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Players establishing facts about the world impromptu during play

Maybe we can drill down a little here. When you say impromptu establishment of fiction could you be more specific? Maybe a couple of quick examples about what kinds of details you mean, and in what context the 'impromptu-ness' takes place?

It might also be useful to get granular about what you mean my exploration in this case. It isn't a controversial word, but is can get used in more than one way vis a vis RPG play.

I'd like to engage with you here, but I want to sure I'm not assuming anything about what you mean, if that's alright with you.
Could be a lot of different things, but ill try and give some examples.

- I really enjoy environmental storytelling where elements of the environment, can be missed, but if paid attention to can hint at secret narrative truths the players themselves can deduce. Player establishment of the backstory of the campaign world, or additions to descriptions of the environment can functionally 'contaminate' the text of the game world, things that could otherwise be hints could be subverted by additional lore established during play.

- I really enjoy strong cause and effect dynamics in my worldbuilding, it is both in line with the themes of the world and a result of a carefully thought up history. The lore elements as suggested by players at the table don't tend to respect the same standards, I have my own pet peeve name for this "elven village syndrome," where the player will neglect preexisting lore to plop down something convenient for say, the needs of their backstory. Another player declared themselves to have been a slave in a nation run by angels that doesn't have slavery. Neither the original elven village person, nor the slave character person were much interested in delving into the lore to fix these discrepancies, it was in their way. I leave the Halycon city of Masks undefined to facilitate this as the book heavily emphasizes Halycon as being a space defined primarily by the needs of the players, but well curated lore to discover and internalize is a big draw for me as a player as well. Our current Masks game manufactured a river district torn apart by demons, entirely through character creation.

- I like the sense of 'uncovering' so when, as a sidebar in the 4e DMG 2 suggests, the GM mentions a tower, and a player chimes in that "are there tentacles coming out of it?" And the GM goes "Yes and..." I become aware that elements of the fiction are being generated without that cause and effect i just mentioned. I'm reminded of a creative writing club exercise in undergrad, where we would each write a line in a story, with each person adding more to the story of Mildred Milquetoast, and then see what we got in the end, projected onto the structure of a roleplaying game. I don't actually mind this in moderation, but that means layering it onto what is functionally a "story before" setup, rather than "this is where all the fiction cones from."
 

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That's true, but I really don't think that's meat of what he's getting at with impromptu establishment in terms of the diegetic frame. I'm guessing he's indexing something more about detail external to the character and character actions. Hence my asking above to drill down a little.
Nailed it, in addition to what i just posted, I like for the world to be not under my control because i want to 'explore it' as something other to myself and my choices. I also want to preserve a sense of intentionality and cohesiveness in that other, because I want the patterns themselves.

I play to try and understand the game world as an external construct rife with meaning, themes, secrets and such. Player Establishment freely generates the things I want to earn by crowdsourcing them from the same people who are attempting to earn them. It also makes me party to creation process, I can see not only HOW the elements are produced in general (which isn't a problem, I'm normally a GM anyway) but im watching the elements i want to discover, be created. I learn them as we make them, I'm not finding them.
 

Fenris-77

Small God of the Dozens
@The-Magic-Sword To speak to your middle point, the issue at hand there really isn't the player establishment of fictional elements, but rather the poor and self-serving establishment of fictional elements by players who are motivated by gain or laziness rather than an actual desire to engage with the game in good faith. I think it's important not to conflate that kind of example for what happens in that same case with different players.

It's also a very specific example, which actually happens in lots of games that don't otherwise contain player-authored elements. Some players just don't know how to handle that elevated level of responsibility. Even then, with engaged players who respect the fictional elements already in place, which is essential to the whole project, it shouldn't look like that (although I know exactly what you're talking about). I found it takes some practice to be present in the game enough to really engage honestly with the fiction, which can be a tough sell for players who are more used to just drifting through a game and rolling some dice when they need to. That isn't a criticism mind you, playing relaxed fun games is fine, but it doesn't serve this particular purpose very well at all.

I have more, but it's time for bed. I'll circle back tomorrow. Thanks for the in depth reply by the way. (y)
 

DrunkonDuty

Adventurer
I'm all for the players adding to the world. Unfortunately I don't often have players who do.

