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That Thread in Which We Ruminate on the Confluence of Actor Stance, Immersion, and "Playing as if I Was My Character"

S'mon

Legend
For me, the discussion about table power dynamics is to get to this starting point -- I do not think that it's as widely accepted as you seem to think, here. There's a strong contingent of players that subscribe to the idea that the GM does, by right, have absolute authority. This then makes moving to a discussion based on the concept that RPGs involve collective agreement on shared fiction quite difficult.

Maybe we've seen how early 2000s Forge-ism damaged campaigns and even destroyed play groups, and don't want to give it an inch lest it take a mile. :D
 

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pemerton

Legend
I don't think that's right. The classic D&D morale rules IME are entirely GM-facing, the Classic players don't demand "Those orcs have to make a morale check now!". In practice they are entirely an aid to GM adjudication of the situation. They don't bind the GM's hands in the way a PC making a Saving Throw does.

I've noticed a tendency from some posters to equate especially Moldvay D&D with 'tight' systems that do bind the GM. Just because Moldvay is a 'complete system' (per Alexander) does not mean it's a tight system. It's far closer to OD&D than to Forgey games or boardgames. It gives GMs the tools to procedurally adjudicate large chunks of the dungeon crawl experience, but it doesn't bind the GM. You can read the Moldvay example of play and see how it only tangentially relates to the described procedures for play.
I'm wondering if this tendency comes from Baker.
A player of Moldvay Basic is told to read the whole book except maybe ch 8. I know that's what I did.

This includes reading the monster entries, which have morale scores; and the rules for morale. I think there is a general expectation that the GM will use the morale rules. I think this happens in the worked example of combat.

It's true that the GM has to apply the morale rules him-/herself without the players getting to dictate it (for instance, some Orcs might be under the influence of magic or evil charisma that raises their morale or even makes them morale 12 fanatics - that's fair game). But a GM who decides that the Orcs fight to the death just for the hell of it is in my view not being fair. (Deciding that they surrender without making a morale check is different because it's an unearned boon to the players rather than a hosing; a sort of Moldvay-era "say 'yes'".)

But the morale rules are nevertheless part of the action resolution framework. They contrast in this respect with the dungeon-building rules, which are guidelines for content introduction but not themselves "mechanics" in the sense that Baker uses that phrase. (The wandering monster table occupy an intriguing liminal space here, like Baker's "make an Orc-showing-up-in-the-underbrush roll".)
 

S'mon

Legend
A player of Moldvay Basic is told to read the whole book except maybe ch 8. I know that's what I did.
Back in the day (1980s) I ran AD&D not 'Basic' so I can't say for sure. I know I never used the 1e d% morale rules. I think I did later use the 2d10 2e AD&D morale rules, but no player ever told me I had to - that would have been completely anathema to the GM-is-boss culture of AD&D.
Later on when I ran retro-clones like Labyrinth Lord, and eventually ran a BECM D&D campaign, still the culture was very much trusting the GM; I can't imagine a player complaining that the morale rules weren't being used right. This idea of a player saying "We're here to play Moldvay/1e/2e/LL, damnit! Use the rules!" seems really weird and far, far from anything I ever experienced.
 

I don't think that's right. The classic D&D morale rules IME are entirely GM-facing, the Classic players don't demand "Those orcs have to make a morale check now!". In practice they are entirely an aid to GM adjudication of the situation. They don't bind the GM's hands in the way a PC making a Saving Throw does.

I've noticed a tendency from some posters to equate especially Moldvay D&D with 'tight' systems that do bind the GM. Just because Moldvay is a 'complete system' (per Alexander) does not mean it's a tight system. It's far closer to OD&D than to Forgey games or boardgames. It gives GMs the tools to procedurally adjudicate large chunks of the dungeon crawl experience, but it doesn't bind the GM. You can read the Moldvay example of play and see how it only tangentially relates to the described procedures for play.
I'm wondering if this tendency comes from Baker.

I don't know if Baker has ever talked about Moldvay.

The reason people cite Moldvay as being "tight" is because...well, its abundantly true. And because they GMed it exclusively from 1984 to 1987 despite having stuff like Arduin's Grimoire and AD&D available.

The game fundamentally works if you just run it as is. Its tight because all of its pieces create an integrated experience...that works. If you remove any part of them (Wandering Monsters, Morale, Encumbrance, Required Rest, gold for xp, etc) or change the noncombat action resolution mechanics from a d6 (where you can basically just dice pool a group effort if more than one person is listening or whatever)...things don't work.

