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Author Topic: [D&D3.0] Zac's examples (split)  (Read 2718 times)
Abkajud
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« on: November 18, 2011, 05:32:25 PM »

I've been run through modules a couple of times, and there's this way in which a hook that's sufficiently open-ended can give a player room to explore theme. But I was run through an adventure once that was truly scripted - there were no choices for the players to make that mattered in any way, so the only place for the "Narrativist" play to be found is in the cramped little attic of mere characterization. The player will put obvious content-flags (hints to what they want to explore in play) in their back story and equipment and so forth, and will almost certainly have at least a small back-story to

Still... that's an awesome place for players to chase that sort of play - - Apocalypse World runs on this model, and it's a pretty classic one. But if it's covert, if it's not explicitly encouraged in all involved, then it can lead to dysfunctional Prima Donna play, where one person's personal tale is the most important thing, and they're gonna make sure it stays that way. Often this person is the GM.

Example from a D&D3 game I ran:
- A player named... Anna... a close friend, designed a character that was a half-demon/half-human paladin, specifically a former succubus. She had been rescued from the Hellmouth near the city, bound and constrained til trustworthy, and then taught the religion of Light or whatever. She goes out and joins up with some adventurers, I guess, and when the party encounters some prostitutes at an inn, she tries to convert them to the Light.
Now I, as a GM, formed the opinion that there's no way these medieval sex workers were going to listen to the ladyknight who'd just walked through the door. Yeah, they'd do what she told them to, but they would just nod along and be agreeable rather than actually changing their lives around.

Anna didn't ask to roll Diplomacy against them or anything; she didn't ask me what the DC should be on that. It would have made sense if she did, even if it'd be a pretty liberal reading of the text.
I, on the other hand, had already made my mind up about the situation and it didn't occur to me that the outcome could be in doubt. More importantly, it didn't occur to me that Anna might have been trying to Say Something through her character, in this scene.

I don't think there's a Narrativist kernel lurking in the D&D3 rules, but if the group brings it into the room with them, it could happen - - in this case, tell the player to make their character a contradiction, or to think up some brief back-story that gives them a cause or a goal; next you could slightly adapt the d20 skill mechanics (use them for conflict resolution) in order to give the characters' actions more weight, now that they're plugged into things on some kind of moral/emotional angle.
That's basically what Burning Wheel does, in my opinion: basically, the premise is, "What would a real, human person do in this crazy situation? Or in such a crazy, outrageous life?" You take a particular angle as to what that person is like, what their goals are, etc., and then you wrestle with the consequences of your actions.

To make this work with a game text that doesn't directly support Narrativist play, you'd have to be explicit, and you'd have to have a GM prepared to be really flexible and let their plans float away at a moment's notice - - any of the players could do something that could march them right out of "the story". At the same time, if the MC can do it in Apocalypse World, then the GM in D&D can chill out and just "say what the fiction demands".

It'd be good to write down some explicit guidelines to do just that - these aren't going to be in-play procedures (except for the conflict resolution thing), so in order to recreate it, it'd be good to know exactly what it was that "worked".

--
edited to give a title - RE
« Last Edit: November 20, 2011, 05:58:42 PM by Ron Edwards » Logged

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Callan S.
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« Reply #1 on: November 19, 2011, 08:37:56 PM »

Quote
I, on the other hand, had already made my mind up about the situation and it didn't occur to me that the outcome could be in doubt. More importantly, it didn't occur to me that Anna might have been trying to Say Something through her character, in this scene.
Seems fiddley this - had the NPC prostitute made up her mind? I mean, a zealot character IS a zealot because their mind is utterly made on something - just because a player has something special to say about their character doesn't mean the zealots heart instantly melts because only the PC's get to make choices. So it's fiddley - if the NPC is an utter zealot, then it shouldn't occur to you that the outcome is in doubt, because it isn't. But really, while they might be quite dedicated to that life (for survival reasons), was the prostitute NPCs utterly, zelously dedicated to their profession?
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Abkajud
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« Reply #2 on: November 19, 2011, 09:13:02 PM »

Well, the +2/-2 rule would have applied to this situation, so I could have allowed the roll and penalized her by -2 for her choice of methods.
The rules (D&D3.5) say this: "Not every action requires a die roll. Roll dice in combat and dramatic situations when success is never a certainty." So, it was up to me, the GM, to decide whether the outcome was in doubt.
Of course, on a social level, the players still have the latitude to say, "Look, isn't there at least a 5% chance? You're telling me a natural 20 wouldn't represent some kind of freak occurrence?" This goes back to needing the group to be on-board for now Narrativist play works - people need to know they have the agency that they do.

