw a dog or two now and then coming and going with the hunting groups and from this may or may not be able to deduce that a) the dogs can track and-or hunt, and b) they are obedient to the Ogres.

    Understood. What puzzles me about T1 (and I've just pulled out my copy to have a re-look at it) is the 9 or so pages devoted to spelling out its contents like a dungeon. Eg what is the point, in the play of the game, of being told (p 11 of my copy) that the Chief Priest's chamber is no. 14 on the amp of the church of St Cuthbert, and that there is a secret compartment under the mantlepiece with a 10000 gp jewelled neck ornament inside it?

    Is this really a dungeon, that the players are going to explore and loot? That seems completely unrealistic for 1st level PCs, given the level of some of the NPCs. But if the Chief Priest is intended to figure as a NPC quest giver, or as an element of backstory, then by all means tell us that he wears a magnificent neck ornament with a bejewelled cudgel hanging from it, but we don't need to know about his secret compartment, do we?
    Sure we (as DMs) do. It tells us where this treasure is kept when the Chief Priest is asleep, for example, or when he sees a situation coming in which he might risk losing it.

    Just because he's giving a quest doesn't mean the PCs aren't going to try and kill him for his stuff, or sneak back and try to rob him later.

    I actually like this in a module - it's an attempt to account for a "what if this happens?", which is something many canned modules (from all editions) are quite poor at.

    And to head off an anticipated retort from Lanefan - obviously backstory that has been established in play is established.
    On this particular point I think we've already found agreement.

    The disagreement lies with backstory that has not yet come up in, or somehow affected, the run of play.

    Also, upthread I asked about how the players (via their PCs) could go about instigating conflict in a religious sect - not meaning "How could the PCs do this in the fiction?" but "How could the players do this at the table?" One way would be Derren's approach - the players declare lots of "moves" that trigger the referee telling them stuff from his/her backtory, until the "right" solution emerges - or perhaps they learn that it can't be done. I would think of that as a railroad.

    The other way would be the approach that I prefer, and that chaochou seems to prefer: the players declare actions (like searching through the libraries to find accounts of theological disputes; or taking particular individuals to dinner to sow rumours of discord; etc) and if these succeed (based on the standard resolution procedures - if a game doesn't have these, then obviously my method can't work!) then the PCs learn about the disputes, get the rumours circulating, etc and achieve their goal of causing rifts in the sect.
    Still think this second method is in effect the players somewhat railroading the DM through their action declarations, particularly if there's no doubt involved and the DM is thus obliged to say yes.

    Lanefan

  2. #192
    Member
    A 1e title so awesome it's not in the book (Lvl 21)

    MarkB's Avatar

    Join Date
    May 2006
    Location
    England
    Posts
    5,831
    Quote Originally Posted by pemerton View Post
    Also, upthread I asked about how the players (via their PCs) could go about instigating conflict in a religious sect - not meaning "How could the PCs do this in the fiction?" but "How could the players do this at the table?" One way would be Derren's approach - the players declare lots of "moves" that trigger the referee telling them stuff from his/her backtory, until the "right" solution emerges - or perhaps they learn that it can't be done. I would think of that as a railroad.

    The other way would be the approach that I prefer, and that chaochou seems to prefer: the players declare actions (like searching through the libraries to find accounts of theological disputes; or taking particular individuals to dinner to sow rumours of discord; etc) and if these succeed (based on the standard resolution procedures - if a game doesn't have these, then obviously my method can't work!) then the PCs learn about the disputes, get the rumours circulating, etc and achieve their goal of causing rifts in the sect.
    If every possible approach the PCs take to a problem turns out to be the 'right' one, providing they get successful rolls, then they're never truly making meaningful decisions for their characters. If the sect morphs into one that can be undermined through rumours, or destabilised via bribes, or shattered through religious disputes, depending upon which approach the players take, and they know this, that greatly impacts the immersiveness of that gameworld.

    I get that you don't see it that way, but for many of us, knowing that there is a right approach (or a number of them) and finding ways to achieve it is a rewarding feeling in itself. Making the solution fit the situation, rather than vice-versa, is basic puzzle-solving, and doing so successfully is an achievement. It also allows us to more completely place ourselves in the mindset of the character, rather than the person playing the character.
    XP Lanefan, Sadras, Xetheral gave XP for this post

  3. #193
    Member
    Titan (Lvl 27)



    Join Date
    Jul 2006
    Posts
    20,759
    Quote Originally Posted by Sadras View Post
    How can you create a mystery adventure without lore (worldbuilding)?
    Sorry, I didn't answer this in my earlier reply to your post.

    A mystery needs facts, agreed. But those facts don't have to be secret facts written by the GM in advance. This actual play post from several years ago now describes how I ran a mystery scenario in my 4e game. The only secret bit of content I had settled on in advance was that the wizard whose manor they were exploring had gone made with the strain of the gnoll invasion of Nerath and killed all his apprentices. The broader backstory (the timelines, the gnoll invastion of Nerath, etc) was all known by the players already (having been established in earlier episodes of play). The details (eg what, exactly, caused the conflict between mage and apprentices) and the clues (eg some invisible ink on a scroll) were all established during the course of play, as the players took various steps (making checks, using rituals) to trigger GM narration and to confirm their various hypotheses.

    From the point of view of establishing the setting, the most important thing was the freeing of the apprentice - she turned out to have an interesting descendant, and herself became the bronze lich Osterneth.

    I would say that that session was at the GM-heavier end of the spectrum of my play, in terms of the degree of content contributed by the GM as prompted by player triggers (the checks and rituals mentioned above and in the actual play post). I would say that it was not a strict railroad, though, for three reasons: (i) the players were able to establish some (overall relatively minor) outcomes in relation to the clues (like the invisible ink); (ii) the details of the mystery itself fed into the thematic concerns that the players had established for the game and for their PCs (in this case, both the fall of Nerath and the Raven Queen); (iii) the most important outcome - ie the freeing of the apprentice - was an outcome that was introduced by the players (the module doesn't contemplate it, and I hadn't thought about it in advance).

