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D&D General On Skilled Play: D&D as a Game

clearstream

(He, Him)
Well, that's good, because I'm not discussing quality of storytelling either! I'm talking about deftly (or not) navigating the decision points involved between advocating for your character on the one hand and holding on loosely enough to not try to impose story but let it develop through the engagement of the fiction by all participants and mechanical outputs on the other. To know when to leverage mechanical component x to influence story in a certain way and when not. (This in addition to the more classically identifiable SP elements like resource management, character build, and so on.) There may be more art to this than science, but to say that the term skill can be applied in gaming context only to the latter.... One can be a skillful artist or an unskilled engineer or vice versa.
From the masses of posts in this and other threads, it seems like "skilled play" is more about success navigating the game-world, than character stories or themes. I'm absolutely not saying one is more skillful than the other, only that one doesn't seem like part of "skilled play" so to claim skill in that area might not affect the argument at hand.

@Manbearcat has reiterated examples in an attempt to express why DW is skilled. One might see though, that this doesn't help see why it is not "skilled": posters end up talking past one another. Or at least, that's how some of the above exchanges read to me.
 
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pemerton

Legend
@Manbearcat

I agree that Gygaxian skilled play doesn't care about theme/genre, beyond the most superficial level of tropes. That's why I really think paladins don't make sense in AD&D! (And probably not druids or monks either.)

My comparison to engineering is meant to be more than superficial. To use language borrowed from Max Weber, "skilled play" abandons all sentiment, and rests upon a ruthless technical efficiency in the application of the resources available. Switching gears to Mark Twain, it's the Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court.
 

clearstream

(He, Him)
@Manbearcat

I agree that Gygaxian skilled play doesn't care about theme/genre, beyond the most superficial level of tropes. That's why I really think paladins don't make sense in AD&D! (And probably not druids or monks either.)

My comparison to engineering is meant to be more than superficial. To use language borrowed from Max Weber, "skilled play" abandons all sentiment, and rests upon a ruthless technical efficiency in the application of the resources available. Switching gears to Mark Twain, it's the Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court.
I have arrived at a similar point in my thinking (by as you know a massively different route!) I'll attempt an example (I'm sure nowhere near as vivid as @Manbearcat's!) This restates an example from another thread.

The party need to persuade the fey queen to allow them through the perilous gate. Curiously, their bard has in her backstory a commitment to telling the truth. As it happens, in this specific instance there is a truth that if learned by the queen will harm any chance of persuasion: a lie is necessitated.
  • In "skilled play" the bard simply lies. She describes how she persuades the queen in-the-fiction. She doesn't skip steps. What the DM is concerned for is a credible act of persuasion from the player. The DM doesn't care if that outright ignores the character's backstory... at least not in terms of marking down the axes of skill the mode is concerned with.
  • In skilful 5e play, the rogue helps the bard - giving advantage - while the diviner bestows a low roll to the queen for her insight. Thus the bard's Charisma (Persuasion) check (hers is highest in the party) is more likely to succeed. The players can just tell the DM the outcome they want and the mechanics they use.
  • In skilful DW play - as I understand it from the sourcebooks and what has been written about it - the bard must say how she navigates her commitment to telling the truth. Perhaps the DM has created a thorny situation for the party in which it is an established fact that the queen will only listen to the bard. The conflict is obvious and hopefully will play out engagingly.
Now I think 5e in fact guides to a higher bar, in that a DM is expected to respond to what players describe their characters doing, with anything from forbidding a check to obviating one. An example might be that the Queen loves silver, and the party cleric being a silversmith crafts a lovely trinket for her: a DM might call for some sort of tool use related check, and change things accordingly. However, I think 5e doesn't expressly mark players down for failing to do that.
 

From the masses of posts in this and other threads, it seems like "skilled play" is more about success navigating the game-world, than character stories or themes. I'm absolutely not saying one is more skillful than the other, only that one doesn't seem like part of "skilled play" so to claim skill in that area might not affect the argument at hand.

@Manbearcat has reiterated examples in an attempt to express why DW is skilled. One might see though, that this doesn't help see why it is not "skilled": posters end up talking past one another. Or at least, that's how some of the above exchanges read to me.

