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"Illusionism" and "GM force" in RPGing

pemerton

Legend
Gygax goes further here than he does in the 1e DMG. He's now prepared to overrule the dice, not just for wandering monsters and secret door detection, but also in combat.
I noticed that too. @Manbearcat has refelcted on some of the bigger-picture issues this raises. My comment will be more parochial: I think he's made a mistake.

For AD&D, there is no need for the PCs to escape "unnaturally" or anything like that. He's already provided the solution in the DMG - have the reduction of a PC to zero hp count as something other than death. (I've myself applied this "solution" to a TPK in 4e.)

The use of the phrase "set things back on the right track" might make his play style seem story-oriented, but I think the following excerpts show it's still challenge-oriented, as it is in 1e AD&D.
But maybe he's no longer assuming that the players choose the encounters (via planning, evasion from wandering monsters, etc). Because his advice makes more sense in a post-Gygaxian context of the GM choosing the encounters (whether as part of an "adventure path" or as en expression of a "living, breathing world"), which means that the odds can go freakishly against the players through no fault of their own.

In the sort of dungeon-crawling set out in AD&D, though, if the players choose to take on the troll on the 4th level that's on them! And if one or more of them gets knocked unconscious and taken prisoner, then it's time for other PCs in the stable to mount a rescue (or maybe ransom) expedition.

But by 1987 Gygax must have been aware that that had become (and perhaps always was, once the game got out into the wild) a minority approach to play.
 

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Sadras

Hero
For AD&D, there is no need for the PCs to escape "unnaturally" or anything like that. He's already provided the solution in the DMG - have the reduction of a PC to zero hp count as something other than death. (I've myself applied this "solution" to a TPK in 4e.)

In our last 5e session the PCs failed on a relatively difficult skill challenge (6 successes before 3 failures) which saw them unable to outrun an Astral Dreadnaught via their stolen Githyanki skiff. The result of which would have undoubtedly been a TPK, however given that
  • They are still relatively inexperienced in player input for skill challenges which was partly a reason for their overall failure (I provided them plenty examples post session to open up their minds to possibilities for future SC I may introduce); and that
  • The PCs were 2 levels under the required level for the module.
I decided that the players and I will co-narrate the loss with the in-game fiction being they were swallowed and transported to the AD's Demiplane Donjon from which they can escape given a smartly planned Word of Recall (this latter was actually done).

I'm imagining the playout of the loss narration will require the PCs to make decisions with those character decisions directly influencing the loss conditions which make sense within the fiction.
With 5e I can draw losses from (a) temporary madness; (b) additional flaws; (c) destruction of precious equipment; (d) loss/destruction of magical items; (e) loss of other valuable resource; (f) loss/major injury to henchman; and (g) ability loss

EDIT: A TPK on a side quest would not have served the campaign and would have been unsatifying to the table.
 
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@Sadras

That's good stuff, but what you're describing is different in few ways from the move that Gygax has made from his DMG to this 1987 statement.

1) What you're depicting in your session above is typical Story Now priorities. Also, I don't see Force in your example above. I just see Fail Forward technique being deployed (which is what you should be doing if you're cribbing 4e Skill Challenges or Mouse Guard conflict resolution or anything like that). Looks like coherent GMing for Story Now from what I can divine of your excerpt.

2) Gygax is basically the forefather of Challenge-Based gaming priorities. What I'm seeing him advocate above is a either an unconscious move off of Challenge-Based gaming priorities or a conscious one and, regardless, an acceptance of the limitations of his ruleset (and with that acceptance, a move off of design curiosity and rigor). Its just very strange to see him basically advocating Force (which subordinates Challenge-Based priorities to another priority or subset of priorities). But, again, it could very well be that he got swept up in that time and was consciously moving off of Challenge-Based gaming priorities and neutral refereeing to the priorities and the Force-intensive GMing that was being advocated for at that time. That happens with people as time accrues. They want different things (and then they often go back to their old ways if they live long enough/stay with it long enough to go through another cycle of reflection and taste change).
 