My main exception to not having players who add to the game world is when playing HERO. The character design encourages the character to have Complications, that is things that make the character's life more difficult. Most characters wind up having complications that speak to the wider game world, that is they create aspects of the game world such as enemies, friends, NPCs who are reliant on the PC in some way, organisations, etc. But I'd say this is different, by which I mean it feels different to me, to the players adding things in the midst of a scene.

I'd be fine with players adding to the game world in the midst of a scene. In fact I have a benny system that allows players to add to a scene (for the cost of 1 benny) as long as it doesn't go counter to existing fiction. But I've never been taken up on this. Clearly I haven't done enough to make the players feel comfortable doing so.
 

well, looking forward to reading it then.

I brought it up because KoB is frequently mentioned in the same breath as PBTA in reference to relatively rules lite narrative driven TRPGs.

"Story Now" isnt standardized verbage, in fact I thought Campbell or someone had suggested it to rename one of those "Six Cultures of Gaming" a couple of weeks ago?

Alright, I'm not going to put my first post out here about Apocalypse World or Dogs in the Vineyard. I think instead I'm going to depict Story Now play for you (because there is some confusion with Storyteller type systems) and compare Torchbearer and Blades in the Dark (extremely similar in several ways) and contrast with Dungeon World.

STORY NOW vs STORY BEFORE

Story Now games are a response to White Wolf (actual Storyteller system) and AD&D2e/Dragonlance games that were predicated upon Story Before.

The Before here connotes a collection of attributes about play (they aren't necessarily all in play, but they typically ride together):

* There is a plot already before play. Setting and situations are prefabricated to enable the plot stays online/relevant.

* There is story advocacy on one or both sides of the screen. Rather than "playing to find out", you're playing to advocate for specific story outcomes.

* Themes don't change and characters don't erode/change in nature outside of the absolute volition of the participants.

* System doesn't get its "say" if its "say" is in competition with the vision of the participants of play (typically the GM who is advised to ignore rules/outcomes that would interfere with desired outcome).

* If you sum it all up, there is a sort of Cosplay element that undergirds everything here from (a) what the story is going to be, (b) what the theme is going to be and if it will change, (c) where things will end up and how the characters will end up (typically intact unless it is the will of the table that this isn't so).


Look at Story Now as an intentionally designed alternative to all of those things.

* There is no plot. Setting and situation will orbit around the premise of play + the dramatic needs of the characters.

* No one is advocating for specific story outcomes. They're advocating for their character's dramatic needs and all other aspects of system are pushing back against that. Everyone is curious and playing to find out what happens when protagonism meets opposition. The game is systemitized to distill this conflict and sort out the fallout, continuing this loop until there is nothing left to do.

* Premise will absolutely be online (because its baked into the game) but Theme is only very roughly sketched at the beginning and it/they will change as the story emerges and characters erode/change/rebuild (or not) through the collisions mentioned above.

* System always has its "say." Rules and procedures and authority distribution are all followed and where they lead, we go.

* There is no Cosplay element. There is no Power Fantasy element.


So all of that stuff adds up to constant curiosity by all participants and constant discovery (about the world, about the themes, about the characters). There is no Before (no throughline on play that undergirds/guides everything). There is only Now.




Crap. I'm short on time. I'm not going to be able to get into the Blades and Torchbearer comparison and contrast with Dungeon World. Going to be a busy day and evening so its not clear if I'll be able to get back to this. But consider what I've written above as a primer for my next post. Hopefully it clarifies the differences.
 

Fenris-77

Small God of the Dozens
@The-Magic-Sword - OK, I'm up. I'm going to poke around a little in the vicinity of your third point where you talk about the creative writing comparison. Firstly, I can certainly see where you might get that impression of Story Now play given slight experience and just reading the rules (that's not meant to sound demeaning or condescending). The game is indeed portrayed as a conversation, and it is also true that all the parties at the table add some elements to the diegetic frame as the game progresses. However, despite those superficial similarities, in practice the game in play doesn't resemble that one sentence at a time creative writing, for a bunch of reasons. For the following, when I say Story Now you can mostly read Apocalypse Engine games like Dungeon World.