@Manbearcat

I agree that Gygaxian skilled play doesn't care about theme/genre, beyond the most superficial level of tropes. That's why I really think paladins don't make sense in AD&D! (And probably not druids or monks either.)

My comparison to engineering is meant to be more than superficial. To use language borrowed from Max Weber, "skilled play" abandons all sentiment, and rests upon a ruthless technical efficiency in the application of the resources available. Switching gears to Mark Twain, it's the Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court.

Ok, my present course is clearly not moving any units, so I'm going to try a different tack (building upon my most recent post).

In any game you have a conceptual maximum permissible number of moves that are constrained by the ruleset. Taxonomically speaking, this is the "top of the food chain" (this would be Kingdom in Biology). In some games, the opening move and any subsequent move thereafter will encompass a staggering number of possible moves. in other games, the opener and any subsequent move thereafter is winnowed due to opening gamestate conditions and evolving gamestate conditions.

At its most primordial level, playing skillfully is sorting through possible permutations of the move-space (whether its the opening move or a subsequent move) such that the outputs of your decision-point (your "move made") yield a gamestate that places you closer to a Win Condition than the inverse. Further still, you can play more or less skillfully here. To just put numbers to it for illustration, you have a Win Condition at value 30 and you have the following "move values"; -2, 4, 13. It will absolutely be clear upon honest and informed reflection of the play that the move equaling 13 units would have been profoundly better move than the move equaling 4 units and both would have been considerably better than the -2 gaffe (which moved you closer to a Loss Condition).

So, before I go any further, I'd like to ask a question (and get an answer) and make a proposition (and get an answer):

1) Do we at least agree with the above conception of skilled play? If not, can I get some clarification on disagreement?

2) Further, there is a well-known phenomena in games called "handicapping." Handicapping (for those who don't know) is when you do the "I'll fight you with one arm tied behind my back" phenomena. This is done for one of two purposes (though in the end, both are borne out...I'm merely speaking about why the impetus for handicapping exists):

a) To level the playing field in a situation where one competitor is clearly more capable than another.

b) To allow a competitor to express their extreme competency/capability/skillfulness in an endeavor because (i) artificially contracting a participant's move-space makes play more demanding for them and (ii) ,resultantly, it artificially (or actually depending upon how the handicapping is done) moves them closer to their Loss Con and farther from their Win Con than they would be without the handicapping.




So can I get an answer about these two things please?

Agree? If there is disagreement, please clarify.

<anyone else who wants to chime in on this is more than welcome>

Please and thank you!

@clearstream , I'll address your real or hypothetical play excerpt above after you review what I've written above and have responded (there are issues with your understanding of how Dungeon World would resolve such a conflict both as a player and as a GM...but I don't want to do a hypothetical post-mortem until we're on the same page on the above).
 

Voadam

Legend
The party need to persuade the fey queen to allow them through the perilous gate. Curiously, their bard has in her backstory a commitment to telling the truth. As it happens, in this specific instance there is a truth that if learned by the queen will harm any chance of persuasion: a lie is necessitated.
  • In "skilled play" the bard simply lies. She describes how she persuades the queen in-the-fiction. She doesn't skip steps. What the DM is concerned for is a credible act of persuasion from the player. The DM doesn't care if that outright ignores the character's backstory... at least not in terms of marking down the axes of skill the mode is concerned with.
  • In skilful 5e play, the rogue helps the bard - giving advantage - while the diviner bestows a low roll to the queen for her insight. Thus the bard's Charisma (Persuasion) check (hers is highest in the party) is more likely to succeed. The players can just tell the DM the outcome they want and the mechanics they use.

I conceive of skilled play as the player considering the situation and figuring out a solution rather than the mechanics of the character so in B/X OSR this might be mechanically a charisma check for mechanics versus first person roleplaying it out for skilled play. Both modes can be done in 5e.

Whether the bard lies seems orthogonal in both GSP or skilled mechanics usage. The player could try to persuade by being truthful and avoiding the failure truth, or lie, in both skilled play or mechanics focus. It is certainly possible to avoid certain issues and still be truthful in your persuasion. Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time novel series has an organization magically bound not to lie who are famous for this.

