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Players choose what their PCs do . . .

. Most of my issue comes down to the possibility for intent or stakes negotiation to slide into what the player wants to happen for story reasons completely outside of what their character is attempting. In some rare cases they might declare an intent that is actually a loss for their character. Basically the danger of player side railroading.
I think I get what you mean, and that it doesn't seem to come up in a lot of RPGs. Rather the opposite, really, as there are archetypes - like the reluctant hero - that you just can't do if you're trying to play from the headspace of the character, in an RPG that makes you fight for every moment if spotlight time or the stereotypical adventure hooks that straight up want to hire adventurers or pull you in with a treasure map or whatever.

It's all on the GM, and if one does step up with the ordinary people thrust into extraordinary circumstances, it's a coercive beginning, and railroading.
 

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Lanefan

Victoria Rules
So when I talk about playing with integrity I am speaking to playing your character with integrity. What I mean by this is in the moment of play when you are making decisions for your character you should strive to only be guided by your sense of their hopes, dreams, goals and take on their emotions so they become your emotions and do this without regard for where you, the player, might hope things lead or some sense of "the story". To at all times be a curious explorer of the fiction, to finding out who this character really is when tested.

I would also add that I have nothing against characters with long term goals or capable antagonists. Both are things I celebrate and are welcomed whole heartily by me. I'm simply talking about a way of playing role playing games where we follow the fiction like a dog after a bone. Like, I want to feel the weight of my character's decisions in my bones. I want access to their unique insights. I want there to be actual weight to their relationships and emotions. I also want a commitment from the rest of the group to see what happens and not decide ahead of time what should happen. I want to be a fan of the other character and the world and see where journey takes us.
This all sounds just excellent when written down...but what do you do when the (IME) inevitable happens: two or more players/PCs want to follow the fiction in wildly different and incompatible directions at the same time? Or if two or more PCs have or develop long-term goals that are directly opposed e.g. one wants to marry the Duke while another wants to kill him? It's not like this could have been sorted out in session 0 - the Duke might not have been brought into the fiction until session 4. :)
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
So when it comes down to intent based resolution I have no real issues with it if players stick to character intent and are advocating for their character. Most of my issue comes down to the possibility for intent or stakes negotiation to slide into what the player wants to happen for story reasons completely outside of what their character is attempting. In some rare cases they might declare an intent that is actually a loss for their character. Basically the danger of player side railroading. I mean it's easy enough to avoid if the play group is disciplined. Like I don't think it's an issue that [MENTION=6696971]Manbearcat[/MENTION] or [MENTION=42582]pemerton[/MENTION] really have to deal with. Just like you can be disciplined and follow the fiction in GM mediated games.
Put another way, then: as long as the player has the character do what the character would do, without regard for metaplot or metagame or out-of-game concerns, then it's all good?

If yes, I couldn't agree more!

Thing is, almost every time I say this I catch hell from someone - or several someones, and not always the same - who want out-of-game and metagame concerns to play a part; so put yer helmet on. :) But to those someones I say poppycock!

As an example: if relationships within the party have deteriorated* to the point where my PC wouldn't want to run with that group any more, then >foop< out it goes...and I've role-played myself right out of some games this way in the past, when no replacement PC was available. :)

* - usually but not always involving - somehow - a failed romance or bad breakup with another PC.

In general I don't think we talk enough about player side railroading. Mostly because of the authority gap it tends to be highly dependent on the GM.
I've tried bringing the concept up once or twice - other than that you're the first person I've seen mention it in here.
 
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Lanefan

Victoria Rules
I suggest that "toughness" in the fiction is not an objective constant. A thing that it tough for a shopkeeper to kill may not be tough for a 10th level fighter to kill. When you were first level, the bugbear was tough. When you're 15th, not so much....
In the view of the person doing the killing, sure. But in the view of the bugbear on the receiving end, its toughness hasn't changed a whit and nor has anything else about it: it's the same bugbear. All the changes that make the combat play out differently have happened on the attacker's side. All of them.

And to reflect this in the fiction, nothing about the bugbear's numbers should change at all. The fighter, on the other hand, is probably on her fifth character sheet by now... :)
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
Page 42 could be interpreted that way, if you like. But it's very clear, in 4e, that you can 'fluff' a spell however you like so long as it doesn't cross the line of changing the mechanics. You don't /need/ a new arcane power to be published or a vague DM-fiat procedure to create a new mechanic in order to get a 'new' spell, /in the fiction/. You just take your idea for a new spell, pick an existing one with mechanics that fit, and re-skin it to match.
What if there isn't one? There's great drooling gobs of design space between the mechanics of the existing spells.

IIRC, the 1e spell-research rules specifically said the player wouldn't know whether he failed in his research because the DM deemed the spell impossible (unacceptable) or because he just got unlucky. Of course, it's been a while...
Hmmm - I don't remember seeing that one - got a page number? That said, it's the sort of thing I wouldn't put past Gygax...and if it is a rule, it's a dumb one and thus as DM I hereby exercise my prerogative to ignore the hell out of it and my limited persuasion skill to encourage all others to do likewise. :)

That's fine for you. 1e didn't have crits or fumbles
By original RAW, no; but there were various ideas for such put forth in Dragon over the years.

and did recommend just 'taking the average' to save yourself rolling all those unlikely-to-hit/unlikely-to-miss attacks.
Another one I don't remember seeing; could that have been a 2e thing?

