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D&D General Railroads, Illusionism, and Participationism

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pemerton

Legend
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.
By "people" do you mean @Ovinomancer? I haven't said that you use Force. I've asked you about your use of, an opinion about, various techniques.

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 a number of posters - including me, to be frank - get two sorts of impressions from your accounts of your DW play.

(1) It seems that you do not apply the action resolution mechanics, in all cases, as per the principle if you do it, you do it and play to find out. Of course any impression that is gained of someone's play from brief reports online is going to be imperfect. But your account - in this thread, and in some earlier threads too - of how you adjudicate circumstances where PCs consult their accumulated knowledge about something or closely study a situation or person has given the impression that you sometimes, perhaps often, adjudicate such action declarations via establishing answers based on consulting your pre-authored backstory rather than by application of the Spout Lore and Discern Realities moves.

I've got in mind posts like these:
A fellow player figured out that Discern Realities (DW's "Perception" equivalent) is really hard to give good negative consequences for.* (If you lie when they roll poorly, people will just know that whatever they hear is false; if you do nothing, that's a consequence-free error; and it's hard to justify doing damage or most of the other hard DM moves in general.)

<snip>

I learned from this lesson and figured out a good consequence before I started running my own DW game: reveal an unwelcome truth is the DM move in question. That is, when the player gets a Miss on a Discern Realities roll (6 or less after mods), I have them still ask one question from the list...and they get an answer they won't like, but that is a completely true answer. No lies, still a consequence linked to the action, and still a true setback rather than a slap on the wrist.
As part of the GM side of these rules, I must answer these questions truthfully. I'm not allowed to lie--unless the roll is a miss, but I don't lie then either, I do something else (which I'll explain later). Now, just because I can't speak untruthful things, doesn't mean I can't leave out information if the characters wouldn't have any reason to perceive it, so I can still maintain some mysteries.

<snip>

As a practical example of a hard move, I offer my solution to the "problem" of missed Discern Realities rolls. See...Discern Realities doesn't give you a good notion of what "failure" should mean, particularly since Dungeon World is fail-forward in its philosophy. The first DW game I played in, another player (gently) exploited this loophole for some (effectively) free XP. And I couldn't blame him, but it did make me wonder what I should do to forestall this while dodging the stereotypical problems of Perception-type rolls. And then it hit me...I just needed to make a hard version of the "reveal an unwelcome truth" move. So, whenever the party rolls badly on Discern Realities, I tell them they MUST ask me one of the questions....but they'll get an answer they won't like. It will be completely true, but it will reveal that the problem is more dire than they expected, or that something troubling is going on, etc. This is generally a hard move because its consequences are immediate (they learn a true but bad thing right now), but it could be a soft move if the party can still forestall the problem (e.g. "the cultists are almost finished with their summoning ritual--you're almost out of time!")
I readily respond to Spout Lore and, as noted, I've taken to having "reveal an unwelcome truth" as my standard response to -6 on Discern Realities rolls. I'm just not comfortable having something like "the true murderer" come in this way--I don't know that I feel that it can be sufficiently "principled [and] structured" to work.
The impression that I take away from these posts - leaving out information, not comfortable with having something like <whatever> come out in this way - is that you have pre-authored backstory, and are using that to adjudicate the way you do or don't parcel out information to the players. This seems like map-and-key or players-play-to-learn-contents-of-GM's-notes play, rather than AW/DW-style playing to find out.

That impression is reinforced by posts that suggest confusion about how these moves work:
I just can't wrap my head around the idea of "solve a mystery" where the "solution" is invented by the players.
As I had understood it, it wasn't the DM authoring the Forge, because the whole point was player authorship. I had thought this whole conversation was very specifically about the problems of DM authorship, and avoiding the use of Force by giving players authorship of things. Is that not the case?
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).
Neither Spout Lore nor Discern Realities requires the player to invent solutions to mysteries or author the existence of Forges. But they can require the GM to narrate backstory in accordance with the constraints imposed by the moves and the broader principles.

