Hidden Information vs Non-Existent Information (was: Hidden Information vs Unknown Information)

edited May 2013 in Story Games
There was an interesting mini-debate in the Games With Hidden Information thread.

Maybe the topic doesn't need its own thread, but maybe there is something useful to explore, so here it is.

My 2 cents:

I think it's worth it to distinguish between hidden information and unknown information non-existent information (though one may be a subset of the other). When you are dealing with a randomizer like the Rory Story Cubes, you're dealing with unknown information but not hidden information. Dealing with one vs the other creates a different state of mind in me as the player-- the feel is completely different. I'm guessing this is true for the vast majority.

Within the fiction, yes, you could treat the random results as some sort of hidden secret, but this does not change the way play feels. I'd venture to say that dealing with hidden information feels more like participating, while dealing with unknown random info feels more like creating.

Now, you could have a GM improvising secrets as they go. If you were cognizant of that, then the feel would be roughly the same as playing with a non-sentient randomizer. However, if you were never wise to that fact, the feeling would be completely different.

Comments

  • I can see that. Another way to look at the values is frustration levels, with hidden information you have to think like the GM or the author, otherwise you could end up missing something. With unknown information, every path can lead to a discovery; you're challenged with coming up with a creative solution that fits the 'facts'. Of course, the effect is not limited to rolling against a table or story cubes, a device like the Mythic GME can take a question even with a strong probability of 'Yes' and flip it.

    A couple of years ago I did a solo play test with unknown information and wrote it up as a story. From the perspective of the character, you could not tell if they were operating under hidden or unknown information. As the player/author, it was liberating but that came at the 'cost' of having to do more GM creative duties. As a GM, I've gone from heavy hidden information and lots of GM prep to a hybrid where I stat out the important stuff but keep them of a floating pool of resources ready to react to the players rather than a more traditional plot structure. I once ran a supers campaign totally from a stack of index cards of villains, mooks, NPCs, and locations.
    --
    TAZ
  • It does come down to feeling different. With hidden information the feeling is like working a puzzle. Work hard enough and the secret is revealed - a bit of OCD fun. With making up information the whole universe of possibilities opens up and decision paralysis comes in. Limiting factors like story dice or action cards cut this down some but the need to create remains. It's a different kind of fun.

    I like both but one feels more like a traditional RPG and the other more like a new RPG to me.

    Chris Engle
  • I can see that. Another way to look at the values is frustration levels, with hidden information you have to think like the GM or the author, otherwise you could end up missing something.
    By this logic, police detectives in the real world have to think like God, or they could end up missing something. I guess that's true in some way? I kind of think they don't worry too much about it though.
  • Not really, but it's well documented that they try to think like the criminals they hunt.
  • edited May 2013
    To me, it seems this all depends on what the purpose of the hidden information is in the game. If it's necessary info to move the adventure forward, then one can and often does end up with a situation like TAZ describes.

    Then again, the analogous situation when dealing with 'unknown', or more specifically in the case of randomizers, 'non-existent info' is that if the piece you need to move the adventure forward does not come up, you may also get stuck or maybe taken on a random tangent.

    Neither of these seem like insurmountable obstacles, though.

  • edited May 2013
    Philosophers think like God; game designers think like Lesser Gods. I really just wanted to highlight Rory's Story Cubes storycubes.com/ as I had never heard of them and maybe others haven't either.
    Edit: Ha! It just occurred to me that Story Cubes were "hidden information" that generate "unknown information".

  • Edit: Ha! It just occurred to me that Story Cubes were "hidden information" that generate "unknown information".
    Color me intrigued. :) Specially by the first part of the equation.
  • edited May 2013
    Well, it was just a reference to the fact that the Cubes exist ("hidden information" ) and I had to discover them and they, in turn, generate "unknown/non-existent/random" info.

    So, now I have to "up my game" and say something intelligent or at least useful. I'm just riffing here; please read the spirit rather than the particulars of the words.

    I'm not a Communications Study expert but I was thinking about "the medium IS the message". Let's tie in the Cubes just for fun (but random charts could be used). And let's call the two types of info Hidden and Spontaneous. Whether the info is vital to the adventure or not is irrelevant for our purposes.

    Roll: a book, a bee, a star/sun.

