D&D General Alternate thought - rule of cool is bad for gaming

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
The folks I have played with since 2000, and that's several dozen, have for the most part had no trouble doing that. There are only two that I can think of that couldn't or wouldn't.
As a player I'd rather just not be put in the position of having to worry about it in the first place: don't tell me things my character doesn't know.
 

log in or register to remove this ad



Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
As a player I'd rather just not be put in the position of having to worry about it in the first place: don't tell me things my character doesn't know.
I don't. I'm referring to things like troll regeneration to name the classic example. Players learn things while playing characters and don't forget all of them when playing later characters. They need to be able to differentiate between what they know and what the PC knows.
 



pemerton

Legend
On player vs character knowledge:

From Robin Laws (p of my 20th anniversary edition of Over the Edge):

When viewing role-playing as an art form, rather than a game, it becomes less important to keep from the players things their characters wouldn't know. When characters separate you can "cut" back and forth between scenes involving different characters, making each PC the focus of his own individual sub-plot. This technique has several benefits. First, it allows players to develop characters toward their goals without having to subsume them to the demands of the "party" as a whole. Secondly, it quickens the pace, allowing players think while their characters are "off-screen", cutting down on dead time in which players thrash over decisions. When a character reaches an impasse, or an important climax, the GM can then "cut" to another character, giving the first player a chance to mentally regroup. Finally, the device is entertaining for players out of the spotlight, allowing them to sit back and enjoy the adventures of others' characters.

The price of this is allowing players access to information known to PCs other than their own. But it's simple enough to rule out of play any actions they attempt based on forbidden knowledge. This doesn't mean there will be a shortage of mystery. Any OTE GM will still have secrets to spare. In fact, by allowing the number of sub-plots to increase, the GM is introducing even more questions the players will look forward to seeing answered.​

Laws's "rather than a game" speaks directly to @Lanefan's post upthread. Laws is envisaging players who are playing for "the story" rather than in order to win.

He is also not talking about rules information like trolls' vulnerability to fire, which is part of the suite of GM-vs-player tricks and puzzles that make up a big part of "classic"/"old school" D&D play. He is talking about information and secrets that are part of the emerging fiction that makes up "the story".

From the Maelstrom Storytelling supplement Dacartha Prime (pp 92, 121):

The character is the player's tool in the story, and the player contributes to the story using that tool. The trick is to make interesting choices that add flavor and interest to the game while remaining true to the role. Just doing what makes sense for the character is only half of it. Find new ways to approach dilemmas, and make choices that other players can "play off of". Information that the player has, but that their character does not, should never be used to benefit the character - however, that information can be used to add flavor and color to the story.

Example: Pendleton has a lot of money, all safely kept in a safe deposit box. His friend Lilith wound up with the key by accident, but doesn't know where it came from. Pendleton looks frantically for the key, describing it to his friend as he searches. "A little silver key? Like this one?" Lilith asks, showing him the key. "Yes. A silver key. Very much like that one." he answers, continuing to search. . . .

One of the most obvious but most abused rules of a role-playing game involves "out-of-character" information (abbreviated "ooc" and "ic" for "in-character). This is information that the player knows but their character does NOT know. For instance, the player may know that their character is in danger, but if the character doesn't know that then the player shouldn't take precautions that don't make sense for their character. Essentially, using "ooc" information to help the character is cheating. There are creative ways to use "ooc" information that make the game enjoyable (see [the above example]) but generally the players need to keep "ooc" information separate from "ic" information.​

This advice/instruction sets up a completely different approach from a game/win-oriented approach of the sort associated with classic/OS play. In the latter case, the player is expected to build up "ooc" information over the course of play, and to use it to help win against the dungeon. (Like when playing a Fighting Fantasy Gamebook.) The Maelstrom advice, like Robin Laws's advice, is oriented towards play where the player is trying to establish and express their character in the fiction. It works best in systems in which the character losing or missing out on some opportunity, or suffering some setback, doesn't mean that the player is set back in their ability to play the game.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
On player vs character knowledge:

From Robin Laws (p of my 20th anniversary edition of Over the Edge):

When viewing role-playing as an art form, rather than a game, it becomes less important to keep from the players things their characters wouldn't know. When characters separate you can "cut" back and forth between scenes involving different characters, making each PC the focus of his own individual sub-plot. This technique has several benefits. First, it allows players to develop characters toward their goals without having to subsume them to the demands of the "party" as a whole. Secondly, it quickens the pace, allowing players think while their characters are "off-screen", cutting down on dead time in which players thrash over decisions. When a character reaches an impasse, or an important climax, the GM can then "cut" to another character, giving the first player a chance to mentally regroup. Finally, the device is entertaining for players out of the spotlight, allowing them to sit back and enjoy the adventures of others' characters.​
The price of this is allowing players access to information known to PCs other than their own. But it's simple enough to rule out of play any actions they attempt based on forbidden knowledge. This doesn't mean there will be a shortage of mystery. Any OTE GM will still have secrets to spare. In fact, by allowing the number of sub-plots to increase, the GM is introducing even more questions the players will look forward to seeing answered.​

Laws's "rather than a game" speaks directly to @Lanefan's post upthread. Laws is envisaging players who are playing for "the story" rather than in order to win.
I'll be charitable and say he's merely being naive here when he says "it's simple enough to rule out of play any actions they attempt based on forbidden knowledge", because believe me, it isn't. My evidence for that statement is the endless hours of arguments I've been in and-or sat through when players have pushed back against similar rulings with justifications ranging anywhere from marginally-sustainable to utterly absurd. And while I love a good ol' argument as much as anyone, I have no patience for these arguments because they are 100% preventable by simply ensuring that player knowledge and character knowledge are kept in synch.

And yes this means sometimes doing things by secret note, or via a player and the DM leaving the room for a while, or by whatever other means are required to keep unknown information secret.

Also, with these suggestions he's proactively disallowing the players from keeping secrets from each other either in or out of character; which means so much for any meaningful or immersive in-party intrigue.

But even more important than that, for me (and I suspect, many others) a large part of immersion rests in being able to think as our character is thinking; a task that is made much harder if not impossible when one has to constantly worry about mentally filtering out what in-game information is accessible and what isn't.
He is also not talking about rules information like trolls' vulnerability to fire, which is part of the suite of GM-vs-player tricks and puzzles that make up a big part of "classic"/"old school" D&D play.
I too am not referring to simple things like trolls-v-fire. I'm referring to the 100%-inevitability of player-side actions changing based on whether or not players have info their characters do not.

Example: Sue the Ranger goes off on a solo scout around the castle to assess its defenses, while the rest of the PCs hide their mounts and await her return; she and they expect she'll be gone for an in-game hour or two.

If Sue falls down a ravine during her scout and gets stuck there and the other players don't know it - all they know is that she doesn't come back after an hour, then an hour and a half, then two hours - they can decide in-character to wait longer or go looking or write her off or storm the castle and hope for the best or whatever - their decision-making process isn't tainted by their knowing what in fact became of Sue.

But if the other players do know Sue got stuck because they watched the proceedings out-of-character, the odds of those players making the same decision(s) they would have had they not known are IME close to zero: it's almost certain they'll find a reason to go searching for her instead of waiting as they otherwise would likely have done, and they'll also gin up an excuse to go sooner than the agreed-upon wait time.
He is talking about information and secrets that are part of the emerging fiction that makes up "the story".