First, in the CW example, there is no particular connection between one sentence and the next in terms of direction or anything else. In most Story Now games the 'direction' or teleos of play is very much framed by what has come before, something that enforced mechanically by the game rules. You don't generally get to add detail, especially major setting detail, at a whim or mere suggestion. The diegetic frame instead evolves out the action-consequence play loop where what comes next is driven by previous outcomes. The GM especially is mandated to use outcomes and consequences to evolve the fiction in play, and the GM is still doing the large framing (the kind I think you're talking about), by and large but based on the current game state.

Second, the narrative weight of each sentence in your example is the same, at least in potential. One sentence has the same ability to change the fiction in a multitude of ways and thus so does each author. This is also very different that Story Now games, where the idea of authorship is much more constrained and not at all equally balanced. The basic play of SN games looks like this: Situation/Problem - what do you do? - action declaration - adjudication of complications and consequences. So at both ends the GM holds the framing reigns, so to speak. There are points where player authorship is a little more pronounced, mostly in information seeking actions, where a player might get to ask a series of questions about the scene, which the GM is obliged to answer. Even there though, the responsibility for filling diegetic detail still rests with the GM, it's just the type of content that is driven by the player. My overall point is that player authorship in Story Now is a lot more constrained than some of your comments would lead my to believe you think it is.

I'll stop there for now, lest I verge on the dreaded wall of text.
 

Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
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.

Given that this is the ostensible topic ...

There are a few predicate issues that into this.

First, is the nature of the TTRPG; some games demand player participation in the fiction, and some in some games it's more anathema. "Traditional" D&D, for various reasons, usually falls more on less-favored end of the spectrum.

Second is the issue of "during play." Most DMs (to use D&D as the example) view player creation of fiction outside of play (creation of backstory, for example, or discussion outside of the framework of play) differently, and more favorably, than improvisational creation of fiction during play.

With those caveats ... I tend to view this skeptically when it comes to D&D. Not because I dislike the process of players doing it; far from it! But rather, because of the nature of the game.

Simply put, if you have a group of people that are playing D&D (or another, more traditional, TTRPG) you often have a mixed bag of players. Maybe some are in it for the combat, some are in it for the roleplaying, some are in it for the beer and pretzels, and some got dragged there by their girlfriend. It's all good! But in those situations, given that the D&D ruleset (and others like it) doesn't really have a particularly good handle on allocation of responsibilities and/or player creation of fiction, you can often end up with certain players "doing it badly" or dominating the game or giving their players repeated undue importance or advantage through narration.

That's not a knock on the players; there are many who do it well; but even when there are those who "do it well," it often doesn't work in a mixed group.

On the other hand, you might end with a group of players who enjoy RPing, enjoy narrative, and are comfortable with all of this. Well, then there are quite a few other games that are much more conducive to their style of play than D&D (and other similar games) happen to be. The reason that these games tend to be less popular is precisely because they are less accommodating (in general) to these mixed groups; on the other hand, their strength is that they are more attuned to specific groups.

So the TLDR- I tend to dislike it in D&D, and appreciate it in other games.

IMO, etc.
 

Emerikol

Adventurer
Alright, I'm not going to put my first post out here about Apocalypse World or Dogs in the Vineyard. I think instead I'm going to depict Story Now play for you (because there is some confusion with Storyteller type systems) and compare Torchbearer and Blades in the Dark (extremely similar in several ways) and contrast with Dungeon World.
It would be interesting to see the differences across these games. They are all probably sharing elements but they also likely diverge in particular ways.


I very much know you are trying not to be pejorative towards my style but I think you struggle to avoid it because your personal experience has been bad. A lot of things you propose as true just aren't when I play.

STORY NOW vs STORY BEFORE

* There is a plot already before play. Setting and situations are prefabricated to enable the plot stays online/relevant.
Yes a world preexists the characters controlled by the players engaging. Perhaps a plot is a strong term. There are many NPCs all over the place pursuing their ambitions. It's like the real world. People playing my style of game are seeking a "real world" sort of agency in a fantasy world with fantasy characters.

