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Players choose what their PCs do . . .

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
This seems to miss the whole point of the OP.

If person A jums over the Grand Canyon, it follows that A tried to jump over the Grand Canyon. But A didn't perform two different actions - trying to jump the canyon, and then actually jumpiing it. S/he performed a single action which falls under both descriptions.

Which descriptions are made true in a RPG, by whom, and how, is what this thread is about. For instance, you've describd a game in which the player gets to decide, by fiat, that I try to jump the Grand Canyon is a true description of the PC's action; and the GM gets to decide, by fiat, that I jumped the Grand Canyon will not be. Of course that's not the only possible configuration.
Er. It didn't miss the point of the OP, because it wasn't about the OP. The discussion has moved on in some parts of the thread. That's how threads work.
 

Ovinomancer

Flip Nazi
If it's left to a die roll or the DM's decision, there is no real test of character. The test comes from the player in the role of the PC being caught in a situation which tests his PC's character. He and the others at the table are only really going to learn what the PC is made of if the player makes the decision. If it's left to the die roll or DM to decide, the drama virtually vanishes.

There's a huge difference between me struggling with a decision for my PC, and clack, clack, clack! Oh, look. This time he's an ass, maybe next time he'll be noble. *yawn*
Sure, if that's how you think characters are tested, I suppose it is boring.

Instead, picture the knight on a holy quest that has sworn a vow of chastity until the quest is complete. Then, a maiden melts his heart with a wink. The knight now has to decide between his love for the maiden and the importance of his quest, and, either way, we'll learn something about this character.

I think another problem with conceptualization here is the difference in how games that risk character play versus those that don't. In general, a game where the GM has some authority over character are those games that also play in the moment and not according to a preconceived plot. In the case of the knight above, the quest isn't something the GM has already written up in their notes but instead something that occurs from play. In that case, the knight suddenly deciding to go with the maiden doesn't derail the planned story because that choice is the story at that moment. Whereas in games with heavy GM authority that prefer inviolable character conceptualization (like D&D), this kind of sudden shift is difficult to deal with because the system relies so strongly on GM prep.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
D&D is bad at risking character. It's an overgrown wargame (and I love it). As such, it puts the risk more on your hitpoints or your numbers, and not on what makes the character the character. It doesn't have a good mechanic for risking the concept at all, for finding out unpleasant (or pleasant) truths about the character in play. You can do it, but the system isn't written to risk these kinds of things, so it's more ad hoc than structured. Hence why magic exists and often breaks these rules in hamfisted ways. Yet, even there, the system has so well trained players to believe that this one thing they have control over is the inviolable character concept that it's very, very hard to break free of this thing. But, D&D (and other games that afford extensive GM authority and very limited PC authority -- for you Max) isn't the only way to play, and it certainly isn't a very good model for how to think about RPGs in general, even if it's, by far, the most popular. People like Apple and Windows, too.
You don't NEED an mechanic for that sort of risk, and in my experience mechanics detract from it. The drama comes from me being put in the hard choice and deciding how my character reacts to the hard choice, not from a boring die roll or DM deciding if I'm good or bad this time around. I don't play perfect characters, because 1) perfect characters are boring, and 2) perfection doesn't exist in people. I'm fully capable of assessing all of the details and deciding which side my PC falls on the hard choice. I can't remember a character that I made whose personal character finished the campaign just like it started. I'm sure it probably happened when I was a teenager and just starting out in the game, but that was a loooooong time ago.

Mechanics that decide the hard character choices for you seem like a crutch for those who aren't capable of doing it themselves.
 

Ovinomancer

Flip Nazi
You don't NEED an mechanic for that sort of risk, and in my experience mechanics detract from it. The drama comes from me being put in the hard choice and deciding how my character reacts to the hard choice, not from a boring die roll or DM deciding if I'm good or bad this time around. I don't play perfect characters, because 1) perfect characters are boring, and 2) perfection doesn't exist in people. I'm fully capable of assessing all of the details and deciding which side my PC falls on the hard choice. I can't remember a character that I made whose personal character finished the campaign just like it started. I'm sure it probably happened when I was a teenager and just starting out in the game, but that was a loooooong time ago.

