A Monster for Every Season: Summer 2
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    Default Re: Different RPG systems

    Quote Originally Posted by Xervous View Post
    Got an illustrative example on hand?
    In Masks your connections with other people can be of great help to you. You can go back to your parents' house and kick back to heal off some conditions, you can go on a date with your girlfriend or work out with your gym buddies to get a much-needed refresher and change your stats, working with your mentor can make you more skilled and earn the respect of established superheroes, your character's relationships are sources of support, plot hooks, all kinds of things, backed up by rules for the GM to follow concerning utilizing those elements and playbooks that codify backstory elements into part of your character's powers and moves.

    I played in a game of Masks where my character's position as the child of a prominent supervillain was just as much one of her superpowers as her ability to transform into animals. There's a lot of fun stuff like that.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Anonymouswizard View Post
    It doesn't help that I own three King Arthur RPGs with very different takes.
    It also doesn't help that there's at least that many versions of the legend, not including modern re-workings or actual scholarship.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Telok View Post
    It also doesn't help that there's at least that many versions of the legend, not including modern re-workings or actual scholarship.
    Sadly people are more familiar with the French versions, whereas in interested in the Briton Warlord. Still, it makes the study of it interesting.
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    So here I am, trapped in my laboratory, trying to create a Mechabeast that's powerful enough to take down the howling horde outside my door, but also won't join them once it realizes what I've done...twentieth time's the charm, right?
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    How about a Jovian Uplift stuck in a Case morph? it makes so little sense.

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    On a new note I realized something, D&D has started importing more narrative/story mechanics. Its baby steps so far, but increasing.

    Now in the following stuff I'm talking about how the rule sets interacted with the metagame and player tactics. As always a DM could ignore rules or make up stuff to fix whatever they wanted. But none of my DMs post AD&D ever did that, they ran the D&D systems assuming that abandoning and rewriting chunks wasn't required.

    So, OD&D and AD&D ran monsters basically like any other character. Some movement, one action, resistances, maybe special abilities, ac, hp, saves, etc. Things generally worked, or maybe nobody knew there were issues. Then we got 3.x, with the unlimited Con bonus, general increases in hp scaling, monsters with weak saves, and lack of real magic resistance past low levels. Players, in particular players with magic user characters, started using less hp damage and more save-or-suck & no-save-just-suck. This was a rational reaction to an increase in monster hp without an equal increase in pc damage, plus the introduction of weak saves & more caster power in the form of more spells/casting. It wasn't typically an issue at lower levels, but it became a real problem in encounter design at mid to high levels and was especially problematic with "boss" or single big monsters.

    4e came along and everyone got damage + rider abilities on a similar schedule. The combat numbers were generally right except for a lot of "solo/boss" monsters. They suffered a few issues; vulnerability to repeated application of status effects, the one or two low defenses that got autohit, that all the interesting things happened in the first 3-4 rounds and then devolved into a tedious slog through the remaining hp on both sides. Of course now nobody really had those save-or-lose type effects, which made everything a hp based race to the bottom without any other way out. Player tactics were, again, just a logical response. Unless you could functionally "stun/debuff lock" a solo then the only thing to do was burn through the hp as fast as possible, which meant use all your best stuff as fast as possible hoping to finish early, then slog through the remaining hp.

    Now comes 5e, where the 4e solo/boss is "legendary". The mechanics of which are designed to emulate the "boss fight" scenes seen in contemporary fiction & video games. Legendary saves exist to shut down the save-or-lose types of effects, not because a 1 rolled on a save is "not a good fight", but because the designers want a narrative fight that lasts a while and doesn't always start (and probably end) with the casters opening big spells. Its also because the casters are assured of having enough spells of their choice, getting the spells off safely, and being able to target those low saves that never really get better any more. Lair actions are right of video games & movies.

    The "legendary" monsters getting extra actions that scale with the number of people in the fight is both part of a patch for the ever increasing hp, and emulates action movies where 'team hero' is shown in essentially a series of one-on-one clips fighting the big bad. The movie thing is done because sections of the audience can only keep track of 2 or 3 characters at a time across the series of 2-5 second close action shots in the fight. There simply isn't enough time in the short close shots for the audience to identify and comprehend more than two characters having one interaction. The hp inflation has a part to play too. While fighter hp may only have slightly more than doubled, the unbounded Con bonuses and other increases have had more effect on other classes. Think, an AD&D high level fighter with 100 hp is legitimately threatened by a monster with two 2d10 attacks that takes the pcs 5 rounds to down, and the wiz, thief, cleric with 50, 60, 70 hp really don't want to take those hits. In modern D&D that fighter might have 200 hp, but the wizard is up to 130-150 and the other classes may run 150-170. Simply doubling your monster's damage to 2d10+20 may still threaten the fighter but its become relatively less dangerous to the others who can, thanks to iterated changes over the editions, not only take nearly as many hits as the fighter but also match or even exceed the fighter's defenses. Those 2x 2d10 might have scared a party of total 280 hp where only half the pcs had decent ac, but a 2x 2d10+20 is much less of a threat to a party of total 650 hp where everyone has fighter+ defenses.

