D&D 5E 5e* - D&D-now

clearstream

(He, Him)
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.
On the one hand, I'm confident the play is fiction-first. But we also rightly look at the text (which is what I think you are referring to by "game".) For you, it seems a text is only fiction-first if it has mechanics that mandate change to the fiction. But what if such a game is run differently, as some believe possible? Does it not then fail to be fiction-first?

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.
As I noted, I do need to reflect on further examples to address this complaint.

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.
And yet, it weightily impacts the valid choices for the players. Generally, however, you desire to see mechanics - pervasively - explicitly pass constraints back into fiction, right? (That is something you keep coming back to with your examples.) DW hack and slash doesn't have that.

Hack and Slash When you attack an enemy in melee, roll+Str. ✴On a 10+, you deal your damage to the enemy and avoid their attack. At your option, you may choose to do +1d6 damage but expose yourself to the enemy’s attack. ✴On a 7–9, you deal your damage to the enemy and the enemy makes an attack against you. [Which is resolved as part of the move - per the canonical examples.]

Where is the constraint passed into the fiction from this mechanic? One has to bring in other principles to get past - it did damage, reduce your HP - and deliver consequences back into the fiction. "Every time you turn to a player, you're highlighting some thing that can cause them strife, and asking how they deal with it." 5e* is lower key (or at least, does not urge so strongly toward constant pressure), but it wants results to matter all the same.

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.
Huh? Those "distance requirements", the hostility between parties, what's at stake - it's coming from your fiction. We don't just start the characters like Chess-pieces in fixed positions and they go!

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".
That's one (fairly abstract) way to define "meaningful." The cycle N has its strongest, most immediate and obvious meaning when it feeds into framing and resolution of N+1. But it may feed into the ith cycle N+i.

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.
I find that odd, but if that sort of thing doesn't impact on your fictional positioning that's up to what you have agreed. Some of the most consequential things my NPCs do in battles is speak some words. From surrendering to fleeing to negotiating to threatening and so on. I think if I had to choose between pretend-combat and pretend-conversation for narrative power, it would be the latter.

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.
Sophistry, I'm afraid. It tells us as nothing about what means will be better or worse other than in terms of power to secure agreement, and yet this entire debate seems to rest on the possibility of judging and disagreeing about what will be better or worse means, and differences in play experience due to means have been cited and exemplified.
 

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"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.
Well, one must be cautious there. I mean, first of all, some games aren't too much concerned with the overall fiction, like a supers game where it is pretty much assumed how the 'universe' works (IE its Marvel or DC, etc.). So there any pre-authored fiction deals with specific challenges to the PCs, do they face Dr Doom or Magneto? Now, there's a level to that which is perfectly amenable to, and benefits from, GM development. At the same time, one assumes there are themes and concerns that are more in the domain of the players, and here the GM's plans need to be flexible, etc. In a D&D-esque kind of game that might even extend to a more open-world kind of setup where very little is defined ahead of time, and the GM's 'plotting' is more aimed at just allowing them to generate some cool opposition and not have to make it all up on the fly every episode.

The issues arise when pre-authorship extends to the level where it locks the game into specific themes and interactions and thus where it becomes very hard to EXPLORE different possibilities. If the GM simply runs the players through "Zombie Apocalypse" then maybe they don't get to figure out how their orc paladin character relates to his violent and at least supposedly 'evil' kinfolk, right? I mean, I'd expect in that case the GM's plan would become more of a backdrop or sideline to some sort of plot that involved interacting with orcs. The zombie part might still factor in fairly significantly in a 'this is what is driving external events' but the real focus would be on the paladin and his relatives, at least for a presumably pretty good chunk of story arc.
Conditioned purely? Where that is so, are you not really discussing an encapsulated mechanism?
We're just discussing 'boxes to boxes'. I mean, 'ending with the fiction' really assumes the fiction is central, right? I mean, if it isn't then its a rather weak and hollow agenda, IMHO. Its obviously nuanced though. DW LIVES on the fiction side, and mechanics are there to create some structure and insert a place for stochastic mechanisms to live. 4e OTOH is pretty complete in its mechanical structure at the 'tactical' level at least, and thus relies heavily on a rich set of 'fiction referents' within those mechanics that kind of inform you how to map back and forth easily so that there's 'low impedence' in doing so. (DW simply has very basic and straightforward mechanics that are easily extracted from the fiction and structured in a way where the details of how you handle any one specific situation isn't that important).
 

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.
I don't know about the 'FKR', but Free Kriegspiel itself has a motive of simple applicability. Since it was an activity centered on modeling the REAL WORLD it was very important that it be possible to do so with great fidelity, and to present situations in an open-ended form. The idea was to give military officers a realistic scenario and let them improvise a response. No simply mechanistic wargame can do that, because they would inevitably have to encode all possible responses into their repertoire of moves, thus negating the whole value of the exercise. It isn't about the value of 'ad-hoc' mappings. It is about the value of open-endedness. There is a referee in these 'games' largely because situations will be encountered that have not been quantified, and thus require objective human adjudication. In FK it is likely to be considered that there is always a 'right' and 'wrong' referee response (adjudication) of a situation, and right is completely judged by its conformance with reality (though obviously judging the quality of a given referee decision may be difficult as it could represent something that has never happened in the real world).

In fact, in FK, the referees were classically equipped with a rather thorough handbook of military tables and such which allowed them to determine the outcomes of fairly well-understood situations, like combat between specific units given known parameters. When human factors were involved, then the participants in the game WERE those humans! In some cases there would be 'NPCs' in effect for the ref to deal with.

