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D&D General Why defend railroading?

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
All of the action of my current game has occurred over the span of approximately three months, maybe four. (In-game, that is. Out of game we're over three years now.) "Down time" is maybe a week at most, usually no more than a day or two. There are just plenty of journeys, visits back home, hobnobbing with royalty (or a certain thief-prince), etc. Given these characters have gone from green and wet behind the ears to seasoned adventurers who have the Sultana's ear (and have spent more money collectively than most wealthy merchants bring in for a whole year), I'd say I'm not letting too much slack. There are just the occasional times when the big fires have been put out recently enough that they can take a breather and do things purely out of interest, curiosity, or passion. (As noted, this usually happens in the immediate aftermath of making some big score or otherwise achieving some major goal, though it can happen, and has happened, at all sorts of times over our years of playing.)

I don't push my players too hard 'cause several have anxiety, but they know well that an ignored threat grows stronger, more difficult, more entrenched.
I don't think you've embraced how Dungeon World is supposed to be run, and have imported other games' ways of play and understanding into how you're doing it. Of course, if you're having fun, great. But it does make it hard to discuss games when your experience of DW is pretty much like normal D&D in pacing and control but a little bit freer and with different mechanics. Point of order, the entire situation you presented with the Wizard doesn't fit at all with Dungeon World. How is that filling the character's life with adventure? Your statement that you have to be careful with pressure is very understandable, and commendable, but that immediately suggests to me that Dungeon World, or any PbtA game, is a bad fit with that requirement. DW games are all about relentless snowballing of situation -- this is what the game is meant to provide and where it's absolutely singing along. The downtime stuff you're describing, of low stakes, low impact, low risk stuff is not where DW is meant to be run, and I'd largely bet that you have to do a huge amount of work as a GM (and that's what was apparent in your example, to me) to make this part of the game work.
 

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I wasn't disagreeing. I was pointing out that rule 0 is tightly coupled with games that feature GM-centered play, and why that is -- it's a feature there for the GM to have this authority because the GM has to make so much prep work in game.

That's entirely fair. As I said, I know the more authority sharing there is in an RPG design the less its a given house ruling and other such top down design is encouraged.

I'm not sure what's transcending here. If I had to guess, it's following your above that Rule 0 isn't always explicit in games where the culture applies it. In fact, I think that's what we've seen in this thread -- the expectation that Rule 0 is always present due to only really experiencing the gaming culture where it is the default (and that is centered around games like D&D). Even in 3.x and 4e, where the rulesets where much less amenable to Rule 0 in any explicit sense, the culture prevailed, and 5e, as a "return" edition has moved heavily in the other direction such that Rule 0 is effectively enshrined in the rules themselves (where the core mechanic is usually "the GM decides").

You're largely got it. Even when you get away from D&D culture proper (to the degree that's possible barring extreme gaming bubbles) into games with a very different orientation in other ways, trad games still assume something like rule zero (though in some its assumed to be more legitimate as an emergency patch at one end or a campaign design tool at the other than "I'm just changing the rule unilaterally because I don't like it.")
 

Well, yes, actually you needed a LOT more than what was stated! Who goes when? At what point is damage allocated? Is this all determined by the fiction? By GM dictate? By some part of application of the Chainmail rules? These are, to a wargamer at least, critical questions which are not clearly answered in the LBBs...

Initiative was, indeed, an undefined element, but it was so routinely done as "roll to see which side goes first" in so many places I saw that I'm not sure "deciding" to use that is a meaningful term. Likewise, I'm not sure I ever saw anyone allocate damage other than when it was done. I'm not sure anyone would have even thought about doing it otherwise (and given the aforementioned chunkiness of initiative, I'm not sure doing it any other way would have meant anything unless someone decided to wait until the end of the fight that seems, to say the least, clunky; I suppose if you didn't apply damage until after the turn exchange that has some clear effects but the only cases where I saw that were people who had what they clearly considered houserules about similataneity in combat).

Even 1e only answers SOME of these questions, leaving more detailed ones, like how you work out positioning and if it is even relevant to the rules, to being worked out by the GM.

I agree that most people don't really notice how much is just extrapolated. I've been in a few threads before where people ABSOLUTELY refused to believe how much 1e's combat system simply doesn't answer or contradicts itself on, even when you put it out there in black and white.

I've certainly seen--and this is more noticeable with AD&D1e than any other edition's players I've hit--people who were under the impression they played the game "by the book" when they actually used considerable amount of houserules (not only the kind that filled in gaps, but the kind that actively changed systems already presented).

Everyone just sat down and played with someone that 'already knew' or else they just skimmed the rules and went with their own assumptions without even realizing it wasn't 'obvious' what the rules were. This can actually make it a bit hard to talk about TSR D&D in a some cases.

Yup. But I do still maintain--as I reference with "when damage is applied" above--that it was relatively easy for a lot of people to go with the easiest and least thought-about method in a number of cases.
 

Initiative was, indeed, an undefined element, but it was so routinely done as "roll to see which side goes first" in so many places I saw that I'm not sure "deciding" to use that is a meaningful term. Likewise, I'm not sure I ever saw anyone allocate damage other than when it was done. I'm not sure anyone would have even thought about doing it otherwise (and given the aforementioned chunkiness of initiative, I'm not sure doing it any other way would have meant anything unless someone decided to wait until the end of the fight that seems, to say the least, clunky; I suppose if you didn't apply damage until after the turn exchange that has some clear effects but the only cases where I saw that were people who had what they clearly considered houserules about similataneity in combat).
Yet, there is a vast array of things this analysis leaves out. I'll just give a brief exposition of what you would be looking at if you had the LBBs and decided to have a combat. First of all there's nothing explicit which even talks about resolving combat, when it happens, or how, AT ALL. I gleaned the following by consulting vols 1 and 3. Vol 1 simply states that you need Chainmail in order to play. It does not state why or how you would use it. Later in the volume an 'alternate combat table' is provided. There is again, no explanation of any sort associated with it.

Volume 3 under the topic of 'movement and turns' states no more than "combat has 10 rounds per turn", though it does also explain briefly what an exploration turn is, and its length as 10 minutes (so we can assume 1 minute rounds). Nothing else is stated.

