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Players establishing facts about the world impromptu during play

I think that those are two different meanings of the word 'discovery' that are both valid, but not interchangeable. Discovery of 'oh hey, I came up with this, so logically this other piece of fiction would also be true' and 'Oh hey, we're one step closer to solving the puzzle of what happened here' aren't the same play aesthetic.

One is fundamentally an act of creation, the other an act of investigation, you view them differently because in one there's an existing answer you want to uncover the truth of, and in the other you know the 'question' is open ended.

A question you know has a specific answer, and a question you know is a prompt to create your own answer, are very different questions, one is learning, the other is creating. Your example mixes them as ingredients of the same dish, but it doesn't transmute them into the same concept. Its two acts in quick succession, one an act of curation as you utilize the random generation as a prompt to create, and another as the players file this information

This also contrasts with Story Now play, in that the GM is the primary agent of this creation-- the players aren't establishing anything, for them its completely an act of discovery just like if you'd written about that capability of Wights in your notes. The only way they even know that this piece of the fiction was a spur of the moment addition, is if you tell them. 'Story Before' and 'Story a Few Seconds Before' are not, in this context, exclusive concepts. You as composer are simply working randomization into your generation of the composition. You might not know the recipe up front, but the players are still eating, rather than cooking.

In Masks, a player might provide that information spur of the moment, knowing that it currently has no connections to rest of the fiction, making it an act of generation, rather than discovery. There's no mystery to uncover, only a story to tell-- there's no answer until one is generated, and that act is not uncovering something already there, but creating it. This is especially true since the implication of something established is itself only a prompt, its still a multiple choice question that defies the sense of a discrete answer existing, precluding the transition from creation to information gathering.

I sort of want to push back on making them the same, because to me, that sense of information gathering is a core aesthetic of both play as a player and the fun of GMing, whereas some players would rather it not exist and that all elements be established as generated rather than gathered. Sort of a sense of "Why are there elements of the fiction I don't control?" By conflating them, we create a weak substitute for information gathering that allows it to exist in theory, but not in practice. Something that might let us say 'You can explore and gather information!' but then deferring the act of exploration of an existing fictional space to a generative act of that same fictional space.

This is a trick of language, where 'playing to find out' really means 'playing to author and enjoy your friends authoring' as opposed to 'playing to uncover' The two can be mixed to an extent, but different ratios provide different products and different experiences. The more we have of 'playing to author' the less we have of 'playing to uncover' and vice versa, that gap can't be bridged by demanding those who are playing to uncover be satisfied by playing to author. Vice versa, this is why railroading is accepted as a bad thing, player agency in interacting with the world is traditionally their avenue for authorship, forming a symbiotic relationship between a world that can be uncovered and an emergent series of events that can be authored.
 
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Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
I think that those are two different meanings of the word 'discovery' that are both valid, but not interchangeable. Discovery of 'oh hey, I came up with this, so logically this other piece of fiction would also be true' and 'Oh hey, we're one step closer to solving the puzzle of what happened here' aren't the same play aesthetic.

One is fundamentally an act of creation, the other an act of investigation, you view them differently because in one there's an existing answer you want to uncover the truth of, and in the other you know the 'question' is open ended.

A question you know has a specific answer, and a question you know is a prompt to create your own answer, are very different questions, one is learning, the other is creating. Your example mixes them as ingredients of the same dish, but it doesn't transmute them into the same concept. Its two acts in quick succession, one an act of curation as you utilize the random generation as a prompt to create, and another as the players file this information

This also contrasts with Story Now play, in that the GM is the primary agent of this creation-- the players aren't establishing anything, for them its completely an act of discovery just like if you'd written about that capability of Wights in your notes. The only way they even know that this piece of the fiction was a spur of the moment addition, is if you tell them. 'Story Before' and 'Story a Few Seconds Before' are not, in this context, exclusive concepts. You as composer are simply working randomization into your generation of the composition. You might not know the recipe up front, but the players are still eating, rather than cooking.

In Masks, a player might provide that information spur of the moment, knowing that it currently has no connections to rest of the fiction, making it an act of generation, rather than discovery. There's no mystery to uncover, only a story to tell-- there's no answer until one is generated, and that act is not uncovering something already there, but creating it. This is especially true since the implication of something established is itself only a prompt, its still a multiple choice question that defies the sense of a discrete answer existing, precluding the transition from creation to information gathering.

I sort of want to push back on making them the same, because to me, that sense of information gathering is a core aesthetic of both play as a player and the fun of GMing, whereas some players would rather it not exist and that all elements be established as generated rather than gathered. Sort of a sense of "Why are there elements of the fiction I don't control?" By conflating them, we create a weak substitute for information gathering that allows it to exist in theory, but not in practice. Something that might let us say 'You can explore and gather information!' but then deferring the act of exploration of an existing fictional space to a generative act of that same fictional space.

This is a trick of language, where 'playing to find out' really means 'playing to author and enjoy your friends authoring' as opposed to 'playing to uncover' The two can be mixed to an extent, but different ratios provide different products and different experiences. The more we have of 'playing to author' the less we have of 'playing to uncover' and vice versa, that gap can't be bridged by demanding those who are playing to uncover be satisfied by playing to author. Vice versa, this is why railroading is accepted as a bad thing, player agency in interacting with the world is traditionally their avenue for authorship, forming a symbiotic relationship between a world that can be uncovered and an emergent series of events that can be authored.
This is a good post, but I think that it misses that every RPG is fully authored by tge participants, the difference being who, when, hiw, and why. Your posts sets aside GM authoring as somehow privikeged in nature -- that discovery can only occur if players discover what tge GM authors, while saying that discovery cannot occur if a player aids in authoring anything. This ignores that all the other players, including the GM, now get to discover this.
 



I think that those are two different meanings of the word 'discovery' that are both valid, but not interchangeable. Discovery of 'oh hey, I came up with this, so logically this other piece of fiction would also be true' and 'Oh hey, we're one step closer to solving the puzzle of what happened here' aren't the same play aesthetic.

One is fundamentally an act of creation, the other an act of investigation, you view them differently because in one there's an existing answer you want to uncover the truth of, and in the other you know the 'question' is open ended.

