• NOW LIVE! -- The Awfully Cheerful Engine on Kickstarter! An action comedy RPG inspired by cheerful tabletop games of the 80s! With a foreword by Sandy 'Ghostbusters' Petersen, and VTT support!
log in or register to remove this ad

 

D&D 4E Seeking advice for new 4E game inspired by Pemerton

jacktannery

Explorer
Hey guys,

I’m going to start a new pbp 4E game on rpol.net. I want it to be a collaborative, scene-framed, improv-inspired game, very unlike any game I’ve previously DMd. I got this idea from reading posts by @pemerton, @Manbearcat and @Neonchameleon amongst others, on this forum, which I found incredibly inspiring – and now I want to try out their ideas.

I am looking for some specific advice about how to make this work, both for me as GM and for what to look for/ask prospective players. I will be writing an advert for the game to recruit interested players and I want to make sure my ducks are all in a row first.

Here’s the key points about what I want to achieve:

1.No pre-decided plot – story emerges from the action of characters. No world building. No module.

2.Improv lessons: collaborative approach with players and GM, YES AND. All players can contribute to the world/scene and establish facts about the world/scene so long as they do not take away what someone else said first. Fail forward, e.g. for skill challenges.

3.Hard scene framing. GM sets the beginning point of the scene, which is packed with action, adventure, conflict and decision points, and has a sense of important things about to happen/happening. No one knows how the scene is going to play out or be resolved. Crucially, the scene involves PC personality, goals, flaws, relationships, dependencies, desires, problems, and stakes that the players have signalled they really care about through their PCs. Also crucially, all players and the GM should know the purpose of the scene.
Once that scene is fully resolved, through PC action, the GM is then able to use that resolution to inform the next scene frame. Bits in between which have no conflict or decision aspects are fast-forwarded.
Eg. http://www.enworld.org/forum/showth...o-D-amp-D-4e&p=6074052&viewfull=1#post6074052

* *

So, like I said, I haven’t done this before. I think the crucial thing is to get four players who are enthusiastic to try it out, so I can be explicit about what I’m hoping to do in the advert.

Question One: should I wait until I get a full team before deciding on the overall setting (e.g. fantasy vs star wars or whatever) or should I just discuss this with the players? Ditto for the first scene: do I pick a random scene in a great movie and adapt to players, or should scene 1 emerge naturally through player-GM collaboration. I understand that scenes 2+ should emerge naturally through play.
Question Two: to those of you who have played like this (e.g. Pemerton etc.) do you have any experience translating this to play by post, which is a slower medium?
Question Three: I was just going to use rules-as-written 4E but are there any rules adjustments (house rules) to make that would help achieve the goals above?
Question Four: Anything I should look out for in particular when recruiting suitable players?

Hopefully some of you will have some insight to give me before I do this!
 

log in or register to remove this ad

pemerton

Legend
[MENTION=6667121]jacktannery[/MENTION]

I like (1) and (3). I'd be cautious with (2) - have a read of this blog by Eero Tuovinen. The basic point of the blog is this: the game can become unsatisfying if the players get to improv the backstory that is key to the challenges they're facing.

I'd suggest that when the players want to improv in some helpful backstory, at least make it require a check or be part of a skill challenge - Streetwise is probably appropriate for social backstory (eg helpful friends, safe houses etc); History and Nature would probably be the other main ones. (Even a Diplomacy check to establish, as backstory, that the PC learned some helpful info from a contact before the PCs left town.) That way, improv-ing backstory becomes another tool, but it sucks up effort/resources like any other check would.

Q1: I'd pitch a game in a setting/genre that you've got ideas for. Which will include the opening.
Q2: Not much, sorry. [MENTION=6696971]Manbearcat[/MENTION] GMed a PBP on these boards of Dungeon World that I was part of, but the different timezones and delay in exchange were a bit of an issue.
Q3: When I started my long-running 4e game, I told the players that each PC (1) had to have a reason to be ready to fight goblins (because I was planning to use Night's Dark Terror, which has, as its big opening, defending a homestead against a goblin assault), and (2) something/someone to which the PC is loyal. This gave me some political/cultural/religious elements to play on - it was the starting point for the Raven Queen/Orcus rivalry to be at the centre of the campaign.
Q4: Maybe people who have had experience with DW, BW or some similar game - or, at least, you need to make it clear that the game will not be "standard" AP-style PF/D&D.

