The GM is Not There to Entertain You


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Reynard

Legend
(This is not helped by the fact there's a strong current in trad game culture to consider challenging a GM on things like this a faux pas) .
Is there? I don't know any GMs like that. Most of the GMs I know are so busy with all the balls their juggling that they appreciate it if a player brings up a misinterpreted ruling in good faith. I know I offload as much rule checking as is practical on the players, especially the ones waiting for their turn or otherwise not immediately doing something else. It keeps everyone engaged, keeps the game moving, and frees me up to do the important work of targeting the gnome. Again.
 

Thomas Shey

Legend
Is there?

If you haven't seen that, you're extremely fortunate. You'll see people hopping on to fora and the like to bitch about it regularly, and I've seen people act like it was an act of lese majestie. Its particularly common in the D&D sphere, but it exists well eslewhere.

I don't know any GMs like that. Most of the GMs I know are so busy with all the balls their juggling that they appreciate it if a player brings up a misinterpreted ruling in good faith. I know I offload as much rule checking as is practical on the players, especially the ones waiting for their turn or otherwise not immediately doing something else. It keeps everyone engaged, keeps the game moving, and frees me up to do the important work of targeting the gnome. Again.

"In good faith" is doing a lot of heavy lifting in this paragraph. There are any number of GMs who are unwilling to assume that's what's happening there, or consider the interruption in speed and flow unacceptable even if it is.
 

Mannahnin

Scion of Murgen (He/Him)
If I ran 5e in the someway as I run Apocalypse World the players would rightfully freak out. Like as a hard move for a player character pulling a gun on the leader of the territory they are in who fails their go aggro roll I can precede right to the next scene of them being interrogated, surrounding by that leader's men.

Do something like that in D&D and most players would flip out. I know because I have done it and seen the response.

We just do not tend to see the constraints we are used to as real constraints.

How do you mean? What things happen in a PbtA game that would make 5E players "freak out"? Moreover, whoa re these "5E players" you are speaking of?

I am not sure why you think a successful intimidation check leading to an interrogation in 5E would make 5E players flip out.
I think you've misunderstood. I believe in Campbell's example the player failed their roll on a Go Aggro move to pull a gun and intimidate the leader of the territory they're in. And that the consequence of that failure was immediately skipping to a scene of the PCs being interrogated, surrounded (and presumably at the mercy of) said leader's men.

I tend to concur that in D&D if they failed their Intimidate check, players would balk at the DM switching scenes like that, and would expect instead to be able to fight rather than be automatically captured.
 
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Thomas Shey

Legend
I think you've misunderstood. I believe in Campbell's example the player failed their roll on a Go Aggro move to pull a gun and intimidate the leader of the territory they're in. And that the consequence of that failure was immediately skipping to a scene of the PCs being interrogated, surrounded (and presumably at the mercy of) said leader's men.

I tend to concur that in D&D if they failed their Intimidate check, players would balk at the DM switching scenes like that, and would expect instead to be able to fight rather than be automatically captured.

Yeah. Honestly, most players will assume they can throw one solution after another at a problem until they're satisfied, and even if none of them work they'll often resent being put in the situation at all. In other games, that sort of result is just assumed to be part of the price of doing business.
 

Reynard

Legend
I think you've misunderstood. I believe in Campbell's example the player failed their roll on a Go Aggro move to pull a gun and intimidate the leader of the territory they're in. And that the consequence of that failure was immediately skipping to a scene of the PCs being interrogated, surrounded (and presumably at the mercy of) said leader's men.

I tend to concur that in D&D if they failed their Intimidate check, players would balk at the DM switching scenes like that, and would expect instead to be able to fight rather than be automatically captured.
Gotcha. I did in fact misunderstand. And in this case, I do think most trad players would balk, with good reason. I think most trad players would prefer to play out the consequences of that failure, rather than be told the story of what happened.

