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D&D General Railroads, Illusionism, and Participationism

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@Scott Christian , take a look at what I wrote about the watching of a proficiently run/played Blades game and contrast that with your expectations of a proficiently run/played 5e AP game. Then look at @niklinna ‘s actual appraisal of watching said Blades game. Do you think that description (mine) and his appraisal matches how you would depict a normative, proficiently run/played 5e AP game.
I do not. I think Blades looks and feels different when watching than D&D of any edition. (I watched this episode Blades in the Dark

This is my point. If your premise is to improve yourself as a DM or GM, you can analyze all you want. If you bring in other games (which I said was good), then there is something to be learned. Eventually, you have to compare apples to apples though. This 5e game to that 5e game. Then you contrast, and find the areas you can improve.

If your premise is to create a philosophy, where you differentiate between playstyles, then you need a neutral tone, author and arbiter. This thread was not the case. It attached clearly negative words to a playstyle. It also presented vocabulary that was not needed.

You can analyze something and explain it simplistically. You can compare and contrast things to gleam insight into what to change or keep or expand at your table. You cannot promote a philosophy that sits on 1" ice at the end of March.
 
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I do not. I think Blades looks and feels different when watching than D&D of any edition. (I watched this episode Blades in the Dark

This is my point. If your premise is to improve yourself as a DM or GM, you can analyze all you want. If you bring in other games (which I said was good), then there is something to learned. Eventually, you have to compare apples to apples though. This 5e game to that 5e game. Then you contrast, and find the areas you can improve.

If your premise is to create a philosophy, where you differentiate between playstyles, then you need a neutral tone, author and arbiter. This thread was not the case. It attached clearly negative words to a playstyle. It also presented vocabulary that is not needed.

You can analyze something and explain it simplistically. You can compare and contrast things to gleam insight into what to change or keep or expand at your table. You cannot promote a philosophy that sits on 1" ice at the end of March.

Unless you’re fighting or perpetuating a culture war (there you’re worried about emotional reception of technical language used to delineate thing x from thing y), what you need when it comes to design priorities and play priorities (so you can pick the games you want to play to do the thing vs this other thing) is explanatory power and predictive capacity (if I build for x will it reliably produce y).

You agree that different games are different in the playing and in the beholding. This doesn’t occur as a result of pixie dust and ruby red slipper clicking.

Theyre different as a matter of design, of agenda, if GMing principles, of player best practices, of play premise, and of system architecture and play structure and reward cycles that are informed by all of it.

And that all of it is informed by deconstructing all the various aspects of TTRPG design and play (constituent parts and the integrated whole) which propel a play experience and delineate this from that.

And whether you feel like you’ve gotten no mileage from technical language, designers CLEARLY have (including 5e designers) and there is a whole host of players who are CLEARLY glad those designers did (so they can give such diverse designs as we have today and so we can distinguish this one from that one so we know which ones we want to play and which we want to eschew).

I’m sorry you (and others) are having trouble with a (IME non-controversial and straightforward) concept like Force (whereby a GM subverts a player’s tactical, strategic, or thematic input, or the system’s say, and in its stead inserts the GM’s own input) but (a) it’s absolutely a thing and a whole host of design and play pivots upon its deployment or eschewing and (b) to the end of deploying it or eschewing it there are certain aspects of design (GM-facing and/or opaque vs table-facing and transparent/encoded) and principles (GM as lead storyteller and rules/outcomes that don’t serve the GM’s concept of story/fun should be disregarded vs follow the rules and don’t play “the story” because there isn’t one…play to find out what happens) that will invest play with Force by making it “a feature” or remove Force from play because it is “a bug” for the play agenda the design is working toward.
 
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(Apologies if this is off-topic as I'm only skimmed the past 30 or so pages of this thread)

The person who makes the Runehammer youtube channel has been doing recaps of their Old School Essentials game every week for a while now and also put out a pdf of his OSE house rules. I can't find the house rules pdf now, but he did make it publicly available, so I thought I would copy and paste a potentially relevant part below. His basic "prep" process is very minimal (one page of handwritten notes) and the rest is improvised via basically coin flips. It's basically procedural dungeon/wilderness creation but without a lot of tables. But it's also not dependent on characters' skills or larger dramatic needs; indeed the purpose to build a world that is neutral to those needs. That being said, from what I gather from his play reports, the players are heavily invested in their characters (thus not "pawn stance").
Yes, it sounds pretty classic, though there's the danger of introducing bias in terms of what you flip for and when, some judgment is needed there undoubtedly. I'm well aware of the concept of classic play. When I was 13, in 1976, I bought a copy of the brand new Holme's Basic D&D box that came out. Mine was one which came with 'dungeon geomorphs' and a 'monster and treasure assortment' (basically monster and treasure tables). Other people got B2, or maybe it was B1, in their boxes instead. I got the (in)famous 'wax dice too, and the d20 was useless and lopsided, but luckily I already had some dice from playing D&D with my buds, lol. Anyway...

So, when we played this game I simply arranged the geomorphs, added some hand drawn sections, and a map of a 'castle' and some caves to serve as a vestibule essentially, and rolled a whole bunch of times on the monster and treasure assortment, and threw out most of the results, and added my own fun stuff. So, pretty soon there was a one-handed dwarf named Gilladian, and a mule that was smarter than the dwarf (int 4 for mules, go look it up) and Triborb the elf (soon becoming Triborb VII as the first six died). Eventually there was Thayson the bard (I guess after we incorporated AD&D PHB1 classes into our game, long before the DMG came out), and Grog the Half-Orc (also stupider than the mule, now known as 'Mule Go Bang!' for reasons best left to be forgotten).

The point being, I'm fully cognizant of Gygaxian play in its full and complete glory, in every detail, and have probably logged more hours of both playing and GMing it than the vast majority of people here, lol. Its a very coherent sort of game, within its limits. Those limits are why we moved on to other forms. When the story became open-ended, when it stopped being a 'crawl' through a finite environment, then "map and key" methodologies (or random generation in Runehammer's case) become insufficiently satisfying.

