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  1. - Top - End - #121
    Dwarf in the Playground
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    Default Re: Mechanics vs interpretation based RPG systems

    Quote Originally Posted by Quertus View Post
    Obviously. So let me try to be more clear.



    Huh. Well, here's the first disconnect.

    So, the issue is that there are three states (a "false trinary", perhaps) being discussed. These states are:

    #1 - Hard-coded box; outside the box does not exist / is not allowed. (Candyland, MtG, Battletech)

    #2 - Big box; outside the box is allowed. (3e combat, 3e character creation)

    #3 - Little box; outside the box is allowed (5e skills)

    #4 - Spanish Inquisition special: no box.

    Now, "big" and "little" are subjective as written above; however, I defined "big" as "adequate to play the game entirely within the box, without ever asking for a ruling". (I think. Darn senility)

    #1 describes war games, card games, board games… but not really RPGs. Which is why I claim 4e isn't even an RPG.

    So, afaict, this thread is really discussing the spectrum of games that includes #2 & #3.

    And, what you are referencing here is you mistaking my description of (the effects of) #2 for #1.
    Alright, that distinction helps. I agree we should be discussing #2 and #3 and that #1 disqualifies a game for being considered a TTRPG.

    The players having oversight to say, "this works this way" is what allows

    A) the GM the opportunity to learn; and

    B) the game to be run consistently and in accordance with expectations while the GM is learning how to play Candyland.
    I'd argue that someone who can't understand Candyland isn't fit to be a GM in the first place and no amount of rules will change that. But to address your actual point, yes, a new GM will have a harder time making up rules for something that isn't predefined. It makes sense to minimize how many situations of that kind can arise during play in the first place. The solution for that doesn't have to be to create exact rules for everything in advance, however. It's probably more effective to make one very clear and simple rule that teaches you how to deal with that situation. So the solution is not more rules but broader rules.

    Pretend I didn't know the word "railroad" when I coined the phrase and claimed that "GMs wanting something" was the root of most RPG evil.

    Of course, I still use that phrase to describe the *source* of the scourge known as railroading.



    Even if that were what I was talking about, I think that this would still be wrong. No, your Rook cannot jump your Knight like in checkers… and that fact should not limit the ability to learn chess, or limit the ability of the game of chess to be coherent.
    Chess falls under our established #1 and doesn't count as an RPG. That doesn't change that in an RPG rules should be as consistent as in any other game, of course.

    So glad you brought up my history of hatred for railroading - it means that you should have the background to understand what I'm saying. Apologies to the folks at home who lack this background, if this doesn't make as much sense.

    First off, the operative phrase isn't "plot", it's "the GM's plot".

    "The GM's plot" is… "the module". It's the campaign notes, including the intended outcome of certain elements. If their campaign notes say, "and then the tree runs 50' to block the door", no, that is not a valid move for a tree, even if the enemy sorceress has cast "Charm Monster" on it (which is itself *also* not a valid move).

    When the rules are layed out, you can teach the GM how to play the game.

    When the rules are not layed out, you are left with whatever nonsense makes sense to the GM… or whatever nonsense they choose to pull to force the encounter to stay on the rails.

    Even rails as light as "but I wanted this to be a challenge".
    I agree and disagree at the same time. If the rules are laid out, you can teach the GM how the mechanics works. Knowledge of the mechanics is certainly the baseline a GM needs to have. That doesn't necessarily prevent railroading, however.
    What prevents railroading is the GM realizing a number of things that are divorced from mechanics:

    • The players are the protagonists
      I consider this the most important rule I follow when GMing. Whatever happens, whatever story ideas I have, however much I love my NPCs, the story is fundamentally about what the players do. NPCs are allowed to have a story; they're allowed to do things, they can help or advise. But NPCs are not who solve problems and they don't decide where the story goes.
    • The GM does not provide solutions
      As a GM, I throw my players into situations. I tell them what is currently going on around them; and then I pull back and let them decide how to deal with that situation. For a particular scene, I know how it starts, because that's what my job as a GM entails. But I don't know how that scene ends, because that depends on what the players do. Often, I don't even have a solution for a specific problem in mind. I'll see what the players come up with, consider what the result would be and roll with it.
    • No piece is irreplacable
      No matter how important any NPC, villain or other part of the story is, if they get killed or removed any other way, the story still continues. This leads back to bullet point 1. It's the PC's story; if a specific villain gets killed "prematurely" (technically not possible, bullet point #2 already covers that I don't know for certain at what point the villain gets killed), then the story of that villain is over. But the villain wasn't the protagonist. The PCs are, and they are still there. As long as the PCs exist, we have a story. Just let them follow whatever plot hook they want, and if they don't like any that's already there, provide a few more. Or even better, consider what the villains death means for his underlings and/or associates and follow that direction.


