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Players choose what their PCs do . . .

Tony Vargas

Adventurer
If the PCs are accompanied by some townsfolk they've rescued from the gnoll invasion, I don't think that the mechanics dictate that a townsfolk could take out a gnoll minion with one hit. That's just silly.
But is it genre? I could imagine Xena & Gabby giving some refugees tips on using a sling, and then one of them, in one quick cut in one fight scene, takes out a minor bad guy with a sling stone.

But, anyway, Gnoll minions? There's two in the Compendium, at 8th & 12th, and minionizing standard Standard Gnolls would yield you 13+ level minions. Townsfolk'd be very low-level minions, examples like 'Human Slave' 1st, Borovian Commoner 2nd, Harkenwold Bystander 1st, Human Rabble 2nd. So, hitting a Gnoll minion would be quite the stroke of luck for one of those guys.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
This is why it can be dangerous to use D&D as a baseline for judging all RPG mechanics. Dungeons and Dragons is primarily a game about overcoming detailed challenges prepared by the DM. Burning Wheel is primarily a game about finding out who the PCs are as people. Detailed maps and prepared encounters are not a feature of play. What matters is that we can continue to press PCs to fight for their beliefs.

Another important detail is that generally the more audacious the intent the more difficult the check will be and the more room the GM has to establish consequences of failure.

So imagine we have a PC, Vertigan the Bold. He has the belief I will claim my rightful place on the throne by vanquishing my brother, the usurper. Vertigan has been thrown in his brother's dungeons after a failed coup attempt. He attempts to escape the dungeons by using a secret passage. His player's intent is return safely to my brothers in arms who are hiding inside the citadel. If he succeeds at what should be a fairly difficult check he will rejoin his comrades in the city. However on a failure he might end up deeper in the dungeon in a crypt where his father's remains are laying and be confronted by his father's ghost who thinks Vertigan killed him.
Your example plays into the point I was trying to make: sure in this case it's a difficult check, but a hot-rolling player who makes a series of these successful checks is going to bypass all the interesting stuff, regardless of whether it's pre-authored or made up as a failure consequence, and quickly end up on the throne. That really cool idea about the father's ghost in the crypt will never enter play, which is kind of sad.

That's all I was getting at.
 

hawkeyefan

Explorer
About a week ago upthread @Campbell posted this:

So Campbell is rejecting the notion of the party's course of action. The idea of the party isn't essential to RPGing.

As I understand it - and maybe there's a gap in my understanding - 5e doesn't have the mechanical resources to easily implement this sort of intra-group conflict and its ramifications.

In my Classic Traveller game - which is built around team/party play - when the players (as their PCs) can't agree then I have them dice off: opposed 2d6 checks with a bonus to each side reflecting how many nobles it has and how much Leadership expertise it has. That is pretty light-touch (eg compared to a Burning Wheel Duel of Wits): it doesn't dictate any change to the character other than that s/he agreed to go along with what the others wanted to do. But I nevertheless imagine it would be regarded as too forceful for most 5e tables.
While it is certainly not essential, I do think that [MENTION=75787]GrahamWills[/MENTION] has a point based on the fact that it is a group activity, and as such, very often there is some level of shared goals for characters in the game that serves the group. It need not be as specific or as immediate as being an adventuring group in a fantasy setting, but it's very often present in many games.

As [MENTION=16586]Campbell[/MENTION] went on to elaborate, you have to try to make things as interesting for other players as possible, so if the spotlight is on your character, there should be that push toward interesting play. Players being fans of each other's characters is also a big part of this. Most players don't mind if there's a scene that doesn't involve their character as long as there is something compelling happening, and they have a reason to care.

I don't think that playing with passion or integrity and playing with thought toward the party/group need to be mutually exclusive.

For my Blades in the Dark campaign, the players have the common goals of the crew....to build a criminal empire, essentially....but they also have personal goals and desires. There are many things they agree on and others they don't. Even when they agree on a goal, they often disagree on how to go about it. There's a big schism in the group in regard to embracing the supernatural. One character is actively embracing the weird elements of the setting and consorting with ghosts and demons and the like. Another character has a strong mistrust of anything supernatural. As things have moved on, these two opposing views have become central to the game. Other characters have started to gravitate toward one character or the other, and it comes up almost every time they make plans for a score. We've not needed to resort to a roll off or anything like that....ultimately, they just have to decide as a group what to do. Luckily, it's been about an even split in those moments; I think if one side always got what they wanted, it might present more of a problem.

