Why do RPGs have rules?

pemerton

Legend
pemerton said:
The better the players play, the less that the game will produce rising action => climax/crisis => resolution. Although, in the fiction, the situation might involve intense physical stress and drama, at the table the challenge is essentially intellectual (like most other table-top games). And intellectual puzzle solving simply doesn't produce that narrative structure. It's true that in some cases there will be the thrill of the dice roll, but skilled play tries to minimise dependence on lucky rolls.
I don't want to assume I know what you mean when you say "The better the players play, the less that the game will produce rising action => climax/crisis => resolution." The words after that indicate that you might be using some kind of Forge jargon
The principal words used after the phrase you quote are:

"fiction"; "situation"; "intensse physical stress and drama"; "table"; "challenge"; "intellectual"; "puzzle solving"; "narrative sructure"; "thril"; "dice roll"; "skilled play"; "dependence"; "lucky rolls".

To me, they all seem to be ordinary words of English. Which bits do you think are "Forge jargon"?
 

log in or register to remove this ad

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
Before we can proceed, I think something needs to be cleared up.


I feel like I don't even remotely understand your point of view.

The way I see it, world simulation would be:
  1. PCs are going to the church of the Dragon God
  2. Hm, what's going on there?
  3. OK, there are several major actors in the area to be considered:
    1. Red dragon Xaryn slumbering in the caverns below the Mountain
    2. Cult of the Black Heart, secretly operating in the whole region
    3. Grand Inquisitor Micaela who is investigating the cult
  4. Let's see what they're up to!
    1. Hm, Northern Mining Company is setting up an excavation there, it is likely the process will awaken Xaryn.
    2. Hm, the cult got their asses kicked during a witch hunt a couple months ago, so I guess they will be keeping things quiet
    3. Hm, Micaela earned a Medal of the Flame, so she'll probably be busy preparing a speech and commissioning a proper dress for the ceremony
  5. OK, looks like everyone but the dragon is out of the picture for now, let's focus on it
    1. Hm, it is described as "territorial", so I guess it will be pissed by mortals invading its domain
    2. It also likes to take human form to toy with its prey, so I guess it will shapeshift?
    3. Ooh, Viktor Esser, the supervisor of the mining operation, is a devout follower of the Dragon God, so it makes sense he'll attend a mass
  6. Looks like PCs will encounter an angry dragon in a human form who is after Viktor. Cool!
With "looks like PCs will witness a giant firestorm in the mining camp ten kilometres away" or "the church will be attacked by a dragon five days later" or "huh, looks like everyone is busy and ain't nothing will happen" being other possible outcomes.

Compare and contrast to:
  1. PCs are going to the church of the Dragon God
  2. Ooh I love dragons!
  3. Hm, I mentioned a legend about one offhand, about time to introduce the beast properly
  4. OK, let's figure out why it will show up...

There seems to be an inherent conflict between the two.
There really isn't an inherent conflict between the two. There are only different approaches to the same end point. In your second example if what happens can logically come from whatever events have been established, then it's still a simulation of one possible set of logical circumstances.

You don't need to come up with all possible circumstances and then figure things out for it to be a simulation of something or even be as in depth as your first example, though it can be.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
And this is just a roundabout way of saying that one way to establish a shared fiction is to have one person tell everyone else what to imagine. That's trivially true. As a suggestion for RPGing, though, I think it's pretty terrible, because it is a recipe for railroading.
You're vastly overstating things here. It's not anywhere close to being a recipe for railroading. It's merely 1 ingredient among several that when put together become the recipe for a railroad, and even then it still needs to be cooked to become a railroad.
 


Thomas Shey

Legend
But this is objectively wrong. Not all games are designed for one person. There are plenty of games I know aren’t for me. I don’t describe them as poorly designed for that reason.

You're missing my point. They don't care. If its not designed for them, or at best, for the majority, its poorly designed. They're using a different (and entirely arguably irrational) criterion, and by that criterion it's bad design. The fact you and I and any number of people consider that a poor metric makes absolutely no difference. They've projected their personal desires as a universal good.

When taken along with the above, it seems like you want to cut some slack for folks who think a game is poorly designed of it’s not for them, but you don’t want to cut some slack for folks who don’t always understand someone else’s preference?

Not at all. Its simply an observation that some people are, well, dumb about some things. It just happens to be that in this particular context and place, you get to see more of them on the trad/D&D scale because there's a higher proportion of people (particularly from the latter) because of numbers and the focus of this board.
 

