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

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
There are some decisions about what sort of things the NPCs should do, is it or is it not meta-gaming for them to even be suspicious, do they search for something hidden, why would they do that, and my guess is presumably they don't search, or they find nothing, and they go away. Alternately, maybe they do find something, but I'm not sure exactly what kind of anti-climax ensues in that case. I guess perhaps the Paynims are just defeated by the PC's magic and can't do anything.
It's not all that hard to figure out.

For reasons that are now a bit hazy, the PCs wanted to explore Tovag Baragu, the mysterious standing stones in the Baklun desert in the World of Greyhawk. The PCs teleported there, and then used magic to create a great pit that they were using to search for something-or-other that might be there. And then Paynim nomads arrived on the scene. The PCs hid themselves by creating a cover over the pit, which stopped the Baklun riders from finding them.

They are in a desert and have come to these stones. There would be fresh tracks in the area, but none leading away. So the answers to "Is it metagaming for them to be suspicious?" and "Do they search from something hidden?" and "would they even do that?" would be dependent on whether or not they notice the suspicious tracks.

I'm sure Rolemaster had some sort of perception process. Success and the nomads notice the tracks and become suspicious. Then they would search the area, and there's probably a process for noticing the magic or other way to find the PCs.

As for drama, that's up to how the DM describes the above processes and their results.
 

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FrogReaver

As long as i get to be the frog
I think part of the problem in this discussion are that there are multiple elements each needing established and some will help build on each other.

1. What group arrives
2. Why are they here
3. What particular NPCs are in this particular group (stats if needed)
4. How close would they get to the stones
5. Do they spot they notice the PCs or signs of their presence.

In an actual game resolving these questions in order helps the DM resolve the subsequent ones.

Paynim are here because X. Because of X they likely consist of A. Because they are Paynim here for X and consist of A people they likely get B distance from the stones, and then after all that we have everything needed to resolve their perception check.

The details in this playstyle build on each other. So it’s important for conversation to understand how the details between they are Paynim and do they find the PCs are resolved.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
Well, I was there and I'm reporting how it went down.

It wasn't dramatic. It should have been, but it wasn't.

Generating game stats for dozens or hundreds of nomads is not exciting. Working through their abilities, and making decisions like when do they cast Detect Magic, at what range relative to where the PCs are, and then which of the many areas they might scan do they actually scan is not exciting and also involves a fair bit of largely arbitrary decision-making.
It wasn't, but it could have been. There's no need to generate that many stats and figure out all of that.

DM: "As you search the pit looking for pieces of the Fix-it-All Tayvin up top notices some dust in the distance. After a few minutes he notes that a large group of horsemen are moving towards the stones. Paynim are coming!"
John: "Mervin the Sorcerer will cast Rock of Ages and cover us within the pit to hide us from the Paynim."
DM: (rolls perception(or whatever the RM equivalent is to see if the Paynim notice the PC's fresh tracks around the outside of the pit and rolls well. One does!)
DM: "Hiding within the darkness you hear horse hooves above you. They seem to be spreading out and moving slowly and methodically."
Darryl: "Uh,oh! It sounds like they are searching for us. I whisper to the others to stay vewy, vewy quiet."
Marcy: "Layla will quietly cast clairvoyance above and see what the Paynim are doing."
DM: "You see through your magical eye that the Paynim are looking about the ground with concern on their faces. They know something is up, but don't seem to have figured out where you guys are yet."
Marcy: "I will quietly cast Control Weather and start a large dust devil 100 yards outside of the stones and head it towards the Paynim. I've heard that they are superstitious and a dust devil like this might spook them. Hopefully we will be safe after this."

Drama is what you make of it. You don't need either fiat or a different playstyle to generate it and having a different playstyle or system won't automatically make drama happen. The DM's skill will determine whether it exists or not no matter the playstyle or systemused.

Now I haven't opened up a RM book in more than 20 years, so I'm sure the spells don't work exactly how I described above, but that's not the point. There would be processes in play and spells to use that could generate drama and be used to try and overcome the Paynim problem without engaging fiat.

Note that fiat is not in and of itself a good or bad thing. It's one of the best tools out there for DM's to use, but it is also very easily abusable. A fair DM will strive to use it wisely and it will enhance the game quite a bit. A bad DM will use it to turn the game into hell.
 

FrogReaver

As long as i get to be the frog
It wasn't, but it could have been. There's no need to generate that many stats and figure out all of that.

