Approaches to prep in RPGing - GMs, players, and what play is *about*

soviet

Hero
That's perhaps true but it doesn't need to be. I played a Paladin in a recent 1st Ed Pathfinder campaign that routinely visited brothels between adventures (which was totally legal in the setting). The GM acting through the NPCs Mayor of the town and head of the local church that he followed, constantly challenged him on it, saying it was bringing the church into disrepute, not behaviour fitting of a paladin. It allowed my Paladin to have a religious debate with him. At no point did the DM go "This isn't Lawful Good, you loose your Paladin status", but it was challenged in character.
Sure. I'm not saying these things can't come up in many different styles of play. What I'm saying is there is a difference of frequency and consequence. There are games and playstyles where challenges to your character's sense of honour or paladinhood are the primary focus of play, or where the outcome of those challenges are likely to be profound and far reaching - either real collateral damage to oneself or one's goals and loved ones for sticking to the code, or an abandonment or breach of the code that leads to a significant change in status quo for the character - exile, ronin, death, and so on.
 

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pemerton

Legend
That's perhaps true but it doesn't need to be. I played a Paladin in a recent 1st Ed Pathfinder campaign that routinely visited brothels between adventures (which was totally legal in the setting). The GM acting through the NPCs Mayor of the town and head of the local church that he followed, constantly challenged him on it, saying it was bringing the church into disrepute, not behaviour fitting of a paladin. It allowed my Paladin to have a religious debate with him. At no point did the DM go "This isn't Lawful Good, you loose your Paladin status", but it was challenged in character.
What was the real nature of the challenge here? As you describe it (eg "between adventures"), it sound like colour but not much else.

Sure. I'm not saying these things can't come up in many different styles of play. What I'm saying is there is a difference of frequency and consequence. There are games and playstyles where challenges to your character's sense of honour or paladinhood are the primary focus of play, or where the outcome of those challenges are likely to be profound and far reaching - either real collateral damage to oneself or one's goals and loved ones for sticking to the code, or an abandonment or breach of the code that leads to a significant change in status quo for the character - exile, ronin, death, and so on.
One starting point: is there such a thing as "the adventure"? In Burning Wheel play, there is no "the adventure" that is distinct from challenging this player-authored Belief.
 

Bagpuss

Legend
What was the real nature of the challenge here? As you describe it (eg "between adventures"), it sound like colour but not much else.

Just an roleplaying one, as in them taking offense at it, threats to expel me from the town/order, that sort of stuff. Doesn't need mechanics.
 



soviet

Hero
Hope this is OK but as an illustration here's an excerpt from the GM chapter of my game Other Worlds which tries to make this stuff a big part of play:

Give the Characters Hard Choices

Now that the characters have both information and leverage, we get to turn up the heat and force them to make some hard choices about what they’re going to do. Many of these decisions will have a strong moral component, but some may be more personal or strategic in nature. Setting up these kinds of dilemmas can be a difficult part of GMing, but it is really the crux of successful play. Such problems put the character under the microscope and allow their player to make a clear statement about who they are and what they truly believe in. These statements then lead in to further character examination and development as we begin to explore the ramifications of what he has just done – and who he has done it to.

All the ammunition you need to create these moral dilemmas is right there on the character sheet. Take a close look at each character’s values as an individual – his goals, his flaws, his relationships, and his personality traits. Pick one of these values and try to find some way to test it. Pit it against one of his other values, or against the success of the mission itself. Force him to choose which one is most important to him, or at least to find out what he will do to try to maintain both values equally. For example, you might test a character’s Loyalty to the Company against his Do the Right Thing ability by having his employers give him some morally dubious assignment, or test his desire to Become a Jedi against his need to Avenge My Father’s Death by having the one person able to train him be the same man who killed his father all those years ago (testing also his Compassionate ability against his People Never Change ability).

You can also explore the intensity of a character’s individually-held beliefs by setting up situations where they may have potentially undesirable consequences, just to see how far he will go in trying to uphold them. Is there a line he will not cross, a sacrifice he will not make? For example, if he is Scrupulously Honest, would he lie to get himself out of trouble? Or to save his marriage? What about to get his daughter further up the transplant list? If he truly believes that The Ends Justify the Means in his undercover mission against the mob, what will he do to preserve his cover? Will he beat up an innocent man? Will he sit back and watch while an innocent man is killed? Will he kill the innocent man himself if necessary?
 

Hope this is OK but as an illustration here's an excerpt from the GM chapter of my game Other Worlds which tries to make this stuff a big part of play:

Give the Characters Hard Choices

Now that the characters have both information and leverage, we get to turn up the heat and force them to make some hard choices about what they’re going to do. Many of these decisions will have a strong moral component, but some may be more personal or strategic in nature. Setting up these kinds of dilemmas can be a difficult part of GMing, but it is really the crux of successful play. Such problems put the character under the microscope and allow their player to make a clear statement about who they are and what they truly believe in. These statements then lead in to further character examination and development as we begin to explore the ramifications of what he has just done – and who he has done it to.

All the ammunition you need to create these moral dilemmas is right there on the character sheet. Take a close look at each character’s values as an individual – his goals, his flaws, his relationships, and his personality traits. Pick one of these values and try to find some way to test it. Pit it against one of his other values, or against the success of the mission itself. Force him to choose which one is most important to him, or at least to find out what he will do to try to maintain both values equally. For example, you might test a character’s Loyalty to the Company against his Do the Right Thing ability by having his employers give him some morally dubious assignment, or test his desire to Become a Jedi against his need to Avenge My Father’s Death by having the one person able to train him be the same man who killed his father all those years ago (testing also his Compassionate ability against his People Never Change ability).

You can also explore the intensity of a character’s individually-held beliefs by setting up situations where they may have potentially undesirable consequences, just to see how far he will go in trying to uphold them. Is there a line he will not cross, a sacrifice he will not make? For example, if he is Scrupulously Honest, would he lie to get himself out of trouble? Or to save his marriage? What about to get his daughter further up the transplant list? If he truly believes that The Ends Justify the Means in his undercover mission against the mob, what will he do to preserve his cover? Will he beat up an innocent man? Will he sit back and watch while an innocent man is killed? Will he kill the innocent man himself if necessary?
And finally, going full circle, we come back to prep and how it's used. A character driven game that tests the proposition which is the PC will build around those propositions. It's situations and even setting will produce those tests and things like time and space will have secondary import over relationships, intentions, and needs.

In D&D a guard exists to be a mechanical challenge. He may have personality traits, connections, etc which can be part of that, but in a BitD game that guard's connection to the PCs, what group he belongs to, etc is the point of his existence.
 

niklinna

učim hrvatski
Just an roleplaying one, as in them taking offense at it, threats to expel me from the town/order, that sort of stuff. Doesn't need mechanics.
Ah, you were challenging the GM's sense of what constitute proper Paladin behavior. Bully for you! :)

I wonder if there are any RPG's that explicitly do that. One could argue that Dogs in the Vineyard does—in spite of its laundry list of things that constitute The Faith*, the dogs (that is, the PCs) have final say in any given situation. Disagreements between them make things more complicated of course.
 

Bagpuss

Legend
But what happened as a result? What changed?

How the character is viewed by his peers within the order, relationship with the city mayor who was one of the main patrons for the party, that sort of stuff. Not everything needs a mechanical difference to be part of the story.
 

clearstream

(He, Him)
How the character is viewed by his peers within the order, relationship with the city mayor who was one of the main patrons for the party, that sort of stuff. Not everything needs a mechanical difference to be part of the story.
The latter makes sense. As to the former, those sound like external changes. Did anything change internal to the character?
 

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