Affordance markers vs usable rewards

This is something I've talked a lot about before but I wanted to summarize/repeat it here, in its own post.

A usable reward or compensation is one that has meaningful impact on the game. In the game Cosmic Encounter, getting compensated when the other side attacks your negotiators can sometimes be well worth it. You are trading ships for cards.

Contrasted, in Fate and in D&D 5e, getting a fate point / inspiration when you put your PC in serious risk isn't really commensurate with the risk you take on. You have an aspect "fight poachers", you hear about poachers, and you get compelled to get into a dangerous fight with them. You might take serious losses in that fight, much more that the puny reward of one fate token was worth. However… that reward is still an affordance marker -- the game's way of telling you "hey! Starting fights with poachers is legit and allowed gameplay!"

Part of the infamous Taschenlampenfallerlasser (flashlight dropper) argument was that the PC hadn't failed a will check, hadn't any mechanical reason to drop the flashlight. Well, that's what affordance markers are there to solve. Affordance markers are like the satisfying click to a good button. They're just a "yes, you can do this, you'll even be rewarded".

That said, insp saved a PCs life last session. They're usually not commensurate but can sometimes really turn the tide.

Comments

  • That's insightful. Thank you for summarizing this.
  • Thank you Rafu♥

    Hillfolk and D&D are both often criticized that "we don't need these patronizing rewards, we want to to roleplay, stop dangling translucent carrots and elusive kudos, just let us loose!"

    But it's not rewards for roleplaying, it's rewards for giving in. Which, yes, some do anyway. Our group does. I remember once we had a new player, we were playing WFRP 3, and he was, hmm, he used an ablist expression but to the extent of expressing surprise over how we were harming ourselves. Having affordance markers could've helped in that situation, helped legitimize our playstyle in his eyes.

    And, in Hillfolk specifically, it's also a surrender-distribution mechanism that's very interesting. The status tables will turn.

    Many years ago, @Rickard wrote a very compelling argument against these mechanics, using a metaphor from dog training that made these rewards almost feel gross. He influenced many designers and games. Me too, for a while. However, I'm glad to see these mechanics get a new chance. This comes back to the idea of subtractive vs additive models for portraying a character less capable than your ideal story-version of yourself. Sure, you could wrap yourself in will-saves and subject yourself to persuasion rolls. Or, you could decide to give in, and in those designs, keeping track of 'surrenders' via a marker is interesting design space. I think♥
  • I'll just record my disagreement about Fate points not being worth it - they definitely are worth it, as there's nothing real in Fate to compare them against. The very absolutely worst that can happen because you roleplay your character well (that is, follow your cues) is that the character gets in trouble, as planned by the GM, and then gets out of trouble, as planned by the GM. This is a desirable course of events, so you're actually rewarded twice when you follow your cues: you get a Fate point, and you get to actually participate in an adventure story.

    To clarify the point, consider the hypothetical character who turtles successfully by refusing to bite on any compels. The GM "rewards" them by letting them not participate in the story, because they apparently do not have a motivation to engage with it. Maybe the player decides to go along after all so he has something to do in the game session, except now he doesn't get the Fate point for it. Mission successful? Not so, because the point of playing Fate is to fight those poachers.

    Translating the same mechanic to even slightly challenge-full D&D will indeed come face to face with the fact that a hero point here or there is no match for actually making smart choices. In certain sorts of D&D this matters, as you're not expected to character act so much as play the right moves so your character doesn't get killed. This of course means that roleplaying bennies are probably not a smart thing to add to D&D: precisely as you say, the game mechanic legitimizes a player's choice to drop the flashlight, but it doesn't actually do anything to protect the player from the consequences of that action. The overt reward mechanic should be supported by a game structure that does not entrap the player who trusts the game and does what it tells them to do.
  • Fate also has the concession rule to mitigate serious losses.

    However, Fate points are easily quantifiable as +2, reroll, invocation, or compel-other. Getting one Fate point (instead of having to pay one for a compel refuse, so a delta of two) for getting into a side-quest fight that costs you three Fate points (or equivalent, in terms of track stress and consequences) is not commensurate.

    Yeah, it's an order of magnitude of difference compared to a super lethal game like Tomb of Annihilation.

    And that's why (the lethal version of) D&D makes a better example for this. The case that the reward isn't a commensurate compensation, much less than in Fate, is exactly what I'm talking about. It's just an affordance marker. It's a clicky button that communicates "yes, this is pushable", not that it promises ice cream and morphine for hitting it.

    If you jump over the flagpole in Super Mario Bros, the game kinda glitches out. And the debate when we were girls was always "is that intended? Have you seen it?" etc.

    If someone drops the flashlight, they get the affordance marker, signalling "hey, you did something that's OK to do". Allowed isn't the same as optimal. It's part of the UX, it's a working, installed, connected, intended button but you can use your own judgment on when to push it or not, depending on which gameplay experience you desire. Horrible choices and horrible failure is, as many story games show, sometimes compelling af. (Similar to my grief and tears over the BRD, having a game experience stick in your mind for a week is awesome! I've seen some sad movies but movies usually don't leave me in bed crying for days. I love emotions♥)
  • Also as you note, the poacher fight is part of gameplay as intended. But so are the equivalent in D&D. You go to the dungeon to rescue your husband or you drop that flashlight to admit your fear or you refuse to take your hat off for the tyrant sheriff. That's D&D.♥
  • It often happens that I shout "Noooo! God, you suck!" while simultaneously handing them insp. Communication has layers♥
  • edited June 30
    2097 said:


    Hillfolk and D&D are both often criticized that "we don't need these patronizing rewards, we want to to roleplay, stop dangling translucent carrots and elusive kudos, just let us loose!"

    It's still really hard for me to get over my kneejerk reaction that this sort of mechanic often reeks of an attempt to reconcile conflicting creative agendas. The system doesn't directly reward an action because it's geared towards creating an entirely different experience, so we're going to bolt on this other thing to try and redirect those incoherent choices back into the primary CA somehow. "You're not really breaking with our calculated, challenge-based play if you're gambling that the benefit you get for dropping the flashlight might help you later."

    At least with Fate, the whole point of the game (to me at least, I seem to have a hard time finding people who agree) is creating these kinds of memorable character-cliches built around their aspects and a story arc that builds to a climax that the fate points help you overcome. It's a productive cycle there.

    I don't really think that that's the point of inspiration in 5E, to be the primary driving force of the game, but I likewise have never really desired that sort of play from D&D, so I may just not be able to look past my own blinders. It could explain why I don't particularly care for the edition, I suppose, but I've seen enough people talk about playing satisfying games without Insp that I don't think the game hinges on it.
  • 2097 said:

    Fate points are easily quantifiable as +2, reroll, invocation, or compel-other. Getting one Fate point (instead of having to pay one for a compel refuse, so a delta of two) for getting into a side-quest fight that costs you three Fate points (or equivalent, in terms of track stress and consequences) is not commensurate.

    I couldn't articulate this myself but fck yes, I've always felt that way with Fate and I hated it!

    I think Dream Askew token management is more balanced. You basically voluntarily choose a 6- result to have a 10+ result later. Everything else is just 7-9. Its simple, strict but allows tactical and dramatic thinking at the same time. I love it!

    Commensurate? i learned a cool catchword!
  • I share yukamichi's concerns.

    One player has his PC drop the flashlight to roleplay his fear / to get inspiration and then half the party dies in the dark. Absolutely fine if everyone is onboard with this but given the conflicting CAs in play this does not seem very robust.

    In my experience, genuine fear and even panic are already present in a deadly game: Do we press on? Do we drop our heavy equipment and run? Do we nuke that lone, carefree goblin because its appearance on level 8 of the dungeon is freaking us out?
  • edited June 30
    James, a "creative agenda", which yukamichi is talking about, is a term from the Forge's big model.

    I'm not gonna try to define it. Because it is a semantix quagmire to try to do so

    As DM, I don't feel any agenda clash or coherence problems with flashlight dropping. I'm a happy camper that they get aten up by shoggoth♥♥♥♥♥

    The other players might distrust that player, and that distrust will carry over to new characters #bleed
  • I agree with Sandra that "affordance markers" are a really significant part of game design: aside from their other functions, they serve to signal to the group that, yes, that thing is a legitimate action which is part of this game. Handing them out, similarly, gives us a way to acknowledge what other players are doing. ("Yes, I recognize what you did there.")