    And there was no point that I can recall during the session where an action declaration fail. For example, I didn't declare it impossible to free the apprentice from the mirror, and when the PCs talked to her we resolved this via a skill challenge; I didn't declare it impossible to find something hidden and interesting on the scroll, although I had no notes about any such thing in advance; I didn't declare it impossible to keep the library from being wrecked by the fighting within it, although from memory I don't think their checks to save it all succeeded; etc.

  4. #194
    Member
    The Grand Druid (Lvl 20)

    Mercurius's Avatar

    Join Date
    Jan 2008
    Location
    The center and periphery
    Posts
    3,662
    Hey @pemerton, I have a question for you - that came to mind from a question you asked @Lanefan above: "can't the setting be generated in the course of the telling of the story?"

    Let's turn that around. Can't the setting be modified and adapted from a starting template (created by the GM) through the course of the telling of the story? In a sense, a kind of "world-building GM fiat?" If it is all behind the GM's screen (proverbially speaking), what's the harm?

    In other words, let's say the players present ideas about the setting that the GM likes and thinks augment the campaign in some way, even though they might be different than what he or she has in his/her campaign notes (to use your phrasing). Do you see any issue with the GM doing this sort of thing?

    The setting, as I see it, is not set in stone until some aspect of it is revealed or experienced by the PCs, at which point that aspect (and only that aspect) *is* set in stone, at least for the most part. If the PCs encounter blue-skinned elves then there are blue-skinned elves and the GM can't really take it back without damaging verisimilitude and thus immersion, unless of course he or she comes up with some explanatory factor (their skin was died because they had a blueberry orgy).

    Thus the GM's role as "illusionist" - making the setting real and immersive. Isn't that the point of world-building, to go back to the OP? And whatever it takes to do so?

  5. #195
    Member
    Titan (Lvl 27)



    Join Date
    Jul 2006
    Posts
    20,759
    @Jester David, again I'm responding only to the bits where I think we have a difference of opinion that is worth exploring in the context of this thread.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jester David View Post
    That sort of "puzzle" can happen in a localized and confined room of a dungeon or in a giant player sandbox as they encounter an ambassador to a neighbouring kingdom or meet the Queen's royal advisory or even just bump into a pie merchant with curiously large and cheap pies.
    I'm going to stick to the ambassador/queen example, not because the pie merchant one is irrelevant but I have no idea at this stage how to think about it or where to go with it.

    In G3, crucial to the whole rationale and playability of the Queen Frupy episode is that the players have a relatively clear pathway to congitive access to what is going on. Some of this is metagame and independent of the actual episode of play - they know that this is a D&D dungeon, that it's inhabitants are probably hostile to the PCs, etc; but also that dungeons often have quirky inhabitants, that there are NPC reaction tables, etc. Some of it is connected to the actual play of the game - their are serving maids whom they can capture and interrogate in a relatively discrete episdoe of interaction (because of the convention that dungeon inhabitants, by default, stick to their rooms); they have scyring devices they can use on the Queen; etc.

    In the "living, breathing" example all this breaks down. The metagame conventions are absent. The discrete moments of encounter, in which information might be gathered without huge knock on effects to other aspects of the situation of which the players are ignorant, is lost. The availability of scrying devices may well be absent (eg in D&D these still tend to have ranges for use that make sense only in dungeoneering play).

    This came up in a thread on these boards a few years ago now. (I don't have the link; @MAnbeaarcat may, as he started an online game in response to it.) Can the PCs persuade the chamberlain to introduce them to the king. The general view of the proponents of a "living, breathing world" was that this was almost inconceivable - the king wouldn't have an audience with just anyone; the chamberlain would have defences agaist scrying and mind control; etc. Now whether the details of those views is correct or not is secondary; the main point is that all these questions have to settled by the GM (either in notes, or - for this sort of thing - more likely on the fly by a mixture of extrapolation and intuition). So the players are no longer engaging with a puzzle that they know is there, and whose parematers they either know, or can relatively easily establish by way of action declarations whose consequences are broadly forseeable. Ratther, the players are utterly dependent on the GM's view of the situation, and choices about what to tell them about it.

    That's a real difference.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jester David View Post
    The game is still driven entirely by the DM telling the players what is going on, which the players interpret through a personal lens.

    <snip>

    here's the thing about plot... dungeons are a plot. Each room in a dungeon is a scene. And encounter or moment where something happens.

    <snip>

    The dungeon map is basically a flowchart of the plot
    I think this is the one point on which I agree with @howandwhy99 - a classic dungeon isn't a plot, and the rooms aren't scenes.

    A classic dungeon is closer to a gameboard, although it is not identical to one because - unlike, say, a chess or monopoly board - it also establishes content for a shared fiction, and hence fictional positioning.

    But the way in which a classic dungeon resembles a gameboard is that it establishes clear parameters for player moves - "We walk down the corridor until we come to a corner or doorway" - and also clear parameters for the GM's descriptions to the players - so that when the GM says "OK, you proceed for 60' and then come to a T-intersection", the GM isn't just making that up but is reading it from the pre-prepared dungeon map. And there are conventions at work here: the referee tells the players the real distances, even though we might wonder, in the fiction, how good the PCs' ability to estimate those woudl be; and the map is a physical artefact that the players use to help play the game, although it is also has an imaginary correlate which we suppose one of the PCs to be producing in the fiction.

