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D&Detox

prabe

Aspiring Lurker (He/Him)
Supporter
Also, some people seem to think that DW is prep-free or something, or that prep is somehow against the spirit of the game. I don't think either is true, but I do think the prep that really helps if different from the prep people might be useful from D&D.
I know I'm not into DW and such (at all), but I am curious: How is the helpful prep different than D&D, in your experience?
 

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Fenris-77

Small God of the Dozens
Supporter
I know I'm not into DW and such (at all), but I am curious: How is the helpful prep different than D&D, in your experience?
The goal of DW, and other PbtA games is to "play to find out what happens". This really obviates the linear quest planning that a lot of people employ. I don't really like linear planning anyway, but it gets done a lot. Planning for DW needs to be a lot more flexible. You can have events in motion, and factions, and all that, you just can't assume anything about entry paths for the players. My planning for PtbA game stends to look more like a mind map than a screen play. The planning also tends to be a lot more soft focus. Player input into the fiction can change things so quickly that you can waste a ton of time and energy over-prepping for things that never come up. I do a lot of work with short descriptive tags, point form notes, and a lot of arrows and boxes to show relationships. The desire to use the novel's worth of prep you did can have a negative impact on really committing to playing to find out what happens. DW still has dungeon locations (duh) which is nice because those can be prepped pretty rigorously. Even then, DW is far less binary when it comes to overcoming obstacles, so encounter resolution is more varied than in D&D, which defaults to combat a lot.

I should be clear, my D&D prep and my PbtA prep look pretty similar. But they both look very different then what a lot of people's D&D prep look like.
 

prabe

Aspiring Lurker (He/Him)
Supporter
@Fenris-77 Thanks.

Oddly, that doesn't sound all that different from how I prep D&D. I (usually) have what's right in front of them--they're usually after some goal or something--but anything past that is indeterminate. I have some stuff where I've written up some things that are going on away from the party, and I have some ideas for things that might arise, but I don't have any real long-term plans. When they're between goals--between achieving one and deciding on the next--there's a fair amount of "the DM reacts to the players."
 

Fenris-77

Small God of the Dozens
Supporter
The other major difference is that my prep for PtbA games tends to far more focused on the characters' drives and motivations. The XP system is rock simple and evenly split between inter-PC bonds, discoveries, monsters defeated, and treasures looted. There's a lot of latitude there and I find the game feels far less often 'off track' than D&D games can, even one's planned like we both seem to. I haven't played all that much DW compared to other games, some, but I have experience with a bunch of different PbtA games. My planning for all of them tends to be pretty similar.
 

Nebulous

Legend
I'm running DW Servants of the Cinder Queen and I would say it's a DnD/DW hybrid. It's largely plotted out in broad strokes, but lots of random things can happen. In fact, it would make a fantastic DnD adventure for 1st to 3rd level PCs.
 

atanakar

Hero
IME, those work pretty well for introducing D&D-ers to other traditional rpgs. (or for introducing newbies to rpgs in general) I haven't found that they work so well for games like Fate or PbtA, where the players have a much higher responsibility WRT to the narrative. Especially true if the GM is in the same boat.

One significant issue is the idea of a "scenario" in the first place. By default, games like Fate and the PbtA games are kind of expecting the players (either through character choices/building or through part of play) to play a much bigger role in creating the setting/scenario. As examples, in D&D, fiction questions like "Is there something here that I can...." or "Do I recognize..." or "Can I..." are "DM, may I?" questions. However, in Fate, a player can Create and Advantage (often with Notice) to discover something useful, or have an aspect Compelled so that those Ninjas are working for his old enemy. Similarly, there are many playbooks for various PbtA games (in particular, I'm thinking of Dungeon World) that either directly inject fiction into the narrative, or require the player to do so "...describe how you know...".

To use your GM-as-chef analogy, traditional rpgs ask the players to sprinkle some salt, pepper, or maybe some salsa on the food. Some of these games are more like asking them to cook with you. A turnkey scenario is like a frozen dinner.
I prefer to think of the turnkey scenario as a chef that comes to your home and prepares a 5 star meal in your kitchen. It's a very pleasurable experience.