    The roll is visible to all; Hidden info (message) is known only to the GM but the way it is conveyed (medium) is linked to the roll and can be introduced by anyone (or just the GM, though the clues are right there on the table for the players).

    Spontaneous info (message) IS the item rolled (medium) though open to interpretation.

    Is the clue to the murderer (hidden info) to be found in a book/record/library or is the murderer (spontaneous/random ) IN the library - say, Prof. Plum.

    What connection does the gold and obsidian statuette have (Bee analogy) ?

    Where is the secret door? IS there a secret door? How is it triggered. Perhaps by the book on astrology. Perhaps the sun shining through the window reveals a slight lip/ledge in the wall.

    "dealing with hidden information feels more like participating, while dealing with unknown random info feels more like creating"

    If we consider that the medium IS the message, then the info IS the story; the road-block IS the path (or at least the sign-post).

    Supper-time; gotta go. Please tell me if I'm full of crap; I have to think on it more.

    Edit: Okay, I thought up a short version: whether the info/message is Established(hidden) or Spontaneous, the story elements/medium that presents the info can be made up by the GM and/or players - participate AND create.

    Also, I'm really starting to like the idea of these elements as clues/pointers/sign posts visible to all and open to (mis)interpretation.
  • Roll: a book, a bee, a star/sun.
    Obviously, it's the beekeeper's son in the library. :-D

  • Edit: Okay, I thought up a short version: whether the info/message is Established(hidden) or Spontaneous, the story elements/medium that presents the info can be made up by the GM and/or players - participate AND create.

    Also, I'm really starting to like the idea of these elements as clues/pointers/sign posts visible to all and open to (mis)interpretation.
    Initially, my frames of reference were solo gaming, and playing with a GM who does not roll in the open (so even if he was making it up, you would not, at least technically, know he was doing that). I hadn't considered what you just described, and honestly had never heard about anything similar.

    Would the players be trying to guess how the GM is interpreting those results?
  • I'd say creating random stuff openly in front of the players and denying them the same faculties to introduce material defeats the whole purpose a bit, unless players understand the GM is doing this because she couldn't prep in advance. Specially when the game needs a sort of "unveiling a mistery" atmosphere, since otherwise feels more like a "writing something together" atmosphere. While this can actually be lots of fun too, it really breaks a great deal of the character inmersion (though not so much the story inmersion)

    I've been working on a randomizer of my own and from my experience playtesting, it I'd say Zircher is totally right: an hybrid method of prepping scenes and the use of a randomizer in scenes you haven't prep for does a great deal for having the players on the edge of their seats. Even if they know their GM a lot they can't predict when it will be her logic or the randomizer's the one applied.
  • edited May 2013

    I've been working on a randomizer of my own and from my experience playtesting, it I'd say Zircher is totally right: an hybrid method of prepping scenes and the use of a randomizer in scenes you haven't prep for does a great deal for having the players on the edge of their seats. Even if they know their GM a lot they can't predict when it will be her logic or the randomizer's the one applied.
    I'd say that in this case, it's critical that the spontaneous info that was previously non-existent is masqueraded as hidden info, and that this fact isn't discovered. At least when it comes to significant aspects of a plot. :)
  • "Would the players be trying to guess how the GM is interpreting those results?"

    With Established info; yes. With Spontaneous info; the GM would be interpreting the players
    guesses and pick the one he/she likes. "We know the clue is a sun/star. I'm gonna search for
    books on astrology. I'll look for any star/sun symbols or ornaments. With a silent prayer to
    Ra, I examine where the sunlight falls from the window" Bingo! Now the players have a sense
    of discovery (Exploration) but with Spontaneous info. Or they might have guessed the GM's
    initial choice. Doesn't matter; they actively engaged with the setting and found the secret
    door (maybe even if there wasn't one to begin with). Note: if the GM has Established that
    there is no secret door, then there's little reason to spend precious game time searching
    for one UNLESS that search uncovers a clue to how the GM PLANS the adventure to continue.
    Either way, it's more engaging than "I roll a Perception check." Pass. Fail. Whatever. You
    could phone that in. You could roll a D6 at the start of the adventure to see if you
    complete the quest; save a lot of time.

