D&D 5E Character play vs Player play

Majoru Oakheart

Adventurer
This topic was brought up a while ago in another thread and I've been considering it more lately. Rather than derail that thread, I decided to create a new one.

Before I make my reply to GMforPowergamers, I'll repost my post:

I agree...most of the time. However, every time he's gotten angry it's because the adventure required him to think, even a little bit. His response is always "what do I have to roll for my character to figure this out for me?

The adventure specifically said that for the players to get skill checks they needed to ask specifically about the things they were looking for or at. It said not to give them skill checks unless they said "Hey, you mentioned that bow over there was made of purple wood. I go look at the bow closer and see why it's purple instead of a normal colour." Then you'd be told that the bow was made of a special type of wood only found in one forest. But the adventure took place in an inn room filled with people and objects. It was designed to test the players a bit and less their characters.

Spoiler for the D&D Expeditions adventure DDEX1-1 Defiance in Phlan for those who don't want to know:
The answer is that the lighting hits the nearest person who has something on them from the forest in question since the artifact contains the spirit of a dragon who lived in that forest. The first person it hits is the one who took the artifact out of forest. The second person is someone who has been eating soup made from a plant that only grows in the forest. The third person is carrying a bow made out of a tree in the forest. The next person is wearing flowers in their hair that they picked in the forest. Then someone who is wearing a necklace of flowers from the forest.

The PCs are supposed to watch the pattern and get more clues each time it jumps. In which case they can grab any object from the forest and the artifact and stand right beside the last person hit.

The entire point of the puzzle is for the players to figure it out. It's not much of a puzzle of the players say "I look around! I roll a 25!" and you say "Alright, there is a bow made of wood from a specific forest laying on the chair next to that woman, the soup that guy is eating is made from a plant only in that same forest, also that woman has a flower in her hair from that forest." The adventure would be over in about 30 seconds. The adventure is supposed to last an hour and that's the majority of the adventure is observing and figuring out the answer.

The adventure does have an information gathering section of the adventure. The PCs are told that there is a magical evil artifact somewhere in the room but they don't know where, so they are asked to spread out and talk to everyone in the inn to see if they can discover anything suspicious. The adventure enters "Phase 2" when the PCs figure out that one guy has the artifact in a glass sphere in a bag at his feat. Any attempt to get into the bag or reference to the bag causes the NPC to get paranoid and attempt to pick up the bag and accidentally smash the sphere, causing the lightning to be released.

It is possible that before they ever discover the artifact is in the bag, they have spoken to the guy eating the soup and know the origin of the soup(just looking at it doesn't let you know what it's made of since it looks nothing like the plant in question). It means you could have asked the ranger about her bow and it's origin long before this started. They didn't. They skipped that part and went directly to "Someone got zapped by electricity! Tell us why, immediately! Don't make me figure it out on my own, I don't want to. Just tell me the answer!"
That wasn't the only time he complained about immediately not knowing the answer, however. We played Murder in Baldur's Gate and he complained that the Dukes of the city wouldn't immediately change the laws based on their obviously superior logic as to why they should be changed and a high persuasion check. He got angry that the guards of the city wouldn't stop harassing people they considered criminals simply because the PCs told them all not to. He felt they were the heroes of the story and people should listen to them. There shouldn't be problems that they couldn't just solve by rolling high enough on a die.

We played Scourge of the Sword Coast:
In the adventure, the PCs get to Daggerford and a guard goes insane and attacks them. They subdue him but he hangs himself in his cell. This is because there is a succubus in town who dominated him into doing it. But no one in town knows she's a succubus. So the adventure assumes you'll talk to everyone in town, run into a dead end in your investigation then be given a new mission to go investigate a nearby town that hasn't been heard from in a week. They'll be told it's extremely important and they need to go now, people might be in danger. To make a long story short, the PCs get sent on a couple of urgent missions while they are in the town and in the process discover a bunch of red wizards who are attempting to take over the area. The succubus works for them and you eventually run into her in their lair. Thereby solving the mystery. Though the adventure assumes there's no way for the PCs to solve the mystery before the end of the adventure where they meet the succubus and she confesses. Then you fight her after having gained 3 levels over the course of the adventure. Otherwise there's a real chance the succubus just kills the whole party at the level they start the adventure at.

The player in question showed up, talked to the people in town, realized that no one gave them enough information to solve the suicide and immediately started complaining that this adventure was stupid, it didn't give him enough information to solve the crime immediately, so what was the point? He tried all his skills but none of them told him the answer!

