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

prabe

Aspiring Lurker (He/Him)
Supporter
Fog of war is fine, but MBCs example is probably more fairly described as fog of rules which, IMO, is much less fine.
I think MBC's example is one where some people will want or expect (or consider to be appropriate) different levels of situational awareness--and perhaps some people will have different ideas based on context. I can see myself being OK with not knowing, or expecting to be able to know.
 

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pemerton

Legend
How is this not you being entertained by them?
I don't think X enjoys Y's company and X was entertained by Y are synonyms. It may be that being entertained by someone is something that occurs from time to time while enjoying their company - eg they crack a joke, or produce some witty repartee. But most of the time when I'm enjoying people's company it's their ideas, the emotional connection, the sense of shared endeavour, etc that is at the heart of it.

My pleasure in RPGing is the ideas, the imagination, the discovery, the cleverness, the luck. It's not a version of going to the theatre.
 

gorice

Explorer
I've been reading this thread with great interest, since it relates directly to some problems/questions I've been having in play recently. I hope no-one minds if I make a couple of observations.

Firstly, I think preferring purely in-universe ('diegetic', I guess) descriptions of things is a real and valid aesthetic preference. It's one I happen to share. The problem is, in D&D-style games, the diegetic and mechanical elements often have an extremely tenuous relationship to one another. In 5th edition D&D, an ogre and a troll are both 'large', savage humanoid creatures, but a troll has significantly more health and does much more damage than an ogre. Without mechanical or metagame information, there's no way for a group of players to properly assess the danger posed by a large humanoid.

This has been a serious problem in my current 5e campaign. Recently, I almost killed the entire party when they blundered into a fight whose danger and stakes weren't properly telegraphed. At this point, I've decided to bite the bullet and start providing at least some rough mechanical information about enemies to my players. A better long-term solution might be not to play D&D or similar games.

The discussion about sandboxes reminds me a bit of something people used to talk about regarding sandbox videogames, which is the distinction the Russian Formalists made between fable (the events of a story) and plot (the way information is revealed). In a 'dead' sandbox, the fable about how the skeleton king was sealed inside his necropolis is fixed, but the plot about how that information is uncovered, if at all, is in the hands of the players. This is clearly 'story before', but it is not in any way a railroad.

In a 'living' sandbox (I have some experience running these), the environment is initially 'dead', but continues to evolve based on both its own logic (I guess this is 'story before') and the actions of the PCs (this may be 'story now'). To give an example: in one game, a player wanted their PC to commit a very public, incendiary crime in a city, and frame another faction for the crime. They rolled well, so the city authorities responded by cracking down on this faction, which led to a virtual civil war (though not in quite the way the player intended, due to some predetermined setting information the player was unaware of).

Now, I really don't want to re-litigate any ancient arguments about threefold models or whatever, but I think the ambiguity (to me) of the example I just gave might be due to the fact that story now/story before/story after isn't the only goal of this style of play. Creating an immersive, life-like world is a central priority. Maybe I'm missing something important, though.
 

I don't think X enjoys Y's company and X was entertained by Y are synonyms. It may be that being entertained by someone is something that occurs from time to time while enjoying their company - eg they crack a joke, or produce some witty repartee. But most of the time when I'm enjoying people's company it's their ideas, the emotional connection, the sense of shared endeavour, etc that is at the heart of it.

My pleasure in RPGing is the ideas, the imagination, the discovery, the cleverness, the luck. It's not a version of going to the theatre.
This seems to be a semantic disagreement. I would say that all that is entertainment in broad sense. Overall point being that intent of an RPG sessions is to be an enjoyable experience to participants, and all participants endeavour to contribute to that.
 

This seems to be a semantic disagreement. I would say that all that is entertainment in broad sense. Overall point being that intent of an RPG sessions is to be an enjoyable experience to participants, and all participants endeavour to contribute to that.

I think it's easy to see "entertained" as a passive thing. Like I'm entertained by a movie or a concert or a football game. It's more about things that others are doing than it is about me. I'm an observer.

