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D&D General Dungeon Master or Referee?

billd91

Hobbit on Quest
Fairness, on the DM's part, extends into the fiction as well.

Gygax emphasizes his point of "Always give a monster an even break", and he's right: a DM has to be fair to the opponents just as she has to be fair to the PCs.

Further, if a DM is fair to the PCs in the fiction then by extension she almost can't help but be fair to the players at the table.
It is an interesting principle and one I largely follow - but I also subordinate it to being a fan of the PCs. Example: If the PCs try to scry on one of their enemies, they get a save to resist. Great. I roll their save and go with the results (in one case in play, the save succeeded, scry failed). But if the PCs productively work the situation for a couple of days to undermine their target's save, then when they try to scry again, even if the target gets a save.... screw that save. It fails no matter what I roll. My devotion to giving the monsters an even break is secondary to being a fan of the PCs and how they work cleverly to achieve success.
 

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pemerton

Legend
Sure. It's just different people work differently. Some can and like to wing it in complete "no myth" others don't. What I usually do is probably "a little bit of myth" or something like that. And I don't ultimately feel that there is any clear and drastic difference between what I mean (at least some instances of) nudging and what you mean by framing.
That last sentence corresponds, with reversal of subject and object, to mine upthread! (ie "Maybe that's [= framing is] what you would characterise as a nudge?")
 
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pemerton

Legend
What is "no myth?"
If you drop into the current Why Defend Railroading thread you can see the topic being discussed in detail.

In brief, here are two possible approaches to RPGing contrasted:

1 (i) The GM establishes content - map, key, backstory etc - in advance of play; (ii) the GM starts the PCs at a particular place on the map; (iii) depending where this is on the map, the GM frames an appropriate scene by drawing on his/her prep, telling the players what their PCs see and experience; (iv) the players then declare actions that might "interact" with that stuff, and that ultimately "move" their PCs somewhere else on the map, triggering step (iii) again.

This is what I would call a very traditional approach to GMing, to prep and to RPGing.

2 (i) The players build PCs who have particular goals and backstory-driven trajectories; (ii) the GM frames a scene in which those PCs are located and that - given the goals/trajectories - will prompt their players to declare actions for them; (iii) those actions are resolved using mechanics that don't depend upon map-and-key for resolution (this doesn't normally affect how fighting an Orc is resolved; it will affect how searching for a hidden thing is resolved); (iv) that resolution will prompt a new scene to be framed, taking the table back to step (ii).

In this approach, content is authored "just in time" - some at step (i) by the players in building their PCs, probably bouncing ideas off one another and off the GM; and then again at step (ii) in framing a scene, because a scene needs content (a place, NPCs, etc); and then again at step (iii), as part of the consequences of action resolution. This approach to content, where it is mostly an output of rather than a prepped input into play, is why it is sometimes called "No Myth".
 

Reynard

Legend
If you drop into the current Why Defend Railroading thread you can see the topic being discussed in detail.

In brief, here are two possible approaches to RPGing contrasted:

1 (i) The GM establishes content - map, key, backstory etc - in advance of play; (ii) the GM starts the PCs at a particular place on the map; (iii) depending where this is on the map, the GM frames an appropriate scene by drawing on his/her prep, telling the players what their PCs see and experience; (iv) the players then declare actions that might "interact" with that stuff, and that ultimately "move" their PCs somewhere else on the map, triggering step (iii) again.

This is what I would call a very traditional approach to GMing, to prep and to RPGing.

2 (i) The players build PCs who have particular goals and backstory-driven trajectories; (ii) the GM frames a scene in which those PCs are located and that - given the goals/trajectories - will prompt their players to declare actions for them; (iii) those actions are resolved using mechanics that don't depend upon map-and-key for resolution (this doesn't normally affect how fighting an Orc is resolved; it will affect how searching for a hidden thing is resolved); (iv) that resolution will prompt a new scene to be framed, taking the table back to step (ii).

