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What is the point of GM's notes?

prabe

Aspiring Lurker (He/Him)
Supporter
You must have a huge beef with heist movies or any movies that play with the linear story sequences.
I think it is possible to enjoy the heck out of non-linear storytelling, while not thinking much of the Flashback mechanic. Heck, in my case it's that a large part of the pleasure I'd get from a heist adventure would be the planning.
 

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AnotherGuy

Explorer
So just to bring it a little back to the OP, one way I use GM notes to assist me is with Skilled Play over the course of the campaign.

Just to be clear I’m not referring to combat strategy or old school dungeoneering when discussing Skilled Play over the course of a campaign. I’m zeroing on impactful PC choices which would influence the final result or end challenge of the campaign.
The only way I can think of representing that is by codifying such choices, in a similar way that 5e's Tyranny of Dragons storyline does it with its Council Scorecard where certain actions undertaken by the party would curry or lose favour with a particular faction for the final showdown and thus make things easier or harder.

Here begins my dilemma, so I begin codifying certain actions undertaken by the party over the course of the campaign and of course should PCs come up with constructive ideas and actions of their own, that data too when then be inputted. Furthermore I increase pressure by injecting a strict timeframe of events.

Now in all of this, I have designed the code as well as the timeframe. It does sort of feel illusionary because I could adjust the set code or timeframe at any time without the PCs knowledge, since much of it is secret backstory or not player-facing. And this of course frustrates me somewhat - in that I could describe in part what I'm doing as Setting Solitaire. Now I don't know if these feelings stem from the fact that I'm doing the designing as opposed to say following an AP, which perhaps would remove my own sense of bias, similar to a map does in old-school dungeon crawls.

There are parts which I can make player-facing and have indeed done so, but I'm not perfectly content, since I can still amend things. The other concern is that should I choose to reveal the entire "scorecard" to the payers, I may lessen the Skilled Play element of the game. Not an attractive option for me.

I do not know if I'm making much sense in all of this rambling, but this is where I'm at - where I'm trying to, for the lack of a better word, make the game True.

Although I have never played the game, would the clocks system be a fair comparison for something like this in BitD?
What system does Dungeon World use to emulate this, or is there such a thing?

EDIT: Another option I have is running something like post-action 4e Skill Challenge check to resolve the outcome of the "scorecard". Perhaps before the final showdown, I call for a sit down session with the players and DM lobbing for what actions over the course of the campaign would be deserving of a roll.
 
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@AnotherGuy

Don't have time for anything thorough, but I skimmed your post. I used Clocks for every AW-derivative game to resolve Front-related stuff, player down-time projects, player vs Front-related stuff.

Like you mention, Clocks serve the same purpose as 4e Skill Challenges (and this tech predates both 4e and AW); complex conflict resolution. Because of that, they're applicable to a whole host of conflicts (from "social combat" Tug-of-War Clocks to "can we save the ward from the supernatural disaster" Racing Clocks to "do the ritual/enchant the thing" project clock).
 

Aldarc

Legend
I think it is possible to enjoy the heck out of non-linear storytelling, while not thinking much of the Flashback mechanic. Heck, in my case it's that a large part of the pleasure I'd get from a heist adventure would be the planning.
I once felt that way too, but not any longer.
 

prabe

Aspiring Lurker (He/Him)
Supporter
@AnotherGuy

I'll give you a perspective from someone who runs 5E, albeit probably very differently from how you're doing so. The fact I do things very differently from you doesn't mean I think you're doing it wrong--I want that to be clear up-front; different approaches and techniques work for different people.

It seems as though you are wanting your campaign to come to a specific point at the end of it--which seems to be why you're looking at something like a scorecard--and you're expecting "skilled play" to be, roughly, "the players doing things before the end scenario that make that end scenario easier (with a plausible allowance for the players also doing things that make the end scenario more difficult)." (I can see why you might choose to call that "skilled play"--it's much, much shorter.)

I ... never intentionally prep much more than the next session, so I probably wouldn't be thinking in terms of a specific end scenario; I'd be thinking more in the lines of what the goals of the BBEG (or whatever) are, and what the goals of the party are, and where those goals come into conflict. I'd probably have a place outside my session notes where I was keeping track of what it would look like in-game as the BBEG progressed toward its goals. I'd probably look after everything the PCs accomplished (or didn't) and consider how that would change the position of that track--or perhaps how it would change what was on the track, depending on what the PCs did. Everything the BBEG did would be in service of its goals (if occasionally indirectly) and if the PCs interfered sufficiently those goals might change to "kill the PCs."

Having said that, I know that I probably wouldn't have most of that written down, at least not in my session notes binder. If I had a write-up for the BBEG, its goals would be in that write-up; I'd prep its actions based on the situation in-game and its goals; those actions would trigger scenarios in-game.

That's possibly not as helpful as I was hoping it would be. Oh comma well.
 
