D&D 5E 5e* - D&D-now

clearstream

(He, Him)
Yeah, OK, I'm still rather skeptical of a couple of things. First there doesn't seem to be any structure to introduction of fiction. So, can I simply, as a player, introduce basically any consideration by simply decreeing it to be a motivation or goal of my character as and when I wish? To what degree is it really necessary for the GM to acknowledge one of these statements?
Interesting question. When we played my diceless, virtually system-less RPG, it always felt necessary and in fact urgent for me as DM to acknowledge each speech-act of my players. Some unwritten principles were in play, that told us the rules of our conversation.

I mean, this seems to be a very unstructured process, and again this is why I conveyed my doubts in terms of this being a 'game'. You also illustrate the issue with achievement of goals in cases where an issue is in doubt (IE the attacking the 'bear man' and what the results are/who actually gets to narrate them).
You might have grasped this incorrectly. I'm contrasting differing approaches that groups might choose to follow. We should set aside your doubt here, because I do not argue that to be doing fiction-first, one must have the same role in authoring said fiction. DW, Stonetop, C*, all assign differentiated roles in authoring fiction to their participants.

If we were to go back to 5e*, then we have to ask some of the same questions. Exactly what regulates what the players can say about the character's motivations and actions, and what they refer to? Is this related to things like BIFTs? There are also questions similar to above about resolution of conflicts. We've already gone over the whole thing with 5e's shaky conception of when checks are required and what the results signify. Since 5e(*) definitely give the GM both the responsibility to determine if a check is needed, and what will be checked, but also what the 'valence' of that check is, doesn't this kind of put most of the autonomy back in the GM's court? That is to say, and this is classic GM behavior, what stops a GM from simply stacking up checks? The GM is pushing some sort of fiction, so if the players wander off in some other direction, the classic GM response is to make all other paths filled with obstacle after obstacle and each check produce only marginal progress, except in their preferred direction. Yes, maybe you can all this 'bad GM play', OTOH experience dictates that a system of principles, clear agenda, and positively reinforcing game structure is helpful. So, I'm still a bit more in favor of a more ground-up approach than just making small changes to 5e. That's just my preference.
This doesn't speak at all to what 5e* is about. Several times I have made it clear that
  • I can say it is worthwhile for an RPG designer to organise, clarify and write up their intended principles and agenda (obvious infinite regress notwithstanding)
  • I cannot say that an RPG will only be played according to principles and agenda if they are organised, clarified, and written up
The complaint that I make out from your above is that it's not structured enough for some groups. It's worth reading some of the passionate testimonials of FKR DMs to understand what they get in return.
 

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We played the 59th session of our Tomb of Annihilation campaign. Here's a 5e* example from it. The situation was the result of a vast number of actions and decisions, and I won't capture every detail. I won't cover for example, the 'sleeper' cursed item that caused a near-TPK. Or the hags, protecting their 'lovely' godling.

The party were determined to destroy the Soulmonger. An artifact disrupting revival magic, and decaying every creature that had ever benefited from such magic. This brought them finally to the 'cradle' of the Atropal, a death godling being born into the world according to the designs of Acererak. The Soulmonger existed to feed the Atropal.

Using legendary actions, the Atropal was wailing, inflicting exhaustion on creatures failing their save against it. It was doing that because the characters had shattered the Soulmonger... it's 'milk bottle'. They had freed the unconsumed souls within it, in doing so. Including their fallen friends Malef, Ka-lu, Sebastian and Moss, whose spirits they saw departing. (Players present voiced the spirits of their erstwhile characters.) In each of its turns, the Atropal was draining life (deals necrotic damage to the character, restoring HP to itself). It's aura was suppressing healing on characters near to it.

Conversation was continuous, and player thinking was often explained out loud. They discussed that in destroying the Soulmonger they had satisfied their major purpose in the fiction. That was, aiding Syndra Silvane to destroy the Soulmonger (albeit in our campaign, things became more complicated as some allies hoped to retrieve and suppress it, to study it's power.) Some player-characters felt the Atropal despicable and dangerous. Others prized more their own lives.

The party chose to stay and fight, but this decision was by no means final or binding. Debate between fight or flight was ongoing, with each turn in the battle. Due to the Atropals immunities and vulnerabilities, the party's best hope to defeat it was Drusilia, with her arrows that dealt radiant damage. As a rogue, she needed sneak attack to make those count. Recollect that three levels of exhaustion applies disadvantage to attacks, and will negate sneak attack.

Thus we come to three connected moments in the battle.

1) We're in fiction. Keshma - a Dao - swore to help the party destroy the Soulmonger, which is now done. She has control of an air elemental. She loudly complains and announces her intent to leave. Characters remind her that the tomb is sealed and entreat her to continue to help. As it happens, Aarasmus knows this isn't quite true, because there are cracks in the ceilings on the first floor that the Dao might pass through using gaseous form. Thus persuasion and a degree of deception are engaged. The air elemental is the party's best chance of keeping an allied creature next to the Atropal, to enable sneak attack. Keshma is friendly to the party and the risk (to her) is minor (she has no intention of entering the cradle, and can see into it from where she is.) What happens next is meaningful, but I decide it's not uncertain: no roll. She does as asked, which is send in her elemental, which she speaks about as one might a loyal pet. Back to cubes. Sneak attack is enabled.

2) We're in cubes. Drusilia makes a save and fails - taking her third level of exhaustion. Back in fiction. Drusilia's player describes her indecision out loud. Her choices are constrained. With her halved speed she is forced to choose between taking a shot she knows will deal little damage, or dash to get out of the aura. The obviousness of her square for attacking, makes hiding shennigans ineffective, but she can still use cunning action to dash. It's riskier to take the shot and dash once rather than her possible twice. Other characters pipe up, encouraging her to fight or describing their readiness to flee. She takes a quick shot, which inflicts little damage because of exhaustion, and falls back 30', leaving herself still very much in danger.

3) We're in fiction. Clement sees all this and reassures Drusilia. Notwithstanding his own cowardice (or he might say, focus on life and song), he's motivated by his promises to Princess Mwaxanare, who has said she will take him on as royal concubine once she frees Omu from the yuan-ti and the arch-lich's influence. He has already retrieved the artifact she needs to do this, but the Atropal is in the way of his perfumed and contented future. Clement moves forward to touch and casts one of his possible two greater restorations. In doing so, he is leaving himself at exhaustion 3 which will soon become exhaustion 4. But he re-enables sneak attack. Back to cubes.