Put it this way, I introduced several 'dungeons' in my 4e game at different points. With one exception they were just small affairs where the PCs decided to go investigate a specific locale based on whatever it was they were wanting to do. So I built a couple small map and key locations. It worked OK, and it was amusing to see people scrambling to enact procedures that they hadn't probably thought about in 20 years. I also made a larger 'nostalgia dungeon' that was amusing, but that was more open-ended in practice. My point is, its a very valid technique, used sparingly. Dungeon World for instance says "make maps, leave holes" and those maps can most certainly follow a map and key pattern within limited bounds too. The bounds could even be fairly extensive if the players drive things that way, though in DW, or 4e either, there is always a high probability that things will 'bust loose' and the map and key will start to be too restrictive.
 

Unless you’re fighting or perpetuating a culture war (there you’re worried about emotional reception of technical language used to delineate thing x from thing y), what you need when it comes to design priorities and play priorities (so you can pick the games you want to play to do the thing vs this other thing) is explanatory power and predictive capacity (if I build for x will it reliably produce y).
I agree.
You agree that different games are different in the playing and in the beholding. This doesn’t occur as a result of pixie dust and ruby red slipper clicking.
Games will play and look different based on the mechanics and playstyles. I agree. I never stated otherwise. Not even a little. Not even in the slightest. None at all. In fact, I said this exact thing.
Theyre different as a matter of design, of agenda, if GMing principles, of player best practices, of play premise, and of system architecture and play structure and reward cycles that are informed by all of it.
Correct. Again, I agree and have said as such.
And whether you feel like you’ve gotten no mileage from technical language, designers CLEARLY have (including 5e designers) and there is a whole host of players who are CLEARLY glad those designers did (so they can give such diverse designs as we have today and so we can distinguish this one from that one so we know which ones we want to play and which we want to eschew).
Designers design. That is what they do. Is someone designing a new game on this thread? If so, we can have a different conversation. A conversation that will be helped greatly when one can speak about a design clearly and succinctly. The opposite of trying to explain something for over a hundred pages.
I’m sorry you (and others) are having trouble with a (IME non-controversial and straightforward) concept like Force (whereby a GM subverts a player’s tactical, strategic, or thematic input, or the system’s say, and in its stead inserts the GM’s own input) but (a) it’s absolutely a thing and a whole host of design and play pivots upon its deployment or eschewing and (b) to the end of deploying it or eschewing it there are certain aspects of design (GM-facing and/or opaque vs table-facing and transparent/encoded) and principles (GM as lead storyteller and rules/outcomes that don’t serve the GM’s concept of story/fun should be disregarded vs follow the rules and don’t play “the story” because there isn’t one…play to find out what happens) that will invest play with Force by making it “a feature” or remove Force from play because it is “a bug” for the play agenda the design is working toward.
The bold is a made-up argument. Look at your definition. First, you use the term subvert, a negative word. Second, you call it "force," which again has an air of making the DM sound pompous. Third, your own definition means: anytime a DM uses a houserule or their judgement instead of the PHB or DM's Guide they are using force. Anytime a DM holds to their world's structure, as opposed to the player's, they are using force. Anytime a DM authors a different outcome to a player's strategy they are using force.

So show me a 5e game where this doesn't happen every now and then. As I said earlier, it is a matter of degrees. And guess what, there are already terms for these degrees. They exist already. And they are not negative, like yours. Hence, why I ask for video.

You delineate between east and west, but refuse to see the ocean in the middle. You build your terms based on one hemisphere and refuse to accept that the hemispheres are connected. Most of what has been promoted is propaganda for one side, not design philosophy.
 

Force is generally used to refer to a particular approach by the GM to authorship: fudging/manipulating the mechanics to achieve a particular outcome; manipulating the backstory to achieve a particular outcome (eg a NPC ally suddenly turns up to take the blow intended for the BBEG); manipulating the backstory to allow the framing of a pre-planned/desired scene without regard to the outcomes of prior scenes (eg inventing a lieutenant to replace a killed BBEG; relocating missed clues to make sure the PCs and thus the players find them); and - maybe a bit more controversially as Force in the literal sense but definitely Force-adjacent - using social cues/pressure to get the players to exercise their authority over action declarations in such a way as to ensure they declare the actions the GM wants them to (eg to ensure that they don't declare actions that would expose the "big reveal" too early, or to make sure that they declare actions that will take their PCs to the "right" locations).
Okay. So...people have made it clear that they see what I do as obvious Force (IIRC "sniffing it out" nearly instantly) but...I don't do any of these. I never fudge rolls. I never contrive backstory this way, holding myself to extremely high standards about backstory growth. I certainly wouldn't replace BBEG-Prime with BBEG-Lieutenant (they haven't killed/defeated/turned/etc. any yet so I can't formally say I don't do it.) If a clue is missed, it's just missed; maybe if the fiction happens to lead back to the clue then they get a second shot, but I would never contrive to ensure the clue is found no matter what. The only one that's hard is that last one, because it's possible I do it not intending to, being all implication and soft-touch stuff. I certainly wouldn't do it intentionally.

I think this is an area where some care is needed.

For me, nothing makes me feel more alienated from the setting - and hence conscious of its "artificiality" - than needing the GM to tell me the fundamentals of what my character knows and feels and experiences. If my PC is somewhere new, then it makes sense that the GM provides me with new knowledge. But if my PC is engaging with something that they know, that is familiar to them, then the player experience being in contradiction to that doesn't work at all.

This is where, in my view, fictional positioning - understood in a fairly expansive fashion - is crucial. And it is fictional positioning that tends to be ignored in "artificial" examples of Spout Lore or wises. At least, that is how conjectured examples like Wise-ing up or Spouting Lore about various power ups, treasures etc that are not connected to the established setting and the PC's place in it seem to me.
This is curious. If it's not possible to tell you "your character would already know this," that seems to cut off an enormous amount of interesting stories that depend on, for example, having a cultural background in the setting. It's not really possible to establish absolutely every cultural value a character might pick up over time, nor is it (IMO) very interesting to have every single stricture and ritual of a particular religion narrated out to the party the instant they show up. But if (for example) you have a dominant religion in an area (as is the case in almost all D&D-type games), the player characters as a general rule should know that (say) white is worn to funerals in this land, or that a censer emitting blue smoke is a traditional sign that someone in the house just got married (a superstition about warding off evil spirits or whatever).

