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Magic Tea Party

 
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Archmage
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PostPosted: Wed Sep 16, 2009 11:26 pm    Post subject: Magic Tea Party Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Hello to The Gaming Den! After a few months of solid lurking, I think it's about time I actually posted something. Specifically, I have a question, and a forum search doesn't turn up on any threads answering it the way I'd like, so I apologize if there have been threads about this before and I'm not seeing them.

There's a lot of hate for MTP around here, and I'm kind of curious to see people's individual rationales for their opinions. I get that MTP is a bad "system" and that a game that claims to provide rules for X shouldn't tell you "just MTP when X comes up," because to do so is bad design. I understand that a major issue is that MTP is free; you shouldn't spend $100 on rulebooks only to have huge sections of the rules essentially tell you to MTP, or for the game designer to respond to complaints about "missing" rules with "just MTP it." MTP isn't a good "game" because it doesn't have meaningful mechanics, and if we're not playing a game more complex than MTP, we might as well all be five and playing Cops n' Robbers with a referee.

It's not my intent at this time to try to attack anyone's specific reasoning; I just feel like I'm listening to a conversation and I missed the part where we decided that Axiom #1 was MTP = bad. Do I kinda get it, or are there other important points I'm not seeing?
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Lago PARANOIA
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PostPosted: Wed Sep 16, 2009 11:46 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Magic Teaparty isn't axiomatically bad, but it has a few issues with it that makes it generally a non-starter for the kinds of games we discuss.

1) The biggest issue with it is that it provides no way of settling an argument if there's a conflict. You mentioned Cops and Robbers; well, the reason why that game model gets mocked so much is because of the 'Bang! You're dead.' 'No, you missed me!' issue. When a game gets to that point, either the game has to stop altogether (which is the ultimate measure of failure for any system) or people have to agree to a compromise. Compromising creates additional problems.

2) Probably the core conceit of genre is that it excludes some story elements and includes some story elements by definition. Which is fine; the problem comes to play where someone wants to introduce a story element that other people don't like. Classic example includes people wanting to play non-standard races or equipping their fighter with a gun. Rules exist to do things like exclude Mind Flayer PCs and people with guns.

3) The other problem with compromise is deciding if there is a conflict and the sides are intractable, who should win. Tabletop Games generally state that unless the DM says otherwise, the rules should win.

The problem with letting the DM control everything is that not everyone agrees with everything the DM rules upon. This can create a lot of problems if PCs introduce activities where they do or don't know if they're going to agree with the DM on. While people will generally keep playing at a game where a DM vetoes one or two of their minor choices, a game where the DM vetoes important choices creates resentment or a disincentive to play.

Imagine if you announced that you were going to run a heroic fantasy game based off of Harry Potter but didn't tell the players which system you're going to use, that you'd tell them whether their choices were okay or not when they got to the table. It increases resentment as choices are vetoed on the spot. Or accepted--for example, allowing someone to play Van Helsing as a rapist in a Harry Potter campaign might make the one player happy but make everyone else mad. Rules let people know ahead of time whether their input will be accepted and gives people enough time to search for alternatives or leave/decline the game ahead of time without creating hard feelings.

4) Even if a compromise is reached, Magic Tea Party can end up wasting time. For example, if a half-orc bard wants to convince a racist elven general to aid her people, just the discussion between DM and PCs of how this would be accomplished may take more time than the people at the table would want. If there isn't a way to resolve these things, the arbiter has to come up with a solution every time people want to do things there isn't a pre-set agreement on, which reinforces the problem of 3.


On this board, which primarily caters to Dungeons and Dragons, the reason why Magic Tea Party is looked down upon so much is that D&D is an authoritarian game which requires a lot of input and has a lot of conflict in it. The problems created by MTP are so intractable for the kind of game D&D is that proposals of 'just Rule Zero it' have scorn heaped upon it. It'd be like telling two surgeons 'Big Bob's Book of Phrenology has an answer on that!'.
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Josh Kablack wrote:
Your freedom to make rulings up on the fly is in direct conflict with my freedom to interact with an internally consistent narrative. Your freedom to run/play a game without needing to understand a complex rule system is in direct conflict with my freedom to play a character whose abilities and flaws function as I intended within that ruleset. Your freedom to add and change rules in the middle of the game is in direct conflict with my ability to understand that rules system before I decided whether or not to join your game.

In short, your entire post is dismissive of not merely my intelligence, but my agency. And I don't mean agency as a player within one of your games, I mean my agency as a person. You do not want me to be informed when I make the fundamental decisions of deciding whether to join your game or buying your rules system.


Last edited by Lago PARANOIA on Wed Sep 16, 2009 11:48 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Caedrus
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PostPosted: Wed Sep 16, 2009 11:48 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Wait, who are all these people here who are supposedly saying that they hate magic tea party?

