D&D 5E 5e* - D&D-now

One question to think about is - which is the larger, the player-character, or the game-world?
I'm not sure what 'larger' means precisely. They're two necessary parts of a whole fiction.
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.
Well... maybe, maybe not. I think you can play even a game like DW in a few styles. I would say it should always be pretty 'committed', but it doesn't have to portray the action of the game as being laser focused, that is the NARRATIVE from the PC's point of view could be quite different, the parts that digress from what the game focuses on will simply be largely glossed over and reduced the essential parts. A game could, for example, depict a cross-continental exploration mission (IE Lewis & Clark) where 99% of the time it is just dull boring plodding over trackless landscape and poking around. The other 1% is fraught with danger, etc. and the end result is a pretty epic tale. Merriweather Lewis however probably was a bit bored much of the time...
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
I don't see why. There is a "time before there was a game" and a "time when the participants agreed as to how to run the game" and then a "Time of the Game itself." I see no compelling reason why we MUST include them all in an analysis of things that primarily concern running the game. It is enough to acknowledge that in the agreement time something was somehow agreed upon, and then look at what that is. I mean, asking "why did this specific agreement come about" MIGHT have some value, but probably more in terms of a game designer adding features to a game that attract people to playing it, vs attributes of actual play.
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.
Again, I'm not finding a reason to call this an issue. It seems outside the scope of my current interest, at the very least.
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.
Eh, I don't think they did 'consciously afford' that. I think it is mostly just a truth that you can bend RPGs a whole bunch, at least most of them. FOR ME at least the other truth also remains, I can run a Story Game more easily with other systems. 4e (and my bastard step-child of it) has the huge virtue IMHO of being both pretty D&D-like, and yet vastly easier on the DM!
 

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pemerton

Legend
Right, since there aren't hard and fast rules for that stuff it becomes a mix of pure fiction and ad-hoc 'roll a d6 for this' kinds of stuff. Plus classic D&D lacks anything like 'skills' for the most part, so RP happens. Basically its like "There are three levers. I pull the middle one! OK, the floor drops out from beneath you!" Pure fiction, with just GM pre-defined backstory, ideally.
A month or so ago I ran a session of White Plume Mountain. The PCs crossed a water-filled pit by jumping (in my AD&D variant this is mechanically governed, using an adaptation of the WSG rules integrated with the UA thief-acrobat rules) but making moves in the fiction (my memory is a bit hazy but I think they had a strong PC be a "catcher" or similar leaning out over the edge of the pit and braced with ropes). They were hosed by the heat induction passage, and one of them got killed by the ghouls. Then in the frictionless room, they resolved it via pure fiction: hammering pitons into the walls so they could use a rope to get themselves across.

It's interesting how Torchbearer straddles between pure fiction and the use of checks. I've been thinking of making a post or starting a new thread about its approach.
 

A month or so ago I ran a session of White Plume Mountain. The PCs crossed a water-filled pit by jumping (in my AD&D variant this is mechanically governed, using an adaptation of the WSG rules integrated with the UA thief-acrobat rules) but making moves in the fiction (my memory is a bit hazy but I think they had a strong PC be a "catcher" or similar leaning out over the edge of the pit and braced with ropes). They were hosed by the heat induction passage, and one of them got killed by the ghouls. Then in the frictionless room, they resolved it via pure fiction: hammering pitons into the walls so they could use a rope to get themselves across.

It's interesting how Torchbearer straddles between pure fiction and the use of checks. I've been thinking of making a post or starting a new thread about its approach.
Sounds interesting. It does seem to be a bit more on the "checks are resolving your character's skill in accomplishing something" SOME of the time, but then there's the BW Wises kind of "come up with some fiction" things too. I think you can kind of do that with Nature, but I just have to play and figure out exactly how things work.
 

pemerton

Legend
That side steps my question. Drives from it!? The underlined part - F > S > F. Where the 'S' is DW Hack & Slash. What about the mechanic drives the following F?
I already posted an answer to this question:
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 @AbdulAlhazred made some similar points in post 308.
 

pemerton

Legend
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.
The bits that I've bolded aren't all in the fiction.

The air elemental is an ally looks like fiction.
The air elemental is adjacent to the atropoal may be fiction or may be a description of a cue, depending on if/how you are using a battlemap in combat resolution.
The rogues gets +Nd6 damage vs the atropal is not fiction. It's a fact about the cues and the mechanics.

The basic structure here is the same as Baker's example if I take the high ground and so get +2 to hit. It's a rightward arrow. (See steps 1 and 3 in Baker's first example resolution system here.)

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.
The bits I've bolded look, to me, like propositions about cues and mechanics. I don't see how Drusilia, in the fiction, is talking about movement rates and action declarations (dash vs shoot) and action economy (cunning action). Those to me look like the sorts of things a player says when talking about the mechanical scope for action. They seem no different from a player saying We should retreat because my PC has only got 10 hp left. Similarly, the reference to damage. The reasoning is not clouds-to-clouds (because Drusilia is exhausted, her shots are feeble). It is cues to cues (because exhausted is noted on the PC sheet, a certain mechanical process is applied to the player's attack and/or damage roll).

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.
This does not seem to describe any action resolution. I can't tell how much of this was actually state by Clement's player. But this seems to be a player reminding themself and/or their fellow players of their PC's motivation. In the fiction, it may also be Clement reminding Drusilia of his motivation. But I don't see (eg) a CHA (Persuasion) check to life Drusilia's exhaustion, or grant a morale bonus to attack or defence; the sorts of things one might see in (say) Prince Valiant or MHRP/Cortex+ Heroic.

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.
A fair bit of this is cubes: crossing of Clement's spell slot; resolving Clement's action "I cast a spell"; changing Drusilia's PC sheet (I am assuming that the spell has been used to reduce her exhaustion level by one - that's all cubes-to-cubes).

Had the wail not exhausted, then character movespaces would contain other valid choices, so what they subsequently said would have differed.
This looks to me like a description primarily of cube-to-cube reaoning.

Even though the wail is itself an event in the fiction, I'm not sure if every time the being wails it generates this effect; or only if the GM chooses to have this be an enervating wail. So even the fact that the wail is an enervating one may be a decision made by the GM in the arena of cues.

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.
What you describe does not, in its basic structure of play, seem very different from my AD&D 2nd ed play, or my Rolemaster play, or my 4e D&D play. Players declare actions for their PCs that are consistent with the motivations they are imagining for their PCs. No one else at the table seems to contest those motivations ("The player decides what their PC thinks and feels.")

In the granular details we see the cubes-to-cubes typical of D&D - action economy, attack rolls and damage rolls, the use of healing magic, etc. The motivations don't generate particular features of the action resolution process, nor constrain them, by way of rightward arrows. I don't see any "beginning and ending with the fiction" in the DW sense - for instance, Clement's action ends with mechanics (Drusilia's changed exhaustion status), not fiction.

Had character motives differed, then the process they chose to execute would differ, thus having different results.
Any RPG not played in pure pawn stance involves imagined and imputed character motives. But this does not mean that a player's decision to have their PC cast a spell to reduce the opponent's hit point, or improve an ally's hit points, involves clouds-to-cubes. Clouds-to-cubes is a framework for analysing action resolution (hence the heading, 3 Resolution Systems, not for describing why players declare particular actions.

