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Players choose what their PCs do . . .

Elfcrusher

Explorer
The irony, for me, is that FrogReaver has taken what for me is a strong personal preference about roleplaying...that you and only you control your character, "unless magic"...and has tried to claim it as the definition of roleplaying. Even I don't go that far.

And, really, by "unless magic" I mean explicit rules in a given system that define the times a player loses control, preferably with the results pretty narrowly defined. Insanity in CoC, Shadow in The One Ring, etc. The thing I object to is the GM (or another player) dictating what a PC things/does/feels just because that's how they think the story should unfold.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
I kinda think that you're "Saelorning" on this issue right now. If you are arguing something that causes the likes of Pemerton, Tony Vargas, Elfcrusher, Maxperson, Ovinomancer, and hawkeyefan to collectively unite in their disagreement with you, then you have to wonder how badly you screwed up if the Justice League and the Legion of Doom have teamed-up against you. (I'll let them fight it out who belongs to which team in this scenario. It doesn't matter.)
Dibs on Superman and Lex Luthor, depending on which group I get.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
The irony, for me, is that FrogReaver has taken what for me is a strong personal preference about roleplaying...that you and only you control your character, "unless magic"...and has tried to claim it as the definition of roleplaying. Even I don't go that far.
I don't, either. That definition kinda sorta fits for D&D standard, but certainly isn't the only way you can play D&D. Nor is it specific enough, since there are different ways you can roleplay within that personal preference.
 

Nagol

Unimportant
<snip>

I think that it has more to do with the growing recognition among even roleplayers that human beings are irrational, biological creatures who are psychologically pushed and pulled in ways beyond even what they can rationally act upon. Roleplaying games are also about emulating certain facets of the human experience, including such things. As [MENTION=23935]Nagol[/MENTION] said, our impulses and our ideals do not necessarily match. The roleplaying is not necessarily about choosing whether or not we have these impulses but what we do when faced with them.
I'm not sure it's a growing recognition. All of the games I listed are from the 1980s. Outside of more fringe indie games, the '90s and '00s seemed to have a strong pushback against mechanics that would take control away from the player even in more egregious circumstances. Even NPC reaction, which most games had more rules moved much more firmly under GM fiat rather than tests (morale and loyalty checks mostly vanished, for example). Part of the movement seemed driven by having the PCs actions always meet player visualization (in a way entirely opposite to how other mechanics constrain PC ability regardless of player conception) and part driven by believing the GM would know best how to make the situations interesting and checks and tests simply impeded flow.
 

lowkey13

Exterminate all rational thought
The thing I object to is the GM (or another player) dictating what a PC things/does/feels just because that's how they think the story should unfold.
Player: Ima Paladin.

DM: You feel bad.

Not so objectionable now, is it?
 

Elfcrusher

Explorer
Player: Ima Paladin.

DM: You feel bad.

Not so objectionable now, is it?
Sounds to me like you're trying to impose your own preferences on the rest of us. If you don't like paladins you don't have to play one. If one is in your group you could just refluff it in your head as a Dwarf Fighter-Cleric dual-wielding very well-balanced battleaxes with pointy spikes on the ends. You absurd ragequitting jerk.

EDIT: Sorry, trying to spitefully impose your preferences.
 

lowkey13

Exterminate all rational thought
Sounds to me like you're trying to impose your own preferences on the rest of us. If you don't like paladins you don't have to play one. If one is in your group you could just refluff it in your head as a Dwarf Fighter-Cleric dual-wielding very well-balanced battleaxes with pointy spikes on the ends. You absurd ragequitting jerk.

EDIT: Sorry, trying to spitefully impose your preferences.
If you're not going to do something spitefully, why bother doing it at all?

I tell you, it's like my mom always told me, "Lowkey, if you can't be a part of the solution, be a part of the problem. With extra spite."
 

hawkeyefan

Explorer
@hawkeyefan - there's more than one thing going on in your post but I thought I'd start with this one, as it speaks directly to the OP:

The OP, following in the lead of Donald Davidson, is really asserting that "do" and "accomplish" are synonyms.