A question you know has a specific answer, and a question you know is a prompt to create your own answer, are very different questions, one is learning, the other is creating. Your example mixes them as ingredients of the same dish, but it doesn't transmute them into the same concept. Its two acts in quick succession, one an act of curation as you utilize the random generation as a prompt to create, and another as the players file this information

This also contrasts with Story Now play, in that the GM is the primary agent of this creation-- the players aren't establishing anything, for them its completely an act of discovery just like if you'd written about that capability of Wights in your notes. The only way they even know that this piece of the fiction was a spur of the moment addition, is if you tell them. 'Story Before' and 'Story a Few Seconds Before' are not, in this context, exclusive concepts. You as composer are simply working randomization into your generation of the composition. You might not know the recipe up front, but the players are still eating, rather than cooking.

In Masks, a player might provide that information spur of the moment, knowing that it currently has no connections to rest of the fiction, making it an act of generation, rather than discovery. There's no mystery to uncover, only a story to tell-- there's no answer until one is generated, and that act is not uncovering something already there, but creating it. This is especially true since the implication of something established is itself only a prompt, its still a multiple choice question that defies the sense of a discrete answer existing, precluding the transition from creation to information gathering.

I sort of want to push back on making them the same, because to me, that sense of information gathering is a core aesthetic of both play as a player and the fun of GMing, whereas some players would rather it not exist and that all elements be established as generated rather than gathered. Sort of a sense of "Why are there elements of the fiction I don't control?" By conflating them, we create a weak substitute for information gathering that allows it to exist in theory, but not in practice. Something that might let us say 'You can explore and gather information!' but then deferring the act of exploration of an existing fictional space to a generative act of that same fictional space.

This is a trick of language, where 'playing to find out' really means 'playing to author and enjoy your friends authoring' as opposed to 'playing to uncover' The two can be mixed to an extent, but different ratios provide different products and different experiences. The more we have of 'playing to author' the less we have of 'playing to uncover' and vice versa, that gap can't be bridged by demanding those who are playing to uncover be satisfied by playing to author. Vice versa, this is why railroading is accepted as a bad thing, player agency in interacting with the world is traditionally their avenue for authorship, forming a symbiotic relationship between a world that can be uncovered and an emergent series of events that can be authored.

This is a good post, but I think that it misses that every RPG is fully authored by tge participants, the difference being who, when, hiw, and why. Your posts sets aside GM authoring as somehow privikeged in nature -- that discovery can only occur if players discover what tge GM authors, while saying that discovery cannot occur if a player aids in authoring anything. This ignores that all the other players, including the GM, now get to discover this.

This is so_weird. I read TMS' post last night and what you've written above was my brain's response, almost literally word for word. I mean, this is probably the byproduct of us having a lot of recent discussions at least related to these concepts.

Beyond Ovinomancer's response above, the only thing I can add is to refer back to my posts in the "whodunnit" thread where I break this down considerably. Removing the type of Skilled Play priority of defeating a prefabricated obstacle course like a dungeon (which, I've talked about in considerable detail and why it applies to obstacle course navigation with the integration of concerns temporal + spatial + action economy + game units and why it doesn't apply to "whodunnit-ing"/mysteries), there is no difference between Story Before and Story Now in terms of actual discovery by the participants at the table (except for the fact that the GM gets to actually play to find out as well in Story Now games or moments of Story Now content introduction). The shared imagined space does_not_exist. It has no tangible reality to undergird its processes and volition. Its just like Ouja. It has no volition. The only volition it possesses is that which we invest it with.

I'm going to go ahead and just copy/paste and quote block my posts in that thread. They are a more elaborate stand-in for my thoughts on the subject (as I don't want to needlessly transcribe old thoughts for this thread when I've already covered this):

On the structure of mysteries in Story Now play, there are really 4 parts to the formula/structure:

* Start out broad and let play winnow results until all other possible conclusions have been eliminated.

Simply put, we start out with set of possible results "a through f." Through interrogation of the mystery, play introduces a number of situations, the resolution of which removes f, then d, then a, then b/c. We're left with e.

* Everyone at the table is handling their responsibilities (GMs bring situations/setting "on-line" via deft deployment of thematically coherent dangers/discoveries while players advocate for their PCs and what they would find to be interesting) but everyone is persisting in a dual state of leading/following for the game pieces they're representing.

This last bit is the cognitive trick to turn that I think most people have trouble conceptualizing until it clicks. Again, as I said elsewhere (and perhaps here), there is a curiosity and an impulsivity that must ride right alongside your attachment. Perhaps it is most similar to that "helicopter parenting" impulse. You have this precious thing that you want to prevent from having bad outcomes...but you have to let go of that to a degree to get there. Suddenly let your child do thing x that gives you anxiety. Be curious if they can do it/about what happens next, but simultaneously be mentally prepared to reassert yourself because you will inevitably have to (if only in degree). You're following/leading at the same time. "Act now, plan later."

* Skillful play should bear out the active winnowing of results to that final conclusion of e.

GMs introduce situations that require players to make moves. Some of these moves trigger action resolution, through which the GM is obliged to change the gamestate and attendant fiction within the constraints of those principles/rules/procedures that govern action resolution. When done deftly, both the actual winnowing of results and the feel of the winnowing of results will yield "the play that got us to these results was skillful."

* Book-keeping, integration, and continuity.

This is pretty straight-forward, but if you're attentively following along and cementing what has come before in your mind, it will result in the care and cognitive horsepower necessary to integrate and maintain continuity.

Most of these things are going to be small-ish (singular session spanning), but if it extends beyond that, don't be afraid to recap, refresh, and talk about it...and have other parties (eg not the GM) doing the recap/refresh to make sure everyone is on the same page as to "how we got here and where we are."




I'm going to deconstruct a quick example of a simple mystery that came into being out of nowhere and was resolved last session in my game with @darkbard and his wife. All 3 of us were leading and following.