    Here's what I'm beginning to think: Established vs Spontaneous info is a false dichotomy. I
    redefined it to myself as Static vs Dynamic info and it started to make sense. Old D+D
    modules are the epitome of Static info. D3: The Vault of the Drow is fairly sandboxy but it
    still presents Established facts in hard print. It becomes Dynamic when the players engage
    with the story elements (various factions) and there is no One True Way to complete it. The
    DM has to constantly consider, adjust and invent events based on the party's actions. But
    let's use the MOST Static dungeon ever: S1 - The Tomb of Horrors!

    The Tomb is really just a series of traps/puzzles and if it's GMed straight, you WILL die.
    First attempt, I was crushed in one of the false entrances. It took so long to find the
    right entrance that Sean finally said "Look, it's right here. Let's just get on with it".
    Needless to say, we never got to Acererak or even the false tomb. And there are many,MANY
    caveats to the Rules As Written (ie. places where only certain spells/items will work;
    instant death, no saving throw against effects,etc).

    Now, do a search on how others have beaten the Tomb. One of my favorites was running a herd
    of cattle through the entrance to spring the traps. Here's another from Tournament play:
    there's a scepter and crown that, when touched together, disintegrates the wearer (no save,
    no Resurrection short of a Wish). Having discovered this the hard way, a party forced the
    crown on Acererak's skull and disintegrated him. The Dm actually called Gygax over to the
    table for a ruling and the E.ternal G.reat G.rognard said "Yup, it's legit".

    Now, you might argue (and rightfully so) that the crown and scepter are Established,Static
    facts and that the players were clever rather than Spontaneously introducing something. But
    the Cattle? The Tomb is (officially) in a swamp! The players wanted there to be cattle and
    POOF! there were cattle. But if they were to declare "there's a fourth entrance to the Tomb"
    the DM would (again rightfully) say "No, there isn't. Stop making shit up". And I think this
    is where "the Medium IS the Message" can help blur the lines. But I'll post that separately
    as this is getting long.
  • edited May 2013
    Haha, that is an awesome story about the cows running through the place springing deadly traps. Illustrates your point nicely too.

    I’d argue that there are cases where a distinction between Spontaneous and Established info doesn't really add anything to the game. However, I think what WarriorMonk pointed out applies to other cases, like mysteries. Let’s say you were playing a who-dun-it, if you as a player knew that the evidence you were finding was totally spontaneous, as opposed to carefully crafted clues thought up ahead of time, would play feel more like creating a mystery yarn, or would it feel like you’re actually solving a mystery?


  • Here's what I'm beginning to think: Established vs Spontaneous info is a false dichotomy. I
    redefined it to myself as Static vs Dynamic info and it started to make sense.
    instant death, no saving throw against effects,etc).
    I'm glad your redefinition helped you understand this notion but I think it is more complex.

    When there is established information - like the dungeon of death traps - players are all about learning the information and then coming up with a solution to the problem. The cows running to their deaths (BTW Water Buffalo are water cows so it isn't inconceivable). The players are making up solutions and maybe making up herds of cattle but that isn't the same as what people are getting at with unknown information.

    Unknown information in the death trap dungeon scenario might be a player jumping up and framing a scene that took place a thousand years before. The big bad is talking to his architect about his tomb. The big bad is not happy and kills the hireling. As the poor fool dies he thinks, "I hope someone finds my short cut into the tomb so they skip all those death traps." This scene makes up new passages in the dungeon that totally defeat the game. The GM would be unsatisfied, and so would the players when this made the game too easy.

    Unknown information can kill all danger in games unless there is other kinds of push back from other players or something in the rules.
  • edited May 2013


    When there is established information - like the dungeon of death traps - players are all about learning the information and then coming up with a solution to the problem. The cows running to their deaths (BTW Water Buffalo are water cows so it isn't inconceivable). The players are making up solutions and maybe making up herds of cattle but that isn't the same as what people are getting at with unknown information.
    I think that these labels are a bit tough to pin down. I would consider the cows to have been 'unknown, non-existent information' prior to someone spontaneously deciding that they existed they existed in the game world. They became an established fact after that was accepted.

    I guess a question I'm curious about in light of this is: When is spontaneous information most likely to be OK? What made the 'water cows' (haha) OK in that scenario, but not the fourth entrance to the Tomb?