    However, I also agree that, in D&D5, the way Inspiration works blurs some lines in uncomfortable ways. The whole "I was afraid of the spiders, so I dropped the flashlight, which led to the whole party dying" situation.... is rife for problems and needs some discussion for it to work without a hitch. The game doesn't really help you handle that at all, without bringing in skills and techniques and attitudes from other games.
  • Paul, great post.

    Acknowledging that there can be in-game legal actions that will still lead to group problems but (like hamnacb) getting the point that affordance markers are not meant to be commensurate. It's not about gambling that the benefit you get for dropping the flashlight will help you later. It's more of a "Welp, that worked! The big red button marked X was actually wired up to the game. Buuuut… now all my friends are dead :bawling: "

    Aten by shoggoths♥

    Eero, Johann, a challenge game needs to have some wrong choices available.

    But I'll also bring up something here. A friend of mine, his PC was a hobbit rogue named Joanne that had… some flaws that caused her to often act poorly and get insp. And he's a reader of Eero's posts. So I was talking to him, asking him "what's your take on the whole challenge game thing? About wanting to win?". This was maybe almost four years ago. Feb 2015 or fall 2014 (one of those two cons). And he answered, without a second of hesitation: "I want to win as Joanne".

    If your character legitimately is a Taschenlampenfallerlasser, then figuring out a way for that PC to 'win', in spite of their cowardice, is part of the game. This isn't for everyone; Gygax said "If I want to do that, I'll join an amateur theater group".

    I've told you before about the player in a Fate game that bought off every compel, leaving him dry of fate points. Years later I realized that he had put those aspects on there because he wanted to play the story of a character overcoming addiction, not succumbing to it. Of course.

    So I'm happy that affordance markers support voluntarily giving in. (Unlike "will saving".) It's up to you to determine how to be "true to Joanne" -- and to what degree you want to try to be.
  • 2097 said:

    And he answered, without a second of hesitation: "I want to win as Joanne".

    I can relate to that!

    I retrospect, I think I failed to look for context. Someone playing a superstitious barbarian, a noble knight etc. I could relate to instantly and accept the extra challenge this entails on all levels. And this is no different.

    If the character trait is important to the player he will usually telegraph / roleplay it continuously, giving everyone a chance to appreciate and prepare for it: "Okay, we need another guy to carry a flashlight in case Taschenlampenfallenlasser panics."

    And that's no problem - I've been playing and running games with suicidal paladins for decades.
  • What group brings one light source to a ghoul tunnel :bawling:
  • edited July 8
    I don't think affordance markers solve the problems you think they solve. While they can point out that "X is a thing you can do", an affordance marker, by itself, does not answer the question "Why would I want to do that?" which is likely to be the actual problem - people who want to do that thing already will probably try to do that thing without needing a blinking arrow in the form of an affordance marker, and people who don't already want to do the thing will look at the marker, judge it suboptimal/a bad play/not worth the reward and still not do it.

    So unless what you are dealing with is a group of players who don't realize what it is they want to do (Which does exist, but isn't by any means typical) the affordance markers don't really do anything.

    Also this...
    As DM, I don't feel any agenda clash or coherence problems with flashlight dropping. I'm a happy camper that they get aten up by shoggoth♥♥♥♥♥
    ...feels like it misses the point. The DM probably isn't going to be the one who gets upset when someone drops the flashlight and the party gets eaten. Heck, a lot of GMs with no interest in flashlight dropping as its own thing would still be pleased to get a chance to eat some/all the PCs. At worst, the GM is likely to look at the players and go, "Uh, what the heck, folks, why did you do that?" It's the other players who are going to be angry because someone has decided to play with a different creative agenda and has just killed their five session old level 3 character because they wanted to roleplay a moment of panic.
  • Airk, great point about the DM’s love for flashlight dropping doesn’t rule out any agenda clashes / coherence problems between the players. Partly I was a little sour that the old GNS / Big Model ghosts reared their heads once more.

    Also, not all uses of Traits, Ideals, Bonds and Flaws are as disruptive as the famous ghoul tunnel flashlight example (or whatever it was, lost in the sands of the old internet). Not sure why I have such a love for that example… I guess part of my writing style is to do this:

    1. Find a thing I love about a game. For example, the AC/HP mechanic in D&D.
    2. Find a way that thing has been phrased as a negative. For example, how AC/HP has been described as “boring” or “unrealistic”
    3. Write an article praising the boring and unrealistic thing. Like, my article (in Swedish) from April 2017 called (roughly translated from Swedish) “In praise of boring combat systems!”. I had a whole slew of the “In praise of […]” series on that forum.

    I know this rubs you the wrong way. :confused:
    I’m sorry about that♥:frowning:

    It’s just my way of making peace with my past where I’ve believed the negative spiel. The “common knowledge” when I was growing up was that levels sucked, AC/HP sucked, classes sucked, challenge play sucked, adversarial DM/player relationship sucked, prep sucked, sim sucked… and after the mirror story I learned to reevaluate all of that. My number one target audience when I write is the me of 2000, of 1996, or better yet of 1992. If I can give someone the shortcut-to-awesomeness I wish I had…

    As for your first point; affordance markers don’t answer why. That’s the point of the thread, to discuss how they’re different from more substantial rewards or compensation. 5e’s insp isn’t the only affordance marker. GURPS quirks are another. A measly five points? But it allows you to get silly [or to get serious, which can be just as an exposed position] with your character.

    Affordance markers are a good tool. Most good games have some affordance markers. Fiasco: getting a black die affords surrendering/failing, and getting a white dice affords succeeding. Sorcerer: the way you are encouraged to describe your stats and not just leave them at numbers.

    Sometimes the affordance marker is integral to the design, a tight chekhov-gun clockwork like Fiasco. And sometimes it’s just… nice. Like flaubert’s soap. It tells you something about where you are and why you’re doing it. It makes you play differently or… allows you to play differently.

    I think there are some different reactions to this thread, this idea.

    One is if you already are familiar with them and you’re like “what is she trying to tell me?”, and you can’t find it, because I’m not saying anything new.

    Another if you keep getting them confused with substancial/commensurate rewards. They’re not. I don’t think Airk falls into this category because the big blinking arrow seems to me that they do see it as separate from rewards/compensation. They’re not necessarily “do this”, though, unlike a blinking arrow. They’re just “you’re still within charted territory”. A game that would’ve been improved by affordance markers is original 2008 version of Stone Age. In that game, you can deliberately refrain from feeding your family and letting them starve, taking a punishment in the form of negative victory points. And the intent of the design was that that strategy were balanced with other strategies – counterable by some strategies, and a counter to some. The victory point hit was set to roughly match what you’d gain in not having to get food. However, when that strategy started winning (at a rate intended by the designer, i.e. not a dominating strategy by any means), people thought it was a bug in the game. Nothing in the game made it look like “yes, this is allowed”. The reaction was rather “wtf, this can’t be right?!” It was a bit of an easter egg but… the best easter eggs make you aware that you didn’t just break the game, you found a new way to play. The game winks at you.

    Upthread, I used this metaphor: “Yep… this button is also connected”. Not necessarily a flashy or indicated or guided-to button, but… a working button.

    A third is if you hate the examples. It becomes a bit of a chicken-egg problem, I’ve used affordance markers in the past to argue for insp, and insp now to argue for affordance markers. And that’s on me, I need more examples. 5e is just my favorite game though.

  • 2097 said:

    Partly I was a little sour that the old GNS / Big Model ghosts reared their heads once more.

    I'm sorry, it wasn't my intent to invoke the vengeful spirit of Ron Edwards; I was only using the term creative agenda as an easy shorthand (even your RISS has theoretical mutually exclusive combinations, IIRC), I guess I should have been more careful.

    Discord over "But it's what my character would do!" long predates the Big Model, though, particularly in the historical corpus of "things going wrong in D&D games" (and at least in some theoretical paradigms, as a result of the illusion that the game can simultaneously satisfy multiple and conflicting creative impulses). That's what makes it so hard for me to see a potential positive for making less-than-optimal (but character-appropriate!) choices as anything other than an eat-your-cake-and-have-it-too corrective measure.

