D&D 5E 5e* - D&D-now

I do not find this with 5e. It's a genuine puzzler for me: the implication that some DMs hit points where what follows isn't clear to them. Other posters described that "the actual cognitive workspace a GM is inhabiting during play and the conversation is pushing toward yields consequences that are profoundly far away from unconstrained or anarchy" and for me that is true in 5e.

The closest I've come to not knowing was two sessions ago, where the player-characters were all down (due to a cursed necklace of fireballs) and two non-player character allies were standing. Due to complexities in the situation, it took me a couple of minutes to parse what to say next. Afterwards, one player felt that one of their foes, who was also standing, should have made a more vicious move. In the moment, I felt that relied on information that foe wouldn't have. Everyone else agreed with what I narrated.

I feel sure you are right about word count. As I hoped to explain above, I very much feel it is right to say - "It is preferable for an RPG text to articulate principles." At the same time, I know that I cannot say - "DMs is not influenced by principles, unless they are articulated in an RPG text." I'm not meaning to embrace the Oberoni Fallacy. Rather I see external influences as unavoidable, and in fact virtuous in play. Essential for play to occur. There must be something left unsaid between text, system, and fiction.


[It strikes me that a game that clearly and extensively articulates its principles works to exclude other interpretations. On first reading, Stonetop looks like a good example of that.]
Uh, sure, you can work from a set of principles, agenda, techniques, etc. that is not coded into a game. I agree that if a game provides an interpretation of what it is about, that it articulates it, then it likely, almost by definition, excludes other interpretations. Wouldn't that be true of anything that has greater clarity? Its pretty much the DEFINITION OF clarity.

After GMing 1000's and 1000's of sessions over decades I'd say that there have been a LOT of situations where there was a question about 'what follows from this'. I attribute a lot of that to game systems which are not very clear, personally. I have not had such a problem with, say, DW. I mean, you could follow with one of many things in rather a lot of cases, but its always pretty clear if a response, a move, is at least appropriate, and how to rate it against other options that spring to mind so you can pick the best one.

Frankly, my personal view of 5e is that it is generally in the same boat as 2e. Its a game with a fundamental design based around a GM who provides a structured and bounded environment in which are embedded a series of challenges and incentives which work together to define the process of play and answer questions about what should happen next (IE what the GM should narrate now).

Unfortunately whomever wrote 2e, back in 1989, was writing from a MUCH less sophisticated set of RPG design techniques (and TSR was not exactly at the cutting edge of what WAS state of the art even then). It is a HIGHLY incoherent design, and this has been subject to pretty thorough analysis several times here in my recollection, so I don't feel like it needs much additional commentary at this point. The problem with 5e is it simply doesn't FIX THE PROBLEM. Yes, it is a MUCH cleaner and tighter system in terms of the nuts and bolts of the "how to decide of the PC climbed the wall" sort of stuff. It also reduces the contrast between the promise of heroic fantasy and the reality of single-digit-hit-point adventurers, and such. So its certainly a better game in some respects.

OTOH the core problem still exists, the player is handed a vision of playing Conan the Barbarian, so to speak, but much of the mechanics of the game seems aimed more at keeping that kind of thing in check! Honestly, this is why the fixed DC skill system in 5e is, to me, so blazingly nonsensical! If you want a game of heroic action fantasy, then AT EVERY LEVEL the PCs should be executing heroic action fantasy. The difference between level 1 and level 10 and level 20 is the trappings, basically. But the "levels count for nothing in calculating DCs" ranking system totally undermines that! I don't honestly know what 5e is ABOUT. It says action fantasy, but the rules pretty much tell me no. I grant you, its less of an issue than in any other (non-4e) edition, but it is still pretty problematic (and then casters get to carve their own little doorway into gonzo).

Anyway, I think this discussion has clarified a couple things in my mind about working on my own game design. I am more clear than ever as to the NATURE of what level progression should bring, amongst other things.
 

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There are differing views on that, and I'd like to add something else to reflect on, which is the notion of untethered narration. Narration that doesn't contain the results and follow from the conversation. What constrains a 5e* DM from untethered narration? What forestalls anarchy?

And then again, if they cannot define what is meaningless, how can 5e* DM possibly uphold the DMG 237 rule - "Only call for a roll if there is a meaningful consequence for failure." What differentiates a meaningless consequence from a meaningful one?
But see, if you have an explicit agenda, then you DO have an answer for this! That is exactly the kind of thing that I'm saying is not present in 5e. Even in 5e though, meaningless should at least be able to be described as 'having no consequences (or further significance) in play'. So, for example, a Pick Locks attempt where the consequence of failure is wasting 5 minutes of time when you have virtually unlimited time to waste. The PC just tries again, and again, and... right? Now, you can decide that the resolution system forbids rolling again for anything, ever, at least without changing the situation first, but that's not an unambiguously stated thing in 5e, and 5e* doesn't clarify it.
 

pemerton

Legend
To what extent do you feel those explanations clarify, organise and overall articulate principles and agendas that DMs have had in mind from the outset? The author of Monster of the Week commented on this question, that - "That sort of play goes back decades, including when D&D was first getting started in the 1970s."
Two significant differences in perspective that I notice are
  • 5e encourages toward grasping the world as externally real: somewhere the characters live, but not necessarily built around them
  • 5e leaves it to DM to know how they will DM: the RAW is insouciant or coy
I don't think that I am following every nuance in this thread. But when I read these posts, I find it hard to work out what is really being claimed about 5e*.

For instance, is the claim that 5e* will produce the same play experience as Dungeon World? In that case, I find the claim utterly implausible. The reasons for that implausibility are probably too many to list; but here are some of the obvious points of difference: 5e D&D has a rigid action economy for combat, whereas DW doesn't; 5e has player-initiated mechanical subsystems (primarily but not solely spells), whereas DW doesn't - it only has "moves"; 5e has conditions (including but not solely hp loss) whose definition is almost entirely mechanical, whereas DW doesn't, and 5e has no analogue to DW's prescriptive/descriptive approach to (eg) having your hand cut off in a trap; 5e has no systematic process for regulating or correlating the GM's introduction of complications in relation to the players' declarations of actions for their PCs, whereas DW does.

Whether or not FPRGers in the 1970s were trying to achieve the sort of play that DW delivers, they hadn't created systems that would do it in the way that DW does. To assert otherwise is, apart from anything else, an insult to Vincent Baker as a designer.

And flipping it around: what, if anything, is distinctive about 5e's encouragement to grasp the world as externally real: somewhere the characters live, but not necessarily built around them. Other than some self-referential RPGs like Toon and Over the Edge, what RPG doesn't have this aspiration? Dungeon World has certain principles intended to support it: Address the characters, not the players; Never speak the name of your move; Give every monster life; Name every person; Think offscreen, too. We can't capture anything distinctive about 5e D&D until we talk about concrete principles that govern the GM's narration - eg, perhaps what we might call the @Lanefan principle which goes something like When narrating the consequences of a check, successful, or unsuccessful, have no regard to what the player hoped their PC would achieve by way of the check. But then we would have to ask how this principle sits with character build elements like Beliefs, Traits, Flaws and the like - those make me wonder whether this mooted principle really is a component of 5e play that is consistent with RAW.

It's a genuine puzzler for me: the implication that some DMs hit points where what follows isn't clear to them. Other posters described that "the actual cognitive workspace a GM is inhabiting during play and the conversation is pushing toward yields consequences that are profoundly far away from unconstrained or anarchy" and for me that is true in 5e.

<snip example of play, where GM narrated a NPC's action>

Everyone else agreed with what I narrated.
Here is a bit from Vincent Baker:

So you're sitting at the table and one player says, "[let's imagine that] an orc jumps out of the underbrush!"

What has to happen before the group agrees that, indeed, an orc jumps out of the underbrush?

1. Sometimes, not much at all. The right participant said it, at an appropriate moment, and everybody else just incorporates it smoothly into their imaginary picture of the situation. "An orc! Yikes! Battlestations!" This is how it usually is for participants with high ownership of whatever they're talking about: GMs describing the weather or the noncombat actions of NPCs, players saying what their characters are wearing or thinking.​

So the fact that everyone at the table goes along with one participant's narration of something they have high ownership of - in this case, the action declarations for a NPC - shows us that the table is not under stress or dysfunctional - which is good! - but I don't see where it takes us in the analysis of RPGs, either in general or in any particular case. The purpose of Dungeon World's rules and principles that govern GM narration are not (primarily) to ensure agreement at the table. They're to produce a particular sort of play experience.

There are all sorts of things that can cause a GM to doubt what is the appropriate thing to narrate. For instance, an ogre attacks a MU/wizard PC. The attack hits. The attack removes more than half the PC's hit points. The GM narrates it as a hard blow to the head. Is the GM also permitted to narrate that the PC forgets one of their memorised spells (if a MU) or loses one of their prepared spells (if a 5e wizard)? I mean, memorising/preparing spells is clearly - in the fiction - a cognitive activity, reinforced in nearly all versions of D&D by the interplay between the INT stat and the ability of MUs/wizards to learn and/or cast spells. And it's pretty common knowledge that a hard blow to the head can affect cognitive ability in the short, medium and/or long term.

That sort of narration in AD&D would be a seriously bit of aggressive GMing! And would be unlikely to be an example of what Baker describes, as spell memorisation is something over which the player has a high degree of ownership. I'm pretty confident it would raise eyebrows at many, probably most, 5e tables too.

Through grasping DMG 237 and PHB 174 as regulatory rules, they are reconciled as follows:
  • DMG 237 contains a restrictive regulatory rule, with the effect of saying when not to call for a roll. Don't call for a roll, unless there is a meaningful consequence for failure.
  • PHB 174 contains an imperative regulatory rule, with the effect of saying when to call for a roll. Call for a roll, when there is a chance of failure. (This rule is repeated in restrictive form, in DMG 237.)
  • DMG 237 contains another restrictive regulatory rule, with the effect of saying when not to call for a roll. Don't call for a roll, when a task so inappropriate or impossible - such as hitting the moon with an arrow - that it can't work.
The rules are clearly structured in DMG 237. The logic there is straightforward: it's like starting lights for Formula 1 racing. Is the first light out? Great! is the second light out? Are all lights out? Go!
How do we know if there is a chance of failure? That seems to be, or at least to come very close to being, viciously circular: making a check introduces a chance of failure (unless the DC is no more than 1 greater than the bonus the player will have on their check), and so how can we use the possibility of failure as a criterion for calling for a check?

