Petitioner/Granter from Robin Laws

So this is a continuation from this discussion, go see.

We were talking about Robin Laws' ideas on how to handle dialogue scenes, from Unframed.

In Vincent's Dice & Clouds terms, it's pretty much all cloud, all the time.
That's part of its appeal for me.
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Comments

  • The main thing I'm seeing here is a call to identify a "goal" or objective for any conversation. Which party here wants to get something, and what is it?

    That seems like a good way to avoid aimless conversations in gaming. How else has this concept been useful to you?

    Can you give an example of how you'd play out a scene differently using this idea, compared to how you might have before?
  • FYI, if anyone is interested in perusing Law's dramasystem, it's available for free in SRD form here:

    http://www.pelgranepress.com/?p=12485

    I'm pretty sure that the petitioner/grantor system is part of it, if my memory isn't betraying me.
  • Here's the part from the previous thread that I want to discuss:
    The players wanted something from the innkeeper. Whether or not he knew where to find this girl, Tiliva. [Implicitly, but not stated at the table: the innkeeper is the granter, the players are petitioners.]
    We went into the mode where you say what your character says; I was portraying this innkeeper.
    I was like, shuddering, and going "No, I don't know her! Who told you?" [Being a little transparent to set up the scene -- but by now, I can be pretty subtle and the players still pick it up.]
    And they were like "We think you do know something". [Implicitly, tactic: laying the cards on the table and asking for the same]
    And I was like, fearfully "No. I'm not involved". [Implicitly, tactic: flat out denial]
    And they were like "Who're you afraid of?" [Implicitly, tactic: good cop]
    And I was like "I just don't want there to be any misunderstanding. I don't want you to think I'm caught up with that glitch stuff. You know I hate it." [Implicitly, tactic: being clear, setting boundaries, identity politics]
    And they said "GLITCH! WTF ARE YOU IN WITH THE GLITCHERS YOU SCUM!" [tactic: bad cop]
    And I: "No, it's not like that at all, that was what I was trying to say. I was helping her, but..."
    They: "WERE YOU HELPING THE GLITCH? That's so wrong!!!"
    I: "This is what was afraid of. You guys jumping the gun. Look... I can't explain it but... I'll tell you where she is if you promise not to turn her into the city guard." [The innkeeper diegetically thinking: they'll understand once they see her. Tactic: bargaining.]
    They: "Sure, sure, we promise, now where is she?" [Tactic: false promise, deception]



    Robin Laws' idea is simply to be mindful of motivations/desires and of "tactics".
    Guys as you know I'm pretty challenged when it comes to social skills.
    I was doing allright in my no-myth days but I had a lot of trouble portraying random shopkeepers in those first few sessions of The Lost Mine of Phandelver.
    I picked up Unframed and read Laws' chapter and everything became much crisper and better and more dramatic in the dialogue scenes, both the players and me did better just by me seeing the "petitioner / granter" structure and tactics exchanges in my own head, not even mentioning it to the players, just talking the scenes out old school style.

    But after a new player joined he was really trigger happy with "I ROLL PERSUADE" "I ROLL DECEIVE" etc, and I was struggling a bit with it, the other players approached me and they were like "It's kinda frustrating that you need social skills to resolve social situations".

    And I was like. OK. We need to whip out Hillfolk proper. I want to try it.
    And we tried it.
    And we've gone back to D&D but informed by the idea of "dramatic scenes", even though they've nixed the drama tokens (for now). So far (two sessions in, since our DramaSystem game) it has worked very well.
    Heaven knows that I didn't have any social skills. But this way of thinking has really helped me and now I think it's helped the players, too.

    PS.
    I know that Laws had fiction in mind, it grew out of Hamlet's Hit Points and analyzing cable TV shows.
    But it's also similar to the teachings of behavioral therapy on social skills.
    I'm actually less interested in Laws' advice than in the techniques for implementing it. I think that being aware of intents and tactics during roleplay exchanges opens up all sorts of interesting possibilities, but every time I've tried it, I just get caught up in the flow of dialogue and can't label anything without pausing the exchange.

    So, Sandra, if you could explain how you brought your various readings and thinkings and experiences playing Hillfolk into your D&D game, I'd love to hear it!

    For example:
    Was it a matter of training habits? Did you consciously say to yourself "tactic: laying the cards on the table" or "tactic: denial" during play, or is this more a retrospective analysis? If it was contemporaneous, what did you do with that information?
  • I can relate to Dave's experience. I really enjoy authors who write very "tactical" dialogue with multiple layers (e.g. Frank Herbert), but I can't imagine doing that "on the fly".
  • edited July 2015
    I have to say that while Hillfolk has it, I think it's much more clearly stated, and more generally applicable, in Unframed.

    I kinda want to paste it into this thread illegally -- I'm generally a known anti-copyright dork but OTOH I have such a feeling of gratitude towards Laws for creating this eye-opening text (even though it takes some examples from a certain book series that I hate a lot).

    But the first thing I want to clear up is that you don't need to label the tactics -- my labeling in the example was post-hoc.

    You do need to have a good grasp on what the petitioner wants from the granter, and why the granter won't give it. (Hence it's a very good match with Kevin's "socialite challenge" tables.)

    Then you just have to listen. The granter won't give it. What can does the petitioner say to get it anyway, and how does that change the granter's position? From the new position, what can the granter say now?

    I have practiced this since last summer, which is when I read Unframed (I read it after our first LMoP session, I think, or after one of the first). I also spend a lot of time with mindfulness practice -- you guys know I'm very emotion-driven and that I value emotions and impulses over logic a lot of the time, and it's always been hard for me to "control what I am saying", to have a "mouth filter" so I just don't blurt out dumb stuff.

