When the die roll does *NOT* determine what happens

edited November 2018 in Story Games
This is a follow-up to @Jeph 's threads and @Paul_T 's continuation:

The Spicy Dice Roll: salvaging something coherent
Spicy Agenda and Principles
The Spicy Roll/Agenda, Player Edition

Feel free to read those or not, but the gist is that we're talking about a very specific play style which intentionally and successfully includes a lot of GM control over outcomes. And yet, there is also a lot of dice rolling!

This discussion started from the Forge Actual Play reports of @Silmenume (aka Jay), who recently discovered Story-Games.com. Good to see you again, Jay!

Jay and I started chatting about how, in this style of play, the fact that dice influence but do not determine outcomes is a key component. Rather than providing a final answer to a difficult question that the group wants answered for them, the dice provide an ingredient (such as a "1" or a "20") which the group incorporates into the common ground which informs their collective meaning-making improv. It's as if the group assembled to play jazz, started with a standard, found their own voice and their own take on that standard, and are now parsing that "1" or "20" relative to that subjective endeavor.

So, if you're doing an epic, heroic riff on Lord of the Rings, your Dunedain Ranger is not going to be impaled on a "1". But, if you're doing a dark and grim riff on Lord of the Rings, your itinerant dwarf might well be impaled on a "1". Not that the broad strokes tell the full story! The group will surely find different ways to play GrimDark LotR Jazz over time, and the question of what's meaningful in the moment is inherent subjective and situational. So maybe your downtrodden dwarf's "1" is a survivable part of our introduction to their ongoing run of foul luck in life, while the ranger hero's "1" arrives at the end of a long duel against a balrog, providing a death worthy of ballads.

I think this summary hits the key points of Jay's current thoughts on the matter -- perhaps he can correct me.

Personally, I very much like the idea of formalizing this process a little more. I don't want to minimize the prominence of the in-the-moment judgment of the participants, but I would like some ways to communicate "how we use the dice" more succinctly.

My first thought is this:
1) Whenever a player attempts something and is invested in an outcome which, to them, seems uncertain, ask the GM either, "Does it work?" or "What happens?"
2) The GM will then reply with the range of possible outcomes. For example, "That's a crapshoot; could go either way!" or "Unfortunately your opponent seems more skilled than you expected" or "No problem, piece of cake."
3) The player will then roll a die to narrow that range down into a specific outcome. For "crapshoot", a high roll could mean great success and a low roll could mean total failure. For "surprisingly skilled opponent", a high roll could mean you fend them off long enough to escape, and a low roll could mean you get horribly wounded. For "no problem" a high roll could mean complete success with bonus positive consequences, and a low roll could mean an embarrassing botch and hilarious setback.

Other thoughts welcome!
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Comments

  • This thread confuses me a bit. The title seems to be asking "When should you ignore the dice?" or maybe "When should you not roll the dice?" but the "first thought" you pose at the end seems to offer a dice system (not super removed from the one in Blades in the Dark, in that it uses positions to determine how bad things can go) that doesn't answer either of those questions? I guess you are advocating for "We shouldn't ignore the dice, we should build a dice system that we don't have to ignore" which is cool, but... old news?

    I mean, I LIKE the idea of a system where you have Favorable/Even/Unfavorable conditions that determine the range of outcomes your die roll can generate, and maybe even some sort of "control" factor that tells you how big a random range to generate, but it seems a little...tangential to the original question?
  • True, Airk. Maybe the thread title should be "How to use dice when you don't want them to determine the outcome" or something similar, instead of "When should the die roll not determine what happens?"
  • "Use dice to roll on a random table you just generated on the fly tightly coupled to the mood of the table and current themes, rather than to generate a pre-specified mechanical or narrative effect"
  • I totally do this when I run Lasers & Feelings with newbies (I pretty much only run it with newbies). They're gonna get an awesome story and they're gonna save the galaxy in the end, but the details are up to the dice. I ran it last week and one of the characters died, but it was on the final roll for defeating Zorgon the Conqueror, and they both disintegrated in an explosion of flux energy. Similar or worse rolls were made earlier in the story, but of course they didn't die from them.
  • edited November 2018
    Oh, and this one : the die is a wand, and shoots things, good or bad or moot. The players and GM don't know at any given time if it will fire something significant, but they need the constant flow of results. When the flames begin, the GM will try to redirect the energy at something. Solid scenario achievement ? Making the PC look cool ? Anchoring the PC in the setting with a long term perk ? Informing the GM of the dimensions of play that can be useful there could be a tool, for "nudging".
  • I totally do this when I run Lasers & Feelings with newbies (I pretty much only run it with newbies). They're gonna get an awesome story and they're gonna save the galaxy in the end, but the details are up to the dice. I ran it last week and one of the characters died, but it was on the final roll for defeating Zorgon the Conqueror, and they both disintegrated in an explosion of flux energy. Similar or worse rolls were made earlier in the story, but of course they didn't die from them.

    I don't think that's what this is though. Lasers & Feelings doesn't have explicit rules for much of anything, so you're not really disregarding anything when your setback is "The transporter beams you down in the middle of the gladiatorial arena" instead of "The transporter disassembles your molecules and puts them back together wrong and you die."
  • edited November 2018
    I agree with @David_Berg that formulating the procedures of 'spicy roll' style would be very fruitful. I have tried to simulate it in a very handdriven Swords Without Master game, it was okayish, and I want to become better at it.

    How I see it is that there are two parallel spheres. One is basically playing a game of chance with d20 (ir has a nice spread) and another is a collaborative storytelling. The two are not as strictly intervowen as in OSR or indie games. I would say the game of chance part informs the narrative but nothing more. The game is exciting because sonetimes you roll a 1 or a 20, and because rarely you roll a 20 when it is very crucial to roll one!

    I think it is hard fun, because you need players who are eager to and can ride two parallel animals at the same time: a rollercoster and a boat on a river.
  • Airk said:

    I don't think that's what this is though. Lasers & Feelings doesn't have explicit rules for much of anything, so you're not really disregarding anything when your setback is "The transporter beams you down in the middle of the gladiatorial arena" instead of "The transporter disassembles your molecules and puts them back together wrong and you die."

    It doesn't seem fruitful to include "disregard the rules" in the definition for this technique. Who wants to use a technique that requires you to use a rules system that's unsuited for it? This thread is about finding procedures to do this on purpose, no?

    I think it's exactly the thing that I do in L&F (and have done in other games, too). You use dice, but they don't really decide the real stakes, whether you succeed or fail, but rather they color the scene with some varnish of success or failure, while still proceeding forward with the adventure. Isn't that what we're talking about?
  • It doesn't seem fruitful to include "disregard the rules" in the definition for this technique. Who wants to use a technique that requires you to use a rules system that's unsuited for it? This thread is about finding procedures to do this on purpose, no?

