[Pitfighter] SBP: the GM's role in resolution

Started by David Berg, December 17, 2011, 09:40:05 AM

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Anders Gabrielsson

If you've got a rhythm where the GM does some story narration between the scenes then that could probably work.

Player: The bad guys are all dead now. Hey, I've got a great idea - let's take their ship!
GM: Actually, I was going to do a story bit here. Could you wait a bit? *narrates the PC's moving on to the next scene, throwing in the ship being on fire*


I'd speculate that once this expectation became established, it might be quite easy to handle.  Frex, a player in this case, instead of narrating action directly, as in "I take the ship", could wonder out loud "I could take the ship...", and thus flag up this potential course for the GM to approve or refuse.

"He who loves practice without theory is like the sailor who boards ship without a rudder and compass and never knows where he may cast."
- Leonardo da Vinci

David Berg

My first stab at a broad takeaway from this thread follows, but I'm still thinking.

Styles of SBP resolution:

1) There are certain types of fictional developments that the GM always resolves.  Players will look to the GM when such situations arise.  "We've finished the battle.  Where do we go next?"

2) There are certain types of fictional developments that the GM might choose to resolve in any given instance.  In applicable situations, players may either ask the GM directly ("Where to next?"), ask the GM indirectly ("I'm thinking about boarding the ship..."), or just proceed, but not mind being shot down ("I board the ship!"  "No you don't."  "Oh, okay.").

3) The GM might resolve anything at any time if doing so is important to their planned plot.  Players just need to not mind being shot down.

Personally, as a player, I find it easier to permanently relinquish control or consistently ask permission than to whole-heartedly accept unexpected manhandling.

Perhaps the thing to do now is to look at the above and ask "Which types of fictional developments?"  I'll re-read a bit and think on this more.
here's my blog, discussing Delve, my game in development

David Berg

Random inspiration for representing "GM makes higher-level decisions, modeling mechanics produce specific sub-outcomes":

GM keeps all the dice.  Different dice resolve different levels of uncertainty.  2d6 resolves what an action looks like, but leaves its outcome to the GM; 3d4 resolves a task's outcome but leaves the GM to narrate the resulting situation; 1d12 means players can heavily interpret and narrate the results with impunity.

So, players have no dice, and when they try stuff, the GM decides which dice to hand them.  When handed 2d6, they know it's time to get in reaction/reflection mode, and when handed 1d12 they know they're allowed to steer for a bit.

I think Danger Zone does something like this with scene types?  But this dice system, while worse at setting ongoing expectations, might nicely allow GMs to flexibly adapt to changing circumstances.
here's my blog, discussing Delve, my game in development

Anders Gabrielsson

You could also use the same type of dice but of different colours (which would fix some of the math wonkiness of using different types of dice).

As a way to clearly but indirectly describe the limits of the player's actions, I like it.

David Berg

Yeah, if it's the same mechanic but operating with different parameters, then it should be the same dice, with something else to distinguish them, like color.  I was just thinking that maybe it'd be three totally separate mechanics, each designed to fit its specific parameters.  Though I guess my example where all 3 versions have a high roll of "12" doesn't best illustrate that!  I should have said, "2d6, 1d100, a pool of Fudge dice" or something.
here's my blog, discussing Delve, my game in development

Anders Gabrielsson

Ah, gotcha. Hm.

That could serve to further distinguish the various types of resolution, but on the other hand it means the players have to keep track of three different resolution mechanics. I think I'd prefer to have just the one - maybe an AW style list pick, with different levels of impact depending on the dice rolled.


You know, this entire discussion reminds me of the first Assassin's Creed game: in that, there were discrete challenges that the main character needed to complete before moving on to the climactic scene, and those challenges each gave more information about the circumstances surrounding the upcoming assassination.  The following games kind of lost a little of that feel, but that's neither here nor there.

I've yet to make my way through the decoupling Reward Systems thread, but it definitely seems to be a factor:  What is the reward, the carrot for the players in this style of game?  If "being awesome" or "creating theme" are not why they are doing things, then it must be "To find out what's going on."  Have you considered abandoning a Fortune system all together?  Using a karma system much like what Nobilis has?

David, would it be right to say the basis for the dice system you started this off with (from your addmitedly illusionist pitfighter game) engages more the less important the decision point?  That all important decisions are predetermined?  Where "important" means "affect plot or story advancement?"

