D&D 5E Character play vs Player play

Majoru Oakheart

Adventurer
For me this is where issues with immersion kick in. If I was really a badass rogue I would know the town, know its people, know where to go and who to meet.

But if I'm relying on the GM to dribble all this out to me, it breaks my sense of immersion pretty badly.
I guess this doesn't normally apply in any games I've run. The first thing I do is send the PCs to some location they've never been before. They have no connection or knowledge of the people in town unless they have a class feature, feat, background trait or something declared in their written background that would give them it. I would allow skill checks to learn a little bit, but I prefer all the PCs knowledge come from somewhere that is rules based or I've established. Making stuff up needs a discussion that is too long to happen at the table.

Your badass rogue can be just as badass because he has amazing skill at stealth and combat and can easily fast talk his way out of any unexpected situation rather than because he knows the people in the area.

In fact, that's pretty much the entire point of being an adventurer in my eyes. You go into unexplored territory(cities, dungeons, caves, forests, ruins, planes) that are dangerous and unknown. You explore, you attempt to solve mysteries and defeat obstacles standing in your way(be that literal or figurative). 99% of the job is reacting to the unexpected/unknown.

When I go into a game, it's pretty much with the assumption that my character doesn't know anything at all about what's going on and try to figure it out based on the clues the DM gives me. That's kind of the fun. To be in situations I can't predict or control and try to find my way out of them.

And in my experience it does not, as an empirical matter, break immersion when I narrate something that fits in with my expectations that I have as my character. Just as, in the real world, it doesn't break my immersion when I reach my hand out to greet someone, expecting him/her to shake it, and s/he does.
Do you really spend your time in the real world thinking like this? I certainly don't. I don't walk into a room and say "I bet that my brother is standing in the corner of the room when I walk in. Oh, look, he IS!"

I expect absolutely nothing before I see it for myself. I walk into a room and look around and see what is there rather than coming up with expectations in advance of seeing.

Besides, there's NO way that the thought process behind narrating things you EXPECT to be there doesn't involve out of character thinking.

In character your character is thinking "I walk into the room, I look around. What do I see?"

Inserting "I see the friend of mine from the thieves guild who is waiting for me because we agreed to meet yesterday." is assuming you have control over your friend to make him be there on time and that he actually agreed to show up at all. You don't have that power. Only your friend can decide if he showed up or not. And your friend is controlled by the DM.

On top of that it likely involves the thought, "I'd like my friend to be there because it allows me to better show off my character and make him seem more real to the rest of the table. Plus, it'll allow me to establish my storyline into the game so that the game will involve my background more directly. This will establish it as one of the plot threads that needs to be followed by the DM in the future."

This sort of thinking is the thinking that goes into writing a story or when you are doing improv acting. It is entirely appropriate for that setting. In improv, especially, the goal is for each member of the cast to create and establish aspects of the story and for every other member of the cast to accept them as true and go with it.

In storytelling games(which generally follow the paradigm of improv theatre), this is also generally accepted as best practice. In RPGs, the generally accepted paradigm is that the DM gets to control scene framing, the actions of the NPCs and the results of your actions. You roleplay your character reacting to these elements. Some games agree to play the games in a much more "improv" style where the DM is more of a story moderator than a DM. That's fine, but it is definitely not the common style.

Just like in real life when I reach out my hand to someone and I expect them to shake it, my "immersion" is not hurt if the person shakes it or DOESN'T shake it. I knew both of those things were a possibility when I reached out my hand. I thought one was more likely, but both are things that are possible. But the world doesn't always conform to my expectations.

(in part because it tends to reduce all expectations and increase uncertainty and a quite unimmersive sense of loss of control over one's immediate environment).
Wait. You have control over your environment in real life? You can just close your eyes and say "I expect my long lost friend that I haven't seen in 20 years to be waiting for me when I get home" and it happens? No one has that power. It isn't a "loss of control" when you never had that control in the first place.

Exactly like real life, you have no idea what will happen at all. You can only guess and see if your guess is correct.

