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Consequences of Failure

Ovinomancer

Flip Nazi
Agreed. I like that the player has offered up some interesting backstory that may be useful later, but I just can't see the reason for an ability check here. I'll just provide more information.
Sure. I see a strong version of the player's action where he just asserts these stones are like the ones back home and that he's activating them according to the rituals he's observed. While this still runs into the player introduced fiction problem (and 5e's lack of tools to really address it*), it's a much more clearly defined action that can have more obvious downsides (the stones aren't like back home and you've done something bad, you've messed up the ritual and something bad happens, you've started the ritual but something's off and you better figure it out right now or something bad happens, etc.).

I kinda feel like this play looks more like other games that encourage player-side fiction propositions that the mechanics then test to see if they're true or not.

*I say this because 5e really focuses on altering odds through bonuses and have mechanics like seeking advantage that can really sway the likelihood of success. Also, the DM's tool of DC adjudication is a bit off for setting a DC on if something is true or not, so the tools on the DM side are weak as well. Most games that favor player-side fiction introduction use a mechanical system that has relatively fixed success/fail odds for everything and strong player-side tools to mitigate failures. This lets the DM really push hard on failures and introduce more tension into play by thwarting player propositions to the fiction and introducing negative aspects because the players can mitigate them. In D&D, the closest similar tool is really the hitpoint.
 

DM Dave1

Adventurer
In effect, this scenario is presenting a fiction to the players with no information about what's expected or what's possible and asking them to either ask you questions about it to find out or do things blindly. This is a poor formulation from a number of angles, especially since you establish that even the DM doesn't know what they stone are or what they do.
The link was about the caretakers (hint: they’re the Druids that Nigel talks about in Spinal Tap), not the stones. But the point you raise is a good one: there really isn’t enough info here for the players.

We have a vague situation that we're asking the players to negotiate. In other games, like a PbtA game, this would be okay, because the players have a lot of ways to introduce new fiction and the mechanics of those systems work well with that. But, that's lacking in 5e. Still, that's essentially what you have the player's ask do -- create new fiction.

The player's declaration is actually both complex and just asking the DM to narrate more. It's complex in that it has a buried proposition to create new fictions -- that these stones are like the stones back home. This is problematical in 5e because there's no mechanical way to do this and, in effect, the player is asking the DM to add this to the game. The adjudication of this is DM whim. So, once we've negotiated past the part where the DM decides if it's permissible for these stones to be like the ones back home, we get to the basic part where the player is now asking the DM to narrate to the player the fiction of these stones, which are now like back home, that the DM elected NOT to do prior to this (didn't know, didn't want to say, eh). The premise of the question is that the DM now decides that receiving this narration is uncertain, and has a cost for failure, and so calls for a check. Only, this check is difficult to parse because we've missed that it is just an ask for more DM narration and that there's nothing at risk here except that DM deciding that these stones aren't like back home, but, again, 5e lacks a strong mechanical use case for this kind of determination.

So, essentially, this entire though experiment boils down to the DM failing to preset a complete scene, forcing the players to ask both for new fiction and for the DM to narrate the scene more, This leads to confusion because it's assumed that the player's ask should be gated behind a check. We're asked to identify a possible failure case for this check, which is precisely backwards -- you should know this before asking for the check.

I see no check necessary here to ask the DM if the player's backstory can please be relevant to the not-fully-developed scene presented -- this is entirely up to the DM.
Good stuff. No objection to this analysis.

Let’s try a permutation with more detail:

During wilderness exploration, the party stumbles upon a grove of eleven standing stones with weathered runes upon them, the caretakers having long abandoned the site. No one knows who they (the caretakers) were, or what they were doing. The forest has been quite ordinary up to now, but the grove seems strangely a bit darker than the understory from whence the party emerged. Some of the stones are stained, perhaps from exposure. Hearty, thorny vines surround the bottom of each stone. Now one of the PCs harkens back to wandering the woods behind the family farm (part of a pre-established backstory)... "I approach one of the standing stones to examine, visually at first, the runes and compare them against what I remember of the stones behind our family farm where the green robed humanoids chanted but always kept their distance when we wandered nearby."

Ability check? No check? Make up your own failure condition, if need be. I’ve got one in mind based on the telegraphing in the description. But maybe still more detail is needed?
 

Ovinomancer

Flip Nazi
The link was about the caretakers (hint: they’re the Druids that Nigel talks about in Spinal Tap), not the stones. But the point you raise is a good one: there really isn’t enough info here for the players.



Good stuff. No objection to this analysis.

Let’s try a permutation with more detail:

During wilderness exploration, the party stumbles upon a grove of eleven standing stones with weathered runes upon them, the caretakers having long abandoned the site. No one knows who they (the caretakers) were, or what they were doing. The forest has been quite ordinary up to now, but the grove seems strangely a bit darker than the understory from whence the party emerged. Some of the stones are stained, perhaps from exposure. Hearty, thorny vines surround the bottom of each stone. Now one of the PCs harkens back to wandering the woods behind the family farm (part of a pre-established backstory)... "I approach one of the standing stones to examine, visually at first, the runes and compare them against what I remember of the stones behind our family farm where the green robed humanoids chanted but always kept their distance when we wandered nearby."

