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A Question Of Agency?

I don't think the original (ie pre-Essentials) version of 4e D&D especially supported "rule zero" as I sometimes see it propounded. Nor does B/X, does it?

I even think it underwent change during the 3E era - in the original 3E PHB "rule zero" was a rule of PC building (check with your GM), not a rule about action resolution.
Yeah, just taking a spin through the first couple pages of the 4e DMG1/PHB1, it definitely does NOT state anything even close to rule 0. In fact its tone and terminology are REALLY similar to the prefatory material of Dungeon World. It compares a D&D game to a 'Novel' or 'Movie' and very explicitly labels the DM as working with the players to make the PC's adventures 'challenging', but where they 'ultimately succeed'. The PHB is pretty entirely consistent with that. My assumption is they were written by the same person/people as a single coherent statement. While there is a passing mention of the DM as having a role in interpreting the rules, 4e doesn't explicitly grant one participant more authority than the others.

Interestingly, Holmes Basic doesn't speak about this issue at all. It has a VERY brief introduction, which segues into an explanation of ability scores after 2 paragraphs on "how to use this book." Preceding this is a 2 paragraph intro. Here the role of the DM is specified merely as being the one who draws up the dungeon, and that the players "don't know where anything is located in the dungeons until the game begins and they enter the first passage or room." The rest of the text indicates that they 'explore' and 'map'. The text then dives immediately into the meat of the rules, I don't think anything more is said about the DM or players and their roles in the game.

Looking at the 1e material, the 1e DMG introduces the DM's role in a writing mode which is 'person-to-person' it isn't written as 'rules text', it is written almost like a lore book, passing on established information and process which is stated as canonical. It says things like "you will know when to take upon yourself the ultimate power." and "they are playing the game the way you, their DM, imagines and creates it." The rest of the 1e DMG is most certainly written with the tone being that the DM is an absolute and ultimate arbiter, even going so far as to state that he should use, modify, or set aside the rules as he sees fit to suite the situation. I don't see that 'rule 0' is really explicitly stated here, it is more like an axiom of the system, just assumed, like breathable air and dice.

The 2e DMG doesn't call it 'rule 0', but there is a statement to the effect that the rules and all other aspects of the campaign are entirely the province of the DM. It is also suggested that the rules really are not something for the players to concern themselves with (this is distinguished from things like how classes work, which are in the PHB and concern the players). Again, the rules are plainly written in a way which only makes sense when we assume axiomatically that the DM has arbitrary rules and fiction authority.

I think 3.0 actually states 'rule 0' outright, but no version of classic D&D really makes sense without that, though you MIGHT interpret the text of Holmes Basic literally enough to assert that the DM's authority ONLY extends to 'the dungeon' and not to any other possible location (but no such locations are discussed beyond the assertion that beyond the dungeon entrance is "the town"). I guess you could have fun with that ;)
 

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pemerton

Legend
On (3)
1. Frame it however you want but it can also be truthfully framed as the player attempting to add some setting or faction detail to the world. You don't have a problem with that, but we do. Gating the success for an act like this behind a die roll doesn't change what's going on.
2. Given how the game works the player isn't privy to all the established fiction. The DM may very well have established things in the fiction that haven't been revealed yet. Essentially making it impossible for the player to stay consistent with established fiction.

<snip>

4. The DM and player may have somewhat different expectations for agreed upon genre.

<snip>

The difference in your 1 and 2 vs 3 is so vast and obvious I don't understand why you keep asking this kind of question.
There is really only one difference you're pointing to here: the priority of GM over player authorship.

3. Besides, what is consistency? When additional details can change the entire meaning of situations, motivations, etc - is it enough to simply not violate a mathematical truth table (overwrite specific fictional details) - or does consistency demand that the meaning of situations and motivations, etc need to also remain unchanged even when new details are added? And if so, then we are back to the player not having the knowledge to be able to ensure he does this.
The sort of change of meaning that you refer to can happen if the GM introduces something spontaneously (my 2 upthread). Or if the GM picks up on player leads (eg when I picked up on the players' idea that the ghosts were Celts). I think insisting that only the GM's preconceived meaning is valid is a very strong constraint. In its strongest form it means that the GM gets to decide whether an encounter is a combat or a social one, or whether an encounter results in a new ally or a new enemy.

