Visualization & RPGs (Trial Scene). I have spent some time researching and pondering the topics of Motor Imagery & Creative visualization. Whilst half of my degree is in Psychology, I am far from an expert, so I will avoid misleading anyone with poor scientific summaries. More usefully, I think many people will be familiar with the common parlance term: Visualization. Like many people I have used visualization in many ways, in particular with practicing martial arts and running, but also with RPG. Because of health these days I can do far less physically, but I can still run through positions and movements in my minds-eye.
There are several Visualization RPG topics that I will explore on other event days, from ways to prepare a game as a GM/Organiser, running through mental images of a character arc or backstory, designing games and imagining play. For today, I wanted this answer to focus on PCs’ & Visualization of a scene. This has me thinking about player expectations, another fascinating topic for another day, but to clarify I mean a character visualizing a task, particularly something they have time to prepare for.
Some game scenarios are about the PCs preparing for something: a competition, a physical puzzle, rescuing hostages from gunmen, a fight with a dragon, etc. Can the PCs earn a mechanical bonus if they have practiced (drilled) and visualized the action?
Visualization could be a way to explore play, to carry out a dry-run of an encounter. This could be developed to cover what the PCs think the scenario will involve. This could add an extra level of surprise, when the opponent they have imagined fighting many times turns out to have an unknown ability, or a weakness the opponent has is false. I have used this Trial Scene technique with new and young players. Some apprehensive players may find this method extra helpful.
To clarify: I am not referring to rewinding game time / reloading the game. That is another topic entirely. Some games even suit it, although it is a bit of a cliché in fantasy, well it was in my school D&D games.
As for bonuses, well, given the multitude of game systems and methods of handling tests, the scale of a bonus will depend on the group’s preferences. I’d recommend the number be small, a way to trial the idea without overwhelming the system. A 5% modifier for a percentile game, +1 for D20, is a good starting point. Maybe an extra dice for games using a dice pool; maybe a distinctive dice is used, requiring a higher target number?
Visualization and Practice for SFRPG
This topic is a big part of my magic martial arts game: #FlowFighters: Visualization and Practice. I originally developed the idea in the 90s when playing games like Street Fighter and Ninja & Superspies. For Street Fighter, the game wonderfully includes a method to help a character prepare for a fight on short notice. With an Insight roll, after observing the person for 3 rounds (30 turns), combat cards can be revealed; yes the PC can watch fighters to see what Manuevers they use, but it is a big difference seeing some of their stats! The game also highlights the value of other methods, in particular how a good Manager can find out information about other fighters.
I am taking the idea a bit further here. Fighters have habits; the good fighters reduce those habits and typically diversify their techniques. The exceptional fighters take this even further, minimising these details so they are near impossible to exploit. This also applies to Team Fights.
If a character knows about another character’s fighting habits, maybe they can exploit those weaknesses by drilling specific movements over and over. The character gains an extra soak and damage dice with 1 specific Manuever of theirs, against 1 specific opponent for 1 specific Maneuver. Crucially this will not guarantee a fight outcome, nor destroy player expectations or system balance. Consider any mid-ranked PC drilling to win a fight with any World Warrior.
Maybe a group would like to explore multiple Visualization and Practice? I don’t recommend it, whilst fight camps are a big deal in the real world, do we want training and drilling to power creep SFRPG?
Should this be auto soak? I’d suggest it is a dice roll. Maybe pre-roll to save slowing things down, to not break combat card habits. Up to you. 🙂
This modifier could apply against other people that fight in a similar way, but only if the character knows this. Keep the heart of this idea of Visualization and Practice in mind, how similar are they? Because if their reach, timing, general size, or other factors are too different, then the Visualization and Practice bonus shouldn’t apply.
Fighters from the same school may all have a habit of performing a Maneuver the same way. Maybe a PC recognises this. But again the Visualization and Practice bonus is unlikely for all practitioners from that school, because of the differences between the fighters, each individuals subtle habits.
We could take this idea to a silly level if we think of D&D Ranger with Favoured Enemy, but in this case ‘Enemy Style’. Crazy, hmm… don’t do that. 😉
Drilling Time: I would recommend a fighter needs a few weeks to a month to drill a combo enough. I do not recommend it requiring any experience points.
One downside to Visualization and Practice for SFRPG, it is something else the GM needs to consider for each fighter. Maybe only PCs can do it, giving them a tiny bonus over a few opponents, if they can prepare!
Temporary Bonus: Opponents can change their habits. So, Visualization and Practice won’t give a permanent bonus. Also, what if their habit is a misdirection, a rumour.
Inigo: I am not left-handed!
Other Peoples’ Answers
David F Chapman @Autocratik
Anthony Boyd @Runeslinger
The Rolistes Podcast @rolistespod on different visions of what the status quo is
Sue Savage @SavageSpiel
Kyle Porter @porterportfolio
Kevin B. Madison @dungeonmusings
Charles Etheridge-Nunn @charlie_en
Roberto Micheri @Sunglar
Questing GM @questinggm on vision, and the importance of checking it
Craig Oxbrow @CraigOxbrow writes about visual media and visualising characters
Complex Games Apologist @CGApologist
Eric Jacobson @viscounteric writing about vision and how it relates to topic of railroading
Ben Erickson @darkcyril looks at gazing
Bryon1187 @bryon1187 on game vision and relationships
Paco from GMS Magazine @gmsmagazine on understanding our vision and our scope
The Kind GM @TheKindGM
Ryan Heck | Aqualith Media @aqualithmedia
M&B Liam @_Boganova_
Adam Dickstein @alien_barking
This is a non-exhaustive list; I still have many posts to read today, so I might be adding more links. I’d recommend searching the hashtag and judge those great answers for yourself: #RPGaDay2020, some people use #RPGaDay.