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Realistic Consequences vs Gameplay

Fenris-77

Small God of the Dozens
Supporter
That's reasonable-ish. My thinking, unpacked a little more: The players own the PCs; the GM owns the setting (to include all places and NPCs and history). The PCs own the story; nothing that the GM owns does. Even the PCs' opposition is really part of the PCs' story (note the way the possessives point). I suspect it's probably indicative of my thinking that in my email missives to the players I always describe myself as DMing for them.
Hmm. For my games I don't think I'd agree that I own the setting. If the players aren't helping to shape, populate, and impact the setting I've probably done something wrong. Other games are more liken that though, and in those instances you're probably closer to the mark.

I'm really not sure what you're indexing when you use the word 'own' here in reference to the story. The players don't produce any story absent the GM, so the notion that they own it seems ... odd to me. The narrative, if that's what you mean by story, is produced though the oscillating movement of declaration-result between the players and the GM. I would agree with your statement, at least for myself, that I GM 'for the players' but that doesn't lead me to 'they own the story' as it seems to for you.
 

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prabe

Aspiring Lurker (He/Him)
Supporter
This is an excellent summation, but, like all summations, it's hiding a good bit of nuance. Like that the action declarations are different between these two, so there's some room to hide some agency there, and that the FACTs are different between A and B, so there's some room for agency to be hiding there. However, overall, that's a great way to put the functional differences between games like PbtA and D&D.
I dunno if the FACT in A is automatically going to be different from the FACT in B--that depends a whole lot on context, I think--but I'll agree that it's too short and too pithy to cover much nuance, and that there's at least a difference in kind of agency between them. As I said, though, I don't think there's a big difference.
 

prabe

Aspiring Lurker (He/Him)
Supporter
I'm really not sure what you're indexing when you use the word 'own' here in reference to the story. The players don't produce any story absent the GM, so the notion that they own it seems ... odd to me. The narrative, if that's what you mean by story, is produced though the oscillating movement of declaration-result between the players and the GM. I would agree with your statement, at least for myself, that I GM 'for the players' but that doesn't lead me to 'they own the story' as it seems to for you.
What I'm indexing, I think is that the story belongs to the PCs. It's their story. It's not (to use my previous example) The Apostate's story, or the Cracked Shields' story--though they have their own stories, which are mine to work out, where they don't intersect with the PCs. As I said, my phrasing is a way to tell myself whom the story belongs to, a warning not to make it about the NPCs.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
What I'm indexing, I think is that the story belongs to the PCs. It's their story. It's not (to use my previous example) The Apostate's story, or the Cracked Shields' story--though they have their own stories, which are mine to work out, where they don't intersect with the PCs. As I said, my phrasing is a way to tell myself whom the story belongs to, a warning not to make it about the NPCs.
Though it would seem clear that you still have to work out the NPCs' story, even if to no more extent than some virtual scrap notes in your head, such that you know the circumstances at whatever time said story re-intersects with the PCs' story in the future.

An example from my own campaign: a few in-game years ago various PC groups had dealings with a land that's been plunged into a 5-way civil war*, and then left for other places. Recently a group returned there, which meant I-as-DM needed to have some idea about how that civil war had progressed in the meantime so I could, for example, tell the players whose troops they were meeting where and give coherent and consistent answers when the PCs asked those troops for news.

* - caused by the PCs' actions: they killed the long-time Emperor, leaving a power vacuum in a generally-very-nasty realm.
 

prabe

Aspiring Lurker (He/Him)
Supporter
Though it would seem clear that you still have to work out the NPCs' story, even if to no more extent than some virtual scrap notes in your head, such that you know the circumstances at whatever time said story re-intersects with the PCs' story in the future.
Oh, absolutely, though (A) it doesn't change that the campaign's story is about the PCs and (B) it's maybe best done when you know the PCs' story, so you know when they intersect again. So, in the case of the example I snipped, it'd be reasonable not to work out the progression of that civil war until your PCs went back there (any set of PCs, I think, whether it's the PCs that killed the emperor or other PCs).

