How Visible To players Should The Rules Be?

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That means that objectively control isn't what the playstyle was centered around. If that playstyle was centered around control, I couldn't have used it without also having it be about control. Removing something that central would have changed the playstyle into a different one.

Control might or might not be present based on the DM's personal choice, not the playstyle itself. You chose to use it while using that playstyle, as did everyone you played with I guess.

No, you may have just bucked the prevailing trends. Your anecdotes are no more proof than mine, right? You're saying I may have run it that way despite that not being the intention. But that same argument can be applied to you.

So we have to look beyond our anecdotes.

Same as you. 🤷‍♂️

I can't speak to what percentage it was, but I doubt I hit the D&D lottery and played with many DMs who didn't play that way and only one who MIGHT have played that way if it were overwhelming the way you describe it. At worst there would be significant numbers on both sides so as to allow both of our experiences to be true without one of us having to hit some sort of extreme longshot.

I don't mean games you played. I mean like what evidence can you provide? Like we can point to all manner of historical data about how Dragonlance influenced D&D so much that it shifted drastically toward curated stories. We can talk about the impact that Vampire had, and how that forced TSR to focus even more on metaplot and curated stories.

We can look at the numerous products of the era and the advise found in Dragon magazine and similar sources, and how much of it was about maintaining the story the GM has in mind, for the GM to control the narrative. There will be exceptions, sure, but I'm comfortable saying that a significant amount of advice during this era was about GM control. Illusionism and force and all kinds of things were actively endorsed.

Again, I'm not saying it had to be played this way... but to say that there's not at least something to this is either looking back with rose-colored glasses or being unaware of a lot of what was going on at the time.

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Morkus from Orkus
If a GM can't make a game compelling beyond trying to limit the players' knowledge of the enemy, then I'd say they're not much of a GM.
Way to go out of your way to insult an entire playstyle over something entirely irrelevant. Hint, it's not about trying to limit knowledge. Extra hint, it's also not about whether or not we could make the game compelling if we did hand out numbers. Both of those things are not what we are about.


Morkus from Orkus
That people imagine things is a realistic event. Commonplace, even.

It doesn't follow that the things they imagine are realistic.

An imagined event may be realistic (eg I imagine myself walking to the shop to buy milk). Or it may be fantastic (eg I imagine myself fighting for my life while hanging by a rope from a blimp flying high above a city). I am positing that it cannot be both.
I've bolded in your fantasy example everything that isn't here in the real world. Note how nothing is bolded. It may be a fantastic situation, but it has a lot of realism to it as well. What you imagine and can enact via the game mechanics might not mirror what would happen here in the real world if you found yourself in that situation, but in an RPG realism/realistic isn't about mirroring reality.


Way to go out of your way to insult an entire playstyle over something entirely irrelevant. Hint, it's not about trying to limit knowledge. Extra hint, it's also not about whether or not we could make the game compelling if we did hand out numbers. Both of those things are not what we are about.

I’m not passing judgment on a style. I’m talking about the vast amount of information that supports my statement that the 2e eraof D&D and the larget RPG industry at the time was absolutely about GM control.

I don’t necessarily see that as a good or bad thing. It simply was.

And that era is when I became a lifelong gamer. So it had something going for it.

If you don’t have any support for your argument that the game at that time was largely focused on the GM controlling the narrative, that’s fine, just say so. Stop dodging by trying to paint me as attacking a whole playstyle or insisting that your anecdotal evidence is sufficient.


Who says 2e was about the GM managing the story by managing the success of the players? Where is that written?
Here are some passages.