* The Wizard PC wants to repair the Paladin's armor that was ruined in the session before last and possibly enchant it. She wants to deploy a Ritual (a Wizard move), but she needs a master smith or his hammer/anvil, a steel ingot, residuum for the enchant, a successful enchant move. They're at camp 2 of a climb up to a K2esque peak.

She thinks "I believe I've read in my books on the history of this place that there once was a Dwarven Smith nearby." She makes a Spout Lore move w/ Bag of Books augmenting it and gets a 10+ result. I'm obliged to create a Discovery here; something both interesting and useful.

She is leading. I (the GM) am following.

* I create a legend out of whole cloth about a centuries old Dwarven Smith whose Forge was built into the rock off the glacier somewhere not too far from camp 2. His sigil was carved into the very rock which signified the secrete forge's location...but that was many centuries ago and no one has seen him since.

We're now all following. I'm following myself (what I've just made true in the fiction) and they're about to follow it to find the truth of the situation. At this point the reality of the situation is extremely broad. We could winnow to a conclusion of any of "a through f (or more)."

* The set out upon the glacier which obliges me to frame the situation as they follow the details of the legend. Eventually we get to an area of the glacier with meltwater pools and a depression near the northern rock wall that the glacier grinds against. A 10+ Discern Realities move sharpens the picture. Initially we think "this could very well be the site because it looks like some kind of unseen heat may be creating this topographical feature" as hold is spent to ask questions which I'm obliged to answer honestly. Could merely be vents or hot springs. But it could be a forge. But is that forge active signifying life? Is that forge eternally aflame and therefore requires no attendant? Whatever it is, the area is extremely dangerous with multiple hidden crevasse by a thin layer of shifting ice/snow. And the last question is picked and answers the question emphatically; we see the signs of a chiseled sigil into the rock wall, barely peaking out from the top of the massive glacier that has buried it.

This appears to be the place.

Follow > Lead > Follow loop continues for all participants and the mystery starts to peel back, but much remains up in the air.

* A decision-point is navigated. They're either climbing the face (which would be resource-intensive and dangerous) and rappel down to the wall vs trying to navigate the dangerous, unstable crevasse field to the face of the rock wall where the sigil is. They choose the latter.

A move triggers calamity and a snaking crack explodes underneath them and much of the unstable groundcover gives weigh. The Paladin rushes, leaps, and grabs the edge of the collapsed glacier and grabs his understudy Paladin with one arm and pulls her up to safety before he does the same for himself (an 8 on Defy Danger w/ the complication being the threat to his "padawan"...a subsequent 10+ Defy Danger resolves the threat fully).

Unfortunately, his Wizard companion friend did the sort of Act Now, Plan Later impulsive move that she is known for and it got her into big trouble. The failed move meant that the ground swallows her and she immediately begins a horrific tumble as the crevasse swallows her. She is thrown every which way, head over heels and back again as she slams into every manner of jagged, unforgiving ice possible...fully out of control. She slams into the ground with d10 environmental damage, no armor suckitude (this is not great for a Wizard PC and she is nearly killed) and in complete blackness.

We're all following at this point.

The air is thick with electrically charged terror...from what?

Unnerved hesitance leads to "eff it" (Act Now Plan Later) and the Wizard enacts a Light spell...whatever happened here happened long ago...nothing attacks and no signs of life/passage.

The door to the forge is massive...so things much larger than dwarves can pass through (utility or a dwarf's boast in scale of creation)?

The door appears to be "soldered" but not in a precise way...and this was done from the outside and not from the inside?

Still following...still leading...and back again.




I'm time-limited right now so I'm not going to go through all of the rest of it, but suffice to say its a continuation of the same loop of leading > following > leading by all participants, the whole of the process winnowing the fiction to a singular point that answers the mystery "what happened to the dwarf...is the forge still here...who occupies it...what is the story behind all of the answers." So we're at (let's say) d+g (@darkbard will know what that means!), arrived their from the initial subset of a - n, with the d tying into something that came into play as a "reveal an unwelcome truth" several sessions before but had never been made manifest (I took the opportunity at this point to make it manifest because it struck me as "right" in several different ways, including as an outgrowth of action resolution and to escalate the scene).

The mystery didn't exist 1.5 hours beforehand and even after the initial move that triggered it, none of us knew the reality embedded deep underneath that initial 10+ Spout Lore move. But we each led, we each followed, and we got there.

And it was cool. And it was skillful play by players (tactically, strategically, thematically, Act Now, Plan Later, and Follow and Lead your PC with curiosity about what happens) and appropriate GMing that got us there.

TLDR - Off-the-cuff mysteries are entirely doable. They take practice in terms of craft, habitation of the cognitive framework, and the proper alchemy with respect to table participants.

Here is the thing on this, it comes down to game engine, procedures, and principles.

For instance:

* Player wants thing x to be true. Thing x being true doesn't overwrite already established fiction. Player x makes a move where the stakes are "is thing x true?"

Player gets a success.

Thing x is true.

GMing a red herring either now or introducing the red herring later in such a way that would render the player's won thing x is true is against the rules and against their GMing principles (say what honesty demands...play with integrity and a table-facing hand). The GM is constrained by these things and subsequent fiction is bound by this.

What if the player gets a success with complication?

Thing x is true but this other thing you don't want to be true (that doesn't undermine thing x being true) is also true...deal with it.

You can't make a red herring about thing x, but you can do some shenanigans with stuff that isn't thing x that doesn't violate prior fiction, rules, or principles.

What if the player gets a failure?

Thing x is not true. Deal with it.

Here is your "red herrings are game" move. And this can snowball into other things being not true that you (the player) want to be true. Or things can stabilize and the picture will suddenly flesh out, constraining the imagined space such that a, b, c, d, e, f, g, l, m, n, o, p are all locked in...the only bit of murk left is around h, i, and j. Subsequent play and the prior, binding fiction (and, of course, the rules and principles) will determine the nature of things.




Now if the question is "can you create a Story Now whodunnit where the GM is not constrained in the ways I've stated above?" The answer is "no, you cannot." But that doesn't mean that a whodunnit where curiosity is sated and the table participants are all both following and leading cannot emerge to create a skillfully played, satisfying mystery. It just means that the reveal of the whodunnit is operationalized in a particular way that precludes absolute GM authority in their preconceptions and extrapolations.

