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D&D 5E Respect Mah Authoritah: Thoughts on DM and Player Authority in 5e

Am I correct in understanding that you would strongly object to a GM changing an NPC's actual statblock behind the curtain for any reason, but you have no issue with a GM showing the players a phony NPC statblock in order to preserve a mystery? You would consider the former to be a breach of trust but the later not to be?

I'm more-or-less the opposite. I have no issue with a GM changing unestablished-in-play elements of an NPC's statblock behind the curtain, but if the GM is ostensibly pulling back the curtain by showing me the statblock, I would consider it a serious breach of trust if the shown statblock was inaccurate.

That's a good question. I think it all depends on the game and the table expectations.

In the scenario as described, there was clearly nothing more to the girl, and there was no compelling reason for the GM to not share that information as indicative of what the characters could derive from the scene. So it was shared. The players were informed and they based their decisions on how to engage with the encounter accordingly.

If there's information beyond what's obvious in the scene, and the discovery of that information or not could impact how things play out, then I'd probably account for that. I'd call for checks or if I shared a stat block I'd leave certain spots blank, or only share the relevant stats, etc. Does this cue the players that there's something more there? Yes, very likely. Do I care? Nope, because without knowing what it is, how can they act on it?

The hesitation for many seems to revolve around letting the players in on a little bit of something even if their characters wouldn't be aware of it. I don't really get that. I expect my players to handle that in a way that seems fit to them, and I don't really worry about it.

Now, as for changing stats "behind the curtain"....I don't know. It depends on the reason for doing so. As far as I'm aware, there's no rule that says you should do that. There are general bits of advice that could be interpreted as supporting such a decision, but I don't think most of the time that folks say "You should take the stats of a monster and change them mid fight if things are too tough or too easy". So I'd have to have a really compelling reason to do so.

It's hard to not see the reason as being to Force an outcome. Like, "this may be a TPK, I better adjust the monster" seems kind of pointless and doesn't seem to be letting things play out as they may.

I don't know if I'd say I'm dead set against it, but I think there has to be a really compelling reason to do it, and my threshold for compelling is probably pretty high.
 

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The hesitation for many seems to revolve around letting the players in on a little bit of something even if their characters wouldn't be aware of it. I don't really get that. I expect my players to handle that in a way that seems fit to them, and I don't really worry about it.
I don't metagame and I can roleplay being surprised. But I definitely prefer to be genuinely surprised!
 

niklinna

Looking for group
The way Edwards describes story before games seems consistent with how adventure paths and pre-written scenarios are meant to play out, in that it is defined as "meaning the basic course of events is pre-conceived and treated as something to be implemented" in which the GM is responsible for such things as "Sequence and climax," "Staying on track," "Staying on schedule." So the experience of a kind of reactive sandbox that @FrogReaver and I are attempting to describe may fall under the description of "story before," but strike me anyway as quite different than the type of game Edwards describes here. He doesn't really talk about it much here except a bit at the end, but I would have thought that sandbox-style games (including the classic hexcrawls and megadungeons) would correspond more to "story after."
There is a difference between "the story that has gone before" (backstory), and "the story that has been decreed before" (script, and what I think Edwards meant by "story before"). If you don't describe any events in the backstory, just people, things, and places, history can be inferred from those (by the GM and the players, and they needn't agree).

I agree with you that sandbox games correspond more to "story after". (Although, as some have mentioned, a single game can encompass both, with players free to explore a large open world, in which they will encounter prescripted stories (to whatever degree) to engage with or not.)

(incidentally, this makes me realize again why I have trouble with Edward's frameworks, to the extent that I've encountered them, because they seem most interested and keen to separating story now from not-story now, even though they are presented as neutral and universal.)
Yep. Binary categorizations have a way of excluding situations with more, as well as situations with blurry lines rather than sharp boundaries and situations where different combinations of attributes interplay.
 
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Campbell

Relaxed Intensity
There's nothing wrong with nudging if that's the sort of experience the people you are playing with are looking for. I just wonder why it's so contentious that some of us would rather not run or play in that sort of game.

Sure the sort of play I prefer tends to come with a lot more creative risk. Everyone's play has to be on point and I have to trust the people I play with to create and play interesting characters who do interesting things. I have to trust that they will not screw it up. I have to trust that game will lead to interesting outcomes. Sometimes stuff will not work. Often our hopes and dreams for these characters will not be fully realized. That's like the compelling part for me though. We all get to find out what happens.