I remember quite a few people, including Frank, saying that magic tea party was a pretty nice game, all told. I certainly don't have any problem with magic tea party.

Archmage wrote:
It's not my intent at this time to try to attack anyone's specific reasoning; I just feel like I'm listening to a conversation and I missed the part where we decided that Axiom #1 was MTP = bad. Do I kinda get it, or are there other important points I'm not seeing?


I missed the part where that was a common theme on the Den. It would be really helpful if you could actually give us a source here, because I for one think that you're working on a misconception.

MTP is a pretty good game, all told. However, people will get frustrated when a designer tries to cover for their own crappiness by saying "MTP it" because it's a copout. As you said, if we're paying 100$ for rulebooks we should get some rules we haven't come up with ourselves by age 3. With these and other complaints, MTP itself isn't really the target of the frustration.


Last edited by Caedrus on Wed Sep 16, 2009 11:55 pm; edited 3 times in total
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Lago PARANOIA
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PostPosted: Wed Sep 16, 2009 11:52 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

The final failing of Magic Tea Party with an authoritarian referee is that it can create problems with favoritism.

If someone declares that one PC's action worked and another PC's actions didn't, the person whose action failed might suspect that the DM is on the side of th e first or is against the latter.

Regardless of whether or not the second PC is right, the illusion of favoritism, whether it's intentional or not, creates resentment and results in people having less fun. Having an authority that states the rules or outcomes of certain actions ahead of time helps keep the DM free of the veneer of favoritism; if the second PC fails they believe it is because of their own luck/fault rather than that of the authority.
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Josh Kablack wrote:
Your freedom to make rulings up on the fly is in direct conflict with my freedom to interact with an internally consistent narrative. Your freedom to run/play a game without needing to understand a complex rule system is in direct conflict with my freedom to play a character whose abilities and flaws function as I intended within that ruleset. Your freedom to add and change rules in the middle of the game is in direct conflict with my ability to understand that rules system before I decided whether or not to join your game.

In short, your entire post is dismissive of not merely my intelligence, but my agency. And I don't mean agency as a player within one of your games, I mean my agency as a person. You do not want me to be informed when I make the fundamental decisions of deciding whether to join your game or buying your rules system.
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Psychic Robot
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PostPosted: Wed Sep 16, 2009 11:56 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

I would be willing to wager that Archmage thinks that the majority of TGD hate Magical Tea Party because of the scorn heaped upon 4e for swathes of rules going missing and left up to the DM to handwave it or generate rules on the spot.
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Caedrus
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PostPosted: Wed Sep 16, 2009 11:58 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Psychic Robot wrote:
I would be willing to wager that Archmage thinks that the majority of TGD hate Magical Tea Party because of the scorn heaped upon 4e for swathes of rules going missing and left up to the DM to handwave it or generate rules on the spot.


That would be an example of a misconception. Holes in nonsensical rules is bad, but that has nothing to do with MTP being bad. What's bad is that *you have to use different rules* (like MTP) because the ones you're given *don't work* and thus aren't worth the paper they're printed on.


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PhoneLobster
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PostPosted: Thu Sep 17, 2009 12:04 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

The other problem with just making shit up is that it often is in fact shit.

The stuff you pull out of thin air at 2 seconds notice is not always good stuff. Sometimes it is, but often it is really bad in its impact on the game, the story the players or the rules.

If you instead spent just 5 minutes making it up in advance in the form of formal predetermined rules you can filter a lot of crap out. The more you do that the less crap in the final product.
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Archmage
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PostPosted: Thu Sep 17, 2009 12:06 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Lago PARANOIA wrote:
On this board, which primarily caters to Dungeons and Dragons, the reason why Magic Tea Party is looked down upon so much is that D&D is an authoritarian game which requires a lot of input and has a lot of conflict in it. The problems created by MTP are so intractable for the kind of game D&D is that proposals of 'just Rule Zero it' have scorn heaped upon it. It'd be like telling two surgeons 'Big Bob's Book of Phrenology has an answer on that!'.

This makes sense, and is more or less the answer I was expecting, which is good. Thank you.

Caedrus wrote:
I remember quite a few people, including Frank, saying that magic tea party was a pretty nice game, all told. I certainly don't have any problem with magic tea party.

Well, it's not so much that people say "I really hate MTP," it's that when arguments about design break out eventually someone inevitably brings up MTP in a negative light. Usually this is because someone has invoked Oberoni or some roughly equivalent line of thinking, so it's warranted--telling someone to MTP doesn't actually answer a game design question.

The 4e discussions are a good example of that happening, but now that I'm thinking about it, the reason MTP is brought up there is because the answer "just MTP it" by a 4e fanboy is essentially telling you "give WotC your money, then don't use the books you paid for."

