Vincent Baker on mechanics, system and fiction in RPGs

pemerton

Legend
it time to improve how the things are described so that evoking of emotions happens.
I find this produces insipid, non-visceral RPGing. Adjectives are not the key to feeling a situation. The situation is the key to feeling a situation.

pemerton said:
I don't think there is much point in continuing. If you don't see why in a roleplaying game it is important to make decisions from character's perspective and actually react organically to what characters and NPCs are saying and doing, then we are not in this to do the same thing to begin with.
I think this is very important. That's why I don't want a system that looks to the GM to give "meta"-cues about whether or not the target of a violent threat is going to yield, before I as a player of my character decide whether or not to threaten violence to get what I want.
I genuinely do not understand what you mean here.
What I mean directly responds to these posts:

So you are saying that Go Aggro is appropriate move only in situations where the character is committed to following through with violence regardless of what happens? Because if that's the case, then I think that is an utterly useless move, as that is practically never the situation. There always could hypothetically be something that would recontextualise the situation
But stuff still happens, and it is weird that you cannot naturally react to it.
This "stuff" you are referring to, that "recontextualises" the situation, is - in the context of a RPG - more narration of fiction. What you are envisaging, as best I can make sense of it, is that the player declares that their PC makes a threat, and then the GM narrates the NPC doing something other than complying, and the player responds to that. But when does that NPC do that thing? They have a gun to their head! Why are they not dead! Only because the PC is holding back while they speak, or act.

Which is to say - this "recontextualisation" is not about "realism". It's about the player waiting while the GM introduces more content, to give them more context/information. This is why I have referred to hemming and hawing, and GM cues, and why @hawkeyefan has referred to "timid" play.
 

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pemerton

Legend
They may refuse to capitulate, and give a reason, either emotional or factual, that recontextualises the situation.
How do they do this? If they haven't capitulated, they're shot in the head!

Unless the threatening character didn't really mean it - hence they were Manipulating, as I and @AbdulAlhzared have pointed out.
 

I find this produces insipid, non-visceral RPGing. Adjectives are not the key to feeling a situation. The situation is the key to feeling a situation.

It seems to me you have issues with Improv and prefer games that require less of it. Thats cool, but its kind of weird to be into whats ultimately an Improv activity and not actually want to do it.

Although, I've often thought many people don't actually like RPGs but seem in denial about it.

It's about the player waiting while the GM introduces more content, to give them more context/information. This is why I have referred to hemming and hawing, and GM cues,

GMs can be bad at Improv too. It is a skill after all. It think its more constructive to fix the actual issue than it is to go out of one's way to skirt around it.

How do they do this? If they haven't capitulated, they're shot in the head!

So you agree that Moves take away player agency.

Unless the threatening character didn't really mean it - hence they were Manipulating, as I and @AbdulAlhzared have pointed out.

The player might not know what they're doing until they've done it.

Lets try it this way: manipulating can look like going aggro and vice versa, but due to the Move design, you cannot reach either Move's outcomes through the other, in spite of the fact that in a real interaction, you could.

So the only way to resolve the discrepancy is to step out of the game and negotiate the scene.

And just for clarity, you know what doesn't happen in normal Improv or Roleplaying, those that aren't to do with RPGs? Out of Character Negotiation. It actually completely defeats the point.
 

pemerton

Legend
Its improv. The necessity of something physical or mathematical simply isn't there.
AW is not an improv game. It deliberately departs from improv precisely by including player-side moves.

Vincent Baker has a good explanation of that here: http://lumpley.com/index.php/anyway/thread/360

The TL;DR version is that mechanics can bring something that improv can't, namely, the introduction of content that no one wants (and hence wouldn't choose in improve) and yet is compelling.

They're declaring it by choosing the Move. They want one of its Outcomes.
I don't know what you mean by choosing a move. That's not a thing that exists in the rules of AW. If the player says "I go aggro", the GM has to ask "OK, what are you doing?" Otherwise the action can't be resolved.

Ah, Oberoni. Wondered if that'd show up.

If a Move has specific triggers, you can't assert that Players are free to act within the Fiction if you're also stating they shouldn't trigger a particular Move.
This goes back to the OP. If you don't want to play a game whose currency says the things that Go Aggro says, then don't play that game.

It's not a flaw in the game that it's not to your, or anyone else's, taste.

