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System matters and free kriegsspiel

Numidius

Adventurer
Well it's like turning up to a chess club, I guess. It's fine if you're happy to hack your way through a standard D&D-ish or even CoC-ish module. But it's certainly handle-with-care if you're going to play anything at all which involves revealing or risking onseself.
I find it useful to start with a D&D/Cthulhu module, or scenario, as a basis and then follow players proclivities, implicit or explicit, adding my own twist, making the game more personal, see where it goes, while having the main "mission" still running in the background, to which fall back in on demand.
 

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A bit like being a lecturer, I think a GM needs a degree of self-confidence/self-belief in order to do it at all. The biggest limiter on number of GMs is people afraid they won't be good enough. So in practice, self-belief is the main qualifier.

Do you think so? My impression over the years is it has as much to do with people willing to do the work, and people who find the idea interesting at all.
 

Campbell

Relaxed Intensity
I think there's a lot to be said for finding the sorts of play that work for you as a GM and finding the right people to play with. For years I did not think I was cut out to run games. I was also broadly uncomfortable with the sort of projection of GM authority and assumed leadership style most traditional games presented. Turns out it was the type of game I was trying to run and some people I was playing with that were just not a good fit for the way I like to run games. Not that I was bad or they were bad. It was just a poor fit.
 

overgeeked

B/X Known World
I find it useful to start with a D&D/Cthulhu module, or scenario, as a basis and then follow players proclivities, implicit or explicit, adding my own twist, making the game more personal, see where it goes, while having the main "mission" still running in the background, to which fall back in on demand.
Yeah, I've done similar. It's a lot more work than just running something straight and potentially having to railroad players. I would turn the module/scenario into a mini sandbox that players could work through in mostly any order. Lots of turning linear plots into node-based design and using advice from places like the Alexandrian to flesh out the mysteries and make sure the clues all connected up. After doing that for a bit I just switched to West Marches and open-world sandbox games. It's about the same amount of work (measured in time), but it's way easier to manage. It's easier to simply say "here be dragons" and work out the ramifications of that than take what someone else wrote as a linear adventure and try to change it into a non-linear adventure.
 

Does anyone have a good excerpt of their FKR play that is representative?

It seems that it’s agreed that the play loop excerpt depicted upthread (by someone who I thought was a seminal mind in FKR…but let’s put that aside for now) was brutal.

How about someone post a quick excerpt of play featuring:

* GM framed conflict.

* Conversation to clarify/further orient player to the situation so they can make a action declaration.

* Action declaration.

* The resolution scheme the GM came up with for that moment and the “why” (and please don’t answer “play the world”…nuts and bolts and elbow grease please).

* The result and the consequence.


That would be helpful to functionally move conversation.
 

Numidius

Adventurer
Yeah, I've done similar. It's a lot more work than just running something straight and potentially having to railroad players. I would turn the module/scenario into a mini sandbox that players could work through in mostly any order. Lots of turning linear plots into node-based design and using advice from places like the Alexandrian to flesh out the mysteries and make sure the clues all connected up. After doing that for a bit I just switched to West Marches and open-world sandbox games. It's about the same amount of work (measured in time), but it's way easier to manage. It's easier to simply say "here be dragons" and work out the ramifications of that than take what someone else wrote as a linear adventure and try to change it into a non-linear adventure.
I think I agree. The scenarios I'm referring to are quite sandboxy, while having a final goal of "resolving it".
 

Numidius

Adventurer
Does anyone have a good excerpt of their FKR play that is representative?

It seems that it’s agreed that the play loop excerpt depicted upthread (by someone who I thought was a seminal mind in FKR…but let’s put that aside for now) was brutal.

How about someone post a quick excerpt of play featuring:

* GM framed conflict.

* Conversation to clarify/further orient player to the situation so they can make a action declaration.

* Action declaration.

* The resolution scheme the GM came up with for that moment and the “why” (and please don’t answer “play the world”…nuts and bolts and elbow grease please).

* The result and the consequence.


That would be helpful to functionally move conversation.
Just read this from one of the FKR bloggers on discord...

I tend to float somewhere on the border of the diceless frontier most of the time. After several years of doing so, I am increasingly comfortable with an authoritative ruling and moving forward to the next decision point. Most often, if I call for a roll, it is always in reaction to something which has a decided uncertain (and interesting) outcome. Typically I do 2d6 vs 7 or 9, and keep it simple, deciding between either target number based on contextual advantage.

In short, no player ever rolls to do something at my tables. They act, we adjudicate together, I call for a roll if something untoward is likely to occur as a result.

