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System matters and free kriegsspiel

I think I would find it helpful if someone who thinks they "get" FKR better than me would identify some of the rules-heavy systems that are the objects of its critique. As I've said, 3E D&D seems to me to be the core of it; but are there other systems that are also being had in mind?
My impression is that pre-OD&D is the goal for FKR style play; I've heard the term "Arnesonian gaming" elsewhere. Incidentally, this view would place it in specific relation to the history of dnd more so than in relation to more recent non-dnd-like rpgs. Further, my impression is that in dnd-type games there is a particular relationship between system and setting that they are trying to invert. So, rather than playing a game of 1e, or 3e, or whatever in the setting of Greyhawk, you are "playing Greyhawk." For example, see some of the quotes included in this post:


  • “Doing it by the book” was impossible; the book – and the game rules – hadn’t been written yet. (1)
  • “I mentioned that I’ve never really ‘played D&D’; I’ve played “something called Blackmoor with Dave, something called Greyhawk with Gary, and something called Tekumel with Phil” (2)
  • “We played using whatever tools we needed at that point in the campaign – RPGs, Braunsteins, miniatures, boardgames, poker, you name it.” (12)
  • “There’s a lot of nonsense about the way Dave played and organized Blackmoor floating about; a lot of people are assuming that he was working to A Great Master Plan when he wasn’t. He loved to simply play, and he whipped up the game mechanics and ‘history’ / ‘timeline’ to suit the game in progress. I guess that the best way to ‘play like Dave’ is to not over-think the thing – don’t worry about how it all has to make sense somehow.

There is something resonant here even when looking at the rules-lite games of the OSR. On osr forums, there is a lot of talk of "which system" to use. e.g. quesitons like, "do I use basic fantasy or OSE or the black hack?" Sometimes there is an attempt to "match" system and setting, e.g. "what system is best for barrowmaze/stonehell/ultraviolet grasslands?" or "how do I convert Against the Giants for Into the Odd." All those games might be rules lite, but there is a certain obsession over which of those variations of dnd are 'best.'

Part of my particular circumstance is that I have players who don't bother to read rules or principles anyway, so I'm basically running all the 'game' elements on my end anyway. I played a 5e campaign this way, which was done by the book, which for some of the players amounted to them rolling a die and me doing all the math and narrating the outcome. So rather than focus on system, what I want is for my players to turn to a random page of the Ultraviolet Grasslands setting book, look at one of the beautiful illustrations, and say 'this, whatever this is, I want to play this.'


UVG.png
 

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As a wider community we can't even agree on a definition for roleplaying. Literally the thing we do collectively as a hobby lacks even a working definition, much less a precise or definitive one.
RP is a problematic word only when one wants to use it as exclusionary.
The problem lies when the minority use jargon in external discussions.
 

Fenris-77

Small God of the Dozens
Think of it like Fate's aspects only instead of the player having to spend a Fate point to get a benefit, the benefit is persistent. If you describe your character in a way that suggests they can climb, then they can climb. If you describe your character as an office drone who's a shut in couch potato, not so much.

Why would it? What about describing your character as 'climby' involves defining the characteristics of a wall you might climb?

Exactly like most games with mechanical weight to how climby your character is. If you have STR18/+4 and expertise in athletics that only tells you about your character...relative to other characters...but tells you exactly zero about the difficulty of climbing walls.

Exactly like most games with mechanical weight to how climby your character is. You still have to ask the D&D DM those questions. The only difference is you have the rulebook to look at to estimate what you assume your DCs will be. But you still have to ask in the moment how difficult this wall is at this time in the fiction.
Why would it? I guess that's a fair question. Think of it in terms of D&D, although that isn't particularly my jam. If I have a +8 to climb, i have a pretty good handhold (har har) on my chances of climbing any given wall, especially when you add in that the basic spread of DCs is the same from DM to DM. Now that really isn't materially different than 'climby', I'll grant you, but is more grounded. By which I mean I'm comparing a number I know to a likely range of numbers. Whereas with climby I'm comparing a less-well-defined number against a complete unknown. To grant another point, in both cases I can ask the GM "how climbable does the wall of the keep look?" which is perfectly reasonable question in the vein of what are my chances rather than may I. However, the answer to that question in D&D provides me, the player, with significantly more information than it does in FKR. The language of the answer in D&D indexes DC pretty precisely even if the DC isn't mentioned, which gives the player a very good idea what the PCs chances of climbing the wall are, which is solid emulation of a PCs fictional ability to decide that same thing for himself. It seems les so in FKR, to me anyway.

A caveat: this isn't me showing my flag as a hyper-cautious player. I'm not. I drive characters like stolen cars, to borrow a phrase, but a big part of enjoying that is that the games I like don't surprise me on the mechanics side, just on the consequences and results side.

To be clear, I bet this problem clears up with time played at the FKR table, and I'm really thinking about this as a new player trying to learn a system and figure out my character. I just see a lot of scope for FKR to feel like a shallow information environment with a lot of disconnects between GM and player knowledge sets and expectations. Obviously it's not always like that, lots of people really enjoy FKR, but I'm struggling a little to figure out why not. Much as @hawkeyefan said above, the examples given really don't appeal to me, and that doesn't happen to me very often with RPGs. Anyway, just searching for clarity. Thanks for the response.
 

pemerton

Legend
I am going to post some sincere responses.

My impression is that pre-OD&D is the goal for FKR style play; I've heard the term "Arnesonian gaming" elsewhere. Incidentally, this view would place it in specific relation to the history of dnd more so than in relation to more recent non-dnd-like rpgs. Further, my impression is that in dnd-type games there is a particular relationship between system and setting that they are trying to invert. So, rather than playing a game of 1e, or 3e, or whatever in the setting of Greyhawk, you are "playing Greyhawk."
To me there seems to be a big difference between playing Earthsea - which has been mentioned upthread, as an example (referring to this blog) - and playing Greyhawk. To the best of my understanding, Greyhawk as GMed by Gygax is not a fully-realised fiction like Le Guin's novels. It's a megadungeon with some associated stuff that includes an Alice in Wonderland pastiche, a King Kong pastiche, etc.

