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47021Re: The role of the GM in constraining a player's character's actions (was: Re: [rpg-create] Does Willpower exist?)

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  • Nathan Banks
    May 18, 2017
      Oh hey, I forgot to actually answer your question by providing examples of what we really do.

      So, until about a year ago, I was playing on a long-running Dark Conspiracy game, run by my friend Mike, using one of his own designs (based on a game called Chronica Feudalis, I believe). My character was Byrd, a sort of corporate assassin type. Part of Byrd’s schtick was that he has a gear bag, basically a big duffle bag full of crap that he might need. How this worked in play was not fixed. So here are some examples:

      At one point we were about to get into a fight. So I said something along the lines of “Byrd pulls some grenades out of his gear bag.” I just made those grenades up on the spot. Now, Mike could have said “hold on, make a roll to see if Byrd remember to pack the grenades.” But to do that, Mike would have had to explain to my satisfaction why Byrd, who has been established to basically always have what he needs in terms of military gear (in fact, that is the whole point of the “gear bag” abstraction) had forgotten to pack something as basic and useful as grenades this particular time. What actually happened is that Mike said “OK, you have 3 grenades in the bag.” It was up to Mike, as the “owner” more or less of the setting to say how the grenades worked (like, how many dice they were worth in mechanical terms), but not whether or not the grenades existed. It was either up to me (Byrd has grenades), or, if someone objected, a negotiation (he forgot them; why would he do that?) and potentially a die roll to settle it finally. What actually happened is that I rolled a lot of complications on my fighting roll, so Mike goes “Byrd forgot to check the timer, and the grenades are set on “delay.” One of the guys picks up the grenade and tosses it back towards you guys.” One of the features of the system is that complications / successes can play forward to future rolls, so the grenade gave me a bunch of extra dice (potentially giving me a lot of mechanical bang) but since I unluckily rolled poorly, I generated a bunch of extra complications that Mike got to use as extra dice on his next roll to see how badly our guys got blown up. This was all totally acceptable to me; Byrd forgetting to check the timer wasn’t Mike taking over my guy to be a dick because he was mad that I had invented some grenades. It was the operation of system features well understood and liked by all.

      A different time we were investigating a reservoir that had been infested by something like the “black oil” from X Files. We were supposed to get a sample and send it back to our boss. [Side story, our boss was a big AI that lives in a semi truck and moves around constantly to stay ahead of whoever is looking for him. It was a character from an old GURPS sourcebook Reign of Steel, that I always liked. At some point we got to the end of a plot arc, and Mike goes “So, six months have passed, what are you guys doing now?” And I said “so, how about we’re hiding out in the Texas oil fields working for this AI truck that I’ve always wanted to see in a game.”] So we were trying to figure out what to do and I said “Uh, does Byrd have a sample kit in his gear bag?” And Mike goes “sure, why not.” No mechanics involved, we just went and got the sample. I basically just tossed the ball to Mike; “you decide what happens here.” And Mike response was more or less; “eh, this isn’t that important or interesting, let’s gloss over it and get onto the next thing.”

      Another example is that Byrd has a “streetwise: corporate culture” type skill. So, like, from time to time I might be like “So, does Byrd recognize that guy?” And Mike would respond “nope, never seen him before” meaning “this guy is new to the game, or relatively unimportant.” Or Mike might go “yeah, he’s the vice president of operations for NSA Corp.” or whatever. I think this is what Robin Laws calls “Drama resolution.” There’s some system description stuff involved, but no procedure.

      On the other hand, one time I used that background to invent an NPC. I just said “we’re going to go see Byrd’s old army buddy from his desert arcology days who has a junk shop up here on the moon now.” I didn’t have to get Mike’s permission to do that, or risk his veto, because it’s understood that that’s the kind of thing Byrd’s background allows me to do.

      One thing that doesn’t happen *during play* is for Byrd to have to make any kind of moral decision a particular way. One interesting feature of Mike’s system is that it has a kind of tracker system like Pendragon. Byrd has a “violence” stat. The higher that stat is, the better Byrd is at doing violent things (gets more dice). But if that stat gets too high, then Byrd becomes hardened. He’s retired from play and his fate is, basically, he’s a cold sociopath robot killing machine. There were 5 or 6 trackers of this type. One of them was for, like, alien weirdness, similar to CoC. So, your character is not forced to behave any particular way, but depending on how he *actually does* behave, this or that fate may eventually befall him. And of course, there are things you can do in game to get the trackers to go down. Which means you’re less effective at some particular thing, but also safer from giving in to whatever it is.

      --
      Nathan Banks
      --
      "If I can't drink my bowl of coffee three times daily,
      then in my torment,
      I will shrivel up like a piece of roast goat!"

      > On May 18, 2017, at 4:35 AM, benn benn@... [rpg-create] <rpg-create@yahoogroups.com> wrote:
      >
      > Also, this does not in any way deligitimize your needs as a player, but what do you do when the rules of the game system make it clear that mental checks will be called for (which is super common in RPGs, I find) - do you make it clear to the gaming group up front that you expect the group to overrule the game system and just let you win those all the time, or else you won't play? Because if you only spring this on the group in the middle of play, it would be understandable for the gaming group to be unhappy with this surprise demand when the rule system as written itself had been the agreed upon social contract up to that point.
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