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Fenris-77

Small God of the Dozens
Planning in heist games has downsides to, usually characterized as planning paralysis. In the imaginary world of an RPG, and with players who aren't (usually) actual criminals, the process of heist planning can quickly spiral out of control. Plans with contingencies and back-ups and sub-plans and whew, I'm tired just typing it out. I don't find that really detailed planning adds anything to my enjoyment of heists. I love making plans, but the fiddly detail is often boring and doesn't end up getting used anyway in the case of back-ups and contingencies and the like. I prefer the Blades method, where you rough in a plan, maybe do a little light prep, and get stuck in. YMMV.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
I don't follow... I can enjoy certain types of movies without feeling the particular way a roleplaying game chooses to implement what happens in them is to my liking. I personally don't have an issue with the flashbacks in BitD (it's highly reminiscent of the show Leverage) but I could see how some people would rather play out their planning and execution in the moment and would find flashbacks to things they actually didn't do and did not plan unsatisfactory for their enjoyment.
This. I like planning things out in advance. If I forget or miss something, then I didn't plan well enough. I'd hate to be able to "plan" things in the middle of the heist.

And I love heist movies.
 

Imaro

Hero
Planning in heist games has downsides to, usually characterized as planning paralysis. In the imaginary world of an RPG, and with players who aren't (usually) actual criminals, the process of heist planning can quickly spiral out of control. Plans with contingencies and back-ups and sub-plans and whew, I'm tired just typing it out. I don't find that really detailed planning adds anything to my enjoyment of heists. I love making plans, but the fiddly detail is often boring and doesn't end up getting used anyway in the case of back-ups and contingencies and the like. I prefer the Blades method, where you rough in a plan, maybe do a little light prep, and get stuck in. YMMV.

I don't think anyone is claiming both approaches don't have upsides and downsides but I find it hard to fathom that you can only enjoy heist movies if you like one approach (flashbacks) over the other... which was the comment that started this digression.
 

Emerikol

Adventurer
There are two ways to look at this.
I'm sure there are many and many more eventually.

In a linear perspective, where the player and the character both experience the events of the game in the same linear order, and can both interact with it in the same interactive order. This is the way you seem to be viewing it. And I would say that I see why.

But how accurate is it? It seems to assume that the player has every opportunity that the character would have. It seems to assume that the player is as free to roam about and interact with the environment, unprompted by the GM, as freely as the character. And that the player is as aware as a native of that world as to what they can and can't do.
I think for me it is the timing of events. It is true that the players will step out of character on occasion. Downtime for example. We may not roleplay out every activity a character wants to accomplish during downtime. A player might just say that he is going to continue researching the spell he has been working on and that is it. I may make a roll or two to indicate progress/success etc..

For me though, that doesn't really affect my prime concern which is during the actual exploration and combat parts of the game. Where decisions in a crisis are made as the character. I'm using exploration loosely here too to include actual NPC interactions in town that are played out face to face etc...

I don't have a problem though saying someone is going to the store to buy some iron rations and not play it out. Could I roll in some instances for "trouble" and suddenly take the game to character viewpoint? I could but that would be rarer than the normal case when it just happens.

But that's not really the case.

So another way to look at it is to recognize that at times, we jump passed some periods of time. When Blades allows a player to Flashback, it's not time travel, it's a filling in of some of that time that was jumped passed. It's allowing the character to be a part of the world in a different way, that's not limited by the GM-Player dynamic.

So is the linearity of time as important to me as a character who seems like a (in the case of Blades) competent and connected criminal with means at his disposal and the foresight to make appropriate plans.
It is similar and different. It's different because for me at least a character just filling in some backstory while walking through town is different than a character filling in just the right combination of events in a flashback to improve the changes on an attack roll. And when I say improve chances I include mitigate risk as well. To me the skill challenge then is to have a good enough imagination and not to make choices as your character. And if that is your game goal and that is what makes you enjoy the game then it is perfect fine. I just point out that it is not my game goal and it would lessen my enjoyment of the game.
 

Fenris-77

Small God of the Dozens
I don't think anyone is claiming both approaches don't have upsides and downsides but I find it hard to fathom that you can only enjoy heist movies if you like one approach (flashbacks) over the other... which was the comment that started this digression.
Well, I certainly wouldn't say that. Flashbacks are a big part of heist movies, but that's really neither here nor there when it comes to game mechanics.
 

Emerikol

Adventurer
Planning in heist games has downsides to, usually characterized as planning paralysis. In the imaginary world of an RPG, and with players who aren't (usually) actual criminals, the process of heist planning can quickly spiral out of control. Plans with contingencies and back-ups and sub-plans and whew, I'm tired just typing it out. I don't find that really detailed planning adds anything to my enjoyment of heists. I love making plans, but the fiddly detail is often boring and doesn't end up getting used anyway in the case of back-ups and contingencies and the like. I prefer the Blades method, where you rough in a plan, maybe do a little light prep, and get stuck in. YMMV.
I definitely think that paralysis is something a group has to watch out for but I love a good plan that comes to fruition. So there is a balance there. I've had groups spend a good bit of time planning and if it is productive planning then I think it's good. If it devolves and just seems to be repetitive then that is bad.

There are also limits to planning due to lack of knowledge so in some cases you can only plan so much. Just like real life. A famous military quote is "No plan survives contact with the enemy". It's a truism.