Do those things count as alienating you from the setting if you must be told that your character would already know it? If so, I'm confused how you manage to have characters that adventure in locations where their cultural background is relevant without either (a) just letting the player write that culture all by themselves, which falls into many of the issues I had had with my mistaken understanding of the dwarf forge (that is, unmoored from any fictional tethers and invented by the player for the players' benefit); or (b) literally hashing it all out collaboratively with the DM super far in advance so that you do already know basically everything relevant about your character's cultural history and awareness.

Just to clarify (and, I hope, not belabor the point) re the setting where this particular Spout Lore-ing was done (some of which has been mentioned, some of which I don't think has been):
Having been presented like this (rather than the original framing which did somewhat confuse me), this sounds perfectly cromulent to me. You had a foundation for there to be hidden things, you had resources you could employ (the books) to reveal information, it was the DM creating a neat opportunity at your prompting rather than you giving yourself an opportunity, etc. Sounds rather similar to stuff I've done, afraid I don't remember any specific examples off the top of my head (we had a low-Int party for quite a while so Spout Lore was relatively rare for about the past year and a half, though that is changing).

A missed Spout Lore roll is not just that there is no information, there are also consequences to it. All missed rolls in PbtA games worsen the position of the characters by triggering a GM move.
I am well aware of the function of the Spout Lore roll, having run a Dungeon World game (augmented with the excellent Grim World third party book, though...without the grimness) for something like three and a half years. Probably three years of weekly sessions if you cut out all the breaks we've had for various reasons.

Not quite. The Spout Lore mechanics the player used require the DM to describe a positive result, exactly in the Luck example. In this thread they have been calling that player authorship, since it's the player's success on their Move that required this, and the player's focus (What do I know about dwarven forges in these mountains / food, warmth, shelter in the tundra) that directs the subject.
I find it different from the Luck example for three reasons:
1) With the Luck roll, it instantly fixes (or both fails to fix and specifically worsens) a problem. Spout Lore provides information. That information may be merely interesting or actively useful, but information alone is usually not enough to fix problems--one must also act, which will either push the fiction forward directly, or invoke a mechanic that will determine how the fiction progresses. (Fail forward, obviously, ensures that things advance in SOME way either way, with results being beneficial, detrimental, or mixed.)
2) Luck is something of a supernatural thing, some sort of numious successful-ness, which doesn't correspond to Spout Lore being rooted in past experiences and knowledge of the character. While this difference does lie in the fiction, it has strong implications for how the luck roll vs Spout Lore will play out (especially since, as noted, the luck roll gets consumed by usage, which is not true of Spout Lore in general.)
3) It's unclear whether it is the player who comes up with the lucky break or the DM, whereas it is clear in Spout Lore that it is the DM who gives the answer, they just do so at player request via invoking a mechanic.

This always comes back to the other principles and agenda in DW. The GM is a fan of the players, we're playing to see what happens, you ask questions, make moves, etc. So, the GM isn't really all that free. The player DID, with SL, determine the general topic of the revealed material, and their need/intent are driving things. The point is, it isn't players or GM in the driver's seat, the game is playing, its engine is running, and both players and GM are adding grist to the mill!
So...that's pretty much exactly what I go for. Which is why I get so confused when I describe things that sound, to my ears, exactly like this, and am then told that obviously I'm just leading my players around by the nose and either using sleight-of-hand or guilt-tripping to make them behave exactly how I want them to behave.

It's also incredibly confusing to call it "player authorship" when the DM is still the author, they're just authoring "on commission" as it were, prompted by player actions (which may or may not be rolls--"golden opportunities" often come from unwise player choices, for example, and "exploit your prep" requires that you have something you prepped in the first place.) I also don't see, at all, how this is incompatible with (for example) drawing a loose overall map of a location, such as the map I just drew of the lost city of Al-Shafadir for the session we just had on Monday, with labels on it for a general, loose idea of the neighborhoods visible to the PCs. (It's inside a volcanic caldera and they entered near the rim, so they got a good high-level look at some of the nearby neighborhoods.)

The players entered in an area serving as a market square--no traps there because it would be too much of a hassle to remove them if the city's former rulers wanted to return. But then they got a miss on Spout Lore, so they got to ask one question, knowing they wouldn't care for the results. Turns out this front square wasn't for keeping agricultural goods...it was for keeping slaves, hence there would be little treasure and painting the former residents of this city in a much darker light than anticipated. (It's known that genies kept slaves in the ancient past; this city apparently made it their stock and trade, which is somewhat worse.) Various opportunities to explore and learn presented themselves, and the party had to choose at one point between following some bizarre scorched footprints on the stone streets, or checking out some clear evidence of looters that had gotten to the city before them. They chose to follow the latter--but that means a golden opportunity to do something with the looters that I will exploit later. I had, of course, prepared for the possibility that there could be looters, which a partial-success roll proved was true, and had thought in advance about what kinds of denizens would be present in this city.

From a Doylist perspective, I prepared stuff for this adventure in order to meet OOC player requests. The Bard player was a bit worn out from being the center of attention for a long time, and privately asked for something lighter and fluffier where he could just relax. Another player had also requested more opportunities for combat, and we were going to need to re-introduce our Druid player who had been out of the game for about a year. I drafted up something that seemed a suitably engaging but light adventure (check out a recently-rediscovered lost city) that I knew would be of interest to at least two of the three current players both as players and as characters, and which would fit well with the Druid's unfolding story. It's something of a callback to the very first adventure they went on, way back in 2019.
 

Campbell

Relaxed Intensity
At the end of the day is it a legitimate desire to want to play, design or run games where GM Storytelling is not a thing? We all agree that wanting those things is fine. Designing to them is more than fine. Can those of us who aren't about that life exist in this space?

