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"Storytelling" mechanics in BRP (was: "Concerns about...")


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Hello all.

I wish to reply to some considerations Aknaton made in a thread in the RuneQuest subforum. However, the reply does not really belong there, as the design team has already clarified that these elements - at least in the format that Aknaton required - will not be part of RuneQuest. To avoid cluttering and derailing RuneQuest thread, I will post my considerations here.

First of all, terminology: I will not use the words "storygames" and "storytelling" because they do not have a clear definition. "Simulationism" and "Narrativism" do have a definition, but it is a GNS definition and it is quite different from the usual meaning of "focusing on the physics of the world" and "focusing on the story" that most people attribute to the words; therefore, I will not use these terms, and I encourage people to refer to "simulation rules" or "physical simulation rules" rather than "simulationism". In the unlikely event I want to refer to GNS concept, I will call them "Story Now" and "Right to Dream" to avoid confusion (and not to sound stylish or esoteric).

So, the main question was: should BRP (it was actually RuneQuest, but the question obviously need to be expanded) have mechanics that help players drive the "story" towards their preferred direction? Obviously this means "beyond what their characters accomplish with their material actions", which is always implicit.

baulderstone:
 

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I think they need to be careful with striking a balance with any "story" mechanics that are added. They can be a divisive issue, with purists on both the "Story" and "Simulation" sides. 

There is already HeroQuest as the Glorantha RPG which takes a story-focused approach. Glorantha gamers that are allergic to story mechanics have stuck with RQ. If you put too many story elements into RQ, you could turn off a lot of fans. On the other hand, it's possible that they might bring in new players. It would be a gamble, especially as there are plenty of other BRP options around for players to flee to. 

Personally, I like both story and simulation elements depending on my mood and the group I am playing with. I'm not sure if I want them in RQ, but I might be sold on them if they were interesting enough. I'm not going to lose sleep over it, as Mythras is still around if RQ 7 doesn't win me over. 

Honestly, I see no incredible incompatibility in having both phsyical simulation elements and story editing capabilities in the same game. The Burning Wheel is immensely more crunchy than HeroQuest, yet it is heavily biased towards giving players a great deal of agency.

I tend to consider players who have stuck with RQ over the years as more baffled by the total lack of concrete elements in how HeroQuest describes characters than by the ability to interact directly with the story. Moreover, HQ does not have real storyediting mechanics. You can influence rolls with a HP "bump", but not dictate a result. It is basically the equivalent of what is in Mythras. The storyediting option is only in Mytic Russia, and was never integrated in the HQ core.

Simlasa:

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I've got no interested in having 'storygame'/narrative mechanisms in my BRP games. None at all.

RQ and it's ilk scratch my 'simulationist' itch and do it well (and yeah, I also had a brief flirtation with Phoenix Command).
Storygames, to me, provide a particular sort of gaming that, if I want it, I know where to go. I've played those games, and will again. But it's not something I need/want in EVERY game. No more than I want hit locations or fatigue in EVERY game.

I don't think of storygames (or any games) as 'modern' or 'old' or  'evolved'... just different flavors... but such Narrative mechanics are a flavor that clashes with my reasons for choosing RQ. I already sensed such sentiments creeping into the new Call of Cthulhu and that's part of the reason I choose to stick with earlier versions.

Would you explain what sort of different experience you find in what you call "storygames"? I ask you this because the games you include in this definition - I suspect - are such a broad category that I find it difficult to bundle them together.

Two more "shots on target" posted by Joerg and Jux

Joerg

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What I expect is a good set of rules and other handles for a simulation of the background of a character and their environment, in the good tradition e.g. of RQ3 Gamemasters Book(let). Rules for off-screen activities, like pursuing a craft, trade, or managing a farm, for maintaining a social position in mundane and cultic hierarchy, etc. Defining and managing dependents, patrons, ... - in the simulationist approach typical for RuneQuest, with a dose of Pendragon (Pass) mechanisms for "the rest of the year/season".

What I don't expect are mechanisms for DI lite by another name. I could arrange myself with something like hard-earned karma to spend (in advance) for a boost, approaching the concept of a hero point in Heroquest - especially when treading the Otherworld. And I won't take any pass-fail cycle ideas into a game of RQ outside of heroquesty tests of personality where the story (the myth) requires some faliure. And if there is a simulationist approach, a quest could (and should) go wrong if a character fails to fail, producing abnorm results like Yelmalians with a fire rune or Orlanth Moonfriend.

This is a good, rather technical explanation of how to implement a good story-focused game without resorting to the "spend a point to steal narrative authority from the GM". What I want to highlight is that this contribution advocates a game structure that actively tries to build a well-defined gaming experience beyond just a dry simulation of reality (à la Pendragon) but rejects the Fate Point/Benny approach.

Jux

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To me "narrative rules" are not story-controlling meta rules, but rules that provide more flavor.

So if 'simulation' rules are the bare-bones dry physics engine of the game, for narrative rules I consider and look forward to stuff like sanity rules, corruption, combat (we have physics like armor/hp/dmg, but there can be narrative rules like courage/cowardness, moral, combat maneuvers, etc).

Ditto.

One interesting question from Aknaton (I will reply later)

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I'm curious to know if people in this forum consider 13th Age too narrative (and lacking in mechanics)? 

And two more contributions from Simlasa I want to report:

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The "story-controlling meta rules" are the sort I specifically don't care for... at least not in games that I desire to be 'simulationist' like RQ/BRP/Magic World. Suggestions that Players describe the actions of NPCs or environments, have points to spend to alter NPC actions or find equipment the GM did not explicitly place.

Rules about sanity/morale/fatigue/reputation don't fall under that heading, IMO, and I'm fine with them. They represent something actually going on with the character (though abstracted somewhat), not a meta-level resource I'm manipulating to steer the tale.

This last contribution is probably the most illuminating (not to be intended in the Nysalor way).

I think there is a basic confusion creeping around that needs be addressed. Joerg partially addressed it in his reply.

"Using a quantifiable and expendable resource" and "allowing the players to narrate some details about the background" are not the defining characteristics of a game that wishes to promote a given flavour of "story". They are a technique, not a goal. Pendragon, for instance, does not use them, yet it "drives" play quite effectively.

This means that it is possible to reply "yes" to aknaton's question without introducing elements like Fate/Hero Points. Of course, you can also use the "point expenditure" techniques to obtain these results. I see no real problem in this.

It is also interesting to note that RQ3 (1984) was the last major incarnation of D100 that did not use any Fate currency. Both Mongoose editions of RQ, OpenQuest, RQ6/Mythras, the BGB and CoC7 all have Hero Points. So, it is hard to state that this specific technique is not already part of the d100 tradition.

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About 13th Age being too narrative: apart from the fact that "narrative" is a word with no clear meaning, I can say that 13tha is not a primarily "story focused" game.

13th Age is "the D&D that Jonathan & Rob would have made if totally unrestricted when they were at WotC". It corrects a lot of the points that they (and us non-Gygaxian players) find clumsy and un-fun in D&D. But this is mainly at the character description level. Most of the storybuilding in the game is left to freeform interaction between player and GM. Those few elements that the rules normate (icons and little else) clearly show that the two want you to play with a "collaborative narration" approach, but the game is essentially a re-interpretation of D&D, not "forgie D20". Thank God, I will add :)

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5 hours ago, RosenMcStern said:

So, the main question was: should BRP (it was actually RuneQuest, but the question obviously need to be expanded) have mechanics that help players drive the "story" towards their preferred direction? Obviously this means "beyond what their characters accomplish with their material actions", which is always implicit.

I think that the answer is really going to come down to "it depends".

It depends on who BRP/RQ releases are being marketed to. Is it being marketed to a 'new-rules-wave' audience, or to those with more of a simulationist bent? Or somewhere in between, or closer to one pole than another?

It depends on the degree that story-driving/story-editing is emphasized within the rules. How far away on the traditional-rpg/story-editing-rpg axis a BRP/RQ release travels. I think that there are shades of grey between the poles on the axis, but the further down the axis you travel, the amount of story-editing elements that are included - and the types of story-editing mechanics included - in the rules set, will inform the incompatibility for the traditional gamer that uses this BRP rules set.

I think that there is definitely a dividing line of incompatibility that is reached, but there are some story-editing, rules-milestones along the path that can be incorporated before that line is crossed.

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It is also interesting to note that RQ3 (1984) was the last major incarnation of D100 that did not use any Fate currency. Both Mongoose editions of RQ, OpenQuest, RQ6/Mythras, the BGB and CoC7 all have Hero Points. So, it is hard to state that this specific technique is not already part of the d100 tradition.

Well, true, to a point. But we are talking about a 22-year gap in rules development between RQ3 and these traditions that have developed over the past 10 years. It's not like we had any middle ground where there was any kind of rules evolution that took place between RQ3 and MRQ1. The new tradition was incorporated at a distinct point, and a fate point currency was likely inspired by rules design from the prior 5 years.

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5 hours ago, RosenMcStern said:

So, the main question was: should BRP (it was actually RuneQuest, but the question obviously need to be expanded) have mechanics that help players drive the "story" towards their preferred direction? Obviously this means "beyond what their characters accomplish with their material actions", which is always implicit.

Personally, I find that the BRP System (at least, as written in its Big Golden Book version) is already a perfect balance between "simulation" and "narration".

It is quite good to give plausible results. A bullet or a car crash can kill but don't systematically do it, for instance, exactly like in real life. Some games, like GURPS, may do that better. But ...

The BRP System is simple enough to let the game master and the players play with the quite realistic results given by the rule system. The game master, for instance, can easily make the task difficulty vary depending on how the players describe their actions. If one player says: "I search the room", he will probably ask for a a Spot roll. But if the player tells: "I search the room patiently, taking all the time I need to clear out the drawers of the desk, as well as the closet. I also tap everywhere I can to find a possible secret compartment. And I even look under the carpet ...", the game master can then decide that the roll becomes easy. And because an easy action double the odds, the narration suddenly influences much more the result than the character skill or the dice. Likewise, the game master can rule that the characters are able to dodge bullets, in order to recreate the atmosphere of stories like those of James Bond or Indiana Jones ... Brief, he can make the rules vary a lot to fit to the genre and the story... Some games, like Ambre Diceless RPG may take much more that narration into account. But ...

In my humble opinion, The BRP System is a very good balance between Amber Diceless RPG and GURPS. There are dice and quite realistic rules. But what tell the players has a huge influence on their action results.

So, it would be a pity to change that balance. Especially for the universal system (BRP Essentials), which is supposed to cover every possible genres or stories. a specific game world can require more realistic rules or more narrative ones. But the universal and generic basics of the system just need that amazing balance.

Edited by Gollum
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For my purposes a campaign needs three main elements, the setting,the rules and the tools. The setting describes the physical and social background of the campaign, things like geography, history or culture. The rules define and limit both what kind of events can happen against this background, and how they can happen. The tools, like the characters' skills or equipment, define and limit how the activities of the characters can influence these events and how this develops the characters' stories. These three elements have to fit together rather well in order to create and sustain the plausibility and verisimilitude of the campaign.

With this in mind I am deeply sceptical of tools which could enable the characters to unbalance the campaign by going beyond the limits I carefully designed into my campaign's rules and character tools. I am quite willing to give to the players any and all "narrative" tools that remain within the framework I designed, but I would not agree to introduce the freedom to shape the campaign's story in a way which could endanger its plausibility and verisimilitude.

In my view BRP as it is provides a good balance between the ability to define a campaign and is still open enough to add the specific degree of "narrative player empowerment" required by different types of campaigns, up to and including purely cinematic and Pulp campaigns. I would certainly not welcome any changes which would move BRP towards a more "narrative" system.

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I will go ahead and speak up in favor of (at least some kinds of) story-telling mechanics...

Fate points?  Like in the "Fate" game system?  Frankly, I'm just not sure... I think they wouldn't be as "broken" (if imported more-or-less wholesale into BRP) as has been suggested... but, I admit to having played little-enough Fate to not be positive.  Here's how the usage might play out, in RQ/Glorantha:

  • Orlanthi Player:  "Using my Blacksmith skill and a Fate Point <offers token to GM>, I'm making the Declaration that I recognize the BigBad's Tulwar as being a certain style, which if struck right will break... and *I* know the Secret Weakness, how to hit it juuuuust riiiiiight!"
  • GM, case-1:  "OK... I'll take that FP!"  (the PC now has an easier time of it, in attempting to break the BBG's weapon)
  • GM, case-2:  "Hmm.  That's a valid Declaration, but I have valid reasons why it's NOT gonna work.  So instead of TAKING your FP, I'm gonna GIVE you a FP, and the weapon doesn't break when you DO manage to 'hit it juuuuust riiiiiight!'   Sorry... NOT! <heh,heh>"  (but then the player not only doesn't spend that FP, s/he gets another FP, for later use!)

I just don't see that this is gonna break the BRP system, thought it does offer some "agency" and "control" and such-like sorts of player goodies.  I'm not sure if the advantages are sufficient to justify bringing it in... mileages, like Glorantha's, may vary!

Then there's stuff like Ars Magica's Virtue/Flaw system.  Some of them just grant mechanical stuff -- abilities (not otherwise available), advantages, disadvantages, etc.  Not really the BRP style (although it's an interesting mechanism if you DO want a gateway/limitation on some kinds of skills, FrEx).

But there are other ones tagged as "Story" V/F's.  They give the player a game-mechanical expression of stuff like "Daine may only seem like a paid retainer, but I would trust him with my life, my honor, or anything else -- and he may safely place the same trust in me!"   In particular, it signals to the GM "I want stories where the bonds between my PC and this NPC can be showcased; stories where Daine is threatened, stories where I'm called upon for the utmost of effort... in behalf of another."  The GM is more-or-less obligated to regularly include Daine into plotlines (and sometimes gets to use Daine to rescue over-their-heads PC's).  And in return, the player hands over this snipet of "agency" -- that they have ALREADY made this choice, that "Daine is Threatened" stories *must* be treated, in-character, as ultimate-importance emergencies.  Or the "Black Sheep" Flaw, wherein the PC is a "Black Sheep" from some Notable Family/Guild/Cult/Etc; and people/groups with a serious HateOn for that Notable F/G/C/E may come hunt the character, attempting either to harm said Notable by harming the PC, enlist (or just use) the PC in a plot against ther F/G/C/E, etc.  Again, the player is signalling "I want to see stories of this sort," and the GM is explicitly called upon to include such plotlines.

As always, PC-elements that are problematic for the GM or the group should be negotiated accordingly:  this isn't an automatic "I take control of the game" gambit!

But I think that offering some game mechanics around this sort of player-agency is a Good Thing, and won't hurt BRP one iota.

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9 hours ago, rust said:

For my purposes a campaign needs three main elements, the setting,the rules and the tools. The setting describes the physical and social background of the campaign, things like geography, history or culture. The rules define and limit both what kind of events can happen against this background, and how they can happen. The tools, like the characters' skills or equipment, define and limit how the activities of the characters can influence these events and how this develops the characters' stories. These three elements have to fit together rather well in order to create and sustain the plausibility and verisimilitude of the campaign.

With this in mind I am deeply sceptical of tools which could enable the characters to unbalance the campaign by going beyond the limits I carefully designed into my campaign's rules and character tools. I am quite willing to give to the players any and all "narrative" tools that remain within the framework I designed, but I would not agree to introduce the freedom to shape the campaign's story in a way which could endanger its plausibility and verisimilitude.

In my view BRP as it is provides a good balance between the ability to define a campaign and is still open enough to add the specific degree of "narrative player empowerment" required by different types of campaigns, up to and including purely cinematic and Pulp campaigns. I would certainly not welcome any changes which would move BRP towards a more "narrative" system.

I definitely see your point, Rust. And I agree. However, this requires a bit of extra technicalities.

Basically, there are a lot of "narrative authorities" in a RPG. People tend to conflate them into one because in a classic, old school game they are all strictly reserved to the GM. But in a more articulated game, you can split some ot them between GM and player while keeping others firmly in the GM hands. For instance:

  • narration authority at action level (did I wound him or just disarmed him?)
  • narration authority at scene level (did I kill him or did he just surrender?)
  • backstory authority (did the king of Aquilonia die of old age between the game sessions?)
  • setting authority (what role do women have in Aquilonian society?)

What you advocate is that a BRP based game should in no case take away the authority on backstory and setting from the GM. I agree completely. This is not in the tradition of BRP games, although some other games may do this.

However, giving the players some agency at lower levels of narrative authority seems to be undesirable only for some players, and it is still arguable that they are the majority. Most comments I have seen here agree that a certain degree of player agency, as long as it does not trespass the limits we have just defined, actually increases MGF.

1 hour ago, g33k said:

I will go ahead and speak up in favor of (at least some kinds of) story-telling mechanics...

Fate points?  Like in the "Fate" game system?  Frankly, I'm just not sure... I think they wouldn't be as "broken" (if imported more-or-less wholesale into BRP) as has been suggested... but, I admit to having played little-enough Fate to not be positive.  Here's how the usage might play out, in RQ/Glorantha:

  • Orlanthi Player:  "Using my Blacksmith skill and a Fate Point <offers token to GM>, I'm making the Declaration that I recognize the BigBad's Tulwar as being a certain style, which if struck right will break... and *I* know the Secret Weakness, how to hit it juuuuust riiiiiight!"
  • GM, case-1:  "OK... I'll take that FP!"  (the PC now has an easier time of it, in attempting to break the BBG's weapon)
  • GM, case-2:  "Hmm.  That's a valid Declaration, but I have valid reasons why it's NOT gonna work.  So instead of TAKING your FP, I'm gonna GIVE you a FP, and the weapon doesn't break when you DO manage to 'hit it juuuuust riiiiiight!'   Sorry... NOT! <heh,heh>"  (but then the player not only doesn't spend that FP, s/he gets another FP, for later use!)

I just don't see that this is gonna break the BRP system, thought it does offer some "agency" and "control" and such-like sorts of player goodies.  I'm not sure if the advantages are sufficient to justify bringing it in... mileages, like Glorantha's, may vary!

As I said above, there are some four different, tested implementations of Fate Points in BRP Games. Only the "historical" implementations, that is RQ2/3 and CoC 1-6 do not have them, all other variants do. This should hint at the fact that most designers think that they would not "break" the game. Although they are not the only solution.

On a further note: I have used "Runic" fate points for Glorantha, not so differently from what you describe here, between 1994 and 2009. The rules were those reported on my original glorantha page on geco.it - probably gone unless some Lankhor Mhy archivist has made a copy somewhere. They works - smooth as silk. Even for HeroQuests. Rock hard solid mechanics, gives player more agency and promotes good roleplaying. The only reason why I have never included them in any published game is that they work ONLY for Glorantha: they are out of context for any other game world.

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But there are other ones tagged as "Story" V/F's.  They give the player a game-mechanical expression of stuff like "Daine may only seem like a paid retainer, but I would trust him with my life, my honor, or anything else -- and he may safely place the same trust in me!"   In particular, it signals to the GM "I want stories where the bonds between my PC and this NPC can be showcased; stories where Daine is threatened, stories where I'm called upon for the utmost of effort... in behalf of another."  The GM is more-or-less obligated to regularly include Daine into plotlines (and sometimes gets to use Daine to rescue over-their-heads PC's).  And in return, the player hands over this snipet of "agency" -- that they have ALREADY made this choice, that "Daine is Threatened" stories *must* be treated, in-character, as ultimate-importance emergencies.  Or the "Black Sheep" Flaw, wherein the PC is a "Black Sheep" from some Notable Family/Guild/Cult/Etc; and people/groups with a serious HateOn for that Notable F/G/C/E may come hunt the character, attempting either to harm said Notable by harming the PC, enlist (or just use) the PC in a plot against ther F/G/C/E, etc.  Again, the player is signalling "I want to see stories of this sort," and the GM is explicitly called upon to include such plotlines.

Exactly the way Motivation Activation works in BRP Mecha or Revolution :) It is intended as an "Insert interesting stuff here" flag for the GM.

 

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1 hour ago, g33k said:

Fate points?  Like in the "Fate" game system?  Frankly, I'm just not sure... I think they wouldn't be as "broken" (if imported more-or-less wholesale into BRP) as has been suggested... but, I admit to having played little-enough Fate to not be positive.  Here's how the usage might play out, in RQ/Glorantha:

  • Orlanthi Player:  "Using my Blacksmith skill and a Fate Point <offers token to GM>, I'm making the Declaration that I recognize the BigBad's Tulwar as being a certain style, which if struck right will break... and *I* know the Secret Weakness, how to hit it juuuuust riiiiiight!"
  • GM, case-1:  "OK... I'll take that FP!"  (the PC now has an easier time of it, in attempting to break the BBG's weapon)
  • GM, case-2:  "Hmm.  That's a valid Declaration, but I have valid reasons why it's NOT gonna work.  So instead of TAKING your FP, I'm gonna GIVE you a FP, and the weapon doesn't break when you DO manage to 'hit it juuuuust riiiiiight!'   Sorry... NOT! <heh,heh>"  (but then the player not only doesn't spend that FP, s/he gets another FP, for later use!)

Here is how it can be played with rules as written ...

  • Orlanthi Player: "Can I recognize the BigBad's Tulwar and remember a secret weakness that I can use to break it more easily?
  • GM: "You can try ... Make a Craft (Smith) roll."
  • Orlanthi Player, after rolling the dice: "I succeeded!"
  • GM: "An ordinary success or a special one?"
  • Orlanthi Player: "An ordinary one."
  • GM: "OK. You recognize the style of the weapon. It was forged by the Black Smith of Ganumea... But you don't remember any secret weakness that you could exploit. The black Smith of Ganumea makes good quality weapons ..."

And for "Daine may only seem like a paid retainer, but I would trust him with my life, my honor, or anything else -- and he may safely place the same trust in me!", any good GM would use that sort of character background to make the game more fun. At least, I would. Character background are always amazing hooks to write new adventures - or to give Player Characters a very good reason to accept a mission.

So, as you can see, Fate/Story points are not necessary to handle that sort of things. BRP rules are flexible enough to allow them.

Edited by Gollum
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1 hour ago, RosenMcStern said:

However, giving the players some agency at lower levels of narrative authority ... 

Yes, I have no problem with this, in fact I am quite happy whenever players contribute to the campaign and enrich the campaign with their own ideas in this way. :)

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I'm not a simulationist. And I have never played any D100 game from a simulationist perspective. But the inherent logic to the D100 system makes it very easy to game master. 

For me an rpg is a game with rules that lets a group of people under the guidance of a game master tell a story together. I want a game system that promotes story. And I'm very okey with rules, like fate points, that doesn't corresponds to something in the real world, as long as the rule promotes the kind of game I want. 

As I see it people often forget the role of personal commitment to a task. When I write computer programs my commitment plays a large role in how the end result will be (how buggy etc.). My skill is always 75% in programming, but if I'm committed to the end result *will' be better. How can we take this commitment into account in a rpg? I think that having a fate point system that allows for re-rolls is a good way to do that. For instance if a person has a 50% skill and is allowed one re-roll due to spending a fate point the chance goes up to 75%. Not an earth shattering difference. But gives the player a chance to express the characters commitment to the task at hand. 

I want a game where characters have flaws and relations that helps promote story. Mechanically it can be done that the character gets fate points for playing out the flaws and relations, but nothing forces them to do so. The fate points can then be used to get some small mechanically benefits, like re-rolling.

(Sorry if I'm rambling, but I'm a bit unfocused today)

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7 hours ago, Gollum said:

Here is how it can be played with rules as written ...

  • Orlanthi Player: "Can I recognize the BigBad's Tulwar and remember a secret weakness that I can use to break it more easily?
  • GM: "You can try ... Make a Craft (Smith) roll."
  • Orlanthi Player, after rolling the dice: "I succeeded!"
  • GM: "An ordinary success or a special one?"
  • Orlanthi Player: "An ordinary one."
  • GM: "OK. You recognize the style of the weapon. It was forged by the Black Smith of Ganumea... But you don't remember any secret weakness that you could exploit. The black Smith of Ganumea makes good quality weapons ..."

And for "Daine may only seem like a paid retainer, but I would trust him with my life, my honor, or anything else -- and he may safely place the same trust in me!", any good GM would use that sort of character background to make the game more fun. At least, I would. Character background are always amazing hooks to write new adventures - or to give Player Characters a very good reason to accept a mission.

So, as you can see, Fate/Story points are not necessary to handle that sort of things. BRP rules are flexible enough to allow them.

Actually, there is a substantial difference between the FP-driven vs. dice-driven transactions:  with the FP version, the player invests from a very-limited resource, and it's automatically true (unless the GM has reason for it not to be, in which case the "investment" pays off with a 100% profit of that limited resource).  This makes it a win-win for the player, gets them more-invested (seewhatIdidthere?) in the situation, but leaves the GM free to veto where it's somehow significant that theer PC be wrong despite the investment.

So, it's "narrativist" in that the player gains some degree of narrative authority.

In the dice-driven case... erm, well, I can't even call it "simulationist," in that this is most-likely an out-of-left-field thing from the player, nothing the GM had put into the game-world to BE simulated.  It's just letting the dice decide something that's not an issue of game-world-physics/simulation, but an element of the setting.  I actually DISLIKE having the dice dictate the setting, personally:  I want a person at that particular helm!

Some folks actually WANT the dice to decide stuff like that, and DISLIKE these newfangled player-agency mechanisms.  And that's good too, if that's how the table wants to play!

RE the "Daine" backstory -- you are ABSOLUTELY correct, that any halfway-decent GM can take a player-backstory element like this and use it to wonderful effect!  Nevertheless, I have seen player-backstory elements, in many RPG's, get a "that's cool!  now we're gonna play the plotline I wrote" from the GM, who leaves the story-hooks on the table; we can shrug and roll our oyes, but I will advance the claim that it's actually a BETTER rpg when it has a mechanic saying "this kind of story-hook obligates both GM and player to pursue it."

 

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11 minutes ago, g33k said:

In the dice-driven case... erm, well, I can't even call it "simulationist," in that this is most-likely an out-of-left-field thing from the player, nothing the GM had put into the game-world to BE simulated.  It's just letting the dice decide something that's not an issue of game-world-physics/simulation, but an element of the setting.  I actually DISLIKE having the dice dictate the setting, personally:  I want a person at that particular helm!

Just to get on the same page: do you mean the dice deciding upon the culture, the geography etc., or do you mean the dice deciding whether e.g. a combat has negative consequences for player characters and NPCs (both allied and adversaries)?

I don't really want to explore a random setting, I like sandboxes with pre-defined territory. I am willing to let luck decide whether there will be some dangerous or otherwise noisome beast around as a distraction, and I like to put a few distractions into a story to keep the players from acting like "This is where the story goes, ignore the rest". Especially when I plant possible hooks for future scenarios.

11 minutes ago, g33k said:

Some folks actually WANT the dice to decide stuff like that, and DISLIKE these newfangled player-agency mechanisms.  And that's good too, if that's how the table wants to play!

Part of the purpose of having dice is to face unwelcome outcomes and get over with it. If you don't want this element, don't use dice or other randomizing features (e.g. cards) at all.

Magic offers quite a bit mitigation against unfavorable combat results. A total party failure doesn't have to be a total party kill, but can result in one if the players insist on playing hardball. Getting into the way of charging or stampeding bison is extremely unhealthy unless you have exceptional leaping abilities or can effect multiple instant kills, so you'd better prepare an exit strategy.

 

11 minutes ago, g33k said:

RE the "Daine" backstory -- you are ABSOLUTELY correct, that any halfway-decent GM can take a player-backstory element like this and use it to wonderful effect!  Nevertheless, I have seen player-backstory elements, in many RPG's, get a "that's cool!  now we're gonna play the plotline I wrote" from the GM, who leaves the story-hooks on the table; we can shrug and roll our oyes, but I will advance the claim that it's actually a BETTER rpg when it has a mechanic saying "this kind of story-hook obligates both GM and player to pursue it."

This obligation doesn't mean that it has to be pursued in the current scenario dealing with some other backstory element, though. That's one of the things where FATE can go over the edge.

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8 hours ago, Gollum said:

So, as you can see, Fate/Story points are not necessary to handle that sort of things. BRP rules are flexible enough to allow them.

I think that's an excellent point. The framework already exists to resolve these kinds of situations without the need to bolt on additional mechanics, and an economy, that may, or may not, affect the underlying game. It's an intuitive method of resolution that can reward player creativity and have grounding within the setting.

In this case, the player agency results from what has been defined, not by something that is pulled out of thin air, IMO. The player has invested their skill points (or pursued training) in a Blacksmith skill to give them an advantage in play. They could have spent those skill points elsewhere to reinforce another aspect of the character's culture or his general capabilities. But, he or she made a conscious decision to emphasize this capability and can reap the rewards by leveraging it in play, creatively.

Personally, I like Fate/Hero points for the use as survivability mechanics, for the campaigns where characters are considered 'heroes'. I think they work very effectively in that case. But I've never used them as any means of story-editing because they seem so disassociated from the play experience.

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42 minutes ago, g33k said:

Nevertheless, I have seen player-backstory elements, in many RPG's, get a "that's cool!  now we're gonna play the plotline I wrote" from the GM, who leaves the story-hooks on the table; we can shrug and roll our oyes, but I will advance the claim that it's actually a BETTER rpg when it has a mechanic saying "this kind of story-hook obligates both GM and player to pursue it."

I think that's a fumbly, awkward way to try to fix the real problem - which is bad GMing. I agree that bad GMing is something that we've all dealt with (or been justifiably accused of). - and it's something that should be corrected - but I'm not convinced that mechanical enforcement is the right technique to get the job done.

The FP method you describe appears to put some shackles on the GM to enforce the right behavior - the right GMing method to enforce story-hooks and setting. You are obligated (required) to pursue this by these mechanical means. Perhaps it's a good method for beginning GMs who have no point of reference. But I wonder if it has any value for experienced GMs who are 'halfway-decent'. As an analogy, I guess I've viewed mechanical-enforcement-of-GM-behavior to be a little like putting training wheels on a bicycle and then never taking them off - regardless of the GM's developing competency.

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As the discussion is starting to revolve around this example, I will add my comment, too

 

10 hours ago, g33k said:

Here's how the usage might play out, in RQ/Glorantha:

  • Orlanthi Player:  "Using my Blacksmith skill and a Fate Point <offers token to GM>, I'm making the Declaration that I recognize the BigBad's Tulwar as being a certain style, which if struck right will break... and *I* know the Secret Weakness, how to hit it juuuuust riiiiiight!"
  • GM, case-1:  "OK... I'll take that FP!"  (the PC now has an easier time of it, in attempting to break the BBG's weapon)
  • GM, case-2:  "Hmm.  That's a valid Declaration, but I have valid reasons why it's NOT gonna work.  So instead of TAKING your FP, I'm gonna GIVE you a FP, and the weapon doesn't break when you DO manage to 'hit it juuuuust riiiiiight!'   Sorry... NOT! <heh,heh>"  (but then the player not only doesn't spend that FP, s/he gets another FP, for later use!)

 

8 hours ago, Gollum said:

Here is how it can be played with rules as written ...

  • Orlanthi Player: "Can I recognize the BigBad's Tulwar and remember a secret weakness that I can use to break it more easily?
  • GM: "You can try ... Make a Craft (Smith) roll."
  • Orlanthi Player, after rolling the dice: "I succeeded!"
  • GM: "An ordinary success or a special one?"
  • Orlanthi Player: "An ordinary one."
  • GM: "OK. You recognize the style of the weapon. It was forged by the Black Smith of Ganumea... But you don't remember any secret weakness that you could exploit. The black Smith of Ganumea makes good quality weapons ..."

The two examples are absolutely not equivalent. Not at all. T

Let us check what the Fate-like mechanics (again, it is not the only possible one, just one approach) adds to the gameplay:

1. By spending a Fate Point to ensure the result without the need of a die roll, the player is telling the GM "This is a defining part of my character, a knowledge that defines his personality and that would be very baffling to see fail because of a bad roll (actually an average roll, as few people spend points to have 90%+ in Craft to hit "just right"). The other example is a classic case of what some game theorists call the "Mother may I?" syndrome -> that is, asking the GM if something that is really important for the core characte concept can be done. Of course it can be done, the point is whether it works, not whether your character is competent enough to try it. Which brings us to point 2.

2. By rejecting the fate point with a veto on the automatic success, the GM is telling the player something, too. Basically, the automatic success would interfere with something important for the plot, the background, the setting etc. etc. It would give the player one of those narrative authorities that we want to reserve for the GM (see above). But the GM cannot tell the player why, or else he would spoiler some important detail. Instead, the GM rewards the player for having a cool, in-character idea while still preserving plot integrity. Basically, the FP means "You had a cool idea, I agree that your character should shine in this occasion (a big difference with a simple "roll and risk hearing your ancestors laugh from the grave when a fumble dictates you failed to apply your granpa's most precious secret, " - what an anticlimax!). However, although his performance was amazing, somehow the result was not as predicted. Take an extra FP because you will need it: something big is coming!"

The FP exchange "informs" the story much more than a die roll that tells nothing about the importance, the climax of the moment. Definitely not equivalent.

 

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As stated, "Narrativist" has a precise meaning. Which is not the same meaning that most forumers attribute to the word. The exact definition is "a game where you define the theme while playing it". As you can define the theme by acting on your character only, you can still be playing a Narrativist game while not being able to influence the world. For instance, Primetime Adventures is a Narrativist game where only the GM can influence the backstory or the world. All players, instead, can influence the outcome of a conflict by spending the equivalent of Fate.

Neither RuneQuest nor HeroQuest are designed to be played as Narrativist games. 13th Age is more "narrativist", but not really a true NAR game.

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2 hours ago, Joerg said:

Just to get on the same page: do you mean the dice deciding upon the culture, the geography etc., or do you mean the dice deciding whether e.g. a combat has negative consequences for player characters and NPCs (both allied and adversaries)?

I don't really want to explore a random setting, I like sandboxes with pre-defined territory. I am willing to let luck decide whether there will be some dangerous or otherwise noisome beast around as a distraction, and I like to put a few distractions into a story to keep the players from acting like "This is where the story goes, ignore the rest". Especially when I plant possible hooks for future scenarios.

Part of the purpose of having dice is to face unwelcome outcomes and get over with it. If you don't want this element, don't use dice or other randomizing features (e.g. cards) at all.

I mean that, for the example under discussion, the player offers up "My character should know <X>".

In the Fate version, the player spends a point and "X" is whatever (true, false, oranges, matriarchal, has a weak hilt, etc) the player says it is (unless the GM buys off the FP), within reason.

In the diced system, the dice decide the fact:  the character SHOULD, indeed "know <X>" but the GM (not having even considered the <X>-factor previously) leaves it up to the dice whether the player can or can't take advantage of <X>.  Implicitly, then, "X" is left up to the dice.

But "X" is a thing, usually a setting-thing, being diced for!

Returning to the example, the player is facing a BBG with a specific weapon, and wishes to use smithying skill to declare that there is a subtle weakness or flaw in the BBG"s weapon, that the PC knows how to exploit.  The GM has not previously considered whether the culture (or the armory) does in fact have such a weakness in the weapons.  This is a story/setting issue.  Left up to the dice, it means "That culture/smith/armory DOES or does NOT have such a flaw, at the whim of the dice;" (we take it as a given that the expert smith will know either way).

Has that clarified how I dislike "the dice deciding on a setting issue"?

Of course, the GM in a diced-resolution-only game COULD make an on-the-spot ruling...

  • YES, such a weakness exists; it's an easy|normal|difficult roll to figure out how to exploit in combat.  ROLL DEM BONES!
  • NO, such a weakness doesn't exist -- and you should know better, you auctorial-thieving bastard!  No roll.

Without FP's, I (as GM) need to keep making innumerable little decisions about trivial factoids like this on a constant ongoing basis (or the players would need to not pull this shit on me, 'cos I will always say no!).

Those who like the FP mechanism like the players' ability to add spot bits of color like this, get rewarded with some minor situational advantage (BBG has a breakable weapon!), etc.  They like the OOC cues when it goes the other way ("No, the BBG does NOT have an extra-breakable weapon, and it's important to the setting/plotline in ways that will be revealed later... and here's a reward, 'cos things just got tougher for you!")

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7 hours ago, g33k said:

I will go ahead and speak up in favor of (at least some kinds of) story-telling mechanics...

Fate points?  Like in the "Fate" game system?  Frankly, I'm just not sure... I think they wouldn't be as "broken" (if imported more-or-less wholesale into BRP) as has been suggested... but, I admit to having played little-enough Fate to not be positive.  Here's how the usage might play out, in RQ/Glorantha:

  • Orlanthi Player:  "Using my Blacksmith skill and a Fate Point <offers token to GM>, I'm making the Declaration that I recognize the BigBad's Tulwar as being a certain style, which if struck right will break... and *I* know the Secret Weakness, how to hit it juuuuust riiiiiight!"
  • GM, case-1:  "OK... I'll take that FP!"  (the PC now has an easier time of it, in attempting to break the BBG's weapon)
  • GM, case-2:  "Hmm.  That's a valid Declaration, but I have valid reasons why it's NOT gonna work.  So instead of TAKING your FP, I'm gonna GIVE you a FP, and the weapon doesn't break when you DO manage to 'hit it juuuuust riiiiiight!'   Sorry... NOT! <heh,heh>"  (but then the player not only doesn't spend that FP, s/he gets another FP, for later use!)

I just don't see that this is gonna break the BRP system, thought it does offer some "agency" and "control" and such-like sorts of player goodies.  I'm not sure if the advantages are sufficient to justify bringing it in... mileages, like Glorantha's, may vary!

Then there's stuff like Ars Magica's Virtue/Flaw system.  Some of them just grant mechanical stuff -- abilities (not otherwise available), advantages, disadvantages, etc.  Not really the BRP style (although it's an interesting mechanism if you DO want a gateway/limitation on some kinds of skills, FrEx).

I think that Fate Points (in the Fate System sense of the term) are intertwined with a Virtue/Flaw system. You need traits that are both positive and negative, which skills aren't particularly useful for. 

 

11 minutes ago, Zit said:

I have the feeling by reading all this that you all consider that narrativist = the players can influence the background. Is this really what narrativist means ?

If you want to understand the term "narrativism", you need to understand its context by also understanding what the terms "gamist" and "simiulationist" mean in the GNS model. Once you see how stupid the GNS model is, you will never want to use the term narrativist again. 

For a game to be gamist, there needs to be set win conditions, and there need to balance between all PCs and their opponents. Almost no RPGs fit this category. 

A narrativist game is one is which the PC have defined motives, and it is the GMs job to put those motives in conflict. If a PC is a samarai dedicated to his lord and his family, it is the GMs job to create a situation where his lord orders him to kill his son. Ron Edwards declares the purpose of this is to create situations where there can be no set narrative, as they revolve around unpredicatable choices by players. Yes. Narrativism means a game with no clear narrative. 

Simulationism is any game that emulates a genre or source. It's so enormously broad a category as to be useless. Toon and Runequest sit side-by-side in this category. In fact, almost every RPG ever made fits in this one category. It's because the only purpose of this model is to show that narrativism is the only real form of role-playing, so it dumps all other games in one meaningless category. 

As a rule, taking about story in games or narrative in games can be useful, buy once add that -ism on there, you are getting into some flawed terminology. 

 

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2 minutes ago, Baulderstone said:

I think that Fate Points (in the Fate System sense of the term) are intertwined with a Virtue/Flaw system. You need traits that are both positive and negative, which skills aren't particularly useful for. 

Hmmm.  Well, at the risk of a digression away from BRP mechanics entirely to Fate mechanics, I think you're conflating Fate's "Aspects," which are descriptive two-edged swords that the player sometimes uses to character-advantage (usually by spending a FP), and ALSO are sometimes used by  the GM to complicate the character's life and/or make a situation more challenging (usually offering the player a FP for the privilege).

FP's are not Aspects, but a spendable character resource that can do other stuff than interact with Aspects -- such as (in the example posited) make "Declarations" that some issue (within the realm of core character-expertise, i.e. "spotlight time") that hasn't previously been defined, is now defined in a way advantageous to the character.

Getting back to BRP, I might (just tossing out ideas off the top of my head) limit Declarations to only be usable in one of the following conditions:

  • It's an "Apex" skill for the PC -- the character has no higher skills
  • It's a skill over 100%
  • The character has some strong Runic association that's relevant

If none of the above are true, the PC hasn't sufficient expertise/authority to make a Declaration upon the issue at hand.

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1. I'm not at all convinced that the GNS model is valid. In practice, it seems more frequently used to support whatever preferences the person touting it already has. 
2. Fate and Dungeon World and similar games already exist. If I wanted to play those games, I'd play them, rather than hack a BRP system. I like BRP because it's not either of those two.
3. You can have a system that allows character or choose when to be extra effective, or pushes motiviations, backstory elements, etc without having Fate-style declarations. See the One Ring, Pendragon, Burning Wheel.
4. In my experience, allowing players to define significant things in the world has the opposite effect of motivating them, investing them, etc. I've played a bunch of those games, and most of the time players end up invested in something the GM made up, because they DIDN'T make it up, and it seems more real therefore.
5. Allowing major Fate-style Declarations sets up a weird interaction. Making a character, playing that character, makes most people invested in that character. They want the character to be succesful (at least from that character's perspective) in a scene. When this happens, you're going to go for whatever Fate-style Declartion short-circuits the scene and gets you your goal. Need to convince a Prince to appoint you counselor? Declare that he's actually your brother! Need to defeat a monster? It turns ou you happen to have the bane that instantly kills it in your backpack! This isn't the player being a jerk, it's what any character would do if they could in those situations, a-al the Matrix.

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5 hours ago, K Peterson said:

In this case, the player agency results from what has been defined, not by something that is pulled out of thin air, IMO. The player has invested their skill points (or pursued training) in a Blacksmith skill to give them an advantage in play. They could have spent those skill points elsewhere to reinforce another aspect of the character's culture or his general capabilities. But, he or she made a conscious decision to emphasize this capability and can reap the rewards by leveraging it in play, creatively.

This is why I adopted the modified Competence rule from the Expendables RPG. When in my Thalassa science fiction campaign a player gives his character a Profession skill which has no general use in the campaign (e.g. "Profession: Aquafarmer" or "Profession: Dolphineer") with a skill value of 50+ %, this character is Competent in the field covered by this skill and in normal situations will always succeed in its use. And the player can also use this Competence to define the character's profession and professional knowledge within the framework of the setting. My intention with this rule was to give the players one more reason to think about the background of their characters and how their occupations could influence their lives and their approach to problem solving ("Your character is an aquafarmer, so he will think like one and try to use his professional knowledge to deal with a problem ..."), but it has also become a tool of "player empowerment", for example when the player of  a "Profession: Engineer / Aquatic Vehicles" character uses his character's Competence to decide what the campaign's next generation of watercraft will look like.

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2 hours ago, Archivist said:

1. I'm not at all convinced that the GNS model is valid. In practice, it seems more frequently used to support whatever preferences the person touting it already has. 
2. Fate and Dungeon World and similar games already exist. If I wanted to play those games, I'd play them, rather than hack a BRP system. I like BRP because it's not either of those two.
3. You can have a system that allows character or choose when to be extra effective, or pushes motiviations, backstory elements, etc without having Fate-style declarations. See the One Ring, Pendragon, Burning Wheel.
4. In my experience, allowing players to define significant things in the world has the opposite effect of motivating them, investing them, etc. I've played a bunch of those games, and most of the time players end up invested in something the GM made up, because they DIDN'T make it up, and it seems more real therefore.
5. Allowing major Fate-style Declarations sets up a weird interaction. Making a character, playing that character, makes most people invested in that character. They want the character to be succesful (at least from that character's perspective) in a scene. When this happens, you're going to go for whatever Fate-style Declartion short-circuits the scene and gets you your goal. Need to convince a Prince to appoint you counselor? Declare that he's actually your brother! Need to defeat a monster? It turns ou you happen to have the bane that instantly kills it in your backpack! This isn't the player being a jerk, it's what any character would do if they could in those situations, a-al the Matrix.

  1.  - Skipping this.  I won't touch GNS theory, pro or con, with a 10 GHz LAN... Flame wars, my friend.  It's flame-wars ALL the way down!
  2.  - The issue isn't really "game/style-A vs game/style-B"; it is whether there's value (and as a practical issue, how easy is (or isn't) it) for some elements (such as FP) to get imported into BRP.  I note that RosenMcStern suggested upthread that it has already been done, multiple times, by several designers.  It appears to me that, much like "HP Pool" vs "HP-per-Hit-Location" choice, the choice of importing a "Fate Point" mechanic is probably an easily added/removed element that can be handled per-game or per-group on a case-by-case basis, sometimes being a Good Thing and sometimes not... but most-often being more a matter of taste than anything else!
  3.  - Indeed you can have those things.  And considering those for including is also entirely valid -- particularly in a thread on "storytelling mechanics in brp" !!!   Care to offer some suggestions...? :D
  4.  - Now this is interesting indeed!  You're citing "played a bunch of those games," so I won't argue -- I'm in the "played a few" category, myself! -- but I will ask how many different groups and/or GM's you've played with?  That is, are you reporting an artifact of a relatively-small cadre of players/GM's, whose own style(s) have led to this outcome?
  5.  - The specific Declarations you cite (1: "But in reality, the Prince is actually -- ta-da!!! -- my BROTHER!"  2: "I pull from my back-pack -- ta-da!!! -- the famous sword Monsterbane Bossfight-Ender!") wouldn't fly with me, or any GM that I've played with.  At most -- and only if you had something relevant on your character-sheet! -- you might be able to pull off something like, "Several years ago, I helped the Prince do <task X> and he should be grateful, once I unmask myself," or something like, "Ya say any oil will let us stop yon beastie from sticky-tentacl'ing our asses?  Well my 'McGuyver-of-Magic' schtick will let me pull THREE pint-flasks of oil from my pack!"   And similar...  Useful stuff, but nothing that will short-circuit / end / bypass the scene/encounter at hand.
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