It sounds good and makes those games seem perfect, but it doesn't hold up under scrutiny.
I've scrutinised Burning Wheel pretty closely, and it holds up!

pemerton said:
Despite the technical differences, what AW and BW have in common is that the player does not have to do anything but play their character, from the perspective of the character, in order to have dramatic and compelling things happen.
That holds true in any game if the non-improv part of the game is actually compelling. Most RPGs actually have pretty terrible gameplay thats obscured by the fun of improv.
I try not to play games with terrible gameplay.

But here's an example of a RPG that does not have dramatic and compelling things happen if all the players do is play their characters from the perspective of their characters: classic D&D. It's quite possible to play your character from the perspective of your character, and to have very little happen with none of it being dramatic or compelling. Nor any of it leading to inhabitation of character.

An example might be a sequence of play in which the characters fail to pick a lock and so cannot go through the door they had settled on, then head down a corridor instead, find a secret door, go through it, and fall down a pit trap on the other side, and then when they climb out discover a dead end that they can't make their way through.
 

I find this produces insipid, non-visceral RPGing. Adjectives are not the key to feeling a situation. The situation is the key to feeling a situation.
But someone narrates that situation. And how things are described of course has a huge impact to how things are felt, that should be obvious without saying.

What I mean directly responds to these posts:

This "stuff" you are referring to, that "recontextualises" the situation, is - in the context of a RPG - more narration of fiction. What you are envisaging, as best I can make sense of it, is that the player declares that their PC makes a threat, and then the GM narrates the NPC doing something other than complying, and the player responds to that.
Yes.

But when does that NPC do that thing? They have a gun to their head! Why are they not dead! Only because the PC is holding back while they speak, or act.
Yes, because presumably they were waiting to see whether the threatenee complies. Like for example if they put the gun on someone's head demanding certain piece of information, they presumably are going to listen what they say. And of course as the player is in charge of their character's actions, they are perfectly free to interrupt any moment by pulling the trigger if they want.

Which is to say - this "recontextualisation" is not about "realism". It's about the player waiting while the GM introduces more content, to give them more context/information. This is why I have referred to hemming and hawing, and GM cues, and why @hawkeyefan has referred to "timid" play.
The GM is having to describe the NPC reaction in one way or another in any case.
 

pemerton

Legend
The player might not know what they're doing until they've done it.
I don't know what you mean by this. Are you imagining a player who doesn't know the rules of the game? Are you imagining a table that doesn't follow the rulebook's instructions about being clear about a player's action declaration?

It seems to me you have issues with Improv and prefer games that require less of it. Thats cool, but its kind of weird to be into whats ultimately an Improv activity and not actually want to do it.

Although, I've often thought many people don't actually like RPGs but seem in denial about it.
You've worked it out - I secretly don't like RPGing! That's why I devote so much of my hobby time to it, have over 30,000 posts on a RPG message board, and work hard at better understanding both the theory and practice of the activity.
 

pemerton

Legend
But someone narrates that situation.
Yes. In Apocalypse World - the RPG in which the Go Aggro move exists - that is the MC (= GM), who is narrating the situation in accordance with the agenda and principles, by using moves like Announce future badness, Provide an opportunity, Provide an opportunity with a cost, Put someone in a spot, and so on.

The situation will not be neutral. It will not be relying on its adjectives to engage the other game participants.
 

AW is not an improv game. It deliberately departs from improv precisely by including player-side moves.

Uh...what do you think yes, and is?

The TL;DR version is that mechanics can bring something that improv can't, namely, the introduction of content that no one wants (and hence wouldn't choose in improve) and yet is compelling.

Yes, the System in place can contribute to Improv, but that doesn't make the game not improv.

Plus, it kind of neglects to consider the classic element of Improv Theater: audience suggestion, which Players can only sort through and choose the best option out of what they get.

Not unlike the proposed idea of sorting through Moves and choosing the best option oit of whats available.

That's not a thing that exists in the rules of AW.

Then you agree that Player agency isn't a part of these games.

This goes back to the OP. If you don't want to play a game whose currency says the things that Go Aggro says, then don't play that game.

Thats pretty uninclusive. Nevermind that currency in this context is a meaningless make-believe word that doesn't convey anything other than a sense of "we're the in-crowd and you're not."

It's quite possible to play your character from the perspective of your character, and to have very little happen with none of it being dramatic or compelling.

There are countless anecdotes one can point to that disprove that. The difference is simply that the story is constructed out of the game's events while its being recalled, rather than being forcibly created through an improv game whose creator, apparently, is in denial about it being improv.

