randomization vs feeling real

We have some neat threads going on right now which are touching on how a feeling of "realness" can emerge from play where there are some facts about the fictional world that are both (a) true and (b) not known to all (or possibly even any) participants.

One example that's been mentioned is the random table, where the contents of table have established a possibility space, and the procedures that invoke the table can "reveal" the "truth" of one item from that space.

I don't think I agree with that feeling "real". At least, not when it happens in the moment, as needed.

Obviously it's very efficient and practical to establish game facts when we need to know them, so we don't waste a lot of time establishing game facts in advance that we'll never need to know.

And I don't think it's all that tall an order for a player to take content that's generated on the fly, and deliberately invest in treating it as real.

However, if we're talking about aspects of games themselves, not just of players, which help a game feel real, I don't think this qualifies:

Rounding a dark fictional corner in character and then consulting a piece of paper and some dice at the table to see what's around that corner.

This doesn't feel real because the at-the-table causal chain of fiction-creation is just too obvious. To feel real, ideally we can believe that the orcs around that corner were already there as a true game fact before we decided to round that corner.

Having said all that, I don't want the GM to have to prep what's around every corner in advance (although that is exactly what the most real-feel-enabling GM I've played with does) because that's a ton of work. And I don't want the group to have to flip through a giant book that lists what's around every corner, because hunting down the amount of info you need in a non-railroaded RPG gets distracting and time consuming (and expensive to acquire).

My preferred solution to all this is to randomize whatever needs to be randomized before* it's encountered by the characters, and to give the GM (or whoever's revealing game facts to the other participants) an orientation to the fiction which allows them to:
a) ideally, feel like they're discovering game facts as they invent them, but if not that, then at least:
b) invent game facts based on reference to the existing truths of the game world, as opposed to mere personal whim.

If I am GMing a game where I know that caves like this are often filled with orcs, and the players don't know this, then even if I hadn't planned for an orc to be around this corner, when the players announce their intention to round this corner, "there are orcs" jumps naturally to my brain and can be delivered instantly to the players in a process indistinguishable from communicating pre-established truth.

I think this is why, over the history of roleplay, so many realism-seeking GMs have bought and read and enjoyed so many setting facts. Once the book makes the world feel real to you, you can make it feel real to the players.

*Note: this needn't be done before a session; this can be done during a bathroom break after the players have just announced they're going to go somewhere the GM doesn't have a great feel for.

I'd love to hear others' takes, and especially techniques for getting that "real" feeling.
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Comments

  • I'm not disagreeing that 1-truths feel realer than 2-truths (in the three tiered model).
    But point of rando is to create symmetry; neither side of the screen is "making things up". And also agree that rolling things up ahead of time is great. The Q then becomes: when is "ahead" enough? That's why I went for informational temporality rather than spatial temporality in the quest queue proposal.
    give the GM (or whoever's revealing game facts to the other participants) an orientation to the fiction which allows them to:
    a) ideally, feel like they're discovering game facts as they invent them, but if not that, then at least:
    b) invent game facts based on reference to the existing truths of the game world, as opposed to mere personal whim.

    If I am GMing a game where I know that caves like this are often filled with orcs, and the players don't know this, then even if I hadn't planned for an orc to be around this corner, when the players announce their intention to round this corner, "there are orcs" jumps naturally to my brain and can be delivered instantly to the players in a process indistinguishable from communicating pre-established truth.
    This ("I'm guided by setting knowledge") is utterly unsatisfying to me when it comes to blorbiness and "realness". It's everything I wanted to move away from and it's so representative of my pre-blorb GMing style. Things related to the setting naturally jumping to my brain but it's still "made up". Pulled from hat.

    I'm good at improvising. So is lumpley (c.f. Coherence and Contradictions).

    Point of blorb, including resorting to 2-truths (i.e. random tables), is to get away from GM's whim.

    I want things to happen in the game. Caves have ⅚ chance of orcs, roll 1d6 = more satisfying than "most caves have orcs, use your best judgement".
  • Cards are great for this. Generally people feel like the result of a die roll is much more arbitrary than the result of drawing the top card of the deck of cards that's been sitting on the table for the whole time. At least, that's conventional wisdom among board game designers, and pretty well established for Magic the Gathering, though for MtG it might just be familiarity with the deck.
  • There are two (at least!) conceptions of "real" that I think are at play in RPGs, and they do not play nice with each other at all.

    One is an immersionist, causality-based real, which I think is more what you're talking about here. It's a real that corresponds to something, a real that makes sense.

    The other is a disclaimed, non-contrived real. Much as how, in the "real" world, we cannot control the ways in which other people react or how phenomena external to us will affect our lives, we also seek to reject as much as possible our ability to do so in the game.

    One person may say that the arbitrariness of having to consult a table in the middle of play makes it feel less real. Another may say that leaving the question of whether something makes sense up to a subjective individual makes it feel less real.

    The "crisis of blorb," ultimately, is that to ascribe causality to events in the game is a form of imposing your own subjectivity upon them. So in an attempt to reconcile the two, you say, like Vincent and the translators of the Septuagint, that because we all just happened to come to the same conclusion independently, there must be something bigger than us guiding our hands. Or maybe you hide behind your filing cabinet while you GM so the players can't see you. Or whatever.
  • edited July 13
    I’m really glad you made this post, Dave.

    My feeling all along has been that there is a bit of a disconnect between the techniques we’re discussing and the described sensation of “realness”.

    There is some serious overlap, sure, but my impression is that what you’re valuing as “real” (a sense of coherence and detail and reality) isn’t quite the same thing Sandra has been talking about, which has more to do with what I might call tangibility.

