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Players establishing facts about the world impromptu during play

S'mon

Legend
at 20:44 - what do you think of players establishing facts about the world impromptu (spontaneously, not pre-approved) during play? Players, do you feel happy & confident doing this? GMs, do you enjoy this or dislike it?

As a GM I love it when players do it well, and dread it when players do it badly. So as a player I do it a bit more than most, but feel very wary of stepping on GM's toes.
 

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Campbell

Legend
I'm a big believer in what John Harper initially called the line in regards to Apocalypse World. Basically on the player's side of the line are things their character might have experienced or known about (with a preference more for personal connections and experiences). On the other side of the line are things their character could not have experienced or known about. I generally like when players are capable of adding detail to things on their side of the line (particularly when it comes to stuff like personal connections / relationships) in a way that is not really advantage seeking. I try to avoid stuff where players speak to things on the GM's side of the line.

I also think as a GM you should cognizant of things that are on the players' side of the line not to shock them with things their characters should have a firm grasp on.
 

ninjayeti

Adventurer
As a DM I think it depends on the game. I have certainly run campaigns where my own world building is somewhat impromptu, and in those games I would see rolling with player-established facts as a fun challenge. On the other hand I have run campaigns where the world building was very deliberate and in those games I would not want players just throwing in rando facts willy nilly.

As a player I just don't really have any interest in this. I might collaborated with the GM on some backstory elements, but my enjoyment comes from shaping the world through my PC's actions, not in getting a co-writing credit on the game world. Maybe that is just because I can do all the world building I want when I run my own games.
 

aco175

Legend
I think that some depends on the player and some on the extend on it. Some players are good about introducing some elements that are realistic enough for the world and not interfering with what the DM has established. I can also see where some players are not mature enough or may try to game the system with advantage if this was a table norm.

I like things like adding some details to the inn, having the PC come this way and giving a name of the cook and a favorite recipe. Saying the cook is a member of the evil guild and hides poison under the floorboard is a bit much. Establishing that another soldier served in the same unit at the battle of orc pass is good, but saying that he owes the PC a favor and will likely give him his sword as payment is not.
 

Its fine for the games that incorporate it as a core aspect of design, but it damages exploration as a play aesthetic in some ways, because the process of creation and the process of discovery are two very different experiences. But I think they can be incorporated amiably, if the elements the players create are more personal to their characters-- e.g. here's my family, rather than here's the continent I'm from.
 

bloodtide

Explorer
I don't like it. It's far to disruptive for the game. Even if you could get all the players to agree to not be jerks, nearly anything they create of significance will disrupt the world the DM has made.

It's already bad enough that the players can just, every minute, just randomly "pop' stuff into the game world.

It's already bad enough when the DM makes a small town helpless before a orc horde...and then a player just randomly says "oh, I create the warrior god knights of power in town". So, then, suddenly, the DM must explain why the knights do nothing to protect the town.

Then comes the next big huge problem. Once the player creates the knights of power, the DM then gets control over them. Then the DM, needing to keep them out of the war says "oh, they are all cowards". THEN the player super freaks out as they are all offended their 'special" knights of power have been ruined by the DM.

The worst, off course, is when the players outright cheat. They just make a tavern, a weak foe or just an outright pile of treasure. After all why can't the players just say "ok, right by that tree is a trillion gold coins". Oh sure the DM "asks" the players not to do dumb stuff....but where do you draw the line? Just about anything a player just "creates" will disrupt the game....unless it is so pointless and useless not to matter.

Now, all that being said, I do love when players add things to the game....but only limited to rumors, stories, legends, fairy tales, tall tales, songs and stories. And while the player is free to "say anything", they understand and accept that roughly 99% of whatever they say is wrong or at best a half truth.
 

pogre

Legend
I don't like it. It's far to disruptive for the game. Even if you could get all the players to agree to not be jerks, nearly anything they create of significance will disrupt the world the DM has made.

It's already bad enough that the players can just, every minute, just randomly "pop' stuff into the game world.

It's already bad enough when the DM makes a small town helpless before a orc horde...and then a player just randomly says "oh, I create the warrior god knights of power in town". So, then, suddenly, the DM must explain why the knights do nothing to protect the town.

Then comes the next big huge problem. Once the player creates the knights of power, the DM then gets control over them. Then the DM, needing to keep them out of the war says "oh, they are all cowards". THEN the player super freaks out as they are all offended their 'special" knights of power have been ruined by the DM.