5. What happens on the failed check? Does that mean that such a thing doesn't exist at all, that it exists but not at the location the PC remembered, that it exists exactly where the player wanted but there's some complication around it, etc? Contrast with failure on checks 1 and 2 where existence of such things are never in question - only whether the player finds such things.
Different systems adopt different approaches to the narration of failure.

If the PCs go Streetwising or Urban Survivaling around to try and meet up with people who are interesting to them, and fail, there's a fair chance that the GM won't just narrate "nothing happens". I would expect that, more likely, the PCs meet the wrong people or perhaps the wrong people (guards, thieves' guild, old nemeses, etc) find them! Even if the outcome is you don't meet anyone interesting there's still likely to be a rider, like you waste a day not finding anyone interesting.

I don't see there being any big difference here between my (1) and my (3) - as I said, both require a check and if that check fails the GM needs to establish the consequence of failure.
 

pemerton

Legend
I can see how it would be difficult to do anything that involved the PCs not knowing things. Even a result like "The GM will tell you three things that are true and useful" seems as though it'd be likely to make it hard to keep secrets from the PCs.
Personally I don't find it hard to have things be secret from the players (or PCs) in "story now" play that gives a greater role to player decision-making or conjecture about the content of the shared fiction than some of the sandbox approaches being described in this thread.

But the approach is different from the classic CoC modules which have all the answers and interconnections spelled out as GM notes.

The approach to composition is more step-by-step, building on what comes before. The "soft move"/"hard move" approach from PbtA games becomes important - a lot of revealing of unwelcome truths which don't initially escalate to hard moves, and so leave room for more narration or elaboration as things develop.

I don't know if something as complex as (say) Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy could be done this way. My view - from experience - is that a pretty standard Cthulu-type mystery can be done.
 

Which edition and book are these in? I'd like to read those rules.
the Traveller Book has the adventure Exit Visa... which is a hair shy of a programmed solo, but boyhowdy, there is an entire adventure about getting permission to take off...
Plus, any of the CT cores has the bribery skill, and the admin skill, which have mini-mechanics in the skill section.
So, Books 1-2-3 in the CT basic set, or the deluxe set (be they either the 1977-1980 printings, aka CT 1E, or the CT2E of 1981-1988), Starter Traveller, or The Traveller Book, or the QLI reprint. Or the GW version(s) of Bks 1-2-3.
 

Well, 'Toon' is that game, it was actually produced in the mid-1980's. NOTHING that happens in the game relates to reality in any substantial way. I mean, there MUST be some sort of way for a player to come up with criteria for what moves they make in the game, so "Hit someone with a hammer" in Toon and the target is likely to 'fall down', and there's a mechanic that you can call out that is likely to produce that result. However, 'falling down' is in no real sense similar to injury, disability, or death in the real world, it is just a genre convention (like when a Loonytoons character hits another one and they see stars for a few seconds and stop moving). And yes, I would consider Toon to be an early example of a game evincing a lot of Story Now type characteristics.

It is especially worth pointing out that at the level of "the world" in Toon there is essentially nothing. There are zero fictional constraints on the PCs that relate to anything in the world. A player can simply "have some dynamite" or "go get a shotgun" or "build a wall", "dig a tunnel", etc. and none of those things have any logistical or even logical aspect to them at all. There is essentially no set of rules for "the world", there are simply some rules for 'setting a scene' and what elements can appear, which relate only to facilitating 'toonish results'. It is a quite playable game too, though I admit it is not one you will likely play as an ongoing activity as your primary RPG.
Except that there ARE constraints in Toon. You have to have the hammer to conck the guy with in order to hit him with it, or a schtick that lets you produce it.
 

I think there are some tensions in the notion of a "flowchart", because a flowchart implies a network of options/choices over time.

