"Illusionism" and "GM force" in RPGing

Doug McCrae

Legend
These excerpts are from Star Wars: The Roleplaying Game (1987) pages 89-92 published by West End Games. I would draw particular attention to this bit from page 90:

The purpose of any roleplaying game is to tell a story. The purpose of Star Wars: The Roleplaying Game is to tell stories like those of the movies. The rules are a structure that help you tell stories by giving you impartial ways to decide whether actions succeed or fail. But sometimes, the rules get in the way.​

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Doug McCrae

Legend
Glasgow University Gaming Society in the late 90s was heavily influenced by the James Bond and Star Wars rpgs. There were generally considered to be two sorts of rpgs - serious ones with realistic rules, and fun ones that tried to emulate fiction. Because D&D lacked realistic rules it was thought to be in the second camp. It was as if they grasped Simulationism and Dramatism but not Gamism (to use the GDS rather than GNS terminology.)
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Supporter
The OP provides an example of Force in the context of the choreographed novel. That's not the full definition of Force, and I happen to know that the OP is fully aware and has previously discussed other applications, so it's a bit presumptuous of you to limit the definition of a term to that which supports your argument and claim the OP did it.

Right. You are the one citing unspecified other conversations outside this thread as support for an assertion, and I am the one being presumptuous? Because, "Pemerton and I agree upon this, so naturally we are correct and we can just say everyone else is wrong," and again, I am the one being presumptuous?

I referenced what was written. That should be sufficient.

If you want this to be the Ovinomancer and Pemerton show, please take it to e-mail. If you want to start a "Ovinomancer & Pemerton Masterclass" series of threads, where you assume those who engage are up on all the O&P subtexts and you are allowed to cast aspersions on folks who dare to engage otherwise... at least do us the favor of labeling them as such.

Because this? This is obnoxious. You're in an open forum, and you should not treat your previous discussions as required reading here.
 

CleverNickName

Limit Break Dancing
I once gamed with a GM who had a PhD in psychology. He had this annoying capability to present us with options which appeared to be free will, but in reality he was leading us down a very specific path. Once my friend and I figured out we were being railroaded, we tried everything in our power to derail his train, but to no avail. It was very annoying.
Out of curiosity, did you try to "derail his train" because you didn't like where it was heading? Or was it because you realized you were on a train and therefore, needed to derail it on principle?

I don't have a problem with being railroaded as long as the story is interesting and I feel* like my decisions matter. You want me to go to The Place and do The Thing? Sure, sounds fun. As long as you aren't arbitrarily resurrecting NPCs that died in past gaming sessions, or conveniently sparing certain characters with Plot Armor, or otherwise removing our impact on the story, that is.

(*Note the "I feel" in this paragraph. It's important. Whether or not our decisions truly matter is entirely up to the DM, and a talented DM will make this impossible to confirm or deny.)
 

Doug McCrae

Legend
These are from the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Dungeon Master's Guide 2nd edition (1989) pages 101 and 103:

Is This Encounter Necessary?

Any time the DM feels his adventure is dragging along or that characters are getting over-confident he can declare a random encounter. Likewise if he feels that a random encounter would hurt the adventure he can ignore one that's called for. Good judgement and story considerations are more important than slavish devotion to procedure.

The Encounter Is Too Difficult

The DM has accidentally pitted his player characters against a group of creatures too powerful for them, so much so that the player characters are doomed. To fix things, the DM can have the monsters flee in inexplicable panic; secretly lower their hit points; allow the player characters to hit or inflict more damage than they really should; have the monsters miss on attacks when they actually hit; have the creatures make grievous mistakes in strategy (like ignoring the thief moving in to strike from behind).​
 

pemerton

Legend
This is as much Force as denying the request, though.

<snip>

I don't see how ignoring an application of Force if it's according to some principle or only occasionally used or if the players like it is helpful at all

<snip>

Nope, Gygax is advocating for Force. It doesn't become not Force if it's in pursuit of certain play aesthetics.
Musson's idea of a union meeting of ogres can be seen as Force. I don't think it's very illusionistic, for the reasons I gave (ie it's pretty transparent at the moment of play).

Gygax's suggestion to turn the death of the skilled player's character into (say) maiming or unconscious instead is barely force as I characterised it upthread ie is barely an instance of "guiding" or "manipulating". It's also not illusionistic, insofar as the player will know it was a GM decision, there being no purely mechanical process in classic D&D to produce such outcomes.

Gygax's suggesion about wandering monsters is not force in the relevant sense - it's not guiding or manipulating anything.

Gygax's suggestion about a secret door is a type of guiding or manipulating, I think, but again barely. It's always open to the players to just ignore the door they discover, and - under his precepts - the GM has no device for getting them there. Notice that he doesn't suggest, say, using wandering monsters to chase the PCs through the door they've discovered.

This is why I say there needs to be some drifting to get from Gygax's remarks to the "choreographed novel". You can see this drifting in the passages from the 2nd ed AD&D DMG that @Doug McCrae posted.
 

pemerton

Legend
@Doug McCrae - thanks for posting those excerpts. The AD&D 2nd ed one shows how much the "precepts of the game" changed across editions - what was once contrary to them (ie having the PCs unnatrrally escape) is now advocated. Related to this is a change in premise about who is choosing the encounters - in Gygax's DMG it is assumed that the players choose encounters (by choosing where to go in the dungeon, as per his PHB entry on Successful Adventures and reflected also in his description of a session on p 9 of the DMG), whereas in the 2nd ed one it is the GM who has pitted the PCs against an encounter.