To continue with the chef analogy, PbTA games are known to have critical failures. Too many cooks at the pot syndrome. If for some reason some of the participants start injecting input that is disrupting to the narrative the game becomes chaotic and makes no more sense. I've seen this happen as a player - and no not because the people didn't understand how to play PbTA. They just disagreed on were the narrative should go and the game collapsed mid-session despite the efforts by the narrator to mediate the situation. You sometimes end up with a spaghetti sauce with ice cream and peanut butter. Not very palatable. :D:p

To each is own. Going outside to do some gardening, cycling and enjoy the first 24°c of the year. /mic drop
 

Blue

Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
The typical scenario is more than somebody has the game and wants to run it, but can't find players. If the players joined the game, they'd find somebody who knows the game willing to show them how it works. If you have somebody there who already knows how the game works, it's usually a fairly painless process.

An entire group having to learn it for the first time together, I agree, is less fun. But I don't think that's the usual situation.
I'm with you that I enjoy learning new systems and will read them for fun. But I disagree about groups learning new games together. For me, with multiple groups, the default is we finish up a campaign and we want to try something new. One group it was Marvel Heroic RP (not played because they guy who really knows the universe couldn't commit to running, but no one knew the system) to 13th Age (4.5 years campaign), to Blades in the Dark (where the guy who wanted to run next nixed learning it, even though several players self-taught), to a homebrew system we developed together unlike any other system we were playing, and now we've been playing Fate for a chunk. None of those any of the people involved with had any prior experience with. (Though 13th Age shares a lot of DNA with D&D so maybe that shouldn't count.)
 



Jd Smith1

Adventurer
I didn't play D&D from '82 to '19, so I'm not accustomed to encounter players who were even familiar with D&D.

Right now we're playing in the Degenesis setting (just started, only two sessions in) using Spilled Ale Studios' post-apoc 5e conversion (no magic, guns and tech added), and already I'm seeing an inclination for my players to envision a post-5e campaign.

5e is good, but it still has a lot of problem.
 

pemerton

Legend
For example, a D&D player walks into a Numenera game. Numenera has stat pools which can look like hit points to a D&D player (but they're not...). Part of the fun in Numenera is expending effort (which reduces one's stat pools) which permits special abilities and increased luck. The D&D viewer might not see this though, because from her perspective, expending effort = reducing hit points = killing your character.

<snip>

Did the switch to any of the above games involve unlearning things from prior games? I'm guessing your group isn't the type to say, "I don't want to play this, because this other game does it better," but there might have been some "I don't understand this rule, because it's handled clearly in this other game."
I wouldn't say there's been any need to "unlearn". At least not in any concrete way.

There is the need to get the hang of the dynamics or rhythms of play in some cases. Not for really light systems like Cthuhlhu Dark or Wuthering Heights, where the mechanics are absolutely transparent on the most cursory inspection; but some systems are more intricate.

For Cortex+ Heroic/MHRP a couple of sessions help the players get the hang of what they can do to build their dice pools, and maybe more importantly for me (as GM) helped me get the feel for how to use the Doom Pool effectively.

For Prince Valiant, a session of play helped me get the feel for where the maths of the system fall - it's very simple dice pool resolution (either opposed or against a target number of successes), so the maths isn't hard in any way, but it still helps just to get a sense of the rhythm of things. One asepct of this is that (unlike, say, D&D combat) all failure consequences are freely established by the GM within pretty lose parameters, and so part of getting a sense of the rhythm is getting a sense of what sorts of consequences to narrate.

The particular example you give - of someone not wanting to pay their pool because they're "killing their PC" - isn't something I would worry about with my group. They will look at a system and pretty quickly work out what the player-side resources are and how to spend them. In that sense I would say they have a high degree of "game mechanics literacy".

By traditional, I'm usually referring to the design sense rather than temporal. So, for me d20 Modern is pretty traditional, along with many other systems that some think are ground breaking. My personal experience has been that, even with some of the systems you mention, the results are pretty much D&D with different resolution systems. I'm confident that varies from group to group.

<snip>

most games have (like D&D) extensive rules and subsystems for combat resolution, but little more than lip-service to non-combat fictional resolution (often without any subsystems whatever).
It would never occur to me to think of d20 Modern as ground-breaking. I'm otherwise not sure which games of the ones I mentioned you think are D&D with different resolution systems.