When it comes to things happening that run counter to player wishes, desires, and hopes for their characters due to the actions they take here's my answer: Good.


That's the entire damn point. We don't know who these characters are when push comes to shove. They have not been tested yet. We don't know what their arc will be until we find out. We're putting them through the damn crucible. That's exciting to me! It might not be to you or the people you play with. That's cool. My yum can be your yuck. Your yuck can be my yum.

I am looking for players who are looking to send their characters through the crucible. I want people who are excited that things might not always turn out as they hoped. I'm not looking for players that get attached to character concepts or especially predefined ideas of what their character's arc should be.

That sort of play can be fun, but it's not what gets me excited. I'm not trying to yuck anyone's yum here. I hope we can have space in our hobby for everyone's yum.
 

There's nothing wrong with nudging if that's the sort of experience the people you are playing with are looking for. I just wonder why it's so contentious that some of us would rather not run or play in that sort of game.

Sure the sort of play I prefer tends to come with a lot more creative risk. Everyone's play has to be on point and I have to trust the people I play with to create and play interesting characters who do interesting things. I have to trust that they will not screw it up. I have to trust that game will lead to interesting outcomes. Sometimes stuff will not work. Often our hopes and dreams for these characters will not be fully realized. That's like the compelling part for me though. We all get to find out what happens.

When it comes to things happening that run counter to player wishes, desires, and hopes for their characters due to the actions they take here's my answer: Good.


That's the entire damn point. We don't know who these characters are when push comes to shove. They have not been tested yet. We don't know what their arc will be until we find out. We're putting them through the damn crucible. That's exciting to me! It might not be to you or the people you play with. That's cool. My yum can be your yuck. Your yuck can be my yum.

I am looking for players who are looking to send their characters through the crucible. I want people who are excited that things might not always turn out as they hoped. I'm not looking for players that get attached to character concepts or especially predefined ideas of what their character's arc should be.

That sort of play can be fun, but it's not what gets me excited. I'm not trying to yuck anyone's yum here. I hope we can have space in our hobby for everyone's yum.
Sure. It's about preferences, not right or wrong.

And actually even agree with most of your sentiments. Bad things can happen, characters don't need to get what they want and unexpected is welcome. As GM my nudging is not so much towards some specific outcome, it is more just to keep things moving if the game seems to be stalling, and to avoid dull and anticlimactic. And perhaps other games have different processes for that, but D&D is very GM driven and I feel it works best if the GM recognises that.
 

This topic has come up in a couple of recent threads - this one on GMing, and this one on railroading. (EDIT: And also in one of the S&S threads.)
responding my thoughts on this in this thread rather than necro-ing the other one
3. The players declare actions for their PCs that engage the scene. If the GM has done his/her job properly at step 2, then the players' declared actions can be expected to be fairly vigorous rather than tentative - more about impacting the situation then just finding out more about it.​
This seems like a practice that can travel across different types of games? As in, best practices
for gms: build your situations around the goals of the characters, present opportunities for them to impact the situation; and for players: be proactive

Some of that new material might be created by the GM - eg imagine a scene which, as framed, includes a building, and suppose that a player declares that his/her PC sneaks into a building; the check fails; and the GM narrates the failure by saying "You try to sneak in, but as you creep up the stairs you see someone who looks rather drunk, half-sitting, half-lying on the staircase landing; as you see her she sees you too, half-opening her eyes and her hand going to the sword tucked into her belt." Now it's established, as part of the content of the setting, that in this building there is this person in this state doing this thing.

...

Just as there can be variations of the traditional approach, so there can be variations of this alternative approach. For instance, the GM might use a setting book to help get material for framing scenes, or to help get material for narrating consequences like the drunk warrior on the landing; and different systems will have different ways of resolving action declarations, particularly those that implicate new player-author content like Shadowfell echoes. What is key, though, even when a setting book is being used, is that the content is introduced as an output of play; it's not treated as a constraining input in the manner of the traditional approach.
Best practice: don't be constrained by your prep. The typical example of this might be the random table, not because the table represents a pre-authored exclusive list of things that could possibly happen, but because it provides a basis for improvisation and content generation that is to greater or less degrees gm-neutral (depending on who made the table).

