*The setting* as the focus of "simulationist" play

I run games like Emberashh and have run the same adventures for different groups and got totally different games.

Here is an example: pretend the "sandbox" is Western Europe, 1944. The GM has a plan that (barring player interference) addresses which way thr course of the war goes, which cities are leveled, etc.

Now....based on the players you can wind up with Saving Private Ryan, Inglorious Basterds or Overlord. Or one of a million other stories, which may, or may not, impact the arc of the setting.

I will generally lay out easy plot hooks that appeal to the characters based on the kind of game discussed in Session -1 (aka the "what game are we playing next" session) and Session 0. Inglorious Basterds get the French 5th column. Overlord gets drafted. Saving Private Ryan requires a bit more custom-crafted openings.

If midway through Ryan, they decide to pull a Basterds, OK. But Ryan could very well die. Or maybe they so disrupt the Reich that D-day doesn't happen.

Only time will tell.
I understand the TYPE of game you are creating, and there was a time I did these myself. Mostly, TBH, I just found the ratio of work to fun is WAY high and zero prep worked even better. Hand over direction of where things go to the players, to a degree and just present obstacles.
Addendum: IME most players can't generate/spare the emotional energy for "driven" characters. They want a Forrest Gump game, where fate drops a metric ton of improbable opportunities to be "in the room where it happens" and their character can step up or just enjoy being in the background.
I disagree. I don't think you've actually tried what @pemerton, or @Manbearcat do. I have yet to discover players who don't yearn to craft that story, to play fully fleshed out characters.
 

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TBH, I just found the ratio of work to fun is WAY high and zero prep worked even better. Hand over direction of where things go to the players, to a degree and just present obstacles.
That thing you call work is my fun. Why would I give away my fun?

I disagree. I don't think you've actually tried what @pemerton, or @Manbearcat do. I have yet to discover players who don't yearn to craft that story, to play fully fleshed out characters.

In general, players in my campaigns comment on how their characters wind up with more depth than they had under prior GMs. Possibly because I expect characters to have goals. In Session0 we make sure there are no inherently incompatible goals (i.e. bring down the Reich/Become Fuhrer)

I see it as a feedback loop with recurring Session0s saying "Hey, you resolved your last goal, what is your new goal?"

Susan wants her character to become a legendary warrior, with songs to be sung for generations? Ok.

Jeff wants his character to visit the rich relatives who tormented him as a child? Fine. Let me re-read your backstory, provide some flashback scenes so we have shared memories and I can establish voices, then get the other players on board.

Though to be honest I will often find ways for multiple goals to be resolved in proximity. Maybe the relatives are in the path of an invasion the warrior can battle. Or the relatives deal with things through dueling and the warrior can advocate via violence for their friend.

I am ambivalent about the underlying nature of what players or characters want from a game. If the characters want fame, love, financial power, respect, political power, whatever. Same thing about if the player want it "because DRAMA" or "want shiny stats."

As long as there's no inherent conflict with other players, I can generally fit it in. Though the characters may have to be willing to sneak into Dachau or find collaborators in Brazil or chase down Rommel in North Africa to resolve their goals with the setting chosen in Session-1.

Because progressing the setting? That's my fun time.
 

That thing you call work is my fun. Why would I give away my fun?
I'm not telling you to do or not do anything.
In general, players in my campaigns comment on how their characters wind up with more depth than they had under prior GMs. Possibly because I expect characters to have goals. In Session0 we make sure there are no inherently incompatible goals (i.e. bring down the Reich/Become Fuhrer)

I see it as a feedback loop with recurring Session0s saying "Hey, you resolved your last goal, what is your new goal?"

Susan wants her character to become a legendary warrior, with songs to be sung for generations? Ok.

Jeff wants his character to visit the rich relatives who tormented him as a child? Fine. Let me re-read your backstory, provide some flashback scenes so we have shared memories and I can establish voices, then get the other players on board.

Though to be honest I will often find ways for multiple goals to be resolved in proximity. Maybe the relatives are in the path of an invasion the warrior can battle. Or the relatives deal with things through dueling and the warrior can advocate via violence for their friend.

I am ambivalent about the underlying nature of what players or characters want from a game. If the characters want fame, love, financial power, respect, political power, whatever. Same thing about if the player want it "because DRAMA" or "want shiny stats."

As long as there's no inherent conflict with other players, I can generally fit it in. Though the characters may have to be willing to sneak into Dachau or find collaborators in Brazil or chase down Rommel in North Africa to resolve their goals with the setting chosen in Session-1.

