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 Improvisation using it beyond the powers

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Garthanos
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PostSubject: Improvisation using it beyond the powers   Fri Jan 17, 2014 7:36 am

For me your powers represent a repertoire of reliable things... the very first recommendation on the page 42 is ye old DMs best friend which I think of as +2 on something one might already be doing. For me it means like your similar power/ability only just a bit better.

Powers I see as a starting point and a descriptor of the kinds of things one is best at, so if your improvised maneuver is like one of your powers (perhaps an adaption of it to the circumstances) then it is simply a bit better.

Here was a thread I started a while back about improvisation in 4e.
http://community.wizards.com/content/forum-topic/3288586#514389547

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“A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.” - Lazarus Long via Robert Heinlein.

One suspects Lugh Long-hand Samildánach (a wright/carpenter, a sailor, a smith/bronze craftsman, a healer, a champion, a harpist, a poet/historian, a sorcerer, cupbearer) would agree.
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PostSubject: Re: Improvisation using it beyond the powers   Fri Jan 17, 2014 8:06 am

Reliability can be seen of as "I can do this given action perfectly at a reliable frequency." (Hitting or missing is a separate issue in this case. Here, I mean just that you can take the action that might give a specific result.) But why do players want to use the reliability often to the exclusion of all else?

Two reasons in my view:

1. Builds. They've got items, feats, class features, etc. that are based around the power. To do something other than the power represents a trade-off and opportunity cost. If I'm not using a feat or item, then they need to go for something I will use otherwise it's effectively wasted slots.

2. DMs suck. If I want to improvise an action, chances are good that the DM will make it harder to pull off and less effective both in odds of being effective and in the effect on the target(s) than if I just spammed a power.

In my view, the solution is entirely on the DM side of the equation. The DM must stop sucking and in the doing make the improvised actions as effective as a particular player using his other powers, even the ones in which he is specialized with given his build. This is a simple matter of discussing the goal and intent of the player and being open to negotiating the mechanics to resolve it. Of course, here we are assuming the player and DM both are acting in good faith.

Prepare to Improvise!
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PostSubject: Re: Improvisation using it beyond the powers   Fri Jan 17, 2014 8:15 am

There is this thing I call the Legalos effect where the DM has been encouraged by the system itself to use die rolling and on off it works or dont work in combinations as mechanics to simulate something.

Legalos to do his awesome move has to roll and roll and roll and roll.. the end effect is an improbability barrier... and Legalos ends up deciding to just hit the Behemoth in the toe instead.

One thought I had was to have a system where every limiting mechanic thrown in the way establishes a significant and well defined benefit. (insert details here)

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One suspects Lugh Long-hand Samildánach (a wright/carpenter, a sailor, a smith/bronze craftsman, a healer, a champion, a harpist, a poet/historian, a sorcerer, cupbearer) would agree.
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PostSubject: Re: Improvisation using it beyond the powers   Fri Jan 17, 2014 10:20 am

I like Dungeon World, I like 4e; doesn't mean that the two styles of play need (or ought) to be conflated.
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PostSubject: Re: Improvisation using it beyond the powers   Fri Jan 17, 2014 10:26 am

Garthanos wrote:
There is this thing I call the Legalos effect where the DM has been encouraged by the system itself to use die rolling and on off it works or dont work in combinations as mechanics to simulate something.

Legalos to do his awesome move has to roll and roll and roll and roll.. the end effect is an improbability barrier... and Legalos ends up deciding to just hit the Behemoth in the toe instead.

One thought I had was to have a system where every limiting mechanic thrown in the way establishes a significant and well defined benefit. (insert details here)

Right, this is what I mean by the DM sucking and making the chance of pulling off the improvised action too improbable compared to just spamming an at-will.

Fardiz wrote:
I like Dungeon World, I like 4e; doesn't mean that the two styles of play need (or ought) to be conflated.

Nobody's talking about Dungeon World here.
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PostSubject: Re: Improvisation using it beyond the powers   Fri Jan 17, 2014 10:36 am

Fardiz wrote:
I like Dungeon World, I like 4e; doesn't mean that the two styles of play need (or ought) to be conflated.
huh? not understanding the comment.

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“A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.” - Lazarus Long via Robert Heinlein.