    It can function as a safety net for character expression, and I imagine that's valuable to a lot of people (like me) who've in the past taken flak for not throwing the ideal of their character by the wayside for the sake of winning. I don't think that's radically different from what you're saying; the only really thing that struck me was that I disagreed with lumping Fate and 5E together re: the extent to which character expression is meant to be an integral part of gameplay. And heck, maybe it's just that a decade after Fate it just seems quaint to finally add something like that to D&D (after years of not being able to "do anything" in a game that's frequently pitched as allowing just that).
  • Affordance markers aren't for everyone. I don't mean they're bad for some people, I mean their usefulness is high only for some subset of people. Namely, those people who put great stock, whether knowingly or not, in meshing with others' expectations*. Airk, you might not. In fact there's a decent argument that no one should. But some people do, and for them, I think affordance markers are extremely useful.

    *or more likely have great shame in not meshing
  • yukamichi said:

    I’m sorry, it wasn’t my intent to invoke the vengeful spirit of Ron Edwards; I was only using the term creative agenda as an easy shorthand (even your RISS has theoretical mutually exclusive combinations, IIRC), I guess I should have been more careful.

    Don’t worry yukamichi♥
    But RISS official, canonical theory has a kumbaya of FRIENDSHIP. Even tho I personally shy away from a corner, it’s not because that corners are incompatible with the others. It’s that I dislike that corner.

    In re-reading RISS official, canonical theory right now, I noticed that I used the term “conveyance” for what I’ve used “affordance markers” here. Throwing design & UX terms around willy nilly since 1996♥

    yukamichi said:

    Discord over “But it’s what my character would do!” long predates the Big Model, though, particularly in the historical corpus of “things going wrong in D&D games” (and at least in some theoretical paradigms, as a result of the illusion that the game can simultaneously satisfy multiple and conflicting creative impulses).

    That’s this particular example, not all usages of conveyance / affordance markers.

    But I’ll go to bat for it… since I just re-read RISS official, canonical theory:

    After the big game, Skillfrotz gave Impronitfol a scolding. “How could you drop the ball like that? Oh, cut the sulking. Everyone depended on you out there! We were one point away from winning and you could’ve scored a two-pointer easily; the net was wide open!” “You don’t understand my angst and my fear, and you never have!” Impronitfol said through gritted teeth.

    To me, exploring this so-called “clash” is one of the most interesting parts of gaming. Winning “as Joanne”, on the terms/restrictions “of Joanne”.

    Losing in style is winning. “Playing to lose” and “playing to win” come together in a game of portraying your character truly, completely and to the hilt, taking the consequences both mechanical and diegetic, but taking the challenge seriously.

    yukamichi said:

    That’s what makes it so hard for me to see a potential positive for making less-than-optimal (but character-appropriate!) choices as anything other than an eat-your-cake-and-have-it-too corrective measure.

    But you’re still tripping up over the positive. It’s not meant to be a commensurate reward. Like, look at it this way:

    1. What if insp didn’t have it’s “get advantage” ability, just was a meaningless ribbon reward? It’s not meant to be a corrective measure so don’t see it as one. You’d stick to using it to “safe” situations, get your character in “cozy trouble”, not “TPK City”. This is a good way to play 5e. Get in “cozy trouble”, not necessarily “only trouble I’d optimally want to get in anyway” but not far beyond that. Just a little “yeah you’re still playing the game legitimately” click. While we’ve had a couple of PC’s lives saved this campaign, we’ve also had our fair share of “both dice ended up low” and similar, where insp did practically nothing. (They did increase the chance of success, but there was still failure.)

    2. Conversely, what if it was a commensurate reward, or stronger? “Spend it to get your party, their PCs and their resources out of any trouble, death or loss”. If it struck the perfect balance, perfectly equalizing the choices, it’d make the gameplay bland. Equal choices means no real choices. If it overreached, and made the tokens too powerful, they would make it a suboptimal, stupid, embarrassing ,group-stabby thing to not drop that flashlight and people would get flak over that. And, it wouldn’t feel like D&D anymore.

    yukamichi said:

    It can function as a safety net for character expression, and I imagine that’s valuable to a lot of people (like me) who’ve in the past taken flak for not throwing the ideal of their character by the wayside for the sake of winning. I don’t think that’s radically different from what you’re saying; the only really thing that struck me was that I disagreed with lumping Fate and 5E together re: the extent to which character expression is meant to be an integral part of gameplay.

    Again, that’s this particular example. I’ve lumped together Fate and 5e in the past (for us, 5e replaced Fate and I think it’s econ works better).

    But we can look at some other examples of conveyance and affordance.

    My stove, the left-most knob has a special feature where if you turn it too far, there’s a kind of click and then it makes the heat area bigger. That knob can’t be turned counterclockwise from it’s initial position — that’s a way to convey that that knob has special properties. The other five knobs can be turned freely both counterclockwise and clockwise.

  • An example of a game that subtly uses reverse affordance is Baron Munchausen. Now, I think it’s a good game that has created great sessions for us. But there’s a trick hidden in it.

    If you try to get rid of all your money while playing it, you’ll have a greater chance of walking away with the most money after the game. And the game will flow better if you give away coins constantly, challenging others, making them improve their stories further. However, that comes at the expense of you not being seriously challenged, having to stick to your original boringer ideas if you want the strategy of least-coin.

    Also, and this is the point of me bringing it up as an example: this is bad conveyance. The game appears to be about collecting money. People not knowing “the trick” will cling too tightly to their money during the game, reducing the “challenge flow”, and will end up with less money since it’s redistributed in the end game. This is bad design (again, I love the game overall).

    For those who scoff at the idea of trying to get the most coin in Munchausen because they don’t like “points” or “scoring” in a fun party game — why are you even playing the game? Just throw the rulebook away and tell stories by the campfire like in ye olden days. I’m not saying you have to try to get the most coin, but don’t scoff at it either. Grumble grumble playing monikers last Friday with a guy who was supposed to keep score but just threw it all out without counting it because “party games aren’t about winning” grumble grumble why is the score even in there then grumble and why are we playing the game instead of just free pretend play

    Affordance markers aren’t for everyone. I don’t mean they’re bad for some people, I mean their usefulness is high only for some subset of people. Namely, those people who put great stock, whether knowingly or not, in meshing with others’ expectations.

    The affordance marker on my stove top’s knobs aren’t there for social conformance, Guy. An ideal affordance marker you don’t even notice.

    But sure, it can ease some situations.

    In the original ghoul tunnel, if the keeper had handed the flashlight dropper insp, I do think it’d had made a meaningful change in how the situation was percieved.

    Side story about flashlight droppers:

    In researching the history of Taschenlampenfallenlasser I found another example on a German blog. There, it seemed more obvious that the player was trying to grief or ruin the game, and the GM was one of those most annoyed with the flashlight dropper. And the commenters on the blog are mostly agreeing that the Taschenlampenfallenlasser is a bad person, should be banned from play etc etc.

    The thing is… I kinda don’t have a lot of sympathy for the GM in that scenario. It had apparently been a dull, scripted game and the end battle, a werewolf fight in the dark.. I mean there was low agency all around. The flashlight dropper seemed to intentionally mimic the original Taschenlampenfallenlasser story.

    And yes I agree that intentionally griefing a game is bad.

    However, it is possible to disagree with the punishment while also disagreeing with the original crime.

    A dull, scripted, “you have to do this” game with pregens kind of was already ruined. (Again, not advocating griefing / intentionally destroying a game. Flashlight drop when you think it’ll make the game better, not in order to retaliate or destroy a bad game.)

    I put this in Side Story Spoiler tags because it’s a tangent on a tangent, and no longer related to affordance markers.

    However… to bring it back somewhat… if that GM then had handed out insp to the other players… that would’ve conveyed the type of game that GM wanted to play.

  • edited July 9
    2097 said:

    Also, not all uses of Traits, Ideals, Bonds and Flaws are as disruptive as the famous ghoul tunnel flashlight example (or whatever it was, lost in the sands of the old internet).

    Definitely, but at the same time, the less "disruptive" these things are, I think the more likely people were to actually play them already, so the less value the affordance markers have - to the point where only people who've either been "taught wrong" (i.e. people whose first experience was with a group that Did Not RP) or people who are 100% clueless about how these games work are likely to derive value from a marker that tells them "it's okay to play a character who acts like an honorable knight in basic roleplaying situations."
    2097 said:


    Not sure why I have such a love for that example… I guess part of my writing style is to do this:

    1. Find a thing I love about a game. For example, the AC/HP mechanic in D&D.
    2. Find a way that thing has been phrased as a negative. For example, how AC/HP has been described as “boring” or “unrealistic”
    3. Write an article praising the boring and unrealistic thing. Like, my article (in Swedish) from April 2017 called (roughly translated from Swedish) “In praise of boring combat systems!”. I had a whole slew of the “In praise of […]” series on that forum.

