What is a "Narrative Mechanic"?

Tony Vargas

Legend
See, I don't think about TTRPGs in terms of stories or tropes, but rather in terms of an imaginary world the players explore through their PCs. Creating that world, arbitration disputes, and resolving outcomes is what I'm there for. How the players play and what they decide is up to them.
Oh, I get that perspective, too. There's actually a lot of overlap between the two, IMHO/X, especially when the imagined world is based on fiction or a genre of fiction using tropes from that genre (often very selectively).

I sometimes feel like games, especially old-school games or games ostensibly trying to cater to the "explore imagined world" theme, end up with just the overlap portion, or with some mechanics they don't need/shouldn't have.

In recent years (OK, decades) the storytelling paradigm has been explored by, well, Storyteller in the 90s, and indie games, quite a bit. Some games have gone very far into mechanics to support that approach. I mentioned Leverage, above, there's even a Leverage RPG with flashback rules.

But, if you're exploring the imagined world through your character, then your character's senses, physical capabilities, and supernatural powers matter. But, it's your knowledge, memory, cunning, puzzle-solving and decision making that matter. Like, if I were to take 1e, and use variants to push it in that direction, I'd convert INT to like "Magical Aptitude" for MU/illusionists, WIS to "Faith" for Clerics/Druids, and CHA to, IDK, something else... ;) ... not Comeliness, maybe "Destiny" or "Magnatism." The idea being to leave intelligence, common sense, puzzle-solving, persuasiveness &c to the player.

In in-fiction rationale? Well, "isekai" I guess - though the convention of a reader-identificantion character mentally jumping into the life of a fantasy character is older than that.
 
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pemerton

Legend
I'd say it can lead to weird in-character discontinuities:
Griffo the druid successfully checks against Well Prepared, which he can use once/day, and remembers he has a crowbar.​
"Oh, you have a crowbar? Why didn't you bring that out yesterday when I was trying to break into the chest?"​
"Because I was busy remembering I had a foldable ladder yesterday."​
So yeah, it would be laughed about between players for years as quantum gear even if that wouldn't make sense for the PCs.
To me, that sounds like a poor mechanic and/or poor narration.

Of course if you and your group play an absurd game things will be absurd!
 


pemerton

Legend
The individual games? Yes. But putting everything into Simulationism? That grab bag no more works than his Big Model does.
Edwards's essay "The Right to Dream" is far and away the most insightful thing I've read, from the perspective of playing and GMing Rolemaster.

It is also the most coherent discussion I know of the basic process of DL-ish or CoC-ish RPGing, in particular its identification of the priority of the fiction elements - colour, setting, characters, situation - over the system. What some 5e D&D players call "rulings not rules".
 


bloodtide

Legend
When I think of narrative mechanic I think of some mechanics players or GMs can use to alter the reality of the game....with a roll.

for GMs its simple, they can just make up stuff at will on a whim. But they could choose to say roll on a weather table and let that roll decide the weather for them.

For players in most RPGs they are limited to only the actions of their characters and what their characters can firmly do by the rules. If the characters want to "corner the market" on the local fur trade....this means the characters must physically go out into the wild and hunt, set traps, attack rivals and all sorts of other tasks to "corner the market".

A narrative mechanic is like a player making a BECMI Dominion roll, a Birthright Cycle check or other such rule from a similar game. Where the player would say "I try to corner the local fur market"....and rolls a check to see what happens. The players character might "do" things....but passively in the background....not being controlled by the player "live"
 

Edwards's essay "The Right to Dream" is far and away the most insightful thing I've read, from the perspective of playing and GMing Rolemaster.

It is also the most coherent discussion I know of the basic process of DL-ish or CoC-ish RPGing, in particular its identification of the priority of the fiction elements - colour, setting, characters, situation - over the system. What some 5e D&D players call "rulings not rules".
The GNS problem is that Simulationist basically encompasses "Everything Else" including AD&D 2e and Vampire (which is explicitly called out in the simulationist essay while being called out in the narrativist as being something that could be developed from the initial premise). And yes he understands (and is right about) some of that Everything Else. But it's the same failure as the Big Model - roleplaying is bigger than Ron Edwards (or anyone else) can comprehend.

There are both multiple types of simulation and other reasons to play, with emotional engagement being one. And incoherent isn't inherently a flaw when there are half a dozen people round a table. "The right to dream" is a valid approach - but GNS isn't a be all and end all and it's S where the puts the parts that don't work.
 

pemerton

Legend
Which "creative agenda" is the urge to play LotR in D&D but fly straight to Mt Doom on giant-Eagle back and shove Frodo into the volcano?
None in particular. "Creative agenda" isn't a theory of story content. It's an account of the relationship between processes of play, and the sort of pay-off that play delivers over the course of one or more sessions.
 

pemerton

Legend
There are both multiple types of simulation and other reasons to play
The "Right to Dream" essay describes multiple types of simulation, most important "purist for system" and "high concept".

As for "incoherence", Edwards has a conjecture that much dissatisfaction in the RPG experience flows from mismatched expectations in respect of creative agenda. Nothing I've ever read on Enworld makes me think he's wrong! One of the main reason that seems to underlie advocacy of the GM-driven approach to RPGing is precisely because it papers over latent "incoherence" by subordinating player contributions to the GM's vision.
 

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