Nor any of it leading to inhabitation of character.

If one can't "inhabit a character" they're just bad at improv. Has nothing to do with the game, and while we should be inclusive to people who might have really good reason to not be able to improv all that well (or at all), that doesn't introduce any sort of through logic where what AW does makes it superior than other games.

An example might be a sequence of play in which the characters fail to pick a lock and so cannot go through the door they had settled on, then head down a corridor instead, find a secret door, go through it, and fall down a pit trap on the other side, and then when they climb out discover a dead end that they can't make their way through.

So your problem is with cruddy level design?

I mean, it is rather apropos. After reading approximately 75% of whats left of the Forge I got the impression most of their overall problem could be boiled down to crappy games and crappier Gamemasters.

It seems that fundamental issue is still the running undercurrent.

I don't know what you mean by this. Are you imagining a player who doesn't know the rules of the game? Are you imagining a table that doesn't follow the rulebook's instructions about being clear about a player's action declaration?

For someone whose used the phrase "inhabit a character" more than a few times you seem rather bewildered everytime someone talks about doing so.

You've worked it out - I secretly don't like RPGing! That's why I devote so much of my hobby time to it, have over 30,000 posts on a RPG message board, and work hard at better understanding both the theory and practice of the activity.

I spend and have spent an inordinate amount of time reading NTRS documents, and can actually hold a pretty even conversation with most astronauts on their jobs. And I know so, given I've the enormous good fortune to actually have met 11 of the 12 people that have walked on the Moon, and about 5 dozen other lesser known astronauts, all of which (that I met as an adult) found it incredible how knowledgeable I was considering I'm an English major who teaches teenagers about creative writing.

That knowledge, thirst for learning, and direct interaction with the aerospace community doesn't make me an astronaut, however.

You may not have appreciated the suggestion, but you didn't really respond to the implied question of do you even like improv.
 

pemerton

Legend
Uh...what do you think yes, and is?
AW doesn't use "yes, and" as a resolution technique.

Then you agree that Player agency isn't a part of these games.
No. Player agency in AW is at just about the highest level possible for a RPG. It is not exercised by "choosing moves". It is exercised, as per @AbdulAlhazred's post upthread, by saying what one's PC does in the fiction; and by establishing goals, wants, hates, hopes, etc for one's PC, such that the MC can announce badness, put you in a spot, offer opportunities and the like.

Thats pretty uninclusive. Nevermind that currency in this context is a meaningless make-believe word that doesn't convey anything other than a sense of "we're the in-crowd and you're not."
"Currency" is explained in the OP of this thread and some follow-up posts.

And it's not "uninclusive" to write a RPG that you (or anyone else) doesn't care to play. There are many movies produced, novels written etc that I don't care for. They're not, therefore, uninclusive. There are RPGs I don't are to play, too. They're not, therefore, uninclusive.

pemerton said:
It's quite possible to play your character from the perspective of your character, and to have very little happen with none of it being dramatic or compelling.
There are countless anecdotes one can point to that disprove that. The difference is simply that the story is constructed out of the game's events while its being recalled, rather than being forcibly created through an improv game whose creator, apparently, is in denial about it being improv.
Your anecdotes about dramatic and compelling play don't establish that the opposite is not possible.

I also note that constructing a story by recalling game events is not remotely the same things as actually experiencing dramatic and compelling play.

So your problem is with cruddy level design?
No. What I described can happen in good level design, if the players happen to choose a particular path and suffer poor rolls when trying to pick locks and find secret doors. That's part of the point of Moldvay Basic - the PCs may have to retreat, go back and memorise better spells (eg Knock), come back with different gear (eg an axe or maul to get through the locked door), etc. It's not intended to support inhabitation of character in visceral RPGing. It's intended to invite the players to puzzle out the dungeon and extract the loot from its denizens.

I spend and have spent an inordinate amount of time reading NTRS documents, and can actually hold a pretty even conversation with most astronauts on their jobs. And I know so, given I've the enormous good fortune to actually have met 11 of the 12 people that have walked on the Moon, and about 5 dozen other lesser known astronauts, all of which (that I met as an adult) found it incredible how knowledgeable I was considering I'm an English major who teaches teenagers about creative writing.

That knowledge, thirst for learning, and direct interaction with the aerospace community doesn't make me an astronaut, however.
I'm not sure what this is apropos of.
 


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