Rolemaster has non-combat resolution systems - more details below. Classic Traveller has many non-combat resolution systems, and I can report from recent play experience that they are robust, with the exception of the system for on-world exploration which is weak, and a disappointing contrast given the strength of the other systems.

Not too familiar with RM. Is that the one with the tables for combat results that includes super-detailed things like..."toe chopped off"? If so, I'll just say...ahem, and leave it at that. I think that authorially-minded players and GMs can act this way in almost any system. My crux of the issue for me is how well-supported such things are within the mechanics.
RM is famous for the rich fiction of its crit charts, yes. The relevance, to me, of this aspect of RM (which extends well beyond its crit charts) is that it establishes a strong correlation between mechanical resolution and consequences in the fiction. So RM (at least in my experience) never produces outcomes like I hit the orc for 3 hp. How's it doing? We always know what's happening in the fiction - eg the orc is bleeing badly from its arm and has dropped its sword.

In my experience, this makes a difference to play. For instance, the death rate is far lower than in D&D because NPCs retreat or surrender. Players can have their PCs offer quarter (You're hurt. Surrender now and you won't die!) Etc. In the first RM game I GMed, which has an AD&D-like rate of level gain, the group's main fighter - a paladin - never killed a foe in combat until 5th level.

The same sort of thing is true in non-combat. We never have I bluff the guard! Woohoo - a 26 check result! We always know what the character is saying, and the social resolution charts tell us how the guard responds. To give an example, the Near Success result says "Keep talking, your audience is becoming more friendly. Modify your next roll by +20 [on a d100 check]." The player has to tell us more stuff that his/her PC says. We know that time is passing. We know that the guard is listening but not persuaded. It's not as robust a resolution system as a 4e skill challenge, but I've never encountered a hint of Diplomancy in nearly 20 years of RM play. (RM is much weaker when it gets to journey resolution. It's not a coincidence that this is a partial point of overlap with Traveller.)

And I've had a lot of surprises, as a GM, in RM play because the results are binding on the GM. The maths is nowhere near as tight as PbtA games, but the players have bonues on their PC sheets and dice in their hands, and if they want to they can read the Influence and Interaction resolution chart.

If that ends up contributing to the play-narrative...sure. However, that ends up being totally up to the DM, doesn't it? I don't recall anything like Fate's compels, where you might get a Fate point if the kidnapped victim is one of your family or something. (Which you can then spend later to push the fiction in a direction you like.)
I thiink we've had this conversation before. I'm a big believer in the reality of what Ron Edwards calls "vanilla narrativism". It's mostly what I play. Think about Prince Valiant, widely acclaimed as one of the first and best narrativist systems: it doesn't have anything like compels. Nor does Burning Wheel (to point to a fairly well-known contemporary system). Nor does Cortex+ Heroic/MHRP. Nor does Apocalypse World.

All of those systems rely on the GM to do the framing, and have as the most basic player-side activity declaring an action that responds to the fiction the GM has presented. In BW and Cortex+ Heroic that can include actions that establish new story elements (eg as Assets in Cortex+; using Wises and the like in BW) whereas that's much less a part of Prince Valiant or AW. But establishing those new story elements is not the core player function even in BW or Cortex+.

AW and Cortex+ have their own (different) approaches to how the GM should frame which I'll set aside for the rest of this post. Both Prince Valiant and Burning Wheel rely on the GM to frame things that are interesting and speak to the players' evinced concerns for their PCs. This won't work if the players don't evince conerns, nor if the players won't actually play their PCs and engage the fiction. That second turtling issue is a pretty well-known one: you don't need fate points or compels to deal with it, but rather (in my view) vivid fiction, sound mechanics and deft adjudication of conseequences. Provided that the GM is framing things properly, the player doesn't need to spend fate points to push the fiction in a direction s/he likes - s/he just declares actions for his/her PC.

But framing things properly brings us back to the first issue, of evinced concerns. This issue is (in my view) most easily tackled through PC build, which is where I see a fundamental change between classic D&D and something like Oriental Adventures. OA PCs have build elements - families, masters and mentors etc - which can actually matter in play. The contrast can be drawn with Gygax's DMG: this tells us that a 1st level PC wizard was taught by a master of at least 6th level, but there is not the least hint that that master will actually figure in play. Whereas OA absolutely presents the PCs' background and loyalties as material to build the game from.