In this approach, content is authored "just in time" - some at step (i) by the players in building their PCs, probably bouncing ideas off one another and off the GM; and then again at step (ii) in framing a scene, because a scene needs content (a place, NPCs, etc); and then again at step (iii), as part of the consequences of action resolution. This approach to content, where it is mostly an output of rather than a prepped input into play, is why it is sometimes called "No Myth".
I don't see much difference between the two, aside from "did I write this stuff down or am I drawing on this stuff I have thought about a lot". I think people make too much of the differences between "prepared" and "improvisational" GMing since the vast majority of real life GMs do some combination of the two.
 

pemerton

Legend
I don't see much difference between the two, aside from "did I write this stuff down or am I drawing on this stuff I have thought about a lot". I think people make too much of the differences between "prepared" and "improvisational" GMing since the vast majority of real life GMs do some combination of the two.
If you aren't seeing the difference you've missed it. And the thing I've bolded is something of your own invention - it wasn't in my post and not because I forgot about it but because it is not part of the second approach that I described.

The fundamental difference is between scene framing => content (No Myth) and content => scene framing (traditional).

This is why we're having a discussion about "nudging" - in the traditional approach the only way to get the scene you want is to have the players take their PCs to the right place on the (pre-authored) map so that they will "interact" with the right content to get the scene. And so we talk about "nudging" the players to declare the actions that will move their PCs to that part of the map.
 

Reynard

Legend
If you aren't seeing the difference you've missed it. And the thing I've bolded is something of your own invention - it wasn't in my post and not because I forgot about it but because it is not part of the second approach that I described.

The fundamental difference is between scene framing => content (No Myth) and content => scene framing (traditional).

This is why we're having a discussion about "nudging" - in the traditional approach the only way to get the scene you want is to have the players take their PCs to the right place on the (pre-authored) map so that they will "interact" with the right content to get the scene. And so we talk about "nudging" the players to declare the actions that will move their PCs to that part of the map.
I think you are missing the middle which is exactly what I was saying: you are very likely to adapt ideas you already have developed, even if just musing, to whatever stimulus the players give you. Sure, it happens sometimes that you come up with something wholly and completely novel, but I think it is rare. As GMs we internalize a lot of material and we also muse quite a lot. It is a hugely important element of successful improvisation in fact: it is much easier, from a mental tax perspective, to adapt an idea versus invent one.

But I won't argue with your experience. If you say the players' prompts invoke entirely novel responses from you, I believe you. In my own experience I find that a lot of things I come up with on the fly are things I have mulled over on a long walk, talked about on a message board or adapted from some other media.
 


pemerton

Legend
I think you are missing the middle which is exactly what I was saying: you are very likely to adapt ideas you already have developed, even if just musing, to whatever stimulus the players give you. Sure, it happens sometimes that you come up with something wholly and completely novel, but I think it is rare.

<snip>

But I won't argue with your experience. If you say the players' prompts invoke entirely novel responses from you, I believe you. In my own experience I find that a lot of things I come up with on the fly are things I have mulled over on a long walk, talked about on a message board or adapted from some other media.
I'm not sure how much experience you have GMing Apocalypse World (or allied games) or Burning Wheel or Blades in the Dark. (Just to pick a few of the best known games that are, in general terms at least, "no myth".)

If you haven't got much experience, I think you might be underestimating the significance of whatever stimulus the players give you. For instance, if that stimulus is I'm looking for the Scrolls of Skelos, then whatever preconceptions you as a GM are brining to the table, you're likely to find yourself framing scenes that involve arcane scrolls.

Or course if you as a GM have a fondness for gnomes, and a dislike of Planescape, and the goals and trajectories evinced by the players are neutral as to these particular points of detail, then it's going to be more likely that your scroll-oriented scenes involve sinister gnomes rather than manipulative Arcanadaemons. But that's secondary to the nudging point. The nudging point arises because of (a) the time, relative to play, at which content is authored and (b) the work done, in action resolution, by that prior authored material. Changing (a) and (b) makes a rather large difference to the play experience even if the GM still keeps using a lot of gnomes.
 

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