Mechanics that decide the hard character choices for you seem like a crutch for those who aren't capable of doing it themselves.
Mechanics for that risk, not that decide. There's nothing in D&D that calls into question a PC's concept except indirectly. The game isn't built to do this normally, with how it frames scenes, with how it resolves uncertainty, heck, with what it treats as uncertain. D&D is bad at this, and that's fine, because it's pretty good at what it does do.

But, some games have mechanics that allow players to risk their concepts and some that allow the GM to attack character concepts to begin with. These games focus on characterization, and so have mechanics that enable the risking of character. You're presenting some false idea that you just roll dice and poof, your character changes. But that's not it at all. Instead, the it's the player risking the character to begin with, using mechanics that clearly lay out how that will happen. There's no room in D&D mechanics for a maiden that can melt your heart with a wink because there's no room in D&D for risking that aspect of your characterization. Anything done here is ad hoc. But, in a different game, one that does provide for mechanics to risk this kind of characterization, then the risk is operationalized in a way that everyone at the table can understand.

Mechanics don't determine what is at risk, but they do work well to understand how things can be risked. If you insist on treating situations involving character as if it's the usual D&D "I swing, I miss; I swing again, I hit" of combat, then, yes, you will be disappointed. Just as I'd be disappointed by that D&D combat. If you imagine bad play, you'll get bad play, but that's on you.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
Instead, picture the knight on a holy quest that has sworn a vow of chastity until the quest is complete. Then, a maiden melts his heart with a wink. The knight now has to decide between his love for the maiden and the importance of his quest, and, either way, we'll learn something about this character.
Which is fully accomplished by, "The beautiful maiden winks at you, clearly favoring you with her affections." I don't need you to melt my PCs heart in order to put me in a position where I have to decide between possible love and the quest. Swearing a vow doesn't make my PC immune to love, so we will learn something about my character this way as well.

I'm also not seeing how in your example the knight would have to make the choice that you lay out. I mean, he can fall in love with the maiden, keep his vow, give her a token of promise, complete the quest, and marry his love afterwards. The choice of deciding between love and the quest is a false choice.

I think another problem with conceptualization here is the difference in how games that risk character play versus those that don't. In general, a game where the GM has some authority over character are those games that also play in the moment and not according to a preconceived plot. In the case of the knight above, the quest isn't something the GM has already written up in their notes but instead something that occurs from play. In that case, the knight suddenly deciding to go with the maiden doesn't derail the planned story because that choice is the story at that moment. Whereas in games with heavy GM authority that prefer inviolable character conceptualization (like D&D), this kind of sudden shift is difficult to deal with because the system relies so strongly on GM prep.
So it's like a D&D sandbox game.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
Mechanics for that risk, not that decide. There's nothing in D&D that calls into question a PC's concept except indirectly. The game isn't built to do this normally, with how it frames scenes, with how it resolves uncertainty, heck, with what it treats as uncertain. D&D is bad at this, and that's fine, because it's pretty good at what it does do.

But, some games have mechanics that allow players to risk their concepts and some that allow the GM to attack character concepts to begin with. These games focus on characterization, and so have mechanics that enable the risking of character. You're presenting some false idea that you just roll dice and poof, your character changes. But that's not it at all. Instead, the it's the player risking the character to begin with, using mechanics that clearly lay out how that will happen. There's no room in D&D mechanics for a maiden that can melt your heart with a wink because there's no room in D&D for risking that aspect of your characterization. Anything done here is ad hoc. But, in a different game, one that does provide for mechanics to risk this kind of characterization, then the risk is operationalized in a way that everyone at the table can understand.

Mechanics don't determine what is at risk, but they do work well to understand how things can be risked. If you insist on treating situations involving character as if it's the usual D&D "I swing, I miss; I swing again, I hit" of combat, then, yes, you will be disappointed. Just as I'd be disappointed by that D&D combat. If you imagine bad play, you'll get bad play, but that's on you.
My concept is always at risk. I don't need a mechanic for that. Maybe others do. I don't.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
The choice of deciding between love and the quest is a false choice.
Yes. And, considering the precedent of "courtly love", this is merely a complication (perhaps needing to pursue the quest *and* the maiden's needs at once), not an immediate quest-ender.

However, *also* given the precedent of courtly love - finding yourself in it *is* a complication, not something you can engage with or not with no consequence to you either way.