My own view is that if a GM doesn't want to follow player leads and/or if a player doesn't want to establish and engage fiction that will provide and act on those leads then giving this a mechanical overlay via fate points won't help much. If a group is ignorant of the possibility of this sort of play then I can see how the mechanical framework can draw it to their attention. But I think the key thing is the approach to play, not the mechanical framework.
 

Ratskinner

Adventurer
RM is famous for the rich fiction of its crit charts, yes. The relevance, to me, of this aspect of RM (which extends well beyond its crit charts) is that it establishes a strong correlation between mechanical resolution and consequences in the fiction. So RM (at least in my experience) never produces outcomes like I hit the orc for 3 hp. How's it doing? We always know what's happening in the fiction - eg the orc is bleeing badly from its arm and has dropped its sword.
Yes, and I appreciate that for its narrative relevance. But! That doesn't help with the shifting of the burden of narrative. Which, IME, and I think the OP's, is the usual source of problems for people coming from D&D to games like Fate. Additionally, and IIRC, how we got to this particular point, that still defines the narrative space outside the control of the player, and even GM.

I thiink we've had this conversation before. I'm a big believer in the reality of what Ron Edwards calls "vanilla narrativism". It's mostly what I play. Think about Prince Valiant, widely acclaimed as one of the first and best narrativist systems: it doesn't have anything like compels. Nor does Burning Wheel (to point to a fairly well-known contemporary system). Nor does Cortex+ Heroic/MHRP. Nor does Apocalypse World.
Point of order: MHRP distinctions (IIRC) are almost an exact mechanical mirror of compels, and Plot Points are more than reasonably analogous to Fate Points. When I first read MHRP, my first impression was "Hey, look, these guys came up with a new version of Fate with different dice." Its not entirely accurate, but they share a heck of a lot of DNA.

Its not about the specific mechanic of compels. Its about a mechanic that enables or encourages the player to push a narrative agenda. We both know that MHRP's Milestones do this. You've told me before that this is necessary to advance in Burning Wheel. And most of the Apocalypse Engine games I'm familiar with have some sort of XP trigger associated with it. The Fate compel/Fate-point economy is a slightly different reward "loop" than XP, but that's its purpose.

All of those systems rely on the GM to do the framing, and have as the most basic player-side activity declaring an action that responds to the fiction the GM has presented. In BW and Cortex+ Heroic that can include actions that establish new story elements (eg as Assets in Cortex+; using Wises and the like in BW) whereas that's much less a part of Prince Valiant or AW. But establishing those new story elements is not the core player function even in BW or Cortex+.
The fact that they exist at all is the key here. There is a huge difference between a system that can easily/freely handle that kind of player input and one that can't, WRT how it affects players views on what they (not their characters) can and should be doing. In my current gaming group, which is primarily old-schoolers, I am constantly impressed by their creativity, wit, and ingenuity in springing up new plotlines and the like...except that they always follow it up with "No, just kidding..." or say it in a way that indicates that they are being facetious. And, yes, they have even commented on various times about "not wanting to derail the adventure or plot". If we're really "telling a story together." Observing them, and the many other groups I've been with over the years, that's a learned behavior.

AW and Cortex+ have their own (different) approaches to how the GM should frame which I'll set aside for the rest of this post. Both Prince Valiant and Burning Wheel rely on the GM to frame things that are interesting and speak to the players' evinced concerns for their PCs. This won't work if the players don't evince conerns, nor if the players won't actually play their PCs and engage the fiction. That second turtling issue is a pretty well-known one: you don't need fate points or compels to deal with it, but rather (in my view) vivid fiction, sound mechanics and deft adjudication of conseequences. Provided that the GM is framing things properly, the player doesn't need to spend fate points to push the fiction in a direction s/he likes - s/he just declares actions for his/her PC.
I agree with the idea that it is necessary for the GM to engage in this sort of thing for it to happen. The difference is, that in many trad systems, the system works just fine if he doesn't. Plenty of D&D backstories are roundly ignored by DMs the world over. Fate, at least, tends to fall apart if the GM doesn't get that (well, it falls very very flat, anyway). BW, from what I understand of it, doesn't make much sense if the GM isn't pushing at those Beliefs and whatnot. MHRP is so genetically close to Fate that I can't imagine it works all that well without it either (although I haven't had any actual play experience, so ::sigh::). Even when D&D DMGs mention this kind of thing, its usually swamped by the vast array of combat variants, trap designs, powers, traits, spells, etc. etc. etc.

