Derpening of Mirkwood 10

Social Contract and Practical Play

I think we’ve reached the point in our campaign where there’s really nothing new about the system or the game itself that’s that interesting to talk about. Now it’s just the game we play on Tuesday evenings, aimed into the indefinite future.

I think one thing that has interfered with my ability to run games for a very long time (I know, 10 sessions isn’t that long) is kind of a new development in my gaming life: I run out of things to talk about online! Ridiculous but I’m thinking about it.

Stuff does in fact come to mind, though, after our last session:

* It was a pure sandbox session. Lots of threads to pick up and run with, nothing really special happening in Darkening of Mirkwood year 2954. They could have helped the Woodmen open a safe passage through The Narrows between East Bight and the Black Tarn, but three of the four company members are now new characters, with just the hobbit remaining of the old crew. He’s the “old man” now, eight years a committed wandering adventurer far from home. He’s also got his first Shadow trait — Idle — and has taken to drinking and lazing about Woodland Hall. A minor local celebrity gone to seed.

I like that! I also like the shift in generations. Is the company really the same company? Clearly it isn’t. And the memories of past characters really does add a nice texture to everything. The dwarf who went mad with jealousy and tried to kill the hobbit over imagined slights, well, his replacement (the player was unavailable for three weeks so three years have gone by since anyone’s heard from the dwarf) is a Woodman, Woodwoman?, who’s been told how terrible the hobbit is the whole time by her mentor. But she’s here anyway largely because of shit that went down years ago between strangers.

The other newb is here on orders from the elf who went power-mad and raised an army of vigilantes to “patrol” southern Mirkwood and deliver rough justice: she knows she can’t really live with people any more but she’s still sincerely concerned for the hobbit’s well-being, so she’s sent a trusted Woodman to track down her old friend. It’s really quite lovely.

The only character without a through-line to the first generation is also the one with the most tenuous connection to the Company, and it’s so obvious. Everything going on with him, a Beorning, is cut whole-cloth from the established backstory, and the handwaviest of handwaves between a trusted NPC (Bofri, the dwarf who wants to reopen the Old Forest Road) and the hobbit PC. It’s weak. And in this case, I think it’s actually okay — although he’s kind of a pariah. Hard to be a company with an untrustworthy outsider.

Oh, anyway, since everyone’s new that means nobody but the hobbit really has the Wisdom to tolerate Mirkwood shenanigans. They’ve seen just how fast the Shadow can tear someone’s soul down, so they’re pretty resistant to going in unless they have to. Now they’re finding things to do outside the forest, and that’s cool.

* A really interesting and semi-uncomfortable power struggle cropped up during play between me and, quelle surprise, the Beorning outsider’s player. I’m not even sure “power” is the right qualifier.

The basic situation: we’re in an Encounter with Beorn hissownself. The Beorning PC has Awed his way into an audience, so he’s the only talker. They’re talking about this asshole NPC, Viglund, who has his own little parallel kingdom to the north and has been raiding and enslaving Beornings. Well, the PC thinks he’s gonna single-handedly walk into Viglund’s territory, call the guy out in single combat, and put an end to it. Beorn, who’s been fighting these assholes for years now, is more temperate — he wants the kid (he’s 19!) to gather intelligence.

Anyway, details aren’t important. In the course of the Encounter the player says he wants to talk Beorn into lending him some men. That’s what he says: “Okay, I want to talk him into lending me some guys.” To which I say “Well yeah, but he’s skeptical of striking Viglund anyway so this is gonna be hard. Let’s say TN 18.” And the player pushes the dice away and says “nope, never mind.”

Well…okay so now we’re in uncharted waters. Is TOR a “if you do it you’ve done it” kind of game? Not explicitly, no. Is TOR a “negotiate between players at the table until we settle on something” kind of game? Mmmm no, not explicitly. But Burning Wheel damage has been done with these folks! There is, I think, a constant implication that negotiating is a thing you can do.