This was typical of the fight. A constant intermingling or movement back and forth between clouds and cubes. Considerations in the fiction, prior conversation, constraints, promises, hopes and so on, were given voice to by players. Cubes were informing those constraints. Choices in fiction - many things said - brought us back to just our particular cubes.
I think the main observation I have is that we have rather different conceptions of what constitute 'arrows', or maybe an alternative way to put it is what is really substantive. So, if a player states that the motivation for their character to do X is something fictional, and X is a mechanically governed procedure, and only other mechanically defined elements of the situation impact X, I wouldn't count that as "fiction being determinative of mechanics", the player could have said nothing about their motives and simply executed mechanical process X, the result would be substantively the same.

Some things are more grey areas. If a PC attempts to convince an NPC of something, we have both RP as a potential avenue for that, or we could have a check of some sort. In the later case there isn't, in a game like 5e, a definitive way to state that all checks followed from fiction or not. I think the substantive test would be "would the check be made differently if the player described their action differently?" or more broadly, did they have to speak a specific fiction to invoke that check? Sometimes the answer could be basically 'no', basically the fiction could have merely been an indicator that the GM (or even player) should invoke a roll of the dice. Your example shows a case where the GM decides no roll is required at all, but this seems less dependent on the specific fiction spoken by a player than on the general situation and considerations of overall motive.

So, fiction is clearly important, and it may be that there are points here where it directly impinges on how the mechanics work, or a mechanic has to reference fiction in order to be arbitrated. OTOH I think a lot of cases might be just as easily classified as 'mechanics with color'. Do the motives of the Clement for example matter? Mechanically he moves forward and invokes a class ability (or maybe its a spell, I am not so familiar with 5e bards, etc.). Do the character's stated motives impact this action? I don't see how.

IMHO this is a characteristic of really 'ground up' story games, that the fiction actively determines what mechanics happen, and how and why, and/or the mechanics directly reference fictional conditions which must be adjudged, and aren't simply codified in a cue already. Default 5e has, for example, no grid, and thus any factors of position and such must be purely adjudged via reference to existing fiction, that is to the shared imagined state of things. So, when you play "Theater of the Mind" there is likely to be a greater linkage between mechanics and fiction, perhaps. Honestly, my core observation is that there's a fundamental difference of process between say, DW and IMHO anything that is likely to arise in 5e via practices I've ever experienced using that and similar systems. They can be fairly similar at times, but DW, in my experience, will consistently do things differently and in a way that puts the PC's fiction more at the center of play.

So, for instance, I cannot conceive of how you could possibly write a 'module' for DW. It just doesn't seem possible to me. Not in the sense that you could for 5e, where you could build entire geographies of elements that are almost entirely described and populated by threats that have been pregenerated without reference to anything relating to specific characters. The most a DW 'module' could do, IMHO, would be to present some loose geography, some fronts, etc. and even then it would have to be advertised as "here's a specifically themed set of elements that could be presented in the form of GM prep, assuming the players agree to the whole thing beforehand and make up characters with this in mind." I'd note that this is a bit different from the default expected DW process, though I'm sure it can be made to work with a little thought.
 

Interesting question. When we played my diceless, virtually system-less RPG, it always felt necessary and in fact urgent for me as DM to acknowledge each speech-act of my players. Some unwritten principles were in play, that told us the rules of our conversation.
Yeah, I've run a fair amount of stuff using PACE, which is a diceless system. It does however present the table with a set of ways to arbitrate things like conflicts. The GM presents a challenge, including a difficulty, the player describes the character's action and proposes an intent, and maybe one of their attributes which would contribute to success or failure. The GM can then spend 'tokens' to increase the difficulty, but they need to fictionally justify this (IE the opponent doesn't just shoot at you, he blazes away with a whole fusilade of shots, and he's got weapon experience). The player can expend tokens of their own, and the two sides can bid until either one runs out of tokens, both sides are willing to resolve the action, or nobody can fictionally justify anything more. Higher total then wins, and the difference represents the degree of consequence to the loser.

Tokens are generally allocated at the start of an adventure to each player and the GM, and they aren't generally renewable without reaching some kind of conclusion to the action. The consequences of losing can include 'wounds', which is just a generic way of describing an attribute loss, or the assignment of a negative temporary attribute. Normally each player simply designates 2 attributes when creating a character, and assigns 7 points between the two (their designators can be anything reasonable, like 'brave', 'gunfighter', 'loyal', or even something like 'liar' or 'coward').

Its a usable game, definitely fiction first, and there are no DICE, but there is a structure that defines the contents of the fiction, as it has to follow from the situation and reasonably has to engage the character's attributes to a fair degree, otherwise the game cannot really proceed in a viable fashion. Its not as strict as something like DW, but for a super lightweight game where you can basically go from zero to playing out a scene in 5 minutes, it is pretty cool!
 

FrogReaver

As long as i get to be the frog
And what if the guiding principle is that some but not necessarily all of the fiction the players introduce is going to be used by the DM in a substantial way but that some will?
 

A formal definition of 'game' in Salen and Zimmerman's Rules of Play, based on their analysis of eight influential definitions, is this



They caveat that


Does 4e and DW meet their definition? And what about C*?
  1. All are a form of physical or intellectual activity
  2. All are voluntary
  3. If we take the DM to be a player, and in control of adversaries, then some of the time players are in conflict. Or we can say DM is not an adversary. All equally meet or don't meet this criteria.
  4. Rules? Is "If you decide something is impossible, say and ask for clarification" a rule? I'd be curious to see how one would show that it is not a rule!
  5. The goal-state in all constantly evolves. Right now we're sailing to shore. Later we're hoping to defeat a bear man.
Seeing as I have experience with rule sets as sparse as C*'s, and everyone around us called what we were doing playing a game - and concretely, a roleplaying game - I feel that the burden is squarely on those who want to show that C* isn't a game. For rigour, I'd like to know their definition that properly includes everything else we call RPG, while excluding C*.


You have your argument reversed. Against a formal definition of 'game', C* qualifies (or show that it does not). Rather I believe you are making a normative argument about what looks like a game to you.
I don't think my judgment is normative at all. It is based on an interpretation of what you list as condition 4. Now, in MOST RPGs, there are constitutive and regulative rules that include cues, resolution procedures, etc. These are typical of most games (they may be informal enough in, for example, field sports that we almost ignore them). C* doesn't have these. That is it has no defined 'game state' and no defined process or rules that say how that game state is agreed to or how it evolves.