So opening the safe is something that the PC does. And finding X in the safe (or not, as the case may be) is also something that the PC does. And nimbly moving his/her fingers while listening to the fall of the tumblers is also something that the PC does. And these are all the same thing, although under different descriptions - just as moving my finger, flicking on the light switch, illuminating the room and alerting the prowler that I've come home are all descriptions - different descriptions - of the one action.

Building on this point, the OP is asking about who, at the table, gets to decide what descriptions are true and is pushing for answers to this - which of course might be different for different systems, different contexts of play, different preferences, etc - which go beyond the player decides what the PC does. Because once we recognise that what the PC does is something amenable to multiple descriptions, at varying levels of "thinness"/"thickness", some of which are intended and some of which - like the alerting of the prowler - might be inadvertent - then we can see that it doesn't take us very far to say that someone gets to decide what the PC does. Because we need to know what sorts of descriptions is that person entitled to make true.


Yeah, I follow what you're saying. I think that "do" and "accomplish" generally are synonyms, although in the context of many RPGs, one is something that has no risk of failure, and the other invovles risk of failure that will usually result in some kind of action roll or equivalent. I don't think this distinction is necessary, but I do believe that it exists in many games, or in many approaches to RPGing.

I think of it more in terms of "depth" than "thickness". For many games, turning on the light switch is what the player can declare for his character.....anything further upstream is the purview of the GM. So what is found once the room is lit, who may notice or react to the light coming on....all of that is the GM's call. Other games may allow the player some amount of control over what is revealed when the switch is thrown. And still other games may allow the player to introduce a complication such as the prowler noticing the light.

So the question is how far do these toppling dominoes go?

If the prowler reacts by killing the person who's turned on the light....would it be accurate to say that the player got his character killed? He flipped the switch and died as a result.

Where is the line drawn? It's an interesting question, and depending on the game, the answer will vary. I expect most people and most games will assume a line very close to the initial action taken by the character, and very likely limit it to that specific action only, and then any resulting action based on mechanics will be determined by the GM.

One issue this raises is - what is the connection between player desire about the outcome of an action, PC hope/intention in performing an action (which may be the same as what the player desires, but perhaps not always), and true descriptions of the action?

In fairly traditional D&D action declarations which have no very rich intention behind them - say, I open the safe to see what's inside it - are fairly common. And the GM has a correspondingly very extensive licence to settle true descriptions of those actions- You open the safe and see nothing, or maybe You open the safe only to realise it's a gateway - your mind is blasted as you look on the face of Demogorgon at the other end of the interplaner portal!" Of course there are various principles that are expected to govern the formulation of those descriptions - including (say) fidelity to pre-written notes; cognisance of both PC level and dungeon level; not adopting such a "gotcha" appoach that skilled play becomes impossible, etc. But player desire and PC intention don't play a huge role.

Conversely, in BW an action declaration without some fairly rich specification of an intention or a hope isn't really well-formed. Which then has a big effect on how true descriptions are established: if the check succeeds, then we know that, in the fiction, there is a true description of the action which is the PC getting what s/he wanted. The rule book even describes this as "sacrosanct".

Does the above help make clearer what I'm trying to get at and ask about in the OP?


My experience with Burning Wheel consists almost entirely of reading posts of yours, and a quick glance at bits of the rulebook, so I'm limited in that regard. However, I generally understand your point. Blades in the Dark expects that the player states the intended outcome of the action they're going to take. Something like the below:

Player: I want to kill this guard.
GM: How do you want to do that?
Player: I'll sneak up behind him, and then clap a hand over his mouth with one hand, while I stab him in the back with the other.
GM: Okay. What kind of action do you think that is?
Player: Well, I don't think it's a Skirmish since we're not engaged in fighting. So I think it's probably a Prowl check.
GM: Sounds good. I'd say that your Position is Controlled since it's a boring old night and he's not particularly alert, and you can have Standard Effect.