So it's like a D&D sandbox game.
No. In an archetypal sandbox game, the GM has filled the sandbox with sand to play with - the world is pre-populated, and the players choose what content to engage with. More usually, the games Ovinomancer is talking about aren't pre-populated. Their content is more often improvised in play, or only prepared shortly beforehand, generating content only when it is called for - in effect, the GM puts in sand only where the PCs decide to go, when they decide to go there.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
My concept is always at risk. I don't need a mechanic for that. Maybe others do. I don't.
"Need" isn't the question. You don't *need* combat mechanics either - kids manage cops-n-robbers without any mechanics. Mechanics aren't there to fulfill "needs". Abandon that notion.

Mechanics are there (among other reasons) to provide structure, prevent some arguments ("I shot you!" "No you didn't!"), and (here's the relevant bit) force certain kinds of decision making.

You *can* challenge your concept. But will you? Really? (And, I mean the generic "you", not you, Maxperson)

I mean, if you wanted to, you could challenge your character mechanically in combat, too. You could set up combat encounters for yourself, and run your character through them, like playing chess against yourself. But, you don't regularly do that, right? Probably for a number of good reasons. Pretty much every reason for having a GM give you all the other game challenges apply to challenging your concept.

Which doesn't say you, personally, have to have a GM challenge your concept. But it puts some context around why one might like to, such that it isn't crazy to have a game built to do it.
 
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Ovinomancer

Flip Nazi
Which is fully accomplished by, "The beautiful maiden winks at you, clearly favoring you with her affections." I don't need you to melt my PCs heart in order to put me in a position where I have to decide between possible love and the quest. Swearing a vow doesn't make my PC immune to love, so we will learn something about my character this way as well.
This is just asking permission, though, something that you've roundly rejected from the player side (ie, you've rejected that player propositions are just asking permission of the GM). So, yes, there is a difference. If you risk your characterization and the result of a failure is that you're offered a choice to go through with it or ignore the failure, then there's no real failure, here -- you risked nothing. And yet, you argue that this must be the case, that the player should never risk the character (making your own choices isn't risking the character). So, yes, there's a difference between failing and having the GM ask you if you want to suffer the consequences and failing and actually suffering the consequences.

I'm also not seeing how in your example the knight would have to make the choice that you lay out. I mean, he can fall in love with the maiden, keep his vow, give her a token of promise, complete the quest, and marry his love afterwards. The choice of deciding between love and the quest is a false choice.
No. You're softening the failure into an ask. The result is that the knight is in love with the maiden. Period. This is a character truth at this point. If the knight chooses to ignore this and continue the quest, that's cool, we've learned something, but you better believe that's coming back around to bite them in the ass.

You're insisting that there can be no consequences for character unless the player agrees. This just means that character is never at risk. I'm asking to you imagine what happens if it is -- what kind of game is that, how does that work, what can be accomplished? There's nothing wrong with not grappling with these questions, or grappling and finding them lacking, but you've straightjacketed yourself into a narrow view of games by insisting it should not be.

So it's like a D&D sandbox game.
Not in the way sandboxes are presented, with the world already statted out and uncaring of PC choices. This is still reliant on the GM's notes as to what will happen. In this case, if the knight fails to complete the quest, the result is already established in the GM's notes and so will happen. In the style I'm talking about, what happens if the knight doesn't complete the quest is unknown until it's needed -- unknown by all players, including the GM.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
Yes. And, considering the precedent of "courtly love", this is merely a complication (perhaps needing to pursue the quest *and* the maiden's needs at once), not an immediate quest-ender.

However, *also* given the precedent of courtly love - finding yourself in it *is* a complication, not something you can engage with or not with no consequence to you either way.
Sure, it's a complication, just like finding a dead body in your PC's room is a complication. I was just pointing out that it wasn't the test of character he was portraying it as.

No. In an archetypal sandbox game, the GM has filled the sandbox with sand to play with - the world is pre-populated, and the players choose what content to engage with. More usually, the games Ovinomancer is talking about aren't pre-populated. Their content is more often improvised in play, or only prepared shortly beforehand, generating content only when it is called for - in effect, the GM puts in sand only where the PCs decide to go, when they decide to go there.
Nobody can detail out a whole world. It will just be outlines of stuff for the most part with a few things detailed out. Most of the time the party chooses where it wants to go and the sand(details) is filled in as they go or a bit in advance of where they are going. For example, the Tower of Magog may be shown on a map, but I'm not going to have spent the time to figure out exactly what it is ahead of the party deciding to go there. They won't be going most places in the sandbox, so it's a colossal waste of time to fill in everything.
 

