The GM as Judge -- how to stop it without ruining their fun?

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  • I'm pretty sure the GM and I don't share the same vocab; I'm just speculating about where his ruling came from, not about what he would call it.

    I did ask Will before I joined whether this group would emphasize system mastery and he said "no", but yeah, it'd probably be good to revisit now that we have some specific shared play to look at, and it'd also be good for me to ask about the causal role of the fiction.
    it's not entirely unreasonable for a GM to rule that if your character tries something you don't know the rules for, it should probably go wrong.
    That is seriously counter-intuitive for me, so thanks for pointing out the possibility. I don't think that's what's going on here, but I'll keep an eye out. (If that is the deal, I'll really want a card for each of my spells with all the details on it, so I don't have to pause every decision for book-passing and page-flipping.)
  • It might not be to the liking of the shoved character considering you've described him as a coward
    Yes, this also. You shoved a member of your own party who didn't want to be near the fight with the intent of shoving him into the fight. That is some pure-strain flashlight dropping right there.
    Which we have now learn ears you insp at some tables, ire at others.
  • I thought flashlight dropping was roleplaying a reaction that was to the detriment of the party?

    At least from David's perspective (as I understood it), what he did was a sort of reverse flashlight dropping: he interfered with someone else's flashlight dropping, to the benefit of the party.
  • I thought flashlight dropping was roleplaying a reaction that was to the detriment of the party?

    At least from David's perspective (as I understood it), what he did was a sort of reverse flashlight dropping: he interfered with someone else's flashlight dropping, to the benefit of the party.
    Yeah; this is far closer. The one character (IC) won't like it and their player... may or may not like it, but this sure doesn't seem like it's to the detriment of anyone else. Or at least, the intent wasn't. Which is the cause of the problem here.
  • The cowardly character is played by Michael, who is basically using his character as an obnoxious shtick machine, and is not at all surprised when his character is hated by anyone in the fiction. He certainly doesn't mind when we beat on his character when not in the middle of a fight. Does that change during a fight? Well, he didn't say anything to indicate that, but I guess ya never know.
  • I just read this thread. Interesting discussion, given the potentially unpleasant topic.

    I'm really curious now how all this panned out. Did things improve? Did the group have any kind of discussion?
  • edited March 2015
    I talked to Will, who said of the GM, "He goes by the rules when he remembers them and they make sense to him." I asked whether he (Will) ever jumps in with a rule, and he said, "Yeah, but in the case of pushing a character, the Bull Rush rules aren't clear about what happens when you push one PC into another PC's square. But there are other times when I'll jump in with a rule and the GM will go by that. Unless we think the rule is really, really stupid."

    I asked Will what the GM goes by when a situation isn't governed by a clear rule. "Whatever makes sense to him," he said. I asked whether that meant positioning & whatnot in the fiction, and Will shrugged, "I guess."

    "So how about this," I asked. "Before pushing the guy, I could ask whether it looks like there's room to push him past the woman, or is the tunnel too narrow for that? Would that be cool to ask? Would it help?"

    Will's response: "It might help. There's a pretty good chance. It's definitely cool to ask. We've had plenty of arguments about stuff like that in the past; I try to keep them short now."

    So, pretty compatible with my own reads and guesses. I think part of the GM logic of throwing "gotchas" at players is a sort of friendly punishment for not thinking of relevant factors. I remember a bit of this from my own high school GMing. So perhaps if I make it clear to the GM, not just that I'm thinking, but precisely what I'm thinking about, he'll give me credit for that. I think I'm going to try that before initiating any private chat with him.

    We haven't played in the last two weeks -- maybe tomorrow, or Thursday, or next Tuesday. Ah, scheduling...
  • It might not be to the liking of the shoved character considering you've described him as a coward
    Yes, this also. You shoved a member of your own party who didn't want to be near the fight with the intent of shoving him into the fight. That is some pure-strain flashlight dropping right there.
    Which we have now learn ears you insp at some tables, ire at others.
    The cowardly character is played by Michael, who is basically using his character as an obnoxious shtick machine, and is not at all surprised when his character is hated by anyone in the fiction. He certainly doesn't mind when we beat on his character when not in the middle of a fight. Does that change during a fight? Well, he didn't say anything to indicate that, but I guess ya never know.
    I readed again the thread and something pop up in my mind. In social contract terms, in 80% of the groups that Ihave played, making another player's character do something against the will of his/her player is bad etiquette. Though it happens everywhere and the forced actions vary from a shove or less to total unbelievable crap, the thing is that there are some people more sensitive than others at these things.