The complaint seems to be resolving motives and constraints in fiction, in system, but that is exactly what is implied by F > S > F.
All this is doing is restating that the players are not in pawn stance. It tells us nothing about whether or not their are rightward arrows in action resolution. Baker introduced his clouds-arrows-cubes framework to, at least in part, critique various RPG designs, including his design of In A Wicked Age, and systems (perhaps like @AbdulAlhazred's favourite ultra-lite game PACE) that resolve only intent but do not actually reveal/exhibit what is was that took place to produce the desired outcome. The way you are using F >S > F those critiques become impossible to state. Eg F (the characters have motivations) > S (some sort of bidding system) > F (one of the characters now has what they want). The critique of resolve-only-intent systems disappears. Or F (the characters have best interests that motivate their players to declare actions) > S (the In A Wicked Age dice roll system) > F (now we know which character is closer to realising their best interests). The critique of In A Wicked Age's lack of rightward arrows has disappeared. I've already pointed out, in several posts upthread, that your framework makes it impossible to state the difference between D&D combat resolution and the combat resolution rules found in the simulationist reactions to D&D like RQ and RM.

In other words, and as @AbdulAlhazred suggested upthread (post #322), I don't think that you are using the notion of arrows linking cubes and clouds to one another in the way that Vincent Baker is. My usage is following Baker's. And that's because I think his framework is useful: it captures some fundamental differences between RPG systems. I don't see the point of an account of the fiction-mechanics relationship in which these various different ways of establishing that relationship can't be stated.

Overall, I am not seeing what is distinctive about 5e* as a RPG, other than the particular mechanical processes that it inherits from the 5e rulebooks. Your F > S > F seems to be a repudiation of pawn stance RPGing, but I don't see how it goes beyond that.
 

pemerton

Legend
The LP makes it that anything leading to agreement about what happens in play, can be counted as system.
This is not accurate.

Upthread I quoted two formulations of the Lumpley Principle:

[N]othing happens, in the fiction of role-playing, unless someone says it and it's heard by others. . . . Whatever mechanics you use, you are agreeing to use them among the group, usually as a creative inspiration or constraint, specifically as a way to affect what is going to be said.

System (including but not limited to 'the rules') is defined as the means by which the group agrees to imagined events during play.​

The second of those two formulations is not equivalent (either abstractly, or in its reference) to system is anything leading to agreement about imagined events in play.

Here are some things that help lead to agreement about imagined events but are (typically) not among the means by which a group secures such agreement, and hence are not elements of system: familiarity with one another; easy-going dispositions; common cultural background which supports shared patterns of thinking about how particular stories "should" go on; shared assumptions about who "should" own what elements of the fiction.

The Lumpley Principle, in both its formulations, serves a point.

The point of the first formulation is to stress that RPG rules are not self-actualising. They must be taken up and applied in a social context. (This is sometimes expressed via a shorthand like "social contract is prior to system".)

The point of the second formulation is to stress that system, in RPGing, includes elements that go beyond the things standardly presented as action resolution mechanics. It includes principles that constrain narration; allocations of ownership to elements of the fiction (these might be seen as a special case of principles that constrain narration - go to town in your narration if it's a bit that you own, but otherwise maybe dial it back a bit); rules or principles that govern turn-taking; etc.

But the second formulation is still a claim within the field of studying RPG design and RPG play. It is not an assertion about the general psychology of agreement.

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.
Taking fictional positioning as the set of valid (legitimate and effective) things I can say
I don't see why we need to redefine fictional positioning.

Here is Vincent Baker:

Here's Emily Care Boss, writing in 2006 about the reward cycles she sees in freeform play:

creativity: free form play, of whatever stripe, has as its primary reward the creation of in-game events, material etc. Think about how allocation of narrative rights have become a huge part of mechanical systems: people want to be able to be creative, and giving them the right to do so is a powerful reward. How this is allotted and allocated in free-form is not as regulated by reproducible procedures, though, instead it often comes down to things like the informal social networks that Christian [Griffen] points out. Because of:
reinforcement and mirroring: what is real in a game world is what gets played/with. If everyone else ignores or doesn't know about what you've made up, it may as well not exist. So, the people who are the most "powerful" creatively speaking in freeform, are the ones whose ideas get picked up on and incorporated into the play of others. Those whose actions affect others and who end up having them reverberate around the shared creation. This can be done via any channel depending on the type of play: character action, background creation, informal discussion out of character, or "gming" (which in free-form, means setting the parameters of play, use of props, dissemination of information, creation of guidelines and intervention/adjudication. damn, online gms can do a hell of alot, more even, than tabletop ones, in a way, because there may be so many more people involved. same with large larps).
positioning: this is a wierd one that seems to arise out of the way that narrative control is not parcelled out in a regulated way in freeform. Other folks may have had very different experiences, so take it with a grain of salt. Anyway, what it is is setting up in-game events and interpretations to support your following (character) actions. For example, if I want to shoot your character with a gun, I have to first establish that there is a gun present, that it is loaded etc. If I want to kill your character, I will have to establish, and get others to collaborate with me in establishing, that my character can keep yours from escaping, that mine has the ability to successfully shoot yours, that help will not arrive in time etc. Instead of a die roll, based on various things that represent all this stuff, it has to be negotiated, or simply spoken and accepted as "what has happened" in order for it to occur. So in freeform, you may be thinking (even unconsciously) three moves down the road, in order to back yourself up on future actions.
Well, that's a couple anyway. Sorry to go on. It is a big thing for me, though, that there are systems in there, even if they are unspoken and little understood.​
(my emphasis; original here)

Here, Emily's talking about the player's position: what gameplay options do I, as a player, have available to me right now? Over the course of the game, my legitimate moves change; what are my legitimate moves at this moment of play?

In freeform games, Emily says, what determines your selection of available legitimate moves is the current state of the fictional stuff in the game. If there's a gun in your character's hand, that adds certain moves to the selection available to you, the player. If there's a gun in someone else's character's hand, that changes the likely outcomes of the moves you might make.

(For now, let's politely pretend that making a move in a roleplaying game means asserting something, like "my guy shoots yours," and subjecting it to the group's assent or dissent to determine its actual in-game veracity. I think this is not true, but it makes it easier for now.)

Contrast freeform with cue-mediation. The freeform rule at play here is "if you've established that your character is holding a gun, all other things being equal, it's a legitimate move to assert that your character fires it at someone." The equivalent cue-mediated rule would be "if you have a gun on your character sheet, all other things being equal, it's a legitimate move to assert that your character fires it at someone." See the difference? Playing freeform, we look into the fiction-as-established to determine whether a possible move is legitimate; playing with cues, we look over at the cue to determine whether it is.​

Given that D&D is cue-laden, many of the legitimate moves that a player can make will follow not from fictional position but from the state of the cues ("cue position"). For instance, whether my PC is conscious or unconscious is typically not an element of fictional position but rather follows from the fact that my hp tally is greater than zero. Attack reach, in contemporary D&D, is likewise typically a matter of cues and not fictional position (contrast Dungeon World, or some approaches to AD&D).

