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In your RPGing, who chooses the antagonists/opposition - players or GM?

Does this geas work similar to the D&D geas? I'm asking because I wanted to see how much lee-way the PC has of delaying/ignoring/side-questing this issue.

I don't know how @darkbard is handling this, but I would handle it 3-fold:

1) Start a (always table-facing) Clock (10 ticks) when this happens and Tick it once right off the bat. Call it "Death's Bargain."

2) Whenever the PC is doing something that isn't actively engaged with Death's dictate, make a soft move with some framing that portends consequence for their lack of urgency (show signs of an approaching threat or reveal an unwelcome truth). If a PC-move derived complication occurs, (1) tick the clock and (2) make manifest/act upon the badness you've portended.

3) Clock ticks full and "Death Strikes Back."
 
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Emerikol

Adventurer
I would say that it happens every way at one time or another just like our real world. If I'm walking down the street, and a mugger attacks me then I didn't pick that enemy. On the other hand, if I work for the DEA and I'm in hot pursuit of a drug lord then I've chosen my enemy.

So in D&D, sometimes the group chooses by deciding to invade the long forgotten tomb and other times heroism is thrust upon them. If the local village is attacked by gnolls, I suppose the group could ignore them or run away but usually they get drawn into the fight to defend the village. Ultimately to a degree it is player choice to decide the degree they want to be involved but even that has exceptions.
 

darkbard

Hero
Does this geas work similar to the D&D geas? I'm asking because I wanted to see how much lee-way the PC has of delaying/ignoring/side-questing this issue.

It's largely under the player's control how aggressively to pursue this, but there are some mechanical perks and prods at play to keep it simmering (so far in the background).

I modeled the implementation on DW's Paladin Quest, as follows:

Geas: Destroy the phylactery of the lich Ny-Hor.
Boon: An unwavering sense of direction to the phylactery of Ny-Hor.
Boon: When making a move in direct fulfillment of this geas (ask the GM), take +1 forward.
Bane: When choosing not to act to extinguish an undead creature of which you are aware, take -1 ongoing until you atone (the GM will tell you how).

So far (three subsequent sessions since this was introduced), the geas has come into play mostly through player initiation as color, as she has chosen to describe her character's attention "drifting off" from conversation or the present situation to heed a faint compulsion. But as she (and the Immolator Tiefling NPC have now journeyed closer to the phylactery (ie, deeper into the Underdark and Tiefling kingdom; I have no idea where the phylactery might be, specifically), I have described her pull to it getting slightly stronger as she draws closer.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Both.

If a player lays out an antagonist in a backstory that would be useful going forward, we are likely to use that antagonist. But, I also insert new antagonists as play continues. If players decide to pursue a minor figure that I didn't originally intend to be pivotal, well, that figure becomes more pivotal.

I don't usually have players saying, "Hey, GM, I know we've been running for a year, but I think I have an entirely new antagonist I'd like to see in the game."
 

For my games, the DM creates all the NPCs, either in advance as part of their world building or during emergent play.

The significance of that character to the PCs is largely up to the players.

The guy guiding your mules is now a trusted companion who gets a share of the treasure? Thumbs up.

That one random bandit who got away even though you put an arrow in his leg is now your nemesis? Cool, guess I better give him a gang.

You yell "Screw this!" and leap over the table to gank the Evil Vizier? Huh. He's a corpse now. Guess the whole "Power behind the throne" plotline is moot.
 

It's largely under the player's control how aggressively to pursue this, but there are some mechanical perks and prods at play to keep it simmering (so far in the background).

I modeled the implementation on DW's Paladin Quest, as follows:

Geas: Destroy the phylactery of the lich Ny-Hor.
Boon: An unwavering sense of direction to the phylactery of Ny-Hor.
Boon: When making a move in direct fulfillment of this geas (ask the GM), take +1 forward.
Bane: When choosing not to act to extinguish an undead creature of which you are aware, take -1 ongoing until you atone (the GM will tell you how).

So far (three subsequent sessions since this was introduced), the geas has come into play mostly through player initiation as color, as she has chosen to describe her character's attention "drifting off" from conversation or the present situation to heed a faint compulsion. But as she (and the Immolator Tiefling NPC have now journeyed closer to the phylactery (ie, deeper into the Underdark and Tiefling kingdom; I have no idea where the phylactery might be, specifically), I have described her pull to it getting slightly stronger as she draws closer.