But as it is, it's a really cool aspect of the game that I think would be missing if everyone just tried to "play along" and make things easy for the group.

I don't think a game like 5E would not support this kind of intra-party friction, but I don't think it has mechanics that promote it. I think that the default assumption is to be more cooperative in such a game, which is fine. But there's no reason that you couldn't use Traits, Bonds, Ideals, and Flaws to create a lot of conflict within the group. I think that you just need to have a group that's mature enough to handle that kind of game.
 

hawkeyefan

Explorer
But is it genre? I could imagine Xena & Gabby giving some refugees tips on using a sling, and then one of them, in one quick cut in one fight scene, takes out a minor bad guy with a sling stone.

But, anyway, Gnoll minions? There's two in the Compendium, at 8th & 12th, and minionizing standard Standard Gnolls would yield you 13+ level minions. Townsfolk'd be very low-level minions, examples like 'Human Slave' 1st, Borovian Commoner 2nd, Harkenwold Bystander 1st, Human Rabble 2nd. So, hitting a Gnoll minion would be quite the stroke of luck for one of those guys.
Well, as I said my experience with 4E is pretty minimal, in the grand scheme. I wasn't worried about replicating actual game stats.

But needless to say you kind of prove my point. All the mechanics you just kind of crunched....the levels, and conversion of monster level x to minion levely, and then comparing to minion level z.....and you arrive at the same conclusion!
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
An interesting ultimatum, and one I'll answer, but, in return, I'm going to offer a comparable one, below. Good luck with it.
:)

So, the resolution system, is not the model of the antagonist side of the conflict, alone. Rather, the broader system models the PCs and their story, including their antagonists, /as such/. In fiction - and, I mean fiction you could actually hope to publish, even if only in a 30s pulp or 19th century penny dreadful - heroes do not stolidly fight the same foes in the same level of detail over and over again. Rather, new or terrible threats get the detailed treatment, and familiar or trivial ones are finished quickly or even glossed over - because fiction is not meant to be boring.
However, a TTRPG is not a novel, and in theory isn't limited by page count; and thus it can take the time that a novel can't and play through all the encounters.

Sometimes in a TTRPG you do end up fighting the same foes over and over - if you're in a war zone, for example, and keep encountering patrols of enemy soldiers.

The basic d20 dice mechanic can't handle a spread of more than +/-5 without becoming unwieldy, and at +/-10, it becomes worthless. So you're either limited to modeling a narrow range of competence (sweet spot) with the game breaking down outside that, modeling improvement primarily off the d20 with geometrically exploding hp/damage (high level monsters with thousands of hps), or normalizing the range between heroes and adversaries (treadmill).

None are entirely satisfying, but each can be made to work.

So, in the treadmill version, you can't have adversaries with a nominal level outside the workable range of the d20 - less than +/-5 - so, instead, other factors have to vary when you would otherwise cross that threshold. That's what secondary roles are in 4e. A solo is an adversary that would be consistently beaten at even odds were you 9 levels higher, instead, at level, it's a meaningful challenge for the whole party. A minion is a creature that would be consistently beaten at even odds were you 10 levels levels lower, but instead, at level, can be dispatched quickly, if not without risk.

Put those together and a single creature could be reasonably modeled as an adversary over a range of 20 levels.
What you say is correct here, but the solution lies in a different direction: flatten the power curve and reduce the overall power gain as characters advance. From all I can tell, 5e has done a pretty good job at this and thus a given monster can be and remain a viable opponent over a wider range of character levels without having to massage its numbers to suit the situation.

How do we show, mechanically (In the fiction it's just presented as duch) it's the same creature? Or, for that matter, a comparable one? Well, it's XP value can be held constant at those different levels.
Yes, along with all its other numbers. A comparable-but-different creature might - well, very likely would - have different numbers e.g. better AC, lower potential damage output, etc., that ended up giving about the same XP value (and from all I've seen 4e is pretty non-granular with its XP values in the modules, usually rounding to the nearest 100).

