Illusionism or no?

prabe

Aspiring Lurker (He/Him)
Supporter
I think making the players play out a story that consists of scenes created by the GM is a fundamental misunderstanding of roleplaying games as a medium. Of course it can be done. People have been doing it for almost forty years. But using RPGs as a storytelling medium like books or TV shows, or even videogames leaves all the unique possibilities that are exclusive to RPGs untouched. It's a medium in which the players can direct where the story is going and what happens in the story through their own choices and ability to come up with solutions within the game rules.

A GM should face the players with a problem, and the players should come with a solution. The GM should not create a problem and a solution and have the players guess what he wants them do to to hear the next chapter of his story.

Dragonlance was the biggest mistake in the whole history of RPGs and GMs keep getting hobbled by it to this day, and probably forever.
I think your idea of "story that consists of scenes created by the GM" is only a problem if the GM has created that series of scenes before they were played out. As in, the problem isn't that the GM has created the scenes; it's that the GM has created the entire sequence, or story. I mean, in many TRPGs, "creating scenes/situations" is most of what the GM does.

I agree 100% that using TRPGs to replicate books or movies or other linear/authored fiction is something like a category error. I'd quibble with the implication (which you might not intend) that the GM shouldn't have any solutions to the problems presented--I find it useful to have at least one, because it means I know the problem can be solved, and because if the players resort to rolling to see if their characters can solve it I have something ready.
 

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BookTenTiger

He / Him
Some of you are very open to modifying encounters on the fly. Some less so. Part of my theory is that this difference of opinion is driven by whether the players are free to engage in whatever encounters they want or whether they are expected to engage in the encounter before them. I'd be interested to get that detail for each of your responses.
Here's my purpose. I'm not saying this works for everyone, but it works for me:

By using "illusionism," as you've coined it, I believe I allow my players to have more agency in what they encounter and how they solve their conflicts, while also maintaining a well-paced, varied session.

Let's say I've planned out a dungeon, and there are five upcoming encounters. In my notes, I've planned it like this:

Encounter A: Combat (easy)
Encounter B: Exploration
Encounter C: Social
Encounter D: Combat (hard)
Encounter E: Combat (medium)

The adventurers wind up turning Encounter A into a Social Encounter, charming and talking to the enemies instead of killing them.

They then decide to avoid Encounter B, and go straight to Encounter C.

If I'm feeling like the players are really enjoying social encounters, I'll keep it a social encounter. If the players are getting a little restless and need some action, I might change it to a Combat Encounter, adding more enemies or buffing up the NPC.

Let's say it turns into a Combat Encounter. We are thirty minutes from the end of the session, and the characters run into Encounter D. This is supposed to be a Hard Combat, but we just did a combat and we are running out of time! Maybe I'll keep it a combat and just do one round. Or maybe I'll turn it into an Exploration Encounter, and have the enemies be a patrol, or asleep, or something like that.

The players have gotten to make all the choices here. I am responding to their needs and actions, and adjusting future encounters to keep the play varied and interesting.

I don't think there's anything wrong with having static encounters I'm beholden to, but I've found my own game goes better this way. AND it's fun for me, because I get to adjust and improvise!
 

dragoner

solisrpg.com
I think your idea of "story that consists of scenes created by the GM" is only a problem if the GM has created that series of scenes before they were played out. As in, the problem isn't that the GM has created the scenes; it's that the GM has created the entire sequence, or story. I mean, in many TRPGs, "creating scenes/situations" is most of what the GM does.

I agree 100% that using TRPGs to replicate books or movies or other linear/authored fiction is something like a category error. I'd quibble with the implication (which you might not intend) that the GM shouldn't have any solutions to the problems presented--I find it useful to have at least one, because it means I know the problem can be solved, and because if the players resort to rolling to see if their characters can solve it I have something ready.
I have also found that some players are just there to be spectators that throw dice occasionally. Which the programmed D&D experience works great for.
 

payn

Legend
I can see a few opportunities rising for this to be necessary (from the GMs perspective). The first is general GM experience. First timers are bound to make mistakes and I'm going to give them some leeway if they fall prone to using force/illusionism. Another opportunity comes with being inexperienced with a new system. Many TTRPGs are complex and take some hands on training to get a good feel for them. I think its good practice to not to use force/illusionism because this can lead to the idea that its necessary to make a system work. Though, as mentioned before, I'm going to go easy on a GM if they force/illusion a penultimate fight. As a player, I tend to want my GMs to limit force/illusion to the absolute minimum. Though, I wont hate them for keeping it in their toolbox and implementing in the right situations.
 

BookTenTiger

He / Him
Here's my purpose. I'm not saying this works for everyone, but it works for me:

By using "illusionism," as you've coined it, I believe I allow my players to have more agency in what they encounter and how they solve their conflicts, while also maintaining a well-paced, varied session.

Let's say I've planned out a dungeon, and there are five upcoming encounters. In my notes, I've planned it like this:

Encounter A: Combat (easy)
Encounter B: Exploration
Encounter C: Social
Encounter D: Combat (hard)
Encounter E: Combat (medium)

The adventurers wind up turning Encounter A into a Social Encounter, charming and talking to the enemies instead of killing them.

They then decide to avoid Encounter B, and go straight to Encounter C.

If I'm feeling like the players are really enjoying social encounters, I'll keep it a social encounter. If the players are getting a little restless and need some action, I might change it to a Combat Encounter, adding more enemies or buffing up the NPC.

Let's say it turns into a Combat Encounter. We are thirty minutes from the end of the session, and the characters run into Encounter D. This is supposed to be a Hard Combat, but we just did a combat and we are running out of time! Maybe I'll keep it a combat and just do one round. Or maybe I'll turn it into an Exploration Encounter, and have the enemies be a patrol, or asleep, or something like that.

The players have gotten to make all the choices here. I am responding to their needs and actions, and adjusting future encounters to keep the play varied and interesting.

I don't think there's anything wrong with having static encounters I'm beholden to, but I've found my own game goes better this way. AND it's fun for me, because I get to adjust and improvise!
Replying to my own post with an example:

In a recent dungeon, the characters were encountering various Nothic servants of an Aboleth who lived in an underground cistern.

There were three upcoming encounters I knew the characters would likely be running into:

1) A Nothic nursery, who grew Intellect Devourers, Grells, and Otyughs out of magic fungus.

2) An Assassin Vine that had grown in a crevice in the cave walls, and guarded some nice treasure.

3) A Nothic mage fanatic and some one-eyed archers guarding the final passageway to the cistern.

The characters wound up approaching Encounter 1 as a social encounter. It took some time. Looking ahead, I decided to make Encounter 2 an Exploration Encounter. As they approached the crevice, they noticed strange thorny vines. They investigated, figured out it was an Assassin Vine, and found ways to avoid alerting it. Then Encounter 3 was a really tough battle. The Nothic Mage was a total fanatic, and could also read minds, so there was no negotiating with him! AND as the characters retreated they accidentally woke up that Assassin Vine! It was a difficult, memorable fight.

But this could have gone differently!

Had the characters gone into battle with the Nothic Nursery, I might have changed the Mage to a Social Encounter. Or if they had avoided the Nothic Nursery altogether, then I might have had them fight the Assassin Vine, and try to sneak past or negotiate with the mage. Who knows!
 

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