Map-and-key RPGing contrasted with alternatives

niklinna

učim hrvatski
What do you mean by "established"? If it has somehow been established with the players, the sure, I agree with you.

But what if it hasn't? Is there a difference between:
a) The GM has drawn the trap on a map that the players can't see
b) The GM hasn't drawn it on the map, but has decided where it is
c) The GM has decided there is a trap, but not where it is
d) The GM decides mid-fight that a trap would be cool

In the first two examples the location of the trap has been established, but not to the players. f this is all hidden from thm, why is there a difference between any of these four scenarios?
Yeah, absolutely if it's been established to the players (and without good justification for a pit suddenly moving, which, in a fantasy RPG can certainly exist).

Those four cases lie between full world simulation, where things are set down in advance and not changed, and full freeform play where you add things as you go along (so long as you don't contradict it once it's in play). Different people and groups, and systems, have different preferences—and some have partisan positions!—about that. So any of abcd could be totally fine for a given group.

There are players who will demand to see the GM's map if they suspect any fudging of the world (and GMs who would or would not "cheat" in that way). There are players that are cool with it.
 

log in or register to remove this ad

Xamnam

Loves Your Favorite Game
What do you mean by "established"? If it has somehow been established with the players, the sure, I agree with you.

But what if it hasn't? Is there a difference between:
a) The GM has drawn the trap on a map that the players can't see
b) The GM hasn't drawn it on the map, but has decided where it is
c) The GM has decided there is a trap, but not where it is
d) The GM decides mid-fight that a trap would be cool

In the first two examples the location of the trap has been established, but not to the players. f this is all hidden from thm, why is there a difference between any of these four scenarios?
Not to parrot your opening, but it depends on what you mean by hidden from them. If there was no way of them ever divining the location of the trap before it sprung, then as far as at table play, the difference shrinks greatly (I'll leave the philosophical side out of it). However, if the characters expect to find traps, and have ways to discover, mitigate, disable, or escape them, the difference between A and D could have a very meaningful impact to the players. Doubly so if they're expecting one and receiving the other.
 

soviet

Hero
Can you elaborate this a bit more? I haven't quite followed your description of your approach, and I'm not working out what system you're using and so can't fill in the gaps myself!
Sure. So the game I'm talking about is Other Worlds, which I published and is available at a very reasonable price on DTRPG 😉, but the principles would apply to any conflict resolution stake-setting type games like HeroQuest or FATE.

In this style of game I don't have a map or movement rates etc so exploration is necessarily loose. The details are zoomed out. We might run a fairly abstract conflict to see if the character can get past the guards or otherwise achieve their objective without complications. I might not have any detail for those complications, beyond maybe 'there are guards on patrol', until I need them in play.

Occasionally if I want to add suspense to a scene I will zoom in a lot more and try to gain a better understanding of the fictional positioning. I will describe the scene a bit more. I might even draw a (very loose) map. I will commit in my head to what or where the danger is. Then I will ask the players to commit to where they're standing, what weapon they're holding, where are they aiming, is it cocked, etc. If they move I'll ask them to describe that move. We are very focused on the buildup to whatever's about to happen.

Then 'bang' something does happen. Zombies burst in, a helicopter strafes the building, the ceiling collapses, whatever. We're now going to resolve the dramatic situation using our system, which in this case is basic conflict resolution with freeform traits and metacurrency. The moment of tension is released.

So what's the purpose of all the detailed fictional positioning? Suspense, mostly. Putting the players into the moment and making it feel real. Think about in a movie where the characters go all quiet and stealthy before entering a room. How we see the beads of sweat, the cocking of a gun, the adjustment of the stance, the raised fist as a signal to go in.

But as we're playing a fairly freeform game I can also use that fictional positioning as a source of bonuses, penalties, stakes, complications. The character that was looking the right way might get a bonus to avoid the bomb blast. The character with their gun pointed downwards might still be able to shoot at the feet of the enemy that tries to grab it. The character with their finger carefully away from the trigger might find it easier to avoid shooting at the harmless fox that bursts round the corner (but harder to snap fire if the fox was actually an attacker).

It's not something I do all the time. A lot of my fights and exploration scenes are still run fairly fast and loose. But occasionally it can be fun to scare the players and zoom in very close.

Does that make sense?
 


What do you mean by "established"? If it has somehow been established with the players, the sure, I agree with you.

But what if it hasn't? Is there a difference between:
a) The GM has drawn the trap on a map that the players can't see
b) The GM hasn't drawn it on the map, but has decided where it is
c) The GM has decided there is a trap, but not where it is
d) The GM decides mid-fight that a trap would be cool

In the first two examples the location of the trap has been established, but not to the players. f this is all hidden from thm, why is there a difference between any of these four scenarios?
For me, A and B are an aspect of being "fair". If I decide where it is beforehand, then it falls to the player's luck or cleverness to avoid it. It limits what obstacles I as the DM can impose on the PCs. C and D are not cricket.

