Stakes and consequences in action resolution

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
I can only work with what I've got!
Oh, you had it, you just didn't *say* it.

You say that part of it was implicit. Implicit steps are, effectively, macros - bits of process or logic that are understood to happen, and therefore go unstated, but still happen. In play with folks experienced in how you run a game, this is fine. But you could, if you wanted, unpack the implicit step, and elucidate what it would be, if it were explicit.

I was hoping that people's general familiarity with the Cthulhu genre would do some work in parsing the example. So whether fluid spilled down a grate is going to awaken Deep Ones in the sewers, or send the inhabitants of the house insane by contaminating their water supply, or something else appropriately Cthulhu-esque is an open question, but we can all see - I hope - that these are the sorts of bad things that happen in a Cthulhu RPG.
Yes, they are. However, I think there's a major point that you still might be missing.

There's a ton of "bad" things that can happen. Some are worse than others. You have not set the stakes unless you tell me *how* bad. That's why I asked whether "bad" was a jargon word, or if somewhere in your example there was an encoding of exactly (or even vaguely) how bad things were. From where I sit, you claim to have set the stakes, but I don't see where that happened.

Which is really weird, because we then misses the entire point of having known stakes and consequences. I mean, look at it - you're saying you don't want to have to play analytical, right? And the way to do that is to make sure the players know what they are really choosing. And then in describing an example, you *skip the step where you tell them*?

Compare the butler who knows that "something bad might happen" to the character jumping over the pit. Something bad might happen there, too. But falling 10 feet is a lot different from falling 60', onto spikes that are coated with super-tetanus. "Something bad" does not do enough to stop me from having to be analytic. I'm in a role playing game, something bad might always happen! "Something bad" is not new information upon which I make an informed choice about whether I want to spend my inspiration on this roll, or not.
 
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pemerton

Legend
You have not set the stakes unless you tell me *how* bad.
I might be missing something here: I'm not sure what you have in mind by degrees of badness.

In the particular system I was running - Cthulhu Dark - there are two ways a PC can be removed from play: s/he can try and fight a Mythos creature, which results in character death; or s/he can have her sanity reach 6, which results in incurable insanity. (The latter happened to the butler PC, and the player picked up a (up to that point) NPC as a PC for the last half-hour or so of play.)

Spilling the fluid isn't trying to fight a Mythos creature; and whether or not it triggers a SAN check is not dependent on the details of what might be narrated as a downstream consequence. So there's no possibility of the player having to remove the PC from the game that is being obscured here.
 

DMMike

Game Masticator
In task resolution, what's at stake is the task itself. "I crack the safe!" "Why?" "Hopefully to get the dirt on the supervillain!" What's at stake is: do you crack the safe?

In conflict resolution, what's at stake is why you're doing the task. "I crack the safe!" "Why?" "Hopefully to get the dirt on the supervillain!" What's at stake is: do you get the dirt on the supervillain?

Which is important to the resolution rules: opening the safe, or getting the dirt? That's how you tell whether it's task resolution or conflict resolution.

Task resolution is succeed/fail. Conflict resolution is win/lose. You can succeed but lose, fail but win. . .

That's, if you ask me, the big problem with task resolution: whether you succeed or fail, the GM's the one who actually resolves the conflict. The dice don't, the rules don't; you're depending on the GM's mood and your relationship and all those unreliable social things the rules are supposed to even out.

Task resolution, in short, puts the GM in a position of priviledged authorship. Task resolution will undermine your collaboration.
In suggesting that this makes analysis a focus of play, I am adding in an additional conjecture: namely, that at least from time-to-time the players want to know what is at stake in a situation, whether for the basic reason that they don't want their PCs to die, or sometimes for more complex reasons that reflect the current circumstances of the fiction (eg they want to know whether they should smash the vessels of magical fluid to stop those from powering the enchanted widget that is sustaining the eldritch field that feeds the ritual-of-whateverness). In such circumstances, the players come under pressure to analyse, because a non-analytic/reckless approach (eg "I run up to the vessels with my battle axe and smash them all!") runs the risk of producing an adverse consequence relative to these important player (and PC) goals in the scenario.
Lots of issues, even more context, so I might be stabbing in the dark, here. If so, feel free to ignore me :devil:

One problem here, which I always see as a problem, is trying to put "success" and "failure" into the game world. The problem is that, unless you unequivocally define how each term translates into results, success and failure are 100% subjective. In the Vincent Baker example, a PC could roll a success on cracking the safe, and literally "crack" the safe; the iron door was so rusty that the action of pulling the handle breaks the door in two, or breaks the handle off. This is why success/failure should be limited to metagame/logic concepts, like doing "damage." An opponent either takes numerical damage or does not. There is no middle ground or gray area.