My own view is that if a GM doesn't want to follow player leads and/or if a player doesn't want to establish and engage fiction that will provide and act on those leads then giving this a mechanical overlay via fate points won't help much. If a group is ignorant of the possibility of this sort of play then I can see how the mechanical framework can draw it to their attention. But I think the key thing is the approach to play, not the mechanical framework.
Well, I mean, if they don't want to play that kind of game...why would they be playing Fate? If your tablemates are acting at cross purposes I don't think anyone's going to have as much fun as they could be having.

More importantly, though, I think you're selling short necessity and utility for mechanical framework. I'm sure I remember you telling me how great p42 of a DMG that-shall-not-be-named was. In a complicated system like D&D, you need to have some idea of what to expect mechanically. If you don't have that, everyone risks the IRL cost of play grinding to a halt while a possibly long and heated discussion breaks out over what is and isn't possible/allowed/fair. Even worse, the discussion might break out repeatedly, if the proposed/injected narrative has a longer-term consequences as well.

There's also the somewhat pedantic issue of "If you're not using rules, why call it a game?" I mean, at some point, are you playing multiple mini-sessions of a dice/accounting game interspersed with min-sessions of "let's pretend?"

Just take MHRP Black Panther's A King needs a Queen milestone: all you have to do to earn an XP is declare that "She's the one, I think." You can earn more XP by letting your pursuit of her cause trouble of various sorts. Its not, "the DM awarding it", its boom, you do it, you got it. Other than not having any female heroes, villains, or NPCs around, ever, there's not much the GM can do to stop it. And, its directly encouraging and enabling the player to engage in an ancillary bit of authorship in a way that I don't think D&D has ever managed. I don't believe I've ever seen a D&D character propose to someone.
 

pemerton

Legend
Point of order: MHRP distinctions (IIRC) are almost an exact mechanical mirror of compels, and Plot Points are more than reasonably analogous to Fate Points.
I'll have to respond to your full post later, but this isn't right.

I'm not sure how much Cortex+ Heroic/MHRP you've played - I've played a fair bit, but haven't played Fate so my knowledge of the latter is purely book-based.

In Cortex+ a Distinction adds to your dice pool. It can add a d8, or a d4 and you get a Plot Point. Adding a Distinction at d4 doesn't change the fiction in a way that is adverse to the PC. That can only flow from the resolution of the action or reaction.

Plot points are spent by players to manipulate the dice pool, either before or after rolling. In a low-stakes situation they can also be used to buy a "say yes" from the GM. In Cortex+ Heroic there is nothing analogous to a compel, nor to paying a fate point to avoid a compel. Nor is there anything analogous to paying a fate point to add a detail to a scene.

In Cortex+ Heroic the GM has various options to spend dice from the Doom Pool in order to change the situation (eg splitting or re-joining PCs; adding new opposition; even brining the scene to a close) but these don't operate mechanically like a compel, because (i) they don't have to relate to a Distinction, and (ii) the players don't have any power to control or prevent them.

Many PCs also have limits that the GM may trigger either by paying a die from the Doom Pool or by giving the player a plot point. The player has no option to stop the triggering of a limit in this way, but gets to make the choice between running down the Doom Pool or gaining a point.

As far as player control over framing and outcomes, Cortex+ Heroic is not very different from BW: Resource in the former cover the same sort of ground as Resources and Circles in the latter: and Assets include the same sort of ground as Wises and similar checks, though go a bit further because they also cover advantageous fiction like (eg) positioning, whereas in BW this is often established via free narration.
 

DMMike

Game Masticator
Yes, and I appreciate that for its narrative relevance. But! That doesn't help with the shifting of the burden of narrative. Which, IME, and I think the OP's, is the usual source of problems for people coming from D&D to games like Fate.
That's definitely part of it - some players end their storytelling after they've rolled a die.

In my current gaming group, which is primarily old-schoolers, I am constantly impressed by their creativity, wit, and ingenuity in springing up new plotlines and the like...except that they always follow it up with "No, just kidding..." or say it in a way that indicates that they are being facetious.
I see you have them well-trained to respect your authority :) I'm glad their ability to narrate is there, if not the willingness.