You can have dozens of minions in a high level encounter,
If you're designing the encounter yourself then yes, you can have as many as your grid can hold. :) I was referring to the published adventures, where even for the high level encounters there aren't often many minions...a typical ratio seems to be 1 or less for each non-minion in the encounter.

Classic D&D had a similar point - with fighters 1/level attacks, taking averages, and even falling back on chainmail (or later Battlesystem) - but successive eds were looking for better ways precisely because that didn't work so well. 4e found one. 5e tried something a little different (not /that/ different, for instance, all 5e monsters have a don't-roll-damage option like 4e minions) - BA, and TBH, it retains too many of the original issues, and introduces a new one: being outnumbered telling too heavily.
Being heavily outnumbered*, even by mooks who normally on their own wouldn't be much of a threat, in fact should be a problem for anyone as sheer strength in numbers can swarm you under particularly if you're cut off from your party. This is something D&D never really considers, though it probably should.

* - say, 8-to-1 or worse.
 

pemerton

Legend
This all sounds just excellent when written down...but what do you do when the (IME) inevitable happens: two or more players/PCs want to follow the fiction in wildly different and incompatible directions at the same time? Or if two or more PCs have or develop long-term goals that are directly opposed e.g. one wants to marry the Duke while another wants to kill him? It's not like this could have been sorted out in session 0 - the Duke might not have been brought into the fiction until session 4.
if relationships within the party have deteriorated* to the point where my PC wouldn't want to run with that group any more, then >foop< out it goes...and I've role-played myself right out of some games this way in the past, when no replacement PC was available.
As per the post below, I think that [MENTION=16586]Campbell[/MENTION] favours a game that is not based around party play and that takes for granted that PCs may be opposed in various ways, including one wanting to woo the duke while the other wants to kill him:

My own falling out with 4e is due to a couple things. All the resolution mechanics are built around a team of PCs working in tandem where my favored approach is a collection of individuals with their own needs and desires that are sometimes allies, sometimes rivals, and occasionally enemies.

In my Burning Wheel game one PC was committed to saving a NPC that another was committed to killing. In my Prince Valiant game two PCs competed for the hand of a maiden. Etc. I think the games that Campbell favours (eg Apocalypse World) have this sort of thing but more and more intense.
 

What if there isn't one? There's great drooling gobs of design space between the mechanics of the existing spells.
Not to hear folks going on about the saminess of powers, there wasn't. And what's the system for the DM creating or approving a new spell when there are hill-o-gp formulae for spell research? "Compare to existing spells.."
Hmmm - I don't remember seeing that one - got a page number?
DMG 116 (and 115, actually) its even a bit meaner than I remembered.
That said, it's the sort of thing I wouldn't put past Gygax...and if it is a rule, it's a dumb one and thus as DM I hereby exercise my prerogative to ignore the hell out of it and my limited persuasion skill to encourage all others to do likewise. :)
Lol.
By original RAW, no; but there were various ideas for such put forth in Dragon over the years.

That's about the size of it, huh? 1e doesn't ever really have to stand up on its own, it's 1e fixed up how we like it.
Another one I don't remember seeing; could that have been a 2e thing?
Probably not 2e hasn't stuck with me like 1e. Anything that seems like a memorable (good) rule or bit of DMing advice I recall from 1e, though could as easily be from Sorcerers Scroll or Leomunds Tiny Hut - Gygax writing in the same style as the DMG, or Lakofka with another variant.
If you're designing the encounter yourself then yes, you can have as many as your grid can hold.
The encounter guidelines devalued minions at higher level - so a regular encounter budget at epic could see the party outnumbered 6:1 by them.
Being heavily outnumbered*, even by mooks who normally on their own wouldn't be much of a threat, in fact should be a problem for anyone as sheer strength in numbers can swarm you under particularly if you're cut off from your party. This is something D&D never really considers, though it probably should.

* - say, 8-to-1 or worse.
Minions were pretty likely to hit, compared to underleveled standards of the same xp value, so they could add up to a real threat, that xp value for them wasn't window dressing.

5e, OTOH, makes being outnumbered a real issue, thanks to BA, the opposite problem as the olden days, potentially - 100 archers killing a dragon &c...
 
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Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
But in the view of the bugbear on the receiving end, its toughness hasn't changed a whit and nor has anything else about it: it's the same bugbear. All the changes that make the combat play out differently have happened on the attacker's side. All of them.

All the changes that make the combat play out differently are game-mechanics abstraction, not the fiction. And, as we'll see in a moment, the combat probably doesn't play out differently in any meaningful sense.

And to reflect this in the fiction, nothing about the bugbear's numbers should change at all.

The numbers are not the fiction. The fiction is what you get only after all the numbers are crunched, and the thing is summarized with the numbers removed. No game stat appears in the fiction.

Plus... the bugbear in the book is a guideline. I can represent bugbears in my game any way I want - the Monster Manual numbers are merely one mechanical representation. I can have bugbears that are smarter than average, or weaker, or smellier. I can put up a bugbear warlord that has the stats of a 20th level fighter. I can make a sickly bugbear that has the stats of a goblin. Or, I can make a mook bugbear that has a high AC, and one hit point. We are not beholden to the MM.

