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Realistic Consequences vs Gameplay

pemerton

Legend
Some level of buy-in from the players isn't that unreasonable a request. One assumes there's already buy-in to the setting, game system, and so forth otherwise those players (most likely) wouldn't be at that table, and it's not a big jump from there to hope for some buy-in to a story idea
There are various alternatives here.

One is to get the players to present the GM with a story idea. This can be done in various ways using various devices that may be better or worse fits for various systems.

In this thread I already mentioned a BW session where the player had chosen for his PC the belief I'm not leaving Hardby without gaining some magical item to use against my brother. So I started the session with the PC at a bazaar in Hardby where a peddler was offering to sell various curios and trinkets, including an angel feather from the bright desert.

A more player-driven technique to presenting the GM with a story idea is to use "kickers". Here's my take on that technique and some examples, from the first session of 4e Dark Sun:

The first half or more of the session was spent on PC building (despite my admonition to the players that they could only have 1 hour). With three players, we got 3 PCs: an eladrin bard with the virtue of cunning (with the Veiled Alliance theme); a mul battlemind gladiator (with the gladiator theme and wielding a battle axe); and a half-giant barbarian gladiator (with the wilder theme and wielding a glaive).

<snip>

As the final part of PC building, and trying to channel a bit of indie spirit, I asked the players to come up with "kickers" for their PCs.

From The Forge, here is one person's definition of a kicker:

A Kicker is a term used in Sorcerer for the "event or realization that your character has experienced just before play begins."

For the player, the Kicker is what propels the character into the game, as well as the thing that hooks the player and makes him or her say, "Damn! I can't wait to play this character!"

It's also the thing that the player hopes to resolve at the end of the game. At the start of the next game with the same character, the resolution of the Kicker alters the character in some way, allowing the player to re-write the character to reflect changes.

In my case, I was mostly focused on the first of those things: an event or realisation that the character has experienced just before play begins, which thereby propels the character into the game. The main constraint I imposed was: your kicker somehow has to locate you within Tyr in the context of the Sorcerer-King having been overthrown. The reason for this constraint was (i) I want to be able to use the 4e campaign books, and (ii) D&D relies pretty heavily on group play, and so I didn't want the PCs to be too separated spatially or temporally.

The player of the barbarian came up with something first. Paraphrasing slightly, it went like this:

I was about to cut his head of in the arena, to the adulation of the crowd, when the announcement came that the Sorcerer-King was dead, and they all looked away.

So that answered the question that another player had asked, namely, how long since the Sorcerer-King's overthrow: it's just happened.

The other gladiator - whose name is "Twenty-nine", that being his number on the inventory of slaves owned by his master - had been mulling over (no pun intended) something about his master having been killed, and so we settled on the following:

I came back from the slave's privies, ready to receive my master's admonition to do a good job before I went out into the arena. But when I got back to the pen my master was dead. So I took the purse with 14 gp from his belt.

(The 14 gp was the character's change after spending his starting money on gear.)

Discussion of PC backgrounds and the like had already established that the eladrin was an envoy from The Lands Within The Wind, aiming to link up with the Veiled Alliance and thereby to take steps to save his homeland from the consequences of defiling. So his kicker was

My veiled alliance contact is killed in front of me as we are about to meet.

(A lot of death accompanying the revolution!)

With all that in place, we started the session proper.

As well as player-generated story ideas, it is also possible to have this be determined via random rolls. This is how our Classic Traveller game started, as per my post not far upthread: random generation of PCs, starting world, a few other worlds and a patron all suggest a starting situation, and that can then be built on during play. To reiterate a bit, in our CT game relevant aspects of the starting situation included a PC with a navy background and working as a medic, a marine officer patron, a high-tech world, a dilettante PC who had just won a starship in a bet, a PC spy, and a likely destination world with a disease-riddled atmosphere. It was this combination of elements - random generation and then riffing on that - that propelled the PCs into a collision with bioweapons conspirators.

In all these cases, of course, nothing will happen if the players aren't intereseted in playing their PCs. But there's no requirement for them to buy into a story idea that is presented to them by the GM.
 

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Offhand I don't remember this example, sorry. But I get the gist.