    I haven’t spoken about this too much before, because I didn’t want to derail all those conversations, but here it seems to be the topic at hand.

    The sort of “Realness” you’re talking about benefits from but doesn’t need “Paper before Rock” or random tables.

    Those things are all about allowing the GM to be impartial, which gives the GM a sense of emergent outcomes (the things that are happening feel “real” because they aren’t under your direct control) and the players a feeling that their choices matter, because they aren’t being judged by a human intelligence sitting at a real world table, but happening “by themselves”.

    As you say, rolling someone’s body weight on a random table doesn't necessarily give us outcomes that “feel” real (if, for example, the roll is high, but we always imagined the character as kind of skinny) and does so with a process that is immediately apparent to us as being “not real” (we can all see you’re rollin dice and making it up!) but this is entirely acceptable because in a blorb style of play we are more interested in emergent impartial outcomes.

    In contrast, something like Jay’s spicy dice game has somewhat opposite goals: to make things feel completely real by removing explicit resolution techniques (there is very little transparency of method!) but has really no interest in preserving our ability to create impartial adjudication of outcomes.

    The blorb/klockwerk kind of approach play makes most sense to me when viewed from a lens of Big Model “Step on Up”, or perhaps even Threefold Simulationism (although I find that view more limiting); a very distinct beast from the “real” we’re talking about in “immersive” games with opaque Systems.

    Jay’s group wants a classic “the games rules get out of the way and let us play” sort of approach, whereas in Sandra’s game, the rules are there for such a specific reason that discarding them would be anathema: following those procedures to the letter is the whole point of having them in the first place.

    I think there a bunch of different things getting pulled together here which overlap but really aren’t the same.
  • When we don't know something we consult the gloracle. That's the rule. The gloracle holds the truth to the blorb. The gloracle knows what's real.
    we can all see you’re rollin dice and making it up!
    That is such bullshit. Looking it up is the opposite of making it up.

    Maybe the character weight thing that you keep picking on is dumb (my rule by the way is that you can select your character's height and weight freely before seeing rock. If you haven't written one down before it matters, we roll. Having it come to that, by the way, is annoying af to me because I want to know the weight way before the character's player even knows that it matters because the dungeons have hidden pressure plates and stuff.

    I've said before that the blorb principles are rough. Contradictory (I mean application precedence sorts that right out, but still). A WIP. The blorb principles, and techniques such as random tables, aren't the goal. That's just a finger. One of many. The goal is to get the kind of realness that "mirror story" is the prime example of. That's the moon.

    But the GM deciding freely? That's the enemy of realness. That's the whole no-myth 90s bullshit that wasted twenty years of my life on crappy 90s gaming. I'm never ever going to get behind that! I declare eternal enmity on that!
  • edited July 13
    I will complicate this issue by pointing out that not only is immersibility a trait that varies from person to person (this is related to but stronger than mere "suspension of disbelief"), but also occurs in different modes. It's possible to imagine a session with high tangibility but low emotional investment, as well as vice-versa.

    A typical game of DayTrippers, for instance, has a lot of "tier-2" or even "tier-3" stuff in it and very little "tier-1", because simulated ontology is not the paramount quality the game is shooting for; instead it uses "psychic content" as seeds to engender emotional affects, and the randomness from which these seeds emerge might be viewed as "metaphysical" or even "mystical" (i.e., the dice represent something like Fate, or a Transcendental property which is broader even than the GM's view).

    The territory we're discussing here is starting to feel a lot like the philosophical divide between materialists and idealists, with brave "hybrid" souls building bridges across the gap which only "make sense" to others of a similar bent, like ludic Spinozas (from the one side) or Deleuzes (from the other).

  • Sandra,

    You’re misreading me. That’s not a criticism of blorb methods!

    The point is:

    You care about saliency, paper/rock, and similar things. Rolling something randomly is a perfect fit for preserving those principles.

    What Dave is talking about is that the very act of rolling something on a random table draws attention to the reality that we’re playing a game and that this fact wasn’t known just two seconds ago.

    They’re different interests, with different priorities! We wouldn’t want random tables for such things in Cary’s game, either, because the whole thing you’re trying to avoid is, pretty much, the goal of their play. Spicy dice rolling is pretty much the polar opposite of blorb, but both are in service to a perceived “realness”; however, one benefits from transparency of method and the other thrives on opacity.
  • edited July 14
    Yes.

    "Playfulness always exists in the breakpoint between two radically contrasted states."
    - Will Self

    Note he's not saying that's the only type of place in which playfulness can be found, but that such places are fecund terrain for experimentation with new ideas.

    What I'm getting at here is that there's playful, and then there's dutiful. When running D&D I am highly dutiful, and take on a lot of Blorbiness which might rightly be described as a "workload." A certain amount of playfulness on my part is appreciated IF it doesn't break the sense of immersion, but it is strictly limited and never allowed to take over as a guiding force. But that doesn't invalidate the experience of running DayTrippers (or any one of hundreds of other games), in which the GM's focus-in-play is more about playfulness than duty. Or perhaps a better way to put is that in such games, my duty is subordinated to playfulness: it is my duty to remain playful, as this is the "Spirit of the System."

    This distinction seems to be almost completely binary. For reasons stated in my earlier comment (different modes and types of immersion), I think the question of "realness" is actually orthogonal to it.
  • edited July 14
    And also agree that rolling things up ahead of time is great. The Q then becomes: when is "ahead" enough?
    Agreed!
    That's why I went for informational temporality rather than spatial temporality in the quest queue proposal.
    Oh sweet! I will give this link a thorough read later and hopefully have some thoughts. First pass: looks awesome. :)
    Things related to the setting naturally jumping to my brain but it's still "made up". Pulled from hat . . . I want things to happen in the game. Caves have ⅚ chance of orcs, roll 1d6 = more satisfying than "most caves have orcs, use your best judgement".
    I feel exactly the opposite. Do you think it'd be interesting/useful to discuss the details and reasons behind our different takes, or do you think we should probably just agree to disagree?

