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"Illusionism" and "GM force" in RPGing

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
Maybe? When provided a definition I tend to examine it on it's own merits - not necessarily what is intended by the author of said definition - possibly because I'm more of a math person - i'm sure the natural thing for an English person is to try to understand intention and fill in the missing gaps.



If I was going to define GM forcing I would define it as:

"The GM unfairly manipulating the players via in-fiction actions so that they have their characters do something in-fiction he desires them to do."

I think the basic concept missing from most of the definitions is the idea of unfairness - even though it's been mentioned in few posts.
No good, makes a judgement call -- Force is a Bad Thing(tm). This isn't a useful definition of a game technique, but a pejorative. Also, define "fairly."
 

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FrogReaver

As long as i get to be the frog
No good, makes a judgement call -- Force is a Bad Thing(tm). This isn't a useful definition of a game technique, but a pejorative. Also, define "fairly."

That's my point - fairly is in fact present in every definition that's being discussed - it's just not explicitly stated. That's why forcing isn't just a game technique.
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
The GM can have his own desires about how he wants the situation to play out and still be fair in how he has it play out. It seems very plausible that a traumatized starving dog runs away from the players, that trying to have it take food from your hand won't work, and that approaching it would be viewed by it as a hostile act leaving it to respond in kind.



Traumatized starving dogs don't start friendly to anyone. Sounds like a misplaced expectation.



So no forcing here.



Seems to me like expecting a 12 to succeed in befriending the traumatized starving dog was a misplaced expectation.



Sounds like normal DM behavior of introducing new content.



Misplaced expectations. The dog should have been defensively hostile in that situation.



Depending upon the circumstances of saving the dog it may be an impact or not - since you didn't elaborate on how then this part cannot be judged.



Finally an example of forcing - profound unfairness (assuming dice fixing to that extent is frowned upon at that table - but under some tables even that wouldn't be viewed as unfair - and without that fundamental unfairness how can it be forcing?)



There is only 1 clear forcing move here. The rest of your case rests upon your description of the DM having a desire to keep a certain situation in play a little longer. But as previously noted - he can have that desire and still abjugate fairly.
I'm quoting the whole thing, but I really want to address your first sentence. Sure, a GM might have an idea of how they'd like a situation to play out (I'd say that's already put things in a Forcey place, but okay), but the issue is if they change adjudication or situations to make it so. This would then be the manipulation of the gamestate that's ignoring or modifying player inputs to achieve an outcome in line with GM preference.

I'm not a fan of @Manbearcat's example because the starting attitude of the dog should have been apparent to begin with. There's already a failure of framing which frustrates the PC's inputs -- they want to find and befriend the dog but the GM is hiding crucial information on that attempt. I'd say that this counts as a fourth instance of Force, that actually enables the next 2. Which, by the way, without the knowledge of the dog's starting attitude, the first instance in MBC's post isn't really Force -- the GM has a hostile dog, so the DC is going to be higher to handle the animal -- a 12 won't cut it. But, the GM should frame the situation and let the player know the difficulty of their task, at least in general terms, so this, I guess, is Force as presented.
 

Its a case where a GM vetos a player's input into the gamestate:fiction (which they purchased via PC build) in order to manufacture a block and force the players to engage the situation in an alternative way.

Not only that, but it also renders the player's choice of the criminal background largely meaningless. When this stuff comes up in play, it's like "hey you could have told me that you didn't like the criminal background ability, and I would have chosen a background whose ability you liked and which I could get to use."

I mean, background is a pretty big factor in character creation, and this takes away a big part of it for that character.
 

@FrogReaver

That whole thing was made up (well, not made up...it was a Dungeon World game I ran that was transliterated to 5e). Just assume that (a) the dog shouldn't have been Hostile because of x, y, z (make something up that is intuitive at the table) and (b) assume the circumstances of the PCs saving the dog at the encampment before it fled were significantly impactful to the dog and that having a friendly face amidst a recent history of hardship would be sufficiently compelling for the dog (and that this is inferable from a players' perspective). Fill in the blanks as you see fit to get there.

Just figure out fiction where DC 10 is very reasonable for the Animal Handling check and Indifferent Starting Attitude for the dog is sensibly inferred by the players engaging with the fiction.

I'm not sure why you're defending an imaginary GM here?
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
That's my point - fairly is in fact present in every definition that's being discussed - it's just not explicitly stated. That's why forcing isn't just a game technique.
It's not the definition @Manbearcat presented, and it's not in my understanding of that definition. I can think of a number of fair uses of Force. The examples @pemerton posted in regards to waiving a wandering monster check or revealing a secret door for free are both examples of Force, but not unfair. I think if you use Force to, say, ameliorate a string of odd occurances using dice, that's not an unfair use.

