D&D General How much control do DMs need?

Oofta

Legend
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.


...

Change "It's what RPGing is about." to "It's what RPGing is about for me." and I have no problem with the statement. You do you.

Saying that it must be part of the game, that it's bizzaro world if it's not part of the game, implying or stating that the GM or rules of the game have much of anything to do with it? That's what I have a problem with.

There is no one true way.
 

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pemerton

Legend
During set piece battles?
Well, to the extent that they have such things, yes.

For instance, Cortex+ Heroic Fantasy (a MHRP hack) had no trouble handling one PC stealing the Dark Elves' gold and escaping the dungeon with it, while the other PCs fought for their lives against the dark elf champions.

In my last Prince Valiant session, one PC led the forces defending a castle while two other PCs were pursuing a fleeing NPC who had kidnapped the child of the castle's commander. This caused no issues with resolution.

In my last Classic Traveller session, two PCs were on a world, one escaping from a trial by rivals (blowing up the impromptu court room with a grenade) and the other than helping to clean up the evidence; another PC was in their ship travelling between worlds, and we resolved the assault on the crew by the Alien that a "mad scientist" NPC had been breeding in vessel's sick bay.

The last time I ran Cthulhu Dark, there were only a few moments when the PCs were in the same place, for the whole of the session.

The starting point is that it doesn't take more time for someone to describe what their PC is doing, whether their PC is in the same geographical location as another PC, or in a different one.

So the issue is about how the resolution system relates to, or is dependent upon, the proximity of PCs; and how easy it makes to cut from PC to PC in a coherent fashion.

Eg. In MHRP, during an action scene the first character (as determined by the GM) gets an action, then the player of that character passes the action to another character, and so on until every character has had an action - then the action can be passed by the player of the last-acting character to any other character. Within the action economy there is no rule about the passage of time, or the covering of distance. The handling of this is up to the participants.

So one player using their character's action to engage a Scene Distinction that expresses/announces the Dark Elves' hidden gold (I can't remember exactly what it was now) is no different from another character using their character's action to fight a Dark Elf champion. (In the system, each character has a rating for Solo, Buddy or Team - or as I call it when we're playing Cortex+ Heroic LotR, Alone, Companion or Company - and so their player's dice pool will reflect whether they are working on their own, with a friend, or as part of a group.)
 

soviet

Hero
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.

Well, the poster I was replying to for a start.
 

Well, to the extent that they have such things, yes.

For instance, Cortex+ Heroic Fantasy (a MHRP hack) had no trouble handling one PC stealing the Dark Elves' gold and escaping the dungeon with it, while the other PCs fought for their lives against the dark elf champions.

In my last Prince Valiant session, one PC led the forces defending a castle while two other PCs were pursuing a fleeing NPC who had kidnapped the child of the castle's commander. This caused no issues with resolution.

In my last Classic Traveller session, two PCs were on a world, one escaping from a trial by rivals (blowing up the impromptu court room with a grenade) and the other than helping to clean up the evidence; another PC was in their ship travelling between worlds, and we resolved the assault on the crew by the Alien that a "mad scientist" NPC had been breeding in vessel's sick bay.

The last time I ran Cthulhu Dark, there were only a few moments when the PCs were in the same place, for the whole of the session.

The starting point is that it doesn't take more time for someone to describe what their PC is doing, whether their PC is in the same geographical location as another PC, or in a different one.

So the issue is about how the resolution system relates to, or is dependent upon, the proximity of PCs; and how easy it makes to cut from PC to PC in a coherent fashion.

Eg. In MHRP, during an action scene the first character (as determined by the GM) gets an action, then the player of that character passes the action to another character, and so on until every character has had an action - then the action can be passed by the player of the last-acting character to any other character. Within the action economy there is no rule about the passage of time, or the covering of distance. The handling of this is up to the participants.

So one player using their character's action to engage a Scene Distinction that expresses/announces the Dark Elves' hidden gold (I can't remember exactly what it was now) is no different from another character using their character's action to fight a Dark Elf champion. (In the system, each character has a rating for Solo, Buddy or Team - or as I call it when we're playing Cortex+ Heroic LotR, Alone, Companion or Company - and so their player's dice pool will reflect whether they are working on their own, with a friend, or as part of a group.)

None of this addresses the actual issue, which is that GM is describing what is happening in several different locations at once, leading to a lot of real time waiting. Also, if like you say in the characters spend majority of time apart, it raises the question how this even is group activity, why not just run several solo campaigns and ease the scheduling issues? IMHO RPGs are best when the characters can react to situations together as group, and interact with each other. This doesn't mean that you can never split the party, but it is quite understandable why the common advice is to minimise it.
 

pemerton

Legend
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.
I've been GMing games using my AD&D World of Greyhawk folio since about 1985.