By the same token, I don't mind a dice roll of any kind-->half-drunk warrior npc, but I think in practice it would be rather indiscernible whether that was an pre-authored or improvised "input" or an "output."
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
If this is an RPG the big questions beyond that are who am I and what is this world? Am I @Neonchameleon , the real world person in a world where krakens don't actually exist so I'm likely to assume I'm watching someone filming something and a sensible thing to do would be to record it on my smartphone? Am I a 1920s mythos investigator, hoping that it's only a kraken? Am I Beowulf, probably outmatched by one kraken but able to hold my breath and with four comrades in arms I should be able to take it? Am I Cuchulain, able to cut the tops off mountains? Can I talk to the kraken? Is this the Harry Potter universe where the squid in the lake is actually pretty friendly?
Silly me - I was assuming, as with the in-fiction weather, that these things would have long since been established, and that the lake encounter was part of an ongoing campaign.
The more you hide the mechanics from me the more you hide from me the nature of who I am and what the world is. And Dungeons and Dragons in specific covers an absurd power level range. A rough idea of how the world functions would be part of the information available - and the mechanics of the game provide an approximation as to that.
I agree with the bolded part. Beyond that, yes - if the Kraken encounter was the very first thing that occurred in the campaign then you-as-players would still probably be figuring out your characters and what they might have going for them; that's more than fair, and I'm not going to punish you for it. The first few combats with a new party always take a bit longer to play out, for just this reason.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
Soldier is a Tag which thematically conveys exactly what you would (hopefully infer); this NPC is a willing and capable protector of those in his/her charge. Then you'll have a suite of abilities that are integrated to express that in play so there is gamestate: fiction synthesis. Skirmishers are mobile, getting into and out of trouble/places.
I try to avoid keywords or tags when possible as IME they tend toward pigeonholing. But yes, I get what you're saying.
And I also have the initial framing of the situation (this was right after the Skill Challenge to navigate the rushing river hazard so this framing is the bridge between this conflict to that immediately preceding conflict). This was a PBP solo game by me and my partner while we were both away for several months so I have the entire text of the game.

Finally, out on the water you see a singular vessel. As you pole yourself near the mouth of the river and into the bay, you can hear the sounds of voices. A father is teaching his daughter to fish and her innocent laughter is hushed by her father. It is clear by his tone that his fear isn't that her laughter will spoil their opportunity at a catch. He runs her through a few dry-runs at casting until finally she gets one far out. Her celebratory squeal is cut short by a tentacle exploding out of the water near their small flatboat. She falls back on her rump and screams as several tentacles erupt from the water around the vessel, groping for the both of them...

Let me know what you plan to do with the above. You are on your raft, entering from the mouth of the river into the bay, roughly 200 ft (just within your long range with your bow; - 2 to hit at this range) from this vessel being attacked by the tentacles in the bay.


She spent the next rounds using her action economy to Twin Strike with from her bow to protect the girl from tentacles from afar > stow it > get her raft to distance where she can leap to their vessel and physically aid them (this game was 7 years ago so the memory was foggy).
[the description didn't quote so I had to insert it manually]

That description is great! It sets the scene evocatively while giving clear info as to what's going on, all without any more mechanical intervention than necessary (I'm on board with the reminder of bow ranges; IME this is something no-one ever memorizes, and fair enough :) ). And now it's squarely on the player to take the reins and determine what happens next (in this case, she stood in and helped the boat occupants).

I wish my scene desriptions were that good.

Yet in the version of it you posted way upthread you included a bunch of mechanics info, which to me made the scene-set far less evocative and far more...well, gamey, for lack of a better term.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
Just building a bit on what hawkeyefan says here: as a player I am not looking to be entertained by the GM; and as a GM I am not looking to entertain the players.
I am, in both directions; and I make no bones about it. Further, as player I'm expecting to entertain the other players and DM in return (and I'm doing it wrong if I fail in this), and as DM I'm expecting to be entertained by the players.

An RPG, at its heart, is a form of entertainment. What makes RPGing unique is that the participants are tasked with bringing that entertainment to the table themselves.

If RPGing wasn't entertainment, I wouldn't do it.
 

FrogReaver

As long as i get to be the frog
I don’t agree that posting and analyzing play excerpts pivots on “is it Story Now or other.”

Ive run every type of game possible:

* 100 % freeform with all e of GM as sole arbiter, table negotiation to consensus, combo of both.

* AD&D and White Wolf GM Illusionism-fest + setting tourism + imposed metaplot + Cosplay Power Fantasy.

* Skilled-play Setting Hexcrawls.

* Pawn Stance Dungeon Crawls.