That is the definition of tightly designed. Its not modular. Don't fiddle with rules. Don't take stuff out. Don't add stuff in. Play it as is. Follow the rules/procedures. It works. Don't do that? It ceases to do what it did (in this case, work as intended).

AD&D1e is a modular (rather than integrated/holistic) designed game which requires all kinds of fiddling and excising and adding because (a) it doesn't "just work", (b) its comparatively rules heavy (vs Moldvay), and (c) the instruction is comparatively opaque, voluminous, and scattershot (simultaneously). It REQUIRES GM intervention.

It is not tightly designed.
 

Marc_C

Solitary Role Playing
Anecdote: Once in a campaign the PCs crossed a portal. They saw a strange looking house and entered it. They heard noise coming from the basement. Going down the stairs they saw 5 scrawny looking adolescents. I told the players to stat the player sitting to their right. They played themselves AND their D&D characters for an adventure until they were able send their PCs back to the World of Greyhawk.
 

S'mon

Legend
I don't know if Baker has ever talked about Moldvay.

The reason people cite Moldvay as being "tight" is because...well, its abundantly true. And because they GMed it exclusively from 1984 to 1987 despite having stuff like Arduin's Grimoire and AD&D available.

The game fundamentally works if you just run it as is. Its tight because all of its pieces create an integrated experience...that works. If you remove any part of them (Wandering Monsters, Morale, Encumbrance, Required Rest, gold for xp, etc) or change the noncombat action resolution mechanics from a d6 (where you can basically just dice pool a group effort if more than one person is listening or whatever)...things don't work.

Do you roll BTB Reaction checks for all monsters? I kinda like the idea that 1 in 36 ghouls are 'enthusiastically friendly'. :D
 

Do you roll BTB Reaction checks for all monsters? I kinda like the idea that 1 in 36 ghouls are 'enthusiastically friendly'. :D

Its funny, but yes, on everything! And I'd recommend that approach to every new GM.

That was one of the most foundational and most fun parts of running the game for me. Besides the fun, I'm 100 % certain that having to come up with a coherent and interesting story for odd rolls while playing Moldvay is the primordial soup of my ability to improv coherent and interesting content for Story Now games!

Perhaps if I could go back in time and change one thing about D&D culture it would be that young GMs saw those odd rolls as a challenge to resolve rather than something to ignore.
 

Campbell

Legend
Where's this idea that players don't trust their GMs in indie games coming from? That they place undue constraints on the GM? Is this coming from actual experience? I know I have never felt particularly hemmed in by Apocalypse World, Blades in the Dark, et al. I am still making about 1,000,000 judgement calls every game session regardless. My energy is focused differently, but I'm still a GM.

When I praise Moldvay for being clear, having effective procedures, I am mostly doing so in contrast to modern games that provide the GM with basically no guidance.
 

pemerton

Legend
Where's this idea that players don't trust their GMs in indie games coming from? That they place undue constraints on the GM? Is this coming from actual experience?
I think the answer to that last question is "no".

I think one source of the idea is - to use the language of the "six cultures" blog being discussed in another current thread - a conflation of "indie"/"story now" RPGing and "neo-trad" RPGing. I think the conflation is coming from those who - to us the same terminology - are either classic, trad or OSR.

For those RPGers, they see that in both "story now" and "neo-trad" RPGing characters are central: and they perhaps don't appreciate that they are central in completely different ways. In "neo-trad" play the character is sacrosanct and part of the role of the system and associated mechanics is to protect the character from GM interference/nullification. In "story now" play the character is lightning-rod for adversity which the GM is expected to bring, and which the system - especially through its approach to establishing situation and narrating consequences of failure - is meant to help with.

I know I have never felt particularly hemmed in by Apocalypse World, Blades in the Dark, et al. I am still making about 1,000,000 judgement calls every game session regardless. My energy is focused differently, but I'm still a GM.
When I GM BW, or Cortex+ Heroic, or Prince Valiant, or Classic Traveller, I have to make decisions all the time: what happens next? what follows from a failed check? how should that declared action be adjudicated?

Cortex+ Heroic is probably the most "procedural" of these because so much is linked to Doom Pool expenditure; but I still have to make decisions about whether and how much to spend, and if I'm creating a new Scene Distinction or a Complication or whatever I have to decide what that is.
 

pemerton

Legend
AD&D1e is a modular (rather than integrated/holistic) designed game which requires all kinds of fiddling and excising and adding because (a) it doesn't "just work", (b) its comparatively rules heavy (vs Moldvay), and (c) the instruction is comparatively opaque, voluminous, and scattershot (simultaneously). It REQUIRES GM intervention.

