Possible Source of "Roleplaying vs. Combat"?

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"My game is more about roleplaying than combat..."

"I prefer less fighting and more roleplaying..."

"I'm a roleplayer, not a roll-player..."

Post that drivel anywhere I can see it and you'll get a not-so-friendly response from me about how combat is roleplaying. Anytime you make a decision your character would also make given the context of the scene, you're roleplaying. So if you're swinging your sword at an orc and that's also what your character would do given what's going on, you're roleplaying even though it's combat. Combat is roleplaying. It may not come with a phony Scottish brogue or 10-page backstory nobody wants to read attached, but there you have it.

While I've played in tons of games over the last 20+ years, I've really only started seriously observing games recently, especially as I get to meet a lot of DMs online over Roll20 and shadow their offerings. I've been especially interested in observing the games of those DMs who advertise with the quotes above. I wanted to see what they meant by this. This thread will put forth a conclusion - a narrow one, perhaps - for discussion. I'm not saying my conclusion is correct or universal, but it is what I observe in an anecdotally large number of games. I'm hoping you can support or refute my conclusion or share your own stories with an eye toward honest discourse. I'm sure we've all played with such DMs or were such DMs at some point (or still are). My goal here is not to say these DMs are jerks or the like, but to suggest a lot of DMs might benefit from looking at the game a bit differently.

Last night, a friend of mine and long-time player was giving advice to a DM who ran a one-shot for him and some others on Saturday. As luck would have it, many of them were veterans of my online one-shots and had played together before. The DM probably didn't play with any of them previously, but I had been in one of his games (not this particular one). It showed promise, but had a lot of the issues I'll describe below. (I mention this to observe the DM is consistent in his approach, such as it is.)

Based on the advice my friend was giving, what I observed in this guy's game previously, and what he was saying in response to the good advice he was receiving, I think I stumbled onto something. First, this guy is a big blocker. Everything in a non-combat scene is a block. NPCs are basically aloof jerks who won't cooperate easily if at all, even when the players suggest reasonable, fictionally-appropriate "outs" for the DM to take. (In fact, he gets even more blocky when things are suggested.) "No" is heard far more often than "Yes." Interaction scenes were completely flat and aimless. Players start getting stabby, like they do.

Fast forward to combat: Everything in this scene was "How could you do that?", "How many minor actions do you have?", "Where's THAT from?" It was very adversarial and, being experienced players, they were able to justify their 13th-level characters' actions by the rules every time. Every time the DM objected, they shut him down with rules and they were right as far as that goes. The DM seemed despondent that they were kicking ass and taking names and not doing other things in the scene such as putting out a fire that had started on the ship.

That's when it hit me:

In a non-combat scene, a DM is empowered to respond in any way he likes, including blocking if that's his thing. Nobody in a traditional game can gainsay a DM for doing this because he has every right to according to the books and tradition. In fact, one of the very basic transactions of D&D is a form of blocking (asking questions that don't offer new information in the asking). Based on what I observe, this is a very common approach for DMs to take.

In a combat scene, the DM is more constrained by rules. He can't say "no" without being subject to lawyering or worse. The players are empowered by said rules. To a DM who likes to say "no," this sucks. The players run roughshod over the scene and the DM is no longer in control - the rules, the dice, and the players are. (Or at least, they have more parity with the DM in terms of control during that scene.)

It would make a ton of sense for a DM in this guy's position to not like combat, something he admitted to freely. You can't block all you want during a combat like in a non-combat scene. The game (and players) fight you when you do. Effectively and perhaps ironically, the DM is blocked from blocking and he doesn't like this. If you're such a DM, wouldn't you want to minimize combat in your games for that reason?

And so there we have it: "My game is more about roleplaying than combat." So, beware when you see a game advertised as such.

Thoughts?

No amount of tips, tricks, or gimmicks will ever be better than simply talking directly to your fellow players to resolve your issues.
DMs: Don't Prep the Plot | Structure First, Story Last | Prep Tips | Spoilers Don't Spoil Anything | No Myth Roleplaying
Players: 11 Ways to Be a Better Roleplayer | You Are Not Your Character     Hilarious D&D Actual Play Podcast: Crit Juice!

Here, Have Some Free Material From Me: Encounters With Alternate Goals  |  Dark Sun Full-Contact Futbol   |   Pre-Generated D&D 5e PCs

Follow me on Twitter: @is3rith

While I agree with you that combat is role-playing and there is some truth in your assessment, I think it is a matter of semantics...

In my opinion, the term "role-playing" is simply so commonly used to denote "non-combat interactions," that in the RPG vernacular it has become separated from combat.

The problem is coming up with another simple term or phrase that accurately portrays all the aspects of non-combat oriented role-playing.  Not an easy task to say the least.

Personally, I've started using the phrase "character interaction," but the more I think about it, the more I believe that is insufficient as well, because even in combat PCs and NPCs are interacting.

IMAGE(http://www.nodiatis.com/pub/19.jpg)

RedSiegfried wrote:
The cool thing is, you don't even NEED a reason to say yes.  Just stop looking for a reason to say no.
The problem is coming up with another simple term or phrase that accurately portrays all the aspects of non-combat oriented role-playing.  Not an easy task to say the least.

You already used the term: combat vs. non-combat. Simple enough.

And I think Iserith is on to something here. Curious to see some opposing views.

While I agree with you that combat is role-playing and there is some truth in your assessment, I think it is a matter of semantics...

In my opinion, the term "role-playing" is simply so commonly used to denote "non-combat interactions," that in the RPG vernacular it has become separated from combat.



I haven't discounted that. I know certain words are used interchangeably in the hobby. I don't think that's a good thing, but it is what it is.

The problem is coming up with another simple term or phrase that accurately portrays all the aspects of non-combat oriented role-playing.  Not an easy task to say the least.

Personally, I've started using the phrase "character interaction," but the more I think about it, the more I believe that is insufficient as well, because even in combat PCs and NPCs are interacting.



I agree. I'm less concerned about the word though, but rather the correlation (however tenuous or not) between people who see things in those terms and produce games like the one I described. Because I'm seeing a trend, anecdotally.

No amount of tips, tricks, or gimmicks will ever be better than simply talking directly to your fellow players to resolve your issues.
DMs: Don't Prep the Plot | Structure First, Story Last | Prep Tips | Spoilers Don't Spoil Anything | No Myth Roleplaying
Players: 11 Ways to Be a Better Roleplayer | You Are Not Your Character     Hilarious D&D Actual Play Podcast: Crit Juice!

Here, Have Some Free Material From Me: Encounters With Alternate Goals  |  Dark Sun Full-Contact Futbol   |   Pre-Generated D&D 5e PCs

Follow me on Twitter: @is3rith

While I agree with you that combat is role-playing and there is some truth in your assessment, I think it is a matter of semantics...

In my opinion, the term "role-playing" is simply so commonly used to denote "non-combat interactions," that in the RPG vernacular it has become separated from combat.

The problem is coming up with another simple term or phrase that accurately portrays all the aspects of non-combat oriented role-playing.  Not an easy task to say the least.

Personally, I've started using the phrase "character interaction," but the more I think about it, the more I believe that is insufficient as well, because even in combat PCs and NPCs are interacting.

Whatever one calls it, the hypothesis is that DMs who make much of the dichotomy are, at their heart, craving situations in which they can block or magnanimously grant control, at their pleasure.

I think there's a lot to that hypothesis, and would explain much of the rage toward 4e, which took what control DMs did have over combat and reduce it even further by taking away much of the need for players to ask for permission to do cool things.

I think there's a bit more to the dichotomy. I think more than a little of it has to do with my arch-nemesis Immersion. Numbers and rules are considered to be the antithesis of getting into character. Talking like your character, describing what your character does, how they do it, why they do it, and being told what your character sees (and, sometimes, thinks) is considered to be the "essence" of roleplaying, with the goal to forget that a game is being played at all. People who think this way hate hearing numbers or anything the character wouldn't know about. Not everyone is, and probably not most people are, that extreme, but that's still an ideal. You'll hear "We didn't roll a single die all session" held up like a trophy.

So, yeah, a lot of it, particularly in the example Iserith gave, is about control, but much of it is about immersion.

[N]o difference is less easily overcome than the difference of opinion about semi-abstract questions. - L. Tolstoy

The problem is, you have one brain (the DM) and his world (one brain) working "against" the players (4 brains). Think for a minute. The DM has X hours, and spends Y of those hours a week preparing his game. In his playing, he covers all his "bases" he can.

The player is actually working out of game too. In most of my games, even new players, once they have the books your ruleset, begin looking for holes to use. Multiply that by the number of players you have, and very quickly you have a collision in which the DM has to keep "non-destroyable" elements of the game in tact, while navigating everything the players do. Every DM has been caught off guard at least once, right?