* Procedurally generated sandbox/setting (dungeon, wilderness, et al) - so a mix of Story Before and Story Now.

* Horror Spiral.

* Story Now whether intensely focused premise and loop like MLwM or more structured freeform like AW.

* Skilled Play/Story Now hybrid like 4e, Torchbearer, Blades.


Probably the only thing I have done is FKR (and I’m not convinced that it’s not just a title given to 100 % unstructured freeform + premise + random action resolution…I’ve done that too.)


In every one of these forms of play (and they’re extremely disparate), I can easily use the same template for analysis (and I have).

* Analyze premise/priorities.

* Analyze in extreme detail how we got from here to there (gamestate and fiction changes)…particularly honing in at the action resolution and conflict resolution intervals and how setting responds (or not).

* Analyze incentive structures

* Analyze how well those things cohere.
Sure. Those are all ways to accomplish that. I’m more thinking of this question and it’s aha moment you just had as more of an explanation for why players of GM driven games tend to have trouble analyzing play the way you and others here prefer.
 

Campbell

Relaxed Intensity
@Manbearcat

I think in part we all process information in different ways. For my part I am an incredibly visual person who tends to process information more abstractly. It takes me a good deal of mental effort to work out what that prose actually means, but using game mechanics as lingua franca to describe the situation feels natural and normal. Fight scenes and other scenes with a lot of visual detail in novels are extremely hard for me to work out. When I run games I tend to rely on a lot of reference images, diagrams, physical space, and acting skill to get details across.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
Do you?

You've gone on to describe a situation where the maguffin was destroyed in adventure 2 of a 5 part series, and then the GM simply narrated around that destruction to get everything right back on track for parts 3 to 5.

Undoing a development isn't exactly honoring it.
Yes it is, in that until it was fixed the DM - and us players - had to accept that in the fiction the crystal had been broken; and he had to weave in a means of fixing it.

Developments can always be undone. A simple example: it's a development that your Fighter just lost his arm. A Regereration spell later undoes that development.
Necessary isn't the point. We're talking about enhancing the understanding of the player so that they have a better ability to navigate the scene. they understand the stakes better and they understand the mechanical elements of the scenario.
And once the player's ability to navigate the scene becomes noticeably better than that of the player's PC in the fiction, there's a disconnect.
 

@Manbearcat

I think in part we all process information in different ways. For my part I am an incredibly visual person who tends to process information more abstractly. It takes me a good deal of mental effort to work out what that prose actually means, but using game mechanics as lingua franca to describe the situation feels natural and normal. Fight scenes and other scenes with a lot of visual detail in novels are extremely hard for me to work out. When I run games I tend to rely on a lot of reference images, diagrams, physical space, and acting skill to get details across.
Agree completely (however research is increasingly showing that humans are all at least latent visual learners…which makes sense from an evolutionary perspective)!

Which is why anyone who I’ve run games for will attest to the reality that I do both:

* Describe the situation provocatively (hopefully pithy as well…but sometimes I’m not as good there as I’d like to be).

* Make sure everyone is on the same table in terms of mechanics : gamestate : fiction synthesis before actions are declared.


So in a 4e game I’ll frame a scene (like above) and overtly marry the mechanics : gamestate : fiction so players of your disposition aren’t all “WTF?” and we can get on to playing and everyone can feel good about it.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
@Lanefan If I had an angel in disguise in the scene, I would never leave it unnoticed by the players. That is just my playstyle though; I tend to frame scenes quite aggressively, especially under IRL time constraints.
I generally ignore IRL time constraints. The game is endless, and what doesn't happen this week can always wait for next.

That, and I'm quite happy to have players/PCs miss things. I'm not that precious about my prep. :)
 

Sure. But sometimes player input might result the game stalling and nothing interesting happening. Or something happening that the players actually didn't want to happen. And I don't think it is wrong for GM to nudge things into more interesting or preferable directions on such occasions.

Okay, getting the game moving again is part of the GM's job, I'd say. I mean, it's the players' job too, but if they've stalled out, the GM needs to do something to get things going again.

I don't think that constitutes Force. Or at least, it certainly doesn't require it.

Certainly letting them to find it in the next place they look effectively is the GM letting them find it? The illusion just is that the players feel they did something to contribute to it, whilst in reality they didn't. And I don't see how that is bad thing.

Again, I think this depends on the game and/or expectations. Like in early editions of D&D, that would be against expectations. But in a game that uses the Gumshoe system, it's likely not.

