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D&D General Styles of Roleplaying and Characters

pemerton

Legend
In terms of specific examples from the thread, @Ovinomancer provided two. One was from BW where where their character's political affiliation (specifically, whether the character attacked the rebels or joined them) was based on the outcome of a roll.
Ovinomancer gave an example from Burning Wheel where the outcome is based on a Duel of Wits. That is not a roll. It's a whole resolution framework, which first involves posting stakes on each side, and then a series of declarations and resolutions of actions, and can produce any of a range of results including various sorts of compromise.

I've posted multiple actual play examples, lengthy ones, from various systems: BW, Prince Valiant, Cortex+ Heroic being used to play MERP/LotR. I've posted them twice for good measure! I've also provided links to 4e D&D actual play reports, and have given summaries of some emotion/social-related stuff from Rolemaster play.

If someone described the D&D combat system in such a fashion as to give the impression that they think a character turning their back on an Orc and leafing through their shopping list can kill the Orc, do you think that would be a fair and reasonable characterisation? Or would it suggest a fundamental misunderstanding of both (i) the process of D&D play, and (ii) the sort of fiction that typically emerges out of D&D play?

@Oofta's characterisations of social mechanics are of the same quality and accuracy as my characterisation of D&D combat in the previous paragraph.
 
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pemerton

Legend
No, I'm really not.

Every single person who has said that you need to actually play a persona to role play (paraphrasing here) is saying EXACTLY the same thing.
This is a bit of a sidepoint, so I don't want to push it too far. And I have other reasons too for engaging with some posters and not others.

But I think the other posters tended to phrase it in aspirational/aesthetic terms (eg what's the point . . .) rather than categorical terms like you did (assuming I've read your posts properly).
 

Hussar

Legend
So everyone who has ever claimed this is just lying?

Because the option is that the author is not making decisions consciously. So not lying, just expressing a process we don't fully understand. Like, I don't know, not being in control of emotional responses.
Not lying. Just not examining the facts.

You flat out stated that you NEVER use mental mechanics and then gave examples where you did by using random chance to make the decision for you.

So, it's all about understanding the process of decision making. If you aren't in control of emotional responses, then how can you claim that it is perfectly reasonable for your character to be 100% in control of his emotional responses. Only, he isn't, since you use game mechanics to determine his responses. Which makes claims that you never use mechanics to determine emotional and mental states kinda hard to parse.
 


Because, as I just quoted @Oofta above, the line is not clear. @Oofta repeatedly absolutely stated that he refused to use any sort of mental mechanics. That any sort of mental mechanics were 100% not appreciated. He then goes on to state that sometimes, if he is unsure of how his character will react, he will use mental mechanics.

That's my point all the way along. People make these absolute claims and then, once you start to actually scratch the surface, suddenly those claims aren't actually backed up by the facts.

Those are two different things.

I stated there is a clear demarcation between mechanics that affect the character physically, and mechanics that determine the character's internal mental state. In the sense that you can (I think*) describe any mechanic, and we would probably all agree on which side of the line it lay.

A poster declaring that this line was a hard, uncrossable line, and then contradicting themselves and saying that sometimes they cross it, doesn't invalidate the existence of that line.

*Actually, if we can come up with an edge case that is hard to define, exploring that case might reveal things about how we see the game differently. So if you think of something I'd love to hear it.
 

Hussar

Legend
This is a bit of a sidepoint, so I don't want to push it too far. And I have other reasons too for engaging with some posters and not others.

But I think the other posters tended to phrase it in aspirational/aesthetic terms (eg what's the point . . .) rather than categorical terms like you did (assuming I've read your posts properly).
Fair enough. LIke I said, it was my personal opinion and not meant as a statement of fact. I do consider a lot of earlier D&D to be barely a role playing game. The role playing game that many of us engage in evolved despite the game not because of it. Heck, the rise of Vampire owes a considerable amount to the reaction against the way D&D was being played. But, you're right, this is getting off track. Please, let's return to the notion of how people never use mental mechanics except when they do.