When I'm hanging out with friends or playing a boardgame or RPG, I don't think of it as being entertained. I think of it as socializing or playing a game.

I get the confusion as we generally think of "entertaining" as equaling "fun"....but I do think there's a distinction.
 

Campbell

Relaxed Intensity
So for me when I'm playing or running a roleplaying game I'm engaging with the game in front of us. I'm not generally reading the room like a standup comedian and tailoring my play or the game to hit emotional high points for the people I'm playing with. Hopefully we all enjoy it. We can talk game design, scenario design or technique if someone is not into it, but in the middle of play I'm just playing the game. It's not fundamentally different to me than say playing poker. I hope the people I play with are enjoying the experience, but when I choose to raise or fold I'm not super concerned with Brian's feelings*. I also do not expect Brian to be super concerned with my feelings when he goes all in and takes my money.

*No Brians were actually hurt in the making of this post.

Aside : Part of the reason I have adopted this approach over time is that I have experienced so many damn misfires on both sides of the screen with people assuming they knew what was fun for each other. The Robin Laws' player type analysis in particular has led so many GMs I have played with over the years try to tailor play in ways that was just not fun for me. I have also made a number of missteps on my side of the screen even with friends I have had for well over 10 years.
 
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I've been reading this thread with great interest, since it relates directly to some problems/questions I've been having in play recently. I hope no-one minds if I make a couple of observations.

Firstly, I think preferring purely in-universe ('diegetic', I guess) descriptions of things is a real and valid aesthetic preference. It's one I happen to share. The problem is, in D&D-style games, the diegetic and mechanical elements often have an extremely tenuous relationship to one another. In 5th edition D&D, an ogre and a troll are both 'large', savage humanoid creatures, but a troll has significantly more health and does much more damage than an ogre. Without mechanical or metagame information, there's no way for a group of players to properly assess the danger posed by a large humanoid.

This has been a serious problem in my current 5e campaign. Recently, I almost killed the entire party when they blundered into a fight whose danger and stakes weren't properly telegraphed. At this point, I've decided to bite the bullet and start providing at least some rough mechanical information about enemies to my players. A better long-term solution might be not to play D&D or similar games.
That is fair concern, and it is indeed quite true about D&D. Then again, I don't think it is unsurmountable problem. If it indeed is true in the world that trolls are more dangerous than ogres then that is diegetically knowable in the same way than in real world it is knowable that tiger is way more dangerous than a tapir even though they're roughly the same size.

Though with things that have levels it gets weirder. If humans can get to past level ten, then then a thing that looks like human can be way more dangerous than an average troll! But I try to treat levels as 'true' in the fiction too. You don't just randomly encounter high level people, they would be legendary mythic heroes known far and wide. So when introducing NPCs I try to communicate their 'epicness.'
 

So for me when I'm playing or running a roleplaying game I'm engaging with the game in front of us. I'm not generally reading the room like a standup comedian and tailoring my play or the game to hit emotional high points for the people I'm playing with. Hopefully we all enjoy it. We can talk game design, scenario design or technique if someone is not into it, but in the middle of play I'm just playing the game. It's not fundamentally different to me than say playing poker. I hope the people I play with are enjoying the experience, but when I choose to raise or fold I'm not super concerned with Brian's feelings*. I also do not expect Brian to be super concerned with my feelings when he goes all in and takes my money.

*No Brians were actually hurt in the making of this post.

Aside : Part of the reason I have adopted this approach over time is that I have experienced so many damn misfires on both sides of the screen with people assuming they knew what was fun for each other. The Robin Laws' player type analysis in particular has led so many GMs I have played with over the years try to tailor play in ways that was just not fun for me. I have also made a number of missteps on my side of the screen even with friends I have had for well over 10 years.
On one hand I get what you're saying but on the other hand I feel that RPGs, (at least how I like them) are pretty drastically different from, say, poker. It is group improvisational storytelling/theatre, which I feel kinda requires certain level of being in tune with what the others are feeling and what they're going for.
 

pemerton

Legend
Player has authored a goal finding her sister that has been taken by a fiendish cult. Or did she join them? Whilst infiltrating the cults hideout, several things go awry, and would, if game rules were strictly followed lead to the sister perishing before he had a chance to talk to her. But GM uses subtle force to prevent this from happening. The sister survives, the character confronts her, dramatic reveals and some hard decisions follow.