* There is story advocacy on one or both sides of the screen. Rather than "playing to find out", you're playing to advocate for specific story outcomes.
If by advocating for an outcome, you mean achieving character goals then yes. If the group has decided a dragon has to go because it keeps raiding a village and they see it as their duty to deal with the threat then they will try to make that happen. There is a lot of finding out though. A lot of investigating and exploring may occur prior to fighting the dragon. Defeating some of his allies for example. So the sense of wonder is very much there. I think you downplay it. As a player character, there is a world to discover and part of the joy of playing is finding out about that world.


* Themes don't change and characters don't erode/change in nature outside of the absolute volition of the participants.
This is a tough one. What themes do you mean? I think the flavor of any adventure or series of adventures can be different in a sandbox world. You could have horror in one case, major exploration in another, and political intrigue in another. I suppose the personalities of the characters don't change unless the player makes that change if that is your point. I would think that is a good thing as playing a character you no longer like is not that fun.


* System doesn't get its "say" if its "say" is in competition with the vision of the participants of play (typically the GM who is advised to ignore rules/outcomes that would interfere with desired outcome).
Well if you allow the dice to fall where they fall as I do, the system weighs in often. I never force an outcome. I also tend not to create situations where an outcome is necessary or the game breaks. I don't put breaking the game in my characters hands.

* If you sum it all up, there is a sort of Cosplay element that undergirds everything here from (a) what the story is going to be, (b) what the theme is going to be and if it will change, (c) where things will end up and how the characters will end up (typically intact unless it is the will of the table that this isn't so).
I suppose there are people out there that play as you suggest but it's definitely not me or my groups. GMs that bend the game to a certain outcome, better known as railroaders, exist of course but it's hardly an aspect of the style. It's a trait of some games. It's not a trait of my games.


Look at Story Now as an intentionally designed alternative to all of those things.

* There is no plot. Setting and situation will orbit around the premise of play + the dramatic needs of the characters.
When you speak of dramatic needs, this seems to me like cosplay. You want to see yourself on a stage doing things in a way that is cool to you.

* No one is advocating for specific story outcomes. They're advocating for their character's dramatic needs and all other aspects of system are pushing back against that. Everyone is curious and playing to find out what happens when protagonism meets opposition. The game is systemitized to distill this conflict and sort out the fallout, continuing this loop until there is nothing left to do.
I just want to be a fantasy hero in a fantasy world. I want to be a hero because I made the right decisions both tactically and morally (in game morality here).

* Premise will absolutely be online (because its baked into the game) but Theme is only very roughly sketched at the beginning and it/they will change as the story emerges and characters erode/change/rebuild (or not) through the collisions mentioned above.
On this I perceive the separation between who the character is and who the player is is greater. I'm trying to bring them together as much as possible. Of course we can't do the things our characters can do but where the overlap can exist it's a desirable outcome.

* System always has its "say." Rules and procedures and authority distribution are all followed and where they lead, we go.
In our games the GM is supreme but that means the GM is only limited by his own code and not that he is not limited at all.


* There is no Cosplay element. There is no Power Fantasy element.
I really think cosplay here is the exact opposite of the truth. I do think the sense of accomplishment as you overcome challenges and advance in level though is very much part of the game.

So all of that stuff adds up to constant curiosity by all participants and constant discovery (about the world, about the themes, about the characters). There is no Before (no throughline on play that undergirds/guides everything). There is only Now.
Whether before or now, the players are experiencing it in the now. And there is no throughline in a truly sandbox style of play. Perhaps in pure AP adventuring this assertion would be true.




Crap. I'm short on time. I'm not going to be able to get into the Blades and Torchbearer comparison and contrast with Dungeon World. Going to be a busy day and evening so its not clear if I'll be able to get back to this. But consider what I've written above as a primer for my next post. Hopefully it clarifies the differences.
This would be interesting so I look forward to it. Game designs can be interesting even when they are not my cup of tea.
 

I appreciate the lowdown, but it matches pretty much how I thought it works.