Now, for that ultimatum:
Then what is the point of the game? And if the answer is "the setting" or "internal consistency" or something of the sort, keep in mind that youre reducing your players to a mere audience.
Not to an audience, but I do see the setting as - to use a metaphor perhaps - a product of which the players are the end consumers. What they do with it and-or how they consume it is up to them, but the product - the setting - is what it is.

The point of the game, then, is for the players to use that setting as a backdrop and milieu in which to play their characters; and for all involved to then generate some sort of story* as that play rolls along.

* - no matter how intentionally or not, nor how disjointed or not.
 
Most players don't mind if there's a scene that doesn't involve their character as long as there is something compelling happening, and they have a reason to care.

<snip>

I don't think that playing with passion or integrity and playing with thought toward the party/group need to be mutually exclusive.
Although even in the most famous of group adventure fantasy novels - LotR - the fellowship was sundered.

I think this is another place where attending to the difference between fiction and real world helps analysis. As you say, in the real world we want an engaged play group having a good time being engaged by the play of the game and the fiction it is creating. Whether in the fiction this has to take the form of a party, or can be the result of storlines that interweave in other ways, is a further question.

Neither 4e D&D nor Classic Traveller (to pick two games I'm pretty famiiar with) supports the second approach (one of many reasons why, contrary to the hype of its designers, Traveller can't do Star Wars). Burning Wheel, though, makes the "interweave" approach more feasible, and MHRP/Cortex+ even more feasible - in my expereince at least not so much because of genre but because of mechanics. They have systems which allow choices made by one player in the play of his/her PC to transmit, mechnically, to the situation of the other PCs without this requiring the PCs to be in fictional, collaborative proximity.

I see this as another place where knowing what a system can or can't do, and then approaching it in that light - or, perhaps, discoveirng in play what it can do and then following those implicit leads - makes more sense than trying to force one particular set of expectations onto any given system without regard to these sorts of differences.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
Why is "genre logic is the model (or litmus test)" not a sufficient answer to you? Sincerely curious.

Let me ask you something in relation to Minions Lanefan.

Take some sort of Tentacle Monster (The Kraken or the like). In non-4e D&D, you're going to get an instantiation of the Kraken (or, again, any genre tentacle monster such as in The Fellowship of the Ring) whereby to defeat the monster, you're just ablating its monstrous HP pool down to 0.

By orthodox rules, the classic genre trope of lopping off tentacles isn't occurring in the sort of "fidelity to the model of fighting a Kraken/tentacle monster" that you're advocating for. You can narrate the fiction as such (deploying genre logic), but you're not actually gaining any competitive advantage by dismembering the Kraken. I'm assuming, by your logic, the model should produce that competitive advantage, with the fiction intersecting with that newly gained competitive advantage:

The Kraken's tentacles go from x to x-, therefore the beast is less of a threat than it was moments before.

In 4e D&D, the Minion rules actually enable this model (unlike other D&D).

1) Kraken is a Solo with various attacks + rider effect and all kinds of traits and abilities:
2) The Kraken has x # of (Minion) Tentacles that go along with the Solo creature.
3) The Encounter Budget also includes Whirlpool Hazards that the Kraken needs to use its (Minion) Tentacles to grab and fling PCs into.

Sum told, the Encounter Budget is 4800 (including 1-3).

Actually defeating (2) above would (a) model the bolded above (less attacks coming in on PCs and their vessel, less chance for PCs to be thrown into deadly Whirlpools, the Kraken (1) would then have to spend action economy to recover = impacts of encounter budget of 4800 are mitigated with a positive feedback loop) while (b) transliterating perfectly to the sort of genre fiction one would expect from a Kraken fight...

precisely the sort of modeling and transliteration to genre fiction that non-4e D&D doesn't produce (precisely because of its lacking of Minion mechanics).

Thoughts?
I can't recall this but, assuming correct, I wonder how @Lanefan feels about this (individual HPs for appendages in 1e) and how that intersects with (or not) his feeling on Minions?
A few things here.

First, I hadn't made the connection between appendages and minions until you noted it here, but I can see the line of thinking that gets there.