  • edited May 2013
    You kinda answered your question already Dreamer:

    I'd say that in this case, it's critical that the spontaneous info that was previously non-existent is masqueraded as hidden info, and that this fact isn't discovered. At least when it comes to significant aspects of a plot. :)
    ...where I assume the GM has an established plot, or at least some unmovable fiction facts made with narrative purposes. Going back to the cows, the whole door trap scene is meant to have players fear making wrong choices by stating from the start that the place is lethal. Now, the GM will most probably prefer to keep this atmosphere for the longest time to make the whole session fun, so instead of killing the players on a failed roll, he will take the cattle idea as a better way to show the players that the place is lethal without resorting to kill PCs.

    So spontaneous/established information is ok as long as it fits the predominant creative agenda.

  • I think we all agree on the "fourth entrance" / retcon of the dungeon architect; that's a given. The buffalo hold no water with me. Why not invent a passing halfling thief to deal with the traps; they exist - Hell, they're EVERYWHERE! But I wouldn't allow that and neither would you.

    For the record, there ARE shortcuts in the Tomb. So maybe the party summons up the spirit of the architect to question him. That's an established fact in D+D.

    I'm thinking about the mystery but my thoughts are bouncing everywhere at the moment.
  • There's also another couple effects of using established information:

    Coherence: The GM can make the whole fiction react in unison to players actions. So even if one roll for searching doors fails, players making the right questions/using other tools might eventually find a way around. Aka, the architect's spirit might have all the answers.

    Inmersion on the discovery element of the fiction: I didn't only meant mystery as a genrem but as an atmospheric element. D&D has this element when GMs prep a bit more of background for a place or character's actions, where all clues that the players find will point at it and eventually help the players figure out what that background is (and maybe put that knowledge to good use later, either if the GM foresaw this or not)
  • I think RPGs have always had Dynamic facts, it's just that they have been traditionally in the hands of the GM (Gary suggested introducing an invisible mummy that always hits to deal with troublesome players! Where the Hell did that come from!?). The rules explicitly state: when in doubt, make something up. Indie games popularized the use of Dynamic facts by the player (sometimes with rules/resources, sometimes just say yes to authorship). But that doesn't answer the questions at hand. When to use which?

    There is a third option that I've been struggling with in these posts and we've all touched on it: have the Characters/fiction introduce story elements/facts. It's a subtle layer that blankets both player and GM. No, you can't introduce a fourth passage/thief/other shortcut but yes, let's herd in some cows and see what happens.

    Let's say you want to get into a stone walled keep. You fail to bluff your way in the front gate; you fall trying to climb the wall; you've circled twice looking for a secret door. If the GM has Established that you CAN"T get in and doesn't tell you, then he/she is just dicking you around (not cool and a big waste of time). Otherwise, we can assume that it's Established that the Characters can, in fact, get in, but how? Do they throw up their hands and sit around waiting for the big Deus Ex Machine to roll by? Time for a little Dynamic thinking.

    Summon an earth elemental to make a passage through the stone wall or a tunnel underneath. Can they do that? Even most hard-core Grognards would say yes BUT it's not in the monster description. You just made that shit up but it's good shit. I say "Ship it"!

    Using my first example, roll a clue with the Story Cubes to suggest an entrance. Bees? The dice say there's a clue with bees. That's now an Established, Static, undeniable fact. So, what then? Does a bee fly through a previously unseen/unsmelled sewer grate? No, that's silly and who could smell a sewer opening over the cloying scent of that honeysuckle bush? HONEYsuckle?! And hidden there, of course, is the Keep's bolt hole for escaping a siege. They exist. Did the GM just make this particular one up or the players? Does it matter? It came from the fiction presented. It might even be in the GM's notes. Established or Spontaneous? Doesn't matter. It makes sense, it feels right, it required the players to discover it ( that's the exploration part that is so important to Ol' Skool Dungeoneering); it even came from the roll of a die! But not the random "does it happen/do I succeed" kind of roll; the "Establish a fact and figure it out in Character" kind.

    And I think this is where we begin to approach the Spontaneous Mystery. If I could marry Rickard's Fish Tank Model to this kind of Spontaneous Established fact; we'd have your answer, Dreamer.
  • Are you guys talking about Random Encounter Tables?
  • Encounter tables, random dungeon generators, random loot tables, etc can certainly be part of your bag of tricks. But, they are finite in their enumeration. This is more generic in nature and open to interpretation. For example, the GME ranges from 'very no' to 'very yes' on a probability matrix of likeliness versus a chaos factor (for the story/scene). Symbolic items like Story Cubes, tarot cards (especially the non-traditional Osho Zen Tarot deck) or Game Mastery Plot Twist cards would also apply and there are some writer aids that would fit the bill as well.