There is a general expectation about how bugbears are not usually pushovers for low-level parties, yes, but so long as the experience roughly matches that most of the time, we are okay. The only worry we have is if the first attempted hit downs him outright - but for a higher-level party, narrating that as an excellently aimed shot to a vital part is still generally acceptable. If we have a crowd of them, that happening once or twice is okay. It is only if I have a horde of them, and they are taken down like chaff, that am I violating the expected fiction.

It isn't like we are talking about a well-known individual with an established backstory who might be asked to match those storied deeds in play. Correct me if I am wrong, but we are probably talking about a generic guard a higher-level party will encounter once, and probably not have a conversation with other than, "Die, hairball!" If I stat it out as a regular bugbear, the PCs are sure to get past it after a round or three. If I stat it out as high-AC and 1 HP, the PCs are sure to get past it in a round or three. The fiction is the same, either way - some nameless bugbear delays them for a round or three, and dies an ignoble death bleeding on the floor.
 



Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
So when I talk about playing with integrity I am speaking to playing your character with integrity. What I mean by this is in the moment of play when you are making decisions for your character you should strive to only be guided by your sense of their hopes, dreams, goals and take on their emotions so they become your emotions and do this without regard for where you, the player, might hope things lead or some sense of "the story". To at all times be a curious explorer of the fiction, to finding out who this character really is when tested.

I think I understand.

However, let's talk about practicalities and human motivations for just a sec. You've (generic you, not you-Campbell) got a few hours every couple of weeks to play at your hobby. And there's a ton of other things you could do with that time. You have to choose. To be worth the time, the game needs a lot of bang-for-the-metaphorical-buck. And the drunkard's walk through events may not deliver that bang.

Sometimes, you gotta steer the boat, not just ride the water's eddy currents.

Being honest about what you want out of a game, and seeking it rather than waiting quietly for someone else to provide it, is not lack of integrity.

I'm simply talking about a way of playing role playing games where we follow the fiction like a dog after a bone. Like, I want to feel the weight of my character's decisions in my bones. I want access to their unique insights. I want there to be actual weight to their relationships and emotions.

You see, other than the *follow* the fiction, bit (which comes across to me as incredibly passive) I don't see any of that as in conflict with seeking particular story beats from time to time. Seeking your preferred story is showing a distinct desire to have relationships and emotions - just ones that don't look like they'll happen otherwise.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
However, let's talk about practicalities and human motivations for just a sec. You've (generic you, not you-Campbell) got a few hours every couple of weeks to play at your hobby. And there's a ton of other things you could do with that time. You have to choose. To be worth the time, the game needs a lot of bang-for-the-metaphorical-buck. And the drunkard's walk through events may not deliver that bang.
I'd suspect this all has to be pre-assumed, that the player has willingly and repeatedly made the choice to turn up to the game, for any of the rest of this discussion to be meaningful.

And just like with anything else episodic, some nights are just going to work out better for a player than other nights - be it in terms of involvement, engagement, interest, or whatever. Expecting every session to be perfect for every player every time is, well, just a little on the idealistic side. :)

Being honest about what you want out of a game, and seeking it rather than waiting quietly for someone else to provide it, is not lack of integrity.
Being honest about it doesn't lack integrity, but if what you want lacks integrity in itself (extreme example: you-as-player are going into the game with the specific intent of killing another player's PC due to an out-of-game feud with that player) being honest about it doesn't help very much.

You see, other than the *follow* the fiction, bit (which comes across to me as incredibly passive)
It doesn't to me, in that there's an implication that not only are you following the fiction built by others but you're also contributing more or less equally to building it.

I don't see any of that as in conflict with seeking particular story beats from time to time. Seeking your preferred story is showing a distinct desire to have relationships and emotions - just ones that don't look like they'll happen otherwise.
Again, though, it comes down to a difference in expectations: seeking and even advocating for your preferred story, without further expectations, is fine; seeking it with an implied demand to the GM/game that not only will you find it but that it'll play out exactly as you want it to is not fine at all.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
All the changes that make the combat play out differently are game-mechanics abstraction, not the fiction. And, as we'll see in a moment, the combat probably doesn't play out differently in any meaningful sense.
No it doesn't, but that still doesn't excuse the underlying mechanical disconnects.

The numbers are not the fiction. The fiction is what you get only after all the numbers are crunched, and the thing is summarized with the numbers removed. No game stat appears in the fiction.
Though the numbers and game stats are not the fiction in themselves, those numbers exist to reflect and define the fiction as best they can.

Plus... the bugbear in the book is a guideline. I can represent bugbears in my game any way I want - the Monster Manual numbers are merely one mechanical representation. I can have bugbears that are smarter than average, or weaker, or smellier. I can put up a bugbear warlord that has the stats of a 20th level fighter. I can make a sickly bugbear that has the stats of a goblin. Or, I can make a mook bugbear that has a high AC, and one hit point. We are not beholden to the MM.
Absolutely agreed. But:

1. Though you can stat out a bugbear any old way you like, once you've statted it out those stats are locked in unless at a later point in the fiction something materially changes about that bugbear. Thus, if you stat out Joe the Bugbear as an unusually smart but clumsy bugbear with 35 hit points and an AC penalty due to poor dex for when the 3rd-level party meets him, all of that should and must remain true when the party meets him again at 15th level. The party's changed - higher level, better equipment, more skills and abilities, etc. - but ol' Joe hasn't. He hasn't lost all his hit points, he hasn't put on better armour (or any armour!), he hasn't gained any skills or abilities - and to properly and accurately reflect this, none of his numbers should change from what they were.