This can be at odds with "no myth" approaches, and I'm not 100% sure it works for dungeon-crawls either (I've heard dungeon maps described as "flowcharts", but I'm not sure I agree with that).

Maybe I'm taking your flowchart metaphor too literally?
A standard dungeon is 95% reproduceable as a node map. And a node map is a form of flow chart, just one that often has bidirectional links. Unless the characters can bypass the walls, the walls constrain flow of PC's (and monsters) to specific directions and encounters.

The walls govern which way you can proceed. Some, especially those in solo-modules, severely restrict backwards movement. The other 5% of the time, one goes through the walls or back in directions not envisaged.

Of the 4 times I've run the hatching caves dungeon in Hoard of the Dragon Queen, 3 of them, the party went the wrong way round, and got the halfdragon in their 3rd room.... as 2nd and 3rd levels. they're not supposed to look for that route, but can spot it, so...
 


A dungeon isn't just movement. There's listening at doors, forcing them open or failing to do so, encountering traps, wandering monsters, etc.
All of which can be done with a node map just fine, with cases where it cannot done on a given link being marked by a colored or otherwise differentiated link.

The map creates a branching (usually, at least) path through the dungeon. It reduces the directional choices, both for players and many monsters.

The times when it's not equivalent involve ignoring walls, or abstracting out the hallways.

I've seen one too many hintbook for Infocom games - all of them are node maps, and all of them are essentially flow charts.
 


Hitting people with hammer's isn't reality? Houses, rivers, lakes, trees aren't reality? Walking and falling isn't reality?

I think if you did a dip dive over everything real in looney toons and everything unreal, you would find a huge percentage of what's in it is realistic. I think what happens is we tend to focus on the unrealistic elements as those are what stands out about it. But that doesn't mean there aren't a ton of realistic elements there.
None of it is driven by logic of the sort which is like "these are the laws of physics about hammers, and these are the facts of human physiology about being hit in the head." They are driven instead by 'genre logic' and by various tropes (I won't link to TVTropes because half the thread will vanish down a black hole). Now, are those tropes/genre logic, to a degree, modeled on reality? Of course they are, that's what makes them relatable, but in NO CASE is an argument like "this wouldn't happen in the real world" or "being hit with a big hammer will critically injure you" going to have ANY PLACE WHATSOEVER in Toon, or in a cartoon of this ilk. And if instead of being hit with a hammer causing a character to fall down, instead it caused a herd of rainbow farting unicorns to fly from their head, this would not even cause the viewers/participants to bat an eyelash. In that sense, Toon is utterly ridiculous, and players have no expectation that their actions will produce sensible results. As I said, the game is not really about achieving anything, etc. It is just about slapstick and silly jokes. At best it might rise to the level of sly commentary on life.
 

I think there are some tensions in the notion of a "flowchart", because a flowchart implies a network of options/choices over time.

This can be at odds with "no myth" approaches, and I'm not 100% sure it works for dungeon-crawls either (I've heard dungeon maps described as "flowcharts", but I'm not sure I agree with that).

Maybe I'm taking your flowchart metaphor too literally? Moving on to the next quote . . .

If the boxes and connections aren't determined ahead of time, I'm not entirely sure we have a flowchart.

Anyway, the two campaigns I've GMed where this was really a big thing were the second RM one, and my 4e one. In both of them I had a beginning sense of the cosmology, but it unfolded over time as (i) the players made moves that required me to establish more details, and (ii) I introduced new elements or new connections as part of the process of maintaining pressure on the players.

In the RM campaign one of the players maintained a chart of the relationships: it's attached. But it wouldn't have been possible to draw that chart at the start of the campaign. Just as one example: the chart has the PC Hideyo as an Animal Lord fallen from the heavens; but at the start of the campaign everyone (including me and his player) thought that the character was an ordinary fox who had managed to "improve" himself into human form (along the lines of the movie Green Snake).