    Legendary resistance is a DM metacurrency for stopping pc actions that might shortcut the "story" of the fight. The lair actions are just to emulate the ability for a video game boss to interact with an otherwise static background, again to improve the "story" of the fight. The legendary actions are both a patch for the continual power-ups of each edition and an emulation of the current style of action movie "team vs boss" fight.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Vahnavoi View Post
    @Xervous: Amber comes to mind, and Gods of Olympus. They're god games, but more importantly for this topic, they're games where player characters are all part of the same big, dysfunctional family.

    Though this is a thing that is borderline trivial to solve on the level of scenario design. Nothing actually stops a dungeon master prefacing a game with "all your characters are parts of the same noble family, GO!". Or, if a dungeon master is silent on the issue, nothing stops the players from agreeing with each other "hey, lets all play members of the same family!". Nevermind that in BECMI and AD&D, hiring retainers and henchmen and getting land to your name was codified part of the game progression, so all characters you played in a campaign after the very first one naturally came to exist in a framework where they had allies and other characters to rely on for support...
    In the only Amber game I ever played to completion, Benedict swore the Oath of the Unicorn to me, and also romanced my daughter. I don't recall their being any relevance of that after the fun of the initial set-up.
    Last edited by Corey; 2021-09-09 at 06:02 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Zuras View Post
    Question for GMs out there who have experience with multiple systems.

    Are there any particular systems that you've used that you felt gave you a completely different viewpoint on how RPGs work? I've been playing a lot of Fate over the last year, and the way it pares down the system gave me a much better sense when the story was dragging or when there were pacing problems. Now when I'm running my D&D 5e games, I have a much higher comfort level with my players improv--not because I ever disliked giving them narrative freedom, but after a year of playing Fate, I have much greater confidence in my feel for when the story is veering from our collective reality narrative.

    What games have opened your eyes the most to new possibilities? I'm asking because I'm not familiar with exactly how different other games like the Storyteller System, HERO, and others are from D&D--I've played GURPS before too, and I happily mine it for mechanical ideas at times, but it didn't really change my perspective on D&D, the way Fate did.
    I’m sure it’s been said and discussed here by now, but many games with the Powered by the Apocalypse (PbtA) label take a completely different approach to the medium than D&D and other traditional games. One big difference is that they don’t conceptualise the game world as something that exists independently of the players and game, with the PCs being dropped into it. Instead the game world, including the characters and their backstories, is much more indeterminate until it’s made real through actual play. Nothing is canon until it’s spoken at the table (and even then players don’t tend discourage each other from retconning as much).

    Another difference is how they handle character stats. Where D&D has very definite physical and mental qualities as stats, Apocalypse World (for example) has stats more along the lines of character traits or narrative tropes. Like, you don’t have Strength or Constitution but you have Hard, which just means… hard. In the Vinnie Jones sense. It implies strength and toughness but it really just means you don’t want to mess with this person.
    Last edited by HidesHisEyes; 2021-09-22 at 07:45 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by HidesHisEyes View Post
    Instead the game world, including the characters and their backstories, is much more indeterminate until it’s made real through actual play. Nothing is canon until it’s spoken at the table (and even then players don’t tend discourage each other from retconning as much).
    I feel this is overstated. In most PbtA games, some level of GM prep is invited (look at Monster of the Week, specifically).

    And that "grey area" exists in all games, frankly. There are huge swaths of world in every game, no matter how traditional, that are unknown until acted on.

    PbtA games embrace this fact more than a lot of traditional games, but it's a thing that exists everywhere.
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    Quote Originally Posted by kyoryu View Post
    I feel this is overstated. In most PbtA games, some level of GM prep is invited (look at Monster of the Week, specifically).

    And that "grey area" exists in all games, frankly. There are huge swaths of world in every game, no matter how traditional, that are unknown until acted on.

    PbtA games embrace this fact more than a lot of traditional games, but it's a thing that exists everywhere.
    Yeah that’s a good way of putting it actually. Or that a lot of traditional games - or the common culture of play in those games - seem to view it as a bit of a necessary evil. I do think it’s a distinguishing feature of the “philosophy of pbta” (insofar as such a thing exists).

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    That emphasis, however, makes the various systems suboptimal for the player who wants the sense of a world that could be real, that "exists" with or without their character or their participation. There's a big difference between the GM taking the PCs into account in the details, improvising based on the actions of the players and their PCs, adding meat to the bones as the players move around the world... and the player being an active participant in the creation of the world.

    This thing with games advising the GM to get the players to actively create the world as the campaign progresses shows up in a lot of systems now, and it's... greats for some gamers, and detrimental for others.
    Last edited by Max_Killjoy; 2021-09-22 at 10:15 AM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Max_Killjoy View Post
    That emphasis, however, makes the various systems suboptimal for the player who wants the sense of a world that could be real, that "exists" with or without their character or their participation. There's a big difference between the GM taking the PCs into account in the details, improvising based on the actions of the players and their PCs, adding meat to the bones as the players move around the world... and the player being an active participant in the creation of the world.