I certainly wouldn't be mad about it. Feats are optional. They don't need to be allowed and the DM can decide whether he or she wants them in their game. I used to get angry about splat books not being allowed...but those weren't labelled explicitly optional like feats.


He didn't have HORRIBLE stats, he had slightly below average stats. I was having them roll precisely because my player's REALLY like to power game the crap out of their characters. Especially him. I figured that if we rolled, it would get everyone out of the mind set that their stats NEEDED to be an 18 or their character was horrible. Most people wouldn't even roll an 18 so it would no longer be expected.

He rolled a couple of points below the standard array. So, it wasn't too far away from the "average" roll. But the entire exercise of rolling would have been pointless if I just let him reroll. Because the point was that not everyone was going to be equal. He complained about it EVERY session though until he said "Look, my stats are below the standard array, EVERYONE else is above the array's stats. I feel like I'm completely worthless." I said "Fine, since it's such a big deal to you, even though I have not seen your character be significantly weaker than anyone else at the table, I'll let you reroll." He rolled even lower than his old stats. I told him I'd be nice and let him keep his old stats instead of his newer, worse stats...but he needed to stop complaining about how bad they were. He did. That was the last I heard of it.
 

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mcbobbo

Explorer
My gut reaction to the FP here is simply this: He doesn't trust you.

And from what I have read so far, it seems a reasonable reaction.

My advice is to discuss it.
 

Lerysh

First Post
Classic argument for Roleplay vs Roll-play. If the player isn't interested in engaging with the world he's probably better off playing an MMO where everything is decided for him and he just has to push buttons kill things. That said adventure logic trains are usually bad game design. Having to figure out the exact set of key information to proceed that occurred to the designer at the time can be infuriating. It's hard to follow someone else's logic train sometimes. Instead of "I look at X, tell me about X" there needs to at least be a "I look for clues" and Roll Int (Investigate) check. Maybe the DC is 5 higher to look generally vs Specific. Maybe the check points out the strange purple bow again, which your character thinks is suspicious. Maybe you randomly select an object or person that the PC "specifically investigates" when he does something general. Point is to move the story forward.

Atempting to bend reality to your will with Charisma (Persuasion) checks is bad, but dismissing the PCs ideas on how they want to shape the story is equally bad. In your example I'd have the Duke say something like "You've given me a lot to think about" or "I'll discuss this with the town council". Later the Duke, who was swayed by the PC, can lay blame on someone else for not going the direction the PCs wanted but the effects of the check can be felt.

For the guards and criminals thing, the PCs are in fact heroes. If this is the same town where they can get an audience with the Duke, why exactly is the town guard not going to respond to them? If you were a town guard, and an armed, obviously well intentioned, powerful adventurer came up to you and said, "Look, I need you to lay off these guys for a while. I can't explain now, but it's for the greater good," where is the harm in going with it?

The most important tool in a DM's arsenal is the word "yes". If the players ask you a question it's because they have an idea they want to use and are checking their information. If someone asks "did that wizard have a beard" you say yes. They then try to impersonate that wizard and advance the plot. That was the idea they wanted to use but they needed encouragement to go forward with it.

Finally, that adventure described with the unsolvable suicide is, in fact, stupid. To present a problem and just expect the PCs to IGNORE said problem is terrible, awful, horribly bad adventure design. It's like saying "Here's a cookie, but you can't have the cookie, you can only stare longingly at the cookie until you go eat your vegetables in this other town where wizards are controlling the cookies". Forget that and give the players their cookie, whenever possible. Is there a reason, other than it was printed in the adventure, why this guard couldn't commit suicide one town over, where there is actually an evil wizard infestation and succubus problem? Why make them frustrated and then change scenes with no resolution in the first place? Also, encountering a succubus is NEVER a problem. Why, exactly, would she kill the players when she could dominate one of them instead, tell him to kill the others, and fly off, thus you see the answer to the problem and the reason to go to the next town right away.
 

Paraxis

Explorer
The player is not in the fantasy world their character is, subtle clues like body language, facial expressions, specks of dirt or blood, certain things might not be picked up by the player when the DM describes the scene. But the character might notice these things that is why skills like perception and investigation exist.

A player might not be Don Juan or James Bond, but his character is supposed to be as charismatic as they are so what lets them seduce the ladies or convince the town guard to do what he wants, the diplomacy skill.

Characters have stats for a reason, use them. But at the same time players have brains, they need to think some and need to explain how they are seducing the ladies or fast talking the guards.

But yes a very high diplomacy roll does convince the npc of some course of action they normally wouldn't do.
 

