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    PirateWench

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    Default Aesthetics of play (or individual preferences) and different GM techniques

    After having read through (but not have time to reply to) the "Nature of Railroading" thread, one thought occurred to me.

    We all want different things.

    Not really a main source of contention and quite obvious to many people. However, how does those different things map to different types of GMing? And is the long debate over how useful railroading is really a matter of people delivering different sorts of aesthetics to the game?

    Now, I doubt I'll get even remotely the same length of discussion as the above mentioned topic, but hopefully there'll be enough replies to help me develop the thought.

    One concept to be aware of, which I am referencing here, is the eight aesthetics of play given by the MDA framework: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MDA_framework

    While you may disagree in the completeness of this list, and how forming categories is always problematic, let's use it for the sake of this discussion. To my knowledge, it's the best description of how we all want different things, and what those things actually may be.¨

    So how does this connect to GMing techniques and the discussion about railroading?

    Well, different GMs might focus on and deliver different types of aesthetics (damn that word is hard to spell). It could be because they themselves like a particular AS (from now on short for aesthetic), that their skill set is one that focuses on one or because the players they have had in the past have had a clear AS preference.

    For example, in the railroading discussion, Max_killjoy mentions "immersion" a lot, which I believe falls under the "Fantasy" AS. This is one thing I enjoy myself, and always try to be a main AS when I GM. For this, railroading is problematic as it can easily make the world seem less "real" (read believable).

    Similarly, for players looking for Challenge, railroading isn't good either, as it diminishes the players' skill at solving a problem (the GM already solved it for you).

    However, for those players looking for Narrative as their main AS, railroading may actually not be as bad. This I believe is the argument that AMFV tried to make in the railroading thread. Most likely, his players like this AS and thus enjoy his GMing style.

    According to The Angry GM, players looking for Narrative as main AS are actually kind of rare in the RPG community. And let's face it, while every game played creates a "story" of the sense that it looking at it in retrospect it has a sequence of events. However, most of the games create very crappy stories in the narrative sense. They wouldn't cut it for a novel or movie. If you are looking for that kind of narrative, with clear story pacing, plot points, reveals, twists, climaxes and whatnot, most roleplaying games played are not for you. To really generate this, some kind of railroading would be needed (or so I speculate).

    Similarly, for people whose main AS is Submission or Fellowship, linear games and light railroading might be just the thing to give them what they're looking for. Maybe they'd even like to be railroaded in a way they're not aware of (a.k.a. illusionism), and not really having the desire to peek behind the curtain.

    If you're looking for Discovery, you need a real sandbox, where there are actual things to discover and may dislike the GM improvising too much (as it gives you the sensation that the things just popped up in your path regardless of where you go). And people looking for Expression would most likely hate railroading as it limits their freedom. Generally speaking, Expression people tend to become GMs themselves.

    Anyway, that's the introductory point. What do you think about the different aesthetics of play and GMing techniques? How detrimental is railroading to them? What is your preferred aesthetic? And what do you usually bring when GMing?
    Last edited by Lorsa; 2019-05-29 at 10:01 AM.
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    Default Re: Aesthetics of play and different GM techniques

    I've liked the eight aesthetics of gameplay from a design perspective. What are you doing, and why? Less helpful from an in the moment decision, but as an overall view of what I as GM want, and what the players want its super helpful.

    In fact I think the most important take away from MDA theory is that as players we experience aesthetics first, but the designers of a game can only really give us the mechanics. They can't directly give us an aesthetic appeal, at best they can structure the mechanics to give the aesthetics they think we the players should experience.

    Extrapolate that to game in general, if you don't think Game X is doing what you want, then maybe its not actually the game you should play. Try Game Y instead.

    For example, playing FFVI and expecting an expression driven fantasy/exploration game probably not going to happen, if you want that maybe try Elder Scrolls: Skyrim. Want a pure fantasy/exploration game, not worried about expression or narrative? GTA V probably a good choice. Game as narrative, lets get back to FFVI.
    Last edited by Beleriphon; 2019-05-28 at 10:51 AM.

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    Default Re: Aesthetics of play and different GM techniques

    So I want a game that’s a story, but one in which the results of the story are based on the actions I take.

    I’m interested in some level of challenge, but at the “how do we resolve the scenario” level, not so much the “how do we defeat the monster” level and almost none at the “how do I optimize this character” level.

    There’s definitely some “fantasy” in there.

    I’m not sure how that qualifies. More interestingly, I think there are people whose gaming I would not be compatible with that would come up with similar rankings.
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    Default Re: Aesthetics of play and different GM techniques

    Well, my primary interest is… Discovery, I suppose (Angry dubbed it "exploration", IIRC).

    Thing is, I don't care so much about "exploring the map" as exploring a concept. So, *here*, *these* rocks float. OK, why? Why just these rocks, why just here? Can we replicate this? Utilize this?

    I don't want the GM to have already developed the "floating rock school of martial arts" - the one and only possible use for floating rocks in the campaign world ever.

    No, I'm interested in what we the players invent given this tool.

    But that's wrong.

    I don't want to be handed just one tool - I want to be handed dozens. Hundreds. An orcish invasion. A lonely Driad. Dungeon mummies who "just came in to get out of the rain". A kidnapped princess. An evil king and his noble vizier. Cabbage migrations. The elemental plane of taffy. Phoenix extinction. A new technique for ascension. Floating rocks. A Wizard war. An underwater portal to the elemental plane of taffy, with invisible, incorporeal guardians. Troll bridges viewed favorably. Sentient bats. Dragonfire legions. The library in the mirror realm. The source of freckles. Suicidal immortals. A beaten dog. An artifact ice cream truck. Contagious visions. A lake of gilding. Mass enslavement of Kaorti for their weapons. Pumpkin-headed zombies spontaneously appearing.

