Writing up Eero's Primordial D&D

edited February 2014 in Story Games
Eero, even if you don't actually write that book, I'd be down to chat about what it might look like. I've been pondering how to efficiently communicate this stuff myself for a long while. Any interest?
Oh, we can talk about it, of course. Not today, though, I've got deadlines I should be attending to. Feel free to start a thread if you're interested in some creative speculation, and I'll come in with my thoughts when I have the time.
I've taken it on myself to mediate this discussion and get the ball rolling generally. A bit of context here: dotted around this forum and across the web our very own Eero has been describing his method of playing OSR D&D which as been tentatively coined as "Primordial D&D." This version of everyone's childhood favourite isn't so much a hack as a play-philosophy for the Dungeon Master heavily based on fictional positioning to resolve conflicts and a verbalised, ephemeral set of "rulings." Eero's writings are informative on a range of OSR subjects and make an enlightening read for anyone interested in D&D.

[Currently away from my own computer with all the bookmarked threads/blog pages on the subject - if anyone has them that'd help.]

There are a few of us who'd like to encourage Eero to compile these separate texts into an easily accessible whole for the community. A .pdf or a dedicated webpage, even. There's some discussion that needs to take place about potential aims and content and so on.

Hopefully this thread can get started with general questions/conjecture about what a potential project of this sort might include and Eero can drop some answers in when he gets the time, answering questions he finds edifying and ignoring those that miss the point like a benign lecturer of Ludology. :D

- Mike.
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Comments

  • edited February 2014
    In some PD&D discussions, it's been useful to reference the goals and ethos behind the specific techniques in question. This leads me to wonder if a hierarchical or structural breakdown would be best. For example, Apocalypse World's Agenda/Principles/Moves. Would that be a good way to organize a description of the PD&D play style? I definitely see Agendas at one end, and a barrel of Stuff you Do When X Happens + Stuff You Do Whenever It Seems Productive at the other end. At the in-between level, I think there's something like Principles, but different from AW's -- more about process and rulings and communicating these, and less about narration and aesthetics, perhaps? Anyway, that's one model we could try.

    Another approach could be to create a hierarchy of dependent procedures and achievements. Top level: get on the same page about purpose of play; here's how. Next level: having agreed on purpose of play, agree on general ethos for getting there; here's that ethos. Next level: given that ethos, here's how we negotiate fictional matters of strategic interest in general. Next level: given that, here's how we deal with entering combat (etc.).
  • edited February 2014
    I think that the first question is whether this text is a game-text with instructions for groups to run an OSR game in Eero's methodology or whether its a primer of sorts simply laying out alternative "best practice" kinda way of interpreting OSR texts. Could be both, of course, but we're busy bees here. Though I'd love to see some adventure modules being written (rewritten) to take into account the more verbal nature of a "primordial" game.
    between level, I think there's something like Principles, but different from AW's -- more about process and rulings and communicating these, and less about narration and aesthetics, perhaps?
    "Positioning" perhaps? I think that's the term used to describe the process-rules-communication nexus going on in play.

    - Mike.
  • Some basis for discussion:
    1) I cannot commit to a writing project of this extent myself for the foreseeable future. I don't mind participating in forum discussions and such, as they're a much quicker thing, basically just a pastime. So any writing project isn't really going to be done by me, right now.
    2) I don't have anything against it if somebody else wants to write on the topic, or edit an anthology of D&D theory, or whatever. I don't own ideas (nobody should, in my opinion), and there basically isn't a downside to it if you want to put together something coherent on this topic.

    Predicated upon the above, I could see it as entirely realistic a pastime for anybody to whip together something like Matt Finch's quick primer to old school. I don't agree with everything Finch writes, theory-wise, but I am fond of the idea of a cheap, self-consistent little booklet that acts as an artistic program and technical model that people can reflect against when developing their own play practice.

    Regarding David's question about pedagogical structure, I am myself fond of analytical modeling of the roleplaying process - probably too fond for most people. The way I usually teach my D&D (when teaching it to prospective GMs and such, I mean - casual participation in play doesn't require that much theory, you just need to be willing to go with the flow until you figure out whether you enjoy this) relies on creative agenda first, technical strategy second, procedural approach third, practical hygienic principles of play as the fourth layer of instruction, and finally practical tradition of rules and rulings last. Here's what I mean by these topics:

    Creative Agenda: understanding and communicating with the group about the artistic goals of the enterprise. These goals, as I've described elsewhere, are best summed as tackling a compelling fantasy world, recognizing opportunity for adventure, identifying challenges involved, and then figuring out how these challenges may be resolved. The pay-off is the satisfaction of success or the bitter pathos of defeat brought about by the combination of clever decision-making and resolving the fictional events with flair. It's a real dynamic process in the sense that nobody's fudging, nobody's planning the outcome, everything's happening as just as real an interaction as in any boardgame, except that we have an infinite variety of moves available in all their subtle nuances thanks to the game being set in a shared imagined space instead of on a gameboard.

    Technical strategy: given that creative agenda, how do we go about construing of a roleplaying game to tackle it? The D&D answer has certain cornerstone elements that I like to call strategic - not in the sense of in-play strategy, but rather in the sense of designing the game. These strategic cornerstones include basic things like setting management, the player/GM divide (why and how it exists), the party paradigm, the notion of "adventurer" as a thing the player characters are, the notion of even having a single player character, stable-based play, player-chosen campaign arc, sandboxing strategy, classes and levels, experience points as a measure of success, action simulation relying on saving rolls/armor class/hitpoints (without their mechanical details being considered yet at this level). There are probably some others as well, but you see what I mean: this big picture of what D&D looks like, roughly, guides us in setting up the details.

    Procedural approach: after going through the technical strategy, I teach procedure: how to start a session, how to run character generation, how to discover and negotiate challenges, how to hexcrawl, how to map dungeons, how to pay for logistical expenses, how to handle encumbrance, how to develop procedures and introduce game mechanics as the game proceeds, all in accordance with the creative agenda and the basic technical strategy of the game.

    Hygienic principles: given the above we pretty much have a game. Not much detail yet, but we can loan something from the next step to illustrate this one. When I play D&D I find that both the players and GM have a massive amount of formal freedom in how they act (in the sense that nobody else has a real veto on many things you do; if you really want to even after a discussion, you can do it), but not all actions are equally useful in maintaining the ethos and legitimacy of play. I could talk about game balance at this stage, but I prefer calling the best practices "hygienic", because I often construe of what we're attempting to do as a sort of polishing of our joint campaign into an ever-more accomplished piece of creative work, driven by the purity of the creative vision. "Unhygienic" practices are lazy habits brought in from other games with conflicting goals, while "hygienic" practices are consciously chosen ways of acting that generally help us stay within the design purview of the game. Very much like washing your hands regularly. This is practically the same theoretical order of thing as Apocalypse World MC'ing principles, and includes things like "maintain IC/OOC division" and "only exceptional NPCs get to have levels" and "roll dice openly" (not fudging is not a hygienic principle, it's already mandated by the creative agenda), and so on.

