Succeed in your action but fail your intent?

Which RPGs do this, and how? Is it by design or an unintentional failure mode? What's the difference between action and intent anyway? Is it a matter of things outside of your control?
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  • Well, this was one of the big, fat Forgite theory issues last decade :D

    Many games do this unintentionally, or for illusionistic purposes - it's part of the traditional GMing powerset to be able to define a task, resolve it, and then make a nigh-independent judgement of intent. A classical example might be something like having a player roll for a climb check to see if the character falls into a ravine, and then deciding that the failure on the check does not, after all, mean a failure of the intention to survive - instead the character merely "clings to life" and has to be helped up by somebody else, or they need to make another check, or whatever. The opposite example might be where a character makes a task resolution check to tackle a fleeing opponent, succeeds, and then the GM (possibly bolstered by more dice rolls) decides that the enemy manages to flee anyway despite the successful tackle.

    The above sort of thing goes on all the time in games that use explicit task resolution while intents/conflicts are resolved implicitly by GM fiat. (That's not the same as saying that all games that use task resolution also use fiat-based conflict resolution; it is eminently possible to have a task-focused game that nevertheless resolves conflicts in an even-handed manner, with little GM fiat.)

    As for games that are explicit and intentional about this sort of thing, there certainly are some. Elfs, for example, separates success from intent, so you can get failed tasks that accidentally bring about positive outcomes, and vice versa. Also, any and all games that break conflict resolution down into task resolution do this - Shadow of Yesterday, Dogs in the Vineyard, Apocalypse World, even D&D combat system all make it possible for a character to succeed in a task without succeeding in their intent.

    (An interesting example from old school D&D here, by the way - last week a player in our campaign decided to arrange the spearmen of the party into a fan formation several feet away from the doorway enemies were coming through. He succeeded in the task, but because he never told the GM - me - why he was doing it, the men were never effective in actually blocking the doorway, which was the tactical intent behind his action. In this case the game definitely supports resolving intent directly, but because the player satisfied himself with describing the action he wanted, the GM could easily misunderstand the intent, and thus the action would fail in carrying out the desired effect.)

    In the classical analysis of this matter the difference between "action" (or "task", as many older games call it) and "intent" (or "conflict", interchangeably) is precisely in the phenomenon wherein success in an action may not bring about the consequences a character desires. To resolve a task is to resolve a fictional detail; to resolve a conflict is to resolve control over consequences. These two matters may, depending on the genre and techniques in play be all but identical, or widely divergent.
  • Eero's covered it nicely.

    There's definitely room here for variations on a theme. A game which quite intentionally ruins your intent even when you succeed at a task, so as to create a feeling of helplessness?

    Someone was recently telling me about how they play Apocalypse World with all moves being "successful"; on a 6 or less, the MC simply makes a hard move as well. Apparently it's quite fun. I'm not entirely sure where that kind of resolution falls in terms of the task/intent boundary - I suspect it would differ quite a bit from instance to instance.
  • Normally this only happens when you're confused about the system. In most games, you say your intent and then the system says whether you succeed or not. Failure to achieve your intent is a matter of you rolling low on the dice. If you say an intent that the mechanics can't resolve, that's your mistake, not the system's failure.

    In D&D3, you say "I attack the orc" and the system tells you if your attack is effective across the next six seconds of fighting. You might not achieve your "intent" of defeating all the orcs - they might kill you. But that's not a badly designed outcome.
  • If you say an intent that the mechanics can't resolve, that's your mistake, not the system's failure.
    Most games also explicitly claim that it's up to the GM to adjudicate those unclear situations, though, so it's not really a player mistake - if the game specifically suggests that you can announce any action for your character, and this procedure directly leads to the GM (in combination with the GMing instructions) undermining your intent, then I'd say that it may not be the system failing, but it is a feature of it.

    I don't remember the relevant instructive text for 3rd edition D&D off the top of my hat, but for some reason I do remember how Earthdawn happens to include the whole traditional trifecta: task resolution rules, the claim that PCs should be able to try anything the players can imagine, and the encouragement for the GM to apply the rules in favour of keeping the game on even keel by interpreting the rules as needed. Not trying to pick specifically on Earthdawn, it's probably just a flashback to when we were reading it carefully with Jason a couple years back for some reason I forget right now :D
  • edited October 2016
    In D&D3, you say "I attack the orc" and the system tells you if your attack is effective across the next six seconds of fighting. You might not achieve your "intent" of defeating all the orcs
    I would say, rather, that thanks to the presence of hit points, you absolutely do know whether your attack achieved its intent. If your end goal is to kill all orcs, you can see clearly how knocking 5 HP off this one gets you closer to that. Ticking a segment off a progress clock in a PbtA game or Blades in the Dark is the same thing: making tangible progress is a fulfilled intent, even if there's still more to do. Not all intents are end goals.

