A GMing telling the players about the gameworld is not like real life - Page 6
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  1. #51
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    Quote Originally Posted by pemerton View Post
    At a RPG table, in the situation being described in the posts above, the players give rise to an idea - our PCs find some sect members at the teahouse - and they suggest that that idea should be an element of the fiction that is being collectively created at the table. The GM then decides whether or not that idea actually does become part of the shared fiction, and communicates that decision to the players by telling them what it is that their PCs find at the teahouse.
    I'm not sure if I've ever played in a group that plays this way. In all of the games I have played, or been the DM for, the DM already has an idea what is at the teahouse. Any suggestions made by the players may, but won't necesarily change his preestablished ideas.

    For example:

    My players are currently inside an underground cathedral, where they see evil monks carrying a coffin around with their dead high priest. They are about to start a fight with them, which will be the start of our next session. But before the last session, one of the players said "It would not surprise me if that high priest isn't entirely dead". Of course I know the answer to this, and whether I change my mind is entirely up to me. But I don't generally change the fiction based on ideas that my players randomly spout during the session.

    If the highpriest was intended to be still alive (or undead), I won't just change it just because my players correctly guessed my intentions. Nor do I now make him alive, when he was originally dead. I suppose I have until our next session to change the fiction any way I like, but I usually don't. Not that I don't appreciate player-input, but I kind of like the idea that what's there is there, and what isn't, is not. I don't mind not surprising my players, when it was my original intention to do so. Because guessing a trap correctly, can also be satisfying to the players.

    I get the impression that none of the DM's that I have played with, change their mind like that either. Of course, this is merely my impression, I didn't ask them.
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  2. #52
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    Pemerton may be right, I imagine a DM telling a PC that the whench has just straddled their character's lap is not the same as a having your lap straddled in RL. To be fair, none of my characters have been straddled, so this is just a hunch on my part.
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  3. #53
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    Quote Originally Posted by S'mon View Post
    I said it functions like real life. Whatever the pre-game process that created the teahouse.
    It functions like real life *if* the GM has any knowledge about how sects of the appropriate sort work. Which is unlikely. It functions, at best, like the GM thinks "real life" works.

    There is a solid point to be made that the characters live in the world 24/7, but the players and GM live there for only a few hours here and there. A real world has tons, oodles, and boatloads of detail, while the GM has a sketch, maybe not even written down. But even if it is written down, it is still a sketch.

  4. #54
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    Quote Originally Posted by Umbran View Post
    It functions like real life *if* the GM has any knowledge about how sects of the appropriate sort work. Which is unlikely. It functions, at best, like the GM thinks "real life" works.
    Which is one of the reasons why it works as an approximation of real life and not an exact duplicate of real life. I don't think I've seen a single person on my side of the issue claim that it mirrors real life. Only that it approximates and/or is similar to real life.
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  5. #55
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    Quote Originally Posted by Imaculata View Post
    I'm not sure if I've ever played in a group that plays this way. In all of the games I have played, or been the DM for, the DM already has an idea what is at the teahouse.
    "An idea," is not, "the life story of every person within." An idea may not even be knowing how many people are actually there at any given time. The typical RPG "an idea" is a listing of the people who the GM thinks is important at the time they wrote it.

    If they wrote it. Many is the time when the procedure is more like, "Hm. We want to find members of this sect. Where are they likely to hang out? In this culture... maybe a teahouse? Hey, GM, we go look for a teahouse to see if we can find some members of this sect!" And, this idea is *entirely reasonable*, but the GM didn't think of it beforehand, and so there is no teahouse detailed in the campaign setting, though there are plenty of them implied. The GM has the choice of winging it, or shooting down a reasonable idea because they didn't think of it.

    This latter is, long run, a losing proposition. The players literally have more brains than the GM. They will think of things the GM hasn't considered, as the GM is one person with a day job and other things to do with their time than detail out everything to the finest detail. The GM is well-served to answer most incidents of , "Mother, may I?" with the improv technique of, "Yes, and..."
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  6. #56
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    Quote Originally Posted by Umbran View Post
    It functions like real life *if* the GM has any knowledge about how sects of the appropriate sort work. Which is unlikely. It functions, at best, like the GM thinks "real life" works.

