"I've always GMed like that" [split from Mechanics?]

edited April 2011 in Story Games
So.
Folks.
Essplain to me how AW presents a particular GMing style by clarifying a style of GMing that is different from it.
From the previous thread...
John Harper:
AW makes that style explicit (the way DitV does for a different style, or Burning Wheel does for another). To me, the explicit method is waaaay easier. I don't have to design the procedures and techniques I need as I go, for one thing.
What does that meeeean? What does DitV tell the GM to do that AW doesn't tell the MC to do?
Help me, Obi-Wan! I have no idea.
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Comments

  • Could someone quote a couple of lines from each book?

    I'm at work and don't have them with me.
  • Honestly, at this point, the broad strokes of Dogs make it look like Dogs has lots of proto-AW advice:
    "Play the town."
    "Actively reveal the town in play."
    "Follow the players' lead about what's important."
    "Do NOT have a solution in mind."

    Ones that don't seem quite the same:
    "Drive play toward conflict."
    "Escalate, escalate, escalate."
    "Playing God?" [the content of Dogs is explicitly framed around the morality and theology of handling community conflict. AW is more agnostic about this.]

    AW advice for the MC that seems distinct from the Dogs style:
    "Make your move, but misdirect."
    "Look through crosshairs."
    "Ask provocative questions and build on the answers."
    "Respond with fuckery and intermittent rewards."
  • Posted By: Zac in VirginiaEssplain to me how AW presents a particular GMing style by clarifying a style of GMing that is different from it.
    I'd love to see answers to this question, too, please.
  • Posted By: NeilPosted By: Zac in VirginiaEssplain to me how AW presents a particular GMing style by clarifying a style of GMing that is different from it.
    I'd love to see answers to this question, too, please.

    Well, I'd say the biggest difference is the level of "control" espoused by various games for the GM/MC during actual play; essentially "railroading" vs "roll-with-the-punches". AW specifically instructs the MC not to plan scenarios ahead of time, but to go with the flow of the game as it occurs in play while many other games instruct the GM to have pre-built scenarios/situations/scenes for the players to experience/solve/explore, which are still bounded by the GM's desires as to where the players go after "completing" the scene.
  • Thanks, Kevin! Good call.
    Now, for Double Jeopardy, can anyone tell me how AW's MC-ing differs from other indie games' GMing?
    For Final Jeopardy, explain to me how AW differs from other Lumpley games in this respect. :)
  • edited May 2011
    Wow, uh, GMing different indie games is really different. The prep is different. What you are asked to do is different.
    • Mouse Guard: You create several very specific challenges ("There's a flooded stream!") based on a specific mission that the PCs are given and make sure these challenges are from the four different categories (mice, seasons, weather, animals). Then you use some of these challenges in play, depending on how the PCs decide to approach things, and improvise twists and outcomes based on what they do. Finally, you let the players have a turn and recover a bit. The next game, you do the same thing again.
    • Dogs in the Vineyard: You create a town with several interlocking issues based on pride ("Josiah won't marry me even though he knocked me up! / I'll kill that boy! / That girl's possessed; I'll be damned if I'll marry her! / You gotta exorcize the demon from my child!"), then you push these issues at the PCs and follow the outcomes of the choices they make. In the next town, you press harder, based on the way they handled things in previous towns.
    • Mountain Witch: You create challenges in three different areas: the foot of the mountain, higher up, and then in the fortress of the witch. You do a lot of "fishing" where you ask the characters questions and turn them into challenges or interesting situations ("You stumble upon an icy mirror which reflects your greatest fear. What do you see in it?"). You allow the PCs to gradually reveal their dark fates and freely narrate things related to them. You play the witch as merely a moderately difficult enemy and then giggle as they turn on each other, Reservoir Dogs style, before or after the witch is dead. Then, the game ends.
    • Agon: You create a gung-ho atmosphere. You have the gods give the PCs contradictory instructions. You create a monster and some challenges in a particular area. You give the PCs a bunch of leeway in how they want to approach things (though this isn't entirely clear in the book). You ridicule the players if they're not badass and successful enough, but praise and shout when they succeed gloriously. You remind players to mark glory all the time, for everything. You play the demanding, fickle gods if the PCs have to ask for more divine favor. If they survive the first monster, you do it again. Running 3:16 is pretty similar, not surprisingly, though in that game, whatever you do is never enough for the marine brass.
    These are all pretty different from AW, yeah?
  • edited May 2011
    Zac, I think misdirecting is a good example.

    Apocalypse World encourages you to "Make a move, but misdirect". Dogs In The Vineyard encourages you to reveal things immediately: in the rulebook, the section on "Actively reveal the town in play" basically encourages you not to misdirect.

    Imagine that, in a game, an NPC called Martha was worshipping a dark god. In Dogs In The Vineyard, this would be immediately obvious: everyone would say "Martha is worshipping a dark god!". In Apocalypse World, this would not be immediately obvious: children might disappear, Martha might have spots of blood on her clothes, but you wouldn't immediately know.

    (And then, in Poison'd, if someone worships the devil, the GM turns to another player and says: hey, you know that bargain you struck with God? He's calling that in.)

    Graham
  • Posted By: GrahamApocalypse World encourages you to "Make a move, but misdirect".
    I think you've mis-interpreted what that statement means. Looking at the AW rulebook, p. 110-1, it says:
    Apocalypse WorldOf course the real reason why you choose a move exists in the real world. Somebody has her character go someplace new. somebody misses a roll, somebody hits a roll that calls for you to answer, everybody's looking to you to say something, so you choose a move to make. Real world reasons. However, misdirect: pretend that you're making your move for reasons entirely within the game's fiction instead. ... Make like it's the game's fiction that chooses your move for you, and so correspondingly always choose a move that the game's fiction makes possible.
    (And I'm only being picky about it in this thread because it's exactly what this thread is about. I wouldn't normally make a big thing about Graham's excellent example of adding suspense to a game.)
  • Jonathan,

    Thanks for the great post and great examples. They're very helpful.

    However, I'm feeling a little slow here, like there's this obvious fact that everyone can see but I just can't get my head around. In that spirit, could you please expand on those examples a little?

    I understand that the prep is different, both in terminology and what's prepped. But I'm not seeing that the actions of the GM in play are that different. I use a standard toolkit of R-maps, desperate and driven NPCs, and Bangs. I can apply that toolkit to DitV, Sorcerer, Mouse Guard, and D&D. Why can I not do the same for AW? Am I doing something 'wrong' in using the same tools for all those games?
  • edited May 2011
    Whoops.

