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What is the point of GM's notes?


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Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
Huh? I read your reply. What else did you want me to do with it?
If you ask me questions and I respond, common courtesy would be to at least give a small acknowledgment. Even a simple like at least tells me that you didn't ignore it and I didn't waste my time. Most people who ask me questions either agree or disagree and let me know that.
 
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pemerton

Legend
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).
For me, a big part of this is what are the pressure points supposed to be?

In Burning Wheel, equipment is quite a big deal. You have to pay for it as part of PC build. There are multiple PC abilities (Resources; Scavenging; Foraging) which can be checked to obtain equipment by way of action declaration. Damage to or loss of equipment is flagged as a standard sort of adverse consequences; and there are PC abilities (eg Mending) that come into play for maintaining or repairing it. As presented in its core rulebooks, BW doesn't really have scope for a flashback mechanic because if, like Sam Gamgee, you forget to pack rope then that's what you're stuck with!

Prince Valiant, on the other hand, doesn't care about mundane equipment. Characters start with funds but the rulebook is express that this is a sop to RPG player expectations; and it has no gear or price lists (we use the Pendragon ones when we need them). There is equipment that matters - warhorses, embossed armour, bejewelled swords and the like - but that is mostly earned through errantry or the magnanimity of other lords and knights rather than by being purchased. If something comes up where some mundane gear is needed we generally just take it to be available to the characters unless that wouldn't make any sense relative to the current fictional situation.

Heist-style flashbacks would be a different thing again, and open up a different set of expectations and pressure points for play.
 

Aldarc

Legend
Huge difference from a situation where I-as-character am moving through time sequentially; and when action A leads to consequence B or C or D then IMO action A has to be done first rather than starting with consequence C and backfilling how things got to that point.
That's not generally how flashbacks work in BitD.
 

Emerikol

Adventurer
That kind of example was in the post you quoted yes. Not that you'd have to do that anyway, Blades doesn't use a set equipment list for much the same reason it uses flashbacks. I don't know about putting your thumb on the die either, that pretty blatantly indexes the idea of cheating, which is a odd thing to say when you're playing by the rules. Maybe that wasn't what you meant?
Probably better said as adjusting the die roll to your favor using the rules. So if I pull out my +1 sword in traditional D&D I've just advantaged the attack roll by 1 in my favor.
 

Emerikol

Adventurer
It would also seem to me that the "skill" in many cases in some of these games would be having a good enough imagination given what is known to weave an outcome you desire. I don't deny that such an approach could be fun but can't you also agree that it does not represent skilled play as your character. Rather it's a game skill you as the player have. When my character figures a puzzle because I really figured it out then that is skilled play that I am doing through my character. I am being my character. That to me is the big difference.

I realize maintaining character viewpoint is not very important to many on here but it's a value from my perspective.
 

darkbard

Hero
It would also seem to me that the "skill" in many cases in some of these games would be having a good enough imagination given what is known to weave an outcome you desire. I don't deny that such an approach could be fun but can't you also agree that it does not represent skilled play as your character. Rather it's a game skill you as the player have. When my character figures a puzzle because I really figured it out then that is skilled play that I am doing through my character. I am being my character. That to me is the big difference.

I realize maintaining character viewpoint is not very important to many on here but it's a value from my perspective.

Can you explain the difference you see between having a good imagination to weave outcomes (whatever it is you think that means) versus having a good imagination to think the things you do as a player are things your character is doing?
 

Emerikol

Adventurer
Can you explain the difference you see between having a good imagination to weave outcomes (whatever it is you think that means) versus having a good imagination to think the things you do as a player are things your character is doing?
One is what your character could be doing. If I come up with an imaginative plan to ambush the enemy orcs then that is very much being in character. My character came up with that plan so to speak.

Whereas if I weave in a flashback or invent new fiction, that is a player activity but not a character one. Unless you are playing a game where the characters can change the fundamental laws of the universe on a whim or time travel on a whim.

It goes back to the player doing something and whether what they do is done through the eyes of their character or not. If not then for me it's not immersing me in the character. It's a metagame decision.
 

darkbard

Hero
One is what your character could be doing. If I come up with an imaginative plan to ambush the enemy orcs then that is very much being in character. My character came up with that plan so to speak.

There is no "so to speak." That is you coming up with a plan and pretending your character did so. I'm still unclear on what you are contrasting this with.

Whereas if I weave in a flashback or invent new fiction, that is a player activity but not a character one. Unless you are playing a game where the characters can change the fundamental laws of the universe on a whim or time travel on a whim.

It goes back to the player doing something and whether what they do is done through the eyes of their character or not. If not then for me it's not immersing me in the character. It's a metagame decision.