I think the juxtaposition of our approaches (myself hypothetically using a Clock and you using a reskinned Paladin Oath move) is really good stuff for this thread and for anyone interested in running a PBtA game.

They both have overlap in the overarchaing Game Theory that the player would engage with as decision-points accrue, but there is also enough daylight between them that actuating them in play would lead to subtly different play and inhabited cognitive space.
 

@hawkeyefan, thanks for that post. How did you go about (if at all) establishing connections/dispositions between the 30-odd factions that were collectively created, and the NPC villain that you had created? Is that a GM decision, or do you have to hand the players some "ownership" of your NPC?

For the faction relations, some of them were pretty obviously positioned to be enemies, and others were obvious allies. We leaned on those apparent dynamics, and left a lot of the more in depth relations to determine in play.

The "main villain" is the organization that created the barrier that encloses the nation, called Eclipse. Their actions kind of serve as a kicker to the campaign. After that, they're kind of present in that they have overthrown the dictator and seized his palace, and are kind of slowly taking territory throughout the islands. In that sense, I don't think that the players have much ownership over that NPC organization.

Others, however, I'd say that is more the case. I ask questions of the players to fill in gaps about what we know of a given organization or NPC, and to establish some of those connections. I think in a lot of cases, we've drawn heavily from super hero comic tropes and ideas, and so there are some baked in details or implications.

For example, one of the other main factions, and the most direct opposition to Eclipse, is The Brainstorm, which is an enclave of super scientists and engineers very much like Marvel's A.I.M., but without the beekeeper suits. One of the players said "This island sounds like a place A.I.M. would hang out" and that's how that came about. We decided that they were the true power behind the throne of the dictator, so to speak, and so they have the most to lose from this invasion of their territory.

So that makes it easier to kind of see where all these pieces fit. Kind of like your comment about @Ovinomancer 's use of mind flayers; certain ideas just leap out based on the tropes and the inspirations we're drawing from. A lot of this is collaboration, or me as GM building on what we've set up together, or what a player has suggested.

For the personal rivals, I'd say there is even more ownership by the players. I essentially leave the details about those NPCs up to the player to decide, and the nature of their relationship. I play the NPC in any actual interactions, but those are generally framed by what the player has established.
 

darkbard

Hero
Fully player chosen? Who introduced the unscrupulous employer into the fiction? The language of "encountered" suggests that, at the table, the GM was narrating these events and the existence of these NPCs. Is that right?


Again, how did the Devourer become part of the shared fiction? Was this posited by your wife? Or you? - I know that "ask questions" is a standard GM technique in DW. Or was this GM narration?
I think Manbearcat's subsequent reply above does a great job of illustrating the dynamic of interplay between articulated or implied PC drives, mechanical resolution, and GM input in response to your inquiry, but I'm happy to elucidate further if you have lingering questions.
 

pemerton

Legend
Kind of like your comment about @Ovinomancer 's use of mind flayers; certain ideas just leap out based on the tropes and the inspirations we're drawing from.
I was thinking this same thing as I was reading through your post.

very much like Marvel's A.I.M., but without the beekeeper suits.
I XPed your post, but it took real force of will to disregard this TRAVESTY!

(Also, aren't they hazmat?)
 
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pemerton

Legend
I would say that it happens every way at one time or another just like our real world. If I'm walking down the street, and a mugger attacks me then I didn't pick that enemy. On the other hand, if I work for the DEA and I'm in hot pursuit of a drug lord then I've chosen my enemy.

So in D&D, sometimes the group chooses by deciding to invade the long forgotten tomb and other times heroism is thrust upon them. If the local village is attacked by gnolls, I suppose the group could ignore them or run away but usually they get drawn into the fight to defend the village. Ultimately to a degree it is player choice to decide the degree they want to be involved but even that has exceptions.
This doesn't really answer the question asked in the OP, which is about authorship.

So who gets to establish that as the PCs walk down the street, a mugger attacks them. Who authors the long-forgotten tomb and its contents? Or the attacking gnolls? Using what sort of process?
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
They both have overlap in the overarchaing Game Theory that the player would engage with as decision-points accrue, but there is also enough daylight between them that actuating them in play would lead to subtly different play and inhabited cognitive space.