    But that's OK. I just need to start "listening" to what both the petitioner and granter is saying. Are they coming at the problem from new angles ("tactics", in Laws' parlance) or are they repeating themselves?

    So the question: is it a retrospective analysis? Most of the labeling is retroactive, but that's just the naming of the "tactics". Using different tactics is conscious, for sure. I think "OK, can I come at this from a different angle" and then say or act out something differently. I sometimes name the tactic (I might think "Oh, shit, the only way out ofthis bind is for the NPC to lie their hat off") or I might just think "Uh, time for another tactic" and sort of feel my way through to a new take on the problem.

    Like when portraying the innkeeper: Before we started "acting it out" I had a conscious grasp on why the innkeeper was hiding their connection to the glitch girl.
    Then during the "acting", I thought "OK, hiding the truth is it not going to work because they have seen through the lie. He is pleading for his life at this point, but he still has an upperhand in that he had a reason for helping her while still being anti glitch". I didn't think "being clear, setting boundaries, appeal to identity politics", I just had the innkeeper do that because I started getting a "feel" for the character.

    Training habits? Yes! I still forget sometimes. While it's much easier than I thought, it's still a bit of an effort.

    What's interesting about this technique is that it works even if only one party is doing it. Leading with the fiction and staying in the fiction, but keeping the statements crisp and relevant because you're focusing on "they want something and they're struggling for it".

    This can be an NPC asking the PCs clear out a haunted swamp: Do the players have their characters push against it? If so, try different tactics, try different angles. Appeal to their pride, trick them, threaten them.

    Then let the dialogue land where it falls. There's no die roll or something afterwards. If the PCs are convinced to clear out the swamp, they are. If they aren't, they aren't.
    Same goes for you and your NPCs.

    As long as you're clear about why your NPC isn't immediately giving in (and remember -- that can be a very good option, not everything has to be a dramatic scene) -- you can compare their motivation to what the PCs offer up in terms of threats, bribes, flattery etc.


    In D&D a lot of the time the dialogue scenes are about the PCs trying to find out whether or not an NPC is telling the truth. In those cases, I never allow Wisdom checks to use "Insight" or whatever. I'm more about having the NPC deliberately saying contradictory things; doing my best to trick the PC but from the perspective on an NPC that maybe doesn't know everything the GM or the PCs know.


    Another thing this system solves is the old "The Dice contradicting the Cloud" problem of social scenes. The old "you make an excellent speech but then the dice bite you" or "You make a tame speech but the dice give it to you anyway". When I was a player in a WFRP3 game, with the funky "narrative dice", we started putting fortune ahead of the Execution in IIEE. I was pleading for my life, but before I started pleading, I rolled. The dice bit me, so I deliberately described my character's defiance in the face death instead of pleading, so I died. Same with another character, a speech maker, she rolled great die faces to make a really excellent speech so that was what her player then had to do (luckily she was a genius and Emmy winnner so she pulled it off).

    But with this system, there isn't anything like that (unless you bring the drama tokens in, too).
    It's just about whether or not you can convince the other party.
    If you have real leverage, you don't need a dice roll.
    And if you don't, no dice roll in the world could help you.


    Guys, why don't we try to hash out some examples here in thread?
    Let's say you're wondering whether or not I am in possession of any treasure maps.
    I do, but I want to hang on to them because they are my only clue to find my daughter, she made the maps and then left.

    Then you might ask "Old lady, do you have any treasure maps?"
    I'd then say "No, I don't."
    If you believe that, then the scene is over.

    Let's say it's later and you have spied out that I really do have the treasure maps.
    You'd say "Old lady, we saw you with the treasure maps. We want them."
    I'd go. "What are you talking about? I have no maps!"
    You'd say "Drop the act, you bat. We saw them, through your kitchen window!"
    I'd go "That's some nerve, spying on me like that! Is that the sort of people I'm dealing with?" [This is "appealing to their character" -- not necessarily thinking "hey, I better use 'appealing to their character' tactic, just saying what made sense to say, felt right to say while being mindful of my old lady values and my old lady wish to hang on to my private maps]
    You might go "That's right, we are folks who hungry as crazy for treasure! Listen... how about we can just make copies of the maps?"
    I'd say "Any documents you may have spied are mine to keep. Adventurers, you should leave now. And count your spoons tonight."
    You might go "C'mon, it's not like you're gonna be able to get the treasure in your frail state. Let us make copies, you can get a share of the treasure."
    I'd say "The treasure I seek is not measured in coins." and I'd say, dropping the character voice and going back to my own: "And she walks over to the lamp, pulls out a drum and starts tapping, tapping, tapping. What do you do?"



    Awareness of tactics helps seeing when a scene is still crisp, full of things to find out, hash out, or if it's repeating itself and running on fumes.

    In this case, this dialogue is still ripe with things to find out (will the PCs even find out why she is keeping the map for herself? will they get it?) but it can blend in and out with other actions, spells, attack rolls etc.

    I'm no Frank Herbert but the above exchange was written as I came up with it line for line.
    It becomes even easier when there are two parties and you only have to do the work of one. It becomes like a Pong game, answering each others tactics with other tactics, or giving in.
  • I wish I could learn apply the same crispness and brevity to my own posts rather than spouting these LSD-fueled mammoth length missives. :)
  • One useful technique for implementing this in-game is to watch for when you start repeating yourselves. Then stop and, if necessary, figure out what just happened.
  • edited July 2015
    Thanks! That's a great description of how it goes when it works. I think that to turn conversation into gameplay, you need some sort of "take action-get feedback-take more informed action" pattern, and this is an excellent example. I am wondering about the problematic case, though, when the players are the petitioners and they are not bringing in good habits.