That said, however, I handle these sort of appendages somewhat differently than 1e RAW would like me to. :) I base my thinking on the idea that for a Human one of our arms counts as an appendage, but our arms don't have separate hit points from the rest of us in game terms...so why not have the same apply to all creatures?

So, if the MM lists separate hit points for appendages I'll ignore it and just give the creature more h.p. overall to compensate, while taking the appendage h.p. as a guideline for if someone intentionally tries to cut one or has no choice e.g. the Kraken's under the ship and the tentacles are all an attacker can reach - how much damage does it take to cut one off. Then if an appendage does get cut I'll reduce the attacks to suit, but otherwise assume the damage is more evenly spread; and oftentimes it comes down to case by case based on the situation. (I've occasionally had creatures, for example, that have so many tentacles that it really doesn't matter how many you cut off there's still going to be more than enough to maintain its attack rate of, say, two per round per opponent. For those the only time you'd attack a specific tentacle is if it has someone grabbed)

This actually comes up more frequently with Hydras, where cutting off a head sometimes isn't the best idea. :) I've also on rare occasions had a player try calling a shot to take out a specific eyestalk on a Beholder, but as we don't really do called shots I either have to say no or just wing it depending on the specific situation.

If the game had a proper called-shot system or similar I'd do this all differently, but it doesn't and so I can get away with this rather rudimentary system.

With something like a Kraken, it's pretty easy in 1e to use a variant on morale rules to see how long it stays in the fight once it starts losing some tentacles and-or getting hurt in general.
 

Tony Vargas

Adventurer
First, I hadn't made the connection between appendages and minions until you noted it here, but I can see the line of thinking that gets there.
It was used here & there. I have some cute tentacle-minion counters from one of the Lair Assault modules, I still use. /Usually/ minions are much lower-level monsters you 'kill' with a hit. This is kinda the opposite, a much higher level monster so beyond you that you can't fight it, but you can annoy I tiny piece of it enough to retract and stop killing you. At Epic, that device is used to let the PCs fight a living planet.

That said, however, I handle these sort of appendages somewhat differently than 1e RAW would like me to. :) So, if the MM lists separate hit points for appendages I'll ignore it and just give the creature more h.p. overall to compensate, while taking the appendage h.p. as a guideline for if someone intentionally tries to cut one or has no choice e.g. the Kraken's under the ship and the tentacles are all an attacker can reach
And oddity of 3e & later D&D is that, technically, a giant monster with reach can, well, reach out and hit/grab you, and take an AoO if you try to close with it, but, even as it's hitting you, both on it's turn, and with AoOs on yours, or even grabbing you, /you can't hit it back/. Seriously?

One solution is the tentacle or whatever is a 'separate' creature (and not always minion), like the separate hp totals in 1e.

If the game had a proper called-shot system or similar I'd do this all differently, but it doesn't and so I can get away with this rather rudimentary system.
I was flipping through the 1e MM after reading Manbearcat's post, and it was surprising, in a game without called shots, how many monsters had different ACs for different parts of their bodies.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
[MENTION=29398]Lanefan[/MENTION] - all ficion in the world is created without models in the sense you are insisting upon, except for a certain subset of the fiction created by RPGers.

In 4e, the fiction is estabished in that mainstream way. We know that paragon tier PCs are tougher than heroic tier ones because we have the descriptions of the tiers of plat that I posted upthread. We know that an ogre savage and an ogre bludgeoneer are of comparable toughness because we describe them both as generic ogres wearing hide armour and wielding greatclubs.

Because such ogres pose little threat one-on-one to mid-paragon tier PCs we stat them as 16th level minons. Because such ogres pose some real threat to mid-heroic tier PCs we stat them as 8th level standard creatures.

The fiction is prior to the use of stats to establish parameters for resolution. That's why some of us have called it "fiction first".

The fact that their are more elements in the fiction than PCs has no bearing on this. JRRT was able to decide that the orcs in Cirtih Ungol killed one another without using a "model" in your sense. Humans are generally pretty good at making up stories.
And in part he could do that because both he in his mind and the readers in theirs could and did assume that those off-camera parts of the fiction happened in a consistent manner with the parts actually written out in the book. We know how Orcs fight because we're given examples of it at various times in their dealings with the Fellowship's assorted members, and can extrapolate from there.

