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Monday 28 December 2015

How To Handle PC Interaction With the World in a Regular RPG

A PC is in an alley, facing some thugs, he has no weapons, he says "I look around for a piece of wood" (or at least, my player would say that, some other idiot's player would say "can there be a piece of wood there?", trying to make a demand on the world instead of interact with it; but that's largely semantics).

Here is what I (or any proper GM) would do; and keep in mind that in this very simple scenario, the whole process would probably be nearly instantaneous:
1) consider the nature of the world of the setting, and the specific place in particular that the PC is. That is, what region of the world he's in, the nature of the city in that region, the nature of the neighbourhood in that city, the nature of the alley in particular. Is wood something people use? Is it likely to be found just dropped there in an alley? If so, will it be wood that is just the right size for him to potentially use as a weapon; or would it be too large, small, or brittle to be worth anything?

2) based on that, the possible answers are that either yes there is wood there, no there isn't, or there might be wood there.

3) the ONLY thing that matters is not whether the players want it, not whether it advances the 'story' (because NO ONE involved should be trying to 'make a story' here), or any other reason except "does it fit the reality of the world?"; that's it, the only consideration.

4) if I decide that there is definitely wood there, because in this city in this world there would always be wood in every alley (like say that they mostly use wood-burning stoves here and it's winter and the wood is likely to be piled in alleys in this city), or that the odds are sufficiently enormous anyways that I don't need to question it further, I say "Yes".

If I decide that there is really way too slim a chance of there being the right type of wood (right size and strength for what the player wants), because wtf would a piece of wood be doing in an urban alleyway? Then I say "no".

If I decide that there's a chance large enough to bother with that wood could be there (wood in alleys in this place is common but not an absolute certainty) but far from an absolute certainty; that is, quite a few alleys in this city might have wood of the right size and strength but by no means all of them will, then I will either make a judgment on it based on my own immediate sensing of the world, or I will determine a % chance and roll it (so, say wood is not usually used to heat or cook with here, but in this area of the city there is a lot of construction going on; so there might be a 2/6 chance of wood being there).

Note of course that as a decent GM, I could also choose to immediately respond, with the gist of the PC's plan in mind, that there's definitely a rock there, or a barrel lid, or whatever else might certainly be there. If the general concept of what the Player is actually looking for is understood, there's no point in playing "20 questions" if it can be avoided.  You can say "no, but there's a stone/broken bottle/piece of chain", or conversely you can say "no, and you can't really see anything at all there you could use as an improvised weapon".

Note, again, how in NO CASE is the decision based on what the Player's whims are, what my whims are (in the sense of whether I like player 1 more than player 2 or whether I think the player's idea of using a stick to fend them off is cool or lame or anything else), or some kind of idiotic quixotic notion of story-creation.  All of those thing would be anti-immersive.

The stick is there or not because in this virtual reality it either is there or it's not.


Currently Smoking: Italian Redbark + Brebbia no.7


  1. I am sick of that word. I remember a Dresdan Files fate game I ran. It was a weird police case involving a mass suicide via the hanging rope method.

    Now the weird bit was the hanging dead bodies were all smiling and there notes read that they were free. One of the players notice one of the walls was newly made and made a hollow sound when knock. Before they broke it down they got this feeling of dread.

    Now one would assume this is all the warning some one needs to figure out that opening that wall was a bad idea. NOPE! Not this group. If it didn't gave you a fate point then you rob the players of their "agency".

  2. Ian, I suggest you go tead up on what a strawman argument is.

    There are arguments which touch on lack of agency, which challenge Pundits position which are not strawmen.

    Also, the irony, it burns. Pundit's default responce to a counter argument is to build a strawman of it.

  3. Pundit, do any concerns trump Immersion?

    1. In RPGs? Just fundamental playability. Nothing else.

    2. Can you define fundimental playablity?

    3. While your at it, your specific definition of immersion would also be useful.

    4. These have already been defined countless times on this blog over the last decade.

    5. Your claim that you have defined these terms many times in this blog, seems more than a little iffy.

      In the first case, that is because you just haven’t defined it on this blog. You have never used the term “fundamental playability” in the body text of this blog. You have used the term playability something like 8 times, but never defined it. You use the term playable about 30 times, but do not define it in that time.