    Having said that, 10-40 kobolds does not have to be a combat encounter every time they show up. They could easily end up being victims, quest givers, a safe camp, an opportunity for trade, etc. For example, just to leverage sun/bee/book again, how about kobold merchants taking a wagon load of honey to town. They need to get moving by sundown but they are stuck at a crossroads and are arguing over a book of maps.
    --
    TAZ
  • edited May 2013
    I think it's worth it to distinguish between hidden information and unknown information non-existent information (though one may be a subset of the other). When you are dealing with a randomizer like the Rory Story Cubes, you're dealing with unknown information but not hidden information. /.../

    Within the fiction, yes, you could treat the random results as some sort of hidden secret, but this does not change the way play feels.
    I do agree that hidden (prepared) information usually feels different than unknown (improvised) information, and I nowadays love playing roleplaying games with no prep before the session. Hidden information feels like exploration for me, where the players explore a predefined setting or story. Unknown information feels more like puzzle things together; to express my creativity in making everything fit together.

    There are, however, two things that combine the two. Murder mysteries (and similar scenarios) have hidden information but are played in two phases. The first is an exploration phase where the players explore and find out the facts, while the second phase is the puzzle phase where the players tries to make everything fit together and then takes measure to solve it. Yes, they might be wrong but it's still a (meta) puzzle (because you try to imagine how the GM thought it up). It also creates an anticipation to find out how things works out.

    I've also played games where all participants made up secret information on beforehand that are revealed during the time of the story told. It can be secrets written on notes or just personal goals that are revealed during the session. We got yet again an exploration, but only where the story is going (at least in the games I've played), and then we have to puzzle the secret information into the story as we go, but because it's created on beforehand and because I know some part of the secrets, it creates an anticipation in me on how it's going to turn out.

    Another way of creating this anticipation is to have a clear ending ("We're going to kill our master") or a theme for an ending - "It's going to end in a fiasco" - and then play a character, perhaps adding some random elements as we go, to find out what happens along to way towards the end. That's playing to explore the story as well.

    But I wonder, isn't it the anticipation that you want instead of the exploration? The exploration is just one medium to create it. To be more concrete: having hidden information gives an impression that there's a inner logic on how things are connected, and that's what the players wants to find out. The use of unknown information (skill rolls, generators) could be more about creating an inner logic. I would say that if we strive against a known goal, it doesn't matter if we use hidden or unknown information; it will create an anticipation to find out how it will end.

    Or am I talking about something else? :)
  • Rickard "isn't it the anticipation that you want instead of the exploration?"

    Well, that's what I want: the "what happens next", edge-of the-seat play; when you look up at the clock and wonder how it got so late so fast. And I can forgive a little creative freedom if it keeps things moving.

    Some folks like LOTS of freedom/authorship.
    But there is another camp that likes to know that the sky is blue, the mail will be delivered on time, and that God is in His Heaven. And if you go to the Dragon Hills you shouldn't be surprised to meet a dragon - even if it kills your whole party.

    For those of us in the middle (majority?), a compromise would be nice. I like the idea of "secret information beforehand" for the players, in this case. Pre-existing hidden info that could be brought into play to solve road-blocks and also empower the player for dramatic moments/last minute saves.

    My fumbling conclusion to all this was that there could be some neutral element introduced by the Characters/Story rather than the Players/GM that would feel more natural than
    "Hey, there's a fourth, previously unknown entrance" or "there's a conveniently passing-by wizard". Players can't just "make" cows but Characters can travel to a ranch and rustle up a herd (with the problems that would bring) because few would object to an out-of-the-way ranch (there MUST be one somewhere, even if it's not on the map).

