Judgement calls vs "railroading"

darkbard

Legend
That underlined attempt seems at odds with the above bolded part of the intent of the challenge.

If I remember correctly from the original thread, the PCs were anxious about forcing the issue of revelation through their direct actions; but if they could cause the necromancer to "out" himself, they hoped this would allow the baron to view their actions as unbiased by some ulterior motivation.

But I'm sure pemerton will correct me if I'm wrong about or misunderstood this from his original post.
 

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Tony Vargas

Legend
If I remember correctly from the original thread, the PCs were anxious about forcing the issue of revelation through their direct actions; but if they could cause the necromancer to "out" himself, they hoped this would allow the baron to view their actions as unbiased by some ulterior motivation.

But I'm sure pemerton will correct me if I'm wrong about or misunderstood this from his original post.
OK, that makes sense, then...
The dice shouldn't force you into anything specific, and if they do I put that down to a system flaw as dice really have no place here. Instead, just as the players are (I hope!) having their PCs do what they'd naturally do, so should you as DM have the ability to put yourself in the head of that advisor and have him react as he'd naturally react; dice be damned.
In the context of 5e, I'd say, sure, in fact, the roll should never have been called for if it wasn't going to matter, but, as an empowered DM, you can always narrate the results that way, anyhow. It may be a 'system flaw' in a sense, but the DM steps in and negates it.

In the context of BW or 4e, OTOH, the consequences for success or failure in the challenge have been set, the DM has a bit less latitude to override or ignore them, in theory - he still can, of course, what's the book going to do, talk back to him? - but that's hardly a flaw in the system, it's the system working properly in that context. The PCs tried to do something, succeeded, and they did it. The NPC can try to do damage control, but he's not just going to magically make it go away (unless, y'know, he can magically make it go away by editing the Baron's memories or something...)...
 

I answered the below indirectly in my last post with a focus on mental frameworks and cognitive bias. I'm going to answer this a little more directly now.

Are your players simply phenomenal at flipping back and forth from thinking as their characters to thinking as themselves? Or, alternatively, do your players add the requested elements in-character (i.e. the character, rather than the player, is choosing how the character knows the newcomer)? Or maybe roleplaying at your table means something different than it does at mine, in a way that makes the transition easier?

My regular players have played a considerable cross-section of games with different demands on them mentally and emotionally. I've run all of the following for them in either one/two-shot, short-term (few months), to long term (campaign):

1) B/X
2) AD&D
3) 3.x
4) 4e
5) 5e
6) Torchbearer
7) Dungeon World
8) 13th Age
9) Strike! (Star Wars hack)
10) SW Edge of the Empire
11) Cortex+ (Marvel Heroic, Fantasy Heroic, Leverage)
12) Apocalypse World
13) Mouse Guard
14) The One Ring
15) Dread
16) My Life With Master
17) Sorcerer
18) Dogs in the Vineyard
19) Fiasco
20) Fate Core

Some stuff I'm probably forgetting. My take on this is simple. Diversification and malleability of mental framework is an inevitable outcome of exposure to (a) varying thematic premises to be addressed, (b) varying types of play paradigms/priorities, (c) varying types of system agency, (d) varying types of player responsibility and agency, (e) varying qualities of PC inhabitation (typically achieved by a combination of a - d). Playing more games, playing more types of games gives rise to a more wieldy, more seamless "cognitive toggle", let us call it. I'm certain my players feel enriched for it (regardless of the game they're presently playing) even if it isn't something we discuss with any level of deep analysis (though it is overtly addressed from time to time).

Pulling a piece from the Jenga tower in Dread when something is at stake engenders a sense of ominous foreboding. As the fiction escalates and the tower becomes more unstable, the players feel the dreadful weight of momentous inevitability as their PCs navigate the horror that is closing in on them.

A player in a Dogs game has to confront a good man ruined by a major sin against the Faith (say, the infidelity of his wife with his own brother). Maybe he's a retired Dog (gun-toting Paladin in a wild-west that never was) himself, a legend who now has dedicated himself to a life of service as a minister to at-risk youth. Meanwhile, his famous gun has kept the peace in the small town of Big Water even though he doesn't serve in any official capacity and hasn't had to draw it in a decade. Well, he's been drinking himself into a stupor day, noon, and night for weeks now (a sin against the Faith)...inconsolably grieving and embittered. His state is such that he has people not only fearing that he might take his own life...but maybe he is a risk to others as well?