From the AD&D 2nd ed PHB, p 111:

When your character travels or explores a dungeon, your DM will have prepared two general types of encounters. The first are specific (planned) encounters. These are meetings, events, or things the DM has chosen to place in the adventure to build on the story of the adventure.​
For example, upon sneaking into the bugbear stronghold, your characters find a squalid cell filled with humans and elves. Your DM has placed them here for your character to rescue. Of course, he could also be playing a trick and the prisoners could actually be evil doppelgangers . . . your DM may want you to discover some important information or set up a particularly difficult battle. . . .​
Sometimes encounters are not with people or monsters but with things. . . . The fountain in the forest is an encounter . . . You have to figure out why this fountain is here, what it can do, and if it is important to your adventure. It may be a red herring - something placed there just to confuse you . . .​

There are many passages in the 2nd ed DMG. This from p 95 is illustrative:

Another type of planned encounter is the trigger. It can be used with a key or by itself. A trigger is a simple either/or or if/then type of statement. It is used for more interactive types of encounters, where the action of the event is what is important, such as the kidnapping described below.​
The next episode occurs at 1 o'clock in the morning: If any character is still awake, he hears a muffled scream coming from the balcony of the room next door. If the characters investigate, they will discover two hooded men (6th-level thieves) attempting to drag a struggling young woman over the railing. One man has her firmly gripped from behind, his hand clamped over her mouth. The other is hoisting her legs over the side. A confederate waits with the horses on the ground below. If the characters do nothing, there will be a crash as she kicks over a flower urn, followed by a muttered curse and then the galloping of horses.​
If the characters are noticed, the unburdened man wheels to face them, drawing two swords, one in each hand. The woman attempts to break free, only to be struck unconscious by the other man. The man on the ground quietly cocks a crossbow and aims it at the party, keeping an eye out for spellcasters.​

Here everything is dependent upon previous and current choices of action. Is a character awake? Will the characters investigate? How will they react to the kidnappers? Each decision molds subsequent events. The characters might leap to the young woman's rescue or they might rouse themselves only in time to see the kidnappers gallop off with her tied to the saddle. Their actions could alter planned events. Coming to her aid, the characters rescue the lady. As DM you must be ready to tell her story. Why was she attacked? Who were they? Are there any clues the characters can find?​
To write this type of encounter, first outline the basic sequence of events that would happen if the characters did not interfere. Next, think like a player and try to anticipate what the characters might do. Would they aid the lady? If so, you will need combat information — how the attackers will fight and what weapons and tactics they will use. What happens if the characters try to sound the alarm or talk to the kidnappers? What will the lady say if rescued? At least a brief note should be made to account for the probable reactions of the player characters.​
As complete as you make them, triggers are not without their weaknesses. While very good at describing a scene, a trigger does not provide much background information. In the event above, there is no description of the room, the attackers, the lady's history, etc. There could be, but including it would be extra work, and description would also get in the way of the action.​
A less critical problem is that DMs can't anticipate every action of the player characters. No matter how carefully a trigger is constructed, there is always something the characters can do to upset the situation. In the example above, what if the characters​
panic and a mage launches a fireball at the attackers? In a flash of flame, they and their victim are killed and the building is on fire. Prescient is the DM who can anticipate this event!​
There is no simple solution for unpredictable players (nor would you want one!). As a DM you are never going to be able to predict every player decision. Experience, both as a player and a DM, teaches you what the most likely actions are. Beyond these you must improvise, relying on your skill as a DM.​

Notice that how long it takes the ruffians to get their victim over the balcony and onto their horses is entirely a matter of GM decision-making. Hence, the question of whether or not the PCs rouse themselves only in time to see the kidnappers gallop off with her tied to the saddle is entirely up to the GM.

I've spoiler-blocked some more from the DMG:

*p 17:

Some players think it is unrealistic that a typical peasant can be killed by a single sword blow, a fall from a horse, or a thrown rock. In the real world, people can and do die from these causes. At the same time, however, others survive incredible injuries and wounds.

When it is necessary to the success of an adventure (and only on extremely rare occasions), you can give 0-level characters more hit points. The situation could have come about for any number of reasons: magic, blessings from on high, some particularly twisted curse (the peasant who could not die!) - you name it.

*p 24:

It is essential that each character's alignment be noted in the DM's records for that character. Look at the alignments of the group as a whole. Can this group work together? Are the alignments too different? Are they different enough to break the party apart? Will this interfere with the planned adventure or campaign?