Yesssss that’s fine BUT! But but but the cat-and-mouse of the Encounter rules is an important source of tension! Me telling you the TN is an 18 isn’t an offer to negotiate, it’s a courtesy so you can just tell me if you’ve succeeded. But he knows he’s up against the edge of the Tolerance of the whole encounter and doesn’t want to deal with large-scale failure. And so he just doesn’t touch the dice. Pushes them away. Says “no” in a beat of play where “no,” to my mind, doesn’t belong.

It’s weird, right? In one version of the world I suppose I could, you know, just stare him down. Or say he fails, whatever, rocks fall everyone dies. Or I can go along with it, which to my mind sets an unhealthy precedent. I went along with it, but now I’m thinking about precedent. Oh god, the accumulated common law of the game table.

Now, in the future, I won’t announce TNs. But then that raises the specter of “you’re just making up TNs so I fail when you want me to!” To which I then say “Okay then you can make an Insight roll and I can tell you something about the conflict, like what the TN would be for this or say how close to Tolerance you are.” Which is just injecting more rolls, creating more chances to roll Eyes and run up the Mordor track (although they’re negotiating in a sanctuary, so that’s actually a non-issue in this particular case).

But you can see the lawyerly head space this whole thing moves me into. I hate it. It’s one reason, I think, why the explicit procedures of Burning Wheel have worked so very well with some players in my group: they’re predicated on negotiating, on openness, and on mediating player disagreement. That’s hard to set aside even in a purposeful design.

The Encounter rules in The One Ring are specifically built to incorporate gambling, to get them to push their luck. But gambling requires hidden information. It has to be there. It’s fundamentally incompatible with radical transparency.

It’s a problem with few good solutions within the rules themselves. I even brought it up afterward but maybe I need to reframe the conversation a little.

* Hmhmhm nothing else of real interest this session. Just kind of, you know, the shit that’s happening. But if gameplay is going to drift down this path much further — some basic rejection of GM authority — we might have to take a break for a while. Can’t really play a game if you don’t all agree to the rules.

<- Part 9 | Wrapup ->

64 thoughts on “Derpening of Mirkwood 10”

  1. Interesting. I had always thought of TOR as having the kind of “know the difficulty before you roll” negotiation that your player seems to have been engaging, but I’m not sure if that’s just because of baggage I have from similar games. Like the idea of a player saying “I want to look around for tracks” and me saying “hm, tricky in this terrain but not impossible. TN 16, or you can use a trait” and then the player deciding whether or not it was worth the roll, that seems very natural to me. Obviously it’s a little different in the context of an Encounter because of the Tolerance rules, but it still feels like I would have come down that way.

  2. Robert Chilton oh yeah, the session itself was quite fun! Action packed. We haven’t broken the one-adventure-each-year rule since the second session.

  3. Just a thought: maybe write the TN on a card and place it face-down in front of the player? Then they can roll without knowing the TN, but they also know you aren’t fudging post-roll. Sort of like how the GM scripts first in BW.

    Granted, this doesn’t stop you from choosing absurd TNs, but at least there’s transparency.

  4. I default to being open about TNs in everything I run. Though it seems like bad form for a player to say, “I’m doing this” and changing their mind when I reveal the TN.

  5. The revelation of information before vs. after rolling is so overlooked in so many games, and as the Monty Hall problems shows us, it affects probability deeply.

  6. Paul is the secret info the tolerance level? So since we always have the choice to end the the social interaction knowing the tn is just letting us make an informed decision.

  7. Paul Mitchener agreed, and that’s definitely my default as well. And agreed that it was poor form.

    But I was kind of getting at that in my title re. “practical play.” Like, this weird thing happens, now what? Do I stop and make a big production out of it? Do I fiddle with the procedures for future sessions? I opt for the least-disruptive solution in almost all cases, trusting that I can work it out later.

    Mark Delsing okay, in the RAW if the TN won’t be 14, the GM needs to explain why but he explains before rolling. Which to me is a strong implication that there’s a “if you do it you’ve done it” thing going on. You don’t get to not-roll if you don’t like the number.