Ovinomancer

Flip Nazi
My concept is always at risk. I don't need a mechanic for that. Maybe others do. I don't.
No, it isn't. If you're the only one that decides, then the concept is never at risk. There has to be a loss of control for there to be risk, and you're refusing loss of control.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
But, some games have mechanics that allow players to risk their concepts and some that allow the GM to attack character concepts to begin with.
Example: because I mentioned it before, so it is handy now - FATE.

In FATE-based games, the core of the character concept is ensconced in Aspects - descriptive bits about a character that are available to be invoked for good or ill. Your character may be a Champion Boxer, so they may get a benefit when punching, but a detriment when caught in a grapple. Or, maybe your character has a "Heart of stone" - they have a benefit when resisting having their heart melted by maidens, but perhaps a detriment when empathy is necessary.

In conflicts, as previously mentioned, the player may choose to take Consequences, rather than Stress. There is one top-level consequence they can take it absorbs the most stress for you. The catch is that if you take it, it *replaces* one of your other aspects, permanently. Or, at least as permanently as any aspect is in the game - there are milestones at which you can change an aspect if you want. The point being that a conflict can change something essential about your character, altering the concept.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
This is just asking permission, though, something that you've roundly rejected from the player side (ie, you've rejected that player propositions are just asking permission of the GM). So, yes, there is a difference. If you risk your characterization and the result of a failure is that you're offered a choice to go through with it or ignore the failure, then there's no real failure, here -- you risked nothing. And yet, you argue that this must be the case, that the player should never risk the character (making your own choices isn't risking the character). So, yes, there's a difference between failing and having the GM ask you if you want to suffer the consequences and failing and actually suffering the consequences.
I never said that there was no risk or real failure. Don't put your assumptions onto me like that. There are consequences for almost everything. If you don't understand something, ask me.

The result is that the knight is in love with the maiden. Period. This is a character truth at this point. If the knight chooses to ignore this and continue the quest, that's cool, we've learned something, but you better believe that's coming back around to bite them in the ass.
Spurning a maiden's love can also bit them in the ass, as can pissing off her father, not completing the quest or many other things that happen with what I am saying. You need to stop assuming that there are no failures and/or consequences for failure(or even successes) in D&D.

You're insisting that there can be no consequences for character unless the player agrees.
Nope! Never said or implied this.
 

Ovinomancer

Flip Nazi
I never said that there was no risk or real failure. Don't put your assumptions onto me like that. There are consequences for almost everything. If you don't understand something, ask me.



Spurning a maiden's love can also bit them in the ass, as can pissing off her father, not completing the quest or many other things that happen with what I am saying. You need to stop assuming that there are no failures and/or consequences for failure(or even successes) in D&D.



Nope! Never said or implied this.
You're missing my point, but that's partly on me for not being consistently explicit. There are no consequences to characterization. Your characterization is not at risk. Everything you mention here is external to the character -- and, I'm not, nor have I been, talking about that. So, I get you fine, it's you missing my points.
 

Aldarc

Adventurer
If it's left to a die roll or the DM's decision, there is no real test of character. The test comes from the player in the role of the PC being caught in a situation which tests his PC's character. He and the others at the table are only really going to learn what the PC is made of if the player makes the decision. If it's left to the die roll or DM to decide, the drama virtually vanishes.

There's a huge difference between me struggling with a decision for my PC, and clack, clack, clack! Oh, look. This time he's an ass, maybe next time he'll be noble. *yawn*
That depends on the point of decision. I don't think that the test of character rests in whether your heart melts or not, but in how you choose to respond to the fact that it did. The former seems like a psychosomatic reaction to an external stimulus, while the latter implicates the potential for having to make a moral choice.

Which is fully accomplished by, "The beautiful maiden winks at you, clearly favoring you with her affections." I don't need you to melt my PCs heart in order to put me in a position where I have to decide between possible love and the quest. Swearing a vow doesn't make my PC immune to love, so we will learn something about my character this way as well.
This discussion is not about whether or not Max needs someone "to melt [their] PCs heart in order to put [them] in a position where [they] have to decide between possible love and the quest." It's about whether or not other games exist where this can be a valid norm of play. Hint: it is.
 