My point is, yes, there is decision-making by the ref in FK, but the entire model of the game is more 'D&D-like' than most story games. There was no such thing as PLAYER AGENDA in an FK! Not aside from 'win the war'. I think it is always best if there is some guidance provided by the system and the agenda/principles in terms of how to do the mappings back and forth, and THEN the GM is there to fall back on some level of judgment. Note that FKs are not generally 'freely scripted' and are definitely not 'player directed' though, not overall!
Not really. The lingering injuries say what cures them. Often that's regenerate.
But this brings us to the issue that I was pointing out, which is just how UNCLEAR it is what, fictionally, something like hit points even means! Why doesn't CLW fix a lost hand or eye but it does fix a broken bone? It isn't clear at all, and I'm not really aware of any rules or principles in any edition of D&D which really clarify this. Sure, there may be ad-hoc case-by-case decreed adjudications, but there's no framework they fit in.

I would contrast this with a game like 4e where keywords can easily do exactly that (not to say that 4e's use of keywords was always carefully enough policed to 'just work', but it does go a long ways).

My stock example is the Flametongue. In classical D&D its entirely ambiguous and arbitrary which monsters it gets +4 against vs +1. 1e DMG literally has a LIST hard-coded! 4e doesn't even have to mention this, as fire vulnerability handles it in a general way, describing the exact mechanical significance of the fire damage type (a type of keyword). I mean, this is a fairly trivial example, but even open-ended situations are at least moved into broad categories instead of designers and DMs needing to literally spell out lists of how everything interacts with everything else!
 
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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.


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.


I like this criticism. I'll think about whether I can write up my 5e* interpretation in a better way.
I'm not sure about distinctions between fiction-first and story-now, I'd have to think about that. Those terms are used pretty informally in most contexts, but I'd hazard a guess that FF is 'arrows', and SN is generally what is also called 'Story Light' or 'Low Backstory' play.

I think you can write a lot of games starting from 5e. I considered it, but then it seems to me it is more work than maybe it is worth in many cases.
 

And yet, it weightily impacts the valid choices for the players. Generally, however, you desire to see mechanics - pervasively - explicitly pass constraints back into fiction, right? (That is something you keep coming back to with your examples.) DW hack and slash doesn't have that.

Hack and Slash When you attack an enemy in melee, roll+Str. ✴On a 10+, you deal your damage to the enemy and avoid their attack. At your option, you may choose to do +1d6 damage but expose yourself to the enemy’s attack. ✴On a 7–9, you deal your damage to the enemy and the enemy makes an attack against you. [Which is resolved as part of the move - per the canonical examples.]

Where is the constraint passed into the fiction from this mechanic? One has to bring in other principles to get past - it did damage, reduce your HP - and deliver consequences back into the fiction. "Every time you turn to a player, you're highlighting some thing that can cause them strife, and asking how they deal with it." 5e* is lower key (or at least, does not urge so strongly toward constant pressure), but it wants results to matter all the same.
Well, Hack & Slash BY ITSELF is only an isolated part of a system which does deliver. I mean, it is certainly no less mapping back to fiction than a 5e* melee attack where both systems admonish the GM to effectively start and end with the fiction. Remember, in DW there is no additional mechanical structure AT ALL regulating 'combat' as a whole. Without going back and creating a fictional description of the action the game GRINDS TO A HALT! There's nothing for the player to further respond to! There's no basis on which a GM move can be made because we don't KNOW the fiction. Remember too, Hack & Slash covers virtually ALL attacks by PCs, there aren't other moves that carry some different fictional baggage with them. If you leap onto the back of a giant snake and stab away, that's STILL Hack & Slash, but clearly the results require a very different narration from 'I swing my sword at the orc in front of me.' I can't tell where to go with the snake thing until the outcome is narrated. I mean, OK, a 10+ result in DW MIGHT often be fairly clear-cut, you did your thing, you stabby stabbed the snake and you're now on top of a pissed off giant snake! OK, that's about as basic as it gets, but the GM still needs to narrate the response to that... I mean, the snake is not going to just sit there, is it throwing you off, wrapping its coils around your body, what? We cannot even decide which player is getting to declare some more fiction next until we take care of what happened here in the fiction.
Huh? Those "distance requirements", the hostility between parties, what's at stake - it's coming from your fiction. We don't just start the characters like Chess-pieces in fixed positions and they go!
Sure, but you have to admit, in general, once D&D translates things to combat, once the initiative dice come out and get shaken, things get pretty darn mechanical! Its, IME, reasonably rare that you really go back to the fiction until there's something that comes up that rules don't cover. In a battle my character was fighting a guy who was clearly a slave, so I offered to free him. That definitely got us into fiction territory! (mechanics came in again pretty fast as I tried to cut his chain loose with my weapon).
That's one (fairly abstract) way to define "meaningful." The cycle N has its strongest, most immediate and obvious meaning when it feeds into framing and resolution of N+1. But it may feed into the ith cycle N+i.
Maybe, but you have to watch out that you don't just define things to meaninglessness. I mean, EVENTUALLY, the fight will end, at that point every mechanic that happened during it will have played some part in defining the end state. One question to ask is whether the mechanic's result lead directly into fiction in a way that can be specifically described, or is it kind of just general, like "we won and took minimal damage." ?
 

clearstream

(He, Him)
Well, one must be cautious there. I mean, first of all, some games aren't too much concerned with the overall fiction, like a supers game where it is pretty much assumed how the 'universe' works (IE its Marvel or DC, etc.). So there any pre-authored fiction deals with specific challenges to the PCs, do they face Dr Doom or Magneto? Now, there's a level to that which is perfectly amenable to, and benefits from, GM development. At the same time, one assumes there are themes and concerns that are more in the domain of the players, and here the GM's plans need to be flexible, etc. In a D&D-esque kind of game that might even extend to a more open-world kind of setup where very little is defined ahead of time, and the GM's 'plotting' is more aimed at just allowing them to generate some cool opposition and not have to make it all up on the fly every episode.