My favourite piece of GMing advice is the BW Adventure Burner. I'd do some reading around at the Forge, and maybe download Burning THACO if it's still free at BWHQ.

EDIT: I'd distinguish "Yes, and . . ." - which is an improv rule - from "Say 'yes' or roll the dice", which is a pacing/resolution rule. The former, use with caution as I said. The latter I think is pretty important to pacing and non-railroading. If there's nothing at stake, then the PC succeeds provided it makes sense given genre and background; if there's something at stake then the dice are rolled even if the chance of failure is very low. Notice the flip-side of this - provided its in genre and consistent with background, the DC is set and the player can roll the dice to see if it succeeds. This is how you avoid railroading.

You can see the two ideas come together in this episode from my game: the PCs believe that the Dusk War is not yet coming, and the players want to make it true in the fiction - this is about establishing background, so an improv-type issue; and they achieve this by declaring and succeeding at certain actions (eg defeating the tarrasque easily) - this is about pacing and action resolution, so a "say 'yes' or roll the dice"-type issue.

That episode also shows the role of background-in-flux rather than all pre-written by the GM. My number-one mantra in a lot of the threads around here about pacing, railroading, etc is that action resolution shouldn't depend on GM's secret backstory (the example of the Duke in the 4e DMG more-or-less hits my limits - the auto-failure of Intimidate is due to a bit of secret backstory, but the players can extract that backstory in the same moment of resolution, via successful Insight - so it's analogous to a monster's resitance or immunity, which is "secret" until used but amenable to being learned via Monster Knowledge).

If you allow action resolution by the players to establish backstory then sometimes this can collide with your conception, as GM, of what Luke Crane calls The Big Picture. My approach to this is that it's very much context sensitive and "play it by ear" - but if you're going to veto something on Big Picture grounds, then I would strongly advise being upfront about it. Tell the players that that bit of backstory is off-limits because it's part of your behind-the-scenes set-up. Don't roll the dice behind the screen, giving the impression that success was possible, and then tell them that they fail! Secret dice rolls are, in general, anathema to this sort of RPGing.
 
Last edited:

@jacktannery
The basic point of the blog is this: the game can become unsatisfying if the players get to improv the backstory that is key to the challenges they're facing.

I know you like to quote the Czege Principle! But I've found in practice that it rarely comes up - and that as a statement it is too simplistic. Eero does a decent job though of explaining how the uncritical passing of narrative rights can be unsatisfying.

I think for this game it's important to have a process to set it up. A poor process will greatly reduce the chance of the resulting game living up to expectations.

Firstly, instead of "no world-building" I would look at collective world-building. I've written about this in the past, but I'm rubbish at finding my own sparse contributions to these boards. Anyway, the power of collective world-building is that it acts as a great springboard for players to have threats and opportunities, goals, allies and enemies, hopes and fears, dependencies and obligations.

Players who create the world end up:
a) invested in it
b) knowledgeable enough about it on their own to establish relationships with it's key elements without GM input

These days I will always start with jointly establishing setting, before we get to characters. I think all the players have to be present for this, for the reasons above. Get everyone invested in the genre and then in world-building to act as the basis to drive creation of characters and their goals, duties, obligations.

My setting-building processes can vary. Fate games are good to read as they have procedures for doing so. Dresden Files (modern supernatural) and Diaspora (hard sci-fi) both work very well. I have stolen ideas liberally from them.

In my recent game we used a big sheet of paper in the centre of the table and everyone had a pencil and we went round and each person added a little drawing of a thing - a river, a place, a territory or empire - something strange or unknown - and gave it a cool, evocative name. The Stumps or Badwater or Gangland Creek or The Temple of the Herd. What this does in theory terms is systemically create the 'Yes, and...' approach where the next person goes 'Ohh, coool.. that could be a temple run by a vampire prince...' Things aren't concrete - they are just evocative names still - but it creates ideas which everyone is participating in. I think this is an important part of the game, even before the players have characters.

Okay, enough about that. My other comments relate to the point about player contributions to the world or scene. As @pemerton already said, this requires care. Fate has an economy where players can pay a token to make something true in the world. But Fate has a carefully conceived economy of these tokens at the heart of gameplay. 4e does not.