    Except that was 100% what the "Spicy Die Roll" thing was, so I feel like it's relevant. If the rule system ALREADY does the thing, we're not really accomplishing anything here?

    I think it's exactly the thing that I do in L&F (and have done in other games, too). You use dice, but they don't really decide the real stakes, whether you succeed or fail, but rather they color the scene with some varnish of success or failure, while still proceeding forward with the adventure. Isn't that what we're talking about?
    Okay, now I disagree entirely. L&F provides hard rules for success/failure, and you gave no indication that you were ignoring them.
  • edited November 2018
    I think the Middle Earth RPG group using the Spicy Die procedure developed a system of spoken and unspoken house rules. Chunks of published rules were used where they accorded with the group's system. Nothing too uncommon among traditional RPG culture.

    "The rules" exist, but they are not in the Middle Earth RPG book, they're in the group's shared understanding. And in some of Jay's AP summaries.

    Personally, I am interested in reproducing this sort of play with a text more concise than Jay's AP summaries. :)
  • Airk said:

    It doesn't seem fruitful to include "disregard the rules" in the definition for this technique. Who wants to use a technique that requires you to use a rules system that's unsuited for it? This thread is about finding procedures to do this on purpose, no?

    Except that was 100% what the "Spicy Die Roll" thing was, so I feel like it's relevant. If the rule system ALREADY does the thing, we're not really accomplishing anything here?
    I grant that I'm not too familiar with the background (I vaguely remember reading parts of the "Spicy Die Roll" thread), so perhaps I'm way off here. But the OP text in this thread talks about "a very specific play style which intentionally and successfully includes a lot of GM control over outcomes."

    I'm just not clear on what we could discuss if it's not how to play a game in which the dice influence but do not determine outcomes. Does this play style necessitate choosing a rules system to explicitly ignore? Or is it a case of illusionism, where you claim to follow a rules system but secretly don't? What purpose do the rules serve in this play style if you're not following them, and why can't you write rules that encourage the play style?

    I think it's exactly the thing that I do in L&F (and have done in other games, too). You use dice, but they don't really decide the real stakes, whether you succeed or fail, but rather they color the scene with some varnish of success or failure, while still proceeding forward with the adventure. Isn't that what we're talking about?
    Okay, now I disagree entirely. L&F provides hard rules for success/failure, and you gave no indication that you were ignoring them.
    It's a matter of degree, perhaps, and I'm not sure how much I'm going off the rules here. Sure, if they roll a failure, I let them fail the action and get some negative consequences, but I make sure they are still fully capable to continue the mission. There are setbacks, but they won't really ever fail the adventure. Compare this with Apocalypse World, where a failed roll really is failed and can cause the plot to veer off in a completely new direction. In (my way of running) L&F, the dice rolls affect the way the scenario plays out, but don't really decide the important parts. If they fail a roll against the bad guy, that will not mean Zorgon wins. It'll mean something horrible happens and now it's EVEN MORE important that they finish this other roll.

    Maybe not the same thing, but I feel it's related. Basically, I think what I'm talking about is very much this stuff:
    So maybe your downtrodden dwarf's "1" is a survivable part of our introduction to their ongoing run of foul luck in life, while the ranger hero's "1" arrives at the end of a long duel against a balrog, providing a death worthy of ballads.
    The player will then roll a die to narrow that range down into a specific outcome. For "crapshoot", a high roll could mean great success and a low roll could mean total failure. For "surprisingly skilled opponent", a high roll could mean you fend them off long enough to escape, and a low roll could mean you get horribly wounded. For "no problem" a high roll could mean complete success with bonus positive consequences, and a low roll could mean an embarrassing botch and hilarious setback.
  • edited November 2018
    @Simon_Pettersson -- No worries. I think I'm still suffering from some confusion about what we're really discussing here, because it doesn't really seem to connect with what I remember from the Spicy Die Roll thing.
  • Isn't a big part of the player-facing "system" actually meant to make them believe they have more control than they actually do? Sort of (if you'll forgive this really unflattering analogy) one of those toddlers' toys that has a bunch of colorful buttons to push and knobs to spin, but they don't actually do anything besides entertain the child.

    Whereas the GM-facing system is basically about turning yourself into a black box that can convert various ephemera (like which do-nothing buttons and knobs the players fiddle with) into the story you want to tell? That's less a system than it is a skill to be learned--entertaining, storytelling, social manipulation.

    I'll admit, I have a hard time taking the Spicy Die seriously. I think people want there to be more going on than there is; that's equally descriptive of people who want to suss out "the real system", and a description of the buy-in necessary for people to enjoy playing it.

    The oracle isn't talking to the gods, she's just a woman in a cave making shit up. If the entire country hinges on her word, it doesn't make the gods any more real, it just means that she's running a really good grift.

    The dice don't determine the results, they modulate tension and expectations. But it doesn't work if you hand people a set of rules that say, "Your job as a player is to get really excited when a high number comes up and quiver with dread after a low one."
  • yukamichi said:

    The dice don't determine the results, they modulate tension and expectations. But it doesn't work if you hand people a set of rules that say, "Your job as a player is to get really excited when a high number comes up and quiver with dread after a low one."

    Agreed. Your job as a player is instead to participate in the process of making something meaningful out of the fictional ingredients at hand. The number a die shows after you roll it is one of those ingredients, but never the most important one.

    Perhaps the most important aspects of this play style, for both learning and teaching, have nothing to do with the dice at all? I do still think the particular niche for the dice is interesting, though.
  • The closest thing I can see to this mechanic that's not straight-up illusionism would be something like the Burning Wheel chance die or OSR "judgment rolls" where the GM might say something like:

    "Hey, I don't have prep that tells me whether or not there's a pile of straw at the bottom of this barn to catch your outlaw as they jump from the hayloft. Let's roll this d6 to find out. 1-2 says there's no straw and you're hitting hard earth, 3-4 says there's enough straw to cushion your fall and you'll take half damage, 5-6 means it's cushy enough that you don't take any damage."

    I suppose you could probably put "special-effects dice" from games like Dragon Age in this category as well, where they don't determine what happens but influence it obliquely (by granting you stunt points, or momentum, or what have you that can influence future rolls). Branching out from that, you could have a system wherein one die is used to determine the tone of the narration that must accompany the action, but not it's results. So say in a game about regret and bad decisions:

    1: Reminds me of a simpler time.
    2: I didn't mean to...
    3: I knew it was a bad idea, and I did it anyway
    4: Once bitten, twice shy.
    5: Blinded by sentimentality
    6: Giving in to my worst impulses.

