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More DMing analysis from Lewis Pulsipher

one of the things I enjoy about the way Vincent Baker talks about role playing games is that he talks about them without trying to create the sense that they are meaningfully different from other games in a way that makes them somehow more meaningful. It's always about if you want this play experience here's a way to do it rather than classifying and categorization in a way that legitimizes one set of games as the real hobby. For instance when he mentions his time at The Forge he basically says the point was to set out to prove that you could make games with emotionally meaningful content that are still successful as games. No ists or isms to be found.
Nice observations.
 

Balesir

Villager
But Edwards is also taking it for granted that there are game-rule-independent standards of adequacy - as do the actual design of games like RM, RQ, Classic Traveller, etc.
sorry to be patchy - only so much time to spare ATM...

In the end you (and Ron Edwards) can call "Purist for System" whatever you like; I'm not really invested in the nomenclature or the history. What I do want to convey, however, for analytical purposes, is that I perceive two quite separate desires going on:

1) The desire to have the rules both sacrosanct and game outcome defining, thus effectively becoming the axioms of the game world at the level of abstraction at which the players interact with it, and

2) The desire for game outcomes to conform to some rules-independent aesthetic or world vision/model.

These two are clearly potentially in conflict with one another. Two ways to get around this conflict are:

a) To surrender to the idea that the game world aesthetic/model is whatever is defined by the rules - or, at least, fits with what is defined by the rules (i.e. things happen because the rules say they do - but how they happen might be subject to personal interpretation, depending on the precise rules)

b) To define a system for how the governing aesthetic/model/vision will be used to (re)create the rules as required as the game progresses. This can be done by assignment of responsibility (PrimeTime Adventures or classic GM role) or by the rules system itself (Universalis).

Mixing the two has been a popular idyll; I submit from this analysis that this will always be extremely - possibly unreasonably - hard to achieve.

Afterthought: Forge defined Sim I generally associate most with item (1), above, because its focus is supposed to be "exploration". Exploration generally involves entering the unknown; finding out what type of world a given rule system implies fits well with this paradigm. I can see, though, that many see "exploration roleplaying" in a different light - that of exploring whatever the GM has created. This would imply that a functional play style for Sim would be (b) above with the GM in control of the rules and the aesthetic.
 

Emerikol

Villager
My point of disagreement with @Emerikol and @Balesir is over the issue whether purist-for-system sim, and "realism"-oriented play, overlap.
There may be an overlap of players who want both but the concepts do not overlap necessarily. I'm sure I prefer a game that feels right to me but I'm definitely not overly concerned with realism. In any realistic game, no matter how good the fighter, he will likely be defeated by three or four trained swordsman. The fighter who could resist such an attack is so rare that it's not worth thinking about. I'm just fine with cinematic larger than life heroes that cut their enemies down right and left.

I really do think that Bawylie's ideas about narrative mechanical unity resonate with me. The reason is that while I hated damage on a miss, I could not really claim it was dissociative. It's not. So I had this oddball mechanic that I really rejected but I kept asking myself what about it bothered me. NMU was the answer.

Here are some things I think I want from a game system...
1. I want the fluff to match the mechanical resolution.
2. I want things to flow from start to finish with any back tracking. No choosing to "parry" an attack after damage is rolled.
3. I want the character making decisions as the character without any player metagaming. Turns and moves are fine because they translate into something real for the character. That is just meta-language not metagaming.

Those are a few examples. I want those things because the game feels more real to me. But when I say real, I mean I can envision it in my mind like I'm watching a cinematic movie. I know D&D is not strictly realistic and I've never wanted that. I don't like GURPS. I don't like wound systems.
 

Emerikol

Villager
I would guess that NMU proponents would want the rules to match up with the physics of the world. I've never wanted a rules system designed exclusively for the PCs. I want a system that defines those "classes" as they work in the world. I don't mind if there are more things beyond what is available to the PCs but at minimum I want the classes to reflect the professions they represent.

So I want an NPC wizard of 4th level to look exactly like a PC wizard of 4th level.
 

