PbtA-style Agenda, Moves, and Principles for trad RPGs?

Just curious to know whether anyone has created these things for games like GURPS, D&D, CoC or similar standbys of RPG’s yore. I have to think that someone has at least attempted this kind of codification; PbtA is essentially taking trad play and sort of “fixing it in place”, i.e., formalizing how these games have been run for decades, right?

It seems like it would at least be a useful exercise. This seems like pretty portable technology to me. Or am I totally wrong?

98 thoughts on “PbtA-style Agenda, Moves, and Principles for trad RPGs?

  1. Very interested in this topic.

    For D&D, at least, it assumes that there is a Right Way (or at least a Way That Is More Right Than Most) to play. I think that this is true, but it really goes against the grain of the D&D fan base and conventional wisdom. 

    This is the primary reason that WotC does such a terrible job at supporting the development of DMs.

  2. < ![CDATA[Very interested in this topic. For D&D, at least, it assumes that there is a Right Way (or at least a Way That Is More Right Than Most) to play. I think that this is true, but it really goes against the grain of the D&D fan base and conventional wisdom.  This is the primary reason that WotC does such a terrible job at supporting the development of DMs.]]>

  3. Patrick Marchiodi Sure, a lot of the games I’m considering here are essentially toolkits, and so one would have to define what kind game was being played before drafting moves, etc.

    But, once you have that — “HERO in Champions mode — I would think one could codify this stuff. I mean, I feel like a lot of them are buried and implied in various splatbooks and such. E.g., take the chapter on “Bronze Age supers” and parse out the stuff I’m looking for.

  4. < ![CDATA[Patrick Marchiodi Sure, a lot of the games I'm considering here are essentially toolkits, and so one would have to define what kind game was being played before drafting moves, etc. But, once you have that — "HERO in Champions mode — I would think one could codify this stuff. I mean, I feel like a lot of them are buried and implied in various splatbooks and such. E.g., take the chapter on “Bronze Age supers” and parse out the stuff I’m looking for.]]>

  5. Dave Turner Yup, hence my “toolkit” comment to Patrick. You’d have to narrow down what kind of D&D you’re playing first.

    Something like CoC, though, I would think is focused enough that it might be a little easier.

  6. < ![CDATA[Dave Turner Yup, hence my "toolkit" comment to Patrick. You'd have to narrow down what kind of D&D you're playing first. Something like CoC, though, I would think is focused enough that it might be a little easier.]]>

  7. < ![CDATA[E.g., Matt FInch's A Quick Primer for Old School Gaming. I mean, that is essentially a set of agendas and principles (dunno about moves), isn’t it? It’s just in an informal format.]]>

  8. So, so much to say on that. But the tl/dr is that it’s completely not portable to straight traditional roleplaying.

    My key argument in that thesis is that PbtA moves sidestep “roll the dice or say yes,” which as you’ve pointed out is the tech that fixed traditional roleplaying (for you, me, all right-thinking sane and rational people). And that is where PbtA parts ways with trad play.

    I can go way way deep down the rabbit hole of that argument, and make a lot of people angry. Fun!

  9. < ![CDATA[So, so much to say on that. But the tl/dr is that it's completely not portable to straight traditional roleplaying. My key argument in that thesis is that PbtA moves sidestep "roll the dice or say yes," which as you've pointed out is the tech that fixed traditional roleplaying (for you, me, all right-thinking sane and rational people). And that is where PbtA parts ways with trad play. I can go way way deep down the rabbit hole of that argument, and make a lot of people angry. Fun!]]>

  10. Paul Beakley How dare you turn my own words back upon me!

    I guess one can’t really have moves on one side (the GM) and not the other (the players).

    What about agendas and principles, though?

    (I guess I really need to play more PbtA games. Thankful,y I’m running some MotW at gamed on Saturday.)

  11. < ![CDATA[Paul Beakley How dare you turn my own words back upon me! I guess one can't really have moves on one side (the GM) and not the other (the players). What about agendas and principles, though? (I guess I really need to play more PbtA games. Thankful,y I'm running some MotW at gamed on Saturday.)]]>

  12. A meta-comment on this discussion is that it assumes that everyone participating has a good faith desire to agree on something that may not be the One True Way, but is agreeably close. In my experience, that’s rarely the case. There’s a strong bias in most folks towards not accusing others of badwrongfun. I appreciate that bias in most discussions, but it doesn’t help in this one.

