The Principle of Legitimate Intentions

Celebrim

Legend
You have your own language and I have my own language, but there is a lot of overlap in how we are looking at things.

You: Principles
Me: Processes of Play

You: Legitimate Intentions
Me: Valid Proposition/Proposition Filter

You: Arcs of Play
Me: Scene/Proposition Cycle

It's not perfect congruity but I think I understand what you are getting at most of the time, though you seem to use terms in ways that overlap multiple concepts that I have.

Where I'm seeing an idea that I don't have a term for and don't understand is no hidden gotchas. I neither understand the term, nor, to the extent that I understand the term do I understand it's importance.

"GM might at times establish truths that have not been shared with players yet. They ought to normally avoid hidden descriptions that would refute fiction that players have no reason to doubt. An example of this might be a clerk answering questions under a zone of truth spell. The clerk should not testify to veracity and certainty on matters that GM has established behind the scenes to be false.

So I don't get what that follows. Let me give you an example. I the GM know as a campaign level secret that unbeknownst to almost all people in the Realm, the King was born with a twin brother. Fearing a succession crisis, the twin brother was hidden away in the care of a hermit - his face permanently hidden behind a magical mask to hide his identity. A scheming courtier, aware of the Kings twin brother conspired to murder the hermit and steal the boy, and used him in a plot to usurp the throne. The throne is now currently occupied not by the real King Gowrie VI, but by his twin brother Prince Killup. King Gowrie has been transformed into a toad, and is currently living in a small cave on the royal grounds, unable to communicate his predicament. Now suppose at some point the players cast 'Zone of Truth' and question a low level Clerk about something and their questions happen to touch on the above secret. The clerk has no way of knowing that the man on the thrown is not King Gowrie, nor does he have anyway of knowing of the existence of Prince Killup, or that the real King Gowrie can be found hiding out in fountains in the Royal Guardians. If the players ask the clerk about his knowledge, shouldn't the GM answer truthfully from the perspective of what the clerk in the setting would know? Why would you be forced to reveal truths that the clerk would not know any more than you would be forced to put a vorpal sword in the linen chest of an inn just because the players looked for one there? Why would you be forced to undo established myth upon which the campaign currently depends (the PC's might not know exactly what is going on, but may have already discovered that the Palace Seneschal is a scheming villain with some hold over the King) simply because of a principle that NPCs should never testify with certainty on matters where you know (but the NPC could not) that their certainty is unwarranted?

Or to put it more simply, why must every NPC in your setting be aware of their own ignorance?
 

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Digdude

Just a dude with a shovel, looking for the past.
Players dont have any more right to avoid my gotchas anymore than my npcs do to their well thought out plans. This topic reminds me of the one about the pc who opened a poison chest that had contact poison and tried to claim they had gloves on after the fact.
 


clearstream

(He, Him)
You have your own language and I have my own language, but there is a lot of overlap in how we are looking at things.

You: Principles
Me: Processes of Play

You: Legitimate Intentions
Me: Valid Proposition/Proposition Filter

You: Arcs of Play
Me: Scene/Proposition Cycle

It's not perfect congruity but I think I understand what you are getting at most of the time, though you seem to use terms in ways that overlap multiple concepts that I have.
Agreed. Maybe I should switch to your terms?!

Where I'm seeing an idea that I don't have a term for and don't understand is no hidden gotchas. I neither understand the term, nor, to the extent that I understand the term do I understand it's importance.

