Why do RPGs have rules?

clearstream

(He, Him)
My take on the Vincent thing is,

Really he’s talking about conflict resolution.

Whenever there is a conflict of interest between two characters, use a randomiser to decide which interest prevails.

The unwanted really only consists of the wrong characters interests being triumphant, in fact I think Vincent’s reasoning is probably post-hoc and happened upon examination of Ron Edwards designs (basically he was playing Sorcerer). Why does conflict resolution work so well? Because it brings about the unwanted but still compelling.
Is it right to read this to imply that the "unwelcome and unwanted" is just that unwelcome and unwanted that players can engage with and contest or resist? Excluding then stuff no one welcomes or wants that is meted out without opportunity for interaction.

I ask that not because it would be surprising, but because I believe it helps see why one might exclude everything other than conflicts from the OP's "unwelcome and unwanted".

I think AW is a really terrible teaching text though and the wide spread interpretation of the text and many of the subsequent games turn it into: Intuitive continuity, aka no myth.

https://www.enworld.org/threads/how-do-you-create-story.140779/post-2430652


https://inky.org/rpg/no-myth.html


With the result that conflict resolution loses it’s bite. Why? Because in a closed and fixed situation any resolution has a knock on effect on the fictional positioning of the entirety of the situation. In a non fixed situation resolution will always be subject to what the GM decides to introduce next.
Can you say how it matters that a designed mechanic rather than a GM introduces whatever comes next? Is it because it's assumed a GM can't procure that resolution has a knock-on effect on the fictional positioning of the entirety of the situation? Supposing they could, would that put them on the same footing as mechanics, or is there some other factor in play too?
 

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thefutilist

Villager
@clearstream


Yeah you’re exactly right about my take on the unwanted. Now the GM can unilaterally introduce something that has a similar effect but it tends to be either accidental or from prep (they’re pre committed to it). I think the two things are different enough to occupy their own categories though.

So on the what comes next thing. Conflict resolution is specifically dealing with how fixed elements interact. Imagine a game board with all the pieces in place, it’s pretty easy to see how one piece changing it’s positioning effects all the others. A GM can do that no problem. What we want the mechanic to do, is unify us in the face of our collective desires and then potentially spit in our faces. So when Miss Loverlorn approaches Mr Cad and declares she loves him, we all want that love to ring true and to touch Mr Cad’s cold heart. The conflict resolution mechanic steps in and says ‘no, maybe it won’t.’

Now if the GM can introduce new pieces ad hoc, then they have sole control of the situation and thus all further positioning. As an example, imagine you’re three sessions into an AW game and the MC introduces a new heavily armed gang from over the horizon. They’ve basically subverted the existing situation and created a new one. So any previous conflict resolution means what? Well it does have some effect but it’s been heavily neutered. (edit: in practice I've found it has as much effect as the GM wants it to have except when it comes to characters inner states and values, which is why you can still get character arcs in Intuitive continuity play)

Now mechanics can prompt the introduction of new pieces but they’re lame and why bother. If you really want to play in that style then just have the GM introduce stuff, the mechanics don’t actually make much difference. There are some mechanics that do introduce new stuff (circles test in Burning Wheel, that Port move from Burned over, some of the stuff in Troll babe) but they tend to be very heavily constrained. Compare that to some of the ways people play PbtA where you’re introducing Ogres or whatever on a miss.

Now sometimes you have to introduce new stuff so what’s going on there? I think Ron and Vincent thought that situation resolution was so obvious that there would be an aesthetic constraint against it. Like you might have to introduce the Sheriff because the setting demands a Sheriff when there’s a murder and then someone might fall in love with them and suddenly the Sheriff has become a big piece of the ongoing situation. That’s a different aesthetic process to having Ninja’s attack because stuff has become boring. I think I’m going off on a tangent here though.
 
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clearstream

(He, Him)
@clearstream


Yeah you’re exactly right about my take on the unwanted. Now the GM can unilaterally introduce something that has a similar effect but it tends to be either accidental or from prep (they’re pre committed to it). I think the two things are different enough to occupy their own categories though.

