Keeping the rules from players

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Black Leaf

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I've been reading The Elusive Shift and apparently there was a camp that was strongly in favour of keeping players distanced from the rules in the early days of RPGs. They were also in favour of doing all the dice rolls for the players, not letting people know their hit points etc.

Very little of that seems to have survived into modern RPGs, including the OSR. The closest I can think of is Unknown Armies keeping exact HP from players. Well, that and Paranoia (and Paranoia's "the players aren't allowed to know the rules!" may have had an element of satirising those arguments. Certainly, Costik was involved in debates in the fanzines at the time).

What do people think of it as a concept? I'm intrigued by it, but I can see a lot of players pushing hard back against it.

If you can manage it, I can see a much stronger case for keeping setting details from players.

Although a pet hate is that 90s thing of keeping setting secrets from the GM. (Bonus points for those games that failed to complete their planned print schedule and left large numbers of questions unanswered. I'm looking at you Fading Suns).
 

TJS

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I think as games got more complex, this pretty much had to go by the wayside, whether there's a good argument for it or not.

I could see two reasons for doing this:

1) For immersion. I'm not sure it really helps immersion though. If I have an mistaken idea of what my character can do, then it may reduce my immersion to discover through play that they're not able to do the things I think they can.

2) To stop players looking at their character sheets to solve problems. I don't think this will work either. This is precisely what an equipment list is for, and I don't imagine the GM would be keeping that from players.
 

Stan

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I can see the case for certain aspects. Suppose magic is not supposed to be a thing in the game world but some have discovered it, including PCs. There might be only notes from others experimenting. "When I threw this into a fire at midnight on the solstice, a goat appeared." Who knows what parts of that sequence is key and if a goat consistently appears. I did something like this with a CoC campaign. They found a spellbook that was unusually helpful and relative straightforward to use, by CoC standards. At least the first two spells. The third said it was to stop 'extreme blood loss' but it actually used the blood as a catalyst to open a gate, ripping the person apart. Extrapolate that to other things supposed to be largely unknown to PCs.

For everything? I agree with TJS in that it would make players more confused on capabilities which would reduce immersion. And I already feel like GMs have too much to do at times, with people waiting for them to say what happens. This would worsen that greatly.
 

Vidgrip

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When I first started (OD&D), our DM's made every die roll that came after character creation. The rules were not secret by intention, but only DM's owned rule books. Our players just described their actions during play and DM adjudicated everything. We assumed that was how it was supposed to work. I don't remember discussing it. Players did look in the books to see what their spells did, but that was generally only one or two sentences anyway. As a DM I would give vague clues during combat: "These guys have very tough hide, that's why they're hard to hit", but players knew nothing else about monsters, except from their knowledge of folk tales and fantasy novels. Players did know their own hit points and I told them what each hit did so they could deduct the points from their total. They had no idea how many hit points enemies might have and even to this day I would never describe a monster by it's book-name or let them know it's AC or other stats, beyond size.

Was it more immersive? Yes, in my opinion. Over the first few years some players started borrowing the books to read so they could DM too, and eventually the mechanics became less mysterious as more people read and other supplements started to explain things better than the original books. I think it was when 1st Ed AD&D came out that we started letting players take on more of the mechanical burden, like rolling their own attacks (if not damage). We discovered that it was fun for players to roll. I know that sounds obvious, but it wasn't until we had enough dice to try that. Over time the source of fun shifted somewhat from the dangerous mysteries of the fantasy world to the intellectual pleasure of playing the math. Inevitable I guess.
 

Dammit Viktor

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I am staunchly opposed to this. It's one of those things that sounds more immersive at first, but falls apart when you look at them closely-- because the abstract game mechanics that we don't want to yank our players out of the game are also the only means of those players knowing what their characters damned well should know.

Real people know how well they can see in a dark room, to a greater degree of precision than a Referee can describe. If the average number of times a person has jumped per day, over the past month, is a non-zero or even greater-than-one number, they know how far they can jump. And maybe they don't know how many hit points they have or what the orc is rolling for damage‐- but if they get hit, they have a pretty good idea how many more hits like that they can take before they go down.