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I would call it a "mindmap" or maybe "entity relationship diagram" (well, those are a thing, and this is not one, but it has a sort of analogous role). It seems essentially similar to the diagram presented by @Bedrockgames, although more granular (his only shows entire organizations). I assume he might break his down, or at least describe, some of the details inside his organizations in a fashion similar to this.

As you say though, this was a post hoc diagram. I don't see what purpose these would serve 'ante play' in a game like mine, though I have used similar tools maybe 12 years ago, at the start of my 1st 4e campaign. I quickly concluded that blank sheets of paper were superior! Because that campaign, and the couple of follow-ons, happened in my established D&D setting, they were really never exactly 'zero myth' (and 4e doesn't especially have support for that anyway). Still, I would simply look at my existing maps and notes, and start either weaving existing NPCs and whatnot into the narrative, or adding new ones which seemed thematically coherent and addressed the players. I guess a diagram like this for "The Midrealms" or "Kinergh", etc. could be generated. For myself it is enough to have a personal Wiki where each thing or group of related things has an article and links to whatever it relates to. These are mostly purely documentation of things discovered in play.

In fact, I have never felt wedded to anything, even things I have established for my own edification in the past about the setting, such as Cosmology. While I've assumed a sort of 'World Axis like' (WA amuses me since they clearly followed the same path I did, but 40 years late) kind of cosmology, there's never been a resolution of such basic facts as the literal structure of the Erth! (How big is it, is it flat, is there an 'outer space', etc.). Nobody ever cared, so why define that? I may have written up a few ideas at various times back in the 70's and 80's, but I have no reason to take them as canonical 30-40+ years later.

Likewise, if I happen to get ahead of myself and write some notes on what I think is going on in a game now and elements to use later, I am often surprised by how things go and just throw them away or recycle the parts. I don't do this much anymore though.
 

None of it is driven by logic of the sort which is like "these are the laws of physics about hammers, and these are the facts of human physiology about being hit in the head." They are driven instead by 'genre logic' and by various tropes (I won't link to TVTropes because half the thread will vanish down a black hole). Now, are those tropes/genre logic, to a degree, modeled on reality?

There is a vast excluded middle here. It isn't a choice between 100 percent fidelity to real world physics (which would involve finely detailed computer models and math) and genre logic. People can model the physics they see in the real world and use common sense. It isn't a computer model but it is what I have been causing plausibility. And 'genre logic' operates on a spectrum of plausibility. But unlike movie and book genres, RPGs are not beholden to the same concerns. A book has a plot and the physics of the world the book's characters inhabit is beholden to that plot. In a game you don't have to have a plot. NPCs can react, not based on what makes a good story, but on what the GM thinks they would (applying common sense based on what he or she has seen in the real world, and what he or she knows about the NPC in question). The argument you are making here really feels like reductio absurdum to me, based on what my side has said they are trying to do
 
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I would call it a "mindmap" or maybe "entity relationship diagram" (well, those are a thing, and this is not one, but it has a sort of analogous role). It seems essentially similar to the diagram presented by @Bedrockgames, although more granular (his only shows entire organizations). I assume he might break his down, or at least describe, some of the details inside his organizations in a fashion similar to this.

All that is, is a map of a sect conflict. It is not the core of the campaign (just a tool for tracking who is fighting with who and how is allied). There are about twelve other sects on that map. Every single one of those sects is described (its key members are fleshed out NPCs, its list of techniques are fully described and statted, its hierarchy, its headquarters are placed on the map, history, beliefs, etc are all described). In the case of the 87 killers, most of the top leadership are fleshed out NPCs, and every single one of the ranked members is at least named and put into the hierarchy somewhere---and the names are often shorthand for personality so I at least have a launching pad if they do come up). This diagram is just a small part off the campaign. I have a map of the prefecture. Again this includes all the major towns and cities, roadside teahouses, the sect headquarters, geographic features, roads, canals, rivers, imperial post offices, imperial forts, etc. I have all the sheriffs and patrolling inspectors listed, with their allegiances on a chart, I have all the district magistrates statted, I have the prefectural magistrate statted. I don't go into detail at the county level because those are too small (though a few of my village and town entries have county magistrates in them): I also like giving my setting map and gazetteer room to breathe. In addition to this I have all relevant laws explained, along with their normal punishments, the procedures for managing arrests, etc (this is relevant because this map is part of the crime focused campaign). Areas on the map are mapped out too (cities, towns, villages, temples, manors, etc): not all, but many, and enough that I can easily extrapolate if I need. There is also an ongoing background situation between all these sects involving a major shift in control of territory (think The Godfather). Right now for this area of the campaign there are over 100 full NPC entries. This is all just one area on my world map (some of which I have fleshed out in this level of detail, some of which I have yet to do (but do as needed usually).
 