    The mechanical tradition: in practice I most likely end up drawing on this level of detail all the time while explaining the above, but analytically speaking everything else comes first, and the game mechanical rules and rulings can only be evaluated in the light of the above structural layers. I often just tell the interested parties to read a couple of D&D game texts to see the similarities and differences. I might take up something like say the evolution of the saving throw mechanics, or how healing hitpoints works, as examples of the mechanical richness of the tradition. The important thing here is understanding that there is no direct flow of guaranteed bliss connecting any given game mechanic to that creative agenda at the top of the list; it's the procedure of adopting and adapting rules that keeps the campaign on target.

    That breakdown could probably use some work (as always, I'm just streamlining thought directly onto the forum here), and I'm not that convinced that it's an useful way to think about this topic for others; I'm hella abstract as a thinker, so even if I construe of what I'm doing in rouhgly those terms myself (even when I'm not thinking about it explicitly in words), it's not a given that anybody else would feel themselves any smarter or better equipped with that sort of construct. Most people I meet want to just play D&D instead of attempting to realize the Platonic principles of the universal game behind the immediate detail :D
  • edited February 2014
    Interesting. From what I've seen in Eero's discussions I think starting with something like agenda and principles would be ideal but rather than specific moves it would get down to the process of negotiating the rules. Once you have those the specifics of what gets decided and how creates itself really. You dont really need the individual moves if you know how to create them based on what's happening in the game and how the players can agree on that.

    Edit: Ha xposted with Eero.
  • Most people I meet want to just play D&D instead of attempting to realize the Platonic principles of the universal game behind the immediate detail :D
    If we were "most people" we wouldn't be on this forum, guy. Platonic subtexts are grists for our mills, yo.
    1) I cannot commit to a writing project of this extent myself for the foreseeable future.
    You make me sad. But it's understandable. :) It's not like we could pressure you into writing a book, right? Maybe, as you suggest, including some of it in a broader OSR writing anthology could be a more viable idea. I certainly have a few hundred words in me on the indispensability and legacy of character sheets. Would that be a more appealing project, or are you simply too busy for any "formal" writing of this sort?

    I'm going to let others jump on the body of you response before I offer up my thoughts - I really like the 4 categories though. The notion of "technical strategy" never occurred to me before.
  • Hey, you should totally write this book yourself, Mike. I don't think you really need me as a cat's paw. If the topic is of interest, surely you have what it takes to smash some words together. I would be happy to help with the details in any such project, if you wanted to debate the substantial issues or anything; I imagine that I wouldn't be the only one, either.

    I am fond of the idea of an OSR anthology of theory and rules-craft, it's something that we've been fiddling with in the Finnish scene. It's a format that allows everybody to establish their own base assumptions, and focus on the things they find most interesting to talk about. It also emphasizes the richness of possibilities and the range of practice in the hobby instead of being massively dogmatic and didactic like I can just imagine a book written by myself to be. Sort of like Fight On! the fanzine, which I've always admired for possessing just these qualities, except a bit more ambitious in scope and permanency.
  • A cat's paw? I'm not sure what this expression means exactly but I like it. Personally, I don't really have the rigorous attention to detail required to edit/manage the compilation of an anthology - there are surer hands that I'm certain would be more suited to this particular tiller. Simply put, I just don't have enough experience with OSR materials to take an authorative stance (being in my twenties kinda precludes me from that too, right? Very much the latter-day convert.) and I think smashing words together is the thing most likely to alienate any community we'd want to draw into this thing. Debate, however, I'm totally down for. I think we've already started.
  • Eh, I'm 32 myself and the first D&D played for more than one session (and without considering it a primitive waste of time) was the 3rd edition. If we're looking for old school lifestyle credentials here, I'm definitely out :D
  • Almost everything that made me think I could actually enjoy this style of gaming again came from reading Eero's posts on OSR, and I've had a great time since - designed my own game, run and played a bunch in this style now, and advocated heavily for it among those of my playing friend who I though might enjoy it. At very least collecting the commentary is entirely called-for.
  • edited February 2014
    Almost everything that made me think I could actually enjoy this style of gaming again came from reading Eero's posts on OSR.
    Samesies!! We should make up some t-shirts..!

    But seriously, there's a commonality of experience here. Weird. Maybe you and I should talk about collaborating on some kind of anthology project? Or at least start up an online primordial gaming circle nice an casual like.
    If we're looking for old school lifestyle credentials here, I'm definitely out :D
    Awwwwhaa-?
    No, actually I'm not surprised: no one who had participated in the first D&D cultures (/playstyles/burh) could talk the way you do. Do you reckon that separation of generational experience has formed two branches in the OSR (those who witnessed christ's wounds/johnny-come-latelys)?



  • No, actually I'm not surprised: no one who had participated in the first D&D cultures (/playstyles/burh) could talk the way you do. Do you reckon that separation of generational experience has formed two branches in the OSR (those who witnessed christ's wounds/johnny-come-latelys)?
    Interesting question. My experience is that the actual "OSR people" (that is, people who self-identify as, or are widely identified as, OSR contributors) tend to be long-time D&D gamers. Some have dropped old editions when the 3rd came up (or started playing other games altogether in the late '90s, almost always trad but sometimes Forgite indies) and then returned to their old ways, while others are genuine dinosaurs that've continued playing in their old ways all through the '90s and '00s. Relatively few, however, are old enough to have been gaming in the '70s or early '80s. Some certainly are, but a significant section of the vocal, experimental OSR folks started gaming in the late '80s. Most are a bit older than e.g. I am, but not much.

    (Realistically speaking the biggest reason for why I'm so relatively non-exposed to D&D is that I'm Finnish, and the rpg demographics here are quite different in some ways compared to the American field. In the early '90s when I started gaming the Finnish rpg scene was just blooming, and the division between our significantly Chaosium-fueled trad, simulationistic, GM-celebrating, plot-oriented ways and the red box D&D tribe were pretty significant. My own impression is, and others have corroborated, that patches of the Finnish landscape at the time were conquered by either D&D or the trad cluster of games, and it was quite common for a given gamer to never realize that the other sort of games were actually played to any degree. I for example never met an operating D&D group before moving to Helsinki for my university studies, it was all about '80s trad gaming classics up in Upper Savo in my youth.)