Another problem is confusing simulation outcomes with story outcomes. In pemerton's example, smashing a vessel is a simulation outcome (Vincent Baker's "Task"), while thwarting the adverse effects of the widget is a story outcome (VB's "Conflict"). If GMs and PCs have different ideas about what type of outcome will result from a given conflict, it should be fairly obvious that it will lead to real world conflict.

I have no idea how this ties to the lie-deducing thread, but I hope this helps to clear up one or two issues in this thread: does the GM know what the outcomes of a die roll will mean? What defines a success or a failure? And are those outcomes part of the simulation, or part of the story? Next, what answers does the player have in mind? Finally, are the two people in agreement or not?

My personal solution is to 1) remove the false succeed/fail dichotomy, and 2) hand over, as GM, enough narrative agency to the player to determine what a good or bad roll means, and then I take the yoke back before the plane crashes into the mountain.
 
I was thinking more about advantage than disadvantage, so I'll stick to that.

What I had in mind is that if my chance of success is 1 in 20, then advantage nearly doubles that (39/400 is near enough to 1 in 10); while if my chance is already good, then advantage doesn't increase it as much (eg if its 50/50 it goes to 3 in 4, which is only 50% more likely; if its 4 in 5 then it goes to 24/25, which is only 20% more likely).

But if I'm following properly, the general experience is that doubling a small chance doesn't, in practice, make much difference (eg because those checks don't come up often enough for the doubling to show through) while the more modest increase in to big chances does make a difference (eg because those checks come up a fair bit and already weren't too likely to fail and now are even less likely).
It's also just kinda in-your-face that doubling a 5% chance of success is equivalent to a +1, while a 'mere' 50%-increase in a 50/50 shot at success is like a +5.

+5 being a lot more than +1 and all.

I still don't see how that's really 'flattening,' either way. I'd expect 'flattening' to mean that chances of success become more similar, so there's some point they'd gravitate towards when the mechanic is invoked... and wouldn't that mean a larger absolute bonus to very small chance of success - and, counter-intuitively, a penalty to a very high chance of success?


The two in combination, I think, because its the relationship between bonuses and DCs that determines the prospects of success, which matter to the viability of conflict resolution for the reasons Ovinomancer has given.

I think D&D (and I include 4e here) has never provided a lot of support to the GM in narrating failure effectively. I don't have a good sense of how much better 5e might be in this respect, but if the general tendency in play is to incline towards making checks with significantly better than 50/50 odds then maybe it doesn't come up too much?
Sure, failure in D&D has often been a matter of nothing happening, unless the DM felt like being mean, then something bad happened (thought, in that case, quite possibly without a check, or regardless of success failure - "oh, too bad you successfully opened that door, there's [insert form of certain death] on the other side!"), and nothing really meant nothing, as in play just ground to a halt.

Thus, 'fail forward' sounded like a real innovation - or abomination - when it finally made it's way into D&D.

The most developed non-combat resolution system for D&D that I'm aware of is the skill challenge in 4e. ...In 4e the standard solution is to just ignore all the quasi-simulationist stuff in the PHB skills chapter (which is mostly dropped in Essentials, for good reason).
Even once they were fixed up, SCs remained too abstract to be really compelling, they needed to be dressed up or filled out (into 'mini-games' in their own right is how I've put it before), to really deliver.

I'm not sure that 5e skills are really even quasi-simulatoinist, though I'm not the best qualified to comment. I think the issue is less about quasi-simulation and more about setting appropriate expectations for players and GMs: eg having a good Investigation skill means (something like) when a conflict involves investigating stuff, than I'm more likely to succeed at that conflict than others. This will cause a lot of players to go ballistic but for culture/expectation reasons rather than narrowly mechanical reasons.
"quasi" indeed. The key in 5e is that players get enough hard numbers and reasonable-sounding names of skills & abilities on their character sheet to create a sense that something is being simulated - while the DM is free to make stuff happen that's actually fun.
 