I'm going to take one more crack at this.

Why does the type of Skilled Play of Moldvay Basic dungeoneering require a pre-prepped (mapped, keyed, stocked) dungeon while the type of Skilled Play of a mystery does not require a pre-prepped whodunnit matrix (who/where/with what/why)?

Its because of the multi-dimensional nature of dungeoneering vs the investigation + inference-exclusive nature of whodunnit-ing.

Consider the dimensional requirements of Skilled Play in a Moldvay Dungeon Crawl:

1) Exploration Turns are tightly encoded and unit based on multiple axes and they all matter (time, space, and how these integrate with the rest of the system).

2) The engine of Wandering Monsters every x Turns + Required Rest every y Turns means that Turns have to be tightly kept and players are making decision-points based on the integration of this stuff along with the integration of all of the other encoded bits of the system.

3) Loadout (which has multiple dimensions itself; HPs, Spells, Gear) has to be tightly kept.

4) Resource management has multiple dimensions to consider in both this moment, the next moment, and in the Crawl at large (including the question of "can we locate and fortify a location so we can make camp and recharge?").

5) Encumbrance + Hireling considerations (Porters have costs and they have to be protected) and this integrating with Gold for xp and the strategic decision to push-on vs withdrawal.

6) Decisions at the encounter level (parley, fight, evade, etc) are all integrated with everything above.


Simply put...if you're eliding, fudging, failing in your book-keeping/accounting, it impacts the actual signal of the Skilled Play of the delve. A person may not care about the "purity" of that signal of Skilled Play...but that doesn't mean that its not impacted by any of (a) not prepping, (b) eliding essential aspects of play which feeds back into the delve as a whole, (c) failing to book-keep all of the various moving (and integrated) parts, or (d) fudging rolls (either the GM or a player). Something as simple as removing Encumbrance (5) has a huge impact on play. Remove the Wandering Monster machinery (1) and Encumbrance? You're suddenly playing a different game.

Now you may like that game better, but the fact its fundamentally a different game cannot be questioned.




Now conversely, what is happening in a "whodunnit?"

* You're investigating framed scenes.

* You're putting together pieces of a puzzle.

* Finally, you're drawing an inference.

Those things do not require the acutely tracked, multi-dimensional, and deeply integrated operationalizing of play (including all of the mechanical resolution requirements) that is required in a Moldvay Delve. Those things require (a) a GM who can effectively frame provocative scenes that address the premise of the whodunnit, (b) players who can investigate/collate information, (c) and an inference that draws upon the coherence of the continual play loop of (a) + (b) until the puzzle is solved by a player.

I mean, you can do multiple continuous loops of Framed Scene > Investigate > Collate > Rinse/Repeat until Inference-based Conclusion and derive the same sort of Skilled Play in whodunnit-ing entirely in Unstructured Freeform without any mechanics and without a single prefabricated piece of the who, what, why, how puzzle (that stuff can be stitched together on the fly). Or you could have the who and why and have to stitch together the what and how. Or any 2 or 3 of that matrix and figure out/allow to emerge the last 1-2 pieces during the continuous loops.

Conversely, you fundamentally cannot do that in a Moldvay Dungeon Crawl. Its impossible. No human can keep all of deeply acute spatial/temporal information in their head and all of those multivariate interactions that occur in the course of a singular delve. The kind of Skilled Play that Moldvay Dungeon Crawls distills would be entirely lost.

The fact that a person might feel differently about the operationalizing of that whodunnit play doesn't mean that the litmus test for Skilled Play in that sort of play loop is lost. It just means they feel a certain way about it (its less real...its less substantial...less grounded perhaps). The fact that a GM/table might suck at operationalizing it, doesn't mean it cannot be done...because it trivially can.

But the other one. Its not feel. Its a binary of on/off. Are my individual delving decisions interfacing with all of the multi-dimensional and integrated properties outlined above such that the entirety of the delve was the product of Skilled Play? Yes, then Skilled Play. No? Something else.

EDIT - So what can No Myth Story Now fundamentally not do? It CANNOT operationalize the sort of high resolution dungeon delve in the vein of Moldvay Basic. Torchbearer, which is a Story Now game more akin to Blades in the Dark (but waaaaaaaay south of Blades in terms of resolution of setting), can do it (and do it awesomely), but it is certainly not No Myth. Its north of Dogs in the Vineyard Prep (which isn't quite No Myth but its not terribly north of it where you're preparing Towns which = pivotal NPCs and provocative, entangled situations which orbits around one or more Sins/PC Relationship and requires Paladin-ey intervention).
 


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?

Most of my experience is with RPGs that privilege the GM as the primary author of the setting. With that said, I like it when a game includes a lot of player creation too. I like this as both a player and as a GM. If we come into town and the GM doesn't have an inn pre-created, let a player describe the place and introduce some NPCs.

In adult groups, I have never seen a player take advantage of this impromptu "author's mantle" to give advantages to their character or the PCs in general. On the contrary, they sometimes introduce new conflicts and tension into the story. Mostly, however, it enriches the setting for everybody. It also encourages players to pay closer attention to the setting so that new creations are congruent with the existing fiction. I find that players are often harsher critics than the GM on this front, disliking things that feel too dissonant.

As a GM, being more open to this has made me a better GM. I'm less attached to "my vision" and I pay closer attention to the elements of the setting that the players are enjoying (because these show up in their contributions). The game is enhanced with subplots related to player-authored content. It also reduces the pressure to pre-create extra NPCs, businesses, encounters, and all the other crap that overachieving GMs tend to build behind the scenes. That sort of thing was fun when I was in college, but I just don't have time for that level of obsessiveness anymore. (And I'm not sure that it really made the game better for anybody.)
 

Puddles

Explorer
So I am definitely in favour of my players contributing to world building, but definitely do not have them doing so impromptu in the session. The only time I allow such is when it's for very unimportant things and minor details. For example, in our last session, the party were making a forgery of a famous bottle of wine to impress an NPC at dinner. I let the bard come up with the name of the famous wine they were creating a forgery of.