Force isn't inherently bad. It's a tool that can be used, and one that's easily abused. I think we do a disservice by always presenting Force as a negative. Lots of games use Force and are very fun and enjoyed by their players.
 

FrogReaver

As long as i get to be the frog
It's not the definition @Manbearcat presented, and it's not in my understanding of that definition. I can think of a number of fair uses of Force. The examples @pemerton posted in regards to waiving a wandering monster check or revealing a secret door for free are both examples of Force, but not unfair. I think if you use Force to, say, ameliorate a string of odd occurances using dice, that's not an unfair use.

The general consensus of this thread was that waving the wandering monster checks was "unfair". @pemerton and @Manbearcat were in agreement on that - unless I misunderstood their positions at that time.

Force isn't inherently bad. It's a tool that can be used, and one that's easily abused. I think we do a disservice by always presenting Force as a negative. Lots of games use Force and are very fun and enjoyed by their players.

I've still not seen a definition that allows for positive forcing that isn't so broad that nearly everything the DM does meets the definition. I think the only way to constrain force is to either look at unfairness or intent - which are either subjective, unknowable or both.
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
The general consensus of this thread was that waving the wandering monster checks was "unfair". @pemerton and @Manbearcat were in agreement on that - unless I misunderstood their positions at that time.
I didn't see @pemerton think it was unfair -- he seems to be in favor of it. I'm certainly in favor of the waiving, as describe. I, however disagree with @pemerton in that I think it's a clear example of Force while he characterized it as barely Force. I don't see much use in categorizing levels of Force -- it all does the same stuff and it's important to be aware you're using it, not justify this use because it's barely Force.

I can't say if @Manbearcat thinks it unfair.

I've still not seen a definition that allows for positive forcing that isn't so broad that nearly everything the DM does meets the definition. I think the only way to constrain force is to either look at unfairness or intent - which are either subjective, unknowable or both.
Again, the definition provided by @Manbearcat, when considered as I suggest -- in the moment -- allows for many "fair" uses of Force. I prefer this definition precisely because it describes an event but doesn't categorize it as good or bad. Adding a consideration of 'fairness' means that citing any given use of Force is also saying that it's bad play. I'm not interested in definitions that include badwrongfun because they're not useful to examine what happens in play, but instead to judge play.
 

FrogReaver

As long as i get to be the frog
I'm not interested in definitions that include badwrongfun because they're not useful to examine what happens in play, but instead to judge play.

And I don't think you are interested in definitions that are so overly broad they are useless as evidenced by your issues with pemerton's forcing definition.

I don't see what you are seeing in @Manbearcat's definition. I'll try to revisit it.
 

FrogReaver

As long as i get to be the frog
Again, the definition provided by @Manbearcat, when considered as I suggest -- in the moment -- allows for many "fair" uses of Force. I prefer this definition precisely because it describes an event but doesn't categorize it as good or bad. Adding a consideration of 'fairness' means that citing any given use of Force is also saying that it's bad play. I'm not interested in definitions that include badwrongfun because they're not useful to examine what happens in play, but instead to judge play.

So take a step back and suppose for a moment that I'm right in general that there is no way to define forcing that can include "good" forcing without being overly broad. If that's the case then the only useful definition of forcing is the one based on fairness - wouldn't you agree?
 

FrogReaver

As long as i get to be the frog
@FrogReaver

That whole thing was made up (well, not made up...it was a Dungeon World game I ran that was transliterated to 5e). Just assume that (a) the dog shouldn't have been Hostile because of x, y, z (make something up that is intuitive at the table) and (b) assume the circumstances of the PCs saving the dog at the encampment before it fled were significantly impactful to the dog and that having a friendly face amidst a recent history of hardship would be sufficiently compelling for the dog (and that this is inferable from a players' perspective). Fill in the blanks as you see fit to get there.

Just figure out fiction where DC 10 is very reasonable for the Animal Handling check and Indifferent Starting Attitude for the dog is sensibly inferred by the players engaging with the fiction.

I'm not sure why you're defending an imaginary GM here?

Because other than changing the roll of a 2 - that GM played the starving traumatized dog exactly as I would have. So it's not so much an imaginary GM - it's me.
 

I didn't see @pemerton think it was unfair -- he seems to be in favor of it. I'm certainly in favor of the waiving, as describe. I, however disagree with @pemerton in that I think it's a clear example of Force while he characterized it as barely Force. I don't see much use in categorizing levels of Force -- it all does the same stuff and it's important to be aware you're using it, not justify this use because it's barely Force.

I can't say if @Manbearcat thinks it unfair.

