Saturday, October 26, 2013

A Broker of Consequences

Parenting advice from one of my coworkers:
"I tell my children that I don't deal in reward or punishment; I only deal in consequences.  Reward and punishment are matters of opinion; the edict 'If you eat everything on your plate, I will give you a bowl of peas and you will have to eat them all' is a reward if you like peas, and 'If you eat everything on your plate, I will give you a bowl of ice cream and you will have to eat it all' is a punishment if you're too full to eat any more.  Consequences, on the other hand, are a matter of fact, and I make it clear to them that I am a broker of consequences.  If you do X, I will do Y; whether or not you choose to interpret Y as punishment is up to you."
I'm not sure if it's particularly good parenting advice; upon further examination, I'm left a little unsure of the intent in that arena.  It certainly seems reasonable DMing advice, though, where the source of punitive intent (say, a king who has been offended) is (or should be) divorced from the agent responsible for enforcing consequence (the DM).  The DM does not punish; the DM administers the logical consequences an action within the world.  And hey, if you needed to end up in the royal dungeons to ask a political prisoner some questions about where you can meet his conspirators to bring his plot to fruition and you have a good escape plan, it might not be a punishment.  But save versus death to avoid contracting some unpleasant malady from the filthy dungeon bedding...  (consequences!)

Anyway, I thought "broker of consequences" was a wonderful turn of phrase for describing the role of a sandbox DM.

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