    I could probably come up with more guidelines, but I'd have to consider more deeply the things I do intuitively. But the point is, you can't teach this through mechanics, because none of it has to do with mechanics. It's the GM realizing that RPG is a collaborative effort, and that he is not required to control everything. A game I recently got a hold of (the Sentinels Comic RPG) calls the GM the "Game Moderator" for that very reason. They wanted to make clear that the GM is not the master of the game but just the arbiter who brings the pieces together.
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  2. - Top - End - #122
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    Tanarii's Avatar

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    Default Re: Mechanics vs interpretation based RPG systems

    Quote Originally Posted by Quertus View Post
    Or 5e level of "eh, pick a number"
    5e isn't any more "eh, pick a number" than any other system with a default TN and difficulty modifier.

    I don't like that the default TN is DC 15 instead of DC 10, but that's neither here nor there,

    Other rules that use a default TN with some kind with a difficulty modifier, off the top of my head:
    Warhammer (FRP & 40k), Exalted, Mutant Zero / Forbidden Lands, Traveller

    Rules that don't:
    Palladium, pre-3e D&D, PbtA

  3. - Top - End - #123
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    BarbarianGuy

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    Default Re: Mechanics vs interpretation based RPG systems

    Quote Originally Posted by Tanarii View Post
    Other rules that use a default TN with some kind with a difficulty modifier, off the top of my head:
    Warhammer (FRP & 40k), Exalted, Mutant Zero / Forbidden Lands, Traveller
    oWoD set a standard difficulty of 7 for its d10 dice pool system. The GM was allowed to modify it circumstantially as desired. In practice, when I ran my old Werewolf game, I almost never deviated from it because figuring out probability with that system was a major PITA.

    The current WoD locks the difficulty at 6 for all tasks, and it's the number of "successes" (d10 results of 6 or greater) that is used as a situational modifier. It's better (at least on paper -- I haven't played it) but in the end it's still "eh, pick a number."
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  4. - Top - End - #124
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    Default Re: Mechanics vs interpretation based RPG systems

    Quote Originally Posted by Tanarii View Post
    5e isn't any more "eh, pick a number" than any other system with a default TN and difficulty modifier.

    I don't like that the default TN is DC 15 instead of DC 10, but that's neither here nor there,

    Other rules that use a default TN with some kind with a difficulty modifier, off the top of my head:
    Warhammer (FRP & 40k), Exalted, Mutant Zero / Forbidden Lands, Traveller

    Rules that don't:
    Palladium, pre-3e D&D, PbtA
    Upto a point. 5E does have defined DCs for many things, for everything except one particular subset of rules where it is "eh, pick a number".
    Quote Originally Posted by OgresAreCute View Post
    "Welcome to Dungeons and Dragons fifth edition, where the DCs are made up and the rules don't matter."

  5. - Top - End - #125
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    Default Re: Mechanics vs interpretation based RPG systems

    Quote Originally Posted by EggKookoo View Post
    oWoD set a standard difficulty of 7 for its d10 dice pool system. The GM was allowed to modify it circumstantially as desired. In practice, when I ran my old Werewolf game, I almost never deviated from it because figuring out probability with that system was a major PITA.

    The current WoD locks the difficulty at 6 for all tasks, and it's the number of "successes" (d10 results of 6 or greater) that is used as a situational modifier. It's better (at least on paper -- I haven't played it) but in the end it's still "eh, pick a number."
    I recall it being 6 back in the oWoD days, it may have become 7 for a while, then gone back to 6.

    Will get out the books and look later.
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  6. - Top - End - #126
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    BarbarianGuy

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    Default Re: Mechanics vs interpretation based RPG systems

    Quote Originally Posted by Max_Killjoy View Post
    I recall it being 6 back in the oWoD days, it may have become 7 for a while, then gone back to 6.

    Will get out the books and look later.
    It could have been, that was a long time ago. I have my W:tA book somewhere around...

    But still, I think the difficulty was variable per the GM, whereas now the number of required successes is the variable. But again, I haven't played any nWoD.
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  7. - Top - End - #127
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    Default Re: Mechanics vs interpretation based RPG systems

    Quote Originally Posted by Pex View Post
    Upto a point. 5E does have defined DCs for many things, for everything except one particular subset of rules where it is "eh, pick a number".
    It's TN 15 (Medium) modified for difficulty. Same as many other systems.

  8. - Top - End - #128
    Ettin in the Playground
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    Default Re: Mechanics vs interpretation based RPG systems

    Quote Originally Posted by Morgaln View Post
    Alright, that distinction helps. I agree we should be discussing #2 and #3 and that #1 disqualifies a game for being considered a TTRPG.
    Cool.

    Quote Originally Posted by Morgaln View Post
    I'd argue that someone who can't understand Candyland isn't fit to be a GM in the first place and no amount of rules will change that. But to address your actual point, yes, a new GM will have a harder time making up rules for something that isn't predefined. It makes sense to minimize how many situations of that kind can arise during play in the first place. The solution for that doesn't have to be to create exact rules for everything in advance, however. It's probably more effective to make one very clear and simple rule that teaches you how to deal with that situation. So the solution is not more rules but broader rules.
    … my concern is primarily, "can the entire game be played successfully with exactly 0 'rulings'?"; ie, is the body of rules sufficient to play the game.

    Of secondary importance is, "how large is the area covered by the rules?".

    Like, you could *technically* play (most of) 3e if only AC, HP, attack, and damage rules were covered, and everything else - movement, healing, spells, saving throws, DCs, CR, treasure, etc were all "eh, make something up".