Then the DM realizes that their once-newb goblin hunters are now experienced veterans who have mastered their characters and know how to "ROFLSTOMP" all over the place. Combat can require a DM to learn a lot of rules, and many things can come up where you just aren't informed.

My first sentence is all about working against the player, so lets remedy the real problem, and do nothing. Let the "rules" do the work for the players, and keep the pace moving. The players will "work for you" soon enough.

1. The first step is acknowledging your oversight. Tell the players "Wow, got me there fellas!" and laugh about it.

2. Don't fix it. Let the players have their moment.

3. Learn your lesson, and talk to players in between sessions, after the game, before the game or during level up, about their characters abilities. Go through the trouble and read the "long descriptor". This helps YOU stay prepared and aware.

4. When the player pulls a daredevil move, smile. Ask why it should work. Most players will give you a "reason". Don't debate them, this is crucial. Logic it out, and err on their side. Rules are funny and in a complicated game with 5 players, the rules get weird. Ask "Are there any risks that could accompany this action?"

5. Write down ANY rules conflict which emerges and say: "At this time, I will go with it. However, my concern is ...keep it simple... so I might not rule this way in the future. We will discuss it later, okay?"

Within these 5 steps, the player got their wish this time, they had fun and pulled off something cool. You learned how they perceive their character in combat, and you acted with integrity. By making them aware of your concern now, you have already created the honest premise to change your mind later, if that interpretation of things gets out of hand. You have also stated one concern, that is, planted the seed of why you think the way you do. This way, not as a friend they are arguing with, but as a DM, they can understand your reasoning.

This gets back to the players working for you. They need see you as a fair arbiter of rules and law. With honest communication about how abilities are used in combat, what fair limitations and risks there are and what everyone expects in the game, they will understand their actions impact the game for everyone else. As their actions begin to work, and they feel a sense of being powerful in the world, and in fact, the primary component of the game, they will want to maintain the integrity of the game state.

Within; Without.

Whatever one calls it, the hypothesis is that DMs who make much of the dichotomy are, at their heart, craving situations in which they can block or magnanimously grant control, at their pleasure.

I think there's a lot to that hypothesis, and would explain much of the rage toward 4e, which took what control DMs did have over combat and reduce it even further by taking away much of the need for players to ask for permission to do cool things.

I think there's a bit more to the dichotomy. I think more than a little of it has to do with my arch-nemesis Immersion. Numbers and rules are considered to be the antithesis of getting into character. Talking like your character, describing what your character does, how they do it, why they do it, and being told what your character sees (and, sometimes, thinks) is considered to be the "essence" of roleplaying, with the goal to forget that a game is being played at all. People who think this way hate hearing numbers or anything the character wouldn't know about. Not everyone is, and probably not most people are, that extreme, but that's still an ideal. You'll hear "We didn't roll a single die all session" held up like a trophy.

So, yeah, a lot of it, particularly in the example Iserith gave, is about control, but much of it is about immersion.



I think part of the problem is control. DM's can control the entire environment, and rig the deck. But, once battle begins, the players gain a sense of agency and free will; off the rails for just a moment, hopefully the conductor doesn't give us another ticket in the middle of battle. I also think that if non-combat where "The DM" gets to "shine" then, battle is where "The Players" get to shine. So, let them shine, I say! Brightly! The less rules being flung around, the better.

As for the battles I use...  I use a lot of "situations" (as encounters), which might or might not turn into battle.

Within; Without.

"My game is more about roleplaying than combat..."

"I prefer less fighting and more roleplaying..."

"I'm a roleplayer, not a roll-player..."
...

Combat is roleplaying. It may not come with a phony Scottish brogue or 10-page backstory nobody wants to read attached, but there you have it.

...

It would make a ton of sense for a DM in this guy's position to not like combat, something he admitted to freely. You can't block all you want during a combat like in a non-combat scene. The game (and players) fight you when you do. Effectively and perhaps ironically, the DM is blocked from blocking and he doesn't like this. If you're such a DM, wouldn't you want to minimize combat in your games for that reason?

And so there we have it: "My game is more about roleplaying than combat." So, beware when you see a game advertised as such.



Just wanted to highlight some of your comments and state that your observations are pretty much exactly in line with what I've experienced for the 30+ years I've been playing RPGs.

Another thing I see with DMs like this is that they take it upon themselves to create the ultimate super-challenging, if not unbeatable, combat scenario that will stymie the players, finally, once and for all, within the rules.  The point being ... what?  To "win"? 

More like the ultimate "block," which is PC death.  This leads to a situation where the DM is completely in control of how the player can bring his character back, if at all.  It's a power trip, pure and simple, and I don't like playing games with folks on power trips who can change the game, and sometimes the rules of the game, whenever they want.  It's a bit too much like bullying to me.

My ideal DM is an impartial referee, a fellow player and a fellow cooperative storyteller, not a nerd with delusions of being a great fantasy writer and a chip on his shoulder about who the smartest person in the room is.

OD&D, 1E and 2E challenged the player. 3E challenged the character, not the player. Now 4E takes it a step further by challenging a GROUP OF PLAYERS to work together as a TEAM. That's why I love 4E.

"Your ability to summon a horde of celestial superbeings at will is making my ... BMX skills look a bit redundant."

"People treat their lack of imagination as if it's the measure of what's silly. Which is silly." - Noon

"Challenge" is overrated.  "Immersion" is usually just a more pretentious way of saying "having fun playing D&D."

"Falling down is how you grow.  Staying down is how you die.  It's not what happens to you, it's what you do after it happens.”

I play in Iseriths games and with  

"4. When the player pulls a daredevil move, smile. Ask why it should work. Most players will give you a "reason". Don't debate them, this is crucial. Logic it out, and err on their side. Rules are funny and in a complicated game with 5 players, the rules get weird. Ask "Are there any risks that could accompany this action?""

he reacts very well with, and essentially lets the players rule over his terrain. We let him know what we want to do, jump over the orc and fire an arrow into his eyeball. Gm says ok, lets see if you can do that, we make a roll that will justify jumping over the orc, almost any skill will allow you to do this all you have to do is justify it, I use intimidate to have the orc cower down while i jump over him roll for intimidate. If I succed then I can do what I want. Maybe I succed but only barely, he takes an attack at me, or maybe I fail, the orc laughs at me and punches me to the ground. Let the dice be your friend, it allows for the players to feel awesome and to allow the players to feel less discouraged. 

I think allowing the players to do whatever it is they want will keep players coming back. You also have to have confindence, I also played in that kids game and I feel that is one thing he lacked as well. He tried reading us a book instead of letting us be part of the story. Him not being confidient in knowing the rules was his downfall which made combat boring and him reading us a book resulted in boring on boring.

Edit: Also rolling to see what if we do stuff adds in more roleplaying to combat it allows for skills that are never used to be used. It allows for characters to stop picking characters that cant do anything besides live in combat oriented games by making it where they have to have skills that will benifit them to survive.
Whatever one calls it, the hypothesis is that DMs who make much of the dichotomy are, at their heart, craving situations in which they can block or magnanimously grant control, at their pleasure.

I think there's a lot to that hypothesis, and would explain much of the rage toward 4e, which took what control DMs did have over combat and reduce it even further by taking away much of the need for players to ask for permission to do cool things.


At the risk of being edition-warish ... you hit the nail right on the head, sir.  My experience with folks and their reactions to 4e over the last few years has told me that their approval of 4e is exactly inversely proportional to how much they "crave situations in which they can block or magnanimously grant control, at their pleasure."  And believe it or not, that applies to PC players as well as DMs, since DMs aren't the only people who sometimes enjoy blocking too much.  The omnipotent quadratic Wizard with an unlimited spellbook can block the rest of the party almost as well as the worst DM.  Anyone with the urge and ability to create a super-character can do this to the rest of the players.  And yes, it can even happen in 4e so this isn't a problem endemic to any certain version of the rules.

OD&D, 1E and 2E challenged the player. 3E challenged the character, not the player. Now 4E takes it a step further by challenging a GROUP OF PLAYERS to work together as a TEAM. That's why I love 4E.

"Your ability to summon a horde of celestial superbeings at will is making my ... BMX skills look a bit redundant."

"People treat their lack of imagination as if it's the measure of what's silly. Which is silly." - Noon

"Challenge" is overrated.  "Immersion" is usually just a more pretentious way of saying "having fun playing D&D."

"Falling down is how you grow.  Staying down is how you die.  It's not what happens to you, it's what you do after it happens.”

The less rules being flung around, the better.

Why? Perhaps I don't catch your meaning with "flung."

As for the battles I use...  I use a lot of "situations" (as encounters), which might or might not turn into battle.