From the players' point of view the consequence of the gorge is unforeseen. It matters not whether the GM had the gorge on her map all along or made it up on the fly (in badlands a sudden gorge makes perfect sense either way).
We agree!

No, just the players. Ideally the GM has already thought of a bunch of possible outcomes and thus won't be caught off guard.
We don't agree!

This makes the assumption that (a) a GM will have a tendency to be caught off guard and (b) the GM won't do their best contextual, creative, thematically coherent work in the moment. Seeing as how I've run conflicts numbering in the thousands where there was zero planning or prep for them and overwhelmingly they've been very successful (in terms of context, creativity, and thematic coherency) and rewarding, I disagree. And where they haven't been satisfactory to participants (including myself), I've learned from it, aspired to be better, and worked to get there.

Again, it takes humility, forgiveness (of self), awareness, and practice...and competence inevitably emerges from that crucible.

First off, there's a difference between a GM having a preconceived outcome and directing play towards it and a GM having a bunch of possible outcomes in mind (or in notes) and putting these in play as the situation suggests. That said:

a) sounds like something @pemerton, who IMO has a rather strong and consistent anti-GM bias, would post.
You and I have conversed a ton on these boards. I don't know why you're bringing pemerton up here. You have to be very familiar with the facts that (a) I'm exclusively a GM (and I'm neither self-loathing nor am I anti-GM) and (b) many of my laments and cautionary tales about prep (specifically when I've talked about Force in the past) is the very real potential seduction by your own creation (a seduction which surely scales with the time, effort, and level satisfaction derived from the process of prep). In my experience with a huge host of GMs (both in watching their games, in them confiding to me, and in online testimonials), its abundantly clear that there is a clear correlation between GM Force and high resolution metaplot/setting prep. Its human, you work hard on a thing...you devote your time and mental + emotional energy to a thing...of course you want to see it enter play (despite the trajectory of play and the gamestate's evolution telling you that something else should enter play in its stead)!

b) if the GM's only just now finding out what's going on, she's floundering. The GM should IMO always be a few steps ahead. In your chase example this would include having a half-decent map of the area done ahead of time so I could see what was where, and track the PCs' progress. (and the PCs would probably have learned some of what was where on their initial trip from the forest to the temple, if one was made, though when hotly pursued later they could still get lost as hell and find a gorge they didn't expect)

That's what prepping more than you need is for: reducing the chance of having to hit player-thrown curveballs and-or having to wing it, which IME often (as in, always!) leads to consistency issues when I don't remember some relevant detail I said an hour ago, can't write and talk at the same time, and don't want to grind everything to a halt every two minutes while I make notes on what I just said. Not saying I can't wing it, but I prefer not to* if possible.
This is a testimonial. I'm sure you feel vulnerable the less you prep Lanefan. Maybe its possible that you would always struggle with less prep or lower resolution prep or an alternative model of prep or no prep at all. However, I wonder, if you ran a game that demanded less/minimal prep (or prep of a certain type than you're used to) yet gave you tools for extremely fulfilling play nonetheless...lets say you ran Apocalypse World for me and a group of my players...and we forgave you your early lack of self-confidence and our collective stumbles...and you forgave yourself them...and we played...and played...and played...

I find it very hard to believe that you wouldn't become sufficinetly good at it to run a very rewarding game. I think you're selling yourself short and I think your mental model sells the prospects of this type of play short.

c) I don't hold the same strident objection to GM Force that some here seem to. It has its place, particularly on nights (and they do happen) when the players are in story-consumption mode. Even a full-on railroad has its place now and then, though I prefer to keep these occasions to a minimum.
I don't hold strident objection to GM Force as a fundamental part of TTRPGing games at large and specific play agendas more precisely. Its CLEARLY a thing that is rampant in our hobby and the play agenda it supports is easily the most played.

My position is the same as its always been. Force enables a particular type of authority distribution and play paradigm while disabling another type of each. Some game systems and tables require Force because of this. Others are undone by Force. Consequently, we need to be crystal clear on how it affects play so it can be deployed in the systems/games that require it and ensure it does not enter into play in games that forbid it.

