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D&D General Styles of Roleplaying and Characters

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
I find that some of these discussions end up butting into widely held assumptions that I (at least) hadn't noticed are there.

For instance, do we take it as given, or do we treat it as a big deal, that PCs might have opposing values, aspirations, plans, etc? And as a result might come into conflict?
Next time a PvP thread comes up keep an eye on it; no doubt you'll notice (as I have) a very strong underlying sense among many posters that parties are expected to be co-operative and not argue among themselves, nor be put (or put themselves) into conflicting positions or having seriously conflicting goals.

I dont buy this, myself, but it seems many do...and given the last few D&D editions have pushed harder in this direction than their forebears, it's hardly a surprise.
 

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Lanefan

Victoria Rules
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.
Please elaborate.

I'm one who says playing a persona is key to roleplaying but what on earth does that have to do with whether or not ToH is/was a tournament module?

Also, keep in mind that tournament play of any kind is by its nature going to be different than normal home-based play; in that in a tournament everything other than solving the dungeon in the fastest and-or most efficient way possible is stripped away, including nearly every aspect of actual roleplaying. You're trying to get through a module in (usually four) hours that in a home game might take several sessions if not more (ToH took us six sessions, the one time I ever played it; and half the party survived all the way through).

What this means is that if you're using tournament play as your default while the rest of us aren't, it's no wonder there's a disconnect. :)
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
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.
Yeah, that's about right.

Actions driven by metagame motivations often end up needing resolution beyond what the game can provide. That's what the referee is for. :)
 

pemerton

Legend
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.
Actually: the result, as I've posted multiple times, was that Aedhros (my PC) hesitated.

Hesitation is the only result that flows from a failed Steel check. Normally (unless some special rule has been triggered) the character who hesitates can swoon, run screaming, fall to their knees and beg for mercy, or stand without acting. I chose the last of those for Aedhros.

The hesitation gave enough time for the other PC, Alicia, to cast a Persuasion spell to persuade Aedhros to not kill the innkeeper.

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.
I believe I've already posted the range of triggers for a Steel check in Burning Wheel: pain, ambush/surpise, gore and violence, and the supernatural.

It's nothing like random mood generation. Absolutely nothing like it. By choosing those things as the triggers for a Steel check, the game expresses its (or, I guess, its designer's) conception of what sorts of things require screwing up one's courage to get through. By varying the variety of Steel triggers, or permitted hesitation response, the game is able to foreground other orientations towards threat and opportunity: for instance, Dwarven Greed requires Dwarven characters to make a Steel check when confronted by things of great value; but they have an additional hesitation response, I must have it - ie trying to obtain the desired thing whether by trade or theft, like the Naugrim and the Silmaril, or Thorin and the Arkenstone.
 
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Hussar

Legend
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.
An ad hoc mechanic is still a mechanic. The player is letting the mechanics make his decision for him and then proceeds from that point, incorporating that decision into the mental processes of the character.

It absolutely is a mental mechanic. It's a simple one, sure, but, that's exactly what mental mechanics do.
 

Hussar

Legend
Please elaborate.

I'm one who says playing a persona is key to roleplaying but what on earth does that have to do with whether or not ToH is/was a tournament module?

Also, keep in mind that tournament play of any kind is by its nature going to be different than normal home-based play; in that in a tournament everything other than solving the dungeon in the fastest and-or most efficient way possible is stripped away, including nearly every aspect of actual roleplaying. You're trying to get through a module in (usually four) hours that in a home game might take several sessions if not more (ToH took us six sessions, the one time I ever played it; and half the party survived all the way through).

What this means is that if you're using tournament play as your default while the rest of us aren't, it's no wonder there's a disconnect. :)
Really, really not worth sidetracking into. Trust me on this. It's a deep rabbit hole that is not going to go anywhere.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
An ad hoc mechanic is still a mechanic. The player is letting the mechanics make his decision for him and then proceeds from that point, incorporating that decision into the mental processes of the character.

It absolutely is a mental mechanic. It's a simple one, sure, but, that's exactly what mental mechanics do.

And, it does follow the basic premise of rolling the dice when there is some question as to the outcome, and not bothering to roll when there is not. Sounds very much like a game mechanic. It is just one the player adjudicates, rather than the GM, which pushes us back to the main issue being authorial control.
 