Well, when words don't work and I escalate the situation straight from words...past fists/knives...and I pull out that trusty Colt with a "back the hell up son...God ain't payin' attention and I ain't playin' "...(and a whole new and very dangerous/lethal dice pool), what are you going to do? He's drunk as a skunk (a trait that will affect his dice pool) but he's still a better shot than you (will also affect his dice pool). You're proud of the Dogs's legacy (will affect your dice pool). But something has to give here. No one is above the law, above The Faith. The small sins lead to the bigger ones. The bigger ones lead to the actual invitation of the supernatural to corrupt the soul and everything the soul touches. Is this the blustery cycle of grief by a hero so profoundly betrayed...or is this the actual dissolution of what he has always stood for, making him the perfect tool for the wicked, malign forces of this world?

And Dog's aren't a dime-a-dozen...and a dead Dog doesn't serve so well, so what good are you as a meal for the worms and the carrion birds?

All of those games demand different things (mentally, emotionally, from a cognitive workload perspective, from a responsibility perspective) from the players, have very different resolution mechanics and play paradigms. While AD&D, 3.x, and 5e have a healthy market share of the overall TTRPG player-base (with extreme overlap in their advocates), their own shared paradigm doesn't remotely encapsulate the means to PC inhabitation.

[MENTION=23751]Maxperson[/MENTION],

When you "ask questions and use the answers", how do you decide which player(s) get(s) to provide the answer? Is it first-come-first-serve? Round robin? Collaborative?

Also, what criteria do you expect the players to use when coming up with their answer? What they would find fun individually? What the other players would find fun? Free association with the current storyline? Logicial inference? Whimsy? I'm having hard time figuring out how I would begin to answer such a question as a player. This is in part because I don't understand which OOC GM responsibilities (if any) implictly attach to such on-the-spot delegation of content creation from the GM to the players.

I suspect this was probably meant for me so I'm going to go ahead and answer. There is subtle nuance to this depending upon the game, but since we're talking about Dungeon World, I'll use that (but this same thing could apply to a myriad of the above games).

1) Say something interesting or cede the play back to me (eg "I don't know this guy" etc).

2) Respect the integrity of the prior-established fiction.

3) Heed genre logic.

4) This is a game about action/adventure, discovery, snowballing danger, and relationships (with others and with what you believe in). I'm giving you an opportunity to advance one or more of those, so do it.

5) If this isn't initial scene framing and its the product of a 7-9 outcome on a Contacts (ish) move, the complication/cost I am telegraphing should be clear. This guy clearly isn't subtle. Maybe you don't want to draw attention to yourself. Oops. Or maybe he isn't fully reliable. Or maybe he's good at what he does, but he's classically in debt to the wrong people and using him as a hireling may introduce some guilt by association. If I'm giving you the opportunity to tell us a little bit about the world here and pick your poison...then do it with integrity...then put the ball back in my court and I'll run with it.


Make sense?
 

pemerton

Legend
PCs met up with an underworld boss requesting they retrieve an item of his (a genie within a lamp which they had recently set free), they declined;
He obtained revenge by hurting those within his organisation who had betrayed him by assisting the PCs. A box with fingers was delivered anonymously to the PCs rooms. The 'betrayers' were nowhere to be found;
PCs met up with the underworld boss again to confront him about the above - he denied any involvement in the box with the fingers or the disappearance of his employees.
One of the players (25+ years of rpging) decided he wanted to use his Plot Point to have fingers drop out of underworld boss's pocket. Everyone else groaned at the table at the desired use of the Plot Point. Needless to say, the table disallowed it and I removed Plot Points to avoid such situations in the future.
If I'm giving you the opportunity to tell us a little bit about the world here and pick your poison...then do it with integrity...then put the ball back in my court and I'll run with it.
I think Manbearcat's comment here seems apposite. (Also [MENTION=996]Tony Vargas[/MENTION]'s response upthread, about expectations and familiarity.)