    As for how the age applies to things, I'd say that sometimes there are signs in the OSR discourse of geriatric authority plays - e.g. people insisting that they know better because they "were there", stuff like that. And then there are young people who sometimes cross the streams by bringing in ideas and content and attitudes from newer sources. I would not personally term these as serious branches of the phenomenon, but I've talked with some OSR people who do - even people who think that the "OSR" is actually just a subset of old school D&D gaming nowadays, and that the more conservative wing of the scene isn't OSR at all, because being OSR is about returning to the game (as opposed to having played it all along), self-publishing, overturning the corporate TSR concerns, pushing D&D away from corporate "D&D fantasy" genre, and stuff like that. I'm not that convinced about this myself because to me it seems that the most dyed-in-the-wool "I only play authentic TSR modules" gamer is still basically doing the same stuff that somebody like e.g. Zak Smith (to pick an example of a youthful and experimental OSR guy who isn't afraid to mix rules systems and doesn't particularly mythologize TSR and put it on a pedestal) is. Could be that I'm just not close enough to it to understand the distinction.

    Perhaps the biggest feature of the generational experience is that many people who were gaming in the '70s often emphasize the ahistorical or revisionist nature of the OSR - that it wasn't like that when they were gaming, at least in their immediate personal environment. This is something you mostly hear from people who aren't themselves participating in the OSR, naturally enough. I wouldn't term this a very interesting generational feature, though, as the vast majority of the interesting and productive OSR people don't seem to particularly care about whether their playstyle is authentic. This uncaring attitude is just fine with me, as I don't personally have a horse in the race when it comes to what roleplaying was like in the '70s - I'm a strict functionalist who researches the old ways to find fresh perspectives and ideas, not to seek some sort of legitimacy for what I'm doing now. And as I indicated, that's true in my experience of practically everybody actually playing old school D&D nowadays. In this regard the myth that OSR is "about" historical legitimacy is sort of similar to the myth that the Forge is all about narrativist story games :D


  • Samesies!! We should make up some t-shirts..!

    But seriously, there's a commonality of experience here. Weird. Maybe you and I should talk about collaborating on some kind of anthology project? Or at least start up an online primordial gaming circle nice an casual like.
    I know a t-shirt guy....
  • edited February 2014
    I know a t-shirt guy....
    "I visited Fantasy Holland and all I got was this lousy t-shirt."

    Perhaps the biggest feature of the generational experience is that many people who were gaming in the '70s often emphasize the ahistorical or revisionist nature of the OSR - that it wasn't like that when they were gaming, at least in their immediate personal environment. This is something you mostly hear from people who aren't themselves participating in the OSR, naturally enough. I wouldn't term this a very interesting generational feature, though, as the vast majority of the interesting and productive OSR people don't seem to particularly care about whether their playstyle is authentic. This uncaring attitude is just fine with me, as I don't personally have a horse in the race when it comes to what roleplaying was like in the '70s - I'm a strict functionalist who researches the old ways to find fresh perspectives and ideas, not to seek some sort of legitimacy for what I'm doing now. And as I indicated, that's true in my experience of practically everybody actually playing old school D&D nowadays. In this regard the myth that OSR is "about" historical legitimacy is sort of similar to the myth that the Forge is all about narrativist story games :D
    I think this hits the nail on the head, that perhaps there never really was any commonality of experience between different play-groups prior to the internet other than those that can be attributed to common-sense interpretations of the rules-as-written. Maybe I'm flattering myself (and my generational cohort) by saying "Oh, well, my experience is totally valid too" - even if my futureborn nature means I never participated in the original cultural milieu in which D&D began. I like that though, gives me confidence to DM and to make players enthusiastic.

    (I'm actually British. The trad gaming scene here was (and probably remains, the rise of M:tG notwithstanding,) dominated by Games Workshop and Warhammer products. It's through that early 90s, high-octane, metalapocalypse imagery that I got my first call to RPGs although it wouldn't be until University that I got inducted into 4e and have since been working my way back through the D&D generations, chasing some dream-aesthetic/method of play that felt right. Tell you what, reading AD&D after reading 3.0e is a real eye-opener.

    --

    Ok, seeing as anyone who's made it this far down the thread probably has a pretty strong interest in the OSR and a potential primordial play-style I'm going to make you all an offer: I'm thinking of running a D&D game online at least for a single session maybe more if we think it's going somewhere. I'll need to do some research as to what video tools/sites work best but I'd really like to get some actual play down so I got some hard data to draw on and hopefully generate some thoughts on play.

    Would anyone be interested in something like this?

    B/X D&D would probably be my prime kick-off point if that's information you'd want to know going in?


  • Yeah, I could be up for this. No OSR experience as such, but I'm well-versed in the discussion around it, and have played most editions of D&D at some point (exceptions: Holmes, Moldavy, 4th and Next).

    NB I'm in the UK too.
  • I guess I could play online, but it'd pretty much depend on localized micro-fluctuations in my own schedule at this point. In fact I could run a game, too, for the same trouble (although most of the stuff I've been working on campaign-wise lately is somewhat specialized taste-wise). Neither'd be doable right this weekend due to excessive amounts of work taking all the time, but realistically speaking there are less hag-ridden spans in the ol' calendar, so it's at least possible to consider it this spring.
  • @d.anderson: I'd be interested in the game you designed, if you are willing to share. :)

    This sentiment extends to any other efforts as well. I'm entranced whenever I hear about mechanical (seeming or otherwise) ideas expressed in Eero's D&D posts.
  • edited February 2014
    Although I doubt an online session or two will contribute much to general writing about a play style, it does sound like fun. I'm in America, but nocturnal, so my schedule might line up with y'all. Consider me interested!
  • edited February 2014
    I'll join in on this as well, although scheduling may be difficult (I'm not quite as nocturnal as David_Berg, although more so than many people I know!).

    To the purpose of this thread:

    I think that it would be very interesting to try to reverse engineer Eero's D&D from his various posts on it. Anyone up to the challenge? He's written more about his game than would fill a typical rulebook already, it's just matter of collecting the material and figuring out which bits need to go with which other bits.

    Knowing Eero, I suspect he'll keep jumping in to clarify things, as well, as he has started doing in this thread. I'm pretty sure (correct me if I'm wrong, Eero!) that it's not the writing itself which is a stumbling block: Eero just doesn't want to commit to any kind of project or the need to edit/revise and come up with a final product at a high level of quality.

