Intent is Important

Posted: December 6, 2013 by Jacob Zimmerman in Uncategorized

This is going to be a really short article for me. I’m mostly trying to reflect a point that the Angry DM’s article makes. I highly recommend the Angry DM, by the way. As his nickname implies a little, he can go off on some angry rants sometimes, but that’s mostly on twitter. His blog is mostly full of some amazingly well-thought-out articles on gaming.

Anyway, one of the points in his article is that players should state the intent of their actions in RPGs. Many players will simply say what they’re doing, and everyone else at the table doesn’t know why (but often assumes a reason). The GM agrees and allows the roll, and the player narrates something completely unexpected, and often it is something that the GM would have run differently had he or she known what the player was intending. Then an argument might ensue.

I’m sorry that I can’t give an example (from real life or made up), but I’ve experienced it a couple times in my life as a gamer. It’s not fun for anyone. Ever since playing Fate, though, my group has gotten a lot better at it.

Why Fate? Fate has it’s four actions, and you can describe your character as doing something, but unless you state the intent, it can sometimes be confusing as to which action you want to take. Most often, the confusion is between Attack and Create Advantage.

Anyway, as I’ve said, you can’t just state what you’re doing; you have to say why you’re doing it, what you intend to accomplish by doing what you’re doing. If you’re a GM and a player doesn’t give you his or her intention, ask for it. It’s simple, just ask, “What are you try to accomplish with that?” The only times this is not necessary is when the player says their attacking or when you’ve told them to make the check.

Now go out there and play nice.

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Comments
  1. Delos says:

    An example for this article.

    The thief tells the GM “I want to hide from the guards.”
    GM “OK roll stealth”
    ‘rolls dice’
    GM “You succeed the guards don’t see you.”
    Thief “Cool, I get behind the king and back stab him.”
    GM “Ok roll…wait…you what?”
    Thief “You said I was hidden from the guards. I want to sneak up on the king and kill him.”
    GM “I thought you just wanted to stay out of sight of the guards at the other end of the room. Not traverse about 100 feet, undetected by the 20 or so guards in the room that are surrounding the king. Ok let’s back up a bit…”

    This happened to my group once. After that the thief made sure to tell the GM what he was planning just so that we didn’t have any more snafus.

    • Anonymous says:

      to which I as the gm would allow it.
      “congrats you just killed the king. roll stealth to see if the guards noticed”
      “you succeed. a few days later the is rioting in the streets. you have just sparked a war of succession”

      • Jacob Zimmerman says:

        The point is that the GM likely would have increased the difficulty of the roll for the player to get all the way to the king. It’s not about whether it’s okay to try to stab the king (though, sometimes the reason the GM should know is so he/she can simply say no. I know it isn’t kosher to say no to players anymore, but sometimes it’s better if you do.)

  2. Delos says:

    In a system like FATE you can get away with what Anon said, but if you are playing D&D then the need to be picky comes up a lot more.

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