D&D 5E Character play vs Player play

Rod Staffwand

aka Ermlaspur Flormbator
For some RPG players, the main appeal of the game is the "power trip". The ability to feel heroic and powerful for a short time. This requires certainty to be effective--any ambiguity or stress (from making decisions, having 'sub-par' stats or equipment, or being forced to use one's own abilities to resolve challenges) can completely ruin the power trip in the player's mind.

It sounds like the OP's player is one such person. What he wants out of the game might be beyond the OP's ability or interest to provide as a DM. As a DM you have a few options:

1. Acquiesce to the player's desires. Give him whatever he wants, even if you find the game utterly boring as a result and have to end it after a few months.

2. Try to influence the player's interests into those more in line with your own. This will likely be next to impossible.

3. Part ways with the player. You say that it isn't working out, no one is happy with the current situation and best of luck in your gaming endeavors.

4. Ignore the player's complaints and go right on doing what you're doing. He'll continue to play and complain or quit. You'll then post the horror stories here as a form of therapy.
 

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Majoru Oakheart

Adventurer
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.
I disagree. Part of clever thinking is working WITHIN the boundaries you are given. Player's have control over their characters, they don't have control over the world around them. They can't make an NPC grow a beard through wishful thinking. If their plan requires the NPC to have a beard when the NPC doesn't have one, then it isn't a good plan.

I don't think it's hurting anyone to do this. Clever players should say "No? No beard...alright, that plan won't work...let me come up with another plan." It might require a slight revision of their plan: "No beard, eh? Well, I'll have to shave mine then so I look more like him. I swore I'd never do this, but it's needed for the plan to succeed." Or, if there's no workaround, a clever player should be able to come up with another plan.

Player's plans should not work 100% of the time. In fact, I believe that complications are exactly what cause the most interesting stories.

I also really have no idea how an NPC having a beard would make a player feel like he had no control over 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.
I let players take any action that makes sense given the situation at hand. If I describe a room filled with lasers and cameras guarding the gem they want to steal and one of the players says "I just walk up and take it." the plan will fail, 100% of the time. They came up with a dumb plan. That isn't about deviating from "my idea of overcoming the obstacle". It's that there are solutions that would work and solutions that obviously won't work. Coming up with one of the poor plans and expecting me to say yes to it is dumb.

This is still a game and there will be right and wrong solutions to problems. The game is in figuring out the right solutions based on the information you have. And in searching for the information if you don't have enough.

I want the players to win. But I want them to have to work for it. Saying yes to everything they say does not make them work for it.
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.
It is NOT more clever for a player to figure out a solution that involves smashing the door. Smashing things is the default answer for every adventurer ever. It also purposefully removes the focus of the game from the characters who would be more likely to figure out the puzzle in character.

I'd likely have planned the puzzle so that solving it was the one solution to opening the door, yes. If not, then there was no point in creating the puzzle in the first place. Because the first thing every group I've ever played with would try is smashing open the door. You have to put characters in a position where the first answer isn't the best answer in order to remove them from their comfort zone from time to time.
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.
I love to reward out of the box thinking. But once again, it needs to fit the situation at hand and work within the physical laws of the universe, established fact and the facts that I established in advance of the game session starting. You can't just say "I make a 20 diplomacy check to convince the army to leave. You didn't expect me to do that, did you? So it's out of the box thinking and it should be rewarded. The whole army leaves. You have to say yes to me!"

Convincing the army to leave isn't an available option even if it's an out of the box answer. The army is evil, they have goals that they want to accomplish. A player's plan doesn't trump the motivations of the NPCs. They might be able to find the right leverage to use on the leader of the army to convince him to leave...but that requires work. More than just saying "This is my plan!"
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.
They knew that the NPC in question wasn't acting of his own free will. Everyone they spoke to said that he'd never hang himself and that he was acting strangely lately. It was foreshadowing the succubus that they'd meet later. They don't know WHAT caused the strange behavior in the man, but they do know something did.

This sort of foreshadowing is used in TV all the time. The bad guy appears to be working for some mysterious organization but before the heroes can figure out what it is, the man is killed, leaving the trail cold...for now. Then the show can bring back the organization again in the future and slowly reveal more information about it. But not before the heroes go on a number of other adventurers.

