GM transparency tool

Here's an idea:

Have a card on the table that says, "How did that work?"

Explain that when a player pushes the card toward the GM, the GM has to honestly explain what they just did.

This (1) allows us to work case by case rather than all or nothing, (2) reminds us of an option without mandating when it's used, and (3) allows discussion before commitment (e.g. the other player who says, "No! I don't want to see behind the curtain this time!").

Thoughts?

Comments

  • Call Shenanigans

    GM rolls, on 1-6 GM must explain using only rules, math and documents written the day before how the current events came to be. On a partial success players choose 2, on a 10+ the GM can remain silent and grin at the players.
  • edited May 2017
    Here's an idea:

    Have a card on the table that says, "How did that work?"

    Explain that when a player pushes the card toward the GM, the GM has to honestly explain what they just did.

    This (1) allows us to work case by case rather than all or nothing, (2) reminds us of an option without mandating when it's used, and (3) allows discussion before commitment (e.g. the other player who says, "No! I don't want to see behind the curtain this time!").

    Thoughts?
    I think this is a great idea in games in which the GM has more authority and the GM and players' relationship could potentially become more adversarial. (I don't know it would be needed in most collaborative story games or narratively driven games). Ideally, the players could just bring up their concern with the situation, but sometimes it can be uncomfortable to do with certain groups or GMs. Perhaps by ritualizing it, it would make players more comfortable to bring up the issue. In short, I think it's a great idea, David :-)
  • When I was GMing Torchbearer, I would have loved this. So many times it came up that prep led to the perfect things and it would have been lots of fun to be able to respond to a call for transparency with "yep, the perfect response from the dungeon to your actions was prescripted, not my reaction to you, muahaha"
  • A lot of the time, explaining would take a lot of time.

    But I have a positive anecdote for this. A player cast some spell, not sure what it was, let's say Burning Hands. I said "Ok, two of them get caught in the flames." and proceeded to roll saves. He protested "What, how come you decided on that number?!" and I handed him the index card where I had (between sessions) written down the equations, and he was satisfied. He didn't need to halt the game to have the equations fully explained, he was satisfied that there was a rule.

    That's also why I'm making the init flowchart. I used to be pretty arbitrary :/ which how I made exceptions to the initiative order. If I can encapsulate my thinking in a flowchart, and if there are protests, I can just go "here, we're here" and point to were we are in the flowchart. I can do the same if I flowchartify that formalization of petitioner/granter that I wrote to Hasimir the other day, and the same for finchian trapfinding.

    In fact, I'm kinda thinking of making a whole game along these principles. Very few actions, mostly physical dangers, would use dice, and those things wouldn't use numbers, they'd use the old Fudge method of rolling 4dF and moving your finger on the scale for every plus or minus. (Unlike Fate, I'd never rely on degree of success, only on the outcome itself — yes, that means that every result that beat Great would be Superb or better, but I'd design around that.) Most things would use formulas, heuristics and algorithms. What D&D calls passive skills, I'd leverage a lot, too. The ultimate "Let It Ride". Checking for random events (such as wandering security guards, or a bad mood for your boss) would be another thing where fortune was accountably, probably even visibly, involved.

    I'm going for the best of both worlds; the invisibility of 90:s rules-lite games (like Fudge, Over the Edge, SLUG, Window), the sandboxy prep and the accountability I've found the last few years. I wouldn't want to reinvent the wheel, all the games I want to crib from (Fudge, 5e, DW, Dramasystem, Kutulu) are open source.

    PS. The alternate method I'd put in for those who don't have 4dF would be 2d6 vs 7. Not that 1d6-1d6 bull from Starblazer or that slow 'take the 1-2 as -, 3-4 as blank' from Fate or the (admittedly very good) '4d6 in two colors, the lowest die showing is the result' from the original Fudge . Yes, our beloved AW was on the right track; 2d6 has a close enough curve for all I care (it's the exact same curve as Starblazer but no need to subtract).

    Honestly I can't believe they'd go to 1d6-1d6 vs 0 before 2d6 vs 7? Or why Fate would put in that weird "translate the d6:es to dF:s in your mind" method? "4d6 keep the lowest, color determines direction" has amazingly close curve to 4dF already, and Starblazer already relies on two colors, so… But 2d6 vs 7 has some advantages; you can use any two dice, it's familiar to PbtA players, and you don't have to remember which color is which. I like 4dF better but as a fallback, 2d6 vs 7 is what I would put in.
  • edited May 2017
    Perhaps by ritualizing it, it would make players more comfortable to bring up the issue.
    Yeah. The pacing dial I use in Delve has turned out that way. It doesn't get used much, but every once in a while it makes a big difference. Many players feel much more comfortable just knowing that the option is there (to fast-forward when they get bored, or slow down / zoom in when they get super excited).

    I'm figuring this "How did that work?" card might work similarly.
  • Oh, I thought that was just a rhetorical device. Try it but it seems very extreme.
    My countersuggestion would be to explain (and show) to the player after the game.
  • edited May 2017
    Perhaps by ritualizing it, it would make players more comfortable to bring up the issue.
    Yeah. The pacing dial I use in Delve has turned out that way. It doesn't get used much, but every once in a while it makes a big difference. Many players feel much more comfortable just knowing that the option is there (to fast-forward when they get bored, or slow down / zoom in when they get super excited).

    I'm figuring this "How did that work?" card might work similarly.
    Yes, I think this type of card would work well for a D&D 5E game with people you don't know that well. Really in any game where a GM is there to interpret the rules, set difficulty, or the like.
  • My countersuggestion would be to explain (and show) to the player after the game.
    This suggests an alternate tool to me:

    "How did that work? Tell me later."

    For when you want an answer without interrupting play. Or for when the best way to stay in the moment is to get a promise that your question will definitely be addressed later.

    This would require at least some small interruption, though, in the form of a note being made so the query isn't forgotten. Hopefully that could be handled smoothly -- perhaps the GM makes a check mark on a public sheet to acknowledge their obligation, and the player jots a note on their own sheet about what they want answered later.
  • Yes, I think this type of card would work well for a D&D 5E game with people you don't know that well. Really in any game where a GM is there to interpret the rules, set difficulty, or the like.
    Agreed, those would seem to be the key criteria. Unfamiliar game/group/process, and something akin to traditional GM powers/responsibilities in action.
  • This is a fantastic idea.

    I could see it being really useful in:

    a) A game for beginners.
    b) A game where an experienced GM is looking forward to coaching the other players on GMing techniques.
    c) A game where trust in the procedures is really important, without those necessarily being "visible" in regular play.

    Like other procedures of its sort, it could seem kind of silly (it just replicates normal human communication), but, for many, it could be a real game-changer.

    I remember playing a really deadly dungeon crawl with Eero once upon a time, and the ability to ask him how he was making certain judgement calls helped us develop trust in the procedures of play and his decision making much faster than it would have been otherwise. For most people, asking two or three times in tense moments and having the thought process explained is enough then, to carry you through 99% of the remaining game.
Sign In or Register to comment.