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Chaosmancer

Villager
I've honed in on these bits of your post because I think they might be the best place to start.

I personally think the issue of telling - if that means explicitly stating as a precursor to the roll - is a bit of a red herring, because in RPG play, especially among participants who are used to playing together, there are many ways to convey information and establish expectations other than explicit telling.

But I think reducing what is conveyed to [/I]consequences for an action are simply bad[/i] is not correct. And that's really what I see as the focus of the discussion. It's not irrelevant - [MENTION=177]Umbran[/MENTION] canvassed, upthread, that a consequence of spilling might be good (eg if it stops the BBEG getting the fluid) and that's a possibility that is excluded in the context of my play example - but it's too simplistic. What's the nature of the badness? Who is implicated? What sorts of things might be required to effectively respond to it?

Snipping.
I see what you are saying, but I'm not understanding why all of this applied to the conversation we were having in the other thread.

In that thread, I was specifically calling out Charlaquinn's style of telling the player as forcing them to be more analytical than my style of not telling the players unless that is what their character is doing.

You said that you saw my style as forcing more analytical play, I had assumed you meant in relation to Charlaquinn's style.

However, you seem to be talking about an entire third style that we were not discussing.

And your style seems to edge much closer to mine, since in your explanation even the DM does not know the exact consequences of an action, only the general parameters it falls within. And I can see, how comparing your style and my style, you can see mine as requiring more analysis, since I do build plots and scenes before the characters begin acting within them. There are things that will react certain ways to certain stimuli, whether the players intend that or it has anything to do with their backstories or not. This means players will have to search out hints and clues about what is happening if they want answers.


However, I hope you can understand why I was so confused, since you stepped into a conversation comparing apples and oranges and began comparing everything to Java Juice.
 

Manbearcat

Adventurer
There's a ton of "bad" things that can happen. Some are worse than others. You have not set the stakes unless you tell me *how* bad. That's why I asked whether "bad" was a jargon word, or if somewhere in your example there was an encoding of exactly (or even vaguely) how bad things were. From where I sit, you claim to have set the stakes, but I don't see where that happened.
I don't have time to get to Lanefan or produce a post that addresses all I would like to. However, after doing a quick scan of the thread, I think I have something to offer here.

There is a reason why most people who play PBtA games would say that Blades in the Dark is a more finely crafted game than earlier iterations of PBtA games (like Dungeon World). It isn't because these games are poorly crafted. They're beautifully crafted in fact.

However, it deftly and intuitively solves the issue that can arise in a game like Dungeon World when something that isn't absolute success (a 10+ result) emerges.

When a 7-9 (success with cost/complication) happens in Dungeon World, you're making a Soft Move.

When a 6- (failure and Mark XP) happens in Dungeon World, you're mostly making a Hard Move (but a Soft one should be made under specific conditions; fiction pre-move and move made that will trigger the new content introduction).

Blades tightens this up considerably with the new PBtA tech "Effect" and "Position."

Your new content introduced will follow similar procedures and principles in both systems, but a player knowing whether their action is under Desperate (circumstances) Position vs Risky or Controlled understands the stakes of a particular Action Roll beforehand (and can then work to preemptively move that Position or mitigate its fallout...or they can mitigate it after the Action Roll) better in Blades than they do in, say, Dungeon World.

Not by an overwhelming amount, but enough to matter (especially coupled with the other player-facing mechanics to influence the set Position and Effect and/or mitigate the Position pre/post Action Roll) to both the general feel of play and the cognitive space you're inhabiting as you're working through your decision-point.
 

pemerton

Legend
you seem to be talking about an entire third style that we were not discussing.

<snip>

I hope you can understand why I was so confused, since you stepped into a conversation comparing apples and oranges and began comparing everything to Java Juice.
In the other thread I'd tried to make it clear that I had some things in common with other posters, but also some things different. But some of my posts were quoted, and I was responding to them.

I was specifically calling out Charlaquinn's style of telling the player as forcing them to be more analytical than my style of not telling the players unless that is what their character is doing.

<snip>

And your style seems to edge much closer to mine, since in your explanation even the DM does not know the exact consequences of an action, only the general parameters it falls within.
I'm not 100% sure how you run your game.