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Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
People also have told me the world is flat, but that doesn't require me to accept this as truth.

Can folks here please avoid implying that people are Flat-Earthers (or similarly illogical) for simple disagreement about how to pretend to be elves? Thanks.
 
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Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
An ad hoc mechanic is still a mechanic. The player is letting the mechanics make his decision for him and then proceeds from that point, incorporating that decision into the mental processes of the character.

It absolutely is a mental mechanic. It's a simple one, sure, but, that's exactly what mental mechanics do.
It's a mechanic, but it's not explicitly a mental one. That same mechanic is used for every skill out there, physical or mental. It's just a mechanic.
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
Well, in that mass of bad takes overnight, I was quite surprised to see that @Oofta said this:
There are times when I've decided that I'm uncertain what my PC (or NPC if I'm DMing) would do or how they would react and I will roll a die to make a determination. My current PC in my wife's campaign flips a coin but that's more of a character affectation and ... well it's a long story.
Because this is the same conceptual thing as all of the mechanics being discussed, and which @Oofta strangely disclaims despite this statement. And here's why -- every one of the mechanics being cited for resolution of character points are invoked by the player. Every one. Sometimes this is explicit in the moment -- you explicitly state that you want to find this out about your character. And here, this is just like what @Oofta's die roll or his wife's coin flip are doing. You're saying that you do not want to decide this, you want to be prompted, so you explicitly engage a mechanical resolution. @Oofta's is adhoc, and the ones under discussion are much more formalized, but the conceptual parts are the same.

What gets lost in many of the responses that disclaim these kinds of mechanics is this player engagement with the concept. They treat them as forced upon the player unwanted, that there's just a die roll at random points or whenever the GM chooses, and disclaim this loss of agency. And I agree -- if this were the case it would be weird and I wouldn't like it at all. No, instead what's happening is that the player is asking for this to resolve something about their character that they want to find out but not decide -- just like when @Oofta rolls a die. Most often, though, this choice to put these aspects of character to the test are made either when you agree to play a certain game that has this as a major theme, or during character creation where you flag these parts of your character as things you want to find out. Sometimes it's explicit in the moment. But, at all times, it's the player putting these things forward as "let's test this in play and see what happens." These aren't things foisted upon them.

So, it seems that @Oofta does understand the appeal of using an outside method to determine what a character wants, feels, or does. They just haven't yet aligned this to the conception of doing so in a more formalized method that's still very much engaging what the player feels are those moments where the character should be so tested.
 

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.

Hmmm...nope. Not feeling it. Can't really imagine feeling the same kind tension in the scenario you describe.

I can easily imagine the tension behind a critical roll (no pun intended) where if I hit with my sword we (probably) live, and I miss we (probably) die.

But if preceding that roll I have to make a roll to see if I can "steel" myself to do it I think I would just see that as yanking me out of the story because it's not really my character after all. Or, at least, I'm not inhabiting that character, I'm just controlling it. And only tenuously at that. So for me the tension would dissolve because I'm no longer 'there' in the story. (In other words, the attempt at performative roleplaying has come at the cost of experiential roleplaying.)

It may be that I just can't get my head around because after four decades of RPGing I just think an essential part of the experience is that those kinds of decisions belong to the player. Maybe I could get used to it. Maybe I could also get used to eating those black fermented eggs that are a delicacy in China.

But it's hard to imagine.
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
Hmmm...nope. Not feeling it. Can't really imagine feeling the same kind tension in the scenario you describe.

I can easily imagine the tension behind a critical roll (no pun intended) where if I hit with my sword we (probably) live, and I miss we (probably) die.

But if preceding that roll I have to make a roll to see if I can "steel" myself to do it I think I would just see that as yanking me out of the story because it's not really my character after all. Or, at least, I'm not inhabiting that character, I'm just controlling it. And only tenuously at that. So for me the tension would dissolve because I'm no longer 'there' in the story. (In other words, the attempt at performative roleplaying has come at the cost of experiential roleplaying.)

It may be that I just can't get my head around because after four decades of RPGing I just think an essential part of the experience is that those kinds of decisions belong to the player. Maybe I could get used to it. Maybe I could also get used to eating those black fermented eggs that are a delicacy in China.