I mean, so far, we have @Oofta contradicting himself. @Maxperson upthread mentioned using mental mechanics to determine NPC actions, and, presumably, would have no problems doing the same as a player. Wonder who else has done as @Oofta has and let an ad hoc mechanic (If I roll this I do X, if I roll that, I do Y) determine the mental state of the character.

I think it really is a good area to explore, because the root argument against mental mechanics is that people don't want mechanics telling them how their character feels. But, when the rubber meets the road, it's apparently fine to do it in small doses.

If it's acceptable to do in small doses, then the problem isn't with the mechanics, but, with how and when those mechanics are applied. Considering the rather broad range of ignorance of other games and how such mechanics actually look like in play, it's a fairly challenging conversation to have.
 

Hussar

Legend
Those are two different things.

I stated there is a clear demarcation between mechanics that affect the character physically, and mechanics that determine the character's internal mental state. In the sense that you can (I think*) describe any mechanic, and we would probably all agree on which side of the line it lay.

A poster declaring that this line was a hard, uncrossable line, and then contradicting themselves and saying that sometimes they cross it, doesn't invalidate the existence of that line.

*Actually, if we can come up with an edge case that is hard to define, exploring that case might reveal things about how we see the game differently. So if you think of something I'd love to hear it.
Hang on though. It's been repeatedly stated by numerous people that mental mechanics have no place in RPG's. That anything that you can just "play out" doesn't need mechanics. I have zero points of disagreement that we could use separate types of mechanics for physical and mental resolution. That's fine. At least you don't appear to be telling us that we must never add such things to D&D.

I don't like such mechanics is a VERY different argument than,

Lanefan said:
if a character's emotional state is such that he both wants to assassinate someone and is in a positon to do so the game should not IMO attempt to interrupt that by arbitrarily challenging the character's emotional state. Ditto if the character falls in love with someone or feels any other strong emotion; that's the player's choice to make* and the game should not be able to arbitrarily interfere.
or

[USER=2205 said:
Desdichado[/USER]]THERE IS another and superior way to handle it, so I have little interest in a mechanical solution to something that doesn't need a mechanical solution.
Using statements like "should not" is a pretty different argument than just, "I don't like these kinds of mechanics".
 


Xetheral

Three-Headed Sirrush
Ovinomancer gave an example from Burning Wheel where the outcome is based on a Duel of Wits. That is not a roll. It's a whole resolution framework, which first involves posting stakes on each side, and then a series of declarations and resolutions of actions, and can produce any of a range of results including various sorts of compromise.

I've posted multiple actual play examples, lengthy ones, from various systems: BW, Prince Valiant, Cortex+ Heroic being used to play MERP/LotR. I've posted them twice for good measure! I've also provided links to 4e D&D actual play reports, and have given summaries of some emotion/social-related stuff from Rolemaster play.

If someone described the D&D combat system in such a fashion as to give the impression that they think a character turning their back on an Orc and leafing through their shopping list can kill the Orc, do you think that would be a fair and reasonable characterisation? Or would it suggest a fundamental misunderstanding of both (i) the process of D&D play, and (ii) the sort of fiction that typically emerges out of D&D play?

@Oofta's characterisations of social mechanics are of the same quality and accuracy as my characterisation of D&D combat in the previous paragraph.
I apologize for being imprecise. I should have said that in the BW example the character's political affiliation was determined by a game mechanic, rather than by a roll.

I am aware of the play examples you posted, but to my understanding they were offered in the context of a different (contemporaneous) branch of the discussion. So as to not repurpose your examples in a way you might object to, I elected to only cite @Ovinomancer's examples that I was sure were on-point. As @Campbell appeared to be questioning if there were any references to "mood tables" in the thread, referencing a small number of pertinent examples of the sorts of mechanics @Oofta was referring to seemed sufficient. I apologize if by not mentioning your examples I came across as not valuing your contribution to the thread.
 

pemerton

Legend
But for a lot of us, a randomly decided reaction of what my character would think or do is not "discovering" anything other then potentially a new entry on a list.
I don't know any RPG that uses this sort of mechanic.

