An example where granular resolution based on setting => situation didn't work

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
Never played 1e AD&D either. Though I thought rolling under stat was the general resolution mechanics for the game?
From the 1e DMG page 110.

"There will be times in which the rules do not cover a specific action that a player will attempt. In such situations, instead of being forced to make a decision, take the option to allow the dice to control the situation. This can the player dice to see if he or she can make that percentage. You can weigh the dice in any way so as to give the advantage to either the player or the non-player character, whichever seems more correct and logical to you while being fair to bath sides. be done by assigning reasonable probability to an event and then letting."

In WotC terms it essentially says to come up with a DC and let the player roll.
 

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SpringRoll

Villager
Can you believe I didn't get the whole point?
If RM didn't have a single, proper mechanic to solve the situation, you still have a number of ways to solve situations that are implict of the GM role.
I dunno why "GM decide" should be the worst option. The GM continually decide (you decided that wasn't raining, for example).

How I'd solved the situation? Subgame. Each "round" I roll an hidden d6, when a total of 30 is reached the nomads spot the PCs (no one mind how, and surely PC doesn't know). PC actions can rise or lower the spot score.
I'm quite sure no RoleMaster Police had arrested me to play the thing this way. Tension added, player freedom left, gameplay saved.

"Granularity matter when granularity is on exercise": you don't tell the exact weight of the beer the dwarf is lifting while geting drunk just to check if that's light enough. That 'cause it doesn't add to gameplay. You already made a lot of abstraction ignoring formality, it's just you didn't cared for. Just continue to not care for and add/remove granularity when proper (proper = people care for). That sound logic to me.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
There are some parts of the classic D&D rules that are not smooth in their interaction - thief hiding, other PCs hiding, surprise rules and invisibility are the most obvious/notorious. Cleaning these up shouldn't be too hard, though. I imagine there are OSR-ish games that have done so.
IME the only one of those that sometimes causes me headaches is "other PCs hiding" (and stealth), also applied to non-Thief NPCs.

Surprise* is pretty straightforward as written, at least in 1e (though the bespoke Monk system can really muddy the waters if there's one in the party; perhaps fortunately for me, they don't get played very often). I've also generally found both Thieves' hiding and invisibility-in-general to be pretty easy to adjudicate, other than the occasional corner case that's bound to arise now and then in any system; though to be fair I've no idea any more whether I'm doing it by RAW or by houserule or by fiat or (most likely) by some unholy mash-up of the three. All I know is that (other than those corner cases) it usually works well enough that nobody complains, which is good enough for me. :)

Non-Thieves trying to hide - and-or sneak - nearly always puts me into wing-it territory. If a non-Thief NPC tries to sneak past the party, for example, I'm given no RAW guidance and so I have to make something up based on the in-fiction situation at the time. I can only hope I'm being fair to both sides when I do so. :)

* - on its own, separated out from the complete disaster that is 1e combat initiative.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
I find this line of thought utterly foreign to my experience of GMing any game system. Part of the GM's job is to embody any creature in the world other than the PCs. In some systems that embodiment may have constraints based upon the shared fiction, but generally speaking, it's up to you to decide the motivations and actions of any NPC. That's not something that can be comprehensively hard-coded into the rules.
I agree with your other points, but to the bolded I'd say that while these things can't be comprehensively hard-coded there's certainly been examples in various D&D editions of mechanics that can at least give some useful guidance:

Morale rules (1e)
Reaction rolls (1e and others)
Racial preference guides (1e), if applicable
Perception (3e and newer)
Backgrounds etc. (5e), in this specific case applied broadly to a group (the riders) rather than an individual

None of these are either perfect or comprehensive; but every little helps, right? :)
 

pemerton

Legend
I cannot comment on RM, as I only played a handful of sessions, but D&D has evolved to
  • Inform the DM of the XP budget required between character levels;
  • Inform the DM of the adventuring day encounter budget;
  • Inform the DM of calibrating encounter difficulty for a party;
  • Inform the DM of the difficulty of skill check DCs; and
  • likely a few other things I'm currently forgetting.
It's approach to roleplaying from the DM's perspective is free-form, less structured but informed by other factors than just dice.

In your example, the narrative (1) along with taking the above into account (2) and perhaps other factors (3) will steer the type of move (soft, moderate, hard) being initiated.
(1) When I'm referring to the narrative, I mean the question becomes why are they (the nomads) there? Is it a mere patrol? Were the PCs aware of patrols being done in the area beforehand? Did the nomads notice something in the distance? Were they informed of the PCs presence? Do they generally cast detect magic on a routine patrol? If not, is it not fair to first use their passive perception to see if they noticed any disturbances before expending resources? That is what I mean by narrative.

(2) When I'm referring to taking the above into account - If the nomads could be easily dispatched by the PCs, then this encounter is merely colour and not worth the RP time to run through, right? If they are indeed a challenge, what are the risks? Can one get away and report the PCs? PC death an option? Is this merely a challenge for resource (including time) attrition? if yes how hard or soft a move maybe determined depending on the adventuring day budget/milestone that needs to be satisfied.