    I mean "Make your move, but never speak its name". In Dogs, when you make a move, you always speak its name.

    Basically, Dogs encourages you to be direct, whereas Apocalypse World often encourages you to be indirect.

    It's hard to find direct contradictions between GMing styles. Often, games emphasise different things, rather than contradicting each other. For example, AW says "Make PC-NPC-PC triangles". Dogs doesn't specifically say "Don't create PC-NPC-PC triangles", but it's not a thing.
  • Posted By: GrahamIt's hard to find direct contradictions between GMing styles. Often, games emphasise different things, rather than contradicting each other.
    This. This is exactly why I've been confused. Thanks, all!

    I particularly like your dark-god-cultist example, Graham: in AW, the tension would arise from "Is she? Isn't she?" conjecture about the character - is she an evil sorceress or what?
    In Dogs, if my limited AP is any indication, it is entirely up to the players to determine the contours of spiritual reality. Someone is only a demon if the players declare that it is so. It'd be immediately obvious if someone isn't following the bevy of religious decrees the Faithful must observe, but that's not the source of conflict - the conflict is, "You've done wrong, yeah, but how do I get you to pay for that without punishing a lot of innocent people, too?"
    AW is less thinky and cerebral about its premise - the rules, right down at the mechanical level (rather than procedural), point characters at one another and them push them together, hard or gently. Sex moves exist to give you a mechanical incentive to explore relationships with other characters. Hx does this too, but more as an afterthought that complements sex moves and whatnot.
    As a result, Dogs can have powerful moments where the whole table gets a little quiet and folks kind of go, "Geez, our divine judgment is rough." AW builds on lots of different fronts (no pun intended) to kind of pile up the emotional significance between people on a lot of levels - sex, violence, scarcity, etc.
  • Graham's right, but even though they're hard to find, there are contradictions.

    In Mouse Guard, it's the GM's job to think up cool obstacles and put them in the path of the patrol. The action at the table is: When the patrol does something (travel to Spruceruck) put an obstacle in the way (the river is flooded and impassable).

    In AW, it's the GM's job to make the world seem real. If you always create an obstacle when a PC does something, that makes the world seem contrived, not real, so you don't do that. The action at the table is: when a PC does something (break into the pump room), look at their situation in the fiction and respond accordingly (no one guards the pump room. yep, you do it).

    Trying to run AW like a Mouse Guard GM would kind of suck (and vice versa). It's almost like they're different games or something. :)
  • edited May 2011
    NOTE: Cross-posted with a few people.
    Posted By: NeilI understand that the prep is different, both in terminology and what's prepped. But I'm not seeing that the actions of the GM in play are that different. I use a standard toolkit of R-maps, desperate and driven NPCs, and Bangs. I can apply that toolkit to DitV, Sorcerer, Mouse Guard, and D&D. Why can I not do the same for AW? Am I doing something 'wrong' in using the same tools for all those games?
    Neil: So we can't really pretend that Sorcerer, Dogs in the Vineyard, and Mouse Guard aren't related to each other. Remember that part, in the back of Dogs, where Vincent suggests that "Dogs owes so much to Sorcerer that it might have been better as a Sorcerer hack"? (Ha!) And the mission-based structure of Mouse Guard, where Gwendolyn sends the patrol somewhere, to sort out problems, is very Dogs-esque. MG is like a Dogs+BW cocktail of awesome.

    But Graham's right that, even if you draw on the same body of techniques, the emphasis can be really different, as is the way the GM thinks about their job and how they push against the players' intentions. Let's just talk about Dogs, MG, and AW, since those are the ones I've run the most.

    In Dogs, the PCs don't really have a community of their own, right? They have their group of Dogs, but they are visiting other people's communities and trying to solve their problems, typically with the assumption that they'll never be back here again. So you don't have time to let problems creep up on the players. This is what Graham is talking about. The people of the town have to come out and make the problems super evident, right from the get go, as the PCs are riding into the town square. The stuff that festers and gets drawn out are the relationships between the Dogs and each Dog's sense of themselves and their moral standing. But as GM you can't really do anything but push at that, letting the players decide what to do with it.

    Mouse Guard is similar, but there is this sense that the Guard's standing is in trouble, with insurrections everywhere and the constant threat that mouse civilization could be wiped off the map. So, in a sense, every community you visit is teetering on the edge of destruction, not just on the edge of damnation like they are in Dogs. And while guardmice are expected to uphold what is true and good, they don't have religious authority, just whatever loyalty and allegiance they can win is through their deeds and words and swords. Consequently, I don't see the relationships between the PCs as the place where anything festers, or that guardmice worry about their moral standing. What festers is the relationship between the guardmice and those they are supposed to serve. In Dogs, the faithful are never going to rise up and overthrow the leadership of the Dogs, but that's a very real possibility in MG. Plus, you have basic survival as a constant threat, where it isn't so much in Dogs.

    Apocalypse World is different too. Basic survival is definitely a thing, like Mouse Guard, and is even more explicitly placed front and center. But there are also conflicts that fester between the PCs (often in the form of PC-NPC-PC triangles, but in other forms too). Additionally, the instructions are basically to treat everything and everyone as potentially a threat of some kind, which feels different to both Dogs and MG, where having allies, mentors, and innocents is pretty common. No one is safe or innocent in AW unless you specifically use moves (like the advanced Seduce/Manipulate or retiring to safety) to make them that way. You press from all sides and ask the PCs to make choices about which things they care more about, which things they will act and fight for. Questions of leadership and responsibility are also big in AW, even moreso than in the ranks that guardmice carry, through the way that gang-controlling moves like Leadership, Pack Alpha, and Frenzy work and the way you stat up and deal with gangs, followers, crews, holdings, stasis, and other people and things that you possess. Plus, in AW, the problems have time to creep up on you, through countdown clocks and the like.

    I can think of many, many situations where the right thing to do when GMing one of these games would be the exact wrong thing to do when GMing another game. Like, in Mouse Guard, if a PC fails a roll, you can have them succeed but with a twist or other consequence. In both Dogs and AW, that doesn't make any sense at all. Or, in Dogs, you don't really ask the PCs questions about how they normally do things like in AW, because they're in a town they've probably never visited before. And in AW, you don't escalate all the time like you do in Dogs, constantly upping the level of conflict. You look at your moves and your prep and make decisions accordingly.

