The Declare-Decide-Describe Cycle | The Indignant GM

This text is a part of my year-long True Sport Mastery sequence. You don’t should learn the teachings so as, nevertheless it’s finest should you do. So, should you’re new to this website, try the sequence roadmap and begin at the beginning.

Click on right here for The True Sport Mastery Collection index.

Welcome again, True Sport Grasp Trainee. Until you’re exceptionally dim — wherein case, get misplaced; this sequence is for Sport Masters, not gamers — except you’re dumb, you’ve most likely observed all of the True Sport Mastery classes up to now are about studying new habits and zealously, hard-headedly implementing them till they turn into rote.

The zealous hard-headedness is especially vital as a result of that’s what makes new habits stick. When you’ve ingrained the habits so that you observe them even once you don’t, you possibly can loosen up.

Luckily, there’s extra to this sequence than habit-building by hard-headed repetition. Sadly, there isn’t right now. So settle in for extra hard-headed, rigorous habit-building.

Take pleasure in.

To date, I’ve targeted quite a bit in your recreation’s tempo and stream. And that’s as a result of True Sport Masters — like me — know that tempo and stream are every part. Pacing is the one, largest factor that retains gamers engaged, concerned, and — above all — Invested.


Now that you know the way to maintain your gamers from breaking your recreation’s tempo the minute you hand off management — by correctly Inviting the Principal Participant to Act — I’m going to point out you easy methods to preserve that tempo up when you’re compelled to work along with your gamers — or, typically, should you’re fortunate, with out them — to determine how their actions play out.

Motion Adjudication — as it’s best to know — is the Sport Mastering Artwork of figuring out the outcomes of the gamers’ characters’ actions. Every little thing you do this ain’t Narrating is Adjudicating. And that’s an issue. As a result of Motion Adjudication is mainly pulling a frigging drag chute. It’ll bleed off all of the tempo, stream, and momentum you construct by Narration.

Sport Guidelines: Crucial Velocity Bumps

Gamespeak and Worldspeak

True Sport Masters perceive that TTRPGs play out in two totally different languages.

Worldspeak is Narrative language. It describes the world and the characters and every part taking place. Every little thing you’d see on the display screen if the sport had been a film.

Gamespeak is the Gameplay language. It’s all about cube and Commonplace Actions and Ability Checks and Attribute Modifiers and Benefit and all that different crap outlined within the rulebooks.

The foundations are mandatory and so is Gamespeak, however Gamespeak is horrible for tempo, stream, immersion, and Funding. You’ll be able to’t keep away from Gamespeak fully, however that’s the perfect. Extra importantly, although, it’s best to by no means tolerate any Bare Gamespeak exterior the Chinese language Room the principles are locked in.

What’s Bare Gamespeak? It’s Gamespeak that isn’t paired with Worldspeak. “It is advisable to succeed at a DC 15 Athletics test” is Bare Gamespeak. As a substitute, say, “the masonry wall doesn’t have a variety of handholds; it’s a tough climb and the DC is 15.”

A couple of phrases exist in each languages. Spell names, for instance. Fireball is a Gamespeak time period for a spell impact nevertheless it’s additionally a Worldspeak identify for a magical in-world factor wizards can discuss. Context is every part.

Roleplaying video games want guidelines. Discover I mentioned guidelines the place I’d often say mechanics. That’s vital. There’s this finger-and-thumb challenge right here the place all guidelines are mechanics however not all mechanics are guidelines and GMs at all times bork that up and that causes issues. However that ain’t the subject of right now’s lesson so don’t assume too exhausting about it.

Video games want guidelines. With out them, they’re not video games. They’re actions. Or experiences. Or collaborative storytelling bullshit. And if that’s what you’re after, tremendous, go do this. However you ain’t a Sport Grasp should you ain’t mastering a recreation and this website is for Sport Masters, not collaborative storytelling bullshit artists.


Gamefeel’s every part proper? The sport’s obtained to really feel proper. Fight’s obtained to really feel quick, thrilling, and chaotic. Interactions have gotten to really feel clean and pure. Properly, each time you escape the cube, you’re hitting a giant ole pause button on the sport’s motion — the Narrative motion — to do a bunch of math and paperwork. Piss and moan all you need about how the principles demand you run fight as a slow-ass chess recreation, but when your fight feels that manner, that’s on you.