    The classic complaint about action/intent incoherence is when there's no such tangible metric of progress like clocks or hit points, and whatever less formal system is used provides insufficiently clear or meaningful feedback. For example, I stab an orc and he growls in anger and stabs me back, with no dice or points involved -- do I know from this whether orc-stabbing is a constructive way forward? Has the GM given me enough info to tell? If so, great, I'll do it again. If not, then look out, because my actions may feel arbitrary and meaningless.

    I'd say that more games put good rules with clear feedback to the stabbing than to the lying and bargaining and navigating and trap-avoiding etc.
  • I've played in more than one game (D&D, or superhero games in the 90's if memory serves) where I've seen the GM grant "greater success" on a critical roll that's invalidated the original intent.

    For example, wanting to knock someone over to prevent them from acting, but rolling "so well" that you push them off a cliff, or they hit their head on a rock and die. I didn't play it much, but I think the old Marvel FASERIP game may have been prone to this, since getting a "really good" result with a Lethal attack could kill people even if you didn't intend to.

    On a couple of occasions I've had to suggest to GMs that, if a character succeeded, but the "success" is as good as failure... is that really a success?

    As a GM I've also seen the thing where the player describes some convoluted procedure at great length without explaining what they hope to achieve. I usually cut through it and ask what they're actually trying to do. I wonder if this sort of Cover Your Ass concealed information style comes from more adversarial GM/player "gotcha"-style play, where you want to make sure you have your bases covered but don't trust the GM not to engineer an end-run around your prep.
  • edited October 2016
    Anon: isn't this a fail forward mechanic or am I missing something?

    You manage to lock pick the door but guards arrives.
  • Anon: isn't this a fail forward mechanic or am I missing something?

    You manage to lock pick the door but guards arrives.
    No, not really. Because in this case your intent was probably to get through the door, and you can still do that.

    Shiro's examples are closest to what I've seen of this sort of thing - "I don't want to kill him, so I'll hit him with the butt of my gun." "You rolled a crit, so you kill him!" I have "succeeded" here, but it has invalidated my intent.

    Similarly, there are situations where the GM can allow an action to succeed, but not actually accomplish what the player wanted.

    To me, this is mostly a mark of jerk GMing.
  • Games get very interesting (and awkward!) when the players are used to the GM doing so on a regular basis.

    It often leads to the players trying to conceal their intent as much as possible, so it (hopefully) can't or won't be invalidated by the GM.

    I've seen this play out in an entertaining way, but generally it's a horrible downward spiral.

    I think it's one of the reasons people got so excited about AW (and its progeny): you retain some feeling of "task resolution", because of the fictional triggers and the dice rolls, but a well-structured move tends to make it quite clear whether the intent was achieved or not, cutting through this kind of nonsense (if it happens to be going on in your group).
  • No, not really. Because in this case your intent was probably to get through the door, and you can still do that.
    What what if it isn't? You're already through the door but the intent to why you lock picked the door hasn't been reached (may it be to steal something). The intent is WHY you do it; the lock picking is HOW.

    How: action.
    Why: intent.

    You're talking about when the intent and action merge together, and then you're right.
  • Similarly, there are situations where the GM can allow an action to succeed, but not actually accomplish what the player wanted.

    To me, this is mostly a mark of jerk GMing.
    Or you can turn it around. "You fail, not because you sucked but because something else happened that you couldn't control."

    That's how you make the characters feel like heroes even if they fail.
  • Similarly, there are situations where the GM can allow an action to succeed, but not actually accomplish what the player wanted.

    To me, this is mostly a mark of jerk GMing.
    Or you can turn it around. "You fail, not because you sucked but because something else happened that you couldn't control."

    That's how you make the characters feel like heroes even if they fail.
    Yeah, that's a great strategy, but that's pretty much the opposite of what the OP was talking about.

    Also, I think saying that your intent being to steal something is a change in granularity of intent. A better example of success but not getting your intent might be "You pick the lock, but the door is barred from the inside, so you still can't go in."
  • edited October 2016
    A better example of success but not getting your intent might be "You pick the lock, but the door is barred from the inside, so you still can't go in."
    Yeah. If there's absolutely nothing you can do about the bars, then picking the lock was a useless waste of time and leaves a bad taste. The next task to come up may be attempted with less enthusiasm. If you can do something about the bars, then we're probably fine, unless the player really thought picking the lock would get them into the room right away.

    At times I've pondered attaching hit points or pie slices / countdown clocks to every task the characters ever attempt to do that isn't one-and-done. I do like some unknowns, though...