    When the players enter a room, the GM frames a scene. Likewise when the PCs move down the corridor, the GM frames a scene - I just provided an example, in which the scene is having proceeded down the passage for 60', you're now at a T-intersection.

    But the room is not itself a scene. We can easily imagine that the first time the PCs come to a room, the scene framing is like this "OK, having succesffuly forced the door open, you see a rectangular room, 20' x 10', with a chest in the middle. What do you do?" And then the second time, some time later in the session or a subsequent session, the PCs might return to the same room and the scene is like this: "OK, you think you've shaken off the pursuing goblins, and you come to the 20' x 10' room that you were heading for by following your map. The chest is still open as you left it, and the false bottom is still removed, and you can see the ladder descending down a narrow shaft about 40' or so."

    Those are two different scenes - occurring at different times, with different things at stake, and posing different challenges to the players and their PCs - but both occur in the same room, which (in the GM's notes) might be written up as 20' x 10' rectangle, with a single entrance; there is a chest in the middle of the room, unlocked, with a false bottom concealing a shaft and ladder descending to the second level.

    I recognise that various dungeon designers, both amateur and professional, have designed dungeons on a different principle, in which the rooms are scenes in a plot, rather than elements of a gameboard on which the players make their moves; one can see hints of this in Hickman's Pharoah adventures, for intance, and it's become more common since then.

    And that is broadly how I run "dungeons" (ie interior encounters) in my 4e game.

    But that is a departure from the design principles of something like B2, not a continuation of them.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jester David View Post
    The point of invoking the real world is that people do what you say is impossible all the time in the real world. It just becomes less of a certainty and more of a gamble.
    I'm not ignorant of the fact that people in the real world sometimes succeed in scouting out or learning about dynamic situations.

    My point is that, in the real world this involves actual causal processes which are not the same as those that take place in a RPG.

    I'll give an example in a field I know well. If I want to learn -in detail (eg for teaching purposes) - what the law is on some particular point, I read hundreds or thousands of pages of primary material; perhaps expert commentary as well; apply interpretive and reasoning methods that I've spent a couple of decades working on; and come up with an understanding. Sometimes that understanding differs from that of some, even all, of the expert commentators (who themselves don't always agree).

    In a RPG, if I say that my character wants to run a legal argument (this came up in my 4e campaign), the GM is not going to show me hundreds or thousands of pages of law books for me to read. Nor any expert commentary. The GM is going to give me a 50 to 100 word paraphrase. My only cognitive access to the shared fiction of the gameworld's legal system will be that paraphrase.

    And if, having heard that paraphrase, I want to then actually mount my legal argument, the GM (playing the rival NPC lawyer) is not goiing to engage me in hours of dicussion, and then spend hours (playing the magistrate) in arriving at a decision as to what is the correct answer to this quesiton of law.

    In RPGing, the question is - is my vision of the fiction, in which a briefly sketched (say, 100 or so words) legal argument is suffiient to persuade a magistrate of the justice of my case, going to prevail? Or is an alternative vision, in which my argument fails, going to prevail? And the actual causal process at work here is not a process of legal reasoning and argumentation; it's a process of collectively establishing a shared vision of the fiction.

    It has almost nothing in common with arguing the law (or scouting out an enemy position; or throwing a rock) in real life. It has a lot in common with other processes of establishing shared fictions, like cops and robbers, freeform wargaming, improv acting, etc. Which is not to say that it's identical to them - there are significant differences, both around role allocation and around procedures for establishing changes in the fiction - but those are at least helpful starting points for analysis.

    No one tries to explain the agency of a kid playing cops and robbers by comparing it to the agency of a bank robber carrying a tommy gun. They do it by discussing who gets to decide whether an (imaginary) shot hit or missed. This is the same starting point from which we can understand agency in RPGing.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jester David View Post
    More skill is required to anticipate the likely variables and overcome them.
    Who gets to decide if the skill was enough? In the real world no one has to decide this. Scouting in the real world is not an episode of writing a fiction.

    But in RPGing, someone absolutely has to decide this. Because imaginary people scouting out an imaginary location absolutely is an episode of writing a fiction. In classic dungeoneering, the process whereby this is decided is tolerably clear, becaue the parameters of the shared fiction are very narrow, and the metagame conventions that reinforce those parameters are relatively robust. Players know that, in interrogating Queen Frupy's serving maids, they don't have to worry that they've accidentally upset a powerful wizard who will use some high level spell to crash the whole dungeon in on them.

    But in a living, breathing world situation, for all the players know that could be an element of the situation.

    Quote Originally Posted by Lanefan View Post
    the player is in theory exploring the gameworld through the eyes of her PC.

    <snip>

    i and iii are exactly the same: the person who wants to throw a rock has to first find one.

    iv in the game world has a direct reflection in the real world: an un-numbered step wherein you-as-you make your own internal action declaration by deciding to throw a rock.

    ii in the real world has to be reflected by another un-numbered element: the game mechanics of whatever dice need to be rolled (if any) to see where/how far the rock goes and what if anything of relevance it might hit.

    Your agency as meta-player, perhaps. But your agency as PC is directly connected to the PC's ability to throw rocks.

    <snip>

    unless the DM is a complete asshat (and for the purposes of these discussions let's ignore those, shall we) the player's agency comes not from meta-concerns but from what her PC does and the choices that PC makes, often in concert with the rest of the party. If the party decides to leave town going south to the seaport instead of east to the mountains or west to where the Orcs are raiding then you've collectively exercised agency over the story to come; and if the DM hasn't designed the seaport yet (or even given it a second thought other than mentioning it in passing) your agency has forced her to do this also.

    <snip>

    In other words, it's not so much player agency as PC agency.
    Seeing a rock on the ground, picking it up and throwing it has almost nothing in common, as a human activity, with sitting around with my friends and getting everyone to agree that, in a fiction we are collectively establishing, the imaginary "me" is picking up and throwing a rock.

