Two timelines, plus assenting to something you don't like

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Two timelines, plus assenting to something you don't like
« on: October 22, 2015, 03:51:04 PM »
Here's a scene. I'm the Paladin.

Thief: I'm looking for traps.
GM: You found one. It's a magical rune inscribed on one of the tiles on the floor. It's like a ward against intruders.
Thief: I've got a move called Disarm Traps. Can I use that?
GM: Sure! Roll +Dex
Paladin (me): Whoa. You're 'disarming' a magical ward? How? What are you actually doing?
GM: Oh you know... we'll figure that out after we see how the roll comes out.

Okay. A couple of things going on here.

Assenting to something you don't like... This is the minor thing. I'm the one objecting to the thief 'disarming' a magical ward. But, you know, the other player didn't mind it, obviously. And the GM didn't mind either; maybe he just wanted to give the thief a trap and when it was his turn to talk he accidentally let his imagination get ahead of him until suddenly, it's not just a 'trap' -- it's a cool magical ward. So yeah, there was some social pressure and thus I didn't put up a lot of resistance.

The two timelines...
Here's Vincent on Two Timelines: http://lumpley.com/index.php/anyway/thread/695
Here's another one: http://lumpley.com/index.php/anyway/thread/696

In my example, here's the fictional timeline:
The thief looks around, finds a trap, and disarms it through some interesting means.

In the real timeline, the exchange I described above happens between the players and GM, then we roll, then we retroactively narrate both what the thief tried as well as its effect.

Here's an alternate real timeline: the thief player describes what they attempt, then we roll dice, then whoever is supposed to interpret the results does so and we find out what happens as a consequence of the thief's attempt.

Both of these real timelines result in the same fictional timeline. The game didn't break down because our real timeline was the first one and not the second one. And yet! And yet -- man! I really hate that first real timeline and prefer the second one.

So, discussion points:
1. Let's ignore whether the GM made a good or bad call regarding letting the thief disarm a magical trap. Instead...
2. Let's talk about assenting to things you don't like. Vincent, I've tried to be more conscious of this since last week or whenever you mentioned it to me. I'm not sure how much it happens in my group, but on reflection I can think of a few times in the past it's happened. And obviously last night it happened for this example.
3. Also, let's talk about the various 'real' timelines I described (one that actually happened, and the alternative one that I would have preferred to have happened). You can ignore my actual play example and sub one in of your own, if you want. I'm interested in where yall stand in terms of what needs to be established before the roll vs after it. Is it okay to retroactively describe the specifics of your attempted action after you roll? Like 'Huh, I guess I tried to pour water on it and that obviously didn't work because I got a 6.'
« Last Edit: October 22, 2015, 04:21:16 PM by ColdLogic »

Re: Two timelines, plus assenting to something you don't like
« Reply #1 on: October 23, 2015, 05:20:10 AM »
Okay, so two topics.

Assenting: This is a sliding scale thing. On the one hand you shouldn't try to get everything your way, but on another you probably shouldn't play in a game that consistently works in a way you don't like. I was in a game recently, which seemed too focused on combat balance over player choice. I commented on it to the GM, and he made some changes, but it wasn't really enough. So I ended up leaving the game. I don't necessarily think the GM was doing anything wrong. The other players were having a great time. But it wasn't the right game for me.

So, assent if something is below your threshold. Comment on it if it is not, and try to reach a compromise, or a situation that is outright better for everyone (maybe everyone would actually prefer the second timeline). And stop commenting before you reach the asshole threshold where you are lowering the others enjoyment to raise yours. At that point you either need to decide that you didn't care that much anyway, or find a group that better meets your needs. (Which might end up being the same group playing a different campaign or rulesystem)

Timelines: I definitely prefer the second also, but there are also times for the first. But the second by default, definitely. Thief wants to use Disarm traps? Sure, okay. "But what do you do?" Another way to look at the situation (instead of fictional vs real timeline) is that we are looking at a mechanics vs fiction issue. The Alexandrian had a blog post about it just a few days ago: http://thealexandrian.net/wordpress/37976/roleplaying-games/art-of-rulings-part-3-the-fiction-mechanics-cycle

So the thief starts of by implementing mechanics, and after the check the GM comes in with the fiction. Usually I'd want the thief to provide fiction also in these cases, but in this case it might actually be hard, since the player doesn't necessarily know what would work for disarming wards in this setting. So it is up to the GM to provide the fiction, or at least help with that.

Thief: I've got a move called Disarm Traps. Can I use that?
GM: Sure! Roll +Dex
Thief: I succeed
GM: Okay, so you pull your divining rods out from your kit of thief's tools, and disrupt the magical aura around the ward for long enough that you can smudge out part of the rune without activating it.

or maybe

Thief: I've got a move called Disarm Traps. Can I use that?
GM: Yeah, sure, you know how to disarm magical runes such as these. You need to smudge out the rune, but first you need to disrupt the magical aura. You've got some gear for that in your thief's tools.
Thief: Okay, I pull out the necessary tools and try to disrupt the aura. And.. I succeed.
GM: Okay, so you manage to disrupt the magical aura around the ward, and then quickly smudge out part of the rune.

But I wouldn't respond well to "Oh you know... we'll figure that out after we see how the roll comes out." either. That's the real sin as I see it in this situation. The GM should preferably have at least an idea about what is happening in the fiction, before the roll. Otherwise he has no idea whether the thing might be possible to begin with. And if reality depends on the dice rolles, then player choice loses meaning, with everything coming down to whether you have the right moves and manage your dice rolls.

Re: Two timelines, plus assenting to something you don't like
« Reply #2 on: October 23, 2015, 11:37:31 AM »
Aha! Excellent, Rubberduck!