I'm also not sure that "playing Greyhawk with Gary" can be prised off the fact that Gary is an experienced wargame referee and designer who brings a certain set of play sensibilities to his table (as can be seen very clearly in his DMG, among other works).

Tekumel is obviously a bit different in this respect, although personally I think it's striking how close the Empire of the Petal Throne rules adhere to "exploration of the underworld" play. I don't know if this was Barker's concession to wargaming, or reveals something about the parameters of his fictional conception - I guess Jon Peterson or Shannon Appelcline has probably addressed this question.

Part of my particular circumstance is that I have players who don't bother to read rules or principles anyway, so I'm basically running all the 'game' elements on my end anyway. I played a 5e campaign this way, which was done by the book, which for some of the players amounted to them rolling a die and me doing all the math and narrating the outcome.
This paints a particular picture of the way in which your players want to engage with their RPGing.

So rather than focus on system, what I want is for my players to turn to a random page of the Ultraviolet Grasslands setting book, look at one of the beautiful illustrations, and say 'this, whatever this is, I want to play this.
This reminded me of this and this from Ron Edwards:

Exploration and its child, Premise
The best term for the imagination in action, or perhaps for the attention given the imagined elements, is Exploration. Initially, it is an individual concern, although it will move into the social, communicative realm, and the commitment to imagine the listed elements becomes an issue of its own.

When a person perceives the listed elements together and considers Exploring them, he or she usually has a basic reaction of interest or disinterest, approval or disapproval, or desire to play or lack of such a desire. Let's assume a positive reaction; when it occurs, whatever prompted it is Premise, in its most basic form. To re-state, Premise is whatever a participant finds among the elements to sustain a continued interest in what might happen in a role-playing session. Premise, once established, instils the desire to keep that imaginative commitment going.

Person 1: "You play vampires in the modern day, trying to stay secret from the cattle and coping with other vampires." [See atmospheric, grim, punky-goth pictures]

Person 2: "Ooh! Cool!"

Person 2 might have liked the grittiness of the art, the romance of the word "vampire," or the idea of being involved in a secret mystical intrigue. Or maybe none of these and an entirely different thing. Or maybe all of them at once. It doesn't matter - whatever it was, that's the initial Premise for this person. . . .

The key to Gamist Premises is that the conflict of interest among real people is an overt source of fun. It is not a matter of upset or abuse, and it is certainly not a "distraction from" or "failure of" role-playing.
  • A possible Gamist development of the "vampire" initial Premise might be, Can my character gain more status and influence than the other player-characters in the ongoing intrigue among vampires?
  • Another might be, Can our vampire characters survive the efforts of ruthless and determined human vampire hunters?
. . .

Narrativist Premises vary regarding their origins: character-driven Premise vs. setting-driven Premise, for instance. They also vary a great deal in terms of unpredictable "shifts" of events during play. The key to Narrativist Premises is that they are moral or ethical questions that engage the players' interest. The "answer" to this Premise (Theme) is produced via play and the decisions of the participants, not by pre-planning.
  • A possible Narrativist development of the "vampire" initial Premise, with a strong character emphasis, might be, Is it right to sustain one's immortality by killing others? When might the justification break down?
  • Another, with a strong setting emphasis, might be, Vampires are divided between ruthlessly exploiting and lovingly nurturing living people, and which side are you on?
. . .

Simulationist Premises are generally kept to their minimal role of personal aesthetic interest; the effort during play is spent on the Exploration. Therefore the variety of Simulationist play arises from the variety of what's being Explored.
  • Character: highly-internalized, character-experiential play, for instance the Turku approach. A possible development of the "vampire" premise in terms of Character Exploration might be, What does it feel like to be a vampire?
  • Situation: well-defined character roles and tasks, up to and including metaplot-driven play. A possible development of the "vampire" premise in terms of Situation Exploration might be, What does the vampire lord require me to do?
  • Setting: a strong focus on the details, depth, and breadth of a given set of source material. A possible development of the "vampire" premise in terms of Setting Exploration might be, How has vampire intrigue shaped human history and today's politics?
  • System: a strong focus on the resolution engine and all of its nuances in strictly within-game-world, internally-causal terms. A possible development of the "vampire" premise in terms of System Exploration might be, How do various weapons harm or fail to harm a vampire, in specific causal detail?
  • Any mutually-reinforcing combination of the above elements is of course well-suited to this form of play.
The key to Simulationist play is that imagining the designated features is prioritized over any other aspect of role-playing, most especially over any metagame concerns. The name Simulationism refers to the priority placed on resolving the Explored feature(s) in in-game, internally causal terms.​

I think this is a good explanation of the pretty wide variety of ways in which a RPGer can want to play this.
 

pemerton

Legend
We don't need to regulate and encode anything beyond the genre expectations and if we can't decide based on the fiction, roll 2d6. If something needs to be encoded, like say the quantity of food a horse eats in a day, instead of looking in a rule book for the answer (D&D5E says it's four pounds, btw) you look to real life as much as possible and then only if it's relevant. Does it matter right now, in this moment, exactly how much food a horse eats? If not, then it doesn't matter. Horses need to eat 1-2% of their body weight in roughage a day, for what it's worth. Unless you're talking about really small breeds of horses, they need more than four pounds of food a day. And that's part of the problem. As gamers we default to the rules rather than reality
I think it's widely recognised that the need for RPG books (especially GM manuals) to serve as mini-encyclopaedias has passed.

In a Classic Traveller session that I GMed last year, the PCs were blasting/drilling through 4 km of ice. Their available tools included a triple beam laser turret. We wanted to know how long it took them - in Traveller this matters because it goes to upkeep costs (modest), crew salaries (a bit more than modest), ship repayments if in issue (currently not for this group of collectors of used starships), and also how long I have as referee for my various NPCs spread over multiple worlds to take action "offscreen".