(2) Some of what you have said in your posts, for instance about using a NPC to send the PC to "important" places, suggests that your play is focused on GM-established "quests"/"adventures" rather than playing-to-find-out. This makes some other posters - me, I think @Ovinomancer, perhaps also @Manbearcat - curious about the possibility of Force, in two ways: (a) social/non-mechanical/non-gameplay pressure/influence on the players to declare actions that engage with your plot hooks and pre-planned adventures; (b) as per what I've said above about Spout Lore and Discern Realities, the use of pre-authored backstory to narrate outcomes that keep the PCs anchored in those pre-planned adventures.

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.
As a GM, I would expect that a player would take the lead in establishing the sort of information you describe, such as details of their PC's religion or cultural practices. For instance, in my 4e D&D game it was the player of the Dwarf who took the lead in establishing Dwarven culture (making reference, obviously, to established D&D tropes and some of the 4e details). It was the player of the Drow who invented the Order of the Bat, a group of Drow Corellon worshippers dedicated to freeing the Drow from subjection to Lolth and returning them to the surface; and the same player was the one who decided that the PC would sing lays of when the Drow froliced on the surface of the earth under the moonlight with their Elven and Eladrin cousins.

As a player I would expect to take the lead in establishing my PC's religious and cultural practices, within whatever premises of genre are established as part of setting up the game.

I don't understand what you mean by players inventing this stuff unmoored from any fictional tethers an invented for the players' benefit. I think there are at least three ways I don't understand this: (i) What fiction would a player's material be untethered from? Do you mean fiction pre-authored by the GM? (ii) If play is taking place in some pre-established setting, why wouldn't the players have access to the relevant material and be the ones who lead the extrapolation of that material to apply to their PCs? (iii) How does it benefit a player that funerals involve the colour white rather than blue?

The way you frame this is strange to me.

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.
As I've said, this isn't clear to me. For instance, your reply to @Nephis - 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 - doesn't seem to demonstrate a clear understanding of how Spout Lore works, nor the function of asking questions and building on the answers.

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
Yes. The confusion is being introduced by posters who have not played and seemingly not read AW or DW.

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.

<snip>

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.
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)
Drawing a map and writing a setting history may be compatible with playing to fin out, or it may not be. How is the map being used as an input into framing and into action resolution? How does the setting history relate to the player's orientation of their PCs towards the situations they find themselves in.

When you refer to leaving information out, I get the impression that there is some sort of pre-established fiction that will be drawn upon from time-to-time to determine what happens next. That is what also gives the impression of force or force-adjacent GMing. As I've posted, it's hard to be sure but quite a bit of what you post about your DW adjudication seems odd to me. I think @AbdulAlhazred's post just upthread of this one elaborates on this in a very thoughtful way, so I won't repeat what he's said.
 
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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 had assumed things of this nature were lumped in for the bargain--it feels rather a lot like an "I'm not saying it's aliens, but it's aliens" approach to this. But if this is valid, then fine....it just seems to have literally been merely a verbal workaround that changes literally nothing about the situation. "You would know that practicing priests customarily refuse to eat meat on Fridays, unless they're dying of starvation or the like" sounds exactly the same to me as "By the way, practicing priests customarily refuse to eat meat on Fridays, unless they're dying of starvation or the like," with literally only the wording being different; either way, you're warning the player with information the player doesn't have but that the character should.

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.
Unfortunately I'm not taking any other players at this time (just brought back in a player on hiatus and have the potential for another hiatus'd player to reappear any day).

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.
That's fair, but it does feel like the conversation has had a bit of a bait-and-switch, since any time I brought up anything I had authored it was presented as axiomatically Force, with player-authorship being presented as the focus. Now it's not really player-authorship either, it's some third thing. It's already a struggle when many of these terms seem painfully fluid in meaning, this makes it worse.

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.
Alright. The characters in my party have these as their motives (some shared, some individual):
  • Learn about my family history and what this leads to (two characters not related by blood both have this motive)
  • Sate deep personal curiosity about the world and its cultures, fauna, and locations (also shared by two characters)
  • Uncover the true secrets of spirits and the various traditions of magic
  • Explore the possibilities of my personal art and find new students (shared by multiple characters)
  • Liberate the oppressed, particularly those beholden by magic
  • Earn the loyalty of my clan and found my own nation (a player on hiatus)
  • Go forth and destroy darkness wherever it takes root (shared by multiple characters)
  • Protect the interests of my liege-lady, wherever my travels take me
  • Help anyone who cannot help themselves (shared by all: the party is basically all Good)
Few of these have been explicitly written out (e.g. the Spellslinger has a variation of "explore my art" as her alignment, but it's also a motive of the Battlemaster, who has really gone in for the "tactical teacher" angle (player draws inspiration from Fire Emblem).

