Over on Brian Train's blog, he linked to a scan of an interview done with him in C3i magazine.
Interview in C3i 29
It's a good interview overall. But one part of it stuck out as applicable in all gaming - board-, card-, war-, and especially in role-playing gaming.
Emphasis is added by me:
"I like fog of war, because one of the great drawbacks of civilian wargames is that they are very nearly perfect-information exercises. Some players feel the need for a very great amount of control over their own forces, and for information about the enemy they face. Well, so did the historical counterparts whose roles they are playing, but they didn't have it, did they? One feeling I only rarely get from a wargame is that stepping-off-a-cliff, plunging-ahead-into-the-mist moment, and I would like to be able to put more of that into my games."
- Brian Train, on Page 14
You see this in games a lot - measuring distances before deciding to shoot. Asking for all of the modifiers before deciding to act. Calculating the odds before making a decision. Wanting to know the full range of possibilities for your character at all stages of play, and the odds and effects of all of them.
You also see it more perniciously in play - refusing to take risks, avoiding the unknown, being unwilling to act when information is scarce, preferring to back down and fight another day on the assumption that there will always be another day.
I think this springs from the fact that, as players, even in games with a GM, we have control of a great deal of information. We know how strong we are, to the exact point and to the pound. We know how much damage we do, and how that relates to DR. We know how much more effort we can expend. We know how many spells we've got left. We generally decide what we're doing with our paper man to the extent that we get frustrated when effects (unconsciousness, injury, magical incapacitation, morale checks, etc.) take away our total control.
So it's easy to get paralyzed by the lack of other information. Hey, I know everything on my character sheet, and I can act based on that. But if I don't know the penalty to shoot in the dim light at that guy in the back past his buddy, I can't properly decide. If I don't know what that monster is, or where the enemy has stashed his reserves, I can't really know what to do. If I can't observe the effects of something precisely, then I have no information and I have to just guess if it's working or not. And if I say I'm doing something, my paper man just does it.
In the actual battles and wars that are being simulated by games, there wasn't perfect information. Choices were made based on assumptions and guesses and confidences. Wrong choices were made. People made decisions based on need to get something done - or get it attempted - despite the bad odds they thought they faced. Or without knowing them at all. And without being certain that their forces would actually execute what was asked.
It's an easy thing to be guilty of - assuming that perfect information is basically your right as a player, even if you do it subconsciously. You're going to know where everyone is, what the odds are, what the capabilities are, and so on. You may have moments without it, but those are perceived as not being the norm. After all, you have perfect information about what's in front of you on your sheet, and the GM has perfect information about the rest of the world.
That can lead to a quest for perfect information before you do anything . . . but a great deal of enjoyment comes from those "plunging-into-the-mist" moments. From making decisions based on imperfect information. From taking chances because you accept that the time to act is now and that you are never going to have all you really want to know.
That line really struck me - it's something I see, and something I do. And I think that approach costs some enjoyment and saps some of the fun of playing a no-real-cost game.