    Or to put it another way, I might be an excellent shot putter and yet a poor RPGer; or conversely might be excellent at playing a PC who throws rocks and yet a terrible shot putter.

    As far as agency is concerned, I have close to zero interest in the degree of (imaginary) agency my PC - an imaginary person - has. Eg in my BW game, one of the PCs has spent many sessions subject to a domination effect from a dark naga. The PCs has almost know agency. But the player has ample agency, because - having written Beliefs for his character that reflect the fact of his domination - he gets to choose how to play his character, makes action declarations (eg to find a ewer in the room to catch the spilled blood of the possessed mage so he can take it back to his naga master), etc.

    In your example of the players deciding that their PCs head to the ocean - is the GM freed to decide that there's no seaport? that the orcs hav sacked and destroyed it before the PCs get there? that there are no boats available for charter? that a blizzard sets in, stopping the PCs from getting there?

    And suppose the PCs get there, who decides what interesting things are going on there which the players might then engage with? The players, or the GM? If the GM, in what sense are the players exercising agency over the story to come, other than establishing that it will happen in a seaport rather than some mountains?

    To me, that is a very weak form of agency. Its weakness is evident in some other things you have posted:

    Quote Originally Posted by Lanefan View Post
    flavour can be subdivided further: flavour that has relevance to the PCs now or later (e.g. each day's weather, relevant whenever the PCs are a) outdoors or able to see outdoors, and b) might somehow be affected by it) and flavour that has no relevance to anything other than to help set the scene (e.g. the DM describing a harbour town the PCs are seeing for the first time might mention there's several dozen ships either docked or anchored-off to augment the atmosphere of this being a busy bustling place, even though the PCs are there for a reason completely unrelated to ships at all).
    Who decides what is relevant? The players, or the GM? Why is the weather relevant and not just scene-setting, yet the number of ships in the harbour scene-setting and not relevant?

    What if one of the players asks (in the voice of his/her PC), "Is one of the ships a merchant vessel from my homeland? Maybe it brings news, or even a parcel for me!"? Who gets to decide whether this is "relevant" - and hence the player gets to participate in a story over which s/he has exercised at least some agency, by kicking it off - or irrelevant.

    As best I can tell, your answer is the GM. As seems to be borne out by the following:

    Quote Originally Posted by Lanefan View Post
    here I can give an in-progress example from one of my own characters in a still-active game.

    She is from a Roman-Empire-based culture, and is a fully-accredited citizen of said realm (called Hestia). Over the course of her rather long and world-spanning adventuring career she's come to realize a lot of distasteful things: that much of the world is in dire need of civilizing, Hestian style; that there's far too many bloody barbarians and monsters out there; and that her own Empire's government (a Senate-run republic at the moment, no Emperor for the last century or so) might not be quite up to the task. She's done time in the Legions as a staff mage, and has (perhaps outdated) contacts in various parts of the military.

    So some years ago (real time) she decided that her goal after her adventuring career was done would be to get herself a seat on the Senate. But since then she's changed a bit, and come to realize the Senate is but step one: we need to bring the true Empire back, with her or someone like her as Empress.

    Realistic? In character, yes.

    Achievable? Somewhere between no and extremely unlikely, though she has thought of a series of actions that might get her that Senate seat...she just needs to get the rest of the PCs (both active and inactive - a total of about 30 of them) to go along with her plan.

    <snip>

    But she's set a goal, and it has nothing to do with anything that's come up in play so far
    It seems that your character's ambition could instead be to establish a cattle farm on the hills overlooking the city of Hestia, and yet nothing about the campaign would really have changed. If I am getting that right, I woudn't really consider that an example of exercising agency over the story.

    Quote Originally Posted by Lanefan View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by pemerton
    As for immersion - it hardly gets more immersive than returing to your ruined tower after lo!, these past 14 years, then looking for the mace you left behind only to discover that your brother was evil all along!
    Except I'm not discovering that. I as player have known it all along, as I wrote it into my goals and backstory
    No. I didn't say that the discovery was the existence of the tower, or the existence of the brother.

    I said the discovery was the return to the tower - which was the outcome of various episodes of action resolution following the PCs being marooned in the Bright Desert as the outcome of a failed social challenge; and the discovery that the brother was evil all along, which was learned following a failed check upon the return to the tower.

    Those things - the return, and the characer of the brother - weren't pre-authored at all. From the player's perspective, the return was a success; the discovery about the brother a failure. From the PC's point of view, the discovery about the brother was nothing short of gutting.

    Quote Originally Posted by MarkB View Post
    If every possible approach the PCs take to a problem turns out to be the 'right' one, providing they get successful rolls, then they're never truly making meaningful decisions for their characters.
    That doesn't seem right at all.

    Consider a typical random encounter in a fairly generic module - say, the PCs are travelling through the steppes, and the GM rolls up a nomad encounter. The GM tells the players "As you ride along, on the horizon you see a relatively large group of people, mounted and heading towards you."

    The players could choose any of the following options without stepping outside the sphere of 1st ed AD&D action resolution mechanics: they could choose to fight the nomads; they could choose to try and talk to the nomads; they could choose to avoid the nomads.

    Any of the above could turn out to be the "right" choice, or the "wrong" choice, depending on dice rolls. If the PCs fight, and roll well, they can earn XP and treasure. If they roll poorly, of course, they might suffer loss of treasure or other resources (eg because they end up having to negoiate a truce, or they have to drink some potions to win the fight, or whatever). If some nomads escape, this may lead to penalties on future reaction checks with nomad encounters, but that will only be a problem if some more of those are rolled.

