Roll-Playing Versus Roleplaying

Started by InkMeister, August 26, 2010, 07:44:03 AM

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Callan S.

I guess one of the reasons I held off posting, is because I'd say 'So that moment of judgement - you can decide for him how he judged the matter? As in you say he definately denied the moment of judgement. Like you know the process of his own mind better than he does?'. It's like there's actually a second moment of judgement going on in the observer here, as to whether the other person is 'thinking right'.

While I think that that's technically correct, there is nothing in the universe I'm aware of that ensures saying what's technically correct will go well.

It measures up like this: if the rule hands the GM full authority on this, it's just 'I don't have to follow rules/what I've agreed to if I don't think somethings right' on the observers part. Indeed I'm pretty sure lumpley principle is either being bent to this idea these days, or was this all along (and I projected a functional variant onto it when first readig it).

Historically : Of course you have a mechanical set up where nasty things like your characters ears getting clipped off (we have an old thread on that somewhere), or being orc raped, or whatever are within the wideranging capacity the rules grant him. Human brain thinking this can't be right, it argues against it. This becomes a gamer tradition. And it becomes traditional to ignore the rules on a regular basis and call it 'good roleplaying'.

Frank Tarcikowski

Hi Callan, let me make a few clarifications. I didn't say Nick's GM denied the Moment of Judgment, I said that Nick felt he had denied it. That's a huge difference. I don't claim to know what's going on inside other people's heads. For Nick's game, heck, I don't even know enough to say how I would have ruled, as GM.

But in a game I play in myself, I will have a notion of what makes sense and "fits" in the fiction and I will argue it to the other players if I feel the need. I indeed believe that these things are not purely subjective, there are objective criteria by which they can be reasonably assessed. That's not the same as saying my own judgment is always right, mind you. Of course it isn't. I remember we debated this exact question before and had to agree to disagree, so let's maybe not resurrect that debate.

Concerning all those bad gamer traditions, luckily I've had contact with them almost exclusively in internet discussions. I don't really care about them. Abuse is always possible, but a concept isn't wrong because the wrong people mistakingly applaud it. But let's be clear about one thing: "The GM is always right" is the most stupid sentence that has ever been written in an RPG book.

It's sometimes helpful for players to not question every single call by the GM and grant him the benefit of the doubt so play can move on and not be stuck in endless discussions and justifications. But that requires the players to trust the GM is not trying to screw them over, and such trust cannot be imposed by the author of an RPG book. You don't just claim it as a GM. You need to earn it.

- Frank
BARBAREN! - The Ultimate Macho Role Playing Game - finally available in English


My reading of the initial situation (and what Nick was complaining about in regards to gather information checks etc.) is a difference between the players and gm on the value of System (in this case specifically the mechanical factor of a skill check) versus Character, Situation and Setting.  The Gm is emphasizing the system and allowing the specifics to be abstracted by resorting to a skill check.   What the character said makes sense and has some value so we'll check on it but he doesnt value the situation enough to develop it further by exploring the character of the caravan driver and his response to being attacked and engage the pc in a dialogue that could change how the situation turned out.  In the end he resorted to system and let the roll determine the relatively meaningless results of the situation.

I talked a bit about D&D earlier but I'll expand a bit.  D&D featured a lot of combat and we at one point tried getting dramatic and making descriptions of our actions, swinging swords wildly or crouching and aiming for a certain target point, but all those descriptions are essentially meaningless when you have a group of 10th level characters with 60-90 hit points fighting a half dozen monsters with similar hit points.  The abstract nature of hit points and the combat system rendered the description of the actions meaningless.  You could describe the most amazing battle manuever but it didnt really matter it all came down to the math of subtracting hit points until the combat was resolved.

I think that is the heart of the matter.  A willingness to abstract that level of detail is harmful to any vision of what is going on in the moment.  I think one of the problems in detailed complex systems, like the D&D combat system or Gurps and its infinite skill list is that the mechanics can easily overpower the fictional content.  I'm not sure whether it's an actual desire or preference on the part of those doing it or just a habit that one tends to slip into but it's definitely something I've noticed since the beginning of my experience with rpg's.