The "typically" in my previous sentence sits in the same conceptual space as Baker's "all other things being equal":

In a given game design or game in play, freeform and cue-mediation can happily coexist. You see where I included "all other things being equal" in both rules? Often in practice that includes a quick check across the boundary between them. Like when you have a pistol on your character sheet, but in the fiction as established your character's just stepping out of the shower, right?​

As far as everything a player is motivated to say, that does not seem to be part of position at all. Rather, and as Emily Care Boss explains, it is motivation that drives positioning: ie because I want the fiction to include such-and-such a thing (say, my PC isn't killed by the giant), then I have a motivation to establish an appropriate position that will enable me to avoid that outcome, be that a fictional position (eg I'm hidden from the giant) or a cue position (eg I've got a sword of giant-slaying on my PC's gear list). Of course my current position might constrain my possibilities of further positions (eg fiction like I've just encountered a giant on an open plain or a cue record like I'm subjected to paralysation). But I don't see how motivated action declarations are themselves part of position (fictional or cue).
 

pemerton

Legend
Sounds interesting. It does seem to be a bit more on the "checks are resolving your character's skill in accomplishing something" SOME of the time, but then there's the BW Wises kind of "come up with some fiction" things too.
I don't think there's much of the BW Wises thing in Torchbearer, at least as written.

But the GM-side rules distinguish between saying That's a Good Idea (ie say yes because it sounds plausible/clever) and calling for a check. From the Scholar's Guide, p 216:

If you think the players have come up with a smart use of their gear, spells or even bodies—then there is no need to roll the dice or test, no need to spend a check and it doesn’t cost a turn. Simply say to them, “That’s a good idea,” then describe the effect of their action. It’s as if they passed a test without rolling dice or taking a turn (though they don’t get advances from it)."​

So there is a trade-off between (i) avoiding the advance of the grind and avoiding the risk of a twist or condition, and (ii) earning a passed or failed test towards advancement.

Another illustration of how particular techniques in a RPG open up bigger possibilities. Because 5e D&D doesn't link checks to advancement, and doesn't have a systematic way for establishing costs of making and/or failing a check, there is no basis for setting up this sort of trade-off.
 

clearstream

(He, Him)
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.
And just to remind ourselves

An RPG - C*​

The game loop is
  • DM establishes fiction setting things in motion
  • Players say what their characters say and do
  • DM arbitrates
  • DM narrates the results
To say what your character says or does, say something, that follows from your preestablished fiction and the ongoing conversation, that uncovers and shapes future conversation; don't say anything that doesn't accord with your principles

To arbitrate, when it follows, decide consistent with your preestablished fiction and the ongoing conversation; don't decide in a way that doesn't accord with your principles
  • If you decide something is impossible, say and ask for clarification
  • If you decide something is sure to succeed, say that it does
  • If you decide something is uncertain and it matters, make a call
To narrate the results, say something that follows from your preestablished fiction and the ongoing conversation, that uncovers and shapes future conversation; don't say anything that doesn't accord with your principles
I think you are not resting your case upon the presence of a stochastic method for choosing between outcomes, because you say

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.
Thus you are making an assumption that in C* making a call is unfettered. It's not shaped and directed. But C* admonishes DM - "don't decide in a way that doesn't accord with your principles." Therefore DM may very well make their call according to general principles applied to concrete states of affairs - such as pre-established fiction / foregoing conversation - and it will be shaped and directed.

The second part of what you say could seem to reintroduce doubt on that score. [That is, doubt on the possibility of finding anything out when arbitrating by principles rather than roll.]

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".
It might help to have in mind Alan Calhamer's Diplomacy here. According to what you say, as France I can't learn what happens next, because I decide exactly what moves I will be making. There's no uncertainty in outcomes in Diplomacy: among players all things are decided. And yet, everyone at the table - including France - is surprised when they learn what happens next. There is the possibility that a C* DM is following a principle of play as a form of negotiation, in which their moves will only be settled in full consideration of the moves of the players.

It should be obvious - and maybe it is - but what counts is that all participants can add things to the conversation, and that what they add must follow [the implication is a principled negotiation]. The adding itself can be an asymmetrical negotiation between them, but it's not asymmetrical in power, it is asymmetrical in scope. There is a lusory attitude required to bring an honesty or clarity to this. What should happen when the arch-cat Gog attempts to stalk the hellhound Hemlock? Well, in our prior fiction we learned that... and so... but what about... in that case I'll... and everyone learns what happens next. If one should have doubts, it should be doubt that DM ever gets to make calls due to uncertainty in C*, rather than that making such calls will somehow invalidate playing to find out.
 
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The bits that I've bolded aren't all in the fiction.

The air elemental is an ally looks like fiction.
The air elemental is adjacent to the atropoal may be fiction or may be a description of a cue, depending on if/how you are using a battlemap in combat resolution.
The rogues gets +Nd6 damage vs the atropal is not fiction. It's a fact about the cues and the mechanics.

The basic structure here is the same as Baker's example if I take the high ground and so get +2 to hit. It's a rightward arrow. (See steps 1 and 3 in Baker's first example resolution system here.)

The bits I've bolded look, to me, like propositions about cues and mechanics. I don't see how Drusilia, in the fiction, is talking about movement rates and action declarations (dash vs shoot) and action economy (cunning action). Those to me look like the sorts of things a player says when talking about the mechanical scope for action. They seem no different from a player saying We should retreat because my PC has only got 10 hp left. Similarly, the reference to damage. The reasoning is not clouds-to-clouds (because Drusilia is exhausted, her shots are feeble). It is cues to cues (because exhausted is noted on the PC sheet, a certain mechanical process is applied to the player's attack and/or damage roll).

This does not seem to describe any action resolution. I can't tell how much of this was actually state by Clement's player. But this seems to be a player reminding themself and/or their fellow players of their PC's motivation. In the fiction, it may also be Clement reminding Drusilia of his motivation. But I don't see (eg) a CHA (Persuasion) check to life Drusilia's exhaustion, or grant a morale bonus to attack or defence; the sorts of things one might see in (say) Prince Valiant or MHRP/Cortex+ Heroic.

A fair bit of this is cubes: crossing of Clement's spell slot; resolving Clement's action "I cast a spell"; changing Drusilia's PC sheet (I am assuming that the spell has been used to reduce her exhaustion level by one - that's all cubes-to-cubes).

This looks to me like a description primarily of cube-to-cube reaoning.

Even though the wail is itself an event in the fiction, I'm not sure if every time the being wails it generates this effect; or only if the GM chooses to have this be an enervating wail. So even the fact that the wail is an enervating one may be a decision made by the GM in the arena of cues.

What you describe does not, in its basic structure of play, seem very different from my AD&D 2nd ed play, or my Rolemaster play, or my 4e D&D play. Players declare actions for their PCs that are consistent with the motivations they are imagining for their PCs. No one else at the table seems to contest those motivations ("The player decides what their PC thinks and feels.")

In the granular details we see the cubes-to-cubes typical of D&D - action economy, attack rolls and damage rolls, the use of healing magic, etc. The motivations don't generate particular features of the action resolution process, nor constrain them, by way of rightward arrows. I don't see any "beginning and ending with the fiction" in the DW sense - for instance, Clement's action ends with mechanics (Drusilia's changed exhaustion status), not fiction.