When I run, a lot of my time is spent asking questions of the players. Often very loaded questions. But questions that make the players commit definitively to something. An example totally off the top of my head, is if the player playing Zesty tells me they like to gamble, I might say:

"So, Zesty, who's your bookmaker?"
And they improvise; "It's a guy called Fat Charles who I used to run with at The Stumps"
And I might come back with something open-ended like: "So how come he says he's a dead man if he goes back there?" or something closed like: "So who ran him outta there and says he's a dead man?"
And so on.
I might ask something like: "So how much did you lose last time? 1000GPs, 2000? How long have you got to pay it back?"

When players are given narration rights it is important that it happens within context, and often with constraints. In a collaborative approach, I think it's vital for the GM to have questions that interest them about each character.

Lastly from me - while it has been done by people on these boards, I don't think 4e is the most natural fit for the game you are proposing. Dungeon World, Apocalypse World or a game based on the Fate system will all give you mechanical support for your chosen style, while 4e (in my view) is the D&D version which will hinder you least.
 
Last edited:

jacktannery

Explorer
Thanks for the responses guys.

@pemerton – very good advice here. I’ll be cautious with (2), which chaochou also advises. ‘Say ‘yes’ or roll the dice’ seems like an excellent rule for me to take on.

Thanks for the links to the blog and your tarrasque/Dusk War session report. This is exactly this sort of gaming I am hoping to achieve.

You advise me setting the genre in advance. I’ll set it in 4E Points of Light standard setting in that case, to keep things simple for me.

@chaochou, I like the collaborative world building idea – I’ll do that certainly.

I also take on board what both you and Pemerton say about the importance of establishing player/PC links with the world, in terms of motivations, loyalties, etc. I will do this too – it sounds like the most important part of making this style of roleplaying successful.

I like the idea of these loaded questions – I think Pemerton does this too. I have never done this before, but I will do it this time.

I acknowledge DW and other systems may be a better fit, but I want to do it with 4E. I have been DMing 4E for about eight years and this will probably be the last time. I want to do something new with the system that I am very familiar with.

Thanks for the advice both of you: - I will post up my advert now and hopefully get some interest.
 

pemerton

Legend
I know you like to quote the Czege Principle! But I've found in practice that it rarely comes up - and that as a statement it is too simplistic.

<snip>

instead of "no world-building" I would look at collective world-building.

<snip>

the power of collective world-building is that it acts as a great springboard for players to have threats and opportunities, goals, allies and enemies, hopes and fears, dependencies and obligations.

<snip>

Get everyone invested in the genre and then in world-building to act as the basis to drive creation of characters and their goals, duties, obligations.

<snip>

Things aren't concrete - they are just evocative names still - but it creates ideas which everyone is participating in. I think this is an important part of the game, even before the players have characters.
In my post I was thinking more of "yes, and . . ." /improv-type stuff in the context of resolving situations in play rather than setting up the scene for play.

For the latter, my group tends to use genre, a bit of pre-packaged setting, and player choices in PC building. On that last point: rather than doing setting first then PCs, my players tend to come up with PC ideas first that involve some sort of backstory (a clan, an organisation, a home town, etc) and they work out the backstory that supports their PC.

For instance, in my main 4e game the player of the dwarf PC got to write the backstory for dwarves in the course of settling on a loyalty for his PC, and a reason to be ready to fight golbins (his story: every young dwarf has to serve in the army, and is not considered a true adult until s/he kills his/her first goblin. But the PC, Derrik, was always somewhere else - running a message, on latrine duty, or whatever - when the goblins attacked, and so had not yet come of age, although all his contemporaries and even those younter than him had. So he had left the hold to strike out on his own, looking for a goblin to kill).

The players who built Raven Queen worshippers have had a big influence on her tone in our game (much less nice than her presentation in the core 4e modules); the player who built a Corellon-worshipping drow got to decide the details of the secret cults of Corellon; the player whose PC hated goblins because they sacked and destroyed the character's home town got to make up that bit of history and geography; etc.

We also often use setting maps - so in my BW game, the player of the wizard came up with the idea that, some time before play actually started, the PC had lived in a tower in arid hills (the player found a cool photo of an old Indian fort on the web). I wanted to use the GH maps, and we put the tower in the Abor-Alz.

