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D&D General Railroads, Illusionism, and Participationism

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pemerton

Legend
Here's the basics of the system in question:
Interesting that it's rationed both by rolls and usage. What happens on a failed check?

I'm personally not a fan of the ruin the story or veto for story reason stuff. I mentally edit that stuff out when I run it.
Luke Crane has a nuanced discussion of this, in relation to Wises, in the Adventure Burner. It's tricky. I think the number one rule is, if you're saying No, be upfront.

EDIT:
I'm personally not a very big fan of currencies that don't have a corresponding fictional existence. Stuff like Willpower in World of Darkness is fine. So are strings in Monsterhearts. Mostly I think we rely too much on currency to mediate authority when directed judgement generally works better in my experience. Generally roleplaying game design seems overly afraid of its players. That we cannot let characters do amazing things without somehow limiting it. Pathfinder Second Edition and Exalted Third Edition have kind of changed my mind on that point. Nothing breaks if characters can just kind of be good at the things they are good at pretty much all the time.
This also seems relevant to the "Once per scene" rule.
 

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I'm not sure why. I mean, its a game, many games have currency of some kind. We used to play PACE, which is a diceless token game. The players make up fiction about what they do, and the GM frames them into scenes to address their dramatic needs. As they go through these the the player can expend currency to specify the outcomes of conflicts. They can even 'borrow' from the GM if they really want, but that means the GM is going to have more of their own chits to come back harder with later! So there's a dynamic of escalation of the story that can happen, and if it isn't happening, well the GM should probably up the ante fictionally. There's a bit more to it than that, but there is the essence of it, and action and pressure are the basic focus of play, drama incarnate. Because there are basically no other mechanics, besides you get bonus points if you engage a situation using one of your character's two traits, it works really well. If you want to narrate that as a sort of 'fatigue', 'magic', or whatever depending on the character and milieu, you certain can though.
I'd probably hate this. Or maybe I would like it as some sort of story creation game, but I wouldn't like it as an RPG. To me playing an RPG are a mostly about inhabiting the character. If the decisions the player makes and decisions the character makes are not connected, that seriously hampers that.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
Well... now we get to a big question, so what? I mean, in the post/pseudo Gygaxian world of non-4e D&D it is anathema right? The foxes are now in charge of the henhouse!!! The expectation, drawn from early Gygax-era play, is that if the players get to decide the rules, they will 'loot the dungeon' with impunity and strut around their 20th level god characters which result, right? There's an expectation of play, which is that the challenges are purely fictional/mechanical designs of an omnipotent GM who constantly rules in such a way as to impose the designed in limitations of the environment, and the game is a contest to overcome that environment.
In shorter terms: you're in effect playing against the game itself, as embodied by the DM and-or setting.
So, obviously in the above Gygax paradigm you CANNOT have a game where the players can decide anything at all except the actions of their PCs, which should be relatively unconstrained outside of fictional positioning and mechanics. In a Story Now game of the DW ilk there are no such considerations! The consideration is only DRAMATIC TENSION and the most fundamental limiter I know of is the Czege Principle. The GM exists to be the author of tension, to present the challenges to the players in a way that directly opposes their agendas and thus automatically constructs a dramatic narrative structure.
So in other words you're still playing against the GM only everyone's under different constraints than in D&D.
So, in DW, you cannot have the players dictating everything about the challenge, but its not unacceptable for them to be able to state the general parameters of it. If a DW move dictated that a player describe something it would have to be constrained in some way to preserve tension, but it wouldn't matter if, for example, the answer gave the PC access to some great treasure or whatever, as long as the result was dramatically interesting and thematic. You cannot 'win' at Dungeon World, not even in the same sense you could 'win' in D&D.
If you're playing against the opposition provided by the GM then it naturally follows you can still win-lose-draw against said opposition. Otherwise what's the point?
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
IME, there can be a conflict of interest between playing the character with integrity and a wide variety of meta- play goals (e.g., play-to-win, optimal strategies, table social pressure, etc.), which can can subtly encourage players to forego their characterization, with players supplying post hoc rationale for their characters that justify these character-breaks.
I agree this conflict exists, and my consistent answer to it is "play the character with integrity and let the chips fall where they may".
 

