Of Mooks, Plot Armor, and ttRPGs


Victoria Rules
Unless they are physically unknowable, in that players do not have information about them, then yes, I absolutely think that. The whole point of the rules is to present that information to players. They should know (or be able to know) how the rules work. Ideally, they should be able to intuit reasonable courses of play even if they don't.
There's a rather wide gulf between knowing the exact odds and having only a good idea of the odds; and in real life a good idea of the odds is all we ever get unless something is clearly impossible or clearly routine. If real-world me is in the park and I come across a steep rocky bank I've no idea what my exact odds are of being able to safely climb down it; all I know is that there's a chance I'll mess it up and fall, a chance I'll reach the bottom, and a chance I won't really get anywhere.

Therefore, having an idea of the in-game odds or relative degree of risk is enough for me; I don't need it to be exact, and narration can usually get the point across. Telling me an exact DC (to use the current D&D term) is just what I don't want, as doing so takes it out of a roleplaying exercise and into a math exercise.
I'm pretty intentionally leaning into "these are games, here's what makes games interesting" to make my point here.
Thing is, the same things that might make many other games interesting aren't necessarily what make RPGs interesting. In most games you're thinking as yourself, where in an RPG you're often (or always?) trying to think like and-or pretend to be someone else in their reality instead of being you in your reality. For this reason, among others, RPGs are very much their own thing and don't compare well to a lot of other game types.

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Adding individual failure options to skill checks does lead to non-trivial decisions, and would allow you to press more than one optimization case. It is precisely the need to write unique failure conditions for each instance you call for a SC that I would describe as "designing a custom game" however.
Well, you are either going to take account of fiction and make some stuff up, or what? No RPG will ever have 'complete' instructions for how to deal with every fictional thing, and no milieu will ever have complete details such that you don't need to do this kind of 'design'.

The ONE process that comes close is some sort of Narrative system where the process of play focuses on narrative, and IME these only secondarily take account of fictional factors beyond "this is the basic difficulty" or "this is the basic rule we will use here" (like move in PbtA). Dungeon World is not a bad GAME, you can definitely skillfully use Discern Realities to get hold, use moves that you have good bonuses in, etc. Its not chess, but skill is definitely present, in a mechanical/move sense.

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