    This thing with games advising the GM to get the players to actively create the world as the campaign progresses shows up in a lot of systems now, and it's... greats for some gamers, and detrimental for others.
    For sure, it’s matter of taste. My preference is to have a session 1 or 0 using the “writer’s room” approach, where everyone contributes ideas and builds a setting and premise collaboratively - because I find this makes for a much more coherent starting point, whereas the players making their characters and the GM making “the campaign” in isolation means you have to awkwardly jam all those elements together later. But once the campaign gets going I like to default to a more traditional model where the GM has almost all the authority over the world outside the PCs. I’m a big fan of Dungeon World, but not into the thing many DW fans like where the GM says “you enter the Swamp of Ill Omens, why is it called that and what monster dwells here?” That ruins the experience for me as a player and I just can’t make myself do it as a GM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Max_Killjoy View Post
    That emphasis, however, makes the various systems suboptimal for the player who wants the sense of a world that could be real, that "exists" with or without their character or their participation. There's a big difference between the GM taking the PCs into account in the details, improvising based on the actions of the players and their PCs, adding meat to the bones as the players move around the world... and the player being an active participant in the creation of the world.

    This thing with games advising the GM to get the players to actively create the world as the campaign progresses shows up in a lot of systems now, and it's... greats for some gamers, and detrimental for others.
    While some PbtA games do that a lot, AW actually doesn't do that very much outside of the first session.

    In a lot of cases it can be less obnoxious by framing it appropriately. While I tend to run that type of game, I do most of that kind of stuff implicitly - I'm just more likely to use questions or assumptions people make as implicit assertions, rather than "okay, what do you find in the box?" kind of stuff (which I'm not super interested in).

    Quote Originally Posted by HidesHisEyes View Post
    not into the thing many DW fans like where the GM says “you enter the Swamp of Ill Omens, why is it called that and what monster dwells here?” That ruins the experience for me as a player and I just can’t make myself do it as a GM.
    I call that the "what's in the box?" question. And I'm not a fan of when the GM responds with "I dunno, you tell me." Not saying it's wrong, just not my flavor.

    I played in a game once where the GM did that with everything. It felt weird and stilted and awkward to me.

    The funny thing is that it's become this "thing" around PbtA games, and yet AW even only said it was a thing in the first session - basically, using that as a way of doing initial "world" creation together. It didn't have recommendations to continue that after the first session, but yet some people got the idea that it was a core tenet of the game.
    Last edited by kyoryu; 2021-09-22 at 11:34 AM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by kyoryu View Post
    While some PbtA games do that a lot, AW actually doesn't do that very much outside of the first session.

    In a lot of cases it can be less obnoxious by framing it appropriately. While I tend to run that type of game, I do most of that kind of stuff implicitly - I'm just more likely to use questions or assumptions people make as implicit assertions, rather than "okay, what do you find in the box?" kind of stuff (which I'm not super interested in).



    I call that the "what's in the box?" question. And I'm not a fan of when the GM responds with "I dunno, you tell me." Not saying it's wrong, just not my flavor.

    I played in a game once where the GM did that with everything. It felt weird and stilted and awkward to me.

    The funny thing is that it's become this "thing" around PbtA games, and yet AW even only said it was a thing in the first session - basically, using that as a way of doing initial "world" creation together. It didn't have recommendations to continue that after the first session, but yet some people got the idea that it was a core tenet of the game.
    Hell, I've seen PbtA advocates vehemently insist that "you tell me" is the ONLY "right" way to run any RPG.
    Last edited by Max_Killjoy; 2021-09-22 at 12:07 PM.
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  13. - Top - End - #283
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    Quote Originally Posted by Max_Killjoy View Post
    Hell, I've seen PbtA advocates vehemently insist that "you tell me" is the ONLY "right" way to run any RPG.
    Yup. I've seen the same thing around Fate. To the point where even the authors of the system chimed in and said "guys, what? Fate supports lots of stuff."

    it's not the only way to run an RPG. It's not the only way to run a "narrative" RPG. It's a preference, and some people have a strong preference, but they're wrong if they're saying it's the only valid style.

    Heck, AW even says the MC should always say: "What your prep demands." Soooooooo
    Last edited by kyoryu; 2021-09-22 at 12:54 PM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Max_Killjoy View Post
    Hell, I've seen PbtA advocates vehemently insist that "you tell me" is the ONLY "right" way to run any RPG.
    PbtA games have explored new territory and expanded the medium in marvellous ways - but the fans can be absolutely insufferable sometimes.

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    Quote Originally Posted by HidesHisEyes View Post
    PbtA games have explored new territory and expanded the medium in marvellous ways - but the fans can be absolutely insufferable sometimes.
    You could expand that statement for many games. And almost all fans
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    Default Re: Different RPG systems

    The only PbtA game I'm familiar with is Flying Circus, and that comes with a fairly detailed (albeit vague) setting. The author's working on porting the system to the RL First World War, which is by definition neither vague or non-detailed.

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    Yeah, arguing against Powered by the Apocalypse or Fate as a whole based on some extremists is kind of like blaming all of D&D because of one of those "DM is god, railroad or your campaign is meaningless" types. And there have been several of those on the forums over the years. And they can even quote rules and designer commentary that supports their position so they aren't making this up out of nothing.

    But they are still wrong.