DM: "As you search the pit looking for pieces of the Fix-it-All Tayvin up top notices some dust in the distance. After a few minutes he notes that a large group of horsemen are moving towards the stones. Paynim are coming!"
John: "Mervin the Sorcerer will cast Rock of Ages and cover us within the pit to hide us from the Paynim."
DM: (rolls perception(or whatever the RM equivalent is to see if the Paynim notice the PC's fresh tracks around the outside of the pit and rolls well. One does!)
DM: "Hiding within the darkness you hear horse hooves above you. They seem to be spreading out and moving slowly and methodically."
Darryl: "Uh,oh! It sounds like they are searching for us. I whisper to the others to stay vewy, vewy quiet."
Marcy: "Layla will quietly cast clairvoyance above and see what the Paynim are doing."
DM: "You see through your magical eye that the Paynim are looking about the ground with concern on their faces. They know something is up, but don't seem to have figured out where you guys are yet."
Marcy: "I will quietly cast Control Weather and start a large dust devil 100 yards outside of the stones and head it towards the Paynim. I've heard that they are superstitious and a dust devil like this might spook them. Hopefully we will be safe after this."

Drama is what you make of it. You don't need either fiat or a different playstyle to generate it and having a different playstyle or system won't automatically make drama happen. The DM's skill will determine whether it exists or not no matter the playstyle or systemused.

Now I haven't opened up a RM book in more than 20 years, so I'm sure the spells don't work exactly how I described above, but that's not the point. There would be processes in play and spells to use that could generate drama and be used to try and overcome the Paynim problem without engaging fiat.

Note that fiat is not in and of itself a good or bad thing. It's one of the best tools out there for DM's to use, but it is also very easily abusable. A fair DM will strive to use it wisely and it will enhance the game quite a bit. A bad DM will use it to turn the game into hell.
I’d just add, what gets called fiat most the time isn’t.

When you base your decision on the things you do know then it’s not fiat. When you make fortune rolls to determine aspects of the scene then it’s not fiat. Fiat is ignoring all of that to do what you want regardless.
 

Tonguez

A suffusion of yellow
Yeah, I don't know exactly what game process, GM whim, preexisting notes, etc. produced "Paynim tribesmen arrive." I guess answer 1 is OK, but it isn't very satisfying to me. You have this charged situation, and Chekhov's Paynim show up, but then nothing happens... 2 seems to be exactly what happened, and illustrates the 'granular resolution didn't work' nature of the example. 3 is just 2 all over again, with perhaps less pressure.

I'm not sure what you are getting at. None of these seem to resolve in a useful way. Nor, barring some fiction in the original scenario setting this up, do we have any reason to pick one over another. Random dice will work of course, or a PbtA-like check where the GM is then obliged to add more fiction, etc.

so in my mind things are rolling out like:
Scene: PCs arrive at Tovag Baragu Standing Stones, dig a pit and start searching.
complication: Paynim horsemen arrive (Paynim consider the place sacred, dont like outsiders)

- As a Player I’d be asking: Isnt this place supposed to be an isolated wasteland? Why have the Paynim come now? Were we spotted or are they just passing through?
What we dont know from OP is what are the motivations of the NPCs and without knowing its not really possible to say much about what they’ll do. If its just random then they have no reason to search, resolve it as such

PC response: We use a spell to cover the pit so it looks like normal sand and hope they move on.
DM: okay your spell is a success*, the pit is covered and the horesmen move on
*use suitably dramatic narrative

if the DM wants to provide a bit more tension then - “the Horsemen ride by the pit, you hear the ring of their hooves as they pass over the hard cover beneath the sand. A couple of horses become skittish and pull away…”

Its how the narrative is handled that creates excitement regardless of how the scene is set, but overall in this case it seems that the PCs successfully casting the spell to cover the pit is the resolution to the scene.
We can now move to the next scene which is either “Searching the Pit“ or “Foiling the Paynim” (Players choice)

Edit: Okay Maxperson did a much better example using a suitably dramatic narrative
 
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Lanefan

Victoria Rules
They are in a desert and have come to these stones. There would be fresh tracks in the area, but none leading away.
The OP notes that the PCs teleported in, so while there might be some tracks within the ruins there may not be many - if any - leading to them, depending on where the PCs arrived.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
The OP notes that the PCs teleported in, so while there might be some tracks within the ruins there may not be many - if any - leading to them, depending on where the PCs arrived.
Right, which is why I specified area and not arriving. ;) They would presumably have walked at least some of the time outside the area of the pit they dug after arriving.
 