Ability check? No check? Make up your own failure condition, if need be. I’ve got one in mind based on the telegraphing in the description. But maybe still more detail is needed?
Personally, you're running into my dislike of the players asking the DM if they can know something. This is a personal hangup, though, and largely due to the fact that it's very difficult to come up with failure states that actually change the fiction. "You don't know" is a status quo answer that doesn't change the fiction -- the player didn't now before and now they don't know still. Sure, there's the establishing in the fiction that the character doesn't know, but that's not an especially effective change in the fiction. Then there's my personal opinion that more information is always better -- if my scenario hinges on the PCs not knowing something I've not done my (IMO) job as DM.

Instead, here, it looks like any interaction with the stones might trigger an encounter. That's fair, but then there's nothing special about the player's declared action -- not harkening back to your memories can trigger the encounter as well. This works, okay, but it feels kludgey, as if the scenario is set up so that the GM can justify a consequence to a player ask for more information.

I suppose if I had to establish something in this vein, I'd allow the player a check -- success means that these stones are like back home, but corrupted, and the player has a viable course of action to correct it by performing one of the rituals they observed to purify the site. On a failure, though, these stones are different -- still corrupt you figure, but you've no good idea how to cleanse it. In both cases, I'd set up an imminent encounter that I'd reveal now. In the success case, the PCs have options to try to cleanse the stones and halt the encounter (or mitigate it), in the fail case, the PCs can prepare a moment, but the bad is coming anyway. Or, in either, they might surprise me. Oh, the joys of the discrete packets of chaos called players.

EDIT: I misspelled imminent. I know my posts are littered with typos -- I haven't had much time lately to post at leisure or have had a lot to say quickly -- but this one, this one bothered me enough to edit. I think because I know immanent is a different word, so the difference stands out for me.
 
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Lanefan

Victoria Rules
Honestly, given the action described, I don’t really see one, other than not recognizing the runes, which isn’t really a meaningful consequence in my evaluation. As mentioned before, I think this action would probably succeed or fail without a check. I suppose, if there is time pressure - maybe there is an upcoming great conjunction and the PCs need to perform a special ritual at these standing stones at the appropriate time to prevent Cthulhu from waking up or whatever - then the time it takes to study theses runes in the way described might be a sufficient cost for the attempt, and the consequence for failure would be spending that resource without making progress.
Can I raise a practical question at this point?

Why can't a consequence of failure be that the PCs miss a clue that would make their ongoing task (whatever it may be) considerably easier than it'll now otherwise be? The thing is, this consequence will not be apparent right now, and - depending how things play out down the road - may never be. Doesn't make it any less significant.

And for me, anything like remembering the stones and-or their significance would require a check of some sort. Deciphering the runes would require at least one of: a) someone in the party to be literate in that language, or b) a Thief to succeed on a Read Languages roll (in 1e), or c) someone to cast Comprehend Language.
 

Ovinomancer

Flip Nazi
Can I raise a practical question at this point?

Why can't a consequence of failure be that the PCs miss a clue that would make their ongoing task (whatever it may be) considerably easier than it'll now otherwise be? The thing is, this consequence will not be apparent right now, and - depending how things play out down the road - may never be. Doesn't make it any less significant.

And for me, anything like remembering the stones and-or their significance would require a check of some sort. Deciphering the runes would require at least one of: a) someone in the party to be literate in that language, or b) a Thief to succeed on a Read Languages roll (in 1e), or c) someone to cast Comprehend Language.
How is this different from not asking, though? That's my hangup -- if the consequence is "you don't know" then this is just furthering the status quo; it's not a consequential change to the fiction.
 
This thread has gotten way too theoretical. In a staring-at-one's-navel kind of way.
Well, on the practical side: you asked a question about resolving consequences in the context of tying up prisoners. I posted, and then re-pointed you to, an actual play example of resolving a situation of that sort. Do you have any views on that?
 

Ovinomancer

Flip Nazi
Well, on the practical side: you asked a question about resolving consequences in the context of tying up prisoners. I posted, and then re-pointed you to, an actual play example of resolving a situation of that sort. Do you have any views on that?
Also on the practical side, he did ask that question in the context of playing 5e and using a specific approach to adjuducating actions in 5e. You posted an example from a different game. I'm not sure @Elfcrusher is on the hook to discuss.

;)
 

DM Dave1

Adventurer
Personally, you're running into my dislike of the players asking the DM if they can know something. This is a personal hangup, though, and largely due to the fact that it's very difficult to come up with failure states that actually change the fiction. "You don't know" is a status quo answer that doesn't change the fiction -- the player didn't now before and now they don't know still. Sure, there's the establishing in the fiction that the character doesn't know, but that's not an especially effective change in the fiction. Then there's my personal opinion that more information is always better -- if my scenario hinges on the PCs not knowing something I've not done my (IMO) job as DM.
Fair enough, but for "knowledge checks" do you just auto-succeed or auto-fail and move on in your game? I'm trying to get at a case where there might be a meaningful consequence for failure and hence a call for a roll. And, I agree, "You don't know" is not meaningful and falls flat after a roll.

