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What counts as a detailed enough, permissible action declaration?

pemerton

Legend
For social challenges, it seems boring to me to skip the actual conversation in its entirety. The player doesn't need to be a skilled actor, but I would hope for at least an attempt at words.

Then based on the words, I decide if a roll is needed. Not the exact words, but the general gist of what the player is saying. We can pretend that the chsracter is better with the words than the player is.
What about if you're GMing a system that always requires a roll for significant actions? Does that affect things?
 

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What about if you're GMing a system that always requires a roll for significant actions? Does that affect things?

Absolutely. First and fore most, I want the players to play out at least part of the conversation, for immersion sake (for the other players at the table). But second, what is said will affect the difficulty of the challenge. It is all about the approach.

But I should make clear that I do not require my players to be masters at improv, or skilled actors. It is more about what they say, not how they say it.
 
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Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
That is not unfortunate for the discussion. That's the whole point of the discussion!

I mean it is unfortunate because there probably isn't much generalization to broader precepts. It is all specific instances.

What is different about Gygaxian D&D vs Star Trek that yields the difference? Different resolution processes? Different salient fiction? Something else?

So, we have different genre expectations, at least. In D&D, we have only statistical expectations that a search will yield results. In Star Trek, there's the expectation that a scanner-search will reveal salient information. If it fails to do so, that's unlikely to be an issue of a failure by the character, but of a plot point to be investigated. This expectation goes so far that in Ashen Stars (which is very much "what if the Federation collapsed?") there is no dice roll for scanning for life forms if you know about biology.

So, in one genre, failure at this task is a strong expectation, in the other, failure at this task is an indication of plot.
 
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Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Even in D&D 5e it seems that there might be interesting things to say about this. For instance, is I climb the mountain sufficient to permit a STR (Athletics) check to be made to determine whether the player's PC makes it to the top?

That will depend on whether the mountain is intended as an obstacle in and of itself. There are mountains you can summit that are just walking up a trail, no check required. Some may require a single survival check. Others, it is a skill challenge. Still others, it is a region that holds one or more separate encounters/obstacles.

So, whether it is sufficient depends on why the mountain is present. What is the mountain's role in the fiction?
 


GMMichael

Guide of Modos
What about if you're GMing a system that always requires a roll for significant actions? Does that affect things?
Indeed. In that case, the system sits on my shelf and collects dust.

On a more productive note, I hope that system has a pretty clear definition of "action," which could range from climbing pemerton's mountain to having a thought. Or some abstractness, like making a Hard Move.

To add some fodder to the discussion, I'll throw in some Modos RPG* details:

  • Action: activities of significance that take place in comparable segments of time. Each action permits a contest (check), if required by the GM.
  • Contest: when a PC wants to do something with a questionable outcome, the GM calls for a contest. The higher d20 result (PC or GM) is a favorable outcome, the lower is unfavorable.
  • Rule Zero: the GM is the player who ultimately decides what happens in the story, with input from dice rolls and player suggestions.
I think the thread is about out-of-combat-type actions, so the above Action definition doesn't directly apply. What applies is that for a player's detailed enough, permissible, action-declaration, the PC simply makes a suggestion, and that guides the GM's decisions about what happens. The GM can ask for more suggestions if the detail is lacking. If the GM decides that there's a question on whether that goes well for the PC, the GM calls for a contest.

*which is a rules-light game, so expect some ambiguity in those rules. In addition, it takes a classical, PC-immersion approach to player roles, so PC suggestions often relate to "what does your character do," although "what happens in the story" is also fair game.
 

Fenris-77

Small God of the Dozens
Would your approach change in a system where the GM doesn't have to set the difficulty by consideration of the fiction?(Systems like this include Apocalypse World, Cortex+ Heroic, HeroQuest revised, The Green Knight, and to a significant extent D&D 4e skill challenges,)

Within your approach, is I speak to the hunter about the virtues of vegetarianism, with the intention of having him renounce the eating of meat a sufficiently detailed declaration? Ever? Sometimes?
Its exactly the same, broadly speaking and is something that comes pretty directly from experience with PbtA. In that case my end is framing and consequences rather than a DC or something else.

In your example it would be enough for me to allow it, I suppose, but regardless of system I think the results would be more limited than what you allowed. I think if we were talking about a system with DCs that multiple successes seems more appropriate for changing someone's world view, at a minimum. A lot depends on context and circumstance of course.
 


Fenris-77

Small God of the Dozens
May I ask why?
Several reasons. First, brcause people who hunt for a living and eat meat aren't likely to be converted to vegetarianism on the strength of a single conversation. It doesn't seem likely or easy. My gut says 'good luck with that nonsense leaf eater' but I wouldn't rule against it out of hand. It would just be hard.

In a DC environment this kind of nuanced social interaction is best modelled by a series of tests or a skill challenge. This isnt something people often just change their minds about quickly or after a short talk, it would take some convincing.

I would also adjust for actual player arguments and the like. I wouldn't expect them to roleplay everything out necessarily, but if they have some great convincing points that are appropriate to the specific context then they should be rewarded for those.
 

pemerton

Legend
I think if we were talking about a system with DCs that multiple successes seems more appropriate for changing someone's world view, at a minimum.
May I ask why?
Several reasons. First, brcause people who hunt for a living and eat meat aren't likely to be converted to vegetarianism on the strength of a single conversation. It doesn't seem likely or easy. My gut says 'good luck with that nonsense leaf eater' but I wouldn't rule against it out of hand. It would just be hard.

In a DC environment this kind of nuanced social interaction is best modelled by a series of tests or a skill challenge. This isnt something people often just change their minds about quickly or after a short talk, it would take some convincing.
Why not just set a DC that reflects the posited difficulty? (Assuming a system that uses set difficulties. The system in which the action I described in the OP is not one of those.)