Going back to Mr B, my current vengeance paladin PC, part of his background before the campaign is that he lost is (pregnant) wife and young daughter. He feels guilt because he was not there to protect them, anger because while the people that killed them were hunted down and killed - by someone else. He never had a chance to personally extract vengeance.

So let's say at some point he finds someone that has his daughter's necklace. The only way the NPC could have gotten it would have been to take it - this was someone responsible for his families death. But ... as far as Mr B can tell, the NPC has turned over a new leaf. He doesn't know who Mr B is, but truly seems remorseful and is trying to atone for past sins.

How does this get resolved? By the roll of a dice that references some chart?
There are so many ways to think about this that no single post or thread can cover them all.

Suppose you (as Mr B) decide to kill this person. Can you screw up the courage to do so? Burning Wheel, Pendragon, and Wuthering Heights all have different ways of posing this question with an associated mechanical process.

@loverdrive, upthread, posted a custom PbtA move that could do the same thing (I'm paraphrasing from memory, but it went along the lines of roll + cool: 10+, you follow through with it, you cold-hearted bastard; 7 to 9, you can follow through but you feel it - if you go ahead with the killing, take 1 trauma; 6 or less, you hesitate, unable to follow through, and the MC describes what happens next - you probably won't like it!).

A different approach would be one in which the action declaration as such always goes through, but the rules impose some sort of cost or consequence - a point of trauma or inhumanity or similar, or a forced roll on the Depression crit table, or something like that.

Another approach - I'm thinking initially of Pendragon and Burning Wheel, but also the classic D&D alignment graph - allows one or more other participants to make a decision, in response to your actions, about the traits that describe your character. Those traits could feed into anything from behavioural mechanics (eg Pendragon) to bases for earning "fate points" (Burning Wheel; 5e D&D) to how other entities in the game respond to you (one aspect of classic D&D alignment).

That's just for starters.
 
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Okay, yes, characters don't exist. But this is rather a banal point when we're talking about pretending to be elves -- hopefully we all understand they don't actually exist and instead are talking about the ways we pretend they do. And here, in this pretend land, I'm staking the claim that there's a difference between straight authorship -- where you 100% define and control your character -- and play where character is risked -- you do not always define and/or control your character. And further, that there's a distinction between expression and definition/control -- you can express something you don't have authority to control or define (this is one of the things an actor does).

So, when we get down to talking about being pretend elves, that it's make believe is given. I'm looking at how we do the pretend part.

I don't think it is banal in this case because we're not talking about the fiction we're talking about your reaction to the fiction. It's not make-believe about your character, it's (as I understand it) make-believe about you.

If I find out that you have a fear of abandonment and a hair-trigger temper, I would definitely count that as "learning" or "discovering" something about you.

But if it turns out that my D&D character has those same characteristics (regardless of whether it was decided by myself, somebody else, or a lifepath generator) then I just don't personally see that as "learning" or "discovering" anything, regardless of it's source, except in the (banal) sense that I didn't know it in the moments before it was decided. But it's not like that truth previously existed* and I'm only now learning it.

And maybe it's a super cool bit of fiction, and I'll lean into that fiction with my roleplaying. But just because somebody else made it up doesn't really make it feel different to me. I didn't learn anything about my character.

And I can agree that maybe it's something I wouldn't have thought of myself, so there is value in having other people (or mechanics) contributing to the project every now and then. I can see the argument for why one might want character creation/development driven by something other than just the player. But other than, perhaps, minor annoyance if I don't like the feature that has been imposed upon me, it's all the same to me; I just don't see significant difference between character traits I choose and those that are given to me. I still didn't learn anything about my character.

This is the part I just don't get. What am I not understanding?

*(The exception might be if the DM had previously determined some truth about my character, and eventually this truth is revealed, and that denouement retroactively explains things that previously occurred. In that case I would agree that I am "learning" about my character.)
 