I personally don't like that kind of approach, but I don't think there's anything inherently wrong with it. In 5e D&D, it seems a bit against expectations, but well within the realm of possibility.

And yeah, it was a boring linear scenario and in almost every instance the use of force could be avoided by setting up the situation better in the first place. (I guess that's why I haven't had to use force in my current campaign! ;) ) But none of us are perfect, perhaps not even me! Sometimes you set up the situation thoughtlessly, and then in actual game it just doesn't quite work. And if you can fix it by rearranging things behind curtains a bit, why not?

If painted into a corner in some way, sure, do what you have to in order to get the game going again. Again, I don't know if Force is needed, but if you find yourself in a situation where it's a bit of Force to correct the matter, or let the game flounder, then sure, Force away.

But lets say force is used to achieve this. Why is that bad?

It's hard to say. If the GM is working to bring about something of interest to the player then I'm generally of the opinion that's a good thing. Again, I don't know how Force is necessary in this case, so it's hard to say. Possibly? I mean, the benefit seems to outweigh the drawback, again depending on expectations.


Yea, but this is where it gets muddy. What even is force?

I've been using it to mean the GM overriding or otherwise negating the outcome of player decisions in favor of some other outcome.

I'm not using it as a description of the GM authoring content for the game.

Let's say this is the scenario. The player whose sister is missing is really invested to this storyline. It is the driving force of their character. This is important to the player. The characters infiltrate the cultist hideout. The PC's sister has joined the cult, but the characters don't know this, they just think that the cult has kidnapped her. Though they suspect things might not be quite as they seem. Also they have one new character. One player's character died in the previous session, and they're now playing a hot-headed fire sorcerer. Before this (and when the GM designed the scenario) the party had no AoE to speak off. They have a clever plan to get in unnoticed, but due a series of unlucky rolls and perhaps some bad decisions they get discovered just as they're about to enter the main chamber where the cultists are gathered for some sort of ritual. Unbeknownst to characters, one of the hooded cultist is the PCs sister. Some characters, including the one looking for his sister would want to negotiate, but the sorcerer, assuming that battle is about to ensue and seeing several cultist clumped together decides to take out as many of them as they can and unleashes a fireball. This fireball is powerful enough to kill any cultist who fails their save. Let's also assume that it is an established rule in this group that only PCs get death saves, and any non-PC who runs out of hit points is dead.

Assuming the GM has predetermined which cultist is the sister and she is in the fireball's area, is it force if they fudge her saving throw so that she survives? Or what if they simply 'switch' her with insignificant cultist that is standing on the edge of the room and thus are not hit? Or what if the GM designed the sisters location to be quantum cultist in the first place? Whichever cultist survives is revealed to be the character's sister when it is most appropriate? Which of these are force, and is any of this a bad thing?

And yes, I am sure the need to use force could have been avoided with better foresight, but as we now, that doesn't always happen.

I play plenty of games that don't rely on prep to the level of detail that this would be a problem as presented. So in that sense, I'm okay with the idea of having the fireballed cultists not include the sister. But in those games, there are other processes by which this could play out. The GM might place the sister there as a move in a PbtA game, or as a consequence in Blades in the Dark.

In a case where it hasn't been established in some way that she's there, I'd be more okay with a change. In this case, you're not really subverting the choice of the players since no one made the choice to fireball the sister. Having typed it, I'm not crazy about it, though.

I'd likely set things up quite differently. I'm not really interested in keeping that kind of information from the players. My D&D games likely feature far fewer Perception checks than many others. I tend to just tell players things. Why not? I want to see what they do with the info, I don't want to watch them slowly piece it together by asking me questions and then rolling a dice and asking me more questions. So I'd tend to avoid such a scenario in most cases. The sister would either be there or not, and they would proceed accordingly.

I'd prefer to let it play out as is, unless I really expected things to somehow go wrong with the game as a result.

If one of the PCs has seen her, or there's some other strong reason to expect that she's there, and the sorcerer still shot the fireball off.....I wouldn't go back on that. I'd roll her save for all to see, and let things play out as they may.


I have to say that this is almost certainly a confirmation bias. You only know of the instances you noticed it! For example in the above scenario all examples of GM chicanery would be pretty much completely undetectable to the players.

Oh, I'm not claiming I always know it. Just that sometimes when consequence X is on the table, and then things go poorly, and then consequence Y is what happens.....that's obvious and that kind of softballing is what I don't appreciate. It's like when I let my kid get a basket instead of stuffing him.....I feel like the GM is turning things down a bit.