In mechanics focus avoiding the truth may make it tougher, perhaps negating advantage from the rogue or perhaps not. In skilled play the player has to be more tactical and careful in their phrasing and the issues they raise to persuade the queen and in how they react if sensitive areas they wish to avoid come up obliquely or directly. This may be tougher for the player and the DM can complicate this by how the Queen is played.

So you can roleplay your character and engage in skilled play here, it may be a little more difficult but that can be part of the fun.
 

You seem to be treating as equivalent (i) players can shape the fiction so as to bind the GM and (ii) players can engage in skilled play.

I don't think I agree. The former - ie (i) - is true of Prince Valiant and Burning Wheel. Neither of those systems grants the GM unbridled framing and reframing authority by looping soft moves ad nauseum nor the means to soft move the game into whatever gamestate they feel is best served by their will at the moment. In both of them players can exercise significant control over the gamestate. For instance, in my Prince Valiant game the PCs defeated but didn't kill some Huns, converted them to Christianity, and then recruited them to be the light cavalry auxiliary of their warband. This additional force has then been very helpful in subsequent battles as they have crossed Anatolia and travelled to Cyprus.

There is little resource use or optimisation in Prince Valiant, but some - eg one of the players expended a Storyteller Certificate at a key moment to defeat a "dragon" (a giant crocodile), and this depended on him being able to confront it in the water which he was able to do because he had previously made decisions to build up his athletic ability (via the Agility skill) in anticipation of just this sort of thing. The PCs being dragon slayers ensured their welcome reception by the Emperor at Constantinople, which was important for them gaining permission to cross Anatolia on their crusade.

But I don't see that it is very helpful to characterise this as "skilled play". I think it's good play, in the sense that it is engaged with the fiction and with the system and (at least for the participants) produces fun RPGing. I don't know what Greg Stafford would think of it, but I assume it falls at least broadly within the bounds of what he envisaged Prince Valiant play should look like. But to me it looks nothing like Gygaxian play or any sort of descendant of it. For instance, notions of "risk" and "reward" are doing basically no work. Yes, the players make decisions that earn their PCs Fame and hence enable them to improve their PCs, but while not quite the same as the XP pacing mechanism in 4e it comes pretty close - it's hard for me to imagine non-degenerate Prince Valiant play which won't earn Fame, because (p 31) "Fame is the cumulative measure of a character’s actions . . . accumulated by performing deeds, both in combat and in peaceful endeavor" and non-degenerate Prince Valiant play consists in the performance of deeds either in combat or peaceful endeavour!

Dungeon World has more moving parts than Prince Valiant. And I can see how there is cleverness in players using these to establish binding fiction. But I'm not seeing the risk/reward dynamic and how that feeds into the basic play experience. In Gygaxian play, if I play poorly my PC will die; and if I play too cautiously (eg never opening any doors for fear of what might be behind them) I will earn no XP and my PC will not advance, and I'll be stuck in a situation of boring play where nothing happens. I think the "gig gud" phrase may already have been used in this thread - and it has a truth about it in the Gygaxian context, in that if I don't git gud then play will just suck.

But is this true in DW? I don't think it's true in Prince Valiant. I don't think it's true in BW (I love playing BW and I haven't git gud - my PC's skills have not advanced much, and my comparison here is my GM who is the spreadsheet optimiser I mentioned upthread who, when he plays BW, has his PC's skills and stats climbing at a pretty steady clip). My reading and limited experience of DW play makes me wonder whether it's true there as it is in classic D&D.
I think DW/PbtA, and probably FitD games, may be played in more and less aggressive fashion. At least that is what I'm hearing. In the game where I've played or ran there have been intense dramatic periods where the players were seizing the story in their hands and really trying to alter its trajectory. There were also other points where maybe they were taking on some sort of adversity, but it wasn't necessarily a situation where they were so much trying to change things as just to use their resources to get them through to the end of it.

The way @Manbearcat heavily emphasizes bonds and alignment, and other elements of 'character ethos and values' in terms of every little action they take? I mean, the game definitely encourages that to an extent, but I think we've been less granular about it. I mean, sure, the fighter has some choice between different bonds or whatever, but at some point he's going to act on ALL of them in some fashion. So, the scene he described earlier in the thread, that is certainly a natural evolution of the game towards a climax, but it seems like an unusually fraught moment.