The Cracked Shields, for instance, have been invited to the PCs' estate--and they're probably going to arrive soon. The PCs aren't there, but that doesn't need to make trouble for their castellan (and I haven't laid any foundation for it to, so it very probably won't).
 

Hriston

Adventurer
@Hriston, nice example! It correlates pretty closely to examples in Burning Wheel how-to-play text as well as the actual play example I posted. And I would definitely consider it to be an example of player agency over the fiction. Even though the action failed, the player's framing of the action declaration played a big role in shaping that failure consequence.

And reflecting further on that: In these sorts of resolution contexts it's interesting to think about how explicit the GM needs to be about the stakes of failure. BW "officially" advocates full explicitness every time but Luke Crane (the designer) has said that in his own games he sometimes lets the failure consequences remain implicit in the situation.

I vary in my approach depending on what I feel is implicit, whether I think going explicit will increase tension or defuse it because of the "meta" intrusion, etc. Explicitness seems the surest way to guarantee player agency but that may not be the only desideratum in a given moment of play. On the other hand, if a failure consequence catches the player by surprise - ie they didn't see it as implicit in the fiction - then that can be an "oops" moment as a GM!
I try to be explicit about the stakes of a check because I feel it puts tension on the die roll. In a case like this, I suppose the "meta" intrusion you speak of can come in the form of a feeling that the fiction exists in a quantum state, that the result of the check is causing one thing or the other to happen in the fiction. So, in my example, it would be the idea that the player is trying to find out the right answer and that the result of the check determines what the answer is, revealing thereby that until the check, there was no "right" answer. The cognitive hurdle for me in laying this type of concern aside was the realization that the check is how we find out what happened. So the druid's failure isn't in the moment of recall. He remembers the "right" answer either way in that he perfectly remembers what his observations revealed to him. Neither was his failure in the moment of observation. What his observations about the toads told him was correct either way. The druid's failure was actually in making the decision to track the toads so late in the day without the full party, since it was revealed by the check that he should have known better, even though the player was blameless because he didn't have the relevant information until he had made the declaration to find out.
 

pemerton

Legend
Why is it that posts like these make force sound like something bad that must be avoided (other concepts too) but I'm constantly reminded that no other playstyle is being condemned here and that we are just comparing how different mechanics work in different games?
I think to get to the heart of this situation we need to have two terms. 1. Established in the shared fiction. 2. Established in the DM's fiction. Anything in either of these categories can rightfully be called Established in the fiction (based on what those words naturally mean).

I would argue that the DM having things established in the his fiction that have yet to be introduced into the shared fiction is beneficial to play - or at least a certain kind of play. Maybe the discussion should shift to also discuss how that benefits play?
These two posts go together.

If you go back through this thread you'll find various posters asserting that the GM havng things established in the ficiton that have yet to be introduced into the shared fiction does not have any implications for player agency in respect of the shared fiction.

But that claim clearly cannot be true. The GM havng things established in the ficiton that have yet to be introduced into the shared fiction only becomes relevant to play if that stuff is used to frame situations, or adjudicate fictional positioning, wthout regard to what the player(s) want to be the case. Which is to say it's an alternative to, not a form of, player agency in respect of the shared fiction.

If you go back upthread you will see that there are posters who clearly recognise that and talk about its possible utility for play. @Campbell is one of them.
 

pemerton

Legend
I've been in groups that did dungeon-crawl-ish adventures effectively backward--we found what was supposed to be the exit and went in through it and jumped the Big Boss while we were fresh, then crawled our way out. If the GM had had us go in through the exit and find Room 1A (or however it was keyed) so we had to encounter the elements of the dungeon in the order he wanted (or at least that the writers expected), that would have been along the lines of not allowing the PCs to own the story.
OK, thanks for this example.

This is not what I was expecting as an example of the PCs (players?) "owning" the story.

If the finding of the "exit" was pure coincidence then it seems like a more-or-less random tweak to the sequence of events.