Simultaneously, GMs that think "its impossible to GM without Force" need to understand why that isn't true...and they need to familiarize themselves (firsthand) with the systems that forbid Force (particularly the "why" and the "how"). And, if anything - say, they reject those games, they can then become better at deploying Force in the games that they embrace!
 

Some level of buy-in from the players isn't that unreasonable a request. One assumes there's already buy-in to the setting, game system, and so forth otherwise those players (most likely) wouldn't be at that table, and it's not a big jump from there to hope for some buy-in to a story idea even if it ends up going somewhere unintended later on.

That said, asking for total buy-in is overkill - unless you're running an agreed-on AP, of course.
Sure, some amount of buy-in is always needed. But I mean buy in specifically to the GM's idea of what the game will be. Maybe the Gm has an idea for a campaign that's much like an adventure path. Or maybe the GM has bought the latest published adventure, and so he's going to run that.

If a GM purchases "Curse of Strahd" and the players decide to play it....sure, they need to buy into some gothic themes and some vampire hunting.

But a GM could also take ideas from his players, and then construct a game around those ideas. The GM can be the one to buy into what the players may want, too.

Or some mix of those two approaches.

Agreed, however IMO most of these would revolve around a) a detailed setting and b) exploration of same, both of which are things some here seem to eschew.
I think having a detailed setting helps. If there is a framework, then you've got most of what you need already. The rest is just reacting the the PCs. I don't know if exploration of the setting is what I have in mind, though. When I play, what I want to explore is my PC's place in the setting. I'm not necessarily interested in what's over the next hill so much as I am in why my character is going over that hill. That's what I want to explore.

Because this is my preference when I play, it's how I approach GMing. I want to have players who are engaged because their characters are invested in the story and what's going on.

The hope is that the players will engage with (at least one of) them at all. I think a GM who introduces several potential story ideas (or hooks to different adventures) and sees if anything catches on is in a better spot than a GM who only has one story idea (or adventure sequence) for that campaign.
Sure, I can see that. I mix all kinds of things into my 5E campaign. I've run a few of WotC's published adventures (or parts of them, at least) as part of our campaign. I refigured a lot of them to fit what we had going on, but some of the ideas are very present. Our 5E campaign is very much about celebrating all of D&D lore, so it works for that campaign. Although I think I am done running published adventures based on how the last one went.

I try to lean on my players for story hooks and ideas more than introducing my own, although I still do introduce some. D&D can only be so player driven......the DM has to have some stuff prepared, or some ideas in play about what may happen next.

I disagree. As long as the GM is willing to acknowledge that some of the prep either won't be used or will have to be shelved for some later date, you're good to rock.
But this is my point.....the more specific the GM's prep, the more likely I think it is to happen. Sure, there may be some folks out there who can prep a ton of potential material only to watch the bulk of it not wind up in play. I don't know if this is typical or not....my guess would be no.....but I'm sure it happens. I think most folks have time limits on the amount of prep that they do, and so they need to choose how they spend that time.

I recently experienced this in preparing for online play. I had our next session prepped. I do very loose prep.....pretty much just some bullet points and maybe a list of relevant NPCs, all largely based on past sessions. Then the pandemic hit, and we moved our game online. I found it nearly impossible to prep online D&D the way I like to because so much has to be done ahead of time in programs like Roll20.....you need a map and it really should be loaded with tokens and statblocks and so on for the antagonists. It requires a GM to be more specifically prepared prior to play. I did that next session, and then I placed our 5E campaign on hold until we can play face to face again.

I found that it was basically me deciding what the coming session would consist of ahead of time, and designing that. The format did not allow for the more freeform approach that I prefer. Not without going pure theater of the mind....but my players don't prefer that for D&D (despite being fine with it in other games).

And I think that this is generally a trend.....most GMs prep ahead of time, and then the session consists of the things they've prepped. I don't think that's all that surprising or controversial. The less specific the prep, the less likely the GM is forcing a specific path for the game.

I want to be clear that I don't think that this is a problem, and that even games that are prepped by the GM ahead of time can still be fun, and can still allow for plenty of significant player choice and so on. I just prefer not to commit so strongly to what the game "will be".
 


Lanefan

Victoria Rules
There are various alternatives here.