    There is a solid point to be made that the characters live in the world 24/7, but the players and GM live there for only a few hours here and there. A real world has tons, oodles, and boatloads of detail, while the GM has a sketch, maybe not even written down. But even if it is written down, it is still a sketch.
    This idea stems from a post of mine that was quoted and, in my view, muscharacteruzed. I never said that the game works is exactly like the real world. I said a GM telling a player who is at the tea house, when players say they are going there to look for members of Bone Breaker sect, is no more mother may I than if someone went somewhere looking for people in real life. I never said they followed the same process either. All I was saying is, like in real life, sometimes you go to a location to find someone and they are not there. That doesnt sound at all like mother may I to me.

    Also I added all kinds of caveats, including the world could be emulating anything (a genre universe rather than real world cause and effect). Basically I was saying it is entirely okay for the GM to make a determination of what is there based on his or her knowledge of the setting, sect, etc. other approaches are totally fine to. I have no issue with pemerton wanting more mechanics and/or procedure. I just think calling that style mother may I is not a fair characterization (and somehow we ended up in a debate about real world determinism and physics).
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  7. #57
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    Quote Originally Posted by Umbran View Post
    If they wrote it. Many is the time when the procedure is more like, "Hm. We want to find members of this sect. Where are they likely to hang out? In this culture... maybe a teahouse? Hey, GM, we go look for a teahouse to see if we can find some members of this sect!" And, this idea is *entirely reasonable*, but the GM didn't think of it beforehand, and so there is no teahouse detailed in the campaign setting, though there are plenty of them implied. The GM has the choice of winging it, or shooting down a reasonable idea because they didn't think of it.

    This latter is, long run, a losing proposition. The players literally have more brains than the GM. They will think of things the GM hasn't considered, as the GM is one person with a day job and other things to do with their time than detail out everything to the finest detail. The GM is well-served to answer most incidents of , "Mother, may I?" with the improv technique of, "Yes, and..."
    I strongly disagree with this. "Yes and" just allows anything the players want to unfold in the campaign. As a player this is the last thing I want, which was why I was so against "Yes and" when I first heard of it. I think the issue here is you are being overly reductive. It isn't simply a choice between 'winging it' with a mother may I approach or "yes and". I do agree with you that when this comes up, it is often around things the GM hasn't thought of in advance. But the GM is the one making the campaign material and knows the organizations, the places, the cultures involved. The GM instead of 'winging it' or saying 'yes' can think it through and try to come up with the most reasonable result to the question "what is there?". If he or she wants, they can factor in the question of Bone Breaking Sect being there, since that is a legitimate thing to look for. But I'd personally not have the answer be based on the player's desire to see them as much as whether it is plausible they'd be there in the first place. Of course this is a campaign set in Jianghu, so there would be a strong possibility of someone being there who knows where Bone Breaking Sect might be found.

    In the Bone Breaker example, that comes from my campaign. I know the sect, I know its hierarchy and leadership as well as its general procedures for things. I also know the Tea House the players are going to and what kind of clientele tend to be there. My honest solution to the problem would probably to guesstimate a probability and roll for it based off of that information or just make a decision about it. The reason why I do this is I want to preserve the feeling of exploring a real world that operates external to the characters, so it has a sense of realness and immersion. That is not a style that everyone wants, nor is it the only way to get realness and immersion. But it works for me, and it absolutely isn't mother may I. My players are not going around obsequiously asking if they can do this or that, they are earnestly exploring the setting. And believe me, if my judgements start to feel like mother may I, my players let me know. They are not a shy lot.

  8. #58
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    I'm going to try to isolate some points of contention. I'll probably fail, but points for effort, right?

    1) Zooming out, real life is of course driven by trillions upon trillions of subtle actions that lead to an indecipherable web of consequences. Zoom in, though, and any one consequence usually looks pretty goddamn random. If I get hit by a truck, the fact that the truck driver had an argument with his father 30 years ago that lead to a chain of events that caused him to fall asleep at the wheel that day is both absolutely true and utterly meaningless to my mangled corpse.

    2) The fact that life appears random means that random determination of events can make a fictional playspace seem more like a real-life space, driven by the aforementioned web of consequences.

    Now, for the teahouse example, I think virtually every playgroup accepts that, for the characters, the teahouse was always an extant part of their reality. No one is positing that the characters know the teahouse is being apparated into existence in response to the characters deciding to go there.

    Likewise, I think everyone accepts that for this example, the teahouse was already located in the fiction during prior play, so that "going to the teahouse" is a valid action declaration for everyone. (A narrative group might simply assume that a teahouse is a valid location to visit in their current genre of play, while a simulationist group might wait for the DM to declare the existence of a teahouse before making action declarations involving it.)