This is not to say that the sister dying would have necessarily ruined things, it would have been a different sort of story. But if players are hyped about certain things coming to pass, I think it is fine for GM to use their tricks to help that to happen.
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.

<snip>

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?
It seems to me that there are multiple things going on here that could cause problems.

First, the GM is using pre-authored notes as an important component of action resolution - eg the presence of the sister in the AoE of the fireball - but does not want that prep to be binding.

Second, the GM is bringing high-stakes material into play - again, the presence of the sister in the scene - but is not revealing those stakes to the players - who therefore risk killing the sister without knowing it.

Third, the player is performing action declarations, like fireballing in the general vicinity of where they expect the sister to be, and wants a guaranteed outcome of a reunion with the sister.

No wonder it's a fiasco!

There are really straightforward GMing techniques that can avoid (1) and (2), and also encourage players to reduce the sort of hold that is found in (3). One is to prioritise situation over backstory. Another is to use the AW framework of soft moves before hard ones. In this example, a soft move could be anything from a sign or clue that the sister has joined the cult, to actually catching a glimpse of her face beneath the cowl of her hood. Then the players would know what is at stake when the cult discovers them.

If the sorcerer nevertheless proceeds to fireball, the risk to the sister is on that participant, not the GM.

I'd prefer that situation to be set up a bit differently so that if we failed to find the maguffin, then there were other things to do. Either other ways to engage the path we were on with some kind of consequence for not finding the maguffin (perhaps we have to find some other clue or information and as a result we've lost time, and so a threat has increased or timetable has progressed, etc.) or else some other thing to do.

Alternatively, in the way you've described it, I'd rather the GM just let us find the maguffin rather than leave it to chance that we find it. If i's necessary in order for the game to not grind to a halt, why risk that happening? Just say we found it after searching for a while. Maybe have a roll determine how much time is needed to find it, and then you can advance related factors accordingly.
The whole notion of the Macguffin makes me wary. Why are the PCs hunting for this thing that is nothing but a plot device?

I know D&D modules are full of this stuff. It is a marker of very strong GM control of the fiction: what the situations will be; what the stakes will be; what the protagonist goals will be; and often, as in this immediate discussion, what the outcomes will be.

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."
Perhaps. I don't think I've expressed an opinion, have I, on whether your or @FrogReaver's RPGing is "story before" or "story after".

That said, I think a hexcrawl is more likely to produce "story after" than a sandbox where the PCs encounter "quest givers" like the faction who will provide the information if the PCs raid the outpost. To me that has quite a hint of "story before". Likewise in some of FrogReaver's hypotheticals about how various sorts of action declarations might lead to encounters with Orcs or similar enemies. That also has quite a hint of "story before".

I agree with you that sandbox games correspond more to "story after".
As I've said, I think it depends on the details of the sandbox. A sandbox in which players move their PCs among plots and factions with the expectation of play being that the PCs will get caught up in these seems to me to have a hint of "story before". It would be "story after" in @Malmuria's example of the PCs sitting in a tavern while the GM narrates all the action of the NPCs around them.

This is Edwards on "story after":

between sessions or at the start of a new one, the players learn how what happened last time generated plot events, which are now the context for whatever actions they might take this time. The point is that play itself doesn’t make a story “on the ground,” but provides raw material for selective interpretation and use by one person afterward, the results of which are then folded into the next round of play. . . .

in playing this way, appreciation of the setting may well be a front-and-center, experiential aspect. I haven’t been sympathetic to the idea but it may have quite functional applications given that priority.​

I think at least some metaplot heavy FR-ish or Planescape RPGing must look like this.