To work it out, we Googled up some papers reporting on using lasers to melt ice and extrapolated wildly from those.

I don't think that makes us FKRer, though. Even back before Google, playing Rolemaster, I remember using actual encyclopaedias to answer questions about (eg) animal mass and speed; and using the expertise of the engineers at the table to resolve other technical questions. (And in another recent Traveller session I remember one of the engineers at the table face-palming multiple times in response to my narration of something-or-other involving electric fields, where I was trying to reconcile some aspect of a module setting I was using with some other bit of framing I was doing!)

In ultralight games, like most FKR games, there's already more rules than you'd expect in real life.
This isn't obvious to me. In real life I have a lot of knowledge about things I'm familiar with: eg I know how many exams I can mark per hour or per day. I know that I can run about 12 km in about 1 hour, but probably not 24 km in 2 hours! I know that I can standing two-legged jump up my Town Hall steps 3 at a time but probably not 4 at a time without risking injury!

I choose these examples because they correlate to the sort of issues of personal capacity that @Fenris-77 has pointed to in relation to climbing.

How important are these sorts of things in RPG resolution? Well, in a system like 4e's skill challenges, hardly at all, because the resolution framework operates independently of these sorts of fictional details (eg I declare I'm marking all the exams, and if I succeed on an INT or CON check as seems appropriate then I get them done, otherwise something goes wrong - depending on context the failure might be narrated as me falling asleep, or getting too bored to keep going, or some external interruption like a fire alarm, which did happen to me once). The fiction has a big impact on framing, and a big impact on consequences, but not a big impact on the actual resolution process.

In a system like Rolemaster or AD&D, this sort of detail often matters a fair bit, and outcomes can turn on whether or not a character is able to deliver a performance that is above the human minimum but not necessarily at the human maximum for the endeavour in question. (The actual way RM handles this is incredibly baroque: PCs have a static movement rate, derived from PC height and the Quickness stat; they have a Sprinting skill bonus; they have a Jumping skill bonus; how those bonuses are used to derive performance is extremely unclear, with multiple published subsystems none of which is fully transparent. I think Burning Wheel is far superior in this respect, with consistent resolution rules and less attempt at feet-per-second granularity.)

This issue of individual capability is applicable to horses and starships too. In real life some horses are hungrier and/or faster than others; some vehicles and some weapons perform better than others. Both RPG rules and encyclopaedias tend to flatten out this real-life variation.

So questions like "how do I climb a wall?" aren't answered with "on page 25 you'll find the DCs for climbing various surfaces" instead you'll get "it depends on the genre and circumstances in play at the time you want to climb a wall." How do you climb a wall? You tell the Referee that you climb the wall. They will make a decision based on the relevant circumstances in the moment if it's an automatic success, automatic failure, or you need to roll. If their decision sounds off to you, ask them. They'll explain their reasoning. It's a feature, not a bug.
To me, this sounds like a stripped-back RuneQuest (or similar "reallism"-oriented system with transparent PC gen).
 

pemerton

Legend
I bet this problem clears up with time played at the FKR table, and I'm really thinking about this as a new player trying to learn a system and figure out my character. I just see a lot of scope for FKR to feel like a shallow information environment with a lot of disconnects between GM and player knowledge sets and expectations.
I don't think it's a coincidence that Arneson, Gygax and others found that over the course of their play sufficiently many resolution subsystems crystallised that they were able to write them down and publish them.

Marc Miller in the original Traveller rules encourages the referee to make notes of decisions made about how to resolve situations, how to adapt the published subsystems, etc, so as to maintain a consistent world that is fairly adjudicated.

My understanding of some of the FKRers is that they want to live through this sort of process themselves rather than take the benefit of someone else's having done it.
 

Fenris-77

Small God of the Dozens
My understanding of some of the FKRers is that they want to live through this sort of process themselves rather than take the benefit of someone else's having done it.
See I'd call that the game design process, which is something I do. However, it's not something I'd pay for (not that anyone said that, just saying). Nothing wrong with it at all, but what you're describing is part pf the road to a more complete RPG, not a standalone RPG system, or set of ideals, or whatever, which is very much what at least some proponents of the FKR seem to want to index. I think if you told a lot of FKR fans that they were simply working toward a 'finished' or more compete RPG they might take umbrage. IDK... maybe it's true for some and not others. Anyway, I don't have an issue with it, but it doesn't seem to encapsulate or really index at all some of the failures to communicate we've had in the tread in places.
 

pemerton

Legend
guess the way your play example exemplifies a really hardcore 'author stance' approach
Using the terms "author" and "actor" in Edwards' sense here, it's mostly actor stance: that is, a person (me, the player) determines a character's decisions and actions using only knowledge and perceptions that the character would have as opposed to a person determines a character's decisions and actions based on the real person's priorities, then retroactively "motivates" the character to perform them.

In order through the play as posted:

* The two character's wanted to continue more-or-less due east on the other side of both streams. Actor stance

* This was heading into the neighbourhood of Auxol, and so Thurgon kept his eye out for friends and family. Actor stance

* Thurgon asked Rufus after Auxol. Actor stance

* Aramina was not meeting Rufus's gaze. Actor stance (including knowledge of the character's own traits and inclinations)

* Thurgon answered that she travelled with him and mended his armour. Actor stance

* Aramina looked Rufus directly in the eye and told him what she thought of him. Actor stance

* I (pemerton) told the GM that I wanted to check Ugly Truth for Aramina, to cause a Steel check on Rufus's part. Not an action declaration as such - that's already happened above - but a suggestion to the GM as to how, in mechanical terms, I believe Aramina's telling Rufus what she thinks of him ought to be resolved.

* Thurgon tried to break Rufus out of his shock and shame with a Command check: he should pull himself together and join in restoring Auxol to its former glory. Actor stance, again with an indication to the GM as to how, in mechanical terms, I believe Thurgon's attempt ought to be resolved.