Manbearcat

Adventurer
2. I want things to flow from start to finish with any back tracking. No choosing to "parry" an attack after damage is rolled.
Can you break this down perhaps? I know why some people don't like Fortune in the Middle (because they want cause and effect to tightly codified within the mechanics, with little to no narrative wiggle room...where I prefer the opposite). However, this seems to maybe be something different. I mean, you seem to readily admit that the D&D combat round is an abstraction. I'm assuming that you accept that within that abstraction is both a spatial and a temporal aspect. Guys aren't standing still in this tightly confined space and they time isn't stop-motion. Lots of "primordial combat goo" is going on that is beyond the D&D action economy's ability to relay. I think you accept that (perhaps not?). If you do accept that time isn't happening serially with respect to either (a) action declaration and fortune resolution or (b) our time at the table, then what is driving the problem with something like a wizard invoking a shielding spell or a warrior executing a parry in response to a fictional trigger (eg - you are hit by an attack)?
 

Emerikol

Villager
Can you break this down perhaps? I know why some people don't like Fortune in the Middle (because they want cause and effect to tightly codified within the mechanics, with little to no narrative wiggle room...where I prefer the opposite). However, this seems to maybe be something different. I mean, you seem to readily admit that the D&D combat round is an abstraction. I'm assuming that you accept that within that abstraction is both a spatial and a temporal aspect. Guys aren't standing still in this tightly confined space and they time isn't stop-motion. Lots of "primordial combat goo" is going on that is beyond the D&D action economy's ability to relay. I think you accept that (perhaps not?). If you do accept that time isn't happening serially with respect to either (a) action declaration and fortune resolution or (b) our time at the table, then what is driving the problem with something like a wizard invoking a shielding spell or a warrior executing a parry in response to a fictional trigger (eg - you are hit by an attack)?
I view every attack roll or saving throw as a response to a singular event. Even in the days of one minute rounds, I viewed the attack roll as that moment when you actually got a real chance to do damage. I would never view 10 points of damage as 10 minor hits over the course of that time. Each hit is a single hit in my mind. I just believe there are feints and maneuvering attacks all around the real attack.

So when damage is rolled there is no chance to change that fact. Something like DR is okay because it is part of the damage roll equation. The mind of the character cannot be part of that equation though. Because if I choose parry when I take 10 damage and choose not to waste my parry on 5 damage then I'm using knowledge that is only known after the fact. If I took the damage though then how am I undoing it.

Obviously if you had a spell that let you see the future that might be different but it would have to be something like that. No normal method of time travel calculation is possible.
 

Starfox

Villager
So when damage is rolled there is no chance to change that fact. Something like DR is okay because it is part of the damage roll equation. The mind of the character cannot be part of that equation though. Because if I choose parry when I take 10 damage and choose not to waste my parry on 5 damage then I'm using knowledge that is only known after the fact. If I took the damage though then how am I undoing it.

I am not saying you're wrong here, I am just presenting the opposite argument:

A fighter is an experienced warrior. He can judge which attacks are potentially harmful, which will require a desperate parry, and which will harmlessly bounce off his armor. Not only can he see that an ogre is likely to do more harm than a goblin, he can also see that certain of the goblin's attacks are more harmful than a bad swing by the ogre, and he can tell which ones are dangerous before they actually connect.
 

Manbearcat

Adventurer
I view every attack roll or saving throw as a response to a singular event. Even in the days of one minute rounds, I viewed the attack roll as that moment when you actually got a real chance to do damage. I would never view 10 points of damage as 10 minor hits over the course of that time. Each hit is a single hit in my mind. I just believe there are feints and maneuvering attacks all around the real attack.

So when damage is rolled there is no chance to change that fact. Something like DR is okay because it is part of the damage roll equation. The mind of the character cannot be part of that equation though. Because if I choose parry when I take 10 damage and choose not to waste my parry on 5 damage then I'm using knowledge that is only known after the fact. If I took the damage though then how am I undoing it.

Obviously if you had a spell that let you see the future that might be different but it would have to be something like that. No normal method of time travel calculation is possible.
This is interesting and I think instructive to the variance within playstyles. So your position here is indeed what I thought it wasn't. You take every roll of the dice as an immediate and irrevocable fact established in the gameworld. You take this as an established fact, even (a) when the time continuum that this fortune resolution of action declaration is mediating is large and abstract and (b) before relevant units (HP totals and/or tables) are consulted for final results - meaning the damage-in is established and it has meaning on its own before comparing to HP totals or the "in-fiction" result has meaning before the (immediate interrupt) consultation of the table rolled against takes place?