In reality, our actual play was similar to what you said about the thief player not really having an idea of what to do to disarm a magical ward, and the GM waived it off until the roll and then helped come up with things the thief could have tried. But this speaks to some of my concern over that timeline:
Quote
The GM should preferably have at least an idea about what is happening in the fiction, before the roll. Otherwise he has no idea whether the thing might be possible to begin with. And if reality depends on the dice rolles, then player choice loses meaning, with everything coming down to whether you have the right moves and manage your dice rolls.

Also, having 'no idea whether the thing might be possible' was exactly what prompted me, in the example, to push for concrete details, obviously. The GM just didn't pick up on that, or sympathize with it, either/or. And that's my other concern -- leaving the concrete details of a player's actions until after the roll will possibly increase the likelihood of things I don't like happening in the future. More disarming magical traps or whatever.

I have more to say about assent, from a different angle, but I need to write up a different play example. I'm interested in assent when a) the rules say you have the authority, but you assent instead and also b) you're assenting to something you don't really like.


*

lumpley

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Re: Two timelines, plus assenting to something you don't like
« Reply #3 on: October 23, 2015, 12:16:05 PM »
Remember that when the rules say that you have the authority, it's not really true. All authority in all RPGs is always contingent on the immediate, moment-to-moment, actively negotiated assent of the group.

-Vincent

Re: Two timelines, plus assenting to something you don't like
« Reply #4 on: October 26, 2015, 11:22:49 AM »
^ yeah of course you'd say that, Vincent lol! Your saying that is what has me looking for it in my own play.

Here's a scene. I'm the MC.

Chopper: [rolls the harm move] I got 7.
MC (me): Okay, so yeah, while you and your gang are fighting the advance raiding party, you collide with one of the buzzard buggies. You go flying, and maybe black out for a second? When you get your wits about you, you're on the ground in the middle of the battle, pinned under your bike. Like, it's laying in such a way that you're not crushed under it or anything, just pinned. What do you do?
Battlebabe: Oh, wouldn't it be cool if right now your dead wife came to you in a vision again?
MC (me): Eh... I dunno.
The rest of the table: Oh hell yeah! She should show up and give him a raw deal to get him out of this jam.
MC (me): Eh... okay. So yeah, from where you're at it's all chaos and smoke and diesel and, you know, fumes. And you know how the psychic maelstrom is always scratching at the corner of your senses? Well, I guess it's going to rip open your brain right now. So roll that...?

Ignore for now if my calls as MC were doing it right or whatever.

Assent v authority:
I'm the MC, the rules imply I'm supposed to be saying 'what happens next' or whatever, and a traditional RPG would even make that more explicit. But in this case, the players have pitched an idea. They want to see another scene where the chopper's dead wife shows up, and they want her to give him a hard bargain of some kind in exchange for helping him in whatever way. We've already established she's a malevolent agent of some kind in the maelstrom, but we haven't gone much further than that. I'm not particularly keen on seeing that crop up at this time, but the table is pretty in love with it, so I went with it. It turned out to be great. Actually, it turned out that once I looked at how things had been going, the chopper's dead wife had a lot to be restless about -- in particular, she felt wronged by two other PCs! So the hard bargain wrote itself once I thought about it for a minute. And we would have totally missed this very awesome development if I had, you know, focused on 'no I'm the one who gets to come up with that kind of thing' or whatever.

Oh, here's the real timeline for this one: the chopper player gets harmed, rolls the harm move, and loses his footing (maybe as MC I went overboard there, whatever). The table decides his dead wife will appear in the maelstrom and give him a raw deal. I decide this will happen as a result of him opening his brain, in addition to whatever the results of that move dictate. Then he opens his brain and we retroactively map what we've decided (the dead wife showing up) onto the results of that roll. Then I come up with the particulars of the raw deal. So, a little backwards compared to my preferred timeline in the OP. Weird.

Here's another scene, from maybe the first RPG I ever played. I'm the DM.

DM (me): So your people live underground. You're in your cave, going through the private, ceremonial cleansing that you all do when you're preparing for your rite of passage to be a member of the hunting class.
Player: what? No, my people don't live underground! We're cat people! We live in trees.
DM (me): Uh, I'm the DM. I get to say what the world is like, and that includes the cat people. You get to say what you do.
[some arguing ensues]
GM: Fine; your people live in these massive trees...

In this second example, two things. First, I had never played an RPG before, and here I am going to jump in and run one. So I was inexperienced. Second, the D&D community and the rule books were pretty big on rule zero -- whatever the DM says, goes. I might have even quoted that in my protest to this player. I did relent to this player's protest, but not without causing needless arguing and social upset first.

So, takeaways maybe? I guess the question in all this rambling is: what's a good, streamlined rule that preserves the player and MC responsibilities as we traditionally think of them while also encouraging players and MCs to run with a) MC-ish contributions from players and b) player-ish contributions from the MC (or from other players)? The unspoken rule in play nowadays when I run a game is: if the table pitches something that encroaches on my responsibilities, don't casually dismiss it. Instead, embrace their contribution and try to find something in it that's interesting to me. It's not exactly be a fan of the PCs... it more like be a fan of the table's ideas.

 
« Last Edit: October 26, 2015, 11:27:51 AM by ColdLogic »

Re: Two timelines, plus assenting to something you don't like
« Reply #5 on: October 26, 2015, 11:40:42 AM »
Haha just noticed that while I'm searching my brain for play examples for this thread, I realized a lot of my 'statements' as MC are actually questions. You can't tell from my transcripts above, and I'm not quoting verbatim what was said for the purposes of these examples. But in play, I'm usually ending sentences with a question mark, and the implied question is some version of: 'Does that sound right? Does that sound reasonable to you? Does that make sense?' In other words: 'Is that okay?'