It is not tightly designed.
AD&D is a nightmare in its presentation. Just to give a few examples:

* The rules for how spells are cast, how long it takes, how components work, what difference it makes if the casting is from a scroll, etc are scattered over two parts of the PHB (before and after the spell listing), and over two parts of the DMG (the entry on spells and the entry on scrolls);

* The rules for opening doors are found in part in the PHB under Strength, in part in the DMG near the sample dungeon (it's similarly bad for listening at doors, and finding secret and concealed doors);

* The rules for swimming are not found in either the PHB or DMG discussion of movement and movement rates, but in the discussion of waterborne adventring;

* There are rules for surprise, rules for how elves and halflings and rangers increase their surprise chance if sneaking around with only other elves and halflings, rules for moving silently (class or item), and rules for invisibility, but nowhere are the rules for invisibility and moving silently directly linked to the surprise rules in the way the elusiveness of elves, halflings and rangers is.​

For several years now, as a pointless hobby project, I have been collating the AD&D rules (from the PHB, DMG and bits of UA and OA) into a single coherent document. It's actually quite astounding how little scope they cover, relative to the page count. It's an inverse of Classic Traveller.
 

Emerikol

Adventurer
AD&D is a nightmare in its presentation. Just to give a few examples:
I agree. I remember many an occasion when I was younger when we'd have to scour everywhere looking for rules.

I did like the narrative voice Gygax used and I liked ultimately the intent of the game and how it was DM'd but it was chaoticly presented no doubt.
 



Maybe we've seen how early 2000s Forge-ism damaged campaigns and even destroyed play groups, and don't want to give it an inch lest it take a mile. :D

Right, of course, it's the fault of the theory that problems occurred. It couldn't possibly have been that the theories (however incomplete and imperfect) brought about a different level of cognitive awareness for some participants, who realized they were dissatisfied with what was happening in their RPG play. Even if the theories (however incomplete and imperfect) happened to give those participants new ways to think about and express their experiences, far better that we avoid "damaging" and "destroying" play groups. Game theory is simply too dangerous to the health of our hobby to risk any discussion of the matter. Participants in RPG play who are uneasy and dissatisfied, but don't know why, should just soldier on blindly, because the GM is always right, dammit!


Apropos to the topic at hand, however, it's a bit curious how this discussion has veered into the topic of the assumed role(s) of the GM / GM authority on group dynamics. While interesting, I'm wondering what the connection is to exploring the dynamics of immersion / player stance.

Is there some connecting thread that I missed? I'll admit that I skipped 5-6 pages of conversation.

I also continue to sense a strong sentiment, both here and in the "GM's Notes" thread, that proponents of "living world" play believe their agenda/playstyle is superior to achieve immersion. But I've still yet to hear a convincing argument how and why this is the case. What is so germane and important about the "living world" playstyle to achieve immersion?

One hypothesis, I suppose, is that by limiting player views/inputs to "only be from within the character," it naturally/necessarily forces the player to adopt certain mental models/tactics/frames within which to imagine the shared fiction. Since the player can't have input into the scene- or historical-level aspects of the fiction, there's little reason for them to step outside character view when attempting to place their character in the fiction.
 

Aldarc

Legend
One hypothesis, I suppose, is that by limiting player views/inputs to "only be from within the character," it naturally/necessarily forces the player to adopt certain mental models/tactics/frames within which to imagine the shared fiction. Since the player can't have input into the scene- or historical-level aspects of the fiction, there's little reason for them to step outside character view when attempting to place their character in the fiction.
But this is also easily achieved within AP play, which may impose similar restrictions on inputs, so it's not as if "living world" (sandbox) play is required.
 

I also continue to sense a strong sentiment, both here and in the "GM's Notes" thread, that proponents of "living world" play believe their agenda/playstyle is superior to achieve immersion. But I've still yet to hear a convincing argument how and why this is the case. What is so germane and important about the "living world" playstyle to achieve immersion?

One hypothesis, I suppose, is that by limiting player views/inputs to "only be from within the character," it naturally/necessarily forces the player to adopt certain mental models/tactics/frames within which to imagine the shared fiction. Since the player can't have input into the scene- or historical-level aspects of the fiction, there's little reason for them to step outside character view when attempting to place their character in the fiction.

As @Aldarc pointed out, this isn't unique to sandbox/living world style games as I understand them, but it very often goes hand in hand.