The worst, off course, is when the players outright cheat. They just make a tavern, a weak foe or just an outright pile of treasure. After all why can't the players just say "ok, right by that tree is a trillion gold coins". Oh sure the DM "asks" the players not to do dumb stuff....but where do you draw the line? Just about anything a player just "creates" will disrupt the game....unless it is so pointless and useless not to matter.

Now, all that being said, I do love when players add things to the game....but only limited to rumors, stories, legends, fairy tales, tall tales, songs and stories. And while the player is free to "say anything", they understand and accept that roughly 99% of whatever they say is wrong or at best a half truth.
You have to trust your players to do it for sure. Some groups can do it in constructive and cool ways - others cannot handle it.
 

S'mon

Legend
I'm a big believer in what John Harper initially called the line in regards to Apocalypse World. Basically on the player's side of the line are things their character might have experienced or known about (with a preference more for personal connections and experiences). On the other side of the line are things their character could not have experienced or known about. I generally like when players are capable of adding detail to things on their side of the line (particularly when it comes to stuff like personal connections / relationships) in a way that is not really advantage seeking. I try to avoid stuff where players speak to things on the GM's side of the line.

I also think as a GM you should cognizant of things that are on the players' side of the line not to shock them with things their characters should have a firm grasp on.

Great answer, thanks! Yes that line is very important.
 

Burnside

Space Jam Confirmed
I'm a big believer in what John Harper initially called the line in regards to Apocalypse World. Basically on the player's side of the line are things their character might have experienced or known about (with a preference more for personal connections and experiences). On the other side of the line are things their character could not have experienced or known about. I generally like when players are capable of adding detail to things on their side of the line (particularly when it comes to stuff like personal connections / relationships) in a way that is not really advantage seeking. I try to avoid stuff where players speak to things on the GM's side of the line.

I also think as a GM you should cognizant of things that are on the players' side of the line not to shock them with things their characters should have a firm grasp on.

This is exactly how it works in my games as well.
 

what do you think of players establishing facts about the world impromptu (spontaneously, not pre-approved) during play? Players, do you feel happy & confident doing this? GMs, do you enjoy this or dislike it?
I generally love it and the reality is that we've been doing it on some level since the first days of playing RPGs. I also find that there's a good correlation between being confident enough to do it and being good at it. I actually wish players would do it more.

I've literally never seen players do it to attempt to give themselves an advantage that seemed unfair or unwarranted (to establish one that completely made sense and I should have thought of, sure). I have seen it done ineptly a couple of times, but that's usually soon forgotten.

It's already bad enough when the DM makes a small town helpless before a orc horde...and then a player just randomly says "oh, I create the warrior god knights of power in town". So, then, suddenly, the DM must explain why the knights do nothing to protect the town.
This feels like a fictional/theoretical problem, or a problem made up as a reason not to do something, to me. Has this actually ever happened in an actual game you GM'd and what was the real thing that happened? The way you describe it is simply not the way it works in 99% of games, and those where it does work like that have mechanics for it.
 

Just because a character, and their player, BELIEVE something is true does not mean it actually has to be.

Player (in character): "My people are descended from an ancient god who lies buried in the Sunder Mountains."

DM (OOC): "Cool! Let me make a note of that. 'The People of the Peaks believe they are descended from an ancient god who lies buried in the Sunder Mountains. Rename unnamed mountain range at B4 on map.' "
 

Its fine for the games that incorporate it as a core aspect of design, but it damages exploration as a play aesthetic in some ways, because the process of creation and the process of discovery are two very different experiences. But I think they can be incorporated amiably, if the elements the players create are more personal to their characters-- e.g. here's my family, rather than here's the continent I'm from.
I don’t agree that the process of discovery and the process of creation must be mutually exclusive. It’s just not true.

It’s not true cognitively or physically for climbing (both external and internal):

* Here is an obstacle with a variety of holds, distance relationships, degree of slope, and therefore a myriad of ways to attack it dependent upon your strengths, various body relationship indices, etc.

* The way you think you’re going to approach it when you’re uploading the problem from the ground may change dramatically compared to when you’re on the wall.

* When you’re on the wall, you’re creating something new.

* When you’re on the wall, you’re discovering something about not only the obstacle but also about yourself.