So I don't get what that follows. Let me give you an example. I the GM know as a campaign level secret that unbeknownst to almost all people in the Realm, the King was born with a twin brother. Fearing a succession crisis, the twin brother was hidden away in the care of a hermit - his face permanently hidden behind a magical mask to hide his identity. A scheming courtier, aware of the Kings twin brother conspired to murder the hermit and steal the boy, and used him in a plot to usurp the throne. The throne is now currently occupied not by the real King Gowrie VI, but by his twin brother Prince Killup. King Gowrie has been transformed into a toad, and is currently living in a small cave on the royal grounds, unable to communicate his predicament. Now suppose at some point the players cast 'Zone of Truth' and question a low level Clerk about something and their questions happen to touch on the above secret. The clerk has no way of knowing that the man on the thrown is not King Gowrie, nor does he have anyway of knowing of the existence of Prince Killup, or that the real King Gowrie can be found hiding out in fountains in the Royal Guardians. If the players ask the clerk about his knowledge, shouldn't the GM answer truthfully from the perspective of what the clerk in the setting would know? Why would you be forced to reveal truths that the clerk would not know any more than you would be forced to put a vorpal sword in the linen chest of an inn just because the players looked for one there? Why would you be forced to undo established myth upon which the campaign currently depends (the PC's might not know exactly what is going on, but may have already discovered that the Palace Seneschal is a scheming villain with some hold over the King) simply because of a principle that NPCs should never testify with certainty on matters where you know (but the NPC could not) that their certainty is unwarranted?

Or to put it more simply, why must every NPC in your setting be aware of their own ignorance?
The principle would apply to a slightly modified version of this case, where the clerk is ignorant but - under a zone of truth - claims certainty of knowledge. The cleark should instead confess to a belief formed in ignorance. The spell reads "On a failed save, a creature can't speak a deliberate lie" and the caster knows if the save failed or not. What the principle says is count as a lie a claim to certainty of knowledge in its absence.

Clerk "I know the real King Gowrie VI is on the throne" = lie
Clerk "I believe that King Gowrie VI is on the throne" = true

The first is a gotcha because it makes the GM's words - often a vital window on the world for players - a sleight of hand. The idea is to adhere closely to legitimating against fictional position, even where part of that position is hidden. Say as much of the truth as it is possible to say, and no less.
 

Celebrim

Legend
Agreed. Maybe I should switch to your terms?!

Maybe? I'm fine to use your language as long as we both understand each other. I do think your description complicates the matter in ways I find unnecessary, but it could be that you don't find it unnecessary. So until I understand you more fully and until I'm certain we are on the same page, let's just use your language.

The principle would apply to a slightly modified version of this case, where the clerk is ignorant but - under a zone of truth - claims certainty of knowledge. The cleark should instead confess to a belief formed in ignorance. The spell reads "On a failed save, a creature can't speak a deliberate lie" and the caster knows if the save failed or not. What the principle says is count as a lie a claim to certainty of knowledge in its absence.

Clerk "I know the real King Gowrie VI is on the throne" = lie
Clerk "I believe that King Gowrie VI is on the throne" = true'

But, real people don't actually talk that way, and in reality people can be and often are very confident when they are ignorant. One of the attributes of real ignorance is that you are also unaware that you are ignorant. Experts are often much more uncertain than people with only limited understanding. It's unrealistic for a clerk to behave like one of Heinlein's expert witnesses and state everything based on their own firm awareness of their limited perceptions being careful to never affirm anything that they can't know for certain.

So for example, if the PC's ask the Clerk:

Player #1: "Did you see King Gowrie come into this counting house with the Chancellor of the Exchequer this afternoon"?
Clerk: "Yes"

But strictly under the no hidden gotchas rule as you are using it, the Clerks answer is false. He actually saw Prince Killup. King Gowrie was actually at the time playing with his four-year-old niece in the Royal Gardens, who was quite unware the large yellowish toad was her uncle the King or that her father was not actually named Gowrie. If I the GM give a convoluted answer to a simple question such as, "I saw a man whom I thought to be King Gowrie", this actually passes metagame information to the players, as the clerk has no way of even suspecting that the man wearing the royal robes is not King Gowrie.

I think there is real value in the players learning that information they previously had was not in fact accurate. That's where good twists come into play. You want as a GM for the players to have that real "Aha!" moment based on clues picked up in play and not based on clues learned from passing information through the metagame.
 

clearstream

(He, Him)
But, real people don't actually talk that way, and in reality people can be and often are very confident when they are ignorant. One of the attributes of real ignorance is that you are also unaware that you are ignorant. Experts are often much more uncertain than people with only limited understanding. It's unrealistic for a clerk to behave like one of Heinlein's expert witnesses and state everything based on their own firm awareness of their limited perceptions being careful to never affirm anything that they can't know for certain.
That's true, yet as a player I have to base my insights about real people who are physically present with me entirely upon the incomplete descriptions provided by another person. Real people don't talk in ways that are normal for RPG.