I mean, at some point, are you playing multiple mini-sessions of a dice/accounting game interspersed with min-sessions of "let's pretend?"
This has potential.

Just take MHRP Black Panther's A King needs a Queen milestone: all you have to do to earn an XP is declare that "She's the one, I think." You can earn more XP by letting your pursuit of her cause trouble of various sorts. Its not, "the DM awarding it", its boom, you do it, you got it. Other than not having any female heroes, villains, or NPCs around, ever, there's not much the GM can do to stop it. And, its directly encouraging and enabling the player to engage in an ancillary bit of authorship in a way that I don't think D&D has ever managed. I don't believe I've ever seen a D&D character propose to someone.
This has more potential. . . but I'd let the PC skip straight to marriage. A ball-and-chain might work wonders on some unruly PCs!

Another detox item is combat-craze. When opponents show up and the immediate/only response is "let's kill them!" Watching a season of a Game of Thrones might help cure this, but that's not very efficient...
 

pemerton

Legend
Yes, and I appreciate that for its narrative relevance. But! That doesn't help with the shifting of the burden of narrative.

<sni[p>

Its about a mechanic that enables or encourages the player to push a narrative agenda. We both know that MHRP's Milestones do this.

<snip>

I think you're selling short necessity and utility for mechanical framework. I'm sure I remember you telling me how great p42 of a DMG that-shall-not-be-named was. In a complicated system like D&D, you need to have some idea of what to expect mechanically. If you don't have that, everyone risks the IRL cost of play grinding to a halt while a possibly long and heated discussion breaks out over what is and isn't possible/allowed/fair. Even worse, the discussion might break out repeatedly, if the proposed/injected narrative has a longer-term consequences as well.

There's also the somewhat pedantic issue of "If you're not using rules, why call it a game?" I mean, at some point, are you playing multiple mini-sessions of a dice/accounting game interspersed with min-sessions of "let's pretend?"

Just take MHRP Black Panther's A King needs a Queen milestone: all you have to do to earn an XP is declare that "She's the one, I think." You can earn more XP by letting your pursuit of her cause trouble of various sorts. Its not, "the DM awarding it", its boom, you do it, you got it. Other than not having any female heroes, villains, or NPCs around, ever, there's not much the GM can do to stop it. And, its directly encouraging and enabling the player to engage in an ancillary bit of authorship in a way that I don't think D&D has ever managed. I don't believe I've ever seen a D&D character propose to someone.
It's over 20 years since I played (as opposed to GMed) D&D, but in that game I (as my PC) proposed to someone - another PC - and we were married. In my Rolemaster game various PCs pursued various romances, some of which ended in marriage.

In my Prince Valiant game, three of the four PCs - the three knights - are married. One was railroaded into it by his bride; one successfully wooed the lovely Violette (and was successful in competition with the railroaded one); one made the arrangement for political reasons (and the player spent a Storyteller Certificate to make sure it worked - meaning the same certificate wasn't available for other uses such as guaranteeing victory in combat).

I keep coming back to Prince Valiant because it is an ur-narrativist game yet does not have a mechanic anything like a Fate compel or even BW Wises or Circles. Nor does it have anything like MHRP Milestones; the "XP" system is fame, which is awarded by the "Storyteller" (GM) for deeds accomplished. In my experience - derived from play - when you tell players they are playing Arthurian knights, and you tell them that a knight is refusing to let anyone cross the bridge without jousing him, then they will take up that challenge. And from that the game will unfold - in our game they have wooed maidens, cultivated alliances, established a military order, and now are riding through what was once Dacia on their way to Constantinople, intending to fight a crusade. When they were attacked by Huns they defeated the leaders and chased down the rest, sparing them subject to a promise to convert to Christianity - and now their order includes a unit of auxiliary mounted archers.

This is not great literature, but it's fun FRPGing and is driven by the players within the confines of the genre (rather light-hearted mediaevalism). And the only mechanics needed are straightforward action resolution in both physical and social/mental endeavours (mechanically the system is based around Brawn and Presence). I don't think it's a coincidence, either, that our game has worked, and worked out, as it has. It's because Greg Stafford was a brilliant designer, and came up with a PC build framework and resolution system that - within the context of the genre - will permit and encourage players to play their PCs as romantic heroes.