My understanding is that @pemerton supports ignoring/suspending Wandering Monster checks only in situations where the PCs have already achieved the "win condition" of the dungeon wing; eg cleared it. I don't know if he feels whether (a) this should be an explicit provision in the rules and/or explicit as a hack while also (b) being transparently conveyed to the players ("you've cleared the wing; no more WMs").

My personal opinion is thus:

Game like 5e/AD&D 2e/original White Wolf Games/James Bond where storytelling and entertainment (S&E for shorthand) are the apex priorities of play and the GM has mandate to make decisions with S&E energizing them...I wouldn't talk about "fair" or "unfair". I would talk about appropriate or coherent GMing (with respect to the game's premise). As such, "Force in the name of S&E" is appropriate and coherent GMing. In fact, the case should probably be made that failing to intervene in the name of S&E is inappropriate and incoherent GMing in those systems.

Other games would absolutely call that GMing "unfair", "inappropriate", or "incoherent" with respect to the apex priority of play.
 

Because other than changing the roll of a 2 - that GM played the starving traumatized dog exactly as I would have. So it's not so much an imaginary GM - it's me.

Can you not envision some kind of backstory (which I didn't canvass or invent) that would mitigate your position here?

Put another way, should all starving, traumatized dogs be Hostile to careful, non-aggressive human interaction with them?

Then add the Ranger aspect of this and revise that to "should all starving, traumatized dogs be Hostile to a person whose life has outfitted them with a skillset that particularly equips them to dealing with such situations?"

We're talking about genre fiction here, replete with Rangers who have a preternatural ability to deal with wildlife. In mundane, real life alone, people skilled with animals deal with traumatized, starving dogs regularly...and they aren't hostile at some kind of overwhelming rate that its impossible to envision one being "Indifferent" (in D&D terms). I'm not a Ranger, but I've helped rescue a dog exactly like this...talked to her, soothed her with nonthreatening posture and waited patiently until she trusted me...and fed her right out of my hand. My guess is, if you Youtube this, its not the most uncommon thing in the world.
 

FrogReaver

As long as i get to be the frog
Can you not envision some kind of backstory (which I didn't canvass or invent) that would mitigate your position here?

Not at the moment.

Put another way, should all starving, traumatized dogs be Hostile to careful, non-aggressive human interaction with them?

Then add the Ranger aspect of this and revise that to "should all starving, traumatized dogs be Hostile to a person whose life has outfitted them with a skillset that particularly equips them to dealing with such situations?"

Consider a well trained rogue wanting to pick some pockets. Can you imagine what would happen if he tried to pick pocket someone while yelling to the top of his lungs "i'm a thief". Is he going to succeed? I firmly believe that what you do matters - not just who you are and what you roll.

We're talking about genre fiction here, replete with Rangers who have a preternatural ability to deal with wildlife. In mundane, real life alone, people skilled with animals deal with traumatized, starving dogs regularly...and they aren't hostile at some kind of overwhelming rate that its impossible to envision one being "Indifferent" (in D&D terms). I'm not a Ranger, but I've helped rescue a dog exactly like this...talked to her, soothed her with nonthreatening posture and waited patiently until she trusted me...and fed her right out of my hand. My guess is, if you Youtube this, its not the most uncommon thing in the world.

And you likely let her come to you instead of approaching her. Makes a world of difference.
 

@Ovinomancer

Put another way, any game that tells a GM that they're lead storyteller and their job is to entertain and they have a mandate over the rules to make sure everyone is having fun...

That play priority is very much at tension with challenge-based gaming priorities (whether that challenge is tactical decision-making, strategic decision-making, or advocating for your PC's thematic portfolio against ethos/relationship threatening content).
 


Sadras

Hero
@Manbearcat

I didn't get as clear an answer in the other thread about something and I was hoping to get your opinion on the matter. At the outset I'd just like you to know my players enjoy some GM Force (even on their backgrounds), where much of the heavy lifting is done by the GM, they enjoy the surprises. But that shouldn't influence your opinion.

PC input into his background - PC sword-mage was initially trained by a master who was an apothecarist. DM input into his background - Part of the apothecarists clientelle were some well-to-do ladies seeking potions of charisma/seduction...etc. It was known to the PC he fooled around with some of his clientelle. Anyways this master disappeared suddenly and his lab was trashed.

PC made the assumption it was a jealous husband.

Some adventures later. The master makes a return and leaves again. This process continues on for a year or so, while the PCs engage on a series of quests to destroy a lycanthropic organisation.

The master was the werewolf in charge of the lycanthropic organisation. As an apothecarist, he had been creating potions for his kin which would mask their scent amongst animals, allowing them to travel a lot easier within urban areas. He has stolen this forumla from the Minrothad Guilds during his short stint there. The theft along with a murder of a colleague had activated a Black Seal Warrant (legal assassination - hence his continued disappearing act). He had, during his returns, explained to the PC that this had been a misunderstanding during his time in Minrothad and that the truth was the Guilds were after some of his formulae. He painted them as corrupt capitalists. The PC bought it and so helped him out from time to time (hiding him and giving him cash).