So for example, if the PC's ask the Clerk:

Player #1: "Did you see King Gowrie come into this counting house with the Chancellor of the Exchequer this afternoon"?
Clerk: "Yes"

But strictly under the no hidden gotchas rule as you are using it, the Clerks answer is false. He actually saw Prince Killup. King Gowrie was actually at the time playing with his four-year-old niece in the Royal Gardens, who was quite unware the large yellowish toad was her uncle the King or that her father was not actually named Gowrie. If I the GM give a convoluted answer to a simple question such as, "I saw a man whom I thought to be King Gowrie", this actually passes metagame information to the players, as the clerk has no way of even suspecting that the man wearing the royal robes is not King Gowrie.
Player 1: Hey, what you touched on just now makes it sound like the king could just possibly be an imposter. Are you certain the person you saw coming into this counting house with the Chancellor of the Exchequer this afternoon was the real King Gowrie VI?

Clerk: Yes. I'm certain of it.

Yes here is a lie. GM ought to describe

Clerk: Yes. I believe so.

The limits of the medium are accepted.

I think there is real value in the players learning that information they previously had was not in fact accurate. That's where good twists come into play. You want as a GM for the players to have that real "Aha!" moment based on clues picked up in play and not based on clues learned from passing information through the metagame.
How are clues picked up in play, if they are not included in GM descriptions?
 

Pedantic

Legend
I don't think it's unreasonable to expect players to differentiate "GM embodying NPC" and "GM describing the world" as two separate sources of information, with separate rules of engagement. There's a whole tradition of putting on funny voices for the former to help draw the line to begin with, and I think it's pretty obvious (and frankly kind of necessary for some plots) for NPCs to be ignorant of certain truths of the world.

I do think it's probably sensible to make that differentiation explicit, but I don't think you can hold the GM acting as character sense data (or character background knowledge) to the same standard as the GM acting as a specific NPC.
 

Celebrim

Legend
That's true, yet as a player I have to base my insights about real people who are physically present with me entirely upon the incomplete descriptions provided by another person.

This is certainly a thing. Communicating in such a way that everyone at the table has a similar mental picture of the shared reality is a skill, one that GMs should cultivate and which players should work on whenever they have any reason to doubt that the image in their head matches the GMs image.

Real people don't talk in ways that are normal for RPG.

Then something IMO is wrong with your RPG. One of my primary aesthetics of play involves Emersion. I like to have the aesthetic that shared imaginary space is believable and richly detailed and that it is easy to imagine yourself within the imaginary space from a first person perspective of someone within that space. I want to provide the insights and sensory clues to you the players as if you were there in the form of the character, seeing, experiencing, hearing, and even smelling what the character would to the best of my ability. I want the player to feel like the shared imaginary space is a real place, or at least, as real as such a fantasy place could be.

Player 1: Hey, what you touched on just now makes it sound like the king could just possibly be an imposter. Are you certain the person you saw coming into this counting house with the Chancellor of the Exchequer this afternoon was the real King Gowrie VI?

And this precisely gives the problem with your approach. You have NPCs who aren't talking like real people and PCs who are consequently getting most of their information through the metagame and not the game. IMO, the appropriate thing to do as a GM when animating an NPC is to put yourself "in their shoes", get in their head, and imagine what they know, what they feel, and what they are thinking and then imagine what they say - which can include falsehoods and even deliberate lies. As a GM, I act that out in front of the players, often as best as I can manage it with voices.

Clerk: Yes. I'm certain of it.

Yes here is a lie. GM ought to describe

Even if the Clerk is mistake, the GM is still describing the situation. The GM is describing what the characters can observe and what the Clerk says. He makes no promise to the players that the Clerk is omniscient, unbiased, or honest. He only promises the players that he is faithfully representing the Clerk as the clerk actually is, ignorance and all.

The limits of the medium are accepted.

I feel this limitation is artificial though.

How are clues picked up in play, if they are not included in GM descriptions?