    Could it be that the GM went over the rules and player agency to punish Michael or even maybe you both?
  • edited March 2015
    Oh no, this is definitely not a game where "you can't shove my guy!" Will's character repeatedly wrestled and pinned Michael's character against his will and we all loved it.

    I actually checked with Will about "Is it still cool to mess with Michael's character if it actually loses him some hit points?" and Will gave me an emphatic thumbs up.
  • edited March 2015
    Well, then looks like the GM knew that too and wanted in; saw an opportunity to place a joke with consequences, but couldn't come up with a good ruleswise excuse for it. Perhaps some previously agreed clear signals may be in order, so the GM can freely break/misuse rules a bit to create the atmosphere the group enjoys, and the players can either veto that, give it the OK and keep it going or even give more suggestions of how worse things may go.

    You can even tie it to some other game mechanic, like "GM hero points". If players can use these in PF to ignore rules a bit, why the GM can't use them too to build some situations without having to go through the entire mechanics?
  • edited March 2015
    If we play long enough for me to (a) get a good handle on how they do things now and (b) get to know the GM's preferences, then at that point (if it's kosher) I probably will make some procedural suggestions. Not yet, though!
  • I asked Will what the GM goes by when a situation isn't governed by a clear rule. "Whatever makes sense to him," he said. I asked whether that meant positioning & whatnot in the fiction, and Will shrugged, "I guess."

    "So how about this," I asked. "Before pushing the guy, I could ask whether it looks like there's room to push him past the woman, or is the tunnel too narrow for that? Would that be cool to ask? Would it help?"

    Will's response: "It might help. There's a pretty good chance. It's definitely cool to ask. We've had plenty of arguments about stuff like that in the past; I try to keep them short now."
    I think a significant part of the appeal of playing a game like Pathfinder is that you don't have to rely on continuously re-negotiated fictional positioning, but have the actual positioning of actual miniatures, and lots of rules for lots of cases, as a shared reference.

    Are you playing with miniatures on a grid? Are you using them just as a visual aid, or is the position binding? For example, when a PC moves, would you say something like "I move as far as I can thataway" or would you they count off squares according to the character's speed stat?


  • I asked Will what the GM goes by when a situation isn't governed by a clear rule. "Whatever makes sense to him," he said. I asked whether that meant positioning & whatnot in the fiction, and Will shrugged, "I guess."
    .
    This jumped out at me, but maybe it isn't coming across in the text the way it actually occurred; are you and the group using different language to talk about the game? I'm just asking because this sounds like fictional positioning meant something concrete to you and not very much at all to Will (again, just going by the text).
  • @shimrod, we do use minis on a grid, but everyone is very lazy about updating who's where. So, sometimes, the relevant info is already established on the map, and sometimes it isn't. Same deal with movement squares -- we've counted them when it seemed important, and hand-waved them at other times. My takeaway from chats with Will and observing the GM is that pointing at the grid and asking, "What's the rule for entering an occupied square?" would eventually produce a concrete answer, but not without some awkwardness.

    As long as it's plausible that either focus might work (fiction with a side of minis/map/rules vs minis/map/rules alone), my preference will always be to involve the fiction. Personally, I think Pathfinder makes for a pretty poor board game, and I have no desire to nudge this group toward playing it as such.

    I get your point about the appeal of concreteness, and if were entering a group which had mastered the art of using Pathfinder rules and concrete map positions to produce super-fun encounters, I would be totally on board to do it that way. This isn't that group, though. We're adventuring in a cave with various slopes and curves and changes in elevation, and the GM is uninterested in establishing them all in advance and communicating them to the players via map drawings or otherwise. We're working with a 2D sketch and little else.

    @Bedrockbrendan, yeah, the "fictional positioning" terminology would probably have made Will go "Huh?" My real-life version of asking whether the GM judges according to fictional stuff was much longer and more full of examples. I am confident that Will understood exactly what I was asking, and I'm taking his reply, "I guess," literally. Will isn't too concerned with what the GM's rationale is, can't easily pin it down, and would do no more than guess that it's based substantially on the fiction.
  • edited April 2015
    We finally got another session in. It was great fun! I suppose this will just sound like bragging, but I present it as an illustration of our success getting on the same page:

    After the session (Adam is the GM):

    Adam: So, that "poison" the casino owner sold you turned out to be oregano. Or, y'know, the local equivalent. The actual toxic thing in the bugglegrubble you made was just the fire beetle corpses!

    Me: Ha ha ha! And maybe the oregano made it smell a little better and go down a little easier?