    I want a world full of color and wonder, where we can write our own stories.

    If the GM has already written the story, that defeats the point. They can go read that to their kids. Just give us the tools to write our own, and be the fair arbiter of our success or failure (or of our successes and failures).

    So, for me, at least, which side of the railroading line I stand on is predictable from my primary aesthetic.

    Quote Originally Posted by kyoryu View Post
    More interestingly, I think there are people whose gaming I would not be compatible with that would come up with similar rankings.
    So, crazy question - how have dating apps dealt with this issue? Any other fields we should look towards for wisdom?
    Last edited by Quertus; 2019-05-28 at 01:05 PM.

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    Default Re: Aesthetics of play and different GM techniques

    First off, I would love to play in Quertus' world. On topic though, I play in a group with rotating GMs, many of whom take a turn to "tell their story". In general I enjoy these games, even when they're very linear, because my choices still matter, even though the options are limited. I have been on a railroad of a game and don't enjoy that, which I'm stating because I recognize the difference.

    Personally, I lean closer to the sandbox on the GM spectrum. I think the proper lens for this discussion isn't just what aesthetic You enjoy, but also those of your table. Mine skews Fantasy, be it historical, modern, or blended into sci fi futuristic.

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    Default Re: Aesthetics of play and different GM techniques

    Quote Originally Posted by Quertus View Post
    Well, my primary interest is… Discovery, I suppose (Angry dubbed it "exploration", IIRC).

    Thing is, I don't care so much about "exploring the map" as exploring a concept. So, *here*, *these* rocks float. OK, why? Why just these rocks, why just here? Can we replicate this? Utilize this?

    I don't want the GM to have already developed the "floating rock school of martial arts" - the one and only possible use for floating rocks in the campaign world ever.

    No, I'm interested in what we the players invent given this tool.

    But that's wrong.

    I don't want to be handed just one tool - I want to be handed dozens. Hundreds. An orcish invasion. A lonely Driad. Dungeon mummies who "just came in to get out of the rain". A kidnapped princess. An evil king and his noble vizier. Cabbage migrations. The elemental plane of taffy. Phoenix extinction. A new technique for ascension. Floating rocks. A Wizard war. An underwater portal to the elemental plane of taffy, with invisible, incorporeal guardians. Troll bridges viewed favorably. Sentient bats. Dragonfire legions. The library in the mirror realm. The source of freckles. Suicidal immortals. A beaten dog. An artifact ice cream truck. Contagious visions. A lake of gilding. Mass enslavement of Kaorti for their weapons. Pumpkin-headed zombies spontaneously appearing.

    I want a world full of color and wonder, where we can write our own stories.

    If the GM has already written the story, that defeats the point. They can go read that to their kids. Just give us the tools to write our own, and be the fair arbiter of our success or failure (or of our successes and failures).
    My response isn't meant as criticism. It's intended as an outside look, to hopefully help define your aesthetics....

    To me, what you describe doesn't look like "Discovery", but "Expression". Discovery aesthetics focuses on the search and the moment of finding somehing hidden, while Expression is about utilizing something in the world (Your own character or something else) in new ways, and let them affect the world. To make an impression of your choices/ deeds/ self on the world.

    If I'm using the example of the flying rocks, an Expression seeker would be thrilled by the search and ultimate find of the rocks. Utilizing them won't be as exciting for them... Finding them, and possibly secrets behind them maybe, but for the sake and thrill of discovery, far less for their use. An expression seeker however would be less interested in the process and challenge of the search, but more in "How can we use that in interesting new ways?"

    Most of the short examples you mention are about intriguing exisiting situations, with lots of potential. But the thrill implied by your post isn't about searching and finding these situations, but rather about what to do in them, and how your choices shape the world/ story- Expression, not Discovery.

    As to the questions raised by the OP, I'll answer them at a later date, when I have more time.

    Interesting thread.

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    Thanks for reading!

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    BlueKnightGuy

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    Default Re: Aesthetics of play and different GM techniques

    Directed at OP.

    While we all might want different things, we all expect all of them. In that regard, railroading is sometimes the method to keep things connected and controlled. You cannot, for example, have a dramatic car scene without roads, and roads require civilizations, and your players have been requesting that you make more car scenes. One thing led to another, and now the primary aesthetic of your world is a cityscape.

    That's what railroading should be. There's nothing inherently wrong with it. Even a well designed piece of equipment might be made stronger with some glue and duct tape.

    Even for an AS like Exploration (Discovery), railroading helps draw in the other components, or allows us to maintain control of the environment before things run rampant. Otherwise, you have someone abusing the physics of floating rocks to fuel some weird catapult spell of theirs as a cheap method of flying teleportation.

    It's good to have control of the game, just like it's good to maintain control of a riding horse, or to pull on your dog's leash so he doesn't run into traffic.


    I do have some difficulty separating the AS's of Sensation/Fantasy/Discovery. For me, they all seem like they accomplish the same things: Experience weird and cool things.
    Last edited by Man_Over_Game; 2019-05-28 at 05:27 PM.
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    Default Re: Aesthetics of play and different GM techniques

    Quote Originally Posted by Kol Korran View Post
    My response isn't meant as criticism. It's intended as an outside look, to hopefully help define your aesthetics....

    To me, what you describe doesn't look like "Discovery", but "Expression". Discovery aesthetics focuses on the search and the moment of finding somehing hidden, while Expression is about utilizing something in the world (Your own character or something else) in new ways, and let them affect the world. To make an impression of your choices/ deeds/ self on the world.