The exact same thing holds for BJJ, just sub obstacle for sparring partner.

I suspect the exact same thing holds for improv jazz and improv comedy troupes.

And the exact same thing holds (I know because I’ve done it hundreds and hundreds of times just like climbing and grappling) for No Myth Story Now TTRPGs and when you’re running dungeon crawls with elements of “just in time” procedurally generated content (like a lot of Torchbearer or Moldvay’s Wandering Monsters and Reaction/Morale).
 
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The entire roleplaying experience is about jointly creating a reality. Even if players ask "is there an inn in town?" they are expressing a desire for there to be an inn in existence. There's a continuum of creation from "My character always carries spare food in their pocket" to "the forest by my village is where the god who created the world lives incognito"

The GM (and sometimes the player)'s job to decide if that makes sense. If it's a trivial detail related only to the player's character it's pretty easy; if it effects the rest of the world and may contradict the GM's vision, it may need careful thought.
 

kenada

Legend
Supporter
what do you think of players establishing facts about the world impromptu (spontaneously, not pre-approved) during play?
It depends on what we’re playing and the group that’s playing. I think it’s okay in moderation, though it also depends on whether I am a player or the GM.

Players, do you feel happy & confident doing this?
If you give me a lever as a player, I will pull it (under the assumption it is there to reward me with interesting results and/or reinforce the theme of the game/setting/etc).

GMs, do you enjoy this or dislike it?
Mostly dislike. We’ve tried games that allow for impromptu facts, but my players didn’t like it, and I find I prefer being the source of established facts once play starts.

In my sandbox game, one of my principles (in the PbtA sense) is players can establish facts (subject to reconciliation) as part of the background. That seems to be the sweet spot for us.
 

Related to my post above about creativity and discovery not being mutually exclusive:

I feel like a lot of times in these exact conversations what ends up happening is someone is smuggling in a certain sort of Skilled Play for context and subbing that in for discovery.

It is true that a certain sort of SkilledPlay priority is impacted by players having the unconstrained ability to add elements to the fiction.

However, it is not true that constrained and focused player authority to add content into the shared imagined space impacts that same Skilled Play priority (no more than a player sussing out that the town should have a Watch to discuss matters martial with and a Tavern to visit to hire on Porters or Guides and therefore making the action declaration “I go up to a member of the Watch to discuss if they’ve seen x during their patrols” or “I go to the tavern and ask the barkeep to point me to the territory guide or the Porters Guild).
 
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el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
I like it within limits and depending on the system and playstyle - but in general (and by "in general" I mean D&D), I prefer a more collaborative approach where the player might ask "Can we say my character has passed through here before and knows the barkeep at the Grimy Grimoire?" Or "Is there an alley I can run down to try to escape?" I might not have detailed an alley, but the request kind of creates the possibility of one. Or knowing the barkeep might make it easier to disseminate information or create motivation for doing something to help the town. Thinking about it now, I like the idea of a sticking to things on the PC's side of "the line" - so determining personal history and relationships, occasional names, and places we haven't been to yet in-game, stuff like that.

Anything that would require in-the-moment detailed development of a thing would be out of bounds (so no just creating some order of knights in a random town, whole-cloth), but stuff coming down the road - (i.e. "the town I grew up in which we are traveling towards and should arrive at next week has an Order of Knights called X") is great and gives me time as DM to detail it (or come up with a good reason they are not around).
 

I don’t agree that the process of discovery and the process of creation must be mutually exclusive. It’s just not true.

It’s not true cognitively or physically for climbing (both external and internal):

* Here is an obstacle with a variety of holds, distance relationships, degree of slope, and therefore a myriad of ways to attack it dependent upon your strengths, various body relationship indices, etc.

* The way you think you’re going to approach it when you’re uploading the problem from the ground may change dramatically compared to when you’re on the wall.

* When you’re on the wall, you’re creating something new.

* When you’re on the wall, you’re discovering something about not only the obstacle but also about yourself.


The exact same thing holds for BJJ, just sub obstacle for sparring partner.

I suspect the exact same thing holds for improv jazz and improv comedy troupes.