Many of the Fronts directly associate with these shared themes of Heroism, Discovery, Liberation, Politics, and Hidden Secrets. The Shadow Druids, for example, use a fungus that turns dead bodies into fungal zombies ("shroombies" as the players call them), or if infected in the blood of a living person, absorbs that person into a dark hive-mind. How this works is not yet clear, but the party is working to uncover how, and has dealt telling blows to the group in the past, making them much less of a threat now. The Raven-Shadow assassin-cult heretics also have deep secrets, revealing much information about the ancient days, and the party has discovered how devilish forces have apparently manipulated these folks for a very long time; this gives the party both reasons to feel bad for them (they can't help that devils have deceived them for over a thousand years!) and to oppose them (they're an assassin-cult, it's not exactly hard to call them evil). The black dragon is trying to become absolute ruler of their home city, using economics and soft power from the shadows, creating oppression through monetary control and (apparently) via addictive alchemical concoctions. The Cult of the Burning Eye is a bit too crazy to directly be oppressive, but is much more of an overt security threat, and has links to nasty aberrations and such like mind flayers and oblexes and such which do do the whole magical (or rather psionic) enslavement thing.

And every time they overcome these forces there's always the chance for learning something new, or to meet prospective teachers and/or students. Even when they aren't directly facing these fronts, there's the intentionally-mysterious and complicated world of Jinnistan and its power plays and diplomatic struggles, places throughout the deep desert where lost cities or archaeological sites have hidden for centuries or millennia, opportunities to establish their reputations or stake claims that will advance their long-term goals, etc.

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?
Well, as stated, I prepped stuff specifically for OOC player-request reasons, so "ultimately" the reason is "because my players asked for a kinda-fluffy low-engagement adventure, and Explore A Lost Ruin fits in well with that." However, in terms of story, the party had just returned to town from doing some things at the Bard's behest (helping with religious initiation rituals so the Bard could find a way to rehabilitate the Raven-Shadow cultists, because he wants to save them from their darkness, if he can), but they were feeling a bit light in the pockets as they'd had to invest various amounts on prior adventures.

Visiting an ally of theirs, the artificer wizard Hafsa, they were offered a job much like the very first adventure they'd gone on; she'd heard through her wizard-college connections that a legendary lost genie-made city had recently been rediscovered. Since Hafsa has a thing for ancient relics (particularly if they relate to magical items and/or practices), she's willing to pay them for whatever they can uncover, but they have to get going soon, as if she has learned about this, you can guarantee others have too. So they did some research on the city: legends claim it was in an active caldera and ruled by both efreet and marids (fire and water genies). They visited an alchemist they know, who (after a successful Supply roll) hooked them up with some alchemical protection against the expected dangers of such a place, and then they set out.

Their Perilous Journey went well, but they had to think fast to avoid a fight with some semi-elemental wild beasts of the deep desert (hellcats), which a collaboration between the Battlemaster and Bard resolved most handily. Arriving at the entrance of the city, just after sunset...they found their missing Druid friend!* He had been returned to the world there by celestial beings in order that he rejoin the party, but possibly also for other reasons (the Druid is convinced he was sent to this specific spot for a reason--we have yet to find out what that reason is.) After spending the evening joyfully reconnecting with (or, in the Spellslinger's case, meeting) their friend, they settled down in the entryway for the night. (This is where we broke for that evening; everything after was the next, and as of today most current, session.)

From there, they entered into the city hoping to learn its history and find valuables (both in terms of knowledge and in terms of treasure) to bring back with them. Discovering the market square up front was the result of a successful roll, followed by another successful roll that demonstrated the absence of traps or hazards to be concerned about. Discovering that it was a slave market was the result of an unsuccessful one, as there would be little treasure there (the place had had rather more living valuables, unfortunately...) and painting this society as much more openly wicked than was hoped (meaning the history of this place will likely be more distressing and unpleasant for the Bard, who was the one that rolled the 6- on this Discern Realities roll.)