    If I'm using the example of the flying rocks, an Expression seeker would be thrilled by the search and ultimate find of the rocks. Utilizing them won't be as exciting for them... Finding them, and possibly secrets behind them maybe, but for the sake and thrill of discovery, far less for their use. An expression seeker however would be less interested in the process and challenge of the search, but more in "How can we use that in interesting new ways?"

    Most of the short examples you mention are about intriguing exisiting situations, with lots of potential. But the thrill implied by your post isn't about searching and finding these situations, but rather about what to do in them, and how your choices shape the world/ story- Expression, not Discovery.

    As to the questions raised by the OP, I'll answer them at a later date, when I have more time.

    Interesting thread.
    *This* is what your responses look like when you have less time?

    Wow. I know my meds are giving me issues currently, but I must have quite the reputation if you feel you need to precede this with a "this isn't an attack" warning.

    So, hmmm… apparently, Angry doesn't talk about an "exploration" aesthetic. At least he does call them "aesthetics" at some point.

    So, by the definitions Angry gives, I'm… huge into Expression, and I hate Expression. I'm fairly big into Discovery, and I hate Discovery.

    From the MDA descriptions, I'm kinda meh on everything.

    I'm largely into "what will the players do with these tools", from either side of the screen.

    From your explanation, yeah, I'm guessing you had a typo or something, and that was supposed to be "Discovery seeker" in your 3rd paragraph, and I'd be primarily into Expression?

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    Default Re: Aesthetics of play and different GM techniques

    Quote Originally Posted by Quertus View Post
    I want a world full of color and wonder, where we can write our own stories.

    If the GM has already written the story, that defeats the point. They can go read that to their kids. Just give us the tools to write our own, and be the fair arbiter of our success or failure (or of our successes and failures).
    Your way sounds horrible for a DM though. The DM puts in a TON of work to make a TON of stuff....and then just sits way, way back and just arbitrates rule things when asked.

    How can that be fun for a DM?

    Really if your a player that is just wrting your own story...why do you even need or what to have a DM? Or even need or want to play a RPG? The player could just take all the stuff the DM made up...and stay home and write ''their" novel.

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    Default Re: Aesthetics of play and different GM techniques

    Quote Originally Posted by Inchhighguy View Post
    Your way sounds horrible for a DM though. The DM puts in a TON of work to make a TON of stuff....and then just sits way, way back and just arbitrates rule things when asked.

    How can that be fun for a DM?

    Really if your a player that is just wrting your own story...why do you even need or what to have a DM? Or even need or want to play a RPG? The player could just take all the stuff the DM made up...and stay home and write ''their" novel.
    Actually, it's easier for the GM.

    Under what I'm guessing is the style you're used to, the GM has to
    • create the content
    • create the plot
    • roleplay the NPCs
    • arbitrate the rules
    • railroad the plot

    Under my paradigm, the GM can ignore steps 2&5. So, it's only 3/5 the work! (More or less)

    Could the players kick the GM after he provides the content? #1 is done, #2&5 don't need his input, and the players could arbitrate the rules… but somebody's got to roleplay all those NPCs. So, almost.

    EDIT: as to how not railroading the plot could possibly be fun for the GM… well, if I have to explain that, something's wrong already. But seeing what someone else makes with all the cool toys you've left them? Role-playing scads of NPCs? Watching people discover your world?
    Last edited by Quertus; 2019-05-28 at 08:34 PM.

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    Default Re: Aesthetics of play and different GM techniques

    Personally I like having a story to follow along with as a player, and just enough room to make my castle/town/spaceship as a diversion. I hate total sandbox worlds, the party never agrees on what to do and either the game feels like "wandering around aimlessly the game" or we don't find much to do and become farmers. Give me a good solid "save the world" plot and enough down time to do some zanny stuff between sections.
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    Default Re: Aesthetics of play and different GM techniques

    I feel like there's some confusion about the "sandbox". The DM isn't just sitting back the whole time. As the PCs follow whatever 'hook' they chose, the world is still dynamic elsewhere. Say you have 5 general paths marked off as potential initial adventures. Even though the PCs can only go down one of them, that doesn't stop events from happening in the other 4 (or all 5 if the PCs trailblaze). This sort of "living world" IS more work, but it has a better feel. Now there are corners that get cut a bit, for instance I will have individual 'setting skins' for different towns and dungeons, but there may not be distinct maps for all of them. I may only have one map for the first dungeon (on each of the 5 paths), but there will be 5 different populations each with their own motivations.

    To me, this creates a discovery/exploration AS. Tbh, the two are closely related to me. Exploration of the external world often leads to internal discovery: "'they' aren't so different from 'us'" etc.

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    AssassinGuy

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    Default Re: Aesthetics of play and different GM techniques

    I like all of them in a campaign. I make it a point NOT to run the same kind of adventure over and over. We might do a couple sessions with an open sandbox while I'm developing something else, then a hook they decided to follow up becomes a more linear story, after which they might do a site based treasure hunt or a series of short episodic adventures around a homebase.

    Whatever, just a lot of variety from adventure to adventure.

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    Default Re: Aesthetics of play and different GM techniques

    Every sandbox needs a goal. When the claim is that the sandbox does not have a goal, it usually seems to be actually hexcrawling. But without consensus what you are doing, there is no game.
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    PirateWench

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    Default Re: Aesthetics of play and different GM techniques

    Quote Originally Posted by Beleriphon View Post
    I've liked the eight aesthetics of gameplay from a design perspective. What are you doing, and why? Less helpful from an in the moment decision, but as an overall view of what I as GM want, and what the players want its super helpful.

    In fact I think the most important take away from MDA theory is that as players we experience aesthetics first, but the designers of a game can only really give us the mechanics. They can't directly give us an aesthetic appeal, at best they can structure the mechanics to give the aesthetics they think we the players should experience.