But if you don't give them some kind of prompt.....a map found in a treasure hoard, a rumor heard in an inn, a reward poster on a community board......absent those kinds of prompts, how do your players know what to engage with? Are they that familiar with your setting that they can simply set their own agenda?

Everyone's talking about "players get to do whatever they want" so I'm trying to understand how those wants might develop.
I can give you a bit of an idea of how things fell out in my 1st 4e campaign. This game was very evolutionary for me. I hadn't run D&D, and only played a few times, during the 3e era. Back in the 90's I ran a very heavily plotted 2e game set in a specific region of my old D&D home brew setting (maps from days predating even the existence of D&D in some cases, lol). Anyway, when I started the 4e campaign I wanted to just let the players establish what they wanted to do, so I just extrapolated the happenings from the old campaign a few years forward in time, and described the PCs as being in the largest town in the midst of a large crowd of refugees who appeared to be packing up into organized groups and heading out for somewhere.

The players established their own backgrounds, and I just answered a few questions they had from my existing material, or told them to go ahead and make stuff up. IIRC there was a Warlock from a far southern continent, looking for his father. There was a dwarf fighter trying to find some of his family members who were apparently refugees. There was an eldar (eladrin, but I gave them a bit different flavor) wizard girl running away to the world. There was a young woman who's family held a fiefdom on the borders to the south and sold their services as spies, who was supposed to be gathering info. There was also a priestess of the Sun God, Lir, who supposedly had a prophesy told about her birth (never 100% established what it meant of course).

The players didn't really firmly establish exactly why they established themselves as a group, but the gist of it seemed that they were all recruited by a local land holder to escort a bunch of refugees back to a village from which they had fled during the war (in the previous campaign). So the PCs were given directions and a factotem to accompany them and insure that they performed their escort duties. IIRC a few subplots quickly developed. The factotem (and his boss as it turned out) was an unsavory sort, and some of the PCs made an enemy of him right off. It was also established that the dwarf came on this specific trip because he had learned that his relatives had worked in the village the PCs were headed to.

Along the way I presented them with choices of which route to take. They decided on a bit less safe, but shorter, option, maybe at the urging of the factotem who was only concerned with being in a hurry. As a result they met up with some goblins and got to test out the combat system. They then tracked down the goblins to an old estate nearby and I wrote up a very small 'dungeon' for them to take on. IIRC there was a hook here that pointed at some kind of 'boss' that the goblins might be working for.

The party then traveled through a town, where there was another adventure. I'm not sure I recall all the details, but there was a monster of some sort operating as the ruler of the town and pretending to be a human, along with some of his minions. They plotted to break up the PCs, but the characters managed to thwart the plot, after a few hijinks. In the process they made some allies in this town and established the basic structure of its politics and such, but it was a pretty small place and they moved on after a couple of days.

Finally they reached their destination, there was some sort of blow up with the local ruler, due to his questionable treatment of his people. At this point the party used strong arm tactics, threats to get the priesthood of Lir involved, etc. to extract some better behavior, but it was now established that there was a creepy manor full of villains down the road! However the PCs ignored this story line. Instead they decided to investigate the nearby Forest of Grin, a wild and dangerous area known to be full of monsters. There were 2 reasons, the dwarf learned that his relatives might have been taken into the forest, and more goblins from the tribe they had encountered before were spotted scouting the village. Although the lord refused to officially commission them, they all felt that they could help even if they didn't get paid much.