What I'm trying to point to is that (i) meaningful engagement and action declaration by players requires them to have a sense of what is at stake, and (ii) this can be established without relying on the players in character declaring actions and acquiring information within the fiction.

For me, this is the approach that underpins creative collaborative RPGing.
 

Aldarc

Adventurer
There is a reason why most people who play PBtA games would say that Blades in the Dark is a more finely crafted game than earlier iterations of PBtA games (like Dungeon World). It isn't because these games are poorly crafted. They're beautifully crafted in fact.

Blades tightens this up considerably with the new PBtA tech "Effect" and "Position."
Most definitely agree. Position/Effect is, however, one but layer of the risk assessment process that transpires in BitD. I would also add that BitD also add that players in BitD have additional ways to increase their odds of success than PbtA/DW games, namely how BitD handles dice pools. Plus, the Devil's Bargain is diabolically delightful from the perspective of both players and the GM.
 

Manbearcat

Adventurer
Most definitely agree. Position/Effect is, however, one but layer of the risk assessment process that transpires in BitD. I would also add that BitD also add that players in BitD have additional ways to increase their odds of success than PbtA/DW games, namely how BitD handles dice pools. Plus, the Devil's Bargain is diabolically delightful from the perspective of both players and the GM.
Yup. Agreed.

I think what I’m going to do for this thread is take a pair of similar situations I’ve resolved in DW and Blades and contrast them (to suss out why Blades is a “better” approach for what the two games are trying to accomplish). That should work in the service of the thread premise.

I also need to get back to Lanefan’s respobse.
 

Chaosmancer

Villager
What I'm trying to point to is that (i) meaningful engagement and action declaration by players requires them to have a sense of what is at stake, and (ii) this can be established without relying on the players in character declaring actions and acquiring information within the fiction.

For me, this is the approach that underpins creative collaborative RPGing.
Okay, I don't disagree with any of this.

The players enter a swamp where people are rumored to have disappeared. The stakes are fairly well figured out in a typical DnD game. They know what is at stake, it was established without them acquiring specific information in character. Therefore they will have meaningful engagement
 

Ratskinner

Adventurer
The most developed non-combat resolution system for D&D that I'm aware of is the skill challenge in 4e. It needs your (a) but no rulebook directly states it. A GM needs either to bring that from outside (normally by experience with another game with better-stated rules), or intuit it, or else complain that skill challenges are broken because we have to keep rolling the dice even though the conflict is resolved!
I agree, although I think the Skill Challenge was a bit clunky overall.

I'm not sure about your (1). In 4e the standard solution is to just ignore all the quasi-simulationist stuff in the PHB skills chapter (which is mostly dropped in Essentials, for good reason). I'm not sure that 5e skills are really even quasi-simulatoinist, though I'm not the best qualified to comment. I think the issue is less about quasi-simulation and more about setting appropriate expectations for players and GMs: eg having a good Investigation skill means (something like) when a conflict involves investigating stuff, than I'm more likely to succeed at that conflict than others. This will cause a lot of players to go ballistic but for culture/expectation reasons rather than narrowly mechanical reasons.
I think my problem here is that after a game like Capes, its really hard to fuzz my eyes as much as I used to. Capes doesn't even have skills. You just have traits. The traits can be almost anything: "Hit 'em with the scenery", "Do a dozen things at the same time." (remember its a supers game) So, when its a character's turn, the controlling player just picks one and narrates a relevant bit of story (there's some complicated dice/point manipulation stuff, too). Thing is, your ratings in the abilities don't correspond to any sort of "power level" or "ability level". So one character might have "Interplanetary Flight" at 1 and another has "Angel Wings" at 5. The wings are "objectively" less powerful in the narrative context, but in a game where "Impress Allison" can be a goal, the wings will be more useful. The trait ratings end up being solely a rough measure of how much you want a given trait to matter in this character's story.