    Maybe they can play these heavily railroaded campaigns and everyone at the table enjoys it. But I have played different campaigns that don't work like that at all. And so have a lot of other people, in D&D too. I have played Powered by the Apocalypse and I have run it. And it didn't work like that. So holding up a few quotes by some people who approach the game... oddly and saying the game works like that, it's absurd, guilt by association.

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    Quote Originally Posted by lacco36 View Post
    You could expand that statement for many games. And almost all fans
    True!

    Quote Originally Posted by Gnoman View Post
    The only PbtA game I'm familiar with is Flying Circus, and that comes with a fairly detailed (albeit vague) setting. The author's working on porting the system to the RL First World War, which is by definition neither vague or non-detailed.
    To be fair there are a lot of exceptions when you’re talking about PbtA. I suppose I’m really talking about “the common perception of what PbtA is supposed to be”, and maybe I should avoid doing so.

    But I would say that the setting of Flying Circus as you describe it (I’m familiar but haven’t played it) sounds pretty typical of PbtA games and I don’t think it undermines my point that much. The setting of the game, i mean the setting of the actual product that you buy, is defined but not concrete, right? That’s the case with Apocalypse World, Dungeon World, Masks and Urban Shadows. What I meant was that the specific setting *of a given campaign* typically isn’t assumed to exist independently of the players until things are said at the table.

    Quote Originally Posted by Cluedrew View Post
    Yeah, arguing against Powered by the Apocalypse or Fate as a whole based on some extremists is kind of like blaming all of D&D because of one of those "DM is god, railroad or your campaign is meaningless" types. And there have been several of those on the forums over the years. And they can even quote rules and designer commentary that supports their position so they aren't making this up out of nothing.

    But they are still wrong.

    Maybe they can play these heavily railroaded campaigns and everyone at the table enjoys it. But I have played different campaigns that don't work like that at all. And so have a lot of other people, in D&D too. I have played Powered by the Apocalypse and I have run it. And it didn't work like that. So holding up a few quotes by some people who approach the game... oddly and saying the game works like that, it's absurd, guilt by association.
    Oh yeah I wasn’t saying PbtA is bad because some of the fans are annoying. I do think it’s interesting to ask “what is it about PbtA games that causes fanatics to fixate on the idea of zero-prep and zero-canon specifically”, and by the same token “what is it about D&D that causes fanatics to fixate on railroading specifically”. But it’s in no way a point against the game.
    Last edited by HidesHisEyes; 2021-09-23 at 01:51 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by HidesHisEyes View Post
    Oh yeah I wasn’t saying PbtA is bad because some of the fans are annoying. I do think it’s interesting to ask “what is it about PbtA games that causes fanatics to fixate on the idea of zero-prep and zero-canon specifically”, and by the same token “what is it about D&D that causes fanatics to fixate on railroading specifically”. But it’s in no way a point against the game.
    Semi-snark: Because the people doing it enjoy it.

    PbtA: AW developed around the same time that so-called "storygames" really sprung up, and was adjacent to that movement. There's parts of AW (the first session) that do happen to run like that, even though that's kind of explicitly not the general guidance. Nonetheless, people ran with seeing what they wanted.

    D&D: I'd venture that most people get into D&D these days either through Organized Play (which tends to be railroady) or Adventure Paths (which tend to be railroady). There's also decades of advice that boil down to "railroad, but don't get caught", and while that advice mostly isn't repeated any more, lots of people internalized it and carried it forward.
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    Quote Originally Posted by kyoryu View Post
    D&D: I'd venture that most people get into D&D these days either through Organized Play (which tends to be railroady) or Adventure Paths (which tend to be railroady). There's also decades of advice that boil down to "railroad, but don't get caught", and while that advice mostly isn't repeated any more, lots of people internalized it and carried it forward.
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    Quote Originally Posted by lacco36 View Post
    You could expand that statement for many games. And almost all fans
    Wait, are you suggesting that a nerd-culture activity might include amongst its fanbase overly dedicated devotees with highly specific notions about how their favorite thing is supposed to be enjoyed, and perhaps incomplete social development?

    Quote Originally Posted by Cluedrew View Post
    Yeah, arguing against Powered by the Apocalypse or Fate as a whole based on some extremists is kind of like blaming all of D&D because of one of those "DM is god, railroad or your campaign is meaningless" types. And there have been several of those on the forums over the years. And they can even quote rules and designer commentary that supports their position so they aren't making this up out of nothing.

    But they are still wrong.
    Agreed. The game is the game and the fanbase (including the extremists, but also the rest of them quietly playing the game and enjoying it without making it a whole big thing) is another thing entirely and the two don't have to mix at all.

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    Quote Originally Posted by kyoryu View Post
    D&D: I'd venture that most people get into D&D these days either through Organized Play (which tends to be railroady) or Adventure Paths (which tend to be railroady). There's also decades of advice that boil down to "railroad, but don't get caught", and while that advice mostly isn't repeated any more, lots of people internalized it and carried it forward.
    I think in the time I've been on this forum I've seen railroading become more excepted, but with the idea that you should be open with your players about it.

    Most of the railroading I've experienced had been of the All Roads Lead To Rome style, with a varying degree of quantum ogring. Which still honestly can require a lot of improvisation if not as much as railroad classic.