From what I understand, it might be wholly appropriate and fair for a AW game to have a trap manifest under a PC that "was there all along" on a bad roll. That seems strange to me, but I'm getting that some of the thematic obstacles PCs face are determined "just-in-time" through unfortunate rolls. That's a case when C or D would be appropriate, then?

Edit: So, thinking of the term of "limiting the DM's power", my use of map and key requires forethought. While there are certainly random aspects, such as a small chance of pirates or sea monsters when sailing down the coast, I've already determined the obvious and hidden obstacles through that aspect of the adventure. Depending on how the players prepare and how ideal their information is, sometimes the trip can be as direct as "Bryce uses his Contact: Capt. Hargrove and negotiates passage South to Ft. Rain." Or, they do that and I pull out the ship mini for a kraken fight.

What limits the DM's power in BW, DW, &c? These complications only happen on "Yes, but" rolls?
 
Last edited:

niklinna

učim hrvatski
Another way of looking at cases C & D, especially when triggered by a dice roll, is as analogous to wandering monsters, only in the middle of a fight. You can generalize this to any system that uses results (successful positive/desired or not!) with complications.

Edit: Changed "successful" to "positive/desired". I'm really beginning to think that particular language is having an undesired influence, and not quite satisfied with "positive/desired" either.
 
Last edited:

pemerton

Legend
From what I understand, it might be wholly appropriate and fair for a AW game to have a trap manifest under a PC that "was there all along" on a bad roll. That seems strange to me, but I'm getting that some of the thematic obstacles PCs face are determined "just-in-time" through unfortunate rolls. That's a case when C or D would be appropriate, then?

<snip>

What limits the DM's power in BW, DW, &c? These complications only happen on "Yes, but" rolls?
I think I discussed upthread how this could be adjudicated in Burning Wheel. Burning Wheel doesn't have such a thing as a "yes, but" roll. There will only be a mechanical resolution of a fight (Fight!) if there is something at stake. Typically, given the tools that BW uses to set up situation, that would be something interpersonal. So the presence of a trap would be analogous to a piece of gear for the NPC, and the GM would normally decided it in advance (just as they would normally equip a NPC before bringing that NPC onto the stage).

An alternative possibility would be that, during a Fight!, a player has their PC Assessing to try and find something useful, and it fails - depending on the context, established fiction, PC Beliefs etc, narrating the presence of a trap could be an appropriate failure.

In AW, having a PC fall into a pit might be an appropriate hard move for a failed attempt to Act Under Fire. (Just as one example.)

EDIT: For a general answer to the question about GM power in AW, see this post: Not a Conspiracy Theory: Moving Toward Better Criticism in RPGs
 


Old Fezziwig

What this book presupposes is -- maybe he didn't?
What three RPGs that have been published since 2000 should I buy and read in order to expand my gaming horizons?

If it was published before 2000, assume I have it, or at least played it.
For me, and this is probably narrow, but Dogs in the Vineyard (may be hard to find: currently out of print, and unlikely to be reprinted), Burning Wheel, and Apocalypse World. They're probably not as diverse as other folks' lists might be, but (1) you can see a through-line between the games, in that Luke Crane is influenced by Vincent Baker in BW and Baker has developed his own ideas about gaming in DitV and AW, and (2) all three are pretty conversational. They talk a lot about how the games are supposed to work, not always successfully, but it's interesting and more than some traditional games have been.

Edit to add, that when I say they're not always successful in explaining how the games work, I'm mostly thinking of Luke Crane. Burning Wheel can be pretty opaque, especially in older editions.

Edited to clarify a thought.
 
Last edited:

pemerton

Legend
@Citizen Mane One thing we disagree on is BW (maybe depending on edition?) I never read the original version, but Revised always seemed clear to me, and had a big impact on how I approached 4e D&D. This 10 year old thread is not the first time I drew the connection, but just having a quick look over it now it has some interesting posts: Is the Burning Wheel "how to play" advice useful for D&D?

@Baron Opal II You could do worse than Citizen Mane's list! If DitV is too hard to find, John Harper's Agon 2nd ed is pretty good. And another game that I think is pretty interesting and influential is Robin Laws HeroWars/Quest. I think HeroWars is exactly the year 2000, and is a Glorantha game. HeroQuest revised seems like it might be out of print too: HeroQuest: Core Rules: Laws, Robin D: 9780857441034: Amazon.com: Books I've got both the original HW and the revised HQ (but not the intermediate HQ unrevised) and both influenced my 4e GMing a lot, especially in relation to skill challenges.
 

Remove ads

AD6_gamerati_skyscraper

Remove ads

Upcoming Releases

Top