    If the PCs talk, and roll well, they may befriend the nomads and get information. (But perhaps they could have got that anyway, through Speak with Dead.) If the PCs talk, and roll poorly, the situation may turn into a fight they didn't want or they may have to try and evade.

    If the PCs try and evade, again whether that works out for them or not may depend on dice rolls. Eg if they try and evade, and the GM's reaction roll suggests that the nomads pursue, and the evasion roll turns out poorly, then the PCs may end up having to fight the nomads but suffering GM-imposed penalties from fatigue (Gygax's DMG leaves such penalties as a matter for GM discretion, although ideas can probably be adapted from the rules for forced marching).

    I don't think it therefore follows that the choice to fight, to talk or to evade is meaningless. It's a tactical choice, with implications. It's a strategic choice within the context of the fiction, as it helps shape the parameters for future interaction with nomads. And it's a significant choice at the more metagame level as well, as it says something about the players and their characters that they prefer to fight (honourably? from ambush?) or talk or hide.

    Quote Originally Posted by MarkB View Post
    If the sect morphs into one that can be undermined through rumours, or destabilised via bribes, or shattered through religious disputes, depending upon which approach the players take, and they know this, that greatly impacts the immersiveness of that gameworld.
    Are you saying this from experience or conjecture?

    Unless the players are self-deluded, they know that the "truth" about the sect is established by authorship. They know that someone has to engage in that authorship at some point - that (unlike a sect in the real world) the "truth" about the sect is not the result of actual social and historical processes but rather is the result of someone performing a feat of imagination.

    It seems to me that only players very obsessed with the metagame processes - ie unimmersed players - would spend their time at the table worrying about when and how the authorship took place, and in response to what sorts of triggers. In my experience, players who find their PCs and the situation engaging get much more interested in trying to develop a clear picture of the unfolding fiction, thinking about ways that they might interact with it, worrying about the consequences if they poke the bear too hard and provoke unhappy responses, etc.

    Quote Originally Posted by MarkB View Post
    for many of us, knowing that there is a right approach (or a number of them) and finding ways to achieve it is a rewarding feeling in itself. Making the solution fit the situation, rather than vice-versa, is basic puzzle-solving, and doing so successfully is an achievement.
    Part of my contention in the OP is that, once we have a situation like the sect - or the NPC starship in the Traveller thread that I linked to in the post you quoted - there is no right approach other than the GM's opinion, typically worked out on the fly, as to what it should be. This is because it is simply inconceivable (for instance) that a GM actually has notes that tell us everything about every mayday procedure for every possible circumstance, and has notes that tell us about the personality of every NPC captain and how likely s/he is to stick to some or other interpretation of those procedures, and has an effective mechanic or system for integrating all that stuff into a consistent resolution framework.

    As I posted in that other thread and in the post you quoted - in this context, gathering more information is just a metaphor for declaring actions that will lead the GM to more fiction. That's one part of RPGing, but not in my view the most fun or most immersive. A game that is basically that, until eventually the players do the thing that triggers the GM to give the bit of information that will be crucial - and then implementing that solution - doesn't strike me as very gripping. As I think I posted upthread, the first time I encountered this style of RPGing was in 1990. The scenario was a defence of a city from a kobold infiltration/attack. After a couple of sessions we (the players, as our PCs) had captured a kobold and tried to interrogate it - we wanted to learn the location of the kobold headquarters so we could try and infilitrate or assualt it. The GM decalred (clearly on the spot, and without regard to such considerations as the kobolds have low to average intelligence) that the kobold was (for reasons of low intelligence) unable to answer our questions, or draw a map, or show on a map where the headquarters might be. In other words, gathering intelligence from prisoners was not a right solution in the GM's view of the gameworld, and so we had to keep on waiting for the GM to feed us the information that (or the module writer) had prepared.

    That was not immersive at all. The mindset of my character was one of incredulity that the kobold couldn't tell us the path whereby it entered the city; the mindset of me, as a player, was that the GM was not interested in having regard to player input into his game. We sacked the GM and started a new game.

    Quote Originally Posted by Lanefan View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by pemerton
    When the dice fall, I get my answer, just as my character knows whether his hopes are realised or dashed. I'm not all up in the metagame headspace of worrying about how this fiction has come to be authored!
    Given how many times you've posted how you so dislike fiction coming from pre-determined notes and-or being pre-authored by the DM I really have to challenge that last sentence.

    I think you worry about this more than anyone else I've ever encountered.
    When I'm posting I'm not playing. When I'm playing, I want to live my character. Of course I can't do that if the GM has already decided what is going to happen (eg, in my example, whether or not there is a knight for me to meet). Then my character's hope would just be a charade from the outset, and I'd be playing a different character. I could have built that character had I wanted to, but I didn't.

    I once GMed a game where one player's goal for his PC (Xialath) was to become a magistrate of his city (Rel Astra). That was a recurring focus of play. At first it all went downhill - because the player had built his character without meditation skill (favouring social and perception) skils, he coudn't keep up with the other wizard character's power point recovery. So he used his social skills to make contact with a drug seller and started relying on a highly addictive drug - Hugar - to enhance his power point recovery. Unfortunately for him he became addicted, and spent more and more of his money on Hugar, and was unable to meet his rent when it fell due and so lost his city compound.

    After further misadentures, he came to a point where he had to make a choice: a fellow PC had decided to throw in his lot with Vecna (in this campaign, a mage who had been a noble in the Suel Empire, had spent a long time asleep, and had been woken by the PCs and now had is his goal to restore that empire, using the Great Kingdom as his vehicle). He was therefore getting ready to help Vecna conquer Rel Astra for the Great Kingdom, from which the city had broken away centuries before. Would Xialath help him? If so, the successful invaders would ensure that he was awarded a magistracy. Xialath agreed, and so sold out his city to the invaders in return for a position. (He later redeemed himself in some other ways, but that's not relevant for present purposes).