It is like any game system, there are people who emphasize different aspects in different ways in their play. I was a player in a DW game which was basically very much a classic dungeon crawl. Obviously the game dynamics aren't like classic D&D, but we still spent our time expending torches, wending our way down into deeper levels of the underground maze, sniffing out treasure, avoiding terrible nasties, and solving puzzles. Tension would build as we'd, for example, trigger a shifting corridor and be unable to find the way out, while our torches began to burn down below the point of no return. One of the PCs got poisoned once, and the way out would take too long to carry them back to the entrance before they died, could one PC race ahead and get help in time? Was he going to risk his neck for that stupid hobbit? I mean, in the end its the same sort of considerations Manbearcat is talking about, but maybe a bit different style of play. AFAICT what we were doing seemed well within the envisaged paradigm of a DW game.
 

clearstream

(He, Him)
I conceive of skilled play as the player considering the situation and figuring out a solution rather than the mechanics of the character so in B/X OSR this might be mechanically a charisma check for mechanics versus first person roleplaying it out for skilled play. Both modes can be done in 5e.

Whether the bard lies seems orthogonal in both GSP or skilled mechanics usage. The player could try to persuade by being truthful and avoiding the failure truth, or lie, in both skilled play or mechanics focus. It is certainly possible to avoid certain issues and still be truthful in your persuasion. Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time novel series has an organization magically bound not to lie who are famous for this.

In mechanics focus avoiding the truth may make it tougher, perhaps negating advantage from the rogue or perhaps not. In skilled play the player has to be more tactical and careful in their phrasing and the issues they raise to persuade the queen and in how they react if sensitive areas they wish to avoid come up obliquely or directly. This may be tougher for the player and the DM can complicate this by how the Queen is played.

So you can roleplay your character and engage in skilled play here, it may be a little more difficult but that can be part of the fun.
From what you write I think you get my point though, right? That although you can roleplay your character and engage in "skilled play", "skilled play" doesn't care if you roleplay your character. That is orthogonal to it.
 

And the envisaged function of next of kin is not to seed adventure possibilities, but to handle transition of winnings to a new player position!
It was just acknowledging an validating a known 'trick' that players wanted to use in order to salvage SOMETHING from the loss of a character, "Oh, his brother Joe shows up, he wants the sword! He's a fighter too." I assume Gary, for the same reason he didn't make his friends start over at level 1 every time, thought that was a fine enough idea and put his imprimatur on it.
Not to the best of my knowledge (until the proficiencies in the DSG and WSG supplements). Though I suspect their use was fairly common, influenced by the Moldvay advice.
Yeah, I don't know of it being in the rules. I don't even recall a module where its use is suggested. However, I think even before Moldvay, it was a known technique. OTOH had it been really something Dave or Gary thought of right off, before rolling all sorts of various dice and consulting ability score tables, then stuff like BBLG and reaction checks and all that would probably have been based on it. Someone thought of it, not at the very start, but sometime in the first couple of years of the game's history. Whom that was may well be lost forever to time at this point.
 

Cadence

Legend
Supporter
It was just acknowledging an validating a known 'trick' that players wanted to use in order to salvage SOMETHING from the loss of a character, "Oh, his brother Joe shows up, he wants the sword! He's a fighter too." I assume Gary, for the same reason he didn't make his friends start over at level 1 every time, thought that was a fine enough idea and put his imprimatur on it.

Yeah, I don't know of it being in the rules. I don't even recall a module where its use is suggested. However, I think even before Moldvay, it was a known technique. OTOH had it been really something Dave or Gary thought of right off, before rolling all sorts of various dice and consulting ability score tables, then stuff like BBLG and reaction checks and all that would probably have been based on it. Someone thought of it, not at the very start, but sometime in the first couple of years of the game's history. Whom that was may well be lost forever to time at this point.
Wow, one of the old ability check recommendations from Dragon is... wow.


There's also a link about life before them and Gygax suggesting used percentile dice and a reasonable chance in the DMG.
 