    Which is where we found ourselves. I just looked at him for a second and he just looked at me and shrugged. Worth stopping the whole session? Bleagh.

  8. Paul Mitchener it could be bad form, or it could just be that the player hadn’t fully thought through the difficulty prior to the action.

    Like, it sounds like it shouldn’t have been a surprise in the case-at-bar that Beorn was unwilling to participate, but if the player was just talking faster than their mind was processing, it’s not an unreasonable thing to ask for. It could have even triggered more negotiation: “Don’t start a fight, go do some recon.” “I ask him for some muscle.” “Uh, he’s not into that. TN 18.” “Oh, right. Duh. OK, how about I ask him to lend me a handful of his best scouts.” “Hm, That makes more sense. TN 16.”

    I guess, unpacking, I tend to think of these sorts of GM/player interactions in terms of contract law: you need offer, consideration (ie, exchange), and acceptance or there’s no contract, and both parties have to be clear on what the terms are.

  9. Robert Chilton the Tolerance is the secret info. You know when you’ve failed but you don’t know how many failures you can have.

    So in the Beorn scene, the Beorning knows it’s a big ask but J should not have not-rolled just because he’s meta-aware that he might run into Tolerance problems.

  10. Paul Beakley​ I think we are saying the same thing. I just think that he does have the option to hear tn and say hmm I’ll take what I got and walk.

  11. Adam D I broadly agree with all that. But not all games are written that way. Like specifically with Encounters, there’s a push-your-luck element to it where any given failure might not sink the whole deal. So, you know, maybe go ahead and ask? Or ask for the big shit early?

    There is a skill called Insight that I believe would actually be RAW-useful in lieu of negotiating between players. It is itself a gamble but the odds of it being harder than 14 are vanishingly small in my own mind at least. Unless you’re dealing with some squirrelly fucker going out of his/her way to be misleading (then it’s probably Insight vs Riddle).

  12. Robert Chilton that pretty dramatically changes the transaction. Might not seem that way where you’re sitting but from where I’m sitting that’s huge. And I’m all about giving the players all the tools they need.

    This is the Burning Wheel damage I was talking about. You’re, uh…not actually entitled to informed decisions in every game. 🙂

  13. Hm, that TN story reminds me of something that happened during a Mouse Guard campaign where I was playing. And I think it speaks to a very real issue that RPGs always have, which is “your mental model isn’t my mental model”.

    We’d wound up in a cave with a bunch of crabs scuttling around, and I announced my intention to try and climb up and sneak around to see if I could find something. The GM dropped the difficulty number, and it was astronomical. I was boggled, but he explained why–and given how he was imagining the scene, I could see why he assigned that high of a difficulty to the action.

    Then he invoked “No Weasels” on it.

    I did get him to back down by making some points (especially “um, so, you totally didn’t describe the bit where the cave was pretty much covered with crabs who were all looking around”). I’m not sure how to solve that central problem, because I agree–having some hidden information can make the mechanics really interesting! It just needs some assurance that the difficulty values won’t go above a certain value, I think. (It’s like how in Blackjack, you can be 100% certain that there’s no card that adds 20 to your total.)

  14. That’s a tricky situation. It’s a pretty trad thing that games like Burning Wheel helped make explicit and untangle. I tend to play “you say you do it, you do it”. Although there probably is some wiggle room there. Like if a player says “how hard do I think it is to climb up that wall”, I’ll tell them a TN. Then they can say “no”.

    That said – are you changing the TN on every roll of the encounter? I just set it once at the beginning, and then it’s up to the players when they want to tap out and stop pushing tolerance. That allows for gambling without hidden information.

    I negotiate with the players on what the boons look like. Boon one: “I won’t kill you”, boon two: “You can sleep in the barn”, etc. Then we talk about those things. We also talk about what breaking tolerance looks like. Sometimes it’s pretty bad.

  15. Paul Beakley yeah, that’s fair. And as you discussed in a previous post in this series, the push-your-luck element of Encounters needs to be turned up to max to give them any value.

    I guess I see it in terms of a resource, though. The player knows that “rolls” are a resource, and is blind to how many rolls they have left. Because of that, it means that knowing the difficulty of any given roll before making it, and being allowed to back out of a high TN is made even more important. If the player is blind to the number of rolls AND the TN, then there is no intentional resource management, and the outcome starts to edge pretty close to randomness, from the limited-information perspective of the player. Now, the player can gather information by listening to what the GM has said about the conversation so far, and estimate whether a given action is going to be easy or hard, but given that not all people collect or process information at the same level in conversation, and that the character has access to information that the player doesn’t, I would still err on the side of letting the player ask the TN for a given action and then back down from the roll in an Encounter.

    Though Insight rolls might be the answer to that.

  16. Phil Lewis I set TNs during Encounters depending on what they’re asking for. Beorn doesn’t think this 19yo kid is the man to lead an invasion, so you’d better sell the hell out of me that you are.

    I don’t do Boons. My current method works well except for this TN business.

    In my Encounters, breaking Tolerance means comprehensive failure of the Encounter. Without that, folks would just roll what-fucking-ever until they pinged out, meaning they could trivially rack up successes without any real threat of failure.

  17. Paul Beakley so maybe the fix is making it a rule that if you start a new phase of social interaction you are obligated to make the role. So buyer beware .

  18. Adam D probably what happens, because my players are most comfortable with it, is that I tweak the game to BW-type expectations and always announce and let them always back out. I just do that.

    Structurally, TOR is quite a lot more tangled than it looks at first.

    In the Combat subsystem, there are no consequences for failing rolls beyond the lost opportunity cost: you only get the one roll when it’s your turn.

    In the Encounter system, you run the risk of running Tolerance out.

    In the Journeys system, you risk Fatigue and occasionally a Hazard.

    And for all the rolls outside of those subsystems, there’s always a BW-style “intent -> task -> failure consequences” discussion. So even within the game itself there’s an expectation set that negotiating is okay.

    It’s kind of a mess.

  19. Robert Chilton oh agreed, the song thing is sweet. I love that one person can teach everyone the song and then that’s a neat thing y’all can try. Very LotR.

  20. I actually think the GM is meant to be negotiated. It’s stated openly up front so players don’t actually have to math the dice, buts also stated openly so that when the GM says “that’s going to be hard” the player doesn’t think “oh, I thought you meant TN 16 hard…TN 18 is too hard.

    So when you say TN 18 and the player says nope…that’s completely the way I understood the game to work…

    So the player was telling you what their character wanted, and then when the character realized the Beorn wasn’t likely to agree he decided to push for it.

    One might question whether backing off right then was or wasn’t in character (if he is a rash egotistical character it may have made more sense to roll anyway…and so maybe backing odd out of character might be a sign of turtling behavior)…but mechanically, that’s exactly how I think it’s supposed to work.

  21. Ralph Mazza​ I don’t see that implication at all in the text. I’m looking at p139, the steps of task resolution:

    1) Declare intent.
    2) Set the TN
    3) Apply traits and virtues
    4) Roll dice
    5) Add up results
    6) Spend hope to add attribute bonus

    At no point is there a “well, maybe I don’t actually want to do that” step. It’s not even in the examples.

    That said, it’s a very practical solution and as I said up earlier, my players want that tool. So I will probably allow it, although it pushes weaselly buttons in me that I don’t love.

  22. Paul Beakley this write-up makes me really want to go to New Mexicon and get in one of your games. I wish I knew how to run character-driven campaigns like this! In spite of where you think the rules fall down, the whole campaign seems to sizzle!

  23. I like that at the top of this post you say there’s nothing else interesting to talk about and this whole post and thread have been so useful and interesting for me. But if it’s not interesting to you…

    I’d love it if you keep digging deeper as your group keeps playing. Now that you’re through the system novelty, I think your group’s insights with long-term play will be especially interesting.

  24. Oh thanks! Glad you’re enjoying it.

    Once we hit, I think, 13 sessions we’ll be in uncharted territory. I think we got 13 in on The Great Pendragon Campaign.

  25. I for one enjoy these write-ups; even if you’ve plumbed the system to its depths, it’s still really interesting to see a concise AP-ish sort of thing that relates what happens in the narrative to the mechanics.

    I’m really interested in the personality mechanics, they seem like BW emotional attributes but with a way more aggressive pacing, as appropriate for the generational thing.

    My guess is that the mechanical support is important for helping push a rate of character change that otherwise might not occur in players used to ‘playing out the day’ (or perhaps just ‘the week’).

  26. Michael Prescott oh yeah, the progression of everyone’s Shadow weakness is terrific tech that leverages TOR’s Trait system, which is also terrific tech. And of course it’s all predicated on the Hope/Shadow economy, which is great too.

    It’s hard to express how strong those parts of the design are and how nicely they all come together. It doesn’t read that way on the page!

    Since we’re just now passing through a “generation” of characters, this is new territory for me as well. Nobody is anyone’s son/daughter, and that’s too bad, but damned if I can see any PC surviving say 18-20 years of play. I do kind of wish they were actual generations, though. I think that’d be interesting. We never could keep the game going long enough in KAP, either.

  27. Paul, thanks for all the excellent posts about your RPG sessions. I really enjoy reading them! What would you recommend is the essential collection of The One Ring to (potentially) run an enjoyable experience in Middle Earth? Thanks!

  28. I own everything in print, as well as the PDF for the upcoming Journeys book. I use something from everything except Ruins of the North I think, but I’m gonna lean on that as soon as they go over the Misty Mountains.

    Probably the least useful single product is the Lake-Town book that comes with the GM screen. Also I don’t actually hide behind a GM screen bit it does have all the charts and that’s helpful.

    I also own three sets of the custom dice: two in bone, one in green. I hand out green bonus dice or fuck-you dice so they stand out.

  29. Actually as always with RPGs the problem is nitpicking the rules and forgetting that this is a role playing game, not a boardgame. I’m a boardgame designer also and I’m all for modern RPG designs but if you forget to put the narrative first and before the rules you get to that kind of problems.
    The player was trying to convince someone of something, by announcing the TN you actually made the position of the target clear: he is very contrary and can’t be easily convinced. At this point is entirely reasonable for the player to back down without rolling. Rolling would mean he thinks is idea is so much important that it is worth the risk of the roll.
    Not rolling means that he concedes that his idea is not worth the risk and tells the target “OK OK you are right, let me go drink a beer”
    Were is the problem?

    On the other hand if he says he is attacking the orc and you announce the TN he can’t back up because he already committed to the attack.

  30. In the original Loremasters Guide there was a section that asserted pretty strongly that the GM shouldn’t change off the default 14 unless he had a very strong reason for doing so, and that changing the TN was making a important statement about the relevance of the task.

    The phrasing and repetition of this guidance suggests to me that the player is entitled to not be surprised by the TN, so it is the GM’s responsibility to make the fiction crystal clear when the TN is going to be something other than 14.

    If a player is willing to go forward based on the fictional description, but then balks at the TN assigned, that suggests that the GM faltered in making the fiction carry the message of how difficult the roll was going to be.

    I don’t remember an explicit direction to allow the player to back out; but the logic above is what suggests to me that was the design intent.

  31. Ralph Mazza I hear you! And I don’t read it that way. I read it as the player deserving to hear why the rating is what it is.

    For the record, and it seems like maybe I could have been more explicit, I very much set up the entirety of the Encounter around Beorn’s skepticism of the young thane. Every step of the way he’s all “slow down, bring me information.” And, in character, the PC pushed and pushed.

    So in my mind at least, I’m not pulling a TN out of my ass. I’m generally very good at telegraphing the mechanics through the fiction.

  32. Well, deserving to hear how hard it will be before they decide to call for the roll. Which announcing the TN and allowing a change of course is simply an expedient way of accomplishing that.

    Of course if you made it clear fictionally how hard it was going to be and then they called and backed out — yeah, that’s probably just player gaming the system and hoping you’ll let it slide by on default.

  33. ¯\(ツ)

    What can I say? It ain’t in there. Although it’s not a total show stopper to include it. But there may be lots of reasons why the rules are written as they are! I generally speculate that it’s just overlooked, which is why I think that, no, there’s no negotiating (a fairly recent innovation). But then they’ve obviously included other new tech! So who knows, really.

  34. Great to read your observations Paul Beakley​. Thanks for taking the time to write them. I always find something in your words that helps me reflect on my own gming. Most valuable!

  35. No. That part very much definitely is there. The players absolutely have the right to know how hard the difficulty will be before they call for the roll. Fictionally if nothing else. Calling out the TN in advance is not in there. That’s just an easy way of fulfilling the GM obligation to signal the difficulty.

    One thing I’ve noticed in your write-ups is that you tend to treat the rules like boardgame rules…something I’m entirely sympathetic to as both of the games I’ve published are written to be read that way. But they’re the only two I know of that are…well maybe Moldvay D&D (which is why its the only version of basic that you can actually play as written).

    But most games aren’t written that strictly. Just because there is a list of numbered steps and in that list “determine TN” comes after “call for the roll” that doesn’t actually mean that. There are almost no RPGs written where (in the absence of specific direction to do so) you can take the rules that literally.

    The text surrounding that list makes it pretty clear that all rolls are made at the default TN unless the GM has a very good reason to say otherwise…and that very good reason had better be reflected in the fiction leading up to the situation where the player calls for the roll.

    I went back and read that section, that’s hammered pretty hard.

  36. Probably your shruggie. Shruggies always set me off.

    But specifically, where you said “it ain’t in there”, which I took to be referring to my assertion that GMs have the obligation to be clear in the fiction that the TN will be other than default before players call for the roll.

    Which I believe is actually in there…or more precisely, is so strongly implied that only an overly literally reading doesn’t see it.

  37. Jesse Coombs because of the fiction/situation and contest: if I ask you troops and you say nay I can escalate the conflict convince you. The TN could be set when I’m asking as it seemed to me in the OP example, or when I’m already escalating. In first situation I can back off because there is no conflict already. In the second I can’t because the conflict already started. Same with the orc: if I ask the GM that I want to evaluate the orc fighting skills (given that it makes sense in the situation context) I can still back off before attack, but if I say that I’m attacking I’m already committed with the conflict. This is how I usually run a game😃

  38. I have to add that in my own system ( that type of reasoning is also enforced by some mechanics and rules: rolls are only made when GM or the player think that they want to steer the narration their way (else gm and player continue narration with no need of rolls, for example yesterday played a tavern brawl that ended with the players in chains, with just a couple of Rolls). Second rule us that the GM sets the difficulty by rolling and always before the player. That means that if the GM has rolled you MUST now roll. But he Rolls only to initiate an important conflict whose result will be interesting for the fiction

  39. Giorgio De Michele, if the character is trying to convince another, why wouldn’t that character already be “committed” to that action as well? It doesn’t seem like either was evaluated beforehand.

  40. Jesse Coombs when a PC asks something to an NPC it’s not always a conflict, it can just be chit chat or assessing their interest. So there is a phase where you just talk between PC and NPC and assess the situation: that’s probably the moment that the TN should pop out. “the NPC is not interested in your idea, if you want to convince him it will be hard, let’s say TN 18”. At that point the PC has not YET engaged in a real “social conflict” to convince the other party, so he can back off and never roll.

    Even if the PC directly told me “I’m trying to convince him of this” I would first tell him “he seems very reluctant on that idea”.

    This is my style of GMing and the one I’ve put in my system too. I don’t say is the best or whatever, just how I evaluate things.

    Also, for me a conflict/roll arises ONLY if its result is meaningful both if the roll have success or fails. So if the only reaction from the NPC would be “no, I’m not convinced”, I wouldn’t even bother rolling: either the PC accepts the NO, or he convinces me that he has plenty skills/Traits (and maybe spends a KA point) to convince him, or if he really wants to roll…well at that point he knows that if he fails something BAD will happen.
    Such as the NPC becoming upset at his insistence and putting him in prison.
    Thus I try to convey the idea of the difficulty of rolling both through the mechanics of the game and what I say, way before the player rolls.

    A different example follows (next post)

  41. My other example is to explain what I mean to “convey the difficulty of rolls through the mechanics of the game. This is what just happened some days ago in our ongoing campaign.

    The players where involved in a “tavern brawl” and one of them that haves high charisma jumped on a table and yelled all to calm down.
    I told him that people just ignored him and continued to fight, but he told me “I want to roll, I’m charismatic plus I have the BELOVED HERO trait etc etc”.
    If this would have been a new player I would have warned him: ok, but remember that if you fail I get to apply an effect on you. Being a veteran it was not necessary: he failed and he got a HEAD TRAUMA Consequence when one of the people in the brawl broke a glass bottle on his head from behind.
    Note that I never rolled for someone to attack him, it was just the consequence of what he did and what made sense to happen.

    In the whole brawl, their main fighter, a Conanesque warrior, spent time breaking heads, having a lot of people try to put him down (at one point he had two on his back and broke their ribs on the wall by launching himself back), WITHOUT A SINGLE ROLL. That’s because he just said “yes” to whatever he was doing: he is Conan in a tavern brawl, no way people can single-handedly make him worry.
    He just rolled to save his friend that was now unconscious on a table, and in the end to not get too bruised up when the whole tavern attacked him to put him in chains (which they did in the end).

    In both situations/rolls they got to rolls only when the result was going to be important BOTH WAYS: if they failed or if they had success.
    If the result was not equally important both ways, I didn’t bothered rolling (“ok, if you have success you put down ONE of the dozens denizens of the tavern” it’s not very relevant for the story or situation at hand, so I just agree with him and he gets what he wants).

    Dunno if this example is interesting for you or not ^_^

  42. Ralph Mazza still agreeing. But telegraphing “this is gonna be so easy/hard” via the fiction is, to me, quite a different conversation than “the player can walk away from a task they asked for if they don’t like the TN.” Yes, excellent policy, and I agree that it’d be bad form for the GM to just drop that chalupa out of the blue (hence the obligation to explain why it’s not TN14).

    There are all kinds of entirely legitimate design considerations that might go into the formal transaction of introducing new facts into the fiction. There’s the whole fortune before/middle/after business. There’s the possibility of some external economy (hero points or traits or XP-generating options). Or there’s just the taste of the designer.

    Mouse Guard says no weasels: you say what you want to do, and there are no takesies-backsies. But in that game, the GM is solely responsible for presenting obstacles, so the transaction isn’t identical.

    Apocalypse World has this whole “to do it, do it and if you did it, you did it” thing: the thing you say happens in the fiction is what happens mechanically, and vice versa. Smart players will of course play to their strengths but ultimately it’s on the GM to decide what move, if any, has been invoked. That’s setting a target without negotiating.

    And so on and so on.

    My shruggie wasn’t disinterest! It was “I really don’t know!” Being a good Libra, I’m well wired to see all sides of everything all the time. So, yeah: It’s very player-friendly to let a player walk away from tasks they’ve asked for (in TOR tasks are requested by players and tests are required by the GM), but wishing it were so doesn’t make it so. I would argue that the presence of Hope is a strong telegraph that you should not let them back out, since they already have a failure-mitigating tool at their disposal. But I could also argue that you should, because much of the game is built toward PC success (Hope, Traits) so it kind of fits the vibe.

    And for the record? “Don’t take it so literally” will actually never, ever work for me. Seriously. That is, to my ear, lazy fallback code for “system doesn’t matter.” You say “don’t read it like board game rules,” I say, “don’t read stuff onto the page that isn’t there.” Insert shruggie here.

    On that note, I think the thread’s reached its course. Thanks for the interesting conversation! I didn’t think it would happen because of this session, but that shows you what I know.

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