Instead, here, it looks like any interaction with the stones might trigger an encounter. That's fair, but then there's nothing special about the player's declared action -- not harkening back to your memories can trigger the encounter as well. This works, okay, but it feels kludgey, as if the scenario is set up so that the GM can justify a consequence to a player ask for more information.
Then what is special about any player's declared action? Many actions will result in the same outcome. (e.g. a pit trapped hallway - the PC could trigger the pit trap by running down the hallway, crawling down the hallway, forcing the NPC captive to walk down the hallway, poking the 10' pole ahead of them, etc).

I'd argue it is not up to the DM to judge if a declared action is special or valuable or whathaveyou. The player has already determined the value of their action simply by declaring it. It's valuable because that's what they want their character to do. The DM just adjudicates fairly the result of said action. I suppose you might say that if the DM gives an auto-success, then the player might feel that it was one very special action. The again, maybe I'm too hung up on your use of the word "special".

I suppose if I had to establish something in this vein, I'd allow the player a check -- success means that these stones are like back home, but corrupted, and the player has a viable course of action to correct it by performing one of the rituals they observed to purify the site. On a failure, though, these stones are different -- still corrupt you figure, but you've no good idea how to cleanse it. In both cases, I'd set up an imminent encounter that I'd reveal now. In the success case, the PCs have options to try to cleanse the stones and halt the encounter (or mitigate it), in the fail case, the PCs can prepare a moment, but the bad is coming anyway. Or, in either, they might surprise me. Oh, the joys of the discrete packets of chaos called players.

EDIT: I misspelled imminent. I know my posts are littered with typos -- I haven't had much time lately to post at leisure or have had a lot to say quickly -- but this one, this one bothered me enough to edit. I think because I know immanent is a different word, so the difference stands out for me.
LOL. Maybe the caretakers were eminent stone standers. Auto-succeed with the declared action!

Also, love that bolded part!
 

DM Dave1

Adventurer
I feel like this example is presented as if I'm the player and then I'm asked to adjudicate the proposed action as DM without knowing anything about what's really going on with those stones. What does my prep say?
Certainly. I guess I was leaving the prep up to the imagination of the DMs here. That said, I bet I'm not the only one that would find it extremely valuable to see your prep notes! WWID
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
Can I raise a practical question at this point?

Why can't a consequence of failure be that the PCs miss a clue that would make their ongoing task (whatever it may be) considerably easier than it'll now otherwise be? The thing is, this consequence will not be apparent right now, and - depending how things play out down the road - may never be. Doesn't make it any less significant.
There are a few reasons. One is that this is the kind of failure state that kills momentum. Like the example earlier in the thread where my friend who’s learning to DM called for a Perception check to find a location that we needed to find to progress. Being more experienced than my friend, I build my adventures in such a way that if one avenue gets cut off there are other ways to proceed, but these situations can still really take the wind out of the players’ sails.


Not knowing something is also a dissatisfying end state, because it only maintains the status quo. It’s the same outcome as if you just hadn’t rolled, except that I guess now you know you don’t know. If failure only means “no progress,” I prefer for the attempt to consume a resource, and an in-universe resource, not a metagame resource like a limited number of attempts or a building penalty on repeat attempts.

And for me, anything like remembering the stones and-or their significance would require a check of some sort. Deciphering the runes would require at least one of: a) someone in the party to be literate in that language, or b) a Thief to succeed on a Read Languages roll (in 1e), or c) someone to cast Comprehend Language.
In my games, if a PC is literate with the script and fluent in the language it’s written in, they can read it with no uncertainty. If they know the script but not the language (not typical, but can happen with exotic languages that use the same scripts as common languages, and when the writer intentionally used a different script to disguise their message), that can be translated with enough time, and a successful check if time is a limited resource. The translation will be imperfect, however - I’ll give the general meaning of the message, but not the specific phrasing.
 
@Charlaquin, the 5e example of play is found in the opening pages of the Basic PDF:

Here's the dialogue:

Dungeon Master (DM): After passing through the craggy peaks, the road takes a sudden turn to the east and Castle Ravenloft towers before you. Crumbling towers of stone keep a silent watch over the approach. They look like abandoned guardhouses. Beyond these, a wide chasm gapes, disappearing into the deep fog below. A lowered drawbridge spans the chasm, leading to an arched entrance to the castle courtyard. The chains of the drawbridge creak in the wind, their rust-eaten iron straining with the weight. From atop the high strong walls, stone gargoyles stare at you from hollow sockets and grin hideously. A rotting wooden portcullis, green with growth, hangs in the entry tunnel. Beyond this, the main doors of Castle Ravenloft stand open, a rich warm light spilling into the courtyard.