"There is no plot. Setting and situation will orbit around the premise of play + the dramatic needs of the characters."
Yeah, so this is actually a big part of what I'm reacting to and discussing, because setting and situation orbit around the players and are defined by their dramatic needs, it renders the material that I would typically enjoy exploring subordinate to those dramatic needs. Because the world is defined around the dramatic needs of the characters, the character's stories can't be defined in the same way by their emergent interactions with the world. This is where all that text I wrote about simulation comes into play, I want the world to be an object exterior to the players, and for it to define their situation and dramatic needs as they explore it-- this allows them to be inter-textual with that world, but not to define it. It actually acts on them as 'other.'

(digression) I sort of see this as comparable to artistic movements in writing, contemporary writing advice suggests that the setting ought to be defined by the plot, Chekhov's gun-- if an element is there, it better be somehow important to the plot. Lord of the Rings doesn't do this, so someone like Matt Collville a professional, trained writer, suggests Lord of the Rings is 'Badly Written' for that reason. But I prefer for elements outside the story to add definition and depth to the world, to speak to a larger world outside the story, Tolkien's writing is GOOD because it does this, its just something contemporary thinking on writing doesn't value-- its worthy of being its own movement in that space.
"Premise will absolutely be online (because its baked into the game) but Theme is only very roughly sketched at the beginning and it/they will change as the story emerges and characters erode/change/rebuild (or not) through the collisions mentioned above."
Similarly, I like to be able to discover themes baked into the text of the game world, and then have the emergent choices of the characters in the actual narrative of the game sessions, be inter-textual with those themes, with the world itself defining the dramatic needs of the characters by confronting them with those themes, allowing them to explore, react, reject, and comment on them.
"There is no Cosplay element. There is no Power Fantasy element."
I'd like you to expand on the Cosplay element so I can understand what that means. But as for the Power Fantasy element.... In a traditional role playing game, values are absolute, so they simulate absolute power differences, difficulty, and increases in skill. When I discuss the 'Story Now' being more narrative in this context, I'm probably discussing what you think of as Power Fantasy. I'm thinking of how Traditional Roleplaying Games measure the power of different game elements in concrete terms, which makes them simulations-- if the Dragon is too powerful to defeat, numerical power increases from levels, treasure can adjust your odds of victory in a granular way. In PBTA, again technically referencing Masks, the numbers simplify into whether I am allowed to roll and are abstracted from the thing I'm rolling against. 1-6, 6-9, 10+, it doesn't vary by threat, just my own bonus, so there's no protocol for measuring my power against the dragon's power and having that relationship define my odds of success, only the material outcomes of the scene I'm allowed to roll in, and emulation of those elements through the fiction of what the fight between me and the dragon looks like.

I either have the potential to succeed or I don't, and if I have the potential to succeed, we move to the singular action resolution with the predefined ranges for story outcomes based only on my skill and not by my power relationship to the Dragon in world. This is what I mean by it being 'narrative' rather than 'simulative' the action resolution only governs uncertainty, it does not simulate in the way that another RPG might, which means that the network of power relationships is not demonstrated by math, only uncertainty of outcome-- which in turn damages the 'simulative' dimension of play. But I find that simulative dimension, and having the story outgrow as an emergent aspect from the complex relationships of numbers that express the game elements players and monsters use is fun.
______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

If you combine my responses, you can see the outline of how I'm understanding narrative play and simulative play, and how they intersect with exploration. When I discuss simulative play, I want a pre-existing world that exists as a text that I can explore, react to, and defines my dramatic needs through introducing new elements to me, and allowing me to ascertain the pattern and design of those elements in a way that informs my roleplaying. I like information to be hidden so that I can use investigative play procedures to uncover it for personal gratification, and to leverage it within the world in various ways.

I want that world to be defined by a network of (relatively) absolute numerical values so that my odds of success emerge organically from faux-empirical comparisons between those elements, that can be planned around, and finessed. PBTA (as an example of story now play) doesn't really do that in the same way, because the values are concerned with narrative outcomes of my actions as a scene in a story, rather than quantifying the relationship between in world game elements. This intersects back to exploration somewhat (though not exclusively), because it gives everything in the world 'objective' (in this case, reflective) values for me to understand, plan around, and interact with.

I'd especially like my relationship to that game world to be granular so that I get to navigate that network of power relationships through those same simulative elements, a +2 sword isn't just cool because its a magic sword, its cool because it makes me better (by +2) at hitting dragons, which changes my power relationship with that dragon.
 