    The results of the action could be determined using another system, one that perhaps is influenced by the results of the "tone" die. Maybe characters who acted blinded by their sentimentality gain a penalty forward to act callously and advantage to the next purely selfless action they take. In a game all about selfish action, that could have interesting repercussions.

    Otherwise, what you're talking about is pretty much pure illusionism where the GM uses whatever comes up on the dice as justification to make stuff up without rules or principles to guide them. And that's the distinction I think between something like Pbta games, where the degree of consequence from a 6- is widely variable but it's written in stone that there *must* be a consequence and that you as GM need to be acting according to the principles put forward by the game's rules. So it would be against the principles of an AW game for the result of a 6- on a gunlugger's attempt to kill the Hardholder's lover resulting in the end of the universe (barring an incredibly byzantine series of prior events that led up to all of existence resting upon the life of a nomad's boy-toy).

    Likewise with any standard OSR sandbox play, where the rulings a GM makes over say a roll to determine if there's something nearby a character that they can use as a useful improvised weapon might change from session to session or scene to scene but what a roll means (at least in general terms) is established prior to resolving the question. Rather than rolling and then determining what it means afterwards. Going back to the outlaw jumping down from a hayloft and wondering if there's going to be something to cushion their fall example, that ruling might never be used the same way again but the general procedure of setting expectations as to what the various results mean and then following through on them will be obeyed. And as part of the principles of OSR play, there is an understanding that what is possible based on this roll is going to flow from the GM's prep and what's been established through play.

    And to be clear I'm not talking about games like Fiasco, where great latitude is given to the player narrating as to what's acceptable to add to the fiction, but they must abide by the results of the black or white dice that they've gained. Latitude in narration isn't the issue here, it's about whether the rules and procedures of a game have weight behind them and impact play. Functional illusionist play relies on everyone being at least somewhat aware that the GM is the sole creator of all of the important content, and everyone else is just elaborating on it. It's awfully hard to program "the dice aren't really important, unless they are, in which case they really are" into the text of a game. I would argue that it's self-defeating.

    Although that's coming from the perspective of someone who thinks illusionist play is more or less a betrayal of the purpose of RPGs. So I might be a wee bit biased on that count.
  • edited November 2018
    Part of the reason I'd like to codify "spicy die" play in written form is to clarify that it isn't "GM makes stuff up without principles to guide them". (In fact, I think it's possible that the unwritten principles which guide Spicy Die GMs play a much larger role in shaping play than the written principles which guide most PbtA GMs!) Unfortunately, these principles emerge from the group's unique take (e.g. grimdark/heroic) on their specific material (e.g. LotR), so couldn't have been written down beforehand, at least not precisely.

    So here's an idea:

    Perhaps after each session, the group could brainstorm ways to describe what they just did. And then the parts everyone's enthused about get written down. And then next session, everyone revisits that written list, and whichever items still muster consensus enthusiasm become Agenda or Principles.

    Although that's coming from the perspective of someone who thinks illusionist play is more or less a betrayal of the purpose of RPGs. So I might be a wee bit biased on that count.

    No more on illusionism in this thread please. Past threads have shown that that topic drowns out all others. If you want to discuss elsewhere, though, just let me know!
  • "Use dice to roll on a random table you just generated on the fly tightly coupled to the mood of the table and current themes, rather than to generate a pre-specified mechanical or narrative effect"

    I think that's what Otherkind, and Danger Patrol Pocket do. FitM right?

  • Perhaps after each session, the group could brainstorm ways to describe what they just did. And then the parts everyone's enthused about get written down. And then next session, everyone revisits that written list, and whichever items still muster consensus enthusiasm become Agenda or Principles.

    That I can see and appreciate. Formalized tools for saying "this is what I dig, let's aim play towards that". to be honest, that sounds kind of like the ongoing conversations embedded in Blades in the Dark about whether something constitutes a Controlled or Risky situation, what sort of consequences can be avoided vs. reduced, and what Great Effect on a roll to Skirmish with a trio of master swordsmen means exactly.

    So what I'm saying is that I think a system that easily adjusts to generate the sort of outcomes (and therefore the sorts of stories) that people at the table want to see is the secret sauce here. Not necessarily resolution that's disconnected from outcomes.

    In the game used as an example of Spicy Play, it sounds as if the dice were more or less used as a prop and not really consulted in any meaningful way. It strikes me as possible that this happened mostly because the rules as written wouldn't deliver the sort of fiction they were looking for.

    I'm reminded of the original LOTR roleplaying game that gave massive benefits for wearing lots of armor and gave orcs a ton of HP and then said in the same breath "But seriously guys, just have the Orcs fall over after a good hit. Oh, and discourage characters from using lots of armor. It's not in the spirit of the books. But characters shouldn't really get severely injured anyways unless it's a climatic scene."

    You know, stuff that probably should have been written into the game's system. Or more in keeping with the ideas I expressed above, have been included as considerations as part of a flexible set of mechanics that could be applied in different ways based on group consensus. Like:

    Slain
    The character is slain, if this is their Last Stand or they have fallen to the Shadow. Otherwise, they are presumed dead only to reappear later, or captured by the Enemy.

    Which of these will happen should emerge over time as a result of conversation between people around the table. A grim saga of the last of the Rangers defending a ruined stronghold makes every fight a Last Stand. A frolicksome tale about some hobbits that trick a goblin king out of his treasure might ensure that no fight is a Last Stand. Hobbitses are not made for fighting, precious.

    That's just an example, but that's the sort of thing I mean.
  • Hello,

    lots of interesting things said in this thread so far but too many to comment on at this point so I'll focus on the one just previous by johnthedm7000. Before I begin my dissertation (right back at you David! Yes I am self-acknowledgedly verbose - hence "dissertation" :) ) I want to bring forward a few very important ideas that have yet to be discussed.

    First, for this type of non-deterministic dice mechanic to flourish the DM cannot be running a pre-established story. It follows if the dice are not deterministic then the DM cannot have a (pre)determined story. One must support the other. That's the whole idea of coherent game design and play, yes? That the game "system" support the goal of play? I'll get back to that in a moment. This doesn't mean the DM can't prepare for the game session but this preparation is NOT destiny. Nor do this mean that the DM is entirely passive. They are actually quite active pushing things around keeping events interesting (and spicy) just not towards a specific preordained end.

    Second, and this follows the first, this non-deterministic "mechanic" does not support long term parties for the simple reason that in time each character will have their own goals that will develop over that they would like to pursue. How does this follow? Because as we are creating and making decisions over time the character motivations and goals (or even character death - or perhaps choosing to sail to the utmost West in Middle Earth) will diverge...and they should.