      In the case of Immersion, it is true that you have defined it. The problem is, you have defined it multiple time, often in contradictory manners. Just in 10th Anniversary Classic Rant: Immersion, you have contradictory statements about immersion. I mean if immersion is “Immersion is, basically, doing a very good job of acting it.”, then frankly, narrative control mechanics have NO impact on immersion, as I am able to consistently portray the actions of a character, while also defining elements of the game world or story.

      It should be no great struggle for you to define your terms(certainly less effort than I have put in finding out you haven’t defined Playable in your body text), so honestly, I see little reason for you not too.

    6. I know you desperately want to end up nitpicking about semantics in a standard deconstructionist tactic to try to ignore what is universally accepted as truth. So how about you go fuck yourself with a baseball bat, you cunt?

    7. I'm not giving you ammunition to play your little motherfucker weasel word-games and then smugly claim that by questioning terms you are somehow addressing the fundamental reality of how the majority of gamers play and what regular RPGs have ALWAYS been about. A is A, bitch.

    8. Translation: I (pundit) cannot make my argument unless I leave room for Equivocation or moving the goal posts, and am thus unwilling to meet a minimum standard of rational debate by defining my terms. I hope that no one notice or cares that I am ineffect conceeding defeat before I have done. Quick, I better make an argument ad hominem so no one notices. Also, Smoke bomb!

    9. Please, bitch. You're the one trying to argue against traditional RPG play; so the onus is on you to explain to us all why we should give up immersion, or why 'collective story-making' is more important than using rules to enter into lifelike characters in a virtual world.

    10. Where have I argued against traditional RPGs? Where have I said anyone should give up immersion? Where have I said that'collective story-making' is more important than using rules to enter into lifelike characters in a virtual world.

      Once again pundit move 101 pops up, make a strawman argument.

      The closest thing I can think of that I have said, is that peoples reasons for roleplaying are not homogenous, and that people do not behave as though immersion is the only thing that really matters, or even that it is the most important consideration in roleplaying.

    11. Why are you so unwilling to actually engage with the arguments other people actually make?

    12. "Collective story-making" by definition dissociates a player from his character. He's not taking on the role of his character, he's taking on the role of an 'author'. But you know that, of course.

    13. That's the classic Pundit move: Change the goalposts of the other side gets too close to scoring. It's part of his charm, right up there with the resorting to name-calling and expecting folks to accept something as factual because he said so.

    14. Which is lovely pundit; but at no point in this discussion have I argued that 'collective storytelling' is the one true way, so I fail to see the relivance.

    15. You suggested it was "more important using rules to enter into lifelike characters", which is about as nonsensical as suggesting that flying to Australia is more important for seeing the Eiffel Tower than going to France.

    16. If you don't use rules to interact(enter into) with the game world, I can only assume you are playing a hard skilled LARP or a freeform system less game of pure improve.

      Oh wait, you play yes you use rules systems to interact with the game world.

    17. A. You appear to be arguing at crossed purposes to what I was saying, which is why defining your terms is important. even get a statement that you think makes me into the dehumanised monster you want me to be, you had to miss quote me and take me out of context.

      Will you please try being intellectually honest. Just this once.

    18. Benjamin, I don't quite follow your concern regarding the definition of immersion and the Pundit's multiple definition of immersion, and I certainly don't know how you arrive at this: "I mean if immersion is “Immersion is, basically, doing a very good job of acting it.”, then frankly, narrative control mechanics have NO impact on immersion, as I am able to consistently portray the actions of a character, while also defining elements of the game world or story."

      First off, what's the issue with having 10, 20 or more definitions of immersion. If narrative control affects immersion in any of the ways it is defined then narrative control affects immersion, period, end of story. What you're trying to do is disprove the Pundit's point by bringing up the fact that there are multiple interpretations of immersion. Instead you should be looking at each and analyze if narrative control does not affect it as defined.

