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Players choose what their PCs do . . .

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
All true, but those are PCs influencing NPCs. We're looking for examples of the less-common reverse, where NPCs can influence PCs without magic.

You want one from outside D&D, perhaps?

Let's look at FATE. Generally, in Fate-based games, social or mental conflicts are on the same mechanical basis as physical combat/conflict.

As you take hits in conflict, you take stress. If you run out of available stress boxes, you get "taken out".

You can shunt some stress into Consequences. The player gets significant say in what the consequences are, but needs GM approval (largely to make sure they are appropriate severity). But, you can only take so many Consequences.

To end the conflict, there are two choices:

First, someone may concede. If the player (not the character, the player) concedes, they get to narrate the conditions of their loss, so long as they don't negate the fact that they lost. So, for example, if it is a fight, the player can concede, and narrate how they get beaten, but escape out a window. The side that concedes can also end up with some Fate points to use later.

If nobody concedes, then someone will get Taken Out. This is like conceding, except the *other guy* gets to narrate how you lose, within the scope of the conflict and social contract of the table. If you are in a knife fight, and it isn't a "no PC-death" game, then if you get Taken Out, the other guy can say, "...and I kill the character."

So, if it is within the social contract of the table, you can imagine a party scoundrel-type getting into a social conflict with an attractive person at the inn - "Who seduces who?" This could easily end with the narration that the PC is seduced, and in the morning they find that the key to the ancient treasure vault has been stolen from their pack. No magic involved, but within the scope of the conflict, the PCs actions can be narrated by someone else, all within the rules.

The bottom line in this system is that if you don't want someone else narrating what happens to you, you do not fight to the last stress box. If you soldier on, you are accepting any result within the scope of the conflict.
 
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Nagol

Unimportant
Outside D&D there are a plethora of games where either the GM or other players can influence PC emotions, motivations, etc. or where other characters can without magic. The major clue are mechanics that directly support an internal landscape.

Umbran lays out an example above though uses physical combat example when FATE also offers the same mechanics for social and mental combat. An example social concession could be entering a depressed state and retiring your estate in the north conceding the rest of the social season to your rival. A social 'take out' could be Marquise Isabelle de Merteuil's end in Dangerous Liaisons (sans death of the other party).

Pendragon offers in-game tests of character so a character (PC or NPC) can offer a temptation the PC is forced to struggle with. A player who wants a PC as pure as Galahad needs to struggle as much as someone who wants a PC a as good a fighter as Lancelot.

The key is mechanics must be in place. Much like a PC conception generally cannot be "best fighter EVER" because the game rules and mechanics enforce constraints, conceptions like 'pure as the driven snow' 'entirely chaste', or 'only attracted to gingers' should simply be accepted as unchallengeable in systems without constraint. Without a way to challenge a conception, the player's view should simply win.

Just as a player can object when a DM uses fiat to ignore combat mechanics in inflict a state on a PC, a player can object when a GM attempts to use fiat to impose a state not touched upon by the game mechanics.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
The key is mechanics must be in place.

That is the easiest way to manage it. And, if you are thinking in terms of publishing a game, yeah, you should have mechanics for things you expect to happen in play.

But, with sufficient trust among the people at the table, you don't *need* mechanics to do these things. The mechanics give us a basis of trust, but it not the only basis available in the world.
 

Soooo, that's not a rule that says the DM can run my character. At all.
To be even clearer: Narrating the results of actions give the DM more than adequate latitude to 'run your character' - describe action he takes as part of or reactions he has to those results.

That's a rule that says that the DM can create house rules
Not just in the sense of formally introducing a variant at the start of play, but in the sense of overriding or changing any rule, at any time. It's carte blanche.
discussing *anything* has as much purpose as discussing with a brick wall).
Say, you have spent a lot of time on on-line forums, haven't you? ;)

Assuming psionics are considered relabelled magic then I got nothing pre 4e.
Interaction skills worked on PCs in 3e, bluff & sense motive would come up a lot IIRC, and in 4e and, to the extent skills work independently of the DM's judgement at all, in 5e, I suppose.

1e had a morale system and PCs were exempted from it. Apart from that, specific immunities don't leap to mind. I wonder if the impression that D&D characters' emotional and mental state are sacrosanct (except magic, as always) derives from that hoary exemption?

Outside D&D there are a plethora of games where either the GM or other players can influence PC emotions, motivations, etc. or where other characters can without magic. The major clue are mechanics that directly support an internal landscape.
Nod. And that really should bring the digression to rest.