    Hmm, maybe it'd be fun to let the players draw the clocks based on fictional info, and then the GM can adjust them as new info is revealed. So progress is still progress, but you don't always know exactly how much remains.
  • GM: "You use your Skulduggery skill to open the locked safe... And it's empty."

    or

    PC: "I scale the cliff face to get to the nest."
    GM: "Roll Climb."
    PC: "Success!"
    GM: "You climb 10 feet. Roll again."
    PC: "Drat. Failure."
    GM: "You fall to your death."
    PC: "I didn't know I had to roll every 10 feet!"


    This stuff happens all the time in RPGs.

  • You know, I actually went back and looked at the text of the D&D3 Player's Guide and I can't find anywhere where it says players can just announce they are doing anything they want. I mean, surely that text is in there somewhere, because we all believe it is, but...what if it's not?

    Also, in what way is opening an empty safe not achieving your intent? Like, it may be frustrating and you may justly hate the GM, but the problem isn't your intent, it's your expectations, correct?
  • How about the DMG? I skimmed the PHB as well a bit out of curiousity, but of course this sort of thing might be in the DMG as well. I have some vague memory of there being instructive text there about how the DM is supposed to judge tasks that do not fall clearly into one of the well-defined skill usages listed in the PHB.

    D&D 3rd edition is actually interesting in this regard, because you know, it builds upon the old school task resolution scheme of non-universal rules application (that is, each different task may potentially have its own procedures for resolution - for more pure-bred examples see early '80s games like WFRPG or 2300 AD or such), which makes it basically a forerunner of Apocalypse World in many ways - AW calls them "moves", D&D calls them "skill actions", but the thing is the same. Those who think that Apocalypse World doesn't suffer from this issue might well consider why and how D&D3 does :D

    The answer lies, of course, in how, exactly, one gets from intent to task in a system like this. It is entirely possible that the GMing practices encouraged by D&D and those advocated by AW result in different outcomes, even if the task-based resolution scheme is identical. For example, the D&D DMG might (hypothetically, I don't have a 3rd edition DMG at hand right now) encourage the GM to undermine intents to preserve tension in scenes, while the AW GMing principles might (again, hypothetically) outright require the GM to ensure that intent is clearly captured by whatever tasks the characters are called to perform. If, due to how the game text is written, the same mechanical conceit is applied differently, that would explain why the outcomes come to differ so occasionally.

    Solar System, to pick a lateral example, also utilizes task resolution as part of the conflict resolution system, just like D&D and AW. SS ensures that intent gets respected by the classical Forge method of declaring intent: the players participating in the conflict define conflict stakes at the beginning, before tasks are picked and dice are rolled, and this creates a strong expectation that whatever tasks are ultimately picked for execution, those tasks will be considered a posteori to have fulfilled the requirements of achieving the intent agreed-upon beforehand. This pre-declaration makes it very difficult for the GM to undermine intent compared to the traditional conflict flow, which is why it became popular in Forgite games a decade ago.
  • You know, I actually went back and looked at the text of the D&D3 Player's Guide and I can't find anywhere where it says players can just announce they are doing anything they want.
    I think you're one edition too late. :)
    Also, in what way is opening an empty safe not achieving your intent? Like, it may be frustrating and you may justly hate the GM, but the problem isn't your intent, it's your expectations, correct?
    Agreed that with different expectations there's no problem. I guess the question then is how much it's up to the game/GM/whole group to set the proper expectations.

    I'm happy to unlock an empty safe if it was part of a quick endeavor, or if the emptiness tells me something useful or gives me something fun to do next (even if my character is simply pissed). At the end of a long quest, though, and with no fun revelations or follow-ups, that empty safe would earn a hearty, "Screw this crap," for whoever arranged it.

    Anyway, agreed that this particular example isn't best seen as an atomic action/intent issue.

    Heck, maybe all of these problems are actually best seen as connection issues. "How does opening an empty safe connect to why we're playing this game?" Provide a good answer to that and you're all set.
  • While overt declaration of stakes went somewhat out of fashion for a while, I fully expect a "retro" kind of revival sooner or later; it's powerful and effective technology. A very economical way to achieve a very dramatic change in gaming technique.

    As for the difference between Apocalypse World and D&D, it lies in the construction of the "moves". The description of D&D rolls is all about carrying out the task in the fictional environment; the general understanding (and I believe the text supports this fully) is that the die roll, combined with appropriate modifiers, represents how skillfully the character carried out a task. It's very easy to separate this, conceptually, from various possible outcomes or consequences. The purpose of the roll is fundamentally descriptive, in my experience, according to the people playing. ("A high roll! You must have done that thing *really well*.")

    Apocalypse World does a few things differently:

    * First of all, it makes it quite clear that, conceptually, the roll is not about how well your character carries out an activity. There are no modifiers, for instance, for circumstances, having the right tools at hand, or the effects of the weather. Some "moves" don't even take into account character ability, or are based on something else (e.g. "roll+Fortunes", or "roll+harm suffered").