My combats really feel quick and thrilling and I run freaking D&D 3.5!

The purpose is, TTRPGs are half Narrative and half Gameplay. Relating to Narrative, pacing is what separates good Narratives from crappy ones. However mechanical Gameplay — utilizing the principles — is to pacing what a crowbar is to a kneecap.

Thus, your job as a True Sport Grasp is to maintain the mechanical Gameplay to a minimal so it doesn’t wreck your Gamefeel.

I warned you these classes would have a bunch of paradoxical, backward-sounding crap, didn’t I? Sure, Gameplay ruins Gamefeel.

The Translator Sport Grasp

True Sport Masters preserve the sport’s guidelines locked up in a Chinese language Room the place they will’t spoil the sport. Which results in the Sport Grasp appearing as one thing like a translator.

It’s like this…

Your job — relating to Motion Adjudication — is to translate the gamers’ characters’ actions into Sport Mechanics. Then, you feed that translation into the Sport’s Guidelines — if mandatory — and get a Sport Mechanical End result. Lastly, you translate that Sport Mechanical End result into Narrative Narration.

First- and Third-Individual

There’s a variety of on-line yammering about gamers talking in-character versus talking about-character. Particularly within the talky-talky bits of the sport. True Sport Masters understand it doesn’t matter for crap whether or not gamers converse within the first- or third-person. Even in social interplay scenes.

And True Sport Masters by no means reward — or require — one over the opposite.

A participant’s solely job is to let you know what their character’s making an attempt to do and the way. Any motion — even an inspiring speech — will be declared with a few third-person sentences and there are zero good causes to count on a participant to improvise your entire speech.

Talking in-character is the equal of describing an assault in extreme, flowery element. There’s no extra motive to explain each single phrase of speech than there’s to explain each feint, jab, and lunge that constitutes an assault.

And one of many causes I instructed you to talk TO the gamers ABOUT their characters is to point out your gamers they don’t have to talk AS their characters. Which is one thing an incredible many gamers discover exhausting to grok and see as an impediment to collaborating in social interplay scenes.

So, for the sake of consolation and inclusion, drop any dumb-ass bias you’ve obtained towards in-character speech.

So, how do you retain Motion Adjudication from wrecking your Narrative tempo? How do you do this translator crap and preserve the principles locked in a Chinese language Room? What even is a Chinese language Room?

You do it by constructing good, methodical habits and rigorously making use of them. This shouldn’t be a shock as a result of that’s my reply to every part recently.

And don’t fear in regards to the Chinese language Room factor.

I name this methodical behavior the Declare-Decide-Describe Cycle. And I totally admit this one’s gonna sluggish your recreation down for some time. However keep in mind, velocity and pacing ain’t the identical factor, and a clean stream is healthier than a quick stream. And finally, the velocity will decide up.

The DDD Cycle begins once you’re carried out Inviting the Principal Participant to Act and so they’ve taken the invitation. In different phrases, it begins with a participant Declaring an Motion. That’s what the primary D is all about.

After the participant’s correctly Declared an Motion — and getting there’s the toughest a part of all this crap — you, the True Sport Grasp, Decide the End result. Then, you Describe the End result. And when you get these habits down chilly, you’ll seamlessly transfer from Describing the End result to Inviting the Principal Participant to Act in response.

Do that proper — and I’ll present you the way — and also you’ll reduce contact along with your recreation’s guidelines and preserve your momentum by Motion Adjudication. To make use of a very dumbass, contrived metaphor, you’ll be a dolphin. You’ll arrow majestically by the water at breakneck velocity, then leap — briefly — into the air for a giant gulp of oxygen, after which lance again into the water completely and carry on swimming.

Yeah, I understand how silly that sounds. However individuals love a very good analogy.

Declaring Actions

The Declare-Decide-Describe Cycle begins when the Principal Participant Declares an Motion. That’s, a participant tells you what their character is making an attempt to perform and the way. And, sadly, gamers are idiots and so they’ll mess up the entire DDD Cycle earlier than it even begins by doing this flawed each single time.