    To clarify, I don't disagree that it can be satisfying to roll a die and have a thing happen. It just feels less real to me.
  • Is there even any reason or detail behind how something that the GM made up on the spot feels like something the GM made up on the spot while something that happened feels like something that happened? It just feels that way, I can't argue for it any more strongly than that! Feels over reals ftw!

    I'm never ever again gonna sit down as a player in a game with the traditional player/GM divide (DM plays world, players interact with that world through their characters performing actions in that world) with a GM that can just make things up! I'm over and done with that kind of play for all time! In fact if I get a time machine I'm going back to the nineties and warning myself!
  • This ("I'm guided by setting knowledge") is utterly unsatisfying to me when it comes to blorbiness and "realness".
    To you as a GM, or to you as a player? Is there a difference?
  • As a player!
  • Gotcha. So in your case, the question of "might we not roll because that makes something feel less real?" is irrelevant, because the alternative is unacceptable. A better question might then be, "How do we make the roll feel as real as we can?" I'll chime in on that once I've read through your link.

    Simultaneously, I'd like to keep the "maybe don't roll" topic open in this thread for others. (Not saying you were trying to shut them down; I'm just clarifying that I'm interested in both angles at the same time.)
  • Well my olive branch to them is that they can play games with hippiefied techniques that don't have GM/player separation
  • Do you mean "GM/player separation" or just "special authority"?
  • I mean specifically this: "GM plays world. Players interact with that world through selecting actions for their designated characters to perform in that world."
    By hippiefied I mean games that blur that line. So that the player can say "There are orcs here" or "there are not orcs here". Not really my thing but that's my proposal to those who want to play unblorby games—they can play hippiefied games.
  • Okay, that makes sense.
  • Right, you take a very hardcore stance on this: either play traditional RPGs and play them with “full blorb”, or play GMless and freeform games.

    Does that mean that you discount games like Jay/Cary’s as being “wrong”, at some fundamental level, or is this just an expression of your own play preferences (“do as you like at home, but I won’t be playing with you...”)?
  • I'd rather not get into who thinks what of other people's playstyles here, please.

    I have great success with something Sandra wants no part of. (No need to hippiefy anything at my table to make GM-invents-stuff functional.) It's clearly a matter of different approaches for different people/groups.
  • Yeah, it's a preference or agenda, not dysfunctional gaming. I think Blorb might be a Technical Agenda, but I am not sure.
  • Hasn't my universal decree been stated pretty clearly and unambiguous by now?
    Play blorbily ior play hippily.
    It's pointless to keep asking. I can't say it succinctlier than that.

    Stop using Jay & Cary as your shield. They're not kids that you can trot out for the fifteenth time. "Would that mean that you… ⚞gasp⚟ aren't as smitten with the spicy dice roll game as the rest of us are?" You never put your own gaming on the line. It's always Jay&Cary with their big old innocence & charm. Which yes, they are sweethearts, not arguing against that. And that makes it feel "mean" to rag on their game. Which is what you want to do when you try to tie their game to the tracks in front of the brutal locomotive that is 2097, apostle to the gloracle of blorb! And that's bullshit. And that's been your goto like fifteen, maybe twenty times now, Paul. "But Sandra, what does your model say about Jay&Cary's game?" So disingenuous. Put your own game there instead. Or better yet, just don't mess with blorb. Just get down with the blorbness and start playing blorbily ior hippily.

    Cary isn't even here to explain how he runs the games. It's 1000% pointless for me to argue for or against it. And also IDC. If it's blorby, cool. If it's unblorby, it's one 90s game among millions.

    I'm interested in blorby games. How to make them better, how to make them more blorby, how to fix what's not good with them. Not nitpicking on unblorby games.

    Yes, we've heard so many awesome stories from that game but all the best beats have been blorby moments, emergent moments, moments of dice and circumstance. (And, yes, a small amount of unblorbiness—to what extent the game has unblorby elements, which IDK&IDC—is enough to make the whole game unblorby. It'd undermine the "tangibility". But that doesn't mean I can't recognize the blorby elements—the unexpected vampire turns, the axe tossing into BBEG—for the awesomeness that they are.)

    Paul, you've already managed to tear a wedge between me & Jay. Maybe an irreparable one. So there's no use for you trotting out that same horse for the 20th time. It's not even cruel anymore. It's just pointless.
  • http://big-model.info/wiki/Dysfunction ← put unblorbiness in here
  • Yeah, perhaps it’s best I back off from this topic.
  • Specifically trying to call down the wrath of 2097 on Jay&Cary or vice versa
  • Back to David's OP: We're having the same topic over at another forum rn, how some peeps are dissatisfied with the "⅚ chance of orcs roll per cave", how that makes the world feel "not there" for them. Since the world being "there" is the goal here, that's obv a criticism I want to take to heart.
  • edited July 16
    Sandra, you sometimes treat your model as a universal truth, and more recently as one pole of a binary structure. I distrust all such categorical statements. I've been spoken over on multiple occasions in these threads - not that I require redress, just observing it as a fact - and I think it's because I keep pointing to how we are looking at a spectrum - in fact not just a spectrum but a multidimensional field of spectra - including many important qualia besides "blorbistic realness." Some of these qualia are quite ephemeral, and different people will respond to them with different affect, even completely ignoring some and becoming hypersensitive to others.