    * The design of many/most moves specifies the consequences of the roll (and often lets the player choose). This means that, quite often, the player making a move knows in advance its possible ramifications. If I'm making the "seduce/manipulate" move, I know that on a success my opponent WILL offer me a deal; anything else would violate the description of the move. Similarly, a successful "eye on the door" move, I know that, given a certain result, I'm "out of there" - an MC which finds an excuse to keep me in the location is very clearly and obviously breaking the rules.

    So, in a way, while the basic chassis of the mechanic is the same, the effect in play is quite different (at least for some/most groups; certainly some D&D players might apply similar logic to the d20 roll, and some AW players might use AW moves in much the same way most D&D rolls work).
  • Here's an example:
    When you go into a holding’s bustling market, looking for some particular
    thing to buy, and it’s not obvious whether you should be able to just go buy one like
    that, roll+sharp. On a 10+, yes, you can just go buy it like that. [...]
    It's hard to imagine how a group could undermine the player's intent when applying this move (and rolling a 10+). Add in the other design factors (the MC does not "set a difficulty number", nor is it standard practice for her to apply any modifiers), and it's not hard to see why this produces fewer "intent-denying" moments than typical instances of task resolution.
  • Here's the description of a typical skill from D&D3, just so we're on the same page. It's not exceptional in terms of task-oriented games without universal skill resolution systems; earlier games that lacked the universal DC scheme of 3rd edition D&D routinely had long lists of tasks (not even skills necessarily, just "here's a bunch of things that occur often in play, and how you resolve them"), and 3rd edition is simply following that tradition in its treatment, with clear procedures for how each skill is used and what the effects of successful use are. Just like 3rd ed is doing here, those games would carefully explain the circumstances where the task is appropriate, the potential modifiers, the expense of trying the task, and the consequences of success or failure. WFRPG (I happened to just recently read this a bit, which is why I return to it) for instance lists something like 30-40 different "standard tests" like this, just as if it was a AW hack with a particularly long list of universal moves.

    When I compare the AW and D&D moves, I emphatically am not talking about any other edition of D&D. Just so we're clear. 2nd edition, for example, largely lacks this phenomenon as any sort of disciplined feature (to my memory, I might be wrong here), which 3rd edition brings in from other lineages such as WFRPG.

    Hopefully, reading an example of how skills are actually outlined in 3rd edition (as opposed to relying on memory) it becomes obvious how the 3rd edition skill descriptions with their little subsystems are, in fact, "moves" in the AW sense: they define the conditions in which the skill is checked, they define the consequences of success and failure, and should a group in fact play those rules as written (a rare thing indeed, I agree 100% that this is not how the game is generally played), the line between what D&D does and what AW does becomes blurry indeed. There is no obvious reason whatsoever for why using Diplomacy in play should enable the DM to undermine intent any more than AW moves allow; just like a AW move, you roll your dice and get an outcome, and that outcome determines what follow-up moves the GM is allowed to make (with the formerly hostile NPCs or monsters, in this case - do check out the definitions for the diplomacy outcomes at the end there, they're not just descriptive words).

    In actual practice, of course, it is very common to play the 3rd edition skills with an universal skill system method, sort of like it was BRP or some similar game. So instead of the complex procedure outlined for using Diplomacy in the rules, the DM simply calls for a roll, sets a DC based on the situation and interprets the result freeform. This method, common in actual play, would be analogous to playing AW by calling for an ability check and deciding that you need a 9 to hit this enemy because they're so-and-so tough; clearly against the outlined rules procedure of the game, but easy to imagine. It just happens that while D&D groups largely disregard the text, AW is played much closer to how it reads.
  • edited October 2016
    That's an excellent distinction, Eero. I forget sometimes how detailed and specific the d20 skill guidelines are! There's a very strong deterministic streak in there, with each "move" having very specific outcomes.

    I think that - as you suggest - in my own play experience, those details were usually not referenced in play.

    However, I think there are reasons for that - it's not just a quirk of the players involved (although that's surely a factor as well!). I still feel that the rulesets offer a meaningful difference in terms of:

    * The general ethos of the game design and description. Lots of little bits and pieces imply a different form of engaging with the rules (for example, the lack of modifiers based on the GM's reading of the fiction, or character skill/positioning); this comes across to the players in various ways, both explicit and implicit.

    * The actual design of the rules. Vincent is more careful about including intent-relevant outcomes in the design of his moves, and more often explicit about those outcomes, than the phrasing of a more "task-oriented" system like d20. While the text he uses to explain moves can be pretty vague at times, there is, most often, an explicit admonition of the character's intent being achieved ("you do it", "you seize it", "yes, you can go buy it", etc). The intent being achieved is often baked right into the move itself, which is sometimes the case with D&D skills and sometimes not (generally, the D&D skills are oriented towards being applied in combat - for instance, the Balance skill really only determines whether you can take a Move action this turn or not - not entirely clear how to adjudicate that in the context of a man on a precarious perch trying to catch a falling vase, say).