The issues arise when pre-authorship extends to the level where it locks the game into specific themes and interactions and thus where it becomes very hard to EXPLORE different possibilities. If the GM simply runs the players through "Zombie Apocalypse" then maybe they don't get to figure out how their orc paladin character relates to his violent and at least supposedly 'evil' kinfolk, right? I mean, I'd expect in that case the GM's plan would become more of a backdrop or sideline to some sort of plot that involved interacting with orcs. The zombie part might still factor in fairly significantly in a 'this is what is driving external events' but the real focus would be on the paladin and his relatives, at least for a presumably pretty good chunk of story arc.
I literally nodded my head as I read that :) Generally agree, for sure. I actually have some prep. I'm debating with myself for my next campaign. The themes are of colonialism, and I'm pondering if it can work to 'lock in' that the arc will land in the indigenous folk being overwhelmed by the settlers. We're playing to find out what lies between here and there, and what forms or on what terms that loss finally takes. These themes relate closely to my home country, and in a way it might fail to find out something true, to suppose there was a way to 'win'.

We're just discussing 'boxes to boxes'. I mean, 'ending with the fiction' really assumes the fiction is central, right? I mean, if it isn't then its a rather weak and hollow agenda, IMHO. Its obviously nuanced though. DW LIVES on the fiction side, and mechanics are there to create some structure and insert a place for stochastic mechanisms to live. 4e OTOH is pretty complete in its mechanical structure at the 'tactical' level at least, and thus relies heavily on a rich set of 'fiction referents' within those mechanics that kind of inform you how to map back and forth easily so that there's 'low impedence' in doing so. (DW simply has very basic and straightforward mechanics that are easily extracted from the fiction and structured in a way where the details of how you handle any one specific situation isn't that important).
Well, if we hit we roll damage, but I don't think of that as cubes-to-cubes. Because it's one encapsulated mechanic. Although damage is only rolled because we hit. And then if cubes constrain clouds too strongly, perhaps it's really cubes to cubes anyway? That may touch on what led some to see 4e as too gamey.
 

I literally nodded my head as I read that :) Generally agree, for sure. I actually have some prep. I'm debating with myself for my next campaign. The themes are of colonialism, and I'm pondering if it can work to 'lock in' that the arc will land in the indigenous folk being overwhelmed by the settlers. We're playing to find out what lies between here and there, and what forms or on what terms that loss finally takes. These themes relate closely to my home country, and in a way it might fail to find out something true, to suppose there was a way to 'win'.
Sounds good. ;)
Well, if we hit we roll damage, but I don't think of that as cubes-to-cubes. Because it's one encapsulated mechanic. Although damage is only rolled because we hit. And then if cubes constrain clouds too strongly, perhaps it's really cubes to cubes anyway? That may touch on what led some to see 4e as too gamey.
I would say "I hit him, I do 19 damage. He dies." that seems all boxes to boxes between I hit him and he dies (IE consequence of reaching 0 hit points, condition of oppo is now dead). Fiction does adhere to this, but the mechanics is a self-sufficient thing that doesn't require reference to the fiction.

The canonical example in DW of the Fighter attacking the Dragon illustrates how it is at least POSSIBLE (indeed likely) that some purely fictional element will factor into how things are resolved (IE the dragon's 'steel hard scales' are FICTIONALLY impossible for a mere human sword to penetrate, thus the attack cannot take place/fails). Now, another game might have some sort of resistance or DR value that accomplishes the invulnerable scales.
 

pemerton

Legend
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.

<snip>

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.
Right. This is exactly what I've been saying, on this and on the other thread. This is what Baker is talking about when he talks about "lazy" play (ie play that elides purely "voluntary" fiction) and IIEE "with teeth", that is "self-enforcing" (ie that obliges the player to make their move in the fiction, in order for the mechanics to be operationalised, because they take the change in the fiction as input).
 

clearstream

(He, Him)
Right. This is exactly what I've been saying, on this and on the other thread. This is what Baker is talking about when he talks about "lazy" play (ie play that elides purely "voluntary" fiction) and IIEE "with teeth", that is "self-enforcing" (ie that obliges the player to make their move in the fiction, in order for the mechanics to be operationalised, because they take the change in the fiction as input).
I'm not seeing how that isn't accomplished in 5e*. Only DM calls for rolls, and they only do that it when it's meaningful. How is it meaningful? Because it's something that matters in the fiction. It could be that you and @AbdulAlhazred are thinking meaningful consequences only applies as the output, but in light of DMG 237 it applies as the input, too.

Maybe think of it like this

F > S > F

DMG 237 > S > narrates
 
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clearstream

(He, Him)
The canonical example in DW of the Fighter attacking the Dragon illustrates how it is at least POSSIBLE (indeed likely) that some purely fictional element will factor into how things are resolved (IE the dragon's 'steel hard scales' are FICTIONALLY impossible for a mere human sword to penetrate, thus the attack cannot take place/fails). Now, another game might have some sort of resistance or DR value that accomplishes the invulnerable scales.
Sure, and - looking at the Hack and Slash mechanic - isn't this guaranteed most by the principles? And not the mechanic. Our communities tried highly simulationist RPG texts, and many moved on from them. An obstacle was that not everything that matters in our fiction can be expressly captured in mechanics.

