D&D General Fighting Law and Order

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I'm not sure what the 'ton' was that the GM had to make up.
You posted: "At the start of play the PCs have allies, rivals, and some turf". I was thinking the GM has to make all that up.

Yes, after that the GM will have to supply some details, like the cop friend letting the crew know that their rivals were behind one of them getting beat up. After that another PC in info gathering phase rounds up a minor member of the rival gang and interrogates him, getting the location of a stash. This is all stock stuff, the GM doesn't even have to set difficulties here, these are 'fortune rolls' (unless a character decides to do something really complicated and dangerous, then it might get played out a bit like a mini score). Anyway, the GM will definitely make up the location of the stash, what is guarding it, etc. So they have a good bit to do, but you can see how all the people in the game are kind of putting the story together as a whole.
So, it seems like your saying "The GM makes up a ton of stuff". I get Blades is an in place closed Railroad game, the characters "can't" leave The City(right?).

I guess a player can say "oh GM my character has a cop buddy", and then the player just wanders off and the GM has to make that. Is that what people talk about with "player agency"? A player can say "wow, three hours ago, I asked the GM to make a cop buddy character...and then have just played the game as a powerless character, but this game gives me the feeling of super player agency!"

I think you are projecting! The GMs whom I play with, and myself, want no such thing.
As most "problem DM" posts across the Net show....it's common for GMs to have "Plans".

I think you'd have fun getting into one of these games. I mean, maybe its not your normal cup of tea and you might not want to run such a game, but I think it would be a unique experience that is different from your average play.
I get the feeling it would be a lot of sitting around, and I really hate that.
 

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pemerton

Legend
I think you might take a bit to lightly on the grey featureless blob analogy though. As far as I read it it is not a claim that the entire world is a grey featureless blob - it is the claim as I understand it that everything outside what is established trough play appear like a grey featureless blob. I do not see you, nor any of the other experienced narrativist players so far arguing against that view. Rather I have seen many statements that fuels into such an impression.
"Appears like a grey featureless blob" is (in my view) an uhelpful metaphor.

What shoe size is Aragorn the Ranger and King? I don't know. I don't know of any writing by JRRT that even canvasses this. (Cf, for instance, the obsession with feet in the Cinderella fairy tale.)

But I wouldn't therefore say that Aragorn's feet, and their size, appear like a grey featureless blob. I'd just say that I don't know much about them, which is the result of no one having authored that fiction.

When I play a RPG campaign GMed by someone else, all the fiction that is not conveyed to me at the table has this nature, unless there is some agreed authoritative source that I can read. (Eg when I started my 4e campaign, I told the players that all the lore in the PHB is true.) But I never hear the "grey featureless blob" description applied to the typical player experience! And there's an obvious reason - it's not a good metaphor!

The difference between trad-style D&D and Burning Wheel is simply that, in trad-style D&D, the GM has extra knowledge about the fiction that the players don't, and this an important mechanism for play, whereas in BW the GM has relatively little knowledge about the fiction that the players don't.

One recurring worry I see in these threads is along the lines of: if the GM doesn't know much or even any of the as-yet-unrevealed stuff, then how will we work out what it is when a player's declared action demands that it be revealed? In this thread, we've seen the answer: either the GM says "yes" or the GM calls for a roll, and the outcome of that roll determines what gets added to the fiction. (See the extended discussion upthread of the spellbooks in Evard's tower.)

I think it is more productive to focus on these actual differences - as in, what difference does it make to the play experience for the GM to have little more knowledge of the fiction than the players? and what difference does it make to the play experience for hitherto-unknown fictional content to be established in the way BW does it, rather than via GM preauthorship of notes that then get revealed to the players in the course of play?

If's someone's answer to this question is "It makes the gameworld seem to me like a grey featureless blob", well that's their prerogative. But that's a description of an experience, not a way of analysing differences in the process of play.
 