I think one thing the "traditional" D&D referee has to be careful of, here, is not regarding PC links/connections (families, cults, formre towers, etc) as either overpowered or a threat to the GM's control over backstory. I think it's pretty essential for creating the sort of player buy-in you describe.

My other comments relate to the point about player contributions to the world or scene.

<snip>

this requires care. Fate has an economy where players can pay a token to make something true in the world. But Fate has a carefully conceived economy of these tokens at the heart of gameplay. 4e does not.

<snip>

When players are given narration rights it is important that it happens within context, and often with constraints.

<snip>

I don't think 4e is the most natural fit for the game you are proposing. Dungeon World, Apocalypse World or a game based on the Fate system will all give you mechanical support for your chosen style, while 4e (in my view) is the D&D version which will hinder you least.
I think 4e can support it, within limits. Out of combat, it can be treated as a check in a skill challenge, and assigned a DC in the usual way (this is a situation where it helps that DCs are "subjective" rather than "objective") - so succeeding on the check counts as a success as normal, and the success incorporates the desired player narration. Failure counts against the challenge in the normal way, and the flavour can be something like the "enmity clause" in BW - the element the player wanted is introduced into the situation, but in an adverse, mirror-image way from what the PC (and player) were hoping for.

In combat, I think it works though p 42. So, is there a rope to swing on? If it makes sense that there might be (genre/background coherence test), then make your check against the appropriate DC - if you succeed, you get what you want; if not, some appropriate minor penalty. In my game these sorts of things are mostly magical rather than mundane, and so I often use the generic psychic/magical feedback as the penalty - but I'm sure more imaginative stuff is possible.

In other words, rather than trying to create a new Fate-style economy, I'd suggest integrating it into the existing 4e economies, taking advantage of the fact that it uses "subjective" DCs and fairly abstract resolution.

(That's not to disagree with you that other systems might do this sort of thing better than 4e.)
 


jacktannery

Explorer
Thanks! I've decided to call the game 'Fallcrest’s Ruination' and to use the Monster Vault: Threats to the Nentir Vale as setting. The game will begin immediately following the destruction of Fallcrest by a mysterious evil power: PCs need to save the last fragments of civilisation from total collapse while discovering what happened and how to stop it. That will be scene 1 anyway.

It feels very liberating to do this little work on the GM side. I must admit this is one of the factors which most attracted me to this style of play, as I understand it.
 

@jacktannery, just a couple of things from me.

1) Here are two links of extended 4e PBP play from me so you get a look at logistics. A 4e interlude within a long-term DW game (Epic Tier) which spanned an adventuring day (this game lost 6 months of play at the end due to the EnWorld crash, so we just finished it up in real life) and a single player game.

2) Personally, I wouldn't go with more than 3 players (certainly in real life, but definitely in PBP). You're managing logistics as much as anything else in a PBP environment. Noncombat resolution is trivially handled. However, (as you'll note in the 4e interlude in my DW game), combat logistics for 4e in a PBP environment are extremely burdensome from an overhead and coordination perspective (specifically the intersection of off-turn actions/triggers and synergy). 2 to 3 players cuts down on that burden and coordination demands considerably.

Your discretion, however, just giving you my take. Even with two players I ended up just aggregating their combat turns and typing it up myself to maintain coherency and turn continuity.

3) Regarding combat maps, make everything utterly transparent. I do this in my home game, but this is just as, if not more due to the non-first person/real time coordination required, important in a PBP environment. Give folks all target numbers. Telegraph salient enemy abilities with pithy narrative descriptions. Give folks all relevant terrain interaction info (from hindering info to stunting opportunities). Just like in real life, battlefield synergy and dynamism is paramount so have lots of stuff, force-multiplying enemies, rampant forced movement and all kinds of terrain effects.

4) Note in my noncombat resolution (I do this same thing in real life, but I use dice as visible markers), give the players all the mechanical Skill Challenge information they need and keep it current post by post; Successes, Failures, # Advantages, # Secondary Skills, # Hard DCs, and anything else that may be particularly relevant.