    Does that make more sense?
  • Posted By: J. WaltonRemember that part, in the back of Dogs, where Vincent suggests that "Dogs owes so much to Sorcerer that it might have been better as a Sorcerer hack"? (Ha!)
    I read that and put a little tick mark next to it, and in the margin, wrote, "this is wrong."

    :D
  • Posted By: GrahamIt's hard to find direct contradictions between GMing styles. Often, games emphasise different things, rather than contradicting each other. For example, AW says "Make PC-NPC-PC triangles". Dogs doesn't specifically say "Don't create PC-NPC-PC triangles", but it's not athing.
    I wouldn't call those "GMing styles", but game designs.

    To me, GMing style would be the approach a GM takes to a game, regardless of the game itself. Many indie games attempt to shape this, while it's usually GM fiat in trad games.

    Take, for example, the concept of a "Big Bad"; the GM/MC has an "evil" individual they're looking to bedevil the PCs with.

    In AW, an MC might have a grotesque they really like and are hoping to advance a countdown clock in an interesting threat via their moves. The Big Bad shows up to taunt the PCs (announce future badness) and they decide to blow her away right there. The GMing style for being an MC forces that MC to go "COOL!" regardless of shattered hopes/cool ideas... and to do that without resentment.


    In DitV, the GM may have a sorcerer, leading a cult, that's doing very bad things and is very scary and can decide to give them the most bad-ass generated stats to really give the Dogs a run for their money... and can come out guns ablazing in the central square at high noon, hitting as hard as they like, right out of the gate if so desired. A cruel GM could really put the Dogs in a bad situation and kill them or force them to give, "teaching them a lesson", though they could certainly work to succeed at the stakes as they system doesn't allow pure GM fiat, but it would be tough.


    In D&D, the DM can create a 20th level warlord that the PC can literally *not touch* until they're high enough level to do so... and the DM can cruelly taunt them with this NPC, with the Big Bad showing up every so often to monologue and there's nothing they can do about it, until reaching a "satisfactoy" level to meet the challenge; thinking up something cool to short-circuit things can simply be negated by GM fiat if the DM feels it's "too soon" for such an event.

    Those are all different GMing styles to using a "big bad", but it, in essence, applies to any GM planned scenario/scene elements in a game.


    The point of commonality for Dogs and AW is that the GM/MC is asked to plan ahead in only one particular area: what would happen if the PCs didn't do anything! Once that plan has made contact with the enemy... I mean, PCs... it goes out the window.

    For many other games, the GM does plan ahead, building imaginary set pieces, or laying railroad tracks, etc, and the PCs, and their players, must follow that trail.


    As for my "I've always GMed like that" epilogue; D&D has been my game of choice for decades, and I've run many a long campaign... but my adventure notes were almost completely useless for any other DM who wanted to try out my scenarios, because they only consisted of lists of NPCs and what they were trying to do before the PCs intervened... which is why I fell in love with AW, it mapped to my GMing style almost perfectly. Anyway, that's my take on it.
  • Kevin, I used to fill notebooks with prep like that, too - I have some old V:tM notes that say, "Okay, X is happening. The players might do Y or Z. If they do, maybe A?" Emphasize the "might" and the "maybe". I absorbed a general sense from gaming culture that players are wild, unpredictable things, and it's no good trying to predict how they're going to handle your lovingly crafted tale. So... flowcharts! If/then statements, scrawled into five-subject notebooks! Et cetera! :)
    Posted By: ChromaI wouldn't call those "GMing styles", but game designs.
    Yes! That is a much more useful classification to me than "GMing styles".
    A GM, MC, DM, HG, or whatever's "style" is a fairly narrow set of considerations, in my opinion. If they have a particular flair for characterization, humor, suspense, tension, innovation, etc., those are certainly skills, but a great deal of the ink spilled over GM "styles" is really a matter of GM tastes or preferences - preferences for particular kinds of games, that is.
    The types of GM approaches that the Forge Glossary laid out describe the approaches outlined by various games. The friction between these approaches was based on people extrapolating that "how to GM" was a highly universalized skill that was readily transferred between games. A great deal of internet blood was shed trying to get the idea across that a) rules really can and do matter and b) learning how to play, how to GM, etc. are based on actually playing specific games.

    I know JD will defend, rightly, the breadth of information available to GMs in published RPGs since forever. I would argue that the missing piece was an understanding that it is important to approach the text like JD does: it's important, it's telling you how to play. You know how to play games, yeah, but unless you read the game text for the game in front of you, you don't know how to play this game.
    /rant
  • edited May 2011
    Posted By: Chroma
    As for my "I've always GMed like that" epilogue; D&D has been my game of choice fordecades, and I've run many a long campaign... but my adventure notes were almost completely useless for any other DM who wanted to try out my scenarios, because they only consisted of lists of NPCs and what they were trying to do before the PCs intervened... which is why Ifell in lovewith AW, it mapped to my GMing style almost perfectly. Anyway, that's my take on it.
    Similar here. I think AW contains a very well articulated explanation of how to play D&D (and D&D-like games) in "sandbox" mode. It very much echoes a lot of the talk on the OSR blogs. Dogs had this too (to a lesser extent).
  • I like what everyone has to say. Very helpful in exploring the differences in how certain expected 'GM Styles' are communicated through the RAW. I would like to dig a little deeper.

    When a designer puts thought to paper in regards to 'running' their game, it invariably becomes saturated with what they consider 'best practice' given the mechanics for protagonist creation, adversity creation, conflict initiation and resolution and story / character development. Often, great game designs conciously design the engineto make the facilitators 'job' either more rewarding ('fun'), less time consuming or 'easy' to intergrate the mechanics into the evolving narrative.

    What I think John is very good at is identifing the designer's implied Intent with regards to implementing their ruleset 'best practice' in running a game, even when the actual rules are either obtuse or inferred. His satisfaction with AW is that Vincent is very paticular about his 'best practice' in running the game - to the point of explicitly writing it down in a set of principles - He knows that these principles work when playing with his ruleset.

    Yes, there are general GM tools we can all use in our box to run fun and enjoyable rpgs, but if we play a game as intended, we must except that the designer has a specific 'way' of playing in mind when they do so.
    'This is how you have fun with my game!'