Later in volume 3 is a one paragraph topic called 'Land Combat', where we finally learn you will use Chainmail to resolve fights "or the alternate combat matrix." It then clarifies that a 'kill or drive back' result from Chainmail is merely a 'hit' in D&D, but there's no implication of what a hit DOES. Presumably knowing of the existence of hit points and weapon damage, we are supposed to extrapolate from 'hit' to 'roll weapon damage'. I know of nothing which actually states this!

Furthermore, in respect of 'initiative' and 'simultaneity' you would be wrong in your assumptions! There are actually THREE possibilities. First of all Chainmail (I have 3rd edition, earlier ones might vary slightly) on page 9 specifies 2 turn orders, which are alternatives to each other. In one the two sides roll initiative and alternate movement, including missile fire and artillery, with 'split fire' and 'passthrough fire' (firing while moving or at moving targets) taking instant effect, then artillery, with simultaneous effect, and then melee (by the survivors of above) having simultaneous effect. The other option is both sides write down their movement and the referee figures out who gets to end up where, with the other factors basically as above (note how both of these contribute to the 1e melee structure).

The THIRD possibility is given on page 25 by the 'Man to Man Melee' rules, which are a bit unclear as they state they are built on the 20:1 standard rules, but then state that when characters are within 3" of each other they engage in melee, with the order being determined by a set of factors including types of weapon, length, attacker first, terrain advantage (IE if you are atop a castle wall you get to strike first at someone scaling up) etc.

The actual man-to-man melee stables are then in an appendix, but they really add nothing to our knowledge. Presumably you would replace those with the mysterious 'alternate' matrix if you wished.

Finally, if you peruse Holmes Basic, there is no initiative roll there at all! People move and attack in Dexterity order! Beyond that there is some discussion of certain weapons getting 2 attacks/round and others getting one every other round, but not really an explanation of how that works into the rest of the system.

The upshot of all this being that initiative, as such, is not an actual defined rule of D&D in its original form. Depending on how you interpret the way you are supposed to use Chainmail, initiative MIGHT OR MIGHT NOT exist! No real explanation of how spell casting factors into this is apparent, though presumably it is an analog of artillery fire, which seems to be the case in fantasy supplement for Chainmail.

So you begin to see exactly the vast degree to which the game is not really a game! There could not possibly be a rule 0, as such, in early D&D. That is to say, maybe on certain points there could, but since the DM was pretty much making up the entire game from almost scratch it seems petty to even mention how he might hack Turn Undead or whatever.
I've certainly seen--and this is more noticeable with AD&D1e than any other edition's players I've hit--people who were under the impression they played the game "by the book" when they actually used considerable amount of houserules (not only the kind that filled in gaps, but the kind that actively changed systems already presented).
Right, there are definitely a LOT more points in 1e that are possible to define as having specific rules that are actually present and knowable and usable. Even so there are vital elements which are not specified by the rules that have to be extrapolated from SOMEWHERE. While most groups were in enough contact with other gamers to get the 'consensus/official' way, I have encountered isolated groups who had completely variant interpretations that are nevertheless consistent with what is actually written!
Yup. But I do still maintain--as I reference with "when damage is applied" above--that it was relatively easy for a lot of people to go with the easiest and least thought-about method in a number of cases.
But which is that? lol. I honestly do not know. I know how we did it way back in the mid-70's. I really honestly do not know if that is similar to how Arneson or Gygax intended or how they actually did it (except I expect Gary's way is codified mostly in 1e, and we did NOT do it that way!).
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
I'm also bemused that people sometimes lump together the sort of on-the-fly rules changes with things like houserules. They don't seem particularly similar at all in usual purpose or impact.
Sure they're similar. An on-the-fly rules change is simply a houserule thought up and implemented on the spot, rather than ahead of time or between sessions.

This of course assumes that the DM is acting in good faith and has such an on-the-fly change set a precedent going forward, such that if and when the same situation arises again the same ruling would occur.
 

Yet, there is a vast array of things this analysis leaves out. I'll just give a brief exposition of what you would be looking at if you had the LBBs and decided to have a combat. First of all there's nothing explicit which even talks about resolving combat, when it happens, or how, AT ALL. I gleaned the following by consulting vols 1 and 3. Vol 1 simply states that you need Chainmail in order to play. It does not state why or how you would use it. Later in the volume an 'alternate combat table' is provided. There is again, no explanation of any sort associated with it.

Well, do note that by the time I hit the game (and it wasn't like this was particularly late in the day--late '75) Greyhawk had pretty much supplanted any use of Chainmail anywhere I hit it; I'm sure this wasn't universal, but I suspect anyone hitting the game after Greyhawk was out likely never even looked hard at anything but its supplementary combat as the default, unless they were brought in by someone from earlier in the cycle who had not changed over.

But which is that? lol. I honestly do not know. I know how we did it way back in the mid-70's. I really honestly do not know if that is similar to how Arneson or Gygax intended or how they actually did it (except I expect Gary's way is codified mostly in 1e, and we did NOT do it that way!).

I think I'll maintain that "roll a die to see who which side goes first, resolve all their stuff, then resolve all the other side's stuff" is sufficiently straightforward that it had largely dominated the hobby by the time I hit it that most people simply assumed it was spelled out. Even people who did other things clearly thought they were doing houserules of one stripe or another.
 

Sure they're similar. An on-the-fly rules change is simply a houserule thought up and implemented on the spot, rather than ahead of time or between sessions.

That's like saying "a bat is just a bird who's mammalian and flies a different way."

This of course assumes that the DM is acting in good faith and has such an on-the-fly change set a precedent going forward, such that if and when the same situation arises again the same ruling would occur.

Or more to the point, that they even remember what they did last time, which as I've noted with unusual situations, is far, far from a given.
 

pemerton

Legend
I've seen some of this tension alleviated by changing the order slightly - like, in the Urban Shadows legwork or "hitting the streets" move, the player states that they're going out broadly in search of information on a topic, roll, and if they succeed then they describe the person who gave it (and, if playing no-myth, they decide what the information you gleaned was). Building from general to specific, rather than starting at the specific, can be an aid to those not used to the style.
I don't know Urban Shadows but from your reference to a "move" I'm guessing that it's PbtA?