A meaningful consequence for failure obviously does not have this particular issue, but it still requires us to know what the consequences for failure might be, and this is something that depends upon other elements of the system. Obviously if a hit on a head can cause you to lose hit points that are hard to recover, or cause you to lose a memorised spell, then nearly any physical activity might have a meaningful consequence for failure. But consider a system like Prince Valiant, in which there is no analogue to spell memorisation and in which recovery of Brawn lost due to physical strain or injury occurs entirely at the GM's discretion: that system difference, that sits in other parts of the PC build and action resolution rules, makes a big difference to what physical actions might have meaningful consequences for failure.

And then consider Burning Wheel, which derives nearly all those meaningful consequences from various elements of the PC build - Beliefs, Instincts, certain traits, Relationships, etc - which the GM draws upon both in framing, and in consequence narration. And these can have a prescriptive/descriptive dimension a bit like Dungeon World - eg Reputations and Relationships can change as consequences of actions, and this has concrete meaning not only for taking red ink to the PC sheet, but for the corresponding aspects of the fiction. The analogue in classic D&D might be losing a henchman due to a failed loyalty check. That can't bit the same way in a system without henchmen.

That what is I find magical about that word "narrates". Taking the text holistically, and interpreting that word as 5e* suggests (both as to saying something meaningful, and as to its regulatory significance), leads me directly to a consistent interpretation. Admittedly, it didn't need to do any heavy lifting, as it was speaking to my natural style of DMing.
According to the opening post, the play group decides that amongst themselves [what is meaningful].
I'll explore some examples that are meaningful/less for me. I can't promise they will be for you, because ultimately meaning lives in your conversation. To get the context right, 5e* interprets "narrates" in this way
  • say something meaningful
  • the rule is an imperative regulatory rule: a green light or arrow to go from system to fiction
  • it's a guarantee: players can respond to what DM narrates as meaningful
Example 4:
Fighter on higher initiative slashed at her with his longsword, hitting. All see that he rolls 1 on the 1d8.
DM narrates "Ram's slash barely scratches her. She presses forward unabated. She's huge: you can't hold her back."
I find this meaningful in the following ways
  • Barely scratched: players learn that she has a lot of hit points remaining, and this may be a tough fight.
  • Presses forward: it's hopefully clear to players what's coming next.
  • She's huge: creatures can barge past those two-sizes smaller than themselves, so this reminder telegraphs that the squishier characters might find themselves targeted.
The way in which these elements are meaningful is that they matter to the player-character's fictional positioning: A player's position is the total set of all of the valid gameplay options available to her at this moment of play. Valid means legitimate and effective. Ram (the fighter) can see that they will be ineffective trying to hold the giant back, even though it would be legitimate for him to try and do so. It upholds and returns to our fiction (F > S > F) and I think will carry forward the overall flow of events in combat that together will form our story.

Example 5:
Fighter on higher initiative slashed at her with his longsword, hitting. All see that he rolls 1 on the 1d8.
DM narrates "Ram's slash barely scratches her. She laughs 'I didn't realise you were so weak! Why fight small man?' and couches her club."
I find this meaningful too, but it goes in another direction. Here DM has decided that she feels her point is made, and is willing to go back to haggling. How does DM know to narrate this instead of example 4? For me, that depends on prior conversation and established fiction. In this DM's world, it seems that stone giants are a more nuanced people.
Example 4 is, for me, the flipside of the ogre-hits-the-wizard-on-the-head example. What is the actual, in play significance of the the "barely scratched" beyond being a type of D&D players' code for "has a lot of hit points remaining". Will the scratch bleed? (In real life, one sometimes kills and/or catches a creature by causing it to bleed, and then following it until it has bled to a state of enfeeblement, unconsciousness or death. Where does that happen in 5e*, and how does the GM's narration of hit point loss relate to that?)

As for the GM signalling their intentions for the NPC - she presses forward or she couches her club - isn't that pretty ubiquitous in all RPGing? What is distinctive about 5e* in this respect? Eg do these constrain the GM's ensuing action declarations? - After all, on the fact of things they look like action declarations. If the giant presses forward, does that give a bonus to save against a Thunderwave cast on the next turn? Does couching the club give the next PC a bonus to hit, or advantage to negotiation attempts? If the answer to my questions is yes then I can see how the fiction is meaningful, but I think we have now departed from the RAW of the 5e rulebooks (except perhaps the advantage to negotiation, though even there my understanding is that is mostly meant to flow from player cleverness rather than the GM's inclinations about what their NPCs might prefer). If the answer is no, then those narrations seem to be mere colour. For instance, a player who missed them because out of the room at that moment could come back and still attack the giant, or still try to re-open negotiations.

********************************************************************************

This post is not a criticism of 5e*. I personally am unlikely to play 5e D&D in its * or any other form, but nothing about 5e* has changed my disposition in this respect.

This post is a criticism of the notion that the exhortation to narrate meaningfully or narrate meaningful consequences tells us anything about a RPG system. To me, it seems that the action is in the process, expectations etc that shape who owns what, how things are framed, what repertoire of consequences the system provides for, etc. This is where we find the differences between different RPGs.
 

clearstream

(He, Him)
But see, if you have an explicit agenda, then you DO have an answer for this! That is exactly the kind of thing that I'm saying is not present in 5e. Even in 5e though, meaningless should at least be able to be described as 'having no consequences (or further significance) in play'. So, for example, a Pick Locks attempt where the consequence of failure is wasting 5 minutes of time when you have virtually unlimited time to waste. The PC just tries again, and again, and... right? Now, you can decide that the resolution system forbids rolling again for anything, ever, at least without changing the situation first, but that's not an unambiguously stated thing in 5e, and 5e* doesn't clarify it.
5e unambiguously states it: DMG 237.
 

pemerton

Legend
Here are a couple of concrete examples, taken from Burning Wheel play.

In the basic trappings of its fiction, BW resembles D&D - quasi-mediaeval; Tolkien-esque Elves, Dwarves and Orcs; a tendency towards swords & sorcery but with somewhat more ubiquitous or at least less uniformly sinister magic; etc.

There are peasants, villages, cities with temples and wizards, ports and pirates, rogue wizards and mad summoners. Knights of holy military orders wear heavy plate armour. Taverns are places to obtain rumours and meet people.

Despite these similarities, I don't think either of the following examples of play could occur in D&D as they have, for me, in BW.

(1) Thurgon - knight of a military order amd my PC - and his sidekick Aramina, were travelling upriver in the borderlands. The GM wanted to skip a few days, but I insisted on playing out the first evening, as Thurgon and Aramina debated what to do. Aramina - being learned in Great Masters-wise, believed that the abandoned tower of Evard the Black lay somewhere in the forest on the north side of the river (a successful check, initiated by me as her player), and wanted to check it out (and find spellbooks! - one of her central movitvations as stated in her Beliefs). Thurgon persuaded her that they could not do such a thing unless (i) she fixed his breastplate, and (ii) they found some information in the abandoned fortresses of his order which would indicate that the tower was, at least, superficially safe to seek out (eg not an orc fortress a la Angmar/Dol Guldur). My recollection is that we resolved this as a Duel of Wits with me scripting for Thurgon and the GM for Aramina.

As I posted at the time,
I'm finding that quite small things, of little consequence for the universe (actual or in-game) as a whole, can take on a high degree of importance for me as a player when they matter to my PC, and I know that my own choices are what is bringing them to the fore and shaping them (eg repairing the armour; laying the dead to rest; not fighting the mad skeleton knight of my order). I'm not going to say that it's Vermeer: the RPG, but the stakes don't have to be cosmologically high in order to be personally high - provided that they really are at stake.
5e D&D has no system of damage to armour, and hence no way to make repair of it a substantive matter of contention among characters. And it has no way of resolving that contention other than talking it out - treating the sidekick as a NPC, there is a system which permits the PC to persuade or fail to persuade them, but not for them to generate a change of commitment on the part of the PC.

That's before we get to the broader context for this debate, which is a fiction shaped by the player, not the GM, through PC build (where all the knightly stuff comes from) plus action resolution (which is where the Evard stuff comes from).

(2) Me and my fellow player, each with a PC and co-GMing in a somewhat round-robin style, framed an opening scene with our two PCs, Alicia the weather witch and Aedhros the bitter (Tolkien-style) dark elf, together on the docks:
We agreed that Aedhros had travelled on the same ship as Alicia had been working on as a weathermage. Like Aedhros, she started with zero resources and no shoes, and with only rags as clothes. I asked her player why she hadn't been paid. Because bottom has fallen out of the market in soft cheese, so the cargo can't be sold. <snippage> no one was paying for the cheese that had been brought from the green fields and fat cows of Urnst. Some were promised they would be paid tomorrow, but Alicia was told her passage was her pay! With her Base Humility, she accepted this (and earned a fate point). While this was going on, Aedhros took advantage of the distraction to Inconspicuously sidle up to the master and pick his pocket with Sleight of Hand. This earned 1D of cash (it was agreed). I then proposed to Alicia, whom I knew from the journey, that we find a room for a day or two before we rob the master in the night. She agreed.

We (the players) agreed the next scene was looking for a room for the two of us in a dodgy inn. (The standard resource obstacle for one person is Ob 1; we agreed that this would do for both of us at such a dodgy establishment.) Alicia offered to also work in the kitchens to help with board - and given her instinct, Don't ask, Persuade, where Persuade refers to the BW equivalent of D&D's Suggestion spell, this meant using her magic to get agreement. Alicia's player wanted to take time to prepare her spell, and as the GM for that purpose I thought that needed an Inconspicuous check. Unfortunately this failed, and so the innkeeper looked at her when she started muttering strange words, and so she just cast the spell. It succeeded (I set the innkeeper's Will, and hence the obstacle, at 3) and so he accepted her offer to work in the kitchen. The Tax for casting left her at Forte 1.

We agreed this gave me a bonus die for my Resources check, so I rolled two dice against Ob 1. This was a fail. We reviewed the Resources rules and had a bit of discussion and my co-GM decided that we didn't get a room and my cash die was gone (apparently the master's purse wasn't as full as we'd hoped). The innkeeper still insisted that Alicia work in the kitchen, though!