And whenever I (rarely) use something forceish, it is almost always just changing some things the players didn't know of in the first place.


I mean if we are talking about GM misleading the players, to me it would be far more questionable to GM to say that a creature is level one minion whereas in reality they're level ten solo controller, than just relay the what the characters see and that turning out not to be the whole truth.

I'm not convinced that it's the secrecy that really matters. If Force is wrong for a given game, or in a given situation, then it's wrong. Keeping the players from knowing it is just making things easy on yourself.

As for the scenario of the little girl and the stat block, it's an imperfect example to be sure because it was an example of one thing and then got adapted for another. When a game I'm GMing includes someone who's magically changed shape in some way, I give the players some way to pick up on that. I present it in another way or through a different scene. So it'd go differently.

But, I'm not nearly as concerned as many about the players knowing something's up when the characters might not.

I don't metagame and I can roleplay being surprised. But I definitely prefer to be genuinely surprised!

Yeah, I get that. And I prefer to actually surprise people. But again, if that's my intent, I'm going to go about it in a different way that will actually have the potential to surprise someone.

More importantly, the limit that this places on my ability to surprise players with some secret reveal is minimal compared to what I see as the benefit of sharing information with them. Like it's a price totally worth paying.

That little moment of surprise "Oh my gosh the little girl is actually St. Cuthbert?!?!? WHA?!?" is a moment of play. The GM sharing information with players so that they can act clearly and comfortably is a near constant part of the game.
 

Yes it is, in that until it was fixed the DM - and us players - had to accept that in the fiction the crystal had been broken; and he had to weave in a means of fixing it.

Developments can always be undone. A simple example: it's a development that your Fighter just lost his arm. A Regereration spell later undoes that development.

Sure, I get that. And I get that the players may immediately be like "oh my gosh we need to fix the crystal". But when something happens and the first thing is how do we undo this thing that happened in order to proceed as we were.....that just jumped out at me.


And once the player's ability to navigate the scene becomes noticeably better than that of the player's PC in the fiction, there's a disconnect.

There's always a disconnect.
 

I try to avoid keywords or tags when possible as IME they tend toward pigeonholing. But yes, I get what you're saying.

[the description didn't quote so I had to insert it manually]

That description is great! It sets the scene evocatively while giving clear info as to what's going on, all without any more mechanical intervention than necessary (I'm on board with the reminder of bow ranges; IME this is something no-one ever memorizes, and fair enough :) ). And now it's squarely on the player to take the reins and determine what happens next (in this case, she stood in and helped the boat occupants).

I wish my scene desriptions were that good.

Yet in the version of it you posted way upthread you included a bunch of mechanics info, which to me made the scene-set far less evocative and far more...well, gamey, for lack of a better term.

Question for you:


If you're that Ranger on that boat and you want to protect that little girl and you have the suite of following two abilities (I'm not going to put any numbers to it, just theme), you don't know anything about the HP/abilities of the little girl and the tentacles, how do you make an informed decision:

COVERING FIRE - You buy time for your target to move nearby. Any mook that approaches the target you protect or attacks them in melee is slain.

KILL THE THING - Do a bunch of damage to the big thing!


If you don't know any of following:

(a) the tentacles are classified as mooks

(b) the mook tentacles don't share the monster's HP pool

(c) the little girl's father is actually capable of protecting here (mechanically capable...not just I'm a dad with an oar capable)

(d) how cover rules work at all (if you do COVERING FIRE, she's either moving to her father for protection or taking cover behind the fishing gear)

(e) that the girl is also a mook (therefore guaranteed 1 hit 1 kill vs perhaps having 4 hp and dealing with a tentacle that does 1d6+1 damage so she survives on a 2 or less)


If you know none of that stuff...how are you acting as an informed agent? How are you navigating that decision-point? In the menu of possible moves you can make based on inferences or meta-inferences (eg how HPs work or how genre tropes should impact play), there are plenty of ways this could go wrong.

A very simple one is "I'm shooting the tentacles nearby with my bow so I can protect the girl....OH THEY SHARE THE 80 HP POOL OF THE MONSTER YOU SAY (after action resolution is done and the gamestate has changed not an inch...the little girl is in the exact same perilous threat she was in prior to your move but you were hoping that you would take out the 2 tentacles threatening her)...WELL EFF ME...and the little girl I guess..."