However, given it was a slave market and slaves are usually expensive, they advanced further into the city and discovered basically the "financial district," since so much coin flowing around the slave market made it natural to put money-management places nearby. Other successful rolls established that there at least had been another, larger group of looters in the area, and they found good evidence that these looters were nearby. However, instead of following up on that, they followed up on a different Discern Realities answer, strange scorched footprints on the stone that even the Bard (with his Bestiary of Creatures Unusual) couldn't identify--a distinctly unusual thing (implying whatever created those footprints isn't even remotely a beast of any kind).

They ran into some fire elementals that had been bound by magic to take approximately humanoid form, and the elementals began approaching menacingly; the Battlemaster and Druid collaborated to command the elementals not to attack them (Battlemaster using Parley, Druid using Elemental Mastery). Battlemaster did just fine, but the Druid only got a partial success, and chose his one result as "the effect you desire comes to pass." Nature's price (which I must admit took me a second to think up) was that he became elementally aspected toward fire: he cannot take the form of spirits related to air, earth, or water (meaning anything that can fly, anything aquatic, or anything that burrows) until he discharges this elemental imbalance or spends a long time meditating to restore his own elemental balance, but being aspected to fire infuses his attacks with literal firepower (a bit of extra damage, and his attacks can ignite flammables.) He also didn't retain control, which I said meant that the fire-elemental-guard-things, rather than attacking, lined back up again and started marching off in a completely different direction, so the party chose to follow them. They managed to stop the fire-elemental-guard-things from going into a building the Battlemaster recognized as a barracks attached to the royal palace, and that's where we broke for the evening.

This got really long, sorry about that. Was trying to cover as much as I could remember.

*This, I will grant, looks like a pretty blatant use of Force, ensuring that the Druid player actually gets to play instead of waiting in the wings for a more organic introduction point. I felt this was appropriate, even within the principles and agendas of Dungeon World, as the Druid had waited almost a full session already.

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).
Yeah, I don't run Dungeon World as a pressure cooker, because it would stress out my players and make them dread attending sessions. That doesn't mean there is no pressure at all, there totally is, and there have been times where they had to act fast in order to prevent something Really Truly Awful from happening. But I pump the breaks now and then so that the players can relax a bit and just explore a fantastical world together, without needing to feel like reality is breathing down their necks. If I had to give an analogy, it would be the difference between a roller coaster and a horseback ride. Riding either one can be full of exhilaration and excitement and even fear, but a roller coaster is almost constant tension all the time, whereas riding on horseback you can slow down to soak things up before you move on to other things.

Much of that fantastical world, I never planned. It just happened, spontaneously, as we played. Some parts I did plan, but only loosely, usually based on Session 0 things and expressed interests of the players or the characters. I did not, for example, plan out any specific interactions between the party Bard and his devilish ancestor, whomever that may be; but I did plan that he has a devilish ancestor, a powerful one (Bard has successfully narrowed it down, albeit by tapping every resource readily available, to either Baalzephon or Glasya herself, and he's not super happy about either option). Leaping straight to a direct answer would be both unsatisfying and not entirely in keeping with the established fiction, as that side of the character's tiefling blood was established to be old--the player himself established that no one in the family knew anything specific about his father's heritage other than that it went back a long way (he's related to a saint from many centuries ago on that side of his family--also a tiefling).

This message is already long enough, so I'll save my reply to you for later @pemerton . But I assure you a reply will come.
 


Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
Why? What action declaration is it subverting, what outcome is it manipulating, what action declarations is it pushing the players towards?

It just looks like straightforward scene-framing to me.
Yeah, I don't get that, or why the player had to sit out an entire session already!
 


Why? What action declaration is it subverting, what outcome is it manipulating, what action declarations is it pushing the players towards?

It just looks like straightforward scene-framing to me.
Then honestly I give up any attempt to understand what "Force" means. My every effort has failed.