2. And why should Joe's numbers be locked in once generated? To allow him to consistently interact with the rest of the fictional world, and it with him, off-camera; and to thus allow the players to be correct in an assumption* that the parts of the game world they don't see function and interact in a manner consistent with what they do see. Which flips around to say that when you stat out Bill the Bugbear to have only 1 hit point - which you can certainly do, no argument there - it means Bill has only ever had 1 hit point** so how the hell did he survive growing up in bugbear society?

I don't like using examples like this but I'll make an exception here: in a typical fantasy novel, is there ever a reason given to not assume things in that world work the same off-camera than they do on-camera? No. And this serves to allow readers to reasonably fill in how things happened on returning later to a changed scene e.g. the Hobbits return to the Shire to find Saruman has taken it over - we know how the Shire works and we know Saruman, so it's easy to fill in the gaps. It also serves to give a sense of there being a complete world (or universe) out there beyond just what the words on the page speak of.

In an RPG where the numbers are supposed to reflect the fiction of what they represent, changing the numbers tells me there's been a change in the fiction...but here, Joe's numbers have changed yet Joe himself has not; and bang - there's the disconnect. And changing Joe's numbers to reflect changes to something else in the fiction (in this case, the PCs) is also wrong, in that Joe's numbers are intended first and foremost to reflect what Joe is - they're intrinsic to (and thus tied to) him.

* - in a standard non-dreamworld medieval game setting, proving this assumption incorrect makes the setting - and the game - worthless.
** - you could, of course, say that Bill normally has more hit points but when the party meets him he's already been wounded such that he only has one left; but that would a) not explain Bill's charge into melee and b) start looking really contrived after a series of encounters where half the opponents have already been beaten within an inch of their lives.

It isn't like we are talking about a well-known individual with an established backstory who might be asked to match those storied deeds in play. Correct me if I am wrong, but we are probably talking about a generic guard a higher-level party will encounter once, and probably not have a conversation with other than, "Die, hairball!" If I stat it out as a regular bugbear, the PCs are sure to get past it after a round or three. If I stat it out as high-AC and 1 HP, the PCs are sure to get past it in a round or three. The fiction is the same, either way - some nameless bugbear delays them for a round or three, and dies an ignoble death bleeding on the floor.
So if the fiction's the same anyway, why invalidate the setting behind it by messing with numbers that don't need to be messed with? What purpose does it serve other than to tell the players that the setting is made of sand and thus they can't rely on things within it being and remaining consistent?
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
No it doesn't, but that still doesn't excuse the underlying mechanical disconnects.

Though the numbers and game stats are not the fiction in themselves, those numbers exist to reflect and define the fiction as best they can.

Absolutely agreed. But:

1. Though you can stat out a bugbear any old way you like, once you've statted it out those stats are locked in unless at a later point in the fiction something materially changes about that bugbear. Thus, if you stat out Joe the Bugbear as an unusually smart but clumsy bugbear with 35 hit points and an AC penalty due to poor dex for when the 3rd-level party meets him, all of that should and must remain true when the party meets him again at 15th level. The party's changed - higher level, better equipment, more skills and abilities, etc. - but ol' Joe hasn't. He hasn't lost all his hit points, he hasn't put on better armour (or any armour!), he hasn't gained any skills or abilities - and to properly and accurately reflect this, none of his numbers should change from what they were.

2. And why should Joe's numbers be locked in once generated? To allow him to consistently interact with the rest of the fictional world, and it with him, off-camera; and to thus allow the players to be correct in an assumption* that the parts of the game world they don't see function and interact in a manner consistent with what they do see. Which flips around to say that when you stat out Bill the Bugbear to have only 1 hit point - which you can certainly do, no argument there - it means Bill has only ever had 1 hit point** so how the hell did he survive growing up in bugbear society?

I don't like using examples like this but I'll make an exception here: in a typical fantasy novel, is there ever a reason given to not assume things in that world work the same off-camera than they do on-camera? No. And this serves to allow readers to reasonably fill in how things happened on returning later to a changed scene e.g. the Hobbits return to the Shire to find Saruman has taken it over - we know how the Shire works and we know Saruman, so it's easy to fill in the gaps. It also serves to give a sense of there being a complete world (or universe) out there beyond just what the words on the page speak of.

In an RPG where the numbers are supposed to reflect the fiction of what they represent, changing the numbers tells me there's been a change in the fiction...but here, Joe's numbers have changed yet Joe himself has not; and bang - there's the disconnect. And changing Joe's numbers to reflect changes to something else in the fiction (in this case, the PCs) is also wrong, in that Joe's numbers are intended first and foremost to reflect what Joe is - they're intrinsic to (and thus tied to) him.

* - in a standard non-dreamworld medieval game setting, proving this assumption incorrect makes the setting - and the game - worthless.
** - you could, of course, say that Bill normally has more hit points but when the party meets him he's already been wounded such that he only has one left; but that would a) not explain Bill's charge into melee and b) start looking really contrived after a series of encounters where half the opponents have already been beaten within an inch of their lives.