    Or you could replace "attack & damage" with "grapple", and still be able to play through (most of) 3e while sticking to choices entirely within the box.

    In neither case would the game have much variety, though.

    Whereas, if the only rules that were covered were… holding your breath, mounting and dismounting, threatened areas, and Attacks of Opportunity, and everything else were, "eh, make something up", you've still got 4 rules, but they stunt get you very far, and tend to only cover edge cases.

    What's nice is when the rules a) cover everything necessary to play the game while remaining entirely "within the box"; b) allow depth of options within the box at certain key junctures. Maybe that's attack vs attack for subdual damage vs grapple vs all-out defense. Maybe that's attack vs bribe vs intimidate vs flee. Maybe that's attack vs sneak past vs go around. Maybe that's attack vs ignore vs hire someone else to deal with it. It depends on the game as to which will be more valuable to flesh out, and which can be more easily relegated to, "eh, that's outside the box thinking - make something up".

    Quote Originally Posted by Morgaln View Post
    I agree and disagree at the same time. If the rules are laid out, you can teach the GM how the mechanics works. Knowledge of the mechanics is certainly the baseline a GM needs to have. That doesn't necessarily prevent railroading, however.
    What prevents railroading is the GM realizing a number of things that are divorced from mechanics:

    • The players are the protagonists
      I consider this the most important rule I follow when GMing. Whatever happens, whatever story ideas I have, however much I love my NPCs, the story is fundamentally about what the players do. NPCs are allowed to have a story; they're allowed to do things, they can help or advise. But NPCs are not who solve problems and they don't decide where the story goes.
    • The GM does not provide solutions
      As a GM, I throw my players into situations. I tell them what is currently going on around them; and then I pull back and let them decide how to deal with that situation. For a particular scene, I know how it starts, because that's what my job as a GM entails. But I don't know how that scene ends, because that depends on what the players do. Often, I don't even have a solution for a specific problem in mind. I'll see what the players come up with, consider what the result would be and roll with it.
    • No piece is irreplacable
      No matter how important any NPC, villain or other part of the story is, if they get killed or removed any other way, the story still continues. This leads back to bullet point 1. It's the PC's story; if a specific villain gets killed "prematurely" (technically not possible, bullet point #2 already covers that I don't know for certain at what point the villain gets killed), then the story of that villain is over. But the villain wasn't the protagonist. The PCs are, and they are still there. As long as the PCs exist, we have a story. Just let them follow whatever plot hook they want, and if they don't like any that's already there, provide a few more. Or even better, consider what the villains death means for his underlings and/or associates and follow that direction.


    I could probably come up with more guidelines, but I'd have to consider more deeply the things I do intuitively. But the point is, you can't teach this through mechanics, because none of it has to do with mechanics. It's the GM realizing that RPG is a collaborative effort, and that he is not required to control everything. A game I recently got a hold of (the Sentinels Comic RPG) calls the GM the "Game Moderator" for that very reason. They wanted to make clear that the GM is not the master of the game but just the arbiter who brings the pieces together.
    Sure. Less "teaches them to be a good GM", more "forces them to see some of the ways that they are a bad GM / need to up their game". It facilitates the conversation wherein you attempt to teach those lessons that you listed above (or others like them, at least - I doubt, for example, that I've ever used that specific list).

    But having clear rules lets the game run smoothly *despite* their failings in those regards. And, more to my original point, teaches them that "and then the 0-level goblin kills 20 ancient dragons" or "and then the tree moves to block the door, because the Sorceress Charmed it" does not match the fiction.

    Quote Originally Posted by EggKookoo View Post
    It could have been, that was a long time ago. I have my W:tA book somewhere around...

    But still, I think the difficulty was variable per the GM, whereas now the number of required successes is the variable. But again, I haven't played any nWoD.
    IME, WoD (oWoD) had both DC and number of successes required be variable - leading to me really not wanting to roll in that system¹, because in *most* places, it was very poorly defined how those should be set.

    ¹ until the GM started giving free XP for any skill used, or something like that. Then I could pretend that it was worthwhile to pick up the (very traitorous²) dice.
    ² one of my charters technically died in their awakening, where they triple-botched a "stay alive" roll. And it didn't get much better from there³.
    ³ Except for the time that the GM called "diff 10", and I responded with "<roll> <roll> <roll> (hooray for exploding 10's)… 5 successes."

  9. - Top - End - #129
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    BarbarianGuy

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    Default Re: Mechanics vs interpretation based RPG systems

    Quote Originally Posted by Quertus View Post
    IME, WoD (oWoD) had both DC and number of successes required be variable - leading to me really not wanting to roll in that system¹, because in *most* places, it was very poorly defined how those should be set.
    Looking back at it, the GM was also meant to add or remove dice from the player's pool to account for various situational modifiers. WoD had a lot of levers but it was never clear what they actually did.
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  10. - Top - End - #130
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    Default Re: Mechanics vs interpretation based RPG systems

    I never changed number of dice, I only played with the difficulty sometimes. Some rules required additional successes to do certain things.
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