    Xialath's player was immersed.

    In my experience, both as a player and a GM, I have never encountered a player who feels less immersed and less engaged because the events of the game focus on the players' goals and concerns for his/her PC, rather than just on the GM's view of what it is worthwile establishing a shared fiction about.

  6. #196
    Member
    Titan (Lvl 27)



    Join Date
    Jul 2006
    Posts
    20,759
    Quote Originally Posted by Lanefan View Post
    without a setting of some sort going in there's no backdrop to set the scene, as it were. That's work the DM has to do ahead of time.
    Well, guess what: I started a Traveller game without preparing a setting ahead of time!

    Here's how it happened.

    The players rolled up their PCs (two each; 9 were actually commenced, for 4 players, because one didn't survive the PC gen process).

    Then I rolled up a starting world. It was high tech (Starport class A - ie the best possible; Tech Level 16, which is close to the highest possible) but low pop (single digit thousands of inhabitants), and had no bases, and no government and very low law level. One of the PCs had medical skill, so it seemed likely he was working in a hospital - but with low pop and hi tech, that probably meant overseeing the activities of medbots. Another of the PCs was a noble with gambling skill, and a yacht, who had also just scraped a survival roll resulting in mustering out. So that player suggested that there was a casino, where he had won his yacht, as a result of which the previous owners had broken both his legs, hence (i) his near-failed survival check, and (ii) his familiarity with the medic PC. The same player also suggetsed that the world was obviously a gas giant moon. It then seemed clear that the population was probably rich visitors staying in hotels etc to gamble at the casino . . . and we extrapolated further from there to establish how the other PCs, given their abilities and their service histories, had ended up on this world that I dubbed Ardour-3.

    Those PCs had plenty of depth and backstory for starting PCs, and a good sense of their place in the world that we had started to flesh out.

    Quote Originally Posted by Lanefan View Post
    Look at B10, for example. The main map in that thing, backed by what's written in the module, is almost a whole setting unto itself - towns, roads, people, locations, adventure sites, villains, competing factions, side quests, etc. That work has all been done for you; all you have to do is somehow narrate it to your players.
    I showed them. It took a few minutes.

  7. #197
    Member
    Titan (Lvl 27)



    Join Date
    Jul 2006
    Posts
    20,759
    Quote Originally Posted by Aenghus View Post
    Adventures that are ostensibly open world, where the players have the agency to walk away from the plot, are more difficult to run unless the players voluntarily commit to staying within the confines of the plot. The alternatives are things like railroading, moving scenery, or trusting to luck and/or skill, or letting go of the plot and leaving the players wander.
    Those are not the only atlernatives.

    A well-established alternative is the one I posted upthread (in replay to @Mercurius), put forward in summary form (but in no sense invented) by Eero Tuovinen.

    Instead of the GM hoping to hook the players and keep them on the rails of plot, the players build PCs with "hooks" for the GM and the GM etablishes situations that speak to those player-evinced flags. It doesn't depend upon luck, nor upon any particular skill (I started GMing in this fashion as a teenager in the second half of the 80s; the player hooks, on that occasion, were provided by the Oriental Adventures character generation process). But nor does it involve the players "wandering". If the GM is doing his/her job properly, then play will be rather focused (I mean, it may or may not traverse a wide geographic scope, but whether or not it does will be a secondary matter).

    Quote Originally Posted by Lanefan View Post
    The ideal, of course, is that the players voluntarily stay on plot because they find said plot/story interesting and-or engaging enough to want to play it out. Which means that in a DM-driven game it's squarely on the DM to come up with a plot/story good enough to capture the interest and imagination of her players, if this is going to work.
    Again, a completely function alternative is for the referee to abandon the pre-conceived plot/story and instead focus on the player signals as to what they find interesting!

    Quote Originally Posted by Lanefan View Post
    Still think this second method is in effect the players somewhat railroading the DM through their action declarations, particularly if there's no doubt involved and the DM is thus obliged to say yes.
    I don't understand what you mean by "If there's no doubt involved"?

    If something significant is at stake - Is the mace I left behind still here? - then the dice are rollled. If nothing is at stake (eg do the angels, whom we'ver befriend by lifting the curse on them, show us to the reliquary?), then the referee says "yes".

    It's not a very complicated technique.

  8. #198
    Member
    Titan (Lvl 27)



    Join Date
    Jul 2006
    Posts
    20,759
    Quote Originally Posted by Sebastrd View Post
    in my experience, a setting generated prior to play is much richer than one generated on the fly - whether it's the GM or the players doing the generating.
    OK, in this respect our experiences differ.

    That's not to say that anyone's pre-authored setting was not rich, but rather to say that I'm pretty happy with the setting that emerges out of my gameplay. Here's an illustrative example, which has some discussion of how the setting was established during the play of the session. (I had mapped the Mausoleum in advance and written up some stats for the hazards and the inhabitants - 4e likes maps and stats, and if these are going to have any intricacy they do need to be prepped in advance - whether in a module, or a Monster Manual, or by oneself; and I'd written a riddle for my sphinx; but all the details of the murals, statues, visions etc were established during play, relying on a mixture of imagination and the prior events of play).

    Quote Originally Posted by Sebastrd View Post
    If the player decides what's down that road, are they really discovering anything?
    This keeps recurring in this thread - a misleading characterisation of action resolution procedures - and I don't get it, as I've described them many times.

    So to repeat (again): consider a completely ordinary encounter with a randomly encountered creature in a bog-standard D&D game. The players ask "Does it look friendly, or not?" The GM rolls on the reaction tabloe, and then answers as appropriate.