Caldis: But the opposite can be equally true. If things are two specific or tie too specifically to "in fiction" content, people either have to frame their narrative to the rules (which they have to do an a highly abstract system, like AD&D's combat system (one roll per minute)) or they have to try to determine how rules apply to fictional content in a very specific way.

Callan S.

Hi Frank,

As much as I understand you describe it as relevant whether the GM shared some sort of moment of judgement. Your only question is whether he was doing this or something else. Let's say hypothetically he definately did share a moment of judgement with Nick, then denied it - your saying in that case that denial of judgement is relevant somehow, when the shared rule is the GM pretty much does whatever?

Frank Tarcikowski

Hey Callan, but it's not "the GM does whatever"! The GM gets to make the call, but not all calls are equal. That's exactly my point.

- Frank
BARBAREN! - The Ultimate Macho Role Playing Game - finally available in English

Callan S.

Frank, your so used to taking the left fork in the road, so to speak, when I try to point out the right fork in contrast, you think I'm refering to the left and that's also the one I'm taking "Come on, you know the GM doesn't get to do whatever - your here next to me on the left fork in the road!". I'm not.

The rule says the GM can do whatever then he can do whatever and all calls are exactly equal. It's like in chess where if the rules say he can move a piece a certain way, he can, and all the moves he can make are equal. As in they are all perfectly valid. In an RPG however he uses 'do whatever' it's valid use of the rules, no matter how much suck 'whatever' is. This is the right fork in the road.

"But that's horrible!"

Yes it is. It pushes, bloody strongly, the desire to design rules that grant the GM considerably less power and the rule empowered ability to only do fun things (fun by the designers measure, atleast, and playtesting to check that's the case whilst in design). To move on from 'The text says the GM can do anything...but he can't do anything, ya know!'

I would question exactly who is somehow empowered to decide which calls aren't equal, but there's not much point. I'm pretty sure having described the right fork, you'd say it's drastically different from what you do (am I wrong?). It's an alien at the dinner table moment for you ("You can't seriously play in that way!"), if I estimate correctly. But atleast you know when I say whether he ignored the moment of judgement is irrelevant, I'm talking about having taken the right fork in the road, not the left.

Frank Tarcikowski

Callan, I understand your line of argument, but I don't understand your point. I just can't relate to it, like, at all. To pick up on your example of Chess, if someone were to play Chess with me and make random moves, valid by the rules but without any strategy whatsoever, so I'd wipe him out in no time (although I'm a lousy Chess player), what point is there for either of us playing? There isn't any. So is Chess broken, as a game? Of course it's not! Would Chess need rules to stop people from making stupid moves, is that your conclusion? Are you looking for a game that people can enjoy by making random decisions, without any purpose or common sense, just by following the rules?

- Frank
BARBAREN! - The Ultimate Macho Role Playing Game - finally available in English

Callan S.

Facinating. The fork grows deeper.
QuoteTo pick up on your example of Chess, if someone were to play Chess with me and make random moves, valid by the rules but without any strategy whatsoever, so I'd wipe him out in no time (although I'm a lousy Chess player), what point is there for either of us playing? There isn't any.
Except there is. I win!

Of course there is the gamist honour of whether you keep beating clueless people (the gamism essay even touches on this).

But that aside, it's still fun to beat even a randomly playing person.

So yes, games already exist that can be enjoyed by making random decisions without any purpose or common sense. A hell of alot of them.

The fun is at the human relations level - I enjoy that between me and them, my relationship involve me having won over them. I'm pretty sure Nar can do the same, simply by having a modicum of human relations understanding between participants 'It was scary when Luke realised he was becoming like his dad!'

I have no idea about sim. But I really don't think gamism or nar need to follow 'not all calls are equal' at all as they are fun with all calls being equal. Because certainly in gamisms case, there are thousands of examples where random play is still fun to beat. And nar - well, nar hasn't been around as long, so perhaps it's debateable. But I think it shares many qualities with gamism and so most likely can be fun with random play.

More fun without random play? Sure! But a bit of a laugh even with random play? Yes.