(3) Other factors could be in-game campaign length, real-time limitations and table desires. What I mean by the latter is, if the DM is reading the table, and there is an itch amongst the players for combat, he/she may in the interest of fun introduce a scenario where combat could be a possibility should the PCs desire it.
I don't pretend to have a full understanding of how you are explaining 5e D&D, but when I look at your 3 categories of considerations:

(1) Looks like setting leading to situation. It requires a lot of GM decision-making - eg in the RM context maybe one of the nomad clerics cast Dream the night before and had a warning from the gods that the sacred site was going to be despoiled; this would make the nomads make a more than usual effort to make sure there are no intruders. Abstracting out from this particular scenario and ruleset, it requires making decisions about the nomads' motivations, what knowledge they might have, etc. This is part of the problem that the OP points to.

(2) These look like alternatives to setting leading to situation. RM has no analogue to any of this other than charts for resolving skill checks.

(3) Similarly to (2), these look like alternatives to setting leading to situation.
 


pemerton

Legend
I find this line of thought utterly foreign to my experience of GMing any game system. Part of the GM's job is to embody any creature in the world other than the PCs. In some systems that embodiment may have constraints based upon the shared fiction, but generally speaking, it's up to you to decide the motivations and actions of any NPC. That's not something that can be comprehensively hard-coded into the rules.

As for 'cheating' because you're acting from a position of superior knowledge, that's just an occupational hazard of running a game. You always know more than the players, and any time they discuss their plans in front of you, you're privy to knowledge of their actions and intentions that none of the NPCs you're playing have access to.

Being able to separate that knowledge from your in-character decision making is a basic skill for GMs, and for players too.
The stuff you talk about here is not relevant to GMing (for instance) Burning Wheel, Torchbearer, In A Wicked Age, Marvel Heroic RP or (as best I can tell from the rulebook) Apocalypse World.

In AD&D dungeon play, there are devices to make it unnecessary also: Gygax talks about writing down creature responses in the dungeon key, and if that hasn't been done then there are standard procedures for determining reactions and the like. Classic Traveller also has a NPC reaction table, and I use that in my Traveller GMing which means that the stuff you say is a basic skill for GMs doesn't come up for me in that system.
 

pemerton

Legend
I think perhaps we are back at adapting the existing rules. Putting up a rock "floor" above you to hide you and the pit you are in seems very much like an attempt at camouflaging what is happening to make it look like desert floor. Adapting the Camouflage vs. Locate Hidden seems appropriate.
I'm not sure what "adapting" means here.

Even if I apply those rules (as I probably did, though the 30 year gap in time means I don't remember any more), as I've posted upthread decisions need to be made about skill bonuses, degree of concentration, distance from the camouflaged pit, etc. And those decisions are largely dispositive of the outcome.
 

pemerton

Legend
How I'd solved the situation? Subgame. Each "round" I roll an hidden d6, when a total of 30 is reached the nomads spot the PCs (no one mind how, and surely PC doesn't know). PC actions can rise or lower the spot score.
I'm quite sure no RoleMaster Police had arrested me to play the thing this way. Tension added, player freedom left, gameplay saved.
This isn't granular resolution. And it's not setting => situation either. So I don't see how it is any sort of disagreement with the OP. It looks like agreement to me.
 

I'm not understanding. How does 4e tell you any of that?
Without invoking the mechanics how does any system tell you anything? What am I missing in this conversation?
Well, 4e is a BIT of a transitional game, if you are going to 'play it trad' then basically you go to PHB1 P186 and follow the Perception rules. While Skills are described in purely PC-facing ways, NPCs DO have skill bonuses, so presumably they can do the same thing as a PC. Now we run into exactly the same problems that we do in RM or most other D&Ds. The 'Searching:' bullet discusses squares and either standard actions or minutes (presumably depending on whether this is the middle of a combat or not). The rules discuss opposed checks vs Stealth, but there's no real description of any other kind of situation, so you'd have to extrapolate some.

OTOH if you play 4e in a more narrative way, or even if you didn't and the GM built an SC ahead of time (it is just a type of encounter) then you can simply follow its process. In an SC you use the DCs set by the SC, and the situation is adjudicated in a purely fiction-based way, there's no mention of squares and actions or minutes or whatever. The GM can certainly gauge the fictional viability of PC actions based on an evaluation drawn from the skill rules, but that's not explicitly required. The key thing is though, only PCs roll dice in SCs. So in this case, lets say that the Paynims are searching for them, an Arcana check, validated by the expenditure of a power, to make a convincing illusion seems like a pretty reasonable idea. If the Wizard succeeds against the medium DC for the SC's level (usually the same as that of the PCs) then the illusion works. Next perhaps the Ranger tosses a Stealth check to see if he brushed out any tracks well enough, etc. Perhaps an Endurance check is required to hold some of the shored up pit wall in place, a Dungeoneering check to see if it can be reinforced, etc. The actions of the Paynims may matter (perhaps the Wizard gets a check to see if he notices the Paynims are casting a ritual and to counter spell it) but the SC is fundamentally ABOUT the PCs, so its not necessary to be overly concerned about the NPCs or deploy mechanics to handle their behavior, it is just part of the fiction that is challenging the PCs.

I mean, I'm not going to say that the 'trad way' of doing it in 4e is going to 'fail', but it requires the GM to make a whole bunch of decisions about what the NPCs do, what rules apply, what their exact skill bonuses are, etc. whereas this kind of stuff is much less important in an SC because it is built around story, not setting.
 

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