Phillip (playing Gareth): I want to look at the gargoyles. I have a feeling they’re not just statues.

Amy (playing Riva): The drawbridge looks precarious? I want to see how sturdy it is. Do I think we can cross it, or is it going to collapse under our weight?

Dungeon Master (DM): OK, one at a time. Phillip, you’re looking at the gargoyles?

Phillip: Yeah. Is there any hint they might be creatures and not decorations?

DM: Make an Intelligence check.

Phillip: Does my Investigation skill apply?

DM: Sure!

Phillip (rolling a d20): Ugh. Seven.

DM: They look like decorations to you. And Amy, Riva is checking out the drawbridge?​

About 10 lines later, the following text appears:

The DM creates adventures for the characters, who navigate its hazards and decide which paths to explore. The DM might describe the entrance to Castle Ravenloft, and the players decide what they want their adventurers to do. Will they walk across the dangerously weathered drawbridge? Tie themselves together with rope to minimize the chance that someone will fall if the drawbridge gives way? Or cast a spell to carry them over the chasm?​

I'll leave it to others to discuss to what extent 5e supports exploratory play when compared to (say) Moldvay Basic. But the dialogue and the further explanatory text refer to navigation of the hazards by the characters played by the players. The example actions are all about gaining information about the situation presented by the GM, where - it seems - the GM presents that information on the basis of the adventure that s/he has created for the characters.

The example of play does not incude any conflict or drama, and the further text doesn't mention or point to such things.

The AW example of play, which I mentioned by way of contrast, goes for several pages in the middle of the rulebook under the heading "Moves Snowball". It also has a lot of language that board rules do not permit. Here are some choice board-compliant extracts:

Here it is:


Marie the brainer goes looking for Isle, to visit grief upon her, and finds her eating canned peaches on the roof of the car shed with her brother Mill and her lover Plover (all NPCs).

“I read the situation,” her player says.

“You do? It’s charged?” I say.

“It is now.”

“Ahh,” I say. I understand perfectly: the three NPCs don’t realize it, but Marie’s arrival charges the situation. If it were a movie, the sound track would be picking up, getting sinister.

She rolls+sharp and hits with a 7–9, so she gets to ask me one question from that move’s list. “Which of my enemies is the biggest threat?” she says.

“Plover,” I say. “No doubt. He’s out of his armor, but he has a little gun in his boot and he’s a hard [individual]. Mill’s just 12 and he’s not a violent kid. Isle’s tougher, but not like Plover.” (See me
misdirect! I just chose one capriciously, then pointed to fictional details as though they’d made the decision. We’ve never even seen Mill onscreen before, I just now made up that he’s 12 and not violent.)

. . . [skip details of partly frying Isle's brain] . . .

Plover thinks she’s just leaning her head on his shoulder, but she’s bleeding out her ears and eventually he’ll notice his shirt sticking to his shoulder from her blood. Do you stick around?” I’m telling possible consequences and asking. . . .

“I go home, I guess.”

“So you’re home an hour later?” See me setting up my future move! I’m thinking offscreen: how long is it going to take Plover to get a crew together? . . .

“Having tea?” Ask questions like crazy!

“No tea. Pacing. I have my gun and my pain grenade and the door’s triple-locked. I wish Roark were here.” . . .

“So, Marie: at home, pacing, armed, locked in, yeah? They arrive suddenly at your door with a solid kick, your whole door rattles. You hear Whackoff’s voice: ‘she’s expecting us I guess.’” I’m announcing future badness.

“I go to the peep hole,” she says. “There are three of them?”

“Yep,” I say. “Whackoff on your left, Plover and Church Head are doing something on your right, Plover’s back’s to you — and you hear a cough-cough-rrrrar sound and Plover’s at the door with a chainsaw. What do you do?” I’m putting her in a spot.

“I read the situation. What’s my best escape route?” She rolls+sharp and . . . misses. “Oh no,” she says.

I can make as hard and direct a move as I like. . . .

“You’re looking out your (barred, 4th-story) window as though it were an escape route,” I say, “and they don’t chop your door all the way down, just through the top hinge, and then they lean on it to make a 6-inch space. The door’s creaking and snapping at the bottom hinge. And they put a grenade through like this—” I hold up my fist for the grenade and slap it with my other hand, like whacking a croquet ball.

“I dive for—”

Sorry, I’m still making my hard move. This is all misdirection.

“Nope. They cooked it off and it goes off practically at your feet. Let’s see … 4-harm area messy, a grenade. You have armor?”

“1-armor.”

“Oh yes, your armored corset. Good! You take 3-harm.”​

The following bit of GM-oriented rules text explains the meaning of misdirection as it is used in this example:

Make your move, but misdirect. Of course the real reason why you choose a move exists in the real world. Somebody has her character go someplace new, somebody misses a roll, somebody hits a roll that calls for you to answer, everybody’s looking to you to say something, so you choose a move to make.
Real-world reasons. However, misdirect: pretend that you’re making your move for reasons entirely within the game’s fiction instead.​

I think the following quote from Campbell highlights the key point of contrast (as I see it) between the two examples/instructions:
The reason I associate the GMing techniques of a game like Apocalypse World with a heightened sense of drama and tension is that a significant part of your agenda is to stir it up.
Other points of contrast are (1) that the AW approach is far more player-and-character-centric, with the MC (referee/GM) responding to and following the players' leads in a way that isn't evident in the D&D example, and (2) that as part of (1) the GM is authoring more fiction spontaneously than the further explanatory text in the D&D rules appears to contemplate. (This is a feature of misdirection.)