The point is that the information required to solve a problem isn't always available immediately. Sometimes you need to be patient and wait until you have enough information to solve the problem.

The player in question just has 0 patience and gets angry when anyone asks him to be patient.
 

Why even have mental stats if they aren't going to do anything?

I may be able to solve any given puzzle, if I try, but sometimes that's not in-character. I like to play dumb fighter types who go up and hit things with a club, and nothing breaks immersion quite as much as the party idiot explaining to the wizard and cleric how to get past a complicated series of door locks.

Players do not exist within the game world. Characters do.
 

KarinsDad

Adventurer
Why even have mental stats if they aren't going to do anything?

Mental stats do a lot in the game system.

Some DMs just don't like the metagaming "Let's go straight to the dice" solution for intellectual problems. The game is so much more rich if the players work as a team and kibitz solutions to problems and puzzles and it's not just the "I'm a wizard, can I roll an intelligence roll to solve this?".
 

Some DMs just don't like the metagaming "Let's go straight to the dice" solution for intellectual problems.
That's the opposite of meta-gaming. Meta-gaming is expecting the player to do something instead of the character.

I suppose one solution is to require players to only play characters with similar mental stats, but that seems really lame if only the smart players get to play smart characters. Otherwise, you might as well dump your mental stats entirely, and just play a strong character with low Int and figure everything out anyway.
 

Lerysh

First Post
Majoru Oakheart said:
Clever players should say "No? No beard...alright, that plan won't work...let me come up with another plan."

This right here, this is bad. It's a fundamental way of DMing that I don't think you understand. When player's ideas are shot down, they get frustrated, when players get frustrated the game slows down and is generally less fun, when the game slows down and is less fun you inevitably wind up at "What do I need to roll to pass this thing".

Player's plans should not work 100% of the time is true. Player's should, however, be able to attempt 100% of their plans. Success or failure is independent of the attempt. As long as they were able to try, they feel in control of their destiny. What you propose is taking their destiny under your control, until they guess the thing you want them to guess to progress the story. Saying yes to player questions is just a short cut to getting them to attempt a plan.

This beard example is lifted straight out of my experience with the LMoP adventure and my current group. They had defeated the rogue wizard and now wanted to impersonate him. The warlock, a bearded half elf, asked if the wizard had a beard. It does not matter to me what that wizard looks like. Like, 0% care factor. So the answer is yes, the wizard had a beard. I had no idea at the time why this question was relavent to the Warlock, but I knew the answer would spur him forward. The Warlock then attempts to impersonate the wizard via Charisma (Perform) checks to progress the plot. He greets the targets and tries to earn a surprise round through subterfuge. It fails ultimately, but that's not the point. The point is the PCs came up with a plan, executed it, and we moved on from investigation to action. This is your main job as a DM, to keep the plot moving.

The opposite of in control is not necessarily "no control" or "out of control" in this context. When a player makes a decision and that decision impacts the plot they feel empowered and empowered players are happy players and happy players make for good games. They control their fate when they make the plan, weather it succeeds or fails. Asking them to conform to your plan means they are not empowered to control their fate.

Majoru Oakheart said:
I let players take any action that makes sense given the situation at hand. If I describe a room filled with lasers and cameras guarding the gem they want to steal and one of the players says "I just walk up and take it." the plan will fail, 100% of the time. They came up with a dumb plan. That isn't about deviating from "my idea of overcoming the obstacle". It's that there are solutions that would work and solutions that obviously won't work. Coming up with one of the poor plans and expecting me to say yes to it is dumb.

This is still a game and there will be right and wrong solutions to problems. The game is in figuring out the right solutions based on the information you have. And in searching for the information if you don't have enough.

I want the players to win. But I want them to have to work for it. Saying yes to everything they say does not make them work for it.

That is a pretty dumb plan (also, have more faith in your players ability to come up with good plans), but that does not mean he shouldn't be able to do that. Maybe he thinks he can outrun security, or erase the tapes, or some other plan to deal with the fallout of triggering alarms. Maybe he fails to get the gem and the story takes a turn, maybe he gets the gem but has to flee town, maybe his plan for "I have the gem, now what" is clever. The point is, it's his character, and he wants to trip the alarms, so trip the alarms. If this situation were real, is there some invisible force saying "no you can't do that because it's dumb" to a person? No, that person sets off the alarms and deals with the choice he made.