Any RPG not played in pure pawn stance involves imagined and imputed character motives. But this does not mean that a player's decision to have their PC cast a spell to reduce the opponent's hit point, or improve an ally's hit points, involves clouds-to-cubes. Clouds-to-cubes is a framework for analysing action resolution (hence the heading, 3 Resolution Systems, not for describing why players declare particular actions.

All this is doing is restating that the players are not in pawn stance. It tells us nothing about whether or not their are rightward arrows in action resolution. Baker introduced his clouds-arrows-cubes framework to, at least in part, critique various RPG designs, including his design of In A Wicked Age, and systems (perhaps like @AbdulAlhazred's favourite ultra-lite game PACE) that resolve only intent but do not actually reveal/exhibit what is was that took place to produce the desired outcome. The way you are using F >S > F those critiques become impossible to state. Eg F (the characters have motivations) > S (some sort of bidding system) > F (one of the characters now has what they want). The critique of resolve-only-intent systems disappears. Or F (the characters have best interests that motivate their players to declare actions) > S (the In A Wicked Age dice roll system) > F (now we know which character is closer to realising their best interests). The critique of In A Wicked Age's lack of rightward arrows has disappeared. I've already pointed out, in several posts upthread, that your framework makes it impossible to state the difference between D&D combat resolution and the combat resolution rules found in the simulationist reactions to D&D like RQ and RM.
Right, so PACE has this issue, which is addressed better in PbtAs (and probably is why I haven't run it in a while, one reason anyway) which is it can be hard to 'get back to the fiction' sometimes. Jon is 'Debonair: 4' and Jill (an NPC) is 'Hard as Nails: 3'. Jon needs to seduce Jill (we'll assume there's a motive here, which is pure fiction that we start from, as well as fictional position putting them in an appropriate situation). So, Jon's player naturally declares some sort of action, "Jon, using his skill with the ladies, picks an opportune moment and kisses Jill." The GM decides this is no foregone conclusion, Jill's motivations aren't entirely compatible with Jon's, he's going to have to stake something on the outcome. Now, he SHOULD at this point need, fictionally, to describe some stake, at the very least perhaps his actions could put her off and make him look bad. As the GM has called this a conflict, however, its pretty easy to leave all that unstated and the player can simply say "well, I have 4 points on my side, for Debonair." The GM could simply respond likewise "well, I have 3 points for Hard as Nails, and I spend 2 more from my pool, for 5..." But what actually happened? You can run this mechanical 'boxes' auction and its so general it can represent anything, and you don't even have to say. I mean, you SHOULD say, but its too easy not to. Its not like DW where you really CANNOT proceed without fiction. Now, I think this is a lot like what Baker was complaining about with In a Wicked Age, and the observation that it "eventually catches up with you" is equally valid. At SOME POINT we will have to know what happened between Jon and Jill in fictional terms! (maybe it will just remain untold, depending on the direction things take, perhaps). At the very best we've not resolved something about Jon's character. Did he try to force himself on her? Had she heard about how he treated her friend Jane? Does he actually have feelings for her? And if so, how can he show that when he's just seen by everyone as an insincere lady-killer (as implied by his trait)? Unless we actually attach the fiction to the mechanics, we won't know, but the PACE system doesn't really have a way to put 'teeth' on the fiction (not surprising, its author described it as a game that was just written as an exercise, and it is only a few pages long).
In other words, and as @AbdulAlhazred suggested upthread (post #322), I don't think that you are using the notion of arrows linking cubes and clouds to one another in the way that Vincent Baker is. My usage is following Baker's. And that's because I think his framework is useful: it captures some fundamental differences between RPG systems. I don't see the point of an account of the fiction-mechanics relationship in which these various different ways of establishing that relationship can't be stated.

Overall, I am not seeing what is distinctive about 5e* as a RPG, other than the particular mechanical processes that it inherits from the 5e rulebooks. Your F > S > F seems to be a repudiation of pawn stance RPGing, but I don't see how it goes beyond that.
Yeah, I think admonishing the GM to say 'what matters' and then taking every such statement of fiction as being NECESSARILY important and thus worthy of some rightward arrow is OK. It might, for instance, be a sort of way to fix PACE, where you say "well, lets add points for situation, anything I say as GM matters, and if you can describe how it helps you, then I MUST grant you the right to spent points on it." It still needs to be coupled with stronger reasons to tie back to fiction, like maybe the player can ONLY spend points on things that the GM describes in his part of the fiction, or something like that. You then need DW-like principles to insure the GM actually does it, etc. The problem here being, DW STARTS at the principles, PACE starts at a bidding system. Its a bit of a fun game for one-offs, but unless the players are pretty versed in Story Game, it won't work well. I think 5e* has analogous issues. You and I and Manbearcat could sit down and play a Story Now game with it that would work, but I'm pretty sure if some of the other posters here run it, even sticking to the 'letter of the law' for narration, it will come across as just D&D, bog standard. Maybe GOOD D&D, but not different from any other good 5e game.
 

This is not accurate.

Upthread I quoted two formulations of the Lumpley Principle:

[N]othing happens, in the fiction of role-playing, unless someone says it and it's heard by others. . . . Whatever mechanics you use, you are agreeing to use them among the group, usually as a creative inspiration or constraint, specifically as a way to affect what is going to be said.​
System (including but not limited to 'the rules') is defined as the means by which the group agrees to imagined events during play.​

The second of those two formulations is not equivalent (either abstractly, or in its reference) to system is anything leading to agreement about imagined events in play.

Here are some things that help lead to agreement about imagined events but are (typically) not among the means by which a group secures such agreement, and hence are not elements of system: familiarity with one another; easy-going dispositions; common cultural background which supports shared patterns of thinking about how particular stories "should" go on; shared assumptions about who "should" own what elements of the fiction.

The Lumpley Principle, in both its formulations, serves a point.

The point of the first formulation is to stress that RPG rules are not self-actualising. They must be taken up and applied in a social context. (This is sometimes expressed via a shorthand like "social contract is prior to system".)

The point of the second formulation is to stress that system, in RPGing, includes elements that go beyond the things standardly presented as action resolution mechanics. It includes principles that constrain narration; allocations of ownership to elements of the fiction (these might be seen as a special case of principles that constrain narration - go to town in your narration if it's a bit that you own, but otherwise maybe dial it back a bit); rules or principles that govern turn-taking; etc.

But the second formulation is still a claim within the field of studying RPG design and RPG play. It is not an assertion about the general psychology of agreement.


I don't see why we need to redefine fictional positioning.

