Still struggling to get the balance of Play To Find Out games.

Still struggling to get the balance of Play To Find Out games.

Originally shared by Jeremy Riley

Still struggling to get the balance of Play To Find Out games. Love their potential but can’t seem to get the GM – Player input ratio right.

I think next time the players come through a manhole, into a room and then out another door – the player should tell me what’s there. I’ve telegraphed the approaching threat and the players want something cool to happen to their character.

Perhaps they lurch out onto a balcony and clamber onto the roof. Maybe they see five guards with crossbows break down a door but are sure they can make it to the other side and into the dumb waiter. Perchance they run straight into Two-Ton McGee who owes a big favour to the players but has also been hired to kill them, only just discovering their identities.

Do others struggle with finding this balance? Is there a quick release? 🙂

8 thoughts on “Still struggling to get the balance of Play To Find Out games.”

  1. Guessing you are talking about Apocalypse World and the games coming from that:

    Edit: Didn’t see this was in this community…

    This is actually what you shouldn’t do. You are adressing the characters. The character doesn’t know what is in a room they never have been in until you tell them. You can ask them about things they know, things they heard about etc. 

    Also a player has no principle to guide them in setting up things about the world. A player could easily say “it is full of gold that is 100% safe and not a trap. Also 12 pretty boys that will do all we want from them”. A good player of course will most lkely not do that as it goes counter to what makes the game fun but still… 

    As a MC it is still your job to portray the world and make decisions. You can ask the players about everything you are interested in that they would know about. 

    Playing to find out is way more about going into a session with an open mind and let things happen as they happen. You have fronts that help you make the world push against the characters. So do that. 

    Also you should definetly read this post that better explains why you shouldn’t ask characters about things they don’t know: 

  2. What Tim Franzke says. “Playing to find out what happens as an MC is about creating situations/challenges/conflicts for the PCs, but settling on a solution. Let the situation progress based on the PCs’ actions, moves, and what makes sense in the fiction. If you decide on an “answer”, the game will fight you and it will be unsatisfying.

    Always Say:

    What the principles demand.ƒ ƒ

    What the rules demand.ƒ ƒ

    What your prep demands.ƒ ƒ

    What honesty demands.

    Prep is still in there. It keeps the world real and in motion.

  3. When I run the game as a super-light demo, or in first session mode, I’ll often ask players things like “why were you coming to this city in the first place?” or “what in these tracks tells you about the monster?” and genuinely have nothing planned for the nature of the city or the monster. 

    I suppose there is a difference there in that I’m introducing things their characters are expected to know. So in your examples I’d still be providing half the prompt — the door opens out into a balcony with a sheer drop beyond, but you’ve got a way forward, what is it? You barge into the same room as local security, what did you learn about them when you were casing the joint? Oh hey, it’s your old buddy what’s-his-name — no, seriously, what’s his name?

    I also come armed with a combination of Mike Riverso’s Fourth Page table and Jim Pinto’s Toolcards deck and give the players freedom to punt if there’s nothing they’re keen on, either.

  4. What Tim said.

    Explain to your players that they have narrative authority over their own characters, their thoughts and actions. The player and the GM share narrative authority over what the characters can reasonably know. In this case the GM may ask the players about stuff the characters know, but he has the last say, since he has the responsibility to keep the world coherent. So the player cannot say “I know a guy who does backyard brain surgery” in a Arthurian setting. Lastly the GM has narrative authority over everything else.

    Example: If the player narrates what a painting in his character’s home look like, it is completely legit. If the player narrates what a painting looks like in a castle they just entered for the first time it is not.

    Playing to find out simply means that the GM cannot prepare any sort of story arc beforehand, like so many published modules for other RPGs do. The GM preps the Fronts, Dangers, Grim Portents and Imending doom, throw the characters into the mix and then sees what happens.

    It is the exact opposite of railroading.

  5. The RPGpundit wrote a blog page on why giving narrative control to players is bad. He is somewhat right in that it may lead to loss of immersion if players can just alter the world at a whim. But he is mostly wrong because he does not understand who has narrative authority over what in the games that he so loves to hate.

  6. My feeling is that the point of asking players questions is to give them the power to guide the game toward things that interest them and to weave their characters into relationships in the setting, and secondarily to harness the extra brainpower toward interesting worldbuilding. But when it comes to actually collaborating on the story, it’s generally more fun for people to adopt a single point of view and push it as hard as they can, and that also often leads to more honest tension and conflict.  

    So, it’s generally good to ask them questions that pertain directly to their character’s backstory (“why did you come to this city in the first place?”  “why is the Duke’s daughter mad at you?”  “You’ve seen those masks before – where was that?”) or else big picture things well removed from any current conflict (“You’ve heard a legend of King Ralph.  What was it?”)

    Sometimes it can also be fun when you need to make a hard move and can’t think of one, to prompt a different player, “Wow, Gareth really fumbled that trick shot badly.  What did he do wrong?”  But in this case, you’re just fishing for ideas.  It definitely remains your final decision as DM what happens to Gareth.

    At the beginning of the first session, all kinds of things can count as backstory, up to and including “You’ve come to this dungeon looking for something – what is it?”  But after you’ve been playing for a while, it should be more of a way to broaden the characters and tie them in to new situations.

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