If you don't have those crucial mechanical inputs (tentacles are mooks and as long as you hit they're donezo and you've bought time for the father/little girl/you to get to the raft), how are you not mostly flying blind? The agency-arresting prospects become significant and many/most decision-point become fraught with potential EFF ME AND THE LITTLE GIRL outcomes.
 

FrogReaver

As long as i get to be the frog
Question for you:


If you're that Ranger on that boat and you want to protect that little girl and you have the suite of following two abilities (I'm not going to put any numbers to it, just theme), you don't know anything about the HP/abilities of the little girl and the tentacles, how do you make an informed decision:

COVERING FIRE - You buy time for your target to move nearby. Any mook that approaches the target you protect or attacks them in melee is slain.

KILL THE THING - Do a bunch of damage to the big thing!


If you don't know any of following:

(a) the tentacles are classified as mooks

(b) the mook tentacles don't share the monster's HP pool

(c) the little girl's father is actually capable of protecting here (mechanically capable...not just I'm a dad with an oar capable)

(d) how cover rules work at all (if you do COVERING FIRE, she's either moving to her father for protection or taking cover behind the fishing gear)

(e) that the girl is also a mook (therefore guaranteed 1 hit 1 kill vs perhaps having 4 hp and dealing with a tentacle that does 1d6+1 damage so she survives on a 2 or less)


If you know none of that stuff...how are you acting as an informed agent? How are you navigating that decision-point? In the menu of possible moves you can make based on inferences or meta-inferences (eg how HPs work or how genre tropes should impact play), there are plenty of ways this could go wrong.

A very simple one is "I'm shooting the tentacles nearby with my bow so I can protect the girl....OH THEY SHARE THE 80 HP POOL OF THE MONSTER YOU SAY (after action resolution is done and the gamestate has changed not an inch...the little girl is in the exact same perilous threat she was in prior to your move but you were hoping that you would take out the 2 tentacles threatening her)...WELL EFF ME...and the little girl I guess..."

If you don't have those crucial mechanical inputs (tentacles are mooks and as long as you hit they're donezo and you've bought time for the father/little girl/you to get to the raft), how are you not mostly flying blind? The agency-arresting prospects become significant and many/most decision-point become fraught with potential EFF ME AND THE LITTLE GIRL outcomes.
Fog of war just adds another strategical element that players must work through. Players would learn those important details in the encounter by doing stuff like attacking the tentacles. As they gather more information about what’s working and what isn’t they refine their tactics mid battle.
 

Fenris-77

Small God of the Dozens
Fog of war just adds another strategical element that players must work through. Players would learn those important details in the encounter by doing stuff like attacking the tentacles. As they gather more information about what’s working and what isn’t they refine their tactics mid battle.
Fog of war is fine, but MBCs example is probably more fairly described as fog of rules which, IMO, is much less fine.
 

pemerton

Legend
perhaps the fact that story now has so much player facing mechanics makes it easier to analyze in the way you prefer (play examples) than games with much less player facing mechanics and much more mechanical flexibiity in how the DM can generate content? Maybe you are approaching all analysis with a hammer when not all games are nails?
I have provided actual play accounts of AD&D play - here - and of exploration/GM-narration-heavy Classic Traveller play - here and here, for example.

Most of my actual play posting is from a GM perspective, but I've provided actual play posts from the player perspective in Burning Wheel.

There is nothing I can see that precludes actual play reports of non-story now RPGing. It just involves saying what people at the table did!

Why is walking through the various likely ways such play could happen not enough?
Enough for what?

No one doubts that any given fiction could arise via any candidate RPGing approach. The key word there being could. The most railroading of railroads, where every action declaration is adjudicated having regard to the GM's predetermined preference for where the fiction goes, could produce the fiction of Thurgon and Aramina exploring the homestead, encountering the Orcs and Elves, etc.

But the actual experience of RPGing is not just the fiction (if it were, I'd read books or watch films instead, which have professional-quality fiction that has benefitted from editing, rather than the amateur spontaneity of RPGing). It is the experience of taking part in the creation of the fiction. In some contexts, it is also the experience of solving puzzles, of thinking cleverly, of getting lucky dice rolls, etc.