Xetheral

Three-Headed Sirrush
This is so true, it needs to be repeated. Excellent point.
From my perspective the statement you quoted reflects the current main point of contention, with posters disagreeing whether it is possible to learn anything about a character one is authoring. I am unsure, however, whether the disagreement is substantive or merely reflects differing usages of the phrase "learn about a character". The phrase appears to be a direct stand-in for the phrase "exploring a character" which was itself being defined incompatibly by different posters, so the same difficulties in communication may be complicating the discussion.
 

Hang on though. It's been repeatedly stated by numerous people that mental mechanics have no place in RPG's. That anything that you can just "play out" doesn't need mechanics. I have zero points of disagreement that we could use separate types of mechanics for physical and mental resolution. That's fine. At least you don't appear to be telling us that we must never add such things to D&D.

I don't like such mechanics is a VERY different argument than,


or


Using statements like "should not" is a pretty different argument than just, "I don't like these kinds of mechanics".

I think upthread I distinguished between mechanics that cross the line in prescribed ways (e.g. Sanity scores, or Shadow Madness in The One Ring)...such that players are buying into the potential line-crossing by playing the game...versus the DM/other players dictating the player's emotional state. And, yes, I think the latter case is an emphatic "should not", not just an aesthetic preference.

And I'll add that I would include in the latter category stuff like "Well the NPC's Deception roll beat your Insight roll, so your character believes him", at least when playing 5e. Even though that's "using mechanics", it's not a defined feature of 5e.

I mostly agree with Lanefan when they write:
if a character's emotional state is such that he both wants to assassinate someone and is in a positon to do so the game should not IMO attempt to interrupt that by arbitrarily challenging the character's emotional state. Ditto if the character falls in love with someone or feels any other strong emotion; that's the player's choice to make* and the game should not be able to arbitrarily interfere.

The exception would be if you are engaging in a game that explicitly makes that interference one of the thematic mechanics. So, yeah, in D&D 5e the mechanics SHOULD NOT be used to interfere in those ways. But that's probably not true about all RPGs. I probably wouldn't choose to play in such an RPG, but that doesn't mean such RPG shouldn't exist.

I will note that I think Lanefan's stance here seems to have some limits, based on previous statements about metagaming. For example, what if the DM suspects that the only reason the player wants to assassinate somebody, or the only reason the player declares their character to fall in love with somebody, is because player-knowledge is being used to gain an advantage. Is it still off-limits to interfere? Or maybe that's where they distinguish between the game interfering and the referee interfering.

edit: but really I am responding here to misdirection on your part. This whole thing about whether or not the line should be crossed is a different matter from whether there is a clear line, which is the question on which I was engaging with you. Earlier you suggested there is no real difference between dictating a mental state and dictating a loss of HP from a sword stroke. I responded that there is a clear line between those two categories. Somehow you've turned this into whether or not that line should be crossed. Can I assume that by doing so you are agreeing that the line is clear, and merely debating on how sacrosanct that line is?
 
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Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
Because, as I just quoted @Oofta above, the line is not clear. @Oofta repeatedly absolutely stated that he refused to use any sort of mental mechanics. That any sort of mental mechanics were 100% not appreciated. He then goes on to state that sometimes, if he is unsure of how his character will react, he will use mental mechanics.
I don't view a random roll to decide among a few options as a mental mechanic. I sometimes do the same thing. It's the basic 5e principle of rolling when the outcome is in doubt. If you know it's a yes or no, no roll is needed. If you are unsure, then roll the die. That's a mechanic, but it's not specifically a mental mechanic.

A mental mechanic would be the dominate spell or charm person, or the sanity rules. Those are mechanics that are specifically designed to affect an individual mentally.
 

From my perspective the statement you quoted reflects the current main point of contention, with posters disagreeing whether it is possible to learn anything about a character one is authoring. I am unsure, however, whether the disagreement is substantive or merely reflects differing usages of the phrase "learn about a character". The phrase appears to be a direct stand-in for the phrase "exploring a character" which was itself being defined incompatibly by different posters, so the same difficulties in communication may be complicating the discussion.

Guilty.