*p 26:

In a typical campaign, the primary conflict in the world is not a struggle between alignments. The campaign world is one in which passion, desire, coincidence, intrigue, and even virtue create events and situations. Things happen for many of the same reasons as in the real world. For this reason, it may be easier to create adventures for this type of campaign. Adventure variety and excitement depend on the DM's sense of drama and his ability as a storyteller.

*p 30:

Sometimes players resort to "min/maxing" when selecting weapon proficiencies. Min/maxing occurs when a player calculates all the odds and numerical advantages and disadvantages of a particular weapon. The player's decision isn't based on his imagination, the campaign, role-playing, or character development. It is based on game mechanics - what will give the player the biggest modifier and cause the most damage in any situation.

A certain amount of min/maxing is unavoidable, and even good (it shows that the player is interested in the game), but an excessive min/maxer is missing the point of the game. Reducing a character to a list of combat modifiers and dice rolls is not role-playing.

Fortunately, this type of player is easy to deal with. Just create a situation in which his carefully chosen weapon, the one intended to give him an edge over everyone else, is either useless or puts him at a disadvantage. He will suddenly discover the drawback of min/maxing. It is impossible to create a combination of factors that is superior in every situation, because situations can vary so much.

Finally, a character's lack of proficiency can be used to create dramatic tension, a vital part of the game. In the encounter with kobolds described earlier, the player howled in surprise because the situation suddenly got a lot more dangerous than he expected it to. The penalty for nonproficiency increases the risk to the player character, and that increases the scene's tension.

When a nonproficiency penalty is used to create tension, be sure the odds aren't stacked against the character too much. Dramatic tension exists only while the player thinks his character has a chance to escape, even if it's only a slim chance. If a player decides the situation is hopeless, he will give up. His reaction will switch from excitement to despair.

*pp 45, 47:

The AD&D game is not a game in which one player wins at the expense of the others. But at the same time there is winning and losing, after a fashion, based on how well the group plays and how well it achieves the goals that have been set for it. . . every game session will have some variable goals. Most of these come from the plot of the adventure. Some may come from the players' desires. Both types can be used to spur players on to more effective role-playing. . . .

The other group award is that earned for the completion of an adventure. This award is determined by the DM, based on the adventure's difficulty. There is no formula to determine the size of this award, since too many variables can come into play. However, the following guidelines may help.

The story award should not be greater than the experience points that can be earned defeating the monsters encountered during the adventure.

*p 94:

Rupert reaches into his pocket only to discover that the gem he pried from a heathen idol is gone! Thinking about it, he decides the only person who could have taken it was his fellow party member (and player character) Rangnar the Thief. Unhesitatingly, he whips out his sword and holds it at Rangnar's throat. Rangnar reaches for his hidden dagger. . . . [This] has all the trappings of an encounter. There is meaningful choice and anything could happen next. However, this is a squabble between player characters, not something the DM has control over. It does not further the plot or develop campaign background.

*p 101:

Any time the DM feels his adventure is dragging along or that characters are getting over-confident, he can declare a random encounter.

*p 102:

Once the encounter is set and the DM is ready to role-play the situation, he needs to know how the NPCs or monsters will react. The creatures should react in the manner the DM thinks is most appropriate to the situation.

*p 106:

Three experts, the assassin, spy, and sage, require special treatment. Each of these, unlike other hirelings, can affect the direction and content of an on-going adventure. Used carefully and sparingly, these three are valuable DM tools to create and shape stories in a role-playing campaign.

I think this passage (from p 94) is also directly relevant to @hawkeyefan's description of GM control over the parcelling out of information as a mainstream technique:

Take, for example, the situations given below. Try to figure out which of the four is a true encounter, as defined above.

1. Rupert and Algorond, a gnome, are exploring a cave. Algorond is in the lead. Without any warning the ceiling directly over him collapses, crushing the little gnome instantly. He is dead, and all Rupert can do is dig out the body.