So if the fiction's the same anyway, why invalidate the setting behind it by messing with numbers that don't need to be messed with? What purpose does it serve other than to tell the players that the setting is made of sand and thus they can't rely on things within it being and remaining consistent?

Fundamentally, here's the thing: what kills the bugbear isn't loss of hitpoints, it's a swordinnahead. At low player level, where Joe has 35 hit points, it takes a few passes of reducing hitpoints to get to swordinnahead, but that's the bit that does the thing. Once we get to swordinnahead, Joe is dead. Now, at later levels, the heroes are way better at achieving swordinnahead, which is the relevant fictional endpoint for our poor Joe. Again, it's not loss of 35 hitpoints that kills Joe, it's swordinnahead. If we want to represent, in the fiction, the heroes' greater ability to achieve the swordinnahead state for poor Joe, then we can do lots of things. Maybe we have a system where the heroes now can do 35+ hitpoints so it doesn't matter that Joe has 35 hitpoints -- any hit will result in swordinnahead and a dead Joe. Or, we could reduce Joe's hitpoints, as they don't exist anywhere but as a pacing mechanism for achieving swordinnahead, and say that any successful hit on Joe will go straight to swordinnahead.

Hitpoints have no fictional reality in game. They're a pacing mechanism to control how fast you get through a fight (or lose one). As such, they're as malleable as encounters per day or days for a trip -- the exact number has no reality, only the applied pacing does. This goes to minions not having fewer hitpoints being a violation of previously established fictional reality -- hitpoints never hit the stage in the fiction, so to speak -- but instead just being an alteration of the game pacing mechanisms. The fictional result is that the heroes cause swordinnahead to Joe, either at the end of his hipoints, where previous "successes" have no fixed reality except to move closer to swordinnahead, or because they're minions and any successful hit causes swordinnahead.
 

pemerton

Legend
Though the numbers and game stats are not the fiction in themselves, those numbers exist to reflect and define the fiction as best they can.

<snip>

In an RPG where the numbers are supposed to reflect the fiction of what they represent, changing the numbers tells me there's been a change in the fiction
Not to bang too hard on the same drum, but 4e is not a game in which the numbers "represent" or "reflect" any fiction. They are an action resolutoin device.

I'll requote from Vincent Baker to emphasise the point:

Roleplaying is negotiated imagination. In order for any thing to be true in game, all the participants in the game (players and GMs, if you've even got such things) have to understand and assent to it. When you're roleplaying, what you're doing is a) suggesting things that might be true in the game and then b) negotiating with the other participants to determine whether they're actually true or not. . . .

Mechanics might model the stuff of the game world, that's another topic, but they don't exist to do so. They exist to ease and constrain real-world social negotiation between the players at the table. That's their sole and crucial function.​

4e's combat mechanics - hp, to hit numbers, damage, defences - are an action resolution framework. They are not a model of the fiction.

Though you can stat out a bugbear any old way you like, once you've statted it out those stats are locked in unless at a later point in the fiction something materially changes about that bugbear.

<snip>

And why should Joe's numbers be locked in once generated? To allow him to consistently interact with the rest of the fictional world
The numbers in 4e are a resolution system. When the resolution is different - eg the bugbear is facing PCs who are far more powerful than it - a resolution system is adopted that gives expression to this. All the numbers - defences, to hit, damage and hp - are changed. (You seem to be focusing only on the hp - I don't know why.)

4e's mechanics have nothing to do with "consistently interacting with the rest of the ficitonal world". That is not action resolution. It is not establishig the shared fiction by way of negotiation. Given that 4e is a relatively traditional RPG in its allocations of authority, the GM just makes that stuff up.

if the fiction's the same anyway, why invalidate the setting behind it by messing with numbers that don't need to be messed with? What purpose does it serve other than to tell the players that the setting is made of sand and thus they can't rely on things within it being and remaining consistent?
Bugbears are made of flesh, not sand.

And as has been mentioned a few times in this thread already, 4e is ficiton first. The players' know the fiction in the same way that they know the fiction of a film or novel - from imagination and description.
 

pemerton

Legend
Sometimes, you gotta steer the boat, not just ride the water's eddy currents.

Being honest about what you want out of a game, and seeking it rather than waiting quietly for someone else to provide it, is not lack of integrity.

<snip>

*follow* the fiction, bit (which comes across to me as incredibly passive)
I think your metaphor is not that helpful.

Taken on its own terms, it presupposes that we are in the boat trying to get somewhere. But what if we're not? What if we just want to enjoy sitting in a boat? Then there's no need to steer.

But more importantly, I think it's inapt for RPGing. There are options in RPGing other than setting out to author a story or passively doing nothing. [MENTION=16586]Campbell[/MENTION] said "follow the fiction like a dog after a bone". I don't know much about dogs, but that doesn't sound passive to me. It seems active. And single-minded. And focused on a here-and-now rather than a long-term project or an ultimate destination.

The phrase "playing with integrity" is terribly emotionally loaded. And, I don't agree that trying to fulfill an arc is necessarily not playing with integrity. I think this assumes a definition of "playing with integrity" that isn't appropriate for all systems.
So when I talk about playing with integrity I am speaking to playing your character with integrity. What I mean by this is in the moment of play when you are making decisions for your character you should strive to only be guided by your sense of their hopes, dreams, goals and take on their emotions so they become your emotions and do this without regard for where you, the player, might hope things lead or some sense of "the story".
I think if a RPG is designed for it, then playing with integrity in Campbell's sense will produce a story wihtout anyone needing to aim for that outcome.