I don't care for some core conceits of PbtA games (as I have enumerated) so I don't have much experience with them (I played Dungeon World once and tried to run Monster of the Week once) so I admit I could be wrong, but it seems to me the goal is "to tell a story" as opposed to letting one emerge. I don't want to be told a story and I don't want to tell my players a story.

This goes back to the core component of this thread. I want to discover the story with the players, and upon choosing a system I want that system to be the mechanism of that discovery alongside the input of all the participants.
 

Mannahnin

Scion of Murgen (He/Him)
I don't care for some core conceits of PbtA games (as I have enumerated) so I don't have much experience with them (I played Dungeon World once and tried to run Monster of the Week once) so I admit I could be wrong, but it seems to me the goal is "to tell a story" as opposed to letting one emerge. I don't want to be told a story and I don't want to tell my players a story.

This goes back to the core component of this thread. I want to discover the story with the players, and upon choosing a system I want that system to be the mechanism of that discovery alongside the input of all the participants.
To be fair, I think that example Campbell gave is still letting a story emerge. If the player had passed the check, presumably his intimidation attempt would have worked, and the emergent story wouldn't have involved the PCs being interrogated.
 

Thomas Shey

Legend
To be fair, I think that example Campbell gave is still letting a story emerge. If the player had passed the check, presumably his intimidation attempt would have worked, and the emergent story wouldn't have involved the PCs being interrogated.

Yes. While I have issues with PbtA, its not a top-down "tell a story" game; its an interactive "tell a story" game. Its very much emergent. Its just very big into cutting out what the design ethic considers the cruft of trad games in getting to that aim. One of the consequences is that a single roll embodies a lot of things that would involve many more rolls in most trad games, because they don't find that extra process option valuable.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
I think you've misunderstood. I believe in Campbell's example the player failed their roll on a Go Aggro move to pull a gun and intimidate the leader of the territory they're in. And that the consequence of that failure was immediately skipping to a scene of the PCs being interrogated, surrounded (and presumably at the mercy of) said leader's men.

I tend to concur that in D&D if they failed their Intimidate check, players would balk at the DM switching scenes like that, and would expect instead to be able to fight rather than be automatically captured.
Indeed.

It's not the end-result outcome that would be at issue, but rather the (lack of) level of detail and perceived arbitrariness in jumping straight to said outcome without any intervening play and-or opportunities for the players/PCs to change their situation (for better or worse!). Further, the jump as written assumes none of the PCs act independently (e.g. to try to escape, or to suicide-rush a guard to cause a distraction so others might escape, etc.) and that they are all captured en bloc.
 

Mannahnin

Scion of Murgen (He/Him)
Indeed.

It's not the end-result outcome that would be at issue, but rather the (lack of) level of detail and perceived arbitrariness in jumping straight to said outcome without any intervening play and-or opportunities for the players/PCs to change their situation (for better or worse!). Further, the jump as written assumes none of the PCs act independently (e.g. to try to escape, or to suicide-rush a guard to cause a distraction so others might escape, etc.) and that they are all captured en bloc.
Right. It's reliant on the players understanding the potential consequences of blowing the roll and giving (what I understand to be) a Hard Move to the GM.

When the player decides to whip out a gun in that situation, he and the group presumably know the potential level of consequence. He's escalating the situation considerably.
 

Reynard

Legend
Right. It's reliant on the players understanding the potential consequences of blowing the roll and giving (what I understand to be) a Hard Move to the GM.

When the player decides to whip out a gun in that situation, he and the group presumably know the potential level of consequence. He's escalating the situation considerably.
Which makes sense in the context of that particular set of rules, which is why I don't like that set of rules. It feels like someone trying to craft a story. "In this scene, if you fail to bully the gang leader into submitting, you will all end up captured and on the rack." That's not an inherently bad outcome, but I don't like the way it turns play into plotting, if that makes sense.
 

hawkeyefan

Legend
I understand where they come from, I just don't think they are necessary. Systemic attempts to bind the GM to a prescribed set of outcomes feel like either trying to turn the GM into a processor, or trying to defend the players against some mythical viking hat bad GM. I get that people like PbtA games, but I can't abide the basic design goals as you articulated them.