How? They’ll break one or all the Three Guidelines of Motion Declaration.

Rule #1: Be Full

When Declaring Actions, gamers should let you know what their character is making an attempt to perform and the way they’re making an attempt to perform it. And so they’ve obtained to let you know something and every part related to that motion. What instruments they’re utilizing, what sources they’re spending, and so forth. If the motion is an assault, the participant should let you know what weapon they’re utilizing. If the motion is a negotiation, the participant should let you know their character’s tone of voice and what info and proof they’re utilizing to make their case.

Gamers go away a variety of crap out. And crappy Sport Executors — and complacent True Sport Masters — allow them to get away with it. However not you. Not anymore.

Rule #2: Be Concise

Whereas gamers typically drop vital particulars from their Motion Declarations — like weapons and tone — they positive as hell love to incorporate plenty of flowery prose. And so they love to leap forward to describing the end result.

Blame Mike Mercer all you need children, however this ain’t new. We had been making enjoyable of True Thespians within the pages of Dragon Journal earlier than anybody had ever heard of Mike Mercer or YouTube.

Just a little description is a superbly tremendous factor. I ain’t knocking it. However Declaring an Motion is about stating an Intent to Try. It will possibly’t be described till it’s resolved. Characters don’t stab ogres or persuade guards, they assault ogres and attraction to guards.

Extra importantly, Ture Sport Masters use every part the gamers say to find out their actions’ outcomes. Attacking an orc with a longsword is totally different from stabbing an orc within the head. When a participant says, “I stab the orc within the head,” they’re telling me they’re intentionally aiming for a headshot as an alternative of taking a center-of-mass assault to an undefended line which is way extra more likely to hit. And I — because the Truest of True Sport Masters — resolve these actions in another way.

Your job’s to translate actions into Sport Mechanics. When gamers lavatory their actions down with flowery prose and extraneous crap, it screws up the interpretation.

Rule #3: Don’t Cite Guidelines

It’s a participant’s job to let you know what their character is making an attempt to do and the way. Characters — and the issues they do — are a part of the sport’s world. Thus gamers shouldn’t — and can’t be allowed to — Declare Actions in Sport Mechanical Phrases. It ain’t simply flawed, it’s limiting. And letting gamers do it teaches them the principles are extra than simply instruments the GM makes use of to resolve sure actions.

A number of trendy video games make it nigh not possible for gamers to Declare Actions with out invoking guidelines — and that basically frosts my ass — however you possibly can’t cease chasing a great simply because it’s unattainable. True Sport Masters work to make sure no Sport Mechanical time period ever crosses the gamers’ lips. And so they get as shut as they will.

Operating the Error Checker

Gamers suck at Declaring Actions. Partly as a result of they’re dumb as rocks and partly as a result of they’ve been skilled by different idiotic Sport Executors or On-line Personalities. The issue is your doctrine of Private Sport Possession prevents you from handing your gamers a memo. As in the event that they’d learn it anyway.

What good are guidelines you possibly can’t present the gamers? Properly, they’re there so you possibly can prepare your gamers. And that is the primary a part of your methodical Declare-Decide-Describe behavior. When a participant violates a rule, drive them to repair the issue earlier than you go any additional.

“You’re attacking? With what? Your tooth? Your naked fists?”

“If you mentioned you ‘stab the orc within the head,’ had been you asking for a called-shot penalty or had been you simply being overly prosaic?”

“Arcana is a ability, not an motion. I’ll determine what expertise to roll when. Inform me what data you’re after so I can determine what rolls are wanted.”

It is advisable to be a hard-ass right here. Each time. I do know it’ll sluggish your recreation down to coach your gamers. And also you’ll get a variety of backtalk and a variety of pissing and moaning. True Sport Masters take a variety of crap, however that’s the value of operating nice video games.

Talking of True Sport Mastery…

Posting Warnings

As a Sport Grasp, it’s your job to inform the gamers every part their characters see, hear, understand, and know in regards to the recreation’s world. So if a participant Declares an Motion that’s not possible or ludicrously harmful or dangers some price or consequence, it’s your responsibility — not job, responsibility — to verify the participant is aware of that.