    Extrapolate that to game in general, if you don't think Game X is doing what you want, then maybe its not actually the game you should play. Try Game Y instead.

    For example, playing FFVI and expecting an expression driven fantasy/exploration game probably not going to happen, if you want that maybe try Elder Scrolls: Skyrim. Want a pure fantasy/exploration game, not worried about expression or narrative? GTA V probably a good choice. Game as narrative, lets get back to FFVI.
    The designer of, say a computer game, can actually think about the aesthetics first and not the mechanics if they choose to do so. A designer of a RPG can do the same, but has a lot less control over the outcome due to the GM that acts as a go-between. On the GM side, it's definitely possible to think about what type of aesthetics to bring to the table.

    The best games are often when the designers think about the core aesthetics first, and then design "backwards" to the mechanics needed to support it.


    Quote Originally Posted by kyoryu View Post
    So I want a game that’s a story, but one in which the results of the story are based on the actions I take.

    I’m interested in some level of challenge, but at the “how do we resolve the scenario” level, not so much the “how do we defeat the monster” level and almost none at the “how do I optimize this character” level.

    There’s definitely some “fantasy” in there.

    I’m not sure how that qualifies. More interestingly, I think there are people whose gaming I would not be compatible with that would come up with similar rankings.
    It's true that people can be attracted by the same core aesthetics, but still like different things. For a computer game example, some people may like the challenge of a good puzzle game whereas others prefer the challenge of a FPS. Same AS, different style.

    So, based on what you said, it seems to me your preferences would fall under Expression, Challenge and Fantasy. Not that it matters that much, as the detailed descriptions you bring are better than just stating an overall abstract.

    But if we delve into your desire for a game that is a story; what more precisely do you mean? What constitutes a "story" for you? Does it need to follow a certain narrative structure? Is the pacing important (as in, do you want the GM to control scenes in a way that reduces your freedom as a player, but increases the narrative structure of the game)? There can be a lot hidden in the idea of "story" - which really needs to be untangled for someone that aims to be your GM.


    Quote Originally Posted by Man_Over_Game View Post
    Directed at OP.

    While we all might want different things, we all expect all of them. In that regard, railroading is sometimes the method to keep things connected and controlled. You cannot, for example, have a dramatic car scene without roads, and roads require civilizations, and your players have been requesting that you make more car scenes. One thing led to another, and now the primary aesthetic of your world is a cityscape.

    That's what railroading should be. There's nothing inherently wrong with it. Even a well designed piece of equipment might be made stronger with some glue and duct tape.

    Even for an AS like Exploration (Discovery), railroading helps draw in the other components, or allows us to maintain control of the environment before things run rampant. Otherwise, you have someone abusing the physics of floating rocks to fuel some weird catapult spell of theirs as a cheap method of flying teleportation.

    It's good to have control of the game, just like it's good to maintain control of a riding horse, or to pull on your dog's leash so he doesn't run into traffic.
    It's not really railroading that maintains control of the environment, it's the creation of a proper environment to begin with. If you need to use railroading, you didn't really do a good job in the first place. Also, there is nothing inherently wrong with using the game world to create a cheap method of flying teleportation. It's only wrong under certain assumptions of the game, and for certain core AS.

    The "car scene" thing you describe seems to be a case of players looking for some combination of Submission and Fantasy. For that type of AS, railroading may not be that bad, as you describe. But again, we are talking about a special case, which is what I wanted to highlight all along.


    Quote Originally Posted by Man_Over_Game View Post
    I do have some difficulty separating the AS's of Sensation/Fantasy/Discovery. For me, they all seem like they accomplish the same things: Experience weird and cool things.
    Sensation is experiencing things that are real with your physical senses. For computer games, it's having cool graphics and good music. Fantasy is about immersing yourself in something that is not real. It's the reason why Vampire tM: Bloodlines for many people is a way better computer game than many newer ones, despite the crappy graphics.

    Discovery is not really about experiencing things, but finding hidden things. It can be in different ways; like finding a combination of mechanics that can be abused in an unintended way or looking for "the cow level". From what I understand, if we compare two players playing Skyrim, the fantasy one would just go along the main paths and interact with the obvious (and well constructed) parts of the world. Someone whose main interest is discovery on the other hand would most likely venture in completely different directions, looking for what's in those hidden caves or if any house in the city has some strange items hidden in a chest in the furthest corner. They'll feel rewarded if they actually find something there (and might be bored if they do not).

    In RPGs, as Angry describes in his article, it's hard to really target Sensation as the main AS. Not impossible, just harder.


    Quote Originally Posted by Quertus View Post
    *This* is what your responses look like when you have less time?

    Wow. I know my meds are giving me issues currently, but I must have quite the reputation if you feel you need to precede this with a "this isn't an attack" warning.

    So, hmmm… apparently, Angry doesn't talk about an "exploration" aesthetic. At least he does call them "aesthetics" at some point.

    So, by the definitions Angry gives, I'm… huge into Expression, and I hate Expression. I'm fairly big into Discovery, and I hate Discovery.

    From the MDA descriptions, I'm kinda meh on everything.

    I'm largely into "what will the players do with these tools", from either side of the screen.

    From your explanation, yeah, I'm guessing you had a typo or something, and that was supposed to be "Discovery seeker" in your 3rd paragraph, and I'd be primarily into Expression?
    Yes, there was a typo in the reply. I spotted it too.

    From your descriptions, it sounds to me that you are mostly attracted by both Discovery AND Expression. What makes you say that you hate expression? And that you hate discovery?