Sadras

Hero
1) What you're depicting in your session above is typical Story Now priorities. Also, I don't see Force in your example above. I just see Fail Forward technique being deployed (which is what you should be doing if you're cribbing 4e Skill Challenges or Mouse Guard conflict resolution or anything like that). Looks like coherent GMing for Story Now from what I can divine of your excerpt.

Well it is not something I cribbed from my 4e books so much as having cribbed this technique from online conversations with yourself, Pemerton and a few others when I was trying to understand how to effectively deploy a SC. My games are very much not Story Now as I'm running sandbox APs but I do like to inject these techniques* into my game where I can and am comfortable to. I also feel the majority of my players enjoy this player input because
(1) It is novel/new given our table's style of play; and
(2) It gets their creative juices flowing (2 of the 4 have GM'ed before and one of which is a much better GM than me - he's biggest flaw being not runnng the campaign all the way through).

*Expanding/developing backgrounds is another area I encourage as I do attempt to weave it into our main storyline. And just recently the idea was given by Hussar to let the players create NPCs that the PCs might have interacted with. I took this and allowed them to introduce 5 NPCs with positive, negative or neutral reactions that will likely be used within our story.

2) Gygax is basically the forefather of Challenge-Based gaming priorities. What I'm seeing him advocate above is a either an unconscious move off of Challenge-Based gaming priorities or a conscious one and, regardless, an acceptance of the limitations of his ruleset (and with that acceptance, a move off of design curiosity and rigor). Its just very strange to see him basically advocating Force (which subordinates Challenge-Based priorities to another priority or subset of priorities). But, again, it could very well be that he got swept up in that time and was consciously moving off of Challenge-Based gaming priorities and neutral refereeing to the priorities and the Force-intensive GMing that was being advocated for at that time. That happens with people as time accrues. They want different things (and then they often go back to their old ways if they live long enough/stay with it long enough to go through another cycle of reflection and taste change).

This all makes sense. I agree.
 
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pemerton

Legend
@Sadras - your exchange with @Manbearcat seems to have covered most of it, but I'll offer my own take.

In his DMG, Gygax allows that zero hp suffered by a well-played PC (and hence resulting not from poor play but from bad luck) might be "commuted" to some lesser consequence (eg maiming or unconsciousness) that still recognises what it is that the monster has done (ie defeated the PC in cmbat). As I think I already posted in this thread, I don't find that an objectionable approach, not even in the challenge-based game that Gygax favours.

In your example the conflict was an evasion skill challenge. The PCs lost, and - it seems - perhaps due to less-than-optimal play, but not necessarily bad play given their knowledge and experience. The consequence for failure impicit in the situation was being caught by the Astral Dreadnought - and instead of running that as a combat you've just hard-framed them into the demiplane instead (in the fiction, they've been swallowed).

That might count as force if you have a player who really wanted to fight the dreadnought! But as you describe it, it seems like the players are quite happy with your framing and don't want to contest the premise that their PCs got swallowed by declaring contrary actions.

And I don't even think it's inimical to challenge-oriented play provided that the players (and their PCs) suffoer some sort of meaningful loss that correlates with their defeat. (It would need to be more severe than what they would have had to pay to escape, or else escaping would be no more a win than being swallowed. This would be one way of distinguishing challenge-based play from story-now-type play in this context.)
 

Doug McCrae

Legend
But maybe he's no longer assuming that the players choose the encounters (via planning, evasion from wandering monsters, etc). Because his advice makes more sense in a post-Gygaxian context of the GM choosing the encounters (whether as part of an "adventure path" or as en expression of a "living, breathing world"), which means that the odds can go freakishly against the players through no fault of their own.

In the sort of dungeon-crawling set out in AD&D, though, if the players choose to take on the troll on the 4th level that's on them! And if one or more of them gets knocked unconscious and taken prisoner, then it's time for other PCs in the stable to mount a rescue (or maybe ransom) expedition.