    System matters, and with something as complex and socially interactive as a rpg, its important to 'get inside the designer's head' as it were, as we read and implement the rules to discover just how they intended the game to be played. If they are explicit about it, that makes our job as players less obscure and allows us to get into the heart of the action - playing the game itself.

    My contribution in terms of example is Luke Crane's notoriously conversational instructions to the GM for BW. Paraphrased....
    *Burn Setting, Situation and Characters as a Group. Tie the characters to the situation
    *Forge tight, focused and actionable Beliefs with the players
    *Create adversity to those Beliefs, place situations in front of the players that demand a difficult choice. Give the players what they have asked for.
    *Make Explict task and intent (and often consequence) before dice are rolled.
    *Succeed or fail, the players actions always determine where the story is headed.
    *Only roll when it matters.

    Every system has implied or explicit advice for running the game. Get inside the designers 'best practice' in order to reveal it. If we are graced with a succinct ruleset like Vincent's AW, its layed out for you: 'Play my game this way - it's the best way to have fun playing my game.'
  • Posted By: John HarperTrying to run AW like a Mouse Guard GM would kind of suck (and vice versa). It's almost like they're different games or something. :)
    Blimey!

    This thread is a very interesting read! One of the best so far, on this forum!
  • John, Clint: Thanks for your comments. Very helpful. The insight about sandbox play is good. I think a lot of my confusion was not picking up on this different principle as a basis for many of the 'MC principles' in the AW book. Let me see if I understand it though an example.

    A while ago, I was running a game of Dust Devils. I forget the details, but PC A hated NPC X. A recruited PC B to visit NPC X at his house to do unpleasant things to him. I framed the scene of A and B arriving in X's house, to see him tending his wounds. The natural unfolding of world told me that he was alone, and I framed the scene like that. Another player piped up and said, "You missed a trick there: NPC Y should be there, nursing X," Y being X's lover and enemy of B. That was a good idea, I reframed the scene, and it went stormingly well.

    That idea of deliberately framing scenes (and portraying NPC, etc.) to push scenes to conflict is exactly the right thing to do in games like Dust Devils, DitV, PTA, and so on. However, what you're saying is that it's the wrong thing to do in AW. In AW, I (as GM) shouldn't deliberately seek out conflict in the game and bring it to the table. Instead, I should consider what would "naturally" unfold in the fiction and express that. If that means that some scenes aren't as pregnant with conflict as they could be, that's fine, as it's more important than the world feel real. I should trust to the Fronts, countdown clocks, etc. to bring the conflict to the game.

    Summarising, considering the the moment-by-moment play at the table and what the GM does. In DitV, the GM should always push to conflict. In AW, the GM should have the world unfold naturally.

    If that's true, are there other, underlying, basic principles about MCing AW (that are different from, say, DitV or PTA) that give rise to the MCing principles written in the book?

    Jonathan: Talking about what's resolved in each session and what 'festers' between PCs is an interesting perspective. I'd never thought of things that way. I'll have to let that settle into my mind for a while to see where it leads me. Thanks.

    I think the idea of 'look at NPCs through crosshairs' and not having any reliable NPC allies is specific to the post-apocalypse tone of AW. I imagine that AW-like games in other settings would change those principles. Is that correct?

    Chroma: I agree that the line between 'GM style' and 'rules for how to GM' is blurred, and that there's an ongoing trend to move the instructions for how to GM from 'just wing it' to 'do it this way.' This is to be applauded! However, as you and others say, there's still a lot of blurring at the boundary and clearing it up can only be good.

    Thanks all for your contributions! This thread is great, and is giving me much food for thought.
  • edited May 2011
    Nathan: Very well said! I couldn't agree more.

    Neil: Scene-framing in AW is an interesting topic. I can't comment fully right now, but I want to stick a pin in that and come back to it later. But, briefly: yes, Dust Devils and AW are pretty different games. However, your specific example is a great instance of creating a PC-NPC-PC triangle, which is something the AW GM does, all the time. So there's certainly some overlap there.

    Also, the AW GM does bring conflict into the game (and escalate it), but it's not by "creating conflicts" the way you might in, say, PTA, or by creating obstacles the way you do in Mouse Guard or D&D4. There's plenty more to say about that, too.
  • Posted By: NoofyEvery system has implied or explicit advice for running the game. Get inside the designers 'best practice' in order to reveal it. If we are graced with a succinct ruleset like Vincent's AW, its layed out for you: 'Play my game this way - it's the best way to have fun playing my game.'
    Well...maybe?

    Certainly, the trend is towards more explicit GMing advice. And I like that trend.

    But the designer doesn't always know best. When I run Poison'd, I run it differently from Vincent. When I run Lacuna, I have no GMing advice at all, so I make it up. And when I run Cthulhu games, I ignore all the GMing advice and run it my own way.

    So, no, I don't agree. The designer doesn't always know best. Sometimes, the best GMing style can arise through play.
  • Oh Graham, when you put it that way... *blush* Only just having read play unsafe for the umteenth time in the bath (as is my wont). So yes, not every system has a wonderful chapter on how to run the game, but I'm sure most designers think they've got in pretty well established, even if every individual GM brings their own 'style' to the table. They may not have it perfect, but I'm usually happy to run a game a few times as intended before throwing away all the given 'running the game' advice.

    What I was trying to convey is that when designers implement their systems to actual play (especially with great feedback from playtesters) they have an implicit or explicit expectation to GM best practice as viewed through the lens of their creation. Sometimes they share these thoughts, sometimes not. Now that's not to say that you may develop your own 'best practice' through play, but the designers intention is a good starting point for implementing the system as intended.

    As I re-read my posts, I guess I'm trying to advise Zac that System matters, and that sometimes that means running a game in unexpected ways to allow the underlying mechanics to sing. As Graham suggests this may not in fact be the best way for any particular GM, but as a default setting, the designers view on GMing is a great place to start from as you manipulate the system. Learning to identify these key expectations as you read rulesets is a great skill to learn and can only develop your ability to run any RPG in new and exciting ways.