Burning Wheel uses "objective" difficulties (called Obstacles) rather than "subjective" difficulties (as in 4e D&D, MHRP, HeroQuest revised, etc) or fixed spreads (as in Apocalpyse World and other games that adopt its move structure). This means that, for a Circles or Wise check, a difficult has to be set, and this is based (respectively) on the improbability of an encounter with this sort of person here-and-now, and on the obscurity of the information being recalled. So in BW there has to be specification of the hope or the conjectured belief as an input into the resolution process.

One other consequence of the BW approach is that there can be a "mismatch" between the difficulty of the check and the utility of the outcome. I don't think that breaks the game, for multiple reasons including that players have strong incentives arising from the PC advancement rules to want to face challenges of a variety of difficulties. But it is a noticeable quirk.
 

Right, and honestly, if there's a lot of researching and building relations with NPCs, and whatnot that is happening, I'm certainly not the one to say that isn't cool, etc. In fact I find it fairly interesting. That sort of play can be a lot of fun, I'm not so good at running it though. lol.
Yeah, I tweaked the End of Session move to account for these differences. That is, many sessions don't end up having a fight or treasure, but DO have politicking and diplomacy/intrigue. Since gaining knowledge is already covered, and "overcome a notable...enemy" implicitly permits non-combat methods, I expanded the third question to "did we loot a memorable treasure or form a meaningful alliance?" This has encouraged the players to think not just about physical tools and resources, but about how their choices shape the political and social landscape. One of my players would be thinking about that regardless, but having it baked into the rules themselves adds an extra layer of meaning to it.

Thing is, in a game with no rule 0, the expectation is no table rules or the group decides them. It's like sitting down to play monopoly and being told Free Parking pays out all fines. As a player, I can say I don't want that and it's up to the group.

Rule zero coexists with heavily GM centered games, which makes sense -- if I'm to be the primary (if not only) authority on the fiction and action resolutions, then I should have final say on game rules. But, in games that don't have heavy GM centered play, this isn't a need. It's imported in, quite often, by those not yet making the transition of understanding necessary and bringing in other games' methods and assumptions.
I genuinely see no point in employing rule 0 without achieving table consensus, or at absolute absolute bare minimum consensus to test an alteration to see if it's worthwhile. I would absolutely never use it without that.

But...that's my personal choice. To limit myself that way (and a variety of other ways). I have a pathological concern about deceiving others, so I go to great lengths to avoid it. As I said before though, there are no RPG secret police. There is no mind control spell making it so GMs are incapable of making choices that break the rules. That does not, at all, imply that doing so is good or right. But the freedom to do so exists. Hence why I said I thought it was an uncontroversial maxim. The rules of RPGs are weaker than the laws of nations, which hold no candle to something as coercive as the laws of physics.

Now, the books may tell you (and be entirely correct in so doing) that breaking their rules is extremely likely to result in a far worse, more frustrating, less fun experience. And I love 4e D&D, which is totally a game that runs better "by the book" than not, as long as you're up for what it offers. But I don't see that as saying rule 0 is absent any more than I see the rules of writing as being inviolable. (I can't recall if it was you or another, but somebody said that the idea of Rule 0 is unique to TTRPGs, but it isn't: George Orwell wrote of it in his seminal Politics and the English Language, where he explicitly says to ignore any of his rules if it would make you say something "barbarous." That's quite literally rule 0, just for writing, not TTRPGs.)

Instead, I see it as a simple but vital word of warning. "We made this game, and made it well. It is an abstract device for producing experiences. Change it, and the experiences it produces will change. You have been warned."

I don't think you've embraced how Dungeon World is supposed to be run, and have imported other games' ways of play and understanding into how you're doing it. Of course, if you're having fun, great. But it does make it hard to discuss games when your experience of DW is pretty much like normal D&D in pacing and control but a little bit freer and with different mechanics. Point of order, the entire situation you presented with the Wizard doesn't fit at all with Dungeon World. How is that filling the character's life with adventure? Your statement that you have to be careful with pressure is very understandable, and commendable, but that immediately suggests to me that Dungeon World, or any PbtA game, is a bad fit with that requirement. DW games are all about relentless snowballing of situation -- this is what the game is meant to provide and where it's absolutely singing along. The downtime stuff you're describing, of low stakes, low impact, low risk stuff is not where DW is meant to be run, and I'd largely bet that you have to do a huge amount of work as a GM (and that's what was apparent in your example, to me) to make this part of the game work.
I see the moments of downtime as providing necessary contrast and pacing. If absolutely every moment is constantly ratcheting up the tension, we'd just...break. Having a moment to catch your breath makes you able to sprint again when the danger rears its ugly head once more. And, as I said, an issue ignored is an issue that gets worse, so I don't really see how I'm not doing that part; the black dragon's gang, for example, has got a near-stranglehold on the darker parts of the city's criminal underworld now, because the players largely ignored it to focus on other things. This has led to new concerns and new adventures. Grim Portents (like street toughs becoming more violent...and apparently juicing up with alchemical steroids!) are coming to pass. The party can't just rest on their laurels, but I'll give them a breather now and then.

I always understood "fill their lives with adventure" to mean...well, making adventure a key part of the characters' lives, not making every waking moment a struggle against the odds. From the SRD: "Fill the characters’ lives with adventure means working with the players to create a world that’s engaging and dynamic. Adventurers are always caught up in some world-threatening danger or another—encourage and foster that kind of action in the game." In my game, they've been caught up in no less than five ongoing world-affecting plots/situations, of which they've permanently resolved precisely one, the Song of Thorns. The other four they've dealt setbacks to, but they've also learned that the scope of these threats is often bigger than it seems at first. The Cult of the Burning Eye is apparently thousands of years old. The Raven-Shadows have somehow survived centuries of attempts to exterminate them (being a heretical cult that considers the act of murder to be the path to enlightenment will do that). The black dragon hidden in the city has spent centuries building up a power base to take over. And the Shadow-Druids have mastered the art of shapeshifting into specific people and are shockingly competent eco-terrorists (they just are, or rather were, bad at cleaning up their paper trails.) I don't really see how letting the group have a day or two at the midpoint between major events--at most half a session--where their backs arent pressed against the wall is somehow bleeding all the adventure out of their lives.