GrahamWills

Explorer
What I have learned form this thread is that when I run a game where some of the players are die-hard simulationists who need rules for everything the GM does, when I want to have someone fall in love, all I should do is this:

GM: The maiden winks at you ... what's your will / determination / mental resistance ?
Player: <number>
GM: <Rolls behind screen> your heart is melted by the wink.

So the interesting thing here is that if the GM is actually doing some sort of rule, everyone is happy. If the GM is not, then half the people are furious. But this is completely not observable, and so it boils down to "do I trust the GM to be fair?"

This is exactly the same situation as if the GM doesn't roll dice. If the GM says "The maiden winks at you and melts your heart" without consulting rules, it's the same thing -- do I trust the GM? If I do, then great, something fun will happen. If I don't, then I'm upset.

Consulting rules makes zero difference here. It's just a question of whether or not you trust the GM to set up the game to be fun. Adding a veneer of rules on top is just a comfort blanket for gamers who really like rules
 

dragoner

Dying in Chargen
Consulting rules makes zero difference here. It's just a question of whether or not you trust the GM to set up the game to be fun. Adding a veneer of rules on top is just a comfort blanket for gamers who really like rules
A lot of these discussion seem to boil down to who one is gaming with, someone called my group a "mini-UN" the other day, but bottom line is that we're all just a group of friends. Not running a fun game means the game grinds to a halt as people stop paying attention to it; too many rules is a problem, but also the question of if what happens is important, and is it important to the other players. Yes, we do do trust each other, or don't, but we know each other, and then we all know it has to be fun. It could be a divide vs casual gamers and not.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Most of the time the party chooses where it wants to go and the sand(details) is filled in as they go or a bit in advance of where they are going. For example, the Tower of Magog may be shown on a map, but I'm not going to have spent the time to figure out exactly what it is ahead of the party deciding to go there. They won't be going most places in the sandbox, so it's a colossal waste of time to fill in everything.
Yep, sandboxes are impractical, but back in the day, lots of people did populate the whole thing. Even in outline, it is a lot of work.

The one thing a sandbox needs, beyond the fact that the tower exists, is how much of a challenge that tower is, and what the basic challenge consists of (is it a wizard, a dragon, or what?) Without that information, the GM cannot telegraph how hard it is, and PCs cannot make meaningful choices (which is what sandbox play has been argued to center upon).

In the style Ovinomancer is referencing, you don't even have an outline. The world description may b e a couple of paragraphs of flavor text, and everything else is generated à la minute.

Some game engines (like Cortex+) can generate much/most of the content out of die rolls and context.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
No, it isn't. If you're the only one that decides, then the concept is never at risk. There has to be a loss of control for there to be risk, and you're refusing loss of control.
I think he has you there, Maxperson. There's a difference between, "the concept is always open to change - when I choose it," and, "the concept is *at risk*."
 

Elfcrusher

Adventurer
Sure, if that's how you think characters are tested, I suppose it is boring.

Instead, picture the knight on a holy quest that has sworn a vow of chastity until the quest is complete. Then, a maiden melts his heart with a wink. The knight now has to decide between his love for the maiden and the importance of his quest, and, either way, we'll learn something about this character.
But even so, rolling a die or having the DM dictate a failure of chastity...or even just a temptation...is kinda boring. In my opinion.

When it gets interesting is when there's some actual temptation on the part of the player to succumb. Maybe sometimes, for some, just the story value is enough of a temptation. But for others a mechanical temptation might be needed. And I have to admit that I favor genuine trade-offs. (That is, the player of the knight knows that if he/she gives in to the temptation, there's some concrete benefit to be gained, and a concrete penalty to breaking the vow.)

But, either way, if the reaction is dictated by the GM, I've just lost interest in playing that game.

Upthread somebody pointed out that in reality we aren't in control of all of our thoughts/reactions/emotions...that the mind is a mysterious black box...and that having the DM step in and make that determination is therefore "realistic". (Or something like that.)

But we are not talking about how the player's mind works, we are talking about the character's mind. So, while the observation about the black box has merit, I believe the player should be in firm control of the black box, except when game mechanics determine otherwise.
 

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