But I really am not just trying to thread-crap with semantic nonsense. I genuinely don't understand why this distinction between stuff I make up about my character, and stuff somebody else makes up about my character, seems to be so important. It seems to me it's about equivalent to doing improv where the situation is given to me and I make up my response, versus being given both the situation and some information about the character I am supposed to represent. Yes, it's a different experience. But profoundly so? It doesn't seem like it to me.

Then again, I'm not an improv actor so what do I know. I will admit that a small part of me is wondering if my lack of understanding here is a sign that there's an aspect to RPGs that I've never experienced. But, sort of be definition, I won't know that until I experience it, right? It's sort of in the same category as great s*x: if you've never had it, you can't really be sure whether or not you have.
 

pemerton

Legend
I apologize for being imprecise. I should have said that in the BW example the character's political affiliation was determined by a game mechanic, rather than by a roll.

<snip>

I apologize if by not mentioning your examples I came across as not valuing your contribution to the thread.
Thanks for the apologies, which really are above and beyond!

I wasn't worried about being undervalued (a colleague at an old workplace use to refer to my "healthy sense of self-regard"), but am keen to bring the discussion into serious territory that hopefully can be more productive.

As @Campbell appeared to be questioning if there were any references to "mood tables" in the thread, referencing a small number of pertinent examples of the sorts of mechanics @Oofta was referring to seemed sufficient.
I think the "mood tables" is intended as a reference to @loverdrive's PbtA move posted upthread - it's the only thing mentioned that looks even remotely like a table - but that's still a gross mischaracterisation. I've pointed to Wuthering Heights as coming closer to having "mood" rules, but no one seems to have followed up on that. In that spirit of howling into the wind, here's a link to my Wuthering Heights actual play experience, which shows how that system played out for me and two friends.

I stated there is a clear demarcation between mechanics that affect the character physically, and mechanics that determine the character's internal mental state. In the sense that you can (I think*) describe any mechanic, and we would probably all agree on which side of the line it lay.
I don't think I agree with this. In 4e D&D the Deathlock Wight has a Horrific Visage which causes psychic damage and a push (ie the victim recoils in horror). Is that mental or physical? In Rolemaster Companion III (published 1988), the Depression Critical Strike table has the following result for a 46-50 'A' crit result: Stunned for 5 rounds. Mild depression. -5 to all actions for 1 minute. Is that mental or physical? In Burning Wheel a character who takes more than a superficial wound has to make a Steel check. If the check is failed, and the hit was to the arm, the character drops whatever they were holding; if to the leg, the character falls either to one knee or prone (depending on the degree of failure of the Steel check). Is that mental or physical?

I think insisting on a strong mental/physical divide can pose significant issues both for RPG design and RPG adjudication.

I don't think it is banal in this case because we're not talking about the fiction we're talking about your reaction to the fiction. It's not make-believe about your character, it's (as I understand it) make-believe about you.

If I find out that you have a fear of abandonment and a hair-trigger temper, I would definitely count that as "learning" or "discovering" something about you.

But if it turns out that my D&D character has those same characteristics (regardless of whether it was decided by myself, somebody else, or a lifepath generator) then I just don't personally see that as "learning" or "discovering" anything, regardless of it's source, except in the (banal) sense that I didn't know it in the moments before it was decided. But it's not like that truth previously existed* and I'm only now learning it.

And maybe it's a super cool bit of fiction, and I'll lean into that fiction with my roleplaying. But just because somebody else made it up doesn't really make it feel different to me. I didn't learn anything about my character.

And I can agree that maybe it's something I wouldn't have thought of myself, so there is value in having other people (or mechanics) contributing to the project every now and then. I can see the argument for why one might want character creation/development driven by something other than just the player. But other than, perhaps, minor annoyance if I don't like the feature that has been imposed upon me, it's all the same to me; I just don't see significant difference between character traits I choose and those that are given to me. I still didn't learn anything about my character.

This is the part I just don't get. What am I not understanding?
I can only speak for myself. And perhaps am drifting into repetition.

It's true that all RPGing is concerned with shared fictions - as @Ovinomancer said, that's banal. But there are multiple ways of encountering a fiction about one's character. One can author it. One can be told it by someone else. And - in RPGing - one can have it generated via a process that is not quite either, or rather, is a type of authorship that is not the immediate result of anyone's intentions.