  13. < ![CDATA[A meta-comment on this discussion is that it assumes that everyone participating has a good faith desire to agree on something that may not be the One True Way, but is agreeably close. In my experience, that's rarely the case. There's a strong bias in most folks towards not accusing others of badwrongfun. I appreciate that bias in most discussions, but it doesn't help in this one.]]>

  14. Agendas and principles are not meaningful play tech, to my mind. 

    Well…they kind of are. Let me back up a tiny bit. I think it would be freakin’ awwwwwesome if more RPGs were explicit about what was supposed to happen, what you were supposed to emphasize. You know, draw a little box around the infinite decision space that trad players think is so great about RPGs. Infinite space is bullshit and terrible; creativity happens within constraints. 

    There are lots of implied constraints via classes, feats, skill lists, equipment, setting dumps, etc. But I think we all know that “this is my game and I’m telling my story” GMs give no shits about that.

    Agendas and principles, treated like rules (i.e. social contract to which every participant agrees as peers and equals), draw a box around the GM, and that’s all for the good I think.

    Treated like “a good idea” or a “best practice,” mehhhh. Are “rulings not rules” or “rule zero” really applied that rigorously?

  15. < ![CDATA[Agendas and principles are not meaningful play tech, to my mind.  Well...they kind of are. Let me back up a tiny bit. I think it would be freakin' awwwwwesome if more RPGs were explicit about what was supposed to happen, what you were supposed to emphasize. You know, draw a little box around the infinite decision space that trad players think is so great about RPGs. Infinite space is bullshit and terrible; creativity happens within constraints.  There are lots of implied constraints via classes, feats, skill lists, equipment, setting dumps, etc. But I think we all know that "this is my game and I'm telling my story" GMs give no shits about that. Agendas and principles, treated like rules (i.e. social contract to which every participant agrees as peers and equals), draw a box around the GM, and that's all for the good I think. Treated like "a good idea" or a "best practice," mehhhh. Are "rulings not rules" or "rule zero" really applied that rigorously?]]>

  16. But let’s assume we’re just talking about me running my game. I.e., I am going to run some CoC or whatever, and I look through the rulebook and see that there is a bunch stuff between the lines that my PbtA-informed brain can identify as agendas and principles.

    So, I write them down, use them, and maybe tweak them over the course of a few games.

    Is this possibly a useful technique? Maybe it results in a one-sheet that has a list of things that evoke Cthulhu-RPG-ness that I can reference before I open my mouth, instead of having to rely on the general impression of how to run the game that I have in my head.

    (I mean, agenda and principles and basically The Checklist Manifesto applied to running RPGs, aren’t they?)

  17. < ![CDATA[But let's assume we're just talking about me running my game. I.e., I am going to run some CoC or whatever, and I look through the rulebook and see that there is a bunch stuff between the lines that my PbtA-informed brain can identify as agendas and principles. So, I write them down, use them, and maybe tweak them over the course of a few games. Is this possibly a useful technique? Maybe it results in a one-sheet that has a list of things that evoke Cthulhu-RPG-ness that I can reference before I open my mouth, instead of having to rely on the general impression of how to run the game that I have in my head. (I mean, agenda and principles and basically The Checklist Manifesto applied to running RPGs, aren’t they?)]]>

  18. Christopher Wargo Okay. Everyone sharpen your axes, there’s a scalpin’ on the horizon.

    My argument that PbtA-style player moves sidestep “roll the dice or say yes” is that they take the discretion out of the equation. Because they’re prescriptive (I want to do this thing) and descriptive (this thing just happened), it’s not on the GM to arbitrate that the moment is “interesting enough” or that there’s “meaningful uncertainty” guiding that moment. The text of the move tells you when it happens, and if the GM or the player decides not to roll, they’re breaking the rules.

    I say this as a yuge (/trump) fan of “roll the dice or say yes.” I love that discretion. I love that it gives me very precise pacing and focus tools. It also further entrenches my role, as GM, in controlling pace and focus.

    I adore PbtA games but for a very different reason: the moves tell me “what’s interesting” in “say yes” speak. So in some ways it’s way easier: oh hey, you’re trying to intimidate this guard into letting you into the city, time to roll Seize Control.

    Now, I think as a practical matter, there actually is some GM discretion in a PbtA game. But it’s not purposeful or codified or collectively agreed on. Like I totally forgot in our Urban Shadows game to have a player make a Put a Name to a Face roll when they met a new NPC. That’s breaking the rules, but I just wasn’t thinking about it and it seemed unimportant. Did it break the game? Certainly not. But “it didn’t break the game” is an intellectually bankrupt reason to do something.