Your (2) is a recurring issue in 4e play, although most of us who care have developed various sorts of workarounds/coping mechanisms. It's an issue even in a system that one might expect to be tighter than 4e, like BW:
I think the best I've seen is the Forged in the Dark games (based of Blades in the Dark). There's good discussions in those games about "clocks", which to my eyes are very similar if not the same as Conflict Resolution (I think there's some wiggle room, depending on how the GM runs a given clock). Its not the most sophisticated discussion ever, but they do discuss things like contingent or sequential clocks. Of course, they have the advantage of a system that uses the same resolution mechanics for all conflicts (at least during the mission/adventure/heist). In Capes, creating conflicting Conflicts is just a way for the players to manipulate the "not yet" rule. (At the player level, Capes is competitive and GMless.)
 

pemerton

Legend
I think my problem here is that after a game like Capes, its really hard to fuzz my eyes as much as I used to. Capes doesn't even have skills. You just have traits. The traits can be almost anything: "Hit 'em with the scenery", "Do a dozen things at the same time." (remember its a supers game) So, when its a character's turn, the controlling player just picks one and narrates a relevant bit of story (there's some complicated dice/point manipulation stuff, too). Thing is, your ratings in the abilities don't correspond to any sort of "power level" or "ability level". So one character might have "Interplanetary Flight" at 1 and another has "Angel Wings" at 5. The wings are "objectively" less powerful in the narrative context, but in a game where "Impress Allison" can be a goal, the wings will be more useful. The trait ratings end up being solely a rough measure of how much you want a given trait to matter in this character's story.
That's much closer to HeroWars/Quest, and especially HeroQuest revised, than to any version of D&D.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
A very high-level glance at this thread shows me this, rightly or wrongly: a general distaste for, and active avoidance of, any role-play of in-character information gathering.

There's going to be times - lots and lots and lots of times - where at first glance the PCs in the fiction do not and cannot know all or any of the potential consequences of any action(s) they take, because they simply do not and cannot (yet) have all the information. And if the PCs don't know then nor should the players...until and unless the players through their PCs do some digging.

If this liquid gets spilled, what happens? The floor gets wet? The floor gets slippery? The floor dissolves? A demon is summoned to the room? Everyone in the room is returned to full health and sanity? All the PCs see is some liquid, of amount and colour as narrated assuming it's in a see-through container. Any more info than that, including possible consequences of spilling it or drinking it or doing anything else with it, is not available until the players through their PCs somehow investigate for it. Said investigation could come via opening a container and sniffing it, and-or using whatever lore/knowledge mechanics they have available to source info on liquids that match what's here, and-or so forth. But it's on them to do it, and certainly not on the GM to give them the results anyway even if they don't do it.

But if on seeing the containers of liquid they just walk up and smash one the GM is under no obligation whatsoever to say a word beyond simply narrating whatever happens next: any consequences - be they good, bad, or neutral - are completely self-inflicted.

With the jump-the-pit example, all a player has to do to largely establish the stakes is to have her PC glance down the pit before jumping and see what's in there. No bottom found at 30' is going to imply a vastly different set of possible consequences for a failed jump than seeing a feathery mattress 6 feet down.
 

Aldarc

Adventurer
A very high-level glance at this thread shows me this, rightly or wrongly: a general distaste for, and active avoidance of, any role-play of in-character information gathering.

There's going to be times - lots and lots and lots of times - where at first glance the PCs in the fiction do not and cannot know all or any of the potential consequences of any action(s) they take, because they simply do not and cannot (yet) have all the information. And if the PCs don't know then nor should the players...until and unless the players through their PCs do some digging.
Given the prominent prior discussion of Blades in the Dark, I can point out one potential misconception here. Roleplay of in-character information gathering would be encouraged in BitD because the player characters would likely gain a greater Position for certain rolls when performing their heists through doing so.
 

Manbearcat

Adventurer
Alright, so I wanted to get a quick example up of Dungeon World play and what it would look like if you imported some Blades in the Dark to it.

DUNGEON WORLD PLAY EXCERPT

The PCs (Druid and Fighter) are on a ridge-line overlooking a vast chasm that has opened up due to a natural or unnatural cataclysm (to be determined). They recently discovered that the sealed prison colony that was a hole bore deep into the earth under this area, The Devil’s Bowels, was cleaved and now lies exposed to the open world. Some activity far below led her to send her Owl Companion on a flight over the trench so she could see what it was (Hunter’s Brother giving her a Ranger companion and Eyes of the Tiger allowing her to see through the eyes of marked animals).

Interestingly, her Discern Realities move failed with a 1 and a 2 rolled. Typically this calls for a “Hard Move” with immediate consequences. However, some moves (like Spout Lore, Discern Realities and a few others) and some situations work better (from a play principle perspective) if the GM makes a “Soft Move” (a new threat that may turn into immediate consequences if not acted upon). However, sometimes even Discern Realities calls for a Hard Move.