Astrosicebear

First Post
5E solves this a bit. I dont think any of those other games were 5e. Theres very, very little difference between skill checks nowadays. Maybe someone has a +4 to the check, where everyone else might be +0 or +1. So there is much more room to involved the party. Gone are the days of the +30 diplomacy checks at lvl 5. So the rest of the party can now glean more information easier, and help investigations.

But it speaks to ROLL vs ROLE play. If the player is a pattern abuser, have him roll for everything. Or roll for him. Tell him you are rolling for him walking, and he walks into a wall, falls down and breaks his leg... sorry, 1 on a Con check... He might get the idea.
 

GX.Sigma

Adventurer
This topic was brought up a while ago in another thread and I've been considering it more lately. Rather than derail that thread, I decided to create a new one.

Before I make my reply to GMforPowergamers, I'll repost my post:

[etc]

...And? What's the issue? Why are you still playing with this jerk? Are you looking for advice? If so: That person is a jerk and you shouldn't play with him.
 

Majoru Oakheart

Adventurer
SO he uses his skills and stats. Tell me again why that is a problem?
The problem is that the game simply becomes a dice game if everything can be solved using in game skills.

This game then becomes:
I roll a 15. I make it. I know what the problem is.
I roll a 17. I make it. My character implements the solution.

How much experience do I get for completing the mission?

Imagine if other games worked like that:
"Should I buy Boardwalk? I think my shoe would know better than I would. What do I roll to see if my shoe can figure out if it's a good idea or not?"

so if your players have bad memories, but are playing high wisdom high Int characters, the characters can't figure that out because the player didn't... that sounds like a horrid set up.
If my players forget something, I'll give them an Int check to remember it. But I normally use this in a "I can't remember what that guy's name was again..." "Make an Int Check. You make it? His name was Bob." sort of way. If players don't ask about something, they don't get the check. Unless they are REALLY stuck and I think something is fairly obvious. Then I'll actively say "Alright, you guys seem pretty lost. Everyone make an Int check to remember something you've obviously forgotten." But I won't volunteer until the player's have been trying for a bit on their own.

It was designed to test the players a bit and less their characters.
I suppose this is the real question. What is wrong with that? If all the decisions are made by the character then we are watching a tv show and not playing a game.


this writer needs to be disallowed from ever writing anything for D&D again... so just to check, I am supposed to ask every person hit what they eat/are eating... this is the dumbest idea ever. Atleast if it was a skill check you could have the players get the info some how.
Well, the person in question is a food critic who gladly tells anyone who asks that he's trying a new soup on the menu made from stuff from the forest.

It's one possible clue you can get. The entire point of the adventure is that each clue your group is clever enough to get before the lightning triggers, the easier it is for you to figure out the puzzle. It is designed to reward players with thinking. I love anything that rewards players for thinking.
not as bad as the soup... but pretty close. I imagine most PCs don't know where the wood for there bows come from, and if I asked 100 DMs over the cources of 10 cons next year we would be lucky if 2 knew where there NPC bows where from... that is BS to expect a PC to ask that...
There is a skill check to identify the bow. But you need to say "I look at the bow, it's oddly purple, why is that?" If you don't take interest in it, it is assumed your character has no interest in it either. You determine your characters actions which includes your character's focus.

no the CHARACTERS are supposed to do things the PLAYER just tells you and you adjudicate (with or without a roll) how successful.

Example: "Hey, I have a high Insight and Perception, and a great Wisdom and OK Survival, I look for a pattern witch skill can I roll."
as apposed to say the 18 Int 16 Wis wizard who is a investigator being stumped well the 9 int and 11 wis barbarian gets it because by luck his player figured it out first...
I can definitely see both sides of this. Your character is good at something, he should be good at that. But by the same token, the game does involve players and their input should matter.

It's like saying that a 18 Cha character should be able to say "I convince him that it's a good idea to side with us. How? I don't know. I say something that convinces him."

I like to think that the players come up with the STRATEGY for their character, their character just provides the actual ability to do the things the player decides. So, a player says "My character plans on using the King's indiscretions against him, he'll point out that he wouldn't want his infidelity to be known and he should help us." The character gets to provide the flowery words that makes that strategy convincing.

It's 50/50 for both player and character. The player in question wanted it to be 100% character and 0% player. That is what frustrated me about the situation. I'm asking the player "What do you want your character to do?" he's replying with "What does my character want to do?"
That adventure could take a year of 5 hour weekly sessions if your players aren't able to pick up on clues well
The adventure in question has a "release valve". If the players don't figure it out in time an NPC tells them the answer. I think that all good puzzles should have something like this. I understand that puzzles can be frustrating for some people. But I do think they are pointless if the answers are just given up by the DM.
 