These are all techniques that, at one-and-the-same-time, reduce the element of exploration while increasing the element of drama.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
Fair enough, but for "knowledge checks" do you just auto-succeed or auto-fail and move on in your game? I'm trying to get at a case where there might be a meaningful consequence for failure and hence a call for a roll. And, I agree, "You don't know" is not meaningful and falls flat after a roll.
The very idea of “knowledge checks” I think relies on a mental scaffolding that conflates checks with actions. The players want knowledge, they gotta make a check. That’s not how it works in my games. There are no “knowledge checks” in my games, there are only checks made to resolve actions, the goal of which occasionally happen be to uncover knowledge. More often than not, PCs either know something or they don’t, and no check is required to determine that. Intelligence checks are sometimes used (among other things) to resolve actions the PCs take to try and learn something they didn’t know. Common consequences for such actions are time spent studying, observing, or researching without making progress, or dangerous side-effects of experimentation.
 
Also on the practical side, he did ask that question in the context of playing 5e and using a specific approach to adjuducating actions in 5e. You posted an example from a different game.
A game that also uses goal and approach (under the label intent and task). I'm not saying that @Elfcrusher is under any obligation to reply, but it is an actual play example that addresses the question asked.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
@Charlaquin, the 5e example of play is found in the opening pages of the Basic PDF:

Here's the dialogue:

Dungeon Master (DM): After passing through the craggy peaks, the road takes a sudden turn to the east and Castle Ravenloft towers before you. Crumbling towers of stone keep a silent watch over the approach. They look like abandoned guardhouses. Beyond these, a wide chasm gapes, disappearing into the deep fog below. A lowered drawbridge spans the chasm, leading to an arched entrance to the castle courtyard. The chains of the drawbridge creak in the wind, their rust-eaten iron straining with the weight. From atop the high strong walls, stone gargoyles stare at you from hollow sockets and grin hideously. A rotting wooden portcullis, green with growth, hangs in the entry tunnel. Beyond this, the main doors of Castle Ravenloft stand open, a rich warm light spilling into the courtyard.​
Phillip (playing Gareth): I want to look at the gargoyles. I have a feeling they’re not just statues.​
Amy (playing Riva): The drawbridge looks precarious? I want to see how sturdy it is. Do I think we can cross it, or is it going to collapse under our weight?​
Dungeon Master (DM): OK, one at a time. Phillip, you’re looking at the gargoyles?​
Phillip: Yeah. Is there any hint they might be creatures and not decorations?​
DM: Make an Intelligence check.​
Phillip: Does my Investigation skill apply?​
DM: Sure!​
Phillip (rolling a d20): Ugh. Seven.​
DM: They look like decorations to you. And Amy, Riva is checking out the drawbridge?​

About 10 lines later, the following text appears:

The DM creates adventures for the characters, who navigate its hazards and decide which paths to explore. The DM might describe the entrance to Castle Ravenloft, and the players decide what they want their adventurers to do. Will they walk across the dangerously weathered drawbridge? Tie themselves together with rope to minimize the chance that someone will fall if the drawbridge gives way? Or cast a spell to carry them over the chasm?​

I'll leave it to others to discuss to what extent 5e supports exploratory play when compared to (say) Moldvay Basic. But the dialogue and the further explanatory text refer to navigation of the hazards by the characters played by the players. The example actions are all about gaining information about the situation presented by the GM, where - it seems - the GM presents that information on the basis of the adventure that s/he has created for the characters.

The example of play does not incude any conflict or drama, and the further text doesn't mention or point to such things.

The AW example of play, which I mentioned by way of contrast, goes for several pages in the middle of the rulebook under the heading "Moves Snowball". It also has a lot of language that board rules do not permit. Here are some choice board-compliant extracts:

Here it is:

Marie the brainer goes looking for Isle, to visit grief upon her, and finds her eating canned peaches on the roof of the car shed with her brother Mill and her lover Plover (all NPCs).​
“I read the situation,” her player says.​
“You do? It’s charged?” I say.​
“It is now.”​
“Ahh,” I say. I understand perfectly: the three NPCs don’t realize it, but Marie’s arrival charges the situation. If it were a movie, the sound track would be picking up, getting sinister.​
She rolls+sharp and hits with a 7–9, so she gets to ask me one question from that move’s list. “Which of my enemies is the biggest threat?” she says.​
“Plover,” I say. “No doubt. He’s out of his armor, but he has a little gun in his boot and he’s a hard [individual]. Mill’s just 12 and he’s not a violent kid. Isle’s tougher, but not like Plover.” (See me​
misdirect! I just chose one capriciously, then pointed to fictional details as though they’d made the decision. We’ve never even seen Mill onscreen before, I just now made up that he’s 12 and not violent.)​
. . . [skip details of partly frying Isle's brain] . . .​
Plover thinks she’s just leaning her head on his shoulder, but she’s bleeding out her ears and eventually he’ll notice his shirt sticking to his shoulder from her blood. Do you stick around?” I’m telling possible consequences and asking. . . .​
“I go home, I guess.”​
“So you’re home an hour later?” See me setting up my future move! I’m thinking offscreen: how long is it going to take Plover to get a crew together? . . .​
“Having tea?” Ask questions like crazy!
“No tea. Pacing. I have my gun and my pain grenade and the door’s triple-locked. I wish Roark were here.” . . .​
“So, Marie: at home, pacing, armed, locked in, yeah? They arrive suddenly at your door with a solid kick, your whole door rattles. You hear Whackoff’s voice: ‘she’s expecting us I guess.’” I’m announcing future badness.​
“I go to the peep hole,” she says. “There are three of them?”​
“Yep,” I say. “Whackoff on your left, Plover and Church Head are doing something on your right, Plover’s back’s to you — and you hear a cough-cough-rrrrar sound and Plover’s at the door with a chainsaw. What do you do?” I’m putting her in a spot.​
“I read the situation. What’s my best escape route?” She rolls+sharp and . . . misses. “Oh no,” she says.​
I can make as hard and direct a move as I like. . . .​
“You’re looking out your (barred, 4th-story) window as though it were an escape route,” I say, “and they don’t chop your door all the way down, just through the top hinge, and then they lean on it to make a 6-inch space. The door’s creaking and snapping at the bottom hinge. And they put a grenade through like this—” I hold up my fist for the grenade and slap it with my other hand, like whacking a croquet ball.​
“I dive for—”​
Sorry, I’m still making my hard move. This is all misdirection.​
“Nope. They cooked it off and it goes off practically at your feet. Let’s see … 4-harm area messy, a grenade. You have armor?”​
“1-armor.”​
“Oh yes, your armored corset. Good! You take 3-harm.”​

The following bit of GM-oriented rules text explains the meaning of misdirection as it is used in this example:

Make your move, but misdirect. Of course the real reason why you choose a move exists in the real world. Somebody has her character go someplace new, somebody misses a roll, somebody hits a roll that calls for you to answer, everybody’s looking to you to say something, so you choose a move to make.​
Real-world reasons. However, misdirect: pretend that you’re making your move for reasons entirely within the game’s fiction instead.​

I think the following quote from Campbell highlights the key point of contrast (as I see it) between the two examples/instructions:
Other points of contrast are (1) that the AW approach is far more player-and-character-centric, with the MC (referee/GM) responding to and following the players' leads in a way that isn't evident in the D&D example, and (2) that as part of (1) the GM is authoring more fiction spontaneously than the further explanatory text in the D&D rules appears to contemplate. (This is a feature of misdirection.)

These are all techniques that, at one-and-the-same-time, reduce the element of exploration while increasing the element of drama.
Ok, I see what y’all were trying to express now. I don’t like the terms “exploratory” and “heightened drama” for these two styles, as they imply that the former is necessarily not dramatic and the later doesn’t allow for exploration, neither of which are true in my evaluation. The goal of the latter may be to focus on drama, but I don’t think that’s actually what makes it meaningfully different. In order to focus on drama, the latter employs different techniques than the former, and that makes them different, but there is nothing stopping the former from arriving at drama from a different angle. Likewise, there is no reason the latter couldn’t be used to explore an unknown environment, it would just do so differently than the former does - sort of co-creating a mutually unknown environment rather than the players gradually revealing an environment that is known to the GM and kept hidden from them.

I think the issue I take with this terminology, as well as the “DM-as-referee” vs. “DM-as-entertainer” framework is that it focuses on the goals rather than the techniques. I think drama is a valid goal for D&D style play and exploration is a valid goal for AW style play, so calling them “exploratory” and “dramatic” is misleading. They should instead be looked at in terms of how they go about trying to achieve their goals.
 

DM Dave1

Adventurer
The very idea of “knowledge checks” I think relies on a mental scaffolding that conflates checks with actions. The players want knowledge, they gotta make a check. That’s not how it works in my games. There are no “knowledge checks” in my games, there are only checks made to resolve actions, the goal of which occasionally happen be to uncover knowledge. More often than not, PCs either know something or they don’t, and no check is required to determine that. Intelligence checks are sometimes used (among other things) to resolve actions the PCs take to try and learn something they didn’t know. Common consequences for such actions are time spent studying, observing, or researching without making progress, or dangerous side-effects of experimentation.
So in the scene I presented, the PC is examining the standing stone and gives some backstory to aid the DM in determining why she might be extra good at said task. In this way, perhaps it is not a strict “knowledge check”, but an Investigation with the player option to flavor it as History or Nature or Religion...