"Monsters" are a particular offender here, with most D&D monsters being entire species of monsters and the "skill check" to know the most basic info is a trained-only check scaled to the beastie's CR. But if there are trolls in the swamps near your village-- if nobody survives, you don't know there's trolls, and if anybody survives, you have generations of homespun wisdom about avoiding and abjuring them.

Same thing with religions. No judgements here, but you probably grew up nominally in some kind of religion, and most of what you know about your own religion is bullshit... but what you know about it is probably a lot more than the author has written about all the religions in your game world put together. If you spend a lot of time on the other side of the border, you probably know just as much about their religion as their laymen do. If you spend a lot of time talking to missionaries, you probably know as many half-truths about every religion in the Known World as most folk do about their own.

It isn't realistic or immersive to assume that player characters are all blank slates, spontaneously generated from the rotting flesh of a spherical cow.

edit: Nothing I just said applies to games like Vidgrip Vidgrip just described, where players/characters are functioning outside of a known/knowable world and wouldn't have had the capacity to learn its rules. Which is a rad playstyle I've never done nearly enough with.
 
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Simlasa

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I've done this when teaching RPGs to kids who'd never played. Starting off as just 'tell me what you want to do' without dragging down their imagination with any rules. I still let them roll the dice though, with a basic explanation of what they wanted to get.
It seemed very immersive for them... and as time went on I'd explain bits of the rules, and the character sheets. But the notion was for them to initially interact purely through imagination, not the character sheets or rulebooks.

As a Player I'd be happy for it, especially in a horror game. But I'm very much NOT a min-maxer and don't tend to think in terms of the rules when I play.
 
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Agemegos

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I have approximately three thoughts to offer on this, all of which incline me to suggest that it isn’t such a terrific idea in most circumstances.

First, there is the fact that I already have rather too much to do when I am GMing, especially in the exciting bits where I like to keep a quick pace. The more book-keeping and routine tactical and representational choice I can pass off to the character-players the better.

Second, I find as a character-player that the representations of things by rules — such as a given character’s chance of succeeding at a particular task — is an important, indeed critical, way of conveying to me information that my character would certainly understand from a lifetime of experience. My quantitative understanding might be of a different quality than my character’s impressionistic one, but it the the only equivalent we can manage without an unacceptable informational burden. I once played in a published adventure of the Dying Earth RPG, in which the mechanical representation of my character gave me no idea of how confident he ought to be of winning a fight. An opportunity arose in the course of the adventure for the PCs to rescue someone being attacked by something we had never heard of. I think it might have been a “feroce”, but I don’t remember it well. Having no idea how dangerous a feroce was, nor how dangerous my character was, and being a Vancean anti-hero with no inclination to stick my neck out for anybody without a pre-agreed bribe, I simply ignored the encounter. The GM found that unexpected and rather bewildering: he knew what I didn’t, that it was an easy victory with a rich reward. Players need to know what fights they can win, what walls they can climb etc., or otherwise they do not understand the environment and situation that their characters are in, even when the characters would understand those things. The rules of representation are a coded way of giving the character-player vital, need-to-know information that their characters would have in a more intuitive and qualitative form, but would have and that they need to know.

Third, I play mostly RPGs in which there are important tactical choices to make that I do not want to take out of the hands of my character-players when I am a GM and that I do not want taken out of my hands when I am playing a character. For instance in GURPS mêlée combat with a skilled PC or with situational advantages, much depends on the skilful use of and canny gambles with deceptive attack, telegraphic attack, all-out attacks etc. For another example, in James Bond 007 in combat with a highly-skilled character much depends on the canny use of specific attacks. For another example in ForeSight combats a great deal depends on controlling pace and reach by cunning use of movement and actions that force a response. Unless I know the rules the GM might as well play out the fight without my involvement and tell me at the end whether my character won or died. The same is true of e.g. the JB007 chase sequence as is true of many combat systems, and so on. I can’t make sensible choices if I don’t know what rules effects the options have. Sometimes I have to know the rules to use the rules, and using the rules is key to taking part in the game.

