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Author Topic: Tolkien-esque Storytelling RPG  (Read 13560 times)
contracycle
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Posts: 2807


« Reply #45 on: August 06, 2009, 12:09:52 PM »

You can have GM fiat with breaking or obviating the rules.  "Is there a fire extinguisher in the hall" is an example of the sort of question players ask, and which is answered by GM fiat.  That is inevitable unless absolutely everything is specified.  GM fiat which does overpower the rules is an application of that general facility which, I agree, undermines a a sizable chunk of the point of play.

I also don;t think that its safe to assume that Tolkien would necessarily be a better storyteller than any given GM.  Sure, I'll thats likely, but its not impossible to have a GM withb a real talent for storytelling, who uses the medium with skill to conjure powerful and images in the minds of the players.  And in fact, I prefer that sort of thing, which is why I'm basically uninterested in systems that feature significant player "contribution" to story.

John Wick makes an interesting point about the the similarity between the GM and the shaman by reference to heroquesting; available on YouTube.

All of which is to say: it is not quite as cut and dried as system-based contribution contrasted with systemless fiat.
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Luke
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Posts: 1359

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« Reply #46 on: August 06, 2009, 12:44:20 PM »

I suspect we have different definitions (which is why I said early on that I didn't know what you meant by game balance and broken).  I see at least the word "broken" defined in your recent post, now.  I suspect we have different views on GM fiat too, which is fine.  I've seen it put to use in involving players more directly in the narration.  I've seen it used to deny players access to narration (by obviating the rules by which they normally have access to the narrative).  I don't argue that the second method is acceptable at the table, and whether the first method is acceptable really depends on your group.

There are, of course, meta-rules on interaction beyond the written rules of the game.  If the players and the GM put their heads together and ignore the rules for a moment for a noble cause (to twist the story in an interesting way, perhaps), then they are all still playing the game.  We are now just talking about some unwritten club rules that (let's assume) everyone understands and accepts, that engender good play and run parallel to the mechanical determination the written rules of the game offer.

Evan, let's just stick to talking about your game in this thread. If you would like me to explain some basic game design concepts you can start another thread or PM me.

I HIGHLY recommend you check out Vincent Baker's recent posts on his blog.
http://www.lumpley.com/
Go back as far as you can and read forward for some serious mind-blowage. Vincent's also much nicer about explaining things than I am. Smiley

-L
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jerry
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Posts: 98


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« Reply #47 on: August 06, 2009, 06:27:48 PM »

Part of the problem is that you have all these ideas in your head, and we only see the ones you write down. This is a summary of what I'm seeing in your examples (mainly the initial post and the Balin's tomb example) of how play progresses:

The adventure progresses through destinations. Each destination is a progression through obstacles. The destinations are set ahead of time by the GM. The GM is in control of describing the destination and its reaction to their choices; at certain points in each destination, the players can choose (sometimes at the GM's suggestion, but it's still the player's choice) that they would like this part of the GM's description to become one of the obstacles they need to pass through to progress through this destination. At this point, the characters are in danger of bad things happening to them, such as death or injury in combat-oriented obstacles.

Obstacles must present a minimum level of difficulty and/or danger. If it turns out that the GM fails to give the obstacle the needed difficulty/danger, the obstacle's difficulty/danger will need to be increased. (Or it won't count as an obstacle? Aside: could this be done with player buy-in just as the obstacle itself was, rather than by the GM secretly changing the encounter?).

Is that (minus the aside) a fair summary of how the Balin's tomb fight came to be part of the game, and why it was escalated?
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Jerry
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Alokov
Member

Posts: 62


« Reply #48 on: August 06, 2009, 08:23:09 PM »

I'm a huge Tolkien fan/nerd and love this system. I would love to use a similar mechanic for other games. I don't like the combat system but it looks like your discarding that. I like the idea of not getting experience from combat but what about getting it from "self-discovery" type stuff or maybe getting some bonus from lore scraps or from working together as a fellowship or something like that. Somethig like what we see hapening in the books. Also for combat. Maybe some kind of mechanical effect of description. Something to encourage describing stuff in a Tolkien-esque way (maybe not as long-winded but still) Same thing goes for skill challenges. I know this is all rough but I forgot most of what I was gonna say while reading your stuff. By the way I think this base mechanic (minus the fellowship stuff) would work great for an Amber game.

 
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Evan Anhorn
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Posts: 59


« Reply #49 on: August 07, 2009, 11:37:05 AM »

7VII7, I think that's not a bad way at all to think of fumbles.  Flat-out failure is bad way to handle narrative RPG's, so your idea is right on the money, I think.

Contracycle, I think you're right about everything you said.

Luke, thanks for the link; I've heard good things about V. Baker and I'm looking forward to checking that out.

Part of the problem is that you have all these ideas in your head, and we only see the ones you write down. This is a summary of what I'm seeing in your examples (mainly the initial post and the Balin's tomb example) of how play progresses:

The adventure progresses through destinations. Each destination is a progression through obstacles. The destinations are set ahead of time by the GM. The GM is in control of describing the destination and its reaction to their choices; at certain points in each destination, the players can choose (sometimes at the GM's suggestion, but it's still the player's choice) that they would like this part of the GM's description to become one of the obstacles they need to pass through to progress through this destination. At this point, the characters are in danger of bad things happening to them, such as death or injury in combat-oriented obstacles.

Great comments, Jerry.  Yes, most of this is what I had in mind.  I'm really starting to like the idea that the GM and players "feel out" what would make a good obstacle for completing the setting.  In the very beginning, I probably assumed obstacles would be designed during game prep, but this feels much more natural (and focuses on where the players want to go with things).

Obstacles must present a minimum level of difficulty and/or danger. If it turns out that the GM fails to give the obstacle the needed difficulty/danger, the obstacle's difficulty/danger will need to be increased. (Or it won't count as an obstacle? Aside: could this be done with player buy-in just as the obstacle itself was, rather than by the GM secretly changing the encounter?).

Is that (minus the aside) a fair summary of how the Balin's tomb fight came to be part of the game, and why it was escalated?

I'm not fully convinced that obstacles should be altered in medias res if they are turning out to be too easy or hard.  Ultimately, it's always better to simply adjust the next obstacle to assure the overall setting is appropriately challenging.  With the Balin's tomb example, I felt the need to account for the canonical sudden appearance of an Uruk chieftain - I'm not sure it's great GMing, however.  I do think that, once players and GM have agreed to resolve an obstacle as an obstacle, it must continue to count as an obstacle, even if the players have an easy time of it.

As for the "aside question", I think you're asking if players can escalate an obstacle to make it count as a greater victory against the setting.  I think this is potentially a big yes, although I'd have to see how it would work in play.  Perhaps one obstacle the Fellowship faced was Boromir trying to get the ring from Frodo (bested by Wisdom, Courage and maybe a little Agility to avoid Boromir's grasp), and then the players decided to "buy in" and escalate the obstacle by having Frodo put on the ring, which brought the attention of nearby orcs?  With these obstacles resolved, the setting of Parth Galen was all but defeated.

Alokov, thanks for the comments.  I'm happy to see people like this idea for a system - I came up with it literally in a couple minutes of idle musing, and didn't think very much of it until I posted it here.  I have to admit though, I personally like the idea of some distinction between combat and general obstacles.  I know focusing on equipment and tactics is not particularly Tolkien though, and I'd love to hear how you guys would like to see a battle resolved without special rules for combat.  I like your idea for good descriptions being rewarded, it sounds very Feng Shui RPG.

So how do you guys see fights being resolved?
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