Simply to decide on one completely random instance that pisses me off to no finish each time I see a GM bork this up, if a participant Declares an Motion that can provoke an Alternative Assault — like shifting by a threatened space — it’s a True Sport Grasp’s responsibility to warn that participant. Each time.

True GMs by no means spring surprises on gamers that cheap characters ought to have foreseen.

Confirming Actions

After a participant’s Declared an Motion — and after you’ve Error Checked and Posted Warnings — it’s your responsibility as a True Sport Grasp to repeat again the Motion as you’ve understood it and ask the participant to verify you’ve obtained it proper. Till you accomplish that, you can not — and should not — proceed.

Merely put, should you can’t restate an Motion such that the participant agrees to it, you don’t perceive the Motion they’ve declared. And you may’t resolve what you don’t perceive.

Luckily, that is easy to do. Simply begin with, “so, your character intends…” after which end with the Motion, following all the principles your self.

“So, Ardrick intends to run ahead and assault the orc together with his longsword though it should expose him to assault from the ogre with the spear?”

“So, Berylla intends to step ahead and solid burning arms such that it envelops these two goblins?”

“So, Cabe intends to beg the guard to let him go, utilizing the guard’s sick daughter and a lie about Cabe’s sick mom to play for sympathy?”

“So, Danae intends to use first support to cease the unconscious Cabe from dying of his accidents utilizing the provides in her Healer’s Equipment?”

It’s that easy. Properly, it’s easy once you follow it sufficient to internalize it as a behavior. That is what I at all times imply after I say, “it’s that easy.”


Figuring out Outcomes

Lively Reflective Listening

When you’ve ever taken a course in communication or battle decision, labored on communication with a therapist, learn The Seven Habits of Extremely Efficient Folks, listened to one among Jordan Peterson’s talks on efficient communication, or watched sure Charisma on Command movies, you most likely acknowledge the “repeat again the motion for assent” factor as a type of Lively Listening often known as Reflective Listening.

I ain’t going to clarify Lively or Reflective Listening right now — you possibly can and will analysis it by yourself — however I’m going to revisit it within the Fall after I let you know easy methods to resolve conflicts on the desk as a part of Managing an Ongoing Marketing campaign. Lively Listening is an important conflict-resolution instrument. Hell, it’s an important communication ability. To maintain campaigns going with precise, social people, True Sport Masters should grasp human communication and battle decision as an alternative of counting on the delusional perception that bullshit feel-good methods like X-Playing cards, Set off Warnings, and Session Zero Restrict-Setting truly do any good.

So, stay up for that, and in the meantime dump that ineffective crap the place it belongs.

I’ll wager that appeared like a hell of quite a bit to soak up. It was. However don’t fear. That was just about the meat of the lesson. Figuring out the End result is manner much less concerned.

That ain’t to say it’s simple. Figuring out Outcomes is what separates True Sport Masters from Crappy Sport Executors. However it’s extra right down to mentality than any explicit behavior or approach. Crappy Sport Executors observe the pre-programmed recreation code within the rulebooks. And after they run into hassle, they go crying to Jeremy Crawford on Twitter.

True Sport Masters, in the meantime, keep in mind the sport’s guidelines are instruments they can use to resolve in-game actions, however that they’re not required to make use of something aside from their very own brains. And so they should use their brains first and the principles second.

That is the place the fundamental guidelines of Motion Adjudication I taught you years in the past — and republished in my e book — are available. With a Declared Motion in hand — or in mind — you determine whether or not it could possibly succeed, whether or not it could possibly fail, what success and failure imply, and whether or not there’s a threat or price or consequence to contemplate. Then, you determine should you want the principles to select between the outcomes.

When you’re right here, you possibly can deal with this half.

That mentioned, the subsequent lesson on this course is all about utilizing the sport’s guidelines — and the sport’s cube — like a True Sport Grasp.

Describing the End result

With a Sport Mechanical End result in hand — in mind — all it’s important to do to complete out the Declare-Decide-Describe Cycle is to Describe the End result. Clearly. Declare-Decide-Describe Cycle is the obvious identify I’ve ever given something.