Put another way, the setting is consistent enough that were someone to stat out and run the battle between Orcs at Cirith Ungol the result would be - on average - consisent with running a battle between some other Orcs somewhere else, or (as written in the book) between the Orcs and the Fellowship at Rauros Falls.

Why even bother? Because that's what some of us call playing the game - finding out what happens in the here-and-now interaction.
This strikes me as the equivalent of standing twenty feet back from a window and saying that the only thing that matters is what you can see through that window right this minute; and further that just because we can see elements x and y through that window we can't extrapolate anything further. This is somewhat ridiculous: we know damn well there's a great big world out there beyond the tiny bit that's shown through that window, and it's only logical to assume it largely functions exactly the same as the little bit we can see.

It's the whole "if a tree falls in the forest but nobody hears it, does it make a sound" question. (and yes it does, by the way :) )
As per the topic of the thread, it's about establishling true descriptions of the events in the fiction.
Yes, and doing that with any integrity either requires an assumption that off-camera things work the same as on-camera, or a clear statement going in that things work differently off-camera thus implying the setting is not consistent with itself.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
I haven’t commented in a bit, but I’ve been reading along with the current thrust of the conversation, and the above bit jumped out at me because I think it comes up often in these discussions.

The PCs....meaning the players and the characters they play...are what make a RPG a game. Anything in the setting has rules SOLELY for the purpose of interacting with the PCs. A game needs rules, the PCs are what makes it a game, therefore the rules are there for the PCs.

Beyond that, there’s no need for rules.

I think the idea that a game MUST have some internal consistency that could be maintained in the absence of PCs is simply not true. It may be a preference, but even then I’m not quite sure I understand the need. What matters in the fiction without the PCs being involved in some way? Any such detail can simply be narrated, or if random chance is required in some way, then it can be decided with the roll of a die.

It just seems like such a tail wagging the dog kind of situation.
I guess I see a setting as being incomplete if it can't in theory be used for more than just the here-and-now run of play in an RPG. As player or DM, I should be able to take the setting and write a book about some NPC I've met (or run) and have the events in that book come out exactly as if they'd been played at the table, without having to make any changes to the setting's basic parameters.

Also, the players have to be able to trust that the interactions their PCs are having with the setting are - barring any material changes - going to be consistent from one event to the next; and also to be able to trust that their interactions with the setting will be consistent with how anyone else - be it a group of NPCs, another group of PCs, or whatever - would also interact with the same setting were they there in place of the PCs being played.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
This is presupposing a story plot or antagonist that the players are expected and required to team up to defeat. Yes, in that style of play, this can be a problem because this style emphasizes team over individual. But, if there is no prepared story and the game follows the action, then the paladin refusing doesn't derail the game, the game is now about what happens next.

This was the biggest hurdle for me to overcome in my understanding -- you have to throw out the entire D&D conception of how games work and accept a completely new paradigm of play. One where the GM follows the players' moves and not the other way around. There's literally nothing to derail.
I don't see how these two paragraphs relate to each other.

Your first paragraph is pretty much bang on: the Paladin doesn't derail anything but does change the focus...unless the Paladin or another character outright leaves the party due to their disagreements (which is a very possible outcome of playing true to character, believe me).

But the second paragraph regarding a complete playstyle change doesn't necessarily follow, unless you're thinking of the type of GM who can't (or worse, refuse to) hit curveballs thrown by the players - of which this would certainly be one. Put another way, even in a GM-driven situation you can lead a horse (the players) to water (the story) but you can't make it drink (engage) if it doesn't want to.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
I think the notion that mechanics can be a recipe without being a model - as I said in my earlier post, that mechanics can simply be fiction generation devices or fiction confirmation devices - is fundamental to appreciating the workings of most of the RPGs (including 4e D&D) that have been mentioned in this thread. Even Classic Traveller has resolution systems that as far as I can tell aren't meant to be models of anything, like the NPC reaction table.
Except that the mechanics, in this analogy, aren't a recipe at all - they're the operating instructions for the oven!

