Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Lurker's Corner ~ Protocols

I feel like I'm constantly having to bring up issues having to do with protocols during the online games, much more so that I feel like I'm doing while at a table. That is probably because I am doing it in text.  Still, it comes up a lot and, in text, it is quite frustrating.

Every game has protocols.  These are to stop people from attempting to edge the rules on any part of the game that might be too fuzzy to be covered by rules.  Eventually, any consistent edging requires the necessity for creating a rule just to manage that situation.  For example, take this one from major league baseball:

Rule 5.07(a): Pitchers may disengage the rubber after taking their signs but may not step quickly onto the rubber and pitch.  This may be judged a quick pitch by the umpire. When the pitcher disengages the rubber, he must drop his hands to his sides.

I like using baseball for examples because (a) it is a game and {b) virtually everyone has played it. Take note of the example given.  It demonstrates clearly that pitchers were frequently trying to get the better of the batter by subverting the batter's ability to be ready for the pitch.  In fact, it was getting so bad that pitchers would prepare their bodies for throwing a pitch while still off the rubber ~ thus the necessity for the rule where the pitcher must have his hands down and at his sides.

This gets fairly complicated:

Set Position shall be indicated by the pitcher when he stands facing the batter with his pivot foot in contact with, and his other foot in front of, the pitcher's plate, holding the ball in both hands in front of his body and coming to a complete stop.  From such Set Position he may deliver the ball to the batter, throw to a base or step backward off the pitcher's plate with his pivot foot.  Before assuming Set Position, the pitcher may elect to make any natural preliminary motion such as that known as "the stretch." But if he so elects, he shall come to Set Position before delivering the ball to the batter. After assuming Set Position, any natural motion associated with his delivery of the ball to the batter commits him to the pitch without alteration or interruption.
Preparatory to coming to a set position, the pitcher shall have one hand on his side; from this position he shall go to his set position as defined in Rule 5.07(a)(2) (Rule 8.01(b)) without interruption and in one continuous motion.
The pitcher, following his stretch, must (a) hold the ball in both hands in front of his body and (b) come to a complete stop.  This must be enforced. Umpires should watch this closely. Pitchers are constantly attempting to "beat the rule" in their efforts to hold runners on bases and in cases where the pitcher fails to make a complete "stop" called for in the rules, the umpire should immediately call a "Balk."

In my game, I'm anxious to establish similar guidelines for player behavior.  For example, the assumption that a given player on a side goes first, when in fact someone else does due to position or dexterity.  Situations where players declare an attack and then throw the die before the attack is established as legitimate, possible or credible, forcing the DM to rescind a "great throw" on the player's behalf, because it was thrown at the wrong time.  This is always demoralizing in the game, with most of the blame falling on the DM who forces the players to "toe the rule" ~ something they don't mind doing when the mistimed roll is bad:

This I particularly dislike.  I would rather every roll made counted.  It sucks when players say, "I attack!" then rolls a natural 20, only to be told afterwards that they're nowhere near the opponent and the 20 doesn't count.  Follow the sighs of disappointment, "Aw!", then follow the next opportunity when the player rolls a 3.  I don't personally need this, the party doesn't need this, and it is easily contained by disallowing the players from making ANY rolls without confirmation first.

What many don't understand is that having protocols to control what's rolled and when actually saves time and keeps game play moving forward.  There are less arguments, less misunderstandings, less expectation that the campaign will be about "gaming the DM" and more effort made to just play.


Oddbit said...

It's killing me trying to follow the protocol of not posting during other player's turns... And as you can see I'm doing a poor job as it is. I'm trying to help clarify though!

Just want to talk strat and learning with the other fighter. See if we can punch holes in each other's theories and so on.

Sofia Viktorova Koleva said...