    Quote Originally Posted by ErdrickOfAliaha View Post
    I feel like there's some confusion about the "sandbox". The DM isn't just sitting back the whole time. As the PCs follow whatever 'hook' they chose, the world is still dynamic elsewhere. Say you have 5 general paths marked off as potential initial adventures. Even though the PCs can only go down one of them, that doesn't stop events from happening in the other 4 (or all 5 if the PCs trailblaze). This sort of "living world" IS more work, but it has a better feel. Now there are corners that get cut a bit, for instance I will have individual 'setting skins' for different towns and dungeons, but there may not be distinct maps for all of them. I may only have one map for the first dungeon (on each of the 5 paths), but there will be 5 different populations each with their own motivations.

    To me, this creates a discovery/exploration AS. Tbh, the two are closely related to me. Exploration of the external world often leads to internal discovery: "'they' aren't so different from 'us'" etc.
    AFAIK, exploration is just another name for the discovery AS.
    Last edited by Lorsa; 2019-05-29 at 03:01 AM.
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    Default Re: Aesthetics of play and different GM techniques

    Rather than being focused on trying to fit yourself into any AS of play categories, or discussing what they mean, I am still wondering if it is possible to come up with a list of what type of GMing techniques mesh best with certain player preferences. The AS were just an easy shortcut to try and group together different desires.

    For example, which type of player preferences really require, or want, the GM to do a lot of improvisation? Which preferences feel that GM improvisation makes the game quality worse?

    Rather than trying, forever, to argue about which GMing skills or techniques or whatnot are good or bad and claiming it has to do with preferences, can we try to match the techniques to specific preferences?

    My goal is to increase our understand of how our GMing practices are shaped by the desires of our players, and help figure out what to bring to the table when faced with new players (whose preferences are still known).
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    Default Re: Aesthetics of play and different GM techniques

    Quote Originally Posted by Yora View Post
    Every sandbox needs a goal. When the claim is that the sandbox does not have a goal, it usually seems to be actually hexcrawling. But without consensus what you are doing, there is no game.
    I find this an interesting idea, but I'm not sure exactly what you're saying. Instead of misrepresenting you, I'll just explain my own experiences.

    So, I find that "a sandbox" is not generally as useful as a thematic sandbox - a political sandbox, a hex crawl, etc.

    When one creates a sandbox for a child / patient, the goal is to facilitate them expressing themselves. Sometimes, it's very focused expression, designed to facilitate "tell me about your family".

    When I make a sandbox, I try to include lots of toys that I think players / the players might enjoy playing with.

    -----

    You can have a game where 4 players are playing "tactical basketball simulator", and the 5th is playing "highschool drama / romance". In fact, I prefer when not all the players are viewing things the same way, stepping on each other's toes, trying to outdo each other in tactical basketball.

    To enjoy the game, I'm going to want to create one or more goals for myself: finish the season with a winning record, win the state championship, impress the talent scouts, beat some record (perhaps set by a previous character), win the love of some girl/guy by/despite participating in a game where I have no talent.

    That goal doesn't need to be shared by the rest of the group. Or even shared with the group.

    Quote Originally Posted by Lorsa View Post
    From your descriptions, it sounds to me that you are mostly attracted by both Discovery AND Expression. What makes you say that you hate expression? And that you hate discovery?
    Discovery? All that talk of needing to check every house, delve every dungeon in the far churners of the world? Ugh. Sounds like a chore. I want there to be things worth discovering… "in the girl next door", so to speak. I don't want the world to feel like cardboard props, where we *just happened* to walk down the one and only interesting path. I want wherever we choose to go to have elements worth existing, worth exploring.

    Expression? Asking players to create the world? 3e book-diving character creation? No thanks. Now, I'll do world-building, so that my character comes from somewhere, but I want a virgin world to explore, to have my characters leave their mark on. I mean, I guess we could rotate GMs as the party travels from one person's territory to another's - that might work? But it limits the ability to do larger-scale hidden world-building (all lefties are demigods, or 200' down is the edge of the universe, for example).

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    Default Re: Aesthetics of play and different GM techniques

    Quote Originally Posted by Lorsa View Post
    preferences really require, or want, the GM to do a lot of improvisation?
    Require… improv? <Shutter>.

    Anyone know of such a preference?

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    Default Re: Aesthetics of play and different GM techniques

    Quote Originally Posted by Quertus View Post
    Require… improv? <Shutter>.

    Anyone know of such a preference?
    I'll answer your other post later, but this one is easy.

    For example, if the preference is for character-to-character interaction in the form of theater-like "speaking as the character" (which I assume is not uncommon in RPG circles). In that case, the GM when portraying NPCs acting out conversations with the PCs has to do a lot of improvisation as there is no script to follow. The players may say any "random" thing, and it's impossible to have pre-planned scripted responses to any single sentence they may come up with. Therefore, the GM has to improvise.
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    Default Re: Aesthetics of play and different GM techniques

    Quote Originally Posted by Quertus View Post
    Discovery? All that talk of needing to check every house, delve every dungeon in the far churners of the world? Ugh. Sounds like a chore. I want there to be things worth discovering… "in the girl next door", so to speak. I don't want the world to feel like cardboard props, where we *just happened* to walk down the one and only interesting path. I want wherever we choose to go to have elements worth existing, worth exploring.

    Expression? Asking players to create the world? 3e book-diving character creation? No thanks. Now, I'll do world-building, so that my character comes from somewhere, but I want a virgin world to explore, to have my characters leave their mark on. I mean, I guess we could rotate GMs as the party travels from one person's territory to another's - that might work? But it limits the ability to do larger-scale hidden world-building (all lefties are demigods, or 200' down is the edge of the universe, for example).
    As I said, I don't really want to get bogged down in a discussion about how preferences might or might not fit into the 8 AS of play. I personally found them to be the thus far best abstract model for what people are looking for in games, which is why I brought it up.