I think the reason I am against impromptu world building by the PCs of major details is because I don't embrace impromptu world building myself. I have to do it all the time of course, I have not prepared everything, but when I do it, it is under the lie that it was prepared all along and hasn't just sprang into existence on a whim. I endeavor to prepare as much as possible and only create stuff impromptuly when I have to, so I wouldn't want to encourage my PCs to do the same.

When the PCs were creating their characters, they all did a lot of world building. Coming up with cities and nations that they hail from, and those become places of the campaign setting. The overarching plot of the campaign itself is based up 'Discovery' of the PC with the Hermit background.

Since then, the PCs haven't done any major world building, but if we were to directly visit any of the places they came up with, I would work with them to flesh out the details, but this would not be done mid-session on the fly.
 

Let me put my thoughts above about volition and the (ir)relevance of the time of content generation another way (using Ouija again):

* Whether the primary volition force (not a ghost...the person who takes the active role in guiding the planchette) in a game of Ouija decides before play begins or right at the first movement of the planchette that they're going to spell out "we are many" is irrelevant to the realities of discovery. In both cases, the person moving the planchette is discovering nothing. In both cases the other participants are only pretending to discover something (there are no ghosts and their conception of the situation is undergirded entirely and only by the contrivance of the play itself).

* Whether this continues forward into the continuity of a multi-exchange "discussion" (one might compare and contrast this with the continuity of a TTRPG game), whether or not the primary volitional force compelled this exchange by coming up with their exposition "before" or "now" is once again, irrelevant to the realities of discovery.


HOWEVER...

Play a different game. A game where concerns temporal + spatial + action economy + game units all must be perfectly sourced and perfectly integrated for the challenge-based priority of "Playing Skillfully" to maintain its competitive integrity...THEN the conversation is different. THEN the nature and reality of discovery becomes a different beast entirely (because it is an essential parameter of a tightly tuned model which tests Skilled Play).
 

Pretty much the same. If they're invested in the world and come up with something that just feels right, even if I never would've thought of it in a million years, that's awesome. If they just come up with something dumb that actively clashes, that sucks.

In my magitech setting, one player really wanted to be into fashion and gossip magazines, so now we've got magazines. They've even been worked into the plot multiple times now.

On the converse, that same campaign world has no horses or beasts of burden, and there've been multiple occasions where I've had to say "no, that can't exist because horses don't exist here."

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.
 

Emerikol

Adventurer
Wow I can't believe this discussion which was pretty well ran through in the GM notes thread has now jumped to a new thread. We do have a lot of new discussers though so maybe it can be interesting.
 

This is a good post, but I think that it misses that every RPG is fully authored by tge participants, the difference being who, when, hiw, and why. Your posts sets aside GM authoring as somehow privikeged in nature -- that discovery can only occur if players discover what tge GM authors, while saying that discovery cannot occur if a player aids in authoring anything. This ignores that all the other players, including the GM, now get to discover this.
Not every form of authorship is the same, the difference between player and GM authorship, particularly the way Story-Now games (my reference being Masks: A New Generation) lies with the way their role is constructed and how that frames the purpose of the things that they can create and how they can be engaged with.

Intentionality is one of the big elements here, where the boundaries of authorship can create creative cohesion by privileging one participant (the GM) with the lion's share of the authorship (it does this by designating 'spaces' of authorship as relatively strict constructs, the GM authors the world, the players author their characters actions), meaning that participant can utilize those elements within a single vision. This element of vision and intentionality is an important one to exploration as a play aesthetic, because you're looking to put the puzzle pieces together, so you want the pieces to fit together according to some design. Masks actually utilizes the GM for this role, framing them as a keeper of continuity and tone, and giving them an editorial role over the elements of the fiction that the other players establish.

An interrelated concept is the way the activity you're participating in is framed: are you telling a story about people exploring a dungeon, or are you exploring a dungeon. To boil it back down to a mystery structure as discussed in Manbearcat's recent post: a bunch of players getting together to find clues and solve a mystery is a very different activity than inventing the clues sporadically and deciding who the culprit ought to be-- both might be fun, but they aren't the same activity. Its comparable to the difference between building an escape room, and solving an escape room. Reading and Writing are not synonyms even if reading contains interpretation, and writing contains deduction. It doesn't matter that the activity produces an illusion, because the illusion is instrumental to the experience you're having, its about what role you play in that illusion-- the generation of the illusion, and the experience of the illusion are different.

By the same token, the ability to generate elements of the fiction outside of the character changes the way we think about the problems we're solving, an intentional move on the part of Story Now games. We aren't interested in whether the players-as-characters can find a way to solve the problem given a set of constraints, we're interested in what the solution the players as author-as-actors come up with means for the fiction, if my players establish a way out of the situation in Masks, that's fine, but I'm supposed to complicate that solution to give it dramatic consequences. You can certainly establish that Superman is wandering on by and can help out, but I'm responsible for giving him opinions of your characters, to make that an opportunity for narrative. Its the core of "Yes, and" we're building a narrative out of the elements of the fiction we're establishing, the point isn't the problem-solving as a player activity, its the construction of a story in which problems are solved, and we make that more interesting by building on one another.

Contrast with Pathfinder, because the players ability to establish elements of the fiction outside their character actions are more limited, they can engage in problem solving from the perspective of their characters. Problems are interesting mental exercises in their own right, rather than just as an impetus for drama or a creative writing prompt for the table. You aren't just telling the story of a dragon-slaying, you're slaying the dragon, an activity being simulated through the use of rules which emulate the presence of a dragon, the difficulty of slaying it, and the tools one might have in a story about slaying dragons. The GM 'runs' the Dragon, as a means of rendering a distinct entity you are constrained from controlling.

The purpose of the illusion in Pathfinder is emergent storytelling through simulation (which demands constraints imposed on the players authorship of the game world, to maintain their Ludonarrative role), the purpose of the illusion in Masks is emergent storytelling through collaborative authorship (which relaxes those constraints to refocus on storytelling, over simulation.) They can both be fun, but they produce different experiences.