The first time I played in a Star Wars RPG (West End version) campaign I generated a “minor Jedi” for my PC, but the GM would not let me read the Force rules and so I had no idea of what I could accomplish with my Sense, Control, and Alter skills (or whatever) or of how reliably I could do anything. I don’t know what the GM expected to come of that, but what did happen is that I quit at the end of the first session and didn’t come back.
 
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TristramEvans

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I've been reading The Elusive Shift and apparently there was a camp that was strongly in favour of keeping players distanced from the rules in the early days of RPGs. They were also in favour of doing all the dice rolls for the players, not letting people know their hit points etc.

Very little of that seems to have survived into modern RPGs, including the OSR. The closest I can think of is Unknown Armies keeping exact HP from players. Well, that and Paranoia (and Paranoia's "the players aren't allowed to know the rules!" may have had an element of satirising those arguments. Certainly, Costik was involved in debates in the fanzines at the time).

What do people think of it as a concept? I'm intrigued by it, but I can see a lot of players pushing hard back against it.

I don't specifically keep rules from players, but when I introduce someone new to roleplaying, generally I just tell them they don't need to worry about the rules, just roleplay their character and I'll ask them for dice rolls when I need them (I'm aesthetically completely opposed to just the GM rolling, the same way I hate games like Dungeonworld that makes players roll everything). I want them to think in ters of their character, not look for the "correct" solution in the rules.

Although a pet hate is that 90s thing of keeping setting secrets from the GM. (Bonus points for those games that failed to complete their planned print schedule and left large numbers of questions unanswered. I'm looking at you Fading Suns).

Yep, that still pisses me off.
 

Ravenswing

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+1 to Dammit Victor.

Seriously, except for the simplest of game systems, how many of us can take our longest played PC, and from memory, without needing to think about it, rattle off all the numbers off of the sheet?

Hell, I was a playtester in the system I GM. I've been GMing it for 36 years now. And I still keep the rulebooks at my elbow each and every session. I do not have an eidetic memory, I have not memorized the books, and I'd just as soon not be one of those GMs where everything the players are allowed to do is up to my caprice of the moment. Cue the inevitable rules debates, while we're talking about preserving immersion.
 

AsenRG

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I've been reading The Elusive Shift and apparently there was a camp that was strongly in favour of keeping players distanced from the rules in the early days of RPGs. They were also in favour of doing all the dice rolls for the players, not letting people know their hit points etc.

Very little of that seems to have survived into modern RPGs, including the OSR. The closest I can think of is Unknown Armies keeping exact HP from players. Well, that and Paranoia (and Paranoia's "the players aren't allowed to know the rules!" may have had an element of satirising those arguments. Certainly, Costik was involved in debates in the fanzines at the time).
Frei Kriegspiel still has it, so by extension, FKR:shade:.

What do people think of it as a concept? I'm intrigued by it, but I can see a lot of players pushing hard back against it.
It works if you can get players buy-in.
It doesn't work without players buy-in...but that's a criticism that can be applied to pretty much all mechanics:grin:.

If you can manage it, I can see a much stronger case for keeping setting details from players.
...of course, who doesn't do that:shock:?

Although a pet hate is that 90s thing of keeping setting secrets from the GM. (Bonus points for those games that failed to complete their planned print schedule and left large numbers of questions unanswered. I'm looking at you Fading Suns).
That's, by definition, impossible. If the GM doesn't know about it, it has not happened.
The publishers might think the setting I'm running is a certain way...but if I'm running it, I know better.
And if it ends up being dissimilar to their idea? Their problem, not mine:thumbsup:.

It requires too much faith on the part of the players. Something I always find to be in short supply.
Alas, but then I've found it's quite hard to play with this kind of players regardless of the game:shade:.