I could still say no, of course. But given these particular circumstances, I could have reasonably said, "Ok, roll for it, Anna!" It would have been really funky and novel to shift our attention to the prostitutes on the other side of the room, but I think my internal logic as the GM was "I'm setting the scene right now. The prostitutes are a background detail in the background, not intended to be the focus of play." If I had known I *could* have been open to that (which I'd already figured out as a player when the roles were reversed), then I would have done so, and play could have totally shifted. Granted, the other players may or may not have been on board for play going in that direction, but if we all shared this creative agenda, we could have synthesized different creative directions effectively.
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Callan S.
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« Reply #3 on: November 20, 2011, 01:32:38 AM »

I wouldn't worry about not spotting it. Just note it, remember it at game times and eventually it'll become part of the habit. Otherwise I'm not sure why your thinking of bringing in a roll? I'm not sure if this ties into the thread subject, but are you not trusting yourself to just play out an NPC? I get as GM you kind of decided the situation and so didn't play them out and moved on. But if you were to play them out, could you just play them out? What have these people (called prostitutes by various people, including themselves) lived before now? How have they felt about hard things in their lives much like how you have felt about hard things in your life? I'm not sure if I'm indulging myself by asking or this really ties into a narrativist discontent, possibly?
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Abkajud
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« Reply #4 on: November 20, 2011, 08:23:34 AM »

[Possible thread-jack developing...]

Well, the reason why it (now) looks like we should have rolled is because the character was making a demand of the NPCs. She wasn't merely asking them, "So, what's this line of work like?" or "So have you considered the error of your ways?" No, she went right in there with, "Repent, and free yourselves! You can still dedicate your lives to virtue, and achieve salvation!" (or something like that)

I guess, in my mind, there's this sort of implied Move in D&D3: When you try to manipulate someone without the threat of violence (implicit or explicit), roll +Diplomacy. Naturally, there is a parallel: When you try to manipulate someone using an implicit or explicit threat of violence, roll +Intimidate.

This could go into a whole thing about how much one should "just roleplay it out", but I'll say this - - in a game in which Charisma and social skills are things that can receive Currency/resources, we need to "honor" players' placement of resources in those categories by letting them roll the dice. In, say, D&D0e (let's go with Swords & Wizardry, to be exact), there's no such thing as rolling your stat value, and there are no "skills" - thus, there is no recourse but to roleplay it out. Since that's very close to actual, early versions of D&D, I think the roleplay-it-out mentality has lingered where it shouldn't have.

This issue does relate to incipient Narrativism in that if a player elects to use a particular mechanic to give some "oomph" to their character's course of action, taking that away is effectively muddying the waters of "who can do what, and when?" by giving more discretionary power to the GM and leaving less "input power" in the hands of the players. It's like a mechanical contract:
- we all roll up our characters
- we put our skill points in wherever
- during play, we roll our skill checks using the points we put in skills.

If you change that up, you're telling the players they invested in unsound currency. Maybe I'm kind of blowing this out of proportion a bit, at least with my choice of analogies, but there's an element of, "Oh. So, uh, why did I bother to...?" when we change things up like that.

Apocalypse World handles this kind of thing really well: if it sounds like you're trying to seduce or manipulate someone (in order to get something from them, and yes, sex is an example of "something"), then you have to roll +hot.
If you're just fucking with someone for the hell of it, just keep RPing. On the other hand, if you're fucking with someone so they do something for you, haha! Roll +hot, fucker. You're not getting away with this without bringing the dice into it!
You really have to engage in for-its-own-sake-only behavior in order to avoid touching the dice. Chit-chatting, asking someone about themselves, getting to know a new friend - - this stuff can all just be "roleplayed out" without issue so long as there is no real risk involved. No risk to the relationship, or to the people in it, means you don't need to pick up the dice at all. But even if it's something as simple as, "GOD, this guy's pessimism is suffocating! Are you trying to act like you don't mind his boorishness?" could constitute a social risk, and the MC could rule that "faking it" here counts as Acting Under Fire.


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David Berg
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« Reply #5 on: November 20, 2011, 12:18:28 PM »

Zac, I don't think you're blowing it out of proportion at all.  That is a huge problem, when a player thought they'd get agency over something (even if via a die roll) and they don't.

That ruins any agenda, though, not just Narrativism.

(And if you as GM were squashing agency because you wanted to keep the game on the topic the group had chosen -- well, poor execution, but constructive intent.  Further, I'd say such intent can be constructive even within Narr play -- not every premise-addressing game needs to address prostitution.)