This isn't a hemisphere. It's a single dimension we should be allowed to express preferences around and talk about designing around. I thought the way this thread started was remarkably positive. It treated GM Storytelling as a valid play. Not the only valid way to play. However, as this thread has gone on it feels like the rest of us are expected to justify our preferences while people in the mainstream are not.
 
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At the end of the day is it a legitimate desire to want to play, design or run games where GM Storytelling is not a thing? We all agree that wanting those things is fine. Designing to them is more than fine. Can those of us who aren't about that life exist in this space?

I can't see a good argument to say it shouldn't be. I've played in an environment with some parallels (MUSHing of a particular sort) and it has its virtues (though I think the lack of a central core to its events has its downsides, too). Its hard to see quite how parallel it is to what you're talking about because it lacked almost any mechanical support, but it would be very odd to say it was inappropriate or not an RPG (though I've absolutely seen people who'd make that claim, but then I talk them with the same attitude I do people who claim its not an RPG if character creation and play is constrained on any level beyond what the game system does).

This isn't a hemisphere. It's a single dimension we should be allowed to express preferences around and talk about designing around. I thought the way this thread started was remarkably positive. It treated GM Storytelling as a valid play. Not the only valid way to play. However, as this thread has gone on it feels like the rest of us are expected to justify our preferences while people in the mainstream are not.

That's at least not what I've been trying to do, but pick apart why some of the techniques needed to make it work don't work for some people on levels that don't have to do with who has authority, per se (though in practice it limits that).
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
I agree.

Games will play and look different based on the mechanics and playstyles. I agree. I never stated otherwise. Not even a little. Not even in the slightest. None at all. In fact, I said this exact thing.

Correct. Again, I agree and have said as such.

Designers design. That is what they do. Is someone designing a new game on this thread? If so, we can have a different conversation. A conversation that will be helped greatly when one can speak about a design clearly and succinctly. The opposite of trying to explain something for over a hundred pages.

The bold is a made-up argument. Look at your definition. First, you use the term subvert, a negative word.
This seems to be exactly what he's saying in the bolded argument. I mean, he says this, and then you make the exact complaint he's talking about while saying he wrong. It's odd. Essentially, you're not arguing what's described by Force happens, or that it's not a useful concept to consider, you're complaining it doesn't have a suitably soft-sounding and supportive name. This is exactly what @Manbearcat is talking about in the bolded bits.
Second, you call it "force," which again has an air of making the DM sound pompous.
If I force you to do something, 'pompous' is not the word I would use to describe this. Can you use Force in a pompous way? Sure. But I can also use it in a way to make for better play, depending on the goals of play. If your action would accidentally short-circuit the entire evening's planned story, or would have a result no one actually wants but it isn't obvious it would do you from your side of the screen, then Force isn't at all pompous -- it's a vital tool.

It's called Force though because that's what's happening -- the GM is using their position of override play for a specific outcome. They are forcing an outcome through. It's an apt description. I use Force in my 5e games all the time. I used Force last Sunday in my Alien RPG game. It's a tool, and I don't see how finding a term for what's happening in play
Third, your own definition means: anytime a DM uses a houserule or their judgement instead of the PHB or DM's Guide they are using force.
No, if you think so, then you haven't been paying attention at all. Houserules aren't Force (unless they're secret and surprise deployed, maybe), and neither is judgement. Force happens when the GM disregards player input, action declarations, or the system's say to implement a preferred outcome. There are two legs to this test, and both must be true. Judgement -- ie, filling in gaps in rules -- isn't Force unless you're disregarding player input or action declarations. It is Force if the GM judgement is to ignore the system's say on a thing to pick the outcome. And, this is a perfect place to point out that this is actually often a place where Force can be used for great effect and is a good tool to you, especially if the system's say is creating an incoherent result.
Anytime a DM holds to their world's structure, as opposed to the player's, they are using force.
Again, no.
Anytime a DM authors a different outcome to a player's strategy they are using force.
Again, no.
So show me a 5e game where this doesn't happen every now and then. As I said earlier, it is a matter of degrees. And guess what, there are already terms for these degrees. They exist already. And they are not negative, like yours. Hence, why I ask for video.
It's very hard to find a 5e game that doesn't use Force, even discounting your statements above. This is because the system almost encodes it and because the primary approach to play is Trad oriented, which also encodes Force. This isn't a bad thing at all, though. 5e games that do not use Force are going to be those that run more like B/X dungeoncrawls -- in the Classic style of play of map and key.
You delineate between east and west, but refuse to see the ocean in the middle. You build your terms based on one hemisphere and refuse to accept that the hemispheres are connected. Most of what has been promoted is propaganda for one side, not design philosophy.
This isn't so at all. Force is actually one of those things where you can look at a situation and see if it's there or not. It relies on some clear tests. It's a useful heuristic for evaluating play for certain play objectives. And I can tell this because some games have been designed with a strong desire to eliminate Force from play. As in, a stated objective in design. And they do so.
 

Campbell

Relaxed Intensity
If the issue critics of GM Force had was the use of GM authority more broadly the games they have designed to address it would make no damn sense. Like not one bit. Apocalypse World, Burning Wheel, Sorcerer, Dogs in the Vineyard, Blades in the Dark, Monsterhearts, Masks, et al. All games with broad and expansive GM authority often over areas that are usually untouched in most traditional games. Aggressive scene framing, complications that change the state of play, and often inner emotional life of player characters are all handed to the GM to do as they will as long as it is done according to the principles of play.

I just don't know how people are getting from here to there on this one. Everyone here who has made use of GM Force plays and runs in games with a strong GM role. The people who originated the term created games with an extraordinarily strong GM role. John Harper (who designed Blades in the Dark) is constantly calling out the importance of GM judgement. Almost every indie designer I have ever encountered has a soft spot for OSR play.

I just do not get where this conflation is coming from.
 

This isn't so at all. Force is actually one of those things where you can look at a situation and see if it's there or not. It relies on some clear tests. It's a useful heuristic for evaluating play for certain play objectives. And I can tell this because some games have been designed with a strong desire to eliminate Force from play. As in, a stated objective in design. And they do so.
This is why we have 90 pages explaining force?