    IRL I've seen one complaint related to railroading. It was when the GM didn't get to recite his prepared speech because we decided to explore an interesting location instead of immediately going to the one place that would further the plot*.

    Meanwhile all me to come up with an adventure outline and I flounder, I'm much better when I can go in with an issue and just react to what the players throw at the wall. I stopped running games like D&D and Shadowrun because improvisation took too much time to prepare for.

    * Look, when you stumble across an extradimensional abandoned city you explore the city to find out what happened before heading straight to the giant tower in the centre.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Anonymouswizard View Post
    I think in the time I've been on this forum I've seen railroading become more excepted, but with the idea that you should be open with your players about it.

    Most of the railroading I've experienced had been of the All Roads Lead To Rome style, with a varying degree of quantum ogring. Which still honestly can require a lot of improvisation if not as much as railroad classic.

    IRL I've seen one complaint related to railroading. It was when the GM didn't get to recite his prepared speech because we decided to explore an interesting location instead of immediately going to the one place that would further the plot*.

    Meanwhile all me to come up with an adventure outline and I flounder, I'm much better when I can go in with an issue and just react to what the players throw at the wall. I stopped running games like D&D and Shadowrun because improvisation took too much time to prepare for.

    * Look, when you stumble across an extradimensional abandoned city you explore the city to find out what happened before heading straight to the giant tower in the centre.
    Yeah I’m similar. Part of the problem for me is that, unlike many people, I actually take combat and combat encounter balance seriously in D&D, because I find the game genuinely much more fun if you lean into that aspect of it, because it is just designed that way imo. That makes it very hard to improvise combat encounters because good ones take a bit of time and thought to put together. So it feels like the game itself encourages railroading, and I’ve moved away from it for that reason. There are games out there where all you need to do to have a cool fun fight with an ogre is literally just say the words “an ogre attacks you.” But Kyoryu’s point about adventure paths and “don’t get caught railroading” advice are also good, and I’m not gonna pretend it’s entirely down to the core design of the game.

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    Quote Originally Posted by kyoryu View Post
    I am literally a professional game programmer.

    Note that I said "explicitly or at a system level".
    That only proves your profession doesn't prevent you from making a faulty argument. It's entirely possible to craft a system you don't understand that will output results you never thought of in advance, so the stuff in parentheses doesn't save the statement. It is still wrong. I can use a much simpler algorithm and ditch electronic computers entirely to prove the same thing. Take Chess. I don't know if it's even been correctly calculated how many legal game states for Chess there are, but I can guarantee the number is so big that no living human has ever thought of all of them in advance. And neither do computers. A Chess program made in the usual way does not have every possible board state stored in memory, it algorithmically generates them based on rules of Chess. Vast majority of time, the implied game states haven't been and aren't being thought of in advance, by anyone.

    "System implies these game states" =/= "This was thought of in advance"

    Quote Originally Posted by kyoryu View Post
    If a concept doesn't exist in a program (or the systems that can create such a concept), then it can't be added. If you take Conway's Game of Life, you can't just add new rules to it without.... adding code for them. But that doesn't mean that things like gliders were part of the original design - they're just a resulting pattern from the systems that were created.
    Conway's life has Garden of Eden patterns. These are patterns which are computable by the cellular automaton, but could never arise from another pattern on their own. This is positive proof that Life can, in fact, process information from outside its rules, because that is the only way for a Garden of Eden pattern to become the seed for further patterns. Futhermore, Life is a Turing complete program. This means it can theoretically simulate any other Turing computable program within itself. This functionally means that planning a seed pattern for Life is equivalent to programming a computer. You don't need to add new rules to Life to feed it arbitrary code. Every manipulated cell is code.

    This brings us back to Minecraft:

    Quote Originally Posted by kyoryu View Post
    Treasure-hunting foxes were written into Skyrim - just not deliberately. They were following programmed behavior that didn't take navmesh density into account at the design level. I can't just add a laser into Skyrim without modding it or in another way programming it. I can add it to a TTRPG on the fly.
    Shortly: if it wasn't deliberate, it wasn't thought of in advance. QED.

    Longly: What you say is true of the foxes in Skyrim, but isn't true of computers in Minecraft. You could scour the source code of Minecraft for various computers, but you would never find them, because like Garden of Eden patterns for Life, the steps to make those computers are not present in the game algorithm anywhere. They are, instead, provided by the human player. You can add lasers to Minecraft via creating a recursive copy of Minecraft with those lasers, because the ability to build a working computer that accepts arbitrary code within a simulation is the same thing as being able to build and program a real computer, via Turing equivalence thesis.

    This may seem like a long tangent, but it is relevant to the argument HidesHisEyes is trying to make about everything in a computer game pre-existing a player's experience. Namely: if you try to maintain that creating a programmable general computer with its own programs inside Minecraft (etc.) does not count as adding new things to the game, because all those things pre-exist due to being implied by the game's systems, then it logically follows that no new computer programs have ever been invented. They are simply discovered, since they pre-exist human imagination due to being implied by universal laws of computation. You can even continue the argument by saying that humans have never invented anything, because all possible states of human brain pre-exist humans actually having them due to being implied by universal laws of nature. Followed to its logical conclusion, this means the distinction HidesHisEyes is trying to make between tabletop games and computer games does not exist at a fundamental level. The difference in subjective experience is illusory, an artefact of who does the processing, and does not prove a difference in what's being processed.