The game is not in figuring out the "right" solution, but in fact figuring out "any" solution to obstacles and problems. Again, not all plans have 100% success rate, but all plans should be able to be attempted by the players.

Saying yes to everything is a SHORTCUT to move from "how do we do this?" to "We are doing this" to "well that worked" or "that didn't work, lets try this instead".

Also this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eItmed4PQdk

Majoru Oakheart said:
I love to reward out of the box thinking. But once again, it needs to fit the situation at hand and work within the physical laws of the universe, established fact and the facts that I established in advance of the game session starting. You can't just say "I make a 20 diplomacy check to convince the army to leave. You didn't expect me to do that, did you? So it's out of the box thinking and it should be rewarded. The whole army leaves. You have to say yes to me!"

Convincing the army to leave isn't an available option even if it's an out of the box answer. The army is evil, they have goals that they want to accomplish. A player's plan doesn't trump the motivations of the NPCs. They might be able to find the right leverage to use on the leader of the army to convince him to leave...but that requires work. More than just saying "This is my plan!"

Ok, first of all, this is a strawman. Unless this actually happened in one of your games you are exaggerating to make a point, and again that point seems to be "do it my way". Secondly, why isn't convincing the army to leave via diplomacy a solution? That in fact is the exact solution to preventing war, isn't it? "Hey we have an army and want your stuff" "well what if we give you some stuff in exchange for other stuff" "no we just take your stuff with our army" "ah, but if you get stuff with out your army you can use that army other places" (Roll diplomacy) "you make good point pink skin, we will take our orc army to next village and you trade us weapons for shines".

It's fine to require effort to achieve a goal. "They might be able to find the right leverage to use on the leader of the army to convince him to leave...but that requires work. More than just saying 'This is my plan!'" is in direct opposition to "they can't use diplomacy to make the army leave". If their "plan" is to get the army to leave peacefully, you set obstacles to that goal and plot points towards that end and eventually they win the day by finding the leverage they need to succeed. The point of the narative and the diplomacy check is to A) Have the party focused on a goal and 2) make progress towards that goal with the outcome of the check.

Even if it were impossible to make the army leave, in atempting to do so and failing the party can achieve both A) and 2). Their goal is to make the army leave. Their diplomacy, while not effective in making the army leave, might provide clues or information on the army's leaders and motivations to eventually meet goal A).

Majoru Oakheart said:
They knew that the NPC in question wasn't acting of his own free will. Everyone they spoke to said that he'd never hang himself and that he was acting strangely lately. It was foreshadowing the succubus that they'd meet later. They don't know WHAT caused the strange behavior in the man, but they do know something did.

This sort of foreshadowing is used in TV all the time. The bad guy appears to be working for some mysterious organization but before the heroes can figure out what it is, the man is killed, leaving the trail cold...for now. Then the show can bring back the organization again in the future and slowly reveal more information about it. But not before the heroes go on a number of other adventurers.

The point is that the information required to solve a problem isn't always available immediately. Sometimes you need to be patient and wait until you have enough information to solve the problem.

The player in question just has 0 patience and gets angry when anyone asks him to be patient.

Foreshadowing in TV is for the viewers. There are no viewers to your game. Foreshadowing in game is for the PLAYERS, which means they need the hint at the knowledge to come. In TV the succubus would be lurking somewhere, and while the characters may not have seen it, the viewer most certainly did, hinting at a showdown to come later.

You are describing a problem, irritated player who wants his character to be relevant, and I am giving you the solution, let him play his character how he wants to play him. Don't say "you can't do that" or "that doesn't work", say "why are you doing that" and "here's what happens when you do that". The group needs more information, so you are in an investigation scene. How do the players investigate? If you ask him what he wants to do and he says "what do I have to roll to solve this" that is a problem. If you ask him what he wants to do and he says "literally anything else" then he has some idea of how he would like the story to go and you should roll with it. If you respond enough times with "that won't work" or "that's not possible" then he gets frustrated.