In a dungeon like the Caves of Chaos I think it's meant to be open to multiple ways of entering and engaging it - there is no opening that is "supposed to be the exit" - and so what you describe would seem to be the default. But that's not the sort of thing I have i mind when talking about player agency over the shared fiction.

I'm guessing the tension you see between this and the first thing you quoted comes to this: You think there's a big difference in player agency between (A) the PC's skill check determines whether the player gets to declare [FACT] and (B) the PC's skill check determines whether the GM reveals [FACT]; I don't.
I thikn the difference is that in one the player has a chance of establishing the shared fiction, and in the other that is the GM. That seems to be a difference in agency. Whether or not it's big I don't know, but I'm not sure how it can be irrelevant to a discussion about player agency over the content of the shared fiction.
 

Psikerlord#

Explorer
To answer the OP - I think the answer is very obvious - if they've failed to escape, those two PCs get executed. Roll up new PCs! Nothing wrong with that whatsoever. Anything else and the players know you'll do anything to save their PCs to preserve them, which is fatal to good gameplay (and ultimately player interest).
 


prabe

Aspiring Lurker (He/Him)
Supporter
OK, thanks for this example.

This is not what I was expecting as an example of the PCs (players?) "owning" the story.

If the finding of the "exit" was pure coincidence then it seems like a more-or-less random tweak to the sequence of events.
There was one group that did it enough that I'm reluctant to say it was consistently coincidental. There was almost certainly some interaction going on between the writers of those adventures and the minds of the players. While I can't say years later whether there was intent, I do remember it being a pattern.

In a dungeon like the Caves of Chaos I think it's meant to be open to multiple ways of entering and engaging it - there is no opening that is "supposed to be the exit" - and so what you describe would seem to be the default. But that's not the sort of thing I have i mind when talking about player agency over the shared fiction.
This was in one of Paizo's Adventure Paths, and these dungeon-ish sections had clear Big Bosses. My point is that our decisions mattered, at least in deciding the order of events--in principle it might have been possible to slip out after killing the Bosses, but I remember there being at least one group (metagame) decision that that would have been long-term detrimental (earning fewer XP than expected).

I thikn the difference is that in one the player has a chance of establishing the shared fiction, and in the other that is the GM. That seems to be a difference in agency. Whether or not it's big I don't know, but I'm not sure how it can be irrelevant to a discussion about player agency over the content of the shared fiction.
I think that the player whose action resolution reveals a GM-determined fact still has agency over the content of the fiction, including their decision to attempt that action and their decisions and actions afterward. In many games (at least the ones I GM) where the GM determines facts to be revealed, the PCs choose which goal/s they are pursuing. It seems to me that you believe that if a player cannot declare facts, they have no agency over the fiction; I disagree. Having read through Blades in the Dark and Apocalypse World, I think I'd feel as though I had more agency as a player in a well-run game of D&D 5E than either, which I realize is practically heresy (and note that it's not based on actual play experience).
 

prabe

Aspiring Lurker (He/Him)
Supporter
I disagree. The story is of the PCs' deeds and the world around them, and if the PCs bugger it up, that's how the story goes.
The world around the PCs is the setting. Their actions make the story. Their actions are theirs, and so is the story. It's possible to screw up your story, in the same way it's possible to screw up your life. I suspect we end up in similar places coming from different angles, which means I'm not sure we disagree as much as you maybe think we do.
 

pemerton

Legend
I think that the player whose action resolution reveals a GM-determined fact still has agency over the content of the fiction, including their decision to attempt that action and their decisions and actions afterward.
Choosing whether or not to look in the box doesn't really give me agency over what's in the box.

It seems to me that you believe that if a player cannot declare facts, they have no agency over the fiction
No. I've repeatedly referred to action resolution. I look for a secret door - do I find one? I strike the orc - do I kill it? I run across country - do I make it to safety? These are not "declrations of facts". They are action declarations which the system can resolve.