    Third, as a corollary to the above, this modality of play can lends itself to players having multiple characters all in the same world...and they should be varied and unequal. The simple reason for this is that each character has a different perspective and leads to a different gaming experience. The various characters add contrast to the world help keeping it fresh and growing. IOW it helps keep the game experience from getting stale.

    While the bottom two are not strictly necessary (but I believe important, YMMV) the first absolutely vital. So we come to johnthedm7000's concern -
    Otherwise, what you're talking about is pretty much pure illusionism where the GM uses whatever comes up on the dice as justification to make stuff up without rules or principles to guide them.
    While it is possible for the DM to abuse the role in the game it does not necessary follow. It's not the non-deterministic resolution mechanic that deprotagonizes player agency rather the true villain is the absolutely lethal idea that the "DM tells a story." Aside from those rare but apparently awesome instances The Beautifully Railroaded Game: Did you do it? where a given story was going to happen I believe the paradigm of "DM tells a story" should be shot, drawn & quatered, burned and the ashes thrown to the 4 corners of the earth.

    I play in a "spicy dice" game that has been running for 40 years and I've had the privilege of playing for last 21 years of it. The game IS intense! I've seen people cry at the table many times. One time an ongoing battle was so boisterous that riot police were called! I do not make this up. I've seen players driven to rage (me not to long ago) or bleakest blues. I've seen players given up beloved characters to save an NPC and I've seen betrayals that left everyone in stunned speechlessness. About 35 years ago a player whose character (a Dunedain) had been chasing down a vision when the last 3,000 Dunedain alive in the world were being systematically destroyed to last man, woman and child was in tears begging the DM to let him die with his people.

    How does this relate to quote above...the GM used the "spicy dice" mechanic" through all these years and events. Johnthedm7000 I disagree that deterministic mechanics prevents illusionism. D&D5e is a glaring example of books worth of mechanics that leave the players virtually no meaningful input at all. Point in fact I believe deterministic mechanics are orthogonal to (for lack of a better term, I hate it but I'll use it for now) Simulationist play. It believe this is so because I believe that Sim play is what I call "Semiotic Jazz".

    Semiotics because at the end of the day we are human beings sitting together having a conversation - albeit a very stylized and ritualized one. We roleplay/play story games because we want the experience to be meaningful. Be that meaning having a good time or experiencing a world or riding an emotional rollercoaster - or all maybe all the above. All this happens with signs and symbols (spoken language, gestures small and large, maps, photos, etc) which result in meaning creation but new signs and symbols which have other meanings and so on. These created meanings are meaningful to us because WE created them through of process of investment. We care about what we create and what we sometimes lose because of this investment.

    Jazz because I believe that the meaning creation process is mediated in a way that is very, very similar to how jazz works. The analogy is that the standard is the source material that everyone at the table wants to play. Like jazz it's not enough that the player have an academic knowledge of the "standard" they have to be invested in it. The player needs to be moved by it in some way because lots of creative decisions will need to be made, informed by it, over the session ON THE FLY. Right now! The "melody musicians" play chords that are informed by the melody. I believe these "chords" are the thematic elements of the "standard/source work" that we players including the DM resonate with. (No pun intended). These choice of what chords to use are not perfect and are subject to much interpretation. Yet the choices of what chords to play is just random but strongly informed and constrained by Music Theory, either explicitly or implicitly. Then we get to the soloists who then "riff" on the Standard. This I equate to the actual play of the players at the table. In jazz, as in roleplay, the choice of what tones/notes to play are not random but fairly constrained by the "standard/source material", what has been played in the past, the choice of chords, music theory, the overall group aesthetic, the individual player's aesthetic, the instrument the player is employing, etc. While the play is "improvisational" it is most certainly NOT free form and it definitely is not played off of sheet music. It is somewhere in between.

    This "riffing" is highly informed, leans strongly on theory but is most not deterministic. Hence my position the "Simulationist" play is neither illusionistic or well served by deterministic resolution mechanics. No sheet music/no DM "telling a story." What happens when a die rolled is called by is actually part of the "riffing" process. Properly employed it becomes part of semiotic signification process - its meaning changing from instant to instant depending on the moment in the here and now as well as everything that has ever happened in the past (that can be brought to bear).
  • The point of the die roll is not to determine if something happens the way you want it but rather add to the drama/meaning/excitement of what you are trying to do - right now! The die rolling mechanic can be used to mean anything within the constraints of all that I mentioned above. In the game I play the die roll is also used ritualistically to indicate that the game has officially begun. "Everyone roll...", and off we go. The die used in this fashion cannot be used deterministically because it is impossible to cover all possible events that might arise in any game.

    So if the die isn't used for task resolution what does it say about the style of play? Used in the "jazzy" method I described it says that we are all involved (implicitly) in what that die roll means. Sim is about creating and having an aesthetically pleasing/meaningful experience. The die roll is to support that group aesthetic - however that aesthetic is informed.

    I've gone on too much and not covered what I really needed to say, but such is way I write. David knows. Apologies to all.

    Best.
  • What I'm wondering is how specifically you determine what the die roll means in your manner of play? Is it established before the roll? After the roll? By whom? How does it add to the excitement of the group?

    Or to put it more simply: what's the mechanic here? When is it determined that dice are rolled and what is their purpose in being brought out? Imagine a new player showed up to your game and was eager to play but unversed in your group's dynamic and needed to be taught how to play.

    Specifically how would you answer these questions:

    1. So...when do I roll the die?

    2. Is there anything we have to talk about before rolling the die?

    3. What does rolling the die mean for me and my character(s)?

    4. How do we interpret the results of the die?

    I've re-read your posts three times and I still can't for the life of me see the answer to any of these. I desperately want to understand this, as it's completely alien to my experiences with RPGs. As I see it, mechanics (no matter what sort of mechanics they are) are there to drive interesting play. You say that the procedures you've set up in your game do that.

    What I'm asking is "How?"


  • I agree with this analysis, and am waiting for the solutions. Does it mean players and GM have to tune and rehearse prior to play ? or something ? what does it entail when some contribution is out of keys ?
  • edited November 2018
    @johnthedm7000 I'm not sure that answers to your 4 questions will carry any meaning without first embracing the context in which the die is rolled. It is not rolled as what you're referring to as a "mechanic". The Spicy Die roll is not a resolution mechanic at all. It's a randomized input procedure, nudging the fiction ever so slightly toward or away from character success. No one at the table imagines that the die makes most of that determination; it's just a nudge.

    Usually.