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I'll have more later, but the way Masks is being characterized would require extremely unhygienic play. Basically you would have to throw out all the instructions the game provides for how to run it. I have seen it often, but it represents an OC play agenda. Not a Story Now one.
We are running it by the book pretty exactly, I'd love to know which instructions I'm throwing out.

Also, "OC" ?

Edit: Nevermind, its another term for Neo-Trad.
 
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Mallus

Legend
In general, I'm all for players establishing facts about the game world during play. With the caveat that in traditional modes of play the DM/GM should have the right of final edit over fictional details added by players (outside of what'd added through their PCs actions).

Worlds are big. They sound more real with facts contributed by more than one puny human brain.

In a heavily-hacked 3e campaign I joined somewhat recently, I established that some hobgoblins "from the North" have Russian names (and a vaguely anarcho-Communist vibe) through my character, Kropotkin.
 

Emerikol

Adventurer
Worlds are big. They sound more real with facts contributed by more than one puny human brain.
I am certain this is not true in general. I can't argue with you anecdotally because you may have incredibly talented players with uncanny ability to fuse fiction. But in general, I am sure it is a false statement.
 

Fenris-77

Small God of the Dozens
I am certain this is not true in general. I can't argue with you anecdotally because you may have incredibly talented players with uncanny ability to fuse fiction. But in general, I am sure it is a false statement.
The other option is that it's using one person's uncanny ability to fuse fiction. I don't think you get to a false statement using your logic there.
 

prabe

Aspiring Lurker (He/Him)
Supporter
Worlds are big. They sound more real with facts contributed by more than one puny human brain.
In my experience, this is absolutely true. I prefer to limit direct player setting-authorship to character backstory, because since I'm the one running the world I want to be able to negotiate with the player/s if there's some sort of sticking-point for me--I'd rather not bring a session to a crashing halt for that.
 

"Design by Committee" has some serious flaws, speaking as GM for whom world building is a primary strength-- while the ability to create something really cool is a skill, and therefore not a given, collaboratively fusing fiction is its own skillset in a way that solo worldbuilding isn't. You need to manage not just the validity of the fiction, but work out who can say no, why, and how others feel about it, and if no one can say no, its a dice roll at best as everyone pulls the story apart.
 

prabe

Aspiring Lurker (He/Him)
Supporter
"Design by Committee" has some serious flaws, speaking as GM for whom world building is a primary strength-- while the ability to create something really cool is a skill, and therefore not a given, collaboratively fusing fiction is its own skillset in a way that solo worldbuilding isn't. You need to manage not just the validity of the fiction, but work out who can say no, why, and how others feel about it, and if no one can say no, its a dice roll at best as everyone pulls the story apart.
Agreed. Presenting the players with the setting I want to run as something of a fait accompli seems to go some way toward establishing that I'm the one who can say no to things they want to add to it.
 

Worlds are big. They sound more real with facts contributed by more than one puny human brain.

This has matched my experience, too. Sure, sometimes things need to be edited to fit pre-existing fiction that the player may have forgotten, but it also adds diversity to the game reality which is usually a good thing. Sometimes a carefully crafted setting is too consistent... it's more consistent than the real world where unexpected and unlikely things happen all the time. Even in a game where the GM retains final authority, I enjoy the challenge of weaving new features into the existing world.
 

pemerton

Legend
I really enjoy environmental storytelling where elements of the environment, can be missed, but if paid attention to can hint at secret narrative truths the players themselves can deduce.

<snip>

I like the sense of 'uncovering'
This sounds like an approach to play in which the GM says things about the (imagined) world, which the players are expected to use as the basis for inferring further "true" things about that world - the first quoted para from the GM point of view and the second from the player point of view. Call of Cthulhu modules feature a lot of this sort of thing. So do a number of D&D modules, though in those the inferential connections are often weaker and so the players' dependence upon revelations from the GM often greater.