Generally I think of the reasons for opting for simple vs complex resolution as having to do with pacing and the like rather than difficulty.

I would also adjust for actual player arguments and the like. I wouldn't expect them to roleplay everything out necessarily, but if they have some great convincing points that are appropriate to the specific context then they should be rewarded for those.
Well, the argument in this case was that it was the moral thing to do.
 

Fenris-77

Small God of the Dozens
Moral according to whom? The PC?Perhaps I'm missing some context, but PC worldview alone isn't enough to make it the 'moral' choice.

High DC isn't awful, but I still dont really think if reflects the declared action. You're talking about convincing a hunter to become a vegatrian right? Sorry, one roll just doesn't really work for my conception of how enormously difficult that is. Again, context could certainly change that. Everyone adjudicates differently. If the person being convinced was a bit player for example, or there were things about the setting that mitigated for it, that could change my mind.
 

Numidius

Explorer
I had to address the OP question recently at my table.
The druid ended up alone in a scene, and wanted to cast one spell after another. The first one was pretty straightforward in its intent, but then I was not sure what it was about.
Also I want to foster pemertonian action dec. at least outside of combat, and, since we roll for spellcasting, broaden the impact of magic, reading the actual spell as written as a guideline on the subject.
So I had to ask questions in order to broaden the scope of his declaration, until he spit out that he wanted to find a safe place to rest for the night.

So I said:
Task is to Summon Animals to disperse the remaining hobgoblins.
Intent: to find a safe place for the night.

Of course a 20 was rolled, so I could liberally introduce a new chunk of content, (that before was just hinted at, not detailed, open to future possibilities) while preserving the Player's intent.

I remarked to the table that had he roll a 1, for instance, the druid might have ended up taken and lead on a night journey by the hobgoblins to their camp for interrogation.

It might seem a bit arbitrary on my part, but we must also move quickly thru scenes, because of real life time constraints and, moreover, six Pcs in the party to manage.

So, what constitutes a permissible action declaration, is definitely something we are exploring at the table.
 

Why not just set a DC that reflects the posited difficulty? (Assuming a system that uses set difficulties. The system in which the action I described in the OP is not one of those.)
...
Well, the argument in this case was that it was the moral thing to do.

If this was in D&D 5e, I'd rule that the player made a decent action declaration but has no reason to roll persuasion since success isn't possible, or that he needs to roll persuasion but success just means the hunter doesn't get mad at him, or maybe that the hunter humors him to get him to can it. Under D&D rules, the DM decides if what is being attempted is even possible, then sets a DC based on the difficulty. A lot of people (especially those playing charisma-skill-characters) seem to approach social interaction as mind control, where 'I declare a thing I want to make someone think or do, and there's always at least a 5% chance that it works' is the rule of the day. But convincing a hunter to give up his previous beliefs and his entire lifestyle and livelihood is just not something I see working in a casual conversation like this.
 

This thread is part of the family of recent "skilled play" and related threads.

It's an invitation to talk about permissible action declarations, and how different sorts of approaches - especially in respect of details required - feed into the RPG experience.
Since the first time I ran Burning Empires...
  • I need to know what success will mean.
  • I need to know how you're getting there.
  • I need at least an implied "what happens if the roll isn't a success."
I don't mind if that third one is player supplied, whether or not the player supplying is the one declaring the action.
 

pemerton

Legend
convincing a hunter to give up his previous beliefs and his entire lifestyle and livelihood is just not something I see working in a casual conversation like this.
Why do you describe it as a casual conversation?

Because there are spoilers for The Green Knight I won't go into all the details. But it's a moment of crisis for the character.
 

Why do you describe it as a casual conversation?

Because there are spoilers for The Green Knight I won't go into all the details. But it's a moment of crisis for the character.

As I'm not a long distance mind reader, I go off of what is written when I write a response. Asking why I didn't use information that you didn't provide is a bit much.
 


Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Is this understood to be a GM decision?

Setting aside GM-less games, you mean?

I can think of examples where the GM doesn't determine the purpose of the mountain. But generally, once the GM knows that purpose, the GM gets to make the call as to what kind of action declarations are appropriate. As the rules arbiter/implementer, that's pretty central.
 

pemerton

Legend
As I'm not a long distance mind reader, I go off of what is written when I write a response. Asking why I didn't use information that you didn't provide is a bit much.
Well in the OP I said neither that it was casual, nor that it wasn't.

I guess I'm curious more about why the assumption that it's casual.

There've been a series of posts in this thread - of which yours is the most recent - suggesting that changing the hunter's mind about hunting and eating meat is a big deal. I've been struck by this: it seems that most posters in this thread would require much more elaborate action declarations, and play, to bring it about that a PC converts the hunter to vegetarianism than to bring it about that a PC kills the hunter.
 

There've been a series of posts in this thread - of which yours is the most recent - suggesting that changing the hunter's mind about hunting and eating meat is a big deal. I've been struck by this: it seems that most posters in this thread would require much more elaborate action declarations, and play, to bring it about that a PC converts the hunter to vegetarianism than to bring it about that a PC kills the hunter.

Arguably, it may be easier to end a life than to change a core belief. (A person’s foodways are often quite deeply rooted.) Ending a life merely requires poking enough holes in the meat sack. Changing a core belief may take quite a bit longer.

Nevertheless, many RPGs don’t have life or death decided by a single roll. There’s often the combat mini-game requiring multiple contests or skill checks to succeed.

I’m not suggesting that it must or should be this way, but it is fairly traditional.
 

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