But perhaps I'm taking you to be more strident than you mean (or you were taking me to be more strident than I meant). Not every player-driven situation occurs in downtime. I just used a tidy example coincidentally from that downtime in part because that meant, as stated, that I didn't need to explain a ton of additional context. As an example high in adventure content, summarized rather a lot so there will be lost nuance, the PCs had found a man who was infected rather severely by the Song of Thorns, and wanted to try to cure him. I invented a lost artifact, an enchanted obsidian mirror said to allow the now-defunct culture of the northern jungles to heal diseases of the mind. The party was tasked with finding this mirror. As they traveled, with a local guide descended from the culture that used to occupy the jungle, they established facts about the place, and I exploited my prep (something explicitly in the DW gamemastering rules) to reveal tidbits and provide context. They eventually reached the lost city after a Perilous Journey through the jungle (that revealed many things about the Battlemaster's military service and the Druid's lack of knowledge about animals outside the group's desert/aird homeland), solved some difficult puzzles, dodged (sometimes narrowly) some traps left to keep looters away, and eventually fought a mindflayer and a corrupted couatl (whom they cleverly cleansed with one of her own, previously shed feathers). They learned a bunch of stuff, got the treasure, and then had a similar but distinct Perilous Journey back to "civilization." At which point they spent a night celebrating their triumphal return with Carouse, then booked it for the quarantine area where the infected guy was so they could try to heal him (which they did, though that was another adventure all by itself, and only resulted in partial success, so the guy was gonna need to convalesce for a good while but is expected to eventually make a full recovery.)

Edit: Dammit Autocorrect, "obsidian" is not "Indian"! They're hardly similar at all!
 
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pemerton

Legend
All of the action of my current game has occurred over the span of approximately three months, maybe four. (In-game, that is. Out of game we're over three years now.) "Down time" is maybe a week at most, usually no more than a day or two. There are just plenty of journeys, visits back home, hobnobbing with royalty (or a certain thief-prince), etc. Given these characters have gone from green and wet behind the ears to seasoned adventurers who have the Sultana's ear (and have spent more money collectively than most wealthy merchants bring in for a whole year), I'd say I'm not letting too much slack. There are just the occasional times when the big fires have been put out recently enough that they can take a breather and do things purely out of interest, curiosity, or passion.
One of my former players played a Wizard, part of the Waziri mage order (the collegiate wizards I invented during the first group's session 0, who also run many libraries, museums, and non-magic schools in the city). Said Wizard, upon returning from a particular mission, came back to his apartment (something the player invented) to pay a big fat sum for his future rent to his landlady (whom the player invented), and check back in with his grad student (who was the price negotiated by a spontaneously-invented Waziri bureaucrat meddling in the party's affairs, but ended up being a really nice person, in response to player investigation of her backstory, which I did not prepare in advance). In inventing the grad-student off the cuff, I'd said her area of focus was golemancy, which was considered reasonably close to the PC's graduate work (incantations) for him to act as her mentor. While there, I asked if there were any goals he wanted to fulfill, because he didn't really have much to do while the others were checking up with their friends/loved ones/etc. or investigating troubling information they'd learned on their last adventure (the ad-libbed result of a failed Discern Realities roll). Player thought for a moment, then said he wanted to build a golem.

I hadn't considered the first thing about golem construction or usage, so I started asking more questions. Did he want a special-purpose one, or something programmable, or perhaps modular? (He requested more time to think, focusing on getting the basics first.) What materials did he want to use? (Wood--something that could have magic woven into it to repair itself.) Based on these answers, and based on the fact that the Waziri are notorious for having fairly specialized libraries (part of my original-group Session 0 ideas), I said he knew he could find information on the subject by visiting a particular library, the name of which I apparently forgot to write down but which I'm certain I invented on the spot. (He could also consult his grad student and have her assist him with its creation.) At the library, he met with an old woman working as the receptionist and research assistant for this particular library. She directed him to a book, printed on bark-like paper and bound in wood, written by the late, eccentric Abdelmajid al-Buzidi on the creation of golems from natural materials.

After I waxed a little poetic on various woods and their applications (coincidentally something I happen to know a little about IRL), the player settled on fine acacia wood, which grows naturally in the region where they live. (The climate is heavily inspired by Morocco, and thus prior adventures had established the existence of acacia trees, wild and cultivated citrus trees, and cork forests in various places within the region.) The player then spent some money to acquire the wood from the markets, and began cooperating with his grad student to get it shaped into a golem. At other points when the party visited the city, I further delved into how the golem construction was going, either just asking questions and letting the player decide the current status of the thing, within what I hoped were reasonable limits, or requesting a Spout Lore, Defy Danger, or other roll as needed to resolve ambiguous situations one way or another.
The top quote, and the bolded bits in the second quote, give me the impression that the golem episode happened during "downtime".

From your account of the episode, I can't tell how the fiction was established. Was there Spout Lore to find the library? Was there Parley to engage with the RA/librarian? And what was the significance of this golem creation? What conflicts did it play into? What front was at stake? Is the golem a NPC with its own goals/motivations, or is this a long process of creating an augment or a retainer?

This is far from the only time I have done things like this. This is just a relatively neat, minimal-context example that doesn't require explaining seven different adventures and multiple ways the players directly created, or by their requests directly inspired, multiple real, enduring, incredibly important parts of the game world we play in.

<snip>

And even with things I have prepared (like the "Bad Guy" factions, which are Fronts in DW terms, including Grim Portents which are literally described as "your way to codify the plans and machinations of your dangers"), I go out of my way to include things my players have brought into the story as part of this, and their behavior shifts and changes directly in response to the PCs' actions and effects on the world.
This all seems consistent with the "easiest version" or a nearby variant:

(1) content => GM-authored plot moments (eg based on your front "clocks") => GM-framed situation => narration of who does what; or,​
(2) content => GM-framed situation (based most likely on where the PCs are on the map, and what the key says will be found there) => narration of who does what => plot moments.​

What you are very clearly telling me is that the content is contributed by players as well as the GM. But what you've not said anything about (or if you have I've missed it, sorry, and am very happy to have that brought to my attention) is where the conflict is coming from, and how that is feeding into the framing of situations. In one of the quotes above (bolded by me) you refer to the PCs returning from a mission. Where did that mission come from? What conflict did it pertain to? Who set that conflict in motion? And why is the wizard's construction of the golem not also a "mission"?