    My advice? Don't skip the chapters on 'Running the game' in any given ruleset - they matter - and can give great insight into how the system as intended can create memorable role-play at the table.
  • Posted By: Zac in VirginiaI know JD will defend, rightly, the breadth of information available to GMs in published RPGs since forever. I would argue that the missing piece was an understanding that it is important to approach the text like JD does: it's important, it's telling you how to play. You know how to play games, yeah, but unless you read the game text for the game in front of you, you don't know how to playthisgame.
    The last time I did a Big Thick Setting Book analysis here, I was shocked to discover that there wasn't even a single page telling me how to use the material. (Kingdoms of Kalamar 3e). But compare to Forgotten Realms 3e or Chicago by Night. Lack of instructions is a real thing, although as I noted in other threads, a whole lot of games that are bashed on here for not having them actually do have them in enormous detail.
    Posted By: NoofyWhat I was trying to convey is that when designers implement their systems to actual play (especially with great feedback from playtesters) they have an implicit or explicit expectation to GM best practice as viewed through the lens of their creation. Sometimes they share these thoughts, sometimes not. Now that's not to say that you may develop your own 'best practice' through play, but the designers intention is a good starting point for implementing the system as intended.
    I generally tend to find that designers know nearly nothing about what makes their game work, what makes it good, or about the lunatic collection of preferences and bugaboos that the average (my?) group has. These things, but especially the third thing, makes developing your own style and approach not just necessary but advisable. (The fallibility of man makes it inevitable, but that's another story.) So it's not just designer's notes/intentions. Really I could do without that, just print some blank pages there for me to take notes in. But the game text should tell you how to play.
  • edited May 2011
    The challenging thing about RPGs is that you're trying to transmit one group's way of playing -- or, worse, in some cases, an idealized hypothetical way of playing that no actual group has ever achieved -- to another group, possibly of people you've never met, and typically only through text, not video or something else that would probably be a better teaching tool.

    So reading the text and understanding the authors' intentions only gets you so far, as JD and Graham are pointing out. At some point, you have to actually make it work at your own table. And people approach "making it work" from a number of different perspectives. You can:

    1) Only play with people who are willing to leave their preconceived notions behind (or at least try) and really embrace what the game is asking you to do.
    2) Adjust the game to fit the players and play style that you have and feel comfortable with.
    3) Plus, a host of things in between, slight adjustments, significant adjustments, attempts at "getting it right" that actually drift the game, etc.

    And, really, none of these are "bad wrong fun." Sometimes you can mess up a game by intentionally or unintentionally adapting it for your purposes, but sometimes (Cthulhu Dark, etc.) you can make it better, or at least better for what you want to do with it. Ideally, though, you are intentional about when you're moving away from what the game was intended to do, which means you actually need to know how to play the game in the first place. If you think you're playing Vampire or AW, but really you're playing something else that's significantly less fun or don't understand why you're having all these problems that nobody else seems to have, that's less good all around.
  • Posted By: J. WaltonI can think of many, many situations where the right thing to do when GMing one of these games would be the exact wrong thing to do when GMing another game. Like, in Mouse Guard, if a PC fails a roll, you can have them succeed but with a twist or other consequence. In both Dogs and AW, that doesn't make any sense at all. Or, in Dogs, you don't really ask the PCs questions about how they normally do things like in AW, because they're in a town they've probably never visited before. And in AW, you don't escalate all the time like you do in Dogs, constantly upping the level of conflict.
    Could you describe this in more detail?
    Although I see how doing these things are contrary to the texts, I don't see how they'd break any of the games ... it seems to me like escalation in AW might make it Even Better, following the Dogs around for a while doing their 'ordinary stuff' might make Dogs Even Better, and every now and then a move-that-isn't-really-hard-at-all on a miss would be sometimes a good thing to do in AW ...
  • Jamie: I'll try to think of some specific examples from games that I've actually run, since lord knows I've made my fair share of mistakes. One thing, though, off the top of my head: the "succeed with a twist" thing is already hard-coded into AW... as a 7-9 result. If you try to turn failures into 7-9's too, it just rips out one of the core components of the game: the MC's moves. Honestly, in AW, the MC doesn't get to make moves all that often, so if you take those chances away, the PCs are just running around doing whatever they want, and that's no fun for anybody after a while. Sure, sometimes you don't have a hard move to make, but other times -- and especially if it happens consistently or multiple times in a row -- making soft moves causes AW to lack teeth. I've definitely seen it happen, both when I've run it (at PAX last year) and when other folks have run it.
  • I like to think of GM rules like the warranty, or like any other rules in a game: sure, you can change them as you please, but beware that those rules interact with other rules, so something may break.

    I probably wouldn't consider using 2d10 instead of 1d20 in D&D, or at least not without thinking through the consequences a lot. Same for giving the GM a move that says "let them have it anyway." Or for adding "say yes or roll the dice" to AW.
  • @Sage: the warranty is a succinct way to put it. On the Forge, folks have talked for a while about the distinction between playing a game and Drifting it - that is, just doin' your thing to have fun. If a design seems close to doing something awesome, but needs a little help, then Drift away! But of course it's good to faithfully attempt a game first, to see how it goes when it's going "correctly".
  • edited May 2011
    Sage, Zac: Surely it's a bit more complicated than that, especially when were talking about games like Vampire which include "rule zero." I mean, "rule zero" basically says "this game only meets you halfway in terms of delivering the fun, so you might have to go actively find it yourself." That's partially because, as JD said elsewhere, Vampire and a lot of the other sandbox-y games of the late 1980s and 1990s (and, really, that probably includes D&D3 too and much of the d20 stuff) were meant to be relatively flexible in terms of supporting a variety of different premises and play/GMing styles. Consequently, it was difficult for them to provide a warranty for any particular style, since they weren't exactly sure what you were going to do with the game.

    So, in that sense, I don't think the GM guidelines in those games really constitute a warranty at all: they don't offer a specific style of play and promise that it will deliver the fun if you follow it exactly. I mean, they don't really provide GM advice that you can "follow exactly" anyway. There are no bullet points (like AW) that you can check during or afterwards to make sure you hit them. In contrast, it isn't until the Advanced Fuckery chapter that AW gives you the tools to open up the game and make it fit other premises and play styles, and Vincent specifically describes this as more-or-less voiding the warranty in the way Sage means. That's why it's specifically called out as "not playing AW anymore," even though Vincent is still enthusiastic about it ("Not AW? Hell yes!").

    So, basically, while AW and Vampire both offer a kind of sandbox-y experience, AW is much more explicit about the intended way to play and has, in effect, a "warranty" (though I'm not sure I really like that term, which implies some degree of entitlement to the fun a game is supposed to provide), where Vampire and similar games don't really have either, attempting to be broader and less specific than that.
  • edited May 2011
    Yeah, "warranty" seems completely wrong. What is being warranted? If I play it their way, can they guarantee I'll have fun? Certainly not, if I play it their way I and everyone else in my group might hate the game. System Matters, right?