    Suppose you're the GM, and to you, this old lady is a compelling character with a strong and interesting motivation. You're ready to play her, and excited for a back-and-forth with varying stakes and tactics. But now suppose that the player characters approach her with any of the following:
    - they repeat the same tactic over and over
    - they fail to take anything away from your responses
    - they try tactics at random
    - they can't tell whether they are wasting their time with no chance of success or not
    - their goal is vague ("tell us anything you know that might help us!")
    - they refuse to escalate beyond a certain point, but also refuse to take "no" for an answer
    - various other bad stuff that falls out from the above or otherwise erodes the fun

    How do you deal with this? Is it hard to notice what they're doing wrong? Is it correctable within the fiction, or does it need to be addressed directly? If directly, is it a "new playstyle" teaching moment, or just a quick one-off suggestion ("Try a new tactic!")? Does some sort of intro need to precede play such that GM "how to play" feedback will be interpreted constructively? Where do you draw the line between "this needs to go better" and "time to end the scene, which is fine"?

    I think one problem I've run into with this is that bad habits are quite often survivable, but can poison the fun going forward. Like, the players eventually get the info they wanted, but getting there was kind of a chore, and the next similar situation that arises, they approach with bland practicality or pessimistic irritation. So it's bad for the game in the long term, but because it often seems navigable enough in the short term, it often doesn't register for me as "address this now!"

    A similar problem (long-term lack of enthusiasm) occurs when one dialogue scene is fun and another one sucks and no one is clear on what comprised the difference. "This one was fun!" doesn't seem to be sufficient without at least some awareness of what we all did to make it so.

    I have all sorts of thoughts about dice/clouds, formal/freeform, challenge/entertainment, opposition/collaboration and more. For now, though, I'm just trying to understand what's been working for you, so I can enter those components into the equations.
  • edited July 2015
    it's a very good match with Kevin's "socialite challenge" tables.
    Is this a thing I can look at?
  • edited July 2015
    it's a very good match with Kevin's "socialite challenge" tables.
    Is this a thing I can look at?
    It's on page 128 of the book Silent Legions.
    Here are a couple of the entries:

    9. They want peace, and the PCs seem able to enforce it.
    15. They want protection, and fear someone involved.
    3. They fear their connections to events will be revealed.

    The entries aren't really meant for on-the-fly use, they're part of like a town generator. (Unfortunately, it uses terms like "Scenes" in a way that is confusing to me and my porte-monstre-trésor–addled mind, unlike DramaSystem's use of scenes, which aren't prepared).

    So let's talk about problems, real and potential. I have to be honest and say that after one year of doing it, I haven't noticed any problems (that doesn't mean there haven't been any; who knows what's festering in the unseen hearts of the players).

    The only two things that happened is this:
    1. When one of the players was the DM for a guest one shot (on Greyhawk, with new characters, it was pretty good!), I tried this against one of the NPCs. The setup was that we had uncovered an assassination plot against the NPC's boss, and had been asked to join that plot. I was trying to report that to the NPC honestly and also speak about problems with the boss, that we might (in the future). The scene started meandering and, above all, became unclear. The GM seemed to think I wanted something more out of the scene than I was explicitly asking for, and it started getting flustered and confusing.

    I stopped, went meta and said: "Listen. My intent here is just to convince him we are telling the truth. Does he believe us, and what are the consequences?" And we could wrap the scene up.
    (Later of course that NPC turned out to be a secret bad guy :D but I wasn't fishing for that.)

    The other thing was that we had a new player join the group, very trigger happy with the skill rolls. I don't use so many skill rolls because (for D&D) I'm all about cloud-based resolution; like pouring out water to find traps etc. So one of the old players approached me between plays and said "We kinda want more skill rolls, now when there's a social situation, you need social skills to resolve it" (he was one of the players that had been very good at these scenes, but maybe he didn't know it, or maybe he was speaking on behalf of the new player).

    I said "OK, we need to play Hillfolk", and we did, but I wish I had gone more expliticly into the "tactics" part. We did go in to petitioner/granter, though, so we'll see if future scenes will be better. The new player managed Hillfolk very well. Let's see if those skills transfer over to D&D. It's too soon to tell.