As has been mentioned elsewhere, it doesn't help that combat is its own system. We think of the game metamorphizing into "combat" as distinct from everything else, because we have to roll initiative, take turns, and utilize mechanics that allow us to adjudicate the "I-hit-you-no-you-didn't" conundrum of Cops & Robbers. The goal also transforms from trying to avoid trouble to bashing one's way out of trouble.

[N]o difference is less easily overcome than the difference of opinion about semi-abstract questions. - L. Tolstoy

"My game is more about roleplaying than combat..."

"I prefer less fighting and more roleplaying..."

"I'm a roleplayer, not a roll-player..."

Post that drivel anywhere I can see it and you'll get a not-so-friendly response from me about how combat is roleplaying. Anytime you make a decision your character would also make given the context of the scene, you're roleplaying. So if you're swinging your sword at an orc and that's also what your character would do given what's going on, you're roleplaying even though it's combat. Combat is roleplaying. It may not come with a phony Scottish brogue or 10-page backstory nobody wants to read attached, but there you have it.

While I've played in tons of games over the last 20+ years, I've really only started seriously observing games recently, especially as I get to meet a lot of DMs online over Roll20 and shadow their offerings. I've been especially interested in observing the games of those DMs who advertise with the quotes above. I wanted to see what they meant by this. This thread will put forth a conclusion - a narrow one, perhaps - for discussion. I'm not saying my conclusion is correct or universal, but it is what I observe in an anecdotally large number of games. I'm hoping you can support or refute my conclusion or share your own stories with an eye toward honest discourse. I'm sure we've all played with such DMs or were such DMs at some point (or still are). My goal here is not to say these DMs are jerks or the like, but to suggest a lot of DMs might benefit from looking at the game a bit differently.

Last night, a friend of mine and long-time player was giving advice to a DM who ran a one-shot for him and some others on Saturday. As luck would have it, many of them were veterans of my online one-shots and had played together before. The DM probably didn't play with any of them previously, but I had been in one of his games (not this particular one). It showed promise, but had a lot of the issues I'll describe below. (I mention this to observe the DM is consistent in his approach, such as it is.)

Based on the advice my friend was giving, what I observed in this guy's game previously, and what he was saying in response to the good advice he was receiving, I think I stumbled onto something. First, this guy is a big blocker. Everything in a non-combat scene is a block. NPCs are basically aloof jerks who won't cooperate easily if at all, even when the players suggest reasonable, fictionally-appropriate "outs" for the DM to take. (In fact, he gets even more blocky when things are suggested.) "No" is heard far more often than "Yes." Interaction scenes were completely flat and aimless. Players start getting stabby, like they do.

Fast forward to combat: Everything in this scene was "How could you do that?", "How many minor actions do you have?", "Where's THAT from?" It was very adversarial and, being experienced players, they were able to justify their 13th-level characters' actions by the rules every time. Every time the DM objected, they shut him down with rules and they were right as far as that goes. The DM seemed despondent that they were kicking ass and taking names and not doing other things in the scene such as putting out a fire that had started on the ship.

That's when it hit me:

In a non-combat scene, a DM is empowered to respond in any way he likes, including blocking if that's his thing. Nobody in a traditional game can gainsay a DM for doing this because he has every right to according to the books and tradition. In fact, one of the very basic transactions of D&D is a form of blocking (asking questions that don't offer new information in the asking). Based on what I observe, this is a very common approach for DMs to take.

In a combat scene, the DM is more constrained by rules. He can't say "no" without being subject to lawyering or worse. The players are empowered by said rules. To a DM who likes to say "no," this sucks. The players run roughshod over the scene and the DM is no longer in control - the rules, the dice, and the players are. (Or at least, they have more parity with the DM in terms of control during that scene.)

It would make a ton of sense for a DM in this guy's position to not like combat, something he admitted to freely. You can't block all you want during a combat like in a non-combat scene. The game (and players) fight you when you do. Effectively and perhaps ironically, the DM is blocked from blocking and he doesn't like this. If you're such a DM, wouldn't you want to minimize combat in your games for that reason?

And so there we have it: "My game is more about roleplaying than combat." So, beware when you see a game advertised as such.

Thoughts?



No. You are, as is typical, forcing an idea by painting a very narrow picture by putting forth a type of (bad) DM then expanding that out to encompass an entire concept that might be supported by good, solid DMs in order to also villify them. It is disingenuous, disrespectful and myopic in the extreme.

This is the equivalent of saying "I am sick of people saying 'I prefer boots to regular footwear' when boots are regular footwear. Nazi's wore boots and were bad people that liked their boots because it let them march on other countries. Ergo, if you hear someone say they prefer boots to regular footwear, they are probably Nazi's looking to invade". It's silly. Might it be true for an INSANELY SMALL percentage of those people? Yeah I guess...but to post it as some sort of revelation is nothing but a thinly veiled attack/bait thread. I will also point out that your remark I bolded betrays a remarkable amount of disgust for players simply attempting to try in the game. Geez what utter disdain towards them.

The "roll-playing" vs "role-playing" phenomenon is actually very easy to understand psychologically...it just requires needing to know about game mentality.

See, roleplaying comes with it the concept of being able to make decisions and "act" entirely within the character of a being the player has decided to be. They are limited/constrained only by their understanding of the character and desires.

Combat, however, comes with the concept of strategy, tactics and "optimal" actions. People, generally, wish to do well in combat so that their characters can live and continue on. Now, a coward (or a cowardly streak) is a perfectly valid character archetype/trait...however, this would not work in combat well as the person would have to sit-out and/or not contribute in a way directly measurable (combat metrics) in the game. Hence, the coward (in this example) is invalidated as a concept from the word Go. It doesn't stop just there, however. Combat in fiction often involves flourishes and narrative moments that are clearly sub-optimal...a villain boasting, a hero reconsidering etc etc...and these things don't generally happen in D&D. Why? Because it's tactically sub-optimal. Players want to make sure they do well. Hence, their "choices" are constrained by the mentality that combat is approached with (the desire to win). This isn't necessarily a bad thing...it is merely the "game" component of the game rearing it's head.

So, what happens is that mentally people lock into a "combat engagement" mode where their decision making is based on the meta-constructs of the game at hand rather than necessarily their characters decision making. Naturally it is easy to simply say "Well my character WOULD DO the most optimal thing in combat so I am roleplaying!" but we already know that is not true. It is putting the cart before the horse. Combat is a hectic, tense thing and in the heat of the moment (IE not at a table with snacks and friends) wrong decisions get made, hands hesitate, etc, etc. So the player actually experiences a disconnect from the "role" aspect of their avatar. This is similarly seen in games like MMOs where even "roleplayers" will forgo methods of in-character speech during difficult combats to make sure they are coordinating in a way that will help them win (IE instead of "Have at thee!" they start chatting with "Hit this guy with some hard beats right after I debuff his defense with..." etc).

This all has to do with the idea of "interfaces". When one is in-combat they are primarily using the dice and mechanics of the game as their immediate interface. They are not thinking in in-character terms, they are thinking in game terms. This is why we see the term "pure" attached to "roleplay". In that context, "pure" means "only with a human interface". The person is manipulating their character with no (or vastly reduced) interaction with the game mechanics/rules. They are solely acting as the character and in the mind-set of the character with far less (or no) regard to the meta-structure of the "game" they are playing.

This creates a psychological distinction in the players mind between "roleplay" and "combat" because, mentally, they are indeed seperate things. This is identical to video games where brain activity changes for different styles of engagement between cut-scenes and interactive portions of the game. It is not identical, of course, but the concept certainly is the same. It is a behind-the-scenes, sometimes invisible, switch in how the mind is engaging with the game. As we are beings shaped by both our concious and sub-concious mind, this naturally creates a (rightful) division between "roleplay" and "combat". This can be taken to absurd lengths, of course, but that is merely because most people do not understand (or think about) the underlying parts moving in their noggins'. It leads to people crafting all sorts of crazy concepts about why people say or do things...and leads them to draw up completely absurd notions used to reinforce their own biases rather than really trying to understand something. After all, saying a lot is far easier than reading a lot for most people.

So to look at your second paragraph...

"While I've played in tons of games over the last 20+ years, I've really only started seriously observing games recently, especially as I get to meet a lot of DMs online over Roll20 and shadow their offerings. I've been especially interested in observing the games of those DMs who advertise with the quotes above. I wanted to see what they meant by this. This thread will put forth a conclusion - a narrow one, perhaps - for discussion.



If you already believe your conclusino to be narrow, it would benefit by being broadened. Little useful discussion can come from an admittedly narrow conclusion trying to discuss a broad mentality. Again, nazi's & boots. It is a disservice to the concept.

I'm not saying my conclusion is correct or universal, but it is what I observe in an anecdotally large number of games.