5) Cooperatively decide on a premise of play before (a) character building and (b) making any sort of low resolution map. On (b), go the Dungeon World route (I think chaochau ) covers this above. Make it together and there is really no need to flesh it all out before play. You create something, let each player put something on it, and everyone adds more stuff in the course of play (Streetwise/History et al success coupled with spending pocket change (that is the level - 1 $ players should have) or successful Skill Challenge to create map or relationship assets...I think @pemerton alludes to this above...apologies, brief reading).

6) Following from 5 above, make sure each scene's premise and what is roughly at stake is clear and agreed upon. Focus on resolving that action. Player intent on each action declaration should be devoted to it.

7) I tend to use player-authored kickers in nearly all games I run at this point. Let each player come up with a conflict at the outset of play that frames them right into the action of the game's premise. Whatever antagonist(s) (an antagonist doesn't have to be a who, it could be a thing) they devise, you play them. It needs to be something meaty as its resolution should spawn Quests which propel the character into the game proper.


All the time I've got. Good luck!
 

pemerton

Legend
I tend to use player-authored kickers in nearly all games I run at this point. Let each player come up with a conflict at the outset of play that frames them right into the action of the game's premise. Whatever antagonist(s) (an antagonist doesn't have to be a who, it could be a thing) they devise, you play them. It needs to be something meaty as its resolution should spawn Quests which propel the character into the game proper.
Here's a link to a session report for the 1st session of my 4e Dark Sun game, which shows some simple kickers in action.
 

Raith5

Adventurer
I am one of the players in the campaign run by [MENTION=42582]pemerton[/MENTION], and I think one of the most crucial reasons the campaign worked the way it did was because of differences of opinion and motive within the party. These differences and tensions were mostly about religion and philosophy and they were (mostly) productive and never necessitated the party breaking up - but they played a key role in pushing the story forward, especially when we hit Epic where these differences have cascaded.

With regards to your question 1, I think you have to have an agreement about what sort of story you are going to run, but the type of game or setting are not really the point. I remember it took quite a while to settle into our characters and into 4e, but there was a sense very early on that our actions definitely shaped and altered the world. So the while starting point is framed by the DM, I dont think you can be precious about the setting to create or choose to use if you want a collaborative experience. I do think backgrounds are very important early on in order to set up the motives of PCs. I wish my character's background was better set out by me early on, but as the campaign went on my motives become clearer and also changed. So likewise players can be precious about their characters.

With regards to question 2 and 3 we never did PBP nor did we alter the rules.

Question 4, this is difficult one because I think 4e played a crucial role in developing us as players. I remember that we were all looking for something new with our RPGing which 4e provided, especially in enabling collaborative play. Also while were are all experienced players (most of us have been playing RPGs for 30 years or so) this campaign was the first time we played together, so this made things very unpredictable and made for some interesting alliance building within the 5 players.

It was also clear to me that while our PCs had different goals and motives, we as players definitely were drawn together by the synergistic tactical combat which 4e does so very well. Also, in a more meta sense we needed each other to get anything done (despite disagreeing about what to do)!
 

Derulbaskul

Explorer
Thanks! I've decided to call the game 'Fallcrest’s Ruination' and to use the Monster Vault: Threats to the Nentir Vale as setting. The game will begin immediately following the destruction of Fallcrest by a mysterious evil power: PCs need to save the last fragments of civilisation from total collapse while discovering what happened and how to stop it. That will be scene 1 anyway.

It feels very liberating to do this little work on the GM side. I must admit this is one of the factors which most attracted me to this style of play, as I understand it.

Great stuff and a great thread.

For a more alliterative title, why not Fallcrest's Fall? :)
 

jacktannery

Explorer
@Manbearcat, thanks for the advice. I’ve been GMing 4E as PbP online for about eight years now so I’m pretty handy with the logistics of battle map (google docs drawing), hp/combat tracking (google docs spreadsheet) and managing combat rounds (off-turn actions banned; initiative streamlined). I totally agree with the importance of making everything transparent.

Thanks for reinforcing (5) – I’m going to try this. I’m especially grateful for (6) and (7): it’s very clear advice that I will be sure to follow. I’m really looking forward to this!

@pemerton, thanks for the links to the kickers. These concrete examples of stuff like this in action are so useful to me!

@Raith5, good insight about different motives, I’ll take that on board. I am really depending on the players to be providing impetus to push the story forward (which would be a huge change in my games, which have also relied on the GM for story up to this point).