From the Maelstrom Storytelling supplement Dacartha Prime (pp 92, 121):

The character is the player's tool in the story, and the player contributes to the story using that tool. The trick is to make interesting choices that add flavor and interest to the game while remaining true to the role. Just doing what makes sense for the character is only half of it. Find new ways to approach dilemmas, and make choices that other players can "play off of". Information that the player has, but that their character does not, should never be used to benefit the character - however, that information can be used to add flavor and color to the story.​
Example: Pendleton has a lot of money, all safely kept in a safe deposit box. His friend Lilith wound up with the key by accident, but doesn't know where it came from. Pendleton looks frantically for the key, describing it to his friend as he searches. "A little silver key? Like this one?" Lilith asks, showing him the key. "Yes. A silver key. Very much like that one." he answers, continuing to search. . . .​
One of the most obvious but most abused rules of a role-playing game involves "out-of-character" information (abbreviated "ooc" and "ic" for "in-character). This is information that the player knows but their character does NOT know. For instance, the player may know that their character is in danger, but if the character doesn't know that then the player shouldn't take precautions that don't make sense for their character. Essentially, using "ooc" information to help the character is cheating. There are creative ways to use "ooc" information that make the game enjoyable (see [the above example]) but generally the players need to keep "ooc" information separate from "ic" information.​

This advice/instruction sets up a completely different approach from a game/win-oriented approach of the sort associated with classic/OS play. In the latter case, the player is expected to build up "ooc" information over the course of play, and to use it to help win against the dungeon.
This is a disingenuous take, in that it takes trolls-v-fire-like OOC knowledge (which old-school play does expect the player to accumulate over time; and which is in fact often explainable in the fiction though everyone likes to ignore this bit) and equates it with Sue-the-scout-like OOC knowledge of oncoming danger e.g. the player knows there's a fire trap around the corner but the character doesn't.

My question is if the character doesn't know a specific danger is coming then why should the player know? Or put another way, why should the player be (completely needlessly) put in a position of having to sail the character into dangers* the player already knows are coming?

* - speaking here of specific dangers that require specific precautions (e.g. fire resistance vs a fire trap) rather than standard precautions the character would always have in place when in a dangerous environment.
 

tetrasodium

Legend
Supporter
Epic
It doesn’t. Most players are able to separate what they know from what their characters believe.
"Some players"? Yes absolutely...



"Many players?" Sure I guess.....



"Most players" 🤣 There's a reason why what I said that I would add a third option rather than replace one of the two Maxperson listed when I brought it up. That's also why why I described in 685 doesn't require players to split the two & in fact plays upon their very nature. When the mountain of BS nonsense fiction becomes too high for them to sort the true from the urban legends it becomes difficult to metagame the shifting truth & a lot of the time that metagamed pre-prep like a low level PC commissioning the earlier described moon & river blessed bamboo spear just becomes a "hey I got an idea.. lets do/use this to be safe" when a weird critter shows up🤣

Extending the troll vrs fire example from above... It doesn't matter if wooden slashing weapons (ie sharpened cricket bats)that have each been soaked in 100gp worth of salt for a week instead or in addition if players don't try the fire. Likewise if those weapons are awful to some degree like the old -1 silver weapons it functions for the goal of "trolls are hard to kill" at least as well because now the players feel like they too are facing an unknown threat they thought they knew while just as uncertain about success (if not more uncertain) as their PCs should be... That salted wooden weapon could be doing nothing it could be doing something else, it might even be working... Sure would be a shame itlf it just delayed things this campaign and the party now has a group of angry trolls with a grudge over their use of salted weapons... Seriously... What kind of sadist thinks salted wooden weapons are the cure for troll Regen?... Even a troll can swing that persuade check m
 
Last edited:

EzekielRaiden

Follower of the Way
This is a disingenuous take, in that it takes trolls-v-fire-like OOC knowledge (which old-school play does expect the player to accumulate over time; and which is in fact often explainable in the fiction though everyone likes to ignore this bit) and equates it with Sue-the-scout-like OOC knowledge of oncoming danger e.g. the player knows there's a fire trap around the corner but the character doesn't.
I genuinely don't understand the difference.

Both things are a player, knowing something about a threat before that threat has actually been revealed to them. Both things involve knowledge of the contents of the game separate from what their actual characters could possibly know. There are plenty of times where that knowledge is not so easily explained, but it's considered not a problem a priori, without any concern. But somehow the other is utterly unacceptable, could not possibly be allowed.

I don't get it.
 

Voidrunner's Codex

Remove ads

Top