Campbell

Relaxed Intensity
@pemerton

Generally speaking only success is consequential in Exalted. Generally the consequence for failing to Establish A Fact is that it leaves the narrative space open to be defined. Another player character or NPC might follow up by Establishing A Fact that contradicts. We have generally treated it as meaning the fact as laid out is not true in some way though. Exalted pretty much treats NPCs exactly the same as PCs. It has a strong focus on them also having a chance to affect the situation. It's one of the very few tabletop games that I feel has a strong Nordic LARP vibe to it.

The stakes in a social situation in instance for a failed roll tend to be that NPCs get to act and might convince you to do something they want or uncover something you are trying to hide.

I do think the once per scene bit is mostly trying to establish some consequences for failure, although it keeps them fairly light.
 
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I absolutely agree about conflicts between playing with integrity and optimal play / social pressure. I think that can mostly be resolved in a fairly diegetic way though with currencies and/or mechanics that reflect character emotional states. Really good examples include Apocalypse World, Dogs in the Vineyard, Exalted Third Edition, Monsterhearts, Vampire - The Requiem Second Edition and Masks. I know some people see anything that deals with character emotional states as meta. I disagree.

In a round-about way, that's also where psychological limitations in point-built games came from; providing an incentive (though in its early days, very much force) to playing the character as defined even though there might be incentives not to.
 

Interesting that it's rationed both by rolls and usage. What happens on a failed check?

Luke Crane has a nuanced discussion of this, in relation to Wises, in the Adventure Burner. It's tricky. I think the number one rule is, if you're saying No, be upfront.

EDIT:
This also seems relevant to the "Once per scene" rule.
Well, this goes back to the old "reality of playing an RPG" thing. Clearly if there is to be a genre and any sort of organized milieu then there has to be some process by which anything authored is vetted. This is, obviously, vastly likely to be a GM function, or at least heavily influenced by the GM (I think technically DW for example states that the participants should discuss it if this kind of thing arises).
 

I'd probably hate this. Or maybe I would like it as some sort of story creation game, but I wouldn't like it as an RPG. To me playing an RPG are a mostly about inhabiting the character. If the decisions the player makes and decisions the character makes are not connected, that seriously hampers that.
Eh, what I recall of our PACE games is that they were quite heavily RP with very little table chatter and such. I cannot state what the player's experience of inhabitation was like, but they were quite engaged and spending currency got a bit intense when the stakes were high. At least in our play we also played it such that if you tossed in another 'pebble' you had to explain what the fiction was regarding that, you couldn't just play it like a bidding war in the pure abstract, so the PC was going more and more 'all in' on whatever they were attempting. I cannot say that it always felt perfectly tied to their mental state or whatever, but it always seemed quite appropriate. The main game we played was an Arthurian Romance type of thing (set in a fantasy equivalent of France with fairies and giants, etc.). So, characters had to outwit giants, break into castles, rescue maidens, win tournaments, etc. They ended up on a quest to protect a child who seemed to be connected with a prophecy relating the downfall of the kingdom that was somehow connected with the Fairy Queen. I forget the exact details, though we never really got to the part of the game where that would have been central, and maybe it would never have become so, it was definitely a Story Now game!

IIRC we also used this system to play through some Mythos scenarios, and it worked fairly well for that too. Honestly, I expect you could do a lot of narrative focus play with that system, though it didn't have a lot of scope for character development (you had 2 descriptors, there was no provision for anything else, and gaining more would probably complicate things, I guess you could get equipment, though there are no actual rules for it!).
 

In shorter terms: you're in effect playing against the game itself, as embodied by the DM and-or setting.

So in other words you're still playing against the GM only everyone's under different constraints than in D&D.