If the factions etc are situation but not quest-givers, then maybe we have neither "story before" nor "story after" but "story now". The reason I've been assuming we don't is because @FrogReaver and @Malmuria seem to be contrasting their RPGing with story now, rather than presenting it as an instance of it.

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

Best practice: don't be constrained by your prep.
My view on this is very much what I posted in the earlier thread:
I think it can help in many discussions, both about D&D but even moreso when branching beyond D&D, to recognise that these difference are possible, and that there is no single way of approaching the authorship of the fiction that is identical to RPGing as such.
If I'm GMing Burning Wheel, then your suggested best practices make sense. If I'm GMing Moldvay Basic, then I don't think they're best practices at all.
 

pemerton

Legend
This seems to be a semantic disagreement. I would say that all that is entertainment in broad sense. Overall point being that intent of an RPG sessions is to be an enjoyable experience to participants, and all participants endeavour to contribute to that.
It's not mere semantics, in my view.

Every now and then I go running or cycling with a friend. The point is that is an enjoyable experience. We are not entertaining one another.

There are many GM advice books that advise the GM on how to be an effective entertainer (eg funny voices, elaborate descriptions, etc). When I say that I don't play RPGs to entertain or be entertained, I am rejecting that advice.
 

It seems to me that there are multiple things going on here that could cause problems.
Sure. That was kinda the point.

First, the GM is using pre-authored notes as an important component of action resolution - eg the presence of the sister in the AoE of the fireball - but does not want that prep to be binding.

Second, the GM is bringing high-stakes material into play - again, the presence of the sister in the scene - but is not revealing those stakes to the players - who therefore risk killing the sister without knowing it.
Sure. But I think both of these would be perfectly normal things that could occur in typical D&D. My of solution would definitely just have the sister be a quantum cultist until revealed, so accidentally killing her is impossible. However, that is something some people feel is objectionable.

Third, the player is performing action declarations, like fireballing in the general vicinity of where they expect the sister to be, and wants a guaranteed outcome of a reunion with the sister.
Different players. And also again a situation that I feel could realistically easily occur.

No wonder it's a fiasco!

There are really straightforward GMing techniques that can avoid (1) and (2), and also encourage players to reduce the sort of hold that is found in (3). One is to prioritise situation over backstory.
Sure. And at least in context of D&D some people feel that doing so is objectionable illusionism. Immutable backstory must exist. I don't agree wit this, but it is commonly expressed sentiment.

Another is to use the AW framework of soft moves before hard ones. In this example, a soft move could be anything from a sign or clue that the sister has joined the cult, to actually catching a glimpse of her face beneath the cowl of her hood. Then the players would know what is at stake when the cult discovers them.
Which may work depending on the situation. Sometimes it might appear as blatant softballing.
 

It's not mere semantics, in my view.

Every now and then I go running or cycling with a friend. The point is that is an enjoyable experience. We are not entertaining one another.
If you doing it together makes it more enjoyable, then yes you are.

There are many GM advice books that advise the GM on how to be an effective entertainer (eg funny voices, elaborate descriptions, etc). When I say that I don't play RPGs to entertain or be entertained, I am rejecting that advice.
Evocative descriptions and 'funny' voices are about creating immersive environment. I don't understand why you wouldn't want that. I really don't get it, it seriously sounds like you want RPGs to be bland, which I doubt you actually mean.
 

Campbell

Relaxed Intensity
On one hand I get what you're saying but on the other hand I feel that RPGs, (at least how I like them) are pretty drastically different from, say, poker. It is group improvisational storytelling/theatre, which I feel kinda requires certain level of being in tune with what the others are feeling and what they're going for.