I’d always rather overdeliver on information than otherwise. Informed players make dynamic decisions which produce interesting sessions.
 

Just read this from one of the FKR bloggers on discord...

I tend to float somewhere on the border of the diceless frontier most of the time. After several years of doing so, I am increasingly comfortable with an authoritative ruling and moving forward to the next decision point. Most often, if I call for a roll, it is always in reaction to something which has a decided uncertain (and interesting) outcome. Typically I do 2d6 vs 7 or 9, and keep it simple, deciding between either target number based on contextual advantage.

In short, no player ever rolls to do something at my tables. They act, we adjudicate together, I call for a roll if something untoward is likely to occur as a result.

I’d always rather overdeliver on information than otherwise. Informed players make dynamic decisions which produce interesting sessions.

I appreciate it, but this doesn't help me. I've got tons and tons and tons of play excerpts from my various games on here in the format I'm looking for. You can refer to any of those for clarity. But here is what I'm looking for:

GM: The situation surrounding your perilous journey is <x, y, and z>.

Player: So if we go the x route then <suite of possible consequences>...but if we go the y route then we're moving headlong into z. Alright, what about if we <did this other thing>? Do the weather conditions look like they'll hold or is a chill wind blowing?

GM: <decides how to mechanize if a chill wind is blowing or makes a principled decision about a chill wind blowing based more on just "playing the world" (because the world can be played with both chill winds and without)> Looks like a chill wind is blowing!

Player: Alright, well, we're going to <do this thing that seems like it needs either a group check or contest of some kind against the elements or some kind of trekking move resolution>.

GM: Alright, everyone roll <whatever> and I'll roll <whatever>. If you get <however many> successes against my roll, then you succeed (why are we going this route to resolve this conflict?). If you don't, something goes wrong.

Players: <Fail to get the necessary successes> Sucktacular!

GM: Alright <this thing happens> (what is the thing and why does it happen vs some other thing happening - ANSWER THIS WITHOUT SAYING "PLAY THE WORLD"...because the world can be played with multiple possible results).




That is what I'm looking for. That level of post-mortem is instructive.
 

Soooooooooo…anyone have a play excerpt in the format of the above so we/I can evaluate what’s actually happening at the table? I (and @pemerton ) have taken the time and posted dozens and dozens of detailed play excerpts from our games (for just this purpose as well as personal self-reflection). Is it too much to ask to get one FKR excerpt from play (since apparently we all agree that the excerpt was awful from the guy who is a big player in the FKR community…that excerpt has done a lot of damage to my understanding).

Anyone?

Preferably one moment of consequential noncombat action resolution.
 

Numidius

Adventurer
Soooooooooo…anyone have a play excerpt in the format of the above so we/I can evaluate what’s actually happening at the table? I (and @pemerton ) have taken the time and posted dozens and dozens of detailed play excerpts from our games (for just this purpose as well as personal self-reflection). Is it too much to ask to get one FKR excerpt from play (since apparently we all agree that the excerpt was awful from the guy who is a big player in the FKR community…that excerpt has done a lot of damage to my understanding).

Anyone?

Preferably one moment of consequential noncombat action resolution.
Well, I don't have any at hand. I can ask for a detailed bit...

One thing: I understand you, and others, don't like that freeform combat play excerpt; I do personally, but anyway keep in mind it was an impromptu exchange via chat to show the other person how they managed that.
I don't wanna reopen the debate on the above, though. Just my two cents.
 

Well, I don't have any at hand. I can ask for a detailed bit...

One thing: I understand you, and others, don't like that freeform combat play excerpt; I do personally, but anyway keep in mind it was an impromptu exchange via chat to show the other person how they managed that.
I don't wanna reopen the debate on the above, though. Just my two cents.

To be clear (and I tried to in my post critiquing it), do you understand why I don't like it?

If you don't understand why I don't like it, its because of the following:

There is no discernible skilled play happening here. The player is given some kind of fiat to just describe their character after a situation is already encoded onto play (its like doing chargen after each specific scene you're facing is framed). Then, the player has nothing to anchor them/orient them to the fiction outside of a few bits of scene tags. It appears that they have absolutely no understood (by them) mechanical architecture to interface with and leverage in their OODA (observe > orient > decide > act) Loop. So they don't know what they can do outside of "I'm shaolin guy and I'm on a plane with angry big dude" and then they try to ask orienting questions and they get rebuffed by the GM.