In short, this actually betrays the crux of the problem:
The shared imagined space does_not_exist. It has no tangible reality to undergird its processes and volition.
The purpose of the constraints placed upon player establishment of the fiction, and the privileging of the GM is to emulate a tangible reality to undergird its processes and volition, so that emulation of a tangible reality can provide a constrained play space for the simulation that produces an emergent narrative (that tangible reality being curated by 'Story Before' elements). This is true regardless of whether the GM employs systems with rules that output consistent results to provide a framework, or uses their best aesthetic judgement to do so, to reference back to the GM Notes thread.

Story Now games, with their heavy emphasis on player establishment of fiction, trade away the idea of these constraints emulating a world to function as playspace, in favor of a more direct 'collaborative storytelling' model where the rules function as a structure to resolve uncertainty and prompt the creation of additional fiction, rather than constrain it. This is a tradeoff, because you lose some of the benefits of the other style, but you gain things from it as well. You can also admixture a little of that style while still maintaining the simulation oriented game play, usually by having the GM approve all the additions to the fiction-- which gives the players the sense that they're weaving it into their simulation.
 

Emerikol

Adventurer
Not every form of authorship is the same, the difference between player and GM authorship, particularly the way Story-Now games (my reference being Masks: A New Generation) lies with the way their role is constructed and how that frames the purpose of the things that they can create and how they can be engaged with.

Intentionality is one of the big elements here, where the boundaries of authorship can create creative cohesion by privileging one participant (the GM) with the lion's share of the authorship (it does this by designating 'spaces' of authorship as relatively strict constructs, the GM authors the world, the players author their characters actions), meaning that participant can utilize those elements within a single vision. This element of vision and intentionality is an important one to exploration as a play aesthetic, because you're looking to put the puzzle pieces together, so you want the pieces to fit together according to some design. Masks actually utilizes the GM for this role, framing them as a keeper of continuity and tone, and giving them an editorial role over the elements of the fiction that the other players establish.

An interrelated concept is the way the activity you're participating in is framed: are you telling a story about people exploring a dungeon, or are you exploring a dungeon. To boil it back down to a mystery structure as discussed in Manbearcat's recent post: a bunch of players getting together to find clues and solve a mystery is a very different activity than inventing the clues sporadically and deciding who the culprit ought to be-- both might be fun, but they aren't the same activity. Its comparable to the difference between building an escape room, and solving an escape room. Reading and Writing are not synonyms even if reading contains interpretation, and writing contains deduction. It doesn't matter that the activity produces an illusion, because the illusion is instrumental to the experience you're having, its about what role you play in that illusion-- the generation of the illusion, and the experience of the illusion are different.

By the same token, the ability to generate elements of the fiction outside of the character changes the way we think about the problems we're solving, an intentional move on the part of Story Now games. We aren't interested in whether the players-as-characters can find a way to solve the problem given a set of constraints, we're interested in what the solution the players as author-as-actors come up with means for the fiction, if my players establish a way out of the situation in Masks, that's fine, but I'm supposed to complicate that solution to give it dramatic consequences. You can certainly establish that Superman is wandering on by and can help out, but I'm responsible for giving him opinions of your characters, to make that an opportunity for narrative. Its the core of "Yes, and" we're building a narrative out of the elements of the fiction we're establishing, the point isn't the problem-solving as a player activity, its the construction of a story in which problems are solved, and we make that more interesting by building on one another.

Contrast with Pathfinder, because the players ability to establish elements of the fiction outside their character actions are more limited, they can engage in problem solving from the perspective of their characters. Problems are interesting mental exercises in their own right, rather than just as an impetus for drama or a creative writing prompt for the table. You aren't just telling the story of a dragon-slaying, you're slaying the dragon, an activity being simulated through the use of rules which emulate the presence of a dragon, the difficulty of slaying it, and the tools one might have in a story about slaying dragons. The GM 'runs' the Dragon, as a means of rendering a distinct entity you are constrained from controlling.

The purpose of the illusion in Pathfinder is emergent storytelling through simulation (which demands constraints imposed on the players authorship of the game world, to maintain their Ludonarrative role), the purpose of the illusion in Masks is emergent storytelling through collaborative authorship (which relaxes those constraints to refocus on storytelling, over simulation.) They can both be fun, but they produce different experiences.

In short, this actually betrays the crux of the problem:

The purpose of the constraints placed upon player establishment of the fiction, and the privileging of the GM is to emulate a tangible reality to undergird its processes and volition, so that emulation of a tangible reality can provide a constrained play space for the simulation that produces an emergent narrative (that tangible reality being curated by 'Story Before' elements). This is true regardless of whether the GM employs systems with rules that output consistent results to provide a framework, or uses their best aesthetic judgement to do so, to reference back to the GM Notes thread.

Story Now games, with their heavy emphasis on player establishment of fiction, trade away the idea of these constraints emulating a world to function as playspace, in favor of a more direct 'collaborative storytelling' model where the rules function as a structure to resolve uncertainty and prompt the creation of additional fiction, rather than constrain it. This is a tradeoff, because you lose some of the benefits of the other style, but you gain things from it as well. You can also admixture a little of that style while still maintaining the simulation oriented game play, usually by having the GM approve all the additions to the fiction-- which gives the players the sense that they're weaving it into their simulation.

I think this is a great explanation. Perhaps the best I've seen on here to differentiate the styles.
 

By the same token, the ability to generate elements of the fiction outside of the character changes the way we think about the problems we're solving, an intentional move on the part of Story Now games. We aren't interested in whether the players-as-characters can find a way to solve the problem given a set of constraints, we're interested in what the solution the players as author-as-actors come up with means for the fiction, if my players establish a way out of the situation in Masks, that's fine, but I'm supposed to complicate that solution to give it dramatic consequences. You can certainly establish that Superman is wandering on by and can help out, but I'm responsible for giving him opinions of your characters, to make that an opportunity for narrative. Its the core of "Yes, and" we're building a narrative out of the elements of the fiction we're establishing, the point isn't the problem-solving as a player activity, its the construction of a story in which problems are solved, and we make that more interesting by building on one another.