But by 1987 Gygax must have been aware that that had become (and perhaps always was, once the game got out into the wild) a minority approach to play.
I think the type of play advocated in Role-Playing Mastery is similar to that advocated in the 1e PHB in the section headed Successful Adventures (pgs 107-109). Players have an objective and they try to achieve it without getting sidetracked. But there’s an important difference – in Role-Playing Mastery the objective is chosen by the GM rather than the players. The reason for this is there has been a shift away from mega-dungeons and towards a more familiar (at least to us) scenario or adventure setup where the players are given a mission at the start of play. There is an adventure path in the sense of a defined set of victory conditions, and possibly quite a number of actions the players will have to undertake to achieve that victory, but because this is strongly challenge-oriented play the GM is actively trying to get the players to depart from that path and thus fail the mission.

Setting Objectives

1e PHB page 107:

First get in touch with all those who will be included in the adventure, or if all are not available, at least talk to the better players so that you will be able to set an objective for the adventure. Whether the purpose is so simple as to discover a flight of stairs to the next lowest unexplored level or so difficult as to find and destroy an altar to an alien god, some firm objective should be established and then adhered to as strongly as possible.​

Role-Playing Mastery:

Page 43:

The game tells what the nature of challenges within its scope will be, but there is usually no direct information as to the specific objective of each play session. The GM who develops the campaign milieu will devise these objectives singularly or in conjunction with material supplied for this purpose by the publisher of the rules system. What sorts of challenges are appropriate? How stiff should the opposition be? Generally, these are questions the GM will answer by examining the game materials, assessing the prowess of the PCs and their players, and then selecting and combining elements of the game rules and the milieu so that the strength of the opposition is tailored to the capabilities of those who will contest against it.​

Page 44-45:

The first session begins. Players are introduced to the game and its concepts. Some goal, objective, or end is conveyed…​
The task of creating the game world is tremendous... Let’s follow an example to see just how demanding the exercise is.​
The genre of the game is action-adventure in the early part of the twentieth century - let’s assume from 1900 through about 1935 or so. Our GM decides that the campaign setting will begin in San Francisco. The quest problem will be to discover the cause of a series of murders and mysterious disappearances in that city.​

The following advice is from Chapter 7, Tactical Mastery, which is directed towards players.

Page 122-123:

Know the mission. Based on the information you are given in the background and setting of a scenario, define exactly what you are going to try to do. Sometimes the mission will be spelled out in no uncertain terms; if it is not, you should be able to deduce it logically from the information provided. Keep the mission in mind at all times, so that each activity you engage in assists in the overall aim.​
Know the goal. The mission should have a set goal. When that goal is successfully achieved or arrived at, the mission is complete and the adventure should conclude at that point.​

Avoiding Unnecessary Encounters

1e PHB page 109:

Avoid unnecessary encounters. This advice usually means the difference between success and failure when it is followed intelligently. Your party has an objective, and wandering monsters are something which stand between them and it. The easiest way to overcome such difficulties is to avoid the interposing or trailing creature if at all possible. Wandering monsters typically weaken the party through use of equipment and spells against them, and they also weaken the group by inflicting damage. Very few are going to be helpful; fewer still will have anything of any value to the party. Run first and ask questions later. In the same vein, shun encounters with creatures found to be dwelling permanently in the dungeon (as far as you can tell, that is) unless such creatures are part of the set objective or the monster stands between the group and the goal it has set out to gain. Do not be sidetracked. A good referee will have many ways to distract an expedition, many things to draw attention, but ignore them if at all possible.​

Role-Playing Mastery:

Page 125:

Evade and avoid. Whenever possible, conserve time and other resources by avoiding unnecessary confrontation. Slip away without fighting, negotiate, or use trickery. The goal of the mission is paramount, and only those activities that will lend probable success to attaining that goal should be undertaken.​

Page 131:

The GM’s information… will be keyed to describe what facts will be revealed if PCs interact with a certain location or item within the scenario area at a certain time… PCs must either follow the clues or else move outside the scope of the scenario...​
The master GM... will deliberately include information not found in the scenario as originally presented in published form. A bit of this information may actually be helpful, but the rest is for another purpose altogether. The GM will add it specifically to mislead the players, so that they will not follow any of the prescribed routes and go wandering off into a limbo that is unrelated to the adventure.​
 