There's a good discussion of FK in the Elusive Shift that chimes with what I have read elsewhere. Tabletop gamers could have charts and so on for many situations. Even so, it was the referee's ability to rule on the fly that allowed players to declare any action that made sense according to what they thought was going on, and have that action plausibly (or agreeably, or even playfully) resolved. In the 60s, wargamers were already talking about choosing moves as if they were the imagined individuals.
 

pemerton

Legend
"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.
If the authorship isn't being used, then we don't have pre-authorship of the major events of play, do we?
 

pemerton

Legend
The lingering injuries say what cures them. Often that's regenerate.
But this brings us to the issue that I was pointing out, which is just how UNCLEAR it is what, fictionally, something like hit points even means! Why doesn't CLW fix a lost hand or eye but it does fix a broken bone? It isn't clear at all, and I'm not really aware of any rules or principles in any edition of D&D which really clarify this. Sure, there may be ad-hoc case-by-case decreed adjudications, but there's no framework they fit in.
Right.

I mean, consider all the NPCs (kobolds, goblins, some orcs and hobgoblins and even gnolls, not to mention the many many villagers and townsfolk) with 2 hp. A 1 hp blow is just short of killing them - hardly a "mere scratch". But whatever exactly it does to them, that can be healed by the weakest possible healing effect in the game (ie restoration of 1 hp). So whatever the fiction is that is narrated around that 1 hp blow, I don't see how it is feeding back into resolution in any meaningful fashion.

The contrast with RQ or RM is stark.
 

pemerton

Legend
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).
Your hp example seems similar to what I described, upthread, as "D&Ders' code" - ie describing a scratch is a conventional way for the GM to signal that only a small proportion of hp were knocked off by the attack.

But the scratch is just colour. You can't do anything with it, at least by 5e RAW as I understand them,

Another contrast: in my 4e game, when the PCs went purple worm hunting, they first took a whole lot of lime (? I think it was) with them, so that if they got swallowed it would help them neutralise the stomach acid. I just did a search, and here is the actual play report (which confirms that it was lime):

A purple worm under the control of Pazrael/Pazuzu attacks an undergroudn duergar city that the PCs have just helped save from a demonic invasion that they helped cause.

The worm swallows swallowed a duergar theurge who was carrying a casket containing one fragment of the Rod of Seven Parts. The 19th level PCs drive the worm out of the hold by rallying the despondent duergar and activating their magically automated ballistae. The worm burrows off. Although the duergar theurge was the PCs' friend, they have to give her up for dead. But they prepare to chase the worm!

The player of the invoker-wizard rolls Nature for a purple worm knowledge check, and they get the run down on its swallow ability, including 30 acid damage per round (the paladin and defender have around 150 hp each, the strikers a bit over 100, the invoker 90-ish). They decide that, before heading off, they will try and get a sack of something alkaline try and neutralise the acid should anyone be swallowed. One of the players says (and I take his word for it) that lime is used in smithing, and so will be present in the duergar hold. They make a Dungeoneering check (seemed more applicalbe than Streetwise in all the circumstances - it wasn't about persuading someone to give them lime, but rather knowing where to find it in the half-ruined duergar hold), and with a reasonable success I let them have two sacks of it. One is with the sorcerer and one with the fighter, they being deemed the two most likely to go into the worm.

When they met the worm (in the company of two T-Rexes in a big cavern) it quickly swallowed two of the PCs - the invoker and the sorcerer. Inside the worm they were able to grab the swallowed casket (the DC by level table gave me numbers to assess the difficulty of doing this sort of thing inside a purple worm's gullet). The sorcerer dropped his bag of lime, reducing the ongoing acid damage from 30 per round to 20 per round (4e's default damage reduction is 5 points per tier). He then used his 6th level utility power - the pillar of earth one from Heroes of the Elemental Chaos - to force open the worm's jaws so they could (i) get some light, and (ii) get out (the player argued - plausibly enough - that the worm, having burrowed through miles and miles of rock, must have enough dirt in its mouth to meet the material component requirement for the spell). Given that this is a non-standard use of the spell, I asked for an Arcana check for the sorcerer to summon enough power to do it: he rolled enough for Moderate but not Hard success, and so I levied a hit point penalty against him as he tried to marshall the chaotic forces (p 42, appropriately MM3-ed, gives me easy access to mechanically balanced damage expressions). The invoker, being concerned about the consequences of too much elemental chaos, used his Rod of 4 out of 7 Parts to try and contain the forces - his Arcana roll was in the middle too, and so he rather than the sorcerer internalised the damage, through his Rod. The sorcerer then succeeded at an escape check with a bonus for the worm's mouth being forced open, and flew out. The invoker was able to teleport out - normally you can't teleport out of being swallowed because you need line of sight, but in this case forcing the worm's mouth open granted line of sight.
There's a lot of rightward arrows there:

  • The lime partially neutralises the acid, reducing the OG damage;
  • The dirt and rock in the worm's gullet allows conjuring up a pillar of earth, which is a power with a specific fiction-based requirement;
  • The Rod being an artefact of Law allows redirecting the elemental chaos, among other things changing who takes a certain amount of damage;
  • The worm's mouth being forced open establishes line of sight, permitting a teleport.