I'm still, usually, running it pretty much transparently...but that's for my convenience.
When I first started (OD&D), our DM's made every die roll that came after character creation. The rules were not secret by intention, but only DM's owned rule books. Our players just described their actions during play and DM adjudicated everything. We assumed that was how it was supposed to work. I don't remember discussing it. Players did look in the books to see what their spells did, but that was generally only one or two sentences anyway. As a DM I would give vague clues during combat: "These guys have very tough hide, that's why they're hard to hit", but players knew nothing else about monsters, except from their knowledge of folk tales and fantasy novels. Players did know their own hit points and I told them what each hit did so they could deduct the points from their total. They had no idea how many hit points enemies might have and even to this day I would never describe a monster by it's book-name or let them know it's AC or other stats, beyond size.

Was it more immersive? Yes, in my opinion. Over the first few years some players started borrowing the books to read so they could DM too, and eventually the mechanics became less mysterious as more people read and other supplements started to explain things better than the original books.
Totally fits my experience as well. Except I started with knowing the rules and shifted to just exploring...I think the catalysts were a mix of UA2, CoC7, Frei Kriegspiel, and some PbP games we played where there wasn't a convenient online diceroller.

Over time the source of fun shifted somewhat from the dangerous mysteries of the fantasy world to the intellectual pleasure of playing the math. Inevitable I guess.
True, except I disagree about the "inevitable" part:devil:.

I am staunchly opposed to this. It's one of those things that sounds more immersive at first, but falls apart when you look at them closely-- because the abstract game mechanics that we don't want to yank our players out of the game are also the only means of those players knowing what their characters damned well should know.
Yeah, but that's a failure of the GM-player communication. Just like playing freeform with certain GMs is...trying for your nerves, IME.

Real people know how well they can see in a dark room, to a greater degree of precision than a Referee can describe. If the average number of times a person has jumped per day, over the past month, is a non-zero or even greater-than-one number, they know how far they can jump.
That's a good rule against using randomizers for jumping. For observation I'm less certain, people do miss details in good light...:tongue:

And maybe they don't know how many hit points they have or what the orc is rolling for damage‐- but if they get hit, they have a pretty good idea how many more hits like that they can take before they go down.
That, however, doesn't fit my experience.

"Monsters" are a particular offender here, with most D&D monsters being entire species of monsters and the "skill check" to know the most basic info is a trained-only check scaled to the beastie's CR. But if there are trolls in the swamps near your village-- if nobody survives, you don't know there's trolls, and if anybody survives, you have generations of homespun wisdom about avoiding and abjuring them.
Probably also mixed with some parts that are neither required not useful...

Same thing with religions. No judgements here, but you probably grew up nominally in some kind of religion, and most of what you know about your own religion is bullshit... but what you know about it is probably a lot more than the author has written about all the religions in your game world put together. If you spend a lot of time on the other side of the border, you probably know just as much about their religion as their laymen do. If you spend a lot of time talking to missionaries, you probably know as many half-truths about every religion in the Known World as most folk do about their own.
...and a skill/Career/whatever represents exactly that. It's just that most laymen have Religion (own)-0, in Traveller terms.

It isn't realistic or immersive to assume that player characters are all blank slates, spontaneously generated from the rotting flesh of a spherical cow.
Of course not, but I don't think anyone is arguing for that.

edit: Nothing I just said applies to games like Vidgrip Vidgrip just described, where players/characters are functioning outside of a known/knowable world and wouldn't have had the capacity to learn its rules. Which is a rad playstyle I've never done nearly enough with.

Funny, because that's what most people assume adventurers to be actually doing: operating outside of the known world.

+1 to Dammit Victor.

Seriously, except for the simplest of game systems, how many of us can take our longest played PC, and from memory, without needing to think about it, rattle off all the numbers off of the sheet?
I just tried. Success.
Granted, the system is Traveller, but that's not my fault that Boris is my longest-played PC at the moment:gunslinger:!

Hell, I was a playtester in the system I GM. I've been GMing it for 36 years now. And I still keep the rulebooks at my elbow each and every session. I do not have an eidetic memory, I have not memorized the books, and I'd just as soon not be one of those GMs where everything the players are allowed to do is up to my caprice of the moment. Cue the inevitable rules debates, while we're talking about preserving immersion.
That's a fair approach. I've just found the other approach to work as well.
 