    I don’t have any real control over the pace in a PbtA game, either. When AW says “moves snowball,” that’s not telling the GM/MC to make that happen. It’s a warning that it’s going to happen, so be ready.

    Anyway, very different critters. I think many/most of the “I can’t make this fucking game work” discussions I’ve ever read are rooted in players trying to shoehorn this exotic new stuff into old styles of play. If those old styles have gone unexamined, they’re also impossible to diagnose. “GM tells me when to roll” is the air they breathe.

  19. < ![CDATA[Christopher Wargo Okay. Everyone sharpen your axes, there's a scalpin' on the horizon. My argument that PbtA-style player moves sidestep "roll the dice or say yes" is that they take the discretion out of the equation. Because they're prescriptive (I want to do this thing) and descriptive (this thing just happened), it's not on the GM to arbitrate that the moment is "interesting enough" or that there's "meaningful uncertainty" guiding that moment. The text of the move tells you when it happens, and if the GM or the player decides not to roll, they're breaking the rules. I say this as a yuge (/trump) fan of “roll the dice or say yes.” I love that discretion. I love that it gives me very precise pacing and focus tools. It also further entrenches my role, as GM, in controlling pace and focus.
    I adore PbtA games but for a very different reason: the moves tell me “what’s interesting” in “say yes” speak. So in some ways it’s way easier: oh hey, you’re trying to intimidate this guard into letting you into the city, time to roll Seize Control.
    Now, I think as a practical matter, there actually is some GM discretion in a PbtA game. But it’s not purposeful or codified or collectively agreed on. Like I totally forgot in our Urban Shadows game to have a player make a Put a Name to a Face roll when they met a new NPC. That’s breaking the rules, but I just wasn’t thinking about it and it seemed unimportant. Did it break the game? Certainly not. But “it didn’t break the game” is an intellectually bankrupt reason to do something.
    I don’t have any real control over the pace in a PbtA game, either. When AW says “moves snowball,” that’s not telling the GM/MC to make that happen. It’s a warning that it’s going to happen, so be ready.
    Anyway, very different critters. I think many/most of the “I can’t make this fucking game work” discussions I’ve ever read are rooted in players trying to shoehorn this exotic new stuff into old styles of play. If those old styles have gone unexamined, they’re also impossible to diagnose. “GM tells me when to roll” is the air they breathe.]]>

  20. I know you don’t like my flighty metaphors, Paul Beakley, but I’d suggest that what Mark Delsing is trying to do is avoid shoehorning the new into the old, but rather bring modes of play to the surface the way that PtbA games try to do.

    I think that Mark’s approach has definite value. It ties back into one of my new, favorite ideas about training DMs. If you were going to try and teach someone how to DM/GM D&D or CoC, what would your notes look like? I assume that the teacher does have some ideas (hopefully developed from experience) about how to manage both the mechanical and non-mechanical (the assumptions) aspects of a game’s rules in order to ensure a satisfying game experience.

    By creating those notes, the DM-teacher would be making her own claims about the best way to play D&D. It also assumes that this person is dedicated to the idea that a DM can become better at running a particular game, which brings us back around to the idea that there is a better way to play most games. I don’t think that last bit is too controversial, is it?

  21. < ![CDATA[I know you don't like my flighty metaphors, Paul Beakley, but I'd suggest that what Mark Delsing is trying to do is avoid shoehorning the new into the old, but rather bring modes of play to the surface the way that PtbA games try to do. I think that Mark's approach has definite value. It ties back into one of my new, favorite ideas about training DMs. If you were going to try and teach someone how to DM/GM D&D or CoC, what would your notes look like? I assume that the teacher does have some ideas (hopefully developed from experience) about how to manage both the mechanical and non-mechanical (the assumptions) aspects of a game’s rules in order to ensure a satisfying game experience.
    By creating those notes, the DM-teacher would be making her own claims about the best way to play D&D. It also assumes that this person is dedicated to the idea that a DM can become better at running a particular game, which brings us back around to the idea that there is a better way to play most games. I don’t think that last bit is too controversial, is it?]]>

  22. It’s not controversial but it doesn’t feel like we’re talking about the same thing.

    If I were to put together notes about my best practices in running D&D, I wouldn’t make those notes rules. Rules are not the same as guidelines.