    Part of the excitement (or in some cases probably all of the excitement) is the chance of rolling a "1" or a "20" which lead to outlier outcomes.
  • If you'd only use a d6 instead of a d20, those exciting outliers would happen more often! :smiley:
  • @komradebob I think a 33% chance of a wacky extreme outcome might be a great idea for a game set in a more chaotic/swingy genre/setting!
  • . . . drive interesting play. You say that the procedures you've set up in your game do that.

    What I'm asking is "How?"

    I think that might be a different thread. The spicy die roll is part of that, but I'd say it's like 5% tops. The other 95% will require lots of explanation.

    I was hoping the links I posted would help, but conversing is definitely more fun than reading, so I don't blame you if you'd rather discuss from scratch. I don't think I have the time/energy for that right now, though. @Silmenume ?
  • edited November 2018

    @komradebob I think a 33% chance of a wacky extreme outcome might be a great idea for a game set in a more chaotic/swingy genre/setting!


    You look at it as 33%.

    I look at it as 16.5% Good / 16.5% Bad :wink:

    I think it would work well for a shorter form game, while a larger die base works better for a longer form game.

    ETA:
    Thinking more on it, the d12 might really be the best overall die to use, both for practical physical reasons and for a good percentage chance of something happening that is neither too high nor too low to be interesting.
  • edited November 2018
    I guess part of the GM's procedures need to include the directive that enough die rolls need to be called for to make it statistically likely that a 1 or a 20 will show up with the necessary frequency.

    I suppose that could explain why some approaches favor involved, drawn-out combat procedures. You're bound to get some of "exciting" results if you're throwing dozens of d20s over a typical combat, compared to just compressing combat resolution into a single die-roll like many other tasks often are.

    Would that make D&D 4E-style skill challenges a kind of spicification of non-combat task resolution?

    Edit to Add:
    Or, put another way, can we infer anything about the Spicy Die by looking at the ways other systems use their die rolls as overt regulators of tension? Is the OSR imperative to "reduce the reliance on die rolls, because statistically they are probably weighted against you" bland play, or maybe a reaction to the dice mechanics not hitting the "sweet spot" of meaningful extreme results? Does the progressive tension-building of Dread mirror the Spicy Die inasmuch as tower falls are an "inevitability" the longer you go without one? Dread seems to be a more clearly codified example of a spicy game.
  • edited November 2018

    Specifically how would you answer these questions:

    1. So...when do I roll the die?

    At the GM's discretion, with the GM advised to call for the dice for these reasons:
    • Tempo: It's about the right time for there to be a chance of something unexpected happening.
    • Uncertainty: Either the players believe, or the GM knows, that there are a bunch of meaningly different possible outcomes here.
    • Disclaim Responsibility: You want to leave the answer to a question up to chance. You want the answer to not entirely be "your fault".
    • Fish for License: You've got something big you want to happen! But it's jarring, and weakens your authority, to just say that it happens, out of the blue. People are more willing to accept something big and unexpected after a particularly good or bad roll. So call for a roll mostly to have a chance for an extremely high or low result to grant you the license to do your big thing!
    • Signal: To communicate that something important is happening in game. "Roll initiative", or, "Roll perception."

    2. Is there anything we have to talk about before rolling the die?

    No, but there are a couple of things we might talk about.

    The way the GM interprets the die roll depends on what is normal, expected, likely, or default—according to some weighted combination of the GM's private knowledge (she is the Source of Truth for the shared imagined space, after all) and table consensus.

    So from the GM's perspective, it's important to often communicate things that keep everyone on the same page. "That doesn't look likely", or "He doesn't hold his sword like a true fighter," or "You've jumped further distances before, and carrying less weight."

    And from the player's perspective, it's important to frequently make sure you understand your circumstances and odds. "Does her horse look fleeter or heartier than mine?" or "Do I think I can hit a moving target at that range?"

    That communication happens before the GM says, "Roll!". Afterward, the GM will sometimes but usually NOT announce a target number, and possibly a framework for interpreting it. So you'll get conversations that go like this:

    Player: Does her horse look fleeter or heartier than mine?
    GM: Very much so, and you're a good judge of horse-flesh.
    Player: Fuck it. I bolt anyway! I dig in my spurs!
    GM: Good luck! Roll me a 17 or better!

    3. What does rolling the die mean for me and my character(s)?

    For you at the table, it might mean the GM is communicating something. "Pay attention to this!" or "You're trying something dangerous!" or "The spotlight's on you now!" or "We're getting started."

    It also means that the GM is about to contribute something to the fiction mediated by the die's result: if it rolls low, something worse than you might have expected; high, something better than you might have expected.

    In-fiction, it also means there's a chance that fate is turning, here. Something extreme might happen if a 1 or 20 (or the equivalent in whatever dice mechanic you're using) comes up.

    4. How do we interpret the results of the die?

    The GM has broad license in interpretation, constrained by:
    • The Expected Result: What the most likely outcome is. What you'd be expected to say happens next if nobody touched the dice.
    • The Obvious Alternatives: If things go well, what're the obvious ways they could go well? If they go poorly, what're he obvious ways they could go poorly?
    • Narrative Momentum: If something unexpected happens, you might look to the progress of the session and the mood at the table to feel out just HOW unexpected an outcome you can get away with. If it's at a climactic moment we've been building to for hours, and then someone rolls two 20s in a row, go big!
    • Promises You've Made: As in the above "Rolle me a 17 or better" example.
    • The Roll: Determines whether the GM has license to only say the expected thing; or the expected thing OR an obvious good or bad alternative; or JUST an obviously good or bad alternative; or (nat 1 or 20) something entirely unexpected.
  • (And I 100% agree that Dread is a well-codified Spicy game!)
  • Done ethically, with the full participation of the table isn't this just OSR rulings *as* a resolution system? This doesn't sound new to me, this sounds like a codification of the same sort of "hey guys, I'm not invested in whether or not there's something you can use as a shiv in this prison cell. Let's roll a d6. 1-2 means there's no shiv, 3-4 means there's something (maybe a bone shard or fragment of brick) you could use as one, 5-6 means there's an actual honest-to-god dagger or knife stowed away" just as the only game mechanic.

    The only thing that differentiates it from hygienic OSR random-content generation is handwavey bullshit where the GM can move the goalposts or decide things in secret. Dread is indeed a functional version of that, because there's an honest-to-god conversation in the rule-book where the GM can say "Hey Becka, if you want to seriously injure this wolf then you're going to need to make two pulls. You've only got a stick after all, and it's a big fucking timber wolf. One pull will force it back and give you some breathing room but it's not going to seriously injure it."