So on the what comes next thing. Conflict resolution is specifically dealing with how fixed elements interact. Imagine a game board with all the pieces in place, it’s pretty easy to see how one piece changing it’s positioning effects all the others. A GM can do that no problem. What we want the mechanic to do, is unify us in the face of our collective desires and then potentially spit in our faces. So when Miss Loverlorn approaches Mr Cad and declares she loves him, we all want that love to ring true and to touch Mr Cad’s cold heart. The conflict resolution mechanic steps in and says ‘no, maybe it won’t.’

Now if the GM can introduce new pieces ad hoc, then they have sole control of the situation and thus all further positioning. As an example, imagine you’re three sessions into an AW game and the MC introduces a new heavily armed gang from over the horizon. They’ve basically subverted the existing situation and created a new one. So any previous conflict resolution means what? Well it does have some effect but it’s been heavily neutered. (edit: in practice I've found it has as much effect as the GM wants it to have except when it comes to characters inner states and values, which is why you can still get character arcs in Intuitive continuity play)

Now mechanics can prompt the introduction of new pieces but they’re lame and why bother. If you really want to play in that style then just have the GM introduce stuff, the mechanics don’t actually make much difference. There are some mechanics that do introduce new stuff (circles test in Burning Wheel, that Port move from Burned over, some of the stuff in Troll babe) but they tend to be very heavily constrained. Compare that to some of the ways people play PbtA where you’re introducing Ogres or whatever on a miss.

Now sometimes you have to introduce new stuff so what’s going on there? I think Ron and Vincent thought that situation resolution was so obvious that there would be an aesthetic constraint against it. Like you might have to introduce the Sheriff because the setting demands a Sheriff when there’s a murder and then someone might fall in love with them and suddenly the Sheriff has become a big piece of the ongoing situation. That’s a different aesthetic process to having Ninja’s attack because stuff has become boring. I think I’m going off on a tangent here though.
I think I get that. One parallel is
GM can introduce new pieces ad hoc
and
mechanics can prompt the introduction of new pieces
It's difficult to concretely say what is less arbitrary about rolling a 2 and a cognitive process, so it seems to me they must be equally
lame and why bother.
but
sometimes you have to introduce new stuff so what’s going on there?
I'm curious, too! From your example, it looks like the razor is - was it compelled and constrained by the fictional position. Does that sound right?

One thing I have in mind asking this is that I'm in the process of writing up some prompts for a design I'm working on, and it's noticeable with designed prompts that they don't always quite fit the fictional situation that led to rolling dice. Designers such as Shawn Tomkin or Kevin Crawford build in conceptual complexity and ambiguity, in order to draw upon player cognitive resources to make it fit. This could make one think that the real razor is - did it come out of what players said?

I think folk still don't quite get why I make such a big deal out of whether GM is player or not. If GM is a player, then what they say is something that a player said. But if GM is part of the means of play, then it cannot be a play-action for them to say what happens next. That would be like the ref kicking the ball.
 

thefutilist

Villager
I'm curious, too! From your example, it looks like the razor is - was it compelled and constrained by the fictional position. Does that sound right?
You hit the nail on the head.

On the GM thing. It can really be whatever you want no? In gamism you absolutely need an impartial adjudicator for the whole thing to even run. So they can be a player or a means. I strongly prefer for the GM to be just another player in resolving the situation but I don’t think that’s like an objective aesthetic fact or anything.
 

Now if the GM can introduce new pieces ad hoc, then they have sole control of the situation and thus all further positioning. As an example, imagine you’re three sessions into an AW game and the MC introduces a new heavily armed gang from over the horizon. They’ve basically subverted the existing situation and created a new one. So any previous conflict resolution means what? Well it does have some effect but it’s been heavily neutered. (edit: in practice I've found it has as much effect as the GM wants it to have except when it comes to characters inner states and values, which is why you can still get character arcs in Intuitive continuity play)
I would point out that AW and DW heavily recommend that this kind of new stuff is drawn from prep and heavily telegraphed. In fact the asking of questions is a key factor here. New fiction must 'follow' and PbtA is very explicit about the GM's goals and techniques.