    I know this rubs you the wrong way. :confused:
    I’m sorry about that♥:frowning:


    It doesn't bother me inherently, it's just that the posts always seem to praise the thing when viewed through an extremely specific lens, yet present this a sort of universal truth that everyone should like the thing. That's might just be my reading though.
    2097 said:


    It’s just my way of making peace with my past where I’ve believed the negative spiel. The “common knowledge” when I was growing up was that levels sucked, AC/HP sucked, classes sucked, challenge play sucked, adversarial DM/player relationship sucked, prep sucked, sim sucked… and after the mirror story I learned to reevaluate all of that. My number one target audience when I write is the me of 2000, of 1996, or better yet of 1992.

    This is clarifying, though I suspect that there aren't too many people in the same position as 1992 you floating around this forum.
    2097 said:


    If I can give someone the shortcut-to-awesomeness I wish I had…

    As for your first point; affordance markers don’t answer why.

    I understand this, but my general feeling for game design is that if you offer someone an option, it needs to be apparent why they might use that option or people are unlikely to do so, except maybe some of the more open-minded in the audience who will try them once or twice to make sure there isn't something they're missing. Most people will instead just react with "I don't understand why I would want to do that." To be fair, this is me carrying experiences from other game mediums into the RPG space here -- because I've been immersed in this hobby for so long that even when I play with new players, I don't see many/any "oh! I didn't realize I could do that in this game!" moments, so I'm more or less forced to extrapolate. (The closest I've ever come is a game with relatively shared authorship that it took people used to more traditional GM'd games a while to grasp.)

    This leads me to believe that the biggest value of affordance markers is for people who either are almost completely ignorant of RPGs, having not even heard friends talk about them or watched them on Youtube or whatever -- though I'm not sure how many of these people find their way into RPGs in the first place, and I expect the number who find their way to RPGs without being invited by someone else is even smaller.(1) Or for people who are trying out an entirely new "style" of game (e.g. moving from "Modern D&D to OSR" or "Modern D&D to Storygames"), once again, without really having read anything much about it.
    2097 said:

    They’re not necessarily “do this”, though, unlike a blinking arrow. They’re just “you’re still within charted territory”.

    I think what I'm driving at is that in most cases, if you want a game to include a certain behavior, you're better off with a stronger incentive that providers a "why" even/especially if it's not a "why" you'd want all the time. I'm hard pressed to think of places where this wouldn't be an improvement. Though note that a "why" is context dependent. If you're walking down the street, and someone tells you, "Hey! Did you know it's possible to give yourself an injection?" the standard reaction would be "Uh....great, but why would I want to do that?" But if you're deathly ill, and your doctor tells you "You can inject yourself with this once a day, and you should pull through" now there is a "why". Reversely, and possibly more relevantly, if the cost of an action is low, it doesn't need to be a big "why" for people to do it, but if the cost is higher, you're back to "Why would I do that?"

    For example, your GURPS quirks example has a "why" which makes it stronger than an affordance marker. An affordance marker in this case would be more like "write down five quirks about your character". Since GURPS also gives you character points for them, there is a pretty strong "why" here because the cost of doing this is zero. This is even better than "commensurate reward" because it is essentially getting something for nothing.

    Inspiration is arguably a weaker reward than those 5 character points, and many of the situations in which it could be granted are not "freebies" so classifying it as an affordance marker seems accurate.

    (1) I also think that in general, the social pressure/support from other players will far outweigh the value of affordance markers, especially with newer players, but that this is not necessarily true with more powerful rewards. A new player in a group that Does Not RP who gets weird looks and an "Okay, moving right along" when they play their trait for the first time is unlikely to repeat it for inspiration, especially since now they've GOT inspiration for the time being and it doesn't stack, but on the flipside, a new player surrounded by a bunch of people talking in funny accents and doing all kinds of RP things probably doesn't need an affordance to start Thee-ing and Thou-ing. Meanwhile, a player in a Fate (or, haha, Tenra Bansho Zero) game, on the other hand, is unlikely to ever receive those funny looks, because A: The game doesn't have the underlying pushback that D&D does by making the game about Getting XP and Levelling Up and B: C'mon, Fate Point (Or Aiki! Aiki!) -- the game is practically ABOUT getting these things.

    So I think I agree with you that Inspiration points out that "hey, you can play these things" but I think it provides insufficient reward to counter the pushback from all the other mechanisms in the game. In all seriousness, if someone dropped the torch and ran because their character was Afraid Of Spiders and my character died as a result, I would, at the very least, have to sit down with them afterwards and say "Maybe we shouldn't be playing D&D, because I'm not interested in starting over from scratch because of your Roleplaying Moments."

    tldr; Giving someone an affordance flag when the whole rest of the game says "This is probably a terrible idea" isn't going to do much to influence play.
  • Airk said:

    only people who’ve either been “taught wrong” (i.e. people whose first experience was with a group that Did Not RP) or people who are 100% clueless about how these games work

    I wish I could reach them :bawling:

    Airk said:

    This is clarifying, though I suspect that there aren’t too many people in the same position as 1992 you floating around this forum.

    Yeah… there might be more over on TPB but… I can’t handle that place anymore.
    I guess I prefer smaller communities
    My hope is that my writing here will trickle out to those who can be influenced by it

    Airk said:

    It doesn’t bother me inherently, it’s just that the posts always seem to praise the thing when viewed through an extremely specific lens, yet present this a sort of universal truth that everyone should like the thing.

    That’s part of the writing schtick; to counter-act the old RGFA posts I grew up with saying that “D&D is absolute rubbish because X, Y and Z”, I now write “X, Y and Z is absolutely awesome”. And then the buried lede are the contexts and tools that make them awesome.

    Airk said:

    I don’t see many/any “oh! I didn’t realize I could do that in this game!” moments

    Oh, that’s something I run into all the time! And inspiration helps me communicate. I have some players who didn’t realize they can let their PCs fail / give in / be weak. Who still have problems with it.

    , so I’m more or less forced to extrapolate. (The closest I’ve ever come is a game with relatively shared authorship that it took people used to more traditional GM’d games a while to grasp.)

    Airk said:

    This leads me to believe that the biggest value of affordance markers is for people who either are almost completely ignorant of RPGs, having not even heard friends talk about them or watched them on Youtube or whatever – though I’m not sure how many of these people find their way into RPGs in the first place, and I expect the number who find their way to RPGs without being invited by someone else is even smaller.(1)

    So three points here:

    • I was that person who tried to learn RPGs from the 90s game texts. I failed. I wasn’t part of an RPG community who could help me grok it, not until much later.
    • I hold the position that a lot of YouTube / Stream fans don’t get the underlying idea of “prep locations / situations”. I hope my writing will reach them.

      I believe DMing is something you don’t easily learn by playing, or watching from the outside of the screen. The analogy I like to use are inform and infocom text games. I loved them as a kid, and tried to write them in the same way you’d write a “choose your own adventure” book, i.e. branching scenes. Once I found out how they were actually written – places, and objects, and a parser that connected that – it blew my mind.

    Airk said:

    Or for people who are trying out an entirely new “style” of game (e.g. moving from “Modern D&D to OSR” or “Modern D&D to Storygames”), once again, without really having read anything much about it.

    Yeah, or from trad gaming to OSR or to Storygames

    Airk said:

    If you’re walking down the street, and someone tells you, “Hey! Did you know it’s possible to give yourself an injection?” the standard reaction would be “Uh….great, but why would I want to do that?”

    Yeah, and if insp reads that way to you, then yeah, inspiration wouldn’t be a well-designed affordance marker. A good affordance marker or conveyance is subtle. It’s the little notch or handle on the syringe that makes it clear, wordlessly, that this syringe can also be used for self injection.

    Airk said:

    Reversely, and possibly more relevantly, if the cost of an action is low, it doesn’t need to be a big “why” for people to do it

    Yes! Really good point, Airk, this is where we find good conveyance / affordance marker design!

    Airk said:

    For example, your GURPS quirks example has a “why” which makes it stronger than an affordance marker.