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pemerton

Legend
I think the type of play advocated in Role-Playing Mastery is similar to that advocated in the 1e PHB in the section headed Successful Adventures (pgs 107-109). Players have an objective and they try to achieve it without getting sidetracked. But there’s an important difference – in Role-Playing Mastery the objective is chosen by the GM rather than the players. The reason for this is there has been a shift away from mega-dungeons and towards a more familiar (at least to us) scenario or adventure setup where the players are given a mission at the start of play. There is an adventure path in the sense of a defined set of victory conditions, and possibly quite a number of actions the players will have to undertake to achieve that victory, but because this is strongly challenge-oriented play the GM is actively trying to get the players to depart from that path and thus fail the mission.
Once the GM sets the objectives, and the obstacles, and so the players have to keep banging their heads against it if they get unlucky, then there is the potential for RPG disaster. I've been a player in those games (never a GM, thankfully) and they generally suck. GM cheating doesn't make it any better in my personal experience.

One exceptoin to the above: well-GMed atmospheric CoC, where the external obstacles are irrelevant and my main job as player is to experience and externalise the collapse into madness. But that's simulationism with a touch of theatre, not challenge-oriented play, and so maybe not an exception after all.
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
I think the type of play advocated in Role-Playing Mastery is similar to that advocated in the 1e PHB in the section headed Successful Adventures (pgs 107-109). Players have an objective and they try to achieve it without getting sidetracked. But there’s an important difference – in Role-Playing Mastery the objective is chosen by the GM rather than the players. The reason for this is there has been a shift away from mega-dungeons and towards a more familiar (at least to us) scenario or adventure setup where the players are given a mission at the start of play. There is an adventure path in the sense of a defined set of victory conditions, and possibly quite a number of actions the players will have to undertake to achieve that victory, but because this is strongly challenge-oriented play the GM is actively trying to get the players to depart from that path and thus fail the mission.

Setting Objectives

1e PHB page 107:

First get in touch with all those who will be included in the adventure, or if all are not available, at least talk to the better players so that you will be able to set an objective for the adventure. Whether the purpose is so simple as to discover a flight of stairs to the next lowest unexplored level or so difficult as to find and destroy an altar to an alien god, some firm objective should be established and then adhered to as strongly as possible.​

Role-Playing Mastery:

Page 43:

The game tells what the nature of challenges within its scope will be, but there is usually no direct information as to the specific objective of each play session. The GM who develops the campaign milieu will devise these objectives singularly or in conjunction with material supplied for this purpose by the publisher of the rules system. What sorts of challenges are appropriate? How stiff should the opposition be? Generally, these are questions the GM will answer by examining the game materials, assessing the prowess of the PCs and their players, and then selecting and combining elements of the game rules and the milieu so that the strength of the opposition is tailored to the capabilities of those who will contest against it.​

Page 44-45:

The first session begins. Players are introduced to the game and its concepts. Some goal, objective, or end is conveyed…​
The task of creating the game world is tremendous... Let’s follow an example to see just how demanding the exercise is.​
The genre of the game is action-adventure in the early part of the twentieth century - let’s assume from 1900 through about 1935 or so. Our GM decides that the campaign setting will begin in San Francisco. The quest problem will be to discover the cause of a series of murders and mysterious disappearances in that city.​

The following advice is from Chapter 7, Tactical Mastery, which is directed towards players.

Page 122-123:

Know the mission. Based on the information you are given in the background and setting of a scenario, define exactly what you are going to try to do. Sometimes the mission will be spelled out in no uncertain terms; if it is not, you should be able to deduce it logically from the information provided. Keep the mission in mind at all times, so that each activity you engage in assists in the overall aim.​
Know the goal. The mission should have a set goal. When that goal is successfully achieved or arrived at, the mission is complete and the adventure should conclude at that point.​

Avoiding Unnecessary Encounters

1e PHB page 109:

Avoid unnecessary encounters. This advice usually means the difference between success and failure when it is followed intelligently. Your party has an objective, and wandering monsters are something which stand between them and it. The easiest way to overcome such difficulties is to avoid the interposing or trailing creature if at all possible. Wandering monsters typically weaken the party through use of equipment and spells against them, and they also weaken the group by inflicting damage. Very few are going to be helpful; fewer still will have anything of any value to the party. Run first and ask questions later. In the same vein, shun encounters with creatures found to be dwelling permanently in the dungeon (as far as you can tell, that is) unless such creatures are part of the set objective or the monster stands between the group and the goal it has set out to gain. Do not be sidetracked. A good referee will have many ways to distract an expedition, many things to draw attention, but ignore them if at all possible.​