I think flashbacks would not be required to do Story Now. It would be something you could do and like to do and perhaps for some people they wouldn't. It's like the level of detail in the sandbox world. It varies and could be debated even amongst those devoted to a style I prefer.
 

prabe

Aspiring Lurker (He/Him)
Supporter
Planning in heist games has downsides to, usually characterized as planning paralysis. In the imaginary world of an RPG, and with players who aren't (usually) actual criminals, the process of heist planning can quickly spiral out of control. Plans with contingencies and back-ups and sub-plans and whew, I'm tired just typing it out. I don't find that really detailed planning adds anything to my enjoyment of heists. I love making plans, but the fiddly detail is often boring and doesn't end up getting used anyway in the case of back-ups and contingencies and the like. I prefer the Blades method, where you rough in a plan, maybe do a little light prep, and get stuck in. YMMV.
Yeah. My pleasure in a heist game as a player would be making the plan and doing it. As a GM, designing a scenario for that is way (way, way) more work than I'm eager to do, which is plausibly ironic. Seems like an instance (another one?) where the pleasures I get from the story genre (heists) are not particularly compatible with the pleasures I get from TRPGs, either as a player or as a GM.
 

Aldarc

Legend
Planning in heist games has downsides to, usually characterized as planning paralysis. In the imaginary world of an RPG, and with players who aren't (usually) actual criminals, the process of heist planning can quickly spiral out of control. Plans with contingencies and back-ups and sub-plans and whew, I'm tired just typing it out. I don't find that really detailed planning adds anything to my enjoyment of heists. I love making plans, but the fiddly detail is often boring and doesn't end up getting used anyway in the case of back-ups and contingencies and the like. I prefer the Blades method, where you rough in a plan, maybe do a little light prep, and get stuck in. YMMV.
Not to mention how often all the best laid plans made by players are still subject to GM fiat and their "notes."
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
Not to mention how often all the best laid plans made by players are still subject to GM fiat and their "notes."
Or any other rule. Unless you're just going to declare all of their plans auto successes, their best laid plans will always be subject to something.
 

Emerikol

Adventurer
Or any other rule. Unless you're just going to declare all of their plans auto successes, their best laid plans will always be subject to something.
Yes but if I flip a coin for every battle that will be far different than if I play a game of chess and give the victory to who wins that game. One is extremely random and the other is completely a test of skill.

For me, I prefer a game where skillful players will succeed more often and thus I lean towards the chess end of the spectrum while not going that far of course. So good planning, good tactics/strategy, etc... will decide the outcome most of the time in the long term.
 

For me, its contextual-- Blades in the Dark is probably trying to simulate the literary device of a flashback as its used in a heist movie, you see the thing happening and either a suspensful question is posed (did that person really die? why is the person doing that? how'd we end up here? is this really it for our heroes?) and then we're shown the parts of the story that answer our questions. It builds tension because when we lack the set up, we don't know all the information that might reframe the events.

Basically, its a way of building towards a 'conclusion' when that conclusion takes place before its consequences (the heist itself,) by framing it this way, we get a standard build up of tension, followed by a pay off that answers the questions being posed by the action. The flashback itself is a way of ensuring the Questions precede the Answer in the telling of the story, when preparation definitionally takes place before the thing being prepared for.

So, "Did Rodney really just kill Joey and betray everyone, is the heist a failure, is our hero dead?" is a question that allows the preparation where "Rodney and Joey faked Joey's death to gain the mark's trust, and are using that to turn the tables and pull off the heist" to function as a plot twist, and a payoff for the tension build up, even though Rodney and Joey preparing the trick takes place before the scene where Joey is seemingly shot.

Great Pretender on Netflix is an excellent case study of the technique.

BITD is cool for including such a storytelling device as a mechanic, because its basically the protocols and techniques for TELLING heist stories and similar fiction projected onto a roleplaying game. I'd love to play it sometime, but it might not be appropriate for games that aren't after the dramatic trappings of a heist story, but the activity of planning and executing a heist, the flashback technique is dramatizing. That style of play would demand that we know what preparations were made before the moment they're preparing for because it would be measuring skill as forethought on the player's part, in the same way pulling off a heist would require forethought on the part of the participants.
 

I prefer the Blades method, where you rough in a plan, maybe do a little light prep, and get stuck in. YMMV.

I wonder if anyone here has experience with versions of this as part of a more traditional RPG?

There is a GURPS supplement called "Impulse Buys" which allows players to use earned character points (or, alternately, other pools of points) to affect the game state in ways that go well beyond the usual sorts of character spells and powers. I haven't read it carefully yet, but I think it is an attempt to mechanically support more narrative control to the players while still remaining compatible with the balancing mechanisms of GURPS. I see more references on the GURPS forums to people playing hybrid "PBtA-style" (for example) GURPS games. I'm curious how that might play out. I've been surprised over the past few years how much I enjoy allowing some meta-currency in my games, both as a player and a GM.

I like the idea, in theory, of allowing flashbacks even in dungeon crawls (which can have heist-like qualities).
 

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