I don't find it very helpful to label this "skilled play". I'm not 100% sure I can articulate why, but my tentative starting point would be because it's something that is better helped by being inclined towards literature rather than engineering.
I am thinking more of your analysis of BW where you say you can 'play it with skill' and optimize how your PC works and probably get your preferred result on more checks. OTOH BW is fun regardless and you don't 'fail' if you don't play it that way. DW is pretty much the same IMHO. You can certainly do things like think "well, if at this juncture I Discern Realities then if I get a good result I'll be able to apply some Hold later on" and I guess knowing to do that and doing it strategically is a 'skill', the game is not going to be 'worse' if you don't do these kinds of things.

In my own DW play, I've done some clever things. I usually would think of that maybe if we'd delved the dungeon and found some super dangerous sounding area, or a map to some fabled lost treasure with a dire warning attached. OK, lets GIRD FOR BATTLE! Break out every possible source of modifiers there are, starting in the tavern we're planning out this sucker, we're going to BEAT THE DRAGON! But on a constant basis? I mean, some sort of stuff is always happening, there's never a moment when trouble isn't brewing in DW, that's the whole nature of the game. I guess you could spend every bit of your time as a player trying to think if NOW is the moment to try to gin up another point of equipment, or whatever. I haven't really tried to play that way. I don't see that it specifically creates a better game. It may be 'skilled', but that is not the point of DW.
 

clearstream

(He, Him)
At its most primordial level, playing skillfully is sorting through possible permutations of the move-space (whether its the opening move or a subsequent move) such that the outputs of your decision-point (your "move made") yield a gamestate that places you closer to a Win Condition than the inverse. Further still, you can play more or less skillfully here. To just put numbers to it for illustration, you have a Win Condition at value 30 and you have the following "move values"; -2, 4, 13. It will absolutely be clear upon honest and informed reflection of the play that the move equaling 13 units would have been profoundly better move than the move equaling 4 units and both would have been considerably better than the -2 gaffe (which moved you closer to a Loss Condition).

So, before I go any further, I'd like to ask a question (and get an answer) and make a proposition (and get an answer):

1) Do we at least agree with the above conception of skilled play? If not, can I get some clarification on disagreement?
Sincerely not to evade your question. We started a discussion on Win Conditions up thread (or maybe in another thread). I feel we need to get some resolution on that.

As importantly, do you want here to turn the conversation to skilful play, as opposed to "skilled play"? To be clear, I am on-board with claims that DW play can be skilful. I suggest some moves in DW will not count as "skilled play" however, because they seem orthogonal to "skilled play".

I suppose I am speaking of "skilled play" only in terms of being a label for preferring to see the game played in a certain way. It isn't about achieving a win condition or playing skillfully. Play can be unskilful "skilled play"!

That may answer your underlying concerns - that play can be unskilful "skilled play".
 

Thanks for the correction re lacrosse. To what extent does its systematisation reflect parallel developments in other field sports in the nineteenth century?
Well, the original Native American game was basically a sort of 'sacred ball game'. It was a type of religious festivity which included a warlike component. The field was simply a LARGE area (sometimes up to several kilometers in size) where 2 sides engaged, with the teams ranging in size up to 1000 individuals. I'm not sure what other rules there were, but from these descriptions I'd say it only faintly resembled a European-style field sport.

Settlers began to take up and systematize the game from a pretty early point, and it is considered to be the oldest organized sport in North America (at least by some people). Modern rules have existed since the 1800's. The standard rules are for 'field lacrosse', although some other variations exist (indoor for instance, or 'box' lacrosse). As a field sport it has clearly seen heavy influence from other modern European field sports. The field is roughly the size of a soccer (football) field, there are goals near each end with playable space behind them (ala hockey) and each team is 10 people who are divided into goalie and offensive & defensive team members. The field is divided (again very similar to hockey) into 3 basic zones with rules governing who is allowed in each zone depending on position and possession of the ball, as well as rules concerning how long a team can possess the ball without taking offensive action, face offs, etc. As I say, the parallels with field hockey are quite strong.