Whatever comes out of their mouth next is completely arbitrary...just like the inputs that would form those mouth utterances. They can't model the situation that they're in because there isn't enough substantive qualities about either the gamestate or the fiction or their dramatic need within this conflict (neither constraints nor things to leverage nor things to make predictive inferences by), or if there even is one! So whatever they say next is overwhelmingly arbitrary!

And the conversation (as I said before) points toward some hybrid of Calvinball (whereby an apex arbiter of play gets to dictate the inputs of play, the resolution process of play - if any -, and the outputs of play pretty much entirely at their discretion...and change the nature/medium of play at their discretion as well) and Conch Passing (you talk > I talk > you talk > I talk...each of us bound by the prior talking ad infinitum).


The lack of anything resembling skilled play and the Calvinball + Storytelling Conch Passing inherent to that excerpt makes for a play paradigm that (again, I don't mean to be a dick) I couldn't imagine being less palatable. Unstructured freeform where one participant gives arbitrary authority to someone else...invests the game with arbitrary structure...but the structure doesn't do any heavy lifting to inform/orient/anchor the players such that they understand the constraints of their movespace/what they can leverage and then they get rebuffed when they try to probe about those very things (so they can make an informed action declaration and not behave like a mostly sensory - including proprioception - deprived actor who doesn't know how to impact the gamestate)...well, its something.

And it appears that this something isn't beloved by all FKR-ers either (nor do they hold it as representative of their play).
 

Numidius

Adventurer
Yeah, I got it. I find your replies very informative and punctual.
As I pointed out, that was AFAIK an off the cuff, improv, spur of the moment exercise between those two Gms.

What I can offer you, in response, is just a different, maybe simple, basic, idea to counter your analytical mind.
Sometimes things are just what they are, and they flow, nonetheless.

I imagine a Wachowsky's Matrix game situation starting like that:
You wake up in an airplane seat next to an aggressive Mr. Something Agent. You are dressed like a shaolin monk and have uploaded appropriate fighting style.
Fight!

Anyway I just asked your question on discord ;)
 


S'mon

Legend
Is anyone here familiar with the Simming communities of (mostly) the 1990s? Freeform roleplaying, sometimes with a GM in charge? The Star Trek Sims were huge. They never had any mechanics for task resolution, but seemed to manage.
 

Is anyone here familiar with the Simming communities of (mostly) the 1990s? Freeform roleplaying, sometimes with a GM in charge? The Star Trek Sims were huge. They never had any mechanics for task resolution, but seemed to manage.

If I may bring in something peripheral, but possibly related?

Many years ago I was involved in mechanics (though not definition) free MUSHes, most of the superhero based. Most of these were consent based; much of what was going on that involved conflict involved other players, and while you could declare whatever action you wanted, it was up to them what result (directed at them) you got. In addition there were oversight individuals who, when operating in that mode, could intervene under some circumstances.

It was, to me, extremely instructive about the strengths and weakness of such freeform (at least semi-) roleplaying.

At its best, it could produce extremely interactive and interesting combats and events where all participants understood how each other's characters were defined (usually with various sorts of benchmarking), and had at least some concept both how combats in the genre and to some extent reality worked, you could get a nice narrative interactive scene that was honestly a lot of fun.

That was the best of the situations.

At its worst, you have people who were unwilling or incapable of engaging with how each other's traits worked, had an overblown idea of what the benchmarking meant, were carrying around questionable ideas of how combat worked, or otherwise were extremely unlikely to engage properly, the scene would go, well, terribly.

Now, you might say "Well, that's the problem with the lack of a gamesmaster."

But the question is, would a gamesmaster (which would be present for bigger, more plot driven events on occasion) necessarily be any better than the second group of people? If they weren't, instead of simply ruining the experience for a small number of people, they could ruin it for a large number.

Because there was an overall group administrative structure, there were things that could keep this down to a dull roar, but that created its own levels of controversy (questions of favoritism, accusations that the admin didn't understand the characters and genre and more).

Now, this is not exactly equivalent to true freeform text or chat roleplaying, it wasn't far from it, and my observation was while they "managed" a lot of the time, that was because they people who didn't have a particular group they were interacting with that were on the same page would either go limp and not do much, or leave. It hardly seemed to suggest the approach was, overall, a resounding success. And I stuck with MUSHing for a number of years before I gave it up.
 

Is anyone here familiar with the Simming communities of (mostly) the 1990s? Freeform roleplaying, sometimes with a GM in charge? The Star Trek Sims were huge. They never had any mechanics for task resolution, but seemed to manage.
My wife was into the Pern Weyrs of similar construction, a former roommate was active in Alt.Callahan in the early 90's, and I used to read several of the Battlestar Galactica ones. (That was before nBSG even was in the works...)
I never participated in them myself, tho'.
The BG ones I followed had a vague skill system...
 

