D&D General How much control do DMs need?

Oofta

Legend
Have we been reading the same thread? People have explicitly said that without that Hobbesian central authority, exploration is impossible, consistency is essentially guaranteed to disappear and implicitly in short order, and participants will (not can, will) make illogical/impossible/ridiculous demands almost immediately.

If that isn't dismissive of the very idea of "cooperative games," what would be?

Where? What posts? Because I know I've stated my preferences and what works for me. That the DM has control over the world, the PCs only have influence over what they think and do. But I've also made it clear it's just a preference and what works for me.

You don't want players who are enthusiastic about engaging with the other characters at the table? You don't see any value in cultivating interest and investment in characters other than your own? These things are the glue that holds a story together. Even in works with one clear, central protagonist (something not true of most TTRPGs), the bulk of a literary work's content is not the direct actions of that one character. Instead, it's the connections between that character and others. Consider how "Lancers" (in TVTropes terms) tend to be among the most popular characters in fiction, but the whole point of the Lancer is to be a foil to another character, meaning their popularity is necessarily rooted in also caring about some other character.

Lordy lord. I hope people who are engaged and having fun. The group I DM certainly is. Somehow trying to force them to care about other PCs is just bizarre. Maybe they enjoy playing because they enjoy combat. Maybe they enjoy it because they enjoy interacting with the world I create and how it responds. Maybe they enjoy playing because it's just a break from the real world hanging with friends while they forget about other stresses.

I don't care why they're engaged, it's not my job nor is it my concern.

"Caring" doesn't have to be positive. 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.) I absolutely always want to care about the other characters in the party, not because of my typical Team Dad tendencies, but because caring about them makes playing the game far more worth my time.

For you, it's important. So? People have different motivations, have different reasons for playing. I don't believe in one-true-wayisms and this one is just odd.
 

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Yeah, this would seem to be a big black mark against the purported flexibility of D&D - if you break out of the 'adventuring party' conceit and start having characters split up (as happens regularly in both real life and fantasy stories), the game can't really handle it.
I see this more as a game flow or spotlight sharing challenge for the DM rather than a design issue. A DM who can keep things moving and shift between players/characters reasonably efficiently, be they in the same scene or different scenes, coupled with your assertion above of each player “Being a fan of the other player characters”…. Well, I think that bodes well for a successful, fun session whether or not the party decides to split up. I guess it kinda boils down to one or two simple table rule(s): pay attention on other players’ turns and share that spotlight. Basic etiquette, in at least some cases, can overcome perceived design “deficiencies”.
 

pemerton

Legend
I may have read your comment more strictly than you intended. Suppose those players want their GM to prep material, establish consequences, and pre-empt? Caring about player choices needn't amount to engaging with them, if that's not what players want. As in the case where players want immersive play in an objective-feeling* world.

Objective defined as I offered further above: a created world can feel objective to Zed if Zed did not create that world.
I have no idea.

I posted about 4e D&D as I've experienced. To repost:
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've personally never encountered players (in 4e play, or other RPGs) who orient their characters towards various tropes and themes and the conflicts and choices inherent in them but then didn't want others (including the GM) to care about and engage with those player choices concerning how their PCs are oriented towards, and engaging with, those tropes and themes and so on, and who would prefer the GM to prepare materials that pre-empt them.

But you're welcome to post about player creative contributions in 4e as you experienced it.
 

Enrahim2

Adventurer
With regard to DM controll and flexibility. I have a hard time imagining any system not handing a GM rule 0 control ever being more flexible than any system that grant rule 0 controll.

So D&D without any more qualifiers are incredibly flexible, as it has rule 0. As far as I am aware this is also true for Gurps, rolemaster, vampire, cuthulu runequest, traveler, shadow run, fate and and indeed most other systems out there.

However if you add the qualifier "D&D running adventure X", (where X might be a homebrew you prepared yourself), I would fully agree that that that is an exceedingly inflexible experience compared to most RPGs out there, including those that is not granting rule 0 rights to the GM.

