D&D General How much control do DMs need?

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
In that example, why would you add something to a region that doesn’t make sense based on what’s already established? I’m not saying that contradictory things should be added to the setting.
The moment more than one person is able to add major elements to the setting such as entire new nations or cultures or anyhting else big enough that it should have been at least known of right from day 1, contradictions are inevitable.
Your concerns about it aren’t accurate. Just as we don’t know of Rivendell or Fanghorn until they are introduced in the story,
Except we do know about them, at least to the point of knowing of their existence: they're shown on the map.
Well as part of a group activity, where the spotlight may shift to other characters from time to time, I prefer that people care about the characters. That they’re interesting enough that other folks don’t check out when play focuses on one character.
IME characters that are interesting enough (which is a direct synonym for entertaining enough - if it's not entertaining, it's not interesting) to hold attention like that often tend to flame out real fast. It's a fine line, making a character be entertaining enough to keep the other players engaged but yet not being too gonzo with it. As for caring about them - again, that's in the eye of my character. As player, I just want to be entertained, and to entertain in return.
It usually also implies that some amount of creative effort had been made, which I appreciate and which possibly inspires others to contribute likewise.
Yes, I too prefer if others play entertaining characters, and I do my best to reciprocate in kind.
It kind of creates a positive feedback loop where everyone cares, and then everyone tries, which makes everyone care more, which makes them try harder… and so on.
In a certain type of group I can see how this would work. But in the anything-goes sort of game I prefer, there's likely to be a lot more in-character conflict; meaning some of the characters will sometimes be enemies to each other.

@pemerton talked briefly upthread (at least I think it was in this thread - there's so many!) about a game he is/was in, where while his PC holds another PC in contempt in-character, he-as-player is really invested in that other PC. For me, if my character holds that other PC in contempt then I-as-player probably won't think much of it either; completely unrelated to what I-as-me might think of that other character's player.

I've seen great people play horrible characters, and I've seen horrible people play great characters.
 

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Lanefan

Victoria Rules
"Caring" doesn't have to be positive.
I've always equated "caring" with positive (or even very positive) feelings.
It just means a given character's actions matter to you, that you're interested in what their eventual fate will be (and possibly would prefer a specific fate for them.)
If I want another character to die that's a pretty good sign I don't care about it, even though I'm interested in its fate and would like to help that fate arrive sooner if I can. :)
 

clearstream

(He, Him)
Picking up a bit more on this caring about others' contributions issue that @hawkeyefan has raised:

In 4e D&D, at least as I've experienced it, the characters are painted in fairly broad strokes. The game makes it easy to locate a character inside certain pretty clear fantasy tropes and themes - Dwarves who took their freedom from the giants; magical Elves (Eladrin) who travel between the lands of the Fey and the mortal world; incarnate immortals (Deva) who carry with them all their memories of their past lives; etc.

The creative contribution - again, as I've experienced it - tend to be not in the subtlety or nuance or beauty of the characters as such, but rather in the way the player orients their character towards those various tropes and themes and the conflicts and choices inherent in them.

So caring for others' characters means caring about and engaging with those choices.

This has implications for GMing methods. For instance, if the GM preps material, or establishes consequences of actions, which pre-empt or run over those player choices about how their PCs are oriented towards, and engaging with, those tropes and themes and so on, that is not really caring about and engaging with those player choices. It's disregarding them.
I like the general thinking here, yet I would clarify the conclusion further. That is, it's not inevitably or negatively disregarding players so long as the prep and consequences don't run over the choices they want to have and the way they want to engage. (Which can be read from what you say although it's not clear if you intend to imply it?)
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
Being a fan of the other player characters ...
As per my post just above, "being a fan of" also implies positive feelings that don't always square with the situation.

If, using my example above, I'd like to see another character die that doesn't make me a fan of that character. Quite the opposite, in fact: I become a fan of whatever's trying to kill it.

I'm still interested in watching that character, but I'm not cheering for it and thus am not its fan.
Splitting the party (or, allowing the party to split up naturally, or not even having a party as such) is a really effective technique that is unfairly maligned.
I agree fully with this.
 

clearstream

(He, Him)
So Google provided me with this handy statement of the Czege principle:

It isn't fun for a single player to control both a character's adversity and the resolution of that adversity.​

And guess what - in Agon the Strife player doesn't get to control both the posing of the mysteries and the resolution of them. As I posted not far upthread, the mysteries are answered via the outcomes to contests. And these are not something that the Strife player controls.

(Also, in case it's not clear: in Agon the Strife Player is the GM.)
I like this turning of the principle to show its implications.

When I first read the Czege principle it was readily obvious how it applies when I'm playing a character. It's more fun if someone else controls the adversities with which I am faced.

It was less obvious how it applies when I'm controlling the adversities (e.g. GM). It's more fun if someone else controls the resolution of those adversities.

------------------------------
Some comments regarding 5e, for the sake of discussion...

One way I approach 5e is to present problems and not solutions, and to constrain consequences by the situation (current fictional position, what we've established as true up to now including things that are true off-camera) and what players describe (what their character does, which per the rules they uniquely control, and what they have said is true about themselves.) That's part of my reluctance to introduce anything retroactively (not foretold) into a resolution. There's a nuance here that creating a new problem can be a consequence that stays neatly on the adversity side of the fence. That's leveraged in Torchbearer 2.