The revelation of his master came about when the party's actions became too difficult to ignore as they racked up success after success against the organisation. In a final effort, the master revealed himself to his former apprentice, saying he was willing to forgive the PCs past misdeeds against his kin if the PC would but just join him.

By me making the master (using no mechanics) the lycanthrope - does that fall into GM force or is that just generating content?
 
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FrogReaver

As long as i get to be the frog
@Manbearcat

I didn't get as clear an answer in the other thread about something and I was hoping to get your opinion on the matter. At the outset I'd just like you to know my players enjoy some GM Force (even on their backgrounds), where much of the heavy lifting is done by the GM. But that shouldn't influence your opinion.

PC input into his background - PC sword-mage was initially trained by a master who was an apothecarist. DM input into his background - Part of the apothecarists clientelle were some well-to-do ladies seeking potions of charisma/seduction...etc. It was known to the PC he fooled around with some of his clientelle. Anyways this master disappeared suddenly and his lab was trashed.

PC made the assumption it was a jealous husband.

Some adventures later. The master makes a return and leaves again. This process continues on for a year or so, while the PCs engage on a series of quests to destroy a lycanthropic organisation.

The master was the werewolf in charge of the lycanthropic organisation. As an apothecarist, he had been creating potions for his kin which would mask their scent amongst animals - a forumla he had stolen from the Minrothad Guilds during his short stint there. The theft along with a murder of a colleague had activated a Black Seal Warrant (legal assassination - hence his continued disappearing act). He had, during his returns, explained to the PC that this had been a misunderstanding during his time in Minrothad and that the truth was the Guilds were after some of his formulae. He painted them as corrupt capitalists. The PC bought it and so helped him out from time to time (hiding him and giving him cash).

The revelation of his master came about when the party's actions became too difficult to ignore as they racked up success after success against the organisation. In a final effort, the master revealed himself to his former apprentice, saying he was willing to forgive all his past misdeeds against his kin if the PC would but just join him.

By me making the master (using no mechanics) the lycanthrope - does that fall into GM force or is that just generating content?

I know you care more for his answer.

However, for the sake of discussion - my answer is not force -I don't see any unfair manipulation of players here.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
I'm going to start with (imo), the best part of the ruleset; The Social Interaction conflict mechanics.

I'm going to use a Ranger trying to entreat a domesticated, traumatized, starving, old dog to come back with her to camp where she hopes to use Speak With Animals to communicate with the creature in the morning (to learn about a situation that the dog witnessed)

[etc.]
Yeah, the GM messed this up in a few ways and kinda painted himself into a corner.

First off, if you-as-GM want to preserve the mystery and the dog can so easily give all the answers, why introduce the dog at all?

Second, even after you've made the mistake of introducing the dog, all is not lost. It's an old starving dog and the PCs aren't going to cast Speak With Animals till morning. Let the Ranger befriend it, warm it up, feed it...and then have it die happy during the night from exhaustion or old age or whatever. This way the Ranger gets to do her thing yet the mystery remains intact.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
My second favorite part of the 5e ruleset: PC Background Features.

The player wants to use their Criminal Contact who doubles as a gondolier who transports folks via the city canals during the day as a legal front for his illicit activities. The player has desperately tasked him to finesse a message to an illicit spice merchant NPC on the other side of the city who has under surveillance by the City Guard (looking for incriminating activity).

Fast forward to the evening and the Criminal Contact gondolier is in the clink. He paid a paper boy to insert a secret message into the folds of the day's paper and drop it on the doorstep of the spice merchant's shop. The City Guard grabbed the paper, chased down the boy, roughed him up for the identity of the person who hired him and made the arrest of the gondolier.

This is clearly a case of a GM (a) using their unique, unbridled access to content creation/the world to manufacture adversarial content, introducing a block which (b) subordinates a player's thematic input (c) via their PC-currency-spent feature (which effectively reads as player fiat and has no action resolution mechanics to resolve).
Perhaps; and at first glance this looks like all kinds of Force.

BUT, there's also the possibility that the DM did the required rolling and honestly went where her dice led her: the City Guard (already watching the merchant, as noted in the description) rolled well enough to realize there's something fishy about the paper and-or the boy, the boy rolled badly on his attempts to escape, etc. and things developed from there. (that said, finding and arresting the gondolier that fast is a bit over-the-top; but the message being intercepted is a perfectly achievable if perhaps unlikely outcome of the scenario)
 

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