Majoru Oakheart

Adventurer
Classic argument for Roleplay vs Roll-play. If the player isn't interested in engaging with the world he's probably better off playing an MMO where everything is decided for him and he just has to push buttons kill things. That said adventure logic trains are usually bad game design. Having to figure out the exact set of key information to proceed that occurred to the designer at the time can be infuriating. It's hard to follow someone else's logic train sometimes. Instead of "I look at X, tell me about X" there needs to at least be a "I look for clues" and Roll Int (Investigate) check. Maybe the DC is 5 higher to look generally vs Specific. Maybe the check points out the strange purple bow again, which your character thinks is suspicious. Maybe you randomly select an object or person that the PC "specifically investigates" when he does something general. Point is to move the story forward.
I'm not in disagreement. I think that players need clues to figure out puzzles. But I think that not every puzzle being able to be solved immediately is a good thing. If the puzzle in a movie or TV show was solved the second it came up every time, they'd be very boring.

Atempting to bend reality to your will with Charisma (Persuasion) checks is bad, but dismissing the PCs ideas on how they want to shape the story is equally bad. In your example I'd have the Duke say something like "You've given me a lot to think about" or "I'll discuss this with the town council". Later the Duke, who was swayed by the PC, can lay blame on someone else for not going the direction the PCs wanted but the effects of the check can be felt.

For the guards and criminals thing, the PCs are in fact heroes. If this is the same town where they can get an audience with the Duke, why exactly is the town guard not going to respond to them? If you were a town guard, and an armed, obviously well intentioned, powerful adventurer came up to you and said, "Look, I need you to lay off these guys for a while. I can't explain now, but it's for the greater good," where is the harm in going with it?
The answers to most of these questions involve understanding the whys behind this adventure. I can explain but it requires deep spoilers for Murder in Baldur's Gate:
In the adventure, the point is that Bhaal(the god of Murder) is almost coming back to life. His essence was scattered in the city itself, so because of that, his presence is especially strong within the city. He is using his power to manipulate the feelings of everyone in the city subtly. Though he has the most direct influence over 3 NPCs in the city: The second in charge of the thieves guild, the guy in charge of the Flaming Fist(who is the mercenary organization that essentially the police force in town) and one of the 3 remaining Dukes in the city.

All 3 of these NPCs have things that they are really irritated about and Bhaal is playing on those rivalries, fears, and angers to make them stronger and stronger as the adventure goes on. All 3 of the NPCs attempt to use the PCs as pawns in their plans to make sure they come out on top and their enemies are defeated. The Duke wants the thieves guild eliminated. He wants the non-nobility put in their place as lesser than the nobles. He is manipulating all the other nobles behind the scenes so that they will pass laws that will put the common people in their place.

The PCs in question were attempting to ask him to overturn those laws under the basis that they were bad for the common people. That was precisely the point of creating those laws.

The guards they were convincing to stop harassing people were acting on direct orders from the leader of their organization to get rid of all the dock workers since they were immigrants who were obviously causing all the crime in the city and they needed to go home. Most of the Flaming Fist feel the same way as their leader since racial tensions are high in the city. They were told that the recent crime wave was caused by these people and were trying to convince them to leave.

Yes, there was a chance to convince them but the player in question REALLY got annoyed when it was hard to convince them.

The most important tool in a DM's arsenal is the word "yes". If the players ask you a question it's because they have an idea they want to use and are checking their information. If someone asks "did that wizard have a beard" you say yes. They then try to impersonate that wizard and advance the plot. That was the idea they wanted to use but they needed encouragement to go forward with it.
I agree, to a point. You want to say yes when possible, but you don't want to say yes constantly or your players will walk all over you. It's impossible to have a mystery if the facts in your game keep changing because the players want them to. If you have a description of the wizard in question already planned out and he doesn't have a beard, that doesn't change because the players want it to. If the answer to a puzzle is to touch yellow, yellow, green, red...the order doesn't change because the players want it to.

There needs to be a balance between players getting what they want and the facts of the D&D world. For instance, that player wanting to be a Warforged. I said we were playing in FR and there are no Warforged in the FR so I wasn't allowing it. The player wasn't happy but I think it enhances the overall experience of the game to live and play in a consistent world with defined boundaries.