So this shows how specific games can kind of 'merge' or cross-pollinate each other. Lacrosse actually means "the stick" in French, and was probably taken from the French name for field hockey (which I forget exactly, it is a phrase including the term "la crosse"). Field hockey itself was probably the precurser to ice hockey, and bears a pretty obvious relationship to football. In its primitive form it would presumably have been "football with sticks instead of feet." The salient part being hockey requires the stick to be used against a ball on the ground, and carried low. Lacrosse sticks are carried high, the ball is caught in the net on the stick and thrown. Otherwise they are pretty similar in a lot of ways.
i
On @EzekielRaiden's point more generally, I think he is comparing RPGs at a state similar to the early to mid nineteenth century re modern field sports, with those sports in their present ultra-codified and technicalised state. If you go back to the period when various forms of football were still emerging, with different rules about permissible kicks, handling, passing, etc, and different approaches to goal design and scoring rules, you might see more of the fluidity that still tends to be characteristic of RPGing. I think you see some of that same fluidity in games that haven't been technicalised (ie mostly ones played by children where there is no commercial interest in promoting technicalisation).
Right. If you go far enough back, before the 19th Century when leagues first started in baseball etc. you find that every village and town had its games and rules, maybe they agreed with the ones nearby so they could play each other. Such games were mostly children's games, and the rules were probably pretty fluid, maybe agreed on for each specific game before play. Stick and ball sports were the same, and as they all evolved they got more codified and became specific discrete sports, so nowadays it would be hard to combine baseball and cricket, but if you were to go back to 1820 you'd find that the 'baseball' they played back then was a heck of a lot more cricket-like, often it had 2 bases, etc. Back then it wasn't 2 different games, though 2 teams from different areas would have had to negotiate the exact rules they would use.

I would liken MOST RPGs to 'field sports', they might use different kinds of 'ball', slightly different arrangements of fields, players, handling rules, etc. but you can find some sort of common ground and either merge them, or graft things together. I mean, Gygax gave some fairly usable rules for merging Boot Hill with 1e, and they are QUITE different games, mechanically, yet it is pretty obvious what the issues are and the choices are merely how to translate something like a rule for how ai 6-shooter works into D&D vs trying to fuse together field hockey and baseball (how would you even approach that, their processes of play are COMPLETELY different).
 

I know DW probably codifies that, which is what makes it such a weird addition, it (if i'm right about it codifying it) basically short circuits it by adding mechanics that center on these bonds and such that they figure into the metagame of "beating the dragon or whatever." Whereas a game that doesnt do that, is more like a strategy game in your approach to your characters actions.
Well, one of the things that DW does is attach XP and certain ways to get bonuses on your die rolls to things like bonds, etc. (there are some playbooks/classes which provide other mechanics too, the paladin seems to have a lot of them). XP leads to leveling, which primarily adds additional moves to your character. So following your bonds and such (roleplay actions) does have mechanical advantages, which offset the possible lack of expediency that might arise from acting on a bond, for example. At least in the long run. This is the tension then, expediency says to do X, my bond would be upheld by doing Y. Is the immediate gain of X better than the long-term gain of Y, remembering that XP in DW is a PC-by-PC thing. You could literally end up being several levels behind everyone else if you simply always ignore your bonds and other similar stuff.

So, what you find is that players react to situations which test their bonds. Sometimes they SEEK THEM OUT, but other times they are just stuck on the horns of a dilemma, and one might say that DW (PbtA generally) is a kind of a 'dilemma creating engine', you are stuck with hard choices. It is about the choices and what your character does about them, and what happens because of that. DW's level/XP thing is just a way of making the horns sharper. I assume AW and other PbtA games have similar mechanisms (I have not really played them). It sounds like BitD is pretty much the same.
 

Here is a quick thought/offering:

Gygaxian Skilled Play rejects the idea of a necessary Thematic rider (a genre/archetype/premise-coherent credibility test for the introduction of a move/content into the shared imagined space) constraining the Tactical and/or Strategic move-space for PCs and Team PC that creates the paradigm of Skilled Play.

Dungeon World and Blades in the Dark requires a Thematic rider as a necessary precondition to even engage with the Tactical and/or Strategic move-space that creates the paradigm of Skilled Play.




Put another way, in only one of these offerings will you see (the actual or the equivalent of) Spec Ops SOPs with levitating PCs with 10 ft poles and bags of marbles (et al) and dungeon denizen drowning plans while everyone else actively doesn't do stuff to maximize effect and minimize exposure.
I'm not sure how DW enforces that. I guess it does to the same extent any game enforces any similar 'table behavior' which is not codified. That is, if the GM asks a player a question, that invites the player to inject some sort of fiction, but the constraints on what that fiction is are not part of the rules. They aren't even spelled out very clearly in the agenda/principles.