Here is Vincent Baker:

Here's Emily Care Boss, writing in 2006 about the reward cycles she sees in freeform play:​
creativity: free form play, of whatever stripe, has as its primary reward the creation of in-game events, material etc. Think about how allocation of narrative rights have become a huge part of mechanical systems: people want to be able to be creative, and giving them the right to do so is a powerful reward. How this is allotted and allocated in free-form is not as regulated by reproducible procedures, though, instead it often comes down to things like the informal social networks that Christian [Griffen] points out. Because of:​
reinforcement and mirroring: what is real in a game world is what gets played/with. If everyone else ignores or doesn't know about what you've made up, it may as well not exist. So, the people who are the most "powerful" creatively speaking in freeform, are the ones whose ideas get picked up on and incorporated into the play of others. Those whose actions affect others and who end up having them reverberate around the shared creation. This can be done via any channel depending on the type of play: character action, background creation, informal discussion out of character, or "gming" (which in free-form, means setting the parameters of play, use of props, dissemination of information, creation of guidelines and intervention/adjudication. damn, online gms can do a hell of alot, more even, than tabletop ones, in a way, because there may be so many more people involved. same with large larps).​
positioning: this is a wierd one that seems to arise out of the way that narrative control is not parcelled out in a regulated way in freeform. Other folks may have had very different experiences, so take it with a grain of salt. Anyway, what it is is setting up in-game events and interpretations to support your following (character) actions. For example, if I want to shoot your character with a gun, I have to first establish that there is a gun present, that it is loaded etc. If I want to kill your character, I will have to establish, and get others to collaborate with me in establishing, that my character can keep yours from escaping, that mine has the ability to successfully shoot yours, that help will not arrive in time etc. Instead of a die roll, based on various things that represent all this stuff, it has to be negotiated, or simply spoken and accepted as "what has happened" in order for it to occur. So in freeform, you may be thinking (even unconsciously) three moves down the road, in order to back yourself up on future actions.
Well, that's a couple anyway. Sorry to go on. It is a big thing for me, though, that there are systems in there, even if they are unspoken and little understood.​

(my emphasis; original here)​
Here, Emily's talking about the player's position: what gameplay options do I, as a player, have available to me right now? Over the course of the game, my legitimate moves change; what are my legitimate moves at this moment of play?​
In freeform games, Emily says, what determines your selection of available legitimate moves is the current state of the fictional stuff in the game. If there's a gun in your character's hand, that adds certain moves to the selection available to you, the player. If there's a gun in someone else's character's hand, that changes the likely outcomes of the moves you might make.​
(For now, let's politely pretend that making a move in a roleplaying game means asserting something, like "my guy shoots yours," and subjecting it to the group's assent or dissent to determine its actual in-game veracity. I think this is not true, but it makes it easier for now.)​
Contrast freeform with cue-mediation. The freeform rule at play here is "if you've established that your character is holding a gun, all other things being equal, it's a legitimate move to assert that your character fires it at someone." The equivalent cue-mediated rule would be "if you have a gun on your character sheet, all other things being equal, it's a legitimate move to assert that your character fires it at someone." See the difference? Playing freeform, we look into the fiction-as-established to determine whether a possible move is legitimate; playing with cues, we look over at the cue to determine whether it is.​

Given that D&D is cue-laden, many of the legitimate moves that a player can make will follow not from fictional position but from the state of the cues ("cue position"). For instance, whether my PC is conscious or unconscious is typically not an element of fictional position but rather follows from the fact that my hp tally is greater than zero. Attack reach, in contemporary D&D, is likewise typically a matter of cues and not fictional position (contrast Dungeon World, or some approaches to AD&D).

The "typically" in my previous sentence sits in the same conceptual space as Baker's "all other things being equal":

In a given game design or game in play, freeform and cue-mediation can happily coexist. You see where I included "all other things being equal" in both rules? Often in practice that includes a quick check across the boundary between them. Like when you have a pistol on your character sheet, but in the fiction as established your character's just stepping out of the shower, right?​

As far as everything a player is motivated to say, that does not seem to be part of position at all. Rather, and as Emily Care Boss explains, it is motivation that drives positioning: ie because I want the fiction to include such-and-such a thing (say, my PC isn't killed by the giant), then I have a motivation to establish an appropriate position that will enable me to avoid that outcome, be that a fictional position (eg I'm hidden from the giant) or a cue position (eg I've got a sword of giant-slaying on my PC's gear list). Of course my current position might constrain my possibilities of further positions (eg fiction like I've just encountered a giant on an open plain or a cue record like I'm subjected to paralysation). But I don't see how motivated action declarations are themselves part of position (fictional or cue).
Yeah, and this is again sort of the problem with the PACE model, motivation is important, but it is NOT part of the fictional position. It is often unstated and pretty much unconstrained! In my Jon/Jill example, what are the emotional reactions of the characters to each other? The player probably decides those for Jon, maybe his use of his trait, possibly backed up by a willingness to use points (IE the player can stake some currency on it) can decide what Jill feels. So, a decent way to play that out is, Jon approaches Jill, he attempts to woo her, Jill is pretty tough-minded, but he's a pro! The GM decides to make him prove it though, he spends 2 points, Jill pulls out a knife and holds it to Jon, exclaiming that she won't be used like Jane was! The player could let that stand, Jill cuts him across the cheek and he flees. Or he could decide he wants to push it, this is an important goal for Jon! He says "Jon pours out his story to Jill, explaining how Mary set him up and he never intended to betray Jane!" OK, so this may be his 'spin' on the story, but the player spends 2 more points, Jill is convinced, she drops the knife... But there's no rule that says the game even has to be interpreted this way, really. Unlike DW where you can hope that everyone reading the rules will be at least close to a mutual understanding of how it should play out, PACE doesn't SAY any of that, and usually if I get someone that normally plays D&D into a game using that system, they try to elide all the fiction!
 

I don't think there's much of the BW Wises thing in Torchbearer, at least as written.

But the GM-side rules distinguish between saying That's a Good Idea (ie say yes because it sounds plausible/clever) and calling for a check. From the Scholar's Guide, p 216:

If you think the players have come up with a smart use of their gear, spells or even bodies—then there is no need to roll the dice or test, no need to spend a check and it doesn’t cost a turn. Simply say to them, “That’s a good idea,” then describe the effect of their action. It’s as if they passed a test without rolling dice or taking a turn (though they don’t get advances from it)."​

So there is a trade-off between (i) avoiding the advance of the grind and avoiding the risk of a twist or condition, and (ii) earning a passed or failed test towards advancement.

Another illustration of how particular techniques in a RPG open up bigger possibilities. Because 5e D&D doesn't link checks to advancement, and doesn't have a systematic way for establishing costs of making and/or failing a check, there is no basis for setting up this sort of trade-off.
IMHO even more profoundly, 5e lacks any idea of what a check MEANS, even mechanically (outside of combat)! In TB2 if you pass a test, the turn count advances (the Grind), and you mark off success, and you have achieved the fictional intent of your action. It isn't even clear in 5e that you achieved anything, a GM could rule that you have to make 9 more climb checks to reach the top of the cliff. He could simply keep asking for more of them and not even set a definite number that generates overall success. That, in my mind, is really the fatal weakness of 5e as a Story Game. There simply is no 'valence' for actions. In the other thread which spawned this one @clearstream and @Manbearcat wrestled for many pages on this point. It is really KEY. 5e doesn't even really TALK about intent at all. Its resolution systems are fundamentally rooted in GM interpretation of a fiction that is already entirely generated BY the GM.
 

And just to remind ourselves


I think you are not resting your case upon the presence of a stochastic method for choosing between outcomes, because you say


Thus you are making an assumption that in C* making a call is unfettered. It's not shaped and directed. But C* admonishes DM - "don't decide in a way that doesn't accord with your principles." Therefore DM may very well make their call according to general principles applied to concrete states of affairs - such as pre-established fiction / foregoing conversation - and it will be shaped and directed.