Again, I want to emphasize, I'm not really against calling it a game in a more normative sense, it 'feels like a game' and certainly is 'play', may involve conflict, etc. as you say. My objection was meant to be illustrative and show that it is less FORMALLY A GAME than RPGs like 5e or DW. Anyway, I don't think this is exactly one of the most important points overall. Its enough of a game to say we are 'playing an RPG' and discuss it as such. It was more just a way to contrast with those other games.
 

And what if the guiding principle is that some but not necessarily all of the fiction the players introduce is going to be used by the DM in a substantial way but that some will?
You do get into degrees at some point. I mean, remember, even Dungeon World or other PbtA doesn't say "Every single thing that a player brings up in play SHALL be addressed in GM moves/scene framing." Its possible some things are left aside in favor of other things. There's only so much play available to happen in a given game, so something may not fit in. The GM might also 'engineer' things in some sense, maybe combining some elements referenced by more than one player, so the result might not be what the players envisaged. It is however true that once a player gets to state something, there's not really a mechanism in PbtA to override that. OTOH technically the GM could avoid certain topics! I'm not sure that falls under a fully principled play of, say, DW, but it certainly can HAPPEN, and doesn't prevent anything that IS present from violating the principles the GM is following. I don't know what @Manbearcat, for example, might think about this, he probably has a bit more of a purist perspective, lol.

My feeling is always that if you bend the game a bit, and it works out for the best, why critique that too heavily? I mean, analyze away, but acknowledge success too!
 

clearstream

(He, Him)
I think the main observation I have is that we have rather different conceptions of what constitute 'arrows', or maybe an alternative way to put it is what is really substantive. So, if a player states that the motivation for their character to do X is something fictional, and X is a mechanically governed procedure, and only other mechanically defined elements of the situation impact X, I wouldn't count that as "fiction being determinative of mechanics", the player could have said nothing about their motives and simply executed mechanical process X, the result would be substantively the same.
I was thinking it would be fruitful to get into the contents of arrows. Had the wail not exhausted, then character movespaces would contain other valid choices, so what they subsequently said would have differed. Had character motives differed, then the process they chose to execute would differ, thus having different results.

The complaint seems to be resolving motives and constraints in fiction, in system, but that is exactly what is implied by F > S > F. We do at times just resolve in fiction as F > F. That's more common outside combat. Remember that 5e* DM doesn't even call for combat if the outcome is inevitable. So in the comparable DW cases, its F > Hack and Slash > F.

So - arrow contents, to get started

F > S
  • Choices - that invoke one process rather than another ("I'm holding my ground for a second to see which way it goes, and then I'm diving to the side I think is safe."
  • Assertions - that dial-in parameters ("I draw my rapier and fleche!")
  • Colour - how the thing is done, that might turn out to be meaningful ("I'm shaking while I do it, barely controlling my fear of it") and open up or affirm narrative space
S > F
  • Constraints - that change what is legitimate ("Drusilia makes a save and fails - taking her third level of exhaustion.")
  • Informs - that affirm changes to what is effective ("Your hit barely scratches it") and might produce motives
  • Colour - how the thing is done, that might turn out to be meaningful ("She laughs 'I didn't realise you were so weak! Why fight small man?' and couches her club") and open up or affirm narrative space
We should also detail the contents of F > F and S > S arrows, so that we can see how they differ. Thinking about what is in fictional position, its definition is still not complete. In valid, I have legitimate and effective, but I also need motivated. Because the moves that a player will choose are those in the intersection of legitimate, effective and motivated. Effective is only really justified on account of it being normally a very strong factor in what is motivated! It is seldom the only factor and sometimes not the strongest factor (consider arguments over following other motives, over effectiveness!)

Suppose I say that player's fictional position is the intersection of everything that is legitimate for them to say, and everything they are motivated to say (which very much includes everything that would be effective for them to say, but helps me understand why effectiveness alone doesn't always predict the moves actually chosen.) When Clement and Drusilia are caught up in mortal battle, they have overwhelming motives in its regard. If their attack reach is 5', and they are 20' away, and they are motivated to attack, then they have an overwhelming motive to choose closing moves. Or if they fear they can't make effective attacks, they have a motive to do something else. They're unlikely to choose to flap their arms like a bird, although it would be legitimate (it's allowed), they have no motive to do so. This is to consider fictional position as predictive of player moves, which it necessarily must to be useful as a construct. (Consider the alternative, a construct for fictional positioning that failed to have any predictive power, or worse still predicted moves players never chose.)

Some things are more grey areas. If a PC attempts to convince an NPC of something, we have both RP as a potential avenue for that, or we could have a check of some sort. In the later case there isn't, in a game like 5e, a definitive way to state that all checks followed from fiction or not. I think the substantive test would be "would the check be made differently if the player described their action differently?" or more broadly, did they have to speak a specific fiction to invoke that check? Sometimes the answer could be basically 'no', basically the fiction could have merely been an indicator that the GM (or even player) should invoke a roll of the dice. Your example shows a case where the GM decides no roll is required at all, but this seems less dependent on the specific fiction spoken by a player than on the general situation and considerations of overall motive.
Had the player spoken differently, deception would not have been involved. I only needed to consider the possibility of a roll because of that deception. The player had a visible internal struggle and then confessed that the fictional truth is that Arrasmus was going to tell a white lie.

So, fiction is clearly important, and it may be that there are points here where it directly impinges on how the mechanics work, or a mechanic has to reference fiction in order to be arbitrated. OTOH I think a lot of cases might be just as easily classified as 'mechanics with color'. Do the motives of the Clement for example matter? Mechanically he moves forward and invokes a class ability (or maybe its a spell, I am not so familiar with 5e bards, etc.). Do the character's stated motives impact this action? I don't see how.
Maybe I misunderstand the bolded part. Are you supposing that 5e* DM isn't using situational advantage or inspiration? As I have said more than once up-thread, 5e* urges DM to exercise the entire power granted to them in 5th edition RAW.