Having read through Blades in the Dark and Apocalypse World, I think I'd feel as though I had more agency as a player in a well-run game of D&D 5E than eithe
I can't comment on BitD, but this is a very odd thing to say about Apocalypse World. AW has none of the touchpoints you've mentioned earlier in this thread - nothing analogous to a compel, no player "declarations of facts", and very few "meta" powers (I did a count a little while ago and I think it was less than 10% of player moves - and you can just not pick those ones).

What have you got in mind?
 

prabe

Aspiring Lurker (He/Him)
Supporter
Choosing whether or not to look in the box doesn't really give me agency over what's in the box.
The way I see it, your character never had agency over what's in the box, whoever has narrative authority over it.

No. I've repeatedly referred to action resolution. I look for a secret door - do I find one? I strike the orc - do I kill it? I run across country - do I make it to safety? These are not "declrations of facts". They are action declarations which the system can resolve.
And it can be understood that in a system like Burning Wheel--your play example with the feather, IIRC--the player would have been able to declare facts (the characteristics or traits, or whatever, of the feather) if the resolution had gone his way. You have brought that up as an example of player agency, and you have specifically said that if the action resolution reveals facts the GM makes up (or has made up before and written down) then the player has no (or at least less) agency.

I can't comment on BitD, but this is a very odd thing to say about Apocalypse World. AW has none of the touchpoints you've mentioned earlier in this thread - nothing analogous to a compel, no player "declarations of facts", and very few "meta" powers (I did a count a little while ago and I think it was less than 10% of player moves - and you can just not pick those ones).

What have you got in mind?
Since you're more familiar with Apocalypse World, and I've read 1E cover-to-cover twice in the last four days, I'll stick with that one. Seems as though that'll be a better conversation. I'll admit again that I haven't played the game, so I'm going by the rules and the play examples therein; I'm willing to admit things might work differently around an actual table. Anything I say is opinion and should not be taken as judging anyone for enjoying the game, or preferring that playstyle: I am genuinely happy that people enjoy the game.

There are a number of instances in the play examples that at least look like refusing to honor success on the rolls, and if those are the examples in the book I have to presume a GM might think it was OK to not honor success or even worse (and this also shows up in the play examples) punish a character for succeeding.

There doesn't seem to be much in the way of long-term accomplishments available to the PCs. It wouldn't feel to me as though I had agency if there wasn't something I could achieve. Survival doesn't feel like an accomplishment, which is why I've never been interested in Zombie Apocalypse RPGs, even when one of the guys I gamed with a lot adored them and always wanted to run them.

Many of the GM moves seem based as much around GM whim as around any sort of actual consequential or causal logic, and the idea that you're always supposed to be setting up at least the possibility of a harder move seems to contradict the idea of the GM not-planning, and Playing to Find Out What Happens--at least to contradict that as much as a GM having an idea of what's (probably, based on knowing how these players are playing their characters) going to happen in a given session or story arc.

The Hx mechanics seem as though they give players handles (or levers, or some other metaphor if you want) they can use to usurp control of another player's character. As you can probably imagine, I'm not a fan of this. This might or might not have registered as "meta" for you, but meta or not doesn't change my feelings about it.

My feeling about the Hx mechanics jibes with my sense that the game kinda instructs the GM to pit the PCs against each other. All the references to PC-NPC-PC triangles, for instance. I am not and I have never been any sort of fan of PvP. My preference, still/again not judging people.

I'm not a big fan of the stress on simplistic motivations for NPCs. Maybe keeping things so simple makes it easier to keep all the named people straight.

Overall, the game seems perfectly willing to throw the PCs into a meatgrinder if there's a good story there. I'd rather have the PCs go into the meatgrinder on their own for their own reasons, I think.

Also, one pedantic thing. The line "There are no status quos in Apocalypse World" keeps appearing, and I don't believe the writer knows what "status quo" means. There's always a status quo. It might not be stable--what the writer is trying to say--but it's always there.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
Choosing whether or not to look in the box doesn't really give me agency over what's in the box.
Nor should it, IMO. Your agency is the ability to choose to look in the box or not, and by extension to thus (at least for your part) determine whether what's in the box is ever found.