The second part of what you say could seem to reintroduce doubt on that score. [That is, doubt on the possibility of finding anything out when arbitrating by principles rather than roll.]


It might help to have in mind Alan Calhamer's Diplomacy here. According to what you say, as France I can't learn what happens next, because I decide exactly what moves I will be making. There's no uncertainty in outcomes in Diplomacy: among players all things are decided. And yet, everyone at the table - including France - is surprised when they learn what happens next. There is the possibility that a C* DM is following a principle of play as a form of negotiation, in which their moves will only be settled in full consideration of the moves of the players.

It should be obvious - and maybe it is - but what counts is that all participants can add things to the conversation, and that what they add must follow [the implication is a principled negotiation]. The adding itself can be an asymmetrical negotiation between them, but it's not asymmetrical in power, it is asymmetrical in scope. There is a lusory attitude required to bring an honesty or clarity to this. What should happen when the arch-cat Gog attempts to stalk the hellhound Hemlock? Well, in our prior fiction we learned that... and so... but what about... in that case I'll... and everyone learns what happens next. If one should have doubts, it should be doubt that DM ever gets to make calls due to uncertainty in C*, rather than that making such calls will somehow invalidate playing to find out.
Well, assuming some certain set of principles, perhaps. However I think you are laying a lot on the doorstep of 'principles' here. A LOT of that is going to take construction of some sort of PROCESS in order to reliably reach consensus. That process is rules, and probably mechanics, not just abstract guiding principles. If a technique is always needed in a game of C* in order to progress in an orderly fashion, then I'd call that technique a part of the game, mechanically. Since your C* example doesn't specify any of this, it is not actually possible to draw any conclusions from it about how actual games work. Even if we tried to play this example game simply "as stated" we would minimally have to add something like "The GM always gets to decide what actually gets put in the fiction when there is any doubt." or something like that (it could be a player, a vote, etc. that decides, in most real RPGs it is just done with some dice).
 

clearstream

(He, Him)
Upthread I quoted two formulations of the Lumpley Principle:

[N]othing happens, in the fiction of role-playing, unless someone says it and it's heard by others. . . . Whatever mechanics you use, you are agreeing to use them among the group, usually as a creative inspiration or constraint, specifically as a way to affect what is going to be said.​
System (including but not limited to 'the rules') is defined as the means by which the group agrees to imagined events during play.​

The second of those two formulations is not equivalent (either abstractly, or in its reference) to system is anything leading to agreement about imagined events in play.
Means: An action or system by which a result is achieved; a method. System: The means [method] by which [that results in] the group agrees to imagined events during play. Including by means [methods] other than rules.

"Whatever mechanics you use, you are agreeing to use them." The action that achieves the result of agreeing to use the mechanics, is agreeing to use the game text as part of entering the magic circle. Predicated upon such agreement, the rules lay out the terms: the play that is afforded. It is for the sake of that play that participants enter into the agreement.

My reading then is that the LP emphasises the "social level of roleplaying" and I am directing thought onward to the terms being agreed to - rules and mechanics - for their consequences on play. Play isn't experienced as a continuous cycle of doubt and reluctant agreement, it is sustained by a lusory attitude; where agreement is a prior given, and what is of current interest is what the terms we've signed up for enable us to do. This gives constitutive rules their place. The LP is a vital principle, but it is not sufficient to explain RPG design and RPG play.

Here are some things that help lead to agreement about imagined events but are (typically) not among the means by which a group secures such agreement, and hence are not elements of system: familiarity with one another; easy-going dispositions; common cultural background which supports shared patterns of thinking about how particular stories "should" go on; shared assumptions about who "should" own what elements of the fiction.
I feel forced to reject the putative distinction you claim exists between 'helping to lead to a result', and being among 'methods by which a result is achieved'; but understanding shouldn't come down to struggles with the words themselves. What you might be trying to get at is explained here:

"some people view the LP expansively in a way that turns System into a combination of the Social Contract and Exploration levels of the Big Model. Social context and implicit influences are part of System. I call this "LP-maximalism."
"Against these views, there's the idea that the System only consists of the procedures (Techniques) evidenced in actual game play actions (Ephemera)"

Because you say that
The point of the first formulation is to stress that RPG rules are not self-actualising. They must be taken up and applied in a social context. (This is sometimes expressed via a shorthand like "social contract is prior to system".)

The point of the second formulation is to stress that system, in RPGing, includes elements that go beyond the things standardly presented as action resolution mechanics. It includes principles that constrain narration; allocations of ownership to elements of the fiction (these might be seen as a special case of principles that constrain narration - go to town in your narration if it's a bit that you own, but otherwise maybe dial it back a bit); rules or principles that govern turn-taking; etc.
You include some elements that are not rules, and in order to say what those are rather than leave them hopelessly unbounded, perhaps you can say that they're just the procedures evidenced in the actual game play actions. Does that sound right?

"I will not deny that choosing this definition of 'system' has a certain ideological background - when it was proposed, it was probably a powerful rhetorical weapon against people who thought that the social level of roleplaying was not the concern of game designers. But that ideology is not part of the analytic content of the principle. As behooves a definition, the analytic content of the principle is zero."
What I am pointing out instead is that you can never situate agreement to a rule, in that rule. For the rule to have authority, you have to enact or accept it: put it in force for yourself. Take this rule:

Rule 0: Agree with what @clearstream says.
Agreement to rule 0 cannot exist within the rule itself. You'll only agree with what I say, if first of all you agree to put rule 0 in force for yourself. As the quote above puts it, what was powerful is the reminding that the social level is a vital concern. Not that each separate procedure is part of a means of agreement. The right way to put it is that the separate procedures are enabled by agreement. The risk the LP identifies is that a designer can't forget that their rules are dependent on that prior agreement. They need to write rules that are appealing to agree to, because that's the point: we agree to them for the sake of what they enable us to do.

[To make this even clearer, consider - Rule 1: Agree to rule 0. - Even though rule 1 seems to be about securing agreement to rule 0, it does nothing without an earlier agreement that is decided externally to it. It cannot stand alone as the 'means' by which we agree to rule 0: something else is always needed.]

Rule Starry Form: As a bonus action, you can expend a use of your Wild Shape feature to take on a starry form, rather than transforming into a beast. While in your starry form, you retain your game statistics, but your body becomes luminous; your joints glimmer like stars, and glowing lines connect them as on a star chart. This form sheds bright light in a 10-foot radius and dim light for an additional 10 feet. The form lasts for 10 minutes. It ends early if you dismiss it (no action required), are incapacitated, die, or use this feature again.
Starry form isn't a method of reaching agreement, it's the terms we put in force for ourselves upon agreeing to use the Circle of Stars rules from TCoE. The LP reminds us that - as you say - the rules aren't self-actuating. Something has to happen - agreement to put them in force for ourselves. That's why I lean toward a maximalist interpretation - and that isn't limited or forestalled by other intents or interpretations.
 