    (On a sidenote, and I'm sorry if this is getting repetitive - I've posted this a number of times now - but there is a great Actual Play thread about a group discovering this style of gaming, very deliberately, and with the rationale behind it carefully laid out, on RPG.net. I wrote a little about it in this thread. It's not quite as interesting as Eero's reports, but it's a good second source!)
  • (If you ARE trying to compile various rules from Eero's game here, he wrote quite a lot about the way combat is handled in another thread I started which may not come up on some kind of Eero-centric search. I'll drop a link HERE just in case that's of interest.)
  • Knowing Eero, I suspect he'll keep jumping in to clarify things, as well, as he has started doing in this thread. I'm pretty sure (correct me if I'm wrong, Eero!) that it's not the writing itself which is a stumbling block: Eero just doesn't want to commit to any kind of project or the need to edit/revise and come up with a final product at a high level of quality.
    That's pretty much the case. As I've explained, it's a matter of the work ethic - it's not that I wouldn't enjoy writing up a book about a style of gaming that I've been doing a lot lately, it's just that committing the serious working hours that it'd take to develop a product that I'd want to publish under my own byline would be away from other actual commitments I've made for my time. It's not a situation that I'm exactly happy with, but for the time being it is what it is.
  • Ah! Glad my guess wasn't too far off the mark. Thanks!
  • edited February 2014
    The way I usually teach my D&D . . . relies on creative agenda first, technical strategy second, procedural approach third, practical hygienic principles of play as the fourth layer of instruction, and finally practical tradition of rules and rulings last.
    I don't see why that wouldn't be a viable textual approach. Let's give it a shot:

    Point of play:

    Identify challenging opportunities and apply your wits and skills to achieve as much as you can.

    Basic tools and context:

    • The opportunities and challenges are provided by an imagined fantasy world.
    • The fantasy world is presented and impartially arbitrated by a referee.
    • The referee's job is to invest in seeing how the players do with what they're given (without fudging!).
    • The players are a team.
    • The player's toolkit includes:
    - a single Adventurer character with many game-defined capabilities, different from the other players' characters
    - various means to assess the imagined situations (interpersonal as well as via their character)
    - a nearly infinite array of options — the only absolute limits on character behavior are imposed by the fictional space they inhabit
    • Adventurers are always focused on adventuring (you can imagine their lives beyond that, but they won't show up in play).
    • When Adventurers try to do certain things, their capabilities will be applied to dice rolls to determine success.
    • The more that Adventurers achieve, the more capable they become, and the more grandiose their feasible challenge options become.

    Principles for rules and rulings:

    D&D's rules do not come close to covering every important thing you can and will do in play, so some principles are necessary for the group to agree on how play proceeds most of the time.

    • When uncertain how best to proceed, refer to the Point of play and Basic context, above.
    - The ref may lead the conversation, but everyone has an equal voice. Pay special heed to anyone with experience in this game, and give special skepticism to experience from other games with different agendas.
    • Established fiction is an absolute constraint. If either the imagined world or a rule must give, the rule gives.
    - This does not mean the ref's first word is always law. Refs are fallible and the players' judgment of the fiction matters too.
    • Rules are there to connect the Point of play to the situation of the moment. Always do whatever best serves that purpose, even if it means breaking, changing, or ignoring a rule.
    - If any of your adjustments wind up being applied more than once, congrats, you've added a rule!

    (This section is currently too vague to be applied in practice. Eero, any more usable articulations come to mind?)

    Principles for the referee-player interaction:

    • Have options ready. The ref needs to bring multiple modules or other sources of challenging content to the table.
    • Opt out as a strategic choice.
    - Players should not adopt poor risk/reward propositions "because they're there". A better option is never far off.
    • Establish the particulars of a situation before taking action (ref should both volunteer info and answer questions). Examples:
    - share info about a mission before the PCs sign up for it
    - share info about a dangerous room before the PCs enter it
    - share info about a monster before the PCs enter combat with it
    • Roll dice openly.
    • Players don't get to do any ref tasks; the ref doesn't get to play any of the PCs.

    (The rest is just me jotting down categories to be filled in later.)

    Procedural approach:
    how to start a session
    how to run character generation
    how to discover and negotiate challenges
    how to hexcrawl
    how to map dungeons
    how to pay for logistical expenses
    how to handle encumbrance

    Rules:
    This is D&D's job.
    saving rolls
    armor class
    hitpoints
    experience points
    levels
    spells
    combat

    Best Practices:
    • Maintain IC/OOC division.
    • Only exceptional NPCs get to have levels.

    Not sure where these belong:
    setting management
    stable-based play
    player-chosen campaign arc
    sandboxing strategy
  • Although I doubt an online session or two will contribute much to general writing about a play style, it does sound like fun. I'm in America, but nocturnal, so my schedule might line up with y'all. Consider me interested!
    Fair enough, but I'll just unpack my reasons for wanting to play a bit and hopefully it'll explain what I think the purpose of play is.

    -To see if we can resemble Eero's game procedurally just going on what we've gleaned from all his separate reports.
    -To create an actual-play report that can be evaluated in regards to the above and provide a kick-off point for more discussion.
    -Foster a playgroup that's invested in this style of play - an in-house OSR thinktank if you will - that can be reasonably relied on too continue enthusiastic discussion and advance ideas generated there into play. Praxis is essential, yo.
    -Be awesome together, make friends, have cool conversations and play games.

    Ok, so far I've got Rob, Eero, David, Paul and myself (Mike) as Dungeon Master. Very willing to take more but I think we've enough players to try take a stab at it. I'm thinking I'll run next Sunday about mid-afternoon (GMT) so hopefully people'll be free and able to play whatever their timezone. I'm sure we'll work something out.

    I'll get down to digging up some modules and drawing up a dungeon level or two for the party to stomp around. If it goes well and we agree on more play I'll get onto the sandbox. I might write up the prep experience and include it in the Actual Play report.

    Not sure where these belong:
    setting management
    stable-based play
    player-chosen campaign arc
    sandboxing strategy
    I think these belong in a section describing technical strategy.

  • Ok, so far I've got Rob, Eero, David, Paul and myself (Mike) as Dungeon Master. Very willing to take more but I think we've enough players to try take a stab at it. I'm thinking I'll run next Sunday about mid-afternoon (GMT) so hopefully people'll be free and able to play whatever their timezone. I'm sure we'll work something out.
    Should work for me, I'll let you know if something comes up. I can also referee stuff at short notice if it becomes pertinent.