2. Rupert, a 10th-level fighter, meets three lowly orcs. They charge and, not surprisingly Rupert slices them to ribbons. He isn't even harmed. Searching the chamber, he finds a sword +1. Rupert already has a sword +3 and is not particularly interested in this weapon.

3. Rupert reaches into his pocket only to discover that the gem he pried from a heathen idol is gone! Thinking about it, he decides the only person who could have taken it was his fellow party member (and player character) Rangnar the Thief. Unhesitatingly, he whips out his sword and holds it at Rangnar's throat. Rangnar reaches for his hidden dagger.

4. Rupert and Taras Bloodheart are riding across the plain. Just as they crest a low ridge, they see a cloud of smoke and dust in the distance. They halt and watch for a little while. The dust cloud slowly moves on their direction, while the smoke dwindles. Moving their horses to a hollow, the watch the approach of the mysterious cloud from a thicket.

So, which of these four is a true encounter? Only the last one. The first didn't involve any player choice. . . .

The second had player choice, but it wasn't particularly meaningful or balanced. . . . The situation could have been an encounter if the orcs had actually been ogres concealed by an illusion or if the sword had special unrevealed powers. Either of these would have made the character's actions meaningful.

The third situation has all the trappings of an encounter. There is meaningful choice and anything could happen next. However, this is a squabble between player characters, not something the DM has control over. It does not further the plot or develop campaign background. Indeed, such disharmony will only hurt the game in the long run. It could have become an encounter if an invisible NPC thief had done the deed instead of Ragnar. Rupert and Ragnar, eventually realizing the confusion, would have suddenly found themselves united in a new purpose - to find the culprit. Of course, there would also be role-playing opportunity as Rupert tried to make amends while Ragnar remembered the insult!

The fourth example is a true encounter, even though it doesn't seem like much is happening. The players have made significant decisions, particularly to stay and investigate, and they are faced by an unknown creature. They do not know what they face and they do not know if it will be for good or ill. The dust cloud could be a djinni or a hostile air elemental. It could be a war-band of 100 orcs or giant lizards. The players don't know but have decided to take the risk of finding out.​

Notice how meaningfulness is defined solely in terms of things that the GM knows - that the Orcs are secretly Ogres (or that the prisoners are secretly doppelgangers); that the sword is secretly powerful; that the gem was secretly taken by an invisible thief not known to the PC Rupert; that the dust cloud is some interesting creature or phenomenon that the GM is yet to reveal to the players.

And notice also how role-playing, for the players, is defined by reference to low- or no-stakes colour, namely, Ragnar's memory of an insult. There is express discouragement of this actually mattering ("a squabble" and "disharmony" that "will only hurt the game in the long run").

It's hard to envisage a more thorough prescription for GM control over the play of the game.

The priority of the DM's storyline, and getting the players to "follow along" with it, was foundational to most of the popular games of the '90s (primarily the White Wolf family, as well as AD&D 2e).

Most of the development of more narrative styles was an explicit reaction against this paradigm.
Both styles explicitly equate RPGs with collaborative storytelling coupled with a strong focus on the "stories" of individual PCs. That's what I'm referring to.
Just in case there is any uncertainty, I have ZERO INTEREST in RPGing that is "collaborative storytelling".

Nor do I have any interest in RPGing that is GM storytelling of the sort described and presupposed in the passages I've quoted from the AD&D 2nd ed rulebooks.