    I dig and appreciate your blorb model, for what it is and within a specific territory, but I also think you're treading awfully close to that dangerous position Ron found himself in years ago, by cleaving so strongly to his own variety of modeled truth that he began insulting others and disregarding styles of play which fell outside or blurred the distinctions of his categorical structure. In a sense, whether or not he intended to offend isn't even the question, because the affects were real, and he takes shit for it to this day.

    You will need to accept, somewhere along the line, that the Virtual Field of Possible Ways In Which To Play is much larger than your model; that your model is only one possible way to code or territorialize the creative aspects of one particular type of game, not among two opposed poles, but among jillions of others, both existing and yet-to-exist. To resist that recognition is to commit "one true wayism." Fine at your table and fine for those who feel the same as you, but illogical, problematic, and counter-productive to others. Not just "hippies" but creative experimenteurs of many stripes.

    I say this with love. I'm fascinated by your model and I enthusiastically applaud your hermetic dedication to your form of the art. I've seen some very interesting things come out of these threads and I may even use some of these ideas in future works, but still I have no need to commit myself to one camp or another. I feel no need to narrow my definition of the Virtual Field to any particular strata or spectrum. You will never convince me to do that; to do so would nullify nearly every creative impulse I have relating to interactive, collaborative, and/or emergent fiction.

    And I suspect I'm not alone.

  • edited July 17
    Lots of stuff here to address already (sorry I haven't engaged with your posts yet, Tod), but before I forget, I wanted to add this into the mix:

    Although rolling a die can sometimes create a feeling of defining the gameworld on the spot, looking up a fact that's already been defined runs no such risk. So, perhaps one option is to play a game with standard die-size roll-on tables (e.g. d6), have the GM roll a zillion d6s before play and write down the results in sequence. Then, during play, just consult the next number in the sequence. That way no one at the table needs to watch a die-roll create fictional truths; instead they can watch the GM look up a fictional truth that was already true.

    This isn't foolproof. As a player, I would be happy to watch the GM look up a fact, but I would be less happy (on the "feels real" front) if I knew it was a randomly-rolled number that was only now being used to arbitrate reality via a table that could equally have yielded something else. I would prefer not knowing that. I would prefer opacity.

    This strikes me as a flaw, because transparency is great, and I'm loathe to create a system which requires its sacrifice.
  • edited July 17
    Tod,

    Well said! I agree, of course, with full endorsement, with everything you just wrote - and that include my total admiration for Sandra’s work and dedication to clarifying her own methods and creative goals. I couldn’t have said that better myself.

    Sandra,

    See above! I admire everything you do and I thank you for keeping story games alive and interesting, almost single handedly.

    The only thing I’m reacting to is your statements, which claim that other people’s roleplaying is not valid or wrong. But I’d rather have you around and engaging in conversations than not, so I’ll leave it at that.

    Dave,

    I think that the rolling of the die - making the act of randomization more or less naked or bare - is a very important aspect of how obvious the act of creation is at the table.

    However, there is (at least) one other consideration, which is how obvious the determination of a fictional fact is from prior fiction.

    For me, for something to seem truly “real” I’d want to know that its existence affected or shaped the nature of everything’s we’ve encountered until now. To know that the existence of, say, an Orc was just determined now, at the mouth of the cave, tells me that none of the material we’ve seen up to know was created with the awareness of that Orc.

    This creates a bit of a dilemma - do we hide our methods, making the act of creation as opaque as possible (as a Cult of the Mystery GM acolyte would do), or do we embrace transparency of method and accept that its limitations are simply part of the medium (as many randomization techniques do)?

    Perhaps there is a “third way” (or even a fourth, etc), but it’s not entirely obvious what that might be.
  • I like this conversation with David because it’s about a specific problem related to blorbiness and unblorbiness. It might productive and constructive and it’s about specific things.
    So, perhaps one option is to play a game with standard die-size roll-on tables (e.g. d6), have the GM roll a zillion d6s before play and write down the results in sequence. Then, during play, just consult the next number in the sequence.
    Some practical issues with this is that if the DM knows that a five is upcoming, does that alter how she runs the game? Now with a game that’s as codified as 2097e has become, I think that’s less of a problem. She doesn’t have a lot of leeway to “place” that five freely.

    Another issues is that even if it’s not just numbers. If it’s specific encounters, let’s say. I’m running Tomb of Annihilation and there’s this app out there that rolls up days in advance. Weather and encounters, with page number references. It looks like a great time saver but… I don’t want to know that the party is going to run into the Emerald Enclave in three days or whatever.

    I want the world to be living, I want to play to find out.

    This is something that some of my players have expressed even more strongly. We were getting bogged down in the hexcrawling and I was like “Can’t you guys just roll all three of the day’s encounters at once?” and they were like “no! Throwing away a future die result feels wrong!” (in hindsight, there’s another problem, too: knowing that an encounter is coming changes how you spend your resources, so we need to use information separation here (which is a technique that is possible because we have DM).

    I’ve asked them to roll damage along with the attack d20 many times and they refuse. They don’t want to “throw away a die result”. This one, unlike the encounters, I still think they’re wrong and I wish that they’d get with the program! (Not sure how to convince them!)
    That way no one at the table needs to watch a die-roll create fictional truths; instead they can watch the GM look up a fictional truth that was already true.
    In my mind, these die rolls are a very abstracted simulation of the living world, of the “ants” crawling around there.

    One of the principles of blorb is prep places, people, items, problems, even situations but not events. We don’t want a frozen future timeline.