There is no character-enacted change to any fundamental laws. When we speak of flashbacks, for example and as already discussed, we are simply following the character's actions nonlinearly with regard to time. This is no different an act of imagination than following the character's actions linearly in time.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
There is no "so to speak." That is you coming up with a plan and pretending your character did so. I'm still unclear on what you are contrasting this with.
If I'm inhabiting my character, making decisions according to his knowledge, personality, intelligence, etc., then It's effectively the character that came up with it. I as a player might have a better plan, but if my PC doesn't know some of the things that make the plan work, I'm not going to attempt that plan, so it's not purely the player coming up with the plan when you do it our way.

When you "Plan" something during a flashback, there is no character inhabitation going on. It's purely the player coming up with a way to get by the current problem via the flashback mechanic.
When we speak of flashbacks, for example and as already discussed, we are simply following the character's actions nonlinearly with regard to time. This is no different an act of imagination than following the character's actions linearly in time.
It's more than that. You are also overcoming a current obstacle that you might not have known about or even thought might be present. That alone makes it very different from planning in advance.
 

prabe

Aspiring Lurker (He/Him)
Supporter
There is no "so to speak." That is you coming up with a plan and pretending your character did so. I'm still unclear on what you are contrasting this with.
I believe @Emerikol is talking about a difference in how they experience the story that emerges from the gameplay. IIRC, they value immersion (something not key to your or my TRPG experiences) highly. My guess is they experience the story in either first person or some sort of very tight third person, so they find it easy to identify their plan as their character's plan; a flashback mechanic, or inventing new facts about the setting, or spontaneously adding a prop or other detail: those things, they'd probably experience as an unpleasant narrative rupture, like a poorly-handled shift from first to third person narrative.

No, those things don't strictly speaking need to be such a POV shift. I'm merely guessing they experience it as one.
There is no character-enacted change to any fundamental laws. When we speak of flashbacks, for example and as already discussed, we are simply following the character's actions nonlinearly with regard to time. This is no different an act of imagination than following the character's actions linearly in time.
I can understand how if one is immersed in (or, in my case, identifying deeply with) a character, one might understand the linear experience (how the character would experience it) as being different from a non-linear experience (how an audience would experience it). In principle, around the table, these things are the same; in practice, these things are different.
 

When you "Plan" something during a flashback, there is no character inhabitation going on. It's purely the player coming up with a way to get by the current problem via the flashback mechanic.

Long before Blades and other games introduced flashbacks as a mechanic, we used flashback scenes regularly in my old AD&D campaign in the 1980s and early '90s. My recollection was that even back then people were still inhabiting their characters just as much as they were in the fictional present.

Granted, these flashbacks were intended primarily as a way to add depth to a given character. So they weren't used to add capabilities to the party in the present. But I don't see any reason in theory that this couldn't be done in a satisfying way at the table. I'm intrigued to try it out.

It's more than that. You are also overcoming a current obstacle that you might not have known about or even thought might be present. That alone makes it very different from planning in advance.

Yes, it is different, but I'm not sure that the difference means that you can't remain immersed in your character.

Here's an example of a possibly similar mechanic from my current GURPS Dungeon Fantasy campaign. One of the PCs in a Viking setting was a devotee of the fates. He invested many of his character points on various advantages that allowed him to be far luckier than average. One of these was called "Serendipity" and it allowed him to effectively call for "one fortuitous-but-plausible coincidence per game session."

At first, I was worried that it would be too "meta" and would break suspension of disbelief. The player, too, worried that it would take him out of his character. But we went with it to see how it played. Turned out to be awesome. In order to make the coincidences plausible, the player had to spend a lot of time thinking about his role-playing connections and backstory. Often, the serendipitous occurrences involved him bumping into people that he knew before, giving him better odds on a reaction check. This added a lot of role-playing scenes to the game. The other players loved it. I enjoyed having to be nimble enough to roll with it. The player ended up knowing his character far better than most of the other players. It was a win-win-win.

Obviously, there is a meta-dimension to this. The player had to think about what he could plausibly introduce that would change the odds of a situation in his favor. But, as he described it, it didn't feel any different to him than considering which spell he might cast or what combat maneuver to choose. There was, of course, a cost in terms of resources spent (he could only use it once per session). Sometimes he wasted it on a situation that wasn't as dire as he thought.

Sometimes there were additional costs down the road. For example, he serendipitously ran into his older brothers in one scene. They gave him an edge in a scene featuring negotiations with a minor lord. (His older brothers had more social clout than he did.) Later these brothers were slain—to all of our surprise—in a battle that went very badly for the group. This became a central element of the unfolding story and had a profound effect on the PC.
 

One is what your character could be doing. If I come up with an imaginative plan to ambush the enemy orcs then that is very much being in character. My character came up with that plan so to speak.