Your contrast of dice/accounting game interspersed with min-sessions of "let's pretend?" seems to ignore (or deny?) that there can be straightforward action resolution mechanics that are non-combat ones and that allow the players to impose their vision upon the fiction. My own experience in a range of systems - Prince Valiant, obviously, but also Rolemaster, BW, Cortex+ Heroic, In a Wicked Age, and even 4e D&D - makes me think differently. I don't accept the contrast. It's possible to have a RPG that lacks Fate-style mechanics of direct player authorship unmediated through action declaration for the PC, but that allows players to pursue a narrative agenda.

There is a huge difference between a system that can easily/freely handle that kind of player input and one that can't, WRT how it affects players views on what they (not their characters) can and should be doing. In my current gaming group, which is primarily old-schoolers, I am constantly impressed by their creativity, wit, and ingenuity in springing up new plotlines and the like...except that they always follow it up with "No, just kidding..." or say it in a way that indicates that they are being facetious. And, yes, they have even commented on various times about "not wanting to derail the adventure or plot". If we're really "telling a story together." Observing them, and the many other groups I've been with over the years, that's a learned behavior.

<snip>

I agree with the idea that it is necessary for the GM to engage in this sort of thing for it to happen. The difference is, that in many trad systems, the system works just fine if he doesn't. Plenty of D&D backstories are roundly ignored by DMs the world over.
I think you are running together players pursuing an agenda for their PCs and players having mechanics that allow them to establish fictional elements that are causally independent of their PCs' actions. Prince Valiant has plenty of room for the former though very little of the latter (a couple of uses of a Storyteller Certificate come close to this). Apocalypse World has plent of room for the former though very little of the latter.

I can't comment on 3E D&D, which I've played little of, nor 5e, which I've played none of. But 4e can easily accommodate players pushing a narrative agenda - it even has a discussion of this in its PHB and DMG, under the label of "player-designed quests" - although it too has few (and at a given table can easily have no) mechanics that allow players to establish ficitonal elements that are causally independent of their PCs' actions.

What makes AD&D weaker in this respect, in my view, is not its lack of those sorts of mechanics but rather the weakness of its basic action-resolution system, which barely extends beyond combat. I can't remember how I handled this over 30 years ago GMing Oriental Adventures, but I suspect I pushed the AD&D reaction rules as hard as I knew how to at the time (OA uses modifiers to reaction rolls as a recurring mechanical device for reflecting hierarchies, loyalties and affiliations).

I recognise that plenty of D&D referees ignore PC backstories. Maybe some of those GMs suddenly become adept at shared narrative when they start playing Fate - which would go back to my comment upthread that a different mechanical framework might make some possibilities obvious that hitherto were not noticed. But a D&D GM who wants to start running a player-driven game can try if s/he wants. 4e will allow for it. 5e might, if some sort of finality is introduced into non-combat resolution.

Or s/he can change systems. But in making that change I wouldn't be looking for compels or some analogue of a fate-point economy. I'd be looking for binding action resolution across the board. My personal recommendation would be Prince Valiant, but that's because I'm a sucker for mediavalistic romance. Or for more crunch and more grit, Burning Wheel.

MHRP is so genetically close to Fate that I can't imagine it works all that well without it either
As I've said, I don't have Fate experience. But MHRP - as I read it and as I've experienced in play - is designed so that the players can pursue their Milestones largely independently of the details of the situation the GM puts in front of them. Eg, and as you said, the Black Panther's player can seek his queen among any of the characters present in the action.

I think this is deliberate. It reflects the dramatic structure of Marvel comics (at least the ones I'm familiar with, which is roughly from the beginning through to the mid/late-90s), in which the heroes play out their passions, quests etc against a background of threat-of-the-month. In our Cortex+ Heroic games the same thing has happened - eg the trickster did his tricksy stuff when he abandoned the other PCs in the caverns of the dark elves while he stole and ran off with said elves' gold; but he could have done the same sort of thing in many other contexts.

I'm approaching our current MERP/LotR Cortex+ Heroic game in a similar way - eg Gandalf can offer advice, and provide aid resulting from his travels, pretty much regardless of the current situation. It's quite different in this respect from, say, Burning Wheel or even Prince Valiant.
 