Yeah, I don't get that, or why the player had to sit out an entire session already!
That one was because I expected the in-town preparations to be a quick affair and instead my players spent a lot of time chatting up Hafsa (they hadn't seen her or her fiancee in a while), and then I took longer than expected to whip up stat blocks for the hellcats that ended up (mostly) not being needed, as the players avoided getting into a fight with them. (Their ability to track by scent was relevant, but otherwise none of the monster moves were very relevant due to the specific way they avoided the fight--getting them to go after some male antelope that had gotten into a competition for a mate.) I'd intended for it to be a relatively short thing and then he'd be in the action, but my intent rarely works out when it comes to how long things will take.

It seems that @EzekielRaiden is labelling as "Force" any GM decision-making about the fiction that isn't naturalistic-type extrapolation from (the GM's?) established fiction.

Which I think is an especially surprising framework to adopt in the context of DW.
As noted above, I am--or at least was--earnestly trying to understand what "Force" means. I had assumed "make it so the character definitely appears here, where the players just happen to be" automatically made it Force because I was doing what was convenient to keeping the game going, as referenced earlier with Force being what is used to make desirable results happen.

So...yeah. I honestly have no idea what's supposed to differentiate "scene framing," "Force," and the player-triggered-DM-authorship stuff that had confused me so much.

Incidentally, I still plan to respond to your above post. I just felt these were short so I could get them out quick.
 

Numidius

Adventurer
@EzekielRaiden

Re Force.
Players make DW characters, very weird fantasy characters, like the paladin is an empty armor imbued by the spirit of a divinity; ranger has a debt/affair with faerie queen etc. In session zero collaborative setting is done, bonds, alignments etc.
Then Gm frames the characters into a castle in the frozen north under zombies attack. No relation with anything previously agreed. Play proceeds as a regular dungeon crawl, Gm "forcing" outcomes into regular task resolution actions to keep the game about fighting zombies.
(True story).
That's blatant use of Force and attempt to railroad.
(Session two never happened)

Re Meat on Fridays.
The way I see it, that notion should be up to the cleric's player, or Gm would ask her if that's the case and "build on the answer". Never something that PC should know, but Player still doesn't.
 


I'm going to give 3 examples within the same scene of what Force would look like in Dungeon World.

Situation: The players are looking for a witness who can finger a powerful figure in the city over something important. They've located someone that is a prospect but the GM has made a soft move signaling they're either too terrified to intercede or just not sufficiently incentivized. They're in the apartment of the NPC.

STRATEGIC VIOLATION

Player: We need some kind of leverage to convince this guy. As the others are chatting him up, I'm going to look around the room and see what is what in here. <player is clearly signaling that they're looking for something useful to their present situation>

Discern Realities result 7-9 so get to ask 1 question and take +1 when acting on the answers; "what here is useful or valuable to me?"

Something like a piece of parchment on the drawing table with a not-so-veiled threat to pay the gambling debt immediately or a waste bin with a crumpled handkerchief covered in bloody black expectorant. Some kind of something that can be used for leverage downstream in subsequent moves (Parley or perhaps even Lay on Hands) to earn the NPCs trust/favor/good will. The NPC should have a dramatic need which is responsive to the player.

If the GM (instead of the above) goes on to describe nothing of consequence or something entirely unrelated it is either because (a) Force via incompetence (the GM just doesn't suss out what is happening here, doesn't clarify, or they just don't know what they should be doing with DR outcomes), (b) Force via prescriptive backstory which shuts down the prospects of wooing this witness (that shouldn't be a thing in DW), or (c) Force because the GM just wants the "find a witness" situation to drag on and fill more play time.

Regardless of whether its (a), (b), or (c), it is the GM subordinating the player's strategic move made and the system's say and supplanted them with an unresponsive alternative authored by the GM.


TACTICAL VIOLATION

The Paladin PC's player says "As we attempt to parley with the witness, I'm standing next to the witness...close enough that I can always intercede if a sniper fires a volley through the window or a Wizard casts a spell or whatever. With Staunch Defender, I get 1 Hold even on a 6- so I can turn any attack against the witness onto me."