But it's hard to imagine.
Let's reorient. You aren't playing a character to see if their thrust is sufficiently good at stacking damage to kill the monster, you're playing a character to see if they have the bravery to face the monster to begin with. This is the fundamental reorientation -- you have to start from a place where you're establishing a question about play, "Is this character brave enough to face the monster terrorizing the town?" This is a change from the adventuring format of D&D, where this question isn't of any concern at all, the concern is how well do you kill the monster. It's moving the point of play to a different place, and asking different questions.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Most often, though, this choice to put these aspects of character to the test are made either when you agree to play a certain game that has this as a major theme, or during character creation where you flag these parts of your character as things you want to find out. Sometimes it's explicit in the moment. But, at all times, it's the player putting these things forward as "let's test this in play and see what happens." These aren't things foisted upon them.

We often disagree on stuff, but not on this. Here, we agree.

Just like with any other choice of system or mechanics, the players are educated about it, and agree to it, before play begins.
 

Let's reorient. You aren't playing a character to see if their thrust is sufficiently good at stacking damage to kill the monster, you're playing a character to see if they have the bravery to face the monster to begin with. This is the fundamental reorientation -- you have to start from a place where you're establishing a question about play, "Is this character brave enough to face the monster terrorizing the town?" This is a change from the adventuring format of D&D, where this question isn't of any concern at all, the concern is how well do you kill the monster. It's moving the point of play to a different place, and asking different questions.

I get the concept, it's just that (for me) there is a difference between rolling dice to see if my sword hits and rolling dice to see if I can make a decision. The latter just...and I hesitate to describe it this way because it's a pejorative, even though I'm only speaking about my own experience...would feel "like a board game" to me. I'm just rolling dice and moving pieces.

Now, you described a mechanic earlier that makes me think of something I could get behind: if the mechanics game me several options to choose from, each with a different trade-off, but the decision was still mine, I could see that. For example, I might choose between "Strike! But gain a point of Remorse", "Hesitate, but (gain something else)", and some other options. Or something along those lines. I would be cool with that.

But...I'm also good with just refusing to strike, or refusing to strike first, or something else, if I like the story that it tells about my character. I'm capable of choosing a sub-optimal decision if it's narratively interesting. I realize this method conflicts with the desire that has been expressed to have those decisions made externally, that if it only comes from my own mind it isn't "learning" about my character, but I truly don't understand that appeal.

Then again, some of my closest friends don't understand the appeal of pretending to be an elf and fighting dragons. So there's that.

(edit) And I'll add that I also would think it's fun to let other people at the table determine things about my character...traits, secrets, bonds, whatever. (But not decisions during play.) Not because I would think of that as "learning" about my character, though, but only because it sounds collaborative and unpredictable and fun.
 
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Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
I get the concept, it's just that (for me) there is a difference between rolling dice to see if my sword hits and rolling dice to see if I can make a decision. The latter just...and I hesitate to describe it this way because it's a pejorative, even though I'm only speaking about my own experience...would feel "like a board game" to me. I'm just rolling dice and moving pieces.
I'm not sure you do get the concept -- your placement of it as "like a boardgame" seems like it's missed a major thrust. Maybe if I flip this around, this would be more apparent?

It would seem to me that having a character that is always exactly like I say but where I have to roll to see if they hit something feels "like a board game."

I mean, this describes Gloomhaven to a tee. I have my own way to answer why this isn't so, but that way also confirms that having mechanical heft to character moments is also not like boardgaming.
Now, you described a mechanic earlier that makes me think of something I could get behind: if the mechanics game me several options to choose from, each with a different trade-off, but the decision was still mine, I could see that. For example, I might choose between "Strike! But gain a point of Remorse", "Hesitate, but (gain something else)", and some other options. Or something along those lines. I would be cool with that.
I don't recall using such a mechanic. Are you talking about the BitD scene where my character stressed out? That's not quite at all what was going on there.
But...I'm also good with just refusing to strike, or refusing to strike first, or something else, if I like the story that it tells about my character. I'm capable of choosing a sub-optimal decision if it's narratively interesting. I realize this method conflicts with the desire that has been expressed to have those decisions made externally, that if it only comes from my own mind it isn't "learning" about my character, but I truly don't understand that appeal.
The point of formal mechanics for declared points of interest for a character has nothing at all to do with optimal or suboptimal -- this is not even a question in this approach because there's no source of conflict between playing your character and choosing the most optimal outcome -- the optimal outcome is playing your character and finding out what happens.
Then again, some of my closest friends don't understand the appeal of pretending to be an elf and fighting dragons. So there's that.
Yup, I have similar friends. The seem to think there's something badly wrong with me for being completely disinterested in NCAA football, though.
 