    Everyone laughs.

    Will: Dave, I'm glad you joined this group, otherwise we would have just slogged through the combat until we'd eventually killed all the gremlins.

    Daniel: Yeah.

    Me: Heh, thanks! That certainly would have been faster...

    Adam: Who cares about speed? We already have three good stories from half a module! How often does that happen?!

    Despite the fact that my idea to charge into gremlin territory, abduct one of them, and learn their defenses, numbers and weaknesses didn't actually work as planned, it did springboard us into a lot of fun stuff. The combat to abduct the gremlin was nicely different from the previous combats; the subsequent interrogation gave the GM some opportunities to colorfully drive home how dumb and vicious the gremlins are; our "allies" who did the interrogating (the party doesn't speak Gremlin) got fed up with us; and it was actually the final question from Daniel that bore fruit:

    Daniel: What do you eat?

    Adam (as Gremlin): Bugglegrubble!

    I think Adam spit that out somewhat at random, but he seemed to get a kick out of us breaking down what it probably meant (bugs and grubs), and Will's dumb orc Thokk suddenly made it a point of pride that he made GREAT bugglegrubble. This led to some hilarious in-town prep, my testing our poison on a rat (which threw up but didn't die), and then Daniel stealthily lacing the gremlins' turf with the stuff. Once Daniel made all his stealth checks to put the poisoned food out there, I don't think Adam even gave the gremlins intelligence checks to avoid the food or constitution checks to expel it with no harm taken; instead, he simply ruled that when we next charged their tunnels, they were all in the midst of puking and the outcome of the fight was a foregone conclusion. So we just skipped ahead to the big boss fight at the end (which we won handily).
  • Dave,

    That does sound like fun! But I don't understand if it has anything to do with the issue you're discussing here. Where there any more 'gotchas'? Did you talk about this with the GM or the group? Is there a different mindset at play now?

    In other words, the next time you decide to push someone in front of someone else in a fight, do you think it will be handled differently?
  • edited April 2015
    Besides my discussions with Will (see upthread), I didn't talk through anything. Did Will say something to Adam? I don't know.

    I think we've begun training each other in a constructive direction, though. When I wanted to know something covered by the rules, I led off by talking about the rules rather then the fiction (this is how we pulled off gremlin-abduction -- while Will invoked the grappling rules, I invoked the rule that denies the gremlins their flanking bonus if Will and I are standing back to back in the same square). When I wanted to do something more nebulous, I focused on steering toward stuff that amused the group and/or incorporated the GM's contributions. This was not a calculated process or anything, just a growing association between entertainment value and effectiveness.

    The next time I want to push one character in front of another, I will:
    1) check on the relevant rules
    2) if the rules leave a lot of room for interpretation, I will try to make my desired outcome as entertaining as possible
    3) if I fail to make it entertaining, I will then expect a high probability of the GM throwing a "gotcha" at me, and either (a) embrace my character's ill fortune and enjoy the GM's gotcha, or (b) not push one character in front of another.

    I think some combo of (1) this approach, (2) me having seen that sometimes the GM does like my goofy ideas, and (3) the GM having seen that my goofy ideas can be a lot of fun, ought to (a) keep the "roll thinking I might achieve my intent, but have that not be the case" stuff to a minimum, and (b) allow me to comfortably roll with it when it does come up, knowing that it'll be rare.

    I could be wrong and the reality could be that it just depends on whether Adam's in a good mood that day, but the above is what I'm going with for now.
  • Nice breakdown, Dave! Food for thought.
  • edited March 2017
    Am looking for feedback on a similar thing that happened recently. I was DM. The game system was 5e, using only the Starter Set booklets + pregens + a module that was 90% home made but based on a downloaded map.

    The players were fighting a MintyFresh™ brand nanite cleaning apparatus that took harm from some damage types and benefited from others (cutting & electrical). Some of the players had suspected this quality but one of the players took a swing at it with his sword. The other players started yelling "noooo, don't" and he was like "Oh, wait, no, I don't, after all" and I'm thinking: what's done is done. So I turned toward the one player that had protested the most and said: "You can stop him iff you spend a full action. Do you do it? y/n" and he agonized over the decision and then landed on "Yes, I stop him". I gave him insp and turned to the other half of the table. "OK, they both have used their turns. What do you do?"

    I was happy & satisified with the call.

