On a Framework

So, a FRAMEWORK need not be limiting. It doesn't mean you can't joke around or have fun.

What a FRAMEWORK means, is that you have a formal method for resolving conflict in a PAPS* focused game.

What are these conflicts?

1. Finding out information from the world.

2. Taking action within the world. 

Without a formal structure for these activities, the interactions get sloppy. And since there isn't an objective understanding of the rules and the world that players and the DM can fall back on frustration results.

Activity 1: Finding out information about the world.

This is the process by which players gather information about their environment. This applies in both a local (dungeon room) and a global (city layout) sense. This is required so that the players can engage in Activity 2, which is actually taking action.

What should the formal rules for finding out information about the world be?

Players can talk amongst themselves to discuss options and come up with a plan. Depending on the style of game you are running, this may pass time within the game (wandering monster checks) and may be overheard by nearby NPC's and Henchmen.

During this activity players may ask the DM only for information regarding their environment, clarification about previous information they would have access to or be reasonably expected to remember, and they may ask a question about how the mechanics of the game work. At our table discussions about mechanics are handled via group discussions with verisimilitude as a metric i.e. rulings not rules.

Questions about information that was not gathered or could not be known will not be answered with the information. Questions about what will occur in the future will be answered with uncertainty.

But doesn't this destroy agency? Aren't the players just looking to clarify their understanding of the world with yours?

Sure, if you just said "No." But everything that is stated in the Quantum Ogre article stands. If a player says "Will I be able to climb the wall and fire a bow in through the upper story?" You should support agency by saying "You are able to climb the wall, but until you do, you won't know if you can fire a bow into the upper story"

When a player says, "I'm going to set a tripwire with a bomb, will this work?" Instead of saying "you don't know", state the relevant factors involved. "Well, he may see the tripwire, the bomb will be effective based on how it is constructed." You need not state all relevant factors, but enough to assess that the perception of the player is at least in broad strokes in line with your perception of the situation.

During this activity, the no action can be taken, till you move into . . .

Activity 2: Taking action within the world.

This is the process by which the players take non-combat action. Nothing of import is done by the players unless it is done in this activity.

This is where a great deal of the issues have occurred in my recent games. This is the addresses the crux of 'going back in time', and spending endless time attempting to auger in advance if the plans will be successful.

The game runs better when players are actually in an environment taking action. The game has been much more unfocused and more difficult for the players when they are attempting to plan. After some thought, it became immediately apparent what the solution to these problems are in a PAPS focused game.

A Caller.

This formalizes and resolves nearly all of the issues that exist with taking action. Nothing active happens unless the caller states that it does, and once he says it, it happens. No taking anything back. No question about where the players are. Only the caller may declare actions -- who crafts, who trains, who searches, who scouts.

This has several positive benefits. First, everyone who is not the caller can only interact with me, within the context of the game, in very specific limited ways. They may ask a question or clarify information that they would reasonably be expected to have. This can help them clarify and focus on what information they can reasonably be expected to get from the DM.

After a set length of time, the DM may ask the caller to give an action for the party. If no specific action or plan is given, then time can pass.

These are not called phases because it is possible to transition between them freely.

And so we go forward into the past, where the solution had lived all along.

*Player Agency Player Skill


  1. Ok, reading this and seeing mention of a caller has solidified my need for one of those in my current group of players. It must be fate, because this post is only the latest in a series of situations where I've come across the caller issue on the web and beyond. I believe the god of the internet is trying to tell me something...and I shall obey...

  2. Very compelling article. I will be curious as to how this works out for you during play, especially since I have never seen a caller used and have only rarely seen reports on blogs about callers being used (as opposed to just discussing the concept). Have you tried it already? It certainly makes me want to reconsider the use of a caller.

    1. I have tried it. It made the session run much, much better!

  3. I do something similar. When describing a situation or problem, I try to describe the three most relevant or interesting things in that situation, to do so first, and to describe them with the most detail. When they drill in on a specific detail, I repeat the process within the narrower scope. If the PCs want more information, they can ask for it.

    I find this is superior to two other methods of organising information that I've tried, which were to describe their sensory experiences alone in order of prominence, and to describe things in order of their permanence (starting by describing the room, then the contents, then the individuals or situation, etc.). I do occasionally still use these, but mainly for dramatic effect.


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