    Additionally, I don't think anyone outside the most hardcore preppers of DMs has a detailed rendering of any one teahouse in the city and the schedules of who comes and goes already assigned. And I think this where the break occurs.

    A simulationist group knows that the DM probably doesn't have the exact location of the sect members known at all times. If the sim DM says "There are no sect members in the teahouse, and the owner has no memory of ever seeing any", then the sim group assumes that the DM already knows where the sect members hang out. Or if the answer is "There aren't any here right now, but I have seen them come and go", then the assumption is the DM used some kind of random process to determine if they were there right now.

    But what they do expect is the appearance of extrapolation from prior knowledge, and the use of algorithm and procedure to derive the answer. Even if the DM is just deciding extemporaneously, it's assumed that the DM is reasoning based on an already extant structure of the game world. What this is trying to prevent is the appearance of contrivance, which is the bane of simulationist play and simultaneously the heart of narrative play.

    tl;dr: Randomness makes things look more real. Sim minded players value the appearance of process and derived results in their play, even if the derivation is purely a mental construct of the DM calculating odds and rolling dice.
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  9. #59
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    Quote Originally Posted by Umbran View Post
    The GM has the choice of winging it, or shooting down a reasonable idea because they didn't think of it.
    I just want to point out, this isn't why the GM might rule they are not there. It isn't about shooting down ideas you don't think about. I take great pains to carefully consider what the players are trying to do. I also take pride in not having my decisions about this stuff cater to what I want to see, or what outcomes help me keep going in a particular direction (and I've had a lot of players thank me for this approach). If the players raise the question of whether Bone Breaking sect members are there, or if there is even a Tea House to be found, it is just that, if this stuff hasn't been hashed out in advance, the GM now needs to apply some logic to thing it through and decide what the case is or what resolution method to employ. There is a style of play that is based on the GM being familiar with the setting, taking established facts about the setting, and extrapolating based off those facts. But the purpose isn't for the GM to be a jerk and just shoot down ideas. And the players in such campaigns are usually not viewing it as some kind of social negotiation, they are usually just interested in exploring, investigating, etc and feeling like they are doing so in a concrete world. If you have a GM who is trying to be fair, logical, and familiar with the setting, it really does feel that way. And your decisions as players can genuinely matter. Also, in such a campaign, there is a perfectly good chance the GM does know who frequents that Tea House and whether members of Bone Breaking Sect are there (for example many of my Tea Houses have contacts from different sects present or operating the place as a front).

    I will say, given what I know of Bone Breaker sect, a tea house is probably one of the least likely places you would find them. They tend to be found more in brothels, gambling halls, and other places where the criminal underworld has a strong presence. It isn't impossible though. So I would probably assign a flat probability of 2-10% that someone from Bone Breaker sect or a group from bone breaker sect, are meeting at the tea house for some reason. If the player just wants to go around the city looking for rumors and information, I'd probably call for a City Survival roll. But the result would just be whatever information is available in the city, not information created because of the roll.

  10. #60
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    Quote Originally Posted by TwoSix View Post
    A simulationist group knows that the DM probably doesn't have the exact location of the sect members known at all times. If the sim DM says "There are no sect members in the teahouse, and the owner has no memory of ever seeing any", then the sim group assumes that the DM already knows where the sect members hang out. Or if the answer is "There aren't any here right now, but I have seen them come and go", then the assumption is the DM used some kind of random process to determine if they were there right now.

    But what they do expect is the appearance of extrapolation from prior knowledge, and the use of algorithm and procedure to derive the answer. Even if the DM is just deciding extemporaneously, it's assumed that the DM is reasoning based on an already extant structure of the game world. What this is trying to prevent is the appearance of contrivance, which is the bane of simulationist play and simultaneously the heart of narrative play.
    .
    Very few of the GMs I know who engage in this style even call it simulationist. That is usually a term leveled at the style from outside. But that said, this isn't even about simulating real world stuff. There are a cluster of styles that engage in this sort of thing, and not all of them are interested in portraying reality. For example there is the Living Adventure style, which was elaborated on in Feast of Goblyns and originally showcased (I believe, though it may have earlier roots) in the original Ravenloft module---going by memory here. That is merely about treating the NPCs as live actors in the game the same as you treat PCs. The Gm is encouraged to have them move around, plot and plan, and react, the same way player characters do. This has nothing to do with simulating a world. It has eveything to do with running a character focused campaign where the villains do all kinds of clever things and are not pinned to a particular location.

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