A simple set of examples, where the fiction is about my PC falling:

* I can declare, speaking as my PC, I jump over the edge - eg I'm a high level fighter in the Glacial Rift of the Frost Giant Jarl and think I have a better chance of surviving the fall than beating the approaching giants.

* The GM can declare The ground beneath you gives way, and suddenly you're falling - eg the GM has determined that I've stepped on and triggered a pit trap. I did this once as adjudication of a skill challenge failure, GMing 4e D&D.

* Another way the preceding example might happen, but with less GM decision-making: the system is classic D&D; the GM has written up the dungeon map and key, which includes notes about a concealed pit trap in a corridor; the player declares movement for their PC which means they walk directly over the concealed pit trap; the GM, by reference to the prepared map and key, declares the ground beneath you gives way and suddenly you're falling.

* A roll-based resolution process can generate the result You fall over the edge without anyone at the table deciding, in the moment, that this is what will happen. An example: the system is 4e D&D; the current setting is the Glacial Rift; the PC is adjacent to the edge of the rift; the GM rolls a hit for a frost giant that has a Push 1 effect; the player fails the saving throw that is permitted for forced movement into damaging terrain; thus, the PC falls over the edge.​

Any and all of these can be exciting. But when I choose to jump, the excitement form me is probably not so much that I'm falling but rather will I survive? When the GM decides that the PC falls, as in my skill challenge example, that can be shocking or exciting for the player but it wasn't for me as GM, because I'd already decided it was going to happen. In the dungeon-crawling case the GM has less leeway but is still not going to be surprised: they authored the pit. Part of the point of dice roll resolution, at least it seems to me, is that everyone can be caught by surprise: the interplay of decisions, established fiction, and mechanical constraints dictates new outcomes.

Emotional/social aspects of resolution can be similarly varied:

* I decide that my PC is keen on another character - eg in my Prince Valiant game the player of Sir Justin and the player of Sir Morgath both decided their PCs were keen on the Lady Violette, and they competed for her hand.

* The GM decides that my PC is keen on another character - eg this happened in my Prince Valiant game, when I used the Incite Lust effect on Sir Morgath as he rescued Lady Lorette of Lothian and carried her in his arms. The player had seen it coming, but was steeling himself to succeed on an opposed check: he hadn't necessarily anticipated the fiat Special Effect.

* A check is made to determine how I respond to another character, or the parameters of that response - eg in Prince Valiant (again) when Lady Lorette appealed to Sir Gerren to lower the drawbridge so that she might enter the castle, I rolled her pool of Presence + Glamourie against Sir Gerren's Presence enhanced by 2 morale dice (for being a stalwart Marshall defending his castle against an advancing force). On the occasion Sir Gerren held firm; but later, when Lady Lorette tried to seduce him while they were out hunting, his resolve failed (ie the player rolled poorly). Which did not endear him to his (then) fiancée.​

In Prince Valiant this is all fairly light-hearted and pulp-y. In a system like Burning Wheel, which doesn't have the middle option but does have the first and last, it's all a bit more serious and can be emotionally pretty demanding. As I tried to explain upthread with reference to the Steel mechanic, the aim of the BW systems is to make you as the player of your character feel the same sense of emotional pull and weight that your character is feeling in the fiction. This includes, at least in principle (of course different tables will have different views about the limits of good taste) the possibility of being seduced by someone who you wouldn't have expected to fall for.

So for me, the difference across different methods is mostly about the experience that accompanies the establishing of the fiction. What does it make me feel? How does it bind me deeper into the inhabitation of my character?
 

Aldarc

Legend
This branch of the conversation started with @Aldarc mentioning mechanics that change one's character concept. My understanding is that many posters, including @Oofta, are continuing to discuss such mechanics at the same level of generality, referring to such mechanics collectively using various conversational shorthands.
IMO, this branch of the conversation started much earlier than my post, but it does seem to be the point when you became more invested in the conversation. But let's not pretend that we are all equally "[discussing] such mechanics at the same level of generality." At times I have been quite general, but at repeated times I have provided a number of concrete examples (e.g., Monsterhearts, Fate, Cortex Prime/Smallville, etc.) as have a number of other people about various games (e.g., Prince Valiant, Blades in the Dark, Burning Wheel, etc.).