Role-Playing Mastery:

Page 125:

Evade and avoid. Whenever possible, conserve time and other resources by avoiding unnecessary confrontation. Slip away without fighting, negotiate, or use trickery. The goal of the mission is paramount, and only those activities that will lend probable success to attaining that goal should be undertaken.​

Page 131:

The GM’s information… will be keyed to describe what facts will be revealed if PCs interact with a certain location or item within the scenario area at a certain time… PCs must either follow the clues or else move outside the scope of the scenario...​
The master GM... will deliberately include information not found in the scenario as originally presented in published form. A bit of this information may actually be helpful, but the rest is for another purpose altogether. The GM will add it specifically to mislead the players, so that they will not follow any of the prescribed routes and go wandering off into a limbo that is unrelated to the adventure.​
So, the goal of the Master GM is then to frustrate the players, but save them if said frustration would end prematurely and by accident, thereby maximizing time spent in frustration. The goal of the players is to avoid the GM's attempt to frustrate and instead discern the (GM obfuscated) proscribed route that allows for success. I'm not sure these are laudable play goals.
 

pemerton

Legend
So, the goal of the Master GM is then to frustrate the players, but save them if said frustration would end prematurely and by accident, thereby maximizing time spent in frustration. The goal of the players is to avoid the GM's attempt to frustrate and instead discern the (GM obfuscated) proscribed route that allows for success. I'm not sure these are laudable play goals.
Like I posted, though, I've played sessions like this (in the 90s) and have alsorread modules that essentialy presume this and read accounts of play that seemed to be like this (and a lot of this was since the 90s).

The most common version I've seen and heard of is where the "quest-giver" - to whom the players have to resond if there is to be a game, given the basic premises of play in this mode - is actually the villain/traitor, which means that most of what the PCs do ends up being pointless or running contrary to their aspirations, and it all ends up in a highly GM-mediated "big reveal" and showdown.
 

Doug McCrae

Legend
the 80s saw the beginning of the idea that this sort of approach is what it means to play a RPG (especially to roleplay rather than "rollplay")

Jon Peterson, The Elusive Shift (2020) has shown, I think, that this has to be put back no later than 1976. I started to read it thanks to @Snarf Zagyg's recommendation in this thread.

In Bunnies & Burrows (1976), the authors B Dennis Sustare and Scott Robinson advise referees to fudge (they use the term "shade") dice rolls to keep PCs alive.

Bunnies & Burrows has some very striking text surrounding saving throws and the role of the referee employing them. The authors write, “Through years of Gamemastering, we have found that it helps the games for the GM to be flexible in the use of Saving Throws. Rigid adherence to Saving Throw rules tends to be very deadly, with less fun for the players.” The rules consequently recommend that referees practice a bit of divine intervention, as Gygax would have called it. They explain, “We may shade die rolls just a bit in certain key situations, so that a rabbit may survive to play again.” Rather than letting the dice tell the story, when the destruction of the character is on the line, the referee should exercise discretion and “shade” the results of rolls to preserve the lives of characters—and note that there is no mention here of Gygax’s restriction on doling out such a reprieve only to characters who have earned it, nor of what might make a situation “key” other than that it is potentially lethal...​
Crucially, Bunnies & Burrows also warns that the referee must not let players depend on a referee “acting the part of God too much”—instead a referee must “let the players retain the illusion that they determine their own fates.” When the time comes for divine intervention, would-be deities must practice it in secret: for players, the dramatic uncertainty of the game relies on the “illusion” that it is the dice that decide rather than the discretion of the referee. Thus, players cannot be parties to the execution of the system when the referee decides to “shade” the roll. (pg 140)​
 
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Doug McCrae

Legend
Ed Simbalist (co-creator of Chivalry & Sorcery) recommends heavy use of GM Force to "tell the story" in the second part of his two part essay "Kismet" in the rpg fanzine Alarums & Excursions #44 (April 1979). Jon Peterson discusses this essay extensively in The Elusive Shift (2020), placing it in the context of both Gary Gygax's advice in the AD&D 1e DMG (1979) and Part I of Lewis Pulsipher's "D&D Campaigns" article series in White Dwarf #1 (June/July 1977).

