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

I’m not talking about a single example where it works. I’m talking about it always working with the game.

I would contend that Dungeon World 'always works'. Its a simple loop of play, the GM describes a situation, and then asks the players "what do you do now?" If no player wants to declare a character action (always in character, you never name a move) then the GM makes a move, usually a soft one. If a player does declare some action, then their character does that, assuming nobody at the table thinks its impossible or genre breaking, etc. and noting that players don't have an arbitrary remit to just make something up (IE a piece of equipment or an NPC or whatever). The GM now decides if this action is a formal 'move' or not. If not, then the PCs carries out the action. If it is a move, then the rules for that move are followed. Once the action is resolved, the GM may describe any additional new fiction if it is needed (maybe an entirely new scene) or simply ask for more player actions, possibly naming a specific character who should get a chance to act next, or just an open invitation. Again, if nothing happens and nobody acts, the GM once again makes a move.

Now, there can be some mechanical grey space there. Is an action a move? Which one? There are some fairly generic moves, like 'Defy Danger' that GMs could probably apply in a LOT of situations, but its subjective. The GM introduces most of the actual present fiction of scenes, so has a lot of leeway there, but as I said in an earlier post, must use the agenda and principles when doing this. The point is, there's always some sort of clear forward way that the game can proceed without any mechanical problem. You never need to make up rules in DW, although GMs CAN declare a new kind of move, like if a PC got a holding you could have them check for income or send out patrols, etc. So, my perception of Dungeon World is that there's really no point where it can 'fail to work' in the sense that someone has to make up a new game process to cover a situation that was not considered by the rules.
 

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Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
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.
Adapting means adapting the existing rules to make them fit better. So if the rules were intended for dungeon use and don't translate well to outdoor, you probably need to modify them a bit to make them fit outdoor use. You aren't re-inventing the wheel. You're just giving the wheel better rims and maybe a bit more air to let it roll better.
 

pemerton

Legend
Adapting means adapting the existing rules to make them fit better. So if the rules were intended for dungeon use and don't translate well to outdoor, you probably need to modify them a bit to make them fit outdoor use.
I don't know what this means, in practical terms. If the difference between being 10' away and being 100' away is +/-30 (on the d100 roll), then how do I (as GM) decide whether or not a nomad comes within 10'? If it affects the roll (ie makes it easier to succeed) if a nomad dismounts, how I decide if a nomad dismounts? Particularly a nomad who is close to the pit?

The real issue here, to my mind, is that a system that is designed for resolving individuals looking for hidden things in relatively close quarters is simply not well-suited for resolving a multitude of people being in the general vicinity of a hidden thing which they might find.

RM has a solution for this problem when it comes to combat: War Law is a wargame-type system for RM, comparable to using Chainmail or Spells & Swords in classic D&D, or Battle System or War Machine in 80s or 90s D&D.

But it doesn't have a comparable solution for the scenario I described in the OP.

Whether such a system would solve the excitement problem I don't know. My experiences with War Law, admittedly limited, didn't produce that much exciting play.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
I don't know what this means, in practical terms. If the difference between being 10' away and being 100' away is +/-30 (on the d100 roll), then how do I (as GM) decide whether or not a nomad comes within 10'? If it affects the roll (ie makes it easier to succeed) if a nomad dismounts, how I decide if a nomad dismounts? Particularly a nomad who is close to the pit?
Random roll, based on whatever odds seem reasonable to you-as-GM at the time when thinking about what makes those nomads tick.

This is one where you pretty much just have to wing it; though some systems might give guidelines, no system is going to go into that much hard-coded rules detail. Which is fine; unless the rulebooks rival the Encyclopedia Britannica in size, corner cases will always arise where a GM just has to make up something bespoke to that specific situation and go with it.

That said, pulling back from granular resolution to something that sorts it at a more macro level e.g. a single 4e-like skill challenge IMO isn't the answer, and would likely dilute the at-table tension significantly.
The real issue here, to my mind, is that a system that is designed for resolving individuals looking for hidden things in relatively close quarters is simply not well-suited for resolving a multitude of people being in the general vicinity of a hidden thing which they might find.
What happens if you treat that multitude of people as if it was an individual, or a few individuals, looking for a hidden thing? In other words, batch them into a group (or a few groups) for purposes of resolving this. And instead of "close quarters", decide or determine how big an area they intend to search and make that the "room" for purposes of resolution, and then just use the system that's already given. That would, it seems, sort things as seen from the NPC side.

The unpredictable variable, however, is that what's being searched for is not a simple object in a static place but is itself mobile, intelligent, and capable of independent action; which potentially turns what would otherwise be a fairly simple yes-no search into more of a cat-and-mouse affair. Maybe after each time the PCs do something that materially changes their situation or discoverability (e.g. move, split apart, make excessive noise, etc.) the NPCs get to repeat their search-the-"room" sequence at a penalty?