One is to get the players to present the GM with a story idea. This can be done in various ways using various devices that may be better or worse fits for various systems.
This depends, of course, on the players one has at the table and how they view the roles of player and GM.

If I'm a player and a GM were to ask me for a story idea, I'd probably give her one...but at the same time I'd be wondering why she's GMing my story idea instead of her own and not playing, and why I'm playing and not GMing my idea.

In my view having some sort of story (or better yet, stories plural) in a setting is just another part of setting design, which is the purview of the GM. It's up to the players how or if they have their PCs engage with any of it or whether they dream up something on their own, but if they do neither then there won't be much of a campaign.
In this thread I already mentioned a BW session where the player had chosen for his PC the belief I'm not leaving Hardby without gaining some magical item to use against my brother. So I started the session with the PC at a bazaar in Hardby where a peddler was offering to sell various curios and trinkets, including an angel feather from the bright desert.
Yes, I think we've talked about this feather before. :)

As well as player-generated story ideas, it is also possible to have this be determined via random rolls. This is how our Classic Traveller game started, as per my post not far upthread: random generation of PCs, starting world, a few other worlds and a patron all suggest a starting situation, and that can then be built on during play. To reiterate a bit, in our CT game relevant aspects of the starting situation included a PC with a navy background and working as a medic, a marine officer patron, a high-tech world, a dilettante PC who had just won a starship in a bet, a PC spy, and a likely destination world with a disease-riddled atmosphere. It was this combination of elements - random generation and then riffing on that - that propelled the PCs into a collision with bioweapons conspirators.
So the characters were all rolled completely at random including (equivalents of) creature type, class or role, background, the whole lot? Interesting idea.

I've done individual PCs of my own in this all-random way now and then when I need something fast and don't have any bright ideas, but I'd never given any thought to having the whole table do it.

I guess the risk in a D&D-like game might be that the dice would produce a party of four Thieves and a Monk or some other "sub-optimal" combination, but it'd be interesting to see what they did with it (and-or how long it lasted!).

In all these cases, of course, nothing will happen if the players aren't intereseted in playing their PCs. But there's no requirement for them to buy into a story idea that is presented to them by the GM.
Here's a disconnect between us, in that I don't see those two things - playing my PC and buying into a GM-presented story - as having any connection at all.

I can play my PC just as well whether I'm playing through the GM's story, or someone else's story, or my own story, or no real story at all (i.e. pure sandbox). The only limitation - and it's common across all these types of play - is whether the GM gives the freedom (and allows the time!) for me to play my PC as I want to, to develop its personality and quirks and friendships and rivalries and romances and to role-play all these out with the other players (who are, I hope, doing the same thing with their PCs) and with the GM via the NPCs in the setting.

If the GM doesn't give me that freedom, e.g. by banning PC-PC romances or by banning certain alignments/ethos/personality types or by banning various potential PC actions, then the game will be much less satisfactory for me no matter whose story is being told or followed.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
We agree!
Alert the media! Pictures at eleven!

We don't agree!
Ah, stand down the media alert, we're back to normal. :)

This makes the assumption that (a) a GM will have a tendency to be caught off guard and (b) the GM won't do their best contextual, creative, thematically coherent work in the moment.
In my own case (b) is a high enough risk that I try to avoid it when I can.

Seeing as how I've run conflicts numbering in the thousands where there was zero planning or prep for them and overwhelmingly they've been very successful (in terms of context, creativity, and thematic coherency) and rewarding, I disagree. And where they haven't been satisfactory to participants (including myself), I've learned from it, aspired to be better, and worked to get there.
Oh sure, sometimes it works out great.

But far too often it doesn't, and as I'm a bit of a perfectionist in these things "far too often" in my definition isn't that far above zero. :)

Again, it takes humility, forgiveness (of self), awareness, and practice...and competence inevitably emerges from that crucible.
Competence may arise from that crucible but along with it arise scars, self-doubt, player doubt (which is worse), occasional embarrassment, and games I'd really rather forget ever happened.