    For two reasons:
    1. It’s just not good game design. We want to things to happen in play.
    2. We want an attitude towards prep that it’s immutable. Events by their very nature cannot be immutable. So prepping steers us towards a thinking & attitude that our prep is preliminary, just suggestions etc.
    The orcs are moving around from cave to cave, sometimes they’re in one cave, sometimes another. To me that’s interesting. The die rolls simulate their living.

    2-truths also allows us to combine deep prep with very wide prep. We might have this nice & crisp 1-true dungeon and then adjacent to it we have a bunch of 2-true caves.

    I don’t feel like the ⅚ chance of orcs is quantum, it’s not their existence we’re rolling for, it’s their presence.

    This is the question posed in your OP, David, and I’m very interested in it, I want to hear more.

    I am very unsatisfied with a GM that decides based on their own feel for the setting whether or not there are orcs. (I mean they are dangerous and obviously salient.) I obviously want the gloracle to decide it. You are unsatisfied with a die deciding it. What’s the way forward here?

  • Re transparency of method.
    Obviously when information separation enhances the game that's useful.
    But we never want, and never will, obfuscate method.
    "This method is a timesaver for me as GM but the players would reject it if they knew" well then obv don't use that method.

    Hidden rolls can be good, especially if there's a verification protocol in place (for example use playing cards and show the cards to the players after the game).
  • You're treading awfully close to that dangerous position Ron found himself in years ago, by cleaving so strongly to his own variety of modeled truth that he began insulting others and disregarding styles of play which fell outside or blurred the distinctions of his categorical structure.
    I couldn't agree more. It always saddens me when I see hostility towards Ron and his ideas on the web because I consider him an important thinker in the field of RPGs and a great teacher and it's painful - not to mention an impediment to constructive discussion - to see his ideas rejected out of hand because of the infamous "brain damage" episode (and a scant few other latter-day positions).
    I enthusiastically applaud your hermetic dedication to your form of the art. I've seen some very interesting things come out of these threads and I may even use some of these ideas in future works, but still I have no need to commit myself to one camp or another.
    I'll second this! I'm awed by your commitment and clarity, Sandra, and dig your ideas, but if you are hoping to see them disseminated you are doing them and yourself a disservice.

    I have renounced illusionism myself (Rant: Illusionism is lies, lies, lies.) and totally understand the desire to unequivocally call something that has at times made me very unhappy with my gaming "bad". However, I do not think this is an effective way of reaching out to people (except like-minded ones) and I am also worried that the pushback might hurt a sensitive person like you.

    Regarding effective communication, I would also like to recommend a slightly more positive wording to promote your Three Tiers of Truth: Having to go to Tier Three to create a new rule has often been labelled a "failure", one that will happen again and again. I understand that this is an integral and inevitable part of the process but as a teacher, I'd prefer to go with "you'll get better and better" (over "you'll fail less and less") or "one really cool thing about this process is that you'll refine your system over time and see it grow into a unique take on D&D (or whatever your starting point was)" or "designing and testing your own rules is a fun part of this approach" etc.

    Best wishes,

    Johann
  • edited July 17

    For me, for something to seem truly “real” I’d want to know that its existence affected or shaped the nature of everything’s we’ve encountered until now. To know that the existence of, say, an Orc was just determined now, at the mouth of the cave, tells me that none of the material we’ve seen up to know was created with the awareness of that Orc.
    Except it wasn't determined "just now." It was determined when you decided to put the orc as a potential result on the random table. "This cave is a place where orcs might be. We have to actually go there and look inside to determine whether they actually are there."

    That's part of why transparency of method is so important: it allows us to agree that the procedures we use in the game fit into our rational, causal model of how the game universe operates as part of the social contract, before we ever start playing, and which largely dissolves into the background during actual play.

    You don't have to (and probably shouldn't) wait until you roll and get "orcs" to suddenly retcon orcs into the setting. Hell, you can explicitly say that the cave is an orc base, and still roll to determine whether you actually encounter orcs there (and if you don't, well there is an implicit reason for their absence, even if you don't define it before hand).
  • Re backlash… it’s kinda cart before horse here. I am already getting flak, more than I can handle, and it has driven me a bit crazy. People say do you think my game would be better if it was blorby? how dare you? and what can I say when they ask that, but: YES!!?! I do believe that. I do genuinely believe that. Do I know that? Not really.
    Regarding effective communication, I would also like to recommend a slightly more positive wording to promote your Three Tiers of Truth: Having to go to Tier Three to create a new rule has often been labelled a “failure”, one that will happen again and again. I understand that this is an integral and inevitable part of the process but as a teacher, I’d prefer to go with “you’ll get better and better” (over “you’ll fail less and less”) or “one really cool thing about this process is that you’ll refine your system over time and see it grow into a unique take on D&D (or whatever your starting point was)” or “designing and testing your own rules is a fun part of this approach” etc.
    You’re right… when I teach meditation I’m always careful to be like “when you lose focus… don’t blame yourself! losing focus and then finding it again is the process”. Sometimes when I’ve described the three tiers I’m like “forgive yourself, dust yourself off” etc etc, kinda putting in some warm and kind words there.

    Speaking of it as failure (or even “better”) is iffy in that regard.

    Otoh, and now this is between you and me, Johann, behind the scenes talk here… it is unsatisfying play to have to engage the third tier. I’d rather come up with a principle that didn’t even have a need to sometimes have to do that. A better rule.

  • @yukamichi,

    That depends entirely on the design of the random procedure, and the way you use it in your game. It’s certainly possible to make those procedures more or less rooted in the world - if we already know that there is an orc hideout, and we’re just rolling to see if they’re “home” right now, then you’re absolutely right: most of this problem is avoided.

    However, that really limits us in the way we’re willing to use randomizers and random tables. (In this example, for instance, it means that our encounter table can only have some variation of “orcs” or “no orcs”!)