      Which brings me to your attempt at proving the Pundit wrong by actually picking one of these definitions (“Immersion is, basically, doing a very good job of acting it.”). I'm quite confident you can "consistently portray the actions of a character, while also defining elements of the game world or story". I'm also quite confident you have a degree of immersion, but is it the same as without the burden of having to define elements of the game world?

      Your argument sounds a bit like saying weight doesn't affect the performance of a pickup because I can consistently drive it up and down the road with a heavy load on it. Yes, but can I drive it just as fast, with the same millage and as safely as if it were unloaded?

    19. That does not follow, Gerardo.

      So a definition of immersion, is "the action of immersing someone or something in a liquid." Now, obviously in this case Pundit does not mean to immerse something in water, but it serves as a useful tool because we can agree he doesn't mean that with ease.

      It also allows us to look at your position and see why it is wrong.

      I hope that we can agree that narrative control has absolutely no effect on how immersed in water pundit is as he plays his game.

      So in that case, even if narrative control effects immersion (engage in active imaganining of being a character), it does not affect "immersion, period, end of story", because pundit does not stop being in his bath as he plays.

      What in fact happens, is that different factors effect different definitions of Immersion. And different definitions of Immersion have different effects on what his argument actually is.

      For instance, one definition of immersion is "deep mental involvement in an activity." It is entirely possible to be deeply mentally involvement in co-operative storytelling. As a result it is possible to be immersed while using narrative control systems.

      As for the second half of your post. If at any point, narrative control mechanism had in anyway taxed my creativity or ability to consistently represent my character, that might be an issue I needed to worry about.

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    21. Sorry, you said it's more important to use collective story gaming then it is to use rules. I expressed it wrong in my last post, since it was really late.

    22. Benjamin, I don't think the issue here is about being immersed while using narrative control systems. The question here is are you less immersed while using narrative control systems than when not using such systems.

      Like you mentioned, it can very well tax your ability to represent your character.

    23. Again, you are engaging in standard Deconstructionist tactics, and they are not worth playing. You also seem to have deleted or edited where I was quoting you. You want to debate me? Here is the point of debate: explain why RPGs shouldn't focus on Immersion, if that's what you want, or explain how Narrative Control (that removes players from the association with their character to a position of looking at the character and the world 'from above' as a 'storyteller') could ever possibly avoid separating someone from Immersion with their character?! If that's what you want to argue.

      If you want to argue about what Immersion is, I have no interest in that. See, I KNOW what Immersion is. If you don't, well... actually, that explains a hell of a lot about your flawed and stupid ideas about RPGs, and why you probably shouldn't even be involved in this hobby (go play in a storygaming hobby where Immersion doesn't matter at all).

    24. Pundit. It is to the best of my knowledge, impossible to edit comments on your blog. And the only things I have ever deleted on your blog is double posts, because my nasty habit of making them.

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  5. Levy, people make stupid mistakes in fantasy games, at the gaming table, where they are removed from real experience and such errors are logical, but people also make the same kind of mistakes in the real world, where it costs them their lives. In life or death situations, you can chalk it up to panic and the flood of fear, rage and adrenaline, all of which can make you stupid, but in most situations, it is not life or death, just terminal stupidity and the ultimate regret for eternity later on.

  6. For now, It might well be a start if you can master the basics. One thing at a time, old boy. One thing at a time.

  7. Straw man: Misrepresenting someone's argument to make it easier to attack.


  8. Lets see...

    Pundit dehumanises those he disagrees with by calling them swine and then goes on to call a significant minority of roleplayers cunts for nothing more than having wrong bad fun, makes actual strawman arguments regularly. But he isn't worthy of being called that.

    Meanwhile I am a cut because I what, pointed out your miss using the term strawman argument and then make a joke out of the fact you respond badly to that?

    In the words of inigo montoya, 'you keep using that word; I do not think it means what you think it means.'

  9. Hmm, the strawman that player narration in some RPGs has the purpose of enhancing player agency detected. How cute.