@Derulbaskul, that's much better! I'll see if I can change it.
 

2.Improv lessons: collaborative approach with players and GM, YES AND. All players can contribute to the world/scene and establish facts about the world/scene so long as they do not take away what someone else said first. Fail forward, e.g. for skill challenges.

Be slightly careful with YES AND. It can easily be taken too far and lead to a game that is almost entirely mush with very poor storytelling. Individual scenes can work amazingly with improv, but longer stories take a lot more skill because to make a story you're using the wrong verb. To quote Trey Parker of South Park:
"Each individual scene has to work as a funny sketch. You don’t want to have one scene and go ‘well, what was the point of that scene?’ So we found out this rule that maybe you guys have all heard before, but it took us a long time to learn it. But we can take these beats, which are basically the beats of your outline. And if the words ‘and then’ belong between those beats… you’re f****d. Basically. You got something pretty boring. What should happen between every beat that you’ve written down is either the word 'Therefore' or 'but,' right? So what I’m saying is that you come up with an idea and it’s like ‘okay, this happens’ and then ‘THIS happens.’ No no no. It should be ‘this happens’ and THEREFORE ‘this happens.’ BUT ‘this happens’ THEREFORE ‘this happens.’ … And sometimes we will literally write it out to make sure we’re doing it. We’ll have our beats and we’ll say okay ‘this happens’ but ‘then this happens’ and that affects this and that does to that and that’s why you get a show that feels okay."

As GM the responsibility for this is mostly on your shoulders. You get most of it out of doing hard scene framing well and much of the rest out of treating skill failures as an opportunity for an AW-style Hard Move. But it's an easy balance to not get right.

Question One: should I wait until I get a full team before deciding on the overall setting (e.g. fantasy vs star wars or whatever) or should I just discuss this with the players?

Asked and answered :) As a player the pitch draws the eye as much as the planned style. Make a pitch setting.

Question Three: I was just going to use rules-as-written 4E but are there any rules adjustments (house rules) to make that would help achieve the goals above?

My normal house rules both help:
  • An extended rest takes a long lazy weekend which means you can't just delay for a couple of hours. It adds pressure to the PCs in all the right places.
  • A natural 1 should be used as in the Dark Sun weapon breakage rules as a potential fumble. Offer the PCs double-or-quits. They can keep the failure or they can reroll; keeping the fail is a fail, a pass is a pass, but failing the reroll tells you to do something special. (Weapon break in Dark Sun, hitting the wrong guy, or as creatively wrong as the skill could have gone).
 

jacktannery

Explorer
Thanks [MENTION=87792]Neonchameleon[/MENTION] - great advice. I totally agree about requiring a really good rest to get an Extended Rest benefit.

Anyways, I started the game and got a great bunch of players. They all came up with great kickers and we started the first scene. Everything in the scene is based on the player kickers and their bonds/conflicts. It's really great for me as GM becaue it is all flowing so naturally, the players all seem really interested in it, and I'm thrilled I did this.

Here's our play-by-post game for those interested: http://www.rpol.net/game.cgi?gi=68522&date=1484961814
 

Nemesis Destiny

Adventurer
My normal house rules both help:
  • An extended rest takes a long lazy weekend which means you can't just delay for a couple of hours. It adds pressure to the PCs in all the right places.
  • A natural 1 should be used as in the Dark Sun weapon breakage rules as a potential fumble. Offer the PCs double-or-quits. They can keep the failure or they can reroll; keeping the fail is a fail, a pass is a pass, but failing the reroll tells you to do something special. (Weapon break in Dark Sun, hitting the wrong guy, or as creatively wrong as the skill could have gone).

These two things were transformative for my game when I started doing them. The first point more than the second, but both were certainly impactful. The extended rests thing should really have been better spelled out like that in the books. I think that DMs failing to properly leverage that one thing gave a lot of people the impression that 4e was easy mode (it still can be, but not a ton more than other editions).
 

pemerton

Legend
As far as extended rests are concerned, we haven't adopted any official house rule - but in practice I tend to end up regulating them, in my capacity as GM, because I am the one who controls the pacing of events. This becomes particularly straightforward at paragon and epic, where the PCs spend a fair bit of time in places like the Underdark or the Abyss where it's easy to assert that, absent special circumstances, the environment is not conducive to resting.