    I will say that there's some illusionist bullshit in Dread, where (in example scenarios) it's suggested that the GM make players make pulls for stuff that the GM knows doesn't matter. The core of the system though is:

    1. If you're doing something risky, pull a block. Whether something is risky for you is based on the GM's judgment, along with your answers to the scenario's questions. So if you're a police officer, shooting a gun at a stationary target 20 ft away probably isn't risky. If you're just some schmuck, then it probably is.

    2. If you're doing something really risky the GM will tell you and ask you to pull multiple blocks to pull it off.

    3. If you want to do something really well, tell the GM. They might ask for additional pulls, based on the situation and your answers to the questions.

    4. If you wuss out and don't pull, you fail or succeed to no benefit. If you successfully pull, you pull (ha!) it off. If you knock the tower over your character gets taken out of play, or is a goner to be killed off at will by the GM.

    That's perfectly functional, assuming everyone's on the same page regarding the shared imagined space and there's a general understanding that the answers players give to questions are going to be respected. Don't make the 30-year veteran entomologist pull to ID an exotic bug. Don't make the power-lifter pull to push a piano in front of a door.

    Which really I think is the key to what you folks are calling "spicy" play. It's not anything unique, it's having a group with a shared enthusiasm for and shared understanding of the fiction. And that can exist decoupled from "I roll the dice and then make up whatever I want". I think the key to developing games that scratch this itch is having resolution systems that care more about fictional positioning, genre, and the like than anything else.

    A game based on rulings would be pretty cool though...kind of like a World of Dungeons type deal where the group pauses every now and again to make custom moves that fit how they see the world working. Or a barebones sort of deal where the GM can change the resolution system before each roll, but needs to get buy in from the table first and needs to promise different outcomes depending on the die result, and to deliver on that promise.

    ...so yeah. Mechanics keeping their promises and respecting the fiction are key here, methinks.
  • It's definitely not anything unique. It's as old as RPGs and probably older; it's an incredibly natural way to play, and something a lot of groups do by accident, or fall back upon when they're nominally playing some other system.

    It's also incredibly easy to do unhygienically: the goal-post moving you mention.

    But a lot of the things you want, John, are things that I very much do not want. Bargaining with the GM? Players making meta-game level decisions about mechanical risk vs. narrative reward? Explicitly stating possible outcomes before invoking the mechanics? None of that.

    I want players making narrative decisions about risk versus reward. I want players to ask the GM how they perceive the situation—for the character's estimation of her own situation, as verbalized by the conversation between player and GM, to be the common ground that centers the group's expectations of likely outcomes and possible modes of success and misfortune.

    This is kind of like OSR "make up a random table and roll on it on-the-fly", and it is kind of like *World moves, but it's clearly just kissing cousins, clearly not exactly the same thing.

    Here, I'll make some spicy (heh) claims:

    1. Illusionism is unhygienic Spicy play.

    2. We don't have a good codified example of pure and hygienic Spicy play (even Jay's GM Cary engages in heavy goal-post moving), but that doesn't mean it's impossible or doesn't exist, any more than pure and hygienic Forgey Nar play was impossible or nonexistant before Ron wrote Sorcerer.
  • That's the thing though, I don't know if it *can* be disentangled from the goalpost moving. For me at least, the thing that makes OSR rulings like my shiv example or Dread's fictional-positioning based bargaining ethical are because there's a promise. Specifically, one akin to your "Get me a 17 or higher."

    The only difference really is that by not stating anything about outcomes before the roll, you give the GM a huge amount of room to bullshit and move goalposts either because that's what fits their idea of a good story, or because they think it's what the players want to hear. It's like "roll me a Perception check" *doesn't have an idea of the DC*

    Player: I got a 9.

    GM: (Reads the room) Ok...you don't see the giant spider swoop down! It's right on your back!

    In this case, the roll meant nothing. It doesn't change the fiction one bit, or provide a guide for how the conversation shifts. It's the GM trying to read peoples minds and give them what they want or ignoring that to tell the story they want. The dice don't matter, because they serve only as an ad-hoc justification for fiction, rather than a means of generating it.

    Speaking as someone who's been selling stuff for about 10 years, this is the game equivalent of walking into an empty office to "talk to your manager" about giving a customer a discount. You know it's not going to happen, because your manager isn't there. But they don't know it because there's been no conversation about the subject. They think you're in there doing the best you can, and you tell them what they want to hear.

    I think the closest non-manipulative example of this sort of play that I can think of is Everway, with Tarot Cards being used in lieu of dice. They don't have any discreet and defined impact on the fiction, but the GM has to use them as a *guide* and the mutual understanding of archetypal symbols and the evocative art serves as a way for player and GM to agree on what happens next. But that's the difference for me at least: in Everway it's called out that the Tarot cards just set the tone of the conversation but don't really determine where it's going to go. It's Who's Line, where the points don't really matter but what's drawn out of the hat (or the deck) does because everyone at the table agrees that it does.

    Another potential way to pull this off might be a relatively straightforward resolution system (one that prioritizes fiction as the most important sort of factor) with hidden resolution where the GM marks down the target number on a sheet of paper and narrates results when players roll. You could sell the Player's book with character creation, and the GM's book with the actual moving parts separately so that players are completely focused on the fiction. There'd be no negotiation, but there'd at least be a nod towards holding the GM accountable, especially if you made GM judgments into formal precedent in a similar way to the rulings----rules continuum.

    Hiding that information from the players, while keeping the conversation as a focus of play, and having that conversation impact resolution directly would seem to tick all of your boxes while limiting the likelihood that the GM moves goalposts. They still *could* but I find that committing to something tends to keep people honest, at least in the short term.
  • Where you think it can't be done, I strongly believe it can! Step one is making a strong commitment to not fucking do it.

    Step two is come up with lots of little accountability to tricks to help yourself not do it, because it's easy to do by accident. One of those is to encourage the player-GM back and forth that gets the expected outcome verbalized as the GM's description of the character's assessment of the situation.

    Another is to try to silently acknowledge to yourself before the roll what the most likely outcome is. Another is, when you fail to do that (it's hard in practice!), to take a moment to back into it after the fact, and if you can try to incorporate that most-likely outcome into your contribution to the narrative: After rolling a 6 on the d20, "For a moment it seems like you'll overpower him through sheer strength at arms, but your axe sticks in his shield for half a heartbeat and in that opening..."

    Step three is practice, practice, practice, because restraining these naughty impulses is not second nature when you crawl out of the womb!

    I very much agree that it's easy to slide into cheaty goal-post-moving-y stuff. But it's hardly insurmountable. The main difference between my ideal of functional Spicy play the game designs beloved of the SG community is: in good Spicy play you address this sort of issue with techniques that aim to be as invisible and natural as possible to players; in traditional SG designs you address them with mechanics that are both player and GM facing.
  • edited November 2018
    @johnthedm7000 I think calling Spicy Die play "OSR random-content generation plus handwavey bullshit" is like calling folk music "death metal with busted amps." Direct participant interaction as the primary determinant of what happens next, mediated only sort of and only sometimes by dice, is a feature, not a bug.