This requires a particular approach to setting design and (what I would call) framing on the GM's part. And a particular approach to action resolution - ie that action resolution outcomes maintain the dynamism and the pressure to make choices that will result in more things happening.

To elaborate a bit: if the GM has designed the setting so as to support some particular dramatic arc then what Campbell is describing won't happen. Because either the player playing with integrity will result in a departure from that arc and hence the pressure to choose will be lost, and thus there will be no salient fiction to follow; or the GM will push towards the arc in resolving action declaration, which will undermine the player's attempt to play his/her PC with integrity.

Equally, if the GM has designed the setting without regard to the sorts of characters the players are creating for their PCs, then there will be no fiction to follow because the right sort of pressures won't be created. To give a simple example: if the PC is built with such-and-such a relationship, and then the GM presents the setting in way that doesn't impicate or bear upon that relationship at all, the player has no chance to play with integrity in respect of that part of the emotional life of the PC. If this generalises across the rest of the PC's emotional life, then the sort of play Campbell is describing won't be possible.

As best I can tell, this is why [MENTION=16586]Campbell[/MENTION] has identified some systems as better suited than others for the play experience he is looking for.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Expecting every session to be perfect for every player every time is, well, just a little on the idealistic side. :)

Well, yes. And that would be an awesome point if anyone had suggested such.

But nobody did, so far as I can see. *I* certainly did not suggest anything about every session being perfect.

Which makes this a strawman we can discard now, hey what? Do try to stick to arguing against things people actually say...


Being honest about it doesn't lack integrity, but if what you want lacks integrity in itself (extreme example: you-as-player are going into the game with the specific intent of killing another player's PC due to an out-of-game feud with that player) being honest about it doesn't help very much.

Sure, going in with the intent of ruining someone else's day in game over out-of-game issues isn't acceptable. But that's hardly the generic case I thought we were talking about.

It doesn't to me, in that there's an implication that not only are you following the fiction built by others but you're also contributing more or less equally to building it.

In a campaign scenario, over the long haul, that allows us a great deal of leeway to pass this sort of thing around, I would think. One day, Player A gets to push a bit for their thing, another session, Player B does. Overall, everyone makes equal contributions. Seems pretty acceptable sharing, to me.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Though the numbers and game stats are not the fiction in themselves, those numbers exist to reflect and define the fiction as best they can.

The published numbers and game stats are, I think, intended to be a decent general purpose representation. I don't think they are intended to be "the best" for all scenarios. When I assemble a particular encounter, I'm going to choose the representation that fits the need of the moment, not necessarily the Monster Manual standard.

1. Though you can stat out a bugbear any old way you like, once you've statted it out those stats are locked in unless at a later point in the fiction something materially changes about that bugbear.

For the most part, unless there's a good reason, sure. I'd agree that, once I've rolled initiative, I'm not going to suddenly change it from a standard bugbear to a mook bugbear. I'll be using whichever representation I started with for the rest of that fight/encounter to represent the creature.

But, if something in the narrative calls for it, I might change the bugbear's status between encounters, especially if those encounters are notably separate in time. The Mook, if they earn a name, might become a standard bugbear. And then might even get enhanced stats or even class levels if the interactions with the party warrant a more prominent state in the fiction that calls for a more detailed representation.


So if the fiction's the same anyway, why invalidate the setting behind it by messing with numbers that don't need to be messed with? What purpose does it serve other than to tell the players that the setting is made of sand and thus they can't rely on things within it being and remaining consistent?

1) I think the "invalidate the setting" is hyperbole. You may violate their expectations if the overall and long-term effect is markedly different. But one encounter is not going to suddenly dash the whole setting on the rocks. Players are smart. They can get the idea that a thing may have different mechanical representations.

2) Why we'd do this was noted a long time back. The full representation *has more bookkeeping*, and bookkeeping is pretty boring, and slows play down. So, we might choose to ditch the full representation when it doesn't actually add much to the game. It is a solid reason related to the quality of play for everyone at the table.
 

Campbell

Legend
[

@pemerton is exactly right. Following the fiction is an active endeavor. In the moment of play we are playing our characters as if they were real people, but we do not get to play just any character. It is the responsible of players to create characters that are dynamic protagonists who go after the things they want in life and that we all can relate to and be fans of. It is also their job to honestly question who these characters really are. It is the job of the GM to provide honest adversity to these characters so there is legitimate tension that the whole table gets to feel. The job of the game system is to introduce the unwelcome into the whole affair.

Here's the most important thing: it is nobody's job to protect these characters or the game. Nobody gets to decide how things should go. To do so would do a great disservice to these characters and their struggles. It robs play of legitimate tension and real emotional content. There is significant risk that things might not go the way we want them to, but that's the price you pay for getting to see the unbridled versions of these characters, getting to see who they really are when faced with adversity.

The following quotes address it from the player's side:

Blades in the Dark said:
EMBRACE THE SCOUNDREL’S LIFE

The scoundrel’s lot is a tough one, to be sure. The world in which they are trapped is deeply, cruelly unfair—created by the powerful to maintain their power and punish anyone who dares to resist. Some of the systems of the game are built to bring these injustices into play. No matter how cool or how capable the PCs are, the heat will pile on, entanglements will blindside them, the powers-that-be will try to kick them down with no regard.