If the GM then erects some kind of poisoned drink "OH THIS BOTTLE OF BRIGHTMOOR VINTAGE JUST ARRIVED THIS MORNING > GRAB > SIP" because they think they can finagle the language of Defend to get around the Paladin's move (by the way...before we even get into Force, I would say that adjudication - that poisoned wine glass doesn't constitute an attack that someone can Defend against "An attack is any action you can interfere with that has harmful effects" - is not an appropriate reading of the text and certainly not with the present fictional positioning where a Paladin is "bodyguarding" a witness for harm...the trope of interceding a charge from drinking a poisoned chalice is a normative one)...that is Force. The GM is subordinating the player's tactical move (they're affecting the orientation of things in the imagined space to deploy their auto-1 Hold to intercede) and in its stead supplanting it with an alternative fiction ("the guy is dead because Defend won't let you intervene here - MEGA-ULTRA DEGENERATE FORCE - or "you're going to have to act fast <hence the GM is making up a fiction to now gate the protection of this guy behind a Defy Danger Dex move - not a Paladin's strongsuit! - despite the preemptive move the Paladin made to protect him> or the guy is drinking the poison."

Like I argued above, I think this is also a violation of "system's say" (Defend with the appropriate fictional positioning - you're right there - should absolutely fold this kind of intercession into it) so the GM can subordinate a player's tactical input and supplant it with the GM's alternative.


THEMATIC VIOLATION

Take the exact situation above. Let us say the Paladin has the Alignment "Endanger yourself to protect those weaker than you." A skillful DW GM should be aiming for situation framing and/or be responsive to player cues that puts Alignments and Bonds into the crosshairs each session.

In the above scenario, we would have BOTH a violation of a player's Tactical and Thematic input.

Aggressively working to shut down the player actuating their expressed dramatic need? Force over thematics.

There is no prior fictional positioning that should make this witness not "weaker than the Paladin" and you suddenly whip up a fiction to shut that down (his station or capability in the scene is amplified to make this Paladin : witness relationship tilt away from "weaker than the Paladin"...? Force. Or the GM somehow makes it impossible via situation framing for the Paladin to endanger themselves. Force.

Honestly, this is such a perfect case of a GM framing a scene that is responsive to the Paladin player's evinced dramatic need (which, again, you should be aiming at trying to skillfully test the fiction with these things at least every other session...at the least - each session if possible...if you get a golden opportunity like this? Exploit it!)...to not do so would constitute "Force by way of GM Error" in my opinion.


Long story short.

At End of Session, the Paladin's player SHOULD be able to tick their "Alignment xp box" (because they fulfilled it. If they haven't, the GM has intentionally deployed Force or incompetently shut down the player's thematic interests by (OOPS) supplanting it with alternative framing that renders "Endanger yourself to protect those weaker than you" not in-play.





Hopefully, those examples using the same scene help people understand what Force is, how it looks in play, and (for those who have participated in DW), how trivial it should be to spot.
 
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pemerton

Legend
I am--or at least was--earnestly trying to understand what "Force" means. I had assumed "make it so the character definitely appears here, where the players just happen to be" automatically made it Force because I was doing what was convenient to keeping the game going, as referenced earlier with Force being what is used to make desirable results happen.

So...yeah. I honestly have no idea what's supposed to differentiate "scene framing," "Force," and the player-triggered-DM-authorship stuff that had confused me so much.
Here are some posts of mine from this thread:

GM Force is neutral, in the sense that it's a technique - namely, the use of certain authority (over mechanics and/or adjudication and/or the fiction) in order to achieve outcomes and/or frame scenes without regard to the players' declared actions and the goals at which those declared actions aim.
The difference between the players can declare whatever actions they like for their PCs and the players are expected to declare actions that conform to a pre-established sequence of events is clear.

The difference between the GM secretly changes mechanical details like dice rolls and hp totals on the fly and the GM doesn't alter those details, and/or manages them in the open, is clear.

The difference between the GM creates new bits of backstory - second-stringers to replace defeated BBEGs, or clues to prompt the players to make the "right" action declarations - in order to keep play "on track", and the GM doesn't do that, is clear.

The difference between the GM uses their authority over scene-framing to ensure that a series of pre-authored scenes take place and the GM frames scenes in accordance with some other principle - eg extrapolating from the prior backstory (as in a sandbox or map-and-key dungeon) or following player cues (as in Burning Wheel) or building on the fiction and the action declarations in a soft-then-hard-move pattern (as in AW or DW) - is clear.
I personally tend to think of Force as a certain approach to the use of authority the GM enjoys as GM - ie certain ways of exercising authority over backstory, situation/scene-framing, resolution and adjudication, etc.