I'm not sure you do get the concept -- your placement of it as "like a boardgame" seems like it's missed a major thrust. Maybe if I flip this around, this would be more apparent?

It would seem to me that having a character that is always exactly like I say but where I have to roll to see if they hit something feels "like a board game."

I mean, this describes Gloomhaven to a tee. I have my own way to answer why this isn't so, but that way also confirms that having mechanical heft to character moments is also not like boardgaming.

I don't recall using such a mechanic. Are you talking about the BitD scene where my character stressed out? That's not quite at all what was going on there.

The point of formal mechanics for declared points of interest for a character has nothing at all to do with optimal or suboptimal -- this is not even a question in this approach because there's no source of conflict between playing your character and choosing the most optimal outcome -- the optimal outcome is playing your character and finding out what happens.

Yup, I have similar friends. The seem to think there's something badly wrong with me for being completely disinterested in NCAA football, though.

Ok, I'm clearly just not getting this.

It causes me actual physical pain...to the point of blood not just leaking but squirting out of my ears...to watch streams of other people playing RPGs, but I would make that sacrifice to see an example of this in play. Any suggestions?
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
Ok, I'm clearly just not getting this.

It causes me actual physical pain...to the point of blood not just leaking but squirting out of my ears...to watch streams of other people playing RPGs, but I would make that sacrifice to see an example of this in play. Any suggestions?
I'm the same, so... no?
 

Campbell

Legend
Ok, I'm clearly just not getting this.

It causes me actual physical pain...to the point of blood not just leaking but squirting out of my ears...to watch streams of other people playing RPGs, but I would make that sacrifice to see an example of this in play. Any suggestions?

John Harper's Blades game is pretty good


He also ran a game for a brunch of streamers

LA By Night is another one I enjoy (Vampire 5e)
 

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
Mechanics are not getting invoked as some sort of unartful rote process though. It's the result of applied judgement of the people playing the game. At least in the games I am familiar with. Social mechanics that I am familiar with are all deeply integrated into the fiction, require applied judgement, and are based around choices you make in play as well as character creation.

Based on the expressed play preferences of posters that enjoy these sorts of games do you really believe we would enjoy something so unartful?

Different people enjoy different things. I explained what I get out of the player being solely in control of their character. I played "Honey Heist" the other night as a quick diversion where you play bears and your character is randomly determined as is the core of the adventure. So you play bears trying to steal honey and other shenanigans. It was fun distraction because it was so simple, but not something I'd want to do on a regular basis. Not saying that an explicitly silly game (although I was pretty deeply invested in my washed up grizzly bear) is the same thing as the games you're discussing, just that I'm not going to say I would never enjoy a different system. On the other hand I lack time and opportunity to play a wide variety of games; while it's interesting to hear about other games (or play quick games like Honey Heist now and then) I still have my preferences. It's no reflection one way or another on other games.

But something was bothering from your previous post. Has anyone ever said that mood is randomly determined? Ever? Other than baseless accusations like this one of course. I have never once said a character's mood is randomized.

I have said that the reaction and other aspects of the character is determined by a game system - which in at least some cases is the result of randomized result. My impression was that reactions were also sometimes randomized based on descriptions but people tend to explain game specific terms by using more game specific terms.
 

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
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.

IIRC you gave a long example of outcomes without describing what happened without explaining any mechanics except to refer to other game specific mechanics without explaining how they work.

People have explicitly stated that their reactions were dictated by the game system such as whether to murder someone or that they're attracted to an individual of the same sex. How do they get there? I have no clue because y'all talk around it using yet more game terms.
 

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