Good thing you're not saying it (though heavily implying it with your closing statements, of course) because it's a notion with little work put into it. Also an "anecdotally large number" provides the reader wth nothing. Anecdotally large enough to satisfy your bias before going into the research? That is easy to believe. How large is that? One? Two? A hundred? Even still, what fraction does that actually represent of the player base? Less than a hundreth of one percent of a fraction? I mean, even this thread only remarks upon a single DM observed...hmm...

I'm hoping you can support or refute my conclusion or share your own stories with an eye toward honest discourse.



I believe I have done that. I am not entirely convinced of the honesty of the discourse that began the thread, however.

I'm sure we've all played with such DMs or were such DMs at some point (or still are). My goal here is not to say these DMs are jerks or the like, but to suggest a lot of DMs might benefit from looking at the game a bit differently."



Of course, you're not telling them they're jerks...just saying they'd benefit from looking at their games differently because they are "big blockers" like your example and people would benefit from "bewaring" them, right? So they're not jerks, but they are blockers and should be treated with trepidation/hesitation/caution. Geez, just come out and say you think they're jerks. The double-speak is tiresome and will only lead to the thread getting people tripped up over trying to defend something that you claim you aren't attacking/villifying but that you clearly are based on your language used. I mean, if you didn't think they were bad/in need of improvement/etc you wouldn't be giving them advice to look at their game differently, right?

In conclusion, before drawing new conclusions you'd benefit heavily from reading a lot on the structure of games, the history of games, the mentality of game players, the psychology of games, and the various facets of game design in general. That way you can see conclusions drawn from actual study and science that is (at least mostly) unbiased instead of simply observing what you wish to observe to reinforce your own biases. It will force you to see well-supported concepts you may never have thought of that will challenge your own notions rather than constantly reinforcing them with easily potentially biased "observation" especially since we only tend to remember that which is immediately relevant to us. I can gladly offer up some suggestions for reading and will definitely state that the reading is definitely worth-while since gaming is a fascinating subject.

Naturally, iserith can't see any of this, but this is more for the benefit of anyone reading. Plus I'm sure this'll be quoted at some point, so he'll end up seeing it anyway. When that happens he'll read it too! I know you can't resist, Iserith. Ah the great irony. Cool

I'm on a journey of enlightenment, learning and self-improvement. A journey towards mastery. A journey that will never end. If you challenge me, prepare to be challenged. If you have something to offer as a fellow student, I will accept it. If you call yourself a master, prepare to be humbled. If you seek me, look to the path. I will be traveling it.

 

Proudly playing in many wrong ways. I'm not afraid of playing wrong according to the rules. Why are you?

 

100 Crack Reply of the Yagamifire. You are already wrong.

My ideal DM is an impartial referee, a fellow player and a fellow cooperative storyteller, not a nerd with delusions of being a great fantasy writer and a chip on his shoulder about who the smartest person in the room is.




Man, ain't that the truth?!

I'm on a journey of enlightenment, learning and self-improvement. A journey towards mastery. A journey that will never end. If you challenge me, prepare to be challenged. If you have something to offer as a fellow student, I will accept it. If you call yourself a master, prepare to be humbled. If you seek me, look to the path. I will be traveling it.

 

Proudly playing in many wrong ways. I'm not afraid of playing wrong according to the rules. Why are you?

 

100 Crack Reply of the Yagamifire. You are already wrong.


At the risk of being edition-warish ... you hit the nail right on the head, sir.  My experience with folks and their reactions to 4e over the last few years has told me that their approval of 4e is exactly inversely proportional to how much they "crave situations in which they can block or magnanimously grant control, at their pleasure."  And believe it or not, that applies to PC players as well as DMs, since DMs aren't the only people who sometimes enjoy blocking too much.  The omnipotent quadratic Wizard with an unlimited spellbook can block the rest of the party almost as well as the worst DM.  Anyone with the urge and ability to create a super-character can do this to the rest of the players.  And yes, it can even happen in 4e so this isn't a problem endemic to any certain version of the rules.



My dislike for 4E has nothing to do with desiring control or anything having to do with DM authority.

There, your anecdotal experience has just been expanded. Will you revise it, or continue to cling to your previously anecdotally limited bias? Honest question.

I'm on a journey of enlightenment, learning and self-improvement. A journey towards mastery. A journey that will never end. If you challenge me, prepare to be challenged. If you have something to offer as a fellow student, I will accept it. If you call yourself a master, prepare to be humbled. If you seek me, look to the path. I will be traveling it.

 

Proudly playing in many wrong ways. I'm not afraid of playing wrong according to the rules. Why are you?

 

100 Crack Reply of the Yagamifire. You are already wrong.

Whatever one calls it, the hypothesis is that DMs who make much of the dichotomy are, at their heart, craving situations in which they can block or magnanimously grant control, at their pleasure.



Excellent restatement of my point, thanks.

I think there's a bit more to the dichotomy. I think more than a little of it has to do with my arch-nemesis Immersion. Numbers and rules are considered to be the antithesis of getting into character. Talking like your character, describing what your character does, how they do it, why they do it, and being told what your character sees (and, sometimes, thinks) is considered to be the "essence" of roleplaying, with the goal to forget that a game is being played at all. People who think this way hate hearing numbers or anything the character wouldn't know about. Not everyone is, and probably not most people are, that extreme, but that's still an ideal. You'll hear "We didn't roll a single die all session" held up like a trophy.

So, yeah, a lot of it, particularly in the example Iserith gave, is about control, but much of it is about immersion.



Interesting thought and I can see how it is related.

No amount of tips, tricks, or gimmicks will ever be better than simply talking directly to your fellow players to resolve your issues.
DMs: Don't Prep the Plot | Structure First, Story Last | Prep Tips | Spoilers Don't Spoil Anything | No Myth Roleplaying
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Here, Have Some Free Material From Me: Encounters With Alternate Goals  |  Dark Sun Full-Contact Futbol   |   Pre-Generated D&D 5e PCs

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The less rules being flung around, the better.

Why? Perhaps I don't catch your meaning with "flung."

As for the battles I use...  I use a lot of "situations" (as encounters), which might or might not turn into battle.

As has been mentioned elsewhere, it doesn't help that combat is its own system. We think of the game metamorphizing into "combat" as distinct from everything else, because we have to roll initiative, take turns, and utilize mechanics that allow us to adjudicate the "I-hit-you-no-you-didn't" conundrum of Cops & Robbers. The goal also transforms from trying to avoid trouble to bashing one's way out of trouble.



I am refering to:
"Can I do the 100 foot dive?"
"What do the rules say?"
"Can I grab his crystal?"
"What do the rules say?"
"Can my mage hand help me climb this wall, serve as a piton or something...?"
"What do the rules say?"

I like to avoid answering my players with "What do the rules say?".  I think you are right about the cops and robbers "I-hit-you-no-you-didn't", mentality. I like to keep the "scene" operating in a way that the players can engage with any aspect of it. I think this comes from old school video games, "I walk down the road. 5 steps. Great, monster. I walk down the road. 4 steps. Monster again."


Edit: A PC wizard slipped on the cliff. He asked if he could "summon his mage hand over his other hand" to keep pressure on it, to help him stay on the wall. I said "Sure does!"

Within; Without.

My ideal DM is an impartial referee, a fellow player and a fellow cooperative storyteller, not a nerd with delusions of being a great fantasy writer and a chip on his shoulder about who the smartest person in the room is.




Man, ain't that the truth?!




Didnt you just contradict yourself? He just explained how he lets his players do whatever usually and was upset that another DM was blocking and you got all fussy with him. 

 "Combat, however, comes with the concept of strategy, tactics and "optimal" actions. People, generally, wish to do well in combat so that their characters can live and continue on. Now, a coward (or a cowardly streak) is a perfectly valid character archetype/trait...however, this would not work in combat well as the person would have to sit-out and/or not contribute in a way directly measurable (combat metrics) in the game. Hence, the coward (in this example) is invalidated as a concept from the word Go. It doesn't stop just there, however. Combat in fiction often involves flourishes and narrative moments that are clearly sub-optimal...a villain boasting, a hero reconsidering etc etc...and these things don't generally happen in D&D. Why? Because it's tactically sub-optimal. Players want to make sure they do well. Hence, their "choices" are constrained by the mentality that combat is approached with (the desire to win). This isn't necessarily a bad thing...it is merely the "game" component of the game rearing it's head."

Why cant a coward be good at combat and still be in character during combat?  I have seen characters that base thier character on doing 0 damage. The entire time he ran away during battle giving advice as his character would during any other situation during non combat but trying to save himself at the same time. He always stayed in character be it combat or not. You as a GM need to broaden thier thoughts of combat if you are having this problem. But most likely it is a GM flaw that you are seeing if that is the case. Mostly a result of blocking a character from doing what he wants and allowing his character to still strive and think as he would in and out of combat.
The less rules being flung around, the better.

Why? Perhaps I don't catch your meaning with "flung."

