A GMing telling the players about the gameworld is not like real life

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
But only the ones that the DM thinks of. For instance, going back to the tea house. The mayor might be there, as might the warlock's patron waiting to give him a task, or the wizard's master, or... There are waaaaay too many possibilities for the DM to be able to think of, let alone spend hours rolling the thousands or millions of them to see if any of the really long shots happen.

There is no potential for this method to mirror real life, but that's okay. It can approximate things and give the game a similar feel to real life. If the DM only thinks of a few possibilities and one of them hits, say the warlock's patron waiting at a table for the warlock to get there, that's enough to give it the real life feel.
This is, of course, quite right: no DM is ever going to think* of everything, and any expectation that she will is doomed to failure.

* - be it during prep or on the fly.

As long as a DM can think of enough things, however, to keep the game going and provide within the setting some interesting and reasonable options, choices, consistency, and consequences then all is probably good.
 

FrogReaver

Adventurer
This thread is a spin-off of this thread. Its immediate trigger is the following post:


In real life, people move through a physcially-structured environment where events happen in accordance with causal processes. Notions of request, permission, decision etc have no explanatory work to do in relation to real-life causal processes (except for a rather narrow range of phenomena involving interactions between human beings).

At a RPG table, in the situation being described in the posts above, the players give rise to an idea - our PCs find some sect members at the teahouse - and they suggest that that idea should be an element of the fiction that is being collectively created at the table. The GM then decides whether or not that idea actually does become part of the shared fiction, and communicates that decision to the players by telling them what it is that their PCs find at the teahouse.

That causal process has very little in common with the causal processes that bring it about that, if I go to a teahouse looking for members of a particular sect, I find any of them there. The most obvious difference is that whether or not, in real life, I meet any sect members doesn't depend upon whether anyone takes up a suggestion I make about an interesting idea.

Whether or not the GM making decisions about the gameworld, and then conveying that to the players, makes for good RPGing seems a matter of taste. But whether or not such a process is like real life seems a straightforward matter of fact. It's not.
In RPG's time is rarely tracked down to the second or the minute. So we can't determine that an NPC is there at exactly 8:22 to 8:53 and then the players don't say we arrive at 8:49, thus allowing the DM to simply deduce that they met. Instead because time isn't tracked to that degree of precision (and shouldn't be IMO) then the only way the DM can answer the question of whether you meet a person at a particular place is by assigning a DC and rolling a die to determine if you do. In that way it's not like real life. You don't really have a chance of meeting someone at any particular location in real life, the timings are already determined by the other things that you are doing and that happened that day and thus you either meet or don't meet. We simplify all those calculations into a simple probabilistic d20 roll.

If you are focused on simulating the process then I think I might agree that it's not much like real life. But it very much provides real life like outcomes (at least to whatever dXYZ granularity you are using).

The question I'm curious about is why do you care whether the process for determining something in game mimics the procress something would be determined by in real life? What benefit is there to that?
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
;) i better not generalize. I'm sure there's plenty of valid Gms in Italy. Let's say: the ones I've met, then.

Sometimes I just wonder why is it so hard (for me) to just sit down, roll some pc, agree on an initial set-up/situation, generate background accordingly, and start rolling dice :D
Sounds good, and where I was ultimately going. Whether you have been unlucky or I've been lucky, I think there are DMs out there that will have what you want. There may also be some cultural differences at play. Try getting into a roll 20 game with a group in the U.S. and see if there are any differences that you like. In any case, I wish you the best of luck finding what you need. :)
 

Shasarak

Villager
I think, if anything, pemertons example about going to the library proves that a DM telling the players about the gameworld is exactly like real life.