Here is litmus test for you:

A critical hit is when you roll a 20 on a d20. When you do this, your weapon automatically does maximum damage.

See how clear that is. Here is another:

The DM is going to run an adventure path. We will playing an adventure path. This means we will follow the story in the book.

See how clear that is. Here is another:

The DM is going to run a sandbox campaign. Us, the players, will get to decide where to go and what to do. The world is open for us to explore.

See how clear that is. Here is another:

The DM is going to run a dungeon crawl. Basically, we're going to go into a dungeon and explore it. There may or may not be a story.

See how clear that is. Of course, the pedant is going to try and argue the ambiguity of these terms. But there is no response to them. Because deep down, everyone understands and gets what these things mean. To muck it up is arguing for argument's sake.

Anyone trying to legitimize the term force, and then saying, but almost all 5e games do this, is doing nothing to improve their DM skills. They are trying to explain a cloud shape that changes based on when and where one is looking.
 

The bold is a made-up argument.
What does this even mean? Of course its 'made up', every original thought any human being ever had is 'made up'. They have to come from somewhere, right? What you mean here, if you really dig into it, "I don't like your reasoning, I am just going to call it 'made up' because that evokes my emotional response. Now, I don't attribute much in the way of motives to people here discussing this fairly trivial topic, but if this was a more weighty discussion then we might start to ask about whether it was genuine emotion or a calculated move, but honestly I don't think you're being calculating. Still, its not a meaningful criticism in any logical sense...
Look at your definition. First, you use the term subvert, a negative word.
What word would you use? Player A indicates through various channels, including fairly explicit ones like action declarations, that they're attempting to move the narrative in a certain direction. GM X responds by putting a blockade in front of that direction. I mean, subvert is a mild term, which IMHO would indicate a less blatant action, like maybe just adding to the backstory elements calculated to discourage, or penalize, this course of action by the PC. In point of fact it could be much more blatant, the GM could put a literal physical barrier in place, and I've seen it happen a few times! (this is unusual as most GMs are reluctant to be so obvious in their manipulation of backstory).
Second, you call it "force," which again has an air of making the DM sound pompous.
The term has been around for quite a long time now... Again, its a bit hard to come up with one that is clearly better. Even if you can, and I have not seen one suggested here, you don't need to attribute malice to @Manbearcat for using the same term as everyone else. It seems Ad Hominem, and again adds nothing to the substance of your argument.
Third, your own definition means: anytime a DM uses a houserule or their judgement instead of the PHB or DM's Guide they are using force.
I disagree with you on houserules very much. They are rules, they are agreed upon, at least in principle, before play. If a new one is added the participants will surely know about it. Maybe this is just a nitpick about the term 'houserule' but again I'm not sensing substance in the position here. As for the 2nd part, I agree that what Manbearcat says is that not following the 'rules' would be, at least potentially, force. However, the inserting of "the GM's own input" is rather a more complex aspect, which you would probably want to explicate before heaping condemnation. That is, suppose the GM made up a rule about what happens when a PC falls in a pit, in the absence of any existing rule. Is that force? I don't think Manbearcat states or implies that. In fact there's a distinct sense, carried by the theme of the thread in fact, that we are discussing cases where the GM is employing some means to shift the narrative in a certain direction (all things that are implicit in the terms 'railroads', 'illusionism', and 'participationism').
Anytime a DM holds to their world's structure, as opposed to the player's, they are using force.
This is never implied or stated. Clearly in most RPG play introduced backstory becomes canon, this is simply the structure of fictional position. All RPG play whatsoever would have to be declared force, and I don't see the cogency of any such attempt at a reductio of Manbearcat's position. Clearly he did not intend this reading.
Anytime a DM authors a different outcome to a player's strategy they are using force.
Again, no, fictional position is a thing and has effect in games. Now, you could get into the nuances of what do we call it when the participant's view of the fiction is different (IE the players don't imagine the same thing that the GM does) or other situations where fiction clashes. In standard games like 5e the GM is tasked with 'arbitrating physics', which is not a spelled-out element of the game. Instead they are intended to use common sense, and possibly 'the rule of cool', etc. Sometimes that will not dictate that exactly what the player wanted came to pass. The dice don't always tell us that either. However, I'm not sure why we have to dispute this point anyway, if a GM is constantly subverting a player's strategy (as you put it) that smells like force to me! If it happens once, it could result from one of a number of factors, but not if it is consistent.
So show me a 5e game where this doesn't happen every now and then. As I said earlier, it is a matter of degrees. And guess what, there are already terms for these degrees. They exist already. And they are not negative, like yours. Hence, why I ask for video.
I think the response was videos where this does not happen, or at least testimony that it doesn't happen in Manbearcat's BitD game. I mean, I'm sure we could split hairs and if we were to use your extreme definitions you accuse him of inventing, then maybe you can come up with something, somewhere, but in any realistic sense? I wasn't in these games myself and cannot testify, but it sounds to me like they eschewed force in any reasonably sense completely.
You delineate between east and west, but refuse to see the ocean in the middle. You build your terms based on one hemisphere and refuse to accept that the hemispheres are connected. Most of what has been promoted is propaganda for one side, not design philosophy.
Disagree. It was a highly cogent and well-articulated statement which captured differences in approach (design and principles as well as process factors) which differentiate instances of play (and the games that support them) along a certain axis. It seemed like cogent analysis, and the criticism evinced here seems emotional and reactive by comparison, and not evincing anything like the analytical coherency and insight of what is being criticized. I don't think you are 'winning' this debate, in short. In fact I think you're standing on 1" thick ice in March, frankly. lol.
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
This is why we have 90 pages explaining force?

Here is litmus test for you:

A critical hit is when you roll a 20 on a d20. When you do this, your weapon automatically does maximum damage.

See how clear that is. Here is another:

The DM is going to run an adventure path. We will playing an adventure path. This means we will follow the story in the book.

See how clear that is. Here is another:

The DM is going to run a sandbox campaign. Us, the players, will get to decide where to go and what to do. The world is open for us to explore.

See how clear that is. Here is another:

The DM is going to run a dungeon crawl. Basically, we're going to go into a dungeon and explore it. There may or may not be a story.