Have you considered what this looks like to an audience that isn't already deeply steeped in one particular kind of conversation and jargon about gaming? Are you sure this leaves your discussion open to all the people you want it to be open to?
 

pemerton

Legend
I think Manbearcat's subsequent reply above does a great job of illustrating the dynamic of interplay between articulated or implied PC drives, mechanical resolution, and GM input in response to your inquiry, but I'm happy to elucidate further if you have lingering questions.
I'll also tag @Manbearcat here.

What Manbearcat has described reads to me like orthodox PbtA or even BW-style work: the player has established a drive for his/her PC which is stated in somewhat abstract terms but has a lot of thematic "hook" written into it; the GM introduces NPCs and attendant situations which are loosely sketched at the start but are not obviously irrelevant to the player-authored "hook"; the player makes moves that relate to the "hook" in some way or other (eg use detect evil to force the GM to try and force the GM to make a more precise call about the relationship of the GM-introduced element to the "hook"); the GM uses the mechanically-structured and guided consequence narration to fill in those details, some of which involves bouncing off the players via questions and discussion.

Is that fair?

It's certainly an approach that I've used in BW, including the oft-retold story of the PC at the market acquiring a cursed angel feather.
 

S'mon

Legend
In a campaign I create myself, I create the environment (with a bit of player input via PC backstory), I create a whole bunch of potential antagonists. The players decide who to go after, though they may be prompted by NPCs in some cases - "Let's you & him fight!" :)
 

Have you considered what this looks like to an audience that isn't already deeply steeped in one particular kind of conversation and jargon about gaming? Are you sure this leaves your discussion open to all the people you want it to be open to?

Perhaps as much as you considered your audience when you decided to (a) put this confrontational element that is pretty much a thinly veiled attack on either my integrity or my self-awareness in a thread that doesn't have anything to do with Manbearcats/integrity/self-awareness instead of (b) (oh I don't know) PMing me directly...which would be the kind, considerate thing to do and the "most likely to reach your audience" thing to do (which was your preoccupation in your Public Service Announcement to me in this thread).

Its not a great look for a general participant to do this period. Its a worse look for a mod. You can do with that what you will.

But to answer your question directly:

Yes, I have. I consider the way I write and the way I think to be a flaw (not a character flaw...but an operational flaw). I've tried to repair it many times, but I can't make the repair stick. I've also had this conversation on here with other people who do exactly what you did above. I didn't take offense for challenging my integrity or self-awareness and not also not being kind/considerate enough to PM me directly about it then! And I won't do so with you now! And I'm sure I'll have to do this again with another poster down the road!
 

pemerton

Legend
My reply just upthread to @Manbearcat and @darkbard sketches one way of distributing player and GM roles in establishing opposition/conflict.

I thought in this post I would sketch a different one, which I've been using a lot in my Classic Traveller game: random rolls on system-prescribed tables, and then integrating those into the emerging and established fiction of the campaign.

When my group started our Classic Traveller game first the players rolled up their PCs - everything from stats to skills to starting money and gear is all rolled - which helped establish some PC backstory; and then I rolled up a starting world, and we worked out more backstory and PC interconnections that would make sense of that. Because one PC had Medic-1, and another PC had been mustered out injured and hence (it was decided) was just finishing up a stint in hospital, we determined that those two PCs knew one another (the first a carer for the second as a patient). The world I'd rolled was very high tech-level, so we all agreed that the medical equipment would reflect this.

I then rolled a random patron. Because she was a Marine Officer I decided she would be a former comrade of the Medic-1 PC, who was ex-Imperial Navy. And because the main thing we had determined about the world was that it had this hi-tech medical facility, I decided that her "mission" for the PCs would involve medical gear.

In addition, the hospitalised PC had Gambling-1 and started with a space-faring "yacht". The player decided he'd won it in a bet, and that the reason he was in hospital was because he'd subsequently taken a beating from the thugs who worked for the yacht's previous owner. So I decided that what the patron needed from the PCs was their ship - the previous owner had been her previous operative, and now she needed to recruit the PCs as her new operatives.

From there, details emerged via play in a fashion a little closer to the PbtA style Manbearcat has described.

In the fourth (or so) session, in the closing moments I rolled a random encounter with a Patrol Cruiser being used by pirates and decided that this was an Imperial vessel but connected to the Marine Officer's unlawful/irregular scheme (and hence "piratical" in that sense). In the between-session period I rolled up a crew for the vessel and established some backstory for them that fitted them into the established situation of the campaign. In the next session the players had some interaction with the vessel, and also intercepted some of its communications to the starport of the planet where this encounter occurred, and so some of the backstory I'd written came out - which led to the players choosing to ignore the vessel rather than interact with it, as they learned it was from the Marine Officer's "secret" base and they wanted to assault her base while he Patrol Cruiser was away from it.

