Beginning to Doubt That RPG Play Can Be Substantively "Character-Driven"

Both these cases are strong assertions of GM authority over scene-framing. I don't necessarily see that they're force because in neither case does there seem to be any action resolution going on.
Yeah, I'm not sure they quite reach the idea of Force as it had been presented, I was just trying to throw out a couple of examples that occurred to me.

That second claim might be contentious - but if we say that action resolution means some meaningful change in either the mechanical situation, or the fictional situation, or both, then I think it's plausible. Your mundane encounters (I'm assuming this is talking-to-shopkeepers stuff) seem (if I may be so bold) mere time-wasting colour.
Yes, you got it. I am uninterested in banter between a shopkeeper and a PC, unless there's something potentially meaningful involved. Same with haggling about prices and so on....we don't need to act that all out. You want to talk the guy down in price a bit? Okay, make a check to see how successful that is. Luckily, our games have kind of moved past that resource management aspect to the point this rarely comes up anymore. But I used to have one or two players who would use every single NPC they met as a chance to act out an interaction of some sort. A little of that is fine to help establish a person's character.....but for me it quickly becomes self indulgence, and I move on.

The second one maybe is meant to involve resource consumption? But it's also a safe place where they can rest and get back their spells and hp? And at least as you present it no actions had really been declared. (In my Illusionism thread I mentioned Roger Musson's union meeting of ogres, to stop the players going down a corridor that the GM hasn't written up yet. The line between that, and what you did, might be fine but I think it's worth noting. You didn't leave the players' action declarations on foot and narrate further content and consequences. You just reframed the whole situation.)
Right, I just reframed it. Which is what I would have done had I realized all the implications in actual play of what I thought was a kind of interesting idea when reading through the book. Then we got to that point of actual play, and I realized we were going to spend potentially hours of the game on this, and I just didn't want to do that. Nor would I have expected my players to want to do that (which they later confirmed when I explained), so I simply narrated it, said that they spent a couple of hours on it, and that yes, they could use it as a potentially safe hiding space to rest and recover if needed.

This goes back to something I think I posted upthread (again, I've got thread-merging-confusion) - if all GM decisions about the fiction are equated with force than the latter concept becomes analytically unhelpful.

There is a widespread view that the GM framing scenes is railroading unless they're scenes with a "quest-giver" in a tavern so that the players have the (at least notional choice) of taking the quest or keeping on chatting with the barmaid. But I think you only have to state the view plainly to see it's pretty implausible. Of course strong scene-framing might be contrary to some agreed point of a game - say dungeon-crawling or hex-crawling - but that doesn't make it force. Not all bad GMing, or poorly-judged narration, is force.
Yeah. I know you and I have in the past had some discussions on this where we disagreed a bit, but I really don't think that we do. A GM will always have influence on the game via setting and scene framing and the like. As we've discussed further, I think we're very much of similar mind on this.
 

prabe

Aspiring Lurker (He/Him)
There is a widespread view that the GM framing scenes is railroading unless they're scenes with a "quest-giver" in a tavern so that the players have the (at least notional choice) of taking the quest or keeping on chatting with the barmaid. But I think you only have to state the view plainly to see it's pretty implausible. Of course strong scene-framing might be contrary to some agreed point of a game - say dungeon-crawling or hex-crawling - but that doesn't make it force. Not all bad GMing, or poorly-judged narration, is force.
My own feeling is that the GM is allowed to drop in what I think of as instigating events, but other than whatever starts the campaign (or equivalent, don't get hung up on that) needs to be handled with thought and care (and if it ties to character backstories or previous campaign events, all the better).
 

pemerton

Legend
the GM is still making choices about interesting ways to challenge or include characters, choices about what is interesting or cool from a frame perspective, choices about how to respond to player choices - choices are involved.
I think this is true. GMing involves authorship. Even in austere Gygaxian/Moldvay-ian dungeon crawling the GM still has to author stuff on the spot, like what the wandering monsters say if the PCs try and talk to them.

I personally wouldn't describe this as the GM having a "desired result". I mean, of course the GM wants his/her authorship to be interesting but that's (almost) inherent in the concept of authorship. (Maybe there are some avant garde RPGers who are exploring the edge case of deliberately unengaging authorship, but I don't think they're posting in this thread.)