One suspects Lugh Long-hand Samildánach (a wright/carpenter, a sailor, a smith/bronze craftsman, a healer, a champion, a harpist, a poet/historian, a sorcerer, cupbearer) would agree.
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PostSubject: Re: Improvisation using it beyond the powers   Fri Jan 17, 2014 10:48 am

Headhunter Jones wrote:


1. Builds. They've got items, feats, class features, etc. that are based around the power. To do something other than the power represents a trade-off and opportunity cost. If I'm not using a feat or item, then they need to go for something I will use otherwise it's effectively wasted slots.

One of the things I was getting at in my post is that I see the build ie the specific abilities as the starting point on top of which improvisation takes one further. IE just as those items and feats affect the base power they end up influencing improvisational capacity too.

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Born To Be Kings and Heros -- From the Ashes Phoenix
“A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.” - Lazarus Long via Robert Heinlein.

One suspects Lugh Long-hand Samildánach (a wright/carpenter, a sailor, a smith/bronze craftsman, a healer, a champion, a harpist, a poet/historian, a sorcerer, cupbearer) would agree.
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PostSubject: Re: Improvisation using it beyond the powers   Fri Jan 17, 2014 11:17 am

Garthanos wrote:
Fardiz wrote:
I like Dungeon World, I like 4e; doesn't mean that the two styles of play need (or ought) to be conflated.
huh? not understanding the comment.

I have never seen anyone invoke the p42 stunt rules in actual play and have not felt constricted by that. 4e is nicely structured and balanced around the use of powera. For more free-flowing story-telling games I prefer dungeon world.
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PostSubject: Re: Improvisation using it beyond the powers   Fri Jan 17, 2014 11:24 am

Garthanos wrote:
One of the things I was getting at in my post is that I see the build ie the specific abilities as the starting point on top of which improvisation takes one further. IE just as those items and feats affect the base power they end up influencing improvisational capacity too.

I think we're saying basically the same thing. If, for example, a player wants to topple one of several crumbling pillars onto an enemy and normally does (just giving it a number here) 20 damage on average with his at-will, then I'll start with that as baseline damage for the pillar. If there's an effect he wants to put on that like "knock prone" or whatever that's above his normal abilities for an at-will, then I'll reduce the damage by say 25%, same as if it was AOE or whatever. A quick look at damage expressions by level should be sufficient to make sure it's in the ballpark balance-wise. It's not terribly important to get it exactly right as long as there's buy-in from the table.

Improvised actions as with terrain powers do seem to have a skill check frequently stuck in front of it before the attack portion gets triggered. I suppose that might be seen as a disincentive of sorts but if the DCs are reasonable relative to level, I see no issue with it. I'd be open to negotiation in any case.
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PostSubject: Re: Improvisation using it beyond the powers   Fri Jan 17, 2014 11:51 am

This thread, and the original discussion in the Things That Don't Make Sense thread have made me reconsider how I'm going to present 'page 42' in my Points of Light clone.

I think that 4e's two mistakes are 1) hiding the improv guidelines from players in the DMG, and 2) using those guidelines to make improv actions inferior to even at-wills. Knowing this, my solutions are:

1. Put 'page 42' into one of the player pdfs, and stress that creative players should read the guidelines so that they can help the DM make improv rulings. (aka improv negotiation.)

2. The guidelines should be split up into three categories, much like powers are split up into three categories. The first category is for repeatable improv, like the sack of flour that a character might carry around to blind his enemies. This improv category will be similar to 4e's page 42. The second category is for non-repeatable or circumstantial improv, aka terrain powers. This category will suggest odds of success and results comparable to encounter powers. The last category is for improv actions that require sacrifice, like breaking a magical item to create an explosion. This category will suggest odds of success and results comparable to daily powers.

This way, DMs will have the guidance to properly reward player creativity without worrying about the bag-of-flower issue, and creative players won't feel like improving is an opaque mother-may-I process.

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PostSubject: Re: Improvisation using it beyond the powers   Fri Jan 17, 2014 11:56 am

C4 wrote:
This way, DMs will have the guidance to properly reward player creativity without worrying about the bag-of-flower issue, and creative players won't feel like improving is an opaque mother-may-I process.