After this there were various forays into the forest. I don't recall all the details of each one, but they discovered that most of the goblins were peaceful, but one faction had put itself into the service of some sort of mysterious personage. There was some fighting with those goblins, a battle against a couple of Hill Giants (turned into lower level solo/elite monsters IIRC), etc. The spy character established that she was in contact with her people and was sending them intel about this area, the dwarf had his motive, the wizard's family tracked her to the village, and the warlock's patron gave him a sign that he was pleased with the dedications of monster souls (it was a starlock, the patron is some sort of creepy elder being from the 'far realm'). So the PCs finally just launched themselves deep into the forest and discovered that there was indeed some sort of evil big bad brewing. In the process they fought a bunch of fun fights. The one against a very Cthulhuoid demon called "the thousand legged one" being the most fun. All of this was pretty much a 'mini sandbox', the PCs just traveled around the forest as they wished. Finally they got to a point where they were outclassed by the monsters 'on the mountain', and decided they would go back to civilization and follow up on various clues about a 'Well of Stars'.

I don't recall without going back through all the player's notes exactly which things happened after that in what order. There was a series of adventures in an ancient dwarven city, and the PCs took over a small fort (this was in an area a ways from the original village). Eventually they figured out part of the Well of Stars, which related somehow to the warlock. There was a story arc in which the PCs went to a neighboring kingdom to chase after a Palladin they rescued from the dwarf city whom the eladrin wizard had a crush on, but then he ran off to fight some war and they broke up. There was also a scenario with a white dragon in an ice cave, and the establishment that there was a nation of warlike hobgoblins on the other side of a mountain range, etc. etc. etc.

At some point the PCs went back to the original village and ran into a nasty hag who almost managed to eat two of them. A warden (I think it was a Goliath, we were into PHB2 by then). Around this time the PCs were into paragon tier. So at that point I started to make things more fantastical. They went to a flying castle/mountain and expelled an invasion of demons, and then got on the track of an ancient vampire who was one of the kingdom's powerful nobles. That eventually lead to the PCs entering the Shadowfell (somewhere in there they also went to the Feywild and the warlock acquired a second patron, a hag, and they tussled with a copper dragon and some Fomorians). During the flying castle they also established a quest to find the artifacts related to the first King of Kinergh, and some mythology establishing that he was supposed to 'return' at some point, etc.

All of this stuff drew both on extrapolation and use of existing material that I had left from decades of previous campaigns, but also simply asking the players what was going on, who they were, what did you find, etc. I think the eladrin wizard PC was retired at some point, she had one big arc with the paladin and then seemed kind of played out. A Warden was added, but that player left after a while and the character fell out of use. The dwarf ran into his uncle at one point, a former PC from a 1970's era game! Their were a LOT of details, much of which I can't remember precisely 10 years later, but the material was pretty dense and a huge amount of stuff got added. There was a whole set of themes. It was established that behind the scenes there is an ancient ongoing battle between chromatic and metallic dragons which shapes a lot of history. There is some sort of cosmic danger to the world that relates to this 'Well of Stars', there is a big evil bad guy up in the mountains. The ancient dwarf city is actually a fortress established to plug up the Drow's route to the surface (and the PCs accidentally damaged the seal). The kingdom to the east is now caught up in a civil war where one side is pacted with an arch devil. To the northeast a subarctic hobgoblin kingdom has found the 'Invincible War Banner' and they are now making war on their neighbors. Lots of stuff happened. We never really progressed beyond the vampire lord scenario for some reason, and this game has been 'sleeping' for several years at mid paragon. I'm not entirely sure why, it was an online game to start with (using Maptool) and it wouldn't be hard to continue.