Over the course of play in the campaign the random rolling has reduced somewhat as there are more established elements which make sense for framing and consequences. In our last session I reintroduced that Patrol Vessel at the new world the PCs were on, and they interacted a bit more. It is likely to figure as a prominent antagonist in our next session too.

Comparing this approach to the approach @Manbearcat described and that is familiar to me via Burning Wheel, I would say there is one key similarity and one key difference:

* In both approaches, colourful PCs with relatively rich backstories find themselves immersed in a world that cares about and responds to them in ways that reflect connections to rather than alienation from the setting. (A really obvious contrast here: the PCs in X2 Castle Amber, both the chateau and Averoigne.)

* In the Classic Traveller approach I've described, the action of the game is less thematically laden/character driven than in the PbtA/BW style. The action is driven more by external dynamics (a bit like a Mission Impossible film) and less by the deep dramatic/thematic needs of the characters (there is a contrast here even between the genre-similar MI films and Bourne films). I think this is a product of a few system features: what it is that the random rolls tell us; the lack of emphasis on "asking questions and building on the answers" which puts more responsibility on the GM to integrate the outputs of random rolls (we asked questions and built on answers in setting up the campaign, but it doesn't figure so much as a method once we pressed "play" and got going); where the system itself places emphasis in its resolution machinery; probably other stuff too.
 

I think the juxtaposition of our approaches (myself hypothetically using a Clock and you using a reskinned Paladin Oath move) is really good stuff for this thread and for anyone interested in running a PBtA game.

They both have overlap in the overarchaing Game Theory that the player would engage with as decision-points accrue, but there is also enough daylight between them that actuating them in play would lead to subtly different play and inhabited cognitive space.

So let me unpack this a bit as my communication here clearly sucked.

@darkbard 's approach to the situation (a bargain with Death to do thing x in order to be restored to life) was to reskin the Paladin Quest/Oath move. This creates a Burden/Boon/Stick dynamic where the player is occupying this headspace of "I have to do this thing, I get this thing if I work on doing this thing, stuff sucks if I don't work on this thing until I atone for it and keep doing this thing."

My approach creates the urgency of a straight "Countdown to Doom" Clock. It ticks as play progresses broadly with heftier ticks as a byproduct of action resolution complications where the player isn't fulfilling "Death's Bargain." So its like the Wandering Monster Clock in Moldvay Basic (for those familiar with that) or the Light and Conditions Clocks in Torchbearer (for those that are familiar with that). Or, its just the orthodox Clock usage if you're familiar with PBtA games (for those that are familiar with that).

Slightly different headspaces and decision-point consideration for the players.
 



pemerton

Legend
Slightly different headspaces and decision-point consideration for the players.
Agreed. And for what it's worth, my instincts lean @darkbard's way rather than your way - though my instincts are not PbtA-honed ones!

In Burning Wheel, when a PC was Force-of-Willed (= roughly Charmed/Dominated) by a dark naga, we implemented that by a change of Belief. That generates the carrot similar to darkbard's +1 forward (there's no stick in BW).

Though writing this post has made me think about how I would to this in Cortex+ Heroic. That could be via a Milestone, which would be a similar carrot approach. But it could also be via the Doom Pool, which would be closer to your clock approach.

So maybe my instincts are more malleable than I thought!
 

Agreed. And for what it's worth, my instincts lean @darkbard's way rather than your way - though my instincts are not PbtA-honed ones!

In Burning Wheel, when a PC was Force-of-Willed (= roughly Charmed/Dominated) by a dark naga, we implemented that by a change of Belief. That generates the carrot similar to darkbard's +1 forward (there's no stick in BW).

Though writing this post has made me think about how I would to this in Cortex+ Heroic. That could be via a Milestone, which would be a similar carrot approach. But it could also be via the Doom Pool, which would be closer to your clock approach.

So maybe my instincts are more malleable than I thought!

Yup, that all looks right to me.

And for what its worth, after @darkbard relayed his approach, my brain said "OOOOOH....SHINY...I like that better."

But I've teetered back a bit toward..."my camp?"

I'm not sure which is more effective at what we're trying to do here. Its close.
 

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