IMHO this is a characteristic of really 'ground up' story games, that the fiction actively determines what mechanics happen, and how and why, and/or the mechanics directly reference fictional conditions which must be adjudged, and aren't simply codified in a cue already. Default 5e has, for example, no grid, and thus any factors of position and such must be purely adjudged via reference to existing fiction, that is to the shared imagined state of things. So, when you play "Theater of the Mind" there is likely to be a greater linkage between mechanics and fiction, perhaps. Honestly, my core observation is that there's a fundamental difference of process between say, DW and IMHO anything that is likely to arise in 5e via practices I've ever experienced using that and similar systems. They can be fairly similar at times, but DW, in my experience, will consistently do things differently and in a way that puts the PC's fiction more at the center of play.
Agreed that DW does more work to make that so. The design intent is clearer in the text and the common structure of moves aligns well with it. Principles that help ensure they are grasped and upheld in the intended way are included in the text.

So, for instance, I cannot conceive of how you could possibly write a 'module' for DW. It just doesn't seem possible to me. Not in the sense that you could for 5e, where you could build entire geographies of elements that are almost entirely described and populated by threats that have been pregenerated without reference to anything relating to specific characters. The most a DW 'module' could do, IMHO, would be to present some loose geography, some fronts, etc. and even then it would have to be advertised as "here's a specifically themed set of elements that could be presented in the form of GM prep, assuming the players agree to the whole thing beforehand and make up characters with this in mind." I'd note that this is a bit different from the default expected DW process, though I'm sure it can be made to work with a little thought.
I think Stonetop is an example of a 'module' for DW, or have a look at "I'm on a boat!"

I find that 5th edition modules contain a few bones that 5e* can pick clean. We wanted to run ToA because of nostalgia for Isle of Dread + Tomb of Horrors. It captures the Isle of Dread part quite well (or at least, you can make it do that), but the Tomb is an over-architectured, disappointment. My next campaign - Archipelago - is my own work.
 
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clearstream

(He, Him)
And what if the guiding principle is that some but not necessarily all of the fiction the players introduce is going to be used by the DM in a substantial way but that some will?
I think there are a couple of story-now principles, that possibly @AbdulAlhazred is concerned with
  1. Character motives can produce system results - an example is spending inspiration to change a check result
  2. Authorship of fiction is redistributed around the table, so that players can answer questions like "What are you wanted for in Port Landington?" and "Who else is travelling on the Salty Mare?"
These principles can be applied to a greater or lesser degree. The game isn't necessarily better with more, or better with less. Traditionally, DM wears multiple hats, and not all hats are redistributed. Who's asking those questions? Who decides which character Jo Sailor whacks with her belaying pin? Who said there even was a Port Landington for me to be wanted in?

Even in traditional modes, players can have a tremendous power over the fiction. "Nope, we're walking North. Yes, we know the Dungeon of the Mad Mage is South. That's why we're walking North." (DM checks notes and thinks on the fly - "Okay, after about a day you reach...")
 

clearstream

(He, Him)
@AbdulAlhazred Our conversation is being thwarted by a lack of definition of arrow contents. So to get started:

F > S
  • Choices - that invoke one process rather than another ("I'm holding my ground for a second to see which way it goes, and then I'm diving to the side I think is safe.")
  • Assertions - that dial-in parameters ("I draw my rapier and fleche!")
  • Impels - that inject modifiers (inspiration, bennies, advantage, fate points)
  • Colour - how the thing is done, that might turn out to be meaningful ("I'm shaking while I do it, barely controlling my fear of it") and open up or affirm narrative space
  • Flags - that count for some game purpose, like marking XP ("Dem broke the heirloom's curse as I foresaw, so that bond's resolved: I mark XP")
S > F
  • Constraints - that change what is legitimate ("Drusilia makes a save and fails - taking her third level of exhaustion.")
  • Informs - that affirm changes to what is effective ("Your hit barely scratches it") and might produce motives
  • Currencies - adding to character stocks
  • Colour - how the thing is done, that might turn out to be meaningful ("She laughs 'I didn't realise you were so weak! Why fight small man?' and couches her club") and open up or affirm narrative space
  • Unlocks - new fiats over the game world ("I'll master arcane ward this level.")
 
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@AbdulAlhazred Our conversation is being thwarted by a lack of definition of arrow contents. So to get started:

F > S
  • Choices - that invoke one process rather than another ("I'm holding my ground for a second to see which way it goes, and then I'm diving to the side I think is safe.")
  • Assertions - that dial-in parameters ("I draw my rapier and fleche!")
  • Impels - that inject modifiers (inspiration, bennies, advantage, fate points)
  • Colour - how the thing is done, that might turn out to be meaningful ("I'm shaking while I do it, barely controlling my fear of it") and open up or affirm narrative space
  • Flags - that count for some game purpose, like marking XP ("Dem broke the heirloom's curse as I foresaw, so that bond's resolved: I mark XP")
S > F
  • Constraints - that change what is legitimate ("Drusilia makes a save and fails - taking her third level of exhaustion.")
  • Informs - that affirm changes to what is effective ("Your hit barely scratches it") and might produce motives
  • Currencies - adding to character stocks
  • Colour - how the thing is done, that might turn out to be meaningful ("She laughs 'I didn't realise you were so weak! Why fight small man?' and couches her club") and open up or affirm narrative space
  • Unlocks - new fiats over the game world ("I'll master arcane ward this level.")
I've generally thought of it in terms of 'constraints'. That is, when advancing the story, the fiction both enables, and forbids things. The orc is described as being on the other side of the room, you cannot stab it. So enablement is basically the flip side of forbidding. So its actually helpful IMHO to simply see the fiction as, in relation to the mechanics, as being a kind of pathway itself. You can get from state X to state Y, because the fiction is agreed by the participants to permit it. So the REAL DIFFERENCE between mechanics and fiction is that the mechanics are 'preagreed', they work in a way which is spelled out as a form of generalization. The fiction is entirely specific (no two situations are the same) and exists only by agreement.
 

clearstream

(He, Him)
I've generally thought of it in terms of 'constraints'. That is, when advancing the story, the fiction both enables, and forbids things. The orc is described as being on the other side of the room, you cannot stab it. So enablement is basically the flip side of forbidding. So its actually helpful IMHO to simply see the fiction as, in relation to the mechanics, as being a kind of pathway itself. You can get from state X to state Y, because the fiction is agreed by the participants to permit it. So the REAL DIFFERENCE between mechanics and fiction is that the mechanics are 'preagreed', they work in a way which is spelled out as a form of generalization. The fiction is entirely specific (no two situations are the same) and exists only by agreement.
Constraints isn't sufficient - "And if your character has the high ground, add 2 to your roll." So that's what I've called an impel. You could say modifier, but I don't think the quite captures what they're about.