I think this is different than what you've been saying, but if not, never mind, I must have just tripped up over your wording.
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Abkajud
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« Reply #6 on: November 20, 2011, 01:20:30 PM »

No way, Dave! You nailed it.
I think it's totally ok to have an agreement that a game will focus on certain subject matter, but then it's kind of unsporting for the GM to put such content in, anyway.
In the example I gave, though, it plays out a little differently - by (albeit gently/subtly) shooting down a player who was trying to nudge play in a new direction, I was basically saying, "These prostitutes are for my story-use only! They are not yours, players!" Not really fair, imo. Especially if that player's character was sex-themed (a succubus!), there's an element to which it should be "open season" on any sex-related content in play.

Actually... here's a thought: when you and your friends sit down to play Narrativistically, every single toy you put inside the Play Circle can be picked up and played with or used by anybody. If any toys are off limits, that's breaking the rules of the game.
That being said, rule-breaking is not some betrayal or some evil thing. It just requires a pause in play so that we can find out why someone took a toy back out of the Play Circle again.
So to speak.
Not all games are played this way. Sometimes, the GM is going to arrange most of the playing pieces and tell us where to put our action figures. Other times, we can all break out the Legos and build the playset together as a group. Various other analogies could also be employed. ^__^
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stefoid
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« Reply #7 on: November 20, 2011, 10:15:02 PM »

This is pretty general social conflict/challenge/whatever rules, not just D&D.

Heres the take from my game:

https://docs.google.com/viewer?a=v&pid=explorer&chrome=true&srcid=0B5W32IfgIIkrZDUwMzFhZWItYzA2Yi00NDg5LWFmOWEtOTdhYWY0OWZiYjM5&hl=en_US

The basic idea is that wielding influence through social means requires some kind of leverage, and a particular amount of leverage is judged to be one of  sufficient, close or insufficient to influence the target.  The definition of leverage is pretty loose - it can be anything from a situation the character has engineered to a relationship between characters.

Theres two important things to note about this
a)  If the leverage is judged to be either sufficient/insufficient, then the influence works / cant work respectively, and there is no test/dice/whatever needed to resolve that.  Its just the way it is.  Its only when the leverage is cudged to be 'around the mark' that social skills such as persuasion or intimidation can help tip the result one way or the other
b)  who judges if the leverage is sufficient/close/insufficient?  If the target is an NPC, its the GM.  If its a PC, then its the player.

So in this example, some goody-two shoes comes cold-calling and point blank, it would be entirely OK for the GM to decide the whores take no notice of the PC whatsoever.  Clearly the leverage is insufficient. 

Its up to the PC to engineer some leverage that is either clearly sufficient, or at least close ebough to warrant the application of social skill to close the deal.  Gifting a huge amount of cash would be clearly sufficient.  Establishing some kind of relationship with the whores over time such that they gain respect and trust of the PC might be enough leverage to get her close or enough to apply social skill at some stage.  Barging in cold and giving orders is clearly insufficient.
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Abkajud
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« Reply #8 on: November 20, 2011, 10:29:08 PM »

Steve,
What do you feel like this approach to social interaction brings to your game?
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stefoid
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« Reply #9 on: November 21, 2011, 03:06:24 AM »

Steve,
What do you feel like this approach to social interaction brings to your game?

Just what Ive mentioned here  addresses the issue of when social skills can be applied and makes explicit who gets to decide that. 

Also I dont like the idea of being able to use social skills as a blunt weapon/opaque process.  So choice of social skills in my game are limited to means, not ends.  persuade, intimidate, seduce (common social skills in many games) are all 'ends' which encourages blunt and opaque use of social skill.
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Abkajud
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« Reply #10 on: November 21, 2011, 07:55:45 AM »

I guess what I'm trying to ask is, what do you dislike about social skills as blunt weapons?
I think your idea sounds intriguing; it definitely could be used to give social interaction mechanics a strong "foundation" in the fiction (and thus preventing, say, an Intimidate roll from feeling flat or hollow).

How do you feel about Apocalypse World in this regard? In my experience, asking a player to describe what they'll give if they get X is a good way to ground "Seduce or Manipulate". For that matter, if a PC pulls out a gun and points it at someone, I ask them, "So, what do you want them to do? Are you gonna pull the trigger if they don't comply?" This way, the whole process gets unearthed. Is that the *kind* of thing that you're after? (Pursue it in your own way, mechanically, of course! I'm not trying to discourage you from developing your own idea)
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David Berg
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« Reply #11 on: November 21, 2011, 12:44:49 PM »

Actually... here's a thought: when you and your friends sit down to play Narrativistically, every single toy you put inside the Play Circle can be picked up and played with or used by anybody. If any toys are off limits, that's breaking the rules of the game.

Hmm.  I don't see any problem with on person throwing in fictional stuff that no one is allowed to use to address premise.  On the other hand, throwing in fictional stuff that only one person is allowed to use to address premise does seem like it might break the togetherness of play.