Hear, hear!
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PostSubject: Re: Improvisation using it beyond the powers   Fri Jan 17, 2014 12:22 pm

Not sure it matters specifically to improvisation but I allow any heros successful action to take out a minion.. completely. It might be thought of as improvisations should do atleast a point of damage.  
I also allow successful heal checks from the players to save a minion who would normally have been taken down, basically to save ally minions - they will be wounded and out of the picture but saved. (unless they were critted on - this is auto).

I sometimes have NPC minions who I didnt think significant.. and PC choices change my mind. (ofcourse I can also change them to non-minions).

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One suspects Lugh Long-hand Samildánach (a wright/carpenter, a sailor, a smith/bronze craftsman, a healer, a champion, a harpist, a poet/historian, a sorcerer, cupbearer) would agree.


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PostSubject: Re: Improvisation using it beyond the powers   Fri Jan 17, 2014 12:28 pm

I find putting myself in the position of gatekeeping what is "allowed" and what is not is what prevents many players from improvising in the first place. They don't need my approval to do cool stuff as long as we're all acting with good intent.
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PostSubject: Re: Improvisation using it beyond the powers   Fri Jan 17, 2014 12:33 pm

If everyone is 100 percent on the same page.. you can also play sans rules system at all... generally speaking the game defines a set of parameters and expectations the DM enables going beyond that normality.

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One suspects Lugh Long-hand Samildánach (a wright/carpenter, a sailor, a smith/bronze craftsman, a healer, a champion, a harpist, a poet/historian, a sorcerer, cupbearer) would agree.
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PostSubject: Re: Improvisation using it beyond the powers   Fri Jan 17, 2014 12:43 pm

I don't think anyone who is not on the same page should be playing together (but that's good for another topic!). I don't advocate going outside the actual rules either neither as player nor DM. I think what we're discussing is well within them.
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PostSubject: Re: Improvisation using it beyond the powers   Fri Jan 17, 2014 1:16 pm

Headhunter Jones wrote:
I don't think anyone who is not on the same page should be playing together (but that's good for another topic!).
A significant purpose for a game system is to help define that page..
Headhunter Jones wrote:

I don't advocate going outside the actual rules either neither as player nor DM. I think what we're discussing is well within them.
I do if it improves play - the page 42 guidelines are feeble wrt inducing conditions but one of my favorite examples involves heating weapons with a spell which induces conditions (hard to predict ones) and There are elements in the game itself which are so flexible already - for instance : Is my granting auto successes and auto failures during a skill challenge - within the rules?
What exactly can one accomplish with a given skill check? They are pretty open heck some of the complaints I have heard about Martial Practices is they put a lock down on what you can accomplish normally.



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“A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.” - Lazarus Long via Robert Heinlein.

One suspects Lugh Long-hand Samildánach (a wright/carpenter, a sailor, a smith/bronze craftsman, a healer, a champion, a harpist, a poet/historian, a sorcerer, cupbearer) would agree.
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PostSubject: Re: Improvisation using it beyond the powers   Fri Jan 17, 2014 1:19 pm

We are possibly being particular about what we define as within the rules vs outside  Basketball 

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One suspects Lugh Long-hand Samildánach (a wright/carpenter, a sailor, a smith/bronze craftsman, a healer, a champion, a harpist, a poet/historian, a sorcerer, cupbearer) would agree.
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PostSubject: Re: Improvisation using it beyond the powers   Fri Jan 17, 2014 1:45 pm

Garthanos wrote:
A significant purpose for a game system is to help define that page..

In my view it's just one aspect of many that goes into determining whether players and DM are on the same page.

Garthanos wrote:
I do if it improves play - the page 42 guidelines are feeble wrt inducing conditions but one of my favorite examples involves heating weapons with a spell which induces conditions (hard to predict ones) and There are elements in the game itself which are so flexible already

As to the "heating weapons," my response would be "Yes, and..." then negotiate a skill check, DC, effect, and failure condition in accordance with improvised actions or terrain powers. There are powers that already have this effect suggesting that such an effect is possible within the rules, only they don't require skill checks and don't have a chance of failure. If everyone's acting with good intent, there's no issue here and we're still within the rules.

There was a good series of articles on this at the now discontinued At-Will blog. If I can find them, I'll post it.