And what about this - "Without fiction, how does the GM describe the result - what do you achieve, what consequences do you face? Don't know, because they all depend on the fiction." So we need colour - how something is, or is done - to guide what follows.

And then - "When you reach the end of a session, choose one of your bonds that you feel is resolved (completely explored, no longer relevant, or otherwise). Ask the player of the character you have the bond with if they agree. If they do, mark XP and write a new bond with whomever you wish." So we have to flag that the bond was resolved (F > S), and that may unlock a new level... more valid things we can say (S > F)

Also - "You get a fate point when you agree to the complication associated with a compel." Could be S > S, but the way fate points work maybe they change what's valid in the fiction so S > F. These are kinds of currencies.

And - "When you closely study a situation or person, roll+Wis. On a 10+, ask the GM 3 questions from the list below. On a 7–9, ask 1." This passes information to players that should adjust what's valid in their fictional positioning.
 

Constraints isn't sufficient - "And if your character has the high ground, add 2 to your roll." So that's what I've called an impel. You could say modifier, but I don't think the quite captures what they're about.
I look at it as enablement. Its softer than a hard constraint which says "you cannot do X" but it has basically the same role. This is how tactics can arise within the game's fiction, by taking a certain path, you can achieve cognizable benefits. "move to the high ground, we will get +2", or "surprise them from behind and get advantage", etc. I'm curious why you would feel it needs differentiation from "occupy the door so that only one of them can attack at a time." which is a hard constraint impossed by the fiction of a doorway. Notice how they both lead to tactics.
And what about this - "Without fiction, how does the GM describe the result - what do you achieve, what consequences do you face? Don't know, because they all depend on the fiction." So we need colour - how something is, or is done - to guide what follows.
I think calling it color sells it short. Its PLOT, its the driver, the engine of the game. IN A SENSE though it is more enablers and constraints. Or if you try to get away from that, then you're into DRAMA, which is a different category.
And then - "When you reach the end of a session, choose one of your bonds that you feel is resolved (completely explored, no longer relevant, or otherwise). Ask the player of the character you have the bond with if they agree. If they do, mark XP and write a new bond with whomever you wish." So we have to flag that the bond was resolved (F > S), and that may unlock a new level... more valid things we can say (S > F)
I don't call the later "S > F". You have a bond, which a mechanism in DW says to examine, and it provides a process, you make a choice, if you resolve it, you get XP, etc. Creating a new bond is PARTLY mechanical as well, but both resolving and creating are heavily fictional. Once you resolved a bond, only fictional considerations go into creating a new one, same as creating your initial bonds. You simply decide, purely on the basis of fiction what they are. No mechanics informs this or influences it in any way (I guess you could construe some cunning plan to make the new bond especially easy to exploit as a 'tactical' choice, but as we saw above, even tactics are heavily fictional).
Also - "You get a fate point when you agree to the complication associated with a compel." Could be S > S, but the way fate points work maybe they change what's valid in the fiction so S > F. These are kinds of currencies.
Currencies like this seem like pure mechanics in terms of their accounting, but it isn't easy to see SPENDING them as leaving the fiction uninvolved. I guess it depends on the game system, but I think the classic design pattern is that something in the fiction has to at least lampshade the expenditure. More often the expenditure itself provides the spender with a chance to amend the fiction in some way. So, "I see a situation X, it is mechanically unfavorable/fictionally undesired. I spend a plot coupon. I invoke some other fiction, Y, to explain how X is ameliorated in some fashion."

HoML has an analog of 5e Inspiration called Fate. If you have a positive aspect of Fate, you can alter the fiction by invoking one of your character's traits in a positive way. A canonical example might be "I am a meticulous planner, therefor I foresaw the need for a compass, I pull it out of my backpack." You can do the inverse and hand yourself a setback explained by some trait you have too, which will move your Fate aspect to positive. That could come in handy, though we have been playing that it resets at the start of each session to positive anyway, so it isn't a trick that comes up too often.
And - "When you closely study a situation or person, roll+Wis. On a 10+, ask the GM 3 questions from the list below. On a 7–9, ask 1." This passes information to players that should adjust what's valid in their fictional positioning.
It establishes fiction in DW. The GM is mechanically constrained in terms of the fiction they must now introduce in response. The information gained must conform to the parameters of the question. I'm not sure why this would be a separate class of fiction. Let me go on to say that some fiction is 'immediate' in scope, that is it is 'in the scene' and thus has a direct impact on the players choices. Other fiction may not be in immediate scope, "there are almost impassible mountains to the north, we should veer west in order to bypass them if possible." The constraint is still there, or goal, etc. You can approach these non-immediate fictions in the same way as any other, they are just not likely to play the role of a direct modifier to an immediate task. I'd finally note that this is 'scope dependent'. So, if the current scene is "Dangerous Journey" then maybe the mountains DO directly modify things, as they could shape the available options for the trip, and this is because the scope of a journey is larger than a typical 'encounter' type scene.
 

clearstream

(He, Him)
I look at it as enablement. Its softer than a hard constraint which says "you cannot do X" but it has basically the same role. This is how tactics can arise within the game's fiction, by taking a certain path, you can achieve cognizable benefits. "move to the high ground, we will get +2", or "surprise them from behind and get advantage", etc. I'm curious why you would feel it needs differentiation from "occupy the door so that only one of them can attack at a time." which is a hard constraint impossed by the fiction of a doorway. Notice how they both lead to tactics.
Taking fictional positioning as the set of valid (legitimate and effective) things I can say, I'm thinking of a constraint as taking away from - constraining - that set. So my sword rusts instantly to bits = constraint, I can't say I slash them with my sword. Constraints are about what's legitimate.

A modifier is different. It makes some of the things I might say more effective than others. If I say, I take advantage of the height I have up here to strike down at them, then I get +2. If I say something else - like I wheedle with them - I might not get that +2 because it is some kind of physical advantage, nothing to do with flattery.

I think calling it color sells it short. Its PLOT, its the driver, the engine of the game. IN A SENSE though it is more enablers and constraints. Or if you try to get away from that, then you're into DRAMA, which is a different category.
That's fair. It's not a point I'll fight you on.

