Friday, May 9, 2014

Eero Tuovinen Is My Hero (Part II)

Here's another great quote from Eero Tuovinen (lifted from the discussion Old School Renaissance: Actual Play - Greysands Campaign). It's good advice if you are making mistakes like this.

Regarding the hygiene in determining whether things are dangers or tourist sights, my general advice is to train yourself out of the habit of teleological deduction and categories associated with it: don't frame decisions for yourself in terms of what will supposedly happen. As long as you're thinking of a sea serpent in terms of whether it's a combat encounter or not, you're not being hygienic. The only things you need to know are the in-fiction circumstances and such; those you either intuit, have in your notes, or roll randomly. Once you know that the sea serpent hates surface shipping, or is hungry, or is angry, you have something to work with in determining whether it might attack a ship. If you first decide that it's a color encounter, and then retroactively justify that by deciding that it's sated, then you're doing it wrong.
"Colour event", "tourist sighting", "combat encounter", "deadly" and so on are all terms of unhygienic teleological thinking: they're all about what you imagine might happen either immediately or later. You do not need to know the future, you merely need to know the past and the present.

Eero is even sterner regarding another event in that game (a storm that was never meant to be a real threat).

Edit: The DM running the sea voyage has since commented that the storm had been dangerous, but not able to single-handedly sink the ship (unless the party had done nothing to fix the situation).

This is less relevant for my example of poor DMing (which was about laziness, not mercy) but relevant to the overall topic:
The big, fat hygienic issue with not wanting PC death, though, is that a GM unwilling to face the nihilistic void is a slave to his aesthetic hopes and dreams. In the worst case this causes him to build invisible boundaries around the other players, protecting them from an honest judgement of their choices. Thus the content of play actually transforms from an even-handed struggle into puppetry. For example: when you demand players for initiative in a storm that threatens their ship, and they act upon the matter, but your threat was actually a false ritualistic declaration - what is that if not puppeteering, demanding that the players dance to your amusement? Worse yet, such a GM might end up determining the shape of their ship on nothing more than their own sense of entitlement: dance not well enough my puppets, show not enough fear, and I shall sink your ship out of spite. As you choose to not entertain the possibility of the ship sinking fairly, you have at that moment removed any storm-combating moves out of the realm of actual play, and into the realm of color narration. The least courtesy a GM can make is to make this clear to the players, so they can join in narrating, rather than dancing desperately in their false understanding of the interaction in play. 

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