Two comments:

(a) is indeed an interesting source of tension, and one way to resolve it is to recognize that the player's goals are not the character's goals and get the players OOC to buy into a scenario. We had some discussion upthread about starting in medias res, but there are other ways to frame scenarios too, such as getting players to agree to a scenario where, despite their characters' intentions merely to buy cargo low and sell high elsewhere, they will find themselves shipwrecked somewhere interesting, where there's both treasure and danger to be found, as well as a way to repair or replace their ship. That way they can be risk-minimizers both locally and globally, if that's the roleplaying choice they want to make.
Sounds good, like in a PbtA the GM can ask a question like "what danger lurks in the Middle Sea?" Or something like that. Presumably the player understands that said danger is potentially manifest.
(b) I don't want to assume I know what you mean when you say "The better the players play, the less that the game will produce rising action => climax/crisis => resolution." The words after that indicate that you might be using some kind of Forge jargon: that it's not enough to have a climax of the sort that will naturally occur when addressing a challenge (like impressing the natives with your halfling-cooking skills enough that they'll help you fix your boat and get Lost Pete's Buried Treasure out of the Dinojungle). It sounds like there's an additional meaning there, that you have to experience certain emotions as well at moments of decision. Is that correct?
I interpret this in terms of ordinary language and simply took it to be pointing out that the ideal adventure from a skilled play perspective in classic play has no drama at all! If the players plan perfectly they just waltz through!
At any rate I want to say that emotions (unlike gameplay) can be generated retroactively in the retelling, even independently of the GM! That time your PC lost an arm to a marilith's lucky crit may not at the time have generated a lot of emotional commentary beyond, "oh no, Grewishka's out! what do we do now?" but as you're writing Grewishka's journal entry for the day, awkwardly and left-handed, feel free to retroactively reinterpret imaginary portents ("I saw a crow this morning, the same crow I've been seeing for the past week, always staring at me with a queer gaze that makes my arm ache") or your own reaction to the events of play. "I stared down at my own arm, lying there on the floor, and felt overcome by not grief or loss, but rage. 'I. Was. USING THAT!' I screamed at the marilith, and began hammering it with my shield, somehow heedless of the pain. Even now I still feel oddly like myself despite the loss. Perhaps I am more than just a sword."
This feels like more of a kind of neo-trad point to me, but I might not really be understanding it.
 

Thomas Shey

Legend
Regarding your second point, enthusiasm is one thing. Talking about how gaming is so much better now that you've left behind stuff a lot of people really like is quite another, especially if, as some have done, you proceed with your enthusiastic claims using non-subjective vocabulary.

While the latter is a problem, the former can be a simple statement of fact and renewed understanding of your own needs when gaming. I don't think people should be stopped from noting that just because the elements they've been happy to leave behind are ones other people like.
 

aramis erak

Legend
Instead of semantically quibbling, let me propose something specific to illustrate the point: let me be constructively vague:

In the real world, an intelligence analyst may spend a lot of effort on establishing inference chains (A -> B; B & C -> D; giving a concrete example is apparently against Enworld policy but hopefully you can think of one, either ancient or modern) without knowing if the underlying suppositions A and C are true. Intelligence agencies can produce wrong conclusions because they are wrong about the facts. GMs are never in that position. GMs can only be wrong about whether A -> B, not about whether A.

GMs have access to knowledge about everybody's motives, who's paying off whom, where everybody keeps their wealth, etc. They are never wrong about such things. You are correct that they may be MISSING information that hasn't been created yet, but never being WRONG is still an enormous advantage that the CIA can only wish it had.

Do you disagree?
Yes, on several levels.
  1. On the presupposition of GMs having the role of keeper of secrets; a role not inherent to all forms of roleplaying. Most especially oracle-in-GM'd play such as one of the explicitly expected modes for Ironsworn.
  2. On the level of using published material. GM's routinely get things clearly wrong.
  3. On the level that the GM is likely to forget some previously established facts.
 

Micah Sweet

Level Up & OSR Enthusiast
You're vastly overstating things here. It's not anywhere close to being a recipe for railroading. It's merely 1 ingredient among several that when put together become the recipe for a railroad, and even then it still needs to be cooked to become a railroad.
To be fair, they said they think that it's a recipe for railroading, not that it objectively is such.
 

Thomas Shey

Legend
I am not really speaking to the cohort who put themselves on pedestal. Doing so regardless of your agenda makes you an ass. I am speaking to the cohort of players who does not do that but seeks emotional intensity and takes their play self seriously. Yet still gets accused of elitism on a consistent basis just because of what they desire/aim for.

Well, we're somewhat talking past each other then, but I'll just note that the terms the latter use can matter. One of the things I've observed in all kinds of contexts is that gamers as a group are not always good at avoiding semantic loading, and are prone to doubling down when called on it. So its entirely possible not to be viewing what you're doing as elitist posturing and still come off like you are. I can't speak for how frequently this is the case, since I haven't seen examples of it or anyone accusing someone of it in many years prior to some passing examples in this thread.
 

Voidrunner's Codex

Remove ads

Top