    Spicy Die play is a horrible way to maximize fairness of outcomes. That isn't what's being attempted. The intent is rather to maximize meaningfulness of outcomes. The GM isn't supposed to care about target numbers. The GM is supposed to care about upholding their end of the semiotic jazz in progress. Whether the die roll matters a little, a lot, or not at all, is intentionally subordinate to the melody of the moment.

    The difficulty in communicating this does perhaps point to two needs:

    1: The need to sever inapplicable associations.

    A player attempting an uncertain action, picking up a die, shaking it in their hand, rolling it, watching in anticipation for the result, reacting to the number, whatever it may be... none of that is appropriate for "GM decides, roll factors in to some some degree which may be very small". I wonder if a better procedure* would be that the when a player attempts something uncertain:

    1) the GM starts telling them what happens, and then
    2) in the middle of their narration the GM rolls a die at exactly the moment where they perceive the most uncertainty, and then
    3) the GM tweaks their narration significantly on a 1 or a 20, less significantly on any other result

    The GM could also indicate degree of uncertain via die size. d4 means "who knows?" (1 = disaster, 4 = triumph, so 50% wacky), d10 means "some volatility" (20% wacky), and d20 means "I basically know what happens here, but 10% maybe not."

    2: The need to sell the upside of this alternative.

    "Okay, so some people get a lot out of playing in this 'Spicy Die' way. What exactly do they get that's any different than what I get out of playing with formal rules and binding die rolls and whatnot?"

    I hope Jay can answer this. I can't articulate it concisely. Just two relevant thoughts:

    1) It's an experiential preference. Sometimes the fictional events of play (including outcomes of character actions) are less important than how they are experienced by the participants. Sometimes, any more input than "this goes better/worse than it maybe could have" qualifies as an interruption to the fiction-making flow/pace of speech.

    2) Beyond the question of "what would happen based on these immeasurable fictional particulars" there's also the question of "what matters based on the people and the moment". No rule or mechanic can ever answer either of these questions in quite the same way as a sufficiently skilled participant. A good rule offers something of its own to the equation (which is why people bother using it), so the result you get is less purely a matter of the fiction appearing to act as a causal agent in itself.
  • edited November 2018
    I wonder if Spicy Die play is "freeform plus"? A lot of the foundation I'm seeing as required here is basically the foundation for good freeform.

    Most published freeform games I'm aware of carefully engineer a set-up so that once everyone is properly oriented, they can just "go" and all their interactions will naturally develop the shared fictional matters of interest in a meaningful way. I wonder when "you all have reasons to want to complete this fantasy adventure quest" does and does not cover those bases.

    Jay, do you think it's correct to think of spicy die rolls as punctuating freeform play, or is that not accurate in your game?
  • edited November 2018
    Also, I should note that I'm testing my own understanding of Jay's game here. I hope I get it, but maybe I don't. I get freeform, and I get trusting the GM to do their job, but I don't think I've ever played with the particular combo of "GM as causality arbiter" and "GM as fellow Semiotic Jazz band member".

    My procedure suggestion in my opening post was much more "impartial ref" and my suggestion in my last reply to John was more "flowing with the vibe" and now I'm not sure which is a better fit.

    When I GM OSR stuff, I strive to be exciting, but only within the constraints of impartial fairness. I have no idea what the opposite (striving for fairness, but only within being exciting) would feel like. And I don't know if that's what Jay's GM is doing anyway.
  • Yes, it's FreeformPlus .
  • edited November 2018
    Eeeeeeenh. Idunno. Insofar as any RPG is "freeform, minus some techniques used in freeform, plus a bunch of other rules and techniques."

    Saying it's freeform+ is maybe a more useful way of understanding what's going on at that table (compared to "Like D&D minus this plus this"), but hardly necessary or sufficient to describe what's actually happening. EDIT: Certainly not enough for someone who's trying to distill and clarify it into reproducible form.

  • I look at it as 16.5% Good / 16.5% Bad :wink:

    I think it would work well for a shorter form game, while a larger die base works better for a longer form game.

    ETA:
    Thinking more on it, the d12 might really be the best overall die to use, both for practical physical reasons and for a good percentage chance of something happening that is neither too high nor too low to be interesting.

    I have tried that with my 'spicy roll' inspired vanilla fantasy troupe play minicampaign and what I found was that rolling a 6 or a 1 with d6s is not as exciting as with the d20! Just think about your experience with BitD/Coriolis/etc and compare it with D&D criticall rolls :)

    I think you are right with the d12 but I think d20 might feels more 'classic' or 'natural' for most of the roleplayers. One solution is to roll a lot! :)
  • My instincts tell me that in a spicy roll game the GM shouldn't be an impartial ref but more like the 'fan of the characters' on square! Also this style needs more trust from the players than usual. So their principle might be something like 'be the fan of the GM's vision'. Otherwise any situation falls into everlasting bickering and positioning.

    Also, one important function of rolling in a spicy roll game (and to a less extent in any RPG) is not resolution, but to get the players attention. For various psychological reasons GM info dumps after the roll are more meaningful to players (as 'results') than before it (as 'establishing details').
  • hamnabc:

    Depends on which games you played most early on.

    01-05/96-00 feels exactly correct to me ( which is the same as 1/20 on d20) :wink:

    I just like d12 because it's generally an under-used die, but rolls about as well ( or better, if you want it to stop quicker) than d20. It also makes for math that's both simple and a bit obscure at the same time ( fraction based rather than percent based like d10 or d20).

    It also feels better than smaller dice types, much like d20 does for spicy rolls, but with a smaller range, so a higher likelihood of something happening.

    I mean really, it's the Goldie Locks die :smiley:

    ( I feel like I should get sort of kickback from the D12 Manufacturers Consortium having posted this)
  • Agree :)

    D100 is as classic as it can get with Runequest/CoC/etc. I guess it was huge in the US but less influential in (continental) Europe.

    D12 feels somewhat archaic, 'pre-roman', which is cool but invokes a narrower theme for me. Would be great for ancient / mythic type games where the dice results could be interpreted as oracle symbols (as in The Clay That Woke or Swords Without Master)!
  • . . . drive interesting play. You say that the procedures you've set up in your game do that.

    What I'm asking is "How?"

    I think that might be a different thread. The spicy die roll is part of that, but I'd say it's like 5% tops. The other 95% will require lots of explanation.

