Aligning GM's perspective with players' perspectives

What if we restrict GM's perspective or authority strictly to what the characters are experiencing? Instead of having him deal with the whole setting and situation, he'll only portray and describe whatever gets to affect or be perceived by the characters. Or he might even "portray" the characters' senses instead of the world. That means that even facts perceived by the characters might be false, but the GM doesn't know this until the falseness or trueness of a fact directly affects the characters.

This might mean that, when the characters hear noises in the night and think there's a predator after them, not even the GM knows for sure if that's true or not. He will pick the odds of a predator actually chasing them, but won't actually roll until the hypothetical creature is in the best spot for an attack. Until then, he should be vague in his descriptions, to hint at both things being possible (to a different degree, perhaps).

The GM might switch roles, portraying the characters' perception during sessions, and administrating the whole setting and situation between sessions.

I think this could even be done in a transparent way, by having players know the odds of possibilities and affect them with mechanics (make a possibility 10% more likely with currency expenditure or powers, for example), or even have the players set the odds in certain situations: an excellent investigator might choose the odds of someone being guilty of a crime, for example (as long as he isn't able to just pick 100%).

I'm interested in the effects this might produce in how the GM describes the situation, as well as how would players behave in such a game. Would this produce an effect of uncertainty, even in the GM? Is it better or worse that players know and interact with these odds, to achieve a sense of uncertainty that doesn't feel arbitrary? Also, how would GM prep look in such a game?

Comments

  • I think the proper answer to this question is to design the game and see.
  • edited June 22
    Thank you for this idea : I am going to try it in my own GM-ful game. See, I needed something to delineate the extent of a contribution. The official rule is to add to the story vignette by vignette. Privileging the comic strip format was convenient for rules writing, but not my original intention. Now I can write something like "say what you want but only from one perspective". In my game this means from the point of view of one character or from an external 3rd person. This opens the game to cinematic and literary format.
  • DeReel said:

    Thank you for this idea : I am going to try it in my own GM-ful game. See, I needed something to delineate the extent of a contribution. The official rule is to add to the story vignette by vignette. Privileging the comic strip format was convenient for rules writing, but not my original intention. Now I can write something like "say what you want but only from one perspective". In my game this means from the point of view of one character or from an external 3rd person. This opens the game to cinematic and literary format.

    I'm glad it's useful to you. I've tried to design a game around this concept, but after a single playtest session I dropped the project for unrelated reasons.
    Thanuir said:

    I think the proper answer to this question is to design the game and see.

    I know, I know. I ran a playtest session a few years ago, but couldn't continue designing the game. What I found after that session was that it could be easy to accumulate "mysteries" and never roll to determine if they were real or not. I thought of using notes in the table in front of everybody to make it clear which are the current mysteries.
    The other difficult thing is deciding when to roll for a mystery. It requires a bit of discipline for the GM to both present it as real and fantasy, until he decides to roll and make one of both possibilities real.

    I hope to run a simple scenario soon for this idea, with the bare minimum rules necessary to test it.
  • This is definitely an interesting idea.

    You might look at these games:

    Puppetland, which limits how you can narrate things, as in a radio theatre. (This could be interpreted by some as limiting the GM's ability to talk about things outside of the scope of the characters' senses.

    S/lay w/me, where the "GM" figure narrates in the second person ("You see a..."), and therefore is limited to the player's perspective by default (although either can establish facts in terms of exposition).

    Nerves of Steel, where all the action is narrated from the perspective of a main character, even though different players have different roles.
  • One take away from Nerves of steel : if the story flows, don't worry too much about inconsistencies on real/supernatural. If the game is playable enough, trust players to get better at walking this thin line.
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