And yeah I think you’ve got the crux of it; by only thinking in a way that’s considered “in character”, player thought is more aligned with character thought. I’ve seen many people online claim that this is of paramount importance to them, and is actually the only “true roleplaying”. Anything that requires them to make a decision as a player rather than as the character is seen as disruptive to their in-character view.

And although I think that conclusion is nonsense, I can at least understand this as a priority of play. I would disagree that it objectively enhances immersion, but since what will enhance immersion is subjective, I accept that it is so for some folks.

And I think that it can help with immersion, even if I don’t treat it with paramount importance. Putting yourself in a character’s shoes, so to speak, is one way to immerse yourself. It’s absolutely a part of what I do, maybe even the biggest part, and I expect it is for most players.

But, there are other methods, too.
 

Emerikol

Adventurer
I also continue to sense a strong sentiment, both here and in the "GM's Notes" thread, that proponents of "living world" play believe their agenda/playstyle is superior to achieve immersion. But I've still yet to hear a convincing argument how and why this is the case. What is so germane and important about the "living world" playstyle to achieve immersion?

One hypothesis, I suppose, is that by limiting player views/inputs to "only be from within the character," it naturally/necessarily forces the player to adopt certain mental models/tactics/frames within which to imagine the shared fiction. Since the player can't have input into the scene- or historical-level aspects of the fiction, there's little reason for them to step outside character view when attempting to place their character in the fiction.
This is why I differentiated between types of immersion. From a roleplaying point of view, it is impossible to be immersed in a game of chess. Yet I will admit I've been intensely focused on a game of chess to such a degree that I do not notice the hours passing. I am intensely focused. This is not the immersion I talk about when I talk about roleplaying immersion.

For me roleplaying immersion is immersion into the character. How much do you and the character become one. You are the character in the same way you are the protagonist when reading a great novel. I never really thought of using immersion in the chess way until I realized that I thought many of you were meaning it that way. Any activity under the right circumstances can be immersive in that sense. It's not the sense I meant when talking about roleplaying immersion.
 

Maybe we've seen how early 2000s Forge-ism damaged campaigns and even destroyed play groups, and don't want to give it an inch lest it take a mile. :D
The irony here being that early 2000s Forge-ism wasn't being written for a D&D audience at all. Instead it was being written about the WoD/Storyteller games and trying to answer the question of why they weren't delivering on what they promised. The early 00 D&D games (and indeed most of D&D outside the 90s) were much more gameist/challenge focussed and although what the Forge was talking about was interesting it needed adapting.
 

S'mon

Legend
The irony here being that early 2000s Forge-ism wasn't being written for a D&D audience at all. Instead it was being written about the WoD/Storyteller games and trying to answer the question of why they weren't delivering on what they promised. The early 00 D&D games (and indeed most of D&D outside the 90s) were much more gameist/challenge focussed and although what the Forge was talking about was interesting it needed adapting.

Good point! From what I remember of the 2002-4 era, we were playing D&D 3e but some players and DMs tried to bring GNS Narrativism into the game as a kind of Real Roleplaying ideal, which didn't work too well. I remember a GM who got sufficiently frustrated that she switched her D&D campaign to Heroquest (the Glorantha game not the boardgame), which then removed the tactical combat aspect most players enjoyed.

I think 4e D&D also ended up a bit of a mess as it tried to mix half-understood Forge theory into the game; ending up a lot more 'incoherent' than most prior iterations (2e AD&D excepted).
 

pemerton

Legend
by only thinking in a way that’s considered “in character”, player thought is more aligned with character thought. I’ve seen many people online claim that this is of paramount importance to them, and is actually the only “true roleplaying”. Anything that requires them to make a decision as a player rather than as the character is seen as disruptive to their in-character view.
For me roleplaying immersion is immersion into the character. How much do you and the character become one. You are the character in the same way you are the protagonist when reading a great novel.
If (i) my thought as a player is supposed to be aligned with that of my character, and (ii) I don't know anything about the world I'm in and need to be told by someone else (ie the Gm), then (iii) it must follow that I'm a stranger to the world.

Gygax in his DMG says that the GM should tell the players they don't know anything about the gameworld. This is primarily a play device - the players have to learn the setting as part of the skill of play. But it's not actually consistent with immersing in a character who is an entrenched part of the gameworld.

Given that I prefer to play characters who are entrenched in the gameworld rather than strangers to it, I also prefer to approach the gameworld in ways that don't require dependence on GM narration.
 

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