    To follow the earlier example, a player using the "looking for some specific thing to buy" move I copied above has a clear sense of what kind of roll will achieve that end (to buy that item). Someone making a Diplomacy skill check in d20, however, has two additional hurdles to face which can stop his action short of achieving his intent:

    a) The rules don't fully help us (neither the player, not the GM) decide how much the target must be swayed. Is it enough for her to become Friendly? Or must we get all the way to Helpful? Or maybe even an Indifferent merchant would sell the item? I don't know. Similarly, what is the seller's initial disposition (which affects the DC of the check)?

    The GM has plenty of room to say, "Ok, he's Friendly and Helpful now, but he already promised the item to his niece, it turns out," if that's how the GM is used to running her games.

    b) The rules also don't help us determine whether the item is available in the first place - it is quite likely I will be able to win over the merchant only to discover that the last Item was sold earlier this morning, sorry.

    Overall, I would still expect the average group playing D&D3E to "succeed in your action but fail your intent" more often than the average AW group.

    I should note that this feature could just as easily be seen as a design flaw; many gaming styles prefer to maintain the flexibility of more wishy-washy outcomes in the spirit of keeping player and character information at the same level, for instance. (In AW, the player knows exactly what his odds of getting that thing at the market are, whereas the character would have no way of knowing whether it was available at all.) This can be useful for other creative purposes, like exploring a consistent fictional world, or whatever other goals you may bring to a particular game.
  • I'm going to go read the BRP rules now to see if THEY say that players can say they try to do whatever they want. I have my suspicions! Anyone care to take a guess?
  • I think there are definitely moves in AW and pbta elsewhere that can undermine intent--and I think it's generally done intentionally, to reinforce theme or apply certain kinds of pressure.

    Read a sitch and it's many offspring are frequent culprits at our table. "Getting what you wanted" doesn't always map easily onto the listed questions. Likewise, "Spout Lore."

    It's also interesting how rules can allow or forbid certain intentions. Because seizing by force implies exposing yourself to harm, it forbids any intention to the contrary. You couldn't, for instance, dart in and knock them out before they can hit you back, and any expressed intent to do so will be overridden by the move.


  • It's also interesting how rules can allow or forbid certain intentions. Because seizing by force implies exposing yourself to harm, it forbids any intention to the contrary. You couldn't, for instance, dart in and knock them out before they can hit you back, and any expressed intent to do so will be overridden by the move.
    You're right and wrong here. You can't "dart in and knock them out before they can hit you back" by using Seize by Force. But you could totally do that if that is a situation in which you could do that. You just wouldn't use that move.
  • Right. Moves connect specific actions (sometimes they're pretty vaguely defined, though) with specific consequences.
  • but the problem isn't your intent, it's your expectations, correct?
    Establishing expectations is what stating intentions do, and not clarifying you intentions because you assume them to be obvious is what the problem is.

    But how do you know to ask about or specify something you don't know you need to ask about or specify?
    While overt declaration of stakes went somewhat out of fashion for a while, I fully expect a "retro" kind of revival sooner or later; it's powerful and effective technology.
    Setting stakes is just another way of establishing expectations, and still doesn't avoid the problem of assuming certain results as a given.
    Many games do this unintentionally, or for illusionistic purposes - it's part of the traditional GMing powerset to be able to define a task, resolve it, and then make a nigh-independent judgement of intent.
    There's definitely room here for variations on a theme. A game which quite intentionally ruins your intent even when you succeed at a task, so as to create a feeling of helplessness?
    What I find fascinating about Paranoia is that it turns all those bugs into features by simply changing what to expect. Mechanically it's exactly the same as any other classic RPG, only here the players expect to be helpless and have their intentions undermined.
    Elfs, for example, separates success from intent, so you can get failed tasks that accidentally bring about positive outcomes, and vice versa.
    Elfs is the only RPG I know specifically designed around this premise and illustrates it well.
    In the classical analysis of this matter the difference between "action" (or "task", as many older games call it) and "intent" (or "conflict", interchangeably) is precisely in the phenomenon wherein success in an action may not bring about the consequences a character desires.
    I find the 'theoretical' distinction between 'task' and 'conflict' resolution to be arbitrary, nonsensical, and distracting. Ultimately it's all about resolving what happens next in the fiction, so these divisions should be made between the meaningful elements of your game. So if you want a game about 'combat', then you have to make sure killing something is a 'conflict', and not something you can simply 'declare'.