You and I have conversed a ton on these boards. I don't know why you're bringing pemerton up here. You have to be very familiar with the facts that (a) I'm exclusively a GM (and I'm neither self-loathing nor am I anti-GM) and (b) many of my laments and cautionary tales about prep (specifically when I've talked about Force in the past) is the very real potential seduction by your own creation (a seduction which surely scales with the time, effort, and level satisfaction derived from the process of prep). In my experience with a huge host of GMs (both in watching their games, in them confiding to me, and in online testimonials), its abundantly clear that there is a clear correlation between GM Force and high resolution metaplot/setting prep. Its human, you work hard on a thing...you devote your time and mental + emotional energy to a thing...of course you want to see it enter play (despite the trajectory of play and the gamestate's evolution telling you that something else should enter play in its stead)!
I suppose I don't see this as being as much of a problem as you might.

I mean really, if a GM has put a lot of effort into something she deserves a chance for it to see play at some point, at which point it'll either work out or it won't. And I think - or I'd like to think - most players respect the work that's gone into it and are generally willing to give these things a try.

As a very current example, some few weeks back my DM started running our game online. Four (?) sessions of it have convinced me it's an absolutely awful way to play, and pretty much the only reason I haven't bailed on it till we can meet in person again is that I realize the crazy amount of work he's had to put into setting it all up and that bailing out would thus be very poor form and disrespectful of that effort.

This is a testimonial. I'm sure you feel vulnerable the less you prep Lanefan. Maybe its possible that you would always struggle with less prep or lower resolution prep or an alternative model of prep or no prep at all. However, I wonder, if you ran a game that demanded less/minimal prep (or prep of a certain type than you're used to) yet gave you tools for extremely fulfilling play nonetheless...lets say you ran Apocalypse World for me and a group of my players...and we forgave you your early lack of self-confidence and our collective stumbles...and you forgave yourself them...and we played...and played...and played...
Early stumbles and lack of self-confidence are a fact of life when learning any new system, and (usually) forgiven all round.

What I wouldn't forgive myself for, and wouldn't expect my players to forgive (and honestly would be disappointed in them if they did), would be the inevitable conflicts of consistency that would arise when I gave some relevant detail and then directly contradicted it an hour or a session or a year later. I'm a horrible note-taker on the fly and internal setting consistency is IMO non-negotiable. (I'm also that guy who will pick up on inconsistencies when I'm a player, and jump all over them)

I find it very hard to believe that you wouldn't become sufficinetly good at it to run a very rewarding game. I think you're selling yourself short and I think your mental model sells the prospects of this type of play short.
I could probably do it just fine for something short - a few adventures, maybe - but remember, my campaigns go for ten years and more; and even with all the prep I've done I still sometimes find keeping everythng straight gets mighty unwieldy. :)

I don't hold strident objection to GM Force as a fundamental part of TTRPGing games at large and specific play agendas more precisely. Its CLEARLY a thing that is rampant in our hobby and the play agenda it supports is easily the most played.

My position is the same as its always been. Force enables a particular type of authority distribution and play paradigm while disabling another type of each. Some game systems and tables require Force because of this. Others are undone by Force. Consequently, we need to be crystal clear on how it affects play so it can be deployed in the systems/games that require it and ensure it does not enter into play in games that forbid it.

Simultaneously, GMs that think "its impossible to GM without Force" need to understand why that isn't true...and they need to familiarize themselves (firsthand) with the systems that forbid Force (particularly the "why" and the "how"). And, if anything - say, they reject those games, they can then become better at deploying Force in the games that they embrace!
Part of this also depends on the players one has. Some are more than capable of driving a story. Others...well...aren't, and need the story to be provided.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
Sure, some amount of buy-in is always needed. But I mean buy in specifically to the GM's idea of what the game will be. Maybe the Gm has an idea for a campaign that's much like an adventure path. Or maybe the GM has bought the latest published adventure, and so he's going to run that.

If a GM purchases "Curse of Strahd" and the players decide to play it....sure, they need to buy into some gothic themes and some vampire hunting.

But a GM could also take ideas from his players, and then construct a game around those ideas. The GM can be the one to buy into what the players may want, too.
As long as the players don't mind waiting. Constructing a game and-or setting takes me more or less a year, depending how much rules revision I'm doing between campaigns. In the interests of newness and meaningful setting exploration I don't re-use settings, nor do I use published ones.