We're worlds apart in preferences here from my perspective. What I value about roleplaying games are the way they combine the fun of acting/directing, watching a good film or TV show, and playing games into a new activity that has parts of what I love about each but feels different from any of them alone. The proportions and priority differ from game to game, but generally I look for the following:
  1. Heightened emotional experience. What Nordic LARP calls bleed. That feeling of inhabiting a character in the moment, feeling what they feel, and acting as they would act. Making things feel as real as possible.
  2. The thrill of watching a narrative unfold in motion. Being fans of these characters and feeling the tension when we are not sure what will happen to them. This is something I want to be shared with the whole group.
  3. The thrill of mastering a game. Getting good basically. That feeling that over time I am becoming more skilled and more capable. Making the play of the game. Working together with (or occasionally against) other players to achieve things in game that are hard won.
For me storytelling is not really something I desire. We need compelling situation for those heightened emotional experiences and watching the narrative unfold, but it's in service to those emotional moments and good gameplay. World building, scenario design, character creation, et. al. are all in service to these three masters for me. It's about that visceral experience, being fans of the characters (often including some NPCs when I am a player), and strong game design with ludonarrative harmony to me.

There is a strong connection to improvised theater, but not Improv with a capitol I. Like any creative endeavor it does require great creative relationships and strong communication.
 
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We're worlds apart here from my perspective.
I don't think so.

What I value about roleplaying games are the way they combine the fun of acting/directing, watching a good film or TV show, and playing games into a new activity that has parts of what I love about each but feels different from any of them alone. The proportions and priority differ from game to game, but generally I look for the following:
  1. Heightened emotional experience. What Nordic LARP calls bleed. That feeling of inhabiting a character in the moment, feeling what they feel, and acting as they would act. Making things feel as real as possible.
  2. The thrill of watching a narrative unfold in motion. Being fans of these characters and feeling the tension when we are not sure what will happen to them. This is something I want to be shared with the whole group.
  3. The thrill of mastering a game. Getting good basically. That feeling that over time I am becoming more skilled and more capable. Making the play of the game. Working together with (or occasionally against) other players to achieve things in game that are hard won.
For me storytelling is not really something I desire. We need compelling situation for those heightened emotional experiences and watching the narrative unfold, but it's in service to those emotional moments and good gameplay. World building, scenario design, character creation, et. al. are all in service to these three masters for me. It's about that visceral experience, being fans of the characters (often including some NPCs when I am a player), and strong game design with ludonarrative harmony to me.
I fully agree with your 1. mostly with 2. Not really caring much about 3.

But as you already allude to, it is compelling situations that makes the others possible. That's the storytelling part. And I feel (that at least in game like D&D) GM has a lot of responsibility to make that happen. But not just them alone. All players ultimately contribute it, every player can use their character to help create situations that resonate with other characters.

I don't know, this is again those moments where I understand what you're saying and still don't. You often say things like 'I don't care for X' then describe doing X. X being storytelling in this instance.

There is a strong of improvised theater, but not Improv with a capitol I which I am no fan of.
I am afraid I don't understand the distinction you're trying to make.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
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!
This assumes that I a) want to protect the little girl (very likely) and b) feel at least vaguely confident I've got enough going for me that turning the Kraken's attention on to myself isn't just going to be suicide. But OK, let's say both a) and b) are true, and proceed.
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)
Re d): if I'm an archer I'd assume that in the fiction I'd have an idea of how cover works, though maybe not in a hard-numeric sense. In my game there's also the complication where shooting into melee carries significant risk of hitting the wrong target (mechanically: a rather large to-hit penalty with a miss-by-that-much meaning I hit someone else in the melee), which I-as-archer would already be somewhat aware of; so I'd have to try for tentacles that weren't already engaged with the boaters.
If you know none of that stuff...how are you acting as an informed agent?
I'm not. And that's the point: I shouldn't be - yet.

If I've never seen a Kraken before, I have to go by trial and error. Here, if I want to start with covering fire I might put one shot into a tentacle and one into the body and see how the Kraken reacts; meanwhile yelling up a storm in order to attract the attention of all involved and in hopes of drawing the Kraken away from the boat. If my one shot knocks off a tentacle then I'm on to something, and can focus on picking off tentacles until the boaters are safe; while if my tentacle shot does nothing but the body shot makes it shudder then I know to focus on the body and just hope the boaters can hold out long enough.