But the OP still stands: regardless of system, it's been common for GMs to narrate things PCs think/feel or do (examples given in OP). We can justify that by saying that they might involve/reveal things not evident to the player at the time of his action declaration, or simply for convenience to keep a description-declaration loop from going fractal and eating up too much table time, or whatever.
But, it's certainly familiar - enraging to some players, helpful to others, though it may be.
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
[MENTION=42582]pemerton[/MENTION]

i think there is a pre-step I’ve been missing that changes everything

in d&d I cannot role play the character that can never lose at combat as such a character isn’t supported by the rules of the game. The pre- step is that I as a player don’t conceive of a character that the rules wouldn’t support

so in the case of the maiden winking melting my heart I can imagine a game that possesses such a mechanic so that I know not to conceive of a character possessing a trait that would be against said mechanic.

Maybe that hat is the real crux of the issue.

Yes! Although, you're too focused on mechanics. Just the fact that your character is at stake in more ways that just dying in combat is the real crux. Contests are just, "might my character die in this fight," but may be, "do I find out my character isn't who I thought they were at all?!"
 

Aldarc

Legend
ambiguous: doubtful or uncertain especially from obscurity or indistinctness.

NO it is NOT ambiguous at all. That is how it is mostly done in RPGs. The player decides describes what his character is doing or trying to do. THEN the GM takes over and describes the results.
Apart from numerous RPGs that are exceptions to this, which have been mentioned previously in this thread. So we return to "ambiguous."

Catching up on this thread after a weekend vacation:

As to the wink, I agree, there probably is a scenario where it makes sense, but it's going to be off the beaten track as far as systems go.
I don't necessarily think it's that unusual. Pemerton has mentioned this in the context of Prince Valiant/Pendragon and Cortex+. I am familiar with a similar idea in Monster Hearts (a PbtA game). Monster Hearts was really the game that opened my eye to this sort of thinking. You are playing teenage monsters and the like (think Twilight, Teen Wolf, etc.), but teenage sexuality also plays an important role for the game. One of the things that can happen is that while you may - with all your self-professed player "agency" - declare that your character is straight, you may also find yourself in a situation where you feel a sudden, unexpected romantic attraction to a NPC of the same sex. What now? How do you choose to react to that real emotional response? Your male character's heart just unexpected melted in the presence of another guy.

To me, that's where the actual player agency lies. It lies in deciding how our characters choose to respond to their emotional and psychological urges rather than in deciding the particular emotional and psychological urges themselves. These feelings are not necessarily something that lie within the realm of agency, though your response to such scenarios would be. It's not as if human agency has some grandiose authorizing power over every emotional response or erection you feel. Well, only if you have a +100-year-old out-of-date notion of a mind-body duality in which somehow your moral agency is utterly divorced from psychosomatic and biological cognitive functions.

Since [MENTION=42582]pemerton[/MENTION] mentioned Pendragon, I would suspect that a lot of Arthurian courtly romantic complications could have been solved had Lancelot (et al) told the DM, "Nope, my heart doesn't melt for Guinevere, because I know that acting on that would have dire consequences for the kingdom and that it would involve me betraying my bro, Arthur." I think that gets close to [MENTION=16814]Ovinomancer[/MENTION]'s accurately glib comment about how this only transpires when there are potentially negative consequences that a player may want to ignore.
 

FrogReaver

As long as i get to be the frog
That is the easiest way to manage it. And, if you are thinking in terms of publishing a game, yeah, you should have mechanics for things you expect to happen in play.

But, with sufficient trust among the people at the table, you don't *need* mechanics to do these things. The mechanics give us a basis of trust, but it not the only basis available in the world.

Or, the reason mecahnics are essential isn't because of trust, but rather that they set the boundaries for where you may freely conceptualize your character and boundaries for where you must refrain from conceptualizing any particular way.
 

Fenris-77

Small God of the Dozens
Supporter
Well, yeah, that would be a great example of when that does happen. However, citing Pendragon and Monsterhearts isn't exactly the same as saying the thing is common. Moreover, the fact that those games do have mechanics about that is very much a part of the contract a player is agreeing to when they agree to play those games. Most RPGs don't have that inclination to representing affairs of the heart though, which is why the wink example seems so nonstandard or jarring to some people. If the example had been a noble's sneer inciting hatred, a laughing baby inciting happiness, or even a well turned calf inciting lust, I don't think it would have occasioned nearly so much commentary in this thread. Romance and love have a weird place in TTRPGs. It's cool to have examples of systems that do romance though. I've been meaning to check out Monsterhearts anyway, and now I have another reason to.
 