    More importantly, though, we still can’t consider or imagine the effects of the randomized outcome before we determine it. It’s easy to have glitches like “ok, there are... (rolling) 60 Orcs there!” - “And what are they doing?” - “let me roll here... oh, they’re singing Orc songs!” - “wait a minute... how could we not have heard that when we were above, by the chimney, earlier?” “Uhhhh...”

    If we’re using randomization to determine *what was already there*, we can’t avoid running into this problem *at some level*.

    On the other hand, if we can develop techniques and best practices that tell us WHEN to randomize outcomes and WHAT kinds of things we can randomize (or include on our random tables/potential results) so that we can avoid this kind of problem *most of the time*, that would already be something pretty great! Maybe we can get to some of that in this thread.

  • If the orcs are singing, roll from how far away you would hear them. That determines the distance. They are approaching the cave if the distance is too big. Maybe give a very small chance that they start singing right then and there and could thus be much closer.
  • edited July 17
    @Thanuir,

    That's exactly my point. Look at this way:
    If the orcs are singing, roll from how far away you would hear them.
    When we know that the Orcs are singing, we can do things like "roll from how far away you would hear them".

    However, when we are randomizing things, we are always in danger of creating circumstances that we didn't know about. The whole point of randomizing things is that the first part of your sentence (quoted above) is omitted from play until the dice are rolled; we can try to minimize that but we can't eliminate it.

    We roll the dice precisely because we don't know (and often don't want to know!) whether the Orcs are singing or not.
  • Player characters are entering the room. You roll that the orcs are singing. You ask for listening checks to figure out from how far away the player characters would have heard this. The result is 30 metres, but the room is only 20 meters wide. This implies that the orcs are moving towards the room (and are 10 metres away from it). You randomize which way they are coming from, if reasonable alternatives exist.
  • There are definitely die rolls that don't mess with my feeling of realism. Any roll to update an existing situation is usually pretty seamless. Any roll to resolve a genuine toss-up, likewise.

    So if we know there are orcs, and if we don't have any specific reasons to think they would or would not be singing, then a roll to see if they are is fine by me.

    A "you encounter either singing orcs or marching bugbears but not both" encounter table, on the other hand, would feel very not real.

    When I round a corner in a dungeon, I'd like a roll to simulate the intersection of (a) whatever's already going on in the dungeon in general with (b) my arrival at this spot in this instant. For that to work, IME, there needs to actually be something going on in the dungeon in general, and the roll possibilities need to reflect that. So I dunno about using the same tables for multiple dungeons, not unless there's an in-fiction reason why the same possibilities apply to those dungeons.

    A friend of mine has an interesting approach to this, with a series of nested tables simulating what belongs where. You enter a new hex on the map, you roll for general parameters, then roll within those results for some detail, then roll within those results for more detail, etc. Thus, in the sequence from "undefined" to "orcs right here right now" we have to pass through (e.g.) jungle, jungle with ancient ruins, ancient ruins used as temporary fort by marauders, marauders are humanoid, humanoids are orcs, orc goal is pillage, pillager disposition is celebratory. It's a nuisance for a GM to roll all that, so my friend taught his computer to do it.

    I have yet to see this produce any problems on the "feels real" front. The only problem is the amount of work he had to do up front.
  • Here's a thought. Every time player character exploration leads the group into a new location/situation, there's a roll to see what does exist and could be there, and then a second roll to see if that thing is there right now. So in a lot of cases, what happens is that (a) the GM finds out that orcs exist somewhere, but not right here right now, and (b) the player characters encounter nothing... yet. So for the GM, it's kinda like low-effort prep, prepping only what you need. Once you know there are orcs, then you do whatever you'd do if you'd prepped that there were orcs. As a player, I would have no problem with the second roll. The first roll, though... I'd still prefer not to know what it was. Hmm. Not sure if I've gotten us anywhere.

    When I GM, if I know there are orcs, I communicate to the players a dungeon with signs of orcs. So whenever the orcs are actually encountered, it makes sense. It fits. It feels real. A dungeon with orcs in it but no prior signs of orcs... doesn't necessarily feel un-real... but at best it feels like my character is exploring a highly random and chaotic environment.

    So if we assume that the GM is gonna be doing this presentation of a cohesive reality, then the random roll for orcs who exist but aren't here right now gets us that from that point forward. So that's good.

    But if we don't assume that, then no, I don't think I've gotten us anywhere.
  • You reminded me of what I call a "binary tree" (Eero calls it something else, IIRC): You think of the most likely thing and roll a "Yes/No" die. If you get a "No" you think of the next most likely thing and roll again, etc.

    This becomes a tree by adding levels of detail similar to the method you describe above.

    "Is it orcs?" (Yes.)
    "Are they camped?" (No.)
    "Are they hunting?" (No.)
    "Are they seeking treasure?" (No.)
    "Hm. Are they eating?" (No.)
    "Damn... Are they singing?" (Yes.)

    You roll as long as you need to, in order to understand what you're running. As you go, based on the mechanic and depending on your rolls, things get less and less likely in accordance with their oddness, but freakishly odd things are not totally out of the question.

  • Asif:

    You more or less just reinvented Mythic GM Emulator.
  • Yes, Eero has discussed his "50/50 technique" on Story Games before. For his tastes, he finds it sufficiently "hygienic", but I could see it failing to reach the "blorb standards" under other circumstances. I'm still undecided on it, myself, though I've used it for things like enemy tactics.