    #OneDoesNotSimplyWalkIntoMordor
    In D&D3, you say "I attack the orc" and the system tells you if your attack is effective across the next six seconds of fighting. You might not achieve your "intent" of defeating all the orcs - they might kill you. But that's not a badly designed outcome.
    For example, killing the ork is a 'conflict' because it's impossible to simply declare and must be achieve through a specific series of 'tasks'.
    Someone was recently telling me about how they play Apocalypse World with all moves being "successful"; on a 6 or less, the MC simply makes a hard move as well.
    This is essentially how 7th Sea 2e works. The difference is the GM presents the Hard Move (Consequence) before you roll, after which you have a chance to mitigate it.
    I've played in more than one game (D&D, or superhero games in the 90's if memory serves) where I've seen the GM grant "greater success" on a critical roll that's invalidated the original intent.

    For example, wanting to knock someone over to prevent them from acting, but rolling "so well" that you push them off a cliff, or they hit their head on a rock and die.
    But there's a difference between not achieving your intent, and achieving something you didn't intend. The two are entirely independent, and games like 7th Sea 2e only consider the latter. Taken simultaneously they do lead to some dramatic results however, like how Spiderman killed Gwen Stacy when he tried to save her.
    As a GM I've also seen the thing where the player describes some convoluted procedure at great length without explaining what they hope to achieve. I usually cut through it and ask what they're actually trying to do. I wonder if this sort of Cover Your Ass concealed information style comes from more adversarial GM/player "gotcha"-style play, where you want to make sure you have your bases covered but don't trust the GM not to engineer an end-run around your prep.
    Possibly, but they might also be trying to clarify their intent indirectly through more information. Otherwise it doesn't make any sense, as it doesn't prevent the GM from engineering an end-run around that prep.
    isn't this a fail forward mechanic or am I missing something?

    You manage to lock pick the door but guards arrives.
    That depends. Are you picking the lock to avoid the guards?
    I think there are definitely moves in AW and pbta elsewhere that can undermine intent
    A Move clearly establishes what can and cannot happen as a result of triggering it, but I'd hardly equate that to undermining intent. And you don't even know which Move (if any) was triggered until you establish intent.
    It's also interesting how rules can allow or forbid certain intentions.
    Yes it is, and I wish more designers took this into consideration when designing their RPGs as it has a profound effect on play and tends to be blindly implemented.

  • edited October 2016
    This is essentially how 7th Sea 2e works. The difference is the GM presents the Hard Move (Consequence) before you roll, after which you have a chance to mitigate it
    . . .
    there's a difference between not achieving your intent, and achieving something you didn't intend. The two are entirely independent, and games like 7th Sea 2e only consider the latter. Taken simultaneously they do lead to some dramatic results however, like how Spiderman killed Gwen Stacy when he tried to save her.
    Interesting! Have you played this way much? Can you (further) characterize how it plays out?
  • isn't this a fail forward mechanic or am I missing something?

    You manage to lock pick the door but guards arrives.
    That depends. Are you picking the lock to avoid the guards?
    Haven't you answered your own question here, regarding what's the difference between action and intent? If the picking the lock is to avoid the guards, then they are the same.

    The intent and action doesn't have to be the same but they can be.
  • Can you (further) characterize how it plays out?
    Not achieving your intent: You didn't get through the door.

    Achieving something you didn't intend: You get through the door but alert the guards in the process.

    In theory you always achieve your intent in 7th Sea 2e. The only thing up to chance is whether you avoid the 'negative' or 'unintended' consequences of your actions.

    More details will be forthcoming, and this is a big deal and central to my design philosophy.
    If the picking the lock is to avoid the guards, then they are the same.
    No, because you can fail to pick the lock but successfully avoid the guards, and succeed in picking the lock but fail to avoid the guards.
  • Yeah; I think the "pick the lock to avoid the guards" example is bad, and I'm trying to put my finger on why. It might have to do with the fact that there is nothing about picking the lock that directly helps you avoid the guards - you are picking the lock so you can open the door in the hopes that opening the door will help you avoid the guards. I think there's too much chaining going on there. If your action doesn't directly help you achieve your intent, I think there needs to be some decoupling, because otherwise you get into absurd situations like "I pick the lock to seduce the prince." because picking the lock gets you into bedchambers for a little alone time, and I don't think anyone here is going to argue that picking the lock should guarantee a successful seduction. Either you need to get a little more granular, or you need to change what your challenge/scene is about, because fundamentally, it should be able the thing that directly works to achieve your goal, and not the fiddly obstacles beforehand.
  • That's what I keep saying. So few of the task-based games actually make the promise people feel they are breaking when they don't achieve their intent.
  • edited October 2016
    The following table may help in discussion, because correlation between action and intent is matricial.
    image
    All cases may occur.
    That depends on how the system is explicit in describing how to handle the possible situations.
    Moreover, "consequences" (i.e. non explicit statements deriving from both actions and intents) are usually not handled by the system (but they should) and are not represented in the table.
    We may do a step beyond and trying to represent them in some way.
    Rob
  • edited October 2016
    I think any game that lists mechanics for all sorts of tasks implicitly makes the promise "you won't be completely wasting your time by engaging these mechanics". Obviously a book lying on the table can't uphold that promise by itself, that's up to the GM, but I do think the book establishes that goal, that rolling to succeed or fail at tasks will actually matter.