Garthanos wrote:
- for instance : Is my granting auto successes and auto failures during a skill challenge - within the rules?

As for skill challenges, no, the DM cannot grant auto-success or auto-failure during a skill challenge unless it is framed at the outset such as Intimidate in a diplomatic situation. And if it's framed at the outset as such then the player's likely not going to take an action that would trigger such a check anyway. Doing so would mean the complication being presented to be overcome via in-game actions and mechanics is no longer the challenge - getting past the DM's gatekeeping is and that's not really the game at all. It's just pleasing the DM for benefit.

Garthanos wrote:
What exactly can one accomplish with a given skill check? They are pretty open heck some of the complaints I have heard about Martial Practices is they put a lock down on what you can accomplish normally.

The rules are pretty explicit as far as what ground they cover and there are good examples of improvised skill checks in the Rules Compendium. The final aspect for consideration that is touched on implicitly is that of genre expectations. I cannot, for example, use Arcana and Thievery checks to build a firearm because that's not within the expectation of the genre we're playing in. The key point for adjudication is ascertaining the action and the action's goal and intent, then negotiating the stakes with the player including the DC. You cannot go wrong with this method because it comes with the player's inherent buy-in.

Anyway, I think this still ties into the original post in that improvisation is easy in 4e. This is especially so if everyone is on the same page, is acting with good intent, and cleaves to the robust rules as written or intended. As an aside, I advocate using the approach of No Myth Roleplaying along with the 4e ruleset. It works well together and supports improvisation greatly.
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PostSubject: Re: Improvisation using it beyond the powers   Fri Jan 17, 2014 2:02 pm

C4 wrote:

This way, DMs will have the guidance to properly reward player creativity without worrying about the bag-of-flower issue, and creative players won't feel like improving is an opaque mother-may-I process.

I would really like to see this. If it could be done, then it would most certainly remove the "mother-may-I" feel.

I've found that after a player does something cool to inhibit a DM's idea of the game most DMs will try and come up with a reason why they can't do it again. And often a reason that makes no sense, or metagames everything to death. Which is a problem. But, if you could somehow pound it into a DMs head via core rules that cool stuff is, uhhh, well... Cool. Then I think we could really be getting somewhere. And I know other RPG's do things similar to this but there is no reasons we can't at least have this as an option for 4e games, or D&D in general.

You could also rules for monster improv too. Give examples of stuff certain monsters would do in a stressful situation, or a more indepth looks at intelligence and attack tactics and methods. . This would make it seems like the rules go both ways for both the player's and the DM's benefit, if your DM is one of those types that thinks the game is DM vs Players, which in my experience are the ones that typically prohibit certain actions for one reason: "I'm the DM and I say".

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PostSubject: Re: Improvisation using it beyond the powers   Fri Jan 17, 2014 2:17 pm

Headhunter Jones wrote:
Garthanos wrote:
A significant purpose for a game system is to help define that page..

In my view it's just one aspect of many that goes into determining whether players and DM are on the same page.

Most being a variation on the term "communication".
Headhunter Jones wrote:

Garthanos wrote:
I do if it improves play - the page 42 guidelines are feeble wrt inducing conditions but one of my favorite examples involves heating weapons with a spell which induces conditions (hard to predict ones) and There are elements in the game itself which are so flexible already

As to the "heating weapons," my response would be "Yes, and..." then negotiate a skill check, DC, effect, and failure condition in accordance with improvised actions or terrain powers. There are powers that already have this effect suggesting that such an effect is possible within the rules,
[/quote]
(Yes, and... or Yes, but... for those twists are nice generalized philosophy/guidelines)
Powers can actually have the opposite impact for many people ie they have a design/opportunity cost therefore accomplishing similar things needs to have a cost. The original improvisation guide-lines were perhaps improved on I hear tripping someone is mentioned explicitly ie inducing condition prone.

Headhunter Jones wrote:

only they don't require skill checks and don't have a chance of failure. If everyone's acting with good intent, there's no issue here and we're still within the rules.
Almost seems like whatever the group agrees to is intrinsically within the rules.

Headhunter Jones wrote:

There was a good series of articles on this at the now discontinued At-Will blog. If I can find them, I'll post it.
Sounds fun.


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“A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.” - Lazarus Long via Robert Heinlein.