As for the battles I use...  I use a lot of "situations" (as encounters), which might or might not turn into battle.

As has been mentioned elsewhere, it doesn't help that combat is its own system. We think of the game metamorphizing into "combat" as distinct from everything else, because we have to roll initiative, take turns, and utilize mechanics that allow us to adjudicate the "I-hit-you-no-you-didn't" conundrum of Cops & Robbers. The goal also transforms from trying to avoid trouble to bashing one's way out of trouble.



The irony with that, of course, is that by relying on the rules more heavily outside of combat and having more things modeled with metrics, the players mind creates overlap rather than dichotomy. When the world keeps ticking behind the scenes with numbers and stats the mind does not switch between modes because they are very similar interfaces.

This is one of the reasons I support having solid systems in place for more in the world. It is why I am importing and adapting metrics and methods from SimCity's systems to help my players understand/interact with the town they are building in a more meaningful way. It creates overlap rather than dichotomy...it blurs the line between "combat" and "roleplay" far more.

I'm on a journey of enlightenment, learning and self-improvement. A journey towards mastery. A journey that will never end. If you challenge me, prepare to be challenged. If you have something to offer as a fellow student, I will accept it. If you call yourself a master, prepare to be humbled. If you seek me, look to the path. I will be traveling it.

 

Proudly playing in many wrong ways. I'm not afraid of playing wrong according to the rules. Why are you?

 

100 Crack Reply of the Yagamifire. You are already wrong.

@Deathsmind: Don't mind him. Just one of my many "fans." The rest of us are having a nice conversation. Given the number of posts so far from said person, I must have touched a nerve.

EDIT: To be clear, I didn't really get upset with this particular DM. He's a nice guy, not a jerk. But he's one of a number of DMs I've had occasion to observe and it's a trend. That's what I'm pointing out here so that the community can discuss it.

No amount of tips, tricks, or gimmicks will ever be better than simply talking directly to your fellow players to resolve your issues.
DMs: Don't Prep the Plot | Structure First, Story Last | Prep Tips | Spoilers Don't Spoil Anything | No Myth Roleplaying
Players: 11 Ways to Be a Better Roleplayer | You Are Not Your Character     Hilarious D&D Actual Play Podcast: Crit Juice!

Here, Have Some Free Material From Me: Encounters With Alternate Goals  |  Dark Sun Full-Contact Futbol   |   Pre-Generated D&D 5e PCs

Follow me on Twitter: @is3rith

Lots of good theories and ideas floating around here; but I’ll give my two cents; to me it totally a matter of immersion or lack thereof.


As a DM I am trying to create a world for character to live and interact in; during this process and during non-combat scenes it is mostly an experience of players being immersed in the world and I as the DM getting to role-play with them through NPCs or see how they interact with the world before them.


This “tends” to go out the window in combat; ideally it wouldn’t and people would enter combat in the same state of mind, but I rarely ever see this happen. When a player enters combat they tend to turn of the role-playing side of their mind which they use to “act” like their characters. The left brain turns off, and on comes the right brain (Or is it opposite? #notascientist)


Due to the nature of 4e combat they are almost forced to step away from the fantasy element and look at the board before them as a tactical video game, where they have to deal with Squares and Dice to proceed.


They are not interested in saving the princess or the world in their minds at that moment when it was paramount to them before combat; they are instead interested in how many squares they can shift with X power and which X minor action they can perform to deal X amount of damage to the cluster of minions so player B can do X on his next turn.


Now I have had players who are able to do both, and they are gems.


I also see/feel this as a DM as well; even though I try my hardest to not do so it’s hard to look at an ongoing battle and not start to think of all my monsters different abilities and how to best complement one another; once that mindset starts its hard to intermingle it with the pure fantasy “role-playing” part of the game that I love so much.


No answer on how to answer this; I try to have different elements which would require non-roll actions to appear in combat to “force” role-playing (aka alternative goals, enemies who want to do more than just kill you)


In the end though I think it is just the mechanics of combat which really make this an issue, as I have not played much beyond 4e I can’t say if it’s a edition specific problem.

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Didnt you just contradict yourself? He just explained how he lets his players do whatever usually and was upset that another DM was blocking and you got all fussy with him.



Nope. I am upset with the way the biased conclusion is drawn. It is dishonest, at best. Malicious at worse. That DM IS BAD and I totally agree with them being bad. I will also outright state they are a bad DM instead of only doing so indirectly as the initial post does because I do fervently believe the game can be played across a spectrum of better or worse. The person described is a bad DM who should up their game.

That does not change the fact that an ill-informed (and heavily biased) conclusion is being drawn from that DM.

Why cant a coward be good at combat and still be in character during combat?  I have seen characters that base thier character on doing 0 damage.



This is an excellent solution, but certainly not the norm. You will note I also spoke of "combat metrics". The most easily understood/represented combat metric is the reduction of enemy HP through attacks. This is why you will see players playing a cleric feel as if they "aren't doing anything" even though they are contributing tactically. It is also tied into the fact that optimal strategy in something like D&D is typically the reduction of enemy force with all possible haste (IE reduction of HP). Again, your conclusion is being drawn from bias. That you HAVE seen someone do that does not make it the norm by any stretch of the imagination. Studies bare out that most people feel like they are contributing the most when dealing damage in games. Are there outliers? Yes, absolutely but the average person at the table is not the outlier, by definition.

The entire time he ran away during battle giving advice as his character would during any other situation during non combat but trying to save himself at the same time. He always stayed in character be it combat or not. You as a GM need to broaden thier thoughts of combat if you are having this problem.



So I as a DM have an obligation to "improve" how my players do something? Seems kinda paternal doesn't it? I think some might take issue with that. What if the person doesn't want to do that during combat and, instead, wants to run & hide? The craven coward is probably a more recognizable archetype than pacifist master-strategist, no?

But most likely it is a GM flaw that you are seeing if that is the case. Mostly a result of blocking a character from doing what he wants and allowing his character to still strive and think as he would in and out of combat.



Do you have anything to support this or is it just a supposition? The blocking is on the part of the average players mind-set towards a game. That is far seperated from DM-interference and has to do with human psychology and how we experience/appreciate/recognize contributions in games.

I'm on a journey of enlightenment, learning and self-improvement. A journey towards mastery. A journey that will never end. If you challenge me, prepare to be challenged. If you have something to offer as a fellow student, I will accept it. If you call yourself a master, prepare to be humbled. If you seek me, look to the path. I will be traveling it.

 

Proudly playing in many wrong ways. I'm not afraid of playing wrong according to the rules. Why are you?

 

100 Crack Reply of the Yagamifire. You are already wrong.


Lots of good theories and ideas floating around here; but I’ll give my two cents; to me it totally a matter of immersion or lack thereof.


As a DM I am trying to create a world for character to live and interact in; during this process and during non-combat scenes it is mostly an experience of players being immersed in the world and I as the DM getting to role-play with them through NPCs or see how they interact with the world before them.


This “tends” to go out the window in combat; ideally it wouldn’t and people would enter combat in the same state of mind, but I rarely ever see this happen. When a player enters combat they tend to turn of the role-playing side of their mind which they use to “act” like their characters. The left brain turns off, and on comes the right brain (Or is it opposite? #notascientist)


Due to the nature of 4e combat they are almost forced to step away from the fantasy element and look at the board before them as a tactical video game, where they have to deal with Squares and Dice to proceed.


They are not interested in saving the princess or the world in their minds at that moment when it was paramount to them before combat; they are instead interested in how many squares they can shift with X power and which X minor action they can perform to deal X amount of damage to the cluster of minions so player B can do X on his next turn.


Now I have had players who are able to do both, and they are gems.


I also see/feel this as a DM as well; even though I try my hardest to not do so it’s hard to look at an ongoing battle and not start to think of all my monsters different abilities and how to best complement one another; once that mindset starts its hard to intermingle it with the pure fantasy “role-playing” part of the game that I love so much.


No answer on how to answer this; I try to have different elements which would require non-roll actions to appear in combat to “force” role-playing (aka alternative goals, enemies who want to do more than just kill you)


In the end though I think it is just the mechanics of combat which really make this an issue, as I have not played much beyond 4e I can’t say if it’s a edition specific problem.




+1. Great post.

EDIT - Wanted to add that this is a perfect example of the dichotomy at work. As the combat portion of a game becomes more heavily rules-governed and tactically modeled it will drift mentally further from those portions of the game without a thorough mechanical interface. If the mechanical interfaces that DO exist in those portions are then further reduced it will just exacerbate the issue further and the rift/dichotomy will widen to greater extents.

Essentially, if the only thing heavily rules-regulated is combat, combat will not feel like the rest of the game and vice versa...they will feel like two different experiences and, therefore, a division between the two will be drawn in the minds of the players.