    Maybe this is where the verisimilitude(?) comes from with spontaneous facts; it's not "on the map" but it could/should be. A mechanic to substitute for all the details that Characters know but are largely irrelevant to the Players until needed. It's like the difference between Audience and Actor; Chekov's Gun; we don't see it unless it's important. It's been said that no-one coughs in movies unless they are sick/dying. And nobody cares if there's a bee flying around ...
  • edited May 2013
    You kinda answered your question already Dreamer:

    I'd say that in this case, it's critical that the spontaneous info that was previously non-existent is masqueraded as hidden info, and that this fact isn't discovered. At least when it comes to significant aspects of a plot :)
    where I assume the GM has an established plot, or at least some unmovable fiction facts made with narrative purposes. Going back to the cows, the whole door trap scene is meant to have players fear making wrong choices by stating from the start that the place is lethal. Now, the GM will most probably prefer to keep this atmosphere for the longest time to make the whole session fun, so instead of killing the players on a failed roll, he will take the cattle idea as a better way to show the players that the place is lethal without resorting to kill PCs.

    So spontaneous/established information is ok as long as it fits the predominant creative agenda.
    My dice say "Yes but" I read the cow example a different way. The way I read the example, and I may have been wrong, was that the players had the cow herd actually spring a significant enough number of traps such that it allowed them to beat the scenario. If I didn't misunderstand, it actually made the place less dangerous for the players, as many of the traps were now sprung. That's why I thought it was so humorously awesome (as long as they're imaginary cows).

    @BiffBoff said that he didn't buy the cow herd. I’m guessing you might not either.

    I’m curious as to whether it’s different things that cause an invention to not be acceptable to different people, or whether it's something more common to everyone. To me, it’s definitely some feeling of something being broken, but I can’t quite put my finger on it. Creative agenda might be it, or some sort of ‘rule of cool’ or rule of credibility (see BiffBoff’s posts).
    "I think we all agree on the "fourth entrance" / retcon of the dungeon architect; that's a given. The buffalo hold no water with me. Why not invent a passing halfling thief to deal with the traps; they exist - Hell, they're EVERYWHERE! But I wouldn't allow that and neither would you."
    @BiffBoff: why did you not buy the idea of a cowherd running through the scenario?
    Otherwise, we can assume that it's Established that the Characters can, in fact, get in, but how? Do they throw up their hands and sit around waiting for the big Deus Ex Machine to roll by? Time for a little Dynamic thinking.

    Summon an earth elemental to make a passage through the stone wall or a tunnel underneath. Can they do that? Even most hard-core Grognards would say yes BUT it's not in the monster description. You just made that shit up but it's good shit. I say "Ship it"!

    Using my first example, roll a clue with the Story Cubes to suggest an entrance. Bees? The dice say there's a clue with bees. That's now an Established, Static, undeniable fact. So, what then? Does a bee fly through a previously unseen/unsmelled sewer grate? No, that's silly and who could smell a sewer opening over the cloying scent of that honeysuckle bush? HONEYsuckle?! And hidden there, of course, is the Keep's bolt hole for escaping a siege. They exist. Did the GM just make this particular one up or the players? Does it matter? It came from the fiction presented. It might even be in the GM's notes. Established or Spontaneous? Doesn't matter. It makes sense, it feels right, it required the players to discover it ( that's the exploration part that is so important to Ol' Skool Dungeoneering); it even came from the roll of a die! But not the random "does it happen/do I succeed" kind of roll; the "Establish a fact and figure it out in Character" kind.
    I agree. Maybe it doesn't really matter, but why does it feel different (and what, if anything useful, can be extracted from that). I do think that the guise in which the info is presented can make a difference in whether that discovery feels like a real discovery or not. Let's say that the Keep's bolt hole was spontaneously made up by the GM, but he doesn't tell that to the players. Instead, he asks them to make a perception roll, and upon success tells them they found the hidden bolt hole. Maybe if they fail the roll, he reveals it to them through some sort of event (maybe they see someone sneaking in, or someone offers them the info for some cash). Regardless, the players are never the wiser that the bolt hole was made up on the spot, and that feels different.
    And I think this is where we begin to approach the Spontaneous Mystery. If I could marry Rickard's Fish Tank Model to this kind of Spontaneous Established fact; we'd have your answer, Dreamer.
    Found Rickard's Fish Tank Model, thought it is awesome. Thanks for bringing it up.