* Aramina tried for untrained Command, saying that if he wasn't going to join with Thurgon he might at least give us some coin. Actor stance, again with an indication to the GM as to how, in mechanical terms, I believe Aramina's attempt ought to be resolved.

* The characters continued on, and soon arrived at Auxol. Actor stance

* I tried a different approach, to avoid the Duel of Wits the GM was pushing towards. Author stance - my real world priority was not to have my character be hosed in a contest I was pretty sure he couldn't win, partly because of his stats and partly because a Duel of Wits is resolved via blind declarations and my GM is a much better tactical wargamer than me and would crush me in the declaration process.

* I'd already made a point of Thurgon having his arms on clear display as he rode through the countryside and the estate. Actor stance

* Thurgon raised his mace and shield to the heavens, and called on the Lord of Battle to bring strength back to his mother so that Auxol might be restored to its former greatness. Actor stance - having retroactively motivated my character to try an "externa" rather than conversational approach to reconciling with his mother, I decided to perform this prayer by drawing on my knowledge of my character's situation, traits and inclinations.

* I decided that this made an impact on Aramina too: up until now she had been cynical and slightly bitter, but now she was genuinely inspired and determined. Actor stance - this is a decision based on the character's traits and inclinations plus having inhabited her through the previous sessions of play, the immediately prior interaction with Rufus, and then witnessing the miracle performed by Thurgon. The key turning point was the Ugly Truth check against Rufus, in which her expression of bitterness towards Rufus had been via an account of the (relative) virtue of Thurgon and their younger brother - if you like, Aramina had persuaded herself of the truth of her own invective! Witnessing the miracle drove this home.​

I haven't tried to classify the GM's stance in playing Rufus and Xanthippe, though I suspect it was mostly author stance, with his real-world priority being to apply pressure as a BW GM is meant to do. When I'm playing BW, I don't worry about the GM's reasoning process - to use Vincent Baker's terms from Apocalypse World, I am very happy to be misled! (Ie to take the GM's narration at face value as an account of the internal cause-and-effect logic of the fiction.)

But anyway, the fact that this is all actor stance is pretty important to my own play experience, which is mostly about intense inhabitation of the character, especially their emotional experience. This is why I love Burning Wheel, because it brings this more than any other RPG I know. (I expect Sorcerer is up there too but I've never played it.) It's also why my BW character's tend not to advance as quickly as my GM's character's do when he is playing! He spends more time in Author stance, retroactively motivating his characters to take the actions that will meet his real-world priority of triggering advancement checks (think of a system a bit like the classic RQ improvement-based-on-use).
 

pemerton

Legend
See I'd call that the game design process, which is something I do. However, it's not something I'd pay for (not that anyone said that, just saying). Nothing wrong with it at all, but what you're describing is part pf the road to a more complete RPG, not a standalone RPG system, or set of ideals, or whatever, which is very much what at least some proponents of the FKR seem to want to index. I think if you told a lot of FKR fans that they were simply working toward a 'finished' or more compete RPG they might take umbrage. IDK... maybe it's true for some and not others. Anyway, I don't have an issue with it, but it doesn't seem to encapsulate or really index at all some of the failures to communicate we've had in the tread in places.
On the thread: I think it's a success! Look at the title. And what are we discussing 500 posts in? We're discussing system - ie (to quote Ron Edwards) a means by which in-game events are determined to occur - and how free kriegsspiel works as a system, and also what the FKR has to say about system.

On whether my description of FKR's relationship to Arneson, Gygax etc is painting FKR as play = playtesting/game design. Mabye?

But here's another thought - once again, it's Edwards, under the heading "Pitfalls of Narrativist game design":

Karaoke. This is a serious problem that arises from the need to sell thick books rather than to teach and develop powerful role-playing. Let's say you have a game that consists of some Premise-heavy characters and a few notes about Situation, and through play, the group generates a hellacious cool Setting as well as theme(s) regarding those characters. Then, publishing your great game, you present that very setting and theme in the text, in detail.

<snip most of Edwards' quote from Over the Edge, which finishes with the following - the quoted "I" is Jonathan Tweet:>

The first time I played OTE, I had a few pages of notes on the background and nothing on the specifics. I made it all up on the spot. Not having anything written as a guide (or crutch), I let my imagination loose. You have the mixed blessing of having many pages of background prepared for you. If you use the information in this book as a springboard for your own wild dreams, then it is a blessing. If you limit yourself to what I've dreamed up, it's a curse.​

All I (Edwards] see, I'm afraid, is the curse. The isolated phrases "mixed blessing" and "(or crutch)" don't hold a lot of water compared to the preceding 152 extraordinarily detailed pages of canonical setting. I'm not saying that improvisation is better or more Narrativist than non-improvisational play. I am saying, however, that if playing this particular game worked so wonderfully to free the participants into wildly successful brainstorming during play ... and since the players were a core source during this event, as evident in the game's Dedication and in various examples of play ... then why present the results of the play-experience as the material for another person's experience?​

I love this passage from Edwards, and have often referred to it before. One thing I loved about 4e D&D is that it dropped so much of the accreted karaoke of D&D - how exactly does a Sepia Snake Sigil work (compare the rules text in Unearthed Arcana to the 2nd ed AD&D PHB to the 3E PHB to see this build up of someone else's play experience as the material for our play)? What happens if I blast a fireball into a small space? Can my character jump across the wild spaces of the Elemental Chaos and grapple Ygorl? In its place it substituted crisp resolution mechanics in the form of DCs-by-level, page 42, the uniform player-side resource economy, the combat action economy, and the skill challenge framework.

My understanding of at least some of the FKRers - not the one's playing Cthulhu Dark, and frankly not Dark Empires either, but the ones who want to "play like they were playing with Gary in Greyhawk" is that they are sick of the karaoke of system to some pretty fundamental degree. They want to experience the creation of it for themselves

That's not a passion of mine - I don't want Sage Advice-style karaoke of adjudication but am happy to take useful and versatile systems off the shelf - but I'm not going to fault that passion in others.
 