So, if I get some players together and ask them what they want in a game now, maybe by this time next year it'll be ready - by which time their desires might have changed and-or some of them might not even be available to play.

I think having a detailed setting helps. If there is a framework, then you've got most of what you need already. The rest is just reacting the the PCs. I don't know if exploration of the setting is what I have in mind, though. When I play, what I want to explore is my PC's place in the setting. I'm not necessarily interested in what's over the next hill so much as I am in why my character is going over that hill. That's what I want to explore.
Where I want to see what's over that next hill. The character exploration happens around the campfire once we get there. :)

Sure, I can see that. I mix all kinds of things into my 5E campaign. I've run a few of WotC's published adventures (or parts of them, at least) as part of our campaign. I refigured a lot of them to fit what we had going on, but some of the ideas are very present. Our 5E campaign is very much about celebrating all of D&D lore, so it works for that campaign. Although I think I am done running published adventures based on how the last one went.
Dare I ask what happened, in short form?

Much of the rest I just covered in my previous post to this one.
 

As long as the players don't mind waiting. Constructing a game and-or setting takes me more or less a year, depending how much rules revision I'm doing between campaigns. In the interests of newness and meaningful setting exploration I don't re-use settings, nor do I use published ones.

So, if I get some players together and ask them what they want in a game now, maybe by this time next year it'll be ready - by which time their desires might have changed and-or some of them might not even be available to play.
Can’t involving the players be a year long process too?

I know I said a detailed setting is a good tool, but I feel like this may be overkill. Hard to say without knowing why it takes so long. But I think no matter what is going into this year long prep, player involvement doesn't need to be limited to just the endpoints.

Where I want to see what's over that next hill. The character exploration happens around the campfire once we get there. :)
Yeah, that’s cool. I know our preferences don’t exactly align here. I like when the game is specifically about the player characters.

Dare I ask what happened, in short form?
Sure. I decided to run Tomb of Annihilation as part of the campaign. I did this because Chult was already a prominent location for things that happened in the game, and I also wanted to use Acererak in some way, and the Death Curse seemed like an interesting threat to use since some PCs had been raised.

All the story stuff worked fine. The issue was the more classic dungeon crawl type approach to the game once we got into the tomb itself. I found myself being far more beholden to what was written than I should have been, and the procedural aspect wasn’t as appealing to my players as I had hoped.

I finally realized what was going on and changed things up and things improved. But we had a few sessions with some dissatisfying parts.

This is why I’m saying prep can lead to the GM forcing things. I mean....that’s exactly what happens in a dungeon, right? It’s all predetermined. This is how you get past this door, this is how you find that trap, and so on.
 

prabe

Aspiring Lurker (He/Him)
Supporter
This is why I’m saying prep can lead to the GM forcing things. I mean....that’s exactly what happens in a dungeon, right? It’s all predetermined. This is how you get past this door, this is how you find that trap, and so on.
Yes, prepping something can lead the GM to insist the players encounter it. but it doesn't need to. In the case of the dungeon, that sort of play is largely the point of a heavily-keyed dungeon, AFAIK. And the DM (or the adventure writer) saying "this door opens thus" doesn't feel like the GM forcing things the way that a Quantum Ogre (or some other avatar of Illusionism) does. Dungeons are highly channelized adventures, and some players (and some GMs) may not be happy with them for that reason, but I think they can be run honestly and scrupulously, even if one isn't satisfying an OSR-ish jones with them.
 

Yes, prepping something can lead the GM to insist the players encounter it. but it doesn't need to. In the case of the dungeon, that sort of play is largely the point of a heavily-keyed dungeon, AFAIK. And the DM (or the adventure writer) saying "this door opens thus" doesn't feel like the GM forcing things the way that a Quantum Ogre (or some other avatar of Illusionism) does. Dungeons are highly channelized adventures, and some players (and some GMs) may not be happy with them for that reason, but I think they can be run honestly and scrupulously, even if one isn't satisfying an OSR-ish jones with them.
Yeah, I would agree that there are different ways the GM can force things, and some are worse than others.