    So as I bite into your post, it's gonna be all hypothetical.
  • Suppose you're the GM, and to you, this old lady is a compelling character with a strong and interesting motivation. You're ready to play her, and excited for a back-and-forth with varying stakes and tactics.
    First of all, this hasn't been my expectation yet. The NPCs are just dots on a map with a couple of lines on an index card (including a reference to the MM: everyone needs stats!). In the case of the innkeeper, the stakes came from a random table, and the same for Tiliva, and a later really excellent scene (between a blind guy who had a dying brother, corrupted by glitch).
    My use of this structure started from an encounter with a random shopkeeper in one of the early sessions of The Lost Mine of Phandelver. I was so flustered, I was like "We... eh, need heroes! Yes this town need heroes!" and the players were like "Uh... we're just level 1 dorks, we're no heroes yet." I didn't know what to say. Since I've gotten the petitioner/granter idea in my head, I usually do know what to say (or when to just meta past the exchange). It's weird.
    they repeat the same tactic over and over
    This hasn't really happened yet but it's common according to the Hillfolk book. It says it's something to see as a sign to end the scene, to go meta and (in the case of Hillfolk) say "OK, did you get what you wanted?".
    they fail to take anything away from your responses
    That's fine. If they don't get it, they don't get it. The game world is a tangled web, it's not a funnel that leads to one particular goal. Also, it's a lesson to me that I was too subtle, but that hasn't happened yet.
    they try tactics at random
    The tactics typically flow from the situation in "cloud", their traits and their motivation. If they can rationalize any random tactic, it's fine. Don't see a problem.
    they can't tell whether they are wasting their time with no chance of success or not
    Neither can I, right? As I improvised the "treasure map daughter" example above (I wrote it line by line), I was surprised that the chance of success was so low. Sometimes I'm surprised that the chance of success is so high. "Chance" in this context is misleading since there's no die roll involved.
    If there's an impasse, something will usually happen. One side or the other will break away from the conversation.
    their goal is vague ("tell us anything you know that might help us!")
    That's not necessarily a vague goal nor is it something that the spoon counting lady would want to deny them.
    I'd go "What is your current situation?" and then give them just the tiniest morsel that this lady could diegetically know.
    This is actually a pretty common exchange in my games, and usually brief. Not the most satisfying but that's where the events in the "cloud" led them.
    they refuse to escalate beyond a certain point, but also refuse to take "no" for an answer
    Do you mean "the PCs don't escalate, they give up, but the players don't want to give up"? Or what do you mean? It sounds paradoxical to both take a no and not take a no.
    various other bad stuff that falls out from the above or otherwise erodes the fun
    Then it's time to stop talking, have something happen (or say "nothing happens") and say "what do you do?".
    Like, I'd cross my arms, pout, and turn away in character, then as I left character, turn around and say "Well, that's what she does. What do you do?"
    Where do you draw the line between "this needs to go better" and "time to end the scene, which is fine"?
    The line it is drawn very close to "end the scene, which is fine". Since we had three amazing scenes last session, maybe my expectation will go up, but I hope not -- the "it's fine" expectation seems more productive to me.

    Also. It's not about being a great thespian (although I like acting and have played with actors in other groups). It's about your character's leverage and fictional position. Which... if you get into it... might make you a good actor.
    Like, the players eventually get the info they wanted, but getting there was kind of a chore
    The cure for this is to be very aware about "why can't they get it?". If they can just get it, then there's no need for a choreful scene. Just give it to them.
    And if there is a reason why they can't get it, then there is a legitimate challenge which probably won't be boring or choreful.
    So it's bad for the game in the long term, but because it often seems navigable enough in the short term, it often doesn't register for me as "address this now!"
    I have no idea what pessimisms are festering. Since the players complain so much about various house rules (I've done a lot of experimenting with initiative as you know), I asked for some positive feedback during DM appreciation month back in, I think, february, after half a year of play. I got compliments for "making encounters with NPC come alive", which made me happy.
    A similar problem (long-term lack of enthusiasm) occurs when one dialogue scene is fun and another one sucks and no one is clear on what comprised the difference. "This one was fun!" doesn't seem to be sufficient without at least some awareness of what we all did to make it so.
    Well, I thought vague, meandering, goalless, confusing dialogue scenes sucked, and Laws' text solved that problem (as long as I can remember to use it). Other problems? We'll adress in due time I think. It's been like 100 times better.
    I have all sorts of thoughts about dice/clouds, formal/freeform, challenge/entertainment, opposition/collaboration and more. For now, though, I'm just trying to understand what's been working for you, so I can enter those components into the equations.
    You should know that your "Delve" comics have also inspired my way of running the game.
    Also "the Old School Primer", by, I think, Finch. I knocked the primer because it missed out on what I thought was the most important part of the OSR (the different play structure, the wider yet more proceduralized/quicker prep, the focus on exploration over story) and instead focused on things I thought non-essential. But now I do like it for what it is.
  • edited July 2015
    Er, one miscommunication I'd like to quickly address -- the negatives I'm describing refer to "roleplayed dialogue where the players bring in bad habits and I don't stop them and the fun wanes", not "roleplayed dialogue" in general. I apologize for my overuse of pronouns like "this" or "it".

    Does that make more sense now?

    (I'm hoping I can avoid going through the last few points in your long post one at a time to clarify what I meant.)
  • It makes even less sense. I don't understand the type of habits that would be bad for this.
  • I mean, compared to what I responded to. I thought about some hypothetical problems, seen or unseen.
  • edited July 2015
    I'm talking about whatever produced this:
    I thought vague, meandering, goalless, confusing dialogue scenes sucked
    Those sucky scenes. Some player and/or GM behavior produced them. I've broken some such behaviors down into things I consider bad habits, but we can just leave it as "behaviors in sucky scenes".

    What I'm really interested in is how exactly you changed those behaviors. I don't think this:
    Laws' text solved that problem (as long as I can remember to use it).
    is the full story.

    The text itself isn't there at the table influencing players' behavior (right?). You are.

    I can think of many ways to bring good advice from Unframed or Hillfolk to a group that's playing sucky dialogue scenes. So I'm wondering which ways you picked. Some of the ways I've tried haven't worked!

    Is roleplaying your NPCs according to Laws' texts really all you did (aside from the very few exceptions you've noted)?