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And of course if you’re a nihilist like Thomas Ligotti or Emil Cioran or a speculative realist like Eugene Thacker or Graham Harman, you may believe this to be fundamentally true of reality (appearances to the contrary being our ignorance and desire for denial). Whether this would make Ligotti and Thacker hardcore simulationists whose simulationism is vested in elaborately anti-causal participant frustration systems is an interesting question I shall not take up. I know Ligotti knows about gaming, and the one time I chatted with him online he was extremely gracious, as he always seems to be in interviews, but I’d feel I was taking a liberty.

That’s what really makes threads like these: the batshit out-of-left-field digressions.
I'm a fairly crappy philosophy student, overall. I mean, I have some basic notion of the sorts of arguments that nihilists have made. It is an amusing speculation but largely verging into waters I am (barely) smart enough not to dive much into. I tend towards a pretty realist kind of bent myself. As a mathematics guy (again, I'm not really worthy of the title mathematician even though I have a degree) I'm even doubtful of propositions such as the use of infinities to prove propositions as they apply to the real world, though I know I'm basically throwing certain rather popular axioms under the bus by doing so (bye bye several handy chunks of set theory).

Anyway, I guess you could also be a solipsist, and maybe nihilism is its close cousin? At least in some forms? Mostly I think these things devolve down to language problems. In English I can literally say, grammatically, "What is the cause of the Universe?" but I think it is literally a nonce, a statement devoid not only of an answer, but of even the form of a proper logical question. And the best we can get by saying bizarre things about what is 'real' is to simply reduce the term to meaninglessness as well.
 

This does depend on how serious, detailed and simulated the game is.

If the game is just a casual, lite game then sure nothing matters.

If the game is just a bunch of random encounters with no logic or simulation, then it does not matter.

And if the game is just the players doing random things in a sandbox, nothing really matters.

Though if the game has any level of simulation, logic or detail....then the GM needs to know a Bulk Ton more then the players just to run the game.
I will blow your mind then (and of course you may disagree, that's fine). I don't believe in this sort of simulation as a process that can really exist to any degree in RPGs. That is, sure, for immediate effects of local actions we can probably reasonably predict some outcomes. These are often covered in many games by mechanics, such as "when you fall 10' you take 1d6 damage" in D&D. I accept that this has some of the character of simulation, but its clearly not what you are talking about, because knowing the location of a pit, and its depth, is hardly "a Bulk Ton" of anything, and clearly takes no time to invent.

But in the more elaborate meaning of 'simulate', I would say basically none of this happens at all. What really happens is there's an assessment of what will seem to satisfy everyone's suspension-of-disbelief. That is, the DM makes up something that sounds plausible and fulfills their other requirements for the continuation of the fiction along whatever lines are desired. So, the PCs are in the bar, and you decide you want, for plot reasons, a bar fight to erupt. When the dwarf PC sits down to drink his ale, an elf sitting at the next table picks a fight with him, and its on! Where did this elf come from? Why does he pick fights with dwarves? Why THIS fight? Do you actually have some sort of way of modeling the behavior of a bar full of drunken demi-humans such that we know if a general brawl will erupt or not? No, of course not, the NPCs in this bar are basically all just a couple lines of notes on the GM's description of the scene, made up specifically to do this one task, enact a bar brawl. There's no 'simulation' here, at all. The same is true of more complex situations like wars, disasters, politics, etc. Nobody has any way of simulating such stuff! If they did the CIA would be giving 1000x better advice to the government than they do now! If they don't know how to do it, you and I sure as heck don't! Not even a tiny bit!