Beyond that; in actual play I find it important to respect the character's victories. If you faced the danger and stole the truck then it won't come up as staked later unless you put it back on the table, and I'm going to tell you when your action will do that.

These are games intended for a LOT of transparency. But I agree, GMs are powerful!
 

Campbell

Relaxed Intensity
@clearstream

Just letting you know that I have been busy but will get back to you. We're working on finishing the characters all get to know each other at a fancy party thread before we split off for preludes for each character's individual embrace.
 

My take on the Vincent thing is,

Really he’s talking about conflict resolution.

Whenever there is a conflict of interest between two characters, use a randomiser to decide which interest prevails.

The unwanted really only consists of the wrong characters interests being triumphant, in fact I think Vincent’s reasoning is probably post-hoc and happened upon examination of Ron Edwards designs (basically he was playing Sorcerer). Why does conflict resolution work so well? Because it brings about the unwanted but still compelling.

I think AW is a really terrible teaching text though and the wide spread interpretation of the text and many of the subsequent games turn it into: Intuitive continuity, aka no myth.

https://www.enworld.org/threads/how-do-you-create-story.140779/post-2430652


https://inky.org/rpg/no-myth.html


With the result that conflict resolution loses it’s bite. Why? Because in a closed and fixed situation any resolution has a knock on effect on the fictional positioning of the entirety of the situation. In a non fixed situation resolution will always be subject to what the GM decides to introduce next.

Ron Edwards general critique (He talks about AW from the 8:00 but it’s worthwhile watching the whole video to get context)




I slightly disagree with Ron about ‘why’ it’s bad, his main contentions are that it produces predictable plots that tend toward genre emulation and relies on GM force.

Anyway, this is all to say that if you use the AW resolution system as a conflict resolution system (not the improv content generator it often gets used as) and if you fix the situation, then it produces a very different type of game to FF games (as do all the good narrative games).
Honestly, after watching the video, I don't think Ron was being particularly critical of AW/PbtA. All he really said was that he feels that his enjoyment would be greater playing it in a style where the fronts are pretty 'hard' and their evolution and impact is largely prep and not so much predicated on what the PC's situation is. I get what he's saying, though how far you go in that direction is going to matter. Too far and you're just back to trad play, basically (albeit a certain flavor of that).
 

clearstream

(He, Him)
On the GM thing. It can really be whatever you want no?
Yes. As much as I see players engaging with TTRPG as simultaneously author / audience, I see GMs engaging as author / audience / referee. Players additionally make themselves subject to the game (in the Sicartian sense.) Even with that sketched out there are limitless ways to instantiate it.

In gamism you absolutely need an impartial adjudicator for the whole thing to even run. So they can be a player or a means. I strongly prefer for the GM to be just another player in resolving the situation but I don’t think that’s like an objective aesthetic fact or anything.
Tautologically, players are those who play the game. That's what I meant about referee kicking the ball. Doing so would make them a player, which in the domain of sports is often seen as a transgression, but think about the blackjack dealer who draws a hand and in a sense plays it. Even when doing something comparable (e.g. controlling adversaries), just like the blackjack dealer some part of GM operates under different rules and principles from players.

Does it matter if the unwelcome/unwanted is unwelcome/unwanted to GM? Suppose in @AbdulAlhazred's #2,647 example, that the GM were indifferent to the Pale Hunter spiriting away all four of the hunters and pitiless treatment of Rennon's Son (which I take to be unwelcome.) How would that matter? Ought a referee to count awarding a try welcome and a last minute penalty unwelcome? Their "impartial" adjudication requires them to procure the unwelcome/unwanted, whether or not they find it unwelcome/unwanted. A referee does not make themselves subject to the game in the same way that players do.*

But like a blackjack dealer, TTRPG GM has to make moves in the game. An unimpeachable blackjack dealer is impartial to whether they win the hand (unwelcome to players) or lose the hand (welcome to players.) So coming at last to my question: when you say you
prefer for the GM to be just another player in resolving the situation
Does that mean you prefer them to not only kick the ball, but also have a stake in whether it goes between the goalposts? That is to say, would you adhere to Bakers "to everyone at the table" in the strong sense of unwelcome/unwanted to everyone including GM as a player? Where GM is not a player, is it unwelcome to them in a different way from players or perhaps not necessarily unwelcome at all?