And I agree that prepping things ahead of time does not have to result in the GM forcing things. Just that it’s predisposed to do so.

Certainly it is more likely than with a no-prep GMing style, right?
 

prabe

Aspiring Lurker (He/Him)
Supporter
Yeah, I would agree that there are different ways the GM can force things, and some are worse than others.

And I agree that prepping things ahead of time does not have to result in the GM forcing things. Just that it’s predisposed to do so.

Certainly it is more likely than with a no-prep GMing style, right?
I think it depends on how no-prep the GM is, and how willing the GM is to admit the story that emerges from play belongs to the PCs, not the GM or anything the GM owns. I can imagine a hypothetical GM running a hypothetical no-prep game where the story ended up being more about the NPCs or some other aspect of the world than about the PCs, where nothing the PCs did changed the direction of the story; I can even imagine it happening unintentionally, without malice or bad faith. I can also imagine a hypothetical GM having at least where the PCs are prepped to the door hinges and running so the story belonged to the PCs; this seems far more likely to be an intentional decision. I'll admit that both of those might be fringe cases--the former probably more than the latter, I think.

That said, there is definitely a temptation to use what you have prepped no matter what the PCs do, which kinda by definition doesn't exist if you have nothing prepped.
 

Nagol

Unimportant
Yeah, I would agree that there are different ways the GM can force things, and some are worse than others.

And I agree that prepping things ahead of time does not have to result in the GM forcing things. Just that it’s predisposed to do so.

Certainly it is more likely than with a no-prep GMing style, right?
Not really, GM force is more a marker of GM predisposition. I've had GMs run using strong illusionism, choice negation, and other forms of force entirely ad hoc as well as fully-prepped key-for-lock treasure, heavily keyed systems. Funny thing is, they are the same GMs.
 

That said, there is definitely a temptation to use what you have prepped no matter what the PCs do, which kinda by definition doesn't exist if you have nothing prepped.
This is what I was getting at, yes. I would agree that GM force is a possibility no matter what system or GM style is in place. But some systems/styles actively work to discourage it.

Not really, GM force is more a marker of GM predisposition. I've had GMs run using strong illusionism, choice negation, and other forms of force entirely ad hoc as well as fully-prepped key-for-lock treasure, heavily keyed systems. Funny thing is, they are the same GMs.
That may be. As I replied to @prabe above, the possibility is always there. But I do think that with some systems, a GM exercising force starts to move into bad faith, and in other systems it does not.

For instance, take some of the discussion from earlier in the thread. Some games allow the GM the ability to decide that a declared action for a PC is impossible to achieve. In such systems, it’s accepted that this is within the GM’s authority. Contrast that to systems that follow the principle of “say yes or roll the dice”, where a GM deciding a declared action is not possible violates that principle.

Force can always happen. And I would imagine there are many GMs out there for whom it is the only way they understand how to play, and that they try to use it regardless of system or play expectations. However, I don’t think that means that some games aren’t more prone to allow GM force, or don’t do as much to actively discourage it as other games do.
 

prabe

Aspiring Lurker (He/Him)
Supporter
For instance, take some of the discussion from earlier in the thread. Some games allow the GM the ability to decide that a declared action for a PC is impossible to achieve. In such systems, it’s accepted that this is within the GM’s authority. Contrast that to systems that follow the principle of “say yes or roll the dice”, where a GM deciding a declared action is not possible violates that principle.

Force can always happen. And I would imagine there are many GMs out there for whom it is the only way they understand how to play, and that they try to use it regardless of system or play expectations. However, I don’t think that means that some games aren’t more prone to allow GM force, or don’t do as much to actively discourage it as other games do.
I feel there's a difference between a GM in a game where the GM determines impossibility saying "it's not physically possible to jump across this canyon" and a GM in that same game saying "you can't change that NPC's mind." The former action should still be disallowed in "say yes or roll the dice" (and it seems as though there should be a mechanism to disallow it); the latter should be allowed. Even in the latter it might not be problematic (the players might reasonably expect their characters not to be able to change the god-like entity's mind, if it doesn't want them to).
 