EDIT to respond also to your more recent post:
the PCs had found a man who was infected rather severely by the Song of Thorns, and wanted to try to cure him. I invented a lost artifact, an enchanted obsidian mirror said to allow the now-defunct culture of the northern jungles to heal diseases of the mind. The party was tasked with finding this mirror. As they traveled, with a local guide descended from the culture that used to occupy the jungle, they established facts about the place, and I exploited my prep (something explicitly in the DW gamemastering rules) to reveal tidbits and provide context.
This all seems to describe GM-driven play. You the GM established the goal of play (by inventing a content-element, the artefact, and then tasking the PCs to recover it). You seem to have taken the lead in providing content - titbits and context.

Now maybe the need for the mirror was the result of a 6-down on Spout Lore? I'm not sure, but that's not the impression I'm getting.

It's also not clear who the man was, how he mattered to anything, and why the PCs cared about him.

They eventually reached the lost city after a Perilous Journey through the jungle (that revealed many things about the Battlemaster's military service and the Druid's lack of knowledge about animals outside the group's desert/aird homeland), solved some difficult puzzles, dodged (sometimes narrowly) some traps left to keep looters away, and eventually fought a mindflayer and a corrupted couatl (whom they cleverly cleansed with one of her own, previously shed feathers). They learned a bunch of stuff
Who authored the stuff they learned? What conflicts or thematic trajectories did it pertain to?

None of this is criticism. I mean, I'm the poster who in this thread has talked about defending railroading and in the Best Practices thread has been saying that there is utility in stating best practices for a wide range of approaches to RPGing.

But I'm not seeing anything in your posts that suggests anything different from fairly traditional play beyond the players contributing some content to world-building. In particular, every time you point to a conflict or a trajectory of play it seems that it's coming from you as GM.
 
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The top quote, and the bolded bits in the second quote, give me the impression that the golem episode happened during "downtime".
It started there, yes. Had the player wished to, it could become much more than that. Downtime activities are very important, and frequently lead to more "active" activities later.

From your account of the episode, I can't tell how the fiction was established. Was there Spout Lore to find the library? Was there Parley to engage with the RA/librarian? And what was the significance of this golem creation? What conflicts did it play into? What front was at stake? Is the golem a NPC with its own goals/motivations, or is this a long process of creating an augment or a retainer?
I did not ask for any rolls. I assumed the PC knew more about golem-crafting than I did, and thus that, if he was interested in creating a golem, he knew better than I did what library to go to. I guess you could say that I presumed a successful Spout Lore, since I volunteered useful information rather than asking for a roll. I'm sure I invented a name for the library, but beyond that I didn't really do too much. The librarian was simply a helpful old lady. Conflict-wise, it played into the character's ongoing personal feud with the Waziri establishment (who tend to be officious, pedantic, hypocritical, power-hungry, and incredibly unwilling to change), as well as his expanding interest in the fundamental laws of magic, in this case, giving magic itself "life" in some sense. It was a relatively focused vignette fitting into the character's larger story (which, as noted, I was trying not to go too deeply into here, because that would mean explaining months of play and significant amounts of what the player had written about the character.)

The golem never properly activated, so we never got to see if it was an independent being, an extension of the PC's resources, a threat, or what. I would have been fine with any of those directions as the player desired.

This all seems consistent with the "easiest version" or a nearby variant:

(1) content => GM-authored plot moments (eg based on your front "clocks") => GM-framed situation => narration of who does what; or,​
(2) content => GM-framed situation (based most likely on where the PCs are on the map, and what the key says will be found there) => narration of who does what => plot moments.​
I guess I'm a little unclear as to what a "player-authored plot moment" would be? I felt like a mere facilitator for the described things, not the person "in control" doling out things to extremely passive players, which is part of why I've pushed back on this. The consistent implication is that my players sit there quietly doing nothing at all until I shove something before them, which...doesn't feel at all correct.

What you are very clearly telling me is that the content is contributed by players as well as the GM. But what you've not said anything about (or if you have I've missed it, sorry, and am very happy to have that brought to my attention) is where the conflict is coming from, and how that is feeding into the framing of situations. In one of the quotes above (bolded by me) you refer to the PCs returning from a mission. Where did that mission come from? What conflict did it pertain to? Who set that conflict in motion? And why is the wizard's construction of the golem not also a "mission"?
I'm afraid I don't remember which specific situation that was, and I must beg your pardon, I use these terms extremely loosely. "A mission" could be anything from the following:
"Huh. We haven't been northwest of here, what's out there?" "Dunno. What IS out there, Ranger? You've been travelling the deserts for ages."
"Ranger, you said you hate your grandfather...but now he's begging a favor from you, what will you do?" (he chose to do the favor, but only to get leverage against granddad)
"You know there's a nasty killer fungus infection (due to conflicts in prior sessions) that can turn people into mushroom zombies" (players chose to find an alchemist and search for a cure)
"The Sultana herself has made a request for you to help with a mysterious problem in the catacombs beneath the palace."
Examples chosen to show a gamut of possibilities, all of them actually from my game. Some are (what I see as) conflicts/situations pretty clearly driven by me (Sultana), some pretty clearly driven by the players (exploring NW), some that seem (to me) more driven by the players than by me but featuring both (finding an alchemist to create a cure), and some that likewise seem (to me) more driven by me than the players (granddad's favor).

EDIT to respond also to your more recent post:

This all seems to describe GM-driven play. You the GM established the goal of play (by inventing a content-element, the artefact, and then tasking the PCs to recover it). You seem to have taken the lead in providing content - titbits and context.

Now maybe the need for the mirror was the result of a 6-down on Spout Lore? I'm not sure, but that's not the impression I'm getting.