I think however it is wrong to say that it is inflexible in any way because of the grant of control to the GM. I think in terms of looking at controll the reason the D&D running adventure become inflexible is because the DM when playing has effectively given up control to either an external adventure writer or their past selves. The more progressive games are not prone to this kind of inflexibility during play by not empowering the GM to release that kind of controll to third parties or past self. This is typically done by granting the player a kind of controll that would too easily get in conflict with any prepared adventure material.
 
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pemerton

Legend
I don't get this. Some of my most memorable D&D moments happened with temporarily split groups. I agree that if you are playing 5ed and a portion of the group get themselves into a setpiece battle, you might have stumbled upon something that at first might seem like an achilles heel due to the slow resolution that is not very spectator friendly. But please show me any system that can handle that smoothly out of the box without grabbing to the "players control the monsters"
Marvel Heroic RP (and fantasy hacks thereof). Cthulhu Dark. Classic Traveller. Prince Valiant.

These are just the systems that I've run over the past few years that easily handle the PCs being geographically separated, and out of communication, without anything like "players control the monsters".
 

Oofta

Legend
Yeah, this would seem to be a big black mark against the purported flexibility of D&D - if you break out of the 'adventuring party' conceit and start having characters split up (as happens regularly in both real life and fantasy stories), the game can't really handle it.

According to whom? The game handles it just fine, finding something interesting for the players not participating may be an issue but that has nothing to do with the game. Long ago we'd send them down to the basement to play pool but now I just let them stay at the table and watch events unfold. Occasionally I'll give the non-involved players an NPC or monster to run.

But in general I don't have enough time in my game sessions as it is so we don't split the party often. Maybe other games have some other ways of handling this, but there is nothing as far as the game rules go that discourage it.
 

Oofta

Legend
This claim is false. Do you know how I know? From experience. It's just crass dogmatism to assert things which you have no evidence of from your own experience, and that the actual experience of others contradicts.

I don't know what the difference is between you-as-player and you-as-you.

I have no problem being invested in a character who is regarded with contempt by the character I am playing. My character isn't me.

I don't understand: why would players make choices they don't want to make, or engage with tropes and themes in ways that they don't want to?

Do you run ongoing campaigns? Use the same campaign world and history? Or just make up new settings every time? Because if it's the latter it's not a big deal. If it's the former, adding major things to the campaign without staying within the outline that already exists would absolutely cause issues.
 

Marvel Heroic RP (and fantasy hacks thereof). Cthulhu Dark. Classic Traveller. Prince Valiant.

These are just the systems that I've run over the past few years that easily handle the PCs being geographically separated, and out of communication, without anything like "players control the monsters".
How?
 

Enrahim2

Adventurer
Marvel Heroic RP (and fantasy hacks thereof). Cthulhu Dark. Classic Traveller. Prince Valiant.

These are just the systems that I've run over the past few years that easily handle the PCs being geographically separated, and out of communication, without anything like "players control the monsters".
During set piece battles? (That was the issue one I was pointing at in the paragraph you quoted). Do they handle it in a way that isn't easily imported to a D&D game? (As per my other paragraph)

I think maybe I should add that I am here talking about the strict flexibility of being able to run those situation. Having direct rules support and advices in the core books of course make it easier to run such scenarios, but that is to me more a question of tuning than flexibility. Different games are clearly tuned and optimized to different play.
 

pemerton

Legend
Trying to force players to come up with goals feels artificial and not something I've ever wanted to do.
Somehow trying to force them to care about other PCs is just bizarre.
In my RPGing, I don't force players to come up with goals, or to care about the other PCs.

I take it for granted, as part of RPGing, in the same way that I take it for granted that (say) when we're playing five hundred, everyone at the table will try and bid sensibly, try and win their tricks, etc.

It's what RPGing is about.

With regard to DM controll and flexibility. I have a hard time imagining any system not handing a GM rule 0 control ever being more flexible than any system that grant rule 0 controll.
This is quite strange to me, because introducing a rule into a set of rules saying "you can change these" doesn't actually make the rules in question easier to change.

AW has a whole chapter talking in detail about how to add to or change various aspects of the game, and obviously is very successful in this respect given the number of PbtA games.

The Green Knight RPG has no discussion of how to change aspects of the game, but I think it would be pretty straightforward to adapt to Star Wars, and I've made some notes towards such an adaptation.
 

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