I don't call the later "S > F". You have a bond, which a mechanism in DW says to examine, and it provides a process, you make a choice, if you resolve it, you get XP, etc. Creating a new bond is PARTLY mechanical as well, but both resolving and creating are heavily fictional. Once you resolved a bond, only fictional considerations go into creating a new one, same as creating your initial bonds. You simply decide, purely on the basis of fiction what they are. No mechanics informs this or influences it in any way (I guess you could construe some cunning plan to make the new bond especially easy to exploit as a 'tactical' choice, but as we saw above, even tactics are heavily fictional).
My thinking is that somehow, we have a piece of information that carries forward into end of session. It's a subtle thing, but it's real. Suppose the converse, we don't flag that we satisfied the bond? There's no way we can now claim that XP. We have to have agreement about the flag, so by definition it's in system.

Currencies like this seem like pure mechanics in terms of their accounting, but it isn't easy to see SPENDING them as leaving the fiction uninvolved. I guess it depends on the game system, but I think the classic design pattern is that something in the fiction has to at least lampshade the expenditure. More often the expenditure itself provides the spender with a chance to amend the fiction in some way. So, "I see a situation X, it is mechanically unfavorable/fictionally undesired. I spend a plot coupon. I invoke some other fiction, Y, to explain how X is ameliorated in some fashion."
In FATE, you have compels that mint a point if you accept the add to fiction. That's S > F. Then you can spend points S > S. But you have to invoke and aspect so it's kind of F > S, too. In DW, I was thinking about hold.

It establishes fiction in DW. The GM is mechanically constrained in terms of the fiction they must now introduce in response. The information gained must conform to the parameters of the question. I'm not sure why this would be a separate class of fiction. Let me go on to say that some fiction is 'immediate' in scope, that is it is 'in the scene' and thus has a direct impact on the players choices. Other fiction may not be in immediate scope, "there are almost impassible mountains to the north, we should veer west in order to bypass them if possible." The constraint is still there, or goal, etc. You can approach these non-immediate fictions in the same way as any other, they are just not likely to play the role of a direct modifier to an immediate task. I'd finally note that this is 'scope dependent'. So, if the current scene is "Dangerous Journey" then maybe the mountains DO directly modify things, as they could shape the available options for the trip, and this is because the scope of a journey is larger than a typical 'encounter' type scene.
Exactly! I see informs as underrated, because when something that wasn't know becomes known and locked in, they change what is true in the fiction! And informs can also change what is effective in the fiction. If you saw my ramble about motivated, I think motivated is above effective and valid should be legitimate + motivated. Informs can certainly change what is motivated. This is a point on which I strongly differ in my views from other posters. Bearing in mind that what turns out to be true needn't be tectonic (change to physical world): it can be influential / psychological.
 

Taking fictional positioning as the set of valid (legitimate and effective) things I can say, I'm thinking of a constraint as taking away from - constraining - that set. So my sword rusts instantly to bits = constraint, I can't say I slash them with my sword. Constraints are about what's legitimate.

A modifier is different. It makes some of the things I might say more effective than others. If I say, I take advantage of the height I have up here to strike down at them, then I get +2. If I say something else - like I wheedle with them - I might not get that +2 because it is some kind of physical advantage, nothing to do with flattery.


That's fair. It's not a point I'll fight you on.


My thinking is that somehow, we have a piece of information that carries forward into end of session. It's a subtle thing, but it's real. Suppose the converse, we don't flag that we satisfied the bond? There's no way we can now claim that XP. We have to have agreement about the flag, so by definition it's in system.


In FATE, you have compels that mint a point if you accept the add to fiction. That's S > F. Then you can spend points S > S. But you have to invoke and aspect so it's kind of F > S, too. In DW, I was thinking about hold.


Exactly! I see informs as underrated, because when something that wasn't know becomes known and locked in, they change what is true in the fiction! And informs can also change what is effective in the fiction. If you saw my ramble about motivated, I think motivated is above effective and valid should be legitimate + motivated. Informs can certainly change what is motivated. This is a point on which I strongly differ in my views from other posters. Bearing in mind that what turns out to be true needn't be tectonic (change to physical world): it can be influential / psychological.
I look at it sort of like there's walls on the dungeon map. The ones that you can see around you are immediate. You may well know of others that you care about in a larger sense, but they're 'further on' or you are going left instead of right to avoid them, that kind of thing. Now, if you were to reduce a walk through that maze to a 4e SC, they would ALL be immediate, since it would be a more abstracted 'journey' type of resolution...
 

clearstream

(He, Him)
I look at it sort of like there's walls on the dungeon map. The ones that you can see around you are immediate. You may well know of others that you care about in a larger sense, but they're 'further on' or you are going left instead of right to avoid them, that kind of thing.
That gets at it. You choose the more effective path - go left - because you know further on it turns out worse if you go right. Kind of like the information that running up the hill will give you +2, might well be your motive for doing so. In my earlier example, imagine you roll reasonable damage and it's still "barely scratched". That information could indicate that running away (going left) will turn out better than staying and fighting (going right).

As you put it, in each case the information changes what we do next, because of what we understand might or might not happen in consequence. I was about to say that information alone doesn't change the list of what is legitimate for us to say, but it might. Suppose I have declared to exert every endeavour to save Horatio. Could the information that going right will doom Horatio, take going right off the list of things I can legitimately say?
 

That gets at it. You choose the more effective path - go left - because you know further on it turns out worse if you go right. Kind of like the information that running up the hill will give you +2, might well be your motive for doing so. In my earlier example, imagine you roll reasonable damage and it's still "barely scratched". That information could indicate that running away (going left) will turn out better than staying and fighting (going right).

As you put it, in each case the information changes what we do next, because of what we understand might or might not happen in consequence. I was about to say that information alone doesn't change the list of what is legitimate for us to say, but it might. Suppose I have declared to exert every endeavour to save Horatio. Could the information that going right will doom Horatio, take going right off the list of things I can legitimately say?
Yes, but I think this contrasts with the DW kind of fictional base for action, which is more like telling you what is possible, it is defining the walls. So it becomes MUCH MORE give and take. A classic dungeon has a map with walls, they are what they are, and you work within that as a player. MAYBE when you're high level you get 'passwall' or something and you can do some little 'edits'. In DW its more like you describe how there's actually a wall OVER THERE and that's what you hid behind. It is rather different, and TO ME the latter type of game is what story game is really all about. It may be pretty subtle in some games, depending on the scale at which events unfold for example. So a game about Monster Girls dating might put fictions in play that have to do with how someone is dressed, or what they think of you. Dungeon World puts into play things like if there is a giant zombie plague marching on the town or not.
 