Caedrus wrote:
What's bad is that *you have to use different rules* (like MTP) because the ones you're given *don't work* and thus aren't worth the paper they're printed on.

This is what I figured, and I appreciate the explicit clarification. As a result, it seems safe to say that a system that is very much designed to make use of a lot of MTP (White Wolf/Storyteller comes to mind) is okay because that was an intentional goal.
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Lago PARANOIA
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PostPosted: Thu Sep 17, 2009 12:27 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Oh, yeah, one more failing of Magic Tea Party.

In MTP, the chance of having same inputs producing different outputs goes up enormously.

For example, say that there wasn't a social system in place and the DM was running two identical adventures that had a climax of 'convince the racist elven general to aid the orcs'. The outcome of this encounter would be decided by who roleplayed their characters the best.

So a character in one group decided to have their bard spin a sob story about how this is what the general's sister would have wanted. The DM declares that the elven general is moved by this and they win the challenge.

But a character in the other group decided to have their bard spin a sob story about how this is what the general's sister would have wanted. The DM declares that the elven general's heart remains hard at this and they lose the challenge.

In a game which can have a range of very precise inputs and outputs it is critically important to have if not identical outcomes then outcomes at least as consistent as you can manage. Otherwise you don't have characters knowing whether a fireball or a delayed blast fireball is the right spell to take down a troll. That's very bad for games like D&D.
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Josh Kablack wrote:
Your freedom to make rulings up on the fly is in direct conflict with my freedom to interact with an internally consistent narrative. Your freedom to run/play a game without needing to understand a complex rule system is in direct conflict with my freedom to play a character whose abilities and flaws function as I intended within that ruleset. Your freedom to add and change rules in the middle of the game is in direct conflict with my ability to understand that rules system before I decided whether or not to join your game.

In short, your entire post is dismissive of not merely my intelligence, but my agency. And I don't mean agency as a player within one of your games, I mean my agency as a person. You do not want me to be informed when I make the fundamental decisions of deciding whether to join your game or buying your rules system.
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TavishArtair
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PostPosted: Thu Sep 17, 2009 12:43 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

"Storyteller" is totally not the system you are thinking it is.

It has lots of rules, lots of random, arbitrary, but exceedingly well-defined rules. If you believe it "uses" Magical Teaparty in the system, I must say you're essentially wrong. There's rules for negotiations, seductions, political maneuvers, computer hacking, violence, setting things on fire, sneaking around, chasing people, and just about every form of magic you can imagine. The fact that most groups who use White Wolf stuff then ignore about half of those rules speaks to the quality of the rules.

There are systems which actually do what you are thinking of, and yes they're fine, I just object to your specific example.
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Archmage
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PostPosted: Thu Sep 17, 2009 12:53 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

TavishArtair wrote:
"Storyteller" is totally not the system you are thinking it is...There are systems which actually do what you are thinking of, and yes they're fine, I just object to your specific example.

That's fair. I have limited familiarity with it and am clearly mistaken, having only played with it once. I've read through the Mage book, but it's been a while, so I can't claim any real knowledge of it and therefore retract my earlier statement.

Lago PARANOIA wrote:
In a game which can have a range of very precise inputs and outputs it is critically important to have if not identical outcomes then outcomes at least as consistent as you can manage. Otherwise you don't have characters knowing whether a fireball or a delayed blast fireball is the right spell to take down a troll. That's very bad for games like D&D.

Yeah, especially when the game is very crunchy. A lot of D&D players go to great lengths to analyze their options, and any situation in which you make that strategic decision-making process meaningless on a whim is going to piss them off (myself included). It's annoying for players when the character with a min-maxed his diplomacy skill is no better at diplomacy than the barbarian whose total diplomacy modifier is -1 solely because the DM wants to MTP the diplomacy scene instead of using rules that reward investments in those skills.
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Doom
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PostPosted: Thu Sep 17, 2009 1:20 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

MTP isn't bad.

Paying $400 for a stack of hardcovers, and still having to play MTP to decide whether or not, or how, basic concepts like "wall" and "hammer attack" can interact is bad.


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Archmage
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PostPosted: Thu Sep 17, 2009 1:39 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Doom314 wrote:
MTP isn't bad.

Paying $400 for a stack of hardcovers, and still having to play MTP to decide whether or not, or how, basic concepts like "wall" and "hammer attack" can interact is bad.

4e's designers really dropped the ball on the "target: one creature" bit and not making it clear that yes, you can attack objects with powers. At least they errata'd it pretty quickly, but the fact that they had to errata that is pretty silly.

To be fair, pages 65-66 in the 4e DMG do provide guidelines to determine object hit points (and lists some damage types that objects are automatically immune to), which suggests that they intended for objects to be attackable all along. Though it's pretty clear that what they want is for the DM to Just Say No if you try to dig through a wall with a sword (since all physical damage is untyped).