Contrast with Pathfinder, because the players ability to establish elements of the fiction outside their character actions are more limited, they can engage in problem solving from the perspective of their characters. Problems are interesting mental exercises in their own right, rather than just as an impetus for drama or a creative writing prompt for the table. You aren't just telling the story of a dragon-slaying, you're slaying the dragon, an activity being simulated through the use of rules which emulate the presence of a dragon, the difficulty of slaying it, and the tools one might have in a story about slaying dragons. The GM 'runs' the Dragon, as a means of rendering a distinct entity you are constrained from controlling.

Again, a good post, but you're drawing contrasts that are either (a) not correct or (b) less stark than what I'm beholding here.

This reads like the misconception that "Story Now" games are "Storytelling" games. I don't know if you mean it to, but your post reads like The Alexandrian circa 2008-11 (or whenever it was).

Your conception of Story Now games in your first paragraph is incorrect and the distinction you use to draw the contrast is also incorrect (in play agenda, in GMing principles, in action resolution, in PC build, and in the integration of all 4). Yes, We are interested in what the solution the players as author-as-actors come up with means for the fiction. That much is true. But the below is also true:

* We are interested in whether the players-as-characters can find a way to solve the problem given a set of constraints (what you say we are not interested in in the first paragraph).

* Problems aren't just as an impetus for drama or a creative writing prompt for the table. We aren't just telling a story of slaying a dragon. We are slaying a dragon...an activity being simulated through the use of rules which emulate the presence of a dragon, the difficulty of slaying it, and the tools one might have in a story about slaying dragons. The GM 'runs' the Dragon, as a means of rendering a distinct entity you are constrained from controlling.

What you say we aren't doing in Story Now play and the contrast you use to distinguish it from Pathfinder (Classical Skilled Play) play are neither correct.

They're not Storytelling games where we tell a story about defeating obstacles where the GM isn't erecting actual opposition to the players and their characters. They're not storytelling games and they're certainly not storytelling games as power fantasy (which really looks like the Neotrad label). Not at all. Not in conception and not in application.

I'm going to summon @darkbard into this conversation because our very last Dungeon World session is the exact anecdotal framework you're engaging with above. He (a Paladin), his companion (a Wizard), and two Cohorts (darkbard's Paladin Protege and a Frost Giant Refugee of the city the dragon razed) set out to defeat an Ancient Blue Dragon in its lair (the ruins of the aforementioned city). At any point did you not feel like the game and your characters were hanging in the balance because I was providing an inauthentic challenge/obstacles (to use the parlance above, "that the dragon was just an impetus for drama or a creative writing prompt at the table")?

The Dragon (who yet lives) almost killed both Cohorts. Honestly, it was a razor's edge from a TPK and may have been if the Wizard wouldn't have deployed Protective Counterspell and had it work as well as it did. And the Paladin struck a MASSIVE blow that forced the creature to retreat.

These two GMing principles aren't exclusive (they're integrated within the whole of the game):

Be a fan of the characters​

Think of the players’ characters as protagonists in a story you might see on TV. Cheer for their victories and lament their defeats. You’re not here to push them in any particular direction, merely to participate in fiction that features them and their action.

Think dangerous​

Everything in the world is a target. You’re thinking like an evil overlord: no single life is worth anything and there is nothing sacrosanct. Everything can be put in danger, everything can be destroyed. Nothing you create is ever protected. Whenever your eye falls on something you’ve created, think how it can be put in danger, fall apart or crumble. The world changes. Without the characters’ intervention, it changes for the worse.

* I'm a fan of Alastor and Maraqli and Rose and Bjornson. I'm a fan of their protagonism, of their wins, of their losses (RIP Bjornson who died in this very fight).

* But I'm providing authentic pushback. I'm not pulling punches. They're not telling a story about how they defeated Avorandox the Ancient Blue Dragon that razed the Frost Giant City and I'm certainly not "enabling that story." They're fighting for their lives and all they care about via the mechanical architecture of PC build + action resolution mechanics + teamwork against an Ancient Blue Dragon that I'm playing to the hilt...to destroy them (not to shadow box a cool story about Alastor/Maraqli/Rose/Bjornson defeating an Ancient Blue Dragon). I'm a fan, but I'm honest adversity...like Bryan Cranston "I am the danger" (and honestly...Ancient Blue Dragons in DW are a HELL of a lot scarier than in classic D&D).

The same goes with Blades, with My Life with Master, with Mouse Guard, with 4e D&D, with Dogs, (and certainly) with Torchbearer:

 
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Emerikol

Adventurer
Again, a good post, but you're drawing contrasts that are either (a) not correct or (b) less stark than what I'm beholding here.

.....snipped.....

The same goes with Blades, with My Life with Master, with Mouse Guard, with 4e D&D, with Dogs, (and certainly) with Torchbearer:
I think you aren't talking about the same things though and that is the crux of the matter. I'm not saying there is no skill of any sort in your style of game. I am saying that to people like myself when we think of skilled play then your approach doesn't represent that sort of play.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
I'm not saying there is no skill of any sort in your style of game. I am saying that to people like myself when we think of skilled play then your approach doesn't represent that sort of play.

Frequently, folks will say things like, "skilled Gygaxian play," to make clear exactly what skills you are talking about.
 

I think you aren't talking about the same things though and that is the crux of the matter. I'm not saying there is no skill of any sort in your style of game. I am saying that to people like myself when we think of skilled play then your approach doesn't represent that sort of play.

Perhaps.

But if you (and by you, I mean "a person who would author this") say this about Story Now games:

Problems are just as an impetus for drama or a creative writing prompt for the table

or this:

We aren't interested in whether the players-as-characters can find a way to solve the problem given a set of constraints

then (a) you've misunderstood both the conception of play and the application of play and (b) therefore your framing of Skilled Play in Story Now games is inevitably going to be incorrect (because its working off of first principles that are not correct).

Here is a quick example of how this looks like in Dungeon World (and how neither of the two things above are actuated):

DW GM: The Ancient Blue Dragon explodes upwards with a wing buffet like that of a hurricane! An un believable gale assaults you and everything around you, threatening to tear the fragile glacial ceiling apart, resulting in a massive cave-in!