But what was facinating, when I read your words, I get flashes of what you do and how that made you choose those words. But it doesn't sync with me and the flash collapses before I can see it much at all. And by talking about the above, I've probably talked over it. :(

I just get this flash reading 'So is Chess broken, as a game? Of course it's not! Would Chess need rules to stop people from making stupid moves' and I just get this vague notion you see your own common sense as some sort of binding agent or something. Like chess is some dreadfully hollow shell, like a house in desperate need of renovation, and your common sense and purpose that makes the real value house in the end. Like it's nothing without that. Kind of like players are hero's bring life to a grey, dead and desolate landscape.

Just a flash. The notion of chess being absolutely hollow was stunningly counter intuitive to me, so I decided to mull it over.


Playing chess not to win is not playing chess. Its like if we play poker, but there's no money involved, and people bet like the chips don't mean anything... this might be fun or functional or whatever but its not what most people are looking for when they talk about playing poker. I can't remember the name of the thread but this reminds me of a topic you started about people playing D&D and not wanting to have a big conversation about what playing D&D is about or this game is about or whatever.

When you sit down to play chess you do so with certain expectations that are probably reasonable, for the other person not to share those expectations isn't a negative quality in them, but it is a miscommunication between the two of you, because without those expectations your fundamentally changing the nature of the game.

Callan S.

I've heard an account of someone thinking a certain unit in starcraft was just coooool, so he made tons of them. Essentially random activity. Then another player turns up with units weak to them and as the accounts go, the first players units breathed on them and they vaporised! Won the game! Sometimes by sheer ballsy luck, random wins.

People can win without playing to win (lucky bastards). It's not a requirement.

Indeed I've heard of someone losing a duel in wow and calling the winning player crap, because he did 'all the wrong moves'. Sometimes people become so wrapped up in their expectations, their expectations are more important to them than who won or who lost.


but its not a question of winning or losing, its about the definition of the activity. you can bet like an idiot and win poker because you've got good hands, but the meat of the game lies in the betting and the bluffing, in guessing what the opponents thinking, its where the fun is for (some/most) people who play. The fun in chess, why most people would want to play, is because its cerebral and strategic... People go to these activities because they provide a certain type of enjoyment/engagement that is associated with them, and facilitated by them, but not 100% in forced by them (all though, in the long run, one type of play will be more successful than others). Doing something else when playing them, without the consent (on some level of the other player(s)) is thoughtless at best and shitty at worst. 

Callan S.

Nolan, your treating your definition as if it's the default. Dave Sirlin has the nickname 'low strong' because in street fighter, he'd often use it with a particular character (when he estimates it'll score him a win) the low strong attack over and over (18 times in a row on one count). Isn't street fighter about all sorts of moves? Doesn't that make thoughtless or at worst, shitty? If he uses throws, doesn't that make him 'cheap'? It's worth reading the essay on the scrub in terms of this. (personal side note: not that I endorce Sirlin as a forum moderator - he's a little immature for that)

The only pivotal thing I think exists is this: If they win, are you going to congrats them or say good game? Even if you think they used some other defintion?

Your defintion isn't just play to win, it's meet your expectations or your thoughtless. Alot of other people would congratulate the other person, even if they are a clueless lucky bastard. They still won. There are alot of people who follow this second definition of congratulating, regardless. Those are the people who find what I described, fun. We could go on and on, but I think you'll find those people exist and in high numbers (though I suspect in low numbers in the roleplaying community...but that's just a side suspicion).

All moves are equal is entirely functional (particularly given a game that mechanically shifts itself to it's own end (as opposed to one waiting on 'fictional cues' to move towards the end)). I suspect for Nar as well, if it's actually designed that way too. I dunno about sim, so if you wanna argue I'm wrong there you've got plenty of room from me to do so.

Ron Edwards

For this thread to continue, Nick needs to bring it around to relate to his thread topic and general hopes for the discussion. Otherwise it ends here.

I am not saying the discussion in the last page and a half has been poor. I am saying that it's time for people to take it to daughter threads with Actual Play starting-points of their own.

Moderator hat definitely on.

Best, Ron