Whereas if I weave in a flashback or invent new fiction, that is a player activity but not a character one. Unless you are playing a game where the characters can change the fundamental laws of the universe on a whim or time travel on a whim.

It goes back to the player doing something and whether what they do is done through the eyes of their character or not. If not then for me it's not immersing me in the character. It's a metagame decision.

There is no "so to speak." That is you coming up with a plan and pretending your character did so. I'm still unclear on what you are contrasting this with.



There is no character-enacted change to any fundamental laws. When we speak of flashbacks, for example and as already discussed, we are simply following the character's actions nonlinearly with regard to time. This is no different an act of imagination than following the character's actions linearly in time.

If I'm inhabiting my character, making decisions according to his knowledge, personality, intelligence, etc., then It's effectively the character that came up with it. I as a player might have a better plan, but if my PC doesn't know some of the things that make the plan work, I'm not going to attempt that plan, so it's not purely the player coming up with the plan when you do it our way.

When you "Plan" something during a flashback, there is no character inhabitation going on. It's purely the player coming up with a way to get by the current problem via the flashback mechanic.

It's more than that. You are also overcoming a current obstacle that you might not have known about or even thought might be present. That alone makes it very different from planning in advance.

There are a few reasons why I agree with darkbard on this.

The first reason is the reality that the way we consciously (both the external experience and the process that underwrite them) experience the world is not marked by cognitive continuity and unity.

We are progressively discovering that a human mind is composed of heterogenous neurological states (automaticity being a big one where rote or low level activities are automated and our consciousness is elsewhere...driving a car or shopping or hitting golf balls...such that we have absolutely no recollection of perhaps an hours worth of time...another one is the opposite where profound states of agitation, stress, and adrenaline dump lead to an automated response and extreme fuzziness when recalling the details or the complete absence of recall) and disunity. To be held hostage to and take part in this reality is an important part of inhabitation of something resembling “what it’s like to be a human-like creature.” The absence of this would be jarring. So my expectation of cognitive continuity is very different from many on here.

The second is an artifact of gaming which we accept to be able to play at all.

We don’t inhabit our characters and experience anything like an actual cognitive continuity (and again, there is no such thing). If one PC asks another PC “what were your dreams like last night” or “did you try my coffee I brewed over the spit this morning” or “when was the last time you were sick” or “you’re from here...where is the farrier...we need to get our horses taken care of”, the Player in question is going to have to make something up for the PC to recall. There are dozens and dozens of instances like this that can/will come up in play that will intersect with that unavoidable lack of cognitive continuity.

So why do Flashbacks have special domain in being jarring/disruptive to a priority for a cognitive continuity that already doesn’t exist (and, as per my first part above, is undesirable for a sense of experience an actual “human-like existence)?

The only thing unique I see about Flashbacks is how they intersect with a particular variety of Skilled Play that is invested/interested in “Plan Now, Act Later” instead of “Act Now, Plan Later.” That is a perfectly reasonable preference for a particular Skilled Play experience that very interestingly dovetails with the Skilled Play priority of “I prefer Combat as War” (vs Sport). While both priorities feature tactical and strategic decision-making, overhead, and consequences, War is more about planning and strategy while Sport is more about acting and tactics.
 

Honestly if anyone wants a lesson in how heterogenous we are neurologically, look no further than my posts!

One post is lucid and sensible and easy to follow.

A day later I’ll post a flurry of responses that are borderline unintelligible! And not just to folks reading it! I’ll read it the next day and be all “what in the eff was I even trying to say here!”
 

Arilyn

Hero
Honestly if anyone wants a lesson in how heterogenous we are neurologically, look no further than my posts!

One post is lucid and sensible and easy to follow.

A day later I’ll post a flurry of responses that are borderline unintelligible! And not just to folks reading it! I’ll read it the next day and be all “what in the eff was I even trying to say here!”
Maybe you are flash forwarding to an incident we have no knowledge of.
 


AnotherGuy

Explorer
The only thing unique I see about Flashbacks is how they intersect with a particular variety of Skilled Play that is invested/interested in “Plan Now, Act Later” instead of “Act Now, Plan Later.” That is a perfectly reasonable preference for a particular Skilled Play experience that very interestingly dovetails with the Skilled Play priority of “I prefer Combat as War” (vs Sport). While both priorities feature tactical and strategic decision-making, overhead, and consequences, War is more about planning and strategy while Sport is more about acting and tactics.
So I strongly agree with both your post and @uzirath's. With yours specifically as you touch on Skilled Play which is something I'm concerned with, and with uzirath's regarding the focus of resources.