Maybe FKR posts, particularly this one that has been referenced the most, slips from setting to genre without thinking enough about what the difference might be, despite areas of overlap. For example, if we are playing a Star Wars rpg, are we playing in the Star Wars universe as a setting, or are we telling Star Wars-esque stories? (This was referenced upthread as a confusion between genre and realism (though I would argue that realism is a genre)). I'm guessing that the envisioned (and perhaps never realized) fkr-style play involves turning any given novel into a setting, and then having play being driven by the invisible "rulebooks" of what sort of thing happens in that setting, as set by the genre and particularities of whatever novel(s) or historical fictions you want to play.

Anyway, I finally have gotten around to watching the show Community, several years after it aired. Of course there was famously an episode entitled "Advanced Dungeons and Dragons." Some of the relationships among the characters in this episode have already been established as toxic, so there's a lot 'wrong' with what's going, from which the comedy of the episode derives. But I thought it was an interesting representation of gm as 'playing the world' style dnd.

(cw: this episode was removed from netflix because Ken Jeong's character is "dressed" as a drow. Because netflix would never platform bigotry, no.)


 
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Fenris-77

Small God of the Dozens
At the very least I see some real success in that we're now talking about system and not playing roshambo with each other. :D There's going to be some difficulty talking about 'FKR' in the same way as there is about PbtA - both are closer to design philosophies (or maybe desired table experience philosophy in the case of FKR, but whatever) than are are a single 'thing'. I'm happy to ask questions and learn something.(y)
 

But you do (use genre logic in real life). Your entire life has trained you to expect and accept certain things from a wide but limited list. In real life you wouldn't shrug off seeing a person lift off from the ground, unaided, and simply fly away. Nor would you be blasé about a person breaking off part of a building and throwing it. The "real world" is just as much a genre with genre rules and tropes and expectations as any other.

I don't have time to get to all of your post (I have to get one of my Blades' games Faction/Setting Clocks resolved and written up before tomorrow night's game..."playing the world" FitD style!), but I wanted to pull this out because (IMO) if this isn't enormously controversial, it surely should be.

I also think this hooks into my DC 30...DC 35(?) 5e post from 2016 where I specifically asked folks to discuss their adjudication process of endgame Mythic Tier action declarations (genre logic or naturalistic causal logic). That was a train wreck of utter incoherency and I feel like what you're saying above (which IMO is problematic for player's intuiting how any given instance of action declaration will be ruled upon) is related.

What you're saying above (I, and everyone else, uses genre logic in real life) just makes no sense to me. Why? Genre logic is when a reader or a participant in a game has their orientation to a moment of fiction (either now or upon reflection or when making predictions about the future) anchored to/by the tropes inherent to that fiction.

Despite the fact that naturalistic causal logic (gravity and thermodynamics and muskuloskeletal systems and energy transfer and the impact of moral hazards on social fabric) might remain exactly the same, in Swashbuckling Space Opera we expect a very different set of tropes to emerge than we do in Sci Fi Horror. As the reader or as the participant at a game table, your inferences, intuitions, and predictions are going to be entirely different from one another.

This shouldn't be particularly controversial as so much of the ire against 4e was due to the "mythic superhero logic" that undergirded every moment of play and the trajectory as a whole. The conversations on this subject (genre disparity) are legion (despite the fact that the naturalistic causal logic of a PoL setting would be exactly the same as FR or Greyhawk or even Dark Sun etc).


So to land this airplane...no, I don't use genre logic in real life. My intuitions, inferences, and predictions aren't governed by some kind of "trope coefficient" (lets call it) whereby its significantly more likely that some naturalistic causal logic defying instantiation of an event is apt to happen (because the world is anchored to genre tropes). When I look at a V4 Boulder (the upper boundaries of my capabilities...they go up to V17 by the way...so that should give you an idea of how utterly ordinary I am as a climber), I evaluate prospective routes based on a lot of parameters (many native to me and my abilities but many native to the nature of the nuances of the obstacle). I have intuitions, I draw inferences, and I make predictions. But none of those 3 are anchored to/governed by "I'm the hero of my story so I really should be able to climb this" or "falling would be anticlimactic" or "the rising action should happen right before the crux and the ascent will be the denouement" or "that vent right above the boulder is where I expect a band of ninjas to drop out" or "is that a sniper at the top of that boulder across the way...of course" or "a fall and a broken arm and then cut to my montage of my recovery process where I beat Chad the Douche Climber in the THE BIG CLIMB OFF" or "the douchey corporate lackey comes in to foreclose on the place with a big jerk smirk on his face but we all rally behind the salf-of-the-earth gym owners and raise money through car washes and lemonade stands and punt the corporate jerk to the moon afterward."

My intuitions, inferences, and predictions are all grounded by a world liberated from any "trope coefficient" (sadly I might add). Hence, no genre logic.

EDIT - All of the above that I've said is why that DC 30...35 thread (and the incoherent/conflated handling of naturalistic causal logic with a collage of genre tropes) was so fraught. If I'm a player and I think any of your (a) situation framing or (b) your credibility test handling (yes you can do that...no you can't do that) or (c) your DC adjudication (the DC is extremely hard because it indexes a normal person...the DC is between medium and hard because DC indexes mythic tier adventurers rather than the standard distributions of adult humanoids in FR) or (d) consequence handling wobbles (its naturalistic causal logic in this case...it indexes normal humanoids in that case...it indexes mythical greek tropes in that case...some opaque combination of all of it) to and fro...AND I'm reliant upon it NOT wobbling (being consistent and intuitive so I can make reliable inferences and predictions which orient me to the situation and the move-space I can feasibly or reliably make).

Well, that wobble is a huge problem.
 