    I think it's worth it to distinguish between hidden information and unknown information non-existent information (though one may be a subset of the other). When you are dealing with a randomizer like the Rory Story Cubes, you're dealing with unknown information but not hidden information. /.../

    Within the fiction, yes, you could treat the random results as some sort of hidden secret, but this does not change the way play feels.
    But I wonder, isn't it the anticipation that you want instead of the exploration? The exploration is just one medium to create it. To be more concrete: having hidden information gives an impression that there's a inner logic on how things are connected, and that's what the players wants to find out. The use of unknown information (skill rolls, generators) could be more about creating an inner logic. I would say that if we strive against a known goal, it doesn't matter if we use hidden or unknown information; it will create an anticipation to find out how it will end.
    I think anticipation is one of the common ground payoffs that both types of information can generate. It’s fun. I’m curious, though, about certain properties of “hidden” vs “spontaneous/non-existent” info which seem to bring about different sorts of satisfaction to people. Like, in the thread that made me curious, people cared enough about a distinction between “actual discovery” of hidden info resulting from exploration, as opposed to discovery as a creative act (say, like a sculptor “discovering” his sculpture under a big piece of marble). :) I’m actually glad I made the thread, because I’m learning a lot from what each of you is contributing.

    Maybe this is where the verisimilitude(?) comes from with spontaneous facts; it's not "on the map" but it could/should be.
    Yeah, plausibility…but how about the plausibility of that Halfling. :)
    "Why not invent a passing halfling thief to deal with the traps; they exist - Hell, they're EVERYWHERE! But I wouldn't allow that and neither would you."
    A couple of disconnected thoughts occurred to me:

    - Do some spontaneous things seem more acceptable if you arrive at their existence piece by piece? Like, maybe players kind of lead the GM to assert a few spontaneous facts like:
    1) there is a village in the area
    2) it’s a Halfling village
    3) Halflings routinely come to this area to forage treasure
    4) Then from there it’s a lot easier for people to accept that a Halfling is after all found. Maybe this is less jarring than just making up all the facts + the Halfling’s sudden appearance all in one swoop.

    - Do some spontaneous things seem more acceptable/fair if a price is extracted from the character?
  • Quoting my own question:

    "why does it feel different (and what, if anything useful, can be extracted from that)."

    I think that if we were able to put a finger on that, maybe there would be some sort of logic, or "best practice", as to when, where and how best to use hidden vs spontaneous.

    Like, I think I'm pretty confident in saying that spontaneous info is always OK when adding color.

  • It might be a value thing too; the players being okay with random details but not random plot elements.
  • We have the D+D example of hidden information. D+D is a game that always relied on a lot of hidden info even though it also allowed people to make a lot of stuff up (usually just things their character could do or call on though). I want to contrast that with a game that is on the opposite extreme.

    We'll call it "The make shit up game"

    Each turn anyone can jump and make something up. Maybe there is a roll, maybe there isn't. Maybe there is a scenario, maybe there is no unity of character or goal beyond it being in the same world.

    It would be like putting a drop of food coloring in a bucket of water. It dissipates into nothingness. Playing the game would feel empty, rudderless and pointless. Everything is unknown information and even the information that has been made is subject to change. Insanity.

    The feel of this game is so very different from the D+D example and that's the point I take away from the topic. We are trying to blend these two very different games into something else. It's challenging.
  • edited May 2013
    Thanks, Dreamer, for raising an interesting topic. It allowed me to work out some ideas and I hope you get something from it, too.
    "why did you not buy the idea of a cowherd running through the scenario?"

    I LOVED the cows in the tomb. You interpreted the scene right. And I laughed when I read it.
    My comment was about the Water Buffaloes just hanging around a swamp. THAT I don't buy. But for the party to travel to a ranch, rustle some cows, herd them back; it's a little mini-adventure in itself. Has me thinking that it would make a great adventure seed; there's books and movies devoted to it (maybe rustle up a herd of flumphs in the UnderdarK!).

    Everyone's play style is different. Personally, I like the question: "even if it's not on the map" SHOULD it be? (yeah, lots of things COULD be on the map, in the swamp, the tavern, the keep, but should they be? - if it makes sense and it's important to the story (even if it wasn't important a minute ago), then "put it on the map"; make it an established fact.

    I liked Zircher's kobold example; the introduction of a few simple things that, by themselves, are inconsequential, change the scene completely.
  • No, thank you and everyone else for sinking your teeth into this. Discussing the differences and similarities of the information we receive in rpg games has helped to illuminate some things in my mind, which I had not quite been consciously aware of.

    This has, in turn, given me some ideas regarding solo play, which relies so much on spontaneous info (when not playing in a CYOA format). Nothing that I can put into practice yet, but at least I think it has hinted at some potential directions.
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