So, if you are GMing a DW game and in session zero you ask me "where is your character from?" and I respond, "the Starship Enterprise", what is going on here? Well, perhaps there's an unspoken 'rule' that DW is a fantasy genre game. Certainly that answer won't get me a phaser. It might get me booted from the table, or OTOH it might be a signal that the other players take up to 'go gonzo' with the setting and introduce some kind of cross-genre element to play. It would heavily depend on the table.

DW specifically lacks much in the way of opportunities for players to do this in the midst of 'the action' though. The GM answers all the questions that arise directly from codified moves. Clearly he could introduce Klingons beaming into the tavern as part of setting a scene, but the same considerations apply.

Anyway, in terms of classic D&D type McGuyver type SP stuff... Eh, I could see a DW group maybe going for that, to a degree. They'd have to manage their build choices and relationships so as to foster something like that. They could concoct the "Delver's Society" and give it a history of stories of amazing feats of cleverness in 'The Great Dungeon' or something like that, and the GM would need to arrange how pressure is applied to the PCs to bring about that play. It would probably not be exactly like D&D though, and certainly how it was 'driven', the PLAYERS reasons for why they made specific choices, would be very different. I would not ever call it Gygaxian Skilled Play, but it illustrates that the resulting narrative of play might not be enough to diagnose which type of game is in process.
 

Voadam

Legend
From what you write I think you get my point though, right? That although you can roleplay your character and engage in "skilled play", "skilled play" doesn't care if you roleplay your character. That is orthogonal to it.
I did not understand that as having been your point, though I agree with it. :)

I thought your saying that the skilled play move for the truthful bard was to lie was to suggest that skilled play is generally oppositional to roleplaying your character, not orthogonal.
 

clearstream

(He, Him)
I did not understand that as having been your point, though I agree with it. :)

I thought your saying that the skilled play move for the truthful bard was to lie was to suggest that skilled play is generally oppositional to roleplaying your character, not orthogonal.
The fault is mine: I often struggle to get my idea across clearly. I did intend the same as you - i.e. orthogonal to.

I don't see "skilled play" as oppositional to roleplaying your character. There may be groups that consistently or by intent do both. That's how I read @Manbearcat's examples. I just believe a group could be doing recognisably "skilled play" without any commitment to roleplaying their characters.
 

Voadam

Legend
I just believe a group could be doing recognisably "skilled play" without any commitment to roleplaying their characters.
Absolutely. Same thing for mechanical focus play. You can show up and just want to roll some dice and have fun without approaching things from a skilled play or roleplay perspective.

A characterization to be roleplayed is not required.

It is orthogonal, a different aspect of the game.
 

Ok, my present course is clearly not moving any units, so I'm going to try a different tack (building upon my most recent post).

In any game you have a conceptual maximum permissible number of moves that are constrained by the ruleset. Taxonomically speaking, this is the "top of the food chain" (this would be Kingdom in Biology). In some games, the opening move and any subsequent move thereafter will encompass a staggering number of possible moves. in other games, the opener and any subsequent move thereafter is winnowed due to opening gamestate conditions and evolving gamestate conditions.

At its most primordial level, playing skillfully is sorting through possible permutations of the move-space (whether its the opening move or a subsequent move) such that the outputs of your decision-point (your "move made") yield a gamestate that places you closer to a Win Condition than the inverse. Further still, you can play more or less skillfully here. To just put numbers to it for illustration, you have a Win Condition at value 30 and you have the following "move values"; -2, 4, 13. It will absolutely be clear upon honest and informed reflection of the play that the move equaling 13 units would have been profoundly better move than the move equaling 4 units and both would have been considerably better than the -2 gaffe (which moved you closer to a Loss Condition).