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clearstream

(He, Him)
Well, assuming some certain set of principles, perhaps. However I think you are laying a lot on the doorstep of 'principles' here. A LOT of that is going to take construction of some sort of PROCESS in order to reliably reach consensus. That process is rules, and probably mechanics, not just abstract guiding principles. If a technique is always needed in a game of C* in order to progress in an orderly fashion, then I'd call that technique a part of the game, mechanically. Since your C* example doesn't specify any of this, it is not actually possible to draw any conclusions from it about how actual games work. Even if we tried to play this example game simply "as stated" we would minimally have to add something like "The GM always gets to decide what actually gets put in the fiction when there is any doubt." or something like that (it could be a player, a vote, etc. that decides, in most real RPGs it is just done with some dice).
So what I meant by the question about which is larger above, is to say that the power players have and the power DM has are equal, even where their scopes are different. Although one might suppose the game-world to be vast and player-characters to be small, in fiction they're far nearer to the same size. One way to measure that is count up what is added to the conversation. Another is to observe that DM prep is contingent - it can burn - while player-character prep is concrete.

It may seem like a non-sequitur, but one should ask of what you write in the piece quoted, what you make of the apparent irony in the focus on written game mechanics, for a mode that is intended to put fiction first? I don't think we should be arguing that the fewer mechanics we have, the less able we must be to put fiction first. I know that is not what you are saying, and I roughly agree with you that desirably the technique should be made part of the text. (It's part of the game as soon as it influences the game, but I think you mean the game text.)

The 5e designers were denied this option. Due to the commercial motivation of broadest appeal, they couldn't enforce any one mode of play in their text.
 

clearstream

(He, Him)
Well, that's a couple anyway. Sorry to go on. It is a big thing for me, though, that there are systems in there, even if they are unspoken and little understood.
Here I read that she is attributing freeform play with systems, which is interesting in its own right, but I want to address fictional positioning.

Here, Emily's talking about the player's position: what gameplay options do I, as a player, have available to me right now? Over the course of the game, my legitimate moves change; what are my legitimate moves at this moment of play?
In freeform games, Emily says, what determines your selection of available legitimate moves is the current state of the fictional stuff in the game. If there's a gun in your character's hand, that adds certain moves to the selection available to you, the player. If there's a gun in someone else's character's hand, that changes the likely outcomes of the moves you might make.​
Recall that I want my construct for fictional positioning to be predictive. It predicts the moves characters will make.

(For now, let's politely pretend that making a move in a roleplaying game means asserting something, like "my guy shoots yours," and subjecting it to the group's assent or dissent to determine its actual in-game veracity. I think this is not true, but it makes it easier for now.)
Politely pretending, while noticing that what is described never happens. We never subject moves to groups assent or dissent, rather players submit moves that follow the conversation. They only say what they believe will be assented to. Rarely, they say something that prompts dissent, which occasionally crashes them out of the magic circle.

Contrast freeform with cue-mediation. The freeform rule at play here is "if you've established that your character is holding a gun, all other things being equal, it's a legitimate move to assert that your character fires it at someone." The equivalent cue-mediated rule would be "if you have a gun on your character sheet, all other things being equal, it's a legitimate move to assert that your character fires it at someone." See the difference? Playing freeform, we look into the fiction-as-established to determine whether a possible move is legitimate; playing with cues, we look over at the cue to determine whether it is.
This doesn't match experience. It's a simplification. That may be all we need here.

Given that D&D is cue-laden, many of the legitimate moves that a player can make will follow not from fictional position but from the state of the cues ("cue position"). For instance, whether my PC is conscious or unconscious is typically not an element of fictional position but rather follows from the fact that my hp tally is greater than zero. Attack reach, in contemporary D&D, is likewise typically a matter of cues and not fictional position (contrast Dungeon World, or some approaches to AD&D).

The "typically" in my previous sentence sits in the same conceptual space as Baker's "all other things being equal":

In a given game design or game in play, freeform and cue-mediation can happily coexist. You see where I included "all other things being equal" in both rules? Often in practice that includes a quick check across the boundary between them. Like when you have a pistol on your character sheet, but in the fiction as established your character's just stepping out of the shower, right?​

As far as everything a player is motivated to say, that does not seem to be part of position at all. Rather, and as Emily Care Boss explains, it is motivation that drives positioning: ie because I want the fiction to include such-and-such a thing (say, my PC isn't killed by the giant), then I have a motivation to establish an appropriate position that will enable me to avoid that outcome, be that a fictional position (eg I'm hidden from the giant) or a cue position (eg I've got a sword of giant-slaying on my PC's gear list). Of course my current position might constrain my possibilities of further positions (eg fiction like I've just encountered a giant on an open plain or a cue record like I'm subjected to paralysation). But I don't see how motivated action declarations are themselves part of position (fictional or cue).
I have two concerns in mind here. First, I don't observe motivation in play as Newtonian, a force that is applied once to a character in a vacuum, who is propelled onward imperturbably from there. Rather, motivations are continuously being formed, revised, and applied. They are layered from overarching to immediate, and hold differing priorities for action. Second, it wouldn't matter if motivation was Newtonian: it must still be counted in fictional positioning.

if I want to shoot your character with a gun, I have to first establish that there is a gun present,
Think this through in a few different ways. First without motivation. I don't want to shoot you with a gun. Say there is nevertheless a gun present because we're in an armory. A gun is therefore squarely within the legitimate moves, but it's not one that will enter the fiction. If it did, it would feel jarring to all concerned. Dem was strictly unmotivated to shoot Jo with a gun, but Dem shot Jo with a gun. After the fact, everyone would most likely try to impute a motivation for the shooting to Dem.

If I want to kill your character, I will have to establish, and get others to collaborate with me in establishing, that my character can keep yours from escaping, that mine has the ability to successfully shoot yours, that help will not arrive in time etc.
Say Jo tries to escape as imagined here. If Dem is unmotivated, Dem doesn't try to keep Jo from escaping even though that would be a legitimate move. I can't stress this enough - there are at any time a vast number of legitimate moves. Dem could have hopped on one foot. That would be a legitimate move (were motivation not at issue.)

Those moves a character has motivations in connection with, form the subset from which they choose what they say next. Unmotivated moves aren't in that subset. It's meaningless to talk about the vast number of legitimate moves that have nothing to do with what's going on. Hopping on one foot might be an example (there's probably cases where it isn't).

And those motivations change all the time. Say Dem is threatened by Jo and about to run (motivated to escape), when as a result of "looking around desperately" she spots a loaded six-shooter. She snatches it up and forms a new motivation - the shoe is on the other foot - "right Jo, tell me who's behind the plot to..." and so on. Motivations are continuously added to and altered.

Baker touches on effectiveness here

1. Positioning:
A player's position is the total set of all of the legitimate gameplay options available to her at this moment of play. Positioning refers to the various factors and processes, including in-fiction, cue-mediated, and interpersonal, that determine a player's position.
The "various factors" here could be taken to include motivation. If that's right, great!

2. Positioning & Effectiveness:
Positioning establishes (proactively or retroactively) the legitimacy of the group's various moves.
Effectiveness establishes (proactively or retroactively) the outcomes of the group's various moves.
Both positioning and effectiveness include who-knows-how-many factors, some in the form of cues, some interpersonal, some purely fictional.
There are cause-and-effect relationships between the many various factors, some formal, cue-mediated, "mechanical," some purely interpersonal.