Anyway, this is just sort of my thing, it doesn't bear much on the rest of the discussion, really. ;)
 

You posted: "At the start of play the PCs have allies, rivals, and some turf". I was thinking the GM has to make all that up.
Cool, sorry if I was getting sloppy in my description. I hope I've helped make it a bit more clear. I agree with you that often when people describe things they make assumptions. Its a real curse when documenting stuff!
So, it seems like your saying "The GM makes up a ton of stuff". I get Blades is an in place closed Railroad game, the characters "can't" leave The City(right?).
Well, there's a whole world that consists of 5 islands, and the main island has several other cities on it. The other islands have SOME basic details. I guess technically you can travel to them. The other cities are connected by 'Spark Line' trains, you can go there, though I don't think they even have names. You CAN leave the city(s), and when we played we did actually do that. Outside the cities is a waste land, and you need special gear to survive. There are actually crews who scavenge out there for a living, high risk, high reward. The prison also sends out people, I guess as a work detail kind of thing. Anyway, the city itself is decent sized, for a fantasy city. We played our game for about 10 months and while we probably set foot in every district at least once, we certainly didn't run low on places to go.
I guess a player can say "oh GM my character has a cop buddy", and then the player just wanders off and the GM has to make that. Is that what people talk about with "player agency"? A player can say "wow, three hours ago, I asked the GM to make a cop buddy character...and then have just played the game as a powerless character, but this game gives me the feeling of super player agency!"
Players can invent NPCs to some degree, yes. When you create a character you invent a friend and a rival, you can pretty much make them whatever you want, but the friend (like the cop buddy) is going to be limited to appropriate capabilities. You could invent a friendship with the Imperial Garrison Commander I guess, but how much is he going to do for you, you Tier I scumbag! Plus a 'friend' like that is likely to become a liability too! Rivals are kind of fodder for the GM to drop on you as a problem, while you can try to create an ineffective rival, it probably won't work. They will generally remain at the same tier as your PC, and if you defeat them, a new one will arise.

But in terms of 'agency' or ability to have the game focus on stuff about your PC, you are in pretty good shape. I had a rival that was an old army buddy. He was also a doctor, so once I actually got him to help me! After that though he got real hostile and we had a confrontation where I ended up killing him. His daughter then came after me! Its pretty interactive, the GM is definitely going to throw stuff at you. Each character has a 'vice', a thing that they can do in down time to restore stress. My character's vice was originally hanging out with the demon that inhabited his sword (I made up the sword and the demon at character generation, the sword was also my PC's allowed fine weapon). This of course caused various sorts of trouble, like I killed a bunch of guys during downtime in a park, and then it turned out they were our allies! Little GM plot twist there! Hey, it got my stress down! hahaha.
As most "problem DM" posts across the Net show....it's common for GMs to have "Plans".
I think it is normal and expected in trad styles of play, so its hardly surprising. I'm sure there are plenty of GMs trying out narrativist techniques who might fail to give up that habit. Some actually post here! Anyway, I think its not likely that a GM, reading all the BitD stuff about Doskvol, is going to have NO ideas about stuff he could throw at PCs. Its just, either he's going to have to make sure it fits with what the players are doing and what will interact with their characters, or he's got to break the game. You can read @pemerton's recent posts in this thread on BW play, he's making it very clear that its not set up for GM plans!
I get the feeling it would be a lot of sitting around, and I really hate that.
Very action packed actually. I think that BitD campaign had more stuff packed into 10 months of play than almost any other game I've played in years. Our character's rose from nothing to a feared Tier V crew of assassins, destroyed an ancient vampire, warred with like 5 other gangs and kicked their butts, and pulled off a bunch of other great scores. In the end though we really got too big for our britches, it was kind of 'live hard, die young'. We left it at a sort of "ride off into the sunset" kind of moment, but I HIGHLY doubt my character, for one, survived whatever came next. He got played to the hilt and it was fun!
 

Micah Sweet

Level Up & OSR Enthusiast
I will blow your mind then (and of course you may disagree, that's fine). I don't believe in this sort of simulation as a process that can really exist to any degree in RPGs. That is, sure, for immediate effects of local actions we can probably reasonably predict some outcomes. These are often covered in many games by mechanics, such as "when you fall 10' you take 1d6 damage" in D&D. I accept that this has some of the character of simulation, but its clearly not what you are talking about, because knowing the location of a pit, and its depth, is hardly "a Bulk Ton" of anything, and clearly takes no time to invent.