I guess I've got a few further questions then:

1) What happens when you're at the table and the information you conveyed as GM is misperceived or corrupt/inaccurate with respect to past events and play is interrupted by this realization. Is the GM-understood (but erroneous) PC action declaration then overturned to the correct one or must it stay as it was regardless of the misperception? Is the continuity or corrupt information resolved/fixed and then play continues sensibly or is it mandate that these are now irrevocable established facts in the gameworld?

2) Reaction/Interrupt mechanics work in the same vein as the consultation of tables and total HP (post damage roll) do. They are an intermediary to reconcile "what just happened." Assuming you describe HP damage before consulting the intermediary of HP totals, what happens when your description of the damage-in is incoherent with respect to those HP totals? What happens when you roll on a table when populating a dungeon and you feel the results strain credulity? Its been established, so presumably you're going to go with it and find a way to make it work?

3) Regarding the continuum of time in a 6 second or even 1 minute round of combat. In anything in life, people are reorienting themselves constantly, making real-time observations, subsequent real-time decisions, and subsequent real-time actions. Presumably you're ok with the AD&D parry rule whereby you declare the action at the beginning of the round for the entirety of that abstract stretch of time; forgo attacks to make attackers incur a penalty "to hit" equal to your own "to hit." With respect to both (i) player agency (maximization of informed player-side decision-making based on coherent/consistent GM conveyance and the intuitiveness of the system's machinery) and (ii) the way decision-making occurs in real-time in real life (which flows into i), does this parry mechanic make more or less sense than an immediate action parry triggered by:

"you are (going/sure to be) hit by an attack (if you don't do something about it)".

The parenthesis are mine, of course. Those implications wouldn't be included in a feature/ability block (or at least they shouldn't be) because they would overburden the rules text with the (presumably) obvious.

Would you be more comfortable with reaction/interrupt mechanics if the implications in the parentheses were made explicit in the text? Does having a bucket of reactions/interrupts to "do something about it" bother you because you feel it equals precognition (which, to be honest with you, is pretty much what happens in martial exchanges - borderline precognition because your OODA loop spits out a permutation that perfectly predicts what your opponent does and you're able to react in space and in real-time as if you "had precognition")? Personally, that improves the play experience and makes it much more like the real-time decision-making that occurs in our world (which is presumably how biological organisms observe, orient, decide, and act in our fantasy worlds).
 
I view every attack roll or saving throw as a response to a singular event.

<snip>

So when damage is rolled there is no chance to change that fact. Something like DR is okay because it is part of the damage roll equation. The mind of the character cannot be part of

<snip>

if I choose parry when I take 10 damage and choose not to waste my parry on 5 damage then I'm using knowledge that is only known after the fact.
A fighter is an experienced warrior. He can judge which attacks are potentially harmful, which will require a desperate parry, and which will harmlessly bounce off his armor.
Just adding to what Starfox says: if you don't allow any sort of damage/hit mitigation in response to rolled damage totals, then what are the narrative options?

(1) Even skilled warriors can't judge the skill and timing of an incoming attack. To me, this strains verisimilitude.

(2) The skilled warrior's judgement of such matters is already incorporated into the AC bonus. This is plausible in some systems, but not D&D in which AC is generally not skill-dependent.

(3) The skilled warrior's judgemen of such matters is already reflected in the d20 roll to hit. This is fine by my lights, but seems to violated "narrative mechanical unity", as player A's die roll corresponds, in part, to a different player's character's ingame judgement and response.
 

Starfox

Villager
Just adding to what Starfox says: if you don't allow any sort of damage/hit mitigation in response to rolled damage totals, then what are the narrative options?

(1) Even skilled warriors can't judge the skill and timing of an incoming attack. To me, this strains verisimilitude.

[...]
What strains verisimilitude in d20 to me is that defenses are not dependent on skill but basically only on gear. This is understandable because of the game's wargame roots, but for me it is a weak point in the rules. You could say hit points is where skill enters into defense, but if so you ought to recover all hit points with a short rest (they are just an expenditure of luck, skill, and fatigue).
 

Bluenose

Adventurer
What strains verisimilitude in d20 to me is that defenses are not dependent on skill but basically only on gear. This is understandable because of the game's wargame roots, but for me it is a weak point in the rules. You could say hit points is where skill enters into defense, but if so you ought to recover all hit points with a short rest (they are just an expenditure of luck, skill, and fatigue).
Wargames tend to take much more account of skill as a defensive factor than D&D, though that's in part because there's often more than one step in the process of determining whether something gets damaged/injured by an attack. Overcome their skill to hit, then overcome their protection to injure.