See how clear that is. Of course, the pedant is going to try and argue the ambiguity of these terms. But there is no response to them. Because deep down, everyone understands and gets what these things mean. To muck it up is arguing for argument's sake.

Anyone trying to legitimize the term force, and then saying, but almost all 5e games do this, is doing nothing to improve their DM skills. They are trying to explain a cloud shape that changes based on when and where one is looking.
Those last three are actually not clear at all. A new player, or one that learned on a different game, would not understand what it meant at all -- it's loaded with context. And a sandbox, as you've defined it, is actually a rather contested term and not at all clear.

But, apropos of it all, you've just listed a bunch of things you think are clear, or that you assume everyone knows. This hasn't been done with Force -- it's been explained. And the reason for that is that if you learned to play D&D and stuck with it, the chances are near certainty that you don't even recognize it as something someone might not like. You're arguing from inside your culture that nothing outside your culture needs to be considered.
 
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Designers design. That is what they do. Is someone designing a new game on this thread? If so, we can have a different conversation. A conversation that will be helped greatly when one can speak about a design clearly and succinctly. The opposite of trying to explain something for over a hundred pages.
Well, I have other threads... ;) However, I will just say this. Over the last 10 years or so I've read and discussed with people like @pemerton, @Manbearcat, @Tony Vargas, @Campbell, and etc. etc. etc. and out of that has come a conceptual framework which has grown into a game (who's other root is a desire to explore the elements which were introduced in 4e's design and got neutered by certain people in the process of designing 5e). Since 4e, as it turns out, is also interpretable as a game centered on Narrative (I call it a 'Story Game' but I'm not sure what terms others use) this all emerged in a pretty coherent form. Discussions of the sort being had here form a considerably influential aspect in shaping the mental construct which is driving my design decisions.

Now, I might not entirely disagree with you on the sheer amount of dross that exists in 100 pages of debate on this topic. However, I have learned what to read and what to largely ignore. Certainly reading many many attempts by gamers who seem to share a lot of my ethos has sharpened my appreciation for the nuances of approach. One of these days I'll manage to land in one of @Manbearcat's online games, but for now I'm happy to listen and playtest. I'll let you know how that goes at some point soon.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
I'm curious, then, why you even have adventures? Why not just find a good storygame and tell stories together? Honest question.
The adventures, like any other part of the setting, serve as an underpinning. The setting provides the characters an arena in which to exist, the adventures provide a reason for them to run together and interact. The resulting entertainment largely comes from those interactions, along with small-scale events along the way - a particular combat, a memorable talk with an NPC, the time we met the Queen, and so forth.
Because there's more available than just tacking on extras.
I guess I don't see personality and characterization (P+C henceforth) as being tacked-on extras. Instead, they're the core of what makes the character what it is. The mechanics, if anything, are the extras; though they greatly help define what the character does.
 

I just do not get where this conflation is coming from.
At least for my part, it's because I've repeatedly tried to describe how I've done things like this (like developing the backstory of how demons and devils work, because I have a player who just thinks tieflings are neat and thus wanted to play one, so I wanted to provide him with stuff to dig into over time), and been told no, I'm obviously using Force and playing against the principles of Dungeon World.

Like...when I repeatedly talk about things where I respond to player inputs, toss entire fights or dungeons or other prep I've done purely because the players outsmarted me, or permit the players to rise or fall on their own actions rather than making certain results automatically happen, and am still told I'm using Force, in fact so blatantly using Force that it apparently becomes instantaneously apparent the moment I give even the smallest details, well, it starts to sound like damn near everything where the DM authors something is Force.
 

Aldarc

Legend
At least for my part, it's because I've repeatedly tried to describe how I've done things like this (like developing the backstory of how demons and devils work, because I have a player who just thinks tieflings are neat and thus wanted to play one, so I wanted to provide him with stuff to dig into over time), and been told no, I'm obviously using Force and playing against the principles of Dungeon World.

Like...when I repeatedly talk about things where I respond to player inputs, toss entire fights or dungeons or other prep I've done purely because the players outsmarted me, or permit the players to rise or fall on their own actions rather than making certain results automatically happen, and am still told I'm using Force, in fact so blatantly using Force that it apparently becomes instantaneously apparent the moment I give even the smallest details, well, it starts to sound like damn near everything where the DM authors something is Force.
rogue one GIF by Star Wars
 


Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
At least for my part, it's because I've repeatedly tried to describe how I've done things like this (like developing the backstory of how demons and devils work, because I have a player who just thinks tieflings are neat and thus wanted to play one, so I wanted to provide him with stuff to dig into over time), and been told no, I'm obviously using Force and playing against the principles of Dungeon World.

Like...when I repeatedly talk about things where I respond to player inputs, toss entire fights or dungeons or other prep I've done purely because the players outsmarted me, or permit the players to rise or fall on their own actions rather than making certain results automatically happen, and am still told I'm using Force, in fact so blatantly using Force that it apparently becomes instantaneously apparent the moment I give even the smallest details, well, it starts to sound like damn near everything where the DM authors something is Force.
Yes. Simply because you are ignoring the system say pretty obviously. Yes, it's apparent that you often toss things, but it's not a credit system. The times you do not are still clear from your descriptions of play. Force is going to be somewhat dependent on system because of system say and how player input is gated.

And, this is fine. Force isn't bad in and of itself. It's not how DW is designed or intended to play, but you've quite clearly drifted it and are having fun. The only bits of interest to me are making sure that your drift isn't confused with how the game is intended and that we talk about what is actually happening in play.
 

This is curious. If it's not possible to tell you "your character would already know this," that seems to cut off an enormous amount of interesting stories that depend on, for example, having a cultural background in the setting. It's not really possible to establish absolutely every cultural value a character might pick up over time, nor is it (IMO) very interesting to have every single stricture and ritual of a particular religion narrated out to the party the instant they show up. But if (for example) you have a dominant religion in an area (as is the case in almost all D&D-type games), the player characters as a general rule should know that (say) white is worn to funerals in this land, or that a censer emitting blue smoke is a traditional sign that someone in the house just got married (a superstition about warding off evil spirits or whatever).