I'll say it again: Saying "Yes" is a SHORTCUT to get from "what are we doing here?" to "how do we do this?" to "lets do this and win the day" which is ultimately what you should want as a DM. This is the last time I'll try and convince you putting your PCs on exclusive logic trains is bad. I've said what I came to say, take it or leave it I guess.
 

Bumamgar

First Post
I tend to use character skills and attributes as a way to enhance the player's ability to solve the puzzles they encounter. For example, I ran a group through a 5e conversion of the Ghost Tower of Inverness. In the chessboard room, the players were fairly stumped, so I asked for an Intelligence check from a character who had proficiency with a gaming set, and had them add their proficiency bonus. Due to the result of their roll, I told them they recognized that the pattern of the board resembled the common tavern game of 'chess' and that they could recall that various pieces moved in different ways based on their starting position on the board. That clue enabled the players to solve the puzzle.

I generally don't simply let skill checks substitute for player smarts, but I use the skills and attributes of the characters guide the hints and clues I provide to the players. This way they feel smart for figuring out the issue and also can directly see the benefit of their characters skills and background.
 

KarinsDad

Adventurer
That's the opposite of meta-gaming. Meta-gaming is expecting the player to do something instead of the character.

When you expect the player to roleplay the character, that is not metagaming. And yes, problem/puzzle solving is roleplaying.

The disconnect comes from the fact that the player's expectations of the mental capabilities of his PC are huge. Give a rubik's cube to Einstein and he probably won't figure it out quickly. It might take him days to work out an algorithm.


"My wizard knows Arcana, so he should know every tiny little solution to problems." No, your wizard knows Arcana, so sometimes he can make an Arcana check to have knowledge about or figure out some small piece of the problem associated with Arcana or magic, not that the DM's going to hand the entire solution to the player because of one good die roll.

High intelligence allows for a roll once in a while for a clue or a hint or some pertinent set of information. A clue or hint that OTHER players with lower intelligence might not get from the DM. Intelligence checks should rarely be used to insta-solve a problem or puzzle.

I suppose one solution is to require players to only play characters with similar mental stats, but that seems really lame if only the smart players get to play smart characters. I mean, you might as well dump your mental stats entirely if a low Int score doesn't stop the genius player from figuring everything out.

You sound like a casino owner. Heaven forbid a person uses his brains and count cards to play the best strategy.

I would never penalize a player for being smart and it is totally fine for one player to figure out a lot of stuff at the game table.
 

When you expect the player to roleplay the character, that is not metagaming. And yes, problem/puzzle solving is roleplaying.
Right. You want player and character to be in harmony. You can't have the player coming up with stuff that the character wouldn't know, because that's meta-gaming. The character also does know a lot of stuff that the player doesn't know, though, and that shouldn't be discounted.

The character is the one who actually exists within the game world. The player has no agency within the game beyond what the character can do.
 
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Mort

Legend
Supporter
When you expect the player to roleplay the character, that is not metagaming. And yes, problem/puzzle solving is roleplaying.

The disconnect comes from the fact that the player's expectations of the mental capabilities of his PC are huge. Give a rubik's cube to Einstein and he probably won't figure it out quickly. It might take him days to work out an algorithm.


"My wizard knows Arcana, so he should know every tiny little solution to problems." No, your wizard knows Arcana, so sometimes he can make an Arcana check to have knowledge about or figure out some small piece of the problem associated with Arcana or magic, not that the DM's going to hand the entire solution to the player because of one good die roll.

High intelligence allows for a roll once in a while for a clue or a hint or some pertinent set of information. A clue or hint that OTHER players with lower intelligence might not get from the DM. Intelligence checks should rarely be used to insta-solve a problem or puzzle.



You sound like a casino owner. Heaven forbid a person uses his brains and count cards to play the best strategy.

I would never penalize a player for being smart and it is totally fine for one player to figure out a lot of stuff at the game table.
The lock to the door is a complex word puzzle. Larry, playing Bonk the 8 int barbarian, steps up and solves the puzzle. Is that good roleplaying?

What if Larry does this consistently, because he happens to be good at puzzles? Is this a good thing, or does it merit calling out?
 

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