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pemerton

Legend
I have intuitions, I draw inferences, and I make predictions. But none of those 3 are anchored to/governed by "I'm the hero of my story so I really should be able to climb this" or "falling would be anticlimactic" or "the rising action should happen right before the crux and the ascent will be the denouement" or "that vent right above the boulder is where I expect a band of ninjas to drop out" or "is that a sniper at the top of that boulder across the way...of course" or "a fall and a broken arm and then cut to my montage of my recovery process where I beat Chad the Douche Climber in the THE BIG CLIMB OFF" or "the douchey corporate lackey comes in to foreclose on the place with a big jerk smirk on his face but we all rally behind the salf-of-the-earth gym owners and raise money through car washes and lemonade stands and punt the corporate jerk to the moon afterward."
That last one seems like it should be a Masks downtime scenario? (Like Claremont was sick for the week and so some fill-in had to write that issue of New Mutants.)

But the most interesting, I think, is the rising action should happen right before the crux and the ascent will be the denouement. Whether the successful climb is where the action is, or whether the successful planning/prediction is where the action is (I'm thinking a climbing version of how Robert Downey Jr's Sherlock Holmes fights), will affect the feel of things quite a bit.
 

overgeeked

B/X Known World
Why would it? I guess that's a fair question. Think of it in terms of D&D, although that isn't particularly my jam. If I have a +8 to climb, i have a pretty good handhold (har har) on my chances of climbing any given wall..
Not really. Your climbing ability is not related to the difficulty of the wall. You cannot suppose one from the other. You can assume or...
especially when you add in that the basic spread of DCs is the same from DM to DM.
Look in the book for the answer. And once you have, you can then surmise your chances to climb a wall...except that the DM still sets the DC based on circumstances in the moment based on the fiction. So your +8 to climb could be spectacular (DC10 with advantage on the roll) or it could be meaningless (DC40 with disadvantage on the roll).
Now that really isn't materially different than 'climby', I'll grant you, but is more grounded. By which I mean I'm comparing a number I know to a likely range of numbers.
I don't think grounded is the right word. Grounded would be grounded in...something. Like grounded in reality. I think comforted is a better word. At a guess, you're comforted by the knowledge that the books list DCs and the assumption that the DM will pick something within that range. Likely because you think that list of DCs limits the DM to that certain known range of difficulty, but that's simply not true. The DM is free to make it an automatic success, automatic failure, or a roll with a DC between 2 and 50+, and use advantage or disadvantage.
Whereas with climby I'm comparing a less-well-defined number against a complete unknown.
Right. The unknown is scary. You're concerned that the DM might make a bad or unfair call. I get it. But there's nothing stopping a D&D DM from doing the same. The list of DC in the book doesn't stop the DM from doing any of the things I mention above. So it's a false sense of security.
To grant another point, in both cases I can ask the GM "how climbable does the wall of the keep look?" which is perfectly reasonable question in the vein of what are my chances rather than may I. However, the answer to that question in D&D provides me, the player, with significantly more information than it does in FKR.
It depends entirely on the particular FKR game and Referee. An FKR Ref is just as capable of telling you that you need to roll an 8+/2d6 as the D&D DM is of telling you the DC is 20. There's nothing preventing that from happening. You just assume it won't or can't. If it's an opposed roll you can see what the FKR Ref rolls with their 2d6 so you know exactly what you need to get. Also, in my experience, most DMs don't tell the player what the DC is before they roll the dice. The DM asks for a roll and the player does so and adds everything up and declares what they got. So the player generally doesn't know what DC they need to hit for success. Some things like the AC of a monster can be worked out in short order, but basically every other roll in the game is rolled "blind."
The language of the answer in D&D indexes DC pretty precisely even if the DC isn't mentioned, which gives the player a very good idea what the PCs chances of climbing the wall are, which is solid emulation of a PCs fictional ability to decide that same thing for himself.
I don't know about that. You think a climber can look at a wall and deduce precisely what their percentage chances of scaling the wall are? That seems more than a bit far fetched. The real-world climber might gauge a wall and guesstimate their chances. But not know exactly what they are. They may have done it a thousand times, but if their concentration falters or they misjudge something, they're still going to fall.
A caveat: this isn't me showing my flag as a hyper-cautious player. I'm not. I drive characters like stolen cars, to borrow a phrase, but a big part of enjoying that is that the games I like don't surprise me on the mechanics side, just on the consequences and results side.
Sure. And we all have our preferences. But that's not what FKR games do. There aren't any "surprises" on the mechanics side. Most of them have "roll 2d6, roll high" as their mechanics. What's the surprise? Referee adjudication? You still have that same "surprise" with most other RPGs.
To be clear, I bet this problem clears up with time played at the FKR table, and I'm really thinking about this as a new player trying to learn a system and figure out my character.
Which specific game are you trying to play? Check the discord server. There's a lot of more knowledgeable people there.
I just see a lot of scope for FKR to feel like a shallow information environment with a lot of disconnects between GM and player knowledge sets and expectations.
All the same information is there, but instead of reading the rulebook you ask the Referee.
 

Fenris-77

Small God of the Dozens
OK, I'm going to pull something out of the above post to mention first and shout about a bit. DCs are not picked out of a hat. It's not some magic could be 10 could be 40 proposition. That's nonsense, no one plays D&D like that. D&D isn't my favorite game, but I am intimately familiar with the rules, both current and previous. But go on I suppose, tell me how DCs range by 30 on the regular...

OK, got that out my system. Whew.

More generally, I find your readings of my posts somewhat uncharitable. For example, your lovely strawman built around the term precise. I didn't say that at all, and was actually pretty clear about what I did say. I said comparing a known mod to a known range of DCs was more grounded, in that I can, as a player, know what is likely. The word precise comes in because, in most D&D play, the movement from the DM thinking of a DC and translating that into a descriptor is pretty reliable. Words like easy, hard, or whatever all index a pretty narrow range of possible DCs.

No surprises on the mechanics side? Really? How about the GM choosing my mods and the target mods in secret? And then applying them to my roll for me? Surprise! The mechanics are more than just roll 2d6, it's everything else that feeds in, and in FKR that part is a black box from the player perspective.