Now, I'm not saying that Baker intended effectiveness to be included in fictional positioning here, but seeing as I want a construct that has predictive power, I'm forced to bring effectiveness into fictional positioning (under the broader umbrella of 'motivation') Players are motivated toward doing the more effective over the less effective, but other motivations can prove more powerful still.

That is because legitimacy alone isn't enough. A vast number of moves are always legitimate. And it is because motivation isn't one-and-done, motivations are referenced, formed, revised continuously during play. The legitimacy dimension gets at what is off the table. If I don't have wings (and assuming wings and only wings are needed to fly) then I can't legitimately declare flight. If we like, we can build motivation into legitimacy by saying something like this. If I don't want to fly, then I can't legitimately declare flight (this example is apposite to story-now play). That's fine, all I care about is that we put motivation into our construct.

My preferred construct makes it explicit. A player's position is the total set of all of the valid (legitimate and motivated) gameplay options available to them at this moment of play. I'm using "valid" here in a similar way to how it is used to understand game balancing, where "valid" options are those that are legitimate and effective. However, I am placing effective into motivated, for what I think are obvious reasons.

Obviously you can and should go on with your version of fictional positioning if you like. You often express a concern for analytical power. Why do you think the version that considers only legitimate moves is better than legitimate + motivated? (Assuming of course that motivated isn't simply built into legitimate, which also works for me.) How do you show that the set of legitimate moves isn't vast and undifferentiated, without bringing in other criteria (i.e. motivated)? It's like Borges' Library: you can take a few books off the shelf (moves that are removed due to constraints) but those remaining on the shelves are still vast in number.
 
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Say Jo tries to escape as imagined here. If Dem is unmotivated, Dem doesn't try to keep Jo from escaping even though that would be a legitimate move. I can't stress this enough - there are at any time a vast number of legitimate moves. Dem could have hopped on one foot. That would be a legitimate move (were motivation not at issue.)

Those moves a character has motivations in connection with, form the subset from which they choose what they say next. Unmotivated moves aren't in that subset. It's meaningless to talk about the vast number of legitimate moves that have nothing to do with what's going on. Hopping on one foot might be an example (there's probably cases where it isn't).
Players decide the motivations of their PCs, and in general they are not required to justify them or map them back to some specific fiction or character attribute (although that may be desirable, possibly even required in some systems). When we discuss something like 5e, it is perfectly within the realm of normal play for a player to invent a motive for her character on the spur of the moment. Maybe sometimes it would not find approval by other participants, but then that's one of those things about 5e! In DW you would expect a significant action with serious moral or plot consequences to follow from a bond, alignment, plot element, etc. This is definitely a difference in games.
 

clearstream

(He, Him)
As an interesting footnote, in the thread asking if 5e is gamist, @pemerton wrote (not to summon, but in case they would like to reframe)

Yes. I played "story now" AD&D in the second half of the 80s. I've used RM for "story now" play.

From Edwards' story now essay:

Vanilla Narrativism: Narrativist play without notable use of the following techniques
Director Stance, atypical distribution of GM tasks, verbalizing the Premise in abstract terms, overt rules concerning narration, and improvised additions to the setting or situations. People who typically play in this fashion often fail to recognize themselves as Narrativists.

And also this:

"Vanilla Narrativism" is very easy and straightforward. The key to finding it is to stop reinforcing Simulationist approaches to play. Many role-players, identified by Jesse Burneko as "Simulationist-by-habit," exhaust themselves by seeking El Dorado, racing ever faster and farther, when all they have to do is stop running, turn around, and find Vanilla Narrativism right in their grasp.

I also would expect someone playing "story now" 5e to encounter the same issues that someone playing "story now" Rolemaster or AD&D would, namely, that there are aspects of the system that (by default) encourage/reinforce simulationist or gamist approaches to play: eg the recovery rules push in one or the other direction (simulationist if the table emphasises the flow of ingame time, the "living, breathing" world aspect that is typically recommended as a response to Tin Huts, etc; gamist if the table emphasises the resource recovery aspect and intraparty balance, etc).

Although it's clear to me that my title for this thread was (unintentionally) misleading. I searched for a pithy title, but I should have gone for accuracy, as what I'm proposing is concretely a fiction-first approach to 5e; on the following basis
  1. The 5e game text (in basic pattern and ability check processes) already ensures we do it to do it (even combat starts with an ability check)
  2. The 5e game text offers a fortune method, albeit lacking successes-with-complication
  3. The 5e game text gives it to DM to narrate the results, where system has its say, too
The loose thread 5e* picks up is ensuring we land squarely back in the fiction by ensuring we narrate something meaningful to our fiction (i.e. something that matters, or will matter if picked up on.) One way to think about it is - say something that can change the fictional position. What and how would depend on the matrix of modes in play.

For me it is not at issue for fiction-first that DM narrates results. A mechanics improvement I hope to see in 6e is a method for success-with-complication in d20 resolution. It's a tricky design problem, but hopefully not insoluble. Ignoring it would be to fall behind contemporary standards for fortune methods of resolution.
 
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DEFCON 1

Legend
Supporter
I don't know if D&D "needs" a success-with-complications ruleset in it per se. Because those that are aware of that type of rule from other games probably already do it in D&D too without even there being an official rule for it. And those that aren't aware of "success-with-complication" ideas yet will be able to play the game fine anyways even without knowing about them. And I daresay that their game wouldn't necessarily be any "better" if it did. There are thousands of different rules across all the different systems in the RPG sphere that work to make games "better"... but a game that doesn't include one or more of them doesn't that make that game ipso facto "worse". So I don't believe it can be said that D&D with a "success-with-complications" ruleset within it would make the overall game better than one that didn't. It certainly might be better for some players... but it can't be said definitively overall.
 

Oofta

Legend
I don't know if D&D "needs" a success-with-complications ruleset in it per se. Because those that are aware of that type of rule from other games probably already do it in D&D too without even there being an official rule for it. And those that aren't aware of "success-with-complication" ideas yet will be able to play the game fine anyways even without knowing about them. And I daresay that their game wouldn't necessarily be any "better" if it did. There are thousands of different rules across all the different systems in the RPG sphere that work to make games "better"... but a game that doesn't include one or more of them doesn't that make that game ipso facto "worse". So I don't believe it can be said that D&D with a "success-with-complications" ruleset within it would make the overall game better than one that didn't. It certainly might be better for some players... but it can't be said definitively overall.
For me success with complication is just one of many possibilities. It just depends on the situation and logical result of failure.

While it's good to think about different ways to handle failure, having a one size fits all rule isn't what I want. I don't want my hand forced. Sometimes I want success with complications, sometimes I want to consider degree of failure, sometimes failure just means you fail.

P.S. don't assume that just because people haven't played a game that has X concept that they are ignorant or can't think of these things on their own.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
P.S. don't assume that just because people haven't played a game that has X concept that they are ignorant or can't think of these things on their own.

Yes, well, if they haven't played a game that has the concept, you cannot assume they do know it. When you aren't face-to-face with folks, it then behooves one to treat it as if the idea is new, until proven otherwise.
 

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