FrogReaver

As long as i get to be the frog
Yes! Although, you're too focused on mechanics. Just the fact that your character is at stake in more ways that just dying in combat is the real crux. Contests are just, "might my character die in this fight," but may be, "do I find out my character isn't who I thought they were at all?!"

Not at all too focused on mechanics. Without realizing it mechancis have always been the boundaries wherein I conceptualize a character. If the mechanics simply don't support being the combat god that never loses then I won't conceptualize that I'm the combat god that never loses. If the mechanics don't support me being able to react as I see fit to a maiden's charms then I will not make a character where that factor is important to my conceptualization of him.

On the flip side if a game doesn't have mechanics around having my heart melted by a maiden then I may have already decided to conceive of a character whose heart won't be melted by said maiden.

So really it is all about the mechanics because they define the boundaries for character conceptualization playground that roleplaying in an RPG places us in.
 

FrogReaver

As long as i get to be the frog
Well, yeah, that would be a great example of when that does happen. However, citing Pendragon and Monsterhearts isn't exactly the same as saying the thing is common. Moreover, the fact that those games do have mechanics about that is very much a part of the contract a player is agreeing to when they agree to play those games. Most RPGs don't have that inclination to representing affairs of the heart though, which is why the wink example seems so nonstandard or jarring to some people. If the example had been a noble's sneer inciting hatred, a laughing baby inciting happiness, or even a well turned calf inciting lust, I don't think it would have occasioned nearly so much commentary in this thread.

It would have for me. It's not about what emotion is being incited. It's that absent mechanics (of which a DM conversation at session 0 suffices) that I have already conceptualized my PC and that conceptualizations reaction in that situation may 100% be different than the result the DM is citing. With mechanics that scenario is entirely avoided. Without them it's a jarring realization that I'm actually not playing the character I've been conceiving this whole time.
 

FrogReaver

As long as i get to be the frog
Apart from numerous RPGs that are exceptions to this, which have been mentioned previously in this thread. So we return to "ambiguous."

Hmmm... I just created a game where no roleplaying is required. I'm going to label it as an RPG. I guess that means that RPG's don't require roleplaying afterall since now we can cite one where Roleplaying is not required ;)

The point is that the act of a person or company defining something as a roleplaying game has nothing to do with whether or not it is one, nor whether the mechanics it adopts are mechanics conducive to roleplaying or whether those mechanics would best be classified some other that.

In short - saying there's a roleplaying game where X is done is insufficient to show that X is a roleplaying mechanic or that the game in question is a roleplaying game..
 

Aldarc

Legend
Well, yeah, that would be a great example of when that does happen. However, citing Pendragon and Monsterhearts isn't exactly the same as saying the thing is common.
I believe that other prior examples had already been offered where these things are not strictly the purview of the player, including some past discussion of Fate, for example.

Most RPGs don't have that inclination to representing affairs of the heart though, which is why the wink example seems so nonstandard or jarring to some people. If the example had been a noble's sneer inciting hatred, a laughing baby inciting happiness, or even a well turned calf inciting lust, I don't think it would have occasioned nearly so much commentary in this thread. Romance and love have a weird place in TTRPGs.
I'm not sure if it's a case of "most don't" or if it's just that the "elephant in the room doesn't." I also think that the problem with an argument of "most don't" is that it tries to downplay the frequency of those games that do. Does the the frequency need to be "most games" for it to challenge the idea that games (should) operate in particular ways regarding how emotional states can be induced in player characters?

Hmmm... I just created a game where no roleplaying is required. I'm going to label it as an RPG. I guess that means that RPG's don't require roleplaying afterall since now we can cite one where Roleplaying is not required ;)

The point is that the act of a person or company defining something as a roleplaying game has nothing to do with whether or not it is one, nor whether the mechanics it adopts are mechanics conducive to roleplaying or whether those mechanics would best be classified some other that.

In short - saying there's a roleplaying game where X is done is insufficient to show that X is a roleplaying mechanic or that the game in question is a roleplaying game..
So basically you made D&D?

Joking aside, I would appreciate more sincerety than what your post represents. You yourself early on acknowledged in this thread that the games that were offered as counter-examples were roleplaying games. So it's a little too late for you to be glib about this now.
 
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FrogReaver

As long as i get to be the frog
I believe that other prior examples had already been offered where these things are not strictly the purview of the player, including some past discussion of Fate, for example.

I'm not sure if it's a case of "most don't" or if it's just that the "elephant in the room doesn't." I also think that the problem with an argument of "most don't" is that it tries to downplay the frequency of those games that do. Does the the frequency need to be "most games" for it to challenge the idea that games (should) operate in particular ways regarding how emotional states can be induced in player characters?