I've used it to run AD&D games, Rolemaster, Burning Wheel and Torchbearer. I've played Burning Wheel in GH too.

I've never had issues with players introducing elements. When we started our Burning Wheel Torchbearer campaign, the players made up three new settlements: a Forgotten Temple Complex near the border of Tenh and the Theocracy of the Pale; a Wizard's Tower in the Bluff Hills, and a prosperous wayhouse called Fayan's Way in a location yet to be established, but presumably somewhere in the west of Tenh or east of the Bandit Kingdoms.

As a player, I introduced my PCs family, and family estate, and holy religious order. Again, this caused no issues.
 
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pemerton

Legend
None of this addresses the actual issue, which is that GM is describing what is happening in several different locations at once, leading to a lot of real time waiting.
This hasn't been my experience. A player declaring an action for their PC, and then resolving that, doesn't take more time because the PCs are apart rather than together.

As far as establishing location is concerned, having multiple locations isn't a problem in a system that relies on Scene Distinctions (like MHRP). Or in a system where the locations are familiar (like the PCs' starship in Classic Traveller). Or are introduced by a player (like when the PC in Cthulhu Dark needed a coach house to stay in, and the player introduced the Forlorn Trap). Or have already been established.

Also, if like you say in the characters spend majority of time apart, it raises the question how this even is group activity, why not just run several solo campaigns and ease the scheduling issues?
Because play is about the way these characters interact, the way they affect one another, and RPGing is more fun with friends?

IMHO RPGs are best when the characters can react to situations together as group, and interact with each other. This doesn't mean that you can never split the party, but it is quite understandable why the common advice is to minimise it.
OK, that's your view.

Someone upthread posted that splitting the party is a technical challenge. I posted examples of RPGs where it's not. Now you're telling me it's an aesthetically or socially bad idea. I wasn't really asking for anyone's opinion about the aesthetics or sociality of it, which I'm pretty confident I have a handle on. I was pointing out that it is technically quite feasible in many RPG systems.
 

clearstream

(He, Him)
I have no idea.

I posted about 4e D&D as I've experienced. To repost:
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.
I suspect we're talking at cross-purposes.

One mode might have players proposing and GM engaging with, and another mode might have GM proposing and players engaging with.

I'm saying that both those modes can include caring about one another as participants in RPG.
 

soviet

Hero
Splitting the party is a good way of enhancing excitement in a game and keeping up momentum. Cutting back and forth at moments of tension builds suspense and also allows players (and GM) a moment's respite to think through their characters' next move. It helps to avoid slowdown in play while people consider their options because that thinking time is spent 'offscreen'.
 

hawkeyefan

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" grip that is easily accessible in D&D as well (as rule 0 give the GM full power to delegate their monster control to other players)

Similarly is there any system that handles long term split parties in any way that isn't easily imported into D&D using rule 0?

To add to the games already suggested, I’ve played or GMed the following games recently that all allowed for this: Blades in the Dark, Dogs in the Vineyard, Stonetop, and Spire.

The speed of resolution and the friendliness of spectatorship are big parts of the issue.

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.

No one was talking about this being the GM’s job. We were talking about players caring about characters other than their own. If you don’t care about that as GM, that’s your choice, but if you don’t see why it would be beneficial, I don’t know what to tell you.

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”.

A lot of is indeed etiquette and spotlight handling. But rules and the way the game works affects the flow. How easy it is to rotate the spotlight is impacted by the rules and processes of play.


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.

The game handles it just fine or it may be an issue? Which is it?
 

gorice

Adventurer
I like the way that you've engaged productively with the tool analogy, but please don't direct insults at me. They make me feel unsafe to post.
My apologies. I didn't intent that comment to be taken seriously, but I can see how it might have been a bad idea, given the risk of being lost in translation.

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.
For my part, I'd say that 5e (not D&D as such, which is a different matter) isn't so much inflexible as inert. It exerts a strong gravitational pull toward 'nothing happens'. I'm working on a longer post to explicate this, but it will take time.

5e is pretty obviously inflexible in some ways, though. The assumption of powerful heroes with plentiful magic undermines both naturalistic play and classic exploration. Long combats balanced around groups discourage splitting the party. Violence is the assumed start and end point for most conflicts, and this influences the way players address problems.

On the splitting the party issue, it's worth comparing 5e to Blade Runner. In the latter, you have a finite number of shifts in a day, and there is an assumption that the clock is ticking. This means that every lead you follow has an opportunity cost, and there is a strong incentive to split the party so the PCs can cover more ground. Any given lead is also unlikely to lead to combat, so the players aren't treating every encounter as a tactical problem -- but the possibility is there, which keeps things tense.
 

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