I'm on a journey of enlightenment, learning and self-improvement. A journey towards mastery. A journey that will never end. If you challenge me, prepare to be challenged. If you have something to offer as a fellow student, I will accept it. If you call yourself a master, prepare to be humbled. If you seek me, look to the path. I will be traveling it.

 

Proudly playing in many wrong ways. I'm not afraid of playing wrong according to the rules. Why are you?

 

100 Crack Reply of the Yagamifire. You are already wrong.

Lots of good theories and ideas floating around here; but I’ll give my two cents; to me it totally a matter of immersion or lack thereof.

As a DM I am trying to create a world for character to live and interact in; during this process and during non-combat scenes it is mostly an experience of players being immersed in the world and I as the DM getting to role-play with them through NPCs or see how they interact with the world before them.


This “tends” to go out the window in combat; ideally it wouldn’t and people would enter combat in the same state of mind, but I rarely ever see this happen. When a player enters combat they tend to turn of the role-playing side of their mind which they use to “act” like their characters. The left brain turns off, and on comes the right brain (Or is it opposite? #notascientist)


Due to the nature of 4e combat they are almost forced to step away from the fantasy element and look at the board before them as a tactical video game, where they have to deal with Squares and Dice to proceed.


They are not interested in saving the princess or the world in their minds at that moment when it was paramount to them before combat; they are instead interested in how many squares they can shift with X power and which X minor action they can perform to deal X amount of damage to the cluster of minions so player B can do X on his next turn.


Now I have had players who are able to do both, and they are gems.


I also see/feel this as a DM as well; even though I try my hardest to not do so it’s hard to look at an ongoing battle and not start to think of all my monsters different abilities and how to best complement one another; once that mindset starts its hard to intermingle it with the pure fantasy “role-playing” part of the game that I love so much.


No answer on how to answer this; I try to have different elements which would require non-roll actions to appear in combat to “force” role-playing (aka alternative goals, enemies who want to do more than just kill you)


In the end though I think it is just the mechanics of combat which really make this an issue, as I have not played much beyond 4e I can’t say if it’s a edition specific problem.



I think your position is one based less on the need for control (which is what blocking is about) and more on delivery, especially as it relates to that familiar "gearshift" you're talking about. I feel your pain. It's solvable, however. It has a lot to do with framing and pacing. I can get into this later in the thread once we inevitably go way off-topic.

As for "players who are able to do both," my experience has been the most players can if they're given the opportunity to do so. One method is through prompting and directed questioning that isn't blocking. Observations from the other players and DM also help. If Taladar and Slashworth, for example, established that Taladar always had Slashworth's back during Session Zero, and there's a situation that arises in a combat scene in which we see Taladar coming to save Slashworth's bacon, I'm going to comment on that or ask a non-blocking question about it. This recognizes what they're doing and allows them to frame it and discuss it further to flesh out their bond as it relates to the scene.

As well, I think a lot of players are hesistant to offer up a lot of fiction or character interaction, especially in combat, for fear of being wrong. I make it clear to players in our games that nothing they can say or do is wrong provided they're not blocking. They seem to be used to games like in the original post where you may as well say nothing at all for the most part since what you're going to say is not going to work or will be deemed "wrong." It can take time for some players to break away from this. 

No amount of tips, tricks, or gimmicks will ever be better than simply talking directly to your fellow players to resolve your issues.
DMs: Don't Prep the Plot | Structure First, Story Last | Prep Tips | Spoilers Don't Spoil Anything | No Myth Roleplaying
Players: 11 Ways to Be a Better Roleplayer | You Are Not Your Character     Hilarious D&D Actual Play Podcast: Crit Juice!

Here, Have Some Free Material From Me: Encounters With Alternate Goals  |  Dark Sun Full-Contact Futbol   |   Pre-Generated D&D 5e PCs

Follow me on Twitter: @is3rith

The less rules being flung around, the better.

Why? Perhaps I don't catch your meaning with "flung."

As for the battles I use...  I use a lot of "situations" (as encounters), which might or might not turn into battle.

As has been mentioned elsewhere, it doesn't help that combat is its own system. We think of the game metamorphizing into "combat" as distinct from everything else, because we have to roll initiative, take turns, and utilize mechanics that allow us to adjudicate the "I-hit-you-no-you-didn't" conundrum of Cops & Robbers. The goal also transforms from trying to avoid trouble to bashing one's way out of trouble.



The irony with that, of course, is that by relying on the rules more heavily outside of combat and having more things modeled with metrics, the players mind creates overlap rather than dichotomy. When the world keeps ticking behind the scenes with numbers and stats the mind does not switch between modes because they are very similar interfaces.

This is one of the reasons I support having solid systems in place for more in the world. It is why I am importing and adapting metrics and methods from SimCity's systems to help my players understand/interact with the town they are building in a more meaningful way. It creates overlap rather than dichotomy...it blurs the line between "combat" and "roleplay" far more.



Sim City, Civilization and some MMO's with crafting systems heavily influence the way I run things. I have systems written down for many, many things just so that the gears can turn. Most of the time, it is for my own reference sanity, other times a player might want to grow/harvest/craft things. I like having metrics anywhere possible, just so that if a situation comes up, you can make a quick, consistent judgement.

I don't have everything "constrained" to metrics, however I have metrics all over the place when they are needed; better to be prepared than not, eh? I like having every possible resource, at my availibility.

Edit:

I also think that study of Anthropology, Sociology and Psychology is extremely valuable to creating a believable world. Understanding how to simulate aspects of my world which aren't being engaged with helps me with the parts that are being engaged with. Economics and Crafting are, perhaps 2 of the bigger elements but they dip into pots. Economics helps you learn how to create a metric for large armies, transport of troops, morale and other things.

Most of my players never ever see these systems, and when time comes to reveal one? Lets just say this.

If it is sensible, easy to understand and apply to both big and small situations, it is good. It should not be complex, players who look at it should understand it.

Within; Without.

Just a sidenote kinda, to everyone saying combat loses the imersion the player was in, why dont you change that? Not all players are created equal, some players have tons more skill with roleplaying and are able to continue living thier character in and out of combat. If your players still want that then teach them how to imerse themselves while in combat. 

They each picked classes, races, and backgrounds. Have them live that, a druid is fighting a pack of wolves why isnt the druid trying to talk to the wolves and free thier mind from the need to eat them, not all players would think of that, try to throw them information that they can grasp onto. A building is burning and that fighter has his wife in thier and the enemy outside, make him choose to save his wife or help out his party. Give him reasons to interact still while in combat.

So when I said it was a GM flaw that doesnt allow combat to be immersed I guess its 50/50. Its Gms not throwing bait at players and blocking forms of roleplaying and players for not knowing how to immerse themselves during combat. If you as a GM put the effort into immersing your playing then your players will be immersed in and out of combat, it just may take time, Gms have been blocking for years on end and it will take time for players to adapt to a new world you are allowing them to journey in. But once you allow them to journey in they wont ever go back and the game will be changed forever in a good way.

 
Another thing I see with DMs like this is that they take it upon themselves to create the ultimate super-challenging, if not unbeatable, combat scenario that will stymie the players, finally, once and for all, within the rules.  The point being ... what?  To "win"?

To bring about a certain desired situation. Sometimes that's to kill the PCs, sometimes to capture them, sometimes to try to bring about a particular state like fear, excitement, sadness or desperation. I think a lot of DMs assume that if they can just make the players desperate, the players will pay more attention and become more engaged. Putting the players in a tight spot also gives the DM more control as the players try to come up with plans to survive. The DM gets to say yay or nay to those plans.

My ideal DM is an impartial referee, a fellow player and a fellow cooperative storyteller, not a nerd with delusions of being a great fantasy writer and a chip on his shoulder about who the smartest person in the room is.

I don't think the DM is, can be, or should be impartial. They're not a computer, they're a fellow player, with an interest in helping make the time spent as enjoyable as possible for all.

And believe it or not, that applies to PC players as well as DMs, since DMs aren't the only people who sometimes enjoy blocking too much.  The omnipotent quadratic Wizard with an unlimited spellbook can block the rest of the party almost as well as the worst DM.

That's a good point. I'm a bit more sanguine about players being the ones to voluntarily give up some of their control, to allow the DM to put them into more challenging situations. Perhaps I feel that way because players generally have such little control.

[N]o difference is less easily overcome than the difference of opinion about semi-abstract questions. - L. Tolstoy

I am refering to:
"Can I do the 100 foot dive?"
"What do the rules say?"
"Can I grab his crystal?"
"What do the rules say?"
"Can my mage hand help me climb this wall, serve as a piton or something...?"
"What do the rules say?"

I like to avoid answering my players with "What do the rules say?".

I agree, but the urge to believe that following the rules will effortlessly result in a fun game is a strong one.