If you're playing against the opposition provided by the GM then it naturally follows you can still win-lose-draw against said opposition. Otherwise what's the point?
I once ran a game (using Traveller, but that's another kettle of fish) in which the ONLY possible outcome was the destruction of all of the PCs. There was literally no possible way that they could stave off death, by design. Was it pointless? I don't think so, the players didn't appear to think so...
 

Aldarc

Legend
I absolutely agree about conflicts between playing with integrity and optimal play / social pressure. I think that can mostly be resolved in a fairly diegetic way though with currencies and/or mechanics that reflect character emotional states. Really good examples include Apocalypse World, Dogs in the Vineyard, Exalted Third Edition, Monsterhearts, Vampire - The Requiem Second Edition and Masks. I know some people see anything that deals with character emotional states as meta. I disagree.
I dunno. Privileging the diagetic over the non-diagetic for such mechanics seems to just be repackaging the Alexandrian's associated vs. dissassociated mechanics argument with slightly different wrapping paper.
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
I'd probably hate this. Or maybe I would like it as some sort of story creation game, but I wouldn't like it as an RPG. To me playing an RPG are a mostly about inhabiting the character. If the decisions the player makes and decisions the character makes are not connected, that seriously hampers that.
Well, good news, this doesn't describe Blades. I'm not a fan of AA's description of play or the claim of it being very narrow. The engine has been used for quite a number of genres -- like PbtA the engine is expected to be tweaked to match a genre. Saying Blades is narrow is like saying that D&D is narrow because you only run CoS. It's not well placed.
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
My take on it is that the underlying adventure is often almost irrelevant to what is happening at the table in any given moment, so why bother worrying about it.

Put another way: when looking at the moment-to-moment run of play maybe it's the adventures that are interchangeable, rather than the characters.
That's seems... I dunno. Odd? It doesn't make a difference at any moment of play if you're trying to restore the Ordning or if you need to defeat Strahd or if you need to end the death curse? This statement is very strange.
It may be all they ever get in 1e; my point is that it's also all they need.
Nope, hard disagree. This goes next to the printer.

If I'm going to play 1e, it's in spite of things like this, not because of them.
 

pemerton

Legend
I'm willing to give a bit on ideal play process to make that happen. The same reason why I was willing to deal with Martial Dailies. I can justify it and having fighters that feel worthy of the name are more important than play process for me. Then PF2 decided I no longer had to choose.
I know some people see anything that deals with character emotional states as meta. I disagree.
I tend to see martial encounter and daily powers as trying hard. The precise rationing scheme is a bit arbitrary, but mostly I see it as the character, not the player, who is pushing themselves hard.
 

Campbell

Relaxed Intensity
I dunno. Privileging the diagetic over the non-diagetic for such mechanics seems to just be repackaging the Alexandrian's associated vs. dissassociated mechanics argument with slightly different wrapping paper.

It's a personal preference. It's also subjective. I realize what feels diagetic to me won't necessarily feel that way to others. For example Pathfinder Second Edition's Barbarian class can rage on demand, but it is fatigued a short while after. Some people view the daily rages as more diagetic. I disagree, but I can't say they are wrong to feel that way. It's also not wrong to have a preference for mechanics that are more focused on story structure. Not judging other people's play here. Just speaking to my own preferences.
 
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Well, good news, this doesn't describe Blades. I'm not a fan of AA's description of play or the claim of it being very narrow. The engine has been used for quite a number of genres -- like PbtA the engine is expected to be tweaked to match a genre. Saying Blades is narrow is like saying that D&D is narrow because you only run CoS. It's not well placed.
I don't think the architecture of the game is necessarily inherently limited, I know FitD has been used as a basis for other games. Blades itself is simply intended to address a very specific milieu, that's all. So, if people look at specifically what happens in a BitD game, they may think there is some inherent limitation in the approach. Like its Grand Daddy, PbtA, FitD seems well suited to a lot of things. I think PbtA may be a bit more generally adaptable in some respects, but maybe not. It has certainly been used for a LOT of games at this point! Both of them have, actually.
 