For me, the guiding principle in pacing challenges vs rests is always to keep the pressure and the players sweating - if the PCs have fewer surges left in the party than there are characters, and are facing an above-level challenge so that the players are thinking "How are we going to get ourselves out of this one?", then it's working well. To me, it's not really much like classic AD&D attrition/resource management. It's more like: (i) players have the job of managing resources within encounters, to try and achieve victory; (ii) I have the job of framing them into enough interesting and challenging encounters that they will feel pressured to use their daily resources while not wanting to be profligate with them; and (iii) if I'm doing (ii) properly, than (i) will become more intricate because the players will care not just about encounter but also daily resources.

The overall incentive that makes this structure work, at our table, is pretty informal: if the players blow all their resources and then can't handle another encounter or two before resting, they'll look like squibs and I'll make fun of the them! In other words, it's a set of "soft" social dynamics and expectations. Playing with strangers, or in a tournament-style environment, probably some more formal way of rationing extended rests would be necessary - I've never used the 13th Age approach (rest before making it through 4 level-appropriate encounters and you suffer a story setback), but it looks to me like one good way of introducing that formal rationing.

Be slightly careful with YES AND. It can easily be taken too far and lead to a game that is almost entirely mush with very poor storytelling. Individual scenes can work amazingly with improv, but longer stories take a lot more skill because to make a story

<sni>

[indent[ou come up with an idea and it’s like ‘okay, this happens’ and then ‘THIS happens.’ No no no. It should be ‘this happens’ and THEREFORE ‘this happens.’ BUT ‘this happens’ THEREFORE ‘this happens.’[/indent]
This is an interesting point.

I think the "therefore" or the "but" can be pretty loose, as long is everyone is on the same page. From the GM's point of view, though, it's easy to see (or, perhaps better, to project) a "therefore" which means nothing to the players because they're not privy to the backstory. Whereas I think if you anchor stuff that happens, and developments that occur, to the PCs - backgrounds, activities, goals, preferences, etc then the players can get into it even if it doesn't really make much sense.

That is, I think in a RPG - where the players are able to provide a lot of the drive and direction for events - the "therefore" can be a sort of "meta" therefore and the players will still respond to it. Like in my most recent Dark Sun session, when the Templar inquisitor tracked down the PCs with a psychic hound (modelled on the X-Men's Rachel Summers): if you look at the events through the lens of a Le Carre-style novel, or even a Raymond Chandler style novel, it's a bit obscure why the inquisitor wants to hunt down the PCs. But from the point of view of the players, (i) they're on the run from the Templars, and (ii) this inquisitor is the (ex-)handler of one of them who (in the PC background) was an assassin in the service of the Templars up until play started at the moment of Sorcerer King Kalek's death, at which point the character decided to break free of the hold his masters had on him.

So the "therefore" to the players is much more about the events speaking to the logic and rationale of their characters, then making a fully sensible plot that would work in a mystery story. I think this is a point where the requirements for GMing become a bit different from the requirements for writing; and also where you can get player-driven story-type action without needing to worry too much about "the story" in a bigger picture sense.
 

I think you can kinda just be hand-wavy about that bigger story [MENTION=42582]pemerton[/MENTION]. I mean, sure, the Templar's exact reasons and what actually took place to send him after the PC NOW aren't explicit, but that doesn't mean some logic doesn't exist. Gaps like these are in any case much like DW's admonition not to map everything ahead of time. Maybe the PC has some dirt on the Templar and doesn't even know it. Maybe his family did something horrible to the Templar which he doesn't even know about, and this is the final stage of his revenge, triggered by the disorder and collapse going on. There could be a 100 plots that could be drawn out of that void, many of them could be creations of the player(s). Over-elaboration of world and plot details is a problem, I never did like it that much.
 

pemerton

Legend
I think you can kinda just be hand-wavy about that bigger story [MENTION=42582]pemerton[/MENTION]. I mean, sure, the Templar's exact reasons and what actually took place to send him after the PC NOW aren't explicit, but that doesn't mean some logic doesn't exist.

<snip>

Over-elaboration of world and plot details is a problem, I never did like it that much.
Agreed.
 


An Advertisement

Advertisement4

Top