In either case I can yell my findings to the man in the boat, if he hasn't already reached the same conclusions. Conversely, if he finds after a round or two that the tentacles come off with ease he might yell the same to me. (somewhere along the line he might also let me know he thinks he can hold the Kraken off for a moment, but that's probably all)

The one additional piece of information I'd ask from you-as-DM, as I don't recall seeing it noted (though it might have been), is how fast my raft moves; i.e. how long would it take me to get into melee range were I to paddle instead of shoot. If I could get there within ten seconds or so I'd have a very sticky decision to make - to paddle or to shoot for the first round - but if I was a minute's paddling away then shooting would really be my only option and hope the Kraken came to me.
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.
Of course there are, and that's the point: in the fiction there's also lots of ways this could go wrong, and I don't at all mind having "it goes wrong" as a possible - maybe even probable - result in a scene like this.
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?
Thing is, I am - and should be! - largely flying blind to begin with other than the obvious fact that those two in the boat are in a world o' trouble if I don't help out - and maybe even if I do. I learn some of the mechanics in soft form (e.g. the tentacles come off easily, the man in the boat knows one end of a sword from the other, the little girl's good at staying out of the way, etc.) on the fly as the fight progresses, just like my PC would in the fiction; but I never learn the hard-numeric mechanics.
The agency-arresting prospects become significant and many/most decision-point become fraught with potential EFF ME AND THE LITTLE GIRL outcomes.
Exactly as expected, only I don't feel my agency has been arrested in the slightest.

I neither expect nor want, in a scene like this, any sort of guarantee that whatever I do to begin with will be the right thing; as I've no way of knowing what the "right thing" is until I've had a chance for some trial and error. Hey, maybe I get lucky and get it right the first time. Maybe not, and eventually all that's left are some rowboat splinters and a stuffed doll floating on the lake. Them's the breaks.

But assuming I've any system mastery at all, giving me all the mechanics pretty much tells me the answer "Here's the optimal solution!" before I've even had a chance to ask the question. I find no fun in that.
 
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soviet

Explorer
It's not mere semantics, in my view.

Every now and then I go running or cycling with a friend. The point is that is an enjoyable experience. We are not entertaining one another.

There are many GM advice books that advise the GM on how to be an effective entertainer (eg funny voices, elaborate descriptions, etc). When I say that I don't play RPGs to entertain or be entertained, I am rejecting that advice.

I feel the same. It seems to me that there are, roughly, two models of GMing being discussed.

In 'GM as entertainer' it is the GM's role to put on a show. To entertain the group. To service that objective, a little stagecraft - fudging, illusionism, 'nudging' - is understandable, maybe at times necessary. An advantage of this method is that the theatrics of the game and the coherency of the story can be stronger. A disadvantage (for some) is that it can push the players closer to being an audience - there to ooh and ahh and maybe chew the scenery but unable to fundamentally drive the plot.

I prefer the second model, which casts the GM as something closer to a facilitator. When I GM I want to be surprised by what happens. I don't want to tell a story to the players, I want to share in a story-like experience with them. I will do a bunch of prep but that's to create the raw material and situations for them to engage with. I will roll in the open and state my DCs and also be clear about the stakes of what we're rolling for. This has a risk of creating an anticlimax, a too-easy victory, or a disastrous failure, yes. But it also means that when outcomes are dramatically satisfying (which is still most of the time) it feels much more real and exciting.

I think the 'let's enjoy a bicycle journey together' idea is a closer description of this mode of play. I'm not entertaining you in an active sort of way, we're doing something fun together and trusting that entertainment will result organically.
 

prabe

Aspiring Lurker (He/Him)
Supporter
I think the 'let's enjoy a bicycle journey together' idea is a closer description of this mode of play. I'm not entertaining you in an active sort of way, we're doing something fun together and trusting that entertainment will result organically.
Or if "entertainment" somehow seems like the wrong word, whatever pleasure you derive from the hobby.
 

I feel the same. It seems to me that there are, roughly, two models of GMing being discussed.