Ranger Player: I'm going to let loose a volley of arrows and slay this dragon (proceeds to pick up dice to roll Volley move):

DW GM: Oh yeah? Well what are you going to do about these hurricane gale-force winds that are throwing you backwards? And the cave-in above you? Just going to let the ceiling collapse on top of you?




Those problems? They aren't creative writing prompts. And getting that volley off is absolutely a problem with a lot of constraints on it given the present fictional positioning (gale-force hurricane winds battering you...imminent cave-in above you)!
 

Fenris-77

Small God of the Dozens
Skilled play isn't really system specific. So that contrast above, Skilled play vs Story Now is very much a false dichotomy. Skilled Play also, just an fyi, refers to the character-player balance and where the problem solving comes from (mechanical widgets or cunning plans respectively), it's not actually anything to do with how much skill the game takes to play. It's also a spectrum, not a binary. So anyway, all kinds of definitional problems to sort out there.
 

darkbard

Hero
Not every form of authorship is the same, the difference between player and GM authorship, particularly the way Story-Now games (my reference being Masks: A New Generation) lies with the way their role is constructed and how that frames the purpose of the things that they can create and how they can be engaged with.

Intentionality is one of the big elements here, where the boundaries of authorship can create creative cohesion by privileging one participant (the GM) with the lion's share of the authorship (it does this by designating 'spaces' of authorship as relatively strict constructs, the GM authors the world, the players author their characters actions), meaning that participant can utilize those elements within a single vision. This element of vision and intentionality is an important one to exploration as a play aesthetic, because you're looking to put the puzzle pieces together, so you want the pieces to fit together according to some design. Masks actually utilizes the GM for this role, framing them as a keeper of continuity and tone, and giving them an editorial role over the elements of the fiction that the other players establish.

An interrelated concept is the way the activity you're participating in is framed: are you telling a story about people exploring a dungeon, or are you exploring a dungeon. To boil it back down to a mystery structure as discussed in Manbearcat's recent post: a bunch of players getting together to find clues and solve a mystery is a very different activity than inventing the clues sporadically and deciding who the culprit ought to be-- both might be fun, but they aren't the same activity. Its comparable to the difference between building an escape room, and solving an escape room. Reading and Writing are not synonyms even if reading contains interpretation, and writing contains deduction. It doesn't matter that the activity produces an illusion, because the illusion is instrumental to the experience you're having, its about what role you play in that illusion-- the generation of the illusion, and the experience of the illusion are different.

By the same token, the ability to generate elements of the fiction outside of the character changes the way we think about the problems we're solving, an intentional move on the part of Story Now games. We aren't interested in whether the players-as-characters can find a way to solve the problem given a set of constraints, we're interested in what the solution the players as author-as-actors come up with means for the fiction, if my players establish a way out of the situation in Masks, that's fine, but I'm supposed to complicate that solution to give it dramatic consequences. You can certainly establish that Superman is wandering on by and can help out, but I'm responsible for giving him opinions of your characters, to make that an opportunity for narrative. Its the core of "Yes, and" we're building a narrative out of the elements of the fiction we're establishing, the point isn't the problem-solving as a player activity, its the construction of a story in which problems are solved, and we make that more interesting by building on one another.

Contrast with Pathfinder, because the players ability to establish elements of the fiction outside their character actions are more limited, they can engage in problem solving from the perspective of their characters. Problems are interesting mental exercises in their own right, rather than just as an impetus for drama or a creative writing prompt for the table. You aren't just telling the story of a dragon-slaying, you're slaying the dragon, an activity being simulated through the use of rules which emulate the presence of a dragon, the difficulty of slaying it, and the tools one might have in a story about slaying dragons. The GM 'runs' the Dragon, as a means of rendering a distinct entity you are constrained from controlling.

The purpose of the illusion in Pathfinder is emergent storytelling through simulation (which demands constraints imposed on the players authorship of the game world, to maintain their Ludonarrative role), the purpose of the illusion in Masks is emergent storytelling through collaborative authorship (which relaxes those constraints to refocus on storytelling, over simulation.) They can both be fun, but they produce different experiences.

In short, this actually betrays the crux of the problem:

The purpose of the constraints placed upon player establishment of the fiction, and the privileging of the GM is to emulate a tangible reality to undergird its processes and volition, so that emulation of a tangible reality can provide a constrained play space for the simulation that produces an emergent narrative (that tangible reality being curated by 'Story Before' elements). This is true regardless of whether the GM employs systems with rules that output consistent results to provide a framework, or uses their best aesthetic judgement to do so, to reference back to the GM Notes thread.

Story Now games, with their heavy emphasis on player establishment of fiction, trade away the idea of these constraints emulating a world to function as playspace, in favor of a more direct 'collaborative storytelling' model where the rules function as a structure to resolve uncertainty and prompt the creation of additional fiction, rather than constrain it. This is a tradeoff, because you lose some of the benefits of the other style, but you gain things from it as well. You can also admixture a little of that style while still maintaining the simulation oriented game play, usually by having the GM approve all the additions to the fiction-- which gives the players the sense that they're weaving it into their simulation.
I have to agree with @Manbearcat and @Ovinomancer: your posts here are super interesting and thoughtful but they expose a serious misunderstanding of the principles and agendas of Story Now gaming. I know very little of Masks, just a few blog posts really, and perhaps the ps&as of that game draw suggest different ps&as than games I'm familiar with, like AW, DW, and Blades, but even here from the little I have read, I think maybe you're drawing some incorrect inferences from your play of that game.

My current game of DW with @Manbearcat is not a shared storytelling game, and both he and the action resolution mechanics bring the adversity on the regular. MBC already covers the confrontation with Avorandox well above, and I was terrified during play, that maybe our story would end here via TPK, or, even more likely, that my protege, in whom I have invested significant game resources and fictional headspace, would die when there was nothing I could do to protect her!

Further, in an early session of the game, we almost had another TPK, this time almost drowning in the swamp beneath the bullywug-priest-occupied stilted hag's hovel to which we were trying to regain entry. That would have been a pretty ignominious and unsatisfying death for my Paladin!
 


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