Hypotheses about how that stuff might happen isn't the same as an account of how it actually did happen.

when such a player is analyzing play and comes to a point where the GM generated content via a black box method then doesn’t the analysis abruptly stop?
I think it would look a bit like this:

I then failed my Cooking check to try and prepare a pleasant meal, and the GM narrated sparks from the fire reaching the dry timber of the broken doors, setting them alight. I took the opportunity for Thurgon to empty his skillet onto them, and rolled a Die of Fate for a 1-in-6 chance that this might extinguish the flames. It didn't. I then failed a Power check for Thurgon to pull the broken doors fully away from their hinges and the tower, succeeded on a Forte check so he didn't get burned, had Thurgon pick up his mace and try to bash the doors away that way only to fail that check too, the upshot being that the fire spread into the interior of the tower and gradually burnt away the timber furnishing and floors.

This did have the effect of revealing the tower basement, but I (as Thurgon) wasn't keen to go into a wizard's basement alone. I rolled for Aramina's recovery, which was 1 die of her 5 Taxed Forte per 3 hours rest. We rested for 6 hours and then (the GM told me) it started to rain so no more rest was possible. At that point shelter seemed necessary, and the rain doused the worst of the flames, and the two characters could see an exposed trapdoor. "Does it have an iron ring?" I asked. When told yes by the GM, Aramina used her Call of Iron spell to pull the ring towards her, lifting the trapdoor open (the GM said 'yes' to this, which meant no Tax check was required). She then encouraged Thurgon to go in. Thurgon spoke a prayer (Blessing) to bolster his courage (+1D to Steel while exploring the basement) and - leaving his shield upstairs - went down the ladder. In the basement were crates and boxes, and magical symbols in a circle on the floor. I checked Doctrine (with Ritual as an augment, or FoRK for those who know the system) and Thurgon learned it was a teleport circle. Thurgon then used his Ritual skill to open it, conjecturing that it led to Auxol or the vicinity - how else could his mother have sent letters to Evard when she was young?

The ritual and prayers opened it, but (failed check) it was not anywhere familiar - rather, it led to a cave. And it was flickering, as if it would close any moment. Thurgon called Aramina to come down, and she did - and with her Symbology (and Reading FoRKed in) recognised that the travel to somewhere about 100 miles east. With that success in hand, I decided to try for another: Aramina would draw a symbol to extend the duration of the gate so they could go back up and get their gear to take with them. This was Sorcery with Writing FoRKed in, and failed: Aramina drew a disharmonious magical symbol and closed the gate rather than holding it open.

With that avenue shut behind them, they looked around the basement. In the boxes were metal bars, ingots and simple tools - orc-work, it looked like, as if to build something. Aramina decided to take as much as she could carry, because it would be helpful for mending things and also for Call of Iron. She also decided to join Thurgon in looking around, hoping to find some coin - this was an untrained Scavenging check by Thurgon with help from Aramina. It failed - and the GM explained that "no one would have thought that such an important stone, in terms of holding up the structure, would have been so easily dislodged by moving crates around - perhaps it was weakened, or a crucial support beam burned, by the fire". Speed checks were made, against obstacle 3, and I rolled two successes for both characters. The GM put a choice to Aramina: drop your load of metal, or be injured by falling masonry. But I decided that she had a third option - cast Call of Iron as a single action (stepping up the obstacle by 1) and use the called iron to brace and block the stones just long enough for her and Thurgon to get out. The GM allowed the attempt, and it succeeded, and her Tax test left her still conscious on Forte 1. As the characters made their escape, Aramina made a point of explaining that she had done this not to help Thurgon but to save her scavenged metal.

With the tower now ruined - the upper levels gutted by fire and the basement collapsed - Thurgon decided that they would head east, along the river, looking for the cave - which must be a goblin cave, he thought - the old-fashioned way.
What I've just posted is an alternative to this from @Manbearcat:

Now that is a hell of a question!

I hadn't thought about that. I always view these things through the prism of running games (because that is all I've ever done).

I guess my answer would be...

* Have a candid, vulnerable conversation with your GM if you're curious about this stuff.
For instance, because I haven't discussed it with my GM, I don't know whether he had notes that said When failure results permit, have the tower burn/collapse (so something like a very simple version of an AW threat clock, with the collapse of the tower as the threat), or whether he made it up on the spot. I think it's likely that he had notes that he was drawing on to narrate the revelation of the basement, and the teleport circle. I suspect the iron ring in the trapdoor was spur-of-the-moment.

I don't need to know what processes the GM was using to generate his contributions to the fiction, in order to describe the scenes that were framed, and what actions I declared, and whether I succeeded or failed and what happened next as a result.
 

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