It's also not clear who the man was, how he mattered to anything, and why the PCs cared about him.
He wasn't really anyone, just a dude they happened to come across and feel pity for. Having asked one of the players, there were several reasons. First and foremost, it's a matter of a personal commitment (as both a player and a character) to saving people when you can save them. If there's something you can do, you should strive to do it, even if that's costly to yourself--there are of course limits, but this being an adventure game, to some extent a power fantasy, those limits are a lot looser than they are IRL, and this player is quite animated to save anyone that can be saved as a result. It was also something of a personal victory, taking something away from a rapacious consumptive evil, proving that that evil was not an unassailable thing. The group overall generally also felt pity for the dude (he really was just some merc, not anybody of prominence or power), and saw helping him as a useful step toward greater support from other allies.

The need for the mirror arose from the party's previous failure (not on a single roll, but on a selection of them) to meaningfully hurt or impede the Song of Thorns itself. They already knew they were going to need more mojo, so they consulted allies and did research, "what do we need in order to fight this?" It wasn't specifically the result of Spouting Lore per se, and I definitely admit that the mirror itself was something I inserted into the fiction in response to their inquiries and petitioning their allies for aid. Later, when they actually performed the healing, that was absolutely a process based on a number of rolls, but it also exploited prep work I'd done (which is something the DW rules explicitly tell me to do) and featured other important actions on their part. In the end, they managed to get the guy mostly healed (well, fully healed but still super weak), as noted--the final push was only a partial success, but a success nonetheless.

Who authored the stuff they learned? What conflicts or thematic trajectories did it pertain to?
Depends? Sometimes they do. In this past session, our Bard, who owns a Bestiary of Creatures Unusual, got back-to-back opportunities to consult his knowledge of beasts. That meant he got to ask one question each time, and I answered that question as comprehensively as I could. Does that mean I "authored" the content? If so, it really does seem like even DW rests pretty heavily on GM-authored content, if even things like Spout Lore and Bardic Lore (and thus, implicitly, Discern Realities, Parley, and most other moves) are automatically "GM-authored" simply because the rules tell the player to ask me a question that I must then answer. Edit: Other times, as mentioned below, I will ask a player to describe what they see when they arrive somewhere, or ask them to explain what they know about a place. Not because of a roll. Just because I think it's more interesting to (at least some of the time) have the player describe the scene to me, rather than the other way around. If something doesn't make sense for some reason, we talk about it--either to make sense of it, or to replace it with something we like better instead.

None of this is criticism. I mean, I'm the poster who in this thread has talked about defending railroading and in the Best Practices thread has been saying that there is utility in stating best practices for a wide range of approaches to RPGing.
That's fair. It had seemed like criticism, but I get that that seeming is a me thing, not a you thing.

For me, "railroading" is...pretty much always a bad thing. It means dictating from on high that the players will do one and only one thing. If done openly, it's basically saying "my way or the highway" unless your players are always 100% on board, which is a pretty rude thing to do. And if done covertly, it's deceptive, making players believe they have choices and participation and such when that's all untrue, which feels really manipulative and controlling.

I see that as being worlds apart from inviting the players to take the driver's seat (at least some of the time), heeding requests, both pre-emptively and extemporaneously providing content the players show interest in, and otherwise making sure that the players truly do make choices with real consequences, and involving them directly and indirectly in the process of filling and detailing the world. I don't really know how that translates into the formal terminology and specific hierarchies. But it's a big point of pride for me, that my players have repeatedly said that they feel included, that they can choose to do what they want, explore whatever interests them, add to the world, even narrate some scenes (far from all of them, but at least some of them). Sometimes, I have a description I want to give, but I try as much as possible to do something like (completely made up example), "You arrive in the cork forest. What's it like here, <Druid PC>? What do you feel on the wind?"
 


Lanefan

Victoria Rules
That's like saying "a bat is just a bird who's mammalian and flies a different way."
Not if a DM sticks by her rulings and makes them precedent for that campaign.
Or more to the point, that they even remember what they did last time, which as I've noted with unusual situations, is far, far from a given.
It's incumbent on a DM to, in cases like this, note down the ruling made (and why, if needed) for just this reason; and at some point then or later add it to the game's houserules or spell write-up or wherever seems most appropriate. Otherwise you're right: things can and will get misremembered, or remembered differently by different people at the table, and the resulting arguments can get nasty.
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
Yeah, I tweaked the End of Session move to account for these differences. That is, many sessions don't end up having a fight or treasure, but DO have politicking and diplomacy/intrigue. Since gaining knowledge is already covered, and "overcome a notable...enemy" implicitly permits non-combat methods, I expanded the third question to "did we loot a memorable treasure or form a meaningful alliance?" This has encouraged the players to think not just about physical tools and resources, but about how their choices shape the political and social landscape. One of my players would be thinking about that regardless, but having it baked into the rules themselves adds an extra layer of meaning to it.


I genuinely see no point in employing rule 0 without achieving table consensus, or at absolute absolute bare minimum consensus to test an alteration to see if it's worthwhile. I would absolutely never use it without that.

But...that's my personal choice. To limit myself that way (and a variety of other ways). I have a pathological concern about deceiving others, so I go to great lengths to avoid it. As I said before though, there are no RPG secret police. There is no mind control spell making it so GMs are incapable of making choices that break the rules. That does not, at all, imply that doing so is good or right. But the freedom to do so exists. Hence why I said I thought it was an uncontroversial maxim. The rules of RPGs are weaker than the laws of nations, which hold no candle to something as coercive as the laws of physics.

Now, the books may tell you (and be entirely correct in so doing) that breaking their rules is extremely likely to result in a far worse, more frustrating, less fun experience. And I love 4e D&D, which is totally a game that runs better "by the book" than not, as long as you're up for what it offers. But I don't see that as saying rule 0 is absent any more than I see the rules of writing as being inviolable. (I can't recall if it was you or another, but somebody said that the idea of Rule 0 is unique to TTRPGs, but it isn't: George Orwell wrote of it in his seminal Politics and the English Language, where he explicitly says to ignore any of his rules if it would make you say something "barbarous." That's quite literally rule 0, just for writing, not TTRPGs.)

Instead, I see it as a simple but vital word of warning. "We made this game, and made it well. It is an abstract device for producing experiences. Change it, and the experiences it produces will change. You have been warned."