What you choose to bake or cook in that oven is up to you, the user; but the oven (i.e. the setting and game) is what it is regardless.
 

hawkeyefan

Explorer
And in part he could do that because both he in his mind and the readers in theirs could and did assume that those off-camera parts of the fiction happened in a consistent manner with the parts actually written out in the book. We know how Orcs fight because we're given examples of it at various times in their dealings with the Fellowship's assorted members, and can extrapolate from there.
Sure. And neither Tolkien nor the readers needed stats to understand all this.

This strikes me as the equivalent of standing twenty feet back from a window and saying that the only thing that matters is what you can see through that window right this minute
I think a better analogy is looking at a TV and saying the only thing that matters is the story that you’re watching, not what anyone’s doing in the kitchen.

and further that just because we can see elements x and y through that window we can't extrapolate anything further. This is somewhat ridiculous: we know damn well there's a great big world out there beyond the tiny bit that's shown through that window, and it's only logical to assume it largely functions exactly the same as the little bit we can see.
But why do we care about what’s going on in the fictional world beyond what matters to the PCs? Same as with any story. Beyond the story, none of that really matters.
 

Tony Vargas

Adventurer
And in part he could do that because both he in his mind and the readers in theirs could and did assume that those off-camera parts of the fiction happened in a consistent manner with the parts actually written out in the book. We know how Orcs fight because we're given examples of it at various times in their dealings with the Fellowship's assorted members, and can extrapolate from there.
I mean, you can make whatever assumptions or extrapolations you want, about 'off camera' or glossed over sections, because they're not covered - you can also not bother doing so.

It's the whole "if a tree falls in the forest but nobody hears it, does it make a sound" question. (and yes it does, by the way :) ) Yes, and doing that with any integrity either requires an assumption that off-camera things work the same as on-camera, or a clear statement going in that things work differently off-camera thus implying the setting is not consistent with itself.
Things /do/ work very differently off camera, when you're making a movie. On-camera, you have a set, script, actors, lighting, foley, post-production, OMFG, so much stuff /working/ to make the scene. Off-camera: nothing. That's working pretty differently.

Things also work differently on-camera depending on the nature of the scene. Time compression, for instance. If the self-destruct device is going off in one hour, the first 45 minutes may take 5 minutes on screen, the next 12 twice as long, and the last minute may take 5 or 10 minutes, as /each/ characters last minute of action is examined in minute detail.

The same things happen in RPGs constantly. Minions? Really no different.

However, a TTRPG is not a novel
Obviously. If it were, it wouldn't be 'a model of genre fiction,' it'd just be "genre fiction."*

Sometimes in a TTRPG you do end up fighting the same foes over and over - if you're in a war zone, for example, and keep encountering patrols of enemy soldiers.
Often you do in fiction, too. Sometimes prettymuch exclusively. Ripley, for instance, fought an Alien for a whole movie, then, next movie, a bunch of aliens, that were just like it, yet died a whole lot faster, then a big-bad Alien Queen that was at least as hard to finish as the original.

What you say is correct here, but the solution lies in a different direction
It's not unfair to note that an alternate solution could go in a different direction, but the 4e solution of secondary roles /is/ a perfectly valid solution - and, a powerful one, in that it allows greater ranges of levels /and/ competence, to be 'modeled' (or 'generated,' pem) by functional play.
flatten the power curve and reduce the overall power gain as characters advance.
That'd be modeling an entirely different story arc. What's more, it'd be making the fiction being modeled a slave to the mechanics doing the modeling, which is the exact opposite of the point of modeling, in the first place.
Really, looking at it that way, [MENTION=42582]pemerton[/MENTION] 's idea of 'generating' rather than 'modeling' fiction makes more sense.

From all I can tell, 5e has done a pretty good job at this and thus a given monster can be and remain a viable opponent over a wider range of character levels without having to massage its numbers to suit the situation.
It's a less effective solution to the same issue, which is why I brought it up. 5e manages to cover 20 levels, ~8 of them (4-11) , over which, most character don't get any better, at all, at most things, and only a little better - +4 - at things they're trained in. Is that 'zero to hero?' Does it really make sense alongside having 10 times the hps? 4 times the attacks? 5 times the damage dice? 11 times the slots? 40 times the spell points? But only 20 or 40% (depending how you like to talk %s) better at a skill?