Basically things started out pretty much along the lines of "run around in this setting, which is effectively a sandbox because there is so much old stuff lying around" but by the later parts it was getting pretty unscripted. I think I did create some maps and whatnot to use for the Shadowfell part of the Vampire thing. In the campaigns I ran after this (all set in a different area of the same world) I did nothing more than establish the existence of some towns, their basic features, and some NPCs were developed and then fleshed out as-needed. I also borrowed some thematics, like the dragon conflict is also active in that area, so interactions with dragons sometimes happen and that might come up as a ready explanation of whatever plot element is needed. This kind of thing can be useful, and since some of the players have been common between several of those campaigns it does create some sense of consistency. OTOH this kind of metaplot IS restrictive, and we have discussed some completely different premises that would require a whole new setting, presumably with a lot less 'myth' attached.
 

Everyone's talking about "players get to do whatever they want" so I'm trying to understand how those wants might develop.
Well, there could be a few ways to approach that. I outlined what sorts of things, and sometimes why, that happened in one of my 4e campaigns. Mostly the players established what they wanted to do, or at least what their motives were, through background, class, and questions they asked or answered. Because it was 4e, this wasn't super formal and only followed general suggestions and our own ideas about how to run a fairly player-focused game.

So, the warlock's motivation was to find out about his father and why his father had a book which the PC read and then became bound to his patron. The eladrin wizard was just running away from her family. The rogue was providing intel to her family and sometimes carrying out missions. The dwarf was trying to rescue his father and brother (I think he found the father eventually, but the brother was still to be rescued). The priestess of Lir got wrapped up in the mythology of the King who is supposed to return, now carries his shield, and has a prophesy (she was also raised by a temple). These are probably fairly conventional D&D character backgrounds for a lot of games. The players wrote them, and then during play I sometimes either tied them to some feature that came up in play, or the players asked about it or added the connection themselves.

Lots of stuff emerged simply by suggestions of the mechanics. At one point the PCs went to the Feywild and ran into a powerful hag. The warlock hit paragon IIRC and as part of that he added a second patron (I think that is feat) and made a pact with the hag. His relationship with his primary patron was always described as somewhat of an involuntary kind of thing, so in this case he was elaborating on his personal conflict with that. I think the dwarf was the simplest and most straightforward PC, he just kept relentlessly going after his family members, and this was played up as him being a 'super dwarfy dwarf'. IIRC he took a PP that established him as a really super defendery sort of character (I'd have to go back and look at the particulars on that). I would say with 4e that this was a really major aspect of establishing who and what PCs were, and I tried often to make things like leveling and acquisition of items provide lots of inputs into that. For example, the dwarf finally met his father, who forged an axe for him, which was especially effective against demons. Later, when the PCs were in the floating castle fighting demons the axe took on the aspect of an ancient dwarvish weapon, the Axe of the Balrog Slayer. This made it an artifact during that story arc, although this aspect faded at the end of the story and the axe simply became a really good axe with demon slaying capabilities. In fact I think the whole thing culminated with the appearance of a 'Balrog Gate' which the PCs had to close (IE a fun skill challenge). Some of the PCs build options that happened during that time reflected this part of the story, and undoubtedly this theme would arise again during epic play (if we ever got there).

One thing I will say, a lot of these techniques evolved a lot during play. While I rapidly started to 'get' that 4e wanted to play like an action adventure movie, it took several years of play to fully evolve the whole set of techniques for letting the players drive things, and for making the game really fully "amped up". Nowadays I tend to run my own more hacked up rules that make this stuff easier, but the gist of it is that I don't even bother with classic D&D-style location/map type stuff anymore to any large degree. Every fight has significant plot ramifications and takes place in a way where there are goals, subgoals, dynamic terrain, etc. At no point do the PCs simply go to a place and fight something they 'just find there' to the death simply because its there, and might have treasure. If a fight probably wouldn't show up in an action adventure movie, it probably won't show up in one of my 4e sessions either.
 