  23. < ![CDATA[It's not controversial but it doesn't feel like we're talking about the same thing. If I were to put together notes about my best practices in running D&D, I wouldn't make those notes rules. Rules are not the same as guidelines.]]>

  24. Paul Beakley 
    Yours is probably not a good example. If the GM decides a player can intimidate the guard without contest (eg, the guard isn’t really going to do anything but cave anyway), then no PbtA move is triggered. Unless your PbtA version of go aggro is ‘When you go aggro on someone who isn’t resisting…’?

    Like, if there really isn’t a contest (eg, you would say yes per the ‘say yes or roll the dice’ rule), then there’s nothing being triggered.

    Anyway, in a pacing situation where there really IS a contest but you as GM want to move forward (‘Eh, I don’t want to have a drawn-out fight so YES, you take those goblins down pretty easy, no need to roll…’), the corresponding PbtA rule is a combination of a) Offer an opportunity, with or without a cost, b) be a fan of the PCs and c) look through cross-hairs.

    With me?

  25. < ![CDATA[Paul Beakley  Yours is probably not a good example. If the GM decides a player can intimidate the guard without contest (eg, the guard isn't really going to do anything but cave anyway), then no PbtA move is triggered. Unless your PbtA version of go aggro is 'When you go aggro on someone who isn't resisting...'? Like, if there really isn't a contest (eg, you would say yes per the 'say yes or roll the dice' rule), then there's nothing being triggered. Anyway, in a pacing situation where there really IS a contest but you as GM want to move forward ('Eh, I don't want to have a drawn-out fight so YES, you take those goblins down pretty easy, no need to roll...'), the corresponding PbtA rule is a combination of a) Offer an opportunity, with or without a cost, b) be a fan of the PCs and c) look through cross-hairs. With me?]]>

  26. That combination of always say (what honesty, the rules and your prep demand), principles (be a fan of the PCs; make everyone human) and moves (offer an opportunity with or without cost; look through cross-hairs; inflict harm) capture all the salient elements of Say Yes or Roll the Dice. If, in some other game, you’d say yes, the rules of PbtA games tell you to do just that.

  27. < ![CDATA[That combination of always say (what honesty, the rules and your prep demand), principles (be a fan of the PCs; make everyone human) and moves (offer an opportunity with or without cost; look through cross-hairs; inflict harm) capture all the salient elements of Say Yes or Roll the Dice. If, in some other game, you'd say yes, the rules of PbtA games tell you to do just that.]]>

  28. < ![CDATA[I don't agree with that evaluation. The decision points you're talking about are different and they happen at different times. Similar outcomes =/= similar processes. I think the process matters!]]>

  29. Bret Gillan right, but the MC does decide if the move is triggered. Like, in Paul’s example, you’re not going aggro if the other guy is just caving anyway.

    Player: ‘I wave my gun in his face and tell him to get the F out of my way… go aggro?’

    MC: Nah, he’s just going to cave anyway. ‘I got kids to think about!’ (make everyone human, be a fan, look through crosshairs, offer an opporunity without cost)

    Where have I broken the rules?

  30. < ![CDATA[Bret Gillan right, but the MC does decide if the move is triggered. Like, in Paul's example, you're not going aggro if the other guy is just caving anyway. Player: 'I wave my gun in his face and tell him to get the F out of my way... go aggro?' MC: Nah, he's just going to cave anyway. 'I got kids to think about!' (make everyone human, be a fan, look through crosshairs, offer an opporunity without cost)
    Where have I broken the rules?]]>

  31. No. If the conditions of a move are met you roll. The GM can’t waive them. I’ll find page numbers when I have a moment with the rules.

    Also doing that denies players opportunities to earn experience.

  32. < ![CDATA[No. If the conditions of a move are met you roll. The GM can't waive them. I'll find page numbers when I have a moment with the rules. Also doing that denies players opportunities to earn experience.]]>

  33. If you just waved a gun in someone’s face, how did you not trigger that move in the fiction? You’ve just described something covered by a move, therefore the move happened.

    I feel like you’re taking principles and applying them in kind of a contorted way. “Make everyone human” I think can apply either to having the guard, you know, do his actual fucking job, or have the guard step down because he doesn’t want to die. Which one? Doesn’t matter, that’s what the move is for. 

    (I take “make everyone human” to be more an aesthetic principle, i.e. no mindless mooks who act in an unrealistic way.)

    In the case of “offer an opportunity,” that’s an MC move. What did the player do to give the MC that opportunity? If the answer is “make a move when you’re expected to speak,” well jeez, now there’s no game at all.

