I'm still not sure that there is a coherent definition of "neutral" and definitely not one which people would agree on. Nor I'm convinced that it is a helpful concept to begin with.
I'm still not sure that there is a coherent definition of "neutral" and definitely not one on which people would agree. Nor I'm convinced that it is a helpful concept to begin with.
The Bond Villain was intended as an illustrative example, not a literal one. I thought that was obvious, hence I find your response somewhat perplexing. I outright stated that in the case of the neutral DM, Bond can die (no deus ex machina) but that he has a chance.So on this, the issue with "telegraphing threats," could also be described a different way.
"The game is narrative, so the neutral referee is responsible for describing the world/fiction in such a way that the elements of the world/fiction are not a surprise to the players."
A good neutral referee should provide the players enough information about the world so that they can make the informed and meaningful decision. In other words, there shouldn't be an element of "gotcha" when it comes to the decision. Arguably, that is what separates a "good" neutral referee from a "bad" killer DM. What one person says is "accurately conveying information for meaningful decisions," is what another person describes as, "telegraphing threats."
However, I depart from this when you describe the neutral DM as akin to the Bond Villain; no, not at all! If you want a Bond Villain, then play a game that emulates that genre fiction. The whole thing with the "Bond Villain" is that everyone knows that no matter what, the Bond Villain will lose. Bond will not die. He will be captured, and he will be provided opportunities to escape. The neutral referee does not act in that manner at all.
As soon as you start to think that you will have your thumb on the scale for the players, you are necessarily abdicating that role. Eventually, the players will realize that, and they will rely upon it. That's a fine style of play, but it's not the same thing.
And like you yourself note, splits in style started to emerge early on. I think this is an indication of the incoherence of the underlying concept or at least in its interpretation.Given that this was the dominant mode of play for the first decade of D&D (prior to the so-called Hickman revolution), and continues to be discussed regularly today (especially w/r/t OSR, FKR, and retroclones) ... I mean, that's a pretty impressive statement!
Right, but why is the former being neutral and the latter putting thumb on the scale in favour of the world? To me it seems the the opposite, the former is favouring the players in expense of representing the world "neutrally."The DM is generally neutral, but for the interests of "skilled play" they ensure that the player have sufficient information to make informed decisions (despite that their NPC might possess sufficient genius to create a trap that is effectively unavoidable and inescapable, the neutral DM won't do so because that is counter to the tenants of "skilled play").
The DM can also go in the other direction. A classic example would be Tucker's Kobolds. Extremely weak monsters that are played in such a way that they provide a serious challenge to players irrespective of character level. I would say that's an example of the DM putting their thumb on the scale in favor of the world.
The Bond Villain was intended as an illustrative example, not a literal one. I thought that was obvious, hence I find your response somewhat perplexing. I outright stated that in the case of the neutral DM, Bond can die (no deus ex machina) but that he has a chance.
What is "fair?"But that's the point; sometimes, with a neutral referee ... the players don't have a chance.
That's why I took issue with your statement regarding the thumb on the scale, and with your analogy. Because the whole point of skilled play is that the decisions are meaningful, but sometimes correct and meaningful decisions ... turn out wrong.
It's about managing probabilities, and putting yourself in the best position possible. But sometimes the dice don't roll your way. Sometimes the player makes a meaningful decision at one point that they can't escape from later. It is not the DM's responsibility to ensure that players "have a chance."
You just need to make sure things are fair. It is up to the players to make sure they have a chance.
I think we just have very different conceptions of this.