Whereas pressuring players via social cues about preferred action declarations (eg as per FrogReaver's example just upthread, about the consequences of declaring an attack) I think I wouldn't consider Force because it is not the GM using their GM's authority, but simply the GM acting as a participant.
The basis on which I call it a type of Force, or Force-ish, is what I have been discussing, upthread, with @Campbell: the GM is using their authority over the fiction (eg the backstory of the Rainbow Rocks) in order to try to shape the players use of their authority over action declaration (ie to have them declare actions about travelling to and exploring Dark Clouds).
what's the number-one reason for using Force? To ensure a satisfactory story. (A "palatable narrative", as @prabe put it upthread.) The satisfaction/palatability is ensured by (i) pre-authorship, and (ii) "curation" on the way through via the use of Force to make sure action declarations don't perturb things, and to make sure the right scenes are framed.

What's the main risk in the use of Force? That the players arc up!, because the actual impact on the fiction of their action declarations is not what they thought/hoped/expected it would be.
I'm not seeing any disregard of the players' declared actions and the goals at which those declared actions aim. Nor any ensuring that a series of pre-authored scenes take place.

Obviously scene-framing can involve force - when it is done in disregard of prior outcomes, with a pre-conceived series of situations/events in mind. Now maybe I'm missing something, but from what you posted - "we were going to need to re-introduce our Druid player who had been out of the game for about a year" - all I'm seeing is a decision that the Druid is present in this particular scene, so that the PC's player can be part of the game.
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
@EzekielRaiden is no dum-dum. If they still don't understand the concept of Force (and how it applies to their DW games) after this point in this discussions as (mostly) explained by @pemerton and @Ovinomancer, then perhaps their needs would best be served by other people explaining it.
I think the big issue is really that most of the discussion of Force has been in relation to D&D. Ezekiel is running a game that's moved far enough from D&D that a number of the examples don't align. They haven't made the shift to understand that Force is dependent on system and so what Force looks like in a DW game can be different from what it looks like in D&D. There are a few cases where I can very much see Force in DW where it would not be Force in 5e. A tight dungeon crawl, for instance, would not be Force in 5e but would absolutely be Force in DW. It's a matter of grasping the concept through the definition rather than through the examples from one game. However, at his point, it's likely that ill will has been assigned, and that makes it more difficult.
 


Why let others evaluate your game and why have your players formally evaluate your play?

Because it keeps you humble, heightens your awareness, and broadens your perspective.

If you work to be humble, if you constantly work to heighten your awareness and broaden your perspective…

…you give yourself your best shot at getting_better_at_your_craft.

Two easy examples I can think of for myself:

1) Like 2015 (maybe 2014...I don't recall), we were discussing a play excerpt from one of my DW games. @Nagol (well...crap...it looks like he's no longer on the site...that sucks) critiqued a move I made on a 6-. He felt it wasn't hard enough of a move. Given all of the context, I didn't (still don't) feel like the harder move was the better way there...but I can totally see it. I mean, I feel like the move I made was maybe a few % points better (given all) than the move Nagol was stating...but, honestly, we're splitting hairs there and I could go either way.

Nagol (to my knowledge, this was the first time I'd seen it...I'm not sure if this was cribbed from elsewhere, but it was a perfect piece of jargon) coined the term "Soft-balling" for this instance of play:

SOFT-BALLING - When a GM has the option of a soft move or a hard move and makes a move that isn't sufficiently hard given the array of objects and orientation of them in the shared imagined space.

So far as I can ascertain (yes, I'm an emotionless robot), Force and Soft-balling have about equal connotation. But eff connotation and eff my feelings for Nagol telling me "Manbearcat, I feel like you Soft-balled there." I'm not too proud to learn from that perspective. Even if I didn't/don't fully agree with that interpretation, (a) I can absolutely SEE it (and he may still be right...its damn close), and (b) Soft-balling is the PERFECT term for the TTRPG phenomenon Nagol was depicting and particularly as it pertains to the soft move/hard move intersection in certain situations of PBtA games (which is, imo, the most difficult part of GMing these games).