One possible adjudication:
DM: I’m going to ask you for an Intelligence check here. What proficiency would you like to add?
Player: My PC will use her History proficiency because [reasons]
DM: sounds great. This will be a DC 17. If you succeed the task will not take much time and I’ll tell you what the stones say. If you fail, the task will take longer and I’ll tell you what the stones say as the grove reacts to your lingering presence.
 

Bawylie

A very OK person
@Charlaquin, the 5e example of play is found in the opening pages of the Basic PDF:

Here's the dialogue:

Dungeon Master (DM): After passing through the craggy peaks, the road takes a sudden turn to the east and Castle Ravenloft towers before you. Crumbling towers of stone keep a silent watch over the approach. They look like abandoned guardhouses. Beyond these, a wide chasm gapes, disappearing into the deep fog below. A lowered drawbridge spans the chasm, leading to an arched entrance to the castle courtyard. The chains of the drawbridge creak in the wind, their rust-eaten iron straining with the weight. From atop the high strong walls, stone gargoyles stare at you from hollow sockets and grin hideously. A rotting wooden portcullis, green with growth, hangs in the entry tunnel. Beyond this, the main doors of Castle Ravenloft stand open, a rich warm light spilling into the courtyard.​
Phillip (playing Gareth): I want to look at the gargoyles. I have a feeling they’re not just statues.​
Amy (playing Riva): The drawbridge looks precarious? I want to see how sturdy it is. Do I think we can cross it, or is it going to collapse under our weight?​
Dungeon Master (DM): OK, one at a time. Phillip, you’re looking at the gargoyles?​
Phillip: Yeah. Is there any hint they might be creatures and not decorations?​
DM: Make an Intelligence check.​
Phillip: Does my Investigation skill apply?​
DM: Sure!​
Phillip (rolling a d20): Ugh. Seven.​
DM: They look like decorations to you. And Amy, Riva is checking out the drawbridge?​

About 10 lines later, the following text appears:

The DM creates adventures for the characters, who navigate its hazards and decide which paths to explore. The DM might describe the entrance to Castle Ravenloft, and the players decide what they want their adventurers to do. Will they walk across the dangerously weathered drawbridge? Tie themselves together with rope to minimize the chance that someone will fall if the drawbridge gives way? Or cast a spell to carry them over the chasm?​

I'll leave it to others to discuss to what extent 5e supports exploratory play when compared to (say) Moldvay Basic. But the dialogue and the further explanatory text refer to navigation of the hazards by the characters played by the players. The example actions are all about gaining information about the situation presented by the GM, where - it seems - the GM presents that information on the basis of the adventure that s/he has created for the characters.

The example of play does not incude any conflict or drama, and the further text doesn't mention or point to such things.

The AW example of play, which I mentioned by way of contrast, goes for several pages in the middle of the rulebook under the heading "Moves Snowball". It also has a lot of language that board rules do not permit. Here are some choice board-compliant extracts:

Here it is:

Marie the brainer goes looking for Isle, to visit grief upon her, and finds her eating canned peaches on the roof of the car shed with her brother Mill and her lover Plover (all NPCs).​
“I read the situation,” her player says.​
“You do? It’s charged?” I say.​
“It is now.”​
“Ahh,” I say. I understand perfectly: the three NPCs don’t realize it, but Marie’s arrival charges the situation. If it were a movie, the sound track would be picking up, getting sinister.​
She rolls+sharp and hits with a 7–9, so she gets to ask me one question from that move’s list. “Which of my enemies is the biggest threat?” she says.​
“Plover,” I say. “No doubt. He’s out of his armor, but he has a little gun in his boot and he’s a hard [individual]. Mill’s just 12 and he’s not a violent kid. Isle’s tougher, but not like Plover.” (See me​
misdirect! I just chose one capriciously, then pointed to fictional details as though they’d made the decision. We’ve never even seen Mill onscreen before, I just now made up that he’s 12 and not violent.)​
. . . [skip details of partly frying Isle's brain] . . .​
Plover thinks she’s just leaning her head on his shoulder, but she’s bleeding out her ears and eventually he’ll notice his shirt sticking to his shoulder from her blood. Do you stick around?” I’m telling possible consequences and asking. . . .​
“I go home, I guess.”​
“So you’re home an hour later?” See me setting up my future move! I’m thinking offscreen: how long is it going to take Plover to get a crew together? . . .​
“Having tea?” Ask questions like crazy!
“No tea. Pacing. I have my gun and my pain grenade and the door’s triple-locked. I wish Roark were here.” . . .​
“So, Marie: at home, pacing, armed, locked in, yeah? They arrive suddenly at your door with a solid kick, your whole door rattles. You hear Whackoff’s voice: ‘she’s expecting us I guess.’” I’m announcing future badness.​
“I go to the peep hole,” she says. “There are three of them?”​
“Yep,” I say. “Whackoff on your left, Plover and Church Head are doing something on your right, Plover’s back’s to you — and you hear a cough-cough-rrrrar sound and Plover’s at the door with a chainsaw. What do you do?” I’m putting her in a spot.​
“I read the situation. What’s my best escape route?” She rolls+sharp and . . . misses. “Oh no,” she says.​
I can make as hard and direct a move as I like. . . .​
“You’re looking out your (barred, 4th-story) window as though it were an escape route,” I say, “and they don’t chop your door all the way down, just through the top hinge, and then they lean on it to make a 6-inch space. The door’s creaking and snapping at the bottom hinge. And they put a grenade through like this—” I hold up my fist for the grenade and slap it with my other hand, like whacking a croquet ball.​
“I dive for—”​
Sorry, I’m still making my hard move. This is all misdirection.​
“Nope. They cooked it off and it goes off practically at your feet. Let’s see … 4-harm area messy, a grenade. You have armor?”​
“1-armor.”​
“Oh yes, your armored corset. Good! You take 3-harm.”​