Not having been at your (Sadras's) table for this event, it's hard to comment, but as you present it it looks like a pretty tightly GM-run game (eg the hurting of the PCs' allies in the organisation is similar to the assassination of the marquis that was being discussed upthread - this seems to have been narrated by the GM as a "failure off-screen" consequence for the players having their PCs deny the boss's request). Was the player being juvenile? Deliberately disruptive? Didn't have any other ideas? Couldn't conceive of anything else being feasible in the fiction?

I don't see this sort of example as any sort of "case against" player input into the shared fiction.
 

pemerton

Legend
That underlined attempt seems at odds with the above bolded part of the intent of the challenge.
[MENTION=1282]darkbard[/MENTION] is correct about this: they didn't themselves want to reveal or unmask the traitor - but, as events unfolded, they were able to goad him into unmasking himself.

The dice shouldn't force you into anything specific
Then what's the point of them? And how do you resolve combat, if the GM is free at any time to ignore the intiative, to hit and damage dice? (On the grounds that the dice shouldn't force the GM into anything specific.)

If the advisor's natural in-character reaction would be to try and turn the blame back on to the PCs then the dice shouldn't prevent this
This is like saying that if the advisor's natural reaction is to parry the blow, then the PC shouldn't be able to cut his head off. In terms of the resolution system, it's the wrong order of operations: we find out whether or not the advisor can parry by rolling the dice. We find out whether or not the advisor has been goaded into a response that undoes his own plans by rolling the dice.

Personally, I find it very hard to see how the ficiton is going to include that sort of thing if the GM is not bound by the dice and is always free to narrate NPCs as s/he thinks is rational for them. Whey, then, would they ever make errors or act out of passion?
 
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Lanefan

Victoria Rules
Then what's the point of [dice]? And how do you resolve combat, if the GM is free at any time to ignore the intiative, to hit and damage dice? (On the grounds that the dice shouldn't force the GM into anything specific.)
Because we can't role-play combat (the best attempts of some LARP types notwithstanding) amd thus we need game mechanics to replace it, but we can roleplay social interactions and thus don't - or shouldn't - need game mechanics.

This is like saying that if the advisor's natural reaction is to parry the blow, then the PC shouldn't be able to cut his head off. In terms of the resolution system, it's the wrong order of operations: we find out whether or not the advisor can parry by rolling the dice.
If someone's taking a hack at the advisor and his reaction is to parry that's going to affect his AC. Simple combat mechanics.

We find out whether or not the advisor has been goaded into a response that undoes his own plans by rolling the dice.
Can't speak for you, but I've no idea what my social AC is or what I need to roll to socially hit or damage my buddy. Ditto for my characters and-or NPCs. Those mechanics flat-out don't apply here.

Personally, I find it very hard to see how the ficiton is going to include that sort of thing if the GM is not bound by the dice and is always free to narrate NPCs as s/he thinks is rational for them. Whey, then, would they ever make errors or act out of passion?
Who says they're always going to be rational? And, interesting you use the term "narrate" NPCs rather than "play" them: as DM you're playing the NPC according to its own personality, quirks, traits, and - yes - established backstory. I'll play them as I think is in character for them, rational or not.

Clearly this advisor is under some stress; meaning his on-the-fly reactions might not necessarily be the most rational or well-thought-out. Depending how the conversation (played out in-character at the table!) goes maybe he slips up and says or does something he shouldn't; or maybe he really gets mad, snaps, and runs screaming from the room; or maybe the PCs' gambits fail and he brazens it out this time. No need for dice; just react in-character to what the PCs say and-or do.

Lan-"I'll only ask for a check as long as someone else is buying"-efan
 

darkbard

Legend
Because we can't role-play combat (the best attempts of some LARP types notwithstanding) amd thus we need game mechanics to replace it, but we can roleplay social interactions and thus don't - or shouldn't - need game mechanics.

This demonstrates how much we're talking at cross purposes because of system design philosophy. Lanefan plays 5E, which largely dispenses with the, in my opinion, advances made by 4E (and the "indie" RPGs mentioned throughout this thread), which devise an elegant mechanic by which social interactions can work--and work well--based upon PC design, not player skill. Lanefan embraces 5E's reverse, putting the emphasis of social interaction on the player--and then DM judgment in response--not the character and the neutral arbiter of the dice.

But, of course, sometimes a perfectly average Joe wants to play a charismatic sweet talker or brilliant scholar, and games that provide mechanics for social interaction based on PC build, not player skill, facilitate this.
 