I like the way that this game handles it. It clearly establishes the goal, the stakes, what action is required, and the potential outcome. And then of course the player has resources that they can apply to try and improve their odds of success, or the degree of their success. Whether the player's desires and that of the character are in line with one another can vary a bit....the player can certainly want things to be complicated for his character because that makes the game interesting. Certainly the character wants to succeed in killing the guard. But this is likely true of most games, to some extent, even if such an idea might be met with resistance.

I'm not sure how far "upstream" you'd consider this to be. If the player rolls well, or applies the necessary resources, then essentially the player has determined that his character has sneaked up on the guard and quietly killed him without alerting anyone else. Given the mechanics of BitD, the player can specifically declare that this is what has happened.
 

hawkeyefan

Explorer
I think that there are two things that are central to RPGs and distinguish them from games in the same general neighbourhood such as shared storytelling games, wargames and the like, all of which tend to involve a shared fiction:
* In a RPG, most if not all of the participants engage the game primarily through a particular person within the shared fiction - their moves primarily consist of descriptions of things that their corresponding person does or attempts to do in the fiction;

* In a RPG, the fiction matters to resolution of moves.​

The second point is what distinguishes a RPG from a boardgame and at least some wargaming. The first point is what distinguishes RPGing from most wargaming, and I think is a more precise take on what @hawkeyefan means by "taking on the roles of characters". Also note that, by my account of RPGing, players in a single-figure wargame where the fiction matters to resolution are playing a RPG - which I think is the right outcome, given that that's pretty much a description of the basics of Arneson's Blackmoor game as I understand it.

The issue of whether the moves are "free-form" or prescribed is, I think, secondary. Much more important, I think, is that the fiction matters to resolution.
Not that I really disagree with you, but I didn't limit my definition to a player adopting the role of only one character because of games where the player adopts more than one character. And also because of the role of GM typically being required to have more than one character who he must portray.

I don't know if I'd go as far as to say that a player only playing a particular character in the fiction is a requirement.
 
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hawkeyefan

Explorer
I kinda think that you're "Saelorning" on this issue right now. If you are arguing something that causes the likes of Pemerton, Tony Vargas, Elfcrusher, Maxperson, Ovinomancer, and hawkeyefan to collectively unite in their disagreement with you, then you have to wonder how badly you screwed up if the Justice League and the Legion of Doom have teamed-up against you. (I'll let them fight it out who belongs to which team in this scenario. It doesn't matter.)
I find this analogy....off-putting.

Clearly it's an Avengers and Masters of Evil dynamic. Duh.
 
Not that I really disagree with you, but I didn't limit my definition to a player adopting the role of only one character because of games where the player adopts more than one character. And also because of the role of GM typically being required to have more than one character who he must portray.

I don't know if I'd go as far as to say that a player only playing a particular character in the fiction is a requirement.
I certainly think that the character played/portrayed can change from moment to moment of engagement - but I do think that in a RPG at any given moment of engagement (for a participant in the "player" = non-"GM" role) there is some particular character you are being.

The contrast is with (say) unit-level control in a wargame, or enterprise-level control in a tycoon-type game, and similar.

No doubt there are borderline cases, like in AW when you declare an action that uses your gang as the "gear" through which you carry it out. That said, the way that AW handles this - it's still based on the PC stats, and the gang really is a type of gear albeit with its own sentience and pesonality - tells us something about it approach to protagonists vs bit parts!
 

FrogReaver

Explorer
Yup. It will indeed mean different things to different people.

For me, taking on a role most often means a role in a story....a persona, a specific character...and I play the game essentially advocating for that character within the story.
That's just the same sound good phrase you said before that still has no meaning because you refuse to assign it any.

I do think role playing is that simple. If I sit down to play chess with you, and every turn I have my King issue orders to the piece I move, and then I have that piece respond in kind...I’m roleplaying. But since chess doesn’t require that in order to function, I’m not playing a roleplaying game.
So now a roleplaying game is not only a game where you can roleplay but a game that requires roleplaying to function. That get's us halfway there. The other half is - what is roleplaying - what is taking on the role of a character/persona/etc?
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
I think it may be so, depending on the game in question. It depends on the mechanics of the game.