I see the moments of downtime as providing necessary contrast and pacing. If absolutely every moment is constantly ratcheting up the tension, we'd just...break. Having a moment to catch your breath makes you able to sprint again when the danger rears its ugly head once more. And, as I said, an issue ignored is an issue that gets worse, so I don't really see how I'm not doing that part; the black dragon's gang, for example, has got a near-stranglehold on the darker parts of the city's criminal underworld now, because the players largely ignored it to focus on other things. This has led to new concerns and new adventures. Grim Portents (like street toughs becoming more violent...and apparently juicing up with alchemical steroids!) are coming to pass. The party can't just rest on their laurels, but I'll give them a breather now and then.

I always understood "fill their lives with adventure" to mean...well, making adventure a key part of the characters' lives, not making every waking moment a struggle against the odds. From the SRD: "Fill the characters’ lives with adventure means working with the players to create a world that’s engaging and dynamic. Adventurers are always caught up in some world-threatening danger or another—encourage and foster that kind of action in the game." In my game, they've been caught up in no less than five ongoing world-affecting plots/situations, of which they've permanently resolved precisely one, the Song of Thorns. The other four they've dealt setbacks to, but they've also learned that the scope of these threats is often bigger than it seems at first. The Cult of the Burning Eye is apparently thousands of years old. The Raven-Shadows have somehow survived centuries of attempts to exterminate them (being a heretical cult that considers the act of murder to be the path to enlightenment will do that). The black dragon hidden in the city has spent centuries building up a power base to take over. And the Shadow-Druids have mastered the art of shapeshifting into specific people and are shockingly competent eco-terrorists (they just are, or rather were, bad at cleaning up their paper trails.) I don't really see how letting the group have a day or two at the midpoint between major events--at most half a session--where their backs arent pressed against the wall is somehow bleeding all the adventure out of their lives.

But perhaps I'm taking you to be more strident than you mean (or you were taking me to be more strident than I meant). Not every player-driven situation occurs in downtime. I just used a tidy example coincidentally from that downtime in part because that meant, as stated, that I didn't need to explain a ton of additional context. As an example high in adventure content, summarized rather a lot so there will be lost nuance, the PCs had found a man who was infected rather severely by the Song of Thorns, and wanted to try to cure him. I invented a lost artifact, an enchanted obsidian mirror said to allow the now-defunct culture of the northern jungles to heal diseases of the mind. The party was tasked with finding this mirror. As they traveled, with a local guide descended from the culture that used to occupy the jungle, they established facts about the place, and I exploited my prep (something explicitly in the DW gamemastering rules) to reveal tidbits and provide context. They eventually reached the lost city after a Perilous Journey through the jungle (that revealed many things about the Battlemaster's military service and the Druid's lack of knowledge about animals outside the group's desert/aird homeland), solved some difficult puzzles, dodged (sometimes narrowly) some traps left to keep looters away, and eventually fought a mindflayer and a corrupted couatl (whom they cleverly cleansed with one of her own, previously shed feathers). They learned a bunch of stuff, got the treasure, and then had a similar but distinct Perilous Journey back to "civilization." At which point they spent a night celebrating their triumphal return with Carouse, then booked it for the quarantine area where the infected guy was so they could try to heal him (which they did, though that was another adventure all by itself, and only resulted in partial success, so the guy was gonna need to convalesce for a good while but is expected to eventually make a full recovery.)

Edit: Dammit Autocorrect, "obsidian" is not "Indian"! They're hardly similar at all!
I'm not trying to be difficult, but this response increases my perception that you're running Dungeon World as a D&D campaign with some different mechanics and a bit more player input. Dungeon World's moments of play are meant to be a cascading snowball of peril. Downtime for the characters happens, of course, but it's a montage, off screen, narrated stuff about what they do with the time they have. It isn't moments where you are roleplaying things like researching golem creation by finding and visiting libraries that may or may not have the book you want. This is not how the game is built to run because you can't drive the fiction with failures and framing new dangers because you have to fit in that it's downtime and less threatening. This pulls the teeth from the mechanics.

And, fill their lives with adventure isn't a broad, on average thing. It's a thing you do every moment of the game. All of the principles are. They aren't 70% things, they are 100% things. Dungeon World is meant to focus entirely on the adventure part. The "end of session" rules are the only bits of downtime that Dungeon World acknowledges -- everything else is just narrated, like "I tend the homestead for the winter." This is because of how the move structure works, the need to make soft and hard moves against the characters, and how those moves are framed. Studying to make a golem, for instance, would require soft and hard moves from the GM on checks, but what soft and hard moves are there during a downtime phase where nothing bad is supposed to happen?

And, finally, the adventure you described sounds, again, like a typical D&D adventure and not a Dungeon World adventure. I'm not sure how puzzles work in Dungeon World, but more than 1? Traps, also, are rarely a discreet encounter in DW, but rather complications to other actions. The monsters sound good, though. The overall structure of you example implies that there was a good deal of prep here -- having puzzles to be solved, placing traps to be bypassed. This isn't how Dungeon World is supposed to be played -- if anything, you have a starting situation in mind, a solid prep to set the tone of the dungeon/adventure site and introduce a theme for that dungeon, but, after that, play should spiral very rapidly into places where you can only have a sketch of prep -- a monster roaming the dungeon, or a neat piece of set dressing to use, or a list of likely new challenges if the first one peters out due to lots of great rolls. Puzzles, though? Not really a large part of the DW wheelhouse because puzzles directly test players, and DW is not at all about that. If you're using a puzzle in DW that doesn't test players, by keeping it vague in description or malleable in solution, then you're just asking for die rolls.

There's not a specific moment of play here for me to point to, but overall, when you talk of your Dungeon World game, it feels very off. Not as in not fun, which I'm sure it is, but off to someone that knows how that game works and runs. The things you're talking about feel like they come from a D&D game, not a DW game. The same "oh, and holy poop, then this crazy stuff happened!" is missing, and there's a lot of setting that seeming to be constraining play. Heck, the fact you have an order of wizards and such? In the DW setting (what there is of it), there's just the one Wizard, and he's adventuring. And just the one Fighter. And just the one Barabarian. The conceit is that these are heroes of legend setting out to make that legend, not Bob from accounting that just quit due to a midlife crisis and went adventuring. And, it's not bad to change the setting, not bad at all, but the ways you've related it feel very much like a D&D style setting, where setting is very important and constraining on the characters and comes from the GM (mostly). And that feels like a normal D&D setting.
 