Taking back the GM's hat, I first adjudicated things for Alicia. I wanted an Ob Forte test to handle the heat and work in the kitchen; this succeeded (with Forte 1 the player was rolling 1 die; I think he must have rolled a 6 and then spent a Fate point to open-end this and get a second success). Then Aedhros re-entered the scene: with a successful Stealthy check I entered the kitchen unnoticed, and found Alicia. I proposed that we relieve the innkeeper of his cash-box (repay hurt for hurt) and Alicia agreed. Then we would take on the master of the ship. Alicia used her Weathersense to determine if a mist would be rolling in; her check succeeded, and so her prediction of mist was correct! (We'd agreed that a failed check mean clear skies and a bright moon.) She also rested (for about 6 hours) to regain one point of Tax, taking her Forte up to 2.

With the morning mist rolling in, it was time to clean out the innkeeper's cash box. We agreed that the day's takings would be 2D of cash. With successful checks, Alicia cast Cat's Eye so she could see in the dark; I succeeded at a straightforward Scavenging check so that Aedhros could find a burning brand (he can see in dim light or by starlight, but not in dark when the starts are obscured by mist). Alicia went first, in the dark but able to see, but failed an untrained Stealthy check despite a penalty to the innkeeper's Perception check for being asleep. So as she opened the door to the room where was sleeping on his feather-and-wool-stuffed mattress, he woke and stood up, moving his strongbox behind him. Alicia, being determined - as per one of her Beliefs - to meet any wrong to her with double in return, decided to tackle him physically. Of course she is trained in Martial Arts, as that's a favourite of her player! I proposed and he agreed that we resolve this via Bloody Versus (ie simple opposed checks) rather than fully scripting in Fight! I set the innkeeper's Brawling at 3, but he had significant penalties due to darkness, and so Alica - with 4 dice + 1 bonus die for superior Reflexes - won the fight easily. The injury inflicted was only superficial, but (as per the rules for Bloody Versus) Alicia had the innkeeper at her mercy - as we narrated it, thrown to the ground and held in a lock.

Aedhros entered the room at this point, with Heart-seeker drawn and ready for it to live up to its name. But Alicia thought that killing the innkeeper was a bit much. So first, she used her advantageous position to render the innkeeper unconscious (no check required, given the outcome of the Bloody Versus). Then her player, wearing the GM hat, insisted that I make a Steel check to commit cold-blooded murder. This failed, and so I hesitated for 4 actions. Handily, that is the casting time for Persuasion, and so Alicia "told" Aedhros not to kill the innkeeper. The casting check succeeded, but the Tax check was one success against an obstacle of 4. With only 1 Forte left, that was 3 Tax which would be 2 overtax, or an 8-point wound, which would be Traumatic for Alicia. But! - the Tax check also was the final check needed for her Forte 3 to step up to Forte 4 (wizard's get lots of juicy Forte checks because of all their Tax - in this case from the three spells cast), which made the overtax only 1, or a 4-point wound which was merely Superficial. Still, she collapsed unconscious.

Aedhros opened the strongbox and took the cash. We agreed that no check was required; and given his Belief that he can tolerate Alicia's company only because she's broken and poor, and given that it aggravates his Spite to suffer her incompetence in fainting, he kept all the money for himself. He then carried out the unconscious Alicia (again, no check required). He also took the innkeeper's boots, being sick of going about barefoot. But he will continue to wear his tattered clothes.
I think this action would not be replicable in 5e D&D.

D&D has no clear system for determining whether or not an offer of work and an offer of payment are accepted. It has not real framework for making small things like shoes, or a night's accommodation, matter. These generally sit below the level of loot and expenditure with which it is concerned. It has no analogue of a sorcerer's tax, nor any way of linking that to a test for working in the heat of the kitchens, which helped build up the pressure on Alicia and in the end led to her collapsing. And D&D 5e has no framework for establishing that a PC is not as cold as they took themselves to be, and hence unable to follow through on their murderous intent without hesitation.

Furthermore, I've played and GMed a lot of D&D, but have never had an experience occur where ordinary, unremarkable shoes are part of what is at stake. On the AD&D price list boots cost from 8 sp to 2 gp depending on make, in a context where most PCs starts with 10s of gp and where treasure acquisition is expected to be in the 100s and 1000s of gp (given the XP rules). In 4e D&D a PC starts with basic clothing as a default. In 5e D&D clothes tend to come as part of a PC's background, and common clothes cost 5 sp in the context of starting money of around 100 gp and expectations of comparable sorts of money being found on adventures.

************************************************************

This post is not an argument about the relative merits of 5e* and Burning Wheel. Rather, it is an attempt to show - via concrete examples taken from actual play - that what counts as meaningful is highly dependent on system.

I could give actual play examples from other systems, too - eg 4e D&D, or Cortex+ Heroic, or Rolemaster - that would show how those systems shape what is or isn't within the range of "meaningful consequences" and "meaningful narration".
 

clearstream

(He, Him)
For instance, is the claim that 5e* will produce the same play experience as Dungeon World?
No, I'm not making any claim about the surface experiences. My question is whether 5e, played naturally and consistently, produces fiction-first roleplay? 5e* is my argument to the effect that it does. I like this discussion in the context of FATE. (The link is to an article in the FATE SRD.)

7. Narrate the resolution within the given constraints.
3. The DM narrates the results of their actions.
3. The GM narrates the results, based on the player's roll.

Over the course of this thread I've even come to feel that grasping "narrates" as an imperative regulatory rule is vital to 5e*. It signals the shift from system to fiction, ending the basic loop in the fiction. I know we don't agree on the intertextual interpretation, so I will just say that seeing this word used the same way in games that we have no reason to doubt are fiction-first, inspires me to interpret it that way in 5e*.

5e has no systematic process for regulating or correlating the GM's introduction of complications in relation to the players' declarations of actions for their PCs, whereas DW does.
In the quoted texts above I notice variation. What has 5e to say about bringing complications or constraints back into the fiction? 5e* says that this is mandated because a roll wasn't called for unless it had complications correlated with it. That is something I wanted to explore as a follow up to @Faolyn's latest.

Whether or not FPRGers in the 1970s were trying to achieve the sort of play that DW delivers, they hadn't created systems that would do it in the way that DW does. To assert otherwise is, apart from anything else, an insult to Vincent Baker as a designer.
Oh, I'm surprised you can take that from anything I've written. On the one hand, I am saying Baker was influential. On the other hand, I'm saying that he made important progress on problems that communities of RPG theorists were concerned with (whether designers, players, or scholars, systematically or casually). Solutions to those problems didn't create new space for RPG, but clarified and structured space already in view. I'm reading The Elusive Shift at present, and perhaps will have a differing view of that later on. Design arcs such as FUDGE to FATE are of interest to me.

And flipping it around: what, if anything, is distinctive about 5e's encouragement to grasp the world as externally real: somewhere the characters live, but not necessarily built around them. Other than some self-referential RPGs like Toon and Over the Edge, what RPG doesn't have this aspiration? Dungeon World has certain principles intended to support it: Address the characters, not the players; Never speak the name of your move; Give every monster life; Name every person; Think offscreen, too. We can't capture anything distinctive about 5e D&D until we talk about concrete principles that govern the GM's narration - eg, perhaps what we might call the @Lanefan principle which goes something like When narrating the consequences of a check, successful, or unsuccessful, have no regard to what the player hoped their PC would achieve by way of the check. But then we would have to ask how this principle sits with character build elements like Beliefs, Traits, Flaws and the like - those make me wonder whether this mooted principle really is a component of 5e play that is consistent with RAW.
Your question here might be more one of whether 5e can be naturally and consistently interpreted to play as story-now? As you and others have pointed out, there is some rules support in TIBFs and Inspiration. I currently see fiction-first and story-now as sympathetic rather than synonymous.

Here is a bit from Vincent Baker:

So you're sitting at the table and one player says, "[let's imagine that] an orc jumps out of the underbrush!"​
What has to happen before the group agrees that, indeed, an orc jumps out of the underbrush?​
1. Sometimes, not much at all. The right participant said it, at an appropriate moment, and everybody else just incorporates it smoothly into their imaginary picture of the situation. "An orc! Yikes! Battlestations!" This is how it usually is for participants with high ownership of whatever they're talking about: GMs describing the weather or the noncombat actions of NPCs, players saying what their characters are wearing or thinking.​

So the fact that everyone at the table goes along with one participant's narration of something they have high ownership of - in this case, the action declarations for a NPC - shows us that the table is not under stress or dysfunctional - which is good! - but I don't see where it takes us in the analysis of RPGs, either in general or in any particular case. The purpose of Dungeon World's rules and principles that govern GM narration are not (primarily) to ensure agreement at the table. They're to produce a particular sort of play experience.
When we discussed the LP earlier, this was something I was trying to get at. System does seem to do some work beyond ensuring agreement. The possibility of differing systems producing differing experiences seems to require it. The LP describes what is necessary, but doesn't say what is sufficient (to create such differences.) What does system do to make the imagining we agree to, the particular play experience?

There are all sorts of things that can cause a GM to doubt what is the appropriate thing to narrate. For instance, an ogre attacks a MU/wizard PC. The attack hits. The attack removes more than half the PC's hit points. The GM narrates it as a hard blow to the head. Is the GM also permitted to narrate that the PC forgets one of their memorised spells (if a MU) or loses one of their prepared spells (if a 5e wizard)? I mean, memorising/preparing spells is clearly - in the fiction - a cognitive activity, reinforced in nearly all versions of D&D by the interplay between the INT stat and the ability of MUs/wizards to learn and/or cast spells. And it's pretty common knowledge that a hard blow to the head can affect cognitive ability in the short, medium and/or long term.

That sort of narration in AD&D would be a seriously bit of aggressive GMing! And would be unlikely to be an example of what Baker describes, as spell memorisation is something over which the player has a high degree of ownership. I'm pretty confident it would raise eyebrows at many, probably most, 5e tables too.

How do we know if there is a chance of failure? That seems to be, or at least to come very close to being, viciously circular: making a check introduces a chance of failure (unless the DC is no more than 1 greater than the bonus the player will have on their check), and so how can we use the possibility of failure as a criterion for calling for a check?
Exactly. Failure alone isn't sufficient. 5e* insists on the upholding of the DMG 237 rule, and through insistence on reaching meaningful narration, ensures that rule influences the game holistically.

A meaningful consequence for failure obviously does not have this particular issue, but it still requires us to know what the consequences for failure might be, and this is something that depends upon other elements of the system. Obviously if a hit on a head can cause you to lose hit points that are hard to recover, or cause you to lose a memorised spell, then nearly any physical activity might have a meaningful consequence for failure. But consider a system like Prince Valiant, in which there is no analogue to spell memorisation and in which recovery of Brawn lost due to physical strain or injury occurs entirely at the GM's discretion: that system difference, that sits in other parts of the PC build and action resolution rules, makes a big difference to what physical actions might have meaningful consequences for failure.

