On 2009-05-05, Simon C wrote:
Hi Vincent, I just finished the podcast, and really enjoyed it. I’m pretty sure I get the significance of the rightward-pointing arrows, and I can see that they’re pretty cool. I also think that Rob was groping towards an objection that he couldn’t quite express, and I’d like to take a stab at articulating some potential problems:
First off, I think your analysis doesn’t acknowledge that there’s some level of skill in being the good arbiter you describe. The high ground, for example. I agree it’s largely unproblematic, but there are situations where the GM will be required to make a call that’s not obvious. Is a table high ground? What about a chair? How much higher do you have to be?
You argue that the GM is never in a position where they want to deny the players the bonus. By the same token, there must be times where it is not possible to gain the bonus or else the contribution of the fiction is meaningless. If you can always gain the higher ground, the rule is “+2 for saying you have the higher ground” rather than “+2 for having the higher ground”. So the GM has to make a judgement call, and making that call requires not just a neutral attitude towards player success, but also some experience in making calls that match people’s expectations, and an eye towards how that call is going to affect future happenings of the game.
I think the Umpire analogy is apt. You’re right that it’s pathetic to get huffy over a call that doesn’t go your way - but you want there to be some correlation between the umpire’s calls and the rules of the game as you understand them. The umpire can be completely unbiased and still make bad calls all night.
So what I’m saying is that as well as this attitude towards success that you laud, a lot of games are going to require some degree of skill from the GM to produce fun play. I don’t know if that’s a controversial statement, but it’s not something you mention.
There’s another kind of related point:
The heroes approach the Wizard’s tower, intent on sneaking in and stealing his gold. The ground floor of his tower has a door guarded by two magical hounds. One of the players says “I sneak around the back and climb in one of the windows”
Are there windows on the ground floor of the Wizard’s tower? If you haven’t decided on this ahead of time, and it’s really important to a player’s plan that there be windows present, are they there? Does it make any difference what the player’s plan is? What do you base your decision on? Clearly it would have been ideal to decide ahead of time, but you can’t prep for everything. There are always going to be these kinds of calls.