How do I make informed decisions for my character when I have to ask the ref everything? I just don't see how those two bits fit together, and not for lack of trying.
 

overgeeked

B/X Known World
I don't have time to get to all of your post (I have to get one of my Blades' games Faction/Setting Clocks resolved and written up before tomorrow night's game..."playing the world" FitD style!), but I wanted to pull this out because (IMO) if this isn't enormously controversial, it surely should be.

I also think this hooks into my DC 30...DC 35(?) 5e post from 2016 where I specifically asked folks to discuss their adjudication process of endgame Mythic Tier action declarations (genre logic or naturalistic causal logic). That was a train wreck of utter incoherency and I feel like what you're saying above (which IMO is problematic for player's intuiting how any given instance of action declaration will be ruled upon) is related.

What you're saying above (I, and everyone else, uses genre logic in real life) just makes no sense to me. Why? Genre logic is when a reader or a participant in a game has their orientation to a moment of fiction (either now or upon reflection or when making predictions about the future) anchored to/by the tropes inherent to that fiction.
What? No. Genre is a loose collection of tropes that we recognize and label as "space opera," "horror," "fantasy," etc. "Genre logic" is simply a gauge of whether a particular story is conforming to the expectations presented by those tropes. If you label something as an alien invasion story and there's no aliens and no invasion...you've successfully subverted genre expectations, but likely not in a fun and interesting way. If you label something as a zombie apocalypse story and there's zombies...but they're new and different in interesting ways...you've successfully subverted genre expectations in likely a fun and interesting way. As above, realism is a genre. What makes realism a genre? The collection of genre tropes related to realism. What makes them realistic? The fact that they conform to reality. Reality can be seen as just another genre.
Despite the fact that naturalistic causal logic (gravity and thermodynamics and muskuloskeletal systems and energy transfer and the impact of moral hazards on social fabric) might remain exactly the same, in Swashbuckling Space Opera we expect a very different set of tropes to emerge than we do in Sci Fi Horror. As the reader or as the participant at a game table, your inferences, intuitions, and predictions are going to be entirely different from one another.
Right. But unless those tropes are specifically changed...there's no reason to assume they have been. So if there's something not covered by the sci-fi horror tropes, you can default to the realism tropes to cover everything else. To put that another way, the baseline is reality, then you pile the genre tropes you want to use on top of that. If there's any contradictions, the genre tropes win out against the reality tropes. So if you're playing swashbuckling space opera you'll expect physics to bend in places, break in others, and be exactly as we know it in the rest. FTL and pew pew noises in space. But having a 2 ton piece of metal land on you in full gravity is bad news.
So to land this airplane...no, I don't use genre logic in real life. My intuitions, inferences, and predictions aren't governed by some kind of "trope coefficient" (lets call it) whereby its significantly more likely that some naturalistic causal logic defying instantiation of an event is apt to happen (because the world is anchored to genre tropes).
Conduct an experiment with me. Treating characters in the game / genre story as real people living in a real world is one of the goals of the FKR. If we treat them as real people inhabiting a real world...what would someone in the Star Wars universe say about genre logic and their lived experience? They'd likely say much the same as you are now. The genre tropes the characters live with is their lived experience. They'd have no awareness of it from an omniscient outside perspective. They'd have no concept of their lived experience being "off" from "reality"...their lived experience is their reality. We recognize it as genre tropes because we're outside observers. If we presented our reality to them, ours would be the genre story with an off-kilter reality.
When I look at a V4 Boulder (the upper boundaries of my capabilities...they go up to V17 by the way...so that should give you an idea of how utterly ordinary I am as a climber), I evaluate prospective routes based on a lot of parameters (many native to me and my abilities but many native to the nature of the nuances of the obstacle). I have intuitions, I draw inferences, and I make predictions.
Exactly. You don't have a precise, concrete gauge of your percentage chances of making a climb.
But none of those 3 are anchored to/governed by "I'm the hero of my story so I really should be able to climb this" or "falling would be anticlimactic" or "the rising action should happen right before the crux and the ascent will be the denouement" or "that vent right above the boulder is where I expect a band of ninjas to drop out" or "is that a sniper at the top of that boulder across the way...of course" or "a fall and a broken arm and then cut to my montage of my recovery process where I beat Chad the Douche Climber in the THE BIG CLIMB OFF" or "the douchey corporate lackey comes in to foreclose on the place with a big jerk smirk on his face but we all rally behind the salf-of-the-earth gym owners and raise money through car washes and lemonade stands and punt the corporate jerk to the moon afterward."
Ah. You're conflating genre with story structure. That's not how FKR games work. There's no push for emulating storytelling. No act structure or denouement. No inciting incident or hero's journey. FKR games are solidly emergent storytelling, in my experience.
My intuitions, inferences, and predictions are all grounded by a world liberated from any "trope coefficient" (sadly I might add). Hence, no genre logic.
Again, I think you're conflating genre with story structure. I'm not talking about story structure. I don't assume I will prevail after a dark night of the soul...I expect another dark night of the soul. What I'm talking about is that there's no alien invasions or zombie apocalypses. There are no superheroes. Physics works a particular way and we can make predictions based on that.
 

overgeeked

B/X Known World
OK, I'm going to pull something out of the above post to mention first and shout about a bit. DCs are not picked out of a hat. It's not some magic could be 10 could be 40 proposition. That's nonsense, no one plays D&D like that. D&D isn't my favorite game, but I am intimately familiar with the rules, both current and previous. But go on I suppose, tell me how DCs range by 30 on the regular...
"The D&D rules help you and the other players have a good time, but the rules aren't in charge. You're the DM, and you are in charge of the game." 5E DMG, p4.

"As a referee, the DM acts as a mediator between the rules and the players. A player tells the DM what he or she wants to do, and the DM determines whether it is successful or not, in some cases asking the player to make a die roll to determine success." 5E DMG, p5.