    I had a vaguely misremembered version of this threads OP in mind and didn't want any "You stumble around, you shove him too hard" etc etc (I'm ever vigilant against "slapstick D&D"). Shades of PbtA "Offer them a choice". Also keeping the discussion of "intent/initiation/execution/effect" in mind, but only in mind. We didn't go through these steps in detail; I tried to shortcut around it. Obviously their ultimate intent is to survive the MintyFresh™ apparatus' attempts at "cleaning" them, but in a more medium-grained sense of turn to turn, I think I sussed it out.

    I could've gone somewhere with the grappling rules, die rolls etc etc. Remember, the stoppee wanted to be stopped, he started hesitating. (That's a difference from the cowardly PC in the OP.) I could also have been more generous and considering the party's shouts of "No" as free actions and just said to the stoppee "Sure, what do you want to do instead?".

    Also emblematic of my style as we didn't dwell on specific descriptions of the stopping or how the stopping physically took place, how close the cutter had come to actually putting blade to the apparatus etc. It was just a "Yes" and a quick move on to the other side of the table. I have this theory that the players' brains fill in these gaps; what matters are the actions, the stakes etc. Creating and maintaining buy-in in mechanics & system is a big part of that.

    Edit: It wasn't for fear of the grappling rules that I made that call. We were using those rules successfully later when they were fighting an instantiation of a Vampirocubes™ Guard Patrol (a swarm of flying metal cubes, about 4×4×4 inches, that exsanguinate entities that have insufficient clearance level for presence in the facilities). I hadn't run a game in such a long time (hence why I only brought the Starter Set booklets) but once we got going, I didn't have to reference them, I remembered the rules. Except I forgot to remind the party to scratch rations every day. In the end they found a food source so they were never in any risk of starvation.
  • edited March 2017
    Later in the very same fight against the MintyFresh™ apparatus another player forgot himself and struck it again with swords. I stated the effects (beneficial to the apparatus) and he was like "But I didn't roll, maybe I'll miss, maybe I'll miss" and hoped to miss. I was miffed at that. I don't see misses as "hitting beside the enemy", I see it as the attack being good but the enemy's armor or dodging being superior, and in this case MintyFresh™'s highly cost-efficient neural net programming had evolved a reaction to swords that doesn't involve AC. He rolled anyway despite me saying "don't roll". I dropped the argument because he rolled exactly the AC (so, not missing), so we would've been arguing over a hypothetical failed roll, and life is short. But internally the furnace of my hatred was stoked with an approximate 21050(±125)°C (Δ-increase from its then current temperature).
  • Heh. My rules-legalistic point on that latter point would have been to use touch AC, of course; presumably quite low for a non-nimble machine. Keeps the players happy to say yes to them, and keeps me happy to maintain my world simulation :D
  • It had an AC of 8 but moved quickly; it was a gelatinous goo that could turn on a dime.
  • Touch AC's not a thing in 5E.
  • Doesn't matter, does it? I mean, unless the game's gone completely formalistic, it still presumably has the idea that a character's AC is a function of both their armor and their defensive movement. It follows that, if the game allows circumstance modifiers to rolls, it's possible to assign an appropriate modifier for the fact that their armor is "useless" against the attack you're making (on the principle that it suffices to hit the armor here, no vital strike necessary). Once you're at that point it's strictly a matter of taste whether you write down the "touch AC" or just recalculate it as needed.

    As an interesting aside, I generally break down D&D's strike difficulty (that is, how difficult it is to score a hit in melee) for an unarmored average human target in a dueling situation in this way:
    25% comes from their being a moving target you have to account for in time and space. Immobilizing the enemy removes this factor.
    25% comes from their being aware of the danger and reacting to it with dodging, parrying, riposting, etc. The enemy being unaware of the attack would eliminate this factor.
    50% comes from the technical difficulty of delivering a strong enough strike to cause injury. One could call this "natural AC", although humans being relatively unarmored it's more about the difficulty of wielding your weapon effectively. This factor could be mitigated by the enemy being larger (makes aiming easier) or frailer (so a weaker strike suffices), for example, but it would only be dropped entirely in a situation where even an incompetent could not fail to hit effectively.

    This sort of rule of thumb helps me in accounting for appropriate modifiers when e.g. a character is surprised by an invisible foe, or they're entangled yet aware of a danger, or when they're completely helpless, yet you don't have time to stop and execute them with care. For example, in my own homebrew the default unarmored armor class is 20, so -5 is appropriate if you are unaware of the danger and another -5 if you can't move; the difficulty of hitting a training dummy (something that does not move or react) is 10, which in this system is generally achievable for anybody with a smidgen of training.