But the result, to me, is the outcome of the interaction and tensions that you mentioned. And I don't think the GM has to have any particular desire about that.

I'm guessing you meant something different by result, but I haven't worked out what yet!
 

pemerton

Legend
My own feeling is that the GM is allowed to drop in what I think of as instigating events, but other than whatever starts the campaign (or equivalent, don't get hung up on that) needs to be handled with thought and care (and if it ties to character backstories or previous campaign events, all the better).
My preference these days is to get the players to start things off. This can be done via a "kicker", or in some more relaxed way, or via BW-style Beliefs etc, and probably other ways too.

Conversely, if I'm going to do it as GM I'd rather just frame hard into some action. Faffing around with hooks and unconnected "quest-givers" seems like a waste of time that doubles as a pathway to a railroad.
 

pemerton

Legend
Depending on the group of players, even a table amenable to player driven systems like BitD or AW may need threads of GM force in the form of harder framings that demand a certain amount of reactivity. Some players (or even a larger group of players who might be having an off-day) simply might not be engaged enough to help frame compelling fiction; using GM force to give them some GM driven fiction is no vice in these cases to get them to a point where they're better able to engage.
I don't tend to see hard framing as force per se. In @Manbearcat's terms, where's the negation of player input? (You're positing that that's exactly what's missing.) In my terms in the "illusionism" thread, where's the guidance/manipulation towards a fore-ordained goal? (You're positing production of a reaction, but not forcing a particular reaction.)

This goes back to the framing = railroading thing. I just don't see it. What choices are being blocked or negated or channelled in a particular direction?

(Sorry, this is a bit ranty. But hopefully not outrageously so.)
 

prabe

Aspiring Lurker (He/Him)
My preference these days is to get the players to start things off. This can be done via a "kicker", or in some more relaxed way, or via BW-style Beliefs etc, and probably other ways too.

Conversely, if I'm going to do it as GM I'd rather just frame hard into some action. Faffing around with hooks and unconnected "quest-givers" seems like a waste of time that doubles as a pathway to a railroad.
Oh, an instigating event is a pretty hard thing. Party is all in same place and time. Stuff breaks out around them, which leads to other stuff, which leads to other stuff, by which point the players (and characters) are, inshallah, invested. First campaign the party was in [city] during [festival] and hordes of undead started attacking festivalgoers. Second campaign, party was at a caravanserai during [other festival], having all received letters telling them to be there and then; cultists of the Hunger Between Worlds showed up and started trying to convert and/or kill people in the caravanserai, which led to stuff, which led to other stuff, and the players and characters are, it seems, invested.
 
@pemerton - Hah, no, not the outcome itself, the 'desire' I'm talking about indexes that the session outcomes be, first, in line with the table expectations of framing and genre and the like, and two, that the outcomes be positive or good relative to the quality of experience at the table. In the second case I'm talking about the players enjoying themselves, not about positive outcomes for the characters. So the GM has desires about running a good campaign, for whatever value of good fits the system and players we're talking about. The result is the extent to which session outcomes match those desires - we can all tell when a session has been awesome or when one has dragged. We might not always be able to fix that, because we aren't the only one's making decisions, but that's generally the desire.

Was it cool? Did I juggle all the balls well or drop some? Were the players engaged? Did I give the players some chances to add their own great ideas to the frame (bump and set baby, bump and set)? Etc Etc.

The above is framed about as generally as I can manage. Any particular table could be described far more specifically in the same terms, of course.
 

Arilyn

Hero
Yeah, given this info I'd call this Force.

Unfortunately, there'll now be no way of knowing whether it was justified or not, in that you were kinda guessing how your players would react to the bits you skipped (unless there's more you haven't said). Further, you admit to having your own bias in point c), in not looking forward to the work you'd have to do.

It's possible your players might have enjoyed the sub-dungeon, for all I know. :)

You also altered the course of play in that whatever resources they'd have used in the sub-dungeon didn't get used, whatever knowledge and-or treasure they might have gained there they didn't get, and so forth.
As a player, I would have been very happy and relieved that this sub dungeon got narrated over. Sounds tedious to the extreme. 😊

I believe whether any force is justified really depends on your players. Know your players and make adjustments as needed has always worked well at my table.
 

Advertisement

Top