    If people want to knowingly roll for stuff that doesn't matter, just for the sake of flavor or something, then that's fine, but rolling for something that you thought mattered, only to then find out that it doesn't, is what gets people upset.

    I don't see how it wouldn't be pure value added if D&D2 said, "GM, whenever a player wants to roll, ask them what they hope to get out of it. If it's something that you know that roll can't help them with, let them know. (Or, if you're playing in an immersive style, make sure they have all the info their character would have when deciding upon that action.)" Because if you don't have some version of communicate-about-rolls going on in your D&D2 game, you will encounter that "thought it mattered but it doesn't" upset (or players who act randomly, or as adversaries to the GM, because they've given up on pursuing intents).
  • In theory you always achieve your intent in 7th Sea 2e. The only thing up to chance is whether you avoid the 'negative' or 'unintended' consequences of your actions.
    Huh. So whenever something in the fiction is at all possible, no matter how difficult, it's basically an auto-success? Or do we just never describe how difficult something looks, and just draw a line between "impossible" and everything else?

    Do we try to punish really difficult feats with worse consequences? Or do the consequences just flow from the fictional situation, regardless of how much of a stretch the success was?

    If 7th Sea 2E is more of an action movie cinema deal than a reality simulation deal, I can see how this could be fun. We'd just need a constant source of consequences that were truly significant but didn't stop my ability to keep playing my character. In other games I've found that to be tricky when the consequences keep piling up.
  • I'm curious about the 7th Sea question, too. While "success with consequences" is a well-beloved game feature around here (I've designed whole games around it!), how does the game preserve some uncertainty around outcomes? Is it even possible to have a tense scene/encounter/challenge which has us on the edge of our seats, wondering how it will turn out?
  • If people want to knowingly roll for stuff that doesn't matter, just for the sake of flavor or something, then that's fine, but rolling for something that you thought mattered, only to then find out that it doesn't, is what gets people upset.
    Really?

    "I rough the guy up for information"

    "He tells you all he knoiws, which is nothing"

    is not a valid thing to happen in play? I understand that it can be frustrating, but aren't we all going to have some frustrations in life? Is it actually improper to produce frustration in this way?
  • If the player was aware (or could easily find out, by asking) that successfully roughing up a guy would make the guy tell all he knows (but that there's no guarantee he knows what the PC is after), then it's 100% great.

    It's the other cases that are the issue.
  • Basically the bad reputation that this technique has is due to the role it plays in illusionistic GMing. I doubt that anybody would have issues with intent-undermining game features if it wasn't such a widespread experience to have a GM use it for illicit control of the game narrative. The issue is not frustration as Jason suggests, but the perceived legitimacy of what the GM is doing.

    Game texts make this dysfunction easy by encouraging players to perceive the game in terms of exciting task resolution moments, while instructing GMs to develop setpiece encounters that operate at a higher level of control in comparison to simple pass/fail task resolution. Players are led to believe that the task resolution process matters a lot, that it's basically the central thing that matters, just as David described earlier. Consequently it is relatively common to get a potential disappointment and a perception of broken trust when the player realizes how little the task resolution may actually matter to the general flow of the game: you spent all that time filling up that character sheet, managing your skills, picking and rolling, and all the while the GM actually controlled the events of the game with factors outside your control - what use to be successful in intimidating a witness when they never actually knew anything...

    There are lots of gaming situations where this isn't an issue, but as we've seen from the excitement people have had for clearer and more even-handed game texts and GMing methodologies, it is also evident that problems in this area are a common, shared experience among many roleplayers.
  • I agree that it's a perception, but is the perception well-founded?

    If I can't (for example) find anywhere in D&D3 where the game promises me that (for example) my Diplomacy skill will not just shift an NPC's disposition to Helpful but ensure that the NPC will indeed be effective in helping me overcome my present challenge...

    ... then isn't the problem not with the "illicit" GM action of saying "this street beggar likes you a lot now but he can't do jack for you on this particular point of wizard college politics"

    ...nor the designer's text that says "all Diplomacy does is make NPCs more helpful",

    ...isn't the fault really in the heart of the player?