    (In such cases, I like to start with something obvious, then jump to something that's more-or-less the opposite of my initial idea, and so forth, again, with each step, but getting a little more extreme each time.)
  • When rolling for a random encounter, roll d6.
    1: Roll an encounter. That thing is coming towards you. (Possibly remove the encounter from the table if it is killed or move it to be the last on the table or some other manipulation.)
    2, 3: Roll an encounter. It does not happen; instead, some tracks or signs of it are encountered as dungeon dressing - tracks, victims, noises from afar, furniture destroyed or used by it, etc. It is up to the players to realize the significance of the signs or tracks and to notice them in the first place. Do not manipulate the encounter table unless players actually succeed at meeting the thing.
    4, 5, 6: Nothing special.

    If, when rolling signs or tracks, you cross-reference an encounter table from elsewhere or a generic encounter table, whatever you roll should be added to the local encounter table as a specific entry. It is here, now. Or maybe roll a die to see if it is still alive and active or not.
  • Exactly what Tod said. I've said something very similar a number of times. Beware value judgments on other methods of play and beware of "One True Wayism".

    Best,

    Jay
  • edited July 19
    If your randomizers are producing inconsistencies then you are using bad randomizers and/or using them badly. Which shouldn't be taken as an admonition, necessarily; like I pointed out earlier there are conflicting mindsets about what "real" is and they construct the context in which we see things.

    One thing that might cause this problem (and I'm not accusing anyone of this, but I think it's common) is to see randomizers as an end-run around prep, rather than something that needs to take into account the whole system and how/where they're going to be used; good randomizers might need just as much work put into designing them as that for a static, predefined world.

    A random encounter chart that we roll on once-per-day of overland travel can give us a result that allows a lot of room to frame how the results manifest. We can have singing orcs because we know that we'll be able to insert them somewhere within the larger picture of an entire day's travel. We might not be able to use the same chart during a tight, "every five feet could mean something new", in-dungeon exploration turn.

    I think part of what makes the use of randomizers this way feel "real" for that certain definition of real is the way in which they and their results become intimately tied to the concept of in-game space. This is probably what Sandra didn't get when she initially balked at the impossibility of "prepping every detail." The randomizer (and its result) expands to fill up every little bit of space that we give it; it offers us not just the monster we encounter, but entails all the other details necessary to make that encounter fit inside that space.

    It's true, from a blorb perspective this is probably treading on dangerous ground (but I'm also not a true blorbite, so it doesn't really bother me that much), because sometimes we might need to invent salient Tier-3 truths on the fly to fill that space. But in a sense it might also be part of overcoming that problem; the gloracle is glorious, she humbles us with her knowledge of things we never even knew we didn't know, and being forced to accept unfailingly what she says in the moment removes the tendency we have to preemptively correct what we think might be/become errors (note that here I might be taking the position that the game state cannot have errors, we can only be mistaken in attempting to subject it to our own fallible rational interpretations; but that's probably another conversation altogether). Again, it's all about disclaiming, as irrational as that may be, our own control over what we encounter. This is Czege for the world.

    In-the-moment creation spawns a sense of wonder and discovery, continually reorienting us to our avatars' own experiences of the dangerous and the fantastic and the uncertain in the same way that the initiative roll or the spicy die bring our focus into the here and now of the game. It also brings the GM closer the same level as the other players, something that is socially important and helps avoid the pitfalls of authority that plagued RPG culture in That Decade That Shall Not Be Named. The further we distance ourselves from the moment of creation, the more spark has gone out of it; are we not just interacting with the husks of the GMs outdated inspiration?
  • i love the gloracle so much
  • edited July 21
    Hello,

    I feel obligated that note that as @yukamichi had noted in passing that Spicy Die play (Mythic Bricolage) is very effective at facilitating "experiences of the dangerous and the fantastic and the uncertain" as any other mode (CA) of play. Myth is supremely focused on structure (read - normalizing the world and how it works) while also creating a contextual framework to make sense of objective reality. It is neither blorb or story or Gamist or Narrativist. It is meaning/reality creation at its most raw. This is not an argument for "One True Way " at all. We see many players having great games playing in various CA's. That's one of the great things about this hobby is that it is so diverse - there is no "One True Way". If there is one thing that is trumpeted loudly, if at times coarsely, is that we all fit under one tent - we all love role-playing. There is no place for implied degradation of other CA's or other forms of play no matter how prettily dressed in fancy words. If someone has found a way to play that is wildly successful for them then I'm all for the sharing of the good news. Welcome to the tent! There should no effort at pushing others out.

    That being said and going back to the OP - from my particular gaming experiences I find that interacting directly with the ... er ... fiction without a layer of abstraction (or minimizing it as much as functionally possible) in between creates the greatest sense of "reality." IOW the fiction is the reality we are in - with minimal references to abstractions. Maybe this doesn't work for others and that's just fine. I just want to make sure that this third way is heard and given a voice at the table.

    Ultimately the problem with discussing the idea of "realness" is that it is an internal subjective state of mind. There might be best practices with in a given CA but ultimately it's up to the individual to make that subjective shift.

    Best,

    Jay
  • Maybe one of the hardest problems with discussing "Technical Agendas" is that they are often attempts to create a holistic narrative out of what are otherwise individual arbitrary techniques that some people just happened to find play well together.

    Correct me if I'm wrong, but doesn't Cary's Game allow for truly exceptional results to change things the players thought they know about the game? Like really high damage rolls might actually result in a change in a character's strength score? (I apologize if I'm mis-remembering or mis-attributing this.)

    If that's the case, that's another example of the gloracle revealing to us that we were wrong about something we thought we knew all along. Different conceptions of "real," different creative agendas, but the same technique finds a home in both.

