Saturday, March 21, 2015

Back to Basics: Pacing - Dice Agency and Framing the Narrative

  • As a GM or Player, what do you think of the activity of Framing the Narrative? 
  • Is Framing the Narrative part of Managing Tension and Conflict? 
  • If it is, how important is it in your pacing strategy?
  • How much does "dice feedback" (knowing the result of the die rolls) affect the job of Framing the Narrative? 

These Questions pointed out that Framing the Narrative is important to ME. Its not important in the enjoyment of MANY games. I'm am getting the impression many games can be enjoyed without it and its part of a niche way of playing.

Below is a discussion with +Charles Tan regarding the subject comming from a discussion of "Dice Agency". I only used his comments in the thread since he pursued the matter and pointed out some key elements about the discussion. Particularly its just one way of enjoying the game. 

Myself - Is needing to roll a bad habit? If the player feels agency only when they Roll bad? Does the gm requiring a roll to grant players agency bad? Sorry leading questions. 

Charles Tan - It depends on player and GM expectations, and what type of game it is.
For example, if the player roleplayed well, do they still need to roll to resolve the encounter, despite performing superbly (in the GM's opinion)? What happens if they roll low, would they still fail despite a persuasive argument?
Or if a player invested in a high Social Stat, and made a mediocre attempt at persuading the NPC, an auto-failure would not feel satisfactory to the player because they invested in their Social Stat, only for it to not come into play. They want the opportunity to make the roll, because that was how they built their character.
Also some RPGs, for certain actions, don't have mechanics for rolling, because they want it resolved in a different way (i.e. roleplaying, persuading other players, etc.).
There is also illusion of outcomes (i.e. Player Rolls vs. GM Rolls); interference from previous experiences (last game they played involved rolling, current game they play all conflict is resolved socially), and other factors. 

Myself - The context is the study of pacing, particularly managing tension via information asymmetry (or uncertainty). The GM delaying or manipulating feedback vs letting dice inform the player. The player vs character point made me realize I could allow success at a cost.

Charles Tan  - There's two issues at here.
One is pacing, but that's relatively easy to gauge.
The other is information transparency or player feedback. This will boil down to the type of game you're trying to tell. For actions that have instantaneous repercussions, you want immediate feedback (and since the results are also immediate, there is no point in concealing the roll from the player).
In a game of diplomacy (or even a heist), however, there is rationale from concealing info from the player until the very end. For example, if you talk to 3 jurors who will decide on your fate, you might NOT want to make it clear whether they succeeded in persuading the 1st juror when they talk to the 2nd. Same goes from 2nd to 3rd. It's when the final vote comes in that you reveal the results (persuaded 1st, failed 2nd, succeeded w/ 3rd, etc.).
You can even do it game-show style. 1st and 2nd juror results are revealed before you interact w/ 3rd juror, heightening dramatic tension for 3rd juror encounter. 

Myself -  I agree. I'm wondering if the agency depending on the dice doesn't need to be the status quo. I grew up gaming that my agency was through the dice and thus my own expectations are tied to it so much it's hard to disconnect it. While in the real world I operate with so much uncertainty compared to PCs it makes the certainty of dice unusual in comparison. I'm wondering is there distrust for the GM something of a product of when I was a different gamer and focused on one-up-smanship. 

Charles Tan - Early RPGs were influenced by D&D, which in turn by wargaming--where it is a PvP scenario so you want transparent and equal rules--which is where the dice mechanics originally came from.
More modern story-oriented RPGs (usually indie RPGs) understand that it is a story-oriented game, so trust either the players (some games are GM-less, and involve communal storytelling) or the GM without needing dice as a mechanic.
And then there are other games w/c find mechanics that serve the type of story they're telling, such as Dread and Jenga Tower as conflict resolution (basically one death per session but the rest should be success...).
This lead me to think of how to work with "Dice Feedback" problems, since I will have to work with players who  have Dice Agency requirement. How to manage tension when the dice kinda made the job much harder (and GMing is already hard for me). That would be a great skillset regardless of a system that allowed dice feedback/information symmetry. The more tools I have prepared for such, the better I am in managing tension for the game.

Back to Basics Pacing - I've been mulling over this and found this the best "template" for prep and asking questions of myself to get ready. It is currently making me List and create many tension managing strategies - particuarly learning to work with LESS (and less and less lolz).

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