    But that's more of a curio than the actual topic, isn't it? The actual phenomenon of players occasionally being big cry-babies is familiar to me. It annoys the hell out of me when they try to wriggle out of something in the game, as if it were a game of, I don't know, GM-debating. Seems like spitting in my face when a player so flaunts how they care more about winning than due process. My main strategy in dealing with these kinds of debates is to state the applicable rules principle clearly, explain what the player could have done better to avoid the disagreement, and then suggest a compromise in the player's advantage in exchange for their agreeing to follow proper process in the future. I view any situation where I win long-term a victory, even if I lose short-term, and it's not even losing really, because the players will generally be more than happy to take this deal.

    So e.g. in Sandra's situation above, I'd let the player take back their attack statement in exchange for them promising not to do it again - or if they do, they stick to it. This specific situation is actually pretty common for me, I get it several times per year when some player lapses (or is inexperienced) and does the take-back. Just as Sandra describes, it makes for a difficult procedural dead-lock when a player declares an action, the GM describes the consequences, and then the player wants to take back what they said on the virtue of "saying it by accident"; the GM already revealed the consequences, so the tactical process is contaminated if you're allowed to "go back in time" and make a new choice. On account of my "win long-term" principle I explain to the other players why this bothers me, and get the player to promise that they'll be more careful in the future, but not try to assign any immediate penalties. This makes for a more relaxed game, I find, as the players don't have to treat me as an enemy they need to win a debate; they just need to keep making social commitments to me about being better players in the future. Essentially, I buy their souls with minor gifts of leniency in the present :D
  • edited March 2017
    one of the players took a swing at it with his sword. The other players started yelling "noooo, don't" and he was like "Oh, wait, no, I don't, after all" and I'm thinking: what's done is done.
    Yeah, this can get tricky if there isn't a really clearly established table convention for precisely how late is too late. And as for how to get there:
    My main strategy in dealing with these kinds of debates is to state the applicable rules principle clearly, explain what the player could have done better to avoid the disagreement, and then suggest a compromise in the player's advantage in exchange for their agreeing to follow proper process in the future . . . So e.g. in Sandra's situation above, I'd let the player take back their attack statement in exchange for them promising not to do it again - or if they do, they stick to it.
    this strikes me as quite practical. I always do the "state rule/principle, explain how to do better" bit, but sometimes I forget how important it is to remove the current source of protest first. No one listens well to constructive criticism when they're preoccupied with getting cleaned to death.
    So I turned toward the one player that had protested the most and said: "You can stop him iff you spend a full action. Do you do it? y/n" and he agonized over the decision and then landed on "Yes, I stop him". I gave him insp and turned to the other half of the table. "OK, they both have used their turns. What do you do?"
    Nice. :)
  • Doesn't matter, does it? I mean, unless the game's gone completely formalistic, it still presumably has the idea that a character's AC is a function of both their armor and their defensive movement.
    No, that's changed and touch AC has been removed. One of my home players (not a participant in this game) who was a 3e veteran protested at first but started liking the change after a while.

    This monster quickly splits itself in half to avoid sword cuts, that's the benefit of it receiving cutting (I tried to be vague but I realize it's not likely someone here is going to play in this particular game anyway so why avoid spoiler).

    In 3e, if a monster's armor doesn't matter but it's nimbleness does matter, it's "touch AC". If it's nimbleness doesn't matter but it's armor does matter, it's "flatfooted AC". In 5e both of those have been removed and it's gone more formalistic.
    But, in this case, neither would've mattered. The nanite contraption wants to be attacked with swords. So there's no missing it and a normal attack roll against AC just isn't relevant.

    I could've done a more generous "Yes or roll the dice" by making either some sort of physical (dex?) save for the player to in the last minute steer their sword away, or some sort of mental save "roll to see if you realize it in time" thing. Or, and this is something I didn't realize at the time (remember this was a split-second argument, I was like "nooo, don't rooooll" in slomo as they grabbed their die and rolled it, against my explicit call), I could've done some other sort of arrangement as the previous one where I allowed someone to give up their full action, along with the stoppee's full action. It was the last thing in that initiative round, but, I could've thought of the turns as "an endlessly wrapping sequence of turns" instead of "everyone goes, then a new round starts". Mental lock in action, I guess.