The contents of the box (and the box itself) are part of the setting, which is the GM's purview.

Declaring as an action "I (try to) open the box" can really only resolve three ways - you open the box, you don't open the box, or (much less common) you drop the box and maybe shatter it and-or its contents.

What the box contains is not part of any action resolution. Instead, it falls under GM narration. Which means declaring "I (try to) open the box in hopes the Crown of Revel is inside" still only has the same three outcomes: open box, closed box, or broken box. That the player mentions the Crown of Revel doesn't change whether the Crown is inside or not...unless you want to take control over the setting away from the GM, in which case why bother having a GM other than as meeting facilitator and (usually IMO) host.
 

1 - There are a number of instances in the play examples that at least look like refusing to honor success on the rolls, and if those are the examples in the book I have to presume a GM might think it was OK to not honor success or even worse (and this also shows up in the play examples) punish a character for succeeding.

2 - Many of the GM moves seem based as much around GM whim as around any sort of actual consequential or causal logic, and the idea that you're always supposed to be setting up at least the possibility of a harder move seems to contradict the idea of the GM not-planning, and Playing to Find Out What Happens--at least to contradict that as much as a GM having an idea of what's (probably, based on knowing how these players are playing their characters) going to happen in a given session or story arc.
I've numbered these for reference.

Lets discuss one example of each of these from Apocalypse World. I have a pretty strong guess as to what is happening here (it likely has to do with discretizing component parts and examining them in isolation rather than integration of the whole), but lets dig into it to be sure.

If you would, cite a page for both 1 and 2 that provoked you toward this takeaway and then share the machinery of the provocation.
 

FrogReaver

As long as i get to be the frog
If you go back through this thread you'll find various posters asserting that the GM havng things established in the ficiton that have yet to be introduced into the shared fiction does not have any implications for player agency in respect of the shared fiction.

But that claim clearly cannot be true. The GM havng things established in the ficiton that have yet to be introduced into the shared fiction only becomes relevant to play if that stuff is used to frame situations, or adjudicate fictional positioning, wthout regard to what the player(s) want to be the case. Which is to say it's an alternative to, not a form of, player agency in respect of the shared fiction.
I think that for a player to have agency in respect of the shared fiction he doesn't need to have agency in respect of the shared fiction for every fictional situation that arises.

However, even in instances where you would say there is a lack of agency over the shared fiction, I'd say that there is more agency in respect of the shared fiction than you are willing to admit. Any attempted character action does exert agency over the shared fiction. The player has single handedly introduced a true proposition into the share fiction - my character attempts to do X. That is agency over the shared fiction, even if it is just a tincy incy bit of agency, it's there.
 

pemerton

Legend
Any attempted character action does exert agency over the shared fiction. The player has single handedly introduced a true proposition into the share fiction - my character attempts to do X. That is agency over the shared fiction, even if it is just a tincy incy bit of agency, it's there.
I've already explained in this thread why I don't find this a very significant point. Because having this sort of agency is the default for a player to be actually participating in a RPG.

Nor should it, IMO. Your agency is the ability to choose to look in the box or not, and by extension to thus (at least for your part) determine whether what's in the box is ever found.

The contents of the box (and the box itself) are part of the setting, which is the GM's purview.
One might have different views about how to resolve a declared action, but the preference doesn't affect the analysis: you are saying that, in thie case, the player does not have agency over the fiction beyond I look in the box or I don't. It is the GM who decides what actually happens next eg OK, you see a severed head in there! or <GM thinks to self> They didn't look in the box, so they won't have the ring that was in their that opens the secret door in the basement.

The way I see it, your character never had agency over what's in the box, whoever has narrative authority over it.
Why are you talking about the character? I'm talking about whether or not the player has agency in respect of the shared fiction. If you're saying No they don't and that's fine, well OK. But can we at least get the analysis clear?