When you describe a room to the players, you don't feel you are required to describe to them the as yet not scene next room to them or the contents of the unopened chest or the fact that there is a door hidden behind the wall tapestry. Those particular details are picked up through further play. Likewise, social interaction only provides the descriptions of this particular NPC from the vantage point of that particular NPC. Different NPCs will provide different descriptions of events. The full picture of what is going on is, as in real life, pieced together from the testimony of different NPCs until gradually the full picture becomes available.

The same rules in tabletop RPG apply in this respect that they do in other narrative forms such as a novel, a movie, or a computer game. When reading a mystery novel, you don't expect the characters in the story to speak in the highly ritualistic highly objective manner that you suggest that they should in a RPG. You expect them to speak in a natural fashion, and for you and the protagonist of the story to gradually unwind the truth from the clues, figuring out which character might have lied or which character's testimony was unreliable because they didn't see what they thought that they saw. The same is true if you watch a movie like 'Knives Out' or 'The Glass Onion'. The fact that some characters testimony is unreliable and that you might get a false impression is part of the fun. And if you are playing a video game like "LA Noire" the same thing is true.

In short, I think it's fine for NPCs to speak in a very natural language and be limited by their own understanding. Using very objective and unbiased language is a good idea if you are giving GM narration. For example, if a player searches for traps, you say, "You didn't find any traps." and not "There are no traps." But a GM can accurately relate an NPC's statements made in ignorance without flagging that the character is unknowingly speaking in ignorance.
 

Tonguez

A suffusion of yellow
This is why I love Fate - the entire system is about your “legitimate intentions” which is modelled by establishing Aspects to set Position. Aspects are “truths” and “permissions” for players to then invoke in an effort to achieve their goal. GMs use aspects as complications the players need to overcome with the dynamic of negotiation and the Fate points trade driving the game
 
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clearstream

(He, Him)
This is certainly a thing. Communicating in such a way that everyone at the table has a similar mental picture of the shared reality is a skill, one that GMs should cultivate and which players should work on whenever they have any reason to doubt that the image in their head matches the GMs image.
No matter what the GM says, at best the fidelity of images will reach approximations that are workable.

And this precisely gives the problem with your approach. You have NPCs who aren't talking like real people and PCs who are consequently getting most of their information through the metagame and not the game. IMO, the appropriate thing to do as a GM when animating an NPC is to put yourself "in their shoes", get in their head, and imagine what they know, what they feel, and what they are thinking and then imagine what they say - which can include falsehoods and even deliberate lies. As a GM, I act that out in front of the players, often as best as I can manage it with voices.
It's a nice ideal, but oversells actual play. There'll be digressions out of character, occasional slips, occasional speaking in 2nd-or-3rd-person, and so on.

The same rules in tabletop RPG apply in this respect that they do in other narrative forms such as a novel, a movie, or a computer game. When reading a mystery novel, you don't expect the characters in the story to speak in the highly ritualistic highly objective manner that you suggest that they should in a RPG. You expect them to speak in a natural fashion, and for you and the protagonist of the story to gradually unwind the truth from the clues, figuring out which character might have lied or which character's testimony was unreliable because they didn't see what they thought that they saw. The same is true if you watch a movie like 'Knives Out' or 'The Glass Onion'. The fact that some characters testimony is unreliable and that you might get a false impression is part of the fun. And if you are playing a video game like "LA Noire" the same thing is true.
A written novel is a great example. Look around the room you are in now. Count everything you see. The colours, structures, objects. Now read a description of a room in any novel. Count what is described.

In short, I think it's fine for NPCs to speak in a very natural language and be limited by their own understanding. Using very objective and unbiased language is a good idea if you are giving GM narration. For example, if a player searches for traps, you say, "You didn't find any traps." and not "There are no traps." But a GM can accurately relate an NPC's statements made in ignorance without flagging that the character is unknowingly speaking in ignorance.
Someone - the GM - will know that the fictional position is other than everyone else in the room thinks. That's fine - establishing what's true off-camera is one facet of play. The problem arises when others want to judge what is legitimate to say next. One approach is to simply allow no hidden truths. Another approach is to do so constrained by principles and/or rules.
 

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