Depending on who you are in real life, this predicament may come as a shock to you, requiring some new understanding on your part. Or it may be all too familiar. Either way, your character is not you. Their fate is their own. We’re the advocates and fans of our characters, but they are not us. We don’t safeguard them as we might safeguard ourselves or our loved ones. They must go off into their dark and brutal world and strive and suffer for what they achieve—we can’t keep them safe here with us. They’re brave to try. We’re brave to follow their story and not flinch away. When they get knocked down, we look them in the eye and say, “You’re not done yet. You can do this. Get back in there.” And, unlike in our own world, our characters in Blades in the Dark cannot be defeated by mere power. They can be hurt—and they surely will be—but their resistance is always effective. The tools of oppression ultimately break against their defiance.


If we’re willing to step back a bit, to not suffer their trials as personal failures, to imagine them as perseverant when we ourselves might quail, we might get to see them win past pain and despair into something else. It’s a long shot, but they’re up for it.


Monsterhearts said:
Make each main character’s life not boring.


As a player, part of your job is to advocate for your character. But being their advocate doesn’t mean it’s your job to keep them safe. It’s not. It’s your job to make their life not boring. It’s about figuring out who they are, what they want, and what they’ll do to get it – even if that exposes them to danger. Your character can’t emerge triumphant if you aren’t willing to see them through some :):):):).

Unlike some roleplaying games, Monsterhearts doesn’t have an endgame or an explicit goal to shoot for. You are left to determine what it is that your character wants, and pursue that in any way that makes sense to you. Since the default setting is a high school, there are a few goals that nearly everyone is going to have: saving face, gaining friends and social security, figuring out who their enemies are, getting social leverage on others, dumping their pain on other people. If you aren’t sure who your character is, start with those things and build from there. Soon, you’ll likely find yourself embroiled in situations that demand action, and what your character wants will emerge from that.

Keep the story feral.


The conversation that you have with the other players and with the rules create a story that couldn’t have existed in your head alone. As you play, you might feel an impulse to domesticate that story. You form an awesome plan for exactly what could happen next, and where the story could go. In your head, it’s spectacular.All you’d need to do is dictate what the other players should do, ignore the dice once or twice, and force your idea into existence. In short: you’d have to take control.

The game loses its magic when any one player attempts to take control of the story. It becomes small enough to fit inside one person’s head. The other players turn into audience members instead of participants. Nobody’s experience is enriched when one person turns the collective conversation into their own private story.

So avoid this impulse. Let the story’s messy, chaotic momentum guide it forward. In any given moment, focus on reacting to the other players. Allow others to foil your plans, or improve upon them. Trust that good story emerges from wildness. Play to find out what happens next. Let yourself be surprised.


The following quotes do a better job at explaining it holistically:

Vincent Baker said:
Resolution, Why?

Well kids, I think it's time for the biggie.
Here's some stuff I wrote on the Forge:

The only worthwhile use for rules I know of is to sustain in-game conflict of interest, in the face of the overwhelming unity of interest of the players. Read this to include the in-game conflicts that drive Gamist and Simulationist play too, not just the Narrativist ones.

Any rules that don't do it, you're just as well off if you ditch 'em and play freeform. Lots and lots of RPG rules don't reliably do it.

Startling or very bad outcomes are pointless, sometimes disruptive, if they don't serve the game's conflicts. Hence fudging. Very good outcomes, or even very expected outcomes, vindicate the group's use of the rules, if the outcomes serve the game's conflicts.

You know the thing that happens where a group starts out playing Ars Magica (say) by the book, but gradually rolls dice and consults the rules less and less, until the character sheets sit in a folder forgotten? At first the rules served to build the players' unity of interest, so they used 'em. Now that the group's got unity of interest, it doesn't need the rules anymore. The only thing that's going to win that group back to using rules is something better than unity of interest.

Unity of interest plus sustained in-game conflict is better than unity of interest alone.

...

Let's say that you're playing a character who the rest of us really like a lot. We like him a whole lot. We think he's a nice guy who's had a rough time of it. The problem is, there's something you're trying to get at with him, and if he stops having a rough time, you won't get to say what you're trying to say.

Our hearts want to give him a break. For the game to mean something, we have to make things worse for him instead.

I'm the GM. What I want more than anything in that circumstance - we're friends, my heart breaks for your poor character, you're counting on me to give him more and more grief - what I want is rules that won't let me compromise.

I don't want to hurt your character and then point to the rules and say "they, they made me hurt your character!" That's not what I'm getting at.

I want, if I don't hurt your character, I want you to point to the rules and say, "hey, why didn't you follow the rules? Why did you cheat and let my guy off the hook? That sucked." I want the rules to create a powerful expectation between us - part of our unity of interest - that I will hurt your character. Often and hard.

We have a shared interest in the game - we both like your character, we're both interested in what you have to say, we both want things to go well. We also have an ongoing, constant agreement about what's happening right this second - that's the loody poodly. The rules should take those two things and build in-game conflict out of them.