There is scope to follow 5e RAW closely on players describing what their characters do. It can be read that it's not up to DM to say (for instance) how the dwarf failed to persuade the chancellor. However, 5e RAW gets in the way of letting the dwarf player add to the fiction something that better fits what they would describe, e.g. rain. Many folk have admired the practice of players narrating their crits. My impression of both RAW and norms is that the dwarf might well describe how they succeed or fail (i.e. what their character does), but describing the environment remains with DM. Put together with what I have just said above, rain would only be properly part of the resolution (in 5e) if it introduced a new problem or was strictly colour. In the DMG are rules for when to introduce new problems as part of a resolution.
 

Aldarc

Legend
D&D is distinctively flexible not by design but simply by popularity. So many gamers understand the basic principles that it provides an easy jumping off point. It's the lingua franca of RPGs. As well, it basically assumes that every table will hack it.
When I visit the Cypher System Discord community, people there will rave that the Cypher System is distinctly flexible in its capacity to be hacked. When I visit the Fate or Cortex Discord communities, it's the same message there too. And it's much the same with many fans of other games and systems. Game designers understand that their games will be hacked. Many designers want their games to be hacked because it proliferates an ecosystem around their games or systems. The flexibility of hacking a game IMHO is not a virtue of a game; instead, it's a virtue of the hobby enthusiasts as a whole.

The idea that D&D is somehow distinctly flexible as some kind of intrisic quality that is peculiar to D&D feels a bit like people who have no exposure to other cultures apart from their own. These people may prattle on with lavish, self-aggrandizing praise about the unique cultural qualities of their own culture despite having little to no practical experience of other cultures and whether those "unique" cultural values they praise about their own culture aren't, in fact, shared with other cultures. 🤷‍♂️
 

clearstream

(He, Him)
When I visit the Cypher System Discord community, people there will rave that the Cypher System is distinctly flexible in its capacity to be hacked. When I visit the Fate or Cortex Discord communities, it's the same message there too. And it's much the same with many fans of other games and systems. Game designers understand that their games will be hacked. Many designers want their games to be hacked because it proliferates an ecosystem around their games or systems. The flexibility of hacking a game IMHO is not a virtue of a game; instead, it's a virtue of the hobby enthusiasts as a whole.

The idea that D&D is somehow distinctly flexible as some kind of intrisic quality that is peculiar to D&D feels a bit like people who have no exposure to other cultures apart from their own. These people may prattle on with lavish, self-aggrandizing praise about the unique cultural qualities of their own culture despite having little to no practical experience of other cultures and whether those "unique" cultural values they praise about their own culture aren't, in fact, shared with other cultures. 🤷‍♂️
Just to note that for my part what I am resisting is that D&D is distinctly inflexible. If that sounds like I am saying it is distinctly flexible, then to correct that, I am not.
 

Aldarc

Legend
Just to note that for my part what I am resisting is that D&D is distinctly inflexible. If that sounds like I am saying it is distinctly flexible, then to correct that, I am not.
To be clear to both you and @Clint_L, my post is not directed so much at the argument of one person here in this thread; instead, it's an attitude or argument that one sometimes encounters in the D&D spheres, including this forum, regarding the unique, exceptional virtues of D&D.
 

EzekielRaiden

Follower of the Way
Just to note that for my part what I am resisting is that D&D is distinctly inflexible. If that sounds like I am saying it is distinctly flexible, then to correct that, I am not.
I wouldn't call it inflexible, but I do think it's lower than a lot of people think it is on the flexibility scale. I would say this of genuinely every edition of D&D, including 4e. That skill challenges use (as I call them) "flexible framework rules" does not save 4e as a whole from being below-average flexibility.

By comparison, I would say Dungeon World is above average for flexibility. It's certainly not perfectly flexible, as I've discovered with the aforementioned "how do I make this support intrigue" thing. But as long as you want something more-or-less within the expected "let's play D&D" space, you'd have to work real damn hard to make something more flexible. Even for the areas it isn't flexible already, you can often burgle from other PbtA games designed for those areas (as with my example of nicking rules from Stonetop for settlement-focused adventuring; currently, I'm looking over The Sword, the Crown, and the Unspeakable Power to possibly steal intrigue stuff from.)
 

clearstream

(He, Him)
I wouldn't call it inflexible, but I do think it's lower than a lot of people think it is on the flexibility scale. I would say this of genuinely every edition of D&D, including 4e. That skill challenges use (as I call them) "flexible framework rules" does not save 4e as a whole from being below-average flexibility.

By comparison, I would say Dungeon World is above average for flexibility. It's certainly not perfectly flexible, as I've discovered with the aforementioned "how do I make this support intrigue" thing. But as long as you want something more-or-less within the expected "let's play D&D" space, you'd have to work real damn hard to make something more flexible. Even for the areas it isn't flexible already, you can often burgle from other PbtA games designed for those areas (as with my example of nicking rules from Stonetop for settlement-focused adventuring; currently, I'm looking over The Sword, the Crown, and the Unspeakable Power to possibly steal intrigue stuff from.)
More a PbtA thing than DW. I predict that rating on any sort of scale will vary across assessors, in part due to their preferences. That's not even taking account that such a scale could be multi-dimensional (so that rating would be a coordinate. )
 

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