Well, there is. Here it would involve breaking the scene down into units of game time (maybe each a few minutes long) and determining for each time unit a) what the PCs are doing and-or how successfully they're doing it, and b) what the NPCs are doing and how successful they are.

Determining what the PCs are doing is easy: the players will tell you, and resolution runs as normal.

Determing what the NPCs are doing, in a more granular way than just "searching", would I think come down to some random dice rolls, as (if I'm reading the OP scenario right) the searchers didn't have much to go on other than suspicion, and thus their finding or noticing anything amiss would pretty much come down to sheer luck. Roll the dice.

As for the use of spells, the OP indicates (but doesn't say outright) whether the NPCs' spells-available were written up in advance. If the players caught the DM off-guard with a sudden decision to teleport to the ruins and search there, the NPCs' spells etc. not being pre-written is completely understandable: the DM is in full-on react mode, and would have to quickly set some odds and then roll to see if a) any of the NPCs had Detect Magic available (or indeed if any of them were casters at all), and then b) the RM equivalent of an Int or Wis check to see if such spell got cast.

And if the riders do notice something amiss, it's then on the GM to play them true to themselves as to what they do next. Do they take up defensive positions to attack anything coming out of the ruins (i.e. the cautious approach)? Do they send some riders to get help (the delay-till-later-and-hope-the-problem-goes-away approach)? Do they try to bust through the hollow floor (the aggressive approach)? Again, if these are NPCs the GM has just had to dream up on the fly, some dice-rolling - maybe along the lines of a sliding-scale morale check with lower meaning more cautious and higher meaning more aggressive - might again be in order. I've done things like this many a time in the past when I've been unexpectedly put into wing-it mode.
You have demonstrated the crappiness of the situation quite well. Your best recommendation is for the GM to play a dice game against himself, or else just decide arbitrarily.
If you're thinking of skill challenges, I'm not sure here. You'd sacrifice a huge amount of granularity (and drama) in order to play this all out as a skill challenge...and would it be two opposing SCs - the PCs get one for their searching of the ruins while the NPCs get one for their searching for the PCs? From what little I know about 4e I don't think NPCs get to use skill challenges, so by RAW that option is out.

Never mind that if the PCs fail on their SC it still doesn't necessarily mean the riders have found them - the failed SC on the ruins search could be for any number of other reasons e.g. an impassable barrier, a pit-wall collapse, they simply don't find anything of use, or whatever; which kind of leaves the riders hanging even though they represent the dramatic element.
This is not how SCs work in 4e. There's no such thing as NPCs running an SC. Nor does the GM roll dice in one. So there IS a valid question here when approaching this in a narrative sense, the resolution systems are entirely focused on what the PCs do to interact with the world. Certainly NPCs react, and maybe in fairly complex ways, but for resolution to proceed the players have to make a 'move'. There are a few ways to sort this, but I think the main ones are going to alter the granularity of the situation. This is a hallmark of narrative system play.
 

Not exactly, the skill challenge has a set number of successes or failures needed before success or failure to reach goals happens... that doesn't take into account whether the fiction itself is or is not flowing towards the goals conclusion. I guess one should assume the fiction being created is pushing towards a resolution but I have seen what I would call meandering fiction... where the player or GM creates fiction that doesn't really change the state of anything, and that can lead to a situation where the mechanics say this challenge is resolved but the fiction is unsatisfying or contrary to that end state.
IMHO the SC concept is utterly dependent on the idea that each 'move' advances the fiction. Furthermore it's not really going to make sense unless those changes move the situation in the indicated direction. While DMG1 maybe was written without realizing that had to be spelled out, it's certainly presented as true. I've not had any issues there, fiction flows forward...
 

Imaro

Legend
IMHO the SC concept is utterly dependent on the idea that each 'move' advances the fiction. Furthermore it's not really going to make sense unless those changes move the situation in the indicated direction. While DMG1 maybe was written without realizing that had to be spelled out, it's certainly presented as true. I've not had any issues there, fiction flows forward...

Yep, and I've seen the player who just makes a check using one of their really good skills to get a success/ not disappoint the other players, while not really moving the fiction forward in any appreciable way while participating in 4e Adventurer's League so battle of anecdotes and all that. Either way I think it illustrates that they aren't the same thing though they can be explicitly tied together if the rules make the effort to enforce that.
 

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