Séadna

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It's probably hard for players to know exactly what their character can do/is good at with literally no knowledge of the rules, but I've played in a few games where we only knew the basic details of the core mechanic in order to read our character sheet but didn't know most of the rule details. I found it fine, in some cases more immersive. Similarly I don't mind if only the GM rolls.
 

Malleustein

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When the game was original Dungeons & Dragons, I can easily see why Gary and Dave found it easy to keep the players in the dark. The rules were few and far between, and mostly of concern for the referee. The players really only needed to know what their characters were capable of.

As role-playing games swiftly became more numerous, more complicated and more codified, the option to hide 'the engine under the hood' turned into a serious chore for the referee.

The last time I did this was with Kult, around 1998. I kept all rules and dice rolls hidden from my players. It worked well, and first edition Kult was a fairly simple set of rules, so the players could gauge what the characters were capable of quite accurately.

I haven't felt the need to do so again. It is more work for me as referee, and I'm all for lightening the workload, not adding to it.
 

StonesThree

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A lot of players will never read the rulebook or make any effort to learn the rules anyway. So this tends to be the default in a lot of tables I have played at.

The other bit - not letting the players know what hitpoints they have, etc - just sounds like making more work for the GM. And I struggle to see how it would work in a way that doesn't piss me off.

As for Top Secret GM Setting Knowledge... yeah... I mean great in theory, but will the players ever learn about any of it? And will they care when they do? Will it make any difference to the campaign? And, how long are we going to be playing this campaign before we get to all the juicy secret stuff? A lot of it really feels like its intended to be revealed over years of game play which isn't how the gamers I know operate. We play campaigns for 3 - 12 months and then switch to something else. Sadly never going back to previous games as the group membership is reconfigured as people leave and new people join.

And I'm not sure I would want to be in a campaign that ended up like the X-Files where the alien invasion was teased for 10 seasons and ended up a whole heap of nothing. Start the damn campaign with the alien invasion. Give us One Big Secret upfront so we feel like our PCs are important and can use this info to save the world. Or puts of PC's in danger. Rather then 10 levels of pointless dungeon crawls and then we stumble across the Lost Hymn book of Roger the Heretic which reveals the backstory the GM has been pissing his panties about all year. By which point nobody cares.
 

Rich H

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I obfuscated the rules and development of PCs in my Amber game but then that was diceless so I think it is/was easier to do and also fitted the style of game and what it was trying to do. Players would generate their characters but they could 'buy up' their attributes so others wouldn't know for certain how they compared. Points spent beyond character creation (via a wish list) were deliberately vague; giving a real sense to the players that they weren't sure how much their character's had learnt of a specific power or how well they had developed a specific attribute until they stress tested it - ie, put it up against someone/thing else and/or where something was at stake. Also, when they took damage, I'd deliberately not tell them the level of damage but rather describe it - that would also be coloured by the character's personality, experience and perceptions too so couldn't always be relied upon.

I've definitely used 'hidden damage' in many games (MERP springs to mind) as I think it adds to the tension in a good way so there is something to be said about doing that in certain games. Other games though, I don't think its possible - eg, where you may lose dice from your dice pool because of injury, etc. But, I think in general, I always try to do it where possible and where it would enhance the game experience. Hiding all the rules though; hmmmmm, nah. That sounds like an awful lot of work for 99% of games on the market now.
 

David Johansen

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I don't think it's fair to blame that entirely on players, though - the "bad GM" stories come from somewhere, after all. There are assholes on both sides of the screen.
I think, it's often different play expectations that cause the problem. D&D posits a pretty specific and adversarial type of game, all those tricks and traps cast the GM quite firmly in the role of opponent. I find players coming from D&D into other styles of game play often keep trying to play D&D: "search for traps, loot the bodies, kill the enemy."

Alas, but then I've found it's quite hard to play with this kind of players regardless of the game:shade:.
True enough, which is why I pretty much stopped running in store games lately.
 