    The attitude of the creature was not pre-authored. The need to decide what it's attitude is is triggered by the player asking the question in response to the GM's initial framing of the situation. We could analyse it like this: the GM's initial framing of the situation tells the players that their PCs encounter a creature. But that framing is missing some point of detail that the player cares about, namely, the apparent attitude of the creature. So the player asks about that detail, and the referee then rolls to determine it. The result of that roll enriches the framing of the situation - perhaps in a way tha the player was hoping for (if the creature is friendly, one assumes - unless the player is looking for an excuse to start a fight!), perhaps not.

    This model of introducing fictional content is generalisable. Not only is it generalisable, but there are oodles of games, inlcuding D&D 4e, which generalise it! (For the clearest 4e example, see the example of skill challenge resolution presented in the Essentials Rules Compendium.)

    So, in the example of the PCs travelling down the road - presumably they are looking for something. (If they're just walking from pre-established A to pre-established B, with nothing at stake in the journey per se, then let's just call it done - "say 'yes'" - and move on!) The player asks, "OK, we've travelled out into the wilderness, is there any sign of the <whatever it is that the PCs are looking for>?" A check is made, and if it succeeds the GM answer yes (with whatever detail or embellishment is appropriate, given the group's shared understanding of the situation, of what is acceptable GM gloss on a success, etc); if it fails, the GM answers no, and imposes some suitably adverse consequence - "Your wandering is taxing you, and you're nearly out of food, and you still haven't found it - what do you do?"

    That is not the players deciding what's down the road; it's the players declaring actions for their PCs, on the basis of a good knowledge of what their PCs care about, and the GM adjudicating the outcomes of those action declarations in accordance with "say 'yes' or roll the dice" plus "fail forward" for the adverse consequence.

    (Without "fail forward", you need some other technique for dealing with retries. I had to deal with this fairly recently in my Traveller game, because it doesn't use "fail forward", and instead mostly manages retries either through it's rules for the passage of time - so if you're in your starship your life support only lasts for so many days, and so with one chance to fix the engines per day, you only get so many tries before the PCs all asphyxiate - or through a flat-out "no retries" rule. But it's mechanics for overland exploration don't have a no retries rule and don't have time constraints like starship activities do, and hence are - in my view - the weakest part of the ruleset, as they easily lead - I can report from experience - to rather boring play with dice being rolled although nothing significant is at stake.)

    Quote Originally Posted by Sebastrd View Post
    It is a wrong question, Mr. Pemerton. You seem to have this black or white view of the situation: either the GM is telling the story or the players are. Neither are correct.
    Well, tell that to @Mercurius. He was the one who said that it is the GM's story, and the players are actors - and it was that contention that I was responding to.

    Quote Originally Posted by Sebastrd View Post
    I would work with the player to develop those religious organizations and the world in which they exist based on the player's assumptions. In some cases, I'd deliberately subvert the player's assumptions to keep things interesting and challenging. We'd play out the scenario, and I would use that predetermined setting information to inform my adjudication of the players' actions and the consequences thereof.
    Well, I guess all the action is in the words "We'd play out the scenario." I was wondering how, in actual practice, this would work. Eg what sorts of actions might be declared, and how would they be adjudicated?

    Quote Originally Posted by Sebastrd View Post
    The players declare actions and the GM determines how the world reacts.

    How is the GM to determine how the world reacts without first determining the nature of the world? Assuming we agree that determination must take place, why do you care whether it is done preemptively or in play?
    If the GM determines "how the world reacts", that seems to make the content of the story rather heavily dependent on the GM's decisions. The players can make it true that, in the fiction, some person tried to do this thing (eg tried to pick up a rock and throw it; tried to find some information about a cult's theology in a library); but that seems to be about it.

    An alternative approach, as I've sketched above, is to use the action resolution mechanics to determine what happens when a player declares an action for his/her PC (which might include the rather "passive" action of trying to ascertain whether a person seems friendly or hostile).

    As to why I care about how it is done, see my post not far upthread of this one: as a player, I want to play my character, not someone else's conception of my character; and as a GM (which is my more typical situation) I want to enjoy seeing my friends play their characters, and find out who they are and what they do. I don't want to read/tell them stuff that I already made up. The actual play post that I linked to in this post above should give you an illustration of what I mean by that.

  9. #199
    Member
    Titan (Lvl 27)



    Join Date
    Jul 2006
    Posts
    20,759
    Quote Originally Posted by innerdude View Post
    So, I think there's several trains of thought scattered throughout all the responses that answer @pemerton's original question, "What is worldbuilding for?"

    • To add immersive flavor -- to spur players' imaginations a little more deeply into the shared fiction.
    • To provide story "hooks," whether done as pure "sandbox" or based on clues from characters' builds/background.
    • To create a fictional space where character motivations have real stakes -- i.e., the group social contract agrees that they want something more than just being "heads-down in the dungeon" all the time.
    • To give the GM the opportunity to plan certain challenges ahead of time to maximize the challenge, tension, and impact.
    • To allow the GM a creative opportunity that is different from being a player within the campaign.


    There could be more, but these seem to be a condensed summary of the primary points.

    I think your question, @pemerton, really boils down to----"Does pre-rendered worldbuilding actually serve any of these interests and the overall fun/enjoyment of the group, or are there more effective methods for doing the same thing?"

    I've got to be honest, I have a really hard time with a pure "no myth" approach to pen-and-paper RPGs.
    Your paraphrase of my question is more pointed than the one I asked - I asked "what is it for", not "why not drop it for these other methods"! But I'm certainly all for exploring consequences of using some techniques rather than others.