    And while personally I think that's part of what makes these discussions cool, it can also make talking about them difficult. You can never be too sure how much of your own "coherent technical bliss" will overlap with somebody else's.
  • edited July 21
    Hi @yukamichi,
    If that's the case, that's another example of the gloracle revealing to us that we were wrong about something we thought we knew all along. Different conceptions of "real," different creative agendas, but the same technique finds a home in both.

    And while personally I think that's part of what makes these discussions cool, it can also make talking about them difficult. You can never be too sure how much of your own "coherent technical bliss" will overlap with somebody else's
    That is the big bugaboo. Focusing on techniques was the big failing of the Three Fold Model. It led to tribalism and the denying of the modes of play as degenerate or incorrect. What turned out to be a functional choice was to reconceptualize roleplay theory with a level of Exploration (hence we are all engaged in roleplay despite the difference in our individual Techniques) and Creative Agendas which helps explain the why and what we are actually doing at the table. The problem is that a group of Techniques can be employed by all three CAs. This leads to the problems of dysfunction among players if they have different CAs even if they are all sitting at the same table employing the same Techniques. Focusing on Techniques without taking into consider the CA they are supposed to help support is, to me, a fruitless exercise. We can have a Gamist player, a Narrativist player and a Simulationist player all playing 5e. They are all using the same Techniques but it probable that only the Gamist player that has a good chance of being happy. However even if the Gamist player is content with what the GM is presenting he will probably be frustrated with the actions of the other players. Same techniques but dysfunctional table. Talking Techniques is an excellent topic for discussion when talking about designing a specific game or discussing how well they functioned in the post mortem of a game session. Not so good when talking role-play theory.
    Correct me if I'm wrong, but doesn't Cary's Game allow for truly exceptional results to change things the players thought they know about the game? Like really high damage rolls might actually result in a change in a character's strength score? (I apologize if I'm mis-remembering or mis-attributing this.)

    If that's the case, that's another example of the gloracle revealing to us that we were wrong about something we thought we knew all along. Different conceptions of "real," different creative agendas, but the same technique finds a home in both.
    As has been explained to me the Gloracle is a grouping of Techniques which give near absolute authority to Very Detailed Game Prep and Ironclad rules. If this is relatively close to the mark then what we play fails the definition of both accounts.

    What we play is a watered down form of Myth creation. There are no deterministic rules but there are normative structures that are derived from the Myth. I know that in big games the GM will do prep but its strong on NPCs and their motivations. He might work on what we call Bangs to get the game moving in a certain direction with the emphasis on moving and less so on the direction. Rarely is much thought given to structures unless a structure is likely to be a central or important part of play. Much thought however is given to which PCs are going to be in the night's game and why they are there. Each one will have his own reasons for being in the scenario which would be in line with each individual's character history and current character trajectory. IOW it's neither random nor capricious. The GM considers what the thinks the players might do when faced by certain circumstances but there is no preborn plot. The motto is Strong Characters, light plot - which any PC can walk out of anytime that is it makes sense for the character to do so.

    In play, as far as "rules" go they are, primarily, stay in character, never denigrate another players play, never contact another player during combat, no cheating on the die rolls, 1 are always called as 1's despite relevant applicable skills, same with natural 20's, low is bad higher is good, 1's and 20's are radical changes to circumstance/fate. There is a bit of what might be called "crunch" to our combat but even here the results are not deterministic. Every roll is run through the myth via Bricolage.
    Correct me if I'm wrong, but doesn't Cary's Game allow for truly exceptional results to change things the players thought they know about the game? Like really high damage rolls might actually result in a change in a character's strength score?
    Sometimes he does but there is no "rule" (deterministic or otherwise) for that. The normative action of myth as it applies to the moment guides the creative choice. More specifically this change of strength happens not with damage rolls but when 20's are rolled on a D20 and the circumstances allow for logical possibility that this might happen. A PC sitting at a general store rolling 3 natural 20's isn't going to result in an increase of Strength but if the PC is trying to life something that is clearly beyond his strength but not impossibly beyond what his strength roughly indicates and rolls 3 natural 20's then Cary might award checks in STR. The question becomes, does it feel appropriate to the reality of the world? If it is reality breaking then no. Here's the real kicker in this example, Strength does not directly map into the fiction. A PC can no more know how much he can lift in exact pounds than you or I would at any given moment. Maybe we can bench press 250 lbs but that doesn't mean we can do that all the time. Even more relevant is that bench press is only using a very limited number of muscles. What about other kinds of strength? What about dead lifting or the strength of the hands to hold the weight that the arms can lift? What about the strength of the legs? How is all this summed up in one simple number? The simple answer is that it can't. So we look at what's going in the fiction, look at what's happened in the past, the present state of the character and make a best possible projection. I've seen a dwarf crush rocks in his hand but no human however strong could match that. All this is the normative power of myth. It doesn't dictate but we can't contradict - unless there is good reason. And so the myth grows as does its normative effects. Myth understands that it is not exact but rather good enough is good enough. However keep in mind that myth, real myth (not the Greek myths or the Viking Eddas and Sagas) as employed by pre-literate tribal societies structures their lives and their understanding of reality. IOW it gives meaning to their lives and establishes their map of reality. Both things that we are looking for in an RPG - meaning and structure. It's just not the western engineering method of literate cultures. It's a different finger pointing to the same moon.

    In conclusion I would argue very strongly that we don't play by the Gloracle. Nor are we playing to create Story. Such abstractions are in direct conflict with myth. It might be argued that what we are doing is creating more myth via Bricolage. That is - from a supremely subjective POV we are creating more meaning and more reality via Bricolage. None of this comes from mechanics.

    Best,

    Jay
  • Great post, Jay! Well said.
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