Do those things count as alienating you from the setting if you must be told that your character would already know it? If so, I'm confused how you manage to have characters that adventure in locations where their cultural background is relevant without either (a) just letting the player write that culture all by themselves, which falls into many of the issues I had had with my mistaken understanding of the dwarf forge (that is, unmoored from any fictional tethers and invented by the player for the players' benefit); or (b) literally hashing it all out collaboratively with the DM super far in advance so that you do already know basically everything relevant about your character's cultural history and awareness.
Couldn't a GM simply couch those things in terms of stating facts about the setting and not explicitly stating something like "You remember that..."? I mean, frankly I'm not sure I would care, but you're addressing @pemerton's concern, so I cannot answer for him. IMHO though what is more likely to be at issue are substantive things that would be covered by terms like 'belief' or other character-defining elements of that sort. I think you could, for example, say to Pemerton "It is not customary for priests to eat meat on Friday" if his character is about to be depicted as opting to take a slice of the roast. His thought process is then "well, is my character a rebel or a conformist?" (or some other such thing, whatever). If you stated it as "Your character has trepidations about eating the roast, its Friday and he remembers his priestly calling..." that might be less acceptable, though I suspect we're not into the territory that is problematic at that point, yet. (I could be wrong, it would be OK with me, though I certainly don't want the GM telling me what my PC is concerned about in general).
So...that's pretty much exactly what I go for. Which is why I get so confused when I describe things that sound, to my ears, exactly like this, and am then told that obviously I'm just leading my players around by the nose and either using sleight-of-hand or guilt-tripping to make them behave exactly how I want them to behave.
I don't know, because I was not a participant in either your or the other DW games, so I have only the most general notion of things. In fact I recall reading your description of one of your games quite a while back in a completely different thread, I think. My recollection of the particulars is not sufficient to make me confident in advising you about it, though I dimly recall that there were some differences in technique, and @Manbearcat seems to be very adept at certain techniques. I'm not sure I can say exactly where my own style and abilities fall in some sort of spectrum, though he did reject some statements I made, or at least had differences with them. Frankly, I think judging without being part of the game is almost a hopeless task, except in a very general way. You all should keep that in mind when critiquing each other. I'd suggest joining one of his games, if he'll have you, and seeing what YOU think.
It's also incredibly confusing to call it "player authorship" when the DM is still the author, they're just authoring "on commission" as it were, prompted by player actions (which may or may not be rolls--"golden opportunities" often come from unwise player choices, for example, and "exploit your prep" requires that you have something you prepped in the first place.) I also don't see, at all, how this is incompatible with (for example) drawing a loose overall map of a location, such as the map I just drew of the lost city of Al-Shafadir for the session we just had on Monday, with labels on it for a general, loose idea of the neighborhoods visible to the PCs. (It's inside a volcanic caldera and they entered near the rim, so they got a good high-level look at some of the nearby neighborhoods.)
I don't think that 'player authorship' is really a big thing in DW, not in terms of MOVES at least. It is a big thing in terms of the GM asking questions and using the answers, which is a different process. SL and DD, and AFAIK pretty much all the custom moves in stock DW, require the GM to do the telling, and at most the player is asked to embellish (tell us how you know this, or similar). What is VERY MUCH in force in DW is that the players are in charge of what the game is ABOUT. They decide their PC backstory, they decide their bonds, their alignment, their class and race. The GM is constrained in principle to building the story from this information, along with the answers to questions he is obliged to keep asking. This is where the focus of the game comes from in terms of characterization, etc. Remember too, when a GM makes a move, it is, for example, an 'Unwelcome Truth' in respect to what the PCs WANT TO HEAR. It might be pretty basic "you are out of water" and everyone has a concern with drinking, but that's a fairly weak GM move, actually, for that very reason. A stronger GM move is going to relate to the PC's concerns. The GM tells the Barbarian, who's "Herculean Appetites" includes "Riches and Property" that the sack of gold he's carrying is too heavy for the boat, THAT is a hard core Unwelcome Truth, though definitely a soft move. I'd call that the heart of what DW is REALLY about.