And then consider Burning Wheel, which derives nearly all those meaningful consequences from various elements of the PC build - Beliefs, Instincts, certain traits, Relationships, etc - which the GM draws upon both in framing, and in consequence narration. And these can have a prescriptive/descriptive dimension a bit like Dungeon World - eg Reputations and Relationships can change as consequences of actions, and this has concrete meaning not only for taking red ink to the PC sheet, but for the corresponding aspects of the fiction. The analogue in classic D&D might be losing a henchman due to a failed loyalty check. That can't bit the same way in a system without henchmen.
Reflecting here on conversation about FK a few months back, 5e* says that DM doesn't need to be told expressly what to narrate. 5e* even suspects it might be better to leave that up to DM (due in part to skepticism about the possibility of complete instructions.)

Example 4 is, for me, the flipside of the ogre-hits-the-wizard-on-the-head example. What is the actual, in play significance of the the "barely scratched" beyond being a type of D&D players' code for "has a lot of hit points remaining". Will the scratch bleed? (In real life, one sometimes kills and/or catches a creature by causing it to bleed, and then following it until it has bled to a state of enfeeblement, unconsciousness or death. Where does that happen in 5e*, and how does the GM's narration of hit point loss relate to that?)
Good questions, and I do plan to explore that. Not today though (work looms.)

As for the GM signalling their intentions for the NPC - she presses forward or she couches her club - isn't that pretty ubiquitous in all RPGing? What is distinctive about 5e* in this respect? Eg do these constrain the GM's ensuing action declarations? - After all, on the fact of things they look like action declarations. If the giant presses forward, does that give a bonus to save against a Thunderwave cast on the next turn? Does couching the club give the next PC a bonus to hit, or advantage to negotiation attempts? If the answer to my questions is yes then I can see how the fiction is meaningful, but I think we have now departed from the RAW of the 5e rulebooks (except perhaps the advantage to negotiation, though even there my understanding is that is mostly meant to flow from player cleverness rather than the GM's inclinations about what their NPCs might prefer). If the answer is no, then those narrations seem to be mere colour. For instance, a player who missed them because out of the room at that moment could come back and still attack the giant, or still try to re-open negotiations.
As I anticipated, it's easy to quibble my examples. They're simply the most barebones case that had so far come up. With them I only wanted to address some basic doubts. Recollecting that I say fictional positioning is the total set of all of the valid gameplay options available to player at this moment of play. I believe they encourage understanding saying something meaningful, to be saying something that matters in the fiction (which it must, to produce coherent gameplay, given the F > S > F core loop!)

This post is not a criticism of 5e*. I personally am unlikely to play 5e D&D in its * or any other form, but nothing about 5e* has changed my disposition in this respect.
Knowing your tastes, it has never been on my agenda to persuade you to play 5e, in any form! I'd sooner suspect your account of being usurped.

:p

This post is a criticism of the notion that the exhortation to narrate meaningfully or narrate meaningful consequences tells us anything about a RPG system. To me, it seems that the action is in the process, expectations etc that shape who owns what, how things are framed, what repertoire of consequences the system provides for, etc. This is where we find the differences between different RPGs.
I like the way you put that. Certainly I now believe that grasping the 5e* rule as an imperative regulatory rule successfully ensures players begin and end their core loop in the fiction. Interpreting "narrates" as "say something meaningful" ensures that the principle captured in the DMG 237 rule lives in the PHB 6 basic pattern, i.e. matters throughout. That is one way that it counts.
 
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clearstream

(He, Him)
(1) Thurgon - knight of a military order amd my PC - and his sidekick Aramina, were travelling upriver in the borderlands. The GM wanted to skip a few days, but I insisted on playing out the first evening, as Thurgon and Aramina debated what to do. Aramina - being learned in Great Masters-wise, believed that the abandoned tower of Evard the Black lay somewhere in the forest on the north side of the river (a successful check, initiated by me as her player), and wanted to check it out (and find spellbooks! - one of her central movitvations as stated in her Beliefs). Thurgon persuaded her that they could not do such a thing unless (i) she fixed his breastplate, and (ii) they found some information in the abandoned fortresses of his order which would indicate that the tower was, at least, superficially safe to seek out (eg not an orc fortress a la Angmar/Dol Guldur). My recollection is that we resolved this as a Duel of Wits with me scripting for Thurgon and the GM for Aramina.

As I posted at the time,
5e D&D has no system of damage to armour, and hence no way to make repair of it a substantive matter of contention among characters. And it has no way of resolving that contention other than talking it out - treating the sidekick as a NPC, there is a system which permits the PC to persuade or fail to persuade them, but not for them to generate a change of commitment on the part of the PC.
Great, vivid example. I need to up my exemplification game! I don't record my play, but I over the course of our conversations the worth of doing so is coming clear. I'm going to recast your example in 5e*.

Thurgon - knight of a military order amd my PC - and his sidekick Aramina, were travelling upriver in the borderlands. The GM wanted to skip a few days, but I insisted on playing out the first evening, as Thurgon and Aramina debated what to do.
Stands as is. As GM, I am always listening to players and going with them where they go.

Aramina - being learned in Great Masters-wise, believed that the abandoned tower of Evard the Black lay somewhere in the forest on the north side of the river (a successful check, initiated by me as her player), and wanted to check it out (and find spellbooks! - one of her central movitvations as stated in her Beliefs).
Stands as is. Character background (TIBFs), alignment, and backstory list motivations that inform our fiction. In my version of the example, Arimina is curious about what lies beyond the forest on the north side and describes reflecting on Great Masters lore. The question is consequential, as it will either take our campaign in a dangerous direction that might make new spells available, or we will continue upriver. I think the tower isn't well known, but it's not shrouded by magic either. DC 15 say. Both success and failure are possible, so I call for a check. It happens that either in my prep or on the fly I have an idea about an abandoned tower there.

Thurgon persuaded her that they could not do such a thing unless (i) she fixed his breastplate, and (ii) they found some information in the abandoned fortresses of his order which would indicate that the tower was, at least, superficially safe to seek out (eg not an orc fortress a la Angmar/Dol Guldur). My recollection is that we resolved this as a Duel of Wits with me scripting for Thurgon and the GM for Aramina.
Stands as is. As GM, I let them know they can simply agree, but as it turns out Thurgon is stubborn and Aramina really wants to visit that tower. I call for a contest using Charisma. Based on their friendly and cooperative relationship, I say both may add Persuasion (neither says anything to make me feel Intimidation or Deception would be appropriate.)

5e D&D has no system of damage to armour, and hence no way to make repair of it a substantive matter of contention among characters. And it has no way of resolving that contention other than talking it out - treating the sidekick as a NPC, there is a system which permits the PC to persuade or fail to persuade them, but not for them to generate a change of commitment on the part of the PC.
Some RAI that social interaction ability checks cannot be used on player-characters. Based on RAW, I rule that they can. Some foes and traps can damage armor (typically reducing AC in 1-point steps), so in my 5e-universe version of the example, our prior conversation contained Thurgon running into one such trap.

Aramina has proficiency with Smith's Tools. With a few supplies, she can repair Thurgon's armor. She could spend a full day (no check), but the player wants to push to get it done in one hour (DC 15, guided to by XGE and DMG rules.) A breastplate is a valuable piece of armor, so I'm saying 4 gp for materials of the quality required, but those are not spoiled by failures: the only cost is time. For simplicity, I say to the players that a successful check will have it repaired in an hour, and a failure will have it repaired the next day. (Note that as GM I'm not sure that I agree with Aramina that the difference matters, but she has determined that it is consequential to her.)
 
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Lanefan

Victoria Rules
I don't think that I am following every nuance in this thread.
You're still ahead of me, I haven't been following this thread at all. That said...
And flipping it around: what, if anything, is distinctive about 5e's encouragement to grasp the world as externally real: somewhere the characters live, but not necessarily built around them. Other than some self-referential RPGs like Toon and Over the Edge, what RPG doesn't have this aspiration? Dungeon World has certain principles intended to support it: Address the characters, not the players; Never speak the name of your move; Give every monster life; Name every person; Think offscreen, too. We can't capture anything distinctive about 5e D&D until we talk about concrete principles that govern the GM's narration - eg, perhaps what we might call the @Lanefan principle which goes something like When narrating the consequences of a check, successful, or unsuccessful, have no regard to what the player hoped their PC would achieve by way of the check. But then we would have to ask how this principle sits with character build elements like Beliefs, Traits, Flaws and the like - those make me wonder whether this mooted principle really is a component of 5e play that is consistent with RAW.
...I've been mentioned out of the blue for some reason, so now I suppose I'd better pay attention.

Beliefs, Traits, etc. are generally long-term overarching elements of one's character and its personality; and thus likely wouldn't have much effect on a lot of day-to-day short-term or immediate action declaration/resolution cycles unless there's a direct connection e.g. a character's Flaw being a fear of heights might impact its odds of success on climbing checks but will have no impact on its ability to find secret doors or to remember a scrap of information about the Baron's father.

Other than that I'm not sure what you're getting at here, or why I'm involved.
 

clearstream

(He, Him)
You're still ahead of me, I haven't been following this thread at all. That said...

...I've been mentioned out of the blue for some reason, so now I suppose I'd better pay attention.

Beliefs, Traits, etc. are generally long-term overarching elements of one's character and its personality; and thus likely wouldn't have much effect on a lot of day-to-day short-term or immediate action declaration/resolution cycles unless there's a direct connection e.g. a character's Flaw being a fear of heights might impact its odds of success on climbing checks but will have no impact on its ability to find secret doors or to remember a scrap of information about the Baron's father.

Other than that I'm not sure what you're getting at here, or why I'm involved.
So you're more saying - the chance of success or failure isn't impacted by what the player hoped to achieve?
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
So you're more saying - the chance of success or failure isn't impacted by what the player hoped to achieve?
I suppose?

If you're climbing a wall, for example, whether your end goal is to see what's on the other side or escape a rising flood or simply just get to the top makes no difference to the actual resolution of the climb check nor to the odds of success. The subsequent narration would of course take the environment and goal into consideration, as in (on success):

"Good. You're up the wall and can see [...whatever there is to be seen on the other side...]. Now what?"
"Good. You're up the wall and have given yourself a reprieve from the rising water. It's still slowly rising, though, and there's no way of telling whether it'll eventually get up to your elevation or not. What do you do next?"
"Good. You're up the wall. [if there's anything new to narrate up here, narrate it now] What do you do next?"
 