As for hit points, the problem I see is that they don't reflect anything about the relative skill of the participants. A 5th level Fighter may deserve more hit points when they're being attacked by a 1st level one than they had at first level - they are probably skilled enough to avoid most of those attacks - but I don't find it plausible that they also have those extra hit points earned from their defensive skill when they're fighting someone of 20th level.
 

Tuft

Villager
What strains verisimilitude in d20 to me is that defenses are not dependent on skill but basically only on gear.
Well, you could see Dex as the skill to use your muscles, while Str is brute capacity.

But yes, that dodging is separate from the skill system bugs me, as well as movement speed; with movement on the battle grid only dependent on race (+feats) and not skill you get pretty uninteresting foot chases...
 

Emerikol

Villager
I guess I've got a few further questions then:

1) What happens when you're at the table and the information you conveyed as GM is misperceived or corrupt/inaccurate with respect to past events and play is interrupted by this realization. Is the GM-understood (but erroneous) PC action declaration then overturned to the correct one or must it stay as it was regardless of the misperception? Is the continuity or corrupt information resolved/fixed and then play continues sensibly or is it mandate that these are now irrevocable established facts in the gameworld?
I guess I would need some examples. I think I do tend to not give inacurrate and corrupt information. If I do perceive though that the player is attempting something based on false knowledge the player has but is plainly obvious to the character, I as DM might just add information to what I originally said prior to the player completing his action. Obviously the goal in all cases is to be clear and that goes for all parties because lack of clarity is disruptive.



2) Reaction/Interrupt mechanics work in the same vein as the consultation of tables and total HP (post damage roll) do. They are an intermediary to reconcile "what just happened." Assuming you describe HP damage before consulting the intermediary of HP totals, what happens when your description of the damage-in is incoherent with respect to those HP totals? What happens when you roll on a table when populating a dungeon and you feel the results strain credulity? Its been established, so presumably you're going to go with it and find a way to make it work?
I don't describe the hit point damage prior to consulting the hit point totals. The hit point totals of the target are fixed. It's not the same as a player using the knowledge to change his action. Let's suppose I swing my two handed sword and do 5 damage and the creature has a DR of 5. I would describe that as the sword bouncing off the intended target or in some cases being turned aside. The reason is that DR is not a thought process it is an intrinsic part of the target.


3) Regarding the continuum of time in a 6 second or even 1 minute round of combat. In anything in life, people are reorienting themselves constantly, making real-time observations, subsequent real-time decisions, and subsequent real-time actions. Presumably you're ok with the AD&D parry rule whereby you declare the action at the beginning of the round for the entirety of that abstract stretch of time; forgo attacks to make attackers incur a penalty "to hit" equal to your own "to hit." With respect to both (i) player agency (maximization of informed player-side decision-making based on coherent/consistent GM conveyance and the intuitiveness of the system's machinery) and (ii) the way decision-making occurs in real-time in real life (which flows into i), does this parry mechanic make more or less sense than an immediate action parry triggered by:

"you are (going/sure to be) hit by an attack (if you don't do something about it)".

The parenthesis are mine, of course. Those implications wouldn't be included in a feature/ability block (or at least they shouldn't be) because they would overburden the rules text with the (presumably) obvious.
I believe the former parry rule is far less troublesome for me. It is a stance and I think stances make sense. You are fighting in a more defensive posture or a more aggressive posture. I don't buy that you can know the damage before it actually occurs. A sword thrust could nick an artery or it couldn't. If you are a 12 hit point fighter then an attack that kills you could do so because it nicked an artery.

Would you be more comfortable with reaction/interrupt mechanics if the implications in the parentheses were made explicit in the text? Does having a bucket of reactions/interrupts to "do something about it" bother you because you feel it equals precognition (which, to be honest with you, is pretty much what happens in martial exchanges - borderline precognition because your OODA loop spits out a permutation that perfectly predicts what your opponent does and you're able to react in space and in real-time as if you "had precognition")? Personally, that improves the play experience and makes it much more like the real-time decision-making that occurs in our world (which is presumably how biological organisms observe, orient, decide, and act in our fantasy worlds).
I don't think so. I don't even like for reactions to be based upon getting hit if the reaction is something that could prevent the hit. Obviously I have no problem with a nearby cleric using a reaction to heal someone who is wounded because that reaction can occur after the attack and damage. In fact it would almost have to do so to make sense.