This is also illustrates what I was trying to get at earlier: whether or not a particular approach to a system actually exemplifies a principle like "fiction first" depends on what the system actually provides for in its technical details.

We're just discussing 'boxes to boxes'. I mean, 'ending with the fiction' really assumes the fiction is central, right? I mean, if it isn't then its a rather weak and hollow agenda, IMHO. Its obviously nuanced though. DW LIVES on the fiction side, and mechanics are there to create some structure and insert a place for stochastic mechanisms to live. 4e OTOH is pretty complete in its mechanical structure at the 'tactical' level at least, and thus relies heavily on a rich set of 'fiction referents' within those mechanics that kind of inform you how to map back and forth easily so that there's 'low impedence' in doing so. (DW simply has very basic and straightforward mechanics that are easily extracted from the fiction and structured in a way where the details of how you handle any one specific situation isn't that important).
At least in respect of the comparison that you are drawing here, DW and 4e are as different from one another as 4e is from RQ or RM.

In DW, fiction is everything as you say.

in RM and RQ, the mechanics aspire to "manage" and mathematise all fictional inputs and outputs, so that (eg) in RM the crit result tells you that you suffer a -10 bruise (which is both fiction, and a mechanical specification of it) or that you bleed at 5 concussion hits per round (again, both fiction - you're bleeding badly - and mechanical specification). And the jumping resolution chart tells you what the bonus is for (eg) having a springboard to leap from. This is why, in RM, there can by no real "say 'yes'" - every spell casting, for instance, no matter how trivial, demands a check because in the fiction that check corresponds to the possibility of the magical forces escaping the caster's control.

In 4e, the fiction is often "loose" in relation to the mechanics, which is more like DW. But the mechanics have all the referents you mention that set up the parameters and constraints and minimum implications for the fiction that results from the mechanics.

I would say that DW is "fiction first", that RQ/RM are not (neither are they fiction last; fiction and mechanics happen simultaneously), and that 4e sometimes is (as per my purple worm example) but sometimes is not (eg when it comes to the ranger's turn, and the player just Twin Strikes the most dangerous opponent on the map).

pemerton said:
You can't realise the second of those two agendas <ie begin and end with the fiction> 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?
I don't know what an encapsulated mechanism is.

But here's an example of a key element of a resolution system that is conditioned purely on other mechanical states of affairs: basic T&T combat resolution.

Another example: this can be an issue in a BW Duel of Wits, where for many of the "moves" the resolution does not depend on or change based on the narration of the character's action; so that the narration that the game tells us is a necessary precursor to rolling the dice becomes a "voluntary" act of the sort that Vincent Baker talks about when describing In a Wicked Age.

Another example: a player in MHRP/Cortex+ Heroic is meant to narrate how their PC incorporates a Scene Distinction into their dice pool, but nothing about the resolution process will falter if they don't. They can just add the die to their pool and roll away. Another example of a system that, in this respect, permits "lazy play" (in Baker's sense) no matter how much one might wish that play begin and end with the fiction.

I don't know if any of these is an illustration of an encapsulated mechanism.

I'll think about whether I can write up my 5e* interpretation in a better way.
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.
For my part, what would make 5e* clearer - and hence might also address @AbdulAlhazred's point about whether a GM, reading your essay, would have a real shot at running it as you envisage - would be to provide actual examples of what beginning and ending with the fiction looks like, that illustrate how a GM is determining (out of combat) whether or not to call for a check, and how narration, in combat, is actually feeding back into action declaration and resolution.

I'm not seeing how that isn't accomplished in 5e*. Only DM calls for rolls, and they only do that it when it's meaningful. How is it meaningful? Because it's something that matters in the fiction. It could be that you and @AbdulAlhazred are thinking meaningful consequences only applies as the output, but in light of DMG 237 it applies as the input, too.

Maybe think of it like this

F > S > F

DMG 237 > S > narrates
I don't understand how what you describe here is consistent with the 5e D&D, RAW, systems for resolving combat and spell casting.

By RAW, a player casts a spell and this can trigger a roll - an attack roll by the caster player, or a saving throw by another participant's character, are the most common ones.

By RAW, a successful attack roll triggers a damage roll demands a change in the hp tally, and then the action moves via the action economy and initiative sequence rules, and then if the next participant declares an attack they make a roll.

I'm extremely familiar with these processes from other versions of D&D (B/X, AD&D, 4e) and in the 5e RAW see nothing that is fundamentally different, in the processes presented or the descriptions of them. Where, in 5e*, does the fiction factor in?
 

pemerton

Legend
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.
Sophistry, I'm afraid. It tells us as nothing about what means will be better or worse other than in terms of power to secure agreement, and yet this entire debate seems to rest on the possibility of judging and disagreeing about what will be better or worse means, and differences in play experience due to means have been cited and exemplified.
I don't know what you mean by better or worse. The Lumpley Principle says nothing about what means should be adopted. Contra your post, the Lumpley principle does not even talk about better or worse in terms of securing agreement. It only tells us that system is a means for securing agreement (second formulation), and that rules are not self-realising but need to be operationalised via social processes (first formulation).

Among some people, with certain preferences and expectations, perhaps the most reliable means for securing agreement on the fiction is to have one authority figure say what it is. Perhaps the same group of people would have the most fun deciding on the fiction by bidding. The Lumpley Principle does not, and does not purport, to say anything about what those people should do.