And it is easy for people to get confused about this, and mistake something like 'fronts' for the subject matter of the game. A front is a DRIVER. The Barbarian cannot get his gold into the boat. Why is this a problem? Because the Orcish Horde is only 3 hours behind them! The subject of the game here is not Orcish Hordes, it is "Will the barbarian give up on his love of gold, or will he instead face extreme danger in order to attempt to keep hold of it?" The orcs are nothing but a lever to use to put pressure on him, the subject is the character itself! It is in THIS sense that @Ovinomancer's critique where he talks about 'interchangeable characters' is cogent. Characters cannot possibly be interchangeable in a DW game! The same action cannot possibly take place in the face of 2 different sets of PCs with different concerns, unless it is a very weak sort of action (IE the lack of water example above). An AP which simply says "whomever is here at this place at this time is offered deal X, and of course they accept because this is the premise of the adventure, which is about the content of X" is not a Story Game, because it is about X and the contents of the AP which follow from X, and not about the PCs. It may be that the character of the PCs DOES cause examples of play to diverge to a degree, but to the extent that they 'go off the rails' they are not really AP play anymore.
The players entered in an area serving as a market square--no traps there because it would be too much of a hassle to remove them if the city's former rulers wanted to return. But then they got a miss on Spout Lore, so they got to ask one question, knowing they wouldn't care for the results. Turns out this front square wasn't for keeping agricultural goods...it was for keeping slaves, hence there would be little treasure and painting the former residents of this city in a much darker light than anticipated. (It's known that genies kept slaves in the ancient past; this city apparently made it their stock and trade, which is somewhat worse.) Various opportunities to explore and learn presented themselves, and the party had to choose at one point between following some bizarre scorched footprints on the stone streets, or checking out some clear evidence of looters that had gotten to the city before them. They chose to follow the latter--but that means a golden opportunity to do something with the looters that I will exploit later. I had, of course, prepared for the possibility that there could be looters, which a partial-success roll proved was true, and had thought in advance about what kinds of denizens would be present in this city.
So, again, this seems to be all about the city. Now, I don't for a minute think that your brief summary here touches on all the various aspects of play, but where are the characters and their concerns here? Now, exploring the fantastic world is a theme of DW, but WHY are the PCs entering the square? What pressures are driving them here? Is it some agenda that one or more PCs has, a bond, or some threat they are responding to? I got just the one inkling of the PCs values when the slave thing came up, but was that really a question of character values or more just a generic judgment that 'slavery is bad' that is more a player sensibility thing? Does it put some sort of pressure on the characters beliefs or plans?
From a Doylist perspective, I prepared stuff for this adventure in order to meet OOC player requests. The Bard player was a bit worn out from being the center of attention for a long time, and privately asked for something lighter and fluffier where he could just relax. Another player had also requested more opportunities for combat, and we were going to need to re-introduce our Druid player who had been out of the game for about a year. I drafted up something that seemed a suitably engaging but light adventure (check out a recently-rediscovered lost city) that I knew would be of interest to at least two of the three current players both as players and as characters, and which would fit well with the Druid's unfolding story. It's something of a callback to the very first adventure they went on, way back in 2019.
OK, so probably it sounds like there are pressure points here related to the Druid at least. I think one area where you differ significantly from Manbearcat, if I see things correctly is in terms of pressure. DW really, IMHO, is written to run as a 'pressure cooker' (PbtA in general really). Every other minute at the table people are going to say "Uh, oooohhhhh!", because something Unwelcome has just been revealed, etc. If it isn't something ominous, then it is something actively threatening to someone (a hard move). There's little to no focus on dallying about the countryside having a jaunty trip to enjoy the sight of some ruins. Instead there's a time boxed hard march to get their, find some vital dohicky, and use it to fix some looming problem that threatens someone's something precious. That's just the sort of game that DW is geared up to be. So, maybe the general objection of Manbearcat is more that there sounds like a strong element of bouncing around the setting enjoying the view going on here. Maybe that's inaccurate, or maybe its a stylistic choice that is well matched to the desires of the players and its better to bend the game a bit than to try to make them conform to what some designer imagined (which is always the right choice, IMHO, though it might mean you could use a different system, maybe).
 

So, here's an idea: I have specific design elements of a game I've written, which is intended to be focused on the PCs and their story, and thus other concerns are less central, like any kind of 'plots' and whatnot devised by the GM. As I'm a fairly old school guy I am not actually going crazy with this. As I've said before its an exploration of design ala the direction taken by D&D 4e and subsequently abandoned by WotC. So, what are specific design elements, and why do they exist and how do they relate to topics discussed here (because these are primary topics of interest for this kind of game design, IMHO)?

The premise of the game is heroic, legendary, and mythic adventures, so this is all about characters who are Big Damned Heroes, and they might even become legends that are remembered for centuries (greatest swordsman of the 3rd Age), or myths (greatest swordsman ever, slew the baddest monsters in the universe). I envisage this as almost entirely a Story Now kind of play.

So, player characters have traits which get them immediately wrapped up in things, strengths, weaknesses, goals, bonds (who they know, etc), and some degree of background, plus a calling and a species, and then possibly some build choices within their calling. Tags provide 'hooks' too, so the fact that something is an 'enchantment' can be leveraged somewhere by someone to make something interesting hinge on it. Otherwise, we're pretty much in D&D-like territory, albeit closer to 4e than other versions. The focus on these traits however is higher than things like ability scores, which are going to more inform approach.

So that's the next thing, approach, characters have knacks, not skills exactly, but problem solving tool sets which they use. Your character might have a knack for being deceptive, or athletic, or collecting obscure information, and that's going to govern their approach to tasks. This additionally reinforces characterization, the mechanics are there mostly to help you DRAW A PICTURE of what the character is.

You can invoke Fate, this means mentioning some attribute of your character, whether personality or otherwise, and downgrading your relation to Fate from positive to negative, and then altering or introducing some factor into the narrative related to the mentioned attribute (presumably this is favorable to at least the player's agenda, if not that of the character). You can alternatively allow the GM to do the altering, in which case your Fate moves from negative to positive. This is a bit like the 5e 'Inspiration' mechanic, but done right. The purpose is to basically give the player an option to pick up a bit of the GM's authority momentarily. While it probably isn't needed in a principled Story Game play, it won't hurt either. Fate can be reset at the start of each session, use it!

In terms of actual play, given the orientation towards task-based action mechanics ala 4e, vs the kind of style used in a game like DW, there's a necessity to set the values of actions. That is, the players need to know how a given check they wish to invoke is advancing them towards a stated goal. So that works by the application of a couple of mechanisms. First players state goals, you could call this a 'quest' mechanism, probably a good name for it. These are resolved by challenges, which are pretty much (roughly speaking) like 4e SCs. If you succeed or fail in enough checks, then the results of the quest are decided. There are no checks outside of these challenges, flat out. If anything is at stake, then a challenge exists, and it resolves some sort of quest, though it could be pretty minor in some cases. Checks themselves are initiated by players stating actions, and the GM determining which knack (or maybe it is a tool or some knowledge) governs the check. Players can expend power points to increase the potency of the result, and they can also use practices to alter the governing element checked against if they want (so you could use a ritual to change a climb check into an arcana check to summon a mount so you can fly instead).

The point of the above is pretty simple, the players are always measuring the outcomes, not the GM. It is up to the GM to decide the NARRATIVE RESULT of a check, and of the outcome of a challenge, but the players are in charge of what they want to do, and of their intent, which they also state when they make a check. If they are succeeding on checks, they are pretty much deciding how the scene plays out, but then the GM gets to posit the next element of the challenge, so it should play as give and take.

As you can see, there's not that much scope for prewritten stuff here. The GM could frame scenes in terms of what he wants to see happen, but even then a party of 5 players has Fate x 5 per session... I've also expressed guidelines about playing to see what happens, which really should be sufficient, but again, it never hurts to let the players reinforce that admonition...

So, design principles in service of a particular type of play. I make no claim to be talented at this, lol.
 

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