    Is there other stuff you started doing? For example, have you appointed yourself the arbiter of when a scene has gone on long enough, whereas previously (in the days of sucky scenes) you hadn't?
  • edited July 2015
    The problematic GM behavior that caused that type of sucky dialogues was lack of awareness of "the point" of the dialogue. People were talking because talking. The solution that Unframed offered was the idea of "either someone wants something from the other, or the dialogue can be brief". The behavior, the habits that were bad were mine. (Or both, but... what's miraculous is that if one party shapes up in this regard, it helps the dialogue as a whole.)
  • Oops, cross-edited. I refined my questions at the end about your implementation.
  • edited July 2015
    Is roleplaying your NPCs according to Laws' texts really all you did (aside from the very few exceptions you've noted)?
    That's right. It did wonders. I don't mean to be all snake oil for Unframed and Laws, because the rest of the book isn't as good (Laws just has a couple of pages) and the rest of Laws' work isn't as good (Robin's Laws come to mind as particularly problematic).
    Is there other stuff you started doing? For example, have you appointed yourself the arbiter of when a scene has gone on long enough, whereas previously (in the days of sucky scenes) you hadn't?
    To answer the specific example of "scene cutting arbitration", I even do it less now (this is in accordance with Laws' advice in Unframed).
  • I think one thing I do even more, because it feeds into this structure, is make sure I have awareness of the NPC's motivation.
  • edited July 2015
    Huh. Well, sorry for all those questions, then. I've been doing "roleplay NPCs with purpose" for years. Although it's certainly better than "without purpose", I've found that it doesn't address the details of how social conflicts or challenges get resolved. I'm thinking mainly of the situation where the players want something and the NPC has a reason for not granting it -- in my experience, this can either be tremendous fun, or quite a drag. (Not the "meandering, goalless" sort of drag, but rather the "grinding challenge" sort of drag, where the feedback isn't clear and folks get frustrated.)

    Not sure what accounts for the difference in our experiences -- you, me, our players, the types of situations in our games, or something else.

    Actually, here's an idea, I'll provide an example, and maybe you can tell me what would go differently for you?
  • Sure, let's try it.
  • My NPC is an old lady hiding a dungeon map. The reason the old lady doesn't want to admit to having the map is because it's got some demonic writing on it, which she fears may curse those who read it, and may have already cursed her. If the superstitious villagers know she's read the marks of demons, she'd risk being burned at the stake as a witch. She knows the PCs are not from the village, but still, she's not about to let her dark secret out to anyone.

    The PCs don't know that she has a map, but they've been told by reputable sources that she "has long known more about the dungeon than any other". They're looking for info about the dungeon's interior layout, the sorts of questions the old lady would pretty much need to stare at the map to answer.

    Does that sounds like a viable situation to you?

    I'm thinking of it as, "The challenge is for the players to overcome these hurdles and get a look at the map, for example by overcoming her skittishness, earning her trust, getting to the root of her unease, and assuaging her unease with some combo of genuine knowledge and viable deception."
  • OK, so immediately a difference in philosophy comes to mind (your view seems more explicitly "challenge-oriented").

    This is a situation that I wouldn't plan, but may very well come up organically in play.
    for example by overcoming her skittishness, earning her trust, getting to the root of her unease, and assuaging her unease with some combo of genuine knowledge and viable deception.
    This could very well happen. I don't usually think of solutions like that, but that sounds very typical of what happens in our play.
    It's similar to scenes that have already played out in our campaign.

    However,
    The challenge is for the players to overcome these hurdles and get a look at the map
    this isn't in line with my thinking.

    They might talk to her, and maybe they'll find out about the map and even see it, or maybe they won't.

    The dialogue could go
    PCs: "Hey, would you happen to know anything about the interior layout of the dungeon?"
    NPC: "Be careful of what you wish for, young hobbit."
    PCs: "What do you mean?"
    NPC: "All I know about the dungeon is trouble. You best stay away."
    PCs: "Huh... ok, thanks."

    (That was improvised line-by-line. They didn't even find out about her mark of demons! Weird!)

    Let's try it again:
    PCs: "We've heard you know more about the dungeon than anyother. Tell us."
    NPC: "Tongues run loose in the village. Don't believe everything you hear."
    PCs : "So, what do you know?"
    NPC: "I regret what I already learned. Don't fall into the same fate, travellers."
    PCs: "We can take it. We are strong in spirit."
    NPC: "That's easy to say, but hard to prove."
    DM: "What do you do?"

    OK, so that one didn't go great either... but that is how it is sometimes! Maybe in this one, the PCs can prove that they are strong enough to resist the demonic writing and that they will protect her from the village's wrath.

    I can afford to "pixel nag" because there isn't just one way to just one dungeon.
    I think two factors are at play here: my "throw a hundred darts and maybe a couple of them will end up bullseyes" prep ideal, and the subtle "micro-railroading" that we humans unconsciously do. We want people to discover our cool prep so we make it easy: in real life, the players could probably have teased out the information from me, it's burning inside to get out.

    I can also afford to have deceptive NPCs. This isn't Simon's Quest where an NPC is just white letters in a black box. I'm revealing through body language and tone that she knows more than she lets on (I don't need to do this consciously).
    But it could've taken a while and it could very well have ended up like in one of the two examples there.

    Let's try it just one more time:
    PCs "Hello, forest mother. We hear you know more about the dungeon than any other. Won't you share your knowledge with us?"
    NPC: "I don't know anything."
    PCs: "We think you do. Why are you hiding it?"
    NPC: "I told you, I don't know anything. I'm innocent."
    PCs: "Innocent of what? We haven't accused you."
    NPC: "I know what you're fishing for. Information about that demonic dungeon! Well, I don't know anything about that."
    PCs: "Who said it was demonic?"
    NPC [fearful, selfdoubt, hesitant] : "Everybody knows that! I don't know more than anyone else."
    PCs: "Well, it's the first we ever heard of it. Are you hiding something you evil witch!"
    NPC: "I am not a witch... Oh, goddess, let me not be a witch."
    etc etc
    The PCs could defeat or comfort her in this witchiness and then the map could come out. Or maybe they kill her and never find the map.
  • It's impossible to predict what tactics the PCs will chose and it will lead to different places and outcomes. That's interesting, it's open-ended.
  • edited July 2015
    In DramaSystem, there are four outcomes:
    • You are the petitioner, and your wish is granted.
    • You are the granter, but you don't grant the wish.
    • You are the petitioner, but your wish is not granted.
    • You are the granter, and you grant the wish.