    But, my instinct was to just stick with the stated action. It was their third chance already.
    It follows that,
    Your statement follows the premise that the AC is a function of armor and defensive movement. Which isn't strictly true for all entities anymore and the various AC:s in 3e have been removed.
    if the game allows circumstance modifiers to rolls
    That's not a standard function in the game, instead there's the "advantage" & "disadvantage" mechanic. I know you played LMoP where you were a trainlock so I don't mean to explain things you already might now, but, just to make sure. There are specific things that give roll modifiers (cover is the most commonly used one of these) but it's not a general mechanic.
    it's possible to assign an appropriate modifier for the fact that their armor is "useless" against the attack you're making (on the principle that it suffices to hit the armor here, no vital strike necessary). Once you're at that point it's strictly a matter of taste whether you write down the "touch AC" or just recalculate it as needed.
    Yes, 8. Which the player thankfully rolled exactly. But. It doesn't want to be missed.

    Many groups narrate their D&D blows like "oh shit my sword swung like two meters to the left of the foe", which I hate. I want the clashing swords, Robin Hood / Zorro / Obi-Wan style until someone falls or gives up. They're not "missing", the enemy is just defending itself so well. For example I might say "Your arrow flies straight into the creature but its thick fur catches it".
    As an interesting aside, I generally break down D&D's strike difficulty (that is, how difficult it is to score a hit in melee) for an unarmored average human target in a dueling situation in this way:
    25% comes from their being a moving target you have to account for in time and space. Immobilizing the enemy removes this factor.
    25% comes from their being aware of the danger and reacting to it with dodging, parrying, riposting, etc. The enemy being unaware of the attack would eliminate this factor.
    50% comes from the technical difficulty of delivering a strong enough strike to cause injury. One could call this "natural AC", although humans being relatively unarmored it's more about the difficulty of wielding your weapon effectively. This factor could be mitigated by the enemy being larger (makes aiming easier) or frailer (so a weaker strike suffices), for example, but it would only be dropped entirely in a situation where even an incompetent could not fail to hit effectively.
    I guess I have sort of a two factor mental model where the attacks both need to overcome AC and also enough HP to get the HP to zero to then really make a wounding hit.

    But in this case it felt if as the player had said "I put the candy on the table" and then I say "OK did you forget that the table is a mimic? It eats the candy" and then they say "No wait let me roll a dexterity check to be able to place the candy there properly, maybe I clumsily fall on my shoelaces before I even reach the center of the room where the table is" and I say no and they roll anyway. It's annoying! If they asked for a roll to be competent and avoid it nimbly or catch themself mentally, like "I roll to see if I can remember that it's a mimic" it would've been much less annoying! I don't like to roll for things that feels like they just should succeed. To do it, do it.

    So e.g. in Sandra's situation above, I'd let the player take back their attack statement in exchange for them promising not to do it again - or if they do, they stick to it.

    It was the third strike. The second time was the "No, stop" "You can stop him if you spend a full action, do you do it? y/n" exchange above. Which I was happy with because it's super difficult to come up with good dilemmas for PbtA games.
    the GM already revealed the consequences, so the tactical process is contaminated if you're allowed to "go back in time" and make a new choice.
    This, 100%.

    I have another story that really bugged me :(
    (Post is too long, so I'll split it)
  • I was playing Caylus with two guys, one of whom I knew a little bit (he is a guy we have many funny anecdotes about because he is quite a personality, but in general I like him even if I haven't played with him in a while), let's call him C because that's his initial, and his friend whom I've never met before or since, whom I don't remember the name but I'm going to call him Tea because he brought very expensive delicious green tea which he boiled (which you're not supposed to do) and it became bitter and it was a bit of a waste and he seemed to think that that was how that tea was supposed to taste like. All in the audience who now mentally shake their heads and grumble that 2097 is a judgmental b----, to you I can only say "♥♥♥, you know me so well".

    Anyway, the game was over, the final round was finished, Tea wrapped up his turn and passed. I was leading and would've won. I rarely win Caylus, I find it a very difficult and counter-intuitive game for me (it's one of the few euros I like, though). And I asked, "Oh, are you done?" He said yes. "Oh, good, because then I can say that you could've done this-that-and-the-other to win, I was so nervous that you would've seen it." He said "...Oh. You're right". And then C said "Oh, don't worry, Tea, we'll let you take it back, I'm feeling generous" and then Tea lit up and rewinded his whole turn and then implemented the strategy I had mentioned and won the game. And I was like... I didn't say anything, but I thought "WTF!? I explicitly waited until he had passed his turn before mentioning anything. And, I regret saying it because it was a smug, dumb thing to point out and it was childish. But, just it was just a passing curiosity, too. To say "I was on needles because I thought you were going to see this particular convoluted plan, but luckily I won, phew", was been slightly rude but I think it's acceptable. Notably C didn't see that plan either, until I explained it to them. It sucked.