Edit: A PC wizard slipped on the cliff. He asked if he could "summon his mage hand over his other hand" to keep pressure on it, to help him stay on the wall. I said "Sure does!"

Right. I like to get to the point at which players can answer their own questions and just tell me what happens. Ironically, this is due to my own desire for my own kind of immersion. But it's less to do with the rules (since the player could declare the action and success; pick a DC and a skill and roll; or decide that it doesn't work per the rules) and more to do with smooth operation. Rules can be smooth, questioning usually isn't. It signifies a disconnect, and confusion.

[N]o difference is less easily overcome than the difference of opinion about semi-abstract questions. - L. Tolstoy

I am refering to:
"Can I do the 100 foot dive?"
"What do the rules say?"
"Can I grab his crystal?"
"What do the rules say?"
"Can my mage hand help me climb this wall, serve as a piton or something...?"
"What do the rules say?"

I like to avoid answering my players with "What do the rules say?".

I agree, but the urge to believe that following the rules will effortlessly result in a fun game is a strong one.

Edit: A PC wizard slipped on the cliff. He asked if he could "summon his mage hand over his other hand" to keep pressure on it, to help him stay on the wall. I said "Sure does!"

Right. I like to get to the point at which players can answer their own questions and just tell me what happens. Ironically, this is due to my own desire for my own kind of immersion. But it's less to do with the rules (since the player could declare the action and success; pick a DC and a skill and roll; or decide that it doesn't work per the rules) and more to do with smooth operation. Rules can be smooth, questioning usually isn't. It signifies a disconnect, and confusion.



This.

Normally, my players don't take long to figure out my metrics, and methodology. By the end of the first game, first time newbies be saying "I will make a diplomacy to ask the beholder what it wants for the artifact."

I just try to have faith (it is hard sometimes) that so long as my rules are fair, and I arbitrate them fairly and justly, that players will forgive any of my smaller mistakes. I think the disconnect is the deadliest force in the whole game. I am always watching like a hawk for confusion, so that I can address any player that needs a moment.

Within; Without.

I just try to have faith (it is hard sometimes) that so long as my rules are fair, and I arbitrate them fairly and justly, that players will forgive any of my smaller mistakes.

Yep, trust is major. It comes in different forms, and is generated in different ways, but it can be used up easily. Best to generate a lot of it.

[N]o difference is less easily overcome than the difference of opinion about semi-abstract questions. - L. Tolstoy

My ideal DM is an impartial referee, a fellow player and a fellow cooperative storyteller, not a nerd with delusions of being a great fantasy writer and a chip on his shoulder about who the smartest person in the room is.

I don't think the DM is, can be, or should be impartial. They're not a computer, they're a fellow player, with an interest in helping make the time spent as enjoyable as possible for all.



I think the point was, the DM should not be trying to "win" or beat the players.  The point of being DM is not to go for a TPK every night.  It is not DM vs Players.  It is everyone working together to hear a story.  The DM guides it a little but it is the players that shapes it.  In that sense, the DM must be "impartial" because he is not trying to "win."

I don't like the term impartial either, because that immediately sets sides.  For someone to be an impartial party, there must be 2 sides, and the way I veiw being a DM is that there are no sides, we are all playing the same game to have fun together as a group.  All I am as DM is a rules arbiter, not a referee, because again a referee means there are 2 sides, which there are not.  If there were sides, which there kinda of are(monsters vs. players) I actually consider myself on the players side.  I mean after all, if I kill my players, how can I finish telling them my story?  Players will only take so many deaths before they give up.  That doesn't mean there is no risk of death, or that I do not try to make the combat chellenging, just that I really want to see the players "win" against the monsters, not against me.

I think they are saying the same thing as what I try to do, but using terms like impartial and referee kinda destroy it IMO and I like the term rules arbiter.

My ideal DM is an impartial referee, a fellow player and a fellow cooperative storyteller, not a nerd with delusions of being a great fantasy writer and a chip on his shoulder about who the smartest person in the room is.

I don't think the DM is, can be, or should be impartial. They're not a computer, they're a fellow player, with an interest in helping make the time spent as enjoyable as possible for all.



I think the point was, the DM should not be trying to "win" or beat the players.  The point of being DM is not to go for a TPK every night.  It is not DM vs Players.  It is everyone working together to hear a story.  The DM guides it a little but it is the players that shapes it.  In that sense, the DM must be "impartial" because he is not trying to "win."




I agree 100%.

I also add that for the DM, i don't find "winning" to be "successfully killing the party, killing the entire story up to this point" or "forcing the players to feel like they will only survive if they beat you and outsmart you". I define that as losing.

Within; Without.


I think the point was, the DM should not be trying to "win" or beat the players.  The point of being DM is not to go for a TPK every night.  It is not DM vs Players.  It is everyone working together to hear a story.  The DM guides it a little but it is the players that shapes it.  In that sense, the DM must be "impartial" because he is not trying to "win."

+1 to this.


I have played under a DM who is obviously on Team Monster that it isn’t even funny; he gets upset when his monsters die, and is aiming to kill character. It gets old real fast, and as you said there is no real point in it.


This aside though I don’t think being impartial is a necessity, I don’t consider myself on team monster or team player; I’m on team “world” my role is to provide fun and interesting things in the world for the players to experience. I don’t aim to have monsters kill them, but I don’t try to hand them battles or promise that their characters will live to see the campaigns end.  


Fun and Interesting are key here, If I say I am totally neutral it becomes much harder to do this; if the player wants to do something outlandish (but within reason) which might be stretching a rule I don’t want to shoot that idea down in the name of neutrality.


Bottom line; I want my players to have creative freedom and a general fun time, but I don’t want to hand them the game either. This already means it is imposable for me to be impartial.

IMAGE(http://www.nodiatis.com/pub/1.jpg)

My ideal DM is an impartial referee, a fellow player and a fellow cooperative storyteller, not a nerd with delusions of being a great fantasy writer and a chip on his shoulder about who the smartest person in the room is.

I don't think the DM is, can be, or should be impartial. They're not a computer, they're a fellow player, with an interest in helping make the time spent as enjoyable as possible for all.



I think the point was, the DM should not be trying to "win" or beat the players.  The point of being DM is not to go for a TPK every night.  It is not DM vs Players.  It is everyone working together to hear a story.  The DM guides it a little but it is the players that shapes it.  In that sense, the DM must be "impartial" because he is not trying to "win."

I don't like the term impartial either, because that immediately sets sides.  For someone to be an impartial party, there must be 2 sides, and the way I veiw being a DM is that there are no sides, we are all playing the same game to have fun together as a group.  All I am as DM is a rules arbiter, not a referee, because again a referee means there are 2 sides, which there are not.  If there were sides, which there kinda of are(monsters vs. players) I actually consider myself on the players side.  I mean after all, if I kill my players, how can I finish telling them my story?  Players will only take so many deaths before they give up.  That doesn't mean there is no risk of death, or that I do not try to make the combat chellenging, just that I really want to see the players "win" against the monsters, not against me.

I think they are saying the same thing as what I try to do, but using terms like impartial and referee kinda destroy it IMO and I like the term rules arbiter.




Bold for strong agreement. One thing that I have experienced both as a player and as a DM in all versions of D&D is the difference between how a game plays when the DM or the players are your OPPONENT(s) and when they are FAN(s).

Opponent DMs are the ones, in my experience, who tend to use the "my way or the highway" game. I have played for a DM long ago who said that the DMG said that 1 out of 20 encounters should be Overwhelming in relationship to the PCs, and characters died by the truckload in that game. This same DM wanted lots of player buy-in, and LOVED involved and in-depth character backgrounds and playing, but used insta-kill monsters, save or die effects, and level drain like no tomorrow. It was exhausting to make a character and then lose that character in the FIRST encounter of the night, after being attacked while sleeping by a Save or Die poison effect. (this happened to me, and is not an exaggeration).

Opponent PLAYERS are the ones that know their DM is not strict (or perhaps is inexperienced) and seek to egg the other players on to stymie the DM in all ways. Their numerically tortured characters are drawn from the CharOp boards (usually the theoretical builds that only work with certain hazy rule readings), and they attack the slightest adventure hook with negation and criticism, falling back on "rules" or "well, nobody would do X" if the DM tries to somehow get some control back of the game, which is the natural response of their chosen targets.

The craziness is that each of the Opponent versions of gamer create the other. An opponent DM CREATES opponent players, who then go on to create opponent DMs.

So many PCs, so little time...
I think impartiality is about not desiring a particular outcome. I don't think the DM described in the OP wanted the PCs to lose. I just think he expects or desires winning or losing (as that applies to any given scene) to happen as he envisions it. Get the players ideas or the rules mixed in there and the idea he has in his mind is in jeopardy. You can block player ideas in D&D - many DMs do this all the time - but you have a much harder time justifying blocking ideas backed by rules without a complete player revolt.