Finally, that adventure described with the unsolvable suicide is, in fact, stupid. To present a problem and just expect the PCs to IGNORE said problem is terrible, awful, horribly bad adventure design. It's like saying "Here's a cookie, but you can't have the cookie, you can only stare longingly at the cookie until you go eat your vegetables in this other town where wizards are controlling the cookies". Forget that and give the players their cookie, whenever possible. Is there a reason, other than it was printed in the adventure, why this guard couldn't commit suicide one town over, where there is actually an evil wizard infestation and succubus problem? Why make them frustrated and then change scenes with no resolution in the first place? Also, encountering a succubus is NEVER a problem. Why, exactly, would she kill the players when she could dominate one of them instead, tell him to kill the others, and fly off, thus you see the answer to the problem and the reason to go to the next town right away.
I didn't prepare the second half of the adventure because our group died and I stopped DMing part way through the adventure. So, my understanding of the second half is a little vague.

Spoilers again for Scourge of the Sword Coast:
The point is mostly foreshadowing. The PCs get to town and are asked to find a missing magic artifact. Also, when they arrive a guard attacks them and then later commits suicide in his cell. But the main mission is to find the artifact, that's what they were asked to do. The PCs can take it upon themselves to investigate the suicide and determine that something was suspicious but for all intents and purposes, it appears to have nothing to do with the theft of the artifact. The succubus in question had dominated the guard as part of her plot to steal the artifact, however. And when the adventurers shows up, she was concerned she'd be found and dominated the guard to attack them. Then, in order to make sure she wasn't found out, she dominated him again to commit suicide.

The succubus wants them dead because she works for the Red Wizards of Thay who are operating nearby as part of their mission to conquer the Sword Coast. They view the PCs as a threat and want them eliminated. But without drawing attention to them. Charming one, most likely wouldn't work as he wouldn't be able to kill the rest. Also, there's a possibility it doesn't work and she gets discovered. She's a good spy for the Red Wizards in the city and doesn't want to blow her cover.

It's also meant to foreshadow when the PCs run into the Red Wizards later and the Succubus reveals herself. I find foreshadowing helps a plot seem much more interesting. I love feeling like a storyline is all tied together and isn't just a collection of unrelated events.
 

Lerysh

First Post
I agree, to a point. You want to say yes when possible, but you don't want to say yes constantly or your players will walk all over you. It's impossible to have a mystery if the facts in your game keep changing because the players want them to. If you have a description of the wizard in question already planned out and he doesn't have a beard, that doesn't change because the players want it to. If the answer to a puzzle is to touch yellow, yellow, green, red...the order doesn't change because the players want it to.

To the puzzle answer, that's fine. No reason to change it. To the Description, unless it's really VITAL to the story the wizard has a certain appearance, it is actively hurting your game to say no to your players here. Like I said, he asked a question because he has an idea. If you say no, that idea fizzels and dies. If you say yes then your player runs with it, feels like he's accomplishing something, and the plot advances. Which sounds better? Maybe his disguise doesn't work out in the long run, but he has a plan, implements said plan, and lives by the results. It doesn't matter if the plan FAILS ultimately, it matters that the player felt he had control over the actions of his character.

Letting your players walk all over you is practically in your job description as DM. It is, after all, in your best interest to lose and let the PCs win. Obstacles to overcome are fine. Specific variables necessary in overcoming said obstacles is bad form. Not allowing warforged is one thing, that's a rules question not a roleplay question. Not allowing a PC to take a plan of action because it deviates from your idea of overcoming the obstacle at hand is another thing entirely.

As to the puzzle question, say you had clues and hints around for the puzzle and it unlocks some kind of door. What if said Int 9 Wis 11 Barbarian just wants to walk up to the door and smash it in? Do you not allow it because it doesn't follow the clever plan? Clever comes in all guises, and it's actually MORE clever for a player to figure out a solution that is in character for his PC than for that barbarian to figure out the torch puzzle.

This sounds more and more like you are expecting your PCs to act in a certain way, and when they don't you punish them rather than rolling with it and letting the player's act in their own way. You can reward cleverness, but at the same time don't punish ingenuity or outside the box thinking (which are all basically synonyms). Bottom line is let the player's play their character and don't force them onto a particular logic train.

Foreshadowing is fine, but what you described wasn't foreshadowing. Foreshadowing would be guard attacks, is subdued, and then ADMITS to dealing with the succubus. Now the players encountered an obstacle, dealt with it, and acquired a puzzle piece to advance the story. An unsolvable puzzle does none of those things. What exactly does the suicide foreshadow? If the PC's can't figure out the cause then nothing is hinted at, except an alarming trend of NPC hangings.
 

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