    So if not discovery, your preference may be in fantasy. However, the "delving into every dungeon at the far corners of the world" is just an example. It's not the end-all of the discovery aesthetic. Rather, I would ask you the following question:

    When interacting with the fictional world presented by a GM at the RP table, what is it that is your main attractive "emotion" so to speak. Is it the feeling of learning something new about the world wherever that may be, or is it simply existing as a character in the world.

    Similarly, I think the difference between fantasy first and expression first can be put in the question of "do you want there to be a place where your character fits in the world, or do you want to create your own place?".

    In any case, why do you think expression is about asking the players to create the world? The AS you aim for as a GM may be different than the one your players are aiming for. If you are doing the world-building, then that may trigger the expression AS for you, whereas interacting with the world could trigger different AS for your players (mind you, I also think people heavy into world building could prefer the challenge AS).

    However, when you say "I want a virgin world to explore, to have my characters leave their mark on", it really sounds to be like discovery and expression. Someone else might state their preference as "I want a virgin world to explore, full of obstacles to overcome", placing the challenge AS in there. Or even "I want to enjoy being part of a really solid story, where my character part of a group of friends" thus emphasizing narrative and fellowship.

    So, either you're not expressing your desires clearly (perhaps deliberately?), or you're misunderstanding how they mesh with the AS (because you are stuck on examples that don't quite fit?). Because to me, it seems like you are stating something that would clearly fall under one or two of those, but somehow refuse to acknowledge that they fit. Is it because you're set on disproving the reliability of the AS model? I mean, what is your end goal?
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    Default Re: Aesthetics of play and different GM techniques

    I think the top level idea of the thread - instead of railroading good/bad or the like, talk about when you would/wouldn’t use it.

    I don’t think the AS model is helpful in this case, because it doesn’t map to preferences in a meaningful way without further information. For instance, we can’t say “railroading is good if you want story” because I want story, yet railroading is the opposite of what I want.

    For one, I am not “set on disproving it”. It’s a model, and models aren’t really true or false - they’re only more or less useful. In this case, it doesn’t seem to map well enough to the actual individual preferences that using it, in this context, seems to add value. If it did, I’d be all over it.

    —————————

    I’ll answer your other questions later.
    Last edited by kyoryu; 2019-05-29 at 09:47 AM.

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    Default Re: Aesthetics of play and different GM techniques

    Quote Originally Posted by kyoryu View Post
    I think the top level idea of the thread - instead of railroading good/bad or the like, talk about when you would/wouldn’t use it.

    I don’t think the AS model is helpful in this case, because it doesn’t map to preferences in a meaningful way without further information. For instance, we can’t say “railroading is good if you want story” because I want story, yet railroading is the opposite of what I want.

    For one, I am not “set on disproving it”. It’s a model, and models aren’t really true or false - they’re only more or less useful. In this case, it doesn’t seem to map well enough to the actual individual preferences that using it, in this context, seems to add value. If it did, I’d be all over it.
    That's fair enough. If the model isn't useful for the main idea, then don't use it. Perhaps I should re-formulate the title then?

    It does create interesting questions though, as what type of stories need railroading to accomplish, and which do not. For example, I can see a dividing line between people who simply want to experience a story and those who want to be part of creating it.

    Edit: corrected a typo...
    Last edited by Lorsa; 2019-05-29 at 02:31 PM.

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    Default Re: Aesthetics of play and different GM techniques

    Quote Originally Posted by Lorsa View Post
    That's far enough. If the model isn't useful for the main idea, then don't use it. Perhaps I should re-formulate the title then?

    It does create interesting questions though, as what type of stories need railroading to accomplish, and which do not. For example, I can see a dividing line between people who simply want to experience a story and those who want to be part of creating it.
    Problem is, first you'd have to define railroading in a way that everyone agrees on. From what I've seen in the other thread, definitions and interpretations vary wildly. If there is no consensus on what the term means, you won't get any conclusive answers to questions depending on that term.
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    Default Re: Aesthetics of play and different GM techniques

    Quote Originally Posted by Morgaln View Post
    Problem is, first you'd have to define railroading in a way that everyone agrees on. From what I've seen in the other thread, definitions and interpretations vary wildly. If there is no consensus on what the term means, you won't get any conclusive answers to questions depending on that term.
    Then don’t use the term. Describe what you mean, and state where it would be useful or not.

    In the other threads I’ve seen, people agreed that various concepts existed - what they disagreed on, mostly, was which piece of jargon to attach to which concept.
    Last edited by kyoryu; 2019-05-29 at 10:08 AM.

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    Default Re: Aesthetics of play (or individual preferences) and different GM techniques

    Designing a game as a linear series of encounters that the players will go through, with little or no ability to modify that series, has some advantages and disadvantages.

    It’s advantages are that it allows the GM to plan out what will happen and thus create twists and do foreshadowing far in advance. It also allows the GM to focus prep on a small set of things, and thus have more “set piece” encounters. Additionally, it can, in some cases (see below) result in less improvisation required by the GM. Additionally, it can allow players to take a more passive role in terms of deciding the overall path of the game.

    The primary downside is the removal of ability for players to determine what happens - for some players, this is a primary reason to play.

    If this is done with the knowledge of the players, they can avoid attempts to invalidate the sequence, and reduce the improvisation required. However, if the GM does this while maintaining that they are not, then improvisation requirements can be very high as the GM must come up with ways to ensure the players go to the next scene, regardless of their actions. Additionally, doing so can often cause discontent among players, especially ones that have “make decisions about what happens” as a primary goal of play.