I don't think that all GM bias is "viking hat bad GM". I think that allowing the system to help determine the outcomes helps allow for surprise by all parties, including the GM.

I get that relinquishing some control can be tough. But I think games like AW and its offshoots help support that idea.

I think there's a problem here, and it has to do with how groups define "edge cases" and your use of "matter of course".

The problem is that in many groups, no one but the GM is assumed to be able to define what an "edge case" is. As such, the places it happens are fundamentally arbitrary. As such while it may not be done as a "matter of course", but there's no predicting when the GM will decide to do it so any theoretical binding of his choices is vague at best and more in gestalt than in the moment.

(This is not helped by the fact there's a strong current in trad game culture to consider challenging a GM on things like this a faux pas) .

Edge cases are, to me, those that are not accounted for in the rules or processes of play.

My comment on “matter of course” is that I don’t tend to consider the GM as the ultimate authority. Their position obliges them to administer the rules and make rulings in a way that is faithful to the rules and to the expectations of the participants.

“Because I’m the GM” isn’t a suitable reason for such a decision.
 

Campbell

Relaxed Intensity
The reason those constraints are in place in Apocalypse World is that the GM is not a referee. They are not an adjudicator. They do not enable players to explore a fictional world. Apocalypse World is also not a game where players go on adventures. It's a game about the trouble that find them. Not the trouble they find. When a GM is actively framing players into adverse situations there is no real way for a GM to make the context switch to that referee headspace when they are instead focused on keeping the momentum of play going. It has different restrictions because it has different expectations. The GM is also given powers that other GMs do not have.

The basic play loop in traditional games is pretty much :
1. GM neutrally describes the environment.
2. The player group collectively decides what actions to take and let's the GM know what they are trying.
3. The GM decides what happens and describes how the environment changes.

That entire process is grounded in the exploration of an environment. Players moving through it, investigating it, acting upon it through their characters. For that to work players need to have a chance to meaningfully investigate and explore the environment with it only really acting upon them when they do something to provoke it. You need GM as adjudicator because that enables exploration as the primary motivator of play. As soon as you step into actively provoking player characters it starts to break down.

Apocalypse World does not work like that. In Apocalypse World trouble comes to you. You decide how to handle it, but it's going to keep coming in some form. The GM's job is to apply pressure in a fair way. You cannot be in the right headspace for that if you are also responsible for deciding how things should go.
 

overgeeked

B/X Known World
I understand where they come from, I just don't think they are necessary. Systemic attempts to bind the GM to a prescribed set of outcomes feel like either trying to turn the GM into a processor, or trying to defend the players against some mythical viking hat bad GM. I get that people like PbtA games, but I can't abide the basic design goals as you articulated them.
It's such an odd impulse. Like the words on the page can somehow protect you from a bad referee. Hint: they can't. At most the bad referee will look at those and reject them and run the game however they want anyway. The players can either put up with it or point to the text and object. If the referee persists, the players can either continue to put up with it or walk. But the words on the page don't constrain the referee.
 

Thomas Shey

Legend
Edge cases are, to me, those that are not accounted for in the rules or processes of play.
But again, those are designated as such by whom? I'll leave it to the viewer as to who is usually expected to do that in a trad game.

My comment on “matter of course” is that I don’t tend to consider the GM as the ultimate authority. Their position obliges them to administer the rules and make rulings in a way that is faithful to the rules and to the expectations of the participants.

“Because I’m the GM” isn’t a suitable reason for such a decision.

Very many traditional GMs and players either don't agree with you, or don't even think your opinion matters in such cases unless you are the GM.

Basically, I think you're presenting this from of POV that is anything but typical in the hobby as a whole.
 