    I was hoping the links I posted would help, but conversing is definitely more fun than reading, so I don't blame you if you'd rather discuss from scratch. I don't think I have the time/energy for that right now, though. @Silmenume ?
    I agree that another thread on this specific topic would be best, we're starting to drift afield a bit.

    While jeph had many amazingly spot on observations where he enumerated lots of good "reasons" and explanations about when and what we're rolling for I'd have to think long and deep to make any meaningful comment on whether his lists were exhaustive. They certainly weren't wrong.

    Best
  • The dice don't matter, because they serve only as an ad-hoc justification for fiction, rather than a means of generating it.

    I can see a problem here in a fundamental error regarding an assumption about what happens at the table during actual roleplay. Dice or mechanics ONLY matter because we players all AGREE that they matter. Mechanics cannot enforce themselves. Only the players can implement or respect or agree (choose the word that facilitates understanding best) that a "mechanic" is valid, useful and will be followed here and now. A poster (Vincent Baker [further note - apparently Emily Care Boss was also instrumental in forumation this idea]) proposed this understanding role-play many years ago and it eventually went by the name The lumpley principle (lumpley was Vincent's screen name at the time - don't know if he still uses it or not.)

    In short Vincent propounded the theory that the only things that "happen in play" are because ALL the players are in agreement about whatever piece of information is being introduced. To speed matters along and to try and help shape the nature of play, mechanics might be agreed to by all the players as being useful shortcuts to this decision making process. But make no mistake the mechanics cannot and do not self-enforce themselves into the shared imagined space. Just in the same way "mechanics" cannot and do not "generate the fiction." Ultimate that is entirely the players' doing. The game system cannot function without the players making it so. This is not hairsplitting. This fundamental and foundational. The "rules", the "mechanics", the "system" that governs the means by which fictional elements are introduced and then agreed to have entered into the shared imagined space can only happen because all the players agree that said piece of information enters via the mutually agreed upon "system."

    Mechanics decide nothing and categorically cannot decide anything unless all the players agree that the output of the mechanics system as processed by some player (usually the GM but not necessarily) is viable. If anyone wishes to read more on this topic a thread called, shockingly enough, The lumpley principle contains links that includes some interesting conversations on the topic while it is debated and worked through. There are also some other phrasings of the lumpley principle that are probably easier to understand.

    Best
  • edited November 2018
    Finally - the "moving goal post" controversy/misunderstanding.

    Any game where the GM "moves the goal post" is almost assuredly deprotagonizing. There may be instances where this is a design feature of the game but I can't think of any at the moment.

    WRT to event that I posted about let me clear a few things up.

    First of all, as the game is experiential as opposed to objective (just like in real life!) any information that is given to a player via his character is a "perception" not an objective-meta-truth.

    Second, given that all input is treated as "perception" the questions asked and the answers given are in estimates and in terms of plausibility not fixed absolute values.

    Third, this use of plausibility and estimates allow far more play opportunities than fixed numerical values. If you will note in the original exchange I posted the GM never gave distance to target and one was never asked. The player just assumed that the target was in range and took action. Instead of the GM saying, "the Druid is 100 yards away and thus impossible for you to reach" he allowed for the attempt since distance was not a fixed established feature.

    Finally, the phrase "don't talk to me unless you roll a twenty" is so very much more than a mere target number. As noted in so many posts above "20's" are extraordinary events. So the GM in stating the above is "communicating" to the player that what he is attempting to do is right on the very edge of plausibility. By requiring further roles of an extraordinary nature "an additional 20, hitting in the head (89-00 on percentile dice), upper 50 percentile of the damage dice (4-6 on a d6), etc." he's doing two things. The DM is further communicating just how very, very difficult said task was in these staggered out roll requests. But also he's raising the energy at the table with each success of the die roll. This was the reason for all the cheering and yelling at the player's success. We had been given time to invest in the unfolding events and get excited as each extraordinary roll came up.

    Instead of stating that what the player was doing the impossible (because this was supposed to be the night's BBEG) he allowed the event and by extension the reality of the world to unfold with the dice rolls. The player's dwarf not only slew the bad guy very early in the night with all experience that came with that he freaking killed the the guy in a single blow! He was also awarded a permanent +1 to the character's strength. Why? It was not only a reward for succeeding against very steep odds but it also helps to establish how this seemingly impossible feat was accomplished. The dwarf was stronger than he thought or ever had reason to push himself until this point in time. We just jazzed in new information into the shared imagined space in a really flipping exciting fashion!

    If the goal post could be argued that it moved, it went from what should have been impossible to merely highly improbable but doable. But the goal post was not established before the player took action. The player had only the vaguest notion about the difficulty (range to target) of what he was attempting but the DM gave his the chance...and the player succeeded in a highly memorable manner.

    This was but a single method for dealing with a situation. It is not one that is used very often because using it too often would make the extraordinary banal thus altering the baseline of the world.

    The takeaway from this example is that deterministic resolution mechanics would have forbidden success. By using this particular method features of the world were established as the rolling continued and ultimately ended in an extremely emotionally satisfying manner. New understandings/meanings were established about the world and the system via semiosis. No "cheating" or "robbing" the player here.

    Best,

    Jay

    Edited - for some minor improvements in clarity and to remove a few of the many pestiferous typos.
  • Real quick,

    I'm solidly with jeph on the whole freeform+ thing. While there is improvisation said improvisation is highly informed and tightly constrained. The term freeform+ does not do justice to incredible complexity of what happens during play. Remember on the semiotic side we're trying to figure out what is going on, establish the manner in which we can act and see the results of our actions. The logical Abductive, Inductive, Deductive cycle. The exact process by which we make sense of the world in real life.

    Best,

    Jay
  • Silmenume said:

    […] "mechanics" cannot and do not "generate the fiction." Ultimate that is entirely the players' doing.

    "Guns don't kill people, people do."

    Sure, whatever. We all can agree that guns are a lot more useful for killing people than for shaving beards, though.
    Silmenume said:

    The game system cannot function without the players making it so.

    Obviously, without players there's no game. The assumption is not that the mechanics generate fiction - or not - by themselves, but that they generate fiction when agreed upon and implemented by the players. "Mechanics generate fiction" is just a linguistic shorthand for that. Is there really a need, in this context, to specify that a mechanic doesn't work by magic but by the players enacting it?
  • Silmenume said:

    The term freeform+ does not do justice to incredible complexity of what happens during play.

    Perhaps! Or perhaps it depends on what you hear in the term "freeform"? When I talk about successful freeform, what I mean is that non-mechanical techniques are shouldering the load that other games assign to mechanics. But perhaps the term "freeform" doesn't really communicate that by itself.
  • edited November 2018
    .
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