The rules of the game say the DM is in charge and free to change the rules. The DM is free to set the DC. The DMG gives guidelines that the DM is free to follow or ignore at their pleasure. The DM sets the DC and assigns dis/advantage.
More generally, I find your readings of my posts somewhat uncharitable. For example, your lovely strawman built around the term precise. I didn't say that at all, and was actually pretty clear about what I did say. I said comparing a known mod to a known range of DCs was more grounded, in that I can, as a player, know what is likely. The word precise comes in because, in most D&D play, the movement from the DM thinking of a DC and translating that into a descriptor is pretty reliable. Words like easy, hard, or whatever all index a pretty narrow range of possible DCs.
Again, it's a false sense of grounded as the DM can set whatever DC they like. You assume they will set it within the specified range. But there's no guarantee. The DM can also assign advantage and disadvantage and also declare things automatic success or automatic failure.
No surprises on the mechanics side? Really? How about the GM choosing my mods and the target mods in secret?
Most FKR games don't use modifiers of any kind. It's mostly a straight 2d6 roll, higher is better. If it's opposed, both sides roll 2d6, higher roll wins. There's no mods to hide from you. And again, the DM in D&D generally doesn't announce the DCs before the player makes a roll. So whatever modifiers they're using are secret, unless it's advantage or disadvantage for the player. You don't know the DC of a climb check...ever. You only know if you've succeeded or failed. You don't know the AC of a monster until you find out if you've hit or missed...then over the course of a fight triangulate what the AC actually is.
The mechanics are more than just roll 2d6, it's everything else that feeds in, and in FKR that part is a black box from the player perspective.
Exactly like most every other game. The DM generally doesn't announce to the player exactly what the DC of a given check is before the player rolls...nor do they announce exactly what and how and why the DC is what it is. The DC in D&D is a black box from the player's perspective.
How do I make informed decisions for my character when I have to ask the ref everything?
You mean exactly like most every other game? You as a player only know what's on your character sheet until the DM informs you. If you want to know more...you have to ask the DM. How do you make informed decisions in D&D? You read the rulebook and assume the DM will follow those guidelines and further assume that you are now making informed decisions...then in the moment in play when a question comes up...you still have to ask the DM. So instead of reading the rulebook and having a few layers of assumptions...just ask the Referee. They're running the show anyway. They will know better than the book.
 

S'mon

Legend
Ah. You're conflating genre with story structure. That's not how FKR games work. There's no push for emulating storytelling. No act structure or denouement. No inciting incident or hero's journey. FKR games are solidly emergent storytelling, in my experience.

Yeah. I'm not sure MBC can really grok this, though, since his concept of RPGs is so intimately linked to fiction as story. Pemerton does I think, since he understands you can have World-Sim in a non-real world.
 

S'mon

Legend
Re DCs, IMO the GM should always announce the DC in advance of the attempt, unless there is very good reason the PC would not know the difficulty of the task. I think Insight checks (which are a peculiar mechanic) should likely have hidden DCs. Wall climbing, almost never.

I remember seeing Lloyd/Lindybeige go further and argue that the actual climb-wall roll should be made before the character attempts to climb the wall, but he was thinking more of Runequest or pre-3e D&D with fixed platonic success %s.

Certainly in an FKR game where the GM rolls 2d6 as the opposed roll to player 2d6, the GM should roll their 2d6 before the player decides to make the attempt. The PC should be able to see if this climb is a 2, a 7 or a 12.

Edit: I find with 5e, my players seem to pretty well assume that any DC is 15 unless I say different pre-roll. They're always surprised to succeed on a 10. :) If it's a Hard task DC 20, I'm pretty good about telling them. My son with his high level Rogue auto-hitting a 24 is always annoyed when I say some outlandish task is a 25, though.
 

Numidius

Adventurer
I wrote the OP in this thread. It was not any sort of criticism of free kriegsspiel; it was an analysis.

And someone else turned this into a thread about FKR. Which is fine by me.

I think I would find it helpful if someone who thinks they "get" FKR better than me would identify some of the rules-heavy systems that are the objects of its critique. As I've said, 3E D&D seems to me to be the core of it; but are there other systems that are also being had in mind?

Not far upthread @Numidius suggested that D&D-style spells are compatible with FKR. Can RQ be played in a FKR-adjacent fashion?

Anyway, it seems time to mention Vincent Baker on cubes and clouds: a list of those blogs is here, and here's the one I know best: anyway: 3 Resolution Systems.

Obviously FKR is very hostile to cubes-to-cubes resolution (D&D hit points; WotC D&D stop-motion initiative; at least some interpretations of the action economy and PC abilities that affect it more generally; damage-on-a-miss, which tends to undercut Baker's treatment of "I hit" as a cubes-to-cloud relationship; etc). They love cloud-to-cloud.

It's the attitude towards cubes-to-cloud that I'm unclear about, because it is sometimes called for but there is a least an intermittent hostility to systematisation, though not a uniform hostility. (The AW-flavoured FKR clearly has a systematic mechanical framework, of rolling dice whose size reflects fictional likelihoods of prevailing in a given sort of contest.)

Shadowrun, Traveller, Cyberpunk, Call of Cthulhu, AD&D, OD&D have been played FKR/freeform/ultralight over the years... as far as I know. I guess that's not much of a reaction against heavy rule-books, instead more of a love for those settings.

Runequest FKR? I guess Yes, why not?

Cubes to cloud: the most suggested cube is opposed 2d6. Then interpretation of results leads back to cloud.
My take: 9 vs 10 both opponents do well but it's basically a tie. 3 vs 4 both perform poorly, again a tie.

But the Gm could just use any type of resolution they prefer. Even full-on Rolemaster's Laws books altogether. As long as it is not player facing.

Justin H/Aboleth overlords blog
"When playing Pathfinder are you negotiating the fictional world, or are you making decisions out of a priority to game the numbers?"

Highlighted stats in AW come to mind, as an example.
As any player facing reward cycle.

(Bracing for impact from fellow posters assault, now) ;)

[Edit to mitigate: Also XP and automatic advancement!]
 
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