  34. < ![CDATA[If you just waved a gun in someone's face, how did you not trigger that move in the fiction? You’ve just described something covered by a move, therefore the move happened.
    I feel like you’re taking principles and applying them in kind of a contorted way. “Make everyone human” I think can apply either to having the guard, you know, do his actual fucking job, or have the guard step down because he doesn’t want to die. Which one? Doesn’t matter, that’s what the move is for. 
    (I take “make everyone human” to be more an aesthetic principle, i.e. no mindless mooks who act in an unrealistic way.)
    In the case of “offer an opportunity,” that’s an MC move. What did the player do to give the MC that opportunity? If the answer is “make a move when you’re expected to speak,” well jeez, now there’s no game at all.]]>

  35. The NPC’s reaction, whether they resist or not is determined by the move. Not the MC. It’s unknown before that point. Having them back off, hole up, try to give you something are results of the move. Basically, neither the player nor the MC know whether the person is going to resist or not before the move is rolled.

  36. < ![CDATA[The NPC's reaction, whether they resist or not is determined by the move. Not the MC. It's unknown before that point. Having them back off, hole up, try to give you something are results of the move. Basically, neither the player nor the MC know whether the person is going to resist or not before the move is rolled.]]>

  37. To follow up on my promise of page numbers, page 12 of Apocalypse World – to do it, do it.

    The rule for moves is to do it, do it. In order for it to be a move and for the player to roll dice, the character has to do something that counts as that move; and whenever the character does something that counts as a move, it’s the move and the player rolls dice.

    It elaborates more from there.

  38. < ![CDATA[To follow up on my promise of page numbers, page 12 of Apocalypse World - to do it, do it. The rule for moves is to do it, do it. In order for it to be a move and for the player to roll dice, the character has to do something that counts as that move; and whenever the character does something that counts as a move, it’s the move and the player rolls dice.
    It elaborates more from there.]]>

  39. Okay, I think we can agree that Moves don’t really translate. In a trad game, the “moves” are essentially the task resolution mechanics and are probably too loosey-goosey to codify into formal Moves.

    But agenda and principles feel a lot like “GM advice” to me — though I realize they are not in PbtA games, they are hard-and-fast rules. Still, my impression is that they basically guide the GM’s use of the fiction to help create the experience the designer is intending — hence why they differ from game to game. The conversation you have when you play Tremulus is not the same conversation you have when you play Monsterhearts.

    And fi all roleplaying is conversation, why not guide the conversation in a similar way when playing, e.g., GURPS?

  40. < ![CDATA[Okay, I think we can agree that Moves don't really translate. In a trad game, the "moves" are essentially the task resolution mechanics and are probably too loosey-goosey to codify into formal Moves. But agenda and principles feel a lot like "GM advice" to me — though I realize they are not in PbtA games, they are hard-and-fast rules. Still, my impression is that they basically guide the GM's use of the fiction to help create the experience the designer is intending — hence why they differ from game to game. The conversation you have when you play Tremulus is not the same conversation you have when you play Monsterhearts.
    And fi all roleplaying is conversation, why not guide the conversation in a similar way when playing, e.g., GURPS?]]>

  41. Christopher Wargo I think even Vincent has said that Say Yes does not apply to PbtA games. Moves have triggers, and when they are met the move is “fired”. The player moves all have triggers that depend on the player character’s actions. How the NPCs feel or act is irrelevant, unless the GM has moves for them that are trigged by such behavior.

    I’d love to move past this discussion about how Moves work, if we can, since the texts are very clear about it.

  42. < ![CDATA[Christopher Wargo I think even Vincent has said that Say Yes does not apply to PbtA games. Moves have triggers, and when they are met the move is "fired". The player moves all have triggers that depend on the player character's actions. How the NPCs feel or act is irrelevant, unless the GM has moves for them that are trigged by such behavior. I'd love to move past this discussion about how Moves work, if we can, since the texts are very clear about it.]]>

  43. Mark Delsing trad games are not conversations.

    For certain definitions of “conversation.” You knew there’d be a definitional catch, yeah?

    I take conversation to mean discourse among peers. So like…a lecture is not a conversation. Parliament is not a conversation. Holding court, same.

    In PbtA games, the MC is explicitly a separate-but-equal player. In trad games, either they’re explicitly unequal (the gm gets to Say Yes! Among other things) or traditions of play are such that the inequality might as well be explicit.

    Which, you know, awesome. I play lots of games where that dynamic is leveraged to very good effect. It’s not a value judgment.