So...yeah.

Soft-Balling.

GREAT new piece of technical jargon (even though its iteration was, so far as I can tell, deployed first to depict what someone felt was a degenerate move on my end because it wasn't sufficiently hard given the circumstances). Has immense explanatory power and you can use it to make predictions about how a scene will be perturbed based on its deployment.

2) @darkbard and I discussing a scene where I could have chosen an avalanche when a Lightning Wand move went awry (this was @Nephis first deployment of the wand). He was expecting a discharge of lightning to bound off of the loose snowpack that I depicted earlier (show signs of an approaching threat) in play; immediately preceding session. Instead, I had it explode out of Maraqli's hand and down into the Dragon Well (a huge ossuary of dragon bones) to test Maraqli and Alastor's bonds (related to her impulsivity and haste in decision-making and whether this makes her a reliable or unreliable ally). Would she jump down the well and go after her Lightning Wand (leaving her to confront what was lurking down there and leaving Alastor to confront the horror of the Bone Dragon topside by himself and their Cohorts)?

She did...and it was awesome...but I don't think @darkbard thought so at that particular instance in time!


I still like my move...but I think that I may have liked darkbard's better (though I'm not convinced it would have led to better play...process-wise it may have been a hair better move than my move just like I felt my move was a hair better than Nagol's move in (1) above). Further, that helped darkbard and I align our perspectives better for future play.





So that is why critique from your peers and your players is important. Lets just say it sucks 90 % of the time (I don't believe that...but lets just say). That means 10 % of the time its constructive and helpful with the stray chance that a nice piece of analysis like Soft-Balling emerges from it.

Man, I'll suffer that 90 for that 10 all day every day.
 
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darkbard

Hero
I'm not convinced it would have led to better play...process-wise it may have been a hair better move than my move
This is an extremely important point, and I agree. Your Move with the wand led to an amazingly fun sequence of events (and a running joke with serious legs!) and probably led to some more interesting stuff than introducing an avalanche would have. But that's besides the point of good process. Good process is about achieving the desired results with more predictable consistency. It's as much about future play as the current moment.

It's like a batter in baseball trying to work on controlling the strike zone better by taking more pitches (obvious balls) getting lucky and poking a double down the opposite line on a ball way off the plate. Good result, but bad process. (Obvs this analogy fails in that your wand move was also good process. Just not as good as mine. ;^) )
 


This is an extremely important point, and I agree. Your Move with the wand led to an amazingly fun sequence of events (and a running joke with serious legs!) and probably led to some more interesting stuff than introducing an avalanche would have. But that's besides the point of good process. Good process is about achieving the desired results with more predictable consistency. It's as much about future play as the current moment.

It's like a batter in baseball trying to work on controlling the strike zone better by taking more pitches (obvious balls) getting lucky and poking a double down the opposite line on a ball way off the plate. Good result, but bad process. (Obvs this analogy fails in that your wand move was also good process. Just not as good as mine. ;^) )

Absolutelty right. 100 %

“Good result, bad process” is the message whether you’re a baseball player, a QB, a martial artist, a climber, a potato, an experimental/applied scientist, mathematician, computer modeler, car mechanic, doctor, or a TTRPG GM.

If you instantiate that moment of play 1000 times, your move is the Michael Jordan of moves and mine is merely Kareem Abdul Jabbar!

Always strive to be MJ!
 


Aldarc

Legend
Absolutelty right. 100 %

“Good result, bad process” is the message whether you’re a baseball player, a QB, a martial artist, a climber, a potato, an experimental/applied scientist, mathematician, computer modeler, car mechanic, doctor, or a TTRPG GM.

If you instantiate that moment of play 1000 times, your move is the Michael Jordan of moves and mine is merely Kareem Abdul Jabbar!

Always strive to be MJ!
5vie5b.jpg
 

@EzekielRaiden is no dum-dum. If they still don't understand the concept of Force (and how it applies to their DW games) after this point in this discussions as (mostly) explained by @pemerton and @Ovinomancer, then perhaps their needs would best be served by other people explaining it.

I'd make a try, but honestly, I think other people are using the term rather more specifically than I usually have been too, so I'm not sure I understand it any better than ER does.
 

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