I mean he went to the library, failed to find anyone from the Bone Breaking Sect then he got sidetracked by a bunch of other NPCs ad wasted half an hour talking about something completely unrelated to the game. So how is that not exactly the same as a real game?
 

pemerton

Legend
I made a new ability in the game (largely because of their tastes) that was called something like "Master Schemer". It allowed characters after the fact to make a roll and declare they had dome something devilishly deceptive like poison the very wine the NPC is drinking. This was meant to emulate something that comes up a lot in wuxia. I was very surprised by the strong negative and cautious reaction it received across several groups, but even among the more story oriented group. The reasons for disliking it did vary, but one of them was the players were being given control of what happened in the setting without having to walk through the steps of doing it.
I have never played a game with a mechanic of the sort you describe. As you describe it it seems a little weak as a mechanic, becuase it appears not to connect the action either to the character or the situation; but perhaps there was more to it than your brief sketch has set out.

If you don't like GM as final arbiter, it may not be for you.
The GMing technique that is mentioned in the OP is not GM as final arbiter. It is GM as initial and sole arbiter. Those two things are very different.

there's no way a DM can hope to mirror all of the possibilities that real life comes up with. However, that doesn't mean that the approximation we come up with shouldn't be done.
But it does raise the possibility of (i) not characterising one's techniques by reference to their approximation of real life, and (ii) if the desire is to approximate real life, look for other systems that might do that.

My opinion is that a component of apprehension, almost fear, is preventing a more collaborative and enjoyable playstyle; a deep concern about sharing some narrative aspects of Rpg, about listening to inputs from the table and adding those to the usual output of being a Gm, so to enrich the experience.
I agree that some GM-driven play does seem to be motivated at least in part by a fear of what will happen to the setting, and the shared fiction more generally, if the players are allowed to exercise significant influence over it.
 

Bedrockgames

Adventurer
I have never played a game with a mechanic of the sort you describe. As you describe it it seems a little weak as a mechanic, becuase it appears not to connect the action either to the character or the situation; but perhaps there was more to it than your brief sketch has set out.
I think you and I would have very different definitions of weak mechanics. But it may well have been. The important point though wasn't the lack of heft, it was that this mechanic crossed a line that even my story friendly players didn't want me to cross (because it was effectively giving them retro-active control over something that had already occurred). In a wuxia film this happens all the time. In that context it would make sense. In a game, I think I failed to appreciate how jarring it might be. Here is the full text I had. Note I haven't decided what to do with it yet, so it very well could be removed, altered, etc. Also it is worth keeping in mind, this is a rules light dark wuxia game intended to be far less crunchy than my other wuxia game. So all of the styles are designed with GM Rulings being the assumed approach (meaning we tried to keep them light and open in the manner of say the white box spells, with the understanding that the GM is meant to interpret their broader application rather than spell out all the different cases and uses). Also the tag, "optional-style" just indicates it is an optional rule due to campaign style considerations. EDIT: This mechanic is a Signature Ability which is something every character can select at character creation (they get up to three, five if they take some serious Qi-based flaws; and each of the Signature Abilities are usually pretty broad, often approaching something more like a martial style or philosophy, but narrowing in some instances to fit other wuxia concepts):

Master Deceiver (Optional-Style)
You are skilled at deception and poison use and can reveal your schemes at any moment. You may freely announce (in or out of combat) that you have placed a trap or poison in a location or on an object. You must still make a relevant skill roll against the Target's Wits to deceive them into being poisoned or trapped. This ability can only be used within the bounds of reason, and the GM has the final say.

Examples: as an NPC is drinking a cup of alcohol, you tell the GM that you gave the inn’s staff poisoned powder to put in the cup.




The GMing technique that is mentioned in the OP is not GM as final arbiter. It is GM as initial and sole arbiter. Those two things are very different.
This strikes me as a bit pedantic
 
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Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
But it does raise the possibility of (i) not characterising one's techniques by reference to their approximation of real life, and
Not for me and the other supporters here in this thread. What we do is a fine approximation of real life.

(ii) if the desire is to approximate real life, look for other systems that might do that.
I'm quite happy with D&D which allows me to approximate things quite well. Even if another system is better at it, I don't want to have to learn a new system and persuade all my players to make a switch that just isn't necessary.
 