Doesn't really refute what you're saying, though, and 4e has other problems to be concerned with.
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Caedrus
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PostPosted: Thu Sep 17, 2009 2:07 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Archmage wrote:

Well, it's not so much that people say "I really hate MTP," it's that when arguments about design break out eventually someone inevitably brings up MTP in a negative light.
Again, my guess is you're misunderstanding the context. It would be helpful if you could actually point us to whatever you're getting that impression from, instead of just making a shot in the dark.

Quote:
The 4e discussions are a good example of that happening, but now that I'm thinking about it, the reason MTP is brought up there is because the answer "just MTP it" by a 4e fanboy is essentially telling you "give WotC your money, then don't use the books you paid for."


The argument generally goes like so: "4e is teh bestest!" "I disagree. For example, look at this rule and how it works poorly." "No, 4e is still teh bestest game because you can just use some other game (such as MTP) in order to handle it!" "Uh, what? That's bullshit."

And that's a bullshit argument because of course that doesn't actually defend the quality of 4e at all. In fact it says just the opposite: that 4e is such a badly designed game that you have to throw out their rules and wing it.

Seriously, if that logic actually held water you could argue that *anything* was the best roleplaying game ever. Like you could say that Magic: The Gathering was the best roleplaying game ever because you could just ignore the rules and MTP everything.

Or to put it yet another way, it's like a video game programmer saying that their game is the best because, despite its horrible and crippling bugs, lackluster gameplay, and nonexistent plot, you yourself can fix those bugs and essentially make your own game with your own mod tools. Thumb Yellow

Doom314 wrote:
MTP isn't bad.

Paying $400 for a stack of hardcovers, and still having to play MTP to decide whether or not, or how, basic concepts like "wall" and "hammer attack" can interact is bad.


Precisely.


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TavishArtair
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PostPosted: Thu Sep 17, 2009 2:22 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Archmage wrote:
TavishArtair wrote:
"Storyteller" is totally not the system you are thinking it is...There are systems which actually do what you are thinking of, and yes they're fine, I just object to your specific example.

That's fair. I have limited familiarity with it and am clearly mistaken, having only played with it once. I've read through the Mage book, but it's been a while, so I can't claim any real knowledge of it and therefore retract my earlier statement.


In this sense "Storyteller" is the original "4e". The rules do not incorporate, they merely falter and are picked up by MTP. Or perhaps it's more like 2e AD&D? Whatever. But the fans still claim that it's awesome for the same reasons, more or less.

Mage: the Ascension is the most like a game that incorporates Magical Tea Party, though, in the magic system. You get to bullshit a lot of stuff with that, and be covered by the rules in your bullshitting. Its design is rusty at the hinges and kinda lousy though, since at various points the rules are either very annoying or very useless. You have to understand that doing anything nonmagical in Mage: the Ascension is entirely like what I said, though, and the fact that the magic system of Ascension interacts heavily with this system is what makes it very exasperating and makes the magic system weaker, and more difficult to say it "uses" the idea of magical tea party.


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Archmage
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PostPosted: Thu Sep 17, 2009 3:06 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Caedrus wrote:
Again, my guess is you're misunderstanding the context...The argument generally goes like so: "4e is teh bestest!" "I disagree. For example, look at this rule and how it works poorly." "No, 4e is still teh bestest game because you can just use some other game (such as MTP) in order to handle it!" "Uh, what? That's bullshit."


Right.

I'd go back through old threads and find quotes that gave me the impression that the forum collectively thought MTP was bad, but it's pretty clear to me at this point that I was wrong. So unless you want to see where I got that impression for educational purposes, I'm not sure what it'll accomplish.

I think that the initial problem for me was recognizing MTP as its own "game"--I always thought of MTP as a common component of tabletop RPGs, a construct implied by the game format. MTP will happen at some point, because eventually someone is going to try to do something that isn't explicitly spelled out in the rules. Therefore, so my reasoning went, MTP is a component of all RPGs, because all RPGs have Rule 0.

But when I started thinking about it from a game design perspective, you're absolutely correct. If you're MTPing, you're not using the game's rules. If you're not using the game's rules, you're not playing the game anymore. You switched rulesets in mid-game. Nobody left the table, nobody rolled new characters, and chances are that nobody really ever acknowledged the fact that you quit playing Printed RPG and started playing Magical Tea Party because the transition was smooth enough you had no reason to notice. Likewise, you didn't notice when you stopped playing MTP and went back to D&D. And if you have to play MTP more than you play the game you're supposed to be playing...maybe there's something wrong with the game's rules.

This is the whole reason I joined this forum, by the way--this is some of the most insightful game design conversation I've seen on the net, and it's gotten me to think in new ways. This stuff might seem obvious to design vets, but my conceptions about design are obviously considerably less sophisticated, and I'm hoping to learn a thing or two (or fifty).
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