    This technique is recommended for situations where you have a GM that is uncomfortable with improv, combined with players that have a high desire for highly designed content - set piece encounters, or complex twists in a story with high foreshadowing, etc., combined with players that do not care about “plot level” decision making and are comfortable with “scene-level” or “character-level” decision making.

    It is not recommended for groups with players who care primarily about “plot-level” decision making (aka, “what is the next scene”) as this invalidates this style of play.

    Extreme care should be used when deciding to use this technique while claiming that a GM is not - if the players don’t care, then there is no harm in telling them what you’re doing. However, if the players do care then this can lead to high levels of discontent or campaign implosion.

    (That what you’re looking for, Lorsa?)
    Last edited by kyoryu; 2019-05-29 at 10:44 AM.

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    Default Re: Aesthetics of play (or individual preferences) and different GM techniques

    Quote Originally Posted by kyoryu View Post
    (That what you’re looking for, Lorsa?)
    Yes, that is precisely it!

    What about other GMing techniques, such as waiting with deciding plot relevant information until the time it comes up in play (or changing something they decided on earlier but the players are unaware of)? For which preferences might that be valid vs. detrimental?

    And what about your preference for the type of story (still undefined), combined with situation solving challenges and some fantasy aesthetics? What sort of GMing techniques are useful for that?
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    Default Re: Aesthetics of play (or individual preferences) and different GM techniques

    That’s a longer answer than I can get to atm. I’ll resoind later, promise!
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    Default Re: Aesthetics of play (or individual preferences) and different GM techniques

    Quote Originally Posted by Lorsa View Post
    I'll answer your other post later, but this one is easy.

    For example, if the preference is for character-to-character interaction in the form of theater-like "speaking as the character" (which I assume is not uncommon in RPG circles). In that case, the GM when portraying NPCs acting out conversations with the PCs has to do a lot of improvisation as there is no script to follow. The players may say any "random" thing, and it's impossible to have pre-planned scripted responses to any single sentence they may come up with. Therefore, the GM has to improvise.
    Ah. To me, role-playing an existing NPC is a much different beast from creating or modifying an NPC on the fly.

    I mean, for that matter, I've never seen a player be handed a scrip to read from, so that level of "improv" that is inherent to role-playing didn't seem, to me, worth making a distinction for, unless we're including war games or similar, where the PCs actions could conceivably be scripted.

    Quote Originally Posted by Lorsa View Post
    So, either you're not expressing your desires clearly (perhaps deliberately?), or you're misunderstanding how they mesh with the AS (because you are stuck on examples that don't quite fit?). Because to me, it seems like you are stating something that would clearly fall under one or two of those, but somehow refuse to acknowledge that they fit. Is it because you're set on disproving the reliability of the AS model? I mean, what is your end goal?
    Wow. Accusations of deliberate clarity omission? That's a first. You really don't pull your punches, do you?

    I was pulling from the descriptions the Angry GM gave of these aesthetics, as the linked article seemed a bit spartan. Clearly, you disagree with him. Shrug. I disagree with him most of the time myself.

    As to my end goal… immortality, a good woman to share it with, and to live "truly madly deeply" rather than "Painters".

    But for this thread? Eh, I wasn't sure, but I didn't believe in the premise, so… to poke at it with a stick, hoping other Playgrounders would join the thread? Some have, and it seems that the premise has been brought into question, and changed. Cool. So, now I'll test that out, to see how it fares.

    Quote Originally Posted by Lorsa View Post
    So if not discovery, your preference may be in fantasy. However, the "delving into every dungeon at the far corners of the world" is just an example. It's not the end-all of the discovery aesthetic. Rather, I would ask you the following question:

    When interacting with the fictional world presented by a GM at the RP table, what is it that is your main attractive "emotion" so to speak. Is it the feeling of learning something new about the world wherever that may be, or is it simply existing as a character in the world.
    Emotion? This sounds promising. Except… I'm not sure… and even my guesses are "it varies".

    When I hear about an adventure, I often find myself thinking, "what would *we* have done in that scenario?". Which sounds to me like Fellowship x Expression.

    During the game… I think that, these days, I'm too busy "metagaming like a mother****ing dolphin" (itself "fellowship"?) to feel much. Back when I was more immersed, I primarily enjoyed the feel of the character, things that both involved and merited significant thought, and… moments. Like, that moment when you learn that Samus is a girl, or the moment you realize "we waded through them like they were humans" would make a great party slogan.

    When I hear a pitch, I feel "oh, Quertus would love it there!"

    After the fact, I remember stories. Not "the story", but stories like, "I had this one GM who, halfway through the first session, I could accurately predict how many and which PCs would still be conscious at the end of the climactic final battle against the BBEG, because that's what he would believe would make for the 'best' story". Or the backwards party that surrendered to the (monstrous) authorities, and later allied with the intended BBEG. Or the time that the party paladin made a powerful demon believe my Wizard was Uber epic level (and I was clueless what was going on until well after the fact). Or the Monk who solo'd encounters that, for most parties, would spell TPK. Or "and then there was the time that Armus looted his own dead body".

    Quote Originally Posted by Lorsa View Post
    Similarly, I think the difference between fantasy first and expression first can be put in the question of "do you want there to be a place where your character fits in the world, or do you want to create your own place?".
    Well, my classic descriptor for my characters is, "they're not from around here", so I'm pretty sure it's the latter.

    Quote Originally Posted by Lorsa View Post
    In any case, why do you think expression is about asking the players to create the world?
    Because Angry said so.

    Quote Originally Posted by Lorsa View Post
    The AS you aim for as a GM may be different than the one your players are aiming for. If you are doing the world-building, then that may trigger the expression AS for you, whereas interacting with the world could trigger different AS for your players (mind you, I also think people heavy into world building could prefer the challenge AS).
    Challenge… I enjoy war games, but RPG combat is… lacking, in comparison. I do enjoy other challenges - primarily ones involving player skill, from puzzles to ones heavy with Expression.