No amount of tips, tricks, or gimmicks will ever be better than simply talking directly to your fellow players to resolve your issues.
DMs: Don't Prep the Plot | Structure First, Story Last | Prep Tips | Spoilers Don't Spoil Anything | No Myth Roleplaying
Players: 11 Ways to Be a Better Roleplayer | You Are Not Your Character     Hilarious D&D Actual Play Podcast: Crit Juice!

Here, Have Some Free Material From Me: Encounters With Alternate Goals  |  Dark Sun Full-Contact Futbol   |   Pre-Generated D&D 5e PCs

Follow me on Twitter: @is3rith

I think impartiality is about not desiring a particular outcome. I don't think the DM described in the OP wanted the PCs to lose. I just think he expects or desires winning or losing (as that applies to any given scene) to happen as he envisions it. Get the players ideas or the rules mixed in there and the idea he has in his mind is in jeopardy. You can block player ideas in D&D - many DMs do this all the time - but you have a much harder time justifying blocking ideas backed by rules without a complete player revolt.



Agreed

I'm on a journey of enlightenment, learning and self-improvement. A journey towards mastery. A journey that will never end. If you challenge me, prepare to be challenged. If you have something to offer as a fellow student, I will accept it. If you call yourself a master, prepare to be humbled. If you seek me, look to the path. I will be traveling it.

 

Proudly playing in many wrong ways. I'm not afraid of playing wrong according to the rules. Why are you?

 

100 Crack Reply of the Yagamifire. You are already wrong.

Get the players ideas or the rules mixed in there and the idea he has in his mind is in jeopardy. You can block player ideas in D&D - many DMs do this all the time - but you have a much harder time justifying blocking ideas backed by rules without a complete player revolt.



Quoting myself to bring it back to the original post: And this is why I think many DMs like the one described profess their love of "roleplaying over combat" because they have an easier time justifying their blocking.

And on that note, a definition of blocking as it applies to RPGs:

...the opposite of saying "Yes, and..." It's also called "denial." This destroys or stops the addition of new information or negates what has already been established. Blocking is a way of minimizing the impact of new information. It is also a method for a player to play it safe and avoid vulnerability by seizing or maintaining control. Blocking at its simplest levels involves saying "No" or avoiding a subject. At a more advanced level, blocking is something that keeps the action from moving forward or the characters from changing.

No amount of tips, tricks, or gimmicks will ever be better than simply talking directly to your fellow players to resolve your issues.
DMs: Don't Prep the Plot | Structure First, Story Last | Prep Tips | Spoilers Don't Spoil Anything | No Myth Roleplaying
Players: 11 Ways to Be a Better Roleplayer | You Are Not Your Character     Hilarious D&D Actual Play Podcast: Crit Juice!

Here, Have Some Free Material From Me: Encounters With Alternate Goals  |  Dark Sun Full-Contact Futbol   |   Pre-Generated D&D 5e PCs

Follow me on Twitter: @is3rith

Just a sidenote kinda, to everyone saying combat loses the imersion the player was in, why dont you change that? Not all players are created equal, some players have tons more skill with roleplaying and are able to continue living thier character in and out of combat. If your players still want that then teach them how to imerse themselves while in combat.



The problem is not immersion in combat. Combat can be pretty immersive. The problem is in the psychological split that occurs.

They each picked classes, races, and backgrounds. Have them live that, a druid is fighting a pack of wolves why isnt the druid trying to talk to the wolves and free thier mind from the need to eat them, not all players would think of that, try to throw them information that they can grasp onto. A building is burning and that fighter has his wife in thier and the enemy outside, make him choose to save his wife or help out his party. Give him reasons to interact still while in combat.



These are actually choices between combat and non-combat as it is used in the game. The Druid is ceasing combat and the fighter is avoiding combat. Neither of these things, while valid things that can happen, actually address combat in the game and the mental seperation that exists and is created by the game itself.

So when I said it was a GM flaw that doesnt allow combat to be immersed I guess its 50/50. Its Gms not throwing bait at players and blocking forms of roleplaying and players for not knowing how to immerse themselves during combat. If you as a GM put the effort into immersing your playing then your players will be immersed in and out of combat, it just may take time, Gms have been blocking for years on end and it will take time for players to adapt to a new world you are allowing them to journey in. But once you allow them to journey in they wont ever go back and the game will be changed forever in a good way.



While a good goal, it is entirely at cross-purposes with what the game psychologically reinforces. While this continues to happen, the situation will continue to exist. It will continue to be two different kinds of engagement because the psychological factors are not being considered. It is not addressing the underlying concerns & reasons.

I'm on a journey of enlightenment, learning and self-improvement. A journey towards mastery. A journey that will never end. If you challenge me, prepare to be challenged. If you have something to offer as a fellow student, I will accept it. If you call yourself a master, prepare to be humbled. If you seek me, look to the path. I will be traveling it.

 

Proudly playing in many wrong ways. I'm not afraid of playing wrong according to the rules. Why are you?

 

100 Crack Reply of the Yagamifire. You are already wrong.

..."window.parent.tinyMCE.get('post_content').onLoad.dispatch();" contenteditable="true" />Sim City, Civilization and some MMO's with crafting systems heavily influence the way I run things. I have systems written down for many, many things just so that the gears can turn. Most of the time, it is for my own reference sanity, other times a player might want to grow/harvest/craft things. I like having metrics anywhere possible, just so that if a situation comes up, you can make a quick, consistent judgement.

I don't have everything "constrained" to metrics, however I have metrics all over the place when they are needed; better to be prepared than not, eh? I like having every possible resource, at my availibility.

Edit:

I also think that study of Anthropology, Sociology and Psychology is extremely valuable to creating a believable world. Understanding how to simulate aspects of my world which aren't being engaged with helps me with the parts that are being engaged with. Economics and Crafting are, perhaps 2 of the bigger elements but they dip into pots. Economics helps you learn how to create a metric for large armies, transport of troops, morale and other things.

Most of my players never ever see these systems, and when time comes to reveal one? Lets just say this.

If it is sensible, easy to understand and apply to both big and small situations, it is good. It should not be complex, players who look at it should understand it.



The more of your posts I read the more I like ya, Thadian.

Preparation is definitely good. It's one of those pendulum things too right now where I think many DMs have spent so long preparing the wrong stuff that many have thrown up their hands and given up on preparation all-together. Baby out with the bathwater.

Thoroughly agree with your study remarks as well.

I'm on a journey of enlightenment, learning and self-improvement. A journey towards mastery. A journey that will never end. If you challenge me, prepare to be challenged. If you have something to offer as a fellow student, I will accept it. If you call yourself a master, prepare to be humbled. If you seek me, look to the path. I will be traveling it.

 

Proudly playing in many wrong ways. I'm not afraid of playing wrong according to the rules. Why are you?

 

100 Crack Reply of the Yagamifire. You are already wrong.

An opponent DM CREATES opponent players, who then go on to create opponent DMs.




Then, both parties move on, and abandon the "bad game, how awful, why would anyone really play that?" or take their new, bad attitude to other tables, and it spreads like wildfire.


This is why good DM's need to be aware of their actions, because their players might someday become DM's or players at other tables. Setting a good example goes a long way.

Within; Without.

An opponent DM CREATES opponent players, who then go on to create opponent DMs.




Then, both parties move on, and abandon the "bad game, how awful, why would anyone really play that?" or take their new, bad attitude to other tables, and it spreads like wildfire.


This is why good DM's need to be aware of their actions, because their players might someday become DM's or players at other tables. Setting a good example goes a long way.




Plus, honestly... who has fun doing that? As a teenager still in high school, and even as a younger 20something, living single in my apartment, with my gamer roommate and various other gamer "not on the lease" roomies, I logged HUNDREDS of hours gaming, whether as a DM or player. I could dilute the bad taste in the mouth of a crappy game by sheer dint of having another game lined up TOMORROW, with a different group.

Now, as a "later decade" 30something, with a wife, multiple offspring, a full time job, and various other things clamoring for my attention, I get roughly 6-10 hours a MONTH to game. I don't want to waste one with an adverserial game!

To paraphrase, "Mean DM/players?! Ain't nobody got time for that!"


edit: some horrible typos 
So many PCs, so little time...
"My game is more about roleplaying than combat..."
"I prefer less fighting and more roleplaying..."
"I'm a roleplayer, not a roll-player..."
Post that drivel anywhere I can see it and you'll get a not-so-friendly response from me about how combat is roleplaying.

I feel you're being pedantic/semantic. Most players understand the different play styles those sentences represent (and only the last sentence is intended to be derogatory).

I could just as easily be offended by someone saying "My game is more about roleplaying than optimization" (since a player committed to the role of someone facing life/death situations should act to optimize their chances of survival). But I understand what they mean.