Not if a DM sticks by her rulings and makes them precedent for that campaign.

No. Even then, there's a big difference between "I spent some time thinking about this and considering its ongoing consequences" and "I made this decision on the fly and am going to stick with it."

It's incumbent on a DM to, in cases like this, note down the ruling made (and why, if needed) for just this reason; and at some point then or later add it to the game's houserules or spell write-up or wherever seems most appropriate. Otherwise you're right: things can and will get misremembered, or remembered differently by different people at the table, and the resulting arguments can get nasty.

At that point, they've become house rules, albeit not particularly thought-through ones.
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
No. Even then, there's a big difference between "I spent some time thinking about this and considering its ongoing consequences" and "I made this decision on the fly and am going to stick with it."
I'm not sure the former actually excludes the latter, at least my experience with some houserules certainly suggests that no time or consideration occurred. Any issues are dealt with other, additional patches slapped on without due consideration.

In other words, house-rules do not require any additional thought than an on-the-fly ruling does.
At that point, they've become house rules, albeit not particularly thought-through ones.
Zactly.
 

Well, do note that by the time I hit the game (and it wasn't like this was particularly late in the day--late '75) Greyhawk had pretty much supplanted any use of Chainmail anywhere I hit it; I'm sure this wasn't universal, but I suspect anyone hitting the game after Greyhawk was out likely never even looked hard at anything but its supplementary combat as the default, unless they were brought in by someone from earlier in the cycle who had not changed over.
Right, but ALL Greyhawk does is add damage by weapon type, many new weapons, varying damage and attack routines for monsters, etc. It literally says NOTHING about the process of combat at all. It doesn't even reproduce or modify that alternative table from Men and Magic. Technically you could even use all its new stuff with the OLD combat table, presumably!

Now, I agree with you, practically nobody used the Chainmail combat table, even pre-Greyhawk, IME. I'm pretty sure the GM of our first game used some variation of the "Roll Initiative" version of the overall Chainmail rules on page 9. I think that was pretty universal too, since the 'write it all down each turn' version is both tedious and seems more intended for a game with 2 sides AND a referee. I assume, but I'm not sure, that he also went by the page 25 "man to man melee" part, but that just seems to alter the "melee damage is applied after all attack rolls by both sides" part of page 9. I will note that both these choices seem at least similar to what 1e proposes (though oddly not similar to Holmes, which claims to be a codification of original D&D). I didn't know the DM of that game really well, but I don't even think he was that much of a hard-core gamer, so I doubt he'd gone to Gencon and found out how it was done in Wisconsin. He must have just logically figured out the easiest/best way.
I think I'll maintain that "roll a die to see who which side goes first, resolve all their stuff, then resolve all the other side's stuff" is sufficiently straightforward that it had largely dominated the hobby by the time I hit it that most people simply assumed it was spelled out. Even people who did other things clearly thought they were doing houserules of one stripe or another.
Well... interestingly, in 1978 I moved and joined a LARGE gaming club. It had 100's of active members, and naturally hosted a lot of D&D games of various sorts. The ones that were long ongoing campaigns did things in a variety of ways, even then (The DMG wasn't out yet at that point, so OD&D/Holmes was still the only published stuff on combat). I can't say if any of them thought their game was 'variant' or not, lol. Each game, even the ones that worked in mostly what we now think of as the 'classic way' published a sheet (or 10) of 'campaign rules' that explained how various specific things worked, like combat, that were 'grey areas'. I think some of them also had additional 'stuff' like maybe using Arduin Grimoire magic or some other spell point system, or whatever. THOSE they did consider 'variants'. I think one or two guys had invented totally novel combat systems as well.

Anyway, by then, those of us who played 'small games' (IE without mass combat on sand tables and such) just used the Holmes rules, except you had to ignore the silly rule about some weapons getting double or half rate of attacks. At least those rules settled the initiative and who damages who first questions. I'd still love to know where Eric got 'Dex order' from though, I really cannot find a hint of it in any other place except his Basic rules.
 

I'm not sure the former actually excludes the latter, at least my experience with some houserules certainly suggests that no time or consideration occurred. Any issues are dealt with other, additional patches slapped on without due consideration.

There can absolutely be badly throught-through house rules, but at least when done in downtime, some time to actually, well, think about it is possible.

In other words, house-rules do not require any additional thought than an on-the-fly ruling does.

They do, however, at least permit it. If someone wants to tell me the ones they do on-the-fly are as likely to be that, well, I believe the old D&D reference is "I roll to disbelieve".
 

Right, but ALL Greyhawk does is add damage by weapon type, many new weapons, varying damage and attack routines for monsters, etc. It literally says NOTHING about the process of combat at all. It doesn't even reproduce or modify that alternative table from Men and Magic. Technically you could even use all its new stuff with the OLD combat table, presumably!

I'm gonna still have to disagree. Other than the initiative issue, once you had the Greyhawk weapon tables and such, I think most of the process (outside initiative) was pretty obvious given the other table and how hit points were phrased. Yeah, there was a bunch of other stuff that could confuse you in Chainmail if you paid it any mind, but I'd be surprised if even one in five GMs did.
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
There can absolutely be badly throught-through house rules, but at least when done in downtime, some time to actually, well, think about it is possible.



They do, however, at least permit it. If someone wants to tell me the ones they do on-the-fly are as likely to be that, well, I believe the old D&D reference is "I roll to disbelieve".
I'll step up. I've been GMing a long time, and have done a lot of thinking about how games work, generally and specifically. My on-the-fly rulings leverage this understanding and are often immediately candidates for house-rules without further effort. Experience and foundations count for something in this.

On the other hand, I can point to a few examples of long discussed house rules on this very forum that display a lack of understanding about the game and that are essentially doomed to fail to achieve what they hope to achieve. Yet, they're very thought about.
 

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