Brock Savage

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What do people think of it as a concept?
I like to make informed decisions and hate playing "mother may I?" with a GM. I like to be able to look at my character sheet and think, "Yeah, my dude has the right skills and abilities to overcome this challenge," instead of negotiating with the GM, attempting to "read" or "game" the GM, or pixelbitching.
 

TristramEvans

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Obviously, the capacity for this approach to be successful directly correlates to the degree in which a given system models the reality of the game world vs "because game" abstractions, and depends on a mutual trust existing between the GM and players. The whole "mother may I?" complaint is predicated on the idea that player characters cannot simply do whatever they realistically could do if they were actual people living in the gameworld.

Wizard: "I pick up the breastplate we found and strap it on"
DM: "your class can't use metal armour"
Wizard: "What? No, I'm literally just slipping it on"
DM: "Magic users don't know how to wear metal armour"
Wizard "Well, presumably it straps on the same as my leather armour breastplate"
DM: "Yeah but wizards aren't trained in metal armour, they just can't wear it. It's a class restriction"
Wizard: "Listen, I'm just putting this thing on my chest and tying the straps"
DM: "It doesn't work, you're the wrong class."
Wizard: "(sigh) fine, fuck, whatever, I'll pick up that sword then"
DM "It immediately falls out of your hands"
Wizard:
giphy.gif
 
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Black Leaf

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Obviously, the capacity for this approach to be successful directly correlates to the degree in which a given system models the reality of the game world vs "because game" abstractions, and depends on a mutual trust existing between the GM and players. The whole "mother may I?" complaint is predicated on the idea that player characters cannot simply do whatever they realistically could do if they were actual people living in the gameworld.
I think that has partly been lost because of the break with wargames. For people early on, the idea that the referee would just make rulings based on a judgement of what would be realistic would have been a lot more familiar.
 

Brock Savage

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I can understand that. Especially as "high trust GMing" and "shitty viking hat GMing" look very similar at first glance.
My dislike for that style is less about fear of a GM trying to screw me and more about a lack of objective standards. There's a big difference between "I think this plan will be best because it leverages these mechanics for high chance of success" and "I think this plan will be best because the GM will think it's a cool idea and make it easy."
 

Brock Savage

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They sound like pretty equally bad gaming
Why do you feel that using the in-game mechanics to gauge a character's chances of success is bad gaming? Isn't it simply an abstraction of how people estimate their own ability to overcome challenges in real life? The point of the rules is to have an explicit agreement on the setting, system, and genre because otherwise the answer to questions like, "Can I survive a jump off this cliff?" are unpredictable and dependent on GM fiat.
 

TristramEvans

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Why do you feel that using the in-game mechanics to gauge a character's chances of success is bad gaming? Isn't it simply an abstraction of how people estimate their own ability to overcome challenges in real life? The point of the rules is to have an explicit agreement on the setting, system, and genre because otherwise the answer to questions like, "Can I survive a jump off this cliff?" are unpredictable and dependent on GM fiat.

If the answer to the question "can I survive a jump off this cliff?" isn't obvious based on the circumstances (and you aren't playing Toon), then the game has no verisimilitude.
 

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The players really only needed to know what their characters were capable of.

And right there, that's the key.

Almost always, if the rules are kept from the players, they don't know. They can only guess, and if they guess *wrong* ... well. And it's not as if I haven't run into GMs whose notions of capabilities and verisimilitude came from Hollywood, dog-eared novels or out of their asses. Like Brock Savage says, I do NOT fucking want to play Mother May I? or negotiate with the GM for things I damn well know my character should be able to do. Hell, I walked away from a campaign having had a very similar conversation as Tristam's Wizard-vs-GM one.
 

lgm

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Back in the 70s and 80s, I just assumed everyone started playing rpgs with just a character sheet in front of them and little to no knowledge of any of the rules. The DMs would roll everything because there was only one set of dice. Worked perfectly well. We were all friends and trusted the DM not to be an ass.