    If at any point you instead feel like amending your statement, because wait, maybe it does make sense to say humans invent new programs... then it logically follows that there is a class of programs which are powerful enough to invent new programs, and there still isn't a fundamental difference between tabletop games and computer games, there are merely practical differences caused by difficulty of giving a computer enough computational resources and the right algorithm to do that.

    ---

    Quote Originally Posted by HidesHisEyes View Post
    This is interesting stuff but not really what I was talking about.

    What I was getting at is that in a video game, the fictional scenario or game world exists in the game’s code before the player starts playing. Any action the player takes to interact with it similarly pre-exists their play experience, as a potential action that could happen within that system, whether the devs planned for it or not. Playing the game is working the machine. It might work in dazzlingly complex, varied and unexpected ways, but it doesn’t rely on an act of collaborative imagination - it happens when you press the buttons.

    By contrast, a TTRPG doesn’t happen at all without an initial act of collaborative imagination. The equivalent to pressing the buttons and engaging the game mechanics - is, say, making a stealth check. But we can only do that once we’ve established that a character is attempting to be stealthy. And the mechanics can’t tell us that that’s happening, we have to agree on it subjectively.
    See above. Also, insofar as humans can be said to be organic machines, a thing that's been proven to a high degree by modern science, playing a game with a human game master is just working a machine as well. The distinction you're trying to make between "collaborative imagination" and "pressing buttons" does not exist at a fundamental level. Instead, pressing buttons is just a way to communicate inputs, to collaborate with another entity, and the actual tabletop equivalent is talking to your game master. Pressing the buttons isn't the game, the actual game is an electronic algorithm processing the communicated inputs and then returning an output for you to process in turn - the tabletop equivalent to a game master hearing your words, their brain electrochemically processing those words and them speaking some words for you to hear in turn. The thing you refer to as "subjectively agreeing on" a game's rules is not fundamentally different from a computer checking whether a program is valid before running it. So on and so forth.

    Quote Originally Posted by HidesHisEyes View Post
    Another way of thinking about it, this one’s about board games but I think it’s relevant to video games as well:

    A game of Monopoly arguably tells the story of a group of ruthless entrepreneurs competing to gain a stranglehold on a city’s property market, with the players playing the roles of the entrepreneurs. Why don’t we call it a roleplaying game? I think it’s because if you played a version of Monopoly with “points” instead of money, “tokens” instead of houses and “space 1, space 2” etc instead of Old Kent Road, Leicester Square etc, the game would still function. It might not be as interesting but it would absolutely work as a game. But try to imagine playing D&D with no fiction, only mechanics. The game simply couldn’t happen, because the fiction is what tells you which mechanics to engage and when and how to interpret their results. And the fiction has to be agreed on subjectively and collaboratively in the first instance.
    The real reason why we call neither tabletop nor computerized versions of Monopoly roleplaying games is, simply, because they are neither marketed nor recognized as such by the wider public. As for whether it's really a roleplaying game? The functional definition of a roleplaying game is a rule-based exercise where the player assumes the viewpoint of a character in a staged scenario and decides what to do, how and why. Let's break this down by criteria:

    1) Is Monopoly a rule-based exercise? Trivial yes.
    2) Does the player assume the viewpoint of a character? Tricky, but usually false. The play tokens of Monopoly do not have defined viewpoint or character, and none is necessary to establish for playing the game. Usually, the players just make decisions as themselves.
    3) Does Monopoly have a staged scenario? Yes, but only barely. The set-up for Monopoly is very abstract, relying on just a few natural language descriptors. If you abstracted those away in the way you suggest, the answer would be trivially no - the game situation would no longer recognizably map to anything outside itself. As a result, it would also be less playable to humans. The word "prison" communicates something to a human and allows them to understand why you can't just leave at will in a way, ummm, "square 20" doesn't.
    4) Does the player in Monopoly decide what to do, how and why? For most of gameplay, the answer is no. For example, at the start of the game, you can only roll the dice. Not rolling the dice is simply refusal to play the game, and thus does not count as an action taken from viewpoint of any character. Depending on what they roll, the player may in fact go several turns in succession without making any decisions at all, and when they eventually do get to make decisions, it's from a very small set of "whats", with predetermined "hows" and for only a handful of possible "whys".

    Let's compare this to Ancient Domains of Mystery, a computer roguelike:

    1) Is ADOM a rule-based exercise? Trivial yes.
    2) Does the player assume the viewpoint of a character? Yes. The game starts with picking a role with defined history and the game literally displays mostly just the information that character can see. The only way it could do this more literally would be by implementing 1st person perspective.
    3) Does ADOM have a staged scenario? Yes. It uses huge amount of natural language to establish and describe the world in which the character lives. The symbols displayed and the commands allowed to the player map to identifiable physical things, such as food and eating.
    4) Does the player decide what to do, how and why? Yes. From the moment your character is implemented in the game world, you have full access to game commands, including the decision to immediately leave the game are. Said action ends the game, but it does it in a way that's distinct from both the command and the metagame decision to 'Q'uit playing. Don't get me wrong - the player does not have unlimited options at any point. But the overall agency is immense.