In 'GM as entertainer' it is the GM's role to put on a show. To entertain the group. To service that objective, a little stagecraft - fudging, illusionism, 'nudging' - is understandable, maybe at times necessary. An advantage of this method is that the theatrics of the game and the coherency of the story can be stronger. A disadvantage (for some) is that it can push the players closer to being an audience - there to ooh and ahh and maybe chew the scenery but unable to fundamentally drive the plot.

I prefer the second model, which casts the GM as something closer to a facilitator. When I GM I want to be surprised by what happens. I don't want to tell a story to the players, I want to share in a story-like experience with them. I will do a bunch of prep but that's to create the raw material and situations for them to engage with. I will roll in the open and state my DCs and also be clear about the stakes of what we're rolling for. This has a risk of creating an anticlimax, a too-easy victory, or a disastrous failure, yes. But it also means that when outcomes are dramatically satisfying (which is still most of the time) it feels much more real and exciting.

I think the 'let's enjoy a bicycle journey together' idea is a closer description of this mode of play. I'm not entertaining you in an active sort of way, we're doing something fun together and trusting that entertainment will result organically.
Thing is, I don't feel that in practice the difference is that clear cut. I believe most games are some sort of blend of the two, I know mine are. It is mostly the latter, but at the same time I when describing an flavouring things I certainly do my best to make the emergent story as entertaining as I can. And if it seem that things stall, I see no harm in a little force push to get them moving again. 🤷
 

Xetheral

Three-Headed Sirrush
(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.)
Your sense is well-founded, according to Edwards himself! In this post he says that story before and story after as terms were "only posed... as dysfunctional failures of Story Now".

While I appreciate the self-awareness required for him to identify his motivation in originally proposing the terms, he seems (in the linked post anyway) utterly unconcerned that he effectively was cloaking a normative argument in the guise of neutral analysis. That unfortunate history can make it difficult to distinguish between those who use the terms intending to convey the originally intended normative context or instead are using the terms in the neutral, descriptive context that Edwards said he "is not pleased by".
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
Immersion is one of those terms that seems to mean very different things to different people. To me, it means the real world dissolving and the game world taking its place. And in my game worlds, combat with nameless horrors is not a cooly deliberative endeavour. It’s desperate, wild, and terrifying. It happens in real-time (players get 10 seconds to declare an action before I move on), and the players rarely even know what it is their PCs are fighting, let alone their exact likelihood of hitting, special defences, etc. They may learn those things as they fight, but they’re not data stored in a library.

I understand that’s not everyone’s cup of tea. But I have shelves full of tactical, analytical, number-crunching boardgames. And I play RPGs for entirely different reasons, and to engage entirely different parts of my mind. I’m comfortable calling that “immersion.”
Who said anything about a cooly deliberative endeavor? The heroes in the story know how horrific the nameless horrors are, they can judge their chances and that things are desperate, they know their capabilities and pit them against the horrors. What they don't do is stare at the monstrousity, think that this is another opportunity to know nothing at all and figure it out on the go.

This is why I posted that Mushrooming is not immersive -- it actually breaks the character out of the fiction and put the character in the place of the player, not vice-versa. Things can easily be horrific, terrifying, fraught and uncertain even when the hero can look at a horror and accurately judge their ability against what they see. It's not the being a Mushroom that's immersive here, it's the fact that you know things and it's still horrific and very bad.

This is why I deployed escapism vice immersion. The idea isn't to get into the character's headspace, where they're competent and know they abilities because they live it and also live and die by being able to judge situations against their abilities (pro climbers don't look at a cliff and just yeet it because they can't tell anything, and neither do pro fighters). Instead, what's happening is that the player is seeking an experience and forcing the character into the player's lack of knowledge. It's exactly opposite, and the player is seeking escapism into a kind of "wait to see what happens and be surprised" state rather than actually trying to immerse themselves in what a seasoned campaigner should know about a siutation. The emotion connection -- feeling scared when your character is scared -- has almost nothing to do with this, and can be accomplished without Mushrooming.
 

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