If by "better or worse" you mean better or worse at producing play experience XYZ then the Lumpley Principle says nothing about that either. But Vincent Baker has said a great deal about that. I've repeatedly cited and quoted from some of his discussions, which are not abstract speculations at the level of principle but concrete diagnoses based on experience as a RPG player and designer.
 

pemerton

Legend
That's one (fairly abstract) way to define "meaningful." The cycle N has its strongest, most immediate and obvious meaning when it feeds into framing and resolution of N+1. But it may feed into the ith cycle N+i.
you have to watch out that you don't just define things to meaninglessness. I mean, EVENTUALLY, the fight will end, at that point every mechanic that happened during it will have played some part in defining the end state. One question to ask is whether the mechanic's result lead directly into fiction in a way that can be specifically described, or is it kind of just general, like "we won and took minimal damage." ?
To add to @AbdulAlhazred's post, I think Baker is pretty clear that he's talking about the things said by participants that trigger responses from other participants. Statements that establish situations and prompt action declarations; statements that declare actions; statements uttered in the course of resolving those declared actions, including statements of outcomes and consequences.

In his example of one character trying to get away from another who is trying to shoot them, he says

What do the rules never, ever, ever require us to say? The details of our characters' actual actions. It's like one minute both our characters are poised to act, and the next minute my character's stuck in the room and your character's shot her, but we never see my character scrambling to open the window and we never hear your character's gun go off.​

In standard D&D combat we see the characters on both sides enter the fray, and we see some of them fall and others emerge victorious - but the rules never require us to say what is happening to them. We don't see how a character is worn down. One can, as an act of supererogation, add narration as to what is happening - D&D GMs have been doing that for decades - but most of the time it is mere colour, in that it does not provide a basis for subsequent action declarations. It makes no difference to the parameters for action declarations to say "It takes 1 hp of damage; it's got a lot left" or to say "Your attack barely scratches it." The latter is more colourful, but doesn't shape subsequent play any differently.

Well, if we hit we roll damage, but I don't think of that as cubes-to-cubes. Because it's one encapsulated mechanic. Although damage is only rolled because we hit. And then if cubes constrain clouds too strongly, perhaps it's really cubes to cubes anyway? That may touch on what led some to see 4e as too gamey.
Of course a to hit roll triggering a damage roll is cubes to cubes! I mean, it's there in the canonical example: see step 5 of the first of Baker's 3 example resolution systems. We look at one cue - the attack die - and that tells us to do something with more cues - the damage dice - and then something further with a different cue - the adjustment of the hp tally.

In a game like RM, cubes and clouds are very tightly correlated - eg if a character is bleeding at 5 hits per round, there are a very specific range of spells needed to heal that wound. That doesn't make it cubes-to-cubes anyway. At nearly every point we know what is happening in the fiction, and that generates fictional positioning that can then factor into action declarations and resolution - eg "You're bleeding; I'll stitch your wound shut" <make Second Aid check>; or the GM says to the player of the character under an invisibility spell "You're bleeding; once you step away from where your blood is pooling, it will stop being invisible and everyone will be able to see it".

Narrating the 1 hp loss as a bare scratch doesn't establish any fictional positioning, at least in standard D&D play.

On the one hand, I'm confident the play is fiction-first. But we also rightly look at the text (which is what I think you are referring to by "game".) For you, it seems a text is only fiction-first if it has mechanics that mandate change to the fiction. But what if such a game is run differently, as some believe possible? Does it not then fail to be fiction-first?

<snip>

Generally, however, you desire to see mechanics - pervasively - explicitly pass constraints back into fiction, right? (That is something you keep coming back to with your examples.) DW hack and slash doesn't have that.

Hack and Slash When you attack an enemy in melee, roll+Str. ✴On a 10+, you deal your damage to the enemy and avoid their attack. At your option, you may choose to do +1d6 damage but expose yourself to the enemy’s attack. ✴On a 7–9, you deal your damage to the enemy and the enemy makes an attack against you. [Which is resolved as part of the move - per the canonical examples.]

Where is the constraint passed into the fiction from this mechanic? One has to bring in other principles to get past - it did damage, reduce your HP - and deliver consequences back into the fiction. "Every time you turn to a player, you're highlighting some thing that can cause them strife, and asking how they deal with it." 5e* is lower key (or at least, does not urge so strongly toward constant pressure), but it wants results to matter all the same.
I don't follow the stuff about texts. "Fiction first" is not a property of a text. It's a property of a particular RPG considered as a type; or of an episode of RPG play that tokens that type.

As far as the constraint from Hack and Slash passed into the fiction: the most obvious would flow from failure results. Eg Your sword breaks on the giant snake's scaly hide seems to me to be a pretty immediate change in fictional position.

On a 7-9, and on some 10+ results, the GM gets to narrate the enemy's attack. If the enemy is an ogre, then this could include that the ogre's blow (which has the Forceful tag: DW p 272) knocks them over the cliff edge. That's a change in fictional position that (most likely, I would say) leads to a Defy Danger roll. Or it could knock them back, meaning they have to Defy Danger - the ogre's club - to get back in close enough to attack. Unless, of course, they have a Reach-tagged weapon - more fictional positioning.

On a 10+ result where the player chooses only to deal damage while avoiding the enemies attack, then we get cubes-to-cubes with no new rightward arrows resulting from the leftward one that establishes (in the fiction) a successful attack. But even here there is a fairly clear contrast with D&D - DW has a very narrow hp range (eg a dragon has 16 hp: p 302) and armour provides damage reduction, so it is much easier to treat rolled damage results as representing relatively light blows (eg 1 hp) or very heavy ones (eg 10 hp), and so the leftward arrows are generated more along the lines of RQ or Classic Traveller than in D&D, where a damage roll of 10 hp can sometimes still be a completely superficial scratch (eg if rolled against a dragon that has 100 hp remaining even after the damage is deducted).