Only in the second “Kismet” essay did Simbalist unpack his “role-playing mode” of refereeing and what he believed the responsibility for fate truly means in a role-playing game… In the course of role playing, a character “will from time to time be faced with CERTAIN death. At that point the skill of the GM as story teller is put to the test. A good story will not end before its time. So also might be said of a good role playing campaign scenario.”​
When faced with this situation, Simbalist argues that the “story teller” referee “accepts his role as Fate and responsibly works out a solution which does not result in the character’s death.” What Simbalist envisioned here goes far beyond the “shade” that a Bunnies & Burrows referee should cast over a lethal saving throw. It may include all sorts of quiet changes to the game situation that the system generates: a random encounter roll that calls for six skeletons instead delivers only two, or a crushing damage roll might be reduced to a glancing blow. “Where,” Simbalist elaborated, “the game systems thwart my view of the truth of the moment and deny me the goals I have set for the particular scenario or for the campaign as a whole, I IGNORE THE RULES.”...​
Gygax permitted the ignoring of a deadly die roll to prevent unfair punishments, whereas Simbalist allowed it for a different purpose, to preserve the overall narrative that the referee intends for the campaign, which trumps all other concerns for him. But like the “shade” in Bunnies & Burrows, this must be done tacitly, behind the figurative referee’s screen, because the referee must guide the story along, as Simbalist put it, “without lessening the tension and anxiety felt by the player whose character is threatened by a certain death” (AE 44). Simbalist stressed that “players should never know when GM discretion is being exercised” and that they “cannot be allowed to count on Fate to step in and save their characters from the consequences of stupidity or miscalculation” because that would spoil what Bunnies & Burrows calls the players’ “illusion that they determine their own fates.”​
By centering role-playing games on the campaign story, Simbalist moved the focus on system execution radically away from players and even designers and instead onto a management of the flow of events hinging on the referee’s dramatic skill. His emphasis on preserving the story anticipated but vastly exceeded the sentiments that would appear in the Dungeon Masters Guide a few months after Simbalist’s “Kismet” essays in 1979: where Gygax would invoke Conan’s narrow escapes in his explanation of saving throws, Simbalist talked about the more formulaic tale of Sinbad. Simbalist related that “Sinbad is destined to triumph over the evil Mage who has usurped power in Baghdad and holds the nation in bondage. He will rescue the princess, marry her, free his people, and engineer the downfall of his enemy. Kismet. Fate” (AE 44). For Gygax, the system is obligated only to provide “a chance, no matter how small,” of survival, whereas Simbalist looked to the referee rather than to the system and assigned the referee the responsibility for casting any “shade” necessary to drive the story in a satisfying direction, all the while performing any sleight of hand necessary to convince the players that the referee is impartially executing the system—to preserve Pulsipher’s “sense of control by the players of their own fate,” though here it is an illusory sense.​
But would players really retain the necessary state of dramatic uncertainty? Curiously, Simbalist concluded his second “Kismet” essay with a note about one of his own characters, a certain Erik Bloodaxe, whose “Wyrd (destiny) was to die after a great slaying of enemies. His sole goal is to attain Valhalla.” It seemed as if Simbalist’s character had some “purpose” in the sense that Mark Chilenskas assigned to characters in his campaign, but it was not a hidden purpose—as a player, Simbalist was fully aware of it. He expressed confidence that the referees would never deprive Erik of this destiny: “Wyrd has decreed and the GMs in our campaign respect that fate and will not give him an ignominious death.” Apparently, his certainty about the preordainment of that character arc did not diminish his own satisfaction with the game; it instead became the game’s premise. “So far I have been denied my destiny, and I still live. I will have my fate! . . . This I know because the GMs in our group will not let it be otherwise. I await only the manner of it.”​
How a player could know and to some degree dictate his character’s destiny in a game where referees maintain the illusion of simply executing an impartial system, rather than steering a story, posed an apparent paradox. But Simbalist’s “Kismet” essays provided the most considered defense of the philosophy criticized in Pulsipher’s White Dwarf 1 essay which had divided D&D players into “those who want to play a game as a game and those who want to play it as a fantasy novel.” (pgs 197-198)​

In this section Peterson discusses Simbalist's defence of his techniques in Alarums & Excursions #47 (July 1979).