It's not, well, /internally consistent/. ;P

Yes, along with all its other numbers. A comparable-but-different creature might - well, very likely would - have different numbers e.g. better AC, lower potential damage output, etc., that ended up giving about the same XP value (and from all I've seen 4e is pretty non-granular with its XP values in the modules, usually rounding to the nearest 100).
There's no rounding. All 4e monsters of the same level & secondary role have the same xp value. No fiddliness. When buiding encounters you can largely skip adding up xp, and just go by levels & secondary role.

Not to an audience, but I do see the setting as - to use a metaphor perhaps - a product of which the players are the end consumers. What they do with it and-or how they consume it is up to them, but the product - the setting - is what it is.
Audience? Consumers? Whatever. If the point is the setting, not the PCs, the PCs are just the spoons the players eat up whatever you serve them with, and the player role is ultimately passive.

The point of the game, then, is for the players to use that setting as a backdrop and milieu in which to play their characters; and for all involved to then generate some sort of story as that play rolls along.
That's back to the point of the game being the PCs, because only the setting they /actually interact with/ matters.












* - no matter how intentionally or not, nor how disjointed or not.
 

hawkeyefan

Explorer
I guess I see a setting as being incomplete if it can't in theory be used for more than just the here-and-now run of play in an RPG. As player or DM, I should be able to take the setting and write a book about some NPC I've met (or run) and have the events in that book come out exactly as if they'd been played at the table, without having to make any changes to the setting's basic parameters.
Maybe I’m not fully understanding what you’re saying....but this is why I describe it as a tail wagging the dog situation. Game stats are meant to reflect story elements, not define them.

Stories can be told and can be logical or internally consistent without everything having some kind of codified metric.

Also, the players have to be able to trust that the interactions their PCs are having with the setting are - barring any material changes - going to be consistent from one event to the next; and also to be able to trust that their interactions with the setting will be consistent with how anyone else - be it a group of NPCs, another group of PCs, or whatever - would also interact with the same setting were they there in place of the PCs being played.
I don’t think consistency in this regard is a bad thing. I don’t think that stats are necessary to maintain such consistency. But I agree with you about this at it’s most basic.

I just don’t know if it will matter all that much.
 
there's a spectrum between competitive games and cooperative games
A RPG might be fully non-competitive and hence at the cooperative end of your spectrum, and yet not involve party play in the sense that D&D and Traveller traditionally do.

In my Cortex+/MHRP games, sometimes the PCs are working cooperatively like a D&D party or a superhero team. And sometimes they are working separately but connected (in the fiction, and mechanically) to the same situation. Once or twice they've even been at cross-purposes.

But the game isn't competitive.

Likewise in the session I ran of The Dying Earth earlier this year: the PCs were mostly not interacting directly in the fiction, but what they were doing had implications for one another.

But that wasn't competitive either. It was a pretty light-hearted romp.

I would think of this as radically non-caller RPGing. Early D&D had a notion of the caller as an intermediary between the players and the GM (and possibly corresponding to the group leader in the fiction) intended to help manage the interaction between one GM and many players. When the PCs aren't in a group, and aren't necessarily cooperating, and perhaps are acting at cross-purposes, then the inverse principle applies: you don't want too many of them or else it becomes too hard as GM to manage the interweavings and as players it may be too long between goes.

For instance, my Dying Earth game had two players. I think three would also be fine, but five - my standard 4e group size - would be too many. I've done BW with four and I think even that is a bit crowded.
 
the solution lies in a different direction: flatten the power curve and reduce the overall power gain as characters advance. From all I can tell, 5e has done a pretty good job at this and thus a given monster can be and remain a viable opponent over a wider range of character levels without having to massage its numbers to suit the situation.
This is about aesthetic preference, and has nothing to do with consistency or coherence. And there are some of us who love 4e but have no interest in 5e precisely because they don't like the sort of gameplay experience its "solution" leads to.

a TTRPG is not a novel, and in theory isn't limited by page count; and thus it can take the time that a novel can't and play through all the encounters.
A RPG actually does have an analogue of a page count, namely, the time available to the participants. In my case at least that is not endless, either in the short term or the long term.