But in the more elaborate meaning of 'simulate', I would say basically none of this happens at all. What really happens is there's an assessment of what will seem to satisfy everyone's suspension-of-disbelief. That is, the DM makes up something that sounds plausible and fulfills their other requirements for the continuation of the fiction along whatever lines are desired. So, the PCs are in the bar, and you decide you want, for plot reasons, a bar fight to erupt. When the dwarf PC sits down to drink his ale, an elf sitting at the next table picks a fight with him, and its on! Where did this elf come from? Why does he pick fights with dwarves? Why THIS fight? Do you actually have some sort of way of modeling the behavior of a bar full of drunken demi-humans such that we know if a general brawl will erupt or not? No, of course not, the NPCs in this bar are basically all just a couple lines of notes on the GM's description of the scene, made up specifically to do this one task, enact a bar brawl. There's no 'simulation' here, at all. The same is true of more complex situations like wars, disasters, politics, etc. Nobody has any way of simulating such stuff! If they did the CIA would be giving 1000x better advice to the government than they do now! If they don't know how to do it, you and I sure as heck don't! Not even a tiny bit!

Anyway, this is just sort of my thing, it doesn't bear much on the rest of the discussion, really. ;)
Can't tell you how much I love hearing you keep disrespecting the simulationist game style. I don't care for narrative/storygames, but I respect your feelings about them, and I would never simply claim that your playstyle doesn't really exist. It's extraordinarily insulting.
 

Dannyalcatraz

Schmoderator
Staff member
Supporter
Mod Note:

I came here because some posters were getting reported for being a bit pointed in their responses towards each other. As I scrolled on, I found a few more.

Please, folks, let’s not continue descending into incivility. I’d rather not have to elevate mod interaction in here.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
Yes, sorry, "burnt" and "burned" are references to character/world generation. It's a bit of a goofy affectation, but that's how the BW refers to it, and I have the book open here.

Ah, I do see a difference in what you surmised and what I wrote — "doing what the players want" and "honoring player priorities" don't strike me as the same thing. But I think it's about positioning more than meaning. Like, the former seems to suggest subservience to me, while the latter is more about being collaborative and open?
Could come down to whether a given reader sees "honoring player priorities" and draws the inference "along with as my own" or "instead of my own"; as those two interpretations are very different.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
As far as scene-to-scene jumping, I actually agree that it can be overdone, but I think if I remember @pemerton's description of how play developed around the scenario in Evard's tower correctly, events leading up to that were pretty granular. Aramina didn't roll her Grand-Wizard Wise and then everyone was at the tower. There was a journey and some diversions along the way. They were all related to player priorities and beliefs, but they were there.
Indeed.

The example I was referring to was the one where the abandoned farms were narrated (perhaps as throwaway colour) and the players latched on to them as being important enough to follow up on; and how that couldn't have happened had the PCs been jumped straight into whatever scene they were travellling to that town in order to get to, as someone suggested should have been done.
Regarding side-tracking and changing beliefs, they're both possible and usually related (and changing beliefs is absolutely encouraged and expected). A GM can absolutely put a character in a hard place to test their commitment to a stated belief — I've been watching a lot of westerns lately, and in Bend of the River, they've established that Cole is a former border raider looking to make it rich (keeps on talking about going down to California for gold), but for a while he accompanies Glyn and the settlers up the Columbia with the food and helps them. When he's offered $100k to bring the food to the gold strike instead, he's presented with a hard choice. In a BW sense, he's got a belief about bringing the food to the settlers, helping Glyn, or whatever and maybe the Greedy trait or something. Putting these in opposition, forces his player, Arthur, to make a choice about what Cole will do. And would likely lead to a change in beliefs and a different pattern of play.
OK. Now let's say I'm Cole's player and somewhere along the way as I'm passing through a town I make a successful perception [or whatever mechanic] check - or the GM just tosses it in for fun - and I see a beautiful woman getting roughed up by some prospectors. Instant possibility for diversion, for change of beliefs, for all sorts of things...or for nothing to happen at all as I ride on toward the gold fields. This can't happen if a) things jump from scene to scene and b) the GM isn't allowed to toss these random umprompted bits of flavour into the narration.