5e unambiguously states it: DMG 237.
Hmmmm. I think we suffer from a terminological and/or conceptual mismatch here. I see nothing in this section of the 5e DMG which equates to anything I would understand as an AGENDA. I see some description of recommendations regarding process (and also an admonition that there IS NO defined process except what the GM intends there to be!). I would think of an agenda as something similar to the kinds of things proposed under that heading in DW. That is, the agenda would describe WHAT the goals of the GM are in running the game, or maybe more broadly what the overall goals of playing a game of 5e D&D ARE (I mean, at a more concrete level than just "play a game and have fun").

So, for example, in Dungeon World we are told that the GM's agenda is "Portray a Fantastic World", "Fill the character's lives with adventure", and "Play to find out what happens." Thus whenever the GM makes a move, these 3 considerations are the fundamental bedrock upon which the narration of that move is based. The move will be 'fantastic' or at least push things in the direction of the fantastic; the move will produce 'adventure', which I would interpret as action, exploration, self-actualization, etc.; and it will be open-ended, so that it helps tell us both what happens NOW and provides opportunity for more things to be 'found out' later on.

You can see how a game based on these three things very much defines something like "should we use the dice now to resolve something" or conversely "under what conditions should we roll the dice?" That will be answered by asking if the results will be fantastic, adventurous for the party, and telling us 'what happens' without making that some canned pre-ordained thing (because it has to be 'played for', which I interpret to mean that issues are in doubt and can fall in different ways based on player skill and possibly luck). Note how DW introduces these elements on p161.

"Your agenda makes up the things you aim to do at all times while GMing a game of Dungeon World:"

Next the things are examined in detail, and more is exposed. We find out, significantly, that "A Dungeon World adventure portrays a world in motion..." and then that "play to find out what happens" is pretty specifically meant to tie into that. We are to find out what happens TO THE WORLD because the PCs adventure in it. Their part is to be pivotal to the outcome of events in that world, BY DESIGN. Its very clear, crystal clear in fact.

The Principles, outlined starting on p162, build on the Agenda. They give you a more concrete list of techniques, prescriptive and sometimes restrictive rules to follow as a GM, presumably intended to build on the Agenda. Anyway, this is what I would consider an 'agenda'.

Obviously every game has a different agenda, to a degree, and they are not always so explicitly stated. 5e certainly doesn't present one on p237 of the DMG! It might be said to touch on a couple of principles, though oddly it also seems to almost disavow the existence of such things in any hard sense (in the first paragraphs of on that page). I find myself deeply ambivalent about what I'm being told as a GM by 5e. It certainly isn't all that clear! I'm not at all convinced that an admonition to 'narrate meaningfully' is clarifying the agenda AT ALL. It might be clarifying part of the Principles of play (AKA techniques), that I would gladly concede.
 

No, I'm not making any claim about the surface experiences. My question is whether 5e, played naturally and consistently, produces fiction-first roleplay? 5e* is my argument to the effect that it does. I like this discussion in the context of FATE. (The link is to an article in the FATE SRD.)

7. Narrate the resolution within the given constraints.
3. The DM narrates the results of their actions.
3. The GM narrates the results, based on the player's roll.

Over the course of this thread I've even come to feel that grasping "narrates" as an imperative regulatory rule is vital to 5e*. It signals the shift from system to fiction, ending the basic loop in the fiction. I know we don't agree on the intertextual interpretation, so I will just say that seeing this word used the same way in games that we have no reason to doubt are fiction-first, inspires me to interpret it that way in 5e*.


In the quoted texts above I notice variation. What has 5e to say about bringing complications or constraints back into the fiction? 5e* says that this is mandated because a roll wasn't called for unless it had complications correlated with it. That is something I wanted to explore as a follow up to @Faolyn's latest.


Oh, I'm surprised you can take that from anything I've written. On the one hand, I am saying Baker was influential. On the other hand, I'm saying that he made important progress on problems that communities of RPG theorists were concerned with (whether designers, players, or scholars, systematically or casually). Solutions to those problems didn't create new space for RPG, but clarified and structured space already in view. I'm reading The Elusive Shift at present, and perhaps will have a differing view of that later on. Design arcs such as FUDGE to FATE are of interest to me.


Your question here might be more one of whether 5e can be naturally and consistently interpreted to play as story-now? As you and others have pointed out, there is some rules support in TIBFs and Inspiration. I currently see fiction-first and story-now as sympathetic rather than synonymous.


When we discussed the LP earlier, this was something I was trying to get at. System does seem to do some work beyond ensuring agreement. The possibility of differing systems producing differing experiences seems to require it. The LP describes what is necessary, but doesn't say what is sufficient (to create such differences.) What does system do to make the imagining we agree to, the particular play experience?


Exactly. Failure alone isn't sufficient. 5e* insists on the upholding of the DMG 237 rule, and through insistence on reaching meaningful narration, ensures that rule influences the game holistically.


Reflecting here on conversation about FK a few months back, 5e* says that DM doesn't need to be told expressly what to narrate. 5e* even suspects it might be better to leave that up to DM (due in part to skepticism about the possibility of complete instructions.)


Good questions, and I do plan to explore that. Not today though (work looms.)


As I anticipated, it's easy to quibble my examples. They're simply the most barebones case that had so far come up. With them I only wanted to address some basic doubts. Recollecting that I say fictional positioning is the total set of all of the valid gameplay options available to player at this moment of play. I believe they encourage understanding saying something meaningful, to be saying something that matters in the fiction (which it must, to produce coherent gameplay, given the F > S > F core loop!)


Knowing your tastes, it has never been on my agenda to persuade you to play 5e, in any form! I'd sooner suspect your account of being usurped.

:p


I like the way you put that. Certainly I now believe that grasping the 5e* rule as an imperative regulatory rule successfully ensures players begin and end their core loop in the fiction. Interpreting "narrates" as "say something meaningful" ensures that the principle captured in the DMG 237 rule lives in the PHB 6 basic pattern, i.e. matters throughout. That is one way that it counts.
Hmmmmm, all of the above is illuminating in terms of your belief that your 'consequential narrative imperative' would generate a process of play that moves back and forth between fiction and mechanics. I don't think I'm going to try to dispute that, it certainly seems to be, at least, a hypothesis that could be tested. I'm not convinced, ala my last post about agenda in DW and the contrast with your statements about 5e, that that imperative will 'drive the car' though. That is, we're not really left with a useful definition of consequential/meaningful. Presumably this can be achieved in play, but I'm still concerned that other 5e statements about the central influence of the GM in terms of setting the rules of adjudication and the lack of any indication that players act in any capacity to direct the fiction or focus of play doesn't give me confidence in calling 5e* a 'story telling game'. I don't think your asking for consequential checks and thus consequential narration is BAD, it seems like it pushes in the direction of more focus on 'play to find out what happens' in a sense, but is it really nearly enough to bridge the gap with 'ground up' story games?

I mean, I have my doubts that my own game even bridges the gap between 4e and something like DW. I think I'm going to provide some added structure there. I've got some ideas, but they WILL tend to more heavily focus the genre and tone of the game in some respects. Honestly, I think the idea of a 'kitchen sink' kind of D&D fights against any kind of explicit technique built into the system pretty hard. You gotta get off the fence if you're going to really dance!
 

clearstream

(He, Him)
So, for example, in Dungeon World we are told that the GM's agenda is "Portray a Fantastic World", "Fill the character's lives with adventure", and "Play to find out what happens." Thus whenever the GM makes a move, these 3 considerations are the fundamental bedrock upon which the narration of that move is based. The move will be 'fantastic' or at least push things in the direction of the fantastic; the move will produce 'adventure', which I would interpret as action, exploration, self-actualization, etc.; and it will be open-ended, so that it helps tell us both what happens NOW and provides opportunity for more things to be 'found out' later on.

You can see how a game based on these three things very much defines something like "should we use the dice now to resolve something" or conversely "under what conditions should we roll the dice?" That will be answered by asking if the results will be fantastic, adventurous for the party, and telling us 'what happens' without making that some canned pre-ordained thing (because it has to be 'played for', which I interpret to mean that issues are in doubt and can fall in different ways based on player skill and possibly luck). Note how DW introduces these elements on p161.

"Your agenda makes up the things you aim to do at all times while GMing a game of Dungeon World:"

Next the things are examined in detail, and more is exposed. We find out, significantly, that "A Dungeon World adventure portrays a world in motion..." and then that "play to find out what happens" is pretty specifically meant to tie into that. We are to find out what happens TO THE WORLD because the PCs adventure in it. Their part is to be pivotal to the outcome of events in that world, BY DESIGN. Its very clear, crystal clear in fact.

The Principles, outlined starting on p162, build on the Agenda. They give you a more concrete list of techniques, prescriptive and sometimes restrictive rules to follow as a GM, presumably intended to build on the Agenda. Anyway, this is what I would consider an 'agenda'.

Obviously every game has a different agenda, to a degree, and they are not always so explicitly stated. 5e certainly doesn't present one on p237 of the DMG! It might be said to touch on a couple of principles, though oddly it also seems to almost disavow the existence of such things in any hard sense (in the first paragraphs of on that page). I find myself deeply ambivalent about what I'm being told as a GM by 5e. It certainly isn't all that clear! I'm not at all convinced that an admonition to 'narrate meaningfully' is clarifying the agenda AT ALL. It might be clarifying part of the Principles of play (AKA techniques), that I would gladly concede.
Perhaps another perspective on this is to ask - where do principles and agenda come from? Is it the case that there was no inkling of principles or agendas in role-players until they saw those words written? Thus and only thus they came to have those things!? Or might it be that DMs always had inklings of principles and agendas, well or less-well formed, clear or obscure, and what is written acts to clarify, include and exclude, and organise those inklings.

That's vital work. For one thing, advancement in understanding of principles and agendas is well-served by articulating them. I think one can get a much clearer idea of productive approaches to roleplaying from that line of thought and work. The impact of that could be especially valuable to those picking this up for the first time, or perhaps steeped in (and defaulting to) other traditions. It comes back to something I've said several times
  • I can say - it is excellent game design to consider, organise and articulate principles and agenda
  • I can't say - DM cannot have principles and agenda unless game designer considered, organised and articulated them
One useful consequence of articulated principles and agenda is to secure that X is done and not Y. Surely that's valuable work, making sure that the game the designer crafted is played. But then consider the FKR movement, and these possible RPG designs (in abstract):
  • an RPG that has only a title
  • an RPG that has only an agenda
  • an RPG that has only principles
  • an RPG that has only rules
  • an RPG that has only examples
  • an RPG that has only agenda and principles
  • an RPG that has only rules and examples
  • an RPG that has only agenda and examples
  • an RPG that has only principles and rules
  • an RPG that has title, agenda, principles, rules, examples
Which is playable? Which will give the most vivid and compelling experiences at the table? I believe (and I'm far from alone from believing, on the matter of rules and rule following) that the game played - rules as interpreted - are unavoidably influenced by principles from outside the game. It's the only way that interpretation is possible.