    I have another C story (I have about twenty stories about him but I don't want him to recognize this. I like him well enough, he's a cool guy but we have very very different board game philosophies and I often bring up C anecdotes to contrast with my own philosophy when we make up house rules at home). This took place maybe one or two years before the Caylus story and was the second or third time I met him. We were playing Power Grid and he passed his turn. I left my chair and walked around the table to get a better look at the board and I was staring very visibly at an area of the map where I was thinking of building, and trying to do the math. After I had pondered for a while, C interrupted me and took back his entire turn and started doing something else. He explained his table rule that anyone can take back their turn "if they haven't seen any future" (which is the phrase he always uses). But I felt that I had stared at that particular part of the board so intently.... and for a while (math is hard)... that it had contaminated the tactical process and also that all of my analysis and calculations would have to start over since he redid his turn. And it was the first time I ever heard of this "haven't seen any future" meta-rule. What happened was that a guy who later became a friend of mine, Johan, started a shouting fight with him and they argued back and forth until Johan wiped the pieces of the board and I left. I hadn't dared say anything, I had been petrified in silence & fear [remember, this was the first, second or third time meeting many of these guys] but I left very upset. (BTW, I later told them that I wasn't upset at Johan for wiping the tables but for C to be so obstinate and argumentative. But later I became friends with them both.) Both me, C and Johan thought we had a very good shot at winning the game, but later another player explained that he had the game in the bag regardless of what we did. (That last player, M let's call him, is part of my home D&D group btw.) OTOH, we all thought we had a shot so I'm not sure M's theory would've been correct, but, it might very well have been, he has a great Power Grid track record and I certainly don't.

    I don't like the "haven't seen any future" meta rule. Instead, the rule we use, at least when we play with familiar people that have heard our typical meta rules & table rules, is that you can always petition for a takeback but it's up to the other players -- unanimously -- to gracefully grant a takeback. (In late games, it's granted about 20% of the time, I'd say) It's their gift to give. Future or no future, contaminated or not contaminated. Because it always sort of is, at least in my experience. Subtly, sometimes.

    Another one of C's meta rules is that if a die touches two surfaces, like it's half on a playing card and half on thet able, it's completely rerolled. It can get pretty ridiculous sometimes if the playing cards are very thin. My own preference is that if one side is visibly "more" face up, that's the side. Like even if it was at a 40° angle, at the side of the dice tray, I wouldn't want it rerolled. Only if it was 45°. I mean, there is a very simple test: can everyone agree which side looks more "up"? If so, no reroll. If there is any disagreement (feigned or otherwise, but that has never happened, that mythical 45° has never happened), then reroll. OTOH, some people like to "bump" it to settle it, I hate that! (B/c it might very well fall in the other direction.) And it's something they do without discussion and it's impossible to undo, to. I'm like "hey I didn't even see what it was before you bumped it, stop it!"
    I later learned that in Backgammon, there are strict rules for rerolling dice even for things like they are touching each other -- even if both are on a flat surface. So, that's a little bit of grist for C's argument, I must admit. And I do follow those rules for Backgammon but for Backgammon only.

    My dad's rule was always that if a die leaves the table, it's rerolled. Something I changed as soon as I could. For a long time I called his rule "the Finnish die rule" because that's where I thought he got it, until I learned that it's common in many places. Instead, we usually shout "It counts!" when a die goes flying. It was to my great delight to see "the Sandra die rule" used in Stranger Things.