Heh - and meanwhile the same search-the-room sequence could be playing out for the PCs as they quietly search for whatever it was that they initially came here to find. :)
 

pemerton

Legend
Random roll, based on whatever odds seem reasonable to you-as-GM at the time when thinking about what makes those nomads tick.

This is one where you pretty much just have to wing it; though some systems might give guidelines, no system is going to go into that much hard-coded rules detail. Which is fine; unless the rulebooks rival the Encyclopedia Britannica in size, corner cases will always arise where a GM just has to make up something bespoke to that specific situation and go with it.
This appears to be agreeing with the OP, that in this sort of scenario granular resolution doesn't work.

What happens if you treat that multitude of people as if it was an individual, or a few individuals, looking for a hidden thing? In other words, batch them into a group (or a few groups) for purposes of resolving this. And instead of "close quarters", decide or determine how big an area they intend to search and make that the "room" for purposes of resolution, and then just use the system that's already given. That would, it seems, sort things as seen from the NPC side.
I don't know what would happen, because you have to show me what this actually means in play. For instance, to use 3E D&D language, would a group of people relatively keen to search always get to "take 20"? That changes the odds of things quite a bit.

Or does a large group get in one another's way? The RM rules, written to be applied to small groups of PCs, don't canvass this issue. Does that mean it's a non-issue as we scale up?

That said, pulling back from granular resolution to something that sorts it at a more macro level e.g. a single 4e-like skill challenge IMO isn't the answer, and would likely dilute the at-table tension significantly.
In my actual play experience, there is far more tension in something like a 4e-style skill challenge, or Torchbearer-style conflict, than the GM deciding it all via fiat and/or random rolls.
 

FrogReaver

As long as i get to be the frog
I would contend that Dungeon World 'always works'. Its a simple loop of play, the GM describes a situation, and then asks the players "what do you do now?" If no player wants to declare a character action (always in character, you never name a move) then the GM makes a move, usually a soft one. If a player does declare some action, then their character does that, assuming nobody at the table thinks its impossible or genre breaking, etc. and noting that players don't have an arbitrary remit to just make something up (IE a piece of equipment or an NPC or whatever). The GM now decides if this action is a formal 'move' or not. If not, then the PCs carries out the action. If it is a move, then the rules for that move are followed. Once the action is resolved, the GM may describe any additional new fiction if it is needed (maybe an entirely new scene) or simply ask for more player actions, possibly naming a specific character who should get a chance to act next, or just an open invitation. Again, if nothing happens and nobody acts, the GM once again makes a move.
At the level of resolution that you describe Dungeon World in here, the play loop for D&D 5e looks identical.

Now, there can be some mechanical grey space there. Is an action a move? Which one? There are some fairly generic moves, like 'Defy Danger' that GMs could probably apply in a LOT of situations, but its subjective. The GM introduces most of the actual present fiction of scenes, so has a lot of leeway there, but as I said in an earlier post, must use the agenda and principles when doing this. The point is, there's always some sort of clear forward way that the game can proceed without any mechanical problem. You never need to make up rules in DW, although GMs CAN declare a new kind of move, like if a PC got a holding you could have them check for income or send out patrols, etc. So, my perception of Dungeon World is that there's really no point where it can 'fail to work' in the sense that someone has to make up a new game process to cover a situation that was not considered by the rules.
Which brings us back around to my point - This is also true of at least 5e D&D. Maybe the older games that I've never played like RM or AD&D 1e really don't have a generalized mechanical process like 5e ability checks for dealing with anything not spelled out elsewhere. I don't know that I believe that's true, and I ain't got nothing to stand on but gut and intution, but I know for a fact it's true of 5e.

Let me be clear and mince no words - granular resolution always works in D&D 5e. Which is proof by exmaple that there's nothing inherently faulty with granular resolution. Which is if I'm not mistaken this threads premise.
 

pemerton

Legend
@FrogReaver, in what sense are ability checks used in the way you are describing granular resolution? They don't depend upon tight measurement of time. They don't depend upon tight measurement of space. They don't depend up setting => situation either - as per @AnotherGuy's post upthread, the GM has all sorts of licence to frame the situation by reference to considerations like pacing, spotlight, difficulty etc.

At the level of abstraction you're describing, they don't seem any different from simple contest resolution in Prince Valiant or HeroWars/Quest.
 

At the level of resolution that you describe Dungeon World in here, the play loop for D&D 5e looks identical.


Which brings us back around to my point - This is also true of at least 5e D&D. Maybe the older games that I've never played like RM or AD&D 1e really don't have a generalized mechanical process like 5e ability checks for dealing with anything not spelled out elsewhere. I don't know that I believe that's true, and I ain't got nothing to stand on but gut and intution, but I know for a fact it's true of 5e.