The following bit of GM-oriented rules text explains the meaning of misdirection as it is used in this example:

Make your move, but misdirect. Of course the real reason why you choose a move exists in the real world. Somebody has her character go someplace new, somebody misses a roll, somebody hits a roll that calls for you to answer, everybody’s looking to you to say something, so you choose a move to make.​
Real-world reasons. However, misdirect: pretend that you’re making your move for reasons entirely within the game’s fiction instead.​

I think the following quote from Campbell highlights the key point of contrast (as I see it) between the two examples/instructions:
Other points of contrast are (1) that the AW approach is far more player-and-character-centric, with the MC (referee/GM) responding to and following the players' leads in a way that isn't evident in the D&D example, and (2) that as part of (1) the GM is authoring more fiction spontaneously than the further explanatory text in the D&D rules appears to contemplate. (This is a feature of misdirection.)

These are all techniques that, at one-and-the-same-time, reduce the element of exploration while increasing the element of drama.
Yeah, the 5E example of play is okay but not good. I think some of us intend to move away from the standard example with players asking 20 questions and DMs asking for inconsequential rolls in order to refine, improve, and accelerate our games. To dither less and play more.

At least, that’s what I’m trying to do. I think @Elfcrusher is too.

Now as for AW, I don’t share that experience. I’ve played quite a bit of *world games and d&d. I find really little difference in the amount of party drama, rivalry, and teamwork. I wouldn’t say my *world games lack exploration in any sense.

Ultimately I’m not too convinced the system matters too much at all, except to the extent that the rules interfere with the playing of the game. I wonder if people are just writing different content in different games based on their overall impressions of those games’ aesthetics.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
The very idea of “knowledge checks” I think relies on a mental scaffolding that conflates checks with actions. The players want knowledge, they gotta make a check.
Right, the thing to examine is "Why do I feel like there should be a check for this at all?" And when one starts picking away at that, people often arrive at "Well, that's how it was done in D&D 3.Xe and D&D 4e..." or that's how they were trained by tables that internalized those procedures, even if they didn't play those games specifically. Then it's just a matter of retraining oneself to not think that way for this game. Different games demand different approaches.
 
Whenever the players look to the GM they are supposed to make a GM move. This comes in 2 varieties : soft moves (threats) that imply something in the fiction is about to change irrevocably and hard moves (follow through) that make that change a reality. Balancing the two is the core skill of an Apocalypse World GM.

Running Apocalypse World is like sparring with the players. You throw a jab and if they don't respond or if they leave their guard open you are kind of obligated to throw the cross. You like them and do not want to hurt them, but it's like the only way they get better. It's constant move and counter move. Keeping a good tempo is really important. Knowing how hard to hit back is a crucial skill.
The "fiat"-like character of hard moves seems rather distinctive. In other systems the notion of "hardness" plays out in different ways - eg how many saving throws are allowed? (One to dodge the swinging pendulum, one to grab the edge of the pit, one to land on a ledge, . . .?)

Maybe the overall idea is what makes a really meaningful consequence a fair one in the context of this game at this moment of play? If the game assumes a non-"telegraphed" consequence is fair (which can be the case in some versions of D&D eg you force open the door and trigger the yellow mould spores) then the exploration-type stuff you mentioned upthread is going to loom larger as a game activity.

As well as avoidability and/or the possibility of anticipation, there's also the issue of the "subject matter" of the consequence that makes it meaningful. Who gets a say in this? Is it set by the GM? The player? As a premise of the game? I think classic exploratory D&D adopts the last approach (meaningfulness pertains to player survival and player XP/loot acquisition). 5e seems a bit less unequivocal in this respect.
 

Elfcrusher

Adventurer
I feel like this example is presented as if I'm the player and then I'm asked to adjudicate the proposed action as DM without knowing anything about what's really going on with those stones. What does my prep say?
This is an entirely fair point, both because it can't be adjudicated without knowing more, and because answering examples give fodder for people who just want to argue.

On the other hand, taking the scenario as a starting point and then filling in the prep details in order to illustrate different techniques (which is what I attempted to do) can stimulate conversation.
 

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