    Quote Originally Posted by HidesHisEyes View Post
    Arguably this doesn’t quite apply to a lot of video games. It’s hard to imagine the gameplay mechanics of Ghost of Tsushima without graphics and animation that at least somewhat resemble sword-fighting, for example. But it’s still a closed mechanical system: from the moment you start playing you’re engaging directly with mechanics. In a TTRPG this isn’t the case, you need to engage purely with the fiction before it’s even possible for the mechanics to get involved.
    It's hard to imagine a modern game without graphics and animation because those graphics and animations are vital, deliberate elements of gameplay. They are the fiction you, as a player, engage with. They are the same thing to a computer games that natural language descriptions are to a tabletop game. You might be able to replace them with a different-yet-functional set of graphics, but do you know what you would then get? A different game. Doing that would be the exact homologue of changing around natural language descriptors in a tabletop d20 D&D game to make it into a Star Wars game.

    The same is true of ADOM. If you tried to abstract away all natural language elements of it, you'd either find it impossible or render the game unrecognizable and unplayable. "The game simply couldn’t happen, because the fiction is what tells you which mechanics to engage and when and how to interpret their results." Remember, everything in ASCII ADOM is already abstract - ASCII symbols are abstract symbols, after all. Even when they used to write language.

    So, unsurprisingly, we find that a game that's not meant to be an RPG - Monopoly - has much weaker claim to being an RPG than a computer game that actually aspires to do the same things as tabletop RPGS.

    Notice I've not yet commented on the open versus closed system argument. It doesn't matter.

    Seriously. It. Does. Not. Matter.

    An expansive closed game can offer more immediate choice to a player and be better at simulating even the real world, than a non-expert human running an open game ruleset. A closed game may be easier to run for a computer and an open game may be easier to run for a human for some practical reasons, but this distinction does not matter for determining whether a game is a roleplaying game or not. Also, if you understand the arguments I made about Life and Minecraft, then you should realize computer games are not, as a rule, closed systems in the way you think they are. When you input a Garden of Eden pattern into Life or build a programmable computer in Minecraft, you are bringing information into the game from outside that game, either proving the system is not closed or that you, the player, are part of it.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Anonymouswizard View Post
    I think in the time I've been on this forum I've seen railroading become more excepted, but with the idea that you should be open with your players about it.
    I think I know why that is. That's because there are actually two different ideas here. I think the difference between the two is important enough I only call one railroading.*

    The first is "linear adventure design" or just linearity, which just means the adventure is going to progress from scene to scene without a lot of variation. Even the branching paths - while diseasing linearity a bit - will usually happen at distinct points and just result in linear sequences of scenes on each path. And there are a lot of good games based on this formula, many popular computer RPGs for instance.

    The second is forcing the above on other players. How many railroading horror stories include "the GM told us this was going to be a linear adventure"? It might be more than zero but that might be on the player side. The problem comes up when the adventure is presented as being non-linear (at least on scene level) but it just so happens that nothing you try to leave the path works. That is annoying and false advertising. The mid-step of illusionism can go either way, its the difference between a magician never revealing their secrets and claiming to have actual supernatural powers.

    In short railroading is a symptom** of not being up front and open about the type of game you are running and trying to force it on people. So if you are open about it, you avoid the problem.

    * Some people call both railroading/a railroad. The way language works they might be "correct" because they outnumber me, but I find that confusing.
    ** I suppose it could happen other ways.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Cluedrew View Post
    <snip>
    In short railroading is a symptom** of not being up front and open about the type of game you are running and trying to force it on people. So if you are open about it, you avoid the problem.
    I agree, there is a subtle but important difference between having a goal that drives a story and a railroad job.

    One of the best campaigns I ever played in was focused on us collecting several pages of a special spell. The pages had been scattered and we knew most the the general locations of those pages. So the fact that to find page 3 we had to go to the mines of Garnesh and page 1 was on the island of Pareth didn't feel like railroading. Yet some parts were very linear. However we picked where to go next and in some cases took side trips for something a character wanted to do etcetera.

    Great Point Cluedrew.
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    Vahnavoi, I think your example of Conway's Game of Life and ADOM are excellent ones.

    I would also add a more modern example: GPT-2 (GPT-3 is not available to everyone)

    For example, I typed "Your adventuring party enters a misty forest, and you see", I gave three tries, and the varied results I got are:

    A quick encounter with.. lots of blood and gore, and an unhappy one...
    Your adventuring party enters a misty forest, and you see the great white tiger standing in the distance. You are struck by the tiger's sharp claws and your body becomes like a giant slobbering against the tiger's body. The tiger bites you in the back, tearing your face from your body and leaving a trail of blood. You are stunned by the tiger's claws and its blood spurts from your throat to your eyes. The tiger gurgles in pain, and you do not move as you are dragged back inside the forest. The tiger...
    A non-hostile encounter.
    Your adventuring party enters a misty forest, and you see a strange figure, the very face of a lion, a young man in his late thirties, with long, muscular hands. You take a moment to recognize the boy.