Because progressing the setting? That's my fun time.
Its that phrase "I can generally fit it in." That's where you and I go our separate ways. I have no plans, no ego, nothing to 'fit it into'. But that's not what the thread is about, is it? Its about sim and setting, and I think you and I agree, actually, as to how that all works. What you are talking about, I can run it, have run it. Never played in a game where I didn't find there was pushback though when I, as a player, 'went for it'. My observation is that only a VERY few GMs can really pull it off, 100%. There are quite a few that can get between, say 60 and 90% there, and the rest kind of muddle through and have their moments, and probably mostly run modules and have fun.
 

What you describe sounds like a referee. Which is a legit thing.

Not sure how many people will be able to referee a game without bringing their ego into it and also derive enough enjoyment to keep it going for months on end. Most activities have trouble finding referees because so few people find the rewards worth the effort.

Meanwhile ego is a good motivator. (Drama!) I agree most GMs are imperfect (self included). But ego will push many of them to improve.
 

What you describe sounds like a referee. Which is a legit thing.

Not sure how many people will be able to referee a game without bringing their ego into it and also derive enough enjoyment to keep it going for months on end. Most activities have trouble finding referees because so few people find the rewards worth the effort.

Meanwhile ego is a good motivator. (Drama!) I agree most GMs are imperfect (self included). But ego will push many of them to improve.
Well, me too.... lol. I think the most perfect GM is sort of a referee and maybe a kind of MC or guide as well, but I try to avoid authorship, mostly. OTOH its not like you have to COMPLETELY avoid it in even narrativist games. Like DW has fronts, so there's a bit of a continuum. Its more about what the purpose is. I am trying to just inject what seems to be begged by the questions that are the PCs.
 

loverdrive

Prophet of the profane (She/Her)
I've recently had a conversation with a friend about FPS games, where I realized the chief reason why I don't like military shooters: guns suck ass. They are mind-numbingly boring, which is unsurprising, given how being as boring as possible is their entire raison d'être. They are designed in a real world to accomplish a real world goal: kill people with the least amount of effort possible.

Mikhail Kalashnikov didn't sit in his design bureau thinking "hm, how can I make a weapon that requires more aiming to achieve the same result, so our soldiers can flex their superior skill that only teachings of Marx and Lenin can foster in people?" Of f###ing course he didn't.

And when guns in your game look like the ones in real world, you are now trapped: you just can't make them fun, no amount of tweaking and tuning and tinkering can possible give an assault rifle a fraction of sheer raw coolness that a rocket launcher that you can jump and juggle people with has. Quake rocket launcher isn't real, that's why it wasn't designed to solve a real world problem with maximum efficiency. It was designed to be fun to use and fun to fight against.

But if you already gave up design for aesthetic, you are now stuck with all the repercussions that you now can only accept.

The point is, games are fun because they are games, deliberately constrained to enable, well, gameplay. Not all solutions are valid, regardless of whether they would "work" or not, and some solutions are not valid precisely because they work. The constraints, the tools, the everything doesn't have to make a slightest sliver of "sense".

To try to make inherently nonsensical make sense is to utterly demolish the game and to be left with nothing but ruins. And while, yeah, I've spent most of my teenage years crawling around ruins of abandoned soviet bunkers, there's only so much of them you can look at until you just know what will be in the next.
 

Pedantic

Legend
I've recently had a conversation with a friend about FPS games, where I realized the chief reason why I don't like military shooters: guns suck ass. They are mind-numbingly boring, which is unsurprising, given how being as boring as possible is their entire raison d'être. They are designed in a real world to accomplish a real world goal: kill people with the least amount of effort possible.

Mikhail Kalashnikov didn't sit in his design bureau thinking "hm, how can I make a weapon that requires more aiming to achieve the same result, so our soldiers can flex their superior skill that only teachings of Marx and Lenin can foster in people?" Of f###ing course he didn't.

And when guns in your game look like the ones in real world, you are now trapped: you just can't make them fun, no amount of tweaking and tuning and tinkering can possible give an assault rifle a fraction of sheer raw coolness that a rocket launcher that you can jump and juggle people with has. Quake rocket launcher isn't real, that's why it wasn't designed to solve a real world problem with maximum efficiency. It was designed to be fun to use and fun to fight against.

But if you already gave up design for aesthetic, you are now stuck with all the repercussions that you now can only accept.

The point is, games are fun because they are games, deliberately constrained to enable, well, gameplay. Not all solutions are valid, regardless of whether they would "work" or not, and some solutions are not valid precisely because they work. The constraints, the tools, the everything doesn't have to make a slightest sliver of "sense".