    What are the online tools of choice? Google Hangouts?
    Principles for rules and rulings:

    D&D's rules do not come close to covering every important thing you can and will do in play, so some principles are necessary for the group to agree on how play proceeds most of the time.

    • When uncertain how best to proceed, refer to the Point of play and Basic context, above.
    - The ref may lead the conversation, but everyone has an equal voice. Pay special heed to anyone with experience in this game, and give special skepticism to experience from other games with different agendas.
    • Established fiction is an absolute constraint. If either the imagined world or a rule must give, the rule gives.
    - This does not mean the ref's first word is always law. Refs are fallible and the players' judgment of the fiction matters too.
    • Rules are there to connect the Point of play to the situation of the moment. Always do whatever best serves that purpose, even if it means breaking, changing, or ignoring a rule.
    - If any of your adjustments wind up being applied more than once, congrats, you've added a rule!

    (This section is currently too vague to be applied in practice. Eero, any more usable articulations come to mind?)
    Difficult to say offhand. I guess that'd require some thinking and writing to clarify further. It's also true that in practical play the legislative process often stays in the background as we rely on well-established routine processes.
  • That might well work for me, too. Google Hangouts or Skype have both been successful for me in the little online gaming I've tried.

  • I can also referee stuff at short notice if it becomes pertinent.

    What are the online tools of choice? Google Hangouts?
    Seeing as this is going to be pretty experimental for me and the OSR is pretty punitive on new PCs it might end up with a quick TPK or forced retreat back to town. If there's a second expedition in a single sitting do you reckon you've got enough prepped to step in? :D

    I'm taking advice on online tools. People seem to be behind google hangouts. It's just conference calling, right?
    Part of me feels like it might be interesting to try do this over a chat program. It's much easier to record and look back at all the various decisions the group made. Depends how people are used to playing, I suppose.
  • Seeing as this is going to be pretty experimental for me and the OSR is pretty punitive on new PCs it might end up with a quick TPK or forced retreat back to town. If there's a second expedition in a single sitting do you reckon you've got enough prepped to step in? :D
    Sure thing, although rarely does a mere TPK prevent a new party from attempting to tackle the same dungeon a second time. I do have stuff ready to go at a moment's notice most of the time nowadays without doing anything special about it.

    I haven't played over Hangouts or other voice calls, but I have played with text chat. I hear that VoIP is almost as quick as face to face tabletop play, while chat play is about half as fast - that is, you get half as much done per unit of time. Some of that is basically because you can do other things on the side, and it's generally less focused - not a problem as long as the players can handle it without e.g. forgetting that they're in a game while they're browsing forums or whatever on the side. Good for naturally focused and motivated people, bad for the easily bored and those who don't know what their responsibilities are and therefore get stuck doing nothing, in other words.

    I should note that while my written English is reasonably erudite, my spoken accent is best likened to a demented rodent. I sound much more stupid in English than I sound in Finnish, in other words.

    If text chat's the thing, I guess we should take the team to our OSR D&D IRC channel #Habavaara - we (our Finnish crew, I mean) originally started it specifically to play a bit of D&D over chat :D

  • Good for naturally focused and motivated people
    That's us, right?
    I should note that while my written English is reasonably erudite, my spoken accent is best likened to a demented rodent. I sound much more stupid in English than I sound in Finnish, in other words.
    Whereas I've been told I sound like a young Charles Dance. My finnish accent, however: terrible, just terrible. Maybe we should IRC if it plays to your written English skills and increases the chance you'd run a game.



  • I'm reading along with you guys, not much to add. But a couple notes:

    I don't know what's involved in setting something like this up, but this book you guys are writing, might be well-served by a wiki or something similar as a development tool; so multiple people can contribute and there's built in version control and stuff.

    And finally, I don't remember what podcast it was, but I listened to an interview with you, Eero 2-3(?) years ago and there was actually a huge disconnect in my head between your voice/accent and the supreme fluency of your writing. I certainly wouldn't suggest that you sounded stupid or like a demented rodent, but clearly foreign. The most foreign thing about written-Eero is the nearly academic precision, cogency and length. :)
  • I find this immensely interesting. Those bookmarked blogs/pages the OP is referring to, any chance they could be shared here?
  • I find this immensely interesting. Those bookmarked blogs/pages the OP is referring to, any chance they could be shared here?
    Sorry about that, dude. I do just about all my posting here while at work (I'm a cog without many teeth, y'know?) so always cursing that my Eero stuff's on another computer. Could I put the call out for participants to come forward with anything they might have of interest? Thanks!
    I don't know what's involved in setting something like this up, but this book you guys are writing, might be well-served by a wiki or something similar as a development tool; so multiple people can contribute and there's built in version control and stuff.
    Good idea, Weeks!

    Ha ha, I'm now really curious as to what Eero sounds like! Mystery! Intrigue! Hilarious accents!

  • I hope I can join in or lurk or at least get vey up to date reports on how this turns out. It was Eero's posts that re-ignited my interest in playing d&d about a year ago and I fully intend to implement pd&d in some fashion in my life in the near to medium term future. I really really like the idea of a protocol for re-inventing the game as part of the game, but using rules of precedent and over arching principles to prevent pure calvinball.
  • I hope I can join in or lurk or at least get vey up to date reports on how this turns out.
    Join in! Want to come play on Sunday? :) If not, I'm planning on writing it all up anyway for edification/entertainment purposes.


  • Ok, so far I've got Rob, Eero, David, Paul and myself (Mike) as Dungeon Master. Very willing to take more but I think we've enough players to try take a stab at it. I'm thinking I'll run next Sunday about mid-afternoon (GMT) so hopefully people'll be free and able to play whatever their timezone. I'm sure we'll work something out.
    Can't make this Sunday afternoon, sorry. Actually clashes with a DungeonWorld game!


    Rob

  • I'm certain there'll be future session that'll probably need more party members. Next time. :)
  • Eero, I've got a fairly silly question for you.