Text was provided about the mechanics of a particular game in question: i.e., Monsterhearts. Additional background was provided on how it would operate within the context of play in the system in question: GM doesn't roll, triggered by players in the fiction, one possible consequence of failure, the genre is teenage monster romance amidst high school drama and puberty, etc.

I have also quoted the excerpt about Contests from Cortex Prime.

Anyone is welcome to go back and actually read through these concrete examples should they actually desire to do more than speak in generalities about these systems or mechanics.

People have stated that at critical points there are rules for determining what their reaction will be. Or that another character can dictate what your PC decides. That the player gets to "discover" something about their PC because the game tells them how to think or act.
Players enter into Contests in Cortex Prime knowing the stakes. There are multiple points where either the player or the NPC can concede the contest (with minor benefit to themselves) or they can try pressing their luck. It's a conversation that happens in roleplay. It's often a dramatic negotiation of the fiction between characters rather than just dryly "Okay, I roll. Now you roll. I roll again. You win." It's important that the involved parties respect the integrity of the outcome of the contest and what it means for the characters in the fiction. If your character, young Lex Luthor, loses the Contest with his father Lionel Luthor (an NPC), then that's the point in the drama where Lex Luthor gets brow-beaten by his father's harsh words and forced into an unfavorable position of agreeing to do what his father demanded. Lex's player can't just declare "Screw this! I can do whatever I want" anymore than a PC can declare that their miss was actually a hit in combat or that their failed jump check over the floor trap actually succeeded. One can't just declare that they have an invisible force field that protects them from the consequences of the Contest in the fiction. It's a roleplaying game and not Calvinball.

Of course details are behind game specific terms which people use more game specific terms to explain. If I'm misunderstanding, why not just explain?
Pick a particular game or two you want explained in further detail for additional information, and I (or possibly a more appropriate person) will be more than happy to oblige.

I've posted multiple actual play examples, lengthy ones, from various systems: BW, Prince Valiant, Cortex+ Heroic being used to play MERP/LotR. I've posted them twice for good measure! I've also provided links to 4e D&D actual play reports, and have given summaries of some emotion/social-related stuff from Rolemaster play.
I'm beginning to suspect that people don't bother reading your examples.
 
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pemerton

Legend
I genuinely don't understand why this distinction between stuff I make up about my character, and stuff somebody else makes up about my character, seems to be so important.
Have you ever felt your hands sweat and your heart stop as you make a crucial roll, the one that will determine whether or not the whole party will be wiped out or instead whether your PC, the last one standing, will take down the last foe before they get to act and take you down?

At least in my experience, that's one source of excitement in RPGing. It would be different, and probably not as exciting, if I or another participant just got to decide you win.

Now imagine the same thing when, playing @Oofta's Mr B, you proceed to carry out your vengeance on the person with the necklace your daughter once wore. Where the exciting question isn't can I kill him? - Mr B is a mighty vengeance paladin, while this person with the necklace is just a commoner who was once a lowlife thug - but can I bring myself to do it? You've been building up your Steel by deliberately putting yourself into situations that inure you to shock and gore and viciousness (which is how Steel increases in BW). But have you got what it takes, here and now?

For me, at least, that's what it's about.
 


Lanefan

Victoria Rules
@Oofta

I have zero idea where you getting the impression that any of the games we mention have some sort of roll random mood tables. Where have you seen anything that indicates that's how this sort of stuff functions?
Well, there was @pemerton's example upthread where a PC (one of his own, I think) was about to assassinate someone until the GM made him roll a (Steel?) check, the results of which changed the PC's mood significantly.

Anytime things get emotionally significant or whenever a moment of potential high drama arises, if a game and-or GM can force a check like that which can on a given result completely change a character's outlook, that's really not many steps removed from random mood generation.
 

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