clearstream

(He, Him)
Yes, but I think this contrasts with the DW kind of fictional base for action, which is more like telling you what is possible, it is defining the walls. So it becomes MUCH MORE give and take. A classic dungeon has a map with walls, they are what they are, and you work within that as a player. MAYBE when you're high level you get 'passwall' or something and you can do some little 'edits'. In DW its more like you describe how there's actually a wall OVER THERE and that's what you hid behind. It is rather different, and TO ME the latter type of game is what story game is really all about. It may be pretty subtle in some games, depending on the scale at which events unfold for example. So a game about Monster Girls dating might put fictions in play that have to do with how someone is dressed, or what they think of you. Dungeon World puts into play things like if there is a giant zombie plague marching on the town or not.
One might construct it from the theory like this:
  1. shared imagined space (SIS) is the fictional content of play as it is established among participants through role-playing interactions
  2. decisions (perhaps mediated by dice rolls) as to whose preferred imaginative content is introduced into the shared fiction
  3. assume a list of preferred imaginative content to be introduced, selected from by a roll
  4. if I (DM) control what's on that list, then there can be cases where the SIS isn't established among participants: any roll selects my preferred content (the only question is which)
So it's coherent and effective to have a mode that insists on all participants contributing to the list. There is no necessary objection to asymmetrical contributions (as to kinds, timings, and quantities), or even to other definitions and functions of things like system and roll, but there is a partial rejection of them in the approach (or maybe total, in intent.) One can notice that the designer is getting their say, in the list they make for their moves.

Story-now additionally wants dramatic development to have system counterparts. Given:
  1. system (including but not limited to 'the rules') is the means by which people agree about what happens in play
  2. SIS is a possible world, and play is the process of adding elements to this possible world
Then it's right to say that DW has system counterparts of dramatic development. Characters have bonds. Those make a difference to what elements they prefer to add to the world, which if added pays XP. That would be incomplete, except that the game principles ensure that the benefits of leveling up will be wielded to pursue further dramatic development. (The LP makes it that anything leading to agreement about what happens in play, can be counted as system. Whatever one thinks of that, it still does plenty of useful work.)
 
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One might construct it from the theory like this:
  1. shared imagined space (SIS) is the fictional content of play as it is established among participants through role-playing interactions
  2. decisions (perhaps mediated by dice rolls) as to whose preferred imaginative content is introduced into the shared fiction
  3. assume a list of preferred imaginative content to be introduced, selected from by a roll
  4. if I (DM) control what's on that list, then there can be cases where the SIS isn't established among participants: any roll selects my preferred content (the only question is which)
So it's coherent and effective to have a mode that insists on all participants contributing to the list. There is no necessary objection to asymmetrical contributions (as to kinds, timings, and quantities), or even to other definitions and functions of things like system and roll, but there is a partial rejection of them in the approach (or maybe total, in intent.) One can notice that the designer is getting their say, in the list they make for their moves.

Story-now additionally wants dramatic development to have system counterparts. Given:
  1. system (including but not limited to 'the rules') is the means by which people agree about what happens in play
  2. SIS is a possible world, and play is the process of adding elements to this possible world
Then it's right to say that DW has system counterparts of dramatic development. Characters have bonds. Those make a difference to what elements they prefer to add to the world, which if added pays XP. That would be incomplete, except that the game principles ensure that the benefits of leveling up will be wielded to pursue further dramatic development. (The LP makes it that anything leading to agreement about what happens in play, can be counted as system. Whatever one thinks of that, it still does plenty of useful work.)
Right, so you may well have plenty of drama, and plenty of fiction coming first with a system, such as 5e seems to be encoding by default, where the list is maintained by the GM. Actually you could get everything arising purely in fiction, technically. DW, for example, insures that fiction is primary, and that there are few (if any) isolated 'boxes-to-boxes' instances, but mostly it provides ways to regulate what goes on the list and to allow players to regulate it or contribute to it.

I think at this point you're pretty close to the model @pemerton is discussing.
 

clearstream

(He, Him)
Right, so you may well have plenty of drama, and plenty of fiction coming first with a system, such as 5e seems to be encoding by default, where the list is maintained by the GM. Actually you could get everything arising purely in fiction, technically. DW, for example, insures that fiction is primary, and that there are few (if any) isolated 'boxes-to-boxes' instances, but mostly it provides ways to regulate what goes on the list and to allow players to regulate it or contribute to it.
One question to think about is - which is the larger, the player-character, or the game-world?

I think at this point you're pretty close to the model @pemerton is discussing.
My thought was to ensure I could construct how a certain view emerges from the theory. What I probably have (related to my OP) is this

5e* (fiction-first)
  1. interpret "narrates" as "say something meaningful"
  2. understand "narrates the results" is an imperative regulatory rule: it signals a shift or arrow to fiction
  3. narrating the results secures that the basic pattern begins and ends in the fiction (F > S > F)
  4. saying something meaningful is a guarantee: players can respond to what DM says as if it is meaningful (finding meaning later)
  5. the imperative to say something meaningful encourages a DM to ensure there's something meaningful to say
  6. follow the rule on DMG 237, knowing that the implied principle influences everything (read everything in its light)
  7. 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! (fiction-first + story-now)
  1. 5e* +
  2. give emphasis to the rules for Inspiration in PHB Chapter 4, and related guidance in DMG 240/241
As others have observed (in other forums) it's possible to get to fiction-first + story-now from non-committal games like 5e, but it's not possible to get to a non-committal game from a fiction-first + story-now game. That's because in the end the heavy lifting is done by the principles, not the mechanics, and fiction-first + story-now games set their principles out explicitly in their texts.

To notice the regress here,
  1. if system (including but not limited to 'the rules') is the means by which people agree about what happens in play,
  2. then what enables people to agree to use the particular system?
  3. we must include the means by which people agree to use the particular system, in the particular system
But the means in that case cannot be a rule written up in the particular system text, implying that we can't escape leaning on exogenous rules even if we set out to do so. Recall that games are a voluntary activity. That has been fairly well accepted in game studies from at least the 1970s. Players agree upon grasping and upholding the rules in order to play the game. You can see the regress right there: players have to agree to the means by which they agree about what happens in play.

Some believe it's impossible to play 5e as DW. On superficialities I agree. As to the mode(s) of play though, I disagree. One can play 5e* as a fiction-first + story-now game. Given the precise constructs and wordings of 5e, I'd be unsurprised if the designers didn't consciously afford that. Either way, it's inspiring.
 

pemerton

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

<snip>

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.
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?
Can you define what you mean by "major events of play" so that isn't ambiguous.

