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I'm beginning to understand that there was a version of ttrpg before Dragonlance that I know nothing about. I had barely ever heard of Dragonlance before joining this forum, but now I'm realizing it was the progenitor of the DnD tropes I'm most familiar with. I wish there was a dispassionate and scholarly history of the hobby, but for now I'll keep cobbling together memories of The Before Time from blogs.
Any suggestions on where to look now I know I should be looking at all, Eero?
Cam, what you said makes sense. I wonder if something in the way it was written or the desire for a DL fan to reproduce the books sparked a DL DM to railroad maybe?
I hold that map+encounter-table doesn’t have to mean location map and monster table. You could just as easily explore a relationship map (a la Block by Bloody Block) or a conspiracy map (a la Night’s Black Agents).
Porte-Monstre-Trésor is my favorite model for GM/PC-split RPGs, it marries agency with ease-of-prep.
Porte or nodes, places, times, as a frame to make the game into a “pull” rather than a “push” model, the PCs explore it at their own pace. Could be witnesses to visit in a Sherlock Holmes game for example.
Monstre, obstacles and allies, give the place some life. The “dialog based” trap searching discussed elsewhere almost makes the environment itself into an NPC to talk to. And, “wandering” Monstres or NPCs will give life to exploration.
Trésor, rewards and tools. Provide both motivation and increased agency (with the gold they can buy plate, or diamonds for their spells, with the xp they can cast more spells etc).
I don’t think it’s limited to sword&sorcery.
The GM/PC-split is well suited to exploration-based play (since it’s one of the few playstyles that benefit from hidden info) and exploration-based play is in turn well suited to a combo of map+encounter-table. I.e. nodes you explore by actively activating them (“rooms” you “visit”) and nodes you explore by letting them happen on the encounter table (by lingering in a region or just being lucky/unlucky).
You need a sitch (“map”) and you need life (“encounter-table”). That’s the rocket fuel for exploration-based play.
If you don’t want to do exploration-based play then you don’t really need a GM/PC split. You can play Before the Storm or Microscope or other epic story games. Arguably Chuubo’s since even though there is a HG, players are the ones that create their stories.
There is this sorta hybrid model where the group sets up one situation or “scene”, with a question, add NPCs, location aspects etc etc, play that out, and then after it they set up a new one in the same way etc etc. When I first read MHR I was confused, I was like “What is this raily mess?” when reading the “Breakout” event. Rereading the book having this hybrid model in mind, I instead realize that the event is meant as a collection of resources to use when setting up scenes one at a time in this way. “Let’s do a scene on the landing deck. The question is: where do the heroes want go from here, and can they do so? I’ll add in Electro etc etc”
This hybrid model where scenes are framed aggressively, as if it were a story game, but then played out mechanically, I think Fate and MHR is built on it but it took me a long time to wrap my head around. Arguably the intro adventure in Feng Shui (the old one) is similar. The games are intended to be action games and once the “playing pieces” are in place, the fun starts. With less consideration put on what goes on between these action scenes. You use the outcome of one to get ideas for setting up the next, together with ideas from the module. A set piece model.
Compared to something like Barrowmaze where our PCs were putting up trip wires and glue for skeletons, the interaction wasn’t contained in atomic units.
To bring it all together, the “Portes” in those games aren’t arranged in an player-explorable structure, there can’t be the “push”-model of players visiting nodes in the order they want. And the “Monstres” are packed in together with the “Portes” into framed “Scenes” instead of being decouplabe / “wandering”. (Ofc they are reusable for future scenes as long as they are alive.)
In a game like MHR or Fate, you have lots of agency within the scene, with plenty of meaningful micro-choices to affect your outcomes (“do I activate my limit right now?” etc etc). But in a game with a P-M-T structure you also have agency with the structure as a whole, not just in invididual scenes. And arguably that’s more appealing to me. I dunno maybe I still have a lot to learn about the Framed-Scene model. I just love D&D so much T_T
In the Framed-Scene model, it’s arguably a good thing to follow the suggestion in “Breakout” where it says “it’s best if a non-flying hero witness [name elided b/c spoilers] departure”. That’s what creates the most interesting next scene. In the P-M-T model it’s instead just… what happens happens. If a monster flies away, then whoever sees it sees it. That’s just how it is. Arguably more agential for exploration-based play.