Have you looked at the Gumshoe system?  The Trail of Cthulhu implementation seems to have a lot to offer for this type of play.
My real name is Timo.

David Berg

Anders, yeah, there's probably an efficient way to signal which types of outcomes are at stake without forcing people to remember 3 systems.  Rolling on lists might be an option.

Motipha, that's a neat point, to look at Story Before through the lens of video games.  Writing an RPG script probably has certain constants between video and tabletop.  Sadly, I'm pretty ignorant of video games.  Insights welcome!  Do you know any story-based video RPGs that are multi-player?

I think you're generally correct about my Pitfighter m.o. of "engage mechanics least when plot is most at stake".  And yeah, Trail of Cthulhu is a good comparison.  Luck factors into any given task you might attempt, but when it comes to the stuff that's required to move the plot forward, then it's time for a Core Clue that can't be missed.

There's something weird about using your Investigative Ability in ToC... it looks like a way to signal "Okay, GM, I've decided we're done here, so I'm using my IA; what's the Core Clue here?"  But it doesn't seem like that actually happens a lot.  It seems like the players more often look to the GM to see if they are ready to move on.  "Did we do everything there was to do here?"  I don't think ToC offers much clarity on whether the players will get to make consequential decisions or roll dice for anything relevant in a given scene.  Sometimes a scene is just about soaking up the GM's atmospheric color, sometimes it's about pretending to investigate and wonder whether you'll find the clue (which you do, in fact, know you'll find), and sometimes you might actually get to shoot someone or flee pursuers or catch a traitor.  But I've seen a maddening lack of clarity on which scene is which. 

That clarity is a big part of what I'm looking to provide here.

As for a reward system, that deserves its own SBP thread.  (The "decoupling" thread didn't really start getting into solutions.)  If you've got relevant AP, please start one!  If not, I'll try to get it to it soon.
here's my blog, discussing Delve, my game in development

Anders Gabrielsson

Quote from: David Berg on February 10, 2012, 10:01:11 AMDo you know any story-based video RPGs that are multi-player?
Star Wars: the Old Republic might count. The heavier story lines there are individual, however (based on my limited time playing it).

I'm not sure you need to look to multiplayer games, though. Many tabletop RPG:s work more like single-player computer RPG:s anyway, with all the characters sticking together and following the same story.

Just throwing some stuff out there about computer games templates that could be useful (or not):

* Typical MMORPG quests and quest lines are completely linear: kill ten orcs, go there, talk to that person, deliver this thingy, have a boss fight. There may be random or semi-random elements in there (exactly where do you have to go, what's the layout of the place you fight in, where do you find the orcs and so on), but in many games it's always the same. The player gets to choose in which order they do the quests and which they ignore completely, but usually there are a few that are required to progress at all with the story (and improve your character).

* Adventure games are similar in that there are fixed solutions to the problems the player faces and that some things have to be done in a particular order. There the focus is usually on the actual problem solving: "I need to open this stone door without a handle. There's a small hole in the wall over there and a box overe there that I can move around, and I'm carrying a candle, a squirrel and a spatula. Hmmm..."

* Many computer games make heavy use of movie cut scenes to deliver the story, the equivalent of GM narration sequences. There's a clear separation between gameplay sequences (where you can affect the game world according to the usual rules) and cut scenes (where you're strictly an observer, not rarely of your own character's actions). Often game play is divided into discrete areas or zones with cut scenes signalling transition from one to the other. (Maybe just having a keyword the GM says when moving into storyteller mode could be useful? When the GM says "cut scene" the players know they're spectators, "action" and they get to do what they want again?)

Many things that are annoying in computer games have parallells in dysfunctional tabletop gaming: invisible walls vs. the GM making up contrived reasons for you to stay in a particular area; cut scene stupidity vs. the GM not allowing you to affect a scene with all GMPC:s; enemies that don't follow the usual rules by being impossible to target etc vs. GM pet characters that always get away and so on. Whether these work in a computer game or not depend a lot on player expectations (are you expecting a game where you get to control the story or one where you just shoot stuff and watch some cool movies?) and presentation (are the invisible walls in areas you don't want to go to anyway or right in the middle of where you do want to go?)

That was way longer than I had planned. I hope it makes some kind of sense.