darkbard

Hero
I don't think the architecture of the game is necessarily inherently limited, I know FitD has been used as a basis for other games. Blades itself is simply intended to address a very specific milieu, that's all. So, if people look at specifically what happens in a BitD game, they may think there is some inherent limitation in the approach. Like its Grand Daddy, PbtA, FitD seems well suited to a lot of things. I think PbtA may be a bit more generally adaptable in some respects, but maybe not. It has certainly been used for a LOT of games at this point! Both of them have, actually.
I think Blades play, both orthodox RAW and its short, freely available expansions, allow for a much wider range of genre and tropes than you imagine, @AbdulAlhazred.

In one game, @Nephis and I played a Cult, whose primary objective was to heal the fracture between the realms of the living and the dead by bringing forth our goddess, a Raven Queen analogue, into the world.

Later, when those primary PCs were sacrificed in the cause of the Crew's agenda, we played a short-lived game of Vigilantes, NPCs betrayed and disgusted by our original Crew, seeking to exact vengeance upon the various cults that have been preying upon young mystical prodigies as conduits for bringing their forgotten gods into the world.

Now, we're playing a Crew of Inspectors, True Detective- style investigators of the murders and disappearances in the orbit of these child abductions in Doskvol. While these latter two games do involve slight additions/alterations to the rules set, they are far more along the lines of 4E's introduction of a variant resource management for Psionic characters in PHB3 than a true hack, retaining nearly all the architecture, if slightly reskinned in places, of the original Blades in the Dark.
 

I think Blades play, both orthodox RAW and its short, freely available expansions, allow for a much wider range of genre and tropes than you imagine, @AbdulAlhazred.

In one game, @Nephis and I played a Cult, whose primary objective was to heal the fracture between the realms of the living and the dead by bringing forth our goddess, a Raven Queen analogue, into the world.

Later, when those primary PCs were sacrificed in the cause of the Crew's agenda, we played a short-lived game of Vigilantes, NPCs betrayed and disgusted by our original Crew, seeking to exact vengeance upon the various cults that have been preying upon young mystical prodigies as conduits for bringing their forgotten gods into the world.

Now, we're playing a Crew of Inspectors, True Detective- style investigators of the murders and disappearances in the orbit of these child abductions in Doskvol. While these latter two games do involve slight additions/alterations to the rules set, they are far more along the lines of 4E's introduction of a variant resource management for Psionic characters in PHB3 than a true hack, retaining nearly all the architecture, if slightly reskinned in places, of the original Blades in the Dark.
Sorry, I don't mean to get into a nitpicky debate with people whom I agree with on a wide range of game design and aesthetic issues. OTOH this is still the same milieu, and it is a fairly narrowly drawn one overall. Each group is modeled as a 'crew' in effect, etc. Now, I think games like D&D are also pretty niche, so don't feel bad, though D&D does allow for a wider range of environments and situations, it is AT LEAST as narrow in overall genre, and its leveling and class systems are pretty rigid.
 


darkbard

Hero
Sorry, I don't mean to get into a nitpicky debate with people whom I agree with on a wide range of game design and aesthetic issues. OTOH this is still the same milieu, and it is a fairly narrowly drawn one overall. Each group is modeled as a 'crew' in effect, etc. Now, I think games like D&D are also pretty niche, so don't feel bad, though D&D does allow for a wider range of environments and situations, it is AT LEAST as narrow in overall genre, and its leveling and class systems are pretty rigid.
Oh, I don't feel bad in the least; this point is a matter of analysis, not emotion for me. I just know there is a contingent of readers, both participants and lurkers to this thread, who will look at your framing of Blades games as being constrained by a "very specific milieu" as an aspersion and point of stark distinction from D&D. If you want to equate the milieus of BitD and D&D, I have no issue with that, though I personally would frame it differently.
 


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