    I mean, yes, if someone is deranged in this manner, it isn't kind for me to tell them to suck it up and get with the program, and it won't help, we will have to treat them in some other way. But shouldn't we diagnose them properly first?
  • I suppose we could, but you're treating what is at its heart a social and political matter as a legal point - what does it matter, ultimately, if there is no technically authoritative basis for a player's expectations if those expectations are nevertheless strong? The game group is ultimately a democratic polity, for it cannot function without creative harmony, and that means that players may as well be getting their cues from the phases of the moon or the flight of the birds, yet nevertheless, even being all baseless, their expectations will have to be taken into account if we are to play together without strife.

    (I have to say for the record, though, that in my experience it is not the case that players formulate these kinds of expectations without basis and due to being deranged; the reason is in misleading game texts and GMs, rather. I have never witnessed a GM instructing players clearly about how their task dicing doesn't matter as much as they think, and they shouldn't therefore get too invested in it; to the contrary, it is ordinary in my experience for the GM, no matter the truth for the game in question, to encourage this fixation and let the players invest themselves into the details of who-rolls-what.)

    On this basis the question is not whether players are justified in holding onto this or that sort of preconception about the game they're playing; the question is whether we are capable of coming to the same page together in this matter, such that the GM doesn't end up undermining the faith and commitment of the other players in the process of the game. For this purpose I think that both solutions are equally good: either the GM needs to stop undermining (perhaps with the aid of a rules system of some sort), or the group needs to clarify the rules together, such that the players know how intent and task success interrelate in this way we are playing. Either way, it's notable how singularly unhelpful a game text can be when it comes to creative harmony; the game text does not ensure that everybody reads it, nor that everybody applies it the same. The game text may instruct either way on this matter, yet achieve nothing if the group fails in applying the text consistently together.
  • Hmmm. Well, perhaps System Doesn't Matter that much after all, then.


    ;)
  • I agree that it's a perception, but is the perception well-founded?
    It only really takes once for it to be well founded, so in many cases, YES.

    I don't really understand why you are so intent on blaming the players here. No one goes into a game expecting everything to go their way, but some players have definitely reached a point where they expect nothing to.
  • Well, my point is, the prescription's different. If it's the game's fault, sure, discard the game and buy the Latest Thing, that one will definitely fix this problem. But if it's the player's trouble (okay, okay, "fault", fine, I'll lay that word aside for now), then all you need to do is say "Look, read the description of the skills in this game." (for example) "If you use Diplomacy on a guy and you succeed, his disposition WILL be Helpful, and the GM WILL have them act accordingly, but it can't change their position in the world or even their skills. This isn't the GM fucking with you, it's the world having consistency and authenticity. Sometimes you'll have an idea that doesn't pan out in this world. The GM's job in such a situation is to honestly tell you it's not panning out."
  • Do we have any reason to believe the second case is a thing? Is this something you have encountered? Read about? I've basically only ever heard of this behavior as a hypothetical counterexample in threads like this.
  • Sorry, the second case of...?
  • Game's trouble vs player's trouble.

    i.e. have you ever encountered a player who got upset because they felt the GM stymied them from getting their intent even though there was no clear line from their action to their intent?
  • Well, I tend to be the game teacher in my group, and I've gotten pretty good at it, so it's been a long time, but I can remember some things in my dim past. I thought we had concluded it was a real thing, though!
  • But if it's the player's trouble (okay, okay, "fault", fine, I'll lay that word aside for now), then all you need to do is say "Look, read the description of the skills in this game."
    That's precisely the point Eero covered, above:

    If and when a group or a GM does this, and does it clearly, it's totally fine. Unfortunately, many/most (no one knows the exact proportion, of course) groups and GMs very clearly do NOT do this.

    If your argument is that it's easy to do, it will be difficult for anyone to say you're incorrect. However, gamers (in my experience), for whatever reason, do quite regularly get this wrong.

    What can we do? Good demonstrations and good teaching help (it sounds like that's what you do). Good texts help. Good design helps as well (I pointed out some examples of how "move design" in *World games sometimes makes it explicit - in the presence of a thing like that, I think it would be much harder for the group to fall prey to one of these problems).
  • My personal experience doesn't really explain why anybody would think that the written game text would be paramount in resolving issues of expectation, anyway - at least hereabouts it's something like 15% of gamers who actually read rulebooks in any kind of methodical manner. Through the last 10 years it's been a given in my experience that the GM masters the rules system, whatever it is, and then transmits it orally to the other players. The games where a group would deviate from this patterns are few and far between. (The most important example being that more recent D&D has had some traction for the idea that a player could read the rulebook privately, perhaps even getting a personal copy, just so they could engage the character building sub-game more thoroughly.) This goes equally for trad and progressive games.

    And yeah, System Matters even if game texts do not somehow translate into phrase-precise practice at the game table. Whatever the players actually end up doing in play is the "System" that matters, whether its basis is in a rulebook or the GM's personal preferences or the phases of the moon. In this particular matter the System Matters pretty clearly, right?
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