Whereas I tend not to know who is for what, and where s/he came from, and how exactly s/he relates to the PCs, until this comes out through play. I'm expecting to be flexible and responsive to the players' action declarations, and also to their hopes/expectations for where the story is going.
Yeah, I definitely see you coming at the game from an improv theatre mindset. You don't plan too far in the future because the other players at the table have the ability to redefine the story at any time and take it in a different direction than you expected. No use planning if your plans are extremely unlikely to come to fruition.

Heck, I've even seen the frustration when an improv actor really wants the story to involve them more but people keep failing to pick up on their plot threads and their character never becomes an important enough part of the story.

There's a group of people who do a show called The D&D Improv show here. They basically play D&D on stage in costume using the methods you've described. They have a "Dungeon Master" but his job is only really to keep the actors on track, to periodically remind them about the "main story", to throw in plot twists they need to react to, and to make sure everyone gets enough "screen time". Their show is great for being a hilarious random group of things that happen with a plot that normally falls apart after their first show(they normally do 10 shows over 10 days, each show continuing from the last). It's awesome and funny. But I certainly wouldn't want it to be my actual D&D game. Too many cooks mean the story meanders around without any real focus. This normally involves me saying "So...does anyone remember they are searching for the Crown in order to become the ruler of the kingdom? No? Completely forgotten about, eh?"
 

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neonagash

First Post
just wanted to say that oakheart is absolutely spot on here.

"scene framing" is GMing from the player perspective. Or in another sense, topping from the bottom. Which is not a compliment.

You decide what role you want to play in a game. If your not willing to put in the time and effort to be the GM then you dont get to set the world. You get to react to the world created for you. Because thats the role you chose.

Oh and if it came from the forge you can be pretty much 100% certain its wrong, terrible advice and you should run as fast as you can in the opposite direction if you want to have a long term, healthy campaign with well adjusted adults.
 

I guess this doesn't normally apply in any games I've run. The first thing I do is send the PCs to some location they've never been before. They have no connection or knowledge of the people in town unless they have a class feature, feat, background trait or something declared in their written background that would give them it. I would allow skill checks to learn a little bit, but I prefer all the PCs knowledge come from somewhere that is rules based or I've established. Making stuff up needs a discussion that is too long to happen at the table.
see this is a great example of why it is hard to agree with each other... I have very rarely played a game like that, and I think only run 1 or 2. Most of my lowlevel games start in a city/town/hamlet with the PCs having lived there most of there lives.

They have no connection or knowledge of the people in town
would drive me nuts if it were the norm.


Your badass rogue can be just as badass because he has amazing skill at stealth and combat and can easily fast talk his way out of any unexpected situation rather than because he knows the people in the area.
yes he can... but sometimes he can totally rock because the 3 city states the game takes place and around are all part of his thieves guild and he knows all the major players...
In fact, that's pretty much the entire point of being an adventurer in my eyes. You go into unexplored territory(cities, dungeons, caves, forests, ruins, planes) that are dangerous and unknown.
I would say that is about 1/3 of an adventurer in my eyes...


When I go into a game, it's pretty much with the assumption that my character doesn't know anything at all about what's going on and try to figure it out based on the clues the DM gives me. That's kind of the fun. To be in situations I can't predict or control and try to find my way out of them.
I do the exact opposite... I assume I am playing a character who knows a lot about what's going on and what things mean.

In storytelling games(which generally follow the paradigm of improv theatre), this is also generally accepted as best practice. In RPGs, the generally accepted paradigm is that the DM gets to control scene framing, the actions of the NPCs and the results of your actions. You roleplay your character reacting to these elements. Some games agree to play the games in a much more "improv" style where the DM is more of a story moderator than a DM. That's fine, but it is definitely not the common style.
I think you are down playing the spectrum a bit here..
Just like in real life when I reach out my hand to someone and I expect them to shake it, my "immersion" is not hurt if the person shakes it or DOESN'T shake it. I knew both of those things were a possibility when I reached out my hand. I thought one was more likely, but both are things that are possible. But the world doesn't always conform to my expectations.
but it does a large % of the time...