One suspects Lugh Long-hand Samildánach (a wright/carpenter, a sailor, a smith/bronze craftsman, a healer, a champion, a harpist, a poet/historian, a sorcerer, cupbearer) would agree.
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PostSubject: Re: Improvisation using it beyond the powers   Fri Jan 17, 2014 2:25 pm

Neat sites you are linking to Headhunter.. Will have to investigate them later.

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One suspects Lugh Long-hand Samildánach (a wright/carpenter, a sailor, a smith/bronze craftsman, a healer, a champion, a harpist, a poet/historian, a sorcerer, cupbearer) would agree.
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PostSubject: Re: Improvisation using it beyond the powers   Fri Jan 17, 2014 2:44 pm

Garthanos wrote:
(Yes, and... or Yes, but...  for those twists are nice generalized philosophy/guidelines)

For me it's always "Yes, and..." except after a failed roll in which case it is "Yes, but..."

I never "Yes, but..." someone's offer because that is blocking and can discourage the very improvisation I hope to encourage. Only resolution with mechanics allow me to say "Yes, but..." As in, "yes, you trip the orc like you wanted, but with that roll, you fall on top of him as well." (Note: That possibility would have been agreed to before we rolled for anything.)

Garthanos wrote:
Powers can actually have the opposite impact for many people ie they have a design/opportunity cost therefore accomplishing similar things needs to have a cost.

True, which is why I think it was smart design on 4e's part to include skill checks and failure conditions for improvised actions and terrain powers. Regular powers seem to represent a given number of times per day you can initiate actions without those risks.

Garthanos wrote:
Yes, as I mentioned, The original improvisation guide-lines were perhaps improved on I hear tripping someone is mentioned explicitly ie inducing condition prone.

There's a "rug" terrain power that lets you do it in a blast!

Garthanos wrote:
Almost seems like whatever the group agrees to is intrinsically within the rules.

I look at it this way: The rules are just mechanics we can use to resolve dramatic conflict so we can use that plus dice to play to find out what happens. They don't empower or disempower you per se. 4e rules are broad enough to include a lot of situations or no situations depending on whether there's a conflict or not. 4e is less about task resolution and more about conflict resolution. If the group agrees there is no conflict in a given situation, then no mechanics come into play and thus they just succeed. This is, of course, while keeping genre expectations and social contract in mind, too.

Glad you enjoy the links!
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PostSubject: Re: Improvisation using it beyond the powers   Fri Jan 17, 2014 3:10 pm

Headhunter Jones wrote:


Garthanos wrote:
Powers can actually have the opposite impact for many people ie they have a design/opportunity cost therefore accomplishing similar things needs to have a cost.

True, which is why I think it was smart design on 4e's part to include skill checks and failure conditions for improvised actions and terrain powers. Regular powers seem to represent a given number of times per day you can initiate actions without those risks.
Your mentioning of risks brought to mind an article I read which was an interesting take on Skill challenges recently (posted a link to it here somewhere). I like voluntary Risk/Reward associations.

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Born To Be Kings and Heros -- From the Ashes Phoenix
“A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.” - Lazarus Long via Robert Heinlein.

One suspects Lugh Long-hand Samildánach (a wright/carpenter, a sailor, a smith/bronze craftsman, a healer, a champion, a harpist, a poet/historian, a sorcerer, cupbearer) would agree.
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PostSubject: Re: Improvisation using it beyond the powers   Fri Jan 17, 2014 4:44 pm

Headhunter Jones wrote:

I look at it this way: The rules are just mechanics we can use to resolve dramatic conflict so we can use that plus dice to play to find out what happens.
That's of course what I consider the other principle reason for having game system. Alongside establishing expectations you have methods for resolving conflict and yes if everyone expecting a given result then there is no conflict. (well between players and story)

I do think players expectations exist before the game and directly relate to genre, in that regards role/story games should serve genres.

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Born To Be Kings and Heros -- From the Ashes Phoenix
“A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.” - Lazarus Long via Robert Heinlein.

One suspects Lugh Long-hand Samildánach (a wright/carpenter, a sailor, a smith/bronze craftsman, a healer, a champion, a harpist, a poet/historian, a sorcerer, cupbearer) would agree.
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