I don't know what you mean by "the authorship isn't being used". If it informs play, is it being used?
I think my understanding of playing to find out is pretty typical - the participants (including the GM) collectively learn what it is that happens next, in the fiction. The use of the word learn is deliberate, and contrasts with choose or decide. There are techniques used - most typically the rolling of dice - which determine the parameters of outcomes and/or events at certain key moments; and there are constraints accepted and applied - some perhaps resulting from the dice rolls , others perhaps being general principles applied to concrete states of affairs (such as a description on a PC sheet) - which mean that whatever decision-making does take place is not unfettered but is shaped and directed.

A system of GM-fiat resolution does not count as playing to find out in this sense, because the GM does not learn what it is that happens next, in the fiction. Rather, the GM decides. I think there was a fair bit of advocacy for this approach to resolution in the 2nd ed AD&D era; and their are strong hints of it, at least, in some later D&D materials. The most overt form that it takes is the GM calling for a roll, but then narrating things much the same regardless of what the player rolls (perhaps overlaying slightly different colour depending on whether the roll is low or high - "With a lot of effort and sweat, you make it to the . . . ." vs "You easily make it to the . . . , barely raising a sweat".

A less overt form shifts the fiat slightly downstream in the overall cycle of play - the players fail the check to find secret doors, so the GM has a NPC tell the PCs where it is; or the players miss the turn off and so the GM has them come across the body of a dead NPC who happens to be carrying a map that shows the turn off; etc.

Both forms of fiat, but especially the second, can be used in combination with pre-authorship of the major events of play. The GM has decided that such-and-such a thing, or sequence of things, will happen in the fiction and then narrates the outcomes of declared actions, and frames subsequent scenes, so as to have those things happen. Here's an example, from the Prince Valiant Episode Book (pp 60-62; the author of the scenario is Mark Rein*Hagen):

You are hiking through the forest when you come across an abandoned hunting lodge, which is broken down and clearly hasn’t been used in many years. Exploring inside, you see a hunchback darting out of a secret passage in the fireplace and out the back door. The secret passage leads to a small dungeon where you hear clanking chains and eventually find a malnourished young boy locked in a cell. . . .

Get the Adventurers to sympathize with Bryce [the boy], despite him not being a warrior type. . . .

They need to capture and question Quink the hunchback and find out who he worked for, to find out who did this to Bryce. . . .

The Adventurers must now scour the forest to find Quink, for which they likely need a tracker or some trick (such as food as bait) to find the wily hunchback. Your goal here is to make them realize that he is truly terrified of the person who ordered him to care for Bryce in the dungeon, and cannot name them. But it is possible to get many other details out of him. At the same time, they can talk to Bryce while healing him back to health, which only takes 2-3 days. . . .

As soon as they enter the duchy, it is immediately obvious that there has been a peasant revolt of some kind. . .

In the distance, the Adventurers see the entire peasant army, numbering in the thousands, gathered outside the duke’s castle, parts of which are on fire, including the gatehouse. It appears they have come just in time to see the final storming of the castle. At this point the Adventurers’ actions can have a direct impact on the story. . . .

Whatever happened, you need to have things end up with Bryce’s father, the duke, dead. . . .

Bryce’s sister [Alia] is now left as the titular ruler of the castle . . . She receives the conquerors in the great hall (which is also the throne room), where she sits on the throne. One way or another, the Adventurers should be in attendance of this meeting, with Bryce trying to remain hidden from her. . . .

Which way things go should be greatly affected by what the Adventures do and say at this time. If you can somehow get them to take different sides without coming into direct conflict it would be perfect. . . . No matter what, however, before they leave the Throne Room, Bryce step out of the crowd and reveals himself. . . .

Unless the Adventurers step in, [the situation] quickly devolves into violence. Even if they do get involved, it ends in one single act of violence . . .

At this point you need to have things wind up with someone trying to kill someone else as a result of the heated argument over what to do. . . . but no matter what happens, Bryce throws himself in the way and takes the wound himself instead of them, and by so doing proves his true nobility. Try to arrange it that Bryce does not die, but you can leave it up to chance if you want. But as he lies there wounded, first the castle folk (or maybe the Adventurers) bow to him, then the yeoman, then the peasants.

What happens now is also mostly up to the Adventurers. Much of the peasant army will have left by now . . . If left up to Bryce, he would let Alia go, but that would be a mistake; she is an extremely capable and dangerous foe and would make trouble for years to come. The best solution would perhaps to have her become a nun, forcibly sworn to take the oath. Not matter what happens, if the Adventurers do not take Alia’s side in this, and she does not end up dead somehow, they will have an extremely capable and crafty enemy for life who will stop at nothing to take her revenge on them.​

A group who plays this scenario as it is written is not playing to find out, because - as I hope the material I have quoted makes clear - all the major events of play are already set out: who the PCs will meet, what will be at stake in those encounters, what will happen to those NPCs, etc. There are many D&D modules that are broadly similar in this respect - two that come immediately to mind are Dead Gods (2nd ed AD&D) and Expedition to the Demonweb Pits (3E D&D).

There are approaches to the use of prep in play that do no involve pre-authoring the major events of play. Two quite different illustrations are the well-known module B2 Keep on the Borderlands; and town preparation in Dogs in the Vineyard. At least the latter is intended to support playing to find out. And Vincent Baker is very clear that prep for the game does not include pre-authorship of the major events of play (DitV, pp 137-38, 143):

Don’t play “the story.” The choices you present to the PCs have to be real choices, which means that you can’t possibly know already which way they’ll choose. You can’t have plot points in mind beforehand, things like “gotta get the PCs up to that old cabin so they can witness Brother Ezekiel murdering Sister Abigail...” No. What if the PCs reconcile Brother Ezekiel and Sister Abigail? You’ve wasted your time. Worse, what if, because you’ve invested your time, you don’t let the PCs reconcile them?
You’ve robbed the players of the game. . . .

If you’ve GMed many other roleplaying games, this’ll be the hardest part of all: let go of “what’s going to happen”. Play the town. Play your NPCs. Leave “what’s going to happen” to what happens. . . .

If you’re GMing by the rules, you have absolutely no power to nudge things toward your desired outcome. It’s best for everybody, I mean especially it’s best for you too, if you just don’t prefer one outcome to another.​

I've used Keep on the Borderlands for an approach to play that is a bit like what Baker is describing here, but that's not really canonical with how the module actually presents itself, which is as a dungeon-crawler.
 

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