Declaring as an action "I (try to) open the box" can really only resolve three ways - you open the box, you don't open the box, or (much less common) you drop the box and maybe shatter it and-or its contents.

What the box contains is not part of any action resolution. Instead, it falls under GM narration. Which means declaring "I (try to) open the box in hopes the Crown of Revel is inside" still only has the same three outcomes: open box, closed box, or broken box. That the player mentions the Crown of Revel doesn't change whether the Crown is inside or not...unless you want to take control over the setting away from the GM, in which case why bother having a GM other than as meeting facilitator and (usually IMO) host.
This is just nonsense.

Here's the action declaration: I look in the box for the Crown of Revel. Here's the role of the GM: To narrate what happens if the check fails. And to provide framing more generally.

It's not mysterious.
 

pemerton

Legend
Since you're more familiar with Apocalypse World, and I've read 1E cover-to-cover twice in the last four days, I'll stick with that one. Seems as though that'll be a better conversation. I'll admit again that I haven't played the game, so I'm going by the rules and the play examples therein; I'm willing to admit things might work differently around an actual table. Anything I say is opinion and should not be taken as judging anyone for enjoying the game, or preferring that playstyle: I am genuinely happy that people enjoy the game.

There are a number of instances in the play examples that at least look like refusing to honor success on the rolls, and if those are the examples in the book I have to presume a GM might think it was OK to not honor success or even worse (and this also shows up in the play examples) punish a character for succeeding.

<snip>

Many of the GM moves seem based as much around GM whim as around any sort of actual consequential or causal logic, and the idea that you're always supposed to be setting up at least the possibility of a harder move seems to contradict the idea of the GM not-planning, and Playing to Find Out What Happens--at least to contradict that as much as a GM having an idea of what's (probably, based on knowing how these players are playing their characters) going to happen in a given session or story arc.
I assume you're talking about the example of Marie the brainer. What do you see as "success not being honoured"?

And what do you see as "whim"?
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
One might have different views about how to resolve a declared action, but the preference doesn't affect the analysis: you are saying that, in thie case, the player does not have agency over the fiction beyond I look in the box or I don't. It is the GM who decides what actually happens next eg OK, you see a severed head in there! or <GM thinks to self> They didn't look in the box, so they won't have the ring that was in their that opens the secret door in the basement.
The GM sets the scene - which includes the box and its contents (if any) - ahead of time. Think of the box and its contents (if any) as analagous to a stage prop, with the only difference being that the scene-setter has no way of knowing in advance how or even if this prop will be interacted with by the actors (players, through their PCs).

A stage prop is either put on stage before the scene begins, or is put into an actor's hand to be carried on to the stage as part of the role being played.

Why are you talking about the character? I'm talking about whether or not the player has agency in respect of the shared fiction. If you're saying No they don't and that's fine, well OK. But can we at least get the analysis clear?
Sorry, said character when I meant player; but keep in mind I'm trying to look at this as far as possible from an in-fiction viewpoint: how does the character see it.

Why? Because that's how the game world IMO should be viewed: through the eyes of the character.

Yes, stuff has to be done at the table in order for this to happen, but that stuff IMO should revolve around getting the player's imagination of the setting and scene and the character's perception of it into as close to complete agreement as possible.

This is just nonsense.

Here's the action declaration: I look in the box for the Crown of Revel. Here's the role of the GM: To narrate what happens if the check fails. And to provide framing more generally.

It's not mysterious.
The role of the GM is to narrate what happens in terms of what the PCs perceive. If the box can easily be opened the GM narrates what's inside based on what she already knows is (or isn't) there. If the box can't easily be opened there's a check to see if the PC can open it; on success (or on the box being broken, possibly) the GM narrates what's inside, and on failure the GM narrates that the box remains closed (or, perhaps, has been broken).

And all the while the GM knows where the Crown of Revel is. Maybe it is in the box being opened; in which case it's paydirt for the PC. And maybe it isn't.

As you say, it's not mysterious. The GM controls all aspects of the setting, including the props - and their locations. :)
 

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