    Worse, what if there's a very obvious and simple fix to a massive problem-for-us. Is it in any way bad or unadvisable to use that fix to have more fun with our pretendy funtime game? Even if the problem isn't a problem for any other group in the universe?
  • If there's a problem with your protocol droid, I would recommend repairing it :)
    "System Matters" is not code for "My game is perfect; deal with it." It means giving due diligence (as I know y'all have) towards the end of reading closely and giving the game as-is your best shot.
    Drifting is not evil. Drifting is a tool.
    Take the term "warranty" with a grain of salt. The warranty on my shitty, lumpy couch doesn't guarantee comfort or aesthetics. But if I cut out all the springs in the cushions and then ask the manufacturer why it's completely collapsed, he'll simply clear his throat and point to the warranty.
    It's a truism: if you don't play by the rules, you aren't seeing the game as it was written to be played. That's all. That is not a guarantee of fun.
    If anything, it's a demand made of the group to give the aforementioned due diligence.
    I maintain that Vampire, like games of its day, was attempting to deliver for "all play styles" but, like many such games, it defaulted to a particular sort of Sim (that is, the game is about what it's like to be a vampire, with little in the way of a particular theme (beyond "beat the old guys, youngling!").
    There's a difference between being a sandbox game and being a mere ruleset. If a game is constructed so that it can actually assist you in creating sandbox play (procedures for staying out of the players' way, procedures for being meaningfully responsive to their decisions, etc.), then it deserves the title.

    As far as I can tell, V:tM and many, many other games just give you a rule set to monkey around with and wish you the best. This is a criticism, but I'd also acknowledge that most games of the era (aside from scenario-heavy ones) seemed to be equally ill-equipped for this purpose.
  • edited May 2011
    Posted By: JDCorleyWorse, what if there's a very obvious and simple fix to a massive problem-for-us. Is it in any way bad or unadvisable to use that fix to have more fun with our pretendy funtime game?
    If the purpose of the rule is to explicitly cause that problem because the design is intended to challenge your assumptions and push you out of your comfort zones then yes, you are cheating yourself of the experience by doing things that shift the game back into your comfort zone.

    "Man, lifting this 10 pound weight is hard and painful. I'll just shit if it down to a 3 pound weight." .... "Gee, I've been lifting weights for like a month now, why aren't I getting any stronger?"

    Jesse

    Note: Yes, Yes, obviously if you don't WANT your games to challenge your assumptions and push you out of your comfort zones then fine... but don't discount that as a possible design goal of the game. You might be having that problem because you're SUPPOSED to be having that problem and consider pushing yourself creatively to work with it rather than throw it out.
  • Posted By: Zac in VirginiaThere's a difference between being a sandbox game and being a mere ruleset. If a game is constructed so that it can actually assist you in creating sandbox play (procedures for staying out of the players' way, procedures for being meaningfully responsive to their decisions, etc.), then it deserves the title.
    Yes yes yes! And especially procedures for using that responsiveness to generate situation on all scales, from minute interactions to full adventure scenarios!
  • edited May 2011
    Maybe the word warranty is contentious here? All I'm saying is that games claim to provide some experience if you play them by the rules. You may be able to break those rules and get some different, or better, experience, but you also can't hold the game accountable for that going horribly wrong.

    J-Walt: I would read the free-wheeling, throw in anything playstyle as still a playstyle, and the 3E DMG does specifically support that. Isn't "You can play anything with this and it still works!" the warranty, right there? It's not one the I feel the system actually fulfilled very well, but that's what it said it'd do.

    I think you're a little off the mark about no bullet points on GMing. Sure, it's not phrased very well, but that advice is there, right at the front of the book. It says "make up rules" and all that, just in long paragraphs of boring text instead of punchy bullets.

    Rule Zero is the anti-warranty, you're right, and its something I didn't touch on. Rule zero basically says that to play the game, you'll have to break the rules. There's also a difference between Rule Zero and what the 3E DMG tells you to do. Rule Zero says to toss out the rules as suits you, the DMG says to create new rules and stick to them.

    JD: Of course system matters, how else could a game make promises? Every game makes promises about how it plays, and that's what I'd say is being 'warrantied.' AW lays that out in the "Why to play" section, other games say it less explicitly.

    So, AW being the most clear cut example: it says up front why to play the game, what things the game does. Then it gives you some rules with the warranty/promise that if you play by those rules, the game will provide those things.

    Mouse Guard, Blowback, and other games clearly based on a single fictional genre, give some warranty or promise of producing play like that. I'm using the term warranty for that because promise, to me, has much heavier connotation. A warranty is something fragile where breaking it can actually be a good thing, if you know what you're doing. A promise is, at least to me, something way more intense.
  • When I hear "GM style", I think:

    - authority over the game's point, or equal contributor to it?
    - sole arbiter of plausibility and canon, or equal participant in their use?
    - social group facilitator/entertainer, or just another player with different responsibilities?
    - good at dramatic pacing via scene framing and cutting, or not?
    - good at portraying a variety of NPCs, or always sounds like themself?
    - more attention paid to mood or facts?
    - familiar with the game system or not?
    - socially observant or oblivious?
    - compelling speaker or irritating/boring?
    - too active (watch my NPCs!), too passive (nothing happens; what do you guys do?), or just right?
    - coercive, or presents opportunities?
    - attentive to character flags or not?
    - good at distributing spotlight or not?
    - has a cool metaplot and backstory or doesn't?
    - Type A or not?
    - personally compatible (shares my taste, isn't a huge asshole, etc.)?
    - sufficiently skilled (creative, on the ball, etc.)?

    Different RPGs make different statements and assumptions about which of these to leave up to each individual GM. Even among those factors which games can actually control, I can't think of any games that try to control all of them.
  • Just thought of a good way to explain why I like the term warranty:

    I drive a Honda Civic that came with a warranty. That means that I can assume that it'll do the things that it claimed to do: get me around town, have no problems on the highway, play music from my iPod. It won't do things it didn't claim to do, like going from 0-60 in 10 seconds, or carrying 6 people. If I felt like I knew enough about cars, I could break that warranty and maybe make it do some of those things by messing with it, but I also have to accept responsibility for break it if I take that option.