You can see it plain as day in a bunch of games. Look at how My Life with Master's rules create the expectation that the GM will constantly have the Master "hose" the PCs. In Universalis, getting coins back into your bank depends on your participation in conflicts. In Primetime Adventures, the characters' Issue plus Screen Presence tells the GM just what to do - if I back off of the Issue, I'm not playing the game. (And then Fan Mail brings everyone in, so - like in Universalis - it's not just between you and me.) In my game Dogs in the Vineyard, the escalation rules force us both to play our characters passionately - there's tremendous pressure on us to, y'know, stick to our guns.

What a bunch of other games do is stop short. They establish our agreement about what's happening right this second, they contribute to our shared interest in the characters and setting - and that's it. They don't provoke us. I can, by the rules, back off your character's issues, let the conflicts fizzle, compromise and go easy, and we sit there going "I dunno, what do you wanna do?" all night. Or just as bad, the dull "things work out for the best this time too" characteristic of Star Trek: the Next Generation and games where we all like each other's characters and nobody's provoked by the rules to inflict pain.​

So: resolution, why?


The answer is: because interesting play depends on good conflicts, and creating good conflicts means hitting characters you like right where they're weak, and hitting a character you like, whose player is someone you like, right where she's or he's weak - it's not easy.

The right rules will show you how to do it. They'll make it the only natural thing.

Here's when I knew that Dogs in the Vineyard was good: I was showing Meg the dice mechanic. We played through the conflict in the book - does your brother go and shoot the woman? She knocked her brother down and took away his gun, but their back-and-forth suggested an essential follow-up conflict. Meg was psyched. She was diggin' it. Now you know that Meg and I are happy long-time freeformers, and Meg especially doesn't have any patience for noncontributing rules. She launched straight into the follow-up conflict and reached for the dice.


Jesse Burneko / Play Passionately said:
Character Advocacy: Part I


Tension in fiction is created when two characters come into conflict. That tension arises from the uncertainty of the outcome. All we know is that something is about to change. In order to bring that same tension into role-playing that uncertainty must be present and it must be legitimate.


That means that something within the game must be representing the fictional interests of the characters in conflict. That representation is what I call Character Advocacy. In simplest terms when Protagonist meets Antagonist something within the game must be fighting for each side, either outcome must be within the realm of possibility and no one player should be able to guarantee an outcome either way. In the classic Player/GM setup, by default the Player is the advocate for his character and the GM is the advocate for any adversity that character encounters.


This is not the same as playing to win. Winning and losing is a wholly real world social thing. Winning is about the real player demonstrating that they are a superior games-man to another real player. Character advocacy is purely a fictional concern. Indeed the player and GM may have very well colluded heavily to bring the fiction to this point. The player and GM may even be rooting for the same side. But without legitimate representation for either side, the conflict is a straw-man and no system at all might as well have been deployed.


Different games handle Character Advocacy in different ways and indeed some unusual and grey area applications exist. For example, in My Life with Master it’s pretty much a given that the Master will die. That’s not where the tension is. The tension is in who will be the minion to kill the Master and what epilogue conditions will each minion be left with when that happens. In Spione character advocacy is only specified during the Flashpoint phase of play and is lifted during the Maneuvers phase of play.


This raises the question of strategy and rules mastery. Character advocacy is one of the main reasons why well designed rule sets are so important in supposedly “story oriented” games. Well designed rules with story creation in mind allow players representing characters in conflict to push as hard as they want for success. No one has to hand wave away rules to guarantee an outcome and no one player has the authority to “keep the story on track” or ignore rules for “the sake of the story.”


It is the system’s fair and legitimate representation of the fictional character’s interests that opens the door for the kind of emotional investment and vulnerability that play passionately is about. That emotional investment is what Part II will cover.

Character Advocacy: Part II


I hear a lot of stories about people who get tripped up in games because they want their characters to fail and don’t know how to work that into the system. A couple of questions that comes to mind when I encounter this situation are, “What is wrong with your character that you want him to fail?” or “Why is the situation so bland that failure is the more compelling option?”


First, players wanting their characters to fail can be a sign of player driven railroading. The player is invested in how the story “should go” and not in the here and now tension of the situation. In all likelihood they are trying to build a specific story arc which requires failure at this juncture in order to setup some future situation they are looking forward to.


Going a bit deeper, when a player is committed to his character’s failure it expresses to me a lack of emotional connection with the character. The player seems more interested in the fiction as a structural artifact than as an emotionally compelling narrative. Again, it represents that desire to always stay in author mode and never experience the situation as an audience member. Does the player have so little sympathy for the character’s plight that he would so casually will his failure?


Playing passionately is about building and playing characters that we are personally invested in. This is not about avatarism where the character is some thin proxy for ourselves. I’m talking about just a simple basic connection with the character as if he were a real human being. This is where the trust and vulnerability enters play because, in my experience, when you’ve got that connection, seeing the character fail will be emotionally jarring if not outright painful.


When that personal connection to the character enters play Character Advocacy becomes not just something the player does as a feature of the rules but something the player WANTS to do as a function of his emotional commitment to the character. Again, this is why well designed rule sets are critical. The fact that the rules are consistently applicable and not subject to the whims of a single player acts as a shield to that player’s investment. The success and failure of his character is a legitimate and fair outcome of the system and not simply his investment being toyed with by someone else. Failure is narratively satisfying when it is most unwanted and when it is legitimately unexpected.

 
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