    Quote Originally Posted by Lorsa View Post
    However, when you say "I want a virgin world to explore, to have my characters leave their mark on", it really sounds to be like discovery and expression. Someone else might state their preference as "I want a virgin world to explore, full of obstacles to overcome", placing the challenge AS in there. Or even "I want to enjoy being part of a really solid story, where my character part of a group of friends" thus emphasizing narrative and fellowship.
    So, Discovery and Expression.

    But if a GM wastes their time throwing in details in hidden chests in far corners of the world, or wants me to invent whole cloth (outside the character I bring) rather than use what they've provided, then they will likely be very disappointed.

    Quote Originally Posted by kyoryu View Post
    Then don’t use the term. Describe what you mean, and state where it would be useful or not.

    In the other threads I’ve seen, people agreed that various concepts existed - what they disagreed on, mostly, was which piece of jargon to attach to which concept.
    Brilliant advice. I'll propose "R1" - "changing game physics or facts to cause or prevent an outcome". Really handy if you want to protect your plot-critical DMPC from a determined party, or to prevent a random TPK; ridiculous in the context of a war game.

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    Default Re: Aesthetics of play (or individual preferences) and different GM techniques

    As a player, especially at this stage, I kind of don't care too much. Give me a story to follow, and I'll cheerfully follow the the railroad tracks. It means I'M not DMing for a change... I'm not particularly interested in (or very good at) character exploration - and some might legitimately claim that is because I am a very simple Lich. Stick me in a genre I'm not particularly comfortable with (i.e. westerns) and I'll play if everyone else wants to, and I'll do my resonable best, but otherwise I'm just not going to be quite as invested or capable.

    (I could not, for example, manage to hold my own as a PC in Lanipator's Role With Me podcast - those guys and girl are FAAAAR better at the roleplaying aspect than ever will be even after me despite me having been doing it just about as long as they've been, like, alive...!)

    And, if I want to be really, brutually honest... I think I am kinda not into collaborative storytelling? Beyond a certain point, anyway? That sounds kinda mean, doesn't it? But it's true. I mean, I'm not 100% opposed to input and stuff, but it has to be within, y'know, limits - built on new ground, as it were. (Laid out, it's probably way more inflexiable than in reality, though I suspect those of you who are really into that collaborative end might find it so.)

    Tell me a story, and I'm happy. Let ME tell a story, and I'm happy. (Sufficiently happy to have done the lion's share of the DMing over the years.) Too much of a control freak, I suspect is the honest truth (I mean, come on, megalomanical, omnicidal undead abomination, what would you expect?) to be especially happy with both at once. Outside of a wargame, anyway. (Because my wargames are ALSO stories, not competitions, I think, in reality.)



    So if I'm going to DM, the proviso is simple - I am going to be spending a ridiculous amount of time OCDing it to be Right when I do it. When I want input, it will be asked for (if I can ACTUALLY get any out of my players...), otherwise it will be a case of "I'm will be running this party next" and the quest will be all my story, as it were. (Not unlike playing a computer RPG, to be honest.)

    (My games are essentially, much more about the Stuff Being Done than the Who is Doing The Stuff, because that is the way I'm wired. I don't find deep character exploration in any other medium to be engaging in and of itself, to my games are no different.)

    Thus, for the evening games it will be "we is doing' Rise of the Runelords, we'll sort characters, right as much or as little background as you like and I will fill in the gaps if any need filling - oh and we may be running an AP as a next-generation sequel, so during campaign, give thought to how you will achieve said next gen."

    For the day quests it might be "Dreemaenhyll campaign world, party is Dark Lord's Secret Black Ops, background comes mostly from your chosen race/class/culture" or "Aotrs liches Does The Stargate, you don't have to right reams, but considering how OP broken you're going to be (yes, it's still a downgrade from the other scifi party and this is why they're retiring this year), I want you to at least make the critical decisions in your background as to your death, why the Aotrs would have recruited you and why you might get seconded to siad Aotrs!SG program an as per usual, I will does for you on that1."



    Fortunately, I have the double-edged sword of my players being quite happy do to pretty much anything I suggest, so I have the freedom to do that. (The other edge being that sometimes it is difficult to get anything out of them, because they aren't as bothered (driven?) about it all as me.) It helps that the majority of my base of players I have known in time that can be measured in one to three decades (or longer in some cases. on the one hand, since before I started playing, even or all their lives before THEY started gaming on the other!)




    1The forums even got... graced... with a write-up of the first installement of that, which is to the level which I run at - admittedly, this was a two-parter (it took me most of the preceding year to get the ground work for it done, and that was just taking a couple of things already existant and hammering them into an operational state...
    Last edited by Aotrs Commander; 2019-05-29 at 04:39 PM.

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    Default Re: Aesthetics of play (or individual preferences) and different GM techniques

    I like the eight categories as a starting point for discussion, but I think trying to put too much into them is a mistake. What's really important is for all the participants to sit down and talk about what they want out of the game. The group should come to a rough consensus on this point and the eight categories are useful point to begin at. If someone wants something radically different than the rest and isn't willing to compromise then they should move on. The game moves on on from there and should receive constant feedback. The GM is watching to see how material is received, the players are talking to each other during play, and after play everyone is talking so that adjustments can be made.

    All of which is merely my opinion and completely ignores pre-packaged settings and Adventurer's League-style of play where you surrender a certain amount of agency and just agree to play the scenario that's put in front of you and expect the GM to herd you back towards the main road if you wander too far afield.

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