    You've referred to your gaming as "hygienic". I'm not entirely sure what you mean with the use of that term in this context. Can you explain a bit?
  • You've referred to your gaming as "hygienic". I'm not entirely sure what you mean with the use of that term in this context. Can you explain a bit?
    Perhaps I should clarify: I don't consider my game any more or less hygienic than somebody else's as some sort of positive quality that my game possesses and somebody else's doesn't. (That wouldn't be a too pleasant attitude.) Rather, I've just been using the simile of "hygiene" to describe the modal status of certain types of of rules: there are rules - or principles - that guide your action in the game without being absolute constraints in the sense of subjective legal rights for any player to invoke. As these are not strict matters of right or wrong play, but rather helpful attitudes and guidelines for preserving an overall ethos, I find it more useful to call them "hygienic" to differentiate from socially mandated rules of interaction that game rules normally are. It's like "wash your hands regularly" is a hygienic rule instead of a moral principle by itself: regular washing helps you limit the transmission of undesired bacteria, which helps you in maintaining health, so although washing your hands per se is not laudable, and you're not obligated to do it for the sake of other people, the activity has incidental consequences in maintaining health, and is thus desirable for its utility outcome. In a similar way there are many things that I do when refereeing D&D that are not strictly speaking mandatory, but that I find very useful in maintaining the proper ethos of the game.

    An example of this type of "hygienic" rule is the idea that the referee should not design for outcome, nor have an outcome in mind when prepping game material. I have often called it "unhygienic" for a GM in this type of game to approach analyzing game material from the viewpoint of how their players would react to it, or what the likely mathematical outcome of e.g. some combat would be. While such a mental attitude alone is merely thinking in your own head, and thus not immediately part of the game, it is easier for the referee to be impartial in action if they are impartial in thought, and it is easier to be impartial in thought if you don't analyze your game prep in a teleological way to begin with. In this way a GM who e.g. designs content for balance is engaging in an "unhygienic" practice, as their own commitment to balance is making it naturally easier for them to accidentally or out of ignorance break their obligation to be unbiased and fair. As long as they are actually still being fair in refereeing they have not broken a formal obligation in traditional sense of the concept of a "rule", so I can't say that designing for balance is forbidden by the rules - it is not. It's just that I have my doubts about the mental hygiene of mixing roles like that. Thus it would be more hygienic to remove even the temptation of manipulating the outcomes by abandoning the entire habit of pre-envisioning what will happen in play; the hygienic way to approach game prep is thus to just set things out as they should and would be, without concern for what players might or might not do; for all you know they'll decide to turn back after the first room, you're in no position to day-dream about what the players will or won't do in play.

    An example of a similar hygienic rule for players is the IC/OOC divide: it is not technically speaking breaking any interactive rules of our mutual pastime for you to opportunistically utilize meta-knowledge to sidestep challenges wherever you can, but it is a bad habit that might at some point cause you to play less well than you would have if you'd gotten into a rigorous habit of deducing from in-character knowledge instead of trying to "cheat" all the time. Of course the GM will do their best to constrain information and give the players a roughly matching IC/OOC field, and of course it won't matter most of the time, but when it does matter, the player whose practices are more hygienic is likely to find it easier and more fun to play with flair despite knowing something important that their character doesn't.

    A huge amount of the substantial support structures of my play are hygienic in this way, rather than being rules in the traditional sense. Any things that we consistently do, that we might as well do a different way if we thought it'd be better, could well be hygienic. An innocuous and central example of something that might be mistakenly considered a "rule" when it is in fact a hygienic principle is my insistence on 3d6 in order when rolling ability arrays: this is a hygienic principle in the sense that by rigorously denying any and all ability manipulation in chargen I pre-empt the player tendency to feel entitled to have a certain ability set, and I pre-empt the GM tendency to develop rules that rely on having certain ability sets. Nothing in the game would exactly break if we allowed you to swap two abilities or let players roll 4d6 or assign points, not immediately; however, if I relaxed the random nature of ability arrays, that would encourage me to adopt lazy rules solutions that rely on PCs having certain ability scores, which could cascade over the long term into broken system design a la TSR. By closing the door at an early stage of the process I make it easier for us to maintain the desired mechanical environment.

    In case the above seems insensible, perhaps a comparison to a different game would be helpful: the Shadow of Yesterday relies on its own set of hygienic principles, as it also depends on the fluid development of new game mechanics piece-meal, and defining a set of principles and limitations to constrain otherwise unconstrainable constitutional authority is basically the only way to prevent the Story Guide from lopping their fingers off with the bandsaw. For an example of such a hygienic principle in TSoY, consider that TSoY NPCs cannot have any higher Ability ratings than PCs, and there are no ways to add static modifiers to Ability checks (outside the old equipment rules, if you use them), which means that the mathematical likelyhood of any given character winning an Ability check against another one is always strictly limited to a certain band of possibilities. You could break either of these principles when creating new Secrets, technically speaking, merely by deciding to do so - just decide that this Secret gives you a +1 to your Ability check result in certain situations, or whatever. However, the dice math of the game would break very easily if you allowed characters to get Ability values beyond the 0-4 scale the game uses, so while it is technically possible to introduce such, and there is no formal rule disallowing it (TSoY for better or worse does not have a set of meta-rules limiting the nature of the new rules you invent), it is still a good hygienic principle to never allow Ability values to be modified by Secrets - rather use bonus dice, that's what they're for.
  • If I might make a suggestion, you might want to use the expression "best practice" or something like that instead of "hygiene." Hygiene sounds clinical; when used to describe anything other than physical cleanliness, it has kind of a Mengele connotation to my ear. I hope this suggestion is welcome, for whatever it's worth, because I'm interested in your project.
  • I'm okay with whatever term, as long as I understand the usage.
  • Sure, "best practice" works as well. Less Greek-y for English-speakers, I'm sure. Makes it linguistically more clear that it's not a quality of the game itself compared to other games that is being discussed, but rather an internal comparison of ways of playing this game.

  • An example of this type of "hygienic" rule is the idea that the referee should not design for outcome, nor have an outcome in mind when prepping game material.
    Would this explain the use of pre-packaged modules in your games? - Side-stepping any need to consider outcomes by side-stepping a lot of the design altogether. Can the DM who wants to invent a dungeon wholecloth ever be truly hygienic?
  • Would this explain the use of pre-packaged modules in your games? - Side-stepping any need to consider outcomes by side-stepping a lot of the design altogether. Can the DM who wants to invent a dungeon wholecloth ever be truly hygienic?
    It's certainly possible, no doubt about it - I make my own material on occasion, it's just been the nature of the current campaign concern to be all about experiencing and enjoying module adventures. I would find it a misunderstanding to say that we've been rocking adventure modules because of laziness or inability to create our own stuff, or hygienic concerns; the original inspiration was that I simply wanted to try some of this new OSR stuff out, and that hasn't really changed.

    I've done three full-blown D&D campaigns in my life, and two were fully original material (neither had any major issues with impartiality, either, largely because I'd already had my road to Damascus moment with the Forge before the first one). The next one will probably be original as well, at least to a higher percentage than the one we're doing now. Probably will continue using suitable modules as well, though, as I very much subscribe to the Jim Raggi doctrine on the effect of modules on your GMing: by utilizing a variety of materials you force yourself to extend and vary your style in ways that wouldn't happen if you created everything yourself, which improves your play over the long term.