But in any event, the fact that one can doesn't mean that one should. These are - to reiterate - aesthetic preferences. They certainly don't go to the issue of consistency of the fiction. The ficiton doesn't become inconsistent just because (for instance) some episodes are purely narrated, some are resolved expeditiously, and some are resolved in loving detail. (I'm thinking here of how, in BW, one fight might simply be narrated as having occurred during a period of employment as a hired sword - in mechanical terms this would be part of upkeep resolution; another fight might be resolved using the Bloody Versus mechanic, which is a form of structrued opposed checks; and a crucial or capstone fight might be resolved using the Fight! mechanic, which is a melee resolution system comparable in intricacy to Runequest, Rolemaster or DrgonQuest.)

Campbell said:
Burning Wheel is primarily a game about finding out who the PCs are as people. Detailed maps and prepared encounters are not a feature of play. What matters is that we can continue to press PCs to fight for their beliefs.

Another important detail is that generally the more audacious the intent the more difficult the check will be and the more room the GM has to establish consequences of failure.

So imagine we have a PC, Vertigan the Bold. He has the belief I will claim my rightful place on the throne by vanquishing my brother, the usurper. Vertigan has been thrown in his brother's dungeons after a failed coup attempt. He attempts to escape the dungeons by using a secret passage. His player's intent is return safely to my brothers in arms who are hiding inside the citadel. If he succeeds at what should be a fairly difficult check he will rejoin his comrades in the city. However on a failure he might end up deeper in the dungeon in a crypt where his father's remains are laying and be confronted by his father's ghost who thinks Vertigan killed him.
Your example plays into the point I was trying to make: sure in this case it's a difficult check, but a hot-rolling player who makes a series of these successful checks is going to bypass all the interesting stuff, regardless of whether it's pre-authored or made up as a failure consequence, and quickly end up on the throne. That really cool idea about the father's ghost in the crypt will never enter play, which is kind of sad.
Well, your reference to "the interesting stuff" as if that were somehow distinct from the actual experience of play is what led me, earlier, to identify your position as a type of story advocacy.

In BW play the interesting stuff is what actually happens at the table. As Campbell said, the GM's main job is to continue to press the PCs to fight for their beliefs. If no one can think of any compelling way to do that then that particular campaign is over; but there's no particular reason to think that that would happen because the PC escapes the dungeon and hooks up with his brothers in arms; or more generally that that is going to be a function of a few "hot rolls".
 

Campbell

Relaxed Intensity
I don't see how these two paragraphs relate to each other.

Your first paragraph is pretty much bang on: the Paladin doesn't derail anything but does change the focus...unless the Paladin or another character outright leaves the party due to their disagreements (which is a very possible outcome of playing true to character, believe me).

But the second paragraph regarding a complete playstyle change doesn't necessarily follow, unless you're thinking of the type of GM who can't (or worse, refuse to) hit curveballs thrown by the players - of which this would certainly be one. Put another way, even in a GM-driven situation you can lead a horse (the players) to water (the story) but you can't make it drink (engage) if it doesn't want to.
In the play style I'm talking about we generally establish just enough setting to create characters and the things that drive them. The setting is generated as needed to provide context for these characters and meaningful antagonism between them and their goals. The point of play is to explore these characters and who they are as people. The setting is just a backdrop.
 
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Campbell

Relaxed Intensity
Looking at a game like Apocalypse World or Masks through the prism of competition vs. cooperation is not quite right. It is neither of those. It's deeply collaborative. If I'm in a conflict with another player's character that might get violent as players we both like each other's characters and would probably like nothing more than for them to resolve their differences, but as fans of these characters that would not do them or the established fiction justice and we would rob the rest of the audience from seeing these characters in their most authentic form so we play with integrity and see what happens. We owe it to them.

This passage from Play Passionately covers it pretty well. Although it is addressing antagonism from the GM it works just as well if it comes from another player character. Less work for the GM.

Play Passionately said:
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.
What @pemerton says about being decidedly non-caller is exactly true. Even in games like Masks, Dungeon World, and Blades in the Dark that are decidedly about a group of characters with what should be in the fiction a strong united purpose we address the players individually. We ask what their character does and not what the group does even if that answer is to turn to the group. I expect them and only them to answer. I'll also ask questions to that character like "Can you believe he just did that?" or "Do you think that was the right call?" to help players think about what their characters think and because I'm really curious. We want to know who these characters are as individuals.
 
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