    Of your five points, (i) to (iiI) clearly can be accomplished, pretty easily, in other ways than having the GM do it in advance of play. Eg players can write their own backstory for PCs, and establish their own goals with stakes implicit in them. I think I've given plenty of examples in the thread, plus links to actual play posts that provide further illustrations. So I think the putative contrast of GM builds a dungeon or else it heads-down in the dungeon is not an actual contrast: I haven't run a campaign that could be described as "heads-down in the dungeon) since about 1985.

    Of course if the players don't want to contribute to (i), (ii) or (iii) but nevertheless want a camaign with those sorts of elements, the GM will have to do it: presumably these are players who don't object to the GM decding what the campaign will be about, determing all the major outcomes, etc. (I assume this is the target audience for APs.)

    Your (v) has been affirmed strongly by some posters in this thread. Clearly it can't be achieved by having someone other than the GM do it.

    Your (iv) is interesting, and I don't think anyone else in the thread has stated it as clearly as you do. It relates in part to "no myth".

    No myth is not "no prep". No myth is, at it's heart, no secret backstory. That is, no manipulation of the fiction "behind the scenes" by the GM to generate particular outcomes, and no reliance upon unrevealed backstory to block action declarations independently of the resolution mechanics. Another way to put it: there is no secret fictional positioning in virtue of which delcared actions can nevertheless fail because the framing conditions weren't right.

    I preppped for my Traveller campaign - I had some NPCs pregenerated (though I didn't use any in the first session) and I had some worlds pregenerated (and I used three of them in the first session). But those worlds didn't become part of the shared fiction until they were introduced in the course of play. And I didn't use any of them as the starting world - that was something I wanted to roll in front of the players, thereby subjecting myself to the same discipline that they'd had to in generating their PCs.

    A shared sense of genre and/or "big picture" is also not at odds with the spirit of No Myth. Showing the players a map, or an illustration, or saying "I want to run a default 4e game - the race and god descriptions will show you what I mean" is consistent with the spirit of No Myth. That stuff is all part of the shared understanding of what the game will be about, what it's tropes will be, etc.

    This stuff also feeds directly into your (iv) - it's not a coincidence that I frame my players into a situation where they are dealing with an assault on the Mausoleum of the Raven Queen! The stuff established by means of (i), (ii) and (iii) - both at the campaign's start, and over a number of years of play - means that I have plenty of material to help me prepare challenges, to come up with ideas for things that will push my players hard.

    My interest is in outcomes. Local outcomes, whose main context is the particular episode in that session - what do the PCs see when they look around the Mausoleum? Are their cartouches from which they can learn the Raven Queen's origina name? And bigger outcomes, whose context is the whole campaign - do the PCs join with Jenna to try and defeat the Raven Queen, or help Kas defend her Mausoleum, or do they oppose both? As it turns out, they stopped Jenna and so, for the moment, helped the Raven Queen. But it could have gone the other way. And the biggest outcome of all is lurking there too - is the Dusk War coming, or not? Within the fiction, there's an answer to that question, as it's a cosmological fact. But at the table, we don't know yet because it hasn't been played to its resolution.

    This is what I think is at the heart of "no myth" or "play to find out".

    Quote Originally Posted by innerdude View Post
    I'm totally comfortable with the idea that you can find a middle ground between doing worldbuilding while still allowing player freedom, improvisation, and not being married to any particular narrative outcome.
    And so I guess I would ask - was it important that (i) to (iii) be done by you rather than the players, or was that just happenstance? Was (v) important for you? - in which csae, presumably, there was no other way to get it. And with regard to (iv), what was the role of unrevealed backstory in shaping adjudication of action declarations?

  10. #200
    Member
    The Grand Druid (Lvl 20)

    Mercurius's Avatar

    Join Date
    Jan 2008
    Location
    The center and periphery
    Posts
    3,662
    Quote Originally Posted by pemerton View Post
    Well, tell that to @Mercurius. He was the one who said that it is the GM's story, and the players are actors - and it was that contention that I was responding to.
    Hmm, you called?

    Well, you just made it black-and-white again, and a bit oversimplistic. I'm not sure what else I can say because you seem dead-set on ignoring nuance and continuing to hammer against the dreaded strawman of GM Hegemony that prevents player's from having any real agency.

    The story is created through the interaction between the GM's framing and the player's choices and actions. The GM presents a context, environment, and possible choices, and the players choose what they want to do given that context, environment, and possible choices - or they may find a completely different way that the GM did not account for, and the GM responds accordingly to the internal logic of the campaign world.

    Within this approach there is great possible variance between ad hoc improvisation (sandbox) and metaplot (story arc). The commonality in every variation is that the players have agency to make choices that are available to their characters within the gameworld, and the GM "roleplays" the world itself, and also acts as adjudicator.

    It is both the GM's and the players' story. Again, the GM is the world and everything in it except the PCs.

    I remain unclear why this means players have no agency, or in what way this makes the whole thing the GM's story alone.
    XP Lanefan gave XP for this post

Similar Threads

  1. Why Worldbuilding is Bad
    By I'm A Banana in forum *General Roleplaying Games Discussion
    Replies: 1901
    Last Post: Monday, 21st May, 2018, 06:14 PM
  2. need some help in worldbuilding
    By badgerfrank10 in forum *General Roleplaying Games Discussion
    Replies: 6
    Last Post: Thursday, 29th July, 2010, 05:03 PM
  3. Why Worldbuilding is Bad II
    By FireLance in forum *General Roleplaying Games Discussion
    Replies: 12
    Last Post: Friday, 18th May, 2007, 04:26 PM
  4. Blogging worldbuilding
    By GuardianLurker in forum *General Roleplaying Games Discussion
    Replies: 0
    Last Post: Thursday, 11th May, 2006, 04:29 PM
  5. Blogging worldbuilding
    By GuardianLurker in forum *Pathfinder & Starfinder
    Replies: 0
    Last Post: Thursday, 11th May, 2006, 04:28 PM

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •