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A name applied to:

CRPGs are already being discussed - see CategoryComputerGames, FinalFantasy, MMORPG, and pages linked from them.

As for the other kind, there is a range of games, some of which definitely count as RPGs, some of which definitely do not, and some fall somewhere in the middle, being very similar in gameplay to the games either side of them in the hierarchy. In order of "RPG" to "not":

Personally I wouldn't count these last two as role playing, though some larger Warhammer games I've played did include a more role play style element this was an extension to the normal rules.  I think they fall better under the category of TBS, but that's currently a discussion of CategoryComputerGames... -- Hawk
That's why they are at the bottom of the RPG to not list.  The recent rule versions of WarhammerFantasyBattle? and Warhammer40k are much less RPG than the earlier rulebooks, which read more like a mass battles extension to WarhammerFantasyRolePlay
I concur - my WFRP PCs once took part in a Warhammer Battle. Very shiny it was too. -- Emperor
I'd put the last two the other way around, actually. I always felt much more of a connection to my "role" as a manager in Bloodbowl, with its persistent advancing team members, league politics, et al., than to my "role" as a general in any Warhammer games. Also, I think BaronMuenchhausen should be on the scale, too... or rather, somewhere perpendicular to it, as it's hardly comparable to anything else on there. Perhaps it needs a variety unto itself.... - tjm

I'd also add that the last two fall under the auspices of WarGaming?, as both were played at CUWGS (WarGaming? society) meetings, although infrequently in the case of Warhammer due to the fact that a game took about 15 hours and so could only be played at the annual 24-hour wargame.--Jumlian

..anyone care to add/dispute?

OK.  "not" begins in the second line.  Yes, all of those get called roleplaying games, but only the first set involve the playing of roles, and even then it's iffy in some of them. --SGB
For me, 'not' begins in the third line. Only in games in the first (and second, see below) lines would I make a deliberately suboptimal or even actively harmful decision because my character felt like it. --Requiem
Then I don't think you've understood what I meant by the second line.  Gygax only wanted to build a better wargame, and if D&D is played that way, it isn't a game of playing of roles.  It was Arneson who realised they were enjoying talking in-character between the traps and the fighting and brought roleplaying into consideration. -- SGB.
Can we find no other, less marginal example? I don't actually know the names of many squad-level minature wargames (that don't go in category 4) or I'd add them. --Requiem
I'm sure we could - but surely having a marginal example is a good thing, since it tells you where the boundary lies?  I'm not actually sure that there's a good distinction between bullets 2 and 3, since it seems to go:
    1. Playing a role
    2. Stat-based conflict on a board, one avatar per player
    3. Stat-based conflict on a board, one avatar per player
    4. Stat-based conflict on a board, multiple avatars per player
So maybe we should lump GG-D&D in with the other adventure board games. -- SGB

I'd rather delete the second line entirely. From the testimony of someone who played in the original D&D group, and from reading the 1e DMG, I really don't get the sense that it's intended to be a tactical combat game. It's far too deadly. The save-or-die traps, for one thing, are there so that the players can't rely on the mechanics to get them out of it and have to roleplay their way through rather than rely on rules! --Requiem
How do you roleplay your way past a trap? -- no-reverse
You describe your character coming up with an inventive IC soloution. Or coming up with a solution you know OOC is unworkable but they are too stupid to tell, and attempting to implement it and being shouted down by the other characters. Or whatever. Roleplaying being more than purely social interaction. --Requiem
Rolepalying is more than social interaction, yes, but just coming up with inventive ways past traps isn't roleplaying. Roleplaying is about creating a character -- what is characterful about making a pulley system to get over a river of lava? That your ranger uses his ranger skills to get past a trap without setting it off doesn't give him any characterisation beyond 'ranger'.  -- no-reverse
Exactly. --SGB
I disagree. Coming up with inventive solutions to IC problems is roleplaying, and traps are IC problems. It's more than creating the character - it is experiencing and overcoming problems and stressful situations of all kinds from the perspective of that character. Or are you arguing that roleplaying is primarily for the benefit of others, and they can't see the IC decision-making process you went through? --Requiem
No, coming up with inventive solutions to problems is problem-solving, and that's the same whether it's in Dungeons & Dragons or FantasticContraption. not, a roleplaying game can include problem solving in addition to creating the character, but they are different things and just because a game includes problem-solving doesn't make it a roleplaying game. --no-reverse


I think we do different things when we roleplay. I create a character in my head, a separate construct from the game, and then feed it data about the game and extract responses that I translate into IC actions. You seem to describe the actions of an actor in the story, as you feel would be most interesting. In the above example, I don't solve the problem then describe how my character applies this solution; I solve the problem in-character, as my character, using their thought processes not mine. Roleplaying. --Requiem
Regardless, 'getting past traps' is not a source of roleplaying. Even if you pretend to have some kind of character in your head that you can feed situations to and get responses, problem-solving by using rangery skills to get past a trap does not distinguish the ranger you claim to have created from any other ranger, so there's no actual roleplaying going on. An example of where there might be actual roleplaying is if some member of the party falls into a trap and your ranger has to decide whether to risk his life rescuing said party member, or leave them to die. That decision is roleplaying because it helps define the character (or, if we keep up the pretence, because it gives your 'created' character a chance to do something distinctive to their character rather than just use their skills); but the mere working out of the mechanics of the rescue is not roleplaying, it's just problem-solving within the rules (where the 'rules' include the diegetic physics).  -- no-reverse
Yes, unless there's opportunity for characterisation, the thing in your head isn't in any sensible terms a 'character'.  -- SGB
The term is perhaps too strong a word. 'Model of a character' might be more accurate. Bah, I'm trying to describe method acting to people who appear not to understand method acting, it won't work. The internal dialogue of method acting is much of what I enjoy about roleplaying. --Requiem
As Olivier said to Dustin Hoffman -- Why don't you try acting? It's so much easier.  -- no-reverse
(touché) Because it's not what I understand by roleplaying, but what I understand by 'competently pretending to roleplay'. --Requiem
Whether you call it a model or a character, if you're playing a role there has to be something there to play beyond a pile of stats.  If your character has wants and needs and that sort of thing, and you base the character's decisions on those, you can sensibly be said to be playing a role.  If it's just a stand-in for you in the RPG's fictional world, and the decisions are based solely on stats, then I don't see how you can.  -- SGB
*confused* I'm doing the former of those, of course. Wasn't this thread about 'how can apparently uninteresting IC decisions be roleplaying'?  --Requiem
And what 'wants and needs' is your character expressing by working out how to get past a trap?  --no-reverse
They want to get past the trap. They need to get past the trap!  --Requiem, continues below
Yeah, but why?  What's his motivation, dahling?  --SGB
Depends on the character, dahling. My Orpheus character has to not just get past the trap but get Sarah past it too. My Maelstrom character has to sit and spend as long as it takes to make it such that the trap will never harm another mortal. And so on. --Requiem
And nobody's claimed that isn't roleplaying (indeed, the point about the trapped companion above is applicable here). Because those are all choices the character makes. What isn't roleplaying is the mechanics of how they get Sarah past the trap, or how they render it harmless, or whatnot. and Gygax-style Dungeons & Dragons is all about the how and has none of the why. --no-reverse
More seriously, it's more under 'that sort of thing' than 'wants and needs'. Are they the kind of person that gets past traps, or the kind of person that makes someone else do it, or the kind of person that comes up with an obviously bad solution? What is their solution like? Why did they come up with it? How the hell did they think that was going to work, and why? If you don't think it's interesting to have your players get past traps, why the hell is the trap here in the first place? --Requiem
OK, the "are they the kind of person" thing is more like it, and if you've established that they'd delegate and decide to do that, then I'd call that roleplaying, up to a point.  As for the rest - just talking about them in the third person isn't enough; there has to be something to them to make it a role rather than just a stand-in. --SGB
Well, all those are interesting avenues for roleplaying, yes. But then we're getting into the territory which we identified as roleplaying, of whether you leave your companion in the trap or try to rescue them. But I think you've hit the nail on the head of the difference between the two styles of Dungeons & Dragons play that SGB was claiming. In the Gygax version, what's 'interesting' is trying to come up with a way to get past the trap, and 'kind of person' doesn't come into it. All that is interesting is getting past the trap. There is no opportunity for roleplaying in this style, do you agree? working out a way to get past a trap is not roleplaying, whether you pretend it's your character doing it or not. The Arneson style, on the other hand, is the one where you get opportunities to have an actual character by making decisions like: do my character let my companions take all the risks or do they share the load? Does my character preserve their own skin at all costs, or do they take risks for others? And there you start to get roleplaying, because your character is becoming a character rather than just a playing-piece trying to get form A to B with the highest score, and survive along the way. Merely getting past traps by some ingenious method is not roleplaying. Getting past a trap by sacrificing your friend, is roleplaying.
I agree that if I were working out a way of getting past the trap, rather than portraying a character working out a way of getting past the trap, it wouldn't be roleplaying. I will, however, stick to the converse. --Requiem
What on earth does it mean to be 'portraying a character working out a way of getting past the trap', if all you're doing is working out that you can use a pulley system, or pole-vault, or some other mechanical action? What on earth makes it distinctively the character working out how go get past the trap, if all they want is to get pat the trap and there's nothing to make it meaningful for the character?

[undent again]

Richard the Third is still Richard the Third while he's walking on stage, and while other people are talking. --Requiem
If all he did was walk on the stage, though, he wouldn't be a character. He'd be at most a dramatic device. He is a character because of the choices he makes. --no-reverse
But nobody was claiming that was all he did. In the case of the ranger avoiding a trap, the ranger may have made a complex moral decision immediately beforehand, and have a test of loyalty coming up after the trap. But the trap's still there. If the character's getting development on other occasions, does the game cease being a role-playing game for every moment that isn't complex moral decision-making? --AlexChurchill
No - but if it never had character-based decision-making (complex and moral or otherwise), it was never sensible to call it a roleplaying game in the first place.  Roleplaying games include roleplaying, but are not limited to it.  That's how they can appeal to so many different people in so many different ways.  That people can take things that appeal to them that they've found in RPGs - problem-solving, stats, fantasy settings - and put them into other games without roleplaying isn't a problem; it's great that people can have fun in whatever way they like.  But if they're not roleplaying at any point, it's just not sensible to call those games roleplaying; and the fact that some people do anyway doesn't mean that it's sensible to call what they are doing roleplaying. -- SGB

And if there are moral decisions and tests of loyalty, then fine. But there are no moral decisions or tests of loyalty in straight Gygax-style Dungeons & Dragons. There are just traps to get past. Just getting past traps is not roleplaying. So straight Gygax-style Dungeons & Dragons isn't a roleplaying game. You can add roleplaying to it, but then you're not playing straight Gygax-style Dungeons  Drgons any more -- which is why SGB added the other Dungeons & Dragons to the line of the chart that is actual roleplaying.
This discussion is not about games where there is problem-solving and roleplaying. This discussion started with the claim that problem-solving was per se roleplaying, and it's that claim only which is being refuted. Nothing to do with what happens before or after the problem-solving: the question here is, is problem-solving roleplaying in itself, or not, and therefore is a game which consists entirely of tactics and problem-solving a roleplaying game, or not? Or to boil it down to its simplest: No one has suggested that roleplaying games can't include problem-solving, but that doesn't mean that any game which inludes problem-solving is a roleplaying game. --(no-reverse)
Hence the Richard the Third analogy. If I'm playing the king, I could walk on stage as me, put on the costume, sit on the chair, and slowly assume the hunchbacked, twisted pose before saying 'Now'. Or I could limp on wearing the costume, sneer disparagingly at the footlights, fetch a chair from where it was lying on its side on the far side of the stage and sit on it with a faint sigh of relief before saying 'Now'. Walking around without a costume on and with the same walk you normally have - that's not acting, it's walking. Walking around with a costume on and with your character's walk, however, is unmistakably acting. I am not claiming that solving a problem is roleplaying, I am claiming that solving a problem in character is roleplaying. --Requiem
I don't think that anyone is disputing that solving a problem in character would be roleplaying; it's just that, in general, problem-solving of the D&D trap kind does not happen in character, and if trap-dodging and monster-slaying are the focus of a game it's unlikely that there are any real characters to be "in".  If you come up with a few different solutions and select one based on your character's preferences and feelings, I'm happy to call that roleplaying; but those solutions come from you, not your "model". -- SGB
What's 'in character' about working out a way past a trap, though? what makes working out how to use your ranger skills to get past a trap specifically the way that character would do it, as opposed to just 'the way a ranger would do it'? Not something like 'this character always uses his grappling hook when he can'. A ranger who uses a grappling hook isn't a character, he's a cipher with a gimmick. Similarly, if Richard III didn't make the decisions he makes during the play but just walked around with a hunch, he wouldn't be a character, he'd be a cipher with a gimmick, the gimmick being his hunch. A character may have a way they walk, but it's not the walk that makes them a character. Characters solve problems, but it's not problem-solving that makes them a character. --no-reverse
Absolutely - which is why I said "based on your character's preferences and feelings"; that being the sort of thing that distinguishes characters from ciphers -- SGB

Very well. Is honour satisfied if I concede the following point - that the activity of problem-solving is orthogonal to the activity of roleplaying? You have successfully convinced me that the thing that you describe as Gygaxian D&D doesn't contain roleplaying, but I maintain that was because we understood different things by Gygaxian D&D at the start of this conversation. I suggest that we agree to differ on the latter point rather than bringing forth, Pokemon-like, our respective sources on what old-school D&D means. --Requiem
Works for me :-) -- SGB
Indeed. Well, if you replace 'orthogonal to' with something less maths-jargony.

From BlissStage/RulesDiscussion, Anonymous writes:
"...games like Dogs in the Vineyard are stupid: they try to systematise the roleplaying, and so end up making it no more than a game."

I think this point is worth discussing. There have been a number of efforts to encourage people to play these games in a particular manner by giving them powerups if they do so, or structuring the game in such a way that they have to. BaronMuenchausen? would be one example, BlissStage or Dogs in the Vineyard] are others. There's a similar trend in even some of the more mainstream games, with Exalted's latest edition containing a mechanic to decide who wins an argument. What I'd like to ask is, does this take the magic out of it, does pinning this butterfly down to the page detract in any way from its beauty? And if so, *why*? Playing CopsAndRobbers? is not as fun as playing LaserQuest? or PaintBall?, because there's a mechanic for working out who's been shot. People love playing games, and having rules, for many a thing. Why, therefore, does rule-bound social interaction provoke quite such a negative reaction (if it does)? --Requiem
Well, if your reason for having a character do a thing is that the rules say you must, or that it is the most advantageous from the POV of the player, rather than because that's what the character would do, then you've stopped playing the role of the character.  I'm not saying that's bad in itself, and if it makes the game more fun it's a good thing; but if you enjoy roleplaying then it's annoying to be discouraged from roleplaying.  This is something that AD&D got right twenty years ago: it presented some rules for success or failure of actions, but just told you to roleplay the decisions that led to those actions without trying to rule on how you did that; and the way it encouraged roleplaying was to tell the DM to give XP bonuses for good roleplaying without trying to rule on how they should do that. -- SGB
I'd agree but with a slight change of emphasis: I'd saying that when you're roleplaying you're having the character do things because they would be an interesting/dramatic thing for the character to do, rather than simply because they are 'what the character would do'. After all, there is no 'what the character would do' because the character doesn't actually exist; the actions you as player cause the character to take are what creates the character, rather than the other way around. -- no-reverse
See my comment in the discussion above. I believe you and I do fundamentally different things when we roleplay and that is the source of at least some of our argument. --Requiem
We do fundamentally different things when we play role-playing games.  Some of those are roleplaying, some are not.  Now, I disagree with n-r; 'what the character would do' is roleplaying, and 'what is dramatic for the character to do' is storytelling.  In any given game you can do both, either or neither; and if you do break character to do something dramatic, you may well end up in a situation where you can have a better time in character later on.  Choosing not to roleplay for metagame reasons such as storytelling or success combat can be a good way to have more fun, and I'm not arguing against them: but it's not sensible to call them roleplaying just because they happen in a game where roleplaying also happens any more than it's sensible to call everyone in the UK an Englishman. -- SGB
I don't think you can separate character-building and story-telling: characters exist in the context of stories (well, these kinds of characters do, we'll leave aside odder cases like, say, characters in lyric poetry) and stories exist to define and display their characters. Playing the role of a character involves making choices about what actions the character takes, and making those decisions within the context of the story is not 'breaking character': it would only be 'breaking character' if you made decisions which made the character inconsistent or incoherent. When an actor makes choices about the role they play, those choices are determined in part by the character's role in the story (plotwise and thematically) and taking that context into account isn't 'breaking character'; indeed, it's when they stop taking the context into account and (say) address the audience directly that the have 'broken character'.  -- no-reverse
There's "what the character would do", which might be any of several things, and "what the character wouldn't do", which is exactly identical to "decisions which made the character inconsistent or incoherent".  If you choose from among the things that the character would do according to what is dramatic, then you're roleplaying *and* storytelling.  If you choose from among the things that the character would do according to what gives the player the best rewards, you're roleplaying *and* gaming (or whatever you want to call it).  But I wouldn't say that you're required to do either in order for it to be sensibly called roleplaying.  -- SGB
And then there's storytelling and gaming where you completely nonsensically rely on out-of-band information to do something that produces good tension in the hope of good rewards without regard to what the character would actually do.  -- Senji
A-ha! This! This right here is what I hate. --Requiem
But that is how all stories work. Is Hamlet ruined when Shakespeare uses 'out of band information' to place Hamlet and Polonius in his mother's chamber at the same time, to produce a dramatic result? - --cpc4 (no-reverse?)
That's not how *all* stories work, just most of them.  Most stories aren't also games, so they don't have to be fair.  If it were an RPG and I were Polonius' player, and Hamlet's player pulled something like that, I would have every right to be upset with Hamlet's player. -- SGB
I'd rather games were interesting than fair, but that may be why all my characters end up watching the other juggle fireballs and unweave the world. But while the example there ends in death, I'd rather hope two players and a GM would have more finesse (because if it's a PC then that's a rather more major character than poor Polnius). Oh, heck, let's have an example...

I think a fundamental misunderstanding here is that many people here define an RPG as something that needs you to play your character as if you were an actor in a role (Actor Stance) - as opposed to as if you were the author of a story about that character (Author Stance), and as futher opposed to treating that character's abilities as commodities with little to no bearing on characterization (Pawn Stance.)  BlissStage defaults to Author Stance, as does DogsInTheVineyard?.  Most others default to Actor Stance.

I count games with Author or Actor stance as the norm as RPGS, but absolutely not ones that rely on Pawn Stance.  -ElliottBelser

An example

My character is a prince. He and the rest of the party have just returned from an arduous mission which has left him tired, so when the GM asks what my character is doing, I say 'he goes to bed'.

Then the GM asks another player the same question, and he says 'my character goes to see the Queen in her chambers.'

I think: what? I didn't know this character knew the Queen, let alone well enough to see her in private. This sounds like it might be an opportunity for something dramatic. So I say: 'On the way to his rooms, my character decides that he'd better talk to his mother about the unrest out in the kingdom straight away, so that he arrives while that guy is still there.'

The GM nods, and then plays out the scene where the other player's character talks to the Queen. When the other character is about to leave, the GM says 'as you go to open the door, there is a knock on the other side. What do you do?'

Is that unfair? Is it bad? Does it ruin the game? As far as I can see, it makes the game unquestionably better: it provides an opportunity for drama which wouldn't otherwise have occurred (and it's up to the players what form that takes, whether it's an outright confrontation (and we will assume that the players and GM can arrange things so that any blood that's spilt in that eventuality is not enough to be fatal), a speedy exit through the window, or an attempt to eavesdrop from behind a curtain).

Anyone have a problem with that?  -- no-reverse

''For me, that depends on the style of the game and the preferences of the players.  If it's a game like Amber where the players prize their secrets, then I don't think it's acceptable to use OOC knowledge like that.  However, if it's a swashbuckling game where the emphasis is on action sequences, then that would be a great way to start one. -- SGB

Not all secret meetings should end up with confrontations though.  If player-1's plan is to have the foreshadowing spy-and-spymaster dialogue with the Queen it may not be appropriate for player-2 to burst in in the middle this time.  Both player 1 and the GM should get a veto here (the GM also gets to veto player-1's veto of course, but usual GM stresses apply). -- Senji

Or another example, if the player's characters are on the same side: After they arrive back and go to their beds, the prince is set upon by two assassins. Seeing that the fight is going badly and my character is in trouble, one of the other players says: 'my character was too worried about the growing unrest to sleep, and is walking around the courtyard when sounds of a struggle come from the Prince's chamber.' (The GM nods that this is fine) 'My sword is drawn, and I start to climb up the ivy...'

Anyone have a problem with that?  -- no-reverse

That's fine by me - because you ran it past the GM. -- SGB
This is the default in BlissStage.  It's called "Author Stance" roleplay. - ElliottBelser
No it isn't. Some idiot who'd had bad roleplaying experiences recently came up with a bunch of stupid labels like 'stances', but to the extent they're not stating the obvious they are rubbish.
Labels which I, and others I know, have found to be very helpful in keeping our games more consistently exciting. - ElliottBelser

Again, if you allow player-2 to interfere here with only the GM's say-so then you're interfering with player-1's chance to do dramatic stuff.  In most cases I doubt player-1 is going to complain here though. -- Senji

Both examples are 'run past' the GM: the GM decides when the Prince arrives in the first example, and could easily have said that the other player's character leaves before the Prince arrives. The GM is always in overall control, but I don't see why that should stop the players from contributing to the drama.  --no-reverse
What I mean is, in your second example your action might spoil the GM's fun, but it didn't.  In the first, it might spoil the player's fun.  --SGB

As for Amber, I think that players in Amber games often prize their secrets too much, to the extent that it can become almost a player versus player game. The players' desire to keep secrets shouldn't override making the game dramatic and fun. You and I both know what can happen when players refuse to share information, to the extent that little or no progress is made simply because those who know various pieces of what is going on refuse to share their knowledge. Wouldn't it be better for everyone's enjoyment, for the game as a whole, if players could force confrontations hat would result in these secrets coming into the open? It would both stop the familiar 'stalled plot due to excessive secrecy', and it would mean that more dramatic scene happened (that's both 'scenes that are more dramatic' and 'more scenes that are dramatic').

The only reason for not doing so that I can see, is to allow players to control their secrets as a form of power. But that's not what roleplaying games are about. Roleplaying games are about the players working together to have a good time, even if their characters are plotting against each other. And as the players can be assumed to be able to separate their knowledge from their character's knowledge, and only use their knowledge to help the story (rather than, for example, saying after hearing the scene played out where the Queen says that her attempted coup will begin at the port tomorrow, 'the Prince wakes up the next day with a strange desire to take a brigade on manoeuvres near the port'), I don't see why everything shouldn't be done in the open and players encouraged to use their knowledge to set up dramatic scenes.  -- no-reverse

OK, ignoring for the moment that not all players (not even all the ones you and I play with) equate 'most dramatic' with 'most fun', I did have an argument that by using OOC knowledge to press a scene on another player, you might be ruining a dramatic outcome that they were working towards; but that's an argument about spoilers, so I doubt I'd get very far with it. -- SGB

Ruining dramatic outcomes. That's an interesting point. I think my first response would be that in the first example I described, the other player has the choice over whether the dramatic outcome is ruined or not. They can have their character dive out the window / nip through a secret passage / escape in some other way, if they really don't want the confrontation. And even that escape provides a moment of tension that wouldn't have been there otherwise, so it's worthwhile, and doesn't ruin anybody's plans. --no-reverse, continues below
Without knowing the what the other player's desired outcome is, you can't know that any of the available actions won't ruin it.  To which you might very well reply that they should share, and I'd bring up spoilers, and we'd have to agree to disagree. (Rilstone *so* missed the point) --SGB

But, your objection does assume that the player is working towards a dramatic outcome -- and in my experience, the kinds of players who jealously guard their secrets aren't working towards a dramatic revelation of them. Rather, they are perfectly happy for the campaign to end with their secrets never having been revealed. This means that their secret is, from the point of view of every other player, dramatically pointless. Sure, it may provide some shared private frisson between the player and the GM, but as far as the other players are concerned it either might as well not exist, or it's just frustrating. And not the good sort of frustration where it leads to a dramatic discovery, but the bad sort of frustration where it's never resolved. --no-reverse, continues below
If it's not frustrating the other players, I don't see a problem with it.  And if it is, then it's the GM's fault for mismanaging his players.  --SGB
I generally like to go into games with at least one if not two secrets that aren't directly relevant but which would be interesting if  they happen to come to light.  It's then up to the GM to expose one if they want or for the other players to tease away at one of the slightly visible edges.  The people who will tease away are going to do so even if I didn't have a secret in mind, so....
At the most successful end my background ended up writing me halfway into the GM's plot leading to me (unwittingly) becoming a bit of the plot's cat-paw. -- Senji

If, in a book or film, some character is working for a mysterious benefactor who slips them information, wouldn't you expect that at some point the audience (even if not the other characters) will, in a dramatic moment, discover who that benefactor is?  Otherwise there'd be no point to it.  --no-reverse, continues below
Expect?  No.  Hope, perhaps, but not expect.  Such a benefactor (a) adds a sense mystery and (b) advances the plot.  I'm not saying it's a good way of doing those things, but it's hardly "no point".  --SGB

The author might get a thrill because they knew, but the audience would be left going 'huh?' Roleplaying games aren't a solitary pleasure: they're not for the benefit of the individual player, to see how much they can get away with hiding form the others. They're a social, communal entertainment, and hiding information form the other players is only justified if it results in a payoff for all, not just for the one player, and that seems in my experience to be rare enough to at least not rule that it's the best or only way to play, if not to go farther and say that it is an actively bad way to play. --no-reverse, continues below
Given that you're unlikely to please all of the players all of the time, I don't see a problem with a character having some element that enhances the player's enjoyment, so long as it doesn't harm the other players' enjoyment.  --SGB

I'm not suggesting that everything be out in the open: if a character speaks to their mysterious benefactor, the player and GM could roleplay that scene in front of the other players but without naming the benefactor. This provides the equivalent for the other players of a scene in a film where the mysterious character is in shadow, so the audience knows something of what is going on but not everything. There can still be a dramatic moment when the mystery voice's identity is revealed, too, so the player who is working towards that dramatic reveal of who their high-placed friend is need not be disappointed. In fact, they should probably be grateful, as it's very hard as a player working on your own to engineer a dramatic climax like that: bringing in the other players and letting them contribute ideas makes it much easier. If the other players know, for example, that you are meeting your benefactor at a certain time, they can arrange for their characters to be around and so you can play out the dramatic climax where your true allegiance is revealed. On the other hand, if you arrange it in secret with the GM, you run the risk of the other players all deciding that their characters will go off to hunt traitors in another city, and are forced with either saying 'um, realy, could you stay around for just one more day? no real reason...' or your carefully-laid dramatic plan going to waste. --no-reverse, continues below
Again, my counter-argument to this would involve spoilers; what you describe is a good way to make a story, but precludes actually surprising the other players.  Also, it assumes that the other players all have "make a good story" as their number one goal, and won't just go off and hunt traitors anyway because they enjoy hunting traitors.  --SGB

One of the best things a story can do is generate dramatic irony, where the audience knows more than the characters. John Proctor's wife refuses to confirm his adultery, not knowing he has already confessed. Or at a most visceral level, the hero walks down the corridor not knowing what the audience know -- that the monster is at the end. Without allowing the players more knowledge than their characters (but still not complete knowledge, as the GM has) you're cutting off the possibility of generating dramatic irony in roleplaying games, and that's quite a loss.  --no-reverse, continues below
Not at all.  I'm not saying things shouldn't be open; I'm saying that if they are open and you act on OOC information you risk spoiling other players' fun.  In your example, your player has learnt that the other player's character knows the queen; he doesn't need to have his character burst into the scene just so he can bring about dramatic irony; the next time the characters meet and have reason to discuss the queen, it will come about. --SGB

And finally finally -- even if after all that the Prince's player's interruption does throw the other player off their stride and they don't like it, as for spoiling fun, isn't part of the fun of roleplaying games having your character respond to unexpected, and undesired, events? After all, dice spoil a player's fun when they knock that player's character out at the beginning of a session and so the player has nothing to do but munch crisps and peruse their host's bookshelves (and perhaps occasionally make comments that throw the other players off their stride). Few would object to that, and dice aren't even trying to make the game more interesting, and often they throw a spanner in the player's plans for no good reason. So why object when another player throws a spanner in your plans because they're trying to make the game better, for a good reason? Surely better to do what you (ought to) do when the dice go against you -- at the least accept it, and at the most use the unexpected complication as a spur to better roleplaying? --no-reverse
When dice go against you, that's very different to when a person goes against you.  Dice don't get to be inconsiderate.  --SGB

Starting at the end. Dice don't get to be inconsiderate, but they don't get to be considerate or helpfupl either, and I'm not talking about players who are inconsiderate. For example, I wouldnt' expect the Prince's player, if the other's response to 'what do you do?' was 'I get the Queen to stall while I nip out the window' to respond with 'I get impatient with my mother and barge the door down.' The Prince's player has offered the confrontation; the other player has indicated they don't want the confrontation now; it's as if it never happened (and of course, there's still the option of it coming out later down the line). It's all a collaborative process of negotation. the whole idea of players being inconsiderate, trying to get one over on the other, is what I'm trying to get away from.

Now, all the stuff about 'spoilers'. I think the only way to respond to this again is to repeat that I don't think it's a 'spoiler' any more than any cut-away scene in a film or book that the protagonist isn't there to witness is a 'spoiler'. Is it a 'spoiler' when the audience sees Cypher talking to Agent Smith? After all, it means that the audience knows that Cypher is going to betray Morpheus, Neo et al, and that's the sort of thing that would generally be considered a 'spoiler', isn't it?

To me a 'spoiler', in common usage, is something that gives away the dramatic payoff. I'm not suggesting that anythng that does that should take place. If the Prince's player knowing that the other player's character knew the Queen would be a 'spoiler', then I'd expect the other player to say something like, instead of 'I go to see the Queen', 'I go to see my paymaster.' The GM could then roleplay the scene in view of the other players, without mentioning who the paymaster actually is. They don't even need to talk about the coup in those terms, instead referring to 'the operation' or similar.

So I think it can be seen that there is no reason for this 'open play' style to involve any 'spoilers', assuming competence and goodwill on the parts of the players and the GM. What is revealed will be only enough to make the game interesting, and not enough to give  away any of the dramatic payoffs -- not enough to 'spoil' anything.

So rather than being 'spoilers', I would suggest that the controlled, negotiated release of information -- as in the Prince example, where the two players negotiate through their roleplaying how much information is to be revealed -- adds richness to the game, by allowing dramatic irony.

And dramatic irony, though, I would still insist, is mainly of value (dramatically -- if can be used throwaway for comedy purposes, but comedy in games is a whole other issue I'm not getting into now) if and only if it pays off. If Cypher had met with the agents and then not betrayed the ship's crew, the audience would be left going 'what was the point of that scene?'

Similarly I think that an audience expects, rightly, that mysterious voices will eventually have their identity revealed, that mysterious plans that are alluded to will be put into operation, and that mysterious objects will have their functions discovered. Obviously not everything needs to be revealled and it's good that some things remain mysterious, off screen, alluded to but never seen -- the Clone Wars, for example. But I think you'd feel disappointed, cheated even, if you watched a film or read a book in which some character was acting all the time on behalf of some mysterious benefactor who it was hinted was one of the background characters... but you never found out which one! (again, there are always exceptions: sometimes the mystery might be part of the plot. but those exceptions are rare and need to be carefully handled in ways which similar situations in roleplaying games generally aren't).

I also think I place less emphasis than you on the fear of 'spoiling another player's fun'. For one thing, I'm willing to risk one player's fun being spoiled for the enrichment of the whole game, especially if that player's fun depended on trying to keep stuff from the other players (as opposed to their character trying to keep secrets from the other characters). For another, things that spoil player's fun happen all the time; every time I roll dice, for example. I'd rather my fun was spoiled by someone trying to make the game better than by some inanimate lumps of plastic.

Also, I don't think that my character's plans being disrupted is necessarily spoiling the fun. Firstly, obstacles being thrown in your character's path are more properly regarded as opportunities for you to roleplay (that may sound like businessspeak, but I assure you it's something Shakespeare knew: it's through obstacles in their path that characters get to show us what they are made of). And a player-generated obstacle is likely to provide a much better opportunity than a dice-generated obstacle.

And secondly, an obstacle that derails your character's plans is spoiling your fun if you view a roleplaying game as an effort to cause your character's plans to come to fruition, but that's slipping into a player-versus-player mentality that has no place in roleplaying games. If you want to make plans and try to have them come to fruition and regard the other players as opponents trying to stop your plans, play Caylus or something -- not a roleplaying game.

Fundamentally: assuming players are considerate, competent and wanting to work together to have a good time even when their characters are all busily trying to backstab each other, I don't think that open play can harm a game (because the release of infomation can be controlled through negotiation as in the Prince example) and I think that it's even generally better for a player's fun (because even if it throws an obstacle in front of their plans, that can be a spur to better roleplaying and more fun) so I think it's a generally good thing.

And I intend to run all future games of mine this way, until and unless it proves unworkable in practice.  -- no-reverse

I think we're talking past each other a bit here.  If the players are considerate, they'll ask whether it's OK first, so if it were going to be a problem, it wouldn't happen in the first place.  So we're only talking about times when players fail to be considerate (and that is reason enough to be annoyed in itself).
If the players are all playing to make the best story, then what you describe is a good way to play, and interfering based on OOC knowledge for the sake of the story shouldn't cause any problems.  But I don't think that that's generally the case.  In our group, in any given game, there's usually one or two players who mostly want to solve the problems posed by the game and one or two who mostly want to see the best story told, and the rest want a bit of both depending on the problem and the story and their mood at the time.  Making a better story isn't necessarily the same as enriching the game, at least not in terms of getting the most enjoyment for all the players.  -- SGB

I wasn't suggesting players ask if it's okay, first, though. The Prince's player doesn't ask if it's okay that his character goes to see the Queen. What happens then is a result of negotiation, but negotiation through the medium of the game ('there's a knock on the door' / 'my character asks the Queen's majesty to stall while I nip out the window' / 'A voice comes back, "wait a moment..." then about a minute later, "come in." When the Prince opens the doors he sees his mother standing by her writing-desk.')  --no-reverse, continued below
Yes, I understand that; but you've given an example where that's possible.  What if there's no way to hide or to escape the Queen's room?  Then the only way to avoid the confrontation is to not have the Prince go up there.  -- SGB
It's always possible if the players and GM are ingenious enough. Secret passage, hitherto unmentioned. Hide under the bed. A Moulin Rouge style farce scene. These things are not a problem.  --no-reverse
True, but having to be ingenious every time a pushy player decides he wants focus doesn't sound much fun to me. -- SGB
If a player is spoiling people's fun by being too pushy and grabbing for attention, don't play with them. -- no-reverse
Good advice.  But doing things just to increase the drama *is* being pushy - it's pushing one player's method of finding fun over that of the other players.  --SGB
What's being precious about refusing to do things that might help the game as a whole, and everybody's enjoyment, because 'my character wouldn't do that' (or conversely, 'your character doesn't know that!') then?

As for the second point, players how want to solve the problems posed by the game should surely also like the more open style, especially given that what stands in the way of solving the problems is often the reluctance of players to share information that their characters have? If the players all knew the information, they would be able to solve the problems better, and work their characters towards then implementing those solutions. As it is, all the players blunder about in the dark (as to their characters) because the parts of the puzzle are each in the hands of a different, secretive player.--no-reverse
If all they cared about was solving the problems, openness would be fine.  But since they also want to roleplay, they restrict themselves to solutions open to the characters.  For problem-solving players, using OOC knowledge to solve problems is cheating; for another player to use it is annoying because it seems like the other player is cheating.  -- SGB
Yes, but that means they get nowhere. If they know some other player's character has some bit of information vital to the solution, they can arrange with that player's character to have their two characters find out each other's secrets and so come closer to the solution tot he problem being open to the characters. Otherwise they just blunder around in the dark.  -- no-reverse
If that's what they turned up to do, you're spoiling their fun by stopping them. -- SGB
They turned up to blunder around int he dark and never get anywhere? Games I've been in where that has happened everybody I've spoken to has complained (and then not done the obvious thing to stop it, ie, share some secrets!) -- no-reverse
They turned up to solve problems from the POV of their character.  That those things are incompatible is probably the reason PCs are all so incompetent.  -- SGB
So whatever happens, someone's enjoyment gets spoiled: either the people who turned up to blunder around in the dark don't get to, or the people who don't enjoy blundering around in the dark, have to. How... depressing. -- no-reverse
Yes.  Happily most players are happy to some extent with either.  -- SGB
There's nothing more awkward than two characters each of whom's players know the other has an important but secret piece of information trying to trick the other into admitting it so they can have the "OK, Cards on the table time" dialogue. -- Senji
It's only awkward if you have this stupid 'must not be seen to allow player knowledge to influence character's actions at all' rule. Otherwise you just have your character say or do something (consistent with their character) that you (the player) knows will lead to the conversation you want to have. -- presumably no-reverse
What there's really nothing more awkward than is watching a player thrash around knowing what their character should do, in-character, but conflicted because that is also what they-the-player know the character should do, and trying to justify to themselves that they want to do it 'in character' and not just because they know as a player it's the right thing to do. There's nothing more pitiful than watching a roleplayer resolve this dilemma by having their character act inconsistently with their earlier characterisation because the alternative of their character even seeming to act on player knowledge is unthinkable to them. -- presumably no-reverse
More freqently the player causes the character to act out-of-character to further what they perceive as the plot, generally caused by a kind of peer pressure from people like you. -- Senji
Better that a character gets bent, though, and the game continues, than one player holds up everyone else because 'my character wouldn't do that.' -- once again presumably no-reverse who prefers to hide in the shadows and throw peanuts than own up to his words.
Do you never lie awake at night thinking "Oh my God, Lawrence, Sam just wouldn't do that?" -- Senji (picking on LM simply because he has the name to hand, not because he's actually necessarily an example)

Every example you cite is Author Stance play. - ElliottBelser
No it isn't, because that's a stupid term invented in an essay which alternates the crushingly obvious with the laughably misguided in an obsessive attempt to make an unhelpful and wrong classification just for the sake of classifying.
Even if you find it simplistic, I, and people who have played in my games, have found the distinction between "Actor Stance" and "Author Stance" to be a very helpful shorthand for that kind of narrative trick in RP. - ElliottBelser.
Yes, well, I guess if you haven't been doing it for very long you might have read that essay and thought 'wow, man, he's, like, totally captured what we totally do, this, like guy, is, like, so a total genius of classification' as opposed to the more appropriate 'what a load of twaddle.'
He coined terms for concepts other people were discussing without having words for them, which is laudable. The fact that there are subtleties he missed and points he didn't consider and things he was wrong about does not render the work he did valueless. The terms are a basis for discussion if nothing else. For the peanut gallery, Ron Edwards of indie-rpgs wrote a [system] for classifying roleplaying; some hate it, some love it, a lot of people use it anyway because there isn't another one. --Requiem (Edit. Thank you MoonShadow for the link! Explains it and criticises it well.)

I'd also argue that it wasn't author stance play, because in each case the GM is being petitioned to use authorial privileges on behalf of the player who immediately slips back into character upon the request being completed. In the first example, as GM, I'd ask the other player if they were OK with this before continuing. In the second, the *whole damn party* would get near-forcibly written into that scene - it's a combat, combats take *ages* and the resulting unequal division of spotlight time isn't fun. Author stance play would be doing this without getting the GM's permission, because the rules of the game say you are allowed to throw curveballs like this. (I note in passing that I don't *like* the prolonged use of players in author stance, or indeed giving narration privileges to more than one person at the table, so my examples of author stance are likely to be straw men in hats). --Requiem
You have a point there.  Also keep in mind that just because I don't think this part of Ron Edward's magnum opus is utter bollocks doesn't mean I shary this rosy view of the rest of it... --ElliottBelser

Also, because many people get it wrong, here are the current working definitions for Gamism, Narrativism and Simulationism (ecch on that last choice of word) discussed [here]:

Narrativism: Play primarily concerned with the construction of a coherent story, with organically introduced and resolved themes and character arcs, as the Fun Part.  "The most frightening possibility about this all, Tarragon... is that Lloyd may be right about how to defeat the aliens..."  Story Now.

Gamism: Play primarily concerned with friendly competition or mastery of the rules-set.  "Okay then.  *cracks knuckles*  Activate my Combo, Do Not Tempt Fate - Heavenly Guardian, Solar Counterattack, and Peony Blossom attack."  "Niiiiice."  Step On Up.

Simulationism:  Play primarily concerned with testing the breaking point of the tropes of a setting and/or genre to see if they're logically consistent. "Y'know, I'd really like to run a game where the PCS are the Forgotten Realms gods... as the 1st level mortals that they must have been once." The Right To Dream.  (On a related note, I really, REALLY want to run ElliottBelser/MortalGods at some point.)

The author of that theory, Ron Edwards, claims he didn't intend for a player or a game to be labeled G, N or S.  This is an absolute load of dingoes kidneys as he then goes on to claim that Vampire claims to be Narr but is in fact Gam-Sim. - ElliottBelser

Immersionism: Play primarily concerned with the process of playing a character and experiencing a 'shared hallucination' from their perspective. "This game is about people who, when they died, were too screwed up to let go of the world. Not only do you play one, you play the shoulder demon of the player to your left." I don't have a catchphrase for it, but I suspect someone on the internet has one. This is a big hole in the 'Big Theory' - I got the feeling RE fundamentally does not grok the reason I and many others roleplay. --Requiem

Pallando is late arriving to this discussion, but wishes to throw several thoughts into the mix:

1. Terminology
''Of the following discussions:
Which of the following activities is the One True Meaning of word "x" ?
What are the properties and characteristics of the following activities ?
How may the activities covered by word "x" usefully be sub-divided and categorised''

I am least interested in the first.  I shall therefore use "Role Playing Game" to refer to any of a wide variety of activities that include both elements of playing a role and elements of playful intereaction, including the boardgame "Junta", LARP, computer games like Neverwinter, children pretending to be pirates, theatre class warm up exercises, [werewolf vs villager], nomics and of course game systems whose books actually describe themselves as RPGs such as GURPS, Paranoia, Fudge, Bat-Winged Bimbo from Hell, etc.

I would not count spying for your country as an RPG (role playing, but not gaming for fun).  I would not count chess as an RPG (gaming for fun, and containing elements of bluff, deception, psychological warfare, etc but no real sense of choosing a persona for fun rather than tactics).  In other words, it is not so much black and white, as something with shades of grey.

2. Intersecting Activities
I very much like SGB's distinction between *gaming*, *roleplaying* and *storytelling*.  I have a personal preference for games that contain all three.

In particular I think it adds to the roleplaying element to have rules or a background trope that are sufficiently reliable to make some choices better than others.  It gives a sense of real consequences and adds meaning to cooperation - not everyone is a superman limited only by their ability to cooly describe their actions and persuade others of them.  The consequences of this is that these rules may then also be to some extent 'gamed', however it is the difference between freeform prose and poetry with rules.  Restrictions can enhance creativity.

I also think that players taking a small amount of responsibility for keeping a game 'on plot' (a *storytelling* task) enhances roleplaying.  To take an example from the most recent CURS 24-Hour event: the ship's pilot had a guild code of honour requiring him to go to the aid of other guild members in distress.  At one point it was in character for him to suicidally charge off and face the enemy alone.  He was free to exercise that aspect of his character and attempt to start to do this because he was able to rely upon the others in the party to restrain him thus keeping the storyflow going.  It is a process of give and take - minorly bending or choosing between your own motivations to allow another character the limelight and, in return, later in the game they may do the same service for you.

3. Stances
In most games the players decide what actions their own characters attempt to take, but not the consequences of those attempts, and particularly not the decisions of characters played by other players.  Allowing them to determine the consequences without restriction destroys the reliability of the surroundings and any *gaming* element.  Allowing the latter destroys any immersive element of the *roleplaying* (and, for me, most of the emotional involvement, leaving it a purely intellectual creative exercise, like a joint-authored fantasy story).
Deciding the consequences?  Really?  Are you talking about task resolution ("picking the lock to evade the guards") as opposed to conflict resolution? ("Picking the lock to evade the guards?")  Or is it actually saying How It Will Go Down?  Because the latter is abhorrent, and I tend to like games that make the distinction between the former clear.
Also note that BlissStage is a task-resolution based game... - ElliottBelser.

I don't think I undertstand.  What I meant was that there is a distinction between the player saying to the GM "My character, Vlad the Shady tries to pick the lock with his credit card.  Does he succeeed?" and the player telling the another player "My character, Vlad the Shady, picks the lock and proceeds to loot your room while you are out shagging his girlfriend." leaving the other player having to say "Ah, but you didn't realise I'd hired a lurk tiger from Kegan.  As you turn to leave the room it pounces."  --Pallando
Task resolution is: "Vlad the Shady picks the lock."  "Roll for it."
Conflict resolution is: "Vlad the Shady picks the lock."  "Why?"  "To loot the room while you're about with your girl."  "Roll for looting the room, using Lock-Pick.  If you fail the roll, a guard comes by to have words with you." -ElliottBelser
So the difference is that task resolution makes sense, and conflict resolution makes no sense whatsoever? -- ChiarkPerson
Hello again, ChiarkPerson.  So nice of you to drop by.
The difference is that task resolution is a system that resolves whether or not you complete a task, while conflict resolution is more concerned with narrative causality: whether your actions have thier intended result.  BlissStage is a task resolution based system in that completing a mission or not has no bearing on whether you are any closer to any of your Hopes (Do we beat the aliens?  Do we wake the Blissful?) unless you think it does. -- ElliottBelser
(drop by? I've been here since the beginning, mate. What were you doing in 2002?) That doesn't explain why failing a lockpicking roll could cause a guard to walk in on you. How does that make any kind of sense? Even Dogs in the Vineyard requires a use of a skill to make some kind of sense.

{ A discussion spawned from a PS by ChiarkPerson moved to /Taboo }


It doesn't make logical sense because it's not supposed to be logical, just narratively convienient.  A guard drops by because:

A) you failed a roll.

B) When you fail a roll in conflict rez games, something bad happens to you, and this bad thing must drive the action forward.

C) In this case a guard noticing you making a racket while hunched over a lock with a set of picks in your hand makes some sort of sense and clearly leads to a new conflict, even if that guard's existence has to be a RetCon?.
Oh, why didn't you say that a failed lockinging roll meant that a guard found you picking the lock 'cause you made too much noise? That does make sense. When you wrote 'Roll for looting the room, using Lock-Pick.  If you fail the roll, a guard comes by to have words with you.' I thought you meant that the guard would come by while you were inside the room looting, whihc made no sense. If the guard finds you while you're picking the lock, that makes sense.
It does, however, get us back to where we started in terms of the difference between task-based and conflict-based games, because it sounds still liek you're rolling to complete the task of picking the lock. If you fail (or maybe just if you botch) you fail the task because a guard comes along to see what the noise is about. So what's the difference between task-resolution and conflict-resolution again?
Task resolution describes whether or not you do what you wanted to do (pick the lock).  Conflict resolution describes whether or not doing it gets you what you wanted (looting the room).  The distinction is important only in as much as that it allows a player to hold up the rulebook when getting into the room results in a ret-conned tiger pouncing on you, and say "You're not only wrong, Mr. GM, but the rules say you're being a git." --ElliottBelser.
Hang on, are you saying that failing a lockpicking roll could result in your character succeeding in picking the lock, but there being a tiger in the room? Now we're back to making no sense.
Also (a) players should not be waving rulebooks at the GM, and any who do should not be invited to the next session (the GM is never wrong, by definition), and (b) I do not think you know what the word 'ret-con' means.
Let me try again. 
The rules in conflict resolution systems clearly state that success on the roll means that you get what you wanted: in task resolution systems, while succeeding on a Pick Locks roll may imply that you get what you wanted, it doesn't explicitly guarantee it. - ElliottBelser
Still not seeing it. Succeeding on the 'pick locks' roll means the door opens: that's what the player wanted. Where's the distinction?
The door opening is a means to an end: looting the room.  Task resolution focuses on whether you succeed at achiving your means.  Conflict resolution is more focused on acheiving your ends. --ElliottBelser.
But looting the room is still a means: a means to treasure, maybe, or a means to finding the evidence that clears my character's name, or whatever. And even those aren't ends: the treature is the means to buy a castle, the evidence a means to putting the character who framed my character in jail. Where do you stop?What's the magic line that makes 'looting the room' different to 'opening the door' as an end? And more to the point, we're back again to the 'making no sense' issue: it simply makes no sense that my character's skill at picking locks would have any bearing on whether they could successfully loot a room (they might be amazingly dextrous, but have no idea about finding secret hiring places), and it similarly makes no sense that it might have any bearing on clearing my character's name or puting the real guilty party behind bars. Basically, it seems to me that either task resolution is identical to conflict resolution (lockpicking roll opens a lock), or conflict resolution makes no sense (because you suddenly have a lockpicking roll determining things that have nothing to do with picking a lock, like successfully looting a room). Can you help me understand how these terms can be distinct, and yet still make sense?


Where do you stop?  What's the magic line that makes 'looting the room' different to 'opening the door' as an end?

That line is wherever makes most sense dramatically - whatever naturally flows to the next scene, rather than to the next plotline.

Sometimes it is ambigious: when I ref Conflict Rez games, my best three tools are the words "Yes" (there's no conflict, don't bother rolling the dice, you loot the room no problem), "Why?" (Why are you picking the lock?  What do you hope to accomplish?) and "How" (How are you going to clear your name?  Ah, you'll break into his room to find evedence!  Roll lockpick).

Conflict resolution also fundamentally requires that your character's intent be known, clarified, and focused on in a given scene, and that this intent is the primary purpose of the roll.

For examples (ones not involving that Wartime Relationship Hell game): Combat in Dungeons and Dragons (where whether or not you win the combat is the point) and a fire-fight in Dogs in the Vineyard (where the stated "stakes" of victory, for example whether the Steward relents before you are forced to kill him, are the point).  Mind, these are default assumptions: it is certianly possible for the players to say "So if we win this fight, will the Kobolds retreat far enough that they can't harrass the caravans anymore?" and the GM to state suitable counter-stakes ("...but if you fail, they will capture the caravan!") - but in D&D this is an implicit assumption (at best), rather than a rule.

It will admit it is a rather fine distinction: but the basic distinction is whether or not getting ""what you want"" is implied or required by the rules.

Does this make more sense? -- ElliottBelser
Not hugely. Again, I'm struggling to see the difference, or when I can see the difference, it doesn't make sense. Combat in Dungeons & Dragons involved rolling to see if attacks hit; what's the difference beween that and task resolution? And as I understood it, in Dogs in the Vineyard if you want to use one of your character's skills it has to make sense.Looking up a character sheet form when I played it, the character has a trait '1D6 in 'Horsemanship'. Now, as Iunderstand it, if I wanted to bring that into play it would have to be a situation where it made sense: for instance, if my character were chasinganother, and were on horsebck, it would make sense to use 'horsemanship'. Dogs in the Vineyard is a slightly odd example, actually, as you don't tend to make rolls for, for example, picking a lock (or jumping a fence, am I right?) and because players are encouraged to come up with imaginitive uses of skills (for example, 'my character tries to convince the NPC by using an analogy from animal husbandry, using my 'horsemanship' skill'). But still, doesn't the use of the skill have to make sense in terms of the end result? You couldn't use the 'Seduction' skill in a Dogs in the Vineyard-like game to say, for example, 'my character tries to seduce him in order to hack into his laptop. If I succeed, I get the information I want form his laptop' because it makes no sense for the character's seduction skill to determine how good they are at computer hacking -- do you see?
As for 'getting what you want'... well, in a sense it's never 'required', because the GM is the final authority in the game and can always rule that something unexpected happens (though really, if the GM isn't happy about a possible result of a roll, they should have headed off the need to roll in the first place: that being the mark of a great as opposed to just a good GM*). But, leaving that eventuality aside, the issue is 'what does a chaacter want by an action, and is it sensible for the skill they use to cover it?'. It's not sensible for a roll of the lockpicking skill to cover both picking the lock and looting the room. What the character wants when the player is rolling to pick the lock is to open the door. So either task resolution and conflict resolution collapse (in this example and, I submit, more generally, unless you have another example) to the same thing (because in both cases 'what the character wants', ie, to get into the room, as 'required' by the rules to the same degree) or conflict resolution makes no sense because you have extended skill/trait/whatever roles to cover thing far outside what it makes sense for them to cover (a lockpicking roll extends to cover looting the room, a seduction roll extends to covering a computer hacking attempt, and so on).
*actually, having been inspired to look into the VP roleplaying game forums by this discussion, a lot of the point of these things seems to be to curtail the authority of the GM, apparantly either because they want to play with GMs who aren't necessarily even good,never mind great (in which case the solution is surely 'stop playing with those GMs' rather than 'come up with rules to curtail the GM's authority), or because they want to regress to a competitive, rather than collaborative form of roleplaying: they want to go back to the days when the role of a GM was to try to come up with a dungeon that would kill the characters, and the role of the players was to try to survive it -- except that nowadays the spike at the bottom of the pit traps are emotional rather than steel, and the character go armed with the tragedies of their childhood rather than ten-foot poles. But still, fundamentally, it's a step backwards to an era where the game part of 'roleplaying game' is more important than the actual roleplaying. So it may not always be the case the the GM is the final authority, and the rules might actually require that a player be able to 'win' against the GM. Which, you know, fine if you find that sort of thing fun, but it is stuck in the seventies and quite a lot of roleplaying has moved forward.
Oh, here's a thought: is the difference that task resolution is to resolve something the character is trying to do, whereas conflict resolution is so-called because it's to resolve conflict between the players (or between the players and the GM) over who gets to say what happens next? That would explain why I've had such trouble grasping it: I've been assuming that the players and GM are on the same side, of wanting to have fun (whether that fun is creating a dramatic story in my style, or pretending to have a 'character' in one's head in Requiem's style). The idea which seems to underpin these games the come out of these forums, that the players and the GM might actually be on different sides (as if a roleplaying game were a game of chess only where the board is 'the story' or 'the emotional states of the characters' or something) never occured to me... is that it? Conflict resolution resolves inter-player conflict, whereas task resolution resolves the actions of a character?
...D'oh!  Yes, conflict resolution systems say "Okay, that does it.  After we roll for this, whoever wins gets thier way, and the GM can slap you if you continue to argue." -ElliottBelser
Right (well, except that couldn't the GM be the one who has lost and so have to give way?). Sounds crazy to me, but okay, whatever, if you like player vs player or player vs GM arguments, go ahead, forget the roleplaying and make your games into chess. I'll be over here with the non-dysfunctional groups who work together to have a good time instead of needing rules to mediate conflicts.
The GM, if there is one, could indeed lose and have to give way.  Read "the GM can slap you" as "the collective players can slap you" above.  And if you're dealing with touchy subjects, like interpretation of religious doctrine (Dogs again), having the conflict rez rules in place is a good failsafe IMHO. -ElliottBelser
Right. Did this whole movement start because people ended up in bad groups where there was a lot of slapping, and thoguht that all groups were bad so they better come up with rules to channel the badness?
Yes. (shrugs) Most of the theory is concerned with mechanical and unofficial methods of preventing that sort of thing.  --ElliottBelser.
Nobody ever thought of 'don't play with bad players'?
Actually that's not quite fair. I can see the point of these little games as intellectual exercises and I can see how they'd apeal to the same people who like to play abstract board games (ie, not me). I don't really think they're roleplaying, but whatever, if contested storytelling floats your boat... (this also explains why Universalis didn't work the times we tried it: we ended up just throwing the rules away and having fun telling a collaborative storytell. We didn't understand, I didn't even work out until today, that you're supposed to be competing to try to tell your story at the expense of the other players', and that's why the rules are there, to enable that competition to take place in a structured way and have winners and losers. I still don't understand why anybody would want to do such a thing, but I now understand why it is the way it is. 

NOTE: Much of the preceeding confusion can be avoided by reading [this very clear description of task vs conflict resolution] --Pallando, who dug up this link the next day
But that just muddies the waters further, by providing yet another possible meaning for the term that doesn't agree with any of the theories here! I'm beginning to think this is one of those terms that nobody who uses it really understands what anybody else means by it, even if they are lucky enough to understand what they mean by it. And indeed, reading on down that thread, it's full of people saying 'no, that's not actually what conflict resolution is'.
It does, however, share the feature identified above where task resolution is about, in some way, what happens to the characters within the story, while conflict resoluton is about who wins in the game between the players (where each player is fighting to control the story). If you're interested in the characters or the story, it doesn't make sense to agree beforehand what happens if the roll fails because the characters don't know what will happen if the succeed or fail. On the other hand if you're a bunch of players fighting for control of the story, then it makes sense to set out what happens on each of the alternative possibilities so that the players can make an informed decision. But if you're a bunch of players fighting for control of the story, I don't want to play with you.
This is kind of a needed failsafe in games dealing with taboo subjects (see DogsInTheVineyard?, where the players are explicitly inventing and reinventing religious doctrine based on personal codes of ethics). --ElliottBelser
No, it's not. It's not needed at all if the players aren't out to try to control / impose their will on the story (ie: 'win'), but are trying to work together. Indeed, by encouraging inter-player conflict (because such games, as we discovered trying to play Dogs in the Vineyard and Univeralis) do not work when played consensually -- the rules get in the way -- the 'conflict resolution' games create the very situation that they claim to control. Instead of providing 'failsafe rules' for deciding what happens when players' wills clash, the games should be pointing out to players that they should not be clashing over control of the story: they should be working together for the good of the story (where 'story' here includes the whole story-world, so as to include the character-centred Requiem style of play). Then, and if players who try to compete instead of co-operate are ejected instead of humoured by the rules, games can deal with whatever intense subjects they like without needing any 'failsafe'. If I were to run Dogs in the Vineyard I would throw out all the rules and just keep the background as an interesting source of moral dilemmas, and because I am careful about who I play with it would work better than if we used the rules, because we wouldn't have to keep interrupting the flow to roll dice so we could get more deeply into the story with its moral dilemmas.
You have a valid point, but having enjoyed Dogs I disagree with you.  Agree to disagree? -- ElliottBelser
No: I will not agree that these conflict resolution rules are in any way necessary for a game dealing with any subject, unless you have an already-dysfunctional group. I will agree that if you are roleplaying with bad roleplayers, they are necessary, but the solution to that is to stop playing with bad roleplayers,not to change the rules to accomodate them.
I will also agree (and have already said) that I can see how some people would enjoy these kinds of competitive-story-control games, but that doesn't mean they are the only way to play games which deal with moral dilemmas and I would say that,enjoyable as they may be to a certain type of person (and that this type of person might well overlapwith the type of person who enjoys real roleplaying) they are not really roleplaying and, indeed, they miss out on the real point of roleplaying by making it competitive.
They may have missed out on one of the things that makes roleplaying special, but if they're having fun, they've hardly missed out on the "real point".  I'm not saying that what they're doing has any further value, nor that it does or doesn't reflect badly on them as people; just that the point of roleplaying, insofar as it has one, is to have fun. Storytelling is just a bonus.  -- SGB
We may never agree on this, but I think that the creative act has value in and of itself, and the collaborative creative act has that plus the value of working together socially and interacting with others, and that this is the point of roleplaying. Not that it isn't fun as well, and not that you can't do it just to have fun and ignore the point, but it's that which makes roleplaying worthwhile in a way which is different from other things which are also worthwhile and fun. --no-reverse
That's the point when you play - because that's what's fun for you.  So while I agree if you're talking about yourself, we probably won't agree if you're saying that that applies more generally.  --SGB
(I'll agree to look down my nose at it, just not to call it 'missing the point of roleplaying') --SGB
Also it occurs to me that as well as being a different kind of worthwhile, it's also a different kind of fun: the fun of building something co-operatively (and that 'something' could be a story as in me-style roleplaying or a character as in Requiem-style roleplaying) versus the fun of imposing your will on a story. And as you point out, that roleplaying is fun does not mean that all things that are fun are roleplaying: roleplaying is a specific kind of fun, that is not the same as the fun of playing, say, Carcassonne (as evidenced by me enjoying one kind of fun and not the other, while you, say, enjoy both). I think that the fun of competitive story-building games is closer to the fun of Carcassonne (except the 'tiles' are bits of story rather than bits of landscape) than it is to the fun of roleplaying. --no-reverse
The fun of competitive story-building games is closer to the fun of Carcassonne than it is to the fun of collaborative story-building games, sure; but if the competitive story-building game is played by playing the role of a character (rather than just by adding more stuff-that-happens) then its fun is the fun of roleplaying - it's the fun of roleplaying that way, and it may be a shallow way of roleplaying but that doesn't make it not roleplaying.  That roleplaying is fun does not mean that all things that are fun are roleplaying; that collaborative storytelling is one way to have fun while roleplaying does not mean that things that do not involve collaborative storytelling are not roleplaying.  --SGB
I don't think that everything that involves playing a role is roleplaying, but I don't think we'll agree.  --no-reverse
Probably not.  I don't see how it's more sensible to use 'roleplaying game' to mean something narrower than 'games of playing the roles of characters' than it is to mean something broader.  A lot of what you want 'roleplaying' to mean is in the word 'character', but I think the extra stuff about storytelling being a necessary (as opposed to desirable) point of it makes the hobby a rather futile one: the stories that happen in RPGs are in general very dull to hear about outside the game.  --SGB

As an aside to the above, the competitive storytelling business gives another reason why intruding on another player's scene is bad.  You may do it to make the best story, but what you're doing is making  your story.  So in a collaborative game, if you do it without first asking the other player out of character whether it's OK - whether it works in their story - you are playing in a competitive way.  --SGB
I don't think that's the case. In the example of the Prince, the Prince's player isn't making it the Prince's story, he's making the story of the Queen's co-conspirator more interesting by providing them with the opportunity (which they may or may not take up) to roleplay an interesting scene. Now, if they said 'my character bursts into the room' and the other player said 'no they don't' you're back to a battle for control of the story, but provided both are sensitive and are trying to open up possibilities ('here, have an opportinuty to play a scene where you have to explain what you're doing in the Queen's chamber -- do you want to take it?') rather than close them down ('you will be discovered in the Queen's rooms') then I don't think it's battling for control. Of course, it impacts on 'their' story, but if they want to play their story all their way without any input from anyone else, they should be writing it, not roleplaying it: roleplaying is all about reacting to what other people do and incorporating it into your story, and I think that's true whether you play me-style or Requiem-style. Reacting, in fact, to what other people do and to what the dice come up: and it's better that they are offered the opportunity of an interesting scene by another player with the option of declining, than that their secret meeting with the Queen is discovered just like that (snaps fingers) because they botched their Sneak roll, an event which is all too common.
I'm sure he tells himself that.  But look at what's happened: the prince's player has had an idea for a story, which may have been different to the other character's idea for a story, and he's made his story happen without asking whether that's OK.  It's not much of a competition, because the prince's player has won by fait accompli, but it's certainly not a collaboration.  -- SGB
He hasn't made his story happen, though. He's opened the opportunity for his story to happen, but nothing has been forced on the other player.  --no-reverse
That's not the case.  A story in which his character is interrupted has been forced on the other player.  --SGB
No it hasn't: the other player has been offered a story in which his character is interrupted, but if the other player says 'my character asks the Queen to stall while he nips out the window', the story continues exactly as it would have done had the Prince's player not decided to offer the change.
No, it doesn't - the Prince wasn't even at the Queen's room in the original version of the story.  The Prince's player has forced a new story on the other player, in which the Prince goes to see the Queen.  --SGB
There isn't an 'original version of the story', though: nothing happens in the story until it's happened. There might be 'the version of the story the player intended', but that can be interrupted by many things: actions of NPCs, dice... it makes no sense to talk about intentions as if they are the 'original' version of the story. If I say 'my character jumps the gorge' and the GM says 'as you jump, a hail of arrows shoots out at you from somewhere' is the 'original' version of the story the one in which there were no arrows, and the one with the arrows a 'new' story? 
In a sense, I suppose you could look at them like that.  But the version I mean when I'm talking about the 'original' story is the one in which characters act based on things already in the game.  I know you have an after-the-fact justification for it, but that doesn't count: by saying "my character will choose this time to visit the queen", you're adding something that wasn't there before: the character is acting on your knowledge, and no matter how much you may claim it's one of the things he might reasonably have done, it's still happending because of something that was not already in the game.  Now, the GM is special; he may know about stuff that was in the game that he hasn't revealed before (or he may be improvising because you burnt down his plot).  If you've all agreed in advance that players are allowed to steal focus in order to push their ideas on the game, then so are they.  But I wouldn't want to play in a game like that: the noisiest players would get all the time.  I didn't play with him, but it sounds like the Ewok guy was like that.  -- SGB
I'm not sure how 'the 'original' story is the one in which characters act based on things already in the game ' differs significantly from 'the 'original' story is the one in which characters act based on their expectations of what their characters can do', only to have those expectations derailed by a bad roll.  --no-reverse
Well, why did the roll happen?  If the players' expectations were derailed by a bad roll, then they're bad at expecting things: the die roll was already going to happen, whereas the Prince going to the Queen wasn't. --SGB
The roll happened because the rules said it should. The player expects that their character can cast a simple spell, shoot an unsuspecting guard, leap a chasm; they get a triple-botch and suddenly their story is derailed and their enjoyment is spoiled. --no-reverse
Then like I said, they're bad at expecting things.  They should expect spellcasting to be determined by die roll, and not base a story on just one of the possibilities. --SGB
The Prince going to the Queen wasn't 'not going to happen' or 'going to happen': it was undetermined until it actually happened. What if the conspirator's player had been called upon to declare first, and said 'my character is going to see the Queen'? Is the Prince's player then forbidden from saying 'well, my character was going to see the Queen too'? --no-reverse
No, but in that circumstance you just have to trust the players, and a scene where they meet (or avoid meeting, or whatever) happens for in-universe reasons that aren't just one player's story.  --SGB
In the exampel as given, thoguh, the meeting doesn't happen (if it happens) for reasons that are 'just one player's story'. The whole point of the example is that it's not just about the Prince's player's story: it's about the Prince's player offering a chance to make the other player's character's story more interesting. the Prince's player is not being selfish in this example. The Prince's player is offering help to the other player (which the other playermay refuse).  --no-reverse
OK, there are two things here: One is that he thinks he's helping, but you haven't told us enough about the other player for us to be sure. The second is that he's not offering to help, he's going ahead and doing it without asking.  Unless you're happy with the other player saying "no, the prince doesn't pick that moment" then the other player can't refuse; and that's a "cure" that's worse than the "disease".  --SGB
No, he's offering to help by offering the opportunity of a scene in the Queen's chambers. The other player doesn't have to accept the offer (instead escaping out the window say) and the conspirator's scene plays out exactly as they hoping. I keep wondering if you've misunderstood and think that the Prince's knock is interrupting the scene with the Queen; it isn't, it's specifically placed by the GM after that scene is over specifically so it doesn't interrupt.  -- no-reverse
No, I understand that the scene comes after; that's what makes it an interesting example.  All I'm quibbling about now is the definition of "offer": he's not offering a scene because it isn't an option.  OK, the player can avoid his character appearing in it; and OK, it needn't be more than three sentences long; and OK, it needn't have any effect.  But it cannot be prevented, so it's not an option, it's forced.  That's why I think it would be better if the player made it a genuine offer by saying "is this OK" before he even starts.  --SGB
But if the conspirator's player can avoid his character appearing in it, indeed avoid it having any affect on his character's story, why does it spoil his story at all? Any more than if the Prince's player had said 'the Prince goes to see his mother the next morning'? What business is it of the conspirator's player's that a scene is happening between another player's character and an NPC? (this feels uncomfortable to write, because it's starting to drop into confrontational language, which is exactly what I am wanting to avoid, player/player confrontation).
Oh, *if* all those things happen, it isn't.  But it's not clear in advance that that's going to happen.  If all the Prince's player says is "I go to see my mother as whatshisface is leaving", the other player doesn't know what's going on.  -- SGB
What else might happen though? Especially if everything's being played open-information, the other payer does have a fiar idea what's going on (even if lots of information isn't open, the Prince's player announced that they were goign to talk to the Queen about the unrest in the kingdom, so that's what's going to happen).

Or what if the two players were asked to write their actions on pieces of paper and pass them to the GM, and they both said 'go to see the Queen'?
Yeah, that's one way to run conspiracy games, and I'm sure there are published ones out there like that.  Not my cup of tea, but it'd work.  --SGB
the onyl way the conspirator's player can know that the Prince isn't going to see the Queen is by using their own knowledge of the Prince's declared action, so they are just as guilty as the Prince's player. --no-reverse
Perhaps; it depends on what else has happened leading up to the meeting. --SGB

The Ewok guy (I assume you mean GT?) never (to my recollection; it was a decade ago) had his characters act on things he knew as a player. He was annoying because he tried to grab all the attention and bend the plot around himself by playing ridiculously overpowered characters and grandstanding; that is a totally separate thing from what I've been talking about with the Prince example. (I think he would quite like the Dogs in the Vineyard-style games actually).
I don't think it is totally separate.  The motivations are different, but the outcome is the same; not in dramatic terms but in interpersonal ones.  --SGB
The outcome isn't the same: Gareth annoyed everybody by grandstanding, the Prince's player provides everybody with opportunities for roleplaying. --no-reverse
This part of the outcome is the same: Gareth took up time to play the game his way; the Prince's player takes up time to play the game his way.  Now, if the other players all play the same way as the Prince, it's not a problem; but if they don't, it is. --SGB
The Prince's player doesn't take up time, though. Well, not much time. Ten seconds, maybe. And for a good reason, and we're assuming the Prince's play only does this when they see a good opporunity for a dramatic scene; --no-reverse
But is "opporunity for a dramatic scene" the only thing that all the players want?  If so then there's no problem.  However, if this is a more typical game, then most of the players are people with more complicated feelings to take into account, and playing solely for story and ignoring other concerns may annoy them.  --SGB
Well, yes, and I wouldn't suggest anyone plays solely for story and ignores other concerns: that would be disruptive just like playing soley for character and ignoring other concerns, as you say below. But you seem to be suggesting that any instance of playing for story at all (I wouldn't say that the Prince's player is playing 'solely' for story: they are also playing for character, as the point of roleplaying the scene would also be to show how their characters react) is disruptive, while allowing much more leeway to playing in 'only character knowledge' mode: the latter you are saying is only a problem when it goes too far, the former always a problem, so much so it requires breaking the atmosphere and pausing the game to get explicit permission to continue. --no-reverse
No, playing for story is also only a problem when it spoils the other player's enjoyment.  If I'm allowing more leeway for 'only character knowledge' in most games, it's only because I think it's what's assumed to be the norm in most games and by most gamers.  In a game that had been set up in advance to be 'for' the story, you should ask permission to stay in character if it might harm the story.  But I don't think that would ever happen: a high concept game like that wouldn't attract the sort of player who does that; whereas players who like stories do play alongside 'strict' roleplayers in less story-centred games. --SGB
they don't go 'actually...' every time every other character declares an action. That would, yes, be disruptive, but again we're back to this style of play 'possibly' being disruptive, but any style of play is disruptive if taken to extremes: the 'I will not do anything for any non-character reasons' play style is just as disruptive and just as prone to grandstanding when a player forces the other players to jump through hoops until he declares that his character's motivations have been satisfied. --no-reverse
Oh, absolutely: the opposite behaviour is just as bad. --SGB

Offering the chance for an exciting scene and a plot twist as the Prince's player does is emphatically not 'stealing focus' or 'pushing ideas on the game': I would be appalled if I thoguht that I was adovocating doing such a thing and I try never to do it myself and do please tell me if I do. Seriously, that is not what I am talking about at all. Certainly there exist players who try to steal focus; certainly they may use as a technique for doing so having their characters act accoridng to things they know as players; it does not therefore follow that all instances of player knowledge informing character action are an attempt to steal the focus.
Again, the difference is one of motivation; in your example with the prince, though the player's motivations are well-meaning, he's taken a scene that didn't have his character in and put his character into it; so while it's not the same, it looks the same, and causes the same annoyance as a duck.  I mean, as a pushy player.  The annoyance happens when the player says out of nowhere, "the prince chooses this moment to see his mother" because *that* is the intrusion.  --SGB
Again, he hasn't taken a scene that didn't have his character in and put his character in it: the scene with the Queen and the co-conspirator plays out without his character in. He has offered a chance for an additional scene with his character in, not put himself into one.
It's not an offer if it's not optional: however the game plays out from that point, there is a new bit where the players have to deal in some way with the Prince going to see his mother.  --SGB
Dealing with it is easy thoguh and need take up hardly any time. 'When the door opens, your mother is standing by her writing-desk.' 'I talk abotu the unrest in the kingdom and then go to bed.' 'Right, next morning, what are people doing?' -- how hard is that? --no-reverse
Yeah, that would be fine; but it still happens well after the point at which it would have been considerate to ask.  "I've an idea for an interesting twist.  Mind if I try it?  No?  The prince chooses this moment to see his mother."  How hard is that?  That's what we usually do. --SGB
It interrupts the flow, though. It's less elegant. It takes you out of the narrative and makes you have to deal with the game -- no-reverse
If the story is more important than other players' feelings... then yes, you've crossed the line into disruptive player. --SGB
Well, to start with it's not just 'the story', it's the experience of the game, whicc is what everybody's there for. Do you not think that ideally, interruptions to the flow should be minimised and where possible negotiations like this shoud be conducted through the game? -- no-reverse
"interruptions to the flow should be minimised " - you come out of character to narrate your actions, so I don't see that doing so to explain them every so often is any worse.
I'm not talking about being 'in character', I'm talking about the game keeping flowing. And while you're narrating actions, the game is flowing, the atmosphere is being maintained. -- no-reverse
OK.  Well, in that case I think: No, showing consideration for the other players is more important than keeping the game flowing. -- SGB
And I think that it's not an either-or choice; you can do both, by offering an opportunity through the game ('my character does this; does yours respond?') instead of pushing in ('my character confronts yours with the Queen'). -- no-reverse
How is the first 'my character does this' less pushing in than the second 'my character does this'?  The interruption happens at the point that the player announces that they will act; not at the point that those actions have consequences, good or bad.  It only matters that you've interrupted in some situations in some types of game, but it's still an interruption.  Interruptions are pretty much what play is built from, unless you go down the road of taking turns.  --SGB
"negotiations like this shoud be conducted through the game" - no, that's impossible.  "can I have come to speak to you" makes no sense.  --SGB
No, that's easy: 'The prince goes to the ambassador's room.'[Negotiation: can my character speak to yours?] 'The ambassador isn't in.' [response: not right now] -- no-reverse
That's not the negotiation in question.  The question isn't "can my character speak to yours", it's "is it OK if I use the knowledge that you're there as a trigger to have my character go to the room?" and that can't be negotiated in character. -- SGB
No, the negotiation is 'do you want to do a scene together, where my character finds yours in the Queen's rooms?'. The going-to-the-Queen's-rooms is just to set that up. If the answer is 'no' and the conspirator leaves, then it doesn't matter that the Prince went to the room then, instead of five minutes later or in the morning.  --no-reverse
That's a negotiation about the consequences of the interruption, not a negotiation about whether or not the interruption occurs.  -- SGB
(just like making a roll).
If the story is more important to you than the rules... don't play by the rules.  But make sure everyone else agrees to that first.  --SGB
In this case it's not story: it's not the result of the roll which is the issue, it's the very fact of making the roll -- even if it succeeds -- whihc breaks the atmosphere. -- no-reverse
I've never found that to be a problem.  Again, it's the same as dropping out of character to describe your actions.  -- SGB
Again, not about 'dropping out of character'. When you narrate your actions, the game is flowing, the characters are acting, the story's moving -- but when a roll is called for it's like everything has to be freeze-framed. The movie comes to a juddering halt until the mechanics are resolved, then it can start up again. I'd like to keep such juddering halts as few as possible (and I know I'm very guilty of making comments and jokes that break the atmosphere even more, so this is a bit of a 'do as I say not as I do' thing).  -- no-reverse
OK, I see what you mean; but this is still just an example of having chosen a system poorly for the game you want to play; not an example of one player playing against the wishes of others. --SGB

'The Prince chooses this moment to see his mother' is no more an intrusion than 'the NPC chooses this moment to check on the Queen' or 'the dice say that your failed your sneak roll in trying to get to the Queen's apartments' -- and in that latter case the scene has not just bee intruded upon but utterly wrecked, and all because of some stupid bits of plastic!
Again with the dice!  The dice were there all along; if the players think they're intruding, they shouldn't have agreed before the game began to roll them.  Dice can't be inconsiderate, so don't consider them in this.  --SGB
Yes, again with the dice. The dice were there all along, yes, so all along the game has had this stupid enjoyment-spoiling story-derailing mechanism in it. That's why I don't see how you can object to open play on the grounds that it spoils a player's enjoyment, while ignoring the much greater spoiling that dice do. Planks and beams; it's as if you have a three-bar electric fire on in the room and I suggest switching on my computer and you say 'oh, no, don't do that, it'll make the room hot and spoil my enjoyment'. The dice are already spoiling everbody's enjoyment.
No, they aren't.  They're only spoiling the fun of people who've gone in with the intention of playing out a specific story that doesn't include points at which the outcome is determined by dice.  I've no more sympathy for a person who takes that attitude into a dice-heavy game than I have for a person who goes into an Amber game and starts setting up the citadel miniatures.  -- SGB
No, you're taking it to extremes. Someone who is happy to have an elent of randomness in games, but still finds their enjoyment spoiled when a botch on some trivial roll takes them out of half the session can't just be dismissed as having 'gone in with the intention of playing out a specific story'. -- no-reverse
No; but they've gone into a game that has more randomness than they're happy with.  The solution to that is negotiation with the GM before the game begins. --SGB
No; the solution is for them to give and take with the people who want to let the dice have the possibility of wrecking somebody's fun. But you're arguing that the same give and take shouldn't be extended to peoepl who are trying to make the game more fun for everybody in a less disruptive way. -- [[no-reverse[[
I'm not arguing that at all.  Which "side" should get more leeway depends on what the game was set up for.  --SGB
Or at least, if you're going to say that then I'll claim that the prince example is only spoiling the enjoyment of people who have gone in with the intention of playing out a specific story which doesn't include points at which the outcome is determined by the other players. -- no-reverse
Or just people who've gone in with the intention of playing out a game in which players don't use OOC knowledge in ways that affect other players' characters without checking that's OK first.  There's no shortage of such players. --SGB
Or should I just not play in any more Ars Magica games? (It's something I've considered) -- no-reverse
Dunno - depends how much of a problem it is.  Ars has confidence as a mechanic to minimise that sort of thing, but we never remember to use it.  --SGB
It's annoying, but I put up with it (as I put up with other stuff) as part of the give and take than allows the game to happen. Whereas the way I'd like to play is, apparantly, not put-up-with-able but actively spoils people's fun. -- no-reverse
For some players, yes.  I don't know that we have any of those players in our group, though. --SGB
... well... I was kind of assuming roleplayers who who considerate and competent and could cope with separating player and character knowledge.  -- no-reverse
That's not what I mean: I mean that there are people whose fun is spoilt by using OOC knowledge for story, but not in our group.  I don't mean that there are people in our group who would use OOC knowledge by accident. -- SGB
You may have noticed me trying to move towards a more open style by trying to get scenes that involve just my character and NPCs played in front of the rest of the group when the GM doesn't actively object, and only reluctantly going into the kitchen, specifically so that the other players can be aware of that information, as I feel it adds an extra level to the game just by them being aware of it, and also to allow them to make use of it if they want to cause exciting scenes: I regard this as the same kind of give-and-take that has me putting up with botches and powergaming, but maybe not and I should stop?
No, that makes perfect sense.  I don't think you're going to get anywhere with that approach in Amber, or in a Loyalists-universe game, because the other players in those games want to do a cloak-and-dagger game to go with the cloak-and-dagger story.  But in P&TG, or Diplomatic Immunity or Feng Shui, or in a Unity game (if you ever play in one again) or in Spirit (if I ever do run it again) by all means go for it.  -- SGB
See, I thought some of the best bits of Loyalists games were those where the PCs were split in two groups, working at cross purposes (or actively against each other) and both groups' actions were played out in open session, so everyone could see that what they were planning was doomed to fail because of what the other group was doing. Some great poingent moments of dramatic irony, that I thought worked much better than the bits where two players went off to scheme for half the session and everybody else sat around. Great for for those players, I'm sure, but didn't the rest of us get bored?
OK, cool: Loyalists has elements of both; I completely agree that the open bits were great.  But I don't think it would have been OK to go and listen in on the conversations that players chose to keep closed, even if it was in order to make the story better, because the players chose to keep them closed.  -- SGB
Oh, I wouldn't suggest listening in on private conversations. What I would suggest is the GM not allowing in camera roleplaying: everything has to happen at the table, in front of everyone (possibly with a little note-passing to set it up, and possibly with nods and winks: a note saying 'I go to see X', but then the conversation is played in the open, only never mentioning names, so the other players get to hear what is said but don't know who the character is talking to).  --no-reverse
That sounds like too much hard work to be fun: the thought of always having to be on edge making sure you don't slip up and mention a character's name is the reason I've requested in-kitchen scenes.  And yes, it is that much hard work: it's very easy to slip up, as the GM did when he revealed to the other players that Aaron had sorcery in the very first game.  You may say that I should trust the other players not to use that information, which is fair; but I don't trust myself not to take it in on some level and abuse it without meaning to, so I'd rather that players who might slip up had kitchen scenes when they might reveal important stuff.  However, I'm only talking about Amber here.  In games that aren't all about secrecy and politics, I don't mind if myself or someone else slips up; it doesn't matter.  --SGB
And conversely, that players don't request private sessions but do everything in the open, as I do. As I said, it's how I intend to run everything from now on (and who I have been running things for years, though I run stuff so seldom that you could be forgiven for not noticing). I didn't think it was controversial: as far as I'm concerned taking something out of the room has always been at GM's discretion. --no-reverse
I still don't see that it is contraversial: that sounds like a great way to run a game.  -- SGB

(it's how I've been playing Whitewash, when I could get away with it, as well as Amber, but nobody cared there because my character is pretty much an ant for the others to step on) -- no-reverse
Whitewash has mostly been open, and has worked well; though there is one thing where I'm deliberately ignoring knowing that the hoplite has stolen some vis, because I don't want a confrontation with another player.  Amber feels like it's all been closed but I think it's more like 50/50; and actually I don't think that some things would have happened (for example, the business with the drones) had it been wholly open.    --SGB
I can't remember anything about the vis, but I may not have been paying attention (wish I had been, now!). I can think of a couple of occasions when I've said 'we can do this in here' and the GM has said 'no better not' and gone to the kitchen. In Amber it's been dependant on the player: I certainly haven't ever gone out of the room unless the GM (or another player) requested it, and did, for example, the scene with Osric in the open (which some players might have demanded happen in private). It's difficult to tell in advance what a game is going to be: Amber started off as save-the-world and only later turned backstabby. -- no-reverse

I don't know why the drones couldn't have happened open; the open roleplaying philosophy only extends to actual scenes, not specifications that you give the GM for magic items, universe-eating machines, or anything else. Scenes like 'I continue working on my machines' or a quest to find an ingredient for a potion could be played out in the open, without revealling what the machine is or what the potion will do.  -- no-reverse
Well, if I'd done it in the open, and the other players had kept thinking "oh, I can make drama happen" and trumped Aaron or otherwise interrupted, I'd have taken that to mean that the players wanted to prevent me from having Aaron complete the drones, so I'd have gone with that. --SGB

It's less of an interruption than failing a roll, and failing a roll happens all the time, so how can someoen complain about something that (a) has less impact than a failed roll and (b) is done with good intentions by someoen offering an interesting scene, rather than by inanimate lumps of plastic with no sense of drama but a wicked sense of humour?
Precisely because another human being has forced something on them without taking their wishes into consideration; and while it's unreasonable to require dice to be considerate, it's not unreasonable to require it of people.  -- SGB
Again, it hasn't been forced. And forcing something on another player could be inconsiderate, but (a) we're talking about offering something and (b) we're talking about offering somethign for good reasons. A bad roll of the dice at a bad time completely derails a character's entire story, without offering any compensation in the way of interesting roleplaying -- and that's okay? But a well-meaning offer of a story twist that might be interesting (perhaps the Prince would join the coup?) and can be ignored if desired, isn't?
But yes it has been forced.  The Prince's player didn't offer the other player the opportunity to have the Prince not go to see the Queen at all.  The problem is one of people; dice can't be considerate, so they're not relevant.  --SGB
The other player also didn't have the opportunity to have the Prince not go to the castle's banquetting hall, get drunk and and dance a can-can on the table. Part of being in a roleplaying game is that you don't have control over what the other players' characters (or the NPCs) do. The end result of the conspirator's player deciding not to take up the Prince's player's offered scene is exactly the same as if the Prince has slept and then gone to see his mother in the morning, and surely that would be okay?
Dice are so relevant if you're talking about stories being interrupted or enjoyment being spoiled, because dice are the single biggest source of interrupted stories and spoiled enjoyment. If you're going to complain about things which spoil enjoyment or interrupt stories, start with dice; if you're happy with the massive opportunity for spoiling things that dice force on the game, I don't see how you can object to something which has a much lesser effect, and which is motivated by a desire to make everybody's experience more fun, rather than just being an inanimate lump of plastic chaos.  --no-reverse
Your question amounted to "why is it annoying when players use OOC knowledge".  It's annoying in the situations when it's annoying because it's inconsiderate; inanimate objects don't come into it.  It's also annoying because it's not an agreed part of the game; dice are part of the game.  So they're totally different situations.  It's not the interruption itself that's necessarily wrong: it's that the player doing it has placed himself above the other players. -- SGB
That's exactly my point though: dice are part of the game, and they have a tremendously disruptive effect, often spoiling enjoyment and derailing stories. --no-reverse
Yeah, they do: that's why games that genuinely go for stories tend not to have many die rolls; when GMing I usually have to remind myself to have the players make rolls for unimportant things because the important stuff is all of the form 'if they make choice X, Y happens'.  If the dice are spoiling your game, you change the system; if the player is spoiling your game, you get annoyed with the player.  --SGB
Right, but you've not just been talking about a disrputive player, you've equated any kind of use of player knowledge to make things more dramatic as 'spoiling': I came up with the most consensual, least-impact example I could of a player making an offer of a story twist to another player and you still said that it was 'spoiling' that other player's game. --no-reverse
...depending on what the other player wants from the game, yes.  One person's "offer of a story twist" is another person's "spanner in the works" is another person's "I want a go now". --SGB
And that's where I don't agree with you. I agree that a player who grandstands and tris to steal focus should be ejected; you seem to be saying that any attmept to use player knowledge to make the game more dramatic is per se grandstanding and you should ipso facto be annoyed with that player --no-reverse
I'm not sure that I'd say "a player who grandstands and tries to steal focus should be ejected" - perhaps "a player who grandstands and tries to steal focus to excess should be ejected".  If a player uses player knowledge to do something in a game in which player/character separation is assumed, then they are bending the rules.  If a player bends the rules in order to make the game more like their vision of how the game should go, then people with a different vision of how the game should go have a right to be annoyed.  If a player bends the rules for opaque reasons, then they've only themselves to blame if people assume the worst. --SGB
(so you must get very annoyed with me, because I do do this when I think I can be subtle enoguh to get away with it, and you'd get even more so if I were to play the way I want to play). --no-reverse
Not if I knew that that was what the players had signed up for, and I'd be perfectly happy to play in a game like that.  But that's an unusual enough playing style that you'd have to make it clear in advance.  --SGB
A disruptive player is a disruptive player, but a player who uses their open player knowledge to set up twists is not necessarily a disruptive player (or I am disruptive and would like to be more so).  --no-reverse
It depends on whether they're disruptive twists.  Not disruptive in the way all twists have to be to be called 'twists', but disruptive to player fun.  Player fun doesn't depend solely on narrative quality, and caring about other things doesn't make you a bad player.  --SGB
So you agree, then, that using player knowledge is not necessarily disruptive? -- no-reverse
In general, yes.  With certain specific styles of play and attitudes of player, no.  And I'd still call some of those 'roleplaying', even though I doubt I'd want to be there.  --SGB
Sorry, got tangled up in negative there: in general yes it isn't necessarily disruptive or in general yes it is?
In a strictly-logical, answer-yes-to-a-multiple-choice-question sort of way: It's not necessarily disruptive, because styles of play exist where it is not disruptive.  -- SGB
(I can just imagine the reaction if I started saying 'can I not roll for this spell, can we just say I can breathe underwater now?')
I've seen that happen and no-one bat an eyelid - in Catherine's game, say, with the language rolls to understand my character.  More commonly, I've seen it happen and the gamier players get a bit peeved but say nothing because they can see that the die rolls are boring the other players. --SGB
so why shouldn't the kind of thing I describe, where scenes are played out in the open so that players know more than their characters and can use that to generate dramatic irony and tension, also be part of the game? As I said, I intended to run my future games in that way, but... --no-reverse
There's no reason why it shouldn't, it just usually isn't; and I think that came about because it's too open to abuse by pushy players.  That shouldn't be a problem in your games, but it might be in a published game and so we don't see so many of them out there. --SGB
I'm talking about group play style, though, not published rules. I don't really care what it says in the rulebook; does anyone in our group pay much attention to rulebooks? --no-reverse
Depends which game you're talking about and what you mean by 'much'.  I'm not saying you shouldn't run games as you describe, nor am I saying they won't be fun if you do.  I'm saying that most games aren't like that.  --SGB
And I'm saying it would be better if they were like that, and that playing 'like that' is not necessarily disruptive and doesn't necessarily spoil peopel's enjoyment and isn't necessarily born form a desire to grandstand and isn't of itself disruptive.  --no-reverse
Oh, absolutely.  I've enjoyed the games you've run 'like that', and look forward to them again in future.  But you began by asking why some people regard open play as annoying, and "not necessarily" is not the same as "not ever"; the answer to your question is that sometimes players find themselves in the cases where playing 'like that' is disruptive and spoils people's enjoyment. -- SGB
I didn't; I began by asking if anyone had a problem with open-information playing style; and it turns out that more people do, and more strongly, than I had anticipated (I certainly hadn't anticipated it put as strongly as 'spoiling someone's game'), which makes me reconsider things somewhat.  --no-reverse
I meant before that; but OK.  "Do you have a problem with open-information playing style" can be taken two ways: Do I have a problem with games happening with an open-information playing style?  No, I think they're a brilliant idea.  Do I have a problem with individual players adopting an open-information playing style in a closed-information style game?  Yes, if it bothers the other players.  Don't let me prevent you from running games the way you want; all I was trying to do was explain why I might have a problem with the example you gave.  --SGB
(other ways in which I was answering the wrong question: Yes, I think that a player playing that way could spoil someone else's game; but probably not if the someone else was any of the people we play with, at least not in any of the games we play with them) --SGB
Well, if open-information is as controversial as it seems to be I'm unlikely to get players for these games, and that renders them kind of moot. -- no-reverse
I don't think that's the case at all, within our group; all but a few of us are more pro-story than I imagine the average to be; we like to try slightly different things, and we're fed up of a lot of the same things you are.  If you cast about for random roleplayers, the style might put them off.. but you're not going to do that.  Even if you did, I don't see *any* objection to open-information games coming from anyone here; just to trust-me-it's-for-your-own-good open-information play from individual characters in other styles of games.  -- SGB
Like I say, I didn't realise it would be controversial so it's how I've been playing, both as a GM (without making any special announcement of the kind you suggest, but equally without making any secret of the fact that I'm not doing in-the-kitchen scenes (I think I have mentioned it to people, just not as a big announcemtn)) and as a player, for the last few years. -- no-reverse
Well, I don't think it is controversial, in the games we've been playing with the players we've been playing with.  But in the more general case, it could be.  I thought you were asking about the more general case because your question followed your incredulity that OOC knowledge could spoil someone's game.  In our games, it mostly couldn't; but in the big wide world, it could.  --SGB

(And again I don't think it's necessary or desirable to ask out-of-character -- negotiation can be done through the medium of the game and that's more fun and doesn't break the spell).
No, you've missed my point.  You can't negotiate in-character about whether it's OK for the story to contain the interruption, because by that point it already does.  -- SGB
It doesn't, in the Prince example, though. The knock at the door comes after the scene with the Queen, so there's no interruption of that, and the other player has the option of ignoring it (by having their character run away) so it's not interrupting their story. If it's okay for the story to 'have to contain the far greater and less-motivated interruption of a failed Sneak roll, why is it not okay for it to contain the lesser, and ignorable, option of an interruption by anothe rplayer with good intentions?
I missed this, but I think we've gone over this ground elsewhere. --SGB

What about Donjon, where the player goes "I search for traps... success on Find Traps." GM - "You find traps! *describes trap". There wasn't a trap there OOC until the character searched for it. Does it encourage interesting roleplay, or make the game less of a roleplaying game? --Requiem
Not sure I understand the question. Why would it make it less a rolepalying game?
<mutter> ...we've talked about traps before, haven't we... </mutter> The player just made the decision 'My character is the kind of guy who gets past traps. Let's have a trap, so I can show the other players this.' and created a trap. For 'find traps' you can read basically any skill, including transitive ones. So the storytelling is a lot more cooperative than that in traditional RPGs. --Requiem
Right, yeah, get that. I repeat my question: Why would it make it less a rolepalying game? I mean, isn't that exactly how 'it' works in traditional roleplaying games? (excluding ultra-strict 'the map is the map and nothing that is not on the GM's map exists' -- and (a) surely nobody plays that way nowadays except as some kind of retro exercise and (b) that's shading away form 'roleplaying game' again, not that we want to start that again)
In traditional roleplaying games, the gamesmaster is the arbiter of reality and the architect of the world and the story. In Donjon, the rules mean that that is explicitly not the case. Is this an important or desirable part of an RPG? Hell, does it make it *more* an RPG because the player's every use of a skill is story-relevant? --Requiem
No, sorry, still not following you. Traditional roleplaying game: 'You're in a bedroom. There's a monster outside.' 'My character starts opening the wardrobe and cupboards, looking for spare bedsheets.' 'You find a load folded-up in a chest at the foot of the bed.' 'I tie them together, tie the end to the radiator, and we use them to escape out the window.' -- so the player has 'created' bedsheets and a radiator? I'm not seeing what distinction you're trying to draw.
Nontraditional roleplaying game: 'You're in a bedroom.' 'There's a monster outside. My character starts...' [etc] At which point I merge to my comment on SGB's point below. --Requiem
Again, I don't see how that's different from what happens in traditional roleplaying games. 'You're outside the camp.' 'We wait for a patrol to come past our hding-place, jump them and steal their uniforms.'
In the latter example I can define there not to be patrols. In the former example I cannot define there not to be a monster. --Requiem
Could you clarify: who is 'I' in that and what does 'define' mean?
I apologise. 'I' is the GM. 'Define there to be' means 'declare it to be true within the context of the game that'. --Requiem
Okay, so what you're talking about is, does it make something any more or less a roleplaying game if the GM is not the final authority, but can be overridden by the players? Well, that's certainly not the 'traditional' way of roleplaying, so I can see what you were getting at there (now I understand it!). However, still, no, I don't think it makes it any more or less a roleplaying game. It would certainly be a different style, but no, not more or less 'roleplaying'. Just different.

Requiem: It sounds like you're saying "this makes Donjon more of a roleplaying game" but the stuff you're putting forwards as evidence is more like "this puts the players in charge of things that are not their characters".  So, while it supports your statement "the storytelling is a lot more cooperative than that in traditional RPGs" it doesn't affect the roleplaying part of the game at all, since we already agreed that that was to do with the players playing the roles or their characters.  So although the answer to "Does it encourage interesting roleplay" seems to be "yes, if you're interested in collaboration" but the answer to "or [does it] make the game less of a roleplaying game?" is "I don't understand, why is that relevant?".  -- SGB
Yeah, I think that's what I'm saying. I can't see how it's different to the sort of thing that happens in traditional roleplaying games, to a greater or lesser extent depending on how creative the players and GMs are, but fundamentally, why would doing something that happens in roleplaying games all the time, and has nothing to do with the atual roleplaying, make it less of a roleplaying game?
But the argument about traps hinged at least partially on the point 'Roleplaying is not separate from storytelling', did it not? I wished to address that point in a different way. Does it make this game more of an RPG to allow the players to control their environment such that they can better portray their roles? --Requiem
It doesn't make it more of a roleplaying game; it doesn't make it less of a roleplaying game.

The thing is, that the theory was a response to exactly the sort of situation you're (ChiarkPerson?) describing.  Not always the best response, but better than some: formalizing codes of conduct and so forth.  I beleive in one city where I live, there is a law against having an unleashed alligator: this is remarkable only because this issue had to have actually mattered at some point.  The theory is the same way, sadly. --ElliottBelser.

griffin?: So, from experience, the way Requiem runs a game is to create a box - maybe a world, maybe something smaller, poke the players and let them bounce off the walls. I like this style. I try to emulate it and generally fail. Vitenka gives them a blank piece of paper and draws stuff in around them as they go along. n-r I think paints a lifelike picture and tries to make them walk along the path he put in it.
And I say "Tell me what your characters care about," then endevour to put that in danger for your amusement and mine. - ElliottBelser

Certainly, the best games I've run have been done in that vein. I ran a story-based Werewolf game but it felt very like the fun was being had despite rather than because of the plot. - "You find some tracks." - "Yeah, railroad tracks". I ran a game where the characters were deliberately too big for the box and found that it wasn't interesting when the walls of the box broke. I ran a game based primarily upon introspection and found that not everyone had as much fun as I'd thought. My D&D campaign is a box with a conveyor belt on the bottom, and seems to work quite well. --Requiem



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