That creates an interesting space for us. The possibility of choosing the principles under which we will interpret an RPG text to suit our creative purposes. We had to 'choose' or have it chosen for us anyway, so why not do it consciously? I'm not sure we need to avoid anarchic re-interpretations (in fact, I believe them potentially exciting and valuable), but supposing we want to, how do we make sure that our interpretation arises naturally and consistently from the whole text?

5e* (revised and updated!) says, interpret the text like this:
  • interpret "narrates" as "say something meaningful"
  • understand "narrates the results" is an imperative regulatory rule: it signals a shift or arrow to fiction
  • narrating the results secures that the basic pattern begins and ends in the fiction (F > S > F)
  • saying something meaningful is a guarantee: players can respond to what DM says as if it is meaningful (finding meaning later)
  • the imperative to say something meaningful encourages a DM to ensure there's something meaningful to say
  • follow the rule on DMG 237, knowing that the implied principle influences everything (read everything in its light)
  • most often, what will turn out to be meaningful will have consequences that matter to fictional positioning - the set of valid gameplay options available to player at this moment of play
5e* is fiction-first. There are other ways to interpret and play 5e. None have to be all-or-nothing.
 
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pemerton

Legend
My question is whether 5e, played naturally and consistently, produces fiction-first roleplay? 5e* is my argument to the effect that it does.

<snip>

As I anticipated, it's easy to quibble my examples. They're simply the most barebones case that had so far come up. With them I only wanted to address some basic doubts. Recollecting that I say fictional positioning is the total set of all of the valid gameplay options available to player at this moment of play. I believe they encourage understanding saying something meaningful, to be saying something that matters in the fiction (which it must, to produce coherent gameplay, given the F > S > F core loop!)
Given the argument you state in the first quoted para, the response to your examples is not mere quibbling. It's at the core of the "fiction first" claim!

D&D combat is notorious for not being fiction first; for being, in phenomenological terms, dice-roll "bingo" (ie a lot of calling out of numbers and comparing them to pre-given numbers on bits of paper). Some of the earliest RPG designs (C&S, RQ, later RM, GURPS) were reactions to this. Gygax is aware of the reaction, and responds to it, in his DMG - with his criticism of hit location tables and damage types, for instance, and his extremely non-simulationist approach to the resolution of attacks by poisonous monsters and blades (see pp 61, 81-82).

The core of 5e D&D RAW combat resolution is the same as AD&D's: take one's turn within a strict action economy, roll to hit vs AC, if successful roll damage which is applied as a depletion of a hit point tally. This is not fiction first. It's mechanics. I appreciate that 5e* mandates that the mechanics be accompanied by GM narration (I assume that this is why your list of examples didn't include the GM saying The giant now has 125 hp left. But until some account is given of how that GM narration than affects downstream resolution (as in the examples I suggested: a bonus to save vs Thunderwave, or an AC penalty) then we don't have fiction first, we just have D&D combat with colourful narration overlaid. That may be a good thing, in terms of producing a more engaging or enjoyable play experience (and some D&D GMs have been doing it for decades for just that reason) but it doesn't make the game a fiction first one.

Contrast Rolemaster: when one of the PCs in our game suffered a crit result of a severed hand, that meant something in the fiction: he could no longer shoot his bow!

Here's an example of fiction first in D&D combat resolution: in our session the weekend before last, the Epic Defender who is infused with earth power stolen from the Primordials was under an effect that, so long as he stays in contact with the ground, grants temp hp at the top of each round. In a discussion about where the PC should move to, I suggested that if he were to step up onto a plinth that sits above the floor of the building he is on, he would no longer be in contact with the ground. That suggestion was readily acceded to. So here we have fiction to mechanics (a rightward arrow, in Vincent Baker's framework).

And another example: in the same combat, a Huge Primordial Colossus tried to smash a PC (also Huge, being an Emergent Primordial in Primordial form) who had fallen into the water. The Colossus missed - I rolled a 1. The water had a current specified, that would slide the character a particular direction at the start of their next turn. The players suggested that the waves caused by the great splash of the Colossus striking and missing should amplify the effect of the current, washing the PC further down the map. I agreed with that suggestion, and we resolved the wave effect (the player failed an Acrobatics check, and so in fact the wave disturbed the current and reduced rather than increased the PC's movement at the start of the turn). Again, this is fiction to mechanics, and back to fiction.

My own view is that it's not a coincidence that I'm providing these examples from 4e - 4e has a very robust set of system tools (eg a variety of keywords; level-by-DC chart; a standardised framework for forced movement; etc) for translating fiction into mechanics and then back again. My own knowledge of 5e makes feel that it is not as robust in this respect. Perhaps 5e* adds to that robustness, but from the examples you've given I'm not seeing where or how. And as I said, I don't think this is just quibbling.

I like this discussion in the context of FATE. (The link is to an article in the FATE SRD.)
My knowledge of Fate is modest, and my experience less than that. I do know that, for reasons similar to MHRP/Cortex+ Heroic which I know well, it creates controversy about the relationship of resolution to mechanics because the fiction needs to be "sytematised" - as an Aspect in Fate, as a Distinction in MHRP/Cortex+ Heroic - before it matters, and often needs to be further paid for to invoke it or include it as part of an action's resolution.

Both systems, therefore, can tend towards what Baker describes here as Case 2:

Case 1:

1. When you want to describe the weather where the characters are, roll. On a success, say what the weather's like there. (On a failure, it's 76°, few clouds, with a pleasant little breeze.)

2. When your character's taking strenuous action, if it's oppressively hot where your character is, you get -2 to your roll.

That's boxes to cloud, then cloud to boxes.

Case 2:

1. When you want to give another player a die penalty, make a roll. On a success, a) say what's making life hard for their character, and b) give them a -2 to their roll.

That's a) boxes to cloud, with a simultaneous b) boxes to boxes.

(So, Guy: no, it doesn't count as a rightward arrow.)

<snip>

Rob: You seriously read that to mean that the (unmentioned) oppressive heat the character's suffering is responsible for the -2, not the successful give-a-penalty roll?

How do you want me to write it so that it's rock-solid-clear that the successful give-a-penalty roll is responsible for the -2?

Maybe this: When you want to give another player a die penalty, make a roll. On a success, give them a -2 to their roll. (Also, incidentally, say what's making life hard for their character.)

An arrow cubes to cubes. (Also, incidentally, an arrow cubes to cloud.) Right?​

To me, the narrations of the giant pressing forward, or couching her club, look a bit like the incidental narration of what's making life hard for the character: the heavy lifting is being done by the mechanics (boxes-to-boxes) an the narration is epiphenomenal.

In Fate or MHRP, the more that (i) some fictional context for the "impose a -2 penalty check" is required as a precursor to making the check, and (ii) the more that fictional context is constrained by prior narration, the less the play will look like Baker's Case 2. In 5e D&D, no fictional context is required to impose hit point loss other than the distance requirements necessary to declare an attack with the given weapon or spell. The GM's narration of how a NPC responds to an attack is not part of those fictional constraints, at least by RAW.

Over the course of this thread I've even come to feel that grasping "narrates" as an imperative regulatory rule is vital to 5e*. It signals the shift from system to fiction, ending the basic loop in the fiction. I know we don't agree on the intertextual interpretation, so I will just say that seeing this word used the same way in games that we have no reason to doubt are fiction-first, inspires me to interpret it that way in 5e*.

<snip>

5e* says that DM doesn't need to be told expressly what to narrate. 5e* even suspects it might be better to leave that up to DM (due in part to skepticism about the possibility of complete instructions.)
The issue of being told expressly seems a bit of a red herring. In Prince Valiant the GM has extreme freedom - more than a D&D GM - to narrate what happens when a check is resolved. But that narration will then matter to subsequent resolution - eg certain narrations of what happens as a character suffers a reduction of their pool in a duel might provide the opening for an Agility or Dexterity check to wrongfoot them or disarm them or similar.

That is what makes a system "fiction first": the fiction that flows from "cycle N" feeds into the framing and resolution of "cycle N+1".

How does the giant pressing forward, or couching her club, or the 1 hp loss being a scratch, feed into the declaration and resolution of actions on subsequent rounds? This is where, to me, it seems to be purely epiphenomenal.

Your question here might be more one of whether 5e can be naturally and consistently interpreted to play as story-now?
I don't think so. It was about what is distinctive, in 5e or 5e*, compared to (say) DW, as far as making the setting seem "real". To me this seems orthogonal to whether or not it can be played "story now"; although there are some techniques for making the setting seem "real" that are not available in story now play.

When we discussed the LP earlier, this was something I was trying to get at. System does seem to do some work beyond ensuring agreement. The possibility of differing systems producing differing experiences seems to require it. The LP describes what is necessary, but doesn't say what is sufficient (to create such differences.) What does system do to make the imagining we agree to, the particular play experience?
This provoked two thoughts in me.

First, the Lumpley Principle has been stated differently at different times, and those statements aren't all equivalent (either semantically or functionally). This page states two formulations. The first is the one I encountered when I first encountered The Forge: rules and their consequences only take effect when taken up and assented to by the group. The contrast, here, might be with rules of mathematics which (at least on some mainstream accounts) generate consequences even if no one has yet worked out what those are.

The second one is that systems is a means for agreeing on the content of the shared fiction. I think that is what you are meaning by it.

Anyway, on this second formulation of the principle, it does not require anything more to explain why different systems produce different experiences. They are different means.

A vehicle, we might say, is a means for getting from A to B. Using different vehicles will produce different experiences of getting from A to B. This doesn't require adding anything to our concept of a vehicle beyond what is stated in the first sentence of this paragraph. Likewise for system.

For instance, a system that allocates ownership of different elements to different participants will produce different experiences. (Contrast, say, AD&D and Burning Wheel as far as ownership of backstory elements is concerned.) A system that determines what happens next by polling the participants, or inviting them to bid, will obviously produce a different play experience from one which determines it by rolling on a chart or one that determines it by allowing one privileged participant to decide. Etc.
 

pemerton

Legend
A RPG cannot achieve a given agenda, or conform to given principles, if its techniques won't support that.