    Gotta be ready for all four!

    PS I'm not accusing you of forcing the PCs through a funnel or of railroading or of linearity. It's just that I'm so aggressively attempting the opposite and I think that helps me approach these scenes?
  • Robin also invented Gumshoe, the ultimate "funnel" game with the investigative auto-successes.

    In other words, if the only interesting outcome of a conversation is success, the conversation itself is not going to be interesting. You can skip it.
  • edited July 2015
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  • edited July 2015
    I disagree, Coalhada, especially in the light of Unframed.
    DramaSystem is set up to produce emotional wants and to have those wants drive play and the setting of scenes.
    It uses the petitioner/granter method of resolving those scenes. That method is also very applicable to practical needs, it's just that DramaSystem doesn't revolve solely around practical needs. (But there is some amount of practical needs even there -- the first theme in Hillfolk is Hunger, for example.)
  • So I think "What I want is the map" is a very workable need, it's just not the sort of need that DramaSystem rewards or inherently creates. D&D does, so that's why it comes up in D&D.
    Similarly, "I don't want to give out the map because I am poor and I want gold for it" is a workable, but non-DramaSystem, way of selecting the granter's tactics.
  • edited July 2015
    Interesting! Yeah, the "this is a challenge" orientation might be making a huge difference here. It's certainly the only think standing between me and just showing them my cool map.

    Like you, I'm perfectly comfortable if the players give up quickly. And I also think it makes for fun play when the players escalate quickly to dramatic things like accusations of witchiness (though my players would never do this to an old lady who hadn't clearly earned it). Things only get tricky for me when the players are into the challenge: "Hmm, there's more here than meets the eye -- let's solve it!"

    I like supporting this, because when it works, it's great! I can't always get it to work, though. I don't encounter a problem with the outcomes, I encounter a problem with the process. Just because we all realize that the players' wish might not be granted and that other options exist doesn't mean we're able to drop a challenge we're already invested in when it starts to grind. You know? The players are like, "We want to beat this!" and sometimes I'm a bit late or indecisive on saying, "Looks like you can't right now! Maybe go do something else?"

    So, even if you're not looking to build dialogue challenges, I'm curious about what you do when one emerges. Like, this is interesting to me:
    PCs: "We can take it. We are strong in spirit."
    NPC: "That's easy to say, but hard to prove."
    DM: "What do you do?"
    By ending the dialogue transcript there, you're implying that something happened there. Perhaps that "What do you do?" is a key phrase, communicating to the players, "Now you have to try to meet that last demand and prove yourselves instead of just continuing to talk as you please." Or, a less specific, "Stop talking and do something," or, "Shift gears," or, "Whatever you do next, you need to address the NPC's last statement, you can't ignore it," or something. That sounds like a very useful signalling technique!
  • edited July 2015
    [wdyd as a signalling technique]
    Yeah, it's great! And "what they do" could very well be to make another verbal statement.
    The signal is, implicitly: "Wake up. Focus. You are in this situation, you are at a prompt, you are at a fork in the road. You've seen her attitude, there's not much more I can do to convey it. What do you do or say now?"
  • The escalation to accusation happened to me last friday :D very interesting
  • "Wake up. Focus. You are in this situation, you are at a prompt, you are at a fork in the road. You've seen her attitude, there's not much more I can do to convey it. What do you do or say now?"
    That is pretty damn great. For me, that "not much more I can do" part is a great reminder to myself. I may steal this exact phrasing (if you don't mind).
  • edited July 2015
    More on players vs Map Lady:

    Whether this was conceived as a challenge or just sort of grew out of polite and cautious but persistent PCs interacting with my skittish NPC, here's a made-up account that could happen in one of my games, and I'd be curious to see where you'd do it differently:

    P1: Lady Vigdis, we are here to secure the safety of your village by clearing out that awful dungeon! Will you help us?
    GM: Mmm, yes, I shall pray to the gods for your success. If you'll, ah, leave me to it...
    P2: Thank you! But if we could also ask you to share your knowledge of the dungeon? We are a cautious group, and this dungeon reminds us of one that nearly killed us until we had a map of it. We need to know its inner details so we can plan. Food, light, defensible positions...
    GM: Ah, yes, of course. The entrance is- Oh, you want to know what's inside? I'm sorry, lad, I don't know anything about that.
    P1: The villagers say you have often demonstrated such knowledge. Please, even if it isn't exactly what my comrade was asking for, defensible positions and all that, please tell us what you do know.
    GM: It's been a long time... What are you going to do again?
    P1: Clear it out. Kill all the beasts that emerge from it to prey on your village.
    GM: Oh. Well, you could wait by the entrance for them to emerge...
    P2: [Pulls P1 aside.] Is she that old? I mean, is she really out of it?
    P1: I dunno. The villagers all seemed to think she was extremely reliable. Kinda seems like she doesn't want to deal with us.
    P2: Weird for a village elder.
    P1: Yeah. Well, let's try to help her focus. [Turning back to Vigdis] Wise lady, it appears we may have caught you at a bad time, and if so, we apologize. I assure you, however, that our mission is urgent and that we are quite capable of ridding you of this longtime plague. If you will just spend a little time with us, helping us prepare, we will be quickly on our way.
    GM: [Vigdis tells them a bunch of stuff about the dungeon they already know]
    P2: Thank you. What about the interior? What about beyond that first cavern? We saw at least three passages, and the villagers said you knew which of them was most vital to avoid.
    GM: The- the left one.
    P2: Which one is that?
    GM: The one to avoid. Or- Or is it- [Glances to the right -- I'm thinking toward the bookcase in the room, but I don't immediately offer that info, as that would be a big flashing "go here" arrow.] Mm. Avoid the left one. I, I think. It has been a while. [Players glare and clench jaws in frustration. It doesn't intuitively seem to me like the characters have yet done anything which would overcome Vigdis's desire to get rid of them, but I look to see if I can find something, and settle on their promise of clearing the dungeon.] You really think you can end the plague of beasts? Others have tried.
    P1: We have saved many villages. We banished the demon curse of Harkethal; we killed the Wizard of Werville in his underground lair; we even killed a monster that dissolved wood and metal with its flesh.
    P2: As long as we can learn about what we face, we always find a way to defeat it.
    GM: Well... [Another glance to the right] I shall take some of my herbs and pray for clarity. I think my memories will return. Give me a half hour alone.
    P1: Very well. [They exit.] She seems scared of something.
    P2: Yeah. Was she looking for an eavesdropper?
    P1: Or something. Do you think she's evil? Maybe she goes to the dungeon to perform spells and the beasts obey her.
    P2: Nahhh. Well, you never know... Let's listen in.
    GM: [Narrates sounds of movement, drawers opening, leaves rustling, stones grinding.]
    P1: Preparing her herbs. Or something else. Can we see in? [They discuss various plans for climbing onto the roof etc. but abandon them. Eventually we just fast-forward to the end of the half hour.]
    GM: My memory has returned, in part. Here is what I recall: [I figure Vigdis has spent most of that half hour memorizing what she can of the map. She proceeds to tell them a few of the details that I remember, with some awkward pauses as she remembers stuff from the map that doesn't know what it is in real life, like X's and triangles. I am wondering if the players will catch onto any of these "oops" moments, and they do.]
    P1: This is very helpful. Thank you. You said in that second stairway, there was something there? A "try"?
    GM: No no no.
    P2: What were you about to say?
    GM: Nothing. I told you everything I remembered. The gods have only blessed me with that much. Please, I am very weary, leave me now.
    P1: Look, it is clear to us that something else is going on here. Is there someone you're afraid of?
    GM: The... uh, the ritual is taxing... that's all! Are you going to go save my village or not?!
    P2: Is something going to come after you for helping us? We can protect you.
    GM: [Snort] No, no, don't be foolish. Please, just go, let me rest. Protection. What do you, what do you even mean by that?

    I could go on, but I think you get the sense of the process here. In my experience, this can go either of two ways:

    1) The players infer her interest in protection, follow that up, leverage their deeds and reputation to assure Vigdis that they are experts in protection from demons, and get her to show them the map. Not only will they then have the map info, they will also diagnose the demon mark and assure Vigdis it can't curse her, thus winning an ally in the process who may help them later (e.g. vouching for them to some other village elder).

    The players feel that certain kind of awesome that comes from a well-earned victory.

    This is the part I love.

    2) The players decide that Vigdis has some village relationship that impacts her helpfulness, my hints that they're off base fall flat, they try to make deals with Vigdis for protection of her allies or destruction of her enemies, my hints at other directions also fall flat, and the players run out of ideas. We consider saying, "That's it, you go all you could, move on," but then the players feel like they're so close, maybe they should just try another new tactic, perhaps some fake ritual, but how would that work?

    This is the part I hate.

    And then when they do eventually move on (or even succeed, if it takes too long and feels random rather than clever), it's with some sense of frustration.
  • edited July 2015
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  • edited July 2015
    (Edit: this was a crosspost, a reply to David's post about What Do You Do.)
    That's great! Let me know if it works and/or if there are any other problems you have with dialogues. (Either I haven't run into them yet and I want to be prepared, or I have handled them and you can learn.)

    But, to clarify, I only say "What do you do", that whole phrase you quoted is just implicit.
  • edited July 2015
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  • But, to clarify, I only say "What do you do", that whole phrase you quoted is just implicit.
    Oh, yeah, I wouldn't say that whole quote out loud every time. Just once in a text and once at the table when I'm defining what "What do you do?" really means.

  • I'm not saying that it doesn't take in practical goals, but Robin is quite explicit that a concession applies to the emotional need of the petitioner even if it does not grant exactly the practical thing they wanted at the outset.
    That is for the purposes of awarding drama tokens on the one hand, and for adjudicating two-token forced concessions on the other hand. Neither of which applies to his advice in Unframed, where he uses examples like:
    The March Warden (an NPC) asks the PCs to clear the great swamp of encroaching orcs.
    and
    Loki wants Thor to let him out of his cell.
  • edited July 2015
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  • I could go on, but I think you get the sense of the process here.
    Let me just first say that it was a good example of how I would do it also.
    1)[victory scenario elided]
    The players feel that certain kind of awesome that comes from a well-earned victory.