    Exactly, things that have a “why” aren’t mere affordance markers. “Why”s are motivators, reasons, rewards, compensations… in which case they’re no longer mere affordance markers.

    The GURPS quirks example is a good example of a low cost action. Playing out your quirks, even if it makes you look silly (or makes you look serious / emo / thespianic / dramatic, which to a lot of people is even more out there than mere silly. I have a problem right now in a pbp game I’m in. I’m trying to do straight-faced horror and another player is goofing off with silly names etc), is something that’s afforded by the list you have on your sheet, and the fact that you got points for them.

    However, it’s been my experience that the five points you get are more minor than the insp you get in 5e. Last two sessions we’ve had lives saved by insp. PCs fucking up their social relationships in order to get insp in order to use for con saves to stave off infection. (And, yes, those usages of insp do murk the waters in the way yukamichi fears.)

  • Airk said:

    An affordance marker in this case would be more like “write down five quirks about your character”. Since GURPS also gives you character points for them, there is a pretty strong “why” here because the cost of doing this is zero. This is even better than “commensurate reward” because it is essentially getting something for nothing.

    What I was going for was that the affordance marker part of the action was “write down five quirks and get five points” and the conveyed part of the action was “play out your quirks”, which is does have a social cost and sometimes a diegetic cost if it affects reaction rolls etc.

    Airk said:

    I also think that in general, the social pressure/support from other players will far outweigh the value of affordance markers, especially with newer players, but that this is not necessarily true with more powerful rewards. A new player in a group that Does Not RP who gets weird looks and an “Okay, moving right along” when they play their trait for the first time is unlikely to repeat it for inspiration, especially since now they’ve GOT inspiration for the time being and it doesn’t stack, but on the flipside, a new player surrounded by a bunch of people talking in funny accents and doing all kinds of RP things probably doesn’t need an affordance to start Thee-ing and Thou-ing. Meanwhile, a player in a Fate (or, haha, Tenra Bansho Zero) game, on the other hand, is unlikely to ever receive those funny looks, because A: The game doesn’t have the underlying pushback that D&D does by making the game about Getting XP and Levelling Up and B: C’mon, Fate Point (Or Aiki! Aiki!) – the game is practically ABOUT getting these things.

    This is a legit point. :neutral:

    Hopefully the non-RP-ing players would see that the RP-ing player got “rewarded” with the useless ribbon that insp is and thus back off. Or, better yet, join in.

    Airk said:

    So I think I agree with you that Inspiration points out that “hey, you can play these things” but I think it provides insufficient reward to counter the pushback from all the other mechanisms in the game.

    Another well-phrased and legit point but one that goes counter to my own table experience where inspiration has done wonders.

    I had my group, we were doing insp just a little bit, mostly not. And the way I explained insp to a con group I had… suddenly made it sing! They were using insp all the time and they were also going for insp all the time. Deliberately fishing for insp. And it really clarified the way goals of play (exploring (flawed) character in (dangerous) situation) differed from “mission-based” play and created a lot of interesting stories at the table.

    Trying to recreate the same “singing insp” at my home table was when I came up with the idea of “ok, it’s tokens, and you can have multiples, but, you hand them all in once you use it” since what my home game was doing that the con group wasn’t was holding on to their insp. My home game uses insp when they are really really afraid. Death saves, navigation rolls after being lost for a while, disease saves, very dangerous attacks… The con group used insp all the time in order to free it up to get new soon. Hence, the idea that if I can hand out tokens to “reward” you even if you already have insp…

    (So we were talking a few weeks ago about the only way I’ve gotten insp to work is with house rules? But that con group was using the RAW. Trying to recreate their flow and generosity was what led me to my house rule and that house rule works well. And, I think, is a pretty slight house rule – you can ditch the tokens and just be really willfully ignorant on whether or not the PC has insp and say “you get insp!” all the time, even though they aready have it.)

    Airk said:

    In all seriousness, if someone dropped the torch and ran because their character was Afraid Of Spiders and my character died as a result, I would, at the very least, have to sit down with them afterwards and say “Maybe we shouldn’t be playing D&D, because I’m not interested in starting over from scratch because of your Roleplaying Moments.”

    I wish you had had your own light source with you. There is this episode of Community, the first Advanced Dungeons and Dragons episode, where one of the players is playing his PC in a way that’s harmful and dangerous to the other PCs. And that makes the session more challenging to them. That’s hard to pull off well and I don’t advocate out-and-out griefing in the way that player does in that episode.

    But what I am saying is:

    The challenge-oriented players can form a tight knit group of trust. And then that group can try to judge the other PCs from that.

    Vorthos saying “OK, Balthazaria, I trust you with the lantern” can be a meaningful decision. If every person you hand the lantern too is automatically trustworthy, that decision loses its weight. A band of adventures that do live up to the trust, that have each other’s backs… has earned their victories. Are awesome.

    At our table, our most skilled and most challenge oriented player – best at building optimized characters, best at coming up with combat tactics, etc etc… his PCs have often let down the party. By being possessed b y magical cloaks, converted into weird religions etc etc. He rolls with it. He plays his characters true. He follows alignment and sometimes that alignment is not so good. He is a treasure to our group.

    We have plenty of selfish and cowardly PCs at our table. That’s one of the best parts of the TOR-derived “rearwards”-predicate, that it makes it clear that if you head rearwards, that means you are letting the other PCs take hits. You are putting their necks on the line by stepping back and drawing your bow, so are you sure? It makes the decision points sharper and more salient. That’s another affordance marker btw. It marks stepping into the back rank possible, consequential, and a “hooked-up and functioning button” part of the games’ design.

    I don’t give my players hints on how to overcome the challenges. There are plenty of low-hanging fruit: cooperate better, stop sniping at each other, stop being jealous and selfish etc etc. And, OSR techniques like water, flour, ten foot poles etc, I don’t teach that either. I’m like… “this is a group that has a lot of room to grow and that’s awesome, I’m going to get to see that”. Even though we’ve been playing for four years (except one player who is new, who’s been playing with us for a few months).

    Anyway thank you for this, Airk. I like it when we understand each other better.

  • It doesn't bother me inherently, it's just that the posts always seem to praise the thing when viewed through an extremely specific lens, yet present this a sort of universal truth that everyone should like the thing.
    No, it's my view too, but it seems like we're thinking alike here.
    think what I'm driving at is that in most cases, if you want a game to include a certain behavior, you're better off with a stronger incentive that providers a "why" even/especially if it's not a "why" you'd want all the time.
    And therefor I totally agree with this.

    Det sjätte inseglet uses a reward mechanic I really like. Someone creates a situation that comes in conflict with the character's moral code, and offers dice to the player to break the code. The dice are later on used to succeed in other situations. If the player doesn't take the offer, that player have to pay the offered amount. The "why" is pretty apparent here.

    Bribing someone to drop a flashlight with mechanical rewards feels off to me; instead of trying to create a conflict, it's just falling back on something simple. Yeah, it works. Yeah, it signals really well what the game is about. Is it good though? Is it "fun"? If it's fun, why? Why would the player drop the flashlight? Because the reward or for the conflicting decisions you give the player?
  • edited July 9
    Really interesting to see a reward mechanic that you like, Rickard. You really put the criticism of reward mechanics on the map back in the day♥
    Influenced me and many others.
    Rickard said:

    Bribing someone to drop a flashlight with mechanical rewards feels off to me

    it's not a commensurate reward, not a compelling bribe. That's the point. Dropping the flashlight isn't about "do I get that insp that I really desperately truly need, or do I hold on to the flashlight?". It's about just saying "hey, in this game, being fearful, being incompetent… is allowed. Unlike in Bridge or Pandemic or Hanabi… it's allowed"

    This is what I'm trying to say: allowed, rather than equivalently optimal.

    And what do players do with that? To me that's interesting. Do they take the opportunity to play weak? Fearful? Obsessed? Orderly? Lawful? Do they leave it, in favor of competence? It's not because of the reward, that's for sure.

    It's because they want to. They drop the flashlight because they want to drop the flashlight. They portray fear because they want to portray fear. The game allows them, but doesn't trick them or bribe them or encourage them. It just allows.
  • edited July 9
    2097 said:


    I was that person who tried to learn RPGs from the 90s game texts. I failed. I wasn’t part of an RPG community who could help me grok it, not until much later.