And the exact same thing holds (I know because I’ve done it hundreds and hundreds of times just like climbing and grappling) for No Myth Story Now TTRPGs and when you’re running dungeon crawls with elements of “just in time” procedurally generated content (like a lot of Torchbearer or Moldvay’s Wandering Monsters and Reaction/Morale).
The analogy is way too far away to be relevant and I'm speaking from experience, when we're playing Masks: A New Generation, coming up with an answer in the fiction is a very different experience from discovering information that was hidden all along. My brain fundamentally engages in a different way when I investigate information, as opposed to when I create it. When I'm writing, I'm debating the narrative implications of the information and how it affects the themes of the fiction-- its a process of curation where I'm choosing between different narrative elements to determine what best creates the tone, themes, and narrative I'm going for, and what elements make me joyful.

When I'm discovering information, part of the fun is the cause and effect of making choices in the fiction, and being rewarded with information. That information is like a piece of a puzzle that I can use to answer my own questions about the world my character inhabits, potentially leverage for benefits I wouldn't have gotten without my diligence, and uncover the themes of the world-building. Because I'm not the one creating it, I get to see someone else really compose and curate the information, I get to see and understand perspectives that I normally wouldn't, patterns that aren't my own and subversions of my expectations. You'd think this would be an element of story now play, but while its definitely fun to find out what comes out of it, the creative tug of war prevents the same degree of composition, I can't suspend disbelief to pretend the theming is coherent in the same way, so instead its just neat to see what the end product looks like with so many different voices.

Its like the difference between cooking and eating.
 

The analogy is way too far away to be relevant and I'm speaking from experience, when we're playing Masks: A New Generation, coming up with an answer in the fiction is a very different experience from discovering information that was hidden all along. My brain fundamentally engages in a different way when I investigate information, as opposed to when I create it. When I'm writing, I'm debating the narrative implications of the information and how it affects the themes of the fiction-- its a process of curation where I'm choosing between different narrative elements to determine what best creates the tone, themes, and narrative I'm going for, and what elements make me joyful.

When I'm discovering information, part of the fun is the cause and effect of making choices in the fiction, and being rewarded with information. That information is like a piece of a puzzle that I can use to answer my own questions about the world my character inhabits, potentially leverage for benefits I wouldn't have gotten without my diligence, and uncover the themes of the world-building. Because I'm not the one creating it, I get to see someone else really compose and curate the information, I get to see and understand perspectives that I normally wouldn't, patterns that aren't my own and subversions of my expectations. You'd think this would be an element of story now play, but while its definitely fun to find out what comes out of it, the creative tug of war prevents the same degree of composition, I can't suspend disbelief to pretend the theming is coherent in the same way, so instead its just neat to see what the end product looks like with so many different voices.

Its like the difference between cooking and eating.

This is a good (and very inferable) response.

But I don't agree that the analogy (climbing to grappling to improv jazz to TTRPGing) is inapt. Like at all.

And I don't agree that its the difference between cooking and eating.

I'm sure your cognitive orientation to what is happening is exactly as you're describing it above, meaning the experiential component for you is as you say. But I don't agree that the dynamics of the curation process between the two is fundamentally discrete/exclusive. Now, like I said above, the Skilled Play component will be impacted under a certain configuration of discovery vs creation in TTRPGing (which is why "The Czege Principle" is absolutely an axiom of challenge-based play). But the fundamental nature of creation (cooking) and discovery (eating) in TTRPGing don't have to be discrete things. And it doesn't have to impact Skilled Play.

Here is an example:

* I'm running Moldvay Basic (therefore my players are playing it).

* I get a configuration of a Wandering Monsters roll (x) + Monster Reaction ( y ) that is completely unorthodox (for both the setting and a homogenous perspective on this creatures orientation).

* Now I have to come up with a "just in time" creation of (a) why the Monster is here at all (so I have to explain their existence and frame the situation around it entirely) and (b) why this instantiation of this Monster would be oriented toward the PCs in such a non-canonical way.


This configuration requires both cooking (the creation of the situation) and the eating (the discovery of the implications on setting/mythology) to take place simultaneously. I'm creating this content and I'm discovery something new about the world at the exact same moment and my players are making the same discovery. "Wow, under rare circumstances the rare Wight can retain a redemptive memory of their past life and have it manifest such that it subverts their evil nature so they answer a plea for help from an injured creature."

Creation + Discovery are happening simultaneously and the players still have to deal with whatever puzzle/obstacle I've put before them (so Skilled Play in the challenge-based dungeon-as-obstacle course sense is kept intact).
 
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