In BitD (I'm not sure if this is the flashback mechanic or something else), there is the thing where one has open slots for their equipment, which a player could expend such resource to author that a particular equipment was brought along.
Now in D&D this is tricky as it connects to gold, encumbrance and movement rates. One can incorporate such a mechanic with various parameters such as you need to have had the gold before leaving town and whatever item is authored into existence shouldn't affect your movement rate. I did incorporate this mechanic once, specifically when the party were travelling on horseback and/or with pack animals. It was much easier to get around the encumbrance and movement rate limitation.
The players enjoyed the mechanic as the adventure focused on exploration and equipment attrition.
Three horses were harmed in the playing of this adventure - one by a wild griffons, and two while traversing a perilous mountain path.

In Greg Saunders' post-apocalyptic Summerland game (originally released prior 2010 I think) you play Drifters who have suffered trauma during their lives which makes them partially immune to the Call, the siren-song of the forest. The trauma is not fully established at the start of play, but one can use the game's mechanic (similar to a flashback) to slowly build on the trauma in order to overcome obstacles. In so doing the character goes through a process of redemption and begins becoming more susceptible to the Call.
I bought and played the original game which is strongly immersive with its narrative-styled mechanics.

 

prabe

Aspiring Lurker (He/Him)
Supporter
So why do Flashbacks have special domain in being jarring/disruptive to a priority for a cognitive continuity that already doesn’t exist (and, as per my first part above, is undesirable for a sense of experience an actual “human-like existence)?
I don't think it's so much that people expect to experience every moment; I think it's that people expect to experience the moments they experience, in chronological order. There's also possibly a sense that Flashbacks are specifically a narrative technique/mechanic, and some people might break into hives at the idea of story in their TRPGs.
The only thing unique I see about Flashbacks is how they intersect with a particular variety of Skilled Play that is invested/interested in “Plan Now, Act Later” instead of “Act Now, Plan Later.” That is a perfectly reasonable preference for a particular Skilled Play experience that very interestingly dovetails with the Skilled Play priority of “I prefer Combat as War” (vs Sport). While both priorities feature tactical and strategic decision-making, overhead, and consequences, War is more about planning and strategy while Sport is more about acting and tactics.
I'm quoting this, because I think this touches on something I've had thoughts about: Different people get (or want to get) different pleasures from their TRPGs--and this is cool!--and there are some pleasures it is difficult-shading-to-impossible to get from (or, looking from the other direction, without) some systems. It connects to wanting different pleasures from a novel than from a TRPG, I think.
 

I don't think it's so much that people expect to experience every moment; I think it's that people expect to experience the moments they experience, in chronological order. There's also possibly a sense that Flashbacks are specifically a narrative technique/mechanic, and some people might break into hives at the idea of story in their TRPGs.

I'm quoting this, because I think this touches on something I've had thoughts about: Different people get (or want to get) different pleasures from their TRPGs--and this is cool!--and there are some pleasures it is difficult-shading-to-impossible to get from (or, looking from the other direction, without) some systems. It connects to wanting different pleasures from a novel than from a TRPG, I think.

Good post.

On the first paragraph I would say/ask:

* When you’re forced to engage with any of the questions I proposed above (eg dreams, coffee, sick, farrier), you’re also not experiencing the moments you “experience” in chronological order.

Therefore...

* I think it’s more likely that your second statement is true. Systematizing memories (whether for genre purposes, for immersive purposes of what it must be like to be a Scoundrel flying by the seat of their pants in a heist, or for generating interesting tactical overhead) is likely where the issue lies. So it’s not a matter of actual continuity. It’s sensitivity to certain sorts of systemization of the fabrication of continuity as it integrates with play that was elided prior.
 

prabe

Aspiring Lurker (He/Him)
Supporter
Good post.

On the first paragraph I would say/ask:

* When you’re forced to engage with any of the questions I proposed above (eg dreams, coffee, sick, farrier), you’re also not experiencing the moments you “experience” in chronological order.
Um, at least as I experience them, they might be discontinuous, but they're in chronological order. I do not experience the past after the present. Or in the middle of the present. While I might not experience all of the sequence of A-to-Z, the experience will be A-D-F-H-L-P-S-V-Y, not D-T-H-S-W-V-T-Q-N.
Therefore...

* I think it’s more likely that your second statement is true. Systematizing memories (whether for genre purposes, for immersive purposes of what it must be like to be a Scoundrel flying by the seat of their pants in a heist, or for generating interesting tactical overhead) is likely where the issue lies. So it’s not a matter of actual continuity. It’s sensitivity to certain sorts of systemization of the fabrication of continuity as it integrates with play that was elided prior.
I think it's a combination of being a narrative technique/mechanic, being discontinuous, and not being the pleasure some people want out of TRPGs. Of course, my problem with Flashbacks was that looking at the SRD it didn't seem as though it would ever be worth the price in Stress, but that's an entirely different issue.
 
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