Describing the End result’s merely a matter of translating the Sport Mechanical End result into Narration. And also you already know easy methods to do it. As a result of it’s as easy — with follow — as repeating again the motion you already repeated as if it occurred as meant. Or didn’t.

“Ardrick runs ahead, avoiding the ogre’s spear thrust, and wounds the orc together with his longsword, dealing seven factors of harm.”

“Cabe begs the guard for mercy, spinning a sob story about his sick mom, however the guard sees by the lie and cracks Cabe on the top together with his cudgel for eight harm, knocking him out. He’s dying.”

Positive, you possibly can gown that crap up with flowery thrives and descriptive prose — and it’s best to when you’re used to the method — however most gamers received’t blink should you don’t.

The very fact is, most GMs don’t mess this crap up by Narrating badly, they mess it up by skipping it totally.


“Okay, that’s successful for… seven harm.”

… just isn’t Description. That’s crap.

If you wish to be a True Sport Grasp, construct the behavior of translating Outcomes into Narration even when solely by rote repetition of the motion as an end result as an alternative of an try.

When You Should Use the Guidelines, Use them Uncooked

True Sport Masters depend on their brains first and use the principles as instruments as wanted. However True Sport Masters additionally understand it’s vital to make use of the principles typically. And to make use of them as written. Even when they’re shitty guidelines.

How’s that for a sizzling take?

The sport’s guidelines — as they’re written the place the gamers can see them — create a way of a constant, fair-feeling recreation. And cube rolling offers gamers a sense of company and self-determination. Even management. Yeah, it’s an phantasm, however the entire recreation’s an phantasm. In the meantime, a True Sport Grasp can run an incredible recreation with any shitty system. So the phantasm the principles current is far more vital than the principles themselves.

True Sport Masters don’t use guidelines after they aren’t wanted, however they do hew as shut as doable to the Guidelines as Written after they do use them. And if a True Sport Grasp actually thinks the principles are too shitty to make use of, they alter recreation techniques. That’s a manner higher use of a True Sport Grasp’s time than hacking a system.

I hate D&D 5E. It’s stuffed with shitty guidelines. However after I run D&D 5E, I run it largely by the e book.

The crap I’ve been instructing you — Narrating by Visualizing, Inviting the Precept Participant to Act, and now following the Declare-Decide-Describe Cycle — it’s all about rhythm.

Narrate, Invite, Declare, Decide, Describe, Invite, Declare, Decide, Describe, Invite, Declare, Decide, Describe, Transition, Narrate, Invite, Declare, Decide, Describe…

Every of these issues is a verse in a music. Or a musical chord. Get every one down chilly and you may play them in any order and create superb music. The habits I’ve taught you — Respiration earlier than Talking, Talking to Gamers about Characters, Error Checking Actions, and all the remainder — that’s me instructing you the suitable finger placement to play the chords.

When you’re focusing in your finger placement, your songs will probably be sluggish and methodical. To you, they’ll sound clumsy, compelled, and stilted. However your gamers will nonetheless assume they sound higher than no matter crap you’ve been taking part in to this point. I promise.

The purpose is to focus in your fundamentals. Don’t attempt to gown up your video games with flowery prose and descriptive aptitude. As a substitute, undergo the steps. Each time. So as. Appropriately.

  1. Narrate
    1. Breathe, Then Converse
  2. Invite the Principal Participant to Act
    1. Converse to Gamers about Characters
    2. At all times Converse On to the Principal Participant
  3. Declare-Decide-Describe
    1. Error Verify Actions for Completeness, Conciseness, and Guidelines-Not-Mentioning-Ness
    2. Put up Warnings
    3. Repeat Again the Motion for Assent
    4. Use Your Mind to Decide the End result or Decide to Use the Guidelines
    5. Repeat Again the Motion as an End result

Make a damned guidelines on a sticky be aware and preserve it in your eye line as you run video games if it’s important to. And work by the guidelines each time. It’ll all really feel pure ahead of you assume. After which you possibly can add model and aptitude.

In brief: follow your fundamentals earlier than you begin displaying off.


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