Except that there ARE constraints in Toon. You have to have the hammer to conck the guy with in order to hit him with it, or a schtick that lets you produce it.
Right, there is a 'game' aspect in Toon, which is a bit in tension with producing the pure 'Loony Tunes Experience' at times. Although I think it is pretty consistent with the way WB characters each have their characteristic shticks. I would not, however, say that any of this is related, except in the most distant way, to 'real world logic', or even logic in general. The hammer pops out of thin air when needed, or perhaps the PC 'runs off stage and fetches it.' or something like that. Some characters also seem to just have 'super powers', like Bugs Bunny will pull a carrot out of thin air, munch on it, and then stuff the end into Elmer Fudd's shotgun, just before he pulls the trigger. Another time he might just tie the barrel in a knot, or even just use his finger. Toon characters tend to be a bit more tightly bound to specific shticks, although TBH it has been a LONG time since I played and I don't have a copy of the rules on hand, so I don't recall every detail of chargen.
 

A dungeon isn't just movement. There's listening at doors, forcing them open or failing to do so, encountering traps, wandering monsters, etc.
Also a big aspect of classic style dungeon play was to make an accurate map and then suss out where the secret rooms and such are located based on spatial relationships and such. A lot of early trick design was intended to make this hard, like the rotating corridor that sneakily turns the PCs 90 degrees without their knowledge, thus messing up their map, or ramps/elevators that move them up or down without their knowledge. The dwarf's abilities were clearly meant to let them avoid these problems and this was deemed important enough that OD&D seems to think a dwarf which cannot even reach name level is a fair trade-off against those advantages.
 

prabe

Aspiring Lurker (He/Him)
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Well, there could be a few ways to approach that. I outlined what sorts of things, and sometimes why, that happened in one of my 4e campaigns. Mostly the players established what they wanted to do, or at least what their motives were, through background, class, and questions they asked or answered. Because it was 4e, this wasn't super formal and only followed general suggestions and our own ideas about how to run a fairly player-focused game.
This is very similar to what has happened in the 5E games I'm running.
 


There is a vast excluded middle here. It isn't a choice between 100 percent fidelity to real world physics (which would involve finely detailed computer models and math) and genre logic. People can model the physics they see in the real world and use common sense. It isn't a computer model but it is what I have been causing plausibility. And 'genre logic' operates on a spectrum of plausibility. But unlike movie and book genres, RPGs are not beholden to the same concerns. A book has a plot and the physics of the world the book's characters inhabit is beholden to that plot. In a game you don't have to have a plot. NPCs can react, not based on what makes a good story, but on what the GM thinks they would (applying common sense based on what he or she has seen in the real world, and what he or she knows about the NPC in question). The argument you are making here really feels like reductio absurdum to me, based on what my side has said they are trying to do
Clearly 'Toon' is not your average RPG, so I would not disagree with you that in MOST other RPGs there is a sort of background assumption that the laws of physics as we know them would adequately describe most events, barring magic or whatever. This is, IMHO, more a matter of 'relateability' than anything else. This can be seen in certain interesting tropes that RPGs carry. For example, Traveller (and a lot of other Space Opera type RPGS) has artificial gravity. Now, we know that Hollywood LOVES artificial gravity, it just obviously makes their job feasible, but why would it exist in an RPG? There's no special effects budget to constrain scenes filled with zero-G action, yet every single location in Traveller is absolutely ASSUMED to have a 1G gravity field. The reason for this is plainly relateability, we players are used to living in a 1G gravity field, and imagining most of the action taking place in zero-G, or under heavy acceleration, etc. is simply burdensome. IMHO this is the explanation for pretty much all of this kind of thing. The game needs to work this way in order to be playable and to conform to genre tropes which originate from other mediums.

I don't think 'plausibility' is really all that much a factor. Anti-gravity, for example, is utterly implausible. As a physics-conversant person I can tell you with utter assurance that such a thing is completely unphysical and no more likely to exist in the real world than spell-casting, no matter the level of technology. So it isn't adding any plausibility to Traveller, quite the contrary! I will agree that in other genres there wouldn't be much motivation for something like gravity, or the existence of the Sun, etc. to be changed, unless you want to deliberately create a very alien sort of environment. D&D traditionally uses this technique for 'other planes of existence', and that's cool. Again though, I don't think this is due to plausibility, these other weird worlds are not really 'implausible' to any vastly higher degree than a world full of dragons and magic is.
 

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