So, before I go any further, I'd like to ask a question (and get an answer) and make a proposition (and get an answer):

1) Do we at least agree with the above conception of skilled play? If not, can I get some clarification on disagreement?
Yes, with the proviso that many things, possibly including some RPGs, may be 'games' but not 'games of skill' where the above model may be applied. I make this proviso with the idea that we need to be aware of the possibility that this is a point of confusion where some people may not conceive of a given RPG in 'competitive game' terms. I am of the opinion that GSP describes a type of game which can be modeled as 'competitive' however, and that it is one of a class of such games.
2) Further, there is a well-known phenomena in games called "handicapping." Handicapping (for those who don't know) is when you do the "I'll fight you with one arm tied behind my back" phenomena. This is done for one of two purposes (though in the end, both are borne out...I'm merely speaking about why the impetus for handicapping exists):

a) To level the playing field in a situation where one competitor is clearly more capable than another.

b) To allow a competitor to express their extreme competency/capability/skillfulness in an endeavor because (i) artificially contracting a participant's move-space makes play more demanding for them and (ii) ,resultantly, it artificially (or actually depending upon how the handicapping is done) moves them closer to their Loss Con and farther from their Win Con than they would be without the handicapping.
I'm with you so far...



So can I get an answer about these two things please?

Agree? If there is disagreement, please clarify.

<anyone else who wants to chime in on this is more than welcome>

Please and thank you!

@clearstream , I'll address your real or hypothetical play excerpt above after you review what I've written above and have responded (there are issues with your understanding of how Dungeon World would resolve such a conflict both as a player and as a GM...but I don't want to do a hypothetical post-mortem until we're on the same page on the above).
Let me observe that it is possible to play the same game (IE engage the same rules and process) either in a 'competitive' mode, or in a 'non-competitive' mode. Furthermore someone can 'practice' at some games, which might involve disengaging parts of the rules or eliding parts of play (IE setting up the chess pieces in a non-starting configuration). These might be permutations which have some meaning in discussing RPGs as well.
 

The fault is mine: I often struggle to get my idea across clearly. I did intend the same as you - i.e. orthogonal to.

I don't see "skilled play" as oppositional to roleplaying your character. There may be groups that consistently or by intent do both. That's how I read @Manbearcat's examples. I just believe a group could be doing recognisably "skilled play" without any commitment to roleplaying their characters.
It seemed clear enough to me ;)

I think one of @Manbearcat's contentions WRT DW (and I guess BitD) is that skilled play and RP/characterization considerations are NOT orthogonal because the game deliberately invests them with mechanical weight bearing on success or failure at tasks in the game.

He furthermore describes 'Win Cons' for these games in terms of successfully expressing certain preferred outcomes in the fiction, and in gaining rewards like XP.

@pemerton It occurs to me, in respect of our discussion about sports, that there are two ways that competitive activities could share characteristics. Most sports have scoring systems. Even in cases where scoring is not an integral play activity there are scores (IE gymnastics, though it partakes less of the character of game than some things, still it is part of the Olympic GAMES). So, I see this as ONE way that you can have concordance, two activities can both involve scoring.

Another form of concordance is in terms of process/rules/structure, like the way field sports have clearly similar elements which can be equated (IE the field, teams, goals, player positions, McGuffin handling rules, etc.).

The second form of concordance facilitates merging of activities, and I would say RPGs pretty generally fall under that umbrella. You can combine Boot Hill with AD&D because they have PCs, players, GMs, combat, some sort of dice-based checks, etc. The first form of concordance doesn't seem to me to particularly facilitate merging, except that its presence or absence might be critical (IE it would be pretty hard to merge 2 games where one is non-competitive and doesn't involve scoring and the other does, though maybe not impossible).

Maybe this helps? I mean, it may help to understand why we have trouble imagining how you would merge the play processes of GSP with story games... While Manbearcat argues that some of them at least have a competitive 'Win Cons' architecture, I'm not so sure myself. I don't think the idea of 'Winning' DW is that compelling to me. Certainly not to the degree that winning classic D&D might be.
 

Campbell

Relaxed Intensity
@Manbearcat

I think I could be somewhat compelled that Alignment as it originally existed was consistent with a sort of handicapping, but I think while there is a skill in playing a game like Blades in the Dark or Dungeon World well it is fundamentally different in nature. Approaching play from the perspective of what would Ragnar do is something I consider different in character to Jon what are you going to have Ragnar do to defeat this challenge. This often gets lost in many of these discussions. If only we had some other pithy phrase to discuss games where the point of play is to prove you are skilled by overcoming challenge. One might call it something like Step On Up. That would be crazy though.
 

Level Up!

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