So basically you made D&D?

You are definitely the first I've met that doesn't call D&D a roleplaying game...
 
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FrogReaver

As long as i get to be the frog
Joking aside, I would appreciate more sincerety than what your post represents. You yourself early on acknowledged in this thread that the games that were offered as counter-examples were roleplaying games. So it's a little too late for you to be glib about this now.

You slid this comment in right as I replied and I didn't even notice it was there.

I think that most examples provided here are roleplaying games (I'm not familiar enough with all to know). But That's not mutually exclusive with believing that a company calling a game a roleplaying game makes it so.

Nor does it mean that any given mechanic in such games is a roleplaying mechanic. It may very well be that the mechanic in question hinders roleplaying instead of helping it along.
 

Aldarc

Legend
You are definitely the first I've met that doesn't call D&D a roleplaying game...
Hardly. (1) Matt Colville has referred to as a dressed-up tactical skirmish war-game. (2) John Wick (7th Sea, LotFR) has controversially said that D&D is not a roleplaying game. (3)@Morrus; (without taking sides) has discussed elsewhere the debates of the '90s between "rollplaying vs. roleplaying" which featured D&D as a common point of debate about its place as a roleplaying game. So no, I'm not the first who (joked) about D&D not being a game that potentially fits what you had said.

I think that most examples provided here are roleplaying games (I'm not familiar enough with all to know). But That's not mutually exclusive with believing that a company calling a game a roleplaying game makes it so.

Nor does it mean that any given mechanic in such games is a roleplaying mechanic. It may very well be that the mechanic in question hinders roleplaying instead of helping it along.
And most of those examples, if not, all counter the proposition that I was responding to about roleplaying games. That's all.
 

Fenris-77

Small God of the Dozens
Supporter
I believe that other prior examples had already been offered where these things are not strictly the purview of the player, including some past discussion of Fate, for example.

I'm not sure if it's a case of "most don't" or if it's just that the "elephant in the room doesn't." I also think that the problem with an argument of "most don't" is that it tries to downplay the frequency of those games that do. Does the the frequency need to be "most games" for it to challenge the idea that games (should) operate in particular ways regarding how emotional states can be induced in player characters?
I didn't realize that we were having a conversation about 'should'. I thought we were having a conversation about what's common in RPGs, and thus what common experiences might be framing the responses we've seen in this thread. I am no way downplaying the games that do, or fronting my personal preferences, but that doesn't make them common. I'll make a declarative statement, just to be clear - most TTRPGs do not deal with inculcating emotional states for roleplaying purposes in PCs period, especially related to romance, and almost none of them without an associated mechanic or rule. I'm really not just talking about D&D here.

Whether that should be more common in RPGs, and/or the value of it being more common, is not something I was addressing. Personally I like the fact that games in question are becoming more common.
 

FrogReaver

As long as i get to be the frog
Hardly. (1) Matt Colville has referred to as a dressed-up tactical skirmish war-game. (2) John Wick (7th Sea, LotFR) has controversially said that D&D is not a roleplaying game. (3)Tony Vargas (without taking sides) has discussed elsewhere the debates of the '90s between "rollplaying vs. roleplaying" which featured D&D as a common point of debate about its place as a roleplaying game. So no, I'm not the first who (joked) about D&D not being a game that potentially fits what you had said.

And most of those examples, if not, all counter the proposition that I was responding to about roleplaying games. That's all.

Ive not met any of them. Nor would I know who any of them are unless you told me
 


Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
Not at all too focused on mechanics. Without realizing it mechancis have always been the boundaries wherein I conceptualize a character. If the mechanics simply don't support being the combat god that never loses then I won't conceptualize that I'm the combat god that never loses. If the mechanics don't support me being able to react as I see fit to a maiden's charms then I will not make a character where that factor is important to my conceptualization of him.

On the flip side if a game doesn't have mechanics around having my heart melted by a maiden then I may have already decided to conceive of a character whose heart won't be melted by said maiden.

So really it is all about the mechanics because they define the boundaries for character conceptualization playground that roleplaying in an RPG places us in.

So, you're not too focused on the mechanics, but you determine your characterization by your focus on the mechanics. All good, I guess.
 

FrogReaver

As long as i get to be the frog
So, you're not too focused on the mechanics, but you determine your characterization by your focus on the mechanics. All good, I guess.

That's a very odd way to categorize what I just said. Mechanics are simply boundaries for the characterization. Beyond that they play no role.
 

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