Thomas Shey

Legend
It's such an odd impulse. Like the words on the page can somehow protect you from a bad referee. Hint: they can't. At most the bad referee will look at those and reject them and run the game however they want anyway. The players can either put up with it or point to the text and object. If the referee persists, the players can either continue to put up with it or walk. But the words on the page don't constrain the referee.

However when the text overtly says what the GM is doing is not intended, there's a rather different dynamic when it either seems to suggest what they're doing is expected, or is equivocal about it.

Your position only makes sense if setting expectations doesn't matter.
 

Reynard

Legend
The reason those constraints are in place in Apocalypse World is that the GM is not a referee. They are not an adjudicator. They do not enable players to explore a fictional world. Apocalypse World is also not a game where players go on adventures. It's a game about the trouble that find them. Not the trouble they find. When a GM is actively framing players into adverse situations there is no real way for a GM to make the context switch to that referee headspace when they are instead focused on keeping the momentum of play going. It has different restrictions because it has different expectations. The GM is also given powers that other GMs do not have.

The basic play loop in traditional games is pretty much :
1. GM neutrally describes the environment.
2. The player group collectively decides what actions to take and let's the GM know what they are trying.
3. The GM decides what happens and describes how the environment changes.

That entire process is grounded in the exploration of an environment. Players moving through it, investigating it, acting upon it through their characters. For that to work players need to have a chance to meaningfully investigate and explore the environment with it only really acting upon them when they do something to provoke it. You need GM as adjudicator because that enables exploration as the primary motivator of play. As soon as you step into actively provoking player characters it starts to break down.

Apocalypse World does not work like that. In Apocalypse World trouble comes to you. You decide how to handle it, but it's going to keep coming in some form. The GM's job is to apply pressure in a fair way. You cannot be in the right headspace for that if you are also responsible for deciding how things should go.
That's interesting. I have never heard it explained that way. I don't think it makes it any more for me, but I think I understand it a little better. Thank you.
 

overgeeked

B/X Known World
Which makes sense in the context of that particular set of rules, which is why I don't like that set of rules. It feels like someone trying to craft a story. "In this scene, if you fail to bully the gang leader into submitting, you will all end up captured and on the rack." That's not an inherently bad outcome, but I don't like the way it turns play into plotting, if that makes sense.
I think that's literally the point of it. To get on with the story. To skip the skill dogpilling and the PCs' seeming eternal refusal to accept defeat or even negative consequences of any kind. It mirrors storytelling a lot more closely than most RPGs. If that's the goal of the design, it does a good job of it. When it comes to scenes you start late and get out early. Don't waffle with the preamble, cut to the chase. Get right to the heart of the scene. Work through that a bit and once you get to the crux of it, the disaster, that's when you roll. Once that's resolved, cut to the next scene. Just like in most TV shows and movies. Prose fiction of course has a lot more wiggle room.
 

Reynard

Legend
I think that's literally the point of it. To get on with the story. To skip the skill dogpilling and the PCs' seeming eternal refusal to accept defeat or even negative consequences of any kind. It mirrors storytelling a lot more closely than most RPGs. If that's the goal of the design, it does a good job of it. When it comes to scenes you start late and get out early. Don't waffle with the preamble, cut to the chase. Get right to the heart of the scene. Work through that a bit and once you get to the crux of it, the disaster, that's when you roll. Once that's resolved, cut to the next scene. Just like in most TV shows and movies. Prose fiction of course has a lot more wiggle room.
I don't allow skill dogpiling in D&D. The rule at my table is "settle on a strategy and I'll tell you what to roll (if necessary); if you fail you don't get to roll again unless you change your strategy." Some situations, of course, don't allow for changing strategies because of the consequences of failure. But there's no need to skip the series of actions and reactions that COULD lead to the PCs being captured.
 

Yora

Legend
Most people in the hobby have no idea what they are talking about.
Anyone can have fun drawing with colored pencils, but only a few can draw really well. Which is fine of course, as having fun is the goal, not quality.
But when talking techniques, common practice by most people is not a good yardstick.
At least not when the goal is to improve your own skills.
 

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