Let me be clear and mince no words - granular resolution always works in D&D 5e. Which is proof by exmaple that there's nothing inherently faulty with granular resolution. Which is if I'm not mistaken this threads premise.

OK, 5e does have an ability check system, which is a pretty generalized action resolution mechanic. However, you still need a procedure for dealing with a given situation, how far can you jump, etc. right? In cases where the rules don't detail that, you need to invent it when that situation comes up. In DW you do need to be able to say "oh, you rolled 6-, well such-and-such happens" and MAYBE "this doesn't seem possible under the circumstances" and the later might perhaps be construed as a 'rule', but it is very unlikely to come attached with the type of quantitative stuff that exists in many D&D rules.

Actually we were just discussing some of this in a thread on 4e today. 4e has these sorts of quantitative little rules attached to skills too. And then it has skill challenges where none of that applies, but you still roll skill checks. This shows very clearly the contrast, the two approaches can actually clash within the same game! The OP of that thread in fact specifically asked about this. So there's very definitely a difference! The 5e version does not 'always work'. I agree you could toss away every vestige of references to things like "how far can I jump?" and then 5e (or 4e) skill/ability checks ARE almost like Dungeon World moves.

But no, you haven't proven your premise at all, IMHO. Its possible to remodel the 5e approach to play to get some of what DW offers in terms of ability checks, but it isn't just there without changing up your approach (and the rules of the game). And for earlier D&Ds it just isn't there at all.
 

pemerton

Legend
OK, 5e does have an ability check system, which is a pretty generalized action resolution mechanic. However, you still need a procedure for dealing with a given situation, how far can you jump, etc. right?

<snip>

I agree you could toss away every vestige of references to things like "how far can I jump?" and then 5e (or 4e) skill/ability checks ARE almost like Dungeon World moves.

But no, you haven't proven your premise at all, IMHO. Its possible to remodel the 5e approach to play to get some of what DW offers in terms of ability checks, but it isn't just there without changing up your approach (and the rules of the game). And for earlier D&Ds it just isn't there at all.
I made a recent post in another thread that touches on this:

In the context of 5e D&D, the default player-side move is Make an ability check. What is the difficulty? What are the stakes? What are the consequences for failure? All these things are normally under the GM's control, and often are kept secret from the player. If I was playing 5e D&D and wanted to make my play more satisfying, I would look at ways of changing these things. For instance, I might adopt a default DC for skill checks (say, 10+half-level), with one possible consequence for failure being a stepping up the DC of the follow-on check by 5. I would probably also look to be more open about what's at stake - so a check is only called for when someone wants something out of the situation that the adversity in the situation (be that animate or inanimate force) doesn't want to give them.
The obvious challenge in adapting this to 5e is that it quickly leads to contradictions with a setting => situation approach. To avoid those contradictions, you have to sometimes just have the GM say "no" rather than apply the resolution method. At which point we get an obvious difference from the DW "play loop" - sometimes the GM makes a hard move even when no opportunity has been handed on a platter, and even when no check has been failed.

Thus, the rule is no longer "if you do it, you do it". And you get situations where the GM has made a hard move but the players don't know why - because the relevant bit of fiction is hidden - and then play heads in a direction quite different from what would happen in DW.
 

I'm not sure what you mean by "vague" here. As per the instructions given to GMs in the Scholar's Guide (p 139), part of preparing an adventure scenario in Torchbearer includes coming up with ideas for twists:

Plan Twists
As you finish planning out your problems and obstacles, try to imagine some of the possible twists that might happen should the characters​
blunder around.​

I assume that you are referring to this [scenario alluded to]
Yes. For some reason I thought the game was Burning Wheel and not Torchbearer.
There is nothing vague about this. The instructions to GMs are clear. I had followed them. A player failed a roll. As per the rules of the game, I (as GM) decided whether to allow success with a condition or impose a twist, and I opted for a twist. Which was Megloss showing up.

At no point was it unclear whose job it is to decide what happens next, nor what parameters govern that decision.
Okay, I see what you mean by it not being vague. There's a one sentence rule that says "in this case, make something up." This rule is explicit in one rulebook and implicit in another. The rule itself is vague- "do something" isn't very specific. But I think I see your point here. However, I find it very difficult to understand how not being explicitly told that the GM needs to do something in a particular instance, especially in the frame of NPC reactions, is a failure of campaign design.

I had hoped that it was clear that by "granular" - particularly in the context of the reference to some earlier threads to which this is a sequel - I meant granular detail with respect to the in-fiction space and time, and the causal process that are unfolding within the fiction. I had hoped that my discussions of spell ranges and durations, the importance of distances to Locate Hidden checks, etc would reinforce that intended meaning.
I see; granular is only specificity of parameters, and not inclusive of the variety of possible outcomes from a given roll or action.
 

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