And yet, it weightily impacts the valid choices for the players.

<snip>

Huh? Those "distance requirements", the hostility between parties, what's at stake - it's coming from your fiction. We don't just start the characters like Chess-pieces in fixed positions and they go!

<snip>

I find that odd, but if that sort of thing doesn't impact on your fictional positioning that's up to what you have agreed. Some of the most consequential things my NPCs do in battles is speak some words. From surrendering to fleeing to negotiating to threatening and so on. I think if I had to choose between pretend-combat and pretend-conversation for narrative power, it would be the latter.
The last paragraph has provoked a slightly tangential thought, which is why are you using 5e D&D as your chassis if those are your goals for play?

My non-tangential thought is that I don't know of a RPG that doesn't satisfy the characterisations you set out here. In T&T the combats may at least sometimes be motivated, and the GM can narrate the antagonists saying things to the PC. In my experience of RM, nearly all combats were motivated and as the GM I would frequently narrate my antagonists saying things to the PCs. The same is true of 4e D&D, Cortex+ Heroic, Classic Traveller, and Burning Wheel.

But these are not all the same game. They are not all fiction first all of the time. If 5e* boils down to As the GM, periodically remind the players why the ingame situation matters then I don't see how it really bears upon processes of action resolution, or even the basic cycle of play, at all.
 

pemerton

Legend
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.
This does not seem the same to me, at least as you describe it. The key words being "I", where "I" is the GM who then sets the DC.

In BW the obstacle is established via a set of descriptors, and the GM does not have any discretion to decide whether or not both success and failure are possible. This is why BW is able to tell players: if you don't like the current content or trajectory of the fiction, change it! (By using your Wises, your Circles etc.)

Perhaps one could introduce a rule, analogous to Wises, into 5e D&D. (Though I think there are features of the system which would somewhat push against that.) But to the best of my knowledge it is not there in RAW.

That's also before we get to failure results for the Wises check, which in the BW context contribute significantly to the nature of the experience. (More on failure below.)

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.)

<snip>

Some RAI that social interaction ability checks cannot be used on player-characters. Based on RAW, I rule that they can.
As per my earlier post, this does not seem canonical to me, as we now have the possibility that a player is no longer deciding what their PC thinks and feels. (Which is also something that you seemed to include as part of 5e* in your OP.)

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.)
In BW, the Mending test is resolved like any other. So if it fails, the GM is required to narrate the consequences of failure having primary regard to the intent and secondary regard to the task. And in BW, every time a blow is struck in Fight! there is a chance of damage to armour (armour works by making a test: roll armour dice against Ob 1 + attacker's Versus Armour rating; 1s on the armour dice signify damage).

Those are elements of the BW context that mark the difference from the D&D play experience. In BW, the need for repairs is routine; but when the dice are rolled for Aramina's Mending it's as suspenseful as any other check. I don't see how that is the case for finding out whether or not the repairs take an hour or a day.

More fundamentally, I have never read an account of actual D&D play, nor myself had a D&D experience, that resembled what I've described. I've had experiences in RM that come close to the armour aspect (not the Evard's Tower aspect) but they break down because RM does not have as elegant a framework for either armour damage or repairs: it is held back by the clunkiness induced by its simulationist aspirations, and by its simulationist-induced lack of a general framework for narrating effective failures.
 

Sure, and - looking at the Hack and Slash mechanic - isn't this guaranteed most by the principles? And not the mechanic. Our communities tried highly simulationist RPG texts, and many moved on from them. An obstacle was that not everything that matters in our fiction can be expressly captured in mechanics.

There's a good discussion of FK in the Elusive Shift that chimes with what I have read elsewhere. Tabletop gamers could have charts and so on for many situations. Even so, it was the referee's ability to rule on the fly that allowed players to declare any action that made sense according to what they thought was going on, and have that action plausibly (or agreeably, or even playfully) resolved. In the 60s, wargamers were already talking about choosing moves as if they were the imagined individuals.
I'm not convinced that Dave Arneson, would put it that way, however. I think he might point out to you that the 'Braunstein' format they were using was not a wargame at all, in any sense. It was operational simulation, done for (AFAIK) entertainment. Any individual instance of it might have more or less 'game' (mechanics and structure) injected, depending on the subject matter, but IMHO what Dave did was take role playing and open-ended operational simulation, and GRAFT ON some additional structure in the form of rules taken from places like Chainmail to produce the familiar D&D TTRPG.

It is even more complex than that really. Kriegspiel itself began as an early TT wargame, much like minis games (IE Chainmail) back in the earlier part of the 19th Century. This was recognized by the Prussian military as possibly useful in their training of officers/staff (it was invented by a former military officer). Soon they discovered that the rigid formalisms of stands of troops and fixed sorts of moves and such was too rigid to provide a useful degree of realistic training as such. Referees were added, and much of the rules structure was discarded, and the game evolved over time into 'Free' Kriegspiel exercises, which are much closer in structure to a Braunstein.

BOTH the more formal miniatures wargame strain AND the more generalized operational simulation/'Braunstein' type of play spread from there (and there was already some existing wargaming traditions unrelated to early Kriegspiel). Dave Arneson really represents a RECONNECTION of these disparate lines of development, with the product being predictably a fusion of rules, process, and conceptual framework drawing from both.