Eventually we all learned the rules and bought our own dice to run games. But today, when we bring in new players, someone helps them make a character and they really have no clue of the rules. They learn as they go but they still trust the DM to be fair. It may help that we describe to them that the DM adjudicates the rules and not the one 'running the game'. Again, we have been playing amongst good friends for decades which has helped me avoid most of the terrible DM stories I read!

I would have no problem playing a game without knowing the rules again. I assume even the early D&D games, they still had a character sheet or at least a list of equipment and notes.
 

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As a player, that's not so much of an issue for me. Back in the day I played tons of unfamiliar games on a "tell me what you do I'll tell you what to roll" basis, and using pregen. We used to switch systems and rotated GMs pretty often, and if you bouncing from Gurps one week to Dangerous Journeys or Cyberpunk 2020 the next, it's not practical to expect everyone to have the right books and mastered the rules. We still do the switching and rotating, but the systems we tend to use are good deal lighter these days. I am OK with this approach. I tend focus more on the character's personality, motivations and assorted things that aren't often codified into the system anyway.

As a I GM, I not so keen on this. As others have mentioned, it's a lot more work for me. Also, people join a game for a variety of reasons and while I don't get a whole lot of enjoyment delving in the mechanics of a game, enough players do and I would not want to take that away from them. I'll gladly help a newbie or anyone struggling with the rules, but I would want to prevent player who want to engage with the mechanics doing so. I am not the fun police.
 
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ffilz

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I'm mostly of the opinion that the players should be made aware of the rules. I don't expect new players to know all the rules, and always encourage players to describe what they want their character to do and then we'll figure out the rules. I generally don't have an issue with gaming the rules, but if we find some corner case, I reserve the option to make a ruling contrary to the written rules. Since I tend to to play fantasy games (sometimes with SF trappings...), I always assume that things may stretch reality and people may be able to survive falls of cliffs or other "unrealistic" things.

I'm not sure I've ever played a game with truly hidden rules, but I have played a few times with GMs whose fiat rulings didn't match expectations and those instances were not fun because they come off as "gotcha!"
 

Simlasa

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The rules I've done it with are BRP (the BGB!) and B/X D&D. Both simple enough that I could easily just tell the Players, "You're sure you can make the jump" vs. "You might be able to make the jump". For magic I just described the basics of what their spells could do/not do (no one had a lot of spells starting out).

Now I'm wondering if/how this could be done with something like Mythras, specifically it's combat maneuvers. "You've created an opening with your attack, is there anything you'd like to try?" is maybe too vague an offer... but not that different from DCC's 'Mighty Deeds' where the Player just comes up with an idea, which I like better than choosing off a list.
 
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David Johansen

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On the other hand, it's only natural to tell new players not to worry too much about the rules. If people had to read all the rules to learn to play this hobby wouldn't have gotten very far.
 

Nick J

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I like it when players understand the core mechanic(s) of a game, if for no other reason that they can ballpark their chances of doing a thing, but I'm very much in my comfort zone as a GM when most of what happens is "Tell me what you want to do and I'll tell you what to roll" and I gravitate to systems (like BRP) that enable this kind of approach.
 

robertsconley

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I've been reading The Elusive Shift and apparently there was a camp that was strongly in favour of keeping players distanced from the rules in the early days of RPGs. They were also in favour of doing all the dice rolls for the players, not letting people know their hit points etc.

Very little of that seems to have survived into modern RPGs, including the OSR.

It faded because like exploring a blank hex grid, it is a niche taste that for most stifles the fun of play. The things one has to do to make it work well are considerable especially when it comes to consistency. It requires the referee to be a great communicator and coach and even then it consuming a lot of verbal bandwidth that normally handled by using a reference.
 

David Johansen

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I think Tristram's example is really how D&D tells you things work. Especially basic versions. Sure Advanced adds non-proficiency penalties but basic always leans into the restrictions and structure. One of my big problems when I tried to run D&D at first was that I'd read the book and had an understanding of how the game should be played but the players didn't. The game in the book is very structured and quite different than what most people actually played.
 
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