This is a follow-up to @Jeph
's threads and @Paul_T
's continuation:The Spicy Dice Roll: salvaging something coherentSpicy Agenda and PrinciplesThe Spicy Roll/Agenda, Player Edition
Feel free to read those or not, but the gist is that we're talking about a very specific play style which intentionally and successfully includes a lot of GM control over outcomes. And yet, there is also a lot of dice rolling!
This discussion started from the Forge Actual Play reports of @Silmenume
(aka Jay), who recently discovered Story-Games.com. Good to see you again, Jay!
Jay and I started chatting about how, in this style of play, the fact that dice influence but do not determine outcomes
is a key component. Rather than providing a final answer to a difficult question that the group wants answered for them, the dice provide an ingredient (such as a "1" or a "20") which the group incorporates into the common ground which informs their collective meaning-making improv. It's as if the group assembled to play jazz, started with a standard, found their own voice and their own take on that standard, and are now parsing that "1" or "20" relative to that subjective endeavor.
So, if you're doing an epic, heroic riff on Lord of the Rings, your Dunedain Ranger is not going to be impaled on a "1". But, if you're doing a dark and grim riff on Lord of the Rings, your itinerant dwarf might well be impaled on a "1". Not that the broad strokes tell the full story! The group will surely find different ways to play GrimDark LotR Jazz over time, and the question of what's meaningful in the moment
is inherent subjective and situational. So maybe your downtrodden dwarf's "1" is a survivable part of our introduction to their ongoing run of foul luck in life, while the ranger hero's "1" arrives at the end of a long duel against a balrog, providing a death worthy of ballads.
I think this summary hits the key points of Jay's current thoughts on the matter -- perhaps he can correct me.
Personally, I very much like the idea of formalizing this process a little more. I don't want to minimize the prominence of the in-the-moment judgment of the participants, but I would like some ways to communicate "how we use the dice" more succinctly.
My first thought is this:
1) Whenever a player attempts something and is invested in an outcome which, to them, seems uncertain, ask the GM either, "Does it work?" or "What happens?"
2) The GM will then reply with the range of possible outcomes. For example, "That's a crapshoot; could go either way!" or "Unfortunately your opponent seems more skilled than you expected" or "No problem, piece of cake."
3) The player will then roll a die to narrow that range down into a specific outcome. For "crapshoot", a high roll could mean great success and a low roll could mean total failure. For "surprisingly skilled opponent", a high roll could mean you fend them off long enough to escape, and a low roll could mean you get horribly wounded. For "no problem" a high roll could mean complete success with bonus positive consequences, and a low roll could mean an embarrassing botch and hilarious setback.
Other thoughts welcome!