Put another way, maybe a valid means of the GM challenging my character's beliefs might be to every now and then put unrelated and unexpected situations in front of me that could cause me to throw those beliefs to the wind. Here, for example, I might beat up the prospectors, rescue the lady, fall in love with her, and forget about the gold or the villagers or anything else as I take her away to start a family and a future.
David Mamet once said that a screenwriter should get into a scene as late as possible and out of it as early as possible. In some ways, I think the same is true about where BW play should start. From there, pacing can vary, but the GM should be driving to something hitting a belief and hard quickly.
I always push back against this mindset, mostly because while a screenwriter has to worry about run-time constraints a GM does not. RPGs are by nature open-ended in terms of how long they can go on; and so there's really no need to sacrifice anything on the altar of brevity. Instead, there's time to pull on all the threads and see what comes of it.
 

Enrahim2

Adventurer
1) I'm not misdiagnosing anything. What I said is 100 % true. Its not an excruciating laboring of every facet of the issues (both discrete and intersecting), but when it comes to "the integrity of the world," it is 100 % true.
Ok, after rereading your statement I replied to in light of this I think we might be at least close in agreement. I read it as a claim of inability to change perspective, which I think is false. If it however was meant as a description related to a prefered way to handle certain matters of integrity of the world, I see nothing objectionable.

As such the rest of my post could be most usefully repurposed as a step on bringing further detail to how the traditional D&D handle world integrity vs narrativist games. In pure narrativist games the world integrity that matters is that everything all players are aware of (the "shared fiction") is internally consistent. In what you label more "simulationist" it is the superset of the "GM-vision" that include both the shared fiction and everything the GM has decided without telling that need to be consistent. As such it is absolutely neccessary to maintain that integrity to have some mechanism to prevent a player from lack of knowledge introduce something to the shared fiction that breaks this internal integrity by contradicting some decission made by the DM, but not yet shared.

For someone used to games where the GM vision integrity is critical, a first reaction to absence of any mechanism to maintain integrity with a GM-vision would hence naturally be to question as we have seen in this thread: what then about internal integrity? When they then are explained that there is no GM-vision that require integrity controls, that suddently leaves a conceptual void compared to their usual way of thinking. I believe it is this sense of void that can be reasonably be labled "grey and featureless" by someone just experiencing it. For someone having had time to adjust to the absence of authorative GM-vision, such conceptual voids tend to be something the mind is pretty good at filling in over time, making such a metaphor matching poorly their way of thinking. That doesn't make one way of seeing it "better" or more "evolved" than the other. For someone tuned to trad play, perceiving it as a grey void could be "usefull", as in a traditional style play complete absence of GM-vision would indeed be a very dysfunctional situation, that is good to be able to easily detect and talk about. However it is still indicative of a major difference between the styles of play. As pemerton puts much better than me:
The difference between trad-style D&D and Burning Wheel is simply that, in trad-style D&D, the GM has extra knowledge about the fiction that the players don't, and this an important mechanism for play, whereas in BW the GM has relatively little knowledge about the fiction that the players don't.
Regarding my thesis that the volume of fiction is an important difference, I think that hence misses the main interesting point here. As such I will for now not pursue that line of thought further beyond pointing out that the following observation lends weight to the idea that this at least in the past might have been a barrier to entry for narrative games:
Thus, even if the idea had legs WRT zero myth play, that sort of play is rapidly becoming the exception out there. Granted, more extensively documented milieus demand more finesse in terms of describing how narrative play will fit into them, but its a challenge which has been met more than adequately by a number of products at this point.
 

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