    "A wolf?" You ask, "and this is a lion?"

    The black man smiles. "Yes. A young man, a young lion, he's my friend. A young man that could have been anyone. My friend. A lion."

    "My friend?" Your friend smiles back...
    A encounter with lots of (broken) mechanical details.
    Your adventuring party enters a misty forest, and you see a large group of undead and a large swarm of creeping spiders. The spell is difficult to cast, but the creatures are slow. But, you do gain a +2 bonus to your Hit Dice for each of your turns. At the start of each of your turns, you can cast this spell twice, each time you cast it once, at a time. Once per round, you can cast all of your spells as if you were using your reaction. You regain all expended uses of this spell after...
    I don't actually think this is more advanced in any sense than Conway's Game of Life (which is really a classic), but this might serve as some more intuitive example about why a closed system of rules can be curiously near-indistinguishable from an open one in practice.
    Last edited by ahyangyi; 2021-09-25 at 03:47 PM. Reason: hypthenation
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    My dude, not only are you incredibly condescending, but you're making a strawman of an argument I didn't make. Stop that.

    I never said everything had to be thought of in advance. What I said is that you can't add anythign to a computer system that didn't already exist, explicitly or at a system level without a patch.

    Before redstone, you could not make computers in Minecraft.

    Once redstone was added, you could. It's not about whether the devs thought people would make computers or not. Without redstone, the capability to make computers (probably) wasn't there. (Probably because mayyyyybe somebody could figure out how to use the physics to do the same, but it seems highly unlikely).

    I am not arguing you can only do things with a system that were envisioned by the creators of a system. That is trivially incorrect, and many game designers rely upon that. What I am saying is that the design and implementation of a system places limitations on said system that cannot be overcome without modifying the system, and doing so in a computer game is a process that requires patching.

    You cannot add redstone to non-redstone Minecraft without patching the code.

    Even if you can create a version of Minecraft inside of Minecraft that had lasers (Minecraft^1), the "base" reality itself (Minecraft) would not in fact have those lasers, and you could not give such a laser to "Steve". You could give one to "Steve^1", living inside Minecraft^1. Just like we can create a simulation that has magic, but that doesn't add magic to our reality. If our reality is a simulation at some level, it can only get magic added to it by someone changing our "source code". Until then, we are bound by the laws of physics (the actual ones, not our understanding of them).
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    Quote Originally Posted by Vahnavoi View Post

    Notice I've not yet commented on the open versus closed system argument. It doesn't matter.

    Seriously. It. Does. Not. Matter.

    An expansive closed game can offer more immediate choice to a player and be better at simulating even the real world, than a non-expert human running an open game ruleset. A closed game may be easier to run for a computer and an open game may be easier to run for a human for some practical reasons, but this distinction does not matter for determining whether a game is a roleplaying game or not. Also, if you understand the arguments I made about Life and Minecraft, then you should realize computer games are not, as a rule, closed systems in the way you think they are. When you input a Garden of Eden pattern into Life or build a programmable computer in Minecraft, you are bringing information into the game from outside that game, either proving the system is not closed or that you, the player, are part of it.
    Ok, I see where you’re coming from. I’ve snipped your post but you can assume I’m responding to the whole thing.

    I think there are lots of things - maybe ALL things - where we might call something a qualitative difference, but if you really break it down (and assuming certain current scientific models are correct) it turns out to be a quantitative difference. Are humans animals? Do computers think? Is killing someone in self-defence murder? I suspect all these distinctions could be broken down in a similar way to how you’ve broken down my distinction between TTRPGs and other kinds of game - and that’s fine and dandy IF we’re interested in arriving at an ultimate objective fact of the matter.

    But… I’m not. So let me erase the term “fundamental difference” from my initial argument and try making my point again.

    TTRPGs rely on an act of collaborative imagination by the players which must happen before (what are commonly understood as) game mechanics can be engaged. The relative immediacy and directly interpersonal nature of this interaction make it significantly different from other kinds of game. Specifically - now here’s the important part - it is different enough in this regard from, say, most computer games, that it makes sense to place a strong emphasis on the players’ subjective shared understanding of the fiction and allow that shared understanding a strong influence on when the game mechanics (as that term is traditionally understood) are engaged and how their results are interpreted. For this reason, I think the low modifiers and target numbers in 5E are not actually a problem if we root our play experience in that subjective, imaginative, non-mechanical space, since every action a PC takes begins and ends in that space, with the mechanical results being understood intuitively in that context. (And all of this is true of computer games too when you get right down to it, and all difference is an illusion, we are all one mind experiencing itself subjectively, here’s Tom with the weather).

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    Default Re: Different RPG systems

    Of course, it *is* theoretically possible for a computer-based RPG to have a scripting system built into it that allows modification of the source code as far down as necessary, and have a general AI competent enough to have sufficient context to replace a GM.

    However, we are nowhere near that. So while it may be true from a theoretical standpoint, it's kind of pointless when talking about the difference between computer and TT RPGs in any practical sense, probably for decades to come, at least.
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