Beside that, though, more broadly I think that most games tend to make a distinction between PCs and NPCs. Here you describe the NPC as belonging to the GM, almost like the NPC is the PC for the GM, which I don't think is the common take on NPCs.

I know you hold a very specific "the PCs are no one special" kind of approach, and while I get that from an aesthetic point in the sense that they are no one special in their world, most games have different rules for PCs and NPCs, so in that sense, there are things that make the PCs different. Even most versions of D&D treat NPCs differently than PCs in many ways.
Yep, and it's a design-level mistake.

In the fiction, people don't walk down the street with little 'PC' or 'NPC' stickers on their foreheads - they're just people.
 

FrogReaver

Explorer
The irony, for me, is that FrogReaver has taken what for me is a strong personal preference about roleplaying...that you and only you control your character, "unless magic"...and has tried to claim it as the definition of roleplaying. Even I don't go that far.
Repeatedly saying this doesn't make it true. Trying to attack my character instead of attacking my argument is a problem. So please stop doing that.

You see, for what you are saying to be true, I would have to have some personal investment in defining roleplaying a certain way. I have no such preference. D&D could be called a fantasy hero game and never a roleplaying game and it wouldn't hurt my feelings any. I would think that's a much poorer term for it than a role playing game, and i'm not really sure what the term roleplaying game would be reserved for in this situation but I'd be fine with that. Not a big deal.

What I'm not fine with is taking any game with roleplaying elements and assuming that all mechanics in it are roleplaying mechanics. That's what this thread is doing. When a roleplaying game is mentioned about doing something xyz way, no one but me is stepping back to say, wait a minute, is xyz even a roleplaying mechanic to begin with. Everyone is just taking forgranted that it is a roleplaying mechanic because it came from a roleplaying game.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
Well, for a start, most games treat PCs differently from NPCs. So there is no more reason why an NPC should have the same agency as a PC does. Second, why should it not be exactly the same?

Player: "I winks at the maiden and soften her heart"
GM: "OK, she smiles at you"

Player: "I winks at the maiden and soften her heart"
GM: "Actually, she's not that into you. You'll need to test Flirting"

GM: "The maiden winks at you and softens your heart"
Player: "OK, I smile at her"

GM: "The maiden winks at you and softens your heart"
Player: "Actually, I'm not into her. I'll resist"

I'm not sure I'd characterize the last one as "(justifiable) cries of bloody blue murder" -- I think I'd call it "pretty normal for a Tuesday game"
1 and 2 above carry an implied "try to" in there somewhere, as all player action declarations are in effect attempts to do or change something in the fiction.

3 and 4, however, don't carry that same "try to" vibe with them. Why? Because the GM's word is law, and if you've just been told your heart's been softened then softened it is - you don't get a chance to resist. Bloody blue murder! :)

Now if the GM had put it as "The maiden winks at you and tries to soften your heart" then both 3 and 4 become perfectly valid reflections of how a player might choose to have her PC respond.
 

FrogReaver

Explorer
Yep, and it's a design-level mistake.

In the fiction, people don't walk down the street with little 'PC' or 'NPC' stickers on their foreheads - they're just people.
An RPG isn't about the mechanics that describe the NPC's or the PC's. It's about the roleplaying. If mechanics that favor PC's over NPC's also favor the roleplaying then those mechanics should be used. So no, its not a design level mistake - it's just a design level decision that doesn't match your preference. No mistake there.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
There are many games where no magic is involved and the GM is not only expected to inform PC response, but is required to do so.

Pendragon has a major portion of a character definition be the PC's relationship with a set of paired virtues and vices. The PC is exposed to tests of a virtue or vice and the GM is expected to have the PC react according to how well or poorly the test has handled:



Fantasy Wargaming is another RPG with a series of personality tests designed to represent temptation, loyalty, and social pecking order in an adventuring group.

Other games have morale rules which may dictate how the PCs act under duress.
All of these are well and good, but all share one key element: they invoke game mechanics in order to force the reaction.

"The maiden winks at you and softens your heart" invokes no mechanics at all - the GM has just flat-out told you how your character reacts. See the difference?
 

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