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Thursday 29 March 2018

Classic Rant: PC Interaction With the World in Regular RPGs

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 things 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

(Originally Posted December 28, 2015)


  1. I eyeball the odds and roll a dice...

  2. My gut reaction was 50% chance

  3. You don't see any weapon sized sticks but you do see (1) a barrel in the street just outside the ally, its' filled with nightsoil but it could be busted to get a decent chunk of wood (2) the masonry on the side of the alley has been torn up, a stone is lose and you might be able to wedge it out in time to use as a weapon (3) Mud and dirt clumps on the alley floor that could be thrown (4) A pile of fish bones but most of those look a bit small but who knows.

    A clever player might ask if that torn up masonry provides any assistance to climbing. They might also find out that the masonry hides a secret entrance of sorts to a crawlspace that has access to the Guildhall or some other building thieves might find of interest.