So not all reactions are bad. Just those that undo whatever it is you are reacting to and make it as if it had never happened.

So for example, if a barbarian got an extra rage for going below 50% hit points, that would be okay. He took the damage and he is not undoing it.

I realize some of you are incredulous at my thought processes and in some cases that leads to mockery. Note I said some. And so far here it's not been at all bad. I've got it hard in other places though. I can only attribute my preferences to something in my mental makeup. They make total sense to me. It is I believe one of the reasons people people rejected many parts of 4e.

Also when I say I know what I dislike, I do not use a game system like 4e as my example. I use something specific like dissociative mechanics. 4e had many good features. The bad features just made it not worth it for me. I got no problem with defenses instead of saves. I got no problem with encounter/daily powers on magic using characters. I wouldn't put them on every class but they are fine as one way for some classes.
 

Emerikol

Villager
Just adding to what Starfox says: if you don't allow any sort of damage/hit mitigation in response to rolled damage totals, then what are the narrative options?

(1) Even skilled warriors can't judge the skill and timing of an incoming attack. To me, this strains verisimilitude.
To me this is all handled by the d20 attack roll vs AC. I agree 100% that I'd prefer skill add to AC. If I wrote a game I'd do exactly that. In fact in the game I am working on as practically a hobby all unto itself, I had armor add to hit points. So defense was entirely independent of armor. I did allow though for shields to improve defense. D&D is not perfect. I envision though AC as being the defense even though I'd prefer it improve with level as well. The feel of improvement though has been achieved via magic items.


(2) The skilled warrior's judgement of such matters is already incorporated into the AC bonus. This is plausible in some systems, but not D&D in which AC is generally not skill-dependent.
I use this approach and I know it's not perfect. See above. I'd prefer it be improved instead of being abandoned though.


(3) The skilled warrior's judgemen of such matters is already reflected in the d20 roll to hit. This is fine by my lights, but seems to violated "narrative mechanical unity", as player A's die roll corresponds, in part, to a different player's character's ingame judgement and response.
For me this partly plays into it but it is unsatisfying because a 1st level fighter should not hit a 5th level fighter as often as he does another 1st level fighter. The feel though is achieved because of magic items which tend to improve AC. It's not ideal I agree.
 

Emerikol

Villager
I am not saying you're wrong here, I am just presenting the opposite argument:

A fighter is an experienced warrior. He can judge which attacks are potentially harmful, which will require a desperate parry, and which will harmlessly bounce off his armor. Not only can he see that an ogre is likely to do more harm than a goblin, he can also see that certain of the goblin's attacks are more harmful than a bad swing by the ogre, and he can tell which ones are dangerous before they actually connect.
I have trouble making that leap. I'm fine with announcing you want to parry PRIOR to an enemy rolling the attack. That would be fine. That is as you say the fighter choosing to be cautious around the Ogre and not so much around the goblins. I just don't want damage being computed and then a damage undoing action being taken. This works both ways. I don't want powers that can be activated after a hit. I want them to be used prior to making the attack roll and if you miss you lose them. If this seems to imbalance things then just give them more uses.

I guess I just don't buy that the kind of knowledge necessary to determine damage with any sort of precision exists. Knowledge exists of course but that knowledge is reasonably exercised prior to the attack roll.
 

Tony Vargas

Adventurer
Wargames tend to take much more account of skill as a defensive factor than D&D, though that's in part because there's often more than one step in the process of determining whether something gets damaged/injured by an attack. Overcome their skill to hit, then overcome their protection to injure.
Maybe it's been a long time since I've been exposed to wargames, but I seem to recall them being a lot more straightforward than that. Compare troop types, some small modifiers, a die roll - possibly opposed - and remove figures from the formation.

As for hit points, the problem I see is that they don't reflect anything about the relative skill of the participants. A 5th level Fighter may deserve more hit points when they're being attacked by a 1st level one than they had at first level - they are probably skilled enough to avoid most of those attacks - but I don't find it plausible that they also have those extra hit points earned from their defensive skill when they're fighting someone of 20th level.
In the playtest, the 20th level fighter would do a lot more damage due to MDDs. In Basic, he gets more attacks, so whittles through those extra 5th level hps a lot faster than a 1st or 5th level fighter would, and has an edge in proficiency bonus, as well.
 

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