The ones from James Bond and Star Wars show not just a premise of strong GM control over framing, but over plot. So the dramatic trajectory is known (to the GM) in advance.

The great innovation in RPGing since those games has been to work out how to reconcile GM control over framing with the absence of GM control over plot, via techniques such as "say 'yes' or roll the dice", "fail forward" (in the Burning Wheel/Ron Edwards sense of that term ie not just success with complications), etc.
 

Doug McCrae

Legend
Call of Cthulhu 1st edition (1981) is interested in emulating fiction and it wants to produce an emotional effect on the players, but I don't think it recommends using GM Force or Illusionism in pursuit of these ends.

Charts for random encounters, wandering monsters, and/or similar things are the bane of Call of Cthulhu. In this game, each adventure should be carefully crafted to give the players the maximum amount of thrills and chills. It is extremely important to try to keep the feel of a horror story in the game...

Don't kill the characters too quickly. Call of Cthulhu is dangerous enough with insanity and other threats. Don't
force the players to roll up new characters too often. When a character faints, let him lie there instead of having
the monster eat him. When a player with a hireling sleeps in a haunted house and the Inhabitant decides to make away with one of them, have him make away with the hireling. The central Investigators should not live charmed lives, but they will be dying often enough without your making a special effort to kill them.

Above all, keep your campaign full of bumps in the attic, sinister strangers, and dark and stormy nights. Make sure that it is spooky enough to give your players the creeps.​
 

prabe

Tension, apprension, and dissension have begun
Supporter
Call of Cthulhu 1st edition (1981) is interested in emulating fiction and it wants to produce an emotional effect on the players, but I don't think it recommends using GM Force or Illusionism in pursuit of these ends.

Charts for random encounters, wandering monsters, and/or similar things are the bane of Call of Cthulhu. In this game, each adventure should be carefully crafted to give the players the maximum amount of thrills and chills. It is extremely important to try to keep the feel of a horror story in the game...​
Don't kill the characters too quickly. Call of Cthulhu is dangerous enough with insanity and other threats. Don't​
force the players to roll up new characters too often. When a character faints, let him lie there instead of having​
the monster eat him. When a player with a hireling sleeps in a haunted house and the Inhabitant decides to make away with one of them, have him make away with the hireling. The central Investigators should not live charmed lives, but they will be dying often enough without your making a special effort to kill them.​
Above all, keep your campaign full of bumps in the attic, sinister strangers, and dark and stormy nights. Make sure that it is spooky enough to give your players the creeps.​

Sounds to me as though there's some Force happening, but it's arguably within the social contract of the game. And one suspects that Illusionism is at least a temptation, so the GM can show off all the terrors and monsters and sinister happenings.
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
Right. You are the one citing unspecified other conversations outside this thread as support for an assertion, and I am the one being presumptuous? Because, "Pemerton and I agree upon this, so naturally we are correct and we can just say everyone else is wrong," and again, I am the one being presumptuous?

I referenced what was written. That should be sufficient.

If you want this to be the Ovinomancer and Pemerton show, please take it to e-mail. If you want to start a "Ovinomancer & Pemerton Masterclass" series of threads, where you assume those who engage are up on all the O&P subtexts and you are allowed to cast aspersions on folks who dare to engage otherwise... at least do us the favor of labeling them as such.

Because this? This is obnoxious. You're in an open forum, and you should not treat your previous discussions as required reading here.
I'm a bit flabbergasted that you've characterized me as obnoxious after the last post where you used loaded phrases to diminish my point and accused me of a strawman (which you avoid, here, presumptively because you recognized that and beeded to maintain your strong position of being the affronted one).

Pointing out that Force has a broader definition than the example in the OP shouldn't be contrivesial, unless it's required for you to maintain your sense of correctness I'm at a loss as to why this has suddenly ballooned into you being very aggressive in ways you've called others out for while wearing your mod hat.
Right. You are the one citing unspecified other conversations outside this thread as support for an assertion, and I am the one being presumptuous? Because, "Pemerton and I agree upon this, so naturally we are correct and we can just say everyone else is wrong," and again, I am the one being presumptuous?

I referenced what was written. That should be sufficient.

If you want this to be the Ovinomancer and Pemerton show, please take it to e-mail. If you want to start a "Ovinomancer & Pemerton Masterclass" series of threads, where you assume those who engage are up on all the O&P subtexts and you are allowed to cast aspersions on folks who dare to engage otherwise... at least do us the favor of labeling them as such.

Because this? This is obnoxious. You're in an open forum, and you should not treat your previous discussions as required reading here.
Ok. It's pretty clear at this point that you're more interested in assigning me dishonest motives that engaging in conversation. I'll concede, as I see no path remaining back to discussion from here. Also, once a mod labels your behavior as obnoxious, it's not far to seeing red text if you continue to annoy them, intentionally or not.
 

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