Oh and if it came from the forge you can be pretty much 100% certain its wrong, terrible advice and you should run as fast as you can in the opposite direction if you want to have a long term, healthy campaign with well adjusted adults.
the forge isn't all bad... a lot of it is but not all
 

This is like saying that combat ability is not something the character can do because it involves rolling a d20, which is a metagame event.
Not even close. The out-of-game d20 roll represents the in-game chaos and uncertainty of combat. The character and player both decide to attack, based on their similar knowledge of circumstances and advantages, and hope for the best. The d20 roll is directly analogous to the character's attempt to hit an enemy, filtered through the abstraction of the game rules.

For something like invoking a Luck aspect, it involves the player making a choice where the character has no influence. The player decides to invoke it, and the form it takes, which is not analogous to any decision by the character.

Hussar is correct to say that this shows that there is no clear separation between character abiliities and player authorship. Some character abilities, in order to be resolved, vest a greater or lesser degree of authorship in the player.
There are certainly some examples which blur the line, as with the paladin warhorse example. For the most part, though, abilities can be cleanly categorized as either belonging to the character or to the player. Spellcasting is an entirely in-character ability. The Lucky aspect in a Fate game, or the feat which grants a re-rolls (that the player is free to pick and choose), require player authorship in order to work at all.

And just to round things out, for the sake of contrast, the Halfling luck ability to automatically re-roll every 1 is an entirely in-game character ability which does not confer any player authorship.
 

Mishihari Lord

First Post
Oh and if it came froyou learn something fromm the forge you can be pretty much 100% certain its wrong, terrible advice and you should run as fast as you can in the opposite direction if you want to have a long term, healthy campaign with well adjusted adults.

I'm going to call out this bit and disagree. The stuff at the Forge is useful if you use it intelligently. All of it is useful for helping you think about how you want to run a game, because even if it's not good advice to you, it makes you think about why it doesn't work and you learn something from that. And the advice is useful as long as you understand what type of play it's intended to promote. Taking random bits of advice from the Forge without context is a bad idea because those folks' goals for play are often not traditional, and if you want a traditional game, using those ideas will mess up your game.
 
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Perhaps. I look upon dice, record keeping, and even game rules as necessary evils. They interfere with my play goals, but we need a method of conflict resolution and I haven't found one that's less intrusive. Giving players game authorship may be a smaller problem, but at least it's one I can avoid entirely. I don't need player authorship for the game to be fun, and it costs me more than I gain.

I find that avoiding player side scene framing has costs as well as benefits. And the benefits massively outweigh the costs.

It may effect you that way, but I don't see it the same way at all. When I pick up a dice and roll it I'm imagining in my mind my character swinging and fighting the enemies. I may be picking up a die and rolling, but that's not actually breaking me out of character at all.
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I've internalized die rolling and my bonuses so much that I really think of them as an extension of my character. Since they represent his skills, looking up his bonus to hit and applying it is just the out of character manifestation of him swinging his sword and I think of it accordingly.

When I'm scene framing as a player I'm imagining in my mind what the character is doing and how the world as I see it is behaving. This does not break me out of character at all and indeed requires a lot less internalisation than it does to reduce a combat to a d20 roll. You'll note that in my scene framing/fate point example I did not dictate any behaviours of the character I established other than that they were in the corner of a bar or random individuals at a certain type of bar.

I guess this doesn't normally apply in any games I've run. The first thing I do is send the PCs to some location they've never been before. They have no connection or knowledge of the people in town unless they have a class feature, feat, background trait or something declared in their written background that would give them it.

From what you've said of your style of GMing I'd say that that was almost a necessity. That you disconnect the PCs from their prior context and drop them in the world you have created for them to explore. With exploration being the primary goal. This is only a tiny subset of possible roleplaying (and IME the one that produces least emotional investment) - and it is literally the only one that works properly without player side scene framing.

Making stuff up needs a discussion that is too long to happen at the table.

If the GM is the sort that is running in their intensely detailed world, yes. This is not the only form of DMing and one that leads to an experience I find less alive and less intense than one with a messier and more chaotic world with more input.

Your badass rogue can be just as badass because he has amazing skill at stealth and combat and can easily fast talk his way out of any unexpected situation rather than because he