    Of course using ready-made stuff is helpful if you don't feel the inspiration for making your own, or lack the experience, or whatnot. For my own part I feel like I've got the attitude down pretty well, though; when I write adventure stuff I think in terms of potential challenge, without interpreting that through the lens of my own preconceptions about the nature of the campaign and the party. The scenario is what it is, perhaps faithful to its setting, but unconstrained by preconceptions about the party that would be run through it.
  • edited February 2014
    when I write adventure stuff I think in terms of potential challenge, without interpreting that through the lens of my own preconceptions about the nature of the campaign and the party. The scenario is what it is, perhaps faithful to its setting, but unconstrained by preconceptions about the party that would be run through it.
    Ok, I think I'm getting it. But how do you conceive of and then build a potential challenge without imagining a desirable outcome for campaign/party? Let's say I'm building my dungeon and I want to have the classic trapped statue with gemstone eyes - the desirable end-point here is that the party overcome the trap and get the reward, right? It's hard to think about designing the trap without having that possible end-point in mind (the alternative ends - that the party activate the trap and get no reward, or that they ignore/refuse the trap altogether - are also present). Is it just a case of being ambivalent about the result of the trap's inclusion? Like, getting all Tao of the Dungeon?
  • The way I do it (and there could be other ways for certain) is that I let my curiousity about world-building, literary elements and tactical challenges lead me. Any one of those could be a primary concern in writing up the material. None of them are teleological in the sense that I would need to device the material in terms of outcomes I desire or fear in actual play.

    For example, a while back I developed a small one-shot adventure for our campaign as a change of pace, to let the GM have a chance to play for a change. My chosen subject matter was (among other things, these things tend to branch away from me a bit) the Solomonari, a quasi-historical sect of magicians in Dacian lands (Rumania, that is to say). The hook of the adventure was a kidnapping: a Solomonari magician had taken a child to raise him into the magical tradition, and the father, being the local župan (count), had the means to reward the boy's safe return.

    Now, a teleological scenario writer would ask himself, what would be likely to happen when the adventurers face the magician. What do I want to highlight for them in this experience? How do I prepare for the way the events might go? Should I add or reduce the level of challenge to make this a suitably challenging encounter? How do I ensure that the players do face this magician at all, so as to have my cunning plot occur as predicted?

    Not so with me. I determined that the magician is mechanically a 3rd level Elf (the class has to do with his somewhat peculiar background, not relevant here) because that's an appropriate level for the demographics of the setting; he has a guardian leucrotta at his Solomonarian cave, because that's the sort of shit the Solomonari play with (they're sort of like arcane druids, if I had to define them in Gygaxian D&D terms); he has a couple of magic items of fae persuasion, one just for the heck of it (read: due to my literary inspiration, and sense that I need slightly more content in the scenario) and one specifically related to his escape strategy after the kidnapping; he has specific motivations that may not be inimical to those of any adventurers who find him, for his is a somewhat righteous cause, and he can afford to bribe the party with one of those magic items. He tarries for what, something like 2d6 days at most at a nearby Solomonari cave due to a hitch in horse-thievery plans, but should the adventurers not find their way there, he'll escape with the boy (or without; the boy himself in this scenario is a complicating factor all his own).

    Note that none of the above impulses about this NPC involved in the scenario concerns outcomes of the scenario, it's all about a) what makes sense in the setting (him being mechanically a 3rd level Elf), b) what entices me literarily (a leucrotta and a couple of magic items I created for Eastern European folklore atmosphere), and c) what would be tactically interesting (not only a magic-using opponent, but one that could potentially be engaged diplomatically, but who also has a time-line of his own that he's following). Specifically, at no point did I benchmark my Solomonarius against the means or motivations of the party that might or might not encounter him in play.

    Applying this same attitude to your example of a trapped statue with gemstone eyes, it seems like a pretty straightforward case: does it make sense for there to be a trapped statue here, should there be one for this to be a literarily compelling abandoned temple (or whatever it is where the statue resides), is it challengeful content to have such a statue? Any of these are reason enough to have that statue. Meanwhile, the fact that the players like statues, or the party doesn't have a Thief and they need to be punished for it, or there's not enough treasure in this adventure location, or these gems need to be guarded somehow or they're too easy pickings - none of these outcome-based concerns are hygienic reasons for placing a trapped statue, to my way of thinking. To be pure, the scenario material needs to stand because it's true, not because it has to conform to the concerns of the character development rat race.
  • I'm just sort of computing this at the moment but here are some sketches of ideas I'm having:

    It's kind of like you've internalised the way the rules-as-written express themselves to express new content. The way you describe the scenario with the Solomonari (freekin cool!) is the way a published module would put it, firmly grounded in the established procedural nature of D&D play where even time (the 2d6 days the elf lingers in the cave) has a measurable pace (a later game might let the DM speed up time so the battle with the Solomonari happens at sunset for dramatic effect, but not so in the primordial soup!).
    Does expressing the events in play in the same manner as "the rulebook" bestow some quality of impartiality on you as a DM? Or am I barking up the wrong tree?

    The trapped statue is tricky thing to think through, especially because of its place as a classic D&D element, which lends it an air of "meta." Or perhaps D&D can be its own literary reference and we don't have to worry about getting into post-modernity?
    But anyway, I'd say that I would only consider the statue if it was appropriate for it to be there (although if you can think of an environment in D&D that couldn't support an ancient statue or two, I'm all ears) and that it would be compelling content - those are the only circumstances I wouldn't immediately dismiss the idea before even putting pencil to paper. So maybe I'm some kind of OSR savant, or maybe I've got enough experience as a DM not to include incongruous or dull elements?

    If the above is a little wishy-washy, I apologise. Thinking out loud, perhaps.
  • Yes, comparing it to published modules is actually a very good point. I say this because people with a lot of D&D experience seem to often have this somewhat surprising attitude that modules are an artificial construct that are the way they are simply because you can't put a real GM between book covers. Well, I have no D&D background going back to my misty teenage years in the old country, so I might just be sorely mistaken, but in my eyes old school D&D is about the only game I've seen where the concept of an adventure module really works: they're written in exactly the way that has utility for running the type of game they're for, and using them brings a lot of extra value to the game in terms of work saved, variety in material, and higher objectivity of the prep. From my viewpoint this shunning of the adventure module often seems like it's because people have moved on in terms of creative agenda and GMing philosophy, and for this reason they're rebelling against the methodology that these old module-writing formats presuppose and execute so well.