    This is the part I love.
    Sure, it's great when it happens.
    2) The players decide that Vigdis has some village relationship that impacts her helpfulness, my hints that they're off base fall flat,
    I wouldn't bother so much with such hints, I think. Maybe unconsciously (a la the "burning desire to reveal cool stuff" theory), but definitely not deliberately. If they go on a goose chase, wild or not, that's fine.
    they try to make deals with Vigdis for protection of her allies or destruction of her enemies,
    And she's not interested in such deals. Since you have her reason-for-not-granting crisp and clear in your mind, you can shut those other deals down with force, or let her have what benefits her out of it but it's not enough for her to reveal the map.
    We consider saying, "That's it, you go all you could, move on,"
    Yes, this is the jackpot. Go to that place more quickly. You're close, but for now you can't do anything. Maybe her secret will be revealed in time, maybe it won't.
    Last Friday I had a backstory for the local glitch cult leader (that had ensnared Tiliva, the missing woman) but the PCs just killed her on sight (note to self: their first human kill, they're gonna need to update their traits to reflect that).
    Later they found out her backstory from someone else when they asked around. Grist for the "burning desire" theory, almost to the point of quantum ogre [James and Jason, the Quantum Ogre means when you have some encounter that you want the PCs to show so you change reality so that they get there no matter what decisions they make]. :/ But hey, it was reasonable, they asked someone else who had been involved in the ritual.

    Same here. They didn't find out about the map. There are a hundred things in the world that they don't know about. This is one more. You got an interesting scene out of it. Maybe they can discuss it OOC on the bus home.
    but then the players feel like they're so close, maybe they should just try another new tactic, perhaps some fake ritual, but how would that work?

    This is the part I hate.
    That's when you look down on your game world with its hundred challenges, smile, and look forward to the next challenge. Now they know a little bit about the dungeon's interior -- do they go there?
    I'd even give them XP for this encounter with the map lady even though they didn't find out about the demonic text. They got the info they wanted.
  • Sure, but then what's the leverage? Want away.
    Well, the text goes on and does go into leverage.
  • edited July 2015
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  • The text defines leverage not in emotional terms. Out of the twelve example leverages, the first three are practical and the the last few are social.
    Leverage isn't the same as a potential emotional concession.
    And resistance and leverage isn't the same thing, either. Leverage is what you use against resistance. You move on quickly when there's no resistance. When there is strong resistance, but no leverage, you can bounce against the wall for a bit. Then the concession is that the petitioner didn't get their wish (because they didn't have enough leverage). The petitioner would get the drama token if it was an emotional request and we were playing DramaSystem. In games without drama tokens, just nothing happens. It's still a worthwhile scene.

    It's like the example in Hillfolk (and this is an scene about an emotional petition) on page 29. Delia has no leverage and doesn't get a concession. Lack of leverage doesn't mean no scene. Lack of resistance does.
  • edited July 2015
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  • edited July 2015
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  • Ok, first to answer your cross edit.
    I agree with seeing DS in framework terms, but as a framework to create social and above all emotional conflicts. This is a very valuable framework and I've been itching lately to bring it into D&D, to have these sorts of emotional characters and concessions.

    However, the resolution system in Unframed is just that, a resolution system ("Trade tactics until one tactic works or its clear that no tactic will work") that's used in DS also.
    Since that resolution system might get a little one-sided over time if relied solely upon, DS also introduces the drama tokens and the forced concessions. They are less needed in NPC vs PC discussions, and they're less needed in a system with a focus on procedural scenes. If there is a lot of PvP, I can see their appeal for sure, and I do like PvP scenes so I'm thinking of bringing them over.

    The "forced concessions" aren't used every scene, and (unlike Fiasco), the drama tokens on their own don't resolve the scenes, they are awarded post-hoc after identifying the concession/lack of concession. The main resolution system (used whenever there isn't a forced concession) is the same that is posited in Unframed.

    Now to answer your follow up post.
    A scene with no leverage at all is the same as a scene with no resistance but with the opposite result.
    All the leverage examples are 'emotional' in DS terms (which uses a somewhat loose definition of the term TBF). Even if you are simply accepting a bargain, you're conceding the rightness of your counterpart's position.
    That's a semantic quagmire that I'm not willing to enter.

    However, my position is this:
    When there is no resistance, you can still have a brief scene, a brief "Oh, yes, of course, the map, here it is".
    When there is no applicable leverage, you can still have a longer, interesting scene because the mystery is, as always, "Is there enough applicable leverage?" You don't really know whether or not there is applicable leverage until you start the scene and see what the petitioner brings to the table.
    If it turns out there is no leverage, well, then the scene ends.
  • I'll grant that DramaSystem frames its needs and concessions in emotional terms, to the extent of redefining desires from practical ("I want to invent writing") to emotional ("I want to be respected") terms.

    But the resolution system ("trading tactics") itself doesn't concern itself with solely emotional terms, and as phrased in Unframed, applies equally well to both practical and emotional requests. I've seen it thrive very well with a mix of both.

    That isn't to say I don't love the emotional drama. I'm all about the feels.
  • Yeah, I'm going to bow out. We seem to be on totally different wavelengths.
  • edited July 2015
    I'm not so sure we're on different wavelengths.
    You're saying that DramaSystem proper is about emotional concessions. I agree with that.

    You're saying Unframed's essay is a step back from that. I agree with that as well, if "back" doesn't mean "worse". It extracts a surprisingly small core from the whole of DramaSystem -- and the rest of DramaSystem, that it throws out, is still worthwhile. But it's its own thing, and the extracted core can work marvels on its own.

    You're saying that Unframed's essay leads back to ongoing argumentative stances. In PvP, sure, maybe you're right, but clearer and with methods to sometimes be able identify repetition and resolution if or when they occur. In PC vs NPC, naw. That hasn't been my experience at all. It has led to some pretty darn excellent play.

    Don't misinterpret me as saying "Robin says this, Robin says that", I'm just saying that dropping the divide between emotional and practical has served me well for the last forty sessions or so of D&D.
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