To try to make inherently nonsensical make sense is to utterly demolish the game and to be left with nothing but ruins. And while, yeah, I've spent most of my teenage years crawling around ruins of abandoned soviet bunkers, there's only so much of them you can look at until you just know what will be in the next.
You run pretty quickly into the "what is fun?" problem though. I play 6-8 hour train capitalism simulators on my weekends, and get excited about things like comparing partial vs. full capitalization or different auction methods for the initial bid on embezzlement options. I have friends who would rather do just about anything else with their time, while I put at least 20% of a breakup on not being able to stomach another game of Commander with him and his otherwise pretty reasonable friends, because it is a badly designed fan mod to an already mediocre game that should not be popular.

Quality (or even intentionality) of design is no ultimately signifier of appeal, and what part of the aesthetic can comfortably live in abstraction and what must be modeled is often right down to the personal tastes of the ultimate players.
 

loverdrive

Prophet of the profane (She/Her)
You run pretty quickly into the "what is fun?" problem though. I play 6-8 hour train capitalism simulators on my weekends, and get excited about things like comparing partial vs. full capitalization or different auction methods for the initial bid on embezzlement options. I have friends who would rather do just about anything else with their time, while I put at least 20% of a breakup on not being able to stomach another game of Commander with him and his otherwise pretty reasonable friends, because it is a badly designed fan mod to an already mediocre game that should not be popular.
Cool! This "What is Fun?" is a question you have to answer! To yourself.

I'd be glad to continue on your example, but I don't know enough about strategy games to not stumble into something I didn't mean on accident. For this, I apologize.

Of FPS games, I know a lot. There are things that I (at this moment) find the most fun: making crazy jumps, hitting crazy shots, and utterly dominate my opponent through nothing but practice. No luck, no deception, pure Bliss of a mechanical skill, hard-wired into your spinal spiral.

That I want to distil. I seek games that build walls to insulate me from random numbers that I can't predict, be they born of dice or a complex chaotic system, from sitting in a corner, being passive.

That's why I play Quake, TF2 and ULTRAKILL and not Counter Strike or Call of Duty or ArmA, and if I was to make a shooter of my own, it would be like Quake, but mine.

Your answer may or may not be different: I don't know. Maybe you enjoy sitting in an ambush (I can see why, I enjoyed it too, but right now I crave speed) and outsmart your opponents rather than outflick them. Then you'll abstract away and simplify things I find fun. You'll give weapons random spread, you'll slow me down, you'll make me fragile. You'll make sure that if I'll end up in a sticky situation, no amount of marksgalship is going to save me. I can't outrun a bullet. You'll seek a game that is closer to Counter-Strike than to my beloved Quake.

Regardless, you should know what you are doing. Understand design, read a subtle language and, thus, be able to act with intentionality.
 

Addendum: IME most players can't generate/spare the emotional energy for "driven" characters. They want a Forrest Gump game, where fate drops a metric ton of improbable opportunities to be "in the room where it happens" and their character can step up or just enjoy being in the background.
This is very true.
Question: do you think players can't generate/spare such energy, or do you think they've been primed to expect their roles to be relatively passive receivers of GM-driven play by trad D&D's long history looming over the industry (what often gets euphemistically termed "immersion," as if such a state were possible only through such a dynamic)?
At least half of all players can't do it: they are passive people in general. Though though of doing nearly anything is impossible for them. As players, they just want to show up and have the game happen.

Most of the other half won't get to far, as all that energy and effort is just too much work: they will give up quick enough.

It has nothing to do with "expected roles"......most players are clueless about anything RPG related.
 

G

Guest 7042500

Guest
My experience differs greatly.

We started playing "Greyhawk" with dungeon adventuring. This is a great way to start, by the way, for both players and ref; it is bounded, yet can be player driven within the bounds (that is, there was no "go through the labyrinth, find the Big Bad, and kill it;" it was "explore the dungeon."

After a month or two we players started asking "So what else is in this world? What's on the other side of the hill?" So we started to explore.

Also, we had LOTS of different motivations. PC 1 wanted to reach name level and rule a demense; PC 2 wanted to sit in their tower and research new spells; PC 3 wanted to be a wandering knight errant fighting evil and writing wrongs' PC 4 wanted to be an Evil High Priest and build a temple to the Dark Gods; et cetera.

Also also, the world was BIG. Really, really big. Multiple kingdoms with multiple duchys with multiple baronies with multiple cities and towns. Each was full of people with their own goals and motivations. As PCs we met people, interacted with them, got involved in events, and decided what we were going to do.

Also also also, we were not 'one band of heroes tried and true tied at the hip." If there was a war, for instance, it was entirely possible that various PCs could be on different sides.

AN old theatrical principle I heard somewhere was "Every character has a goal. In any scene they are in they will try to move events towards their goal." Even if the goal of the Master's valet is to get the Master the hell to bed so he can sit down, take his boots off, and have a beer.

There is a myriad of things going on in the world. What is NOT known is how the PCs will interact with these events.
 

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