  44. < ![CDATA[Mark Delsing trad games are not conversations. For certain definitions of "conversation." You knew there'd be a definitional catch, yeah? I take conversation to mean discourse among peers. So like...a lecture is not a conversation. Parliament is not a conversation. Holding court, same. In PbtA games, the MC is explicitly a separate-but-equal player. In trad games, either they're explicitly unequal (the gm gets to Say Yes! Among other things) or traditions of play are such that the inequality might as well be explicit. Which, you know, awesome. I play lots of games where that dynamic is leveraged to very good effect. It's not a value judgment.]]>

  45. I’ve wondered for a long time if B/X could be migrated to PbtA (just as a thought experiment).  I’ve applied the Dunning Kruger rule and I see no problems whatsoever.

    The only wrinkle would be for things like long-lasting structured procedures like B/X combat/initiative order. But then, a few months ago I saw some stuff from AW v2 that was pretty intense in that respect (vehicular combat).

  46. < ![CDATA[I've wondered for a long time if B/X could be migrated to PbtA (just as a thought experiment).  I've applied the Dunning Kruger rule and I see no problems whatsoever. The only wrinkle would be for things like long-lasting structured procedures like B/X combat/initiative order. But then, a few months ago I saw some stuff from AW v2 that was pretty intense in that respect (vehicular combat).]]>

  47. Paul Beakley Also, there’s an ongoing conversation, but the fiction is completely discontinuous. I mean, I imagine (if you were going for mechanical equivalence), you’d have lots of moves with non-fictional triggers – the scene economy, for instance.

  48. < ![CDATA[Paul Beakley Also, there's an ongoing conversation, but the fiction is completely discontinuous. I mean, I imagine (if you were going for mechanical equivalence), you'd have lots of moves with non-fictional triggers - the scene economy, for instance.]]>

  49. Paul Beakley Ah, okay, I’m not sure whether I agree with that or not. Doesn’t the MC/GM in most PbtA games have more power, in general, than the players? I mean, they define all kinds of things about the environment that are outside the purview of the players, don’t they?

    And it’s entirely possible to play various trad games with more equitable power distribution, isn’t it? You don’t have to be the imperious DM who actually wears a cloak, do you?

    I guess I’m just defining conversation pretty loosely. Any given RPG session, you are a group of people sitting around and talking to each other; every now and then, something someone says causes you to implement a rule.

  50. < ![CDATA[Paul Beakley Ah, okay, I'm not sure whether I agree with that or not. Doesn't the MC/GM in most PbtA games have more power, in general, than the players? I mean, they define all kinds of things about the environment that are outside the purview of the players, don't they? And it's entirely possible to play various trad games with more equitable power distribution, isn't it? You don't have to be the imperious DM who actually wears a cloak, do you? I guess I'm just defining conversation pretty loosely. Any given RPG session, you are a group of people sitting around and talking to each other; every now and then, something someone says causes you to implement a rule.]]>

  51. < ![CDATA[That's the thing I disgree with. 🙂 If you're going to say that any and all talking is "conversation," well then you've made the bucket big enough that literally everything fits into it.]]>

  52. Paul Beakley Granted. I’m not totally rejecting your definition, but I also don’t know that I’d lump all trad play into “lecturing”. The lack of any back-and-forth seems the extreme, not the norm.

    I mean, if we’re doing what I gather is archetypal OSR play, as GM I’m just letting the players run around in my sandbox, aren’t I? They talk to me, I talk to them, stuff happens.

  53. < ![CDATA[Paul Beakley Granted. I'm not totally rejecting your definition, but I also don't know that I'd lump all trad play into "lecturing". The lack of any back-and-forth seems the extreme, not the norm. I mean, if we're doing what I gather is archetypal OSR play, as GM I'm just letting the players run around in my sandbox, aren't I? They talk to me, I talk to them, stuff happens.]]>

  54. I can’t help! I can only complain.

    “Rules vs guidelines” is a poor system for undertanding these things. I recommend thinking of the GM’s agenda and principles as orientation.

    Yes, I think you could write explicit text to orient a GM to any game, if you knew a good way to play it. Depending on the game, you’d leave other good ways out.

  55. < ![CDATA[I can't help! I can only complain. "Rules vs guidelines" is a poor system for undertanding these things. I recommend thinking of the GM's agenda and principles as orientation.
    Yes, I think you could write explicit text to orient a GM to any game, if you knew a good way to play it. Depending on the game, you’d leave other good ways out.]]>