For instance, suppose that you state that your agenda is present a grim and foreboding world. And then you state that you're going to use Tunnels & Trolls as your system. Straight away you are stuck with a problem: T&T, while pretty deadly as a system, is not very grim or foreboding in the world it presents. It's relatively lighthearted.

Or suppose your agenda is fill the character's lives with adventure. And then you state that you're going to use Classic Traveller as your system. I think Classic Traveller supports interesting lives, but not always adventuresome ones - it has rules for dealing with bureaucracy, for managing your ship mortgage, and for avoiding misjumps based on the fuel you use.

What makes AD&D 2nd ed incoherent - as @AbdulAlhazred posted upthread - is that it states an agenda of heroic fantasy stortytelling, but provides as its techniques a slightly cut-down and streamlined version of Gygax's AD&D, which is not suitable for that agenda at all!

If the agenda is stated in meta-terms rather than by reference to the content or tone of the fiction - eg play to find out what happens or always begin and end with the fiction - that puts demands on techniques too. You can't realise the first of those two agendas using a system of GM fiat or GM pre-authorship of the major events of play. You can't realise the second of those two agendas if key elements of your resolution system do not take the state of the fiction as an input, but are conditioned purely on other mechanical states of affairs.
 

Perhaps another perspective on this is to ask - where do principles and agenda come from? Is it the case that there was no inkling of principles or agendas in role-players until they saw those words written? Thus and only thus they came to have those things!? Or might it be that DMs always had inklings of principles and agendas, well or less-well formed, clear or obscure, and what is written acts to clarify, include and exclude, and organise those inklings.
Of course they had an agenda. No, AFAIK it was not really written down, aside from 'have fun', which Gygax certainly mentions in 1e. Back in the days of actual D&D (which I played and own) no, there was nothing explicit. D&D grew out of wargaming, as we know, and IMHO there was INTENDED to be a sort of play to find out what happens, TO THE PLAYERS. That is, do they solve clever traps and puzzles and advance PCs to higher levels of play? Honestly I think all else can be seen as an outgrowth of that, and so as such it forms a legitimate agenda. But nobody is arguing that an agenda, or principles/techniques/process of play don't exist without explication; just that it is, at best, hard to justify a statement that they are 'this' or 'that'. Hard to say what in fact they are in any certain way.
That's vital work. For one thing, advancement in understanding of principles and agendas is well-served by articulating them. I think one can get a much clearer idea of productive approaches to roleplaying from that line of thought and work. The impact of that could be especially valuable to those picking this up for the first time, or perhaps steeped in (and defaulting to) other traditions. It comes back to something I've said several times
  • I can say - it is excellent game design to consider, organise and articulate principles and agenda
  • I can't say - DM cannot have principles and agenda unless game designer considered, organised and articulated them
Again, nobody is maintaining otherwise. Heck, you and @Manbearcat cannot even agree that you're playing Dungeon World or not, and it cannot get more explicit than DW (IMHO, maybe BitD or TB2 manage to top it a bit, not sure). People go into virtually every activity with something resembling an agenda, though it is very often unclear what it is, even to them.
One useful consequence of articulated principles and agenda is to secure that X is done and not Y. Surely that's valuable work, making sure that the game the designer crafted is played. But then consider the FKR movement, and these possible RPG designs (in abstract):
  • an RPG that has only a title
  • an RPG that has only an agenda
  • an RPG that has only principles
  • an RPG that has only rules
  • an RPG that has only examples
  • an RPG that has only agenda and principles
  • an RPG that has only rules and examples
  • an RPG that has only agenda and examples
  • an RPG that has only principles and rules
  • an RPG that has title, agenda, principles, rules, examples
Which is playable? Which will give the most vivid and compelling experiences at the table? I believe (and I'm far from alone from believing, on the matter of rules and rule following) that the game played - rules as interpreted - are unavoidably influenced by principles from outside the game. It's the only way that interpretation is possible.
I would probably not consider some of these to be 'games' in any recognizable sense, first of all. Nor am I sure what this entire line of discussion is leading towards when the topic was an existing (and quite specific) game! Now, I don't know anything much about any 'FKR movement' or what they propose, etc. so I can't even really comment on that, but 'Kriegspiel' is a very particular sort of activity with a significant amount of agenda and structure, though most of that is usually either developed in, or extended and particularized to form a scenario.

Kriegspiel was specifically designed as a tool for training operational staff in a realistic manner which would develop skills directly applicable to field operations in wartime. So it has a rather definite agenda, though when it was applied to a more general set of scenarios and finally as a form of recreation this obviously shifted. Still, there has always been a certain structured approach, specific techniques, a general process of play, and I would argue an agenda of injecting a certain type of 'operational realism' into play of the game. Also I would use the term 'game' guardedly. Kriegspielen can be PLAY in that they are an entertaining activity (some of them anyway), but they are also much more performative and open-ended in structure than is typical for games. That is to say, if 'Cowboys & Indians' is a game (arguably) then so is your average Kriegspiel, but that's only one perspective on it.
That creates an interesting space for us. The possibility of choosing the principles under which we will interpret an RPG text to suit our creative purposes. We had to 'choose' or have it chosen for us anyway, so why not do it consciously? I'm not sure we need to avoid anarchic re-interpretations (in fact, I believe them potentially exciting and valuable), but supposing we want to, how do we make sure that our interpretation arises naturally and consistently from the whole text?
Yes, you can always substitute your agenda for one that is presupposed by a game, or provide one where none is explicitly given, and you can thus override any existing explicit or implicit agenda. You do risk incoherence with the game design though (OTOH coherence may not exist anyway, so you may risk nothing).
5e* (revised and updated!) says, interpret the text like this:
  • interpret "narrates" as "say something meaningful"
  • understand "narrates the results" is an imperative regulatory rule: it signals a shift or arrow to fiction
I think here we need to state that 'narrate the results' was not clearly stated by 5e to mean 'in fictional terms', at least that is a reasonably position taken by many. So we can take it as such, but I would consider this an independent extension to the sense of the rules text, not a corollary of your originally proposed 'say something meaningful'.
  • narrating the results secures that the basic pattern begins and ends in the fiction (F > S > F)
I accept that it means it ENDS with the fiction. I think we need to be careful to avoid the situation (very common in D&D) where the next assertion doesn't reference that fiction. That is we need to form our process in such a way that (IMHO) it strongly encourages or even requires, in a procedural and non-optional sense, that the next 'move' be made in fiction. This is one of the reasons DW so strongly emphasizes talking in terms of fiction at the table (various parts of the principles restate elements of this). There is always the danger that fiction can become secondary to mechanics, and become sort of just a 'pro forma' or even be elided entirely. I would ask how your 'Story 5e' proposes to avoid that.
  • saying something meaningful is a guarantee: players can respond to what DM says as if it is meaningful (finding meaning later)
  • the imperative to say something meaningful encourages a DM to ensure there's something meaningful to say
  • follow the rule on DMG 237, knowing that the implied principle influences everything (read everything in its light)
  • most often, what will turn out to be meaningful will have consequences that matter to fictional positioning - the set of valid gameplay options available to player at this moment of play
5e* is fiction-first. There are other ways to interpret and play 5e. None have to be all-or-nothing.
As I note above, I have a concern about the robustness of a loop between fiction and mechanical play which will tend to break down. It is surely under pressure at least in combat, though I think out of combat 5e lacks sufficient structure to likely produce entirely mechanically-driven sequences of play. It might happen to a degree when spells are involved though. I mean, I can certainly imagine a player saying something like "I just charm him and get the information I need." There are situations where that wouldn't appear to actively violate your framework, but it would elide fiction. Its always going to be somewhat grey though, as in any Story Game you might consider such elision to be more a factor of there being no dramatic impulse to act out by stating some fiction there, like there's no character building or definition that could happen, etc.

Overall my other observation is just that I don't see 5e* as a particularly strong Story Game in that unstated conceptions of agenda and lack of specifics in things like genre and tone to match up to them make me think that you could not pick up 5e, read your essay, and say you had a real shot at running what you, @clearstream, are envisaging they would play.
 

Contrast Rolemaster: when one of the PCs in our game suffered a crit result of a severed hand, that meant something in the fiction: he could no longer shoot his bow!
I recall imposing a similar result ONCE in a (probably Holmes Basic) D&D game to my sister, @Gilladian's character (the eponymous Gilladian the Dwarf). It was accepted basically because the situation was A) not a combat result, and B) so clearly appropriate to the situation. I think Gygax and D&D in general weren't hostile to the concept, but it was 'thin ice' as it opens up a large unregulated realm of unstructured consequences into a dungeon crawl skill test game where this kind of permanent disability kind of goes against the style of play and perhaps the agenda of the game to a degree. OTOH failing to disarm a trap is legitimately punishable by death, so "you lose a hand" didn't seem so bad (besides, a dwarf with a hook was kinda funny, apologies to anyone reading this who happens to be an amputee, I know its no joke).
Here's an example of fiction first in D&D combat resolution: in our session the weekend before last, the Epic Defender who is infused with earth power stolen from the Primordials was under an effect that, so long as he stays in contact with the ground, grants temp hp at the top of each round. In a discussion about where the PC should move to, I suggested that if he were to step up onto a plinth that sits above the floor of the building he is on, he would no longer be in contact with the ground. That suggestion was readily acceded to. So here we have fiction to mechanics (a rightward arrow, in Vincent Baker's framework).

And another example: in the same combat, a Huge Primordial Colossus tried to smash a PC (also Huge, being an Emergent Primordial in Primordial form) who had fallen into the water. The Colossus missed - I rolled a 1. The water had a current specified, that would slide the character a particular direction at the start of their next turn. The players suggested that the waves caused by the great splash of the Colossus striking and missing should amplify the effect of the current, washing the PC further down the map. I agreed with that suggestion, and we resolved the wave effect (the player failed an Acrobatics check, and so in fact the wave disturbed the current and reduced rather than increased the PC's movement at the start of the turn). Again, this is fiction to mechanics, and back to fiction.