*I'm implying here that unwelcome/unwanted counts only from the perspective of those who have made themselves subject to game. I see that to be connected with your notions on unwelcome/unwanted equating to conflict. While GM and players may both take parts in conflicts, only those subject to the game count the outcomes welcome or unwelcome.
 
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pemerton

Legend
Does it matter if the unwelcome/unwanted is unwelcome/unwanted to GM?
To whom?

To Hickman, in writing the DL modules? No.

To Baker, in setting out his idea quoted in the OP? Yes:
Some very good designers consider the assignment of authority to be the point of rpg design. I do not.

As a designer, it's my job to make as sure as possible that the game won't break down into moment-to-moment negotiations about raw assent despite the game's rules and the players' upfront commitment to them. But the brute assignment of authority is NOT how to accomplish that.

When my games assign authority they do so in strict service to what I consider the real point: setting expectations and granting permission.

*********

if all your formal rules do is structure your group's ongoing agreement about what happens in the game, they are a) interchangeable with any other rpg rules out there, and b) probably a waste of your attention. Live negotiation and honest collaboration are almost certainly better. . . .

As far as I'm concerned, the purpose of an rpg's rules is to create the unwelcome and the unwanted in the game's fiction. The reason to play by rules is because you want the unwelcome and the unwanted - you want things that no vigorous creative agreement would ever create. And it's not that you want one person's wanted, welcome vision to win out over another's - that's weak sauce. No, what you want are outcomes that upset every single person at the table. You want things that if you hadn't agreed to abide by the rules' results, you would reject.​

Tautologically, players are those who play the game.

<snip>

Ought a referee to count awarding a try welcome and a last minute penalty unwelcome? Their "impartial" adjudication requires them to procure the unwelcome/unwanted, whether or not they find it unwelcome/unwanted. A referee does not make themselves subject to the game in the same way that players do.
The part below the "snip" is tautology too. It doesn't tell us anything about GMing principles, either in general, or in the context of any particular RPG.

For instance, the original Traveller rulebooks (1977) label the GM as a referee. They also tell us (Book 3, p 19) that

The referee is always free to impose encounters to further the cause of the adventure being played; in many cases, he actually has a responsibility to do so.​

That is not an instruction to be "impartial" in relation to the unfolding of the shared fiction. It is an instruction to take an active "side" in that respect.

The Classic Traveller approach to GMing (or, better, that family of approaches - as there are multiple ways to understand the referee's responsibility described on p 19) is (obviously) not the only possible one. But it is one way of setting up a RPG: one participant has a (voluntary, self-imposed) responsibility to establish fiction in accordance with certain parameters that will further a particular cause. That appears to be an instance of playing a game.
 

clearstream

(He, Him)
The part below the "snip" is tautology too. It doesn't tell us anything about GMing principles, either in general, or in the context of any particular RPG.
If you accept the claim, yes. The question is whether you accept the claim (i.e. that a referee is not subject to game in the Sicartian sense.)

For instance, the original Traveller rulebooks (1977) label the GM as a referee. They also tell us (Book 3, p 19) that

The referee is always free to impose encounters to further the cause of the adventure being played; in many cases, he actually has a responsibility to do so.​

That is not an instruction to be "impartial" in relation to the unfolding of the shared fiction. It is an instruction to take an active "side" in that respect.
A blackjack dealer must play a hand, but they can do so without taking a side in the result (they do not bet.) The sentence quoted says nothing about partiality to the result of introducing the encounters (whether they should be welcomed or wanted by the referee.)

The Classic Traveller approach to GMing (or, better, that family of approaches - as there are multiple ways to understand the referee's responsibility described on p 19) is (obviously) not the only possible one. But it is one way of setting up a RPG: one participant has a (voluntary, self-imposed) responsibility to establish fiction in accordance with certain parameters that will further a particular cause. That appears to be an instance of playing a game.
Furthering a cause is too broad. It includes instances that will not count as playing a game. A football referee has a unity of purpose with players, furthering the cause of a fairly played match, but does not have a stake in the scoring of goals.
 

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