Just to explore that edge case for a second:  If there are a bunch of players separately authoring shit and then taking turns exploring the thematic significance of what they've authored, and acting as audience for each other...  Well, it does strike me as something people could do.  I doubt that it could be CA-coherent roleplaying, though.
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Abkajud
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« Reply #12 on: November 21, 2011, 12:52:05 PM »

David, can you give me an AP (or hypothetical play) example of how
1- such a thing could happen
OR
2- such a thing could be communicated effectively, either before play or during play

Thanks!
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stefoid
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« Reply #13 on: November 21, 2011, 03:12:21 PM »

I guess what I'm trying to ask is, what do you dislike about social skills as blunt weapons?
I think your idea sounds intriguing; it definitely could be used to give social interaction mechanics a strong "foundation" in the fiction (and thus preventing, say, an Intimidate roll from feeling flat or hollow).

How do you feel about Apocalypse World in this regard? In my experience, asking a player to describe what they'll give if they get X is a good way to ground "Seduce or Manipulate". For that matter, if a PC pulls out a gun and points it at someone, I ask them, "So, what do you want them to do? Are you gonna pull the trigger if they don't comply?" This way, the whole process gets unearthed. Is that the *kind* of thing that you're after? (Pursue it in your own way, mechanically, of course! I'm not trying to discourage you from developing your own idea)

Youre right, this is a threadjack.  Suffice to say that you have a fair idea of where Im coming from given the stuff in your quote above.

Thats what I do at the moment, Im fixated on developing my own game and when I see a thread or post that touches on something Ive spent a lot of time on, I chip in and discuss that.  See if I can get any other angles on it.

Like... to get back to the original point of this thread which is (I think) How to give the players room to explore characterization in a scripted sort of game?

Back to your example - I dont think the onus was on the GM in this situation to back the players move with a dice roll for what seems to be an essentially implausible intent - to get the whores to 'see the light' just because the PC said so.  However, that doesnt mean that the whole interaction is a write-off, because I certainly can see a born-again type of character attempting just that kind of thing. 

I dont think players neccesesarilyl want to suceed or even the chance to suceed in this type of situation, what they want is for their actions/decisions to matter.  And that basically means they have consequences -- good or bad.

The best advice Ive read (and incorporated into my own game :)  )  is to respond to PC itnents with two kinds of question - What could go wrong with that ? and What are the possible consequences of that?

So in your example:  What could go wrong with that?  What are possible consequences of that?
a) the PC could make an enemy of the pimp - trying to run his girls out of business?
b) the whores could turn it back on the PC and demand that she find them alternative employment, cos they have kids to look after etc... -- how far is the PC willing to go to back up her own beliefs?

etc, etc...


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stefoid
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« Reply #14 on: November 21, 2011, 03:16:02 PM »

I guess what I'm trying to ask is, what do you dislike about social skills as blunt weapons?
I think your idea sounds intriguing; it definitely could be used to give social interaction mechanics a strong "foundation" in the fiction (and thus preventing, say, an Intimidate roll from feeling flat or hollow).

How do you feel about Apocalypse World in this regard? In my experience, asking a player to describe what they'll give if they get X is a good way to ground "Seduce or Manipulate". For that matter, if a PC pulls out a gun and points it at someone, I ask them, "So, what do you want them to do? Are you gonna pull the trigger if they don't comply?" This way, the whole process gets unearthed. Is that the *kind* of thing that you're after? (Pursue it in your own way, mechanically, of course! I'm not trying to discourage you from developing your own idea)

Youre right, this is a threadjack.  Suffice to say that you have a fair idea of where Im coming from given the stuff in your quote above.

Thats what I do at the moment, Im fixated on developing my own game and when I see a thread or post that touches on something Ive spent a lot of time on, I chip in and discuss that.  See if I can get any other angles on it.

Like... to get back to the original point of this thread which is (I think) How to give the players room to explore characterization in a scripted sort of game?

Back to your example - I dont think the onus was on the GM in this situation to back the players move with a dice roll for what seems to be an essentially implausible intent - to get the whores to 'see the light' just because the PC said so.  However, that doesnt mean that the whole interaction is a write-off, because I certainly can see a born-again type of character attempting just that kind of thing. 

I dont think players neccesesarilyl want to suceed or even the chance to suceed in this type of situation, what they want is for their actions/decisions to matter.  And that basically means they have consequences -- good or bad.

The best advice Ive read (and incorporated into my own game :)  )  is to respond to PC itnents with two kinds of question - What could go wrong with that ? and What are the possible consequences of that?

So in your example:  What could go wrong with that?  What are possible consequences of that?
a) the PC could make an enemy of the pimp - trying to run his girls out of business?
b) the whores could turn it back on the PC and demand that she find them alternative employment, cos they have kids to look after etc... -- how far is the PC willing to go to back up her own beliefs?

etc, etc...


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