The players understand this.

The move I made was a Hard Move. The creature seems to swoon suddenly after it spirals down a ways into the dark depths and beholds the action that triggered the Druid’s move. Its orientation thrown off entirely, it begins to plummet, desperately trying to gather its faculties, reorient itself, and regain lift. It manages to prevent a complete splat through its effort. In the pitch black, the druid cannot make out much except for a heavy, chitinous clawed fist that renders the Owl’s unconscious (so she can’t see through its eyes).

So this would either be “Use a Monster or Location” or “Turn their move back on them.” Regardless, the Owl Companion is unavailable to the Druid and in dire peril (demanding their action).

PLAY EXCERPT WITH BLADES TECH

Imagine the same scenario but with:

Position (the state of the fiction that determines how risky/dangerous the move is)

Effect (just what it sounds like)

Intervention (this would be Blades’ Resistance, which is dice throw to throttle back a consequence, which always succeeds, but costs Stress)

Fate (this would be Dungeon World’s analog to Blade’s Stress. These are heroes destined by fate and possibly divinely sponsored…and Death definitely has an interest in them…when they mark their last Fate box, they suffer some kind of manifestation trauma…could be a quest…could be a boon/mark with a cost).

Position always defaults to Risky (medium) and moves from there given the situation. Effect always defaults to Standard and moves from there given the situation. Blades codifies the factors of a situation that would warrant movement of these.

So when the player of the Druid PC makes their move, I say:

“Looks like Desperate Position to me (rather than Risky). We don’t know what’s down there! Bare minimum we know there may be dangerous scoundrels on the loose. Was there a supernatural effect that opened this gaping maw in the earth? Are their dangerous Underdark predators hungry for tasty surface dwellers? How knows? Having your owl spiral down into the deep dark for a look is more than a little dangerous.”

Its very dark, but not totally pitch…but these are Owl’s eyes, so I’ll split the difference and go with Standard Effect.

The player thinks on it…”hmmm, alright. I’m not going to have it spiral too deep into the chasm. Just a fly-by and have it use its keen Owl-sight to give me a look what is down there. Can I have Risky Position for Limited Effect?”

So we go with that. In DW terms, this would mean that the Owl can’t get a 10+, so the equivalent of a 7-9 effect (only 1 question, rather than 3, and +1 forward acting on that singular question) is the best she can get.

Because she brokered Limited Effect for Risky Position, she knows that, if she fails, the consequence that I imposed upon the situation above aren’t on the table.

Further still, if she fails and I impose a softer consequence that she still isn’t happy dealing with, she can have “Fate” intervene by making that “Intervention” roll I cited above (and mark some Fate, or Clear 1 Fate if she gets a 12+ result).




Like I said, it’s a different cognitive space that players are inhabiting in the latter vs the former, and the general feel of play is altered with the cognitive space and the system machinery that enables it.
 

pemerton

Legend
A very high-level glance at this thread shows me this, rightly or wrongly: a general distaste for, and active avoidance of, any role-play of in-character information gathering.
Well, [MENTION=5142]Aldarc[/MENTION] has given one counter-example.

Here's another: in our first session of Cortex+ Heroic Fantasy, one of the first actions taken by the scout PC was to climb atop a pallisade to see what was inside it (mechanically, this established an Overview of the Steading asset). In the next session, the same PC was the one who read mysterious symbols to ascertain that they were, in fact, a map of the dungeon (mechanically, this eliminated a Lost in the Dungeon complication). Gathering information is a tactic that some PCs use to achieve their goals.

What the OP is focused on is techniques for establishing and signalling stakes and consequences to the players that don't require them to play "analytic" PCs.
 
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pemerton

Legend
I think what I’m going to do for this thread is take a pair of similar situations I’ve resolved in DW and Blades and contrast them (to suss out why Blades is a “better” approach for what the two games are trying to accomplish).
Like I said, it’s a different cognitive space that players are inhabiting in the latter vs the former, and the general feel of play is altered with the cognitive space and the system machinery that enables it.
I think I can see the difference - in BitD there is "bidding"/"bargaining" in relation to risk and reward.