    I play Fiasco which says on the back cover that it'll provide games about people with poor impulse control having, well, fiascoes. I can assume that it'll do what it claims to: tell a story about things going badly for bad, or at least flawed, people. I don't assume that it'll tell a multi-session story, or emulate Lord of the Rings. If I felt like I knew enough about Fiasco, I could probably hack it to do some of those things, but I also have to accept that I may break it along the way, and I can't really blame Jason, he only designed the game I read.

    There are some modifications to my Civic that I could do with very little knowledge that would cover some things it doesn't have. I could put a GPS on the dash, which would be kind of like the GPS that I didn't pay several thousand dollars to have come with the car. I could make a really minor change and hang an air freshener in it. Those things are inside the warranty, but are still changes. Then there are things that are borderline, or outside it, like (testing my car knowledge here) supercharging it (I may have just made that up).

    There are some things I can add to Fiasco with very little knowledge. I could make a startup playset, that takes place in a 90's internet company. I could just make up some nice pay aids that make changes at the table, but don't really change the game. Those things are encouraged by the game, and it seems to say they're 'within warranty.' Then there are things that are borderling, or definitely hacking, like changing up the Tilt tables, or making it a GM'ed game.
  • Sage: I can totally buy that metaphor. Can you do it with Vampire or D&D3 instead of Fiasco? What do you get for your warranty if the purpose of the game is much more open-ended? This is one of the questions that I'm fascinated with right now.

    Before I discovered the Forge, the most fun I had roleplaying was playing in (not running!) a Vampire game and that didn't just happen DESPITE the rules and guidelines of the game, but partially BECAUSE of them. And I think AW putting a lot of things explicitly out there in the open can help those of us who had trouble running Vampire and similar games effectively (like me!), in part due to the way the rules and guidelines were structured, figure out better what the authors and successful GMs in that tradition were up to.

    So... what were they up to?
  • I can't differentiate between doing a playset, changing the Tilt tables, and changing one entry on one table one time. Those seem like exactly the same thing to me, just in different magnitudes and areas - surely the designer wanted the tables and playsets to be a particular way, so they wrote them that way. As Jesse points out, your improvement is really just completely ruining a designer's vision forever - how can you be sure that the designer didn't agonize over the exact entry you are so blithely about to change?
  • Posted By: JDCorleysurely the designer wanted the tables and playsets to be a particular way, so they wrote them that way. As Jesse points out, your improvement is really just completely ruining a designer's vision forever - how can you be sure that the designer didn't agonize over the exact entry you are so blithely about to change?
    JD,

    I didn't say EVERY rule is a 10 pound weight designed to challenge you. I said a rule *might* be a 10 a pound weight designed to challenge you. Your 20 years of D&D experience does not make you qualified to start mucking around with PtA without even having played it and put in the work and effort to understand it.

    For Fiasco, I would say you shouldn't try mucking around with playsets or the tilt table until you've played enough games to understand what makes the existing ones work. The car thing is a good analogy. Until you understand WHY the car is built the way it is, you shouldn't go mucking around with it.

    Any old list of "things" does not make for a great play set in Fiasco. There is an art to picking the right elements.

    Jesse
  • edited May 2011
    Right, and that's normally not communicated (i.e. "entries 1, 9, 17 and 4 are cool to change, don't EVER change 3 though, it's my challenge to your emotionz lol"). So I still don't think anything is really warranted/promised by game designers.

    Edit: I didn't mean to take us down this tangent again. I really just don't like the "warranty" terminology. I don't feel Fiasco warrants me anything, especially not with its back-cover copy, for example. I mean, back-cover copy?!
  • edited May 2011
    JD - Fiasco, page 60: "Use the playsets provided, but by all means create - and share - your own." My example was also a bit off, as Jason does encourage messing with the Tilt tables: "don't forget to mess with The Tilt if necessary." Guess I should have read the book more carefully. :)

    Reading that page, I get a pretty firm idea of the things that the game supports swapping out easily (playsets, The Tilt, even who Details) and implicitly what I should be a little more wary about messing with (number of dice, or playtime, or GM-ness, for example). Jason actually does a great job in one page of telling me "these are the places you can easily mess with" and implicitly what things I should be more cautious about.

    A well-written game makes it pretty clear what's "in warranty" and what's not. Others don't make that so clear and (in my opinion) suffer for it.

    Stretching my car example to the limit: my owner's manual talks about what tires to get and implicitly the fact that I can use types of tires other than the ones the car came with (snow tires, for example), but it doesn't tell me how to swap out the transmission. Fiasco tells me how to make new playsets, maybe mess with the Tilt, but doesn't tell me how to make it into a serial.

    Edited to add in response to cross-post: Would you be more comfortable saying that Fiasco promises you something? Cause that back cover definitely says something about what the game is about. I mean, it literally says "a game of ambition and poor impulse control." It says it is a thing that creates that type of gameplay, I would call that a promise or a warranty.
  • edited May 2011
    I don't know. Maybe I'm just too used to the back covers of books being complete garbage, and hot girls coming into beer commercials to sell me beer. I don't want Fiasco to promise me anything. I don't want to listen to the "promises" of a product I'm trying to decide whether to buy or not. It's just a thing, it doesn't promise anything, and someone trying to sell it to me can't, mustn't, be trusted to tell me the truth. It may be my own hobby horse. I get what you say.
  • Posted By: J. WaltonSage:I can totally buy that metaphor. Can you do it with Vampire or D&D3 instead of Fiasco? What do you get for your warranty if the purpose of the game is much more open-ended? This is one of the questions that I'm fascinated with right now.

    Before I discovered the Forge, the most fun I had roleplaying was playing in (not running!) a Vampire game and that didn't just happen DESPITE the rules and guidelines of the game, but partially BECAUSE of them. And I think AW putting a lot of things explicitly out there in the open can help those of us who had trouble running Vampire and similar games effectively (like me!), in part due to the way the rules and guidelines were structured, figure out better what the authors and successful GMs in that tradition were up to.

    So... what were they up to?
    Vampire I don't feel like I have a strong enough handle on to comment about. D&D3 I can speak to.

    I'd say the promise there is actually the promise of the d20 system in general: this game will give you a toolset to create rules to cover every situation and some pre-created content to go with it. I don't have books in front of me, but I seem to remember a lot of advertising space and page count being dedicated to how flexible the rules were, and how the d20 system was everywhere. I also remember that being part of the draw for me at the time, how it was a universal-ish system.