    Listen, this post drifted faaaar off topic but I loved writing it. Thanks for reading it (if anyone did).
  • Good stuff. I definitely think explicit communication that your turn is over is the only thing that really should count. Anything else is just whinging.
  • There are probably a hundred reasons why I would grant a takeback, like they dropped the piece accidentally on the wrong square but didn't notice etc etc. But, not a single one of those reasons I could extrapolate into a general rule. Hence my preferred meta rule that takebacks are sola gratia, and never de jure. The granter's mood matters too, like if it's the late game tensions run high and the ego and stinginess grows: it's harder to grant a takeback then.
  • I like your stories about your boardgaming microculture. It's interesting how different it is from ours:
    * Takebacks are totally a thing; the rule is basically your "haven't seen the future" concept, except we express it in terms of "irreversible entropy of the game state". Boils down to takebacks being allowed as long as no dice rolls or card draws have been made, and no new information has been revealed to anybody. (That includes game choices made by other players, of course: if somebody already declared a move based on yours, entropy has occurred, because you have been contaminated with private knowledge about the other person's tactical perspective.) It would not be wrong to say that we consider all moves merely suggestive as long as nobody "finalizes" the spastic fumbling with the game pieces by making a new move on top of the old one. Quite different from the traditional Chess principle of "you touch it, you play it" :D
    * We generally value the abstract challenge of the game more than winning, which in practice means that it's quite common for players to advice and instruct each other on optimal moves to make. In multiplayer games this is of course often enough the undocumented "diplomacy action" (trying to influence another player to move in a way that is advantageous to you), but it tends to be accepted as part of the game and a positive influence overall (it improves the general level of play). It is particularly significant that we value "trivial" victories much lower than fundamental differences in skill, which is why players are commonly allowed to fix stupid play, so as to provide a greater challenge for the others - they want to win with their own clever play, not because the other player was playing lazily.
    * The very concept of victory has become pretty hazy over the years, particularly after I did a weird deconstruction on the concept of "king-making" years ago. Nowadays it's not uncommon for us to have a "technical victor", which may not count for much in terms of peer appreciation if the win was gained on mere technicality. It is even more common for a game to end in an outcome like "player A became the kingmaker, with B and C as the pretenders". You might read the latter case as a "tie between B and C" if you want, but it's not like we really need to assign labels to the play experience, you know :D
    * I feel the need to cap this weird list of our strangeness with the note that we do have a very disciplined play environment, it's just not very naive and authentic about "winning" and such. More often than not you win because of luck or somebody else playing badly, and it's interesting to understand exactly what is going on; the real victory condition is to become a consistently better player, or to progress the collective strategic understanding of the game, and not so much simply to win this game here and now.

    In general, though, it seems to me that your group might benefit from discussing gaming philosophy a bit more openly. Like, get more discipline in there, decide what's fair play and what's not. I know that this is more difficult for a peer group (much easier if there is a clear social leader like in e.g. scout troops have), but boldness and listening to other viewpoints helps a lot. Once you have some generally accepted principles in place, it's easier to resolve the specific fouls with callbacks to the general principles. "Hey, do you think that what you're doing is good gamesmanship? Didn't we all agree that part of the fun in doing this is discipline? I don't like that we're abandoning discipline at a whim here."
  • Quite different from the traditional Chess principle of "you touch it, you play it" :D
    Your philosophy is similar to C:s, then.
    I took baduk lessons for a little while and my teacher used to say (in baduk, pondering future moves is called 'reading') "Read with your eyes, not with your hands" and that's something that stuck with me as a good thing.
    We generally value the abstract challenge of the game more than winning, which in practice means that it's quite common for players to advice and instruct each other on optimal moves to make.
    Also similar to C! In many ways my own game group is a reaction to C's philosophy :D
    But we have some players who play in both groups including myself. But there's a "when in Rome" sort of attitude; each table has its own rules so to speak.
    In general, though, it seems to me that your group might benefit from discussing gaming philosophy a bit more openly.
    Oh, we do, when it's my home game. The example with the "I want to roll, maybe I miss the MintyFresh after all" was a con game, and all those C stories were long ago. And, they're quite useful as reference when I've been dictating my own preferences. "Remember when C said this or that? Well, rather, I think that or this instead." And we'd construe exaggerated examples like C's rule of die rolls are only legit when they're on one surface, and examples have come up when it's on a playing card or something. And in our imagination he would stretch it to different colors of paint even, or something ludicrous like that and we'd have a smile about that. I mean, it's meant as a positive thing because he has done lots to build a euro gaming culture here. I just wanted to do it another way, one that made more sense to me. (And, one of C:s friends is a bit of a bad egg.)
  • edited March 2017
    The discussion of "house rules", or the approach to dealing with "takebacks" is interesting to me, here, because there are two approaches which are being presented as different takes on the matter. However, when I play boardgames, I would use both.

    What does that mean? Generally, I strive to encourage people to make it really clear when their turn is over. (For example, pass the dice to the next player to indicate that you've finished your turn.)

    However, sometimes a person has an idea and they want to "do over". Do we allow this? If the next person hasn't made any moves yet, generally we will. However, it depends on the situation: we very, very much consider it a special favour to allow a "take back". It's never your right, in other words; you ask for the kindness of the group to allow you a chance to change a move you made.

    In practice, it's pretty easy. The person asks; then we look at the person whose turn is being interrupted. If they seem uneasy or unhappy about it (or if anyone does, really), we don't allow it. If they're happy to let the person change their move, then we go ahead.

    Interesting thread; it's been fun to reread it.
  • That sounds pretty much like my favored approach as well. If everyone is OK with the takeback, you can do it
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