But why is that better? It seems potentially to detract from begin and end with the fiction - to me it gives a feeling a bit closer to (say) Cortex+ Heroic, which also involves a fair bit of metagame mechanical manipulation that mediates between fictional input and fictional output.
 

Manbearcat

Adventurer
I think I can see the difference - in BitD there is "bidding"/"bargaining" in relation to risk and reward.

But why is that better? It seems potentially to detract from begin and end with the fiction - to me it gives a feeling a bit closer to (say) Cortex+ Heroic, which also involves a fair bit of metagame mechanical manipulation that mediates between fictional input and fictional output.
I can see the resemblance to C+ that you draw there.

Here are the reasons I would say it’s better (3 Cs oddly enough):

Constraint
Clarity
Cognitive Workspace

As you (and surely others) know, I regularly champion systemized GM constraint. It’s one of the reasons I adore the PBtA systems (and Baker’s work broadly). AW and DW constrain the GM elegantly and quite clearly. However, there are some edge cases that arise which temporarily reduce that constraint, requiring the games’ (clear and robust) Agenda and Principles to work extra hard to guide the GM’s move. This is a momentary increase in cognitive workload on the GM and often requires extra play conversation/table time to divulge that workload so the interface between the fiction and the rules meet are clear to the players. Which goes to me next “C”...

Clarity

The Blades tech naturally clarified all cases (so no edge case emerges). The players understand both the magnitude and nature of both their opposition/obstacle and their own efforts. That lets them know the severity of trouble (in terms of immediate Consequences, big C) that’s on the table when they get themselves into a situation, the impact of their own push-back against it(on to the last “C”)...

As a result, their Cognitive Workspace can allow players to then better orient themselves (odds, opportunity cost, etc) to attack the situation or revise their PC’s orientation or their approach in order to assert better control (if that’s feasible) of the arrangement of/relationships of elements in the fiction (including the PCs). Physically, the Position:Effect relationship and the player reorienting themselves is similar to the way a climber, a competitor, or a negotiator evaluates the risk:reward of one course charted versus another.
 

pemerton

Legend
[MENTION=6696971]Manbearcat[/MENTION], thanks for the reply.

I think that, in the OP and some of my elaborations on it, I'm putting less emphasis on clarity and cognitive workspace than you. I think that's what follows from my comments about implicit consequences - that in place of the clarity you describe, and the scope for player evaluation of risk/reward, is substitued shared intuitions/understandings of the fiction.

I'm not sure how this fits into constraint. It's true that the Cortex+ Heroic GM is very constrained. The Cthulhu Dark GM certainly has much more liberty. I have to think more about how this might relate to "force".
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
Well, [MENTION=5142]Aldarc[/MENTION] has given one counter-example.

Here's another: in our ]url=http://www.enworld.org/forum/showthread.php?530990-Into-the-North-Cortex-Plus-Heroic-Fantasy-actual-play]first session[/url] of Cortex+ Heroic Fantasy, one of the first actions taken by the scout PC was to climb atop a pallisade to see what was inside it (mechanically, this established an Overview of the Steading asset). In the next session, the same PC was the one who read mysterious symbols to ascertain that they were, in fact, a map of the dungeon (mechanically, this eliminated a Lost in the Dungeon complication). Gathering information is a tactic that some PCs use to achieve their goals.
Good.

What the OP is focused on is techniques for establishing and signalling stakes and consequences to the players that don't require them to play "analytic" PCs.
If they're not required to play analytic PCs (in other words, not required to do their own work when it comes to information gathering, risk-outcome-reward analysis, and so forth) then one of two outcomes must naturally follow:

- the analysis is done for them, meaning they're very likely to get information that a) by luck or design they might not otherwise acquire and b) is always improbably accurate, complete and error-free.
- the analysis is not done at all, meaning they are flying blind.

Safe bet that nobody wants the second of these options as SOP. But the first just seems to me like giving away the farm - both in and out of character there's no encouragement to do any independent investigation, thinking, or analysis as it's all going to be done for you anyway; and there's a greatly reduced or eliminated chance of flat-out getting it wrong. As a (IMO unwanted) side effect, if stakes are always set before an action can be declared it takes away any opportunity for a player/PC to now and then just throw caution to the wind and in effect choose to fly blind a.k.a. gamble without knowing (or caring about) what might happen next.
 

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