For Simbalist, these techniques were in the service of a higher calling: he insisted that “FRP is an art form” and that “only the DM/GM can tell the story of an adventure,” not the dice (AE 47). But although the referee tells the story, this is not to say that players are disenfranchised because “the player ultimately chooses the destiny of his character; insofar as he provides a viable and reasonable story line, the GM’s task is to assist the character to realize his destiny by providing experiences which logically and honestly test the character’s worthiness to attain it.” It is the player’s responsibility to provide that fundamental premise for his or her participation in the game, and it is the referee’s responsibility to nurture that premise. But a game design itself can never substitute for a referee because a referee “can note and process data no game system could handle—the numerous intangibles that are the hallmarks of FRP gaming like personal interaction between the participants, character motivation, or the success of a line of action that arose spontaneously during the adventure.” In Simbalist’s view, the referee has the foremost place in the implementation of role-playing games, something far beyond the reach of mere system design.​
No one familiar with Chivalry & Sorcery could fail to notice that its rulebook contains nothing like the principles that Simbalist expounded at such length in his essays on kismet, story-telling, and the idiocy of the dice. This discrepancy perhaps points to a deeper paradox that helps explain why designers and players lavished such attention on role-playing game philosophy: as able as Simbalist was to explain in an essay what he believed a role-playing game should be, a system translating those principles into rules proved elusive. (pg 201)​
 
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pemerton

Legend
Jon Peterson, The Elusive Shift (2020) has shown, I think, that this has to be put back no later than 1976.
But I think it becomes canonical in the 80s. I think the change in wording of the Traveller rules is not leading. It is following - it is Traveller, in its rulebooks, making clear that it, too, is a RPG in this sense that is crystallising out of the earlier practice and texts you've quoted.

How a player could know and to some degree dictate his character’s destiny in a game where referees maintain the illusion of simply executing an impartial system, rather than steering a story, posed an apparent paradox.

<snip>

a game design itself can never substitute for a referee because a referee “can note and process data no game system could handle—the numerous intangibles that are the hallmarks of FRP gaming like personal interaction between the participants, character motivation, or the success of a line of action that arose spontaneously during the adventure.” In Simbalist’s view, the referee has the foremost place in the implementation of role-playing games, something far beyond the reach of mere system design.
Some years ago now I posted, this, reflecting on the same Lewis Pulsipher essays you quote Peterson referring to:

I do like the advice about not manipulating the players. It was around 1986, with original Oriental Adventures, that I started to discover a way of GMing in which the GM would make stuff up on the spot, while still allowing players the scope to make choices which are genuine in their consequences, thereby avoiding the railroading that Pulsipher warns against. (More than 15 years later I discovered that this approach to GMing had been refined and theorised by Ron Edwards and others at The Forge.)
Of the early RPGs, the one that I know that I think perhaps came closest to this in its system was Classic Traveller. But as per the quote in the OP, instead of trying to follow that path it was pulled back into the emerging consensus of how RPGing should work.
 

Haiku Elvis

Explorer
It's funny. Until joining forums like this I hadn't really thought about these things (in this way at least) or really been aware of the debates but coming of role playing age in the late 80s/early 90s if you asked me what a GM does I would instinctively descibe something similar to the choreographed novel of the OP and feel the GMs role is to provide well prepared and pre set up adventures and keep the game on track.
However as my first and longest and most formative gaming group was my school friends who were definitely of the "hey screw this quest business. Let's rob the richest merchant in town and use the money to buy magic swords and impress girls" type of players, if I look back on how I actually GM in practice it's always been more the 'in the now' react to what the players do style. (out of sheer bloody neccesity initially then out of habit) and my carefully crafted scenes become a general grab bag of ideas to throw in the mix in whatever order and form makes sense in reaction to the players actions.
 




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