    I hold the position that a lot of YouTube / Stream fans don’t get the underlying idea of “prep locations / situations”. I hope my writing will reach them.

    I believe DMing is something you don’t easily learn by playing, or watching from the outside of the screen. The analogy I like to use are inform and infocom text games. I loved them as a kid, and tried to write them in the same way you’d write a “choose your own adventure” book, i.e. branching scenes. Once I found out how they were actually written – places, and objects, and a parser that connected that – it blew my mind.

    My condolences for your 90s gaming experience. But sadly, I don't think your experience was that atypical. 90s RPG writing was pretty awful. Whether it's AD&D2 selling itself as a game of heroic adventure when it was still basically an Oldschool deathtrap, or Vampire The Masquerade and all its "okay Mr. GM, you come up with a Chronicle, and it's your job to make sure the PCs stay on track" advice.

    I think I've discovered some crossed wires here though. Most of your posts don't feel like they are "aimed at the GM" particularly. They don't feel like advice on or even particularly encouraging of location-based play. They seem to focus on a lot of peripheral stuff that is PART of location based play but not necessarily tied to it -- for example, this whole discussion of affordance markers and inspiration isn't really tied to Location Based Play at all. It's like giving someone advice on how to drive by teaching them how to use a radio or something. Yes, there's a radio, and yes, it can improve your experience, but it's neither core to nor unique to driving.

    So I need to step back and view your writing more from a GM perspective rather than a player/playstyle perspective, and you may need to make sure you are tying your stuff back to your "core thesis" if you want your love for Location Based Play to inform your writing. (Or rather, to inform us irregular readers who can't keep it in mind when reading your writing.)
    2097 said:


    What I was going for was that the affordance marker part of the action was “write down five quirks and get five points” and the conveyed part of the action was “play out your quirks”, which is does have a social cost and sometimes a diegetic cost if it affects reaction rolls etc.

    I don't remember the rules calling out any actual obligation to play out your quirks once you've written them down, but it's been a Really Long Time since I played GURPS because my experience with it was heavily negative.
    2097 said:


    Hopefully the non-RP-ing players would see that the RP-ing player got “rewarded” with the useless ribbon that insp is and thus back off. Or, better yet, join in.

    Right; This goes back to what I was saying - games with stronger mechanics work better here. Imagine if D&D said "At the end of any session where you played any three of your Trait/Ideal/Bond/Flaw, you gain enough XP to reach the start of your next level." No one (Pretty much, anyway) would ever look at someone funny for playing a trait under those circumstances, because everyone knows that getting levels is a large part of what the game is about, so what you are doing is clearly "playing the game right". Inspiration has low impact and is non-stacking, so the circumstances in which it feels "acceptable" to try to earn it are limited.

    I recognize that at this point, it just becomes "my table experience vs yours" -- somehow, Inspiration has worked wonders at your table. At mine, it might as well have not existed. We really TRIED to use it, but it was hard to remember, ineffective when used (My "fondest" memory is from Lost Mines of Phandelver where my dwarven cleric finally found his missing family member in the clutches of the orc(?) chief, yelled his battle cry, cast his one offensive spell, spend inspiration, and rolled a 4 and a 9. RIP inspiration.) and generally disappointing.

    Though reading what you write now, I think I have a guess about what's going on. Your first experience with this was with a con group. It is SO, SO MUCH easier to commit to "living dangerously" at a con, because NO MATTER WHAT, you are not coming back to that character. You don't have five sessions of scraping and struggling to reach level 3 and scribe that scroll/buy that full plate armor/whatever. Your character has no history with you and has no future with you, so there's almost no reason NOT to go all-in on roleplaying for inspiration. There's no expectation that you're all coming back next week to continue the campaign. You're not. This is IT, so you might as well burn fast and bright.

    Have you gotten this "singing inspiration" effect happening with your home group? Humorously, as I was typing this, I finally figured out what the advantage of your house rule is -- namely, being told "You would've gotten inspiration for that" has the effect of making me think "Damnit, I should've spent it" and therefore theoretically encouraging people to use it. Is this working for your home group? I had thought from your earlier posts that it was, but this one sortof didn't sound like it?

    With regard to the whole "do you trust this person with the lantern" thing, I don't really want to play that game. If my character had doubts about this person's ability to hold onto the lantern, I wouldn't be here in the dungeon with them, but we all signed up to play a game where we go to the dungeon. I don't want to be the "F- no, I am not going to the dungeon with YOU" guy. And even if I did, I'd certainly never do it AGAIN after they did, and that's just as bad as killing my character, frankly. I'm glad you find it fun, but to me it's a horrible, horrible conflict between "behaving in a manner that makes sense for my character" (Never again going to a dungeon with Sir Lantern Dropper of Rothmont) and "playing the game in good faith" (Wherein we agree to play adventurers who go into a dungeon together.)
  • Airk said:

    Most of your posts don’t feel like they are “aimed at the GM” particularly. They don’t feel like advice on or even particularly encouraging of location-based play. They seem to focus on a lot of peripheral stuff that is PART of location based play but not necessarily tied to it – for example, this whole discussion of affordance markers and inspiration isn’t really tied to Location Based Play at all. It’s like giving someone advice on how to drive by teaching them how to use a radio or something. Yes, there’s a radio, and yes, it can improve your experience, but it’s neither core to nor unique to driving.

    Yes, this is astute. You are right. The car/radio analogy is great.

    For me, what I’ve been seeing myself as doing is to take those things that turned me off from D&D… things that I now see as not only “overcomeable” but actually as positives. And to sing the praises of those positives.

    Airk said:

    you may need to make sure you are tying your stuff back to your “core thesis” if you want your love for Location Based Play to inform your writing. (Or rather, to inform us irregular readers who can’t keep it in mind when reading your writing.)

    This is really good advice.

    Airk said:

    I don’t remember the rules calling out any actual obligation to play out your quirks once you’ve written them down

    Yeah, the point is that playing them out is afforded/conveyed, not mandated.

    Airk said:

    Right; This goes back to what I was saying - games with stronger mechanics work better here. Imagine if D&D said “At the end of any session where you played any three of your Trait/Ideal/Bond/Flaw, you gain enough XP to reach the start of your next level.” No one (Pretty much, anyway) would ever look at someone funny for playing a trait under those circumstances, because everyone knows that getting levels is a large part of what the game is about, so what you are doing is clearly “playing the game right”. Inspiration has low impact and is non-stacking, so the circumstances in which it feels “acceptable” to try to earn it are limited.

    Well, we want acceptable but not mandated. Especially for the problems you outline below. If flashlight dropping is mandated we no longer have D&D.

    Airk said:

    I recognize that at this point, it just becomes “my table experience vs yours” – somehow, Inspiration has worked wonders at your table. At mine, it might as well have not existed. We really TRIED to use it, but it was hard to remember, ineffective when used (My “fondest” memory is from Lost Mines of Phandelver where my dwarven cleric finally found his missing family member in the clutches of the orc(?) chief, yelled his battle cry, cast his one offensive spell, spend inspiration, and rolled a 4 and a 9. RIP inspiration.) and generally disappointing.

    Yeah, insp has many parts:

    • getting it (playing out traits)
    • spending it (communicating “i care about this act”)
    • getting actual reward for it

    That latter part didn’t happen in your 4&9 case. We had someone last session spend inspiration and luck, getting the best of three rolls, and failing on all three. That was intense (for us… we are easily amused).

    Airk said:

    Though reading what you write now, I think I have a guess about what’s going on. Your first experience with this was with a con group. It is SO, SO MUCH easier to commit to “living dangerously” at a con, because NO MATTER WHAT, you are not coming back to that character. You don’t have five sessions of scraping and struggling to reach level 3 and scribe that scroll/buy that full plate armor/whatever. Your character has no history with you and has no future with you, so there’s almost no reason NOT to go all-in on roleplaying for inspiration. There’s no expectation that you’re all coming back next week to continue the campaign. You’re not. This is IT, so you might as well burn fast and bright.

    Have you gotten this “singing inspiration” effect happening with your home group? Humorously, as I was typing this, I finally figured out what the advantage of your house rule is – namely, being told “You would’ve gotten inspiration for that” has the effect of making me think “Damnit, I should’ve spent it” and therefore theoretically encouraging people to use it. Is this working for your home group? I had thought from your earlier posts that it was, but this one sortof didn’t sound like it?