I really enjoy strong cause and effect dynamics in my worldbuilding, it is both in line with the themes of the world and a result of a carefully thought up history. The lore elements as suggested by players at the table don't tend to respect the same standards
Personally I don't feel the force of this. Partly for reasons given by @Mallus and @uzirath in posts not far upthread; partly because in my own experience there has never been a problem incorporating player-introduced elements into the shared fiction. JRRT was doing this with his own work all the time, and he was holding himself to a much stricter standard than is necessary for fun and successful RPGing.

because setting and situation orbit around the players and are defined by their dramatic needs, it renders the material that I would typically enjoy exploring subordinate to those dramatic needs. Because the world is defined around the dramatic needs of the characters, the character's stories can't be defined in the same way by their emergent interactions with the world.

<snip>

Similarly, I like to be able to discover themes baked into the text of the game world, and then have the emergent choices of the characters in the actual narrative of the game sessions, be inter-textual with those themes, with the world itself defining the dramatic needs of the characters by confronting them with those themes, allowing them to explore, react, reject, and comment on them.
I don't know enough about the agenda and principles for Masks to comment; though I do note @Campbell's suggestion that the approach you describe here does not fit with them.

In my own experience of "story now" play - using systems like 4e D&D, Classic Traveller, Prince Valiant, Burning Wheel, Cortex+ Heroic, Cthulhu Dark and Wuthering Heights - the only one which I might say that the characters' stories are not defined by their emergent interactions with the world is Cortex+ Heroic, because the character Milestones to some extent pre-define character arcs. Even then, however, there are moments of surprise. The two occasions I can think of at the moment where Milestones were completed were both quite unexpected - Nightcrawler completed his Romantic milestone by teleporting his date, who was also a supervillain, to the top of the Capitol Dome to propose to her (she said yes) only to jilt her the next day at the altar; Dwalin completed his Dwaren Halls milestone by returning to Moria with the rest of his companions in order to hide from the crebain out of Dunland who were spying on them.

I don't want to lean too heavily on the nitty-gritty of your phrasing, but in my experience the world of story now play is not defined by characters' dramatic needs. It is narrated in response to them, which is different (perhaps that counts as being defined around those needs; but that's not the same thing). In my Prince Valiant game the PCs were able to rescue an abbot and return him to his monastery - but it wasn't until one of the PCs spent time there tending to the sick (successful Healing check) that the idea of religious devotion, and the founding of a Holy Military Order, the Knights of St Sigobert, became a part of the game. I would say that that was precisely a case of a character's story emerging from interactions with the world, and of constituting an exploration of the themes presented. I think this is very typical of story now RPGing. It is what @Manbearcat is trying to get at in his contrast with characters who don't change, or who have pre-given "through lines" of dramatic arcs (the DL modules are paradigms of this).

I like for the world to be not under my control because i want to 'explore it' as something other to myself and my choices. I also want to preserve a sense of intentionality and cohesiveness in that other, because I want the patterns themselves.

I play to try and understand the game world as an external construct rife with meaning, themes, secrets and such. Player Establishment freely generates the things I want to earn by crowdsourcing them from the same people who are attempting to earn them. It also makes me party to creation process, I can see not only HOW the elements are produced in general (which isn't a problem, I'm normally a GM anyway) but im watching the elements i want to discover, be created. I learn them as we make them, I'm not finding them.
In that last sentence - which contrasts learning as we make them with finding I can't tell if the complaint is about who does the authoring, or when it is done, or both.

In my Prince Valiant game the PCs were talking to an undead spirit which would let only some of them pass through the Dacian forest it was haunting. The players (and their characters) formed the view that there must be an "anchor" or "focus" of its haunting; and one of them spent a player-side resource (a Storyteller Certificate) to Find Something Hidden - ie the focus of the haunting. As GM I duly narrated something that that character's PC, who was one of those allowed to pass, found. I'm not sure if the players could tell that I was making it up on the spot; I'm also not sure if they cared. It was under their control that their PC found something; it was not under their control what exactly it was.

In the Burning Wheel game where I am a player my PC and his sidekick were travelling through the wilds of eastern Ulek/the western Pomarj in the World of Greyhawk. My sidekick has trained as a sorcerer and is learned in the lore of the Great Masters (ie has Great Masters-wise skill). I declared, as her action, that she seemed to recall that Evard's tower was located in our vicinity. A check on Great Masters-wise was successful, and we found the tower. I don't know if this counts as "freely generating" or not - it required engaging the action resolution mechanics like any other action declaration, and hence had the same risk of failure and adverse consequence as any other declared action. To me there was definitely the feeling of finding out - the focus of that feeling was watching the dice come up a success rather than a failure.
 