I feel there's a difference between a GM in a game where the GM determines impossibility saying "it's not physically possible to jump across this canyon" and a GM in that same game saying "you can't change that NPC's mind." The former action should still be disallowed in "say yes or roll the dice" (and it seems as though there should be a mechanism to disallow it); the latter should be allowed. Even in the latter it might not be problematic (the players might reasonably expect their characters not to be able to change the god-like entity's mind, if it doesn't want them to).
Sure. I think that table consensus was mentioned earlier, and genre expectations and the like.

But there are also Player Principles that factor in. Blades in the Dark has a great one: “Don’t Be a Weasel”.

It covers a lot of territory....such as a player declaring his character jumps a couple hundred feet across a canyon in the absence of some setting element or PC ability that would allow him to do so.
 

Nagol

Unimportant
This is what I was getting at, yes. I would agree that GM force is a possibility no matter what system or GM style is in place. But some systems/styles actively work to discourage it.



That may be. As I replied to @prabe above, the possibility is always there. But I do think that with some systems, a GM exercising force starts to move into bad faith, and in other systems it does not.

For instance, take some of the discussion from earlier in the thread. Some games allow the GM the ability to decide that a declared action for a PC is impossible to achieve. In such systems, it’s accepted that this is within the GM’s authority. Contrast that to systems that follow the principle of “say yes or roll the dice”, where a GM deciding a declared action is not possible violates that principle.

Force can always happen. And I would imagine there are many GMs out there for whom it is the only way they understand how to play, and that they try to use it regardless of system or play expectations. However, I don’t think that means that some games aren’t more prone to allow GM force, or don’t do as much to actively discourage it as other games do.
Re: "Say yes or roll the dice"

DM: Your detective PCs realize the bad-guy just got in his car and driving away -- he's about half a mile ahead of you. What do you do?
Player: I jump in front of his car!
DM: Err....

The philosophy of 'say yes or roll' relies on sensible interactions with the established fiction. The DM determining auto-fails also only works with sensible interactions with established fiction. In that case however, the players need to be more cautious as there can be layers of fiction that have been established, but not yet shared.
 

prabe

Aspiring Lurker (He/Him)
Supporter
Sure. I think that table consensus was mentioned earlier, and genre expectations and the like.

But there are also Player Principles that factor in. Blades in the Dark has a great one: “Don’t Be a Weasel”.

It covers a lot of territory....such as a player declaring his character jumps a couple hundred feet across a canyon in the absence of some setting element or PC ability that would allow him to do so.
I think "Don't be a weasel" is good advice, for any player, in any TRPG. I am fortunate that I don't have any players at the tables I GM for that have given me that sort of trouble. I rarely declare things utterly impossible in-game, I do a lot of auto-success.
 

The DM determining auto-fails also only works with sensible interactions with established fiction.

I agree with your post overall...except this bit I’ve quoted above.

I think this statement can be the case, but I also think a DM can block actions he considers impossible, but that others would consider possible. Usually in situations that lack a clearly measurable thing, such as the example with the canyon.

Social interactions such as convincing someone or swaying their opinion or lying to them....these are harder to classify as “impossible”. But many do so.
 

Nagol

Unimportant
I agree with your post overall...except this bit I’ve quoted above.

I think this statement can be the case, but I also think a DM can block actions he considers impossible, but that others would consider possible. Usually in situations that lack a clearly measurable thing, such as the example with the canyon.

Social interactions such as convincing someone or swaying their opinion or lying to them....these are harder to classify as “impossible”. But many do so.
If there is legitimate disagreement as to possibility of success then determining an auto-fail isn't a sensible interaction. Can people do it still? Yeah. But it is on par with someone claiming their PC can "totally" carry their gear, the partner's gear and their partner while running from a bear.

However, approaching the secret mistress of the duke with an appeal to join the resistance and replace the duchy with a democracy may just be an auto-fail.
 

prabe

Aspiring Lurker (He/Him)
Supporter
Social interactions such as convincing someone or swaying their opinion or lying to them....these are harder to classify as “impossible”. But many do so.
I have declared outright that the PCs weren't able to use Insight to get a feel for whether a god-like entity was lying to them (she wasn't). But they knew who and what she was.
 

Mythological Figures & Maleficent Monsters

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