    I actually feel like 3E didn't give much of a story promise at all, in fact it deliberately avoided it. There are many, many words dedicated to saying "OR you could do this" and mentioning at every turn that there's more than one way to do it. It's all about how flexible and adaptable the rules are.

    To stretch back to a "warranty" phrasing it's a bit like what you get with certain pieces of software, a warranty that says you can do just about anything with it. It's a warranty that's very hard for you to break, but very easy for the rules to not live up to.

    If I had to take a stab at Vampire too, I always felt the promise there was about moody gothic horror, which the rules didn't follow through on too well (from my limited experience). I feel like there, the promise was nearly self-fulfilling: you say "this game will give you moody gothic horror," give them some rules that kind of do that, and people will bend their use of the rules to meet the promise.

    It's kind of like a warranty that says "If you play this game it will be dark and moody." The very fact that you're looking for the game to do that can effect how well it fulfills that promise. It's a little bit like advertising that promises you'll look better in these clothes: once you're wearing those clothes, you'll probably think you look better, since you're sold on the fact those clothes will make you look better.
  • Posted By: JDCorleyIt may be my own hobby horse.
    I started a thread about that, so we could talk about it.
  • Posted By: sageMaybe the word warranty is contentious here? All I'm saying is that games claim to provide some experience if you play them by the rules. You may be able to break those rules and get some different, or better, experience, but you also can't hold the game accountable for that going horribly wrong.
    That sounds reasonable. It also doesn't say anything about whether the experience that results is fun, or engaging, or what you were after.
  • I'd like to draw this discussion back to some concrete statements about what actual GMs and actual players do in actual games. I was planning out a long post on that when it struck me. I think my problem with not understanding AW (and why it's such a great guide to a certain style of GMing) is that I don't know what the game is about.

    Primetime Adventures is about characters with issues, in a situation that pushes hard at those issues. It's about how those characters cope with those issues (or not) and the consequences of those decisions.

    Dogs in the Vineyard is about passing judgement, often on good people who've done bad things, and about how far you'll go to see justice done.

    Dungeons and Dragons (in its dungeon-bash-heavy mode) is about defeating tough monsters and other challenges, surviving, and getting loot. It's also about doing all that efficiently.

    What is Apocalypse World about?


    Is this a CA thing? People talk about AW supporting 'sandbox' play. By that, do you mean exploring the post-apocalypse world and just seeing what happens next? Are AW players and MCs taking the AW world, saying, "That's interesting," and poking it with a stick to see what it does? Harking back to Greg Costikyan's I have no words and I must design, that sounds like a description of a toy, not a game. What makes AW a game? What's the goal? Why should people play AW?

    (And a note on my intent here: I'm not saying AW is bad, or that people who enjoy it are wong. I've got this genuine hole in my understanding that I'd like some help with filling.)
  • AW is about playing kick-ass badasses in an apocalyptic world of scarcity. The first session allows the players to explore their characters and gives the MC a few flags to expand into Threats (adversity personified) and Fronts, (collections of threats under a scarcity). You don't pre-determine plot, but potential adversity instead and push towards questions everyone at the table is interested in finding the answers to. Everyone wants something, how far are they willing to go to get it?

    The move mechanic explicitly sets up hard choices for the players and always spins the story in escalating directions. Respite is brief and poignant, even sex has a cost. We live in a relatively bountiful society, AW lets you be the bad ass, but you are always short on the material / emotional / psychic resources to do so.
  • Thanks for that.

    I get that the PCs are desperate for certain things that we, as players, co-create in the first session. I understand that the PCs will strive for those things despite the obstacles and adversity put in their way by the MC. I get that.

    In the light of that, I have to reframe my question. (This is progress. Your post is making me identify what my question really is.)

    So, my question becomes: why do the players, the real people sitting around the table, care about what happens in the game? What's in it for them? As you say, there's elements of vicarious enjoyment of having badass characters. There's also elements of enjoying the Colour of a post-apocalypse world. Is there anything else?

    (I suspect that my inability to 'get' AW is a combination of two things. One is that AW is aimed at supporting GNS Simulationist play, which is something I'm not that interested in. The other is that I have no particular interest in post-apocalypse fiction for its own sake, so that aspect of the Colour doesn't do anything for me. It could be that AW is a game that ticks many boxes, but those happen to be boxes that I'm not that interested in.)
  • edited May 2011
    Posted By: NeilSo, my question becomes: why do theplayers, the real people sitting around the table, care about what happens in the game? What's in it for them? As you say, there's elements of vicarious enjoyment of having badass characters. There's also elements of enjoying the Colour of a post-apocalypse world. Is there anything else?
    I think the "having badass characters" is a smoke screen, the underlying "about" for AW is "overcoming adversity/dealing with scarcity", with a hard dose of "human social interaction" to flavour it.

    Literally *EVERYTHING* in the world is against you in some fashion (not just guns draw against you, but in many varied and subtle ways as well) and the PCs are struggling to carve out a niche for themselves in a hostile world... a niche of beauty, a niche of dominance, a niche of peace. Heck, one of the advancement options for a character is "Retire to safety"... when they either feel they've done enough or can't handle things any more... I'm not sure many games have that as a valid, and actually picked, option for character "advancement".

    My players (and I!) enjoy playing AW because we have to deal with the moral quandries of being powerful people in a land with no laws... whether might makes right, whether isolation is better than getting involved, whether love beats hate, whether using people is valid, whether the human spirit can overcome the human animal... and they're also badasses while doing it. *laugh*

    As to the post-apocalyptic colour, there is essentially *none* in the rules... vague hints, but nothing one needs to use; it's created in play and can encompass *any* type of post-mega-disaster situation (heck, doesn't even have to be "mega")... with two underlying threads, with the first being more important than the second: scarcity and weirdness. To view it as simply "Mad Max: The Game" is really depriving yourself and limiting the game's vast potential.

    (And AW is definitely *not* a Simulationist game in the GNS sense, it's designed to be Narrativist, and there's very little technical "crunch" to it and implausible things can happen at the drop of a hat if that's the type of apocalypse you're exploring. Not to say it couldn't be played with a Sim agenda, but that's certainly not a strength of the system/game.

    EDIT - Now that I think about it a bit more, maybe you're considering the "Make it real" as a Sim agenda... but I feel it's more a directive to make things *believable*... every NPC has desires, goals, agendas, secrets, and needs, and you, as the MC, are supposed to play them as real people... people the PCs may come to care about... not just pieces in a game for the players to move around or smash.)
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