I understand and accept the need for protocol, especially in this medium. I've tried to play in accordance with this but like Oddbit have not always done so. One thing above surprised me, though, regarding the need to establish an attack as legitimate before rolling. To clarify, once you say a player may take their turn do you require they state their action and wait for acknowledgement before rolling? In the past in the Senex campaign this was relaxed as I recall. As a player, I'd be required to wait for you to acknowledge me as going, but unless something was unclear I could say, for instance:

I move to hex 0810 and swing my mace
to hit: 14
dmg: 4

Are you saying you want there to be a pause between the two example lines above for DM acknowledgement? Was I playing out of turn all that time?

Alexis Smolensk said...

There have been a series of incidents in the other campaign, Sofia, that have been frustrating where it comes to "I move here and swing this." Undoubtedly, later in the process, when everyone has a better idea of what they're allowed to do, it can be relaxed . . . but you'll remember back in the first days, with the crab, there were similar moments of disconnect.

I find with all the online campaigning that I appear to want a precision in player declaration and expression that isn't there is other campaigns. At the same time, I hear or read about games that break down into an awful mess of miscommunication and misunderstandings. On the whole, I don't like feeling like a martinet, but I don't know how I can let this stuff pass.

Clearly, however, other DMs do. All the time. And most don't seem to care ~ at least, that's how it seems when I write a post like this and there is so little response.

Perhaps I should just kill them all again . . .

Sofia Viktorova Koleva said...

The precision is necessary because you don't have the benefit of real-time, face-to-face interaction. Precision helps move things along, so I don't see your needs as unreasonable. It takes some adjustment, though, as a player. Hopefully the growing pains are brief for the other party. It's been interesting and somewhat beneficial to me to sit back and watch for once.

Tim said...

I wouldn't worry about being a martinet; in some ways you're experiencing the same frustration a teacher, professor or coach has when trying to explain or re-explain concepts and rules. You could certainly write every rule or mechanic down like a list (I recall giving each player in my first campaign a sheet with the order of actions in combat, just so everyone knew what they had to do on their turn), if you wanted to be able to just say "read the fucking list" every time. That can also clear up any future questions generally since you have something quick and easy to look at.

On the other hand, as much as it's frustrating, I'm sure it can be helpful for the players for you to tell them they're wrong. Personally, that's how I learn best: I try things at the risk of doing them wrong and then the right answers tend to stick (although it's rough on the instructor to be correcting all the time, so asking clarifying questions would be a better idea). That can be, to say the least, aggravating, but you're never unreasonable in your requests for precision and so a good straightening out for a player will certainly have its benefits. The responsibility to understand what's going on lies with the players, so they should feel comfortable asking for help if they're confused.

Kismet said...

The list?

Alexis Smolensk said...

What are you asking me, Kismet?

Tim said...

I think he's pointing out, with respect to my last comment, what is essentially your list of actions for a turn so that players know what they can or can't do in combat and how they can or can't do it.

Drain said...

I'm going to go ahead and disagree on the prejudicial aspects of rolling attack die and damage along with the declaration of intent.

Turning simple attacks - note that I'm not talking exotic maneuvers here! - that will, an overwhelming majority of the time, be well within the range of options open to a player into a process requiring the go-ahead from the DM is a recipe for bogging down combat to little gain.

For the remaining percentage of times, mistakes happen and they get corrected. No need to get in a huff about a discarded roll.

Case in point: right now, we're hinging on a single player's logging on to report a simple set of die rolls. This could have already been adressed and a new round be up and running.

If, as a rational protocol, it quite rightly settled that outside of combat a simple majority is enough to keep things moving, combat is the one place where no child can be left behind, and thus it should be as streamlined as possible.

Alexis Smolensk said...


If they're such "simple" attacks, then why is it that you muff them? Why is Engelhart throwing a SPEAR?

Every time a mistake is made, the players for their part get to READ about the error and the necessary correction. I, on the other hand, have to WRITE it. In detail. Apparently, "in a huff."

Seems to me I'm doing the work here when a player fucks up. Seems to me it ought to be my decision what "bogging down" is necessary.