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The Forge author Ron Edwards once said that a game could theoretically ask a player to roll at four different points during the execution of any action.

I think the four steps were:

  • roll to see if your character thinks of doing the action;
  • roll to see if your character manages to attempt the action;
  • roll to see it your character manages to execute the action;
  • roll to see if the completed action has an effect.

The idea is that different rulesets might ask you to roll dice at one of these points (a D&D attack roll is most often attack at step 3 and damage at step 4), but usually a game consistently uses a single option for all of its actions.

The discussion came with an example of a game where players had to roll at all 4 steps, against an adversarial GM that only rolled at one of the steps; the example was aiming at underlining how unfair such a game would have been.

I am pretty sure that this discussion also included the concepts of Fortune in the Beginning/Middle/End, but those have not been useful search terms for me.

How is the concept that multiple steps exist inside the action called?

Note: if there isn't a name for the whole concept but the steps have names, I will accept those as the correct answer.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Are you aware that Ron Edwards' approach to RPGs was discredited over a decade ago, and its sequel also died a horrible death? \$\endgroup\$ Commented May 11 at 4:18
  • \$\begingroup\$ @KorvinStarmast Discredited by what? And also, how is that relevant to me wanting to name the concept in conversation and not remembering how it was called? \$\endgroup\$
    – Zachiel
    Commented May 12 at 19:07

2 Answers 2

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"Introducing the Rock of Tahamaat, Tyrant of IIEE."

That's the way I heard it said, though it wasn't on the Forge and it wasn't Ron Edwards and it wasn't four points to roll but three rolls to navigate four points. Anyway, here's Wonderwall D. Vincent Baker's personal blog (excerpt follows, emphasis mine):

THE GAME DESIGN POINT

When you're resolving a non-Rock of Tahamaat character's action, the player rolls...

  • First, to see whether the character really does initiate action based on her intent. I>IEE.
  • Second, to see whether the character really does follow her initiated action through to its full execution. II>EE.
  • Third, to see what effect the character's executed action really has. IIE>E.

When you're resolving Rock of Tahamaat's intent, the player rolls...

  • Only to find out what effect follows from the character's intent. I—E.

Intent-to-effect resolution, with no mechanical attention to initiation or execution, no mechanical attention to the action itself, is very good for Rock of Tahamaat, Space Tyrant, with his three most astute psychics and his agent bodies and his vast impersonal attention. It's not so good for characters who take real action on their own behalf. Is it good for your game?

The four steps, to be clear, are:

  • Intent: the character gets the idea to do something
  • Initiate: the character has the courage and opportunity to start what they thought of doing
  • Execution: the character has the physical and mental capability to complete what they began, regardless of opposition
  • Effect: the character's completed action ripples through the world

The joke of "Rock of Tahamaat" (and it is a joke) is that as a space tyrant whose will is read by psychics and carried out by agents without his personal intervention, the Rock of Tahamaat can make one roll to go directly from intent to effect, but his circumstances are, shall we say, somewhat unique?

A Brief Aside: Where The One Roll Actually Is

Now, Vincent Baker would go on from this to make Apocalypse World, a game which somewhat famously lets its characters boss gangs around, outlast desert pursuers, delve into the psychic maelstrom for answers, and take all other manner of dramatic post-apocalyptic actions, all with one single roll.

99% of the time, this is done by assuming all characters are capable of initiating actions based on their intent, and then either:

  • assigning an effect to the successful execution of an action and rolling to see if the character can pull it off, or
  • assuming an action's successful execution, and rolling for the magnitude of its effect.

Go Aggro works the first way: you roll +hard to try and force someone else to the choice between obedience and pain, but they may be able to find another way out. Read a Person works the second way: you'll always get a question about what's making them tick, but if you roll +sharp well you might get more than one.

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According to this post on indie-rpgs.com, which references a previous unknown post by game author and theorist Ron Edwards, the name of the concept is, quite simply, "The 4 steps of action".

Another popular name for the concept is the acronym of the four steps, IIEE ("intent, initiation, execution, effect"), though before IIEE became widespread other variations have been used across forums, such as IICE ("intent, initiation, completion, effect") in the first linked thread or IIEC ("intent, initiation, execution, completion"").

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    \$\begingroup\$ IIEE: intent, initiation, execution, effect. For example here: adeptplay.com/2018/07/09/monday-lab-aaiieeee \$\endgroup\$
    – Tommi
    Commented May 7 at 5:01
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    \$\begingroup\$ The original formulation was IICE, admittedly, but IIEE is the one that got more wind to it after a while. \$\endgroup\$
    – Tommi
    Commented May 7 at 5:03

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