S'mon

Legend
My contention is that the what would likely be there approach is not an approximation to real life. And thus that whatever experience it engenders in those who enjoy it, like real life or more like real life than (say) declaring and resolving a Streetwise check is not an appropriate description for that experience.
I don't think you have any real basis for denying the subjective experience of other people who say they do experience it that way.
 

pemerton

Legend
pemerton said:
The GMing technique that is mentioned in the OP is not GM as final arbiter. It is GM as initial and sole arbiter. Those two things are very different.
This strikes me as a bit pedantic
Why? It's pretty fundamental to some key differences in RPG techniques, and corresponding differences in RPG preferences. Most of the RPGs I run involve GM as final arbiter. But I would never play or run a system in which the GM is initial and sole arbiter of action declaration outcomes.
 

Bedrockgames

Adventurer
Why? It's pretty fundamental to some key differences in RPG techniques, and corresponding differences in RPG preferences. Most of the RPGs I run involve GM as final arbiter. But I would never play or run a system in which the GM is initial and sole arbiter of action declaration outcomes.
I am just finding your approach to language in the discussion, excessively precise. You are so hyper focused on language in the other thread you didn't even answer my question but instead took issue with how my question was presented. I just don't appear to have an issue conveying my meaning in plain english to other posters like I do with you.
 

Imaculata

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

For example:

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

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

I get the impression that none of the DM's that I have played with, change their mind like that either. Of course, this is merely my impression, I didn't ask them.
 

Sadras

Explorer
Pemerton may be right, I imagine a DM telling a PC that the whench has just straddled their character's lap is not the same as a having your lap straddled in RL. To be fair, none of my characters have been straddled, so this is just a hunch on my part.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
I said it functions like real life. Whatever the pre-game process that created the teahouse.
It functions like real life *if* the GM has any knowledge about how sects of the appropriate sort work. Which is unlikely. It functions, at best, like the GM thinks "real life" works.

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

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
It functions like real life *if* the GM has any knowledge about how sects of the appropriate sort work. Which is unlikely. It functions, at best, like the GM thinks "real life" works.
Which is one of the reasons why it works as an approximation of real life and not an exact duplicate of real life. I don't think I've seen a single person on my side of the issue claim that it mirrors real life. Only that it approximates and/or is similar to real life.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
I'm not sure if I've ever played in a group that plays this way. In all of the games I have played, or been the DM for, the DM already has an idea what is at the teahouse.
"An idea," is not, "the life story of every person within." An idea may not even be knowing how many people are actually there at any given time. The typical RPG "an idea" is a listing of the people who the GM thinks is important at the time they wrote it.

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

This latter is, long run, a losing proposition. The players literally have more brains than the GM. They will think of things the GM hasn't considered, as the GM is one person with a day job and other things to do with their time than detail out everything to the finest detail. The GM is well-served to answer most incidents of , "Mother, may I?" with the improv technique of, "Yes, and..."
 

Bedrockgames

Adventurer
It functions like real life *if* the GM has any knowledge about how sects of the appropriate sort work. Which is unlikely. It functions, at best, like the GM thinks "real life" works.

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

Also I added all kinds of caveats, including the world could be emulating anything (a genre universe rather than real world cause and effect). Basically I was saying it is entirely okay for the GM to make a determination of what is there based on his or her knowledge of the setting, sect, etc. other approaches are totally fine to. I have no issue with pemerton wanting more mechanics and/or procedure. I just think calling that style mother may I is not a fair characterization (and somehow we ended up in a debate about real world determinism and physics).
 

Bedrockgames

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

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

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

TwoSix

Lover of things you hate
I'm going to try to isolate some points of contention. I'll probably fail, but points for effort, right?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

tl;dr: Randomness makes things look more real. Sim minded players value the appearance of process and derived results in their play, even if the derivation is purely a mental construct of the DM calculating odds and rolling dice.
 

Bedrockgames

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

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

Bedrockgames

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

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

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