My point is, there was no 'evolution through the 60s' of an idea of open-ended play. Open ended play was invented IN THE 1870s at the Prussian General Staff!!! The innovation was really the thematics of FRPG, and the conceptual framework of 'parties' and 'adventures' and such which was really a rather original concept that Dave came up with in c1973. Games like Chainmail, though more rigid than Braunsteins and thus D&D, also drew from the same 19th Century tradition, and a degree of openness ALWAYS existed. In fact the development of Avalon Hill style totally systematized games is the more recent development which only happened in the 1950's, perhaps under the influence of parlor games.
 

Another example: a player in MHRP/Cortex+ Heroic is meant to narrate how their PC incorporates a Scene Distinction into their dice pool, but nothing about the resolution process will falter if they don't. They can just add the die to their pool and roll away. Another example of a system that, in this respect, permits "lazy play" (in Baker's sense) no matter how much one might wish that play begin and end with the fiction.

I don't know if any of these is an illustration of an encapsulated mechanism.
Right, this is why in my own game design the process of constructing a 'check' and resolving it very explicitly binds to the fiction. The GM has to decide what 'aspect' governs the check, and this translates to a knack, or perhaps some knowledge or use of a tool (basically attacks fall under tool use). The players get a chance to do things like utilize a practice in order to alter the aspect, but practices bind to mechanics purely in terms of description (IE fiction) plus keywords, so you cannot simply state by rote that you turn any old situation into an Arcana check simply because you know a practice which could do that, you have to refer back to the fiction and explain how this practice use is justified in this situation.
 

Sure, and - looking at the Hack and Slash mechanic - isn't this guaranteed most by the principles? And not the mechanic. Our communities tried highly simulationist RPG texts, and many moved on from them. An obstacle was that not everything that matters in our fiction can be expressly captured in mechanics.
I do not believe you can separate, in a meaningful way, between 'principles' and 'mechanics', it is all of a whole. I mean, I think you can classify some things as one and some as the other, but I think they are, in effect, often very similar. A principle might be constitutive, it tells you a thing to do, like "draw maps, leave holes", or it might be restrictive "never name your move." These principles ARE RULES, they may not be very 'mechanical' in structure, and they may have referents either in cues or in fiction, but they are certainly very similar to what you call 'mechanics'. Now, I've taken to using that term in the way you seem to use it, but maybe I regret it to a degree, as refactoring the debate into a discussion of cues and fiction seems to show us how fundamentally anything that tells us about playing is a RULE. I would state that RPG texts contain Rules, Advice, and Fiction/Color. That might be a fruitful parsing to explore (maybe there are other categories and subcategories, I am not trying to be canonical here).
 

I'm extremely familiar with these processes from other versions of D&D (B/X, AD&D, 4e) and in the 5e RAW see nothing that is fundamentally different, in the processes presented or the descriptions of them. Where, in 5e*, does the fiction factor in?
This is why I tried to draw the distinction between DRIVING and INFORMING. In 5e fiction largely INFORMS mechanics, it serves as the structure upon which basic motivations and decisions hang (IE will I enter into combat against X or will I try to recruit him as an ally). Once decisions are made, D&D (and 5e being typical) largely drive at least COMBAT decisions almost purely via the mechanics. Given 5e's loose and murky tiebacks from mechanics to fiction it can often be pretty hard to even KNOW what the fiction is, but you can still go ahead and execute the next mechanical action! When fiction DRIVES mechanics, the linkage is causal and strong. The fiction of iron hard scales CAUSED the fighter's attempt at Hack & Slash to be adjudged ineffective, meaning his player had to come up with a different option, which was again supplied purely by fiction.

In AD&D, for example, it isn't at all clear how this kind of thing could happen. The player would have to assess, via knowledge of attack charts and such plus translating some fictional clue back into mechanics, that a melee attack was non-viable, and then either query the DM, or perhaps directly engage some special mechanics in the Monster Manual that grant a way to make an attack against the creature's unarmored mouth (certain monsters have these kinds of things). Certainly it is PRIMARILY driven by mechanics, the bad guy's AC value caused the attack to be impossible, and some special rule opened up an alternative. It is granted that there is an associated fiction. It is just questionable that it even needs to be referred to at the table!

I think the other hang up is, nobody is ever positing that trad D&D doesn't have rightward arrows, it does! Every RPG has them, I think it is a definition of RPG. Still, AD&D, for example, is not necessarily 'fiction first'. The action is embedded IN a fiction, but in a lot of cases that fiction could be a pretty thin veneer! Your typical dungeon illustrates exactly that, the important constraints are the mechanics of exploration turns, effects of darkness, wandering monster check rules, and the formal dungeon map structure with associated typical features. Dungeons definitely depart into more fictional territory when they have idiosyncratic features, or if players attempt unconventional actions, but there's a very strongly mechanistic process in place that is somewhat loosely coupled to fiction (or you can view it as there is a lot of fiction, but it is of a structured and predetermined variety).

Again, DW shows how fiction first/story games differ. The 'map' of a dungeon will have 'holes in it' (canonically), so it is just a loose description of what might be present, or partially describing some elements. Due to the lack of any sort of mechanistic "boxes to boxes" means to resolve ANYTHING in DW, that dungeon will be 'explored' by a process of the players describing their moves, and the GM describing outcomes, or even asking the players to supply fiction. The outcomes are arbitrated by checks, but all those do is tell us if the PCs are getting into more hot water or if they are progressing in a way that achieves their ends (or a mix of both). It is a very immediate kind of fiction where the rules are really secondary (many moves for instance don't trigger any dice, they are just fiction to fiction).
 

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