    Yeah, you’re on the right track here. It’s not only “you would’ve”, it makes it so the DM doesn’t hold back. She can say “You get insp!” even though you already have insp.

    I’m gonna say that they are still stingy with using insp but they are good at getting insp, fishing for insp.

    If the con game was at 8 “song level”, say, they’ve gone from 1 before I had the con game to 5 now. Which… I’m very happy, the mechanic is carrying a lot of weight and doing a lot.

    Airk said:

    With regard to the whole “do you trust this person with the lantern” thing, I don’t really want to play that game.

    Totally fair. To me that is part of the core of the game’s appeal.

    Airk said:

    Wherein we agree to play adventurers who go into a dungeon together.

    Agreeing on something OOC and then breaking it IC is fucked up. I agree there.

    We have a lot of talk about how to handle racist stuff that comes up in the game. We are doing a kind of racist/colonialist module.

    That means we need to talk OOC about how our characters behave IC and how we feel about that. So that everyone feels safe at the game table.

  • edited July 9
    @2097 where you're saying "allowed", my take is "encouraged".

    A Fate Point reward is an attempt to tilt the balance in the player's mind away from "optimize character position including safety" toward "contribute to compelling story". Both elements are present, they're both valuable, and they're both allowed, but Fate sees the need and the virtue in encouraging more of the latter one.

    If the payout were so obviously trivial as to be an ineffective bribe, serving merely as a formalized reminder of how the game wants you to play, I don't know if that balance would tilt. To the extent that it does tilt because the payout isn't obviously trivial... well, I think we are talking about a bribe.

    I agree with Rickard's oft-made points about extrinsic bribes being underwhelming, but I think there are two ameliorating circumstances here:

    1) The player does assign some intrinsic value to character actions that cause trouble and drama.

    2) Each use of the mechanic is an opportunity to make the reward of using the mechanic more intrinsic in future repetitions if the game delivers the real reward, which is fun play. Fate doesn't want players to get their characters in trouble for no reason; it presumes that getting characters in trouble helps the fun.

    I would say that if a group really does not enjoy trouble of the characters' own making, then Fate Compels are purely extrinsic for them and they shouldn't use them (or they shouldn't play Fate).

    On top of all this, I think the rule in the book regarding "opt into trouble" does also function as a signal that opting into trouble is legit and allowed. But I think that's true of all game rules which invoke formal procedures, not just those which give you Points (risk-commensurate or otherwise).

    If I write a rule that says, "When your character gets in trouble, roll on this table of cool environmental details and then pick a player to narrate the results into the fiction," I think it's pretty clear to everyone that getting your character in trouble is legit and allowed. (On top of which, I like those intrinsic rewards of attention, interaction, and fictional color more than any Fate Point. Take that, Fate!)

    So I'd say that the examples in your opening post are each part affordance marker and part bribe.
    1. The player does assign some intrinsic value to character actions that cause trouble and drama.

    2. Each use of the mechanic is an opportunity to make the reward of using the mechanic more intrinsic in future repetitions if the game delivers the real reward, which is fun play. Fate doesn’t want players to get their characters in trouble for no reason; it presumes that getting characters in trouble helps the fun.

    Yes, that’s the point — the Fate point isn’t the reason you do it, the intrinsic value is the reason. The Fate point is there to… sort of lead your mind in that direction. Saying “hey, here’s a thing you can do”. It’s a crumb trail, not a full on cookie.

    But I think that’s true of all game rules which invoke formal procedures, not just those which give you Points (risk-commensurate or otherwise).

    Conveyance, or affordance markers, is definitely a wider concept than just “points” and I never meant to give the impression that they were limited to that.

    Famously in Photopia there’s a puzzle where you

    the solution is to fly. The clues that you are able to fly have been very subtle.

    That’s an example of something with very little, or no, conveyance.

    Conversely, the lovelock’s Awakened Mind ability in 5e is clearly affording you the ability to do telepathic fun stuff.

    If the payout were so obviously trivial as to be an ineffective bribe, serving merely as a formalized reminder of how the game wants you to play, I don’t know if that balance would tilt.

    It tilts because the gameplay is intrinsically fun.

    It’s… sometimes I play in such a way that I want to collect insp rather than collect xp. Not that the insp does anything… just that that’s the “score” I set for myself for that particular game.

    Being true to the character, for some value of “true” and some value of “character”, is fun.

    PS Trix told me you said nice things about me when you met

    thank you for that

  • The "Does Not RP" group doesn't want to do things in the Cloud layer that has zero effect in the Dice layer.

    Because of insp, now there are Cloud actions that have a (tiny li'l) effect on the Dice layer: one box is checked. You have insp. Good job.

    Creating extra right-facing arrows.
  • Okay, cool, sounds like we see most of this stuff quite similarly. Maybe just different focus on what seems most noteworthy to us. :)

    It was great to meet Aviatrix in person! Hopefully we'll wind up at the same table at a con someday. (We both played Witch and the Monsterhearts roadtrip, but at different times!) Any chance you'd ever want to / be able to visit New Jersey? :)
  • ♥ Garden state
    Turnpike

    I'll go there as soon as the climate crisis is solved. I also want visit Maine and Vancouver.
    Once they've figured out travel that doesn't harm the planet I'll go♥
    #patience
  • edited July 9
    I think we are on the same page 2097, though I'm curious as to how you survive the whole "This is a game about dungeoneering together, but these characters could very easily give each other reasons to never dungeoneer with each other again." dilemma. I could see a table agreement to never do something that would actually BREAK the party, but that's hard to enforce ("I didn't know you'd react that way!") and also compromises a lot of the drama you want AND possibly compromises people's characters. It's always seemed so much easier to just say "None of that."

    (Aside: I don't think all these 'extrinsic' awards are 'extrinsic' as people think, but I'll leave that to another thread.)

    Also, I am between New Jersey and Maine. :P
  • edited July 10
    A clear and fair question. I guess I don't see the game -- or at least all campaigns -- as goal-directed, and not all dungeons to be mandatorily completed or cleared. In the con game where insp sang, the party briefly entered a dungeon, grabbed some resources, food and info, and then left for a nearby village. They left the largest part of the dungeon unexplored,and I never prompted them to explore it fully. The dungeon is a dangerous, living location. A backdrop, a mileu for play that is partially interparty. A part of the world, not an obstacle course with a goalpost at the end.

    That's different for every campaign. But that's the sort of attitude that allows flashlight dropping.

    Extrinsic: We meant intrinsic. But, to the degree that a reward is truly insintric is a matter of semantics. Whether or not a supposedly inherently joyful or pleasant activity truly is inherently so is contingent on to what extent you consider various sensations to be inherent parts of the activity, vs caused by externalities -- memory, connotation, pride, satisfaction all could carry or create baggage affecting this or future instanses of the activity. Semantics can do anything♥
  • I guess I'm explaining poorly, because that doesn't help me grasp why it works for you at all. I think you're getting hung up on the word "dungeon" here. Everything is a dungeon. The deadly wilderness is a dungeon. The Earl's dinner party is a dungeon. What if I say it like this:

    If I make a character who is going to go on adventures, and those adventures are dangerous, then my character is probably not going to want to go on said adventures with people who make the danger worse through their behavior. But at the same time, we are playing a group game, and the expectation is that I won't say "To Hades with you, DropsTorchAlot! I'm going to go on adventures without you!"

    So when DropsTorchALot has a freak out and drops the torch because SPIDERS! my character isn't going to say "Okaaay, well, DropsTorchALot is fine, as long as we keep them clear of spiders." they're going to say "What am I doing putting this person in a situation where they have my life in their hands?"

    Or is your D&D game not actually about going on adventures? Because it sounds like it is, and honestly I can't imagine D&D being someone's favorite game for something other than going on adventures. That seems like pretty much what the game is for. I understand that you like the party interactions, and so do I, but I also need to be able to reconcile them with the fact that the game is deadly, which means the world is deadly, which means my character isn't going to want to trust their life to someone who freaked out and ran away without warning.

    Are you setting the world up in a way that these people's choices are "Adventure together or adventure with no one (aka "die")"? A fictional solution is perfectly fine here most of the time, because what's killing me is the friction between the fictional reasoning and the out of game reasoning, so if you can change the fictional side of the equation, then it all balances out.