DMMike

Game Masticator
Another detox item: inability to use the mind's eye. The GM describes three things for a scene: the general setting and two landmarks in that scene. So a character is likely to be 1) close to the first landmark, 2) close to the second landmark, or 3) somewhere between. The PC in need of a detox wants a visual representation - another duty that can slow down what might otherwise be a fast-action scene.

This one is a little odd, actually, because D&D acknowledged that it had gone overboard back in 3rd edition, so it removed token fronts and facing in favor of the more nebulous (yet perfectly square) character space. And 5th edition goes on to present grid movement as an optional rule (as of my book's printing, anyway).

So what does it take to get some D&D players to squirm free of the bars, er, grids?
 

atanakar

Hero
Another detox item: inability to use the mind's eye. The GM describes three things for a scene: the general setting and two landmarks in that scene. So a character is likely to be 1) close to the first landmark, 2) close to the second landmark, or 3) somewhere between. The PC in need of a detox wants a visual representation - another duty that can slow down what might otherwise be a fast-action scene.

This one is a little odd, actually, because D&D acknowledged that it had gone overboard back in 3rd edition, so it removed token fronts and facing in favor of the more nebulous (yet perfectly square) character space. And 5th edition goes on to present grid movement as an optional rule (as of my book's printing, anyway).

So what does it take to get some D&D players to squirm free of the bars, er, grids?
I've met people who can't visualize when they are reading. They only see the words, never the images in their head.
 

prabe

Aspiring Lurker (He/Him)
Supporter
Another detox item: inability to use the mind's eye. The GM describes three things for a scene: the general setting and two landmarks in that scene. So a character is likely to be 1) close to the first landmark, 2) close to the second landmark, or 3) somewhere between. The PC in need of a detox wants a visual representation - another duty that can slow down what might otherwise be a fast-action scene.

This one is a little odd, actually, because D&D acknowledged that it had gone overboard back in 3rd edition, so it removed token fronts and facing in favor of the more nebulous (yet perfectly square) character space. And 5th edition goes on to present grid movement as an optional rule (as of my book's printing, anyway).

So what does it take to get some D&D players to squirm free of the bars, er, grids?
Maybe something akin to Fate's zones would work for them? That's not the game you're playing, IIRC, but it's plenty vague and not particularly gridlocked.
 

DMMike

Game Masticator
I've met people who can't visualize when they are reading. They only see the words, never the images in their head.
That's how you know when you've found one of them. Burn it before it spreads.

Maybe something akin to Fate's zones would work for them? That's not the game you're playing, IIRC, but it's plenty vague and not particularly gridlocked.
The issue is that a D&D player, in need of a detox, might be playing Fate but not understanding how zones work because they don't work like 5-foot squares. It seems pretty situational; in my game there are usually only one or two places to be in combat: offensive posture or defensive posture. A D&D player might still assume, after having convinced me to place some tokens on a map, that flanking, opportunity attacks, and weapon range still apply. But in the theatre of the mind, what matters is what the player describes, not where the player moves her token. In my case, the solution is ugly because it might require putting all of the combatants on a 4x1 grid (for friendly and enemy postures) and saying, "there's your grid, that's where you can move." But that's not exactly going to help the imagination, you know?
 

prabe

Aspiring Lurker (He/Him)
Supporter
The issue is that a D&D player, in need of a detox, might be playing Fate but not understanding how zones work because they don't work like 5-foot squares. It seems pretty situational; in my game there are usually only one or two places to be in combat: offensive posture or defensive posture. A D&D player might still assume, after having convinced me to place some tokens on a map, that flanking, opportunity attacks, and weapon range still apply. But in the theatre of the mind, what matters is what the player describes, not where the player moves her token. In my case, the solution is ugly because it might require putting all of the combatants on a 4x1 grid (for friendly and enemy postures) and saying, "there's your grid, that's where you can move." But that's not exactly going to help the imagination, you know?
Fair enough. I was thinking of Fate's Zones (as they are, not as a D&D player might misinterpret them) as conveying some idea of movement (and "where things are") while not having anything like D&D's tactical grid. Seems as though it's a middle ground between "every square matters" and "movement doesn't matter to gameplay," but if there's the kind of paradigm issues you're talking about I can see how Zones (or, realistically, any other kind of middle ground) isn't likely to help.
 

Mythological Figures & Maleficent Monsters

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