My own view is that it's not a coincidence that I'm providing these examples from 4e - 4e has a very robust set of system tools (eg a variety of keywords; level-by-DC chart; a standardised framework for forced movement; etc) for translating fiction into mechanics and then back again. My own knowledge of 5e makes feel that it is not as robust in this respect. Perhaps 5e* adds to that robustness, but from the examples you've given I'm not seeing where or how. And as I said, I don't think this is just quibbling.
Right, so 5e doesn't even have, as a matter of rules, any specifics on playing on a 'map'. While it defines ranges and areas, there's no operationalizable mechanism for translating fiction into terms which work with that, or back again. At best the GM has to do this in an ad-hoc way. There are some optional rules which basically introduce a number of the more basic 'grid rules' from 4e, but they aren't really well-connected with the body of 5e rules. For example they don't really talk about movement in any comprehensive way, nor is there any explanation of how forced movement would work, or even a definition. So we can see that 5e's 'mechanics to fiction' process is MUCH WEAKER than 4e's! I'd say that there's another important aspect here, the lack of specificity removes certainty and thus decreases the authority of the players. In 4e the fiction is affected in very specific ways by the mechanical results of, say, using Thunderwave. This could play out with a definite degree of ambiguity in 5e, even if you play with a grid pretty consistently (IE is a give square in the AoE, well, AoE isn't defined in such terms, so its up to the GM).
My knowledge of Fate is modest, and my experience less than that. I do know that, for reasons similar to MHRP/Cortex+ Heroic which I know well, it creates controversy about the relationship of resolution to mechanics because the fiction needs to be "sytematised" - as an Aspect in Fate, as a Distinction in MHRP/Cortex+ Heroic - before it matters, and often needs to be further paid for to invoke it or include it as part of an action's resolution.

Both systems, therefore, can tend towards what Baker describes here as Case 2:

Case 1:​
1. When you want to describe the weather where the characters are, roll. On a success, say what the weather's like there. (On a failure, it's 76°, few clouds, with a pleasant little breeze.)​
2. When your character's taking strenuous action, if it's oppressively hot where your character is, you get -2 to your roll.​
That's boxes to cloud, then cloud to boxes.​
Case 2:​
1. When you want to give another player a die penalty, make a roll. On a success, a) say what's making life hard for their character, and b) give them a -2 to their roll.​
That's a) boxes to cloud, with a simultaneous b) boxes to boxes.​
(So, Guy: no, it doesn't count as a rightward arrow.)​
<snip>​
Rob: You seriously read that to mean that the (unmentioned) oppressive heat the character's suffering is responsible for the -2, not the successful give-a-penalty roll?​
How do you want me to write it so that it's rock-solid-clear that the successful give-a-penalty roll is responsible for the -2?​
Maybe this: When you want to give another player a die penalty, make a roll. On a success, give them a -2 to their roll. (Also, incidentally, say what's making life hard for their character.)​
An arrow cubes to cubes. (Also, incidentally, an arrow cubes to cloud.) Right?​

To me, the narrations of the giant pressing forward, or couching her club, look a bit like the incidental narration of what's making life hard for the character: the heavy lifting is being done by the mechanics (boxes-to-boxes) an the narration is epiphenomenal.

In Fate or MHRP, the more that (i) some fictional context for the "impose a -2 penalty check" is required as a precursor to making the check, and (ii) the more that fictional context is constrained by prior narration, the less the play will look like Baker's Case 2. In 5e D&D, no fictional context is required to impose hit point loss other than the distance requirements necessary to declare an attack with the given weapon or spell. The GM's narration of how a NPC responds to an attack is not part of those fictional constraints, at least by RAW.

The issue of being told expressly seems a bit of a red herring. In Prince Valiant the GM has extreme freedom - more than a D&D GM - to narrate what happens when a check is resolved. But that narration will then matter to subsequent resolution - eg certain narrations of what happens as a character suffers a reduction of their pool in a duel might provide the opening for an Agility or Dexterity check to wrongfoot them or disarm them or similar.

That is what makes a system "fiction first": the fiction that flows from "cycle N" feeds into the framing and resolution of "cycle N+1".

How does the giant pressing forward, or couching her club, or the 1 hp loss being a scratch, feed into the declaration and resolution of actions on subsequent rounds? This is where, to me, it seems to be purely epiphenomenal.
Well, I think there's a confusion between something which INFORMS the next action (IE the 1 hit point being a scratch clues the players/PCs that this monster has a lot hit points/is very tough, and they act accordingly) vs something which CONSTRAINS the move space, or triggers (maybe indirectly) another mechanical effect (IE if a wound is narrated as smashing my shield arm and breaking my shield in DW then I am surely not still equipped with said shield and I lose whatever benefit it provided, this would be potentially a legitimate hard move in DW). Note that IF 5e DID produce a 'lose use of your shield arm' effect, it could almost surely be handled in a totally mechanical way, though it would likely inform later fiction in most games (or maybe a CLW would cure it, this is STILL an open question after 50 years of D&D!!!!).
I don't think so. It was about what is distinctive, in 5e or 5e*, compared to (say) DW, as far as making the setting seem "real". To me this seems orthogonal to whether or not it can be played "story now"; although there are some techniques for making the setting seem "real" that are not available in story now play.

This provoked two thoughts in me.

First, the Lumpley Principle has been stated differently at different times, and those statements aren't all equivalent (either semantically or functionally). This page states two formulations. The first is the one I encountered when I first encountered The Forge: rules and their consequences only take effect when taken up and assented to by the group. The contrast, here, might be with rules of mathematics which (at least on some mainstream accounts) generate consequences even if no one has yet worked out what those are.

The second one is that systems is a means for agreeing on the content of the shared fiction. I think that is what you are meaning by it.

Anyway, on this second formulation of the principle, it does not require anything more to explain why different systems produce different experiences. They are different means.

A vehicle, we might say, is a means for getting from A to B. Using different vehicles will produce different experiences of getting from A to B. This doesn't require adding anything to our concept of a vehicle beyond what is stated in the first sentence of this paragraph. Likewise for system.

For instance, a system that allocates ownership of different elements to different participants will produce different experiences. (Contrast, say, AD&D and Burning Wheel as far as ownership of backstory elements is concerned.) A system that determines what happens next by polling the participants, or inviting them to bid, will obviously produce a different play experience from one which determines it by rolling on a chart or one that determines it by allowing one privileged participant to decide. Etc.
Right, honestly even the first statement of the LP seems to produce the same conclusion. I mean 'rules and their consequences' are certainly a key concern of almost ANY game text (I think something like PACE might close to maximally decouple these considerations, but even in THAT game rules govern when and where consequences are to be applied, even if their nature and scope is pretty much unregulated).
 

clearstream

(He, Him)
If the agenda is stated in meta-terms rather than by reference to the content or tone of the fiction - eg play to find out what happens or always begin and end with the fiction - that puts demands on techniques too. You can't realise the first of those two agendas using a system of GM fiat or GM pre-authorship of the major events of play.
"You’ll make plans, yes. You’ll make preparations. But once play begins, it’s your job to follow where the players lead, where the dice lead, and where the fiction leads." I've never found pre-authorship an obstacle to playing to find out. It's unwillingness to let it burn, more.

You can't realise the second of those two agendas if key elements of your resolution system do not take the state of the fiction as an input, but are conditioned purely on other mechanical states of affairs.
Conditioned purely? Where that is so, are you not really discussing an encapsulated mechanism?
 

clearstream

(He, Him)
Right, so 5e doesn't even have, as a matter of rules, any specifics on playing on a 'map'. While it defines ranges and areas, there's no operationalizable mechanism for translating fiction into terms which work with that, or back again. At best the GM has to do this in an ad-hoc way. There are some optional rules which basically introduce a number of the more basic 'grid rules' from 4e, but they aren't really well-connected with the body of 5e rules. For example they don't really talk about movement in any comprehensive way, nor is there any explanation of how forced movement would work, or even a definition. So we can see that 5e's 'mechanics to fiction' process is MUCH WEAKER than 4e's! I'd say that there's another important aspect here, the lack of specificity removes certainty and thus decreases the authority of the players. In 4e the fiction is affected in very specific ways by the mechanical results of, say, using Thunderwave. This could play out with a definite degree of ambiguity in 5e, even if you play with a grid pretty consistently (IE is a give square in the AoE, well, AoE isn't defined in such terms, so its up to the GM).
5e has some strong mechanisms for system to fiction, whether folk are aware of and use them much is up for debate. But do you have a sense that DM doing that translation should be discounted? You say ad-hoc, but this was the point of FK: that the "ad-hoc" would lead to better results than the prescribed.

Well, I think there's a confusion between something which INFORMS the next action (IE the 1 hit point being a scratch clues the players/PCs that this monster has a lot hit points/is very tough, and they act accordingly) vs something which CONSTRAINS the move space, or triggers (maybe indirectly) another mechanical effect (IE if a wound is narrated as smashing my shield arm and breaking my shield in DW then I am surely not still equipped with said shield and I lose whatever benefit it provided, this would be potentially a legitimate hard move in DW). Note that IF 5e DID produce a 'lose use of your shield arm' effect, it could almost surely be handled in a totally mechanical way, though it would likely inform later fiction in most games (or maybe a CLW would cure it, this is STILL an open question after 50 years of D&D!!!!).
Not really. The lingering injuries say what cures them. Often that's regenerate.
 

clearstream

(He, Him)
I think here we need to state that 'narrate the results' was not clearly stated by 5e to mean 'in fictional terms', at least that is a reasonably position taken by many. So we can take it as such, but I would consider this an independent extension to the sense of the rules text, not a corollary of your originally proposed 'say something meaningful'.
I don't agree on that. It seems likely to me that the designers intended it to go to the fiction. I find that "say something meaningful" reinforces it nicely.

I accept that it means it ENDS with the fiction. I think we need to be careful to avoid the situation (very common in D&D) where the next assertion doesn't reference that fiction. That is we need to form our process in such a way that (IMHO) it strongly encourages or even requires, in a procedural and non-optional sense, that the next 'move' be made in fiction. This is one of the reasons DW so strongly emphasizes talking in terms of fiction at the table (various parts of the principles restate elements of this). There is always the danger that fiction can become secondary to mechanics, and become sort of just a 'pro forma' or even be elided entirely. I would ask how your 'Story 5e' proposes to avoid that.
Fiction-first 5e, rather than story-now 5e I think. If that's what you mean by story? There's no mystery: it avoids it by agreeing to avoid it.

Overall my other observation is just that I don't see 5e* as a particularly strong Story Game in that unstated conceptions of agenda and lack of specifics in things like genre and tone to match up to them make me think that you could not pick up 5e, read your essay, and say you had a real shot at running what you, @clearstream, are envisaging they would play.
I like this criticism. I'll think about whether I can write up my 5e* interpretation in a better way.
 

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