  • edited July 10
    In the Brutal Raptor Death situation some weeks ago… I gave one player a choice. There are twelve raptors approaching, how many of them do you engage with and how many do you let through to your friend?
    Thinking it'd be interesting. He had higher AC, and wasn't surprised. Was he going to take on seven? Eight? Proportionate to the AC. Or take on three? Increasing the chance that he'd survive, letting his friend take the hit.
    He chose to let all twelve raptors attack his friend. Who then died.
    Isn't that a little fucked up? Isn't that a bit of a flashlight drop?
    I don't know how those are going to live with that. How is his new char going to trust the old char, even? #bleed This goes over to the player level, too.

    I guess what I'm saying is that if everything's a dungeon, everything's a flashlight drop too. Someone playing suboptimally is someone endangering my PC. "Why did you roll for HP instead of taking the average? You know it's 5% worse to roll, right?" It's a matter of degree, sure. But that's hov I think. The cowardly PC is the BRD scenario doesn't have any cowardly diegetical traits such as "fearful", "selfish". He's supposed to be good aligned. He blamed his low HP but… that's a bed he made.

    This is an area where the new TOR-derived monster selection rules have made the game less agential and interesting, compared to the 13A-like interception rules I was using in the BRD sitch.

    If you're thinking it'd be frustrating playing D&D with such a guy, I agree. But… every player is a slippery slope away from being him.
    Pulling together is the aim of despotism and tyranny. Free men pull in all kinds of directions.
    The reason I've started saying "but wtf were they doing in a ghoul tunnel with only one flashlight?" is because that's the stage my own table is right now. The rock-paper-scissors loop of "I can not trust them to have raincatchers and tents, I need that" which then leads to "Everyone else has gear, I can mooch off them" etc etc. Back and forth.

    Also… how would you feel if it were an NPC who ran away with the torch? If it'd be "part of the adventure", if not wholly then at least to a slightly higher degree than "this dork griefed our adventure"?
  • I disagree that the slope is that slippery. Also, if you start the game with a statement of trust instead of a presupposition of "this guy is likely to drop the torch on me at any minute" then I like to think that it's more likely people will work together instead of "eh, I let the raptors eat him."

    If it were an NPC, it would...depend. If it just seemed to come out of nowhere, honestly, I'd be pretty cranky because that would feel like a GM screwover. If there were signs of some sort, maybe not.
  • If the slope isn't slippery then there's no problem♥
    Just hold on to your flashlight when it's really dangerous if that's the kind of adventurer you want to be, and ask your friends to do the same.

    IDK, I think we learned pretty early on that party members can and will be the biggest and most dangerous problem. Not always from player decision… things like enchanting mists, fear and charm effects, possessing cloaks, weird cults, crown of madness spells etc etc…
  • 2097 said:

    If the slope isn't slippery then there's no problem♥
    Just hold on to your flashlight when it's really dangerous if that's the kind of adventurer you want to be, and ask your friends to do the same.

    This seems like it would undermine things, but maybe not.

    "Hey, you didn't freak out there, but the last spider caused you to scream and flee."
    "Yeah, I knew you guys were counting on me."

    Works sometimes. But not if it starts to feel like the character only runs from trivial things.
    2097 said:


    IDK, I think we learned pretty early on that party members can and will be the biggest and most dangerous problem. Not always from player decision… things like enchanting mists, fear and charm effects, possessing cloaks, weird cults, crown of madness spells etc etc…

    Eh. This isn't really an issue. Mind control etc. it's not the character making the decisions at that point. I don't really even count this as "party members being dangerous." just "mind control effects being dangerous" unless we're talking about seductive voices whispering promises that don't actually compel obedience.
  • edited July 10
    Hmm, maybe I'll have an easier time understanding if you could help untangle "my PC's life is in danger" from "the implied social contract from my fellow non-DM players is in danger"? The mind control effects put your PCs life in danger, but you say it's not really an issue.

    This isn't meant to like put you on the spot rhetorically… just not sure what the problem is.

    Like, in the Knights of the Dinner Table, they get angry af if the other players endanger them. They come up with a secret code, OOC, like "the weather is marvelous" means "I can't talk freely now, the GM is listening, just trust me" for use when you're under mind control. And she (one of the players) uses that code falsely and still hurts them (the other players), and they feel so betrayed OOC.

    I don't see a flashlight drop as a betrayal on that level because I didn't see unified, goal-oriented play as part of the social contract at my table, like it would be at the KODT's table.

    Maybe I'm misunderstanding the issue.
  • edited July 10
    Does a "roll to drop the flashlight" mechanic allow us to have our cake and eat it too?

    Depending on my orientation as a player, I might be thinking very different things when I pick up the dice to roll them, but regardless, the game is still telling us:
    - Characters don't want to drop flashlights.
    - Because they have emotions and reactions to what they encounter, they might accidentally drop their flashlights anyway.

    Sometimes it's best for the group to agree upon the right way to handle something, but other times maybe agreement isn't actually necessary. Or, we don't always need to agree on what's preferable as long as we can agree on what's acceptable. The cold strategists might not prefer to factor in flashlight dropping as a variable, but they may well accept it as part of the game's shared causality sim rather than an individual player's internal causality sim.
  • Cross ref time: That sort of will-save vs voluntary-surrendering-for-points dichotomy I’ve discussed here, additive vs subtractive models

  • First off, I think the discussion of mind control etc muddies the waters here. It's clear to me and I think to everyone that decisions a character makes while under the effect of a cursed cloak or whatever are not the decisions that either the player or the character would want to make. Their hand is forced. This causes no issues for either the "my character doesn't trust you anymore" angle OR the "Why did you just screw me over OOCly?" angle. So set that aside.

    So to try to disconnect the two types of problems:

    The first of these is that the social contract to play the game, as a group, requires the party to stay together, so other characters taking actions that would drive that apart ("My character doesn't trust you anymore.") create friction with it, because what my character wants is to NOT have to deal with these people who are clearly not trustworthy, and what _I_ want is to keep playing with my friends. So friction between fiction elements and social contract.

    The second of these is the "To me, D&D is a bad game to experiment with trust and betrayal in, because the in game consequences of such things break the fundamental D&D game engine of 'go on adventures, gain levels, go on cooler adventures'." David's solution sortof helps with this one, because it shifts some of the "blame" onto the system, but the consequences are still there. If I've spent six months playing a character every week and he gets killed because someone decided that now was the time to throw away the lantern, and I lose all that investment, I'm probably done with that game, because it's not going to be a lot of fun for me to start over with a new character at level 1 at that point. This one is friction between game systems and social contract.

  • Airk said:

    If I’ve spent six months playing a character every week and he gets killed because someone decided that now was the time to throw away the lantern, and I lose all that investment, I’m probably done with that game, because it’s not going to be a lot of fun for me to start over with a new character at level 1 at that point.

    Well, the reason the mind control example was there (and the NPC lantern dropper example) is because the danger to your PC is the same, and, the ways you’d prepare for the danger is similar (or even a subset, since the “talk to them OOC” solution isn’t there). So the reason I brought it up was: are you ok with that level of danger to the PC? Is the “my PC is in danger” the problem or not?

    Airk said:

    The first of these is that the social contract to play the game, as a group, requires the party to stay together, so other characters taking actions that would drive that apart (“My character doesn’t trust you anymore.”) create friction with it, because what my character wants is to NOT have to deal with these people who are clearly not trustworthy, and what I want is to keep playing with my friends. So friction between fiction elements and social contract.

    OK so the way we solved that is by having split parties, several factions, groups etc. PC A goes to the council and sells out the other PC for a sweet reward, etc. Then cut to PC C and PC B having a duel over who’s the best captain etc. The players sit at the same table even though their characters might not all in the same location.

    Also, what I’m picking up is that your distrust not only extends to that PC, but to some that player’s future characters as well.

    Airk said:

    To me, D&D is a bad game to experiment with trust and betrayal in, because the in game consequences of such things break the fundamental D&D game engine of ‘go on adventures, gain levels, go on cooler adventures’.

    Well, since there’s such strong consequences that makes trust and betrayal really interesting and loaded, is my thinking.

    But again, it’s not a part of every campaign.

    We just… we play the heck out of games like The Resistance and BSG and we bring some of that to the D&D table.

    and when there is a mission that people care about… like killing Strahd or stopping the soul monger, then trust becomes a big part of the game. Who are your allies… sometime “my enemy’s enemy” is what you have to settle for.

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