    I guess I could show you some of my adventure notes; I write those in English despite our gaming mostly being in Finnish. I think you'd find that the notes aren't that interesting, though, as they're fundamentally like a published adventure, except lacking in editorial polish, often being in confusing order, and often leaving some bits for general campaign procedure, known reference works or memory to handle. (Like for instance, I didn't write down a stat block for a leucrotta in that adventure, because the entire joke about putting it in there was because I'd been reading the AD&D monster manual recently, and had that at hand when I executed the adventure.) Get any hygienic adventure product out there (that is, one that doesn't rely on plotting or setpiece encounters), and it'll look pretty much the same.

    I wouldn't say that this is about merely duplicating game texts, but rather about the game texts being rather successful about communicating what kind of prep is necessary and desirable for the type of wargame referee that D&D desires as a game. It's totally the sort of game where you don't commit that cardinal sin you suggest, the "setpiece" encounter, as I like to call it - in the game I play you let the players miss your supposed fucking climax encounter, because you shouldn't have had an assigned climax encounter in the first place! Who are you to decide where and when the climax occurs?
  • "Wargame referee" is the best way of describing the desired attributes of a DM I've heard yet! But wait, wait wait, before you get all twisted about setpieces, I wasn't talking about setting up a climax: the prep is exactly the game in this hypothetical game as it is in yours. The DM stats the Elf and leaves him somewhere on-map for 2d6 days, the players decide to pursue (because it's a potential challenge but also, crucially, profitable for them in real terms) and discover him outside his hideaway after some travel. The only difference is that the DM decided he would speed up time narratively (or encourage players to delay perhaps) so that he could describe a badass sunset as an incidental (but dramatically poignant) backdrop to the battle. Is this minor act of non-primordial activity totally verboten and generally badwrong? It's only a little descriptive flair on the DM's part surely?


    I guess I could show you some of my adventure notes; I write those in English despite our gaming mostly being in Finnish.
    Would you be so kind as to post them here? I think I speak for everyone following this thread in saying "Yes please!"
  • The only difference is that the DM decided he would speed up time narratively (or encourage players to delay perhaps) so that he could describe a badass sunset as an incidental (but dramatically poignant) backdrop to the battle. Is this minor act of non-primordial activity totally verboten and generally badwrong? It's only a little descriptive flair on the DM's part surely?
    I think this is precisely what Eero was talking about when describing "non-hygienic practices". Sure, it won't ruin your game. But it sets a precedent for the game to drift in a different direction: why are we adjusting the timeline, and why are we concerned with dramatic poignancy? Those are not in line with our creative agenda.

    I think that in this playstyle that would best be handled as a mutual group decision. "Hey, if it makes no difference to you strategically, what if we say that you get there at sunset, just for the cool visuals?" "Sure, why not, it'll give us some descriptive visual flair if we want that." It's not the GM's purview, however, to make this kind of decision on her own.



  • "Wargame referee" is the best way of describing the desired attributes of a DM I've heard yet! But wait, wait wait, before you get all twisted about setpieces, I wasn't talking about setting up a climax: the prep is exactly the game in this hypothetical game as it is in yours. The DM stats the Elf and leaves him somewhere on-map for 2d6 days, the players decide to pursue (because it's a potential challenge but also, crucially, profitable for them in real terms) and discover him outside his hideaway after some travel. The only difference is that the DM decided he would speed up time narratively (or encourage players to delay perhaps) so that he could describe a badass sunset as an incidental (but dramatically poignant) backdrop to the battle. Is this minor act of non-primordial activity totally verboten and generally badwrong? It's only a little descriptive flair on the DM's part surely?
    "Wargame referee" is far from incidental; I pretty much adopted this view on what a D&D GM is from studying the early D&D cultural context in wargaming. The entire game just started to make more sense when I figured out how differently it runs when you remove the modern GM figure and substitute a wargame referee.

    Anyway, regarding setpieces, what you describe might or might not be legitimate, depending on the local logistical procedure. For example, if the campaign consistently tracks time of day in these types of situations, the GM does not have the authority to override the tracking the players do. Likewise the GM would be breaking faith if he manipulated the time of day for the sake of manipulating encounter outcome. If neither of these or some similar concern is in effect, then there's free room for narrative flourish in there.

    I would personally be unlikely to go for that particular narrative flourish simply because tracking time and such logistics is so ingrained in the local habits. Of course I have on occasion free reign to determine the time of day, but if I said that it's e.g. right at sunset as the party reaches the adventure location, I might very well get an immediate veto and backtrack in the face: "If it's that far out, then obviously we won't be trying to reach the place today - we'll seek for a camping position two hours before sunset, and establish secure perimeter, continuing in the morning." So where's my planned dramatic sunset now :D

    That's not to say that dramatic flourishes don't occur, it's just a really, really emergent phenomenon when you genuinely don't plan for what the players are going to do. The ideal for dramatic flourish in my refereeing style is that it's something that occurs to somebody (doesn't need to be the GM) at the spur of the moment, when we see how the setup and the choices cascade, and the dice fall; that's when you throw out some memorable poetics, and they're all necessarily improvised on the spot, as you see the fiction in your head right then. That authenticity is actually procedurally entirely significant to my mind, as that internal eye's view of the fiction is the authoritative viewpoint: it is not unknown for even GM prep to get over-ridden by that immediate shared imagined space, as it happens to get established in play.

    All that being said, I have to say that just last December we got this exact narrative flourish of a battle against the setting sun at a cavern entrance in our game :D It just happened legitimately in the sense that it wasn't something the GM would've maneuvered for. Somebody just noticed that it was just before dark that we'd found our target, and as we were under a tight time-limit, we ended up attacking in this exact lightning condition, which resulted in some nice imagery.
    Would you be so kind as to post them here? I think I speak for everyone following this thread in saying "Yes please!"
    Seems like I still have this Solomonari stuff in Dropbox from when we played it, here. I should note that when I say that it's personal notes, I mean it - there's some of campaign-specific, genre-specific, school-specific shorthand in there, so chances are that if something doesn't make sense it's because of that. Also, despite being sort of laid out, that's just one evening's prep work, basically stream of thought, so it's not internally as cohesive as the layout might make it seem. (The reason that it's laid out at all is of course that I'm sort of in the business - just as easy to write into a ready-made layout scheme as it'd be to write into some more conventional software. In this case I just pushed the text into the layout I used in last year's OPD contest.)
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