This sounds like an approach to play in which the GM says things about the (imagined) world, which the players are expected to use as the basis for inferring further "true" things about that world - the first quoted para from the GM point of view and the second from the player point of view. Call of Cthulhu modules feature a lot of this sort of thing. So do a number of D&D modules, though in those the inferential connections are often weaker and so the players' dependence upon revelations from the GM often greater.

Personally I don't feel the force of this. Partly for reasons given by @Mallus and @uzirath in posts not far upthread; partly because in my own experience there has never been a problem incorporating player-introduced elements into the shared fiction. JRRT was doing this with his own work all the time, and he was holding himself to a much stricter standard than is necessary for fun and successful RPGing.

I don't know enough about the agenda and principles for Masks to comment; though I do note @Campbell's suggestion that the approach you describe here does not fit with them.

In my own experience of "story now" play - using systems like 4e D&D, Classic Traveller, Prince Valiant, Burning Wheel, Cortex+ Heroic, Cthulhu Dark and Wuthering Heights - the only one which I might say that the characters' stories are not defined by their emergent interactions with the world is Cortex+ Heroic, because the character Milestones to some extent pre-define character arcs. Even then, however, there are moments of surprise. The two occasions I can think of at the moment where Milestones were completed were both quite unexpected - Nightcrawler completed his Romantic milestone by teleporting his date, who was also a supervillain, to the top of the Capitol Dome to propose to her (she said yes) only to jilt her the next day at the altar; Dwalin completed his Dwaren Halls milestone by returning to Moria with the rest of his companions in order to hide from the crebain out of Dunland who were spying on them.

I don't want to lean too heavily on the nitty-gritty of your phrasing, but in my experience the world of story now play is not defined by characters' dramatic needs. It is narrated in response to them, which is different (perhaps that counts as being defined around those needs; but that's not the same thing). In my Prince Valiant game the PCs were able to rescue an abbot and return him to his monastery - but it wasn't until one of the PCs spent time there tending to the sick (successful Healing check) that the idea of religious devotion, and the founding of a Holy Military Order, the Knights of St Sigobert, became a part of the game. I would say that that was precisely a case of a character's story emerging from interactions with the world, and of constituting an exploration of the themes presented. I think this is very typical of story now RPGing. It is what @Manbearcat is trying to get at in his contrast with characters who don't change, or who have pre-given "through lines" of dramatic arcs (the DL modules are paradigms of this).

In that last sentence - which contrasts learning as we make them with finding I can't tell if the complaint is about who does the authoring, or when it is done, or both.

In my Prince Valiant game the PCs were talking to an undead spirit which would let only some of them pass through the Dacian forest it was haunting. The players (and their characters) formed the view that there must be an "anchor" or "focus" of its haunting; and one of them spent a player-side resource (a Storyteller Certificate) to Find Something Hidden - ie the focus of the haunting. As GM I duly narrated something that that character's PC, who was one of those allowed to pass, found. I'm not sure if the players could tell that I was making it up on the spot; I'm also not sure if they cared. It was under their control that their PC found something; it was not under their control what exactly it was.

In the Burning Wheel game where I am a player my PC and his sidekick were travelling through the wilds of eastern Ulek/the western Pomarj in the World of Greyhawk. My sidekick has trained as a sorcerer and is learned in the lore of the Great Masters (ie has Great Masters-wise skill). I declared, as her action, that she seemed to recall that Evard's tower was located in our vicinity. A check on Great Masters-wise was successful, and we found the tower. I don't know if this counts as "freely generating" or not - it required engaging the action resolution mechanics like any other action declaration, and hence had the same risk of failure and adverse consequence as any other declared action. To me there was definitely the feeling of finding out - the focus of that feeling was watching the dice come up a success rather than a failure.
Most of those things were analysis of my preferred playstyle in contrast with Masks intended mode of play.
 

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