My interest is in the sort of RPGing that, at least to a rough approximation, fits under the label "narrativist" as coined by Ron Edwards. The contrast with the AD&D 2nd ed approach can be made clear by providing a few examples from my Torchbearer 2e play:

*The mysterious magic item was an Elven gemstone possessed by a Dwarven dream haunt - this spoke directly to the backstories, beliefs and goals of the Dwarven Outcast and Elven Dreamwalker PC;

The gem was stolen by a *known NPC who was a friend of one of the PCs, although at first the PC who was robbed blamed a different NPC (her enemy) - this directly set up a tension among the loyalties/relationships of the PCs and their affiliated NPCs;

*The statuette at the entrance to the dungeon directly alluded to the imprisoned demon Duran (and was the occasion for a Theologist test by the Dreamwalker PC); and the writing on the door of the crypt - "Here lies Celedhring, in communion with the Outer Dark" - not only foreshadowed the barrow wight on the other side, but also indicated that it was an Elvish barrow wight, connecting these immediate stakes to the broader stakes of the nature of Elves and Elven dreaming.​

In each situation, the players did not (and did not have to) collaboratively tell a story with me as GM. They played their PCs. I played my situations, guided by the rules for Events and Twists.

I don't think we've yet had a foe concealed by illusion or shapechange, but if we did the principles for framing and consequence would be the same. This would not be just a rabbit from the GM's hat.


Not the point at all. The idea is, unless shown that something is fantastic (ie, flying dragons, magic in general), the world is assumed to be governed by the same rules we have in reality. Air, gravity, musical theater all operate as on Earth. Exceptions are specific and usually obvious.
So why, then, do the societies in D&D worlds more closely resemble modern ones than mediaeval ones in their basic social arrangements?

And why do they have so much more production taking place than their actual, narrated, technologies would appear to suggest?


Can you tell me which logical fallacy I am guilty of committing? ;)
Inferring from a denial that all X is Y to a denial that any X is Y.

I'm not sure how to do inverted Es and As on these forums, so in what follows my As are the wrong way up (ie uninverted):
It is a fallacy to infer from ~(AxAy(Px => Qx)) to AxAy(Px => ~Qx).

In this particular case, the fallacious inference appears to be from @hawkeyefan's It is not the case that, if any bit of information is obtained by the players, it must come from the GM as part of the adjudication of play to If any bit of information is obtained by the players, it must not be the case that it comes from the GM as part of the adjudication of play. Because without that fallacious inference, there would be no reason to suppose that hawkeyefan would feel obliged to hand over the secret information prior to play at the request of the player.


The DM doesn't control everything. The players have full control over their characters and how they choose for those characters to interact with the world as presented.

If it was about control for the DM, then it was also about control for the players. Except it wasn't about control.
Here is what I described as "a characterisation of the flow of play, and the process of play, that assumes (or that places) everything into the GM's hands":

characterising a GM describing things to the players as the GM deciding on auto-success for an action not declared by the player.

The reason it about GM control is because it denies or elides the play of the game - which, for players, is predominantly the declaration of actions for their PCs - and makes it all just fiction narrated by the GM, with action resolution turned into a type of heuristic the GM relies upon (when they feel it warranted) to decide what to narrate.

Saying that the players have full control over their characters means nothing more than that players are doing the bare minimum necessary for the activity to count as a RPG at all - that is, they are saying some things about what their PCs do. But the framing, the stakes and the consequences are all entirely in the hands of the GM. (Just as in the AD&D 2nd ed examples that I quoted not far upthread.)


Sure. Every game out there has some degree of realism. Whether it's "very" realistic or not is debatable, but the realism is there in your game, my game, and in the games of everyone who plays an RPG.

When people talk about realism and how they alter the game for realism, it's generally because the level of realism at the game's base level isn't high enough, so they change things to raise it. Occasionally I see someone talk about changing things to lower it. We all have our preferences.

For sure it's differently realistic. Whether it's more realistic or not depends on if it really does have all of the elements D&D has, and to what degree it has those elements. Both games for example have combat I'm sure, but which one is more realistic isn't something I know. Burning Wheel may very well may be more realistic, but not simply because it has those things you mentioned above and D&D doesn't.
Well, I am quite familiar with both D&D and Burning Wheel, and I can tell you which one is more realistic by your criterion: Burning Wheel.

Yet @Micah Sweet thinks that D&D is more realistic than Burning Wheel.

So either he is ignorant of the sorts of things that are found in the fiction of Burning Wheel, or he is not applying your criterion. As far as I can tell, the latter is the case.

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