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Imaro

Legend
You know one thing I haven't seen addressed in this thread is how different player types do or don't work with narrative power. I'd honestly like to get [MENTION=42582]pemerton[/MENTION] 's, [MENTION=6696971]Manbearcat[/MENTION] , [MENTION=16586]Campbell[/MENTION] (as well as anyone else who wants to comment) opinions on how narrative control and authorship (and their play styles in general) relate to the various player types. I honestly think this has way more to do with what the response to introducing this type of play style will be within a particular group (I don't think whether one has played D&D or one has played a plethora of systems has as much to do with it as the experience one plays for... but that's just my opinion). Robin Laws lists out the following player types...

The Power Gamer
The Butt-Kicker
The Tactician
The Specialist
The Method Actor
The Storyteller
The Casual Gamer

I don't want to list on the defining characteristics of all of these in the thread but I can link to the page here... http://www.darkshire.net/jhkim/rpg/theory/models/robinslaws.html ... where they are defined. I also believe these same player types were listed in the 4e corebooks for D&D and the DMG for 5e.

Now honestly I just don't see how your play style can work for say The Power Gamer... who actively looks "to finding quirks and breakpoints he can exploit to get large benefits at comparatively low costs.". This type of player is going to use that narrative power as an exploit to give himself more power and not necessarily for the benefit of the story or group. Another one I don't see this play style working with well is The Butt-Kicker... he or she is just not going to be invested enough to want to utilize narrative power and giving it to them seems that it will either not be utilized or utilized to circumvent the narrative to get to combat.

I also see issues, though admittedly to a lesser extent, with The Tactician... who wants "problems" to "beat" through his own acumen and strategical thinking. This seems at odds with allowing him to control or create things through the narrative as they will either be used to solve the puzzle (similar to [MENTION=6688277]Sadras[/MENTION] example above) or they will be looked at as a cheat of sorts and robbing this type of player of what they enjoy about the game... mainly solving the challenges put forth by the DM through his own mental aptitude and his character's abilities.

I don't see any inherent issues with The Specialist or The Storyteller... but surprisingly enough I see issues with The Method Actor, who rather than his actions be bound by the dice rolls would rather they be an outgrowth of how he conceives his character... The fact that he views the rules as a "necessary evil" seems almost contradictory to play to see what happens... He wants to play to see how his character as interpreted by him responds and acts... irregardless of what the dice or rules proclaim. Finally this also seems like a play style that demands a certain amount of engagement on the players part that a casual gamer may not be comfortable with or willing to invest.

Honestly at first glance the play style [MENTION=42582]pemerton[/MENTION], [MENTION=6696971]Manbearcat[/MENTION] and [MENTION=16586]Campbell[/MENTION] seem to be espousing (one of shared narrative, playing to see what happens and non-causality linked consequences) seems to be designed for very specific player types... IMO that's what [MENTION=6688277]Sadras[/MENTION] earlier example points out. It's for the most part a play style designed for The Storytellers and that doesn't clash with The Specialist... the others it seems, at least IMO, aren't as well suited to this play style. Though honestly I'd be interested in other posters takes on this.
 


Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
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This is like saying that if the advisor's natural reaction is to parry the blow, then the PC shouldn't be able to cut his head off. In terms of the resolution system, it's the wrong order of operations: we find out whether or not the advisor can parry by rolling the dice. We find out whether or not the advisor has been goaded into a response that undoes his own plans by rolling the dice.

A few things. First, sometimes personality trumps skill challenges and player desires. Scrooge isn't going to loan a PC 10,000 gold pieces, so a social challenge to see if he "parries" the request fails from the get go. It should be disallowed. The same would apply to the counselor if he's the sort that wouldn't out himself. Second, assuming it's possible for him to out himself, once the outing is done, it's done. An attempt to mitigate or negate the damage done does't change the fact that he outed himself. He can mitigate the damage AND still have outed himself. The social challenge wasn't, "I want to get the advisor to out himself and then stupidly gawk for some unknown reason, rather than try to mitigate the damage like a man of his intelligence would do.".

Whey, then, would they ever make errors or act out of passion?
He made the error of passion, and now he's trying to mitigate some or all of the damage done. That mitigation doesn't negate the success.
 

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