To be clear (and I tried to in my post critiquing it), do you understand why I don't like it?

If you don't understand why I don't like it, its because of the following:

There is no discernible skilled play happening here. The player is given some kind of fiat to just describe their character after a situation is already encoded onto play (its like doing chargen after each specific scene you're facing is framed). Then, the player has nothing to anchor them/orient them to the fiction outside of a few bits of scene tags. It appears that they have absolutely no understood (by them) mechanical architecture to interface with and leverage in their OODA (observe > orient > decide > act) Loop. So they don't know what they can do outside of "I'm shaolin guy and I'm on a plane with angry big dude" and then they try to ask orienting questions and they get rebuffed by the GM.

Whatever comes out of their mouth next is completely arbitrary...just like the inputs that would form those mouth utterances. They can't model the situation that they're in because there isn't enough substantive qualities about either the gamestate or the fiction or their dramatic need within this conflict (neither constraints nor things to leverage nor things to make predictive inferences by), or if there even is one! So whatever they say next is overwhelmingly arbitrary!

And the conversation (as I said before) points toward some hybrid of Calvinball (whereby an apex arbiter of play gets to dictate the inputs of play, the resolution process of play - if any -, and the outputs of play pretty much entirely at their discretion...and change the nature/medium of play at their discretion as well) and Conch Passing (you talk > I talk > you talk > I talk...each of us bound by the prior talking ad infinitum).


The lack of anything resembling skilled play and the Calvinball + Storytelling Conch Passing inherent to that excerpt makes for a play paradigm that (again, I don't mean to be a dick) I couldn't imagine being less palatable. Unstructured freeform where one participant gives arbitrary authority to someone else...invests the game with arbitrary structure...but the structure doesn't do any heavy lifting to inform/orient/anchor the players such that they understand the constraints of their movespace/what they can leverage and then they get rebuffed when they try to probe about those very things (so they can make an informed action declaration and not behave like a mostly sensory - including proprioception - deprived actor who doesn't know how to impact the gamestate)...well, its something.

And it appears that this something isn't beloved by all FKR-ers either (nor do they hold it as representative of their play).
A couple things

- this is not my understanding at all of what, for example, OSR/AD&D people mean when they say "skilled play." I understand "skilled play" not to be about leveraging mechanics, but rather leveraging the fiction of the world. This often this means using in-fiction elements to stack things in your favor--taking along hirlings, making elaborate traps, using subterfuge or out of the box thinking.
for example:
Game Ethos: The ethos of a game is a set of expectations about how players will approach it. Does play revolve around clever articulations, combinations and application of written rules or intuitive solutions that may not be specifically built into the rules and require GM intervention or ad hoc decision making. Do players engage in combat with enemies with the expectation that these combats should be fair challenges or are combats extremely risky and players expected to avoid them or tilt the odds in their favor through extrinsic means such as allies, scouting and trap creation. Game ethos is important and distinct from Mechanics or Design Principle because it describes the players’ expectations and the norms of how they are to interact with the mechanics.
Of course both examples there require different kinds of "skill." My point is that I imagine people who are trying to play a pre-OD&D "Arnesonian" game (where the rules were not player facing) would describe skilled play as manipulating the fiction as described by the DM, not thinking through any particular set of rules or mechanics. But maybe I'm misunderstanding what you are saying.

- the other thought/question I had was this: what about players who don't know, to one extent or another, what the rules are? Are they playing a game where they are just saying arbitrary things seeing what will work? I'm actually thinking here of 5e: adult players who don't read the rules and don't really care, or, perhaps especially, child players who can't yet read all the rules? As described upthread I play with my nephew; he rolls the dice and I do all the math and tell him what happens. He knows that it's better to roll high, that's about it. Everything else is just him responding to what I describe in the game world. And he probably comes up with more creative solutions to things than any of my adult players!
 

A couple things

- this is not my understanding at all of what, for example, OSR/AD&D people mean when they say "skilled play." I understand "skilled play" not to be about leveraging mechanics, but rather leveraging the fiction of the world.

Though (and I realize this is cynical, but there it is) I've never been able to get any real kind of answer to how that's distinct from "leveraging understanding of the GM involved."
 

Though (and I realize this is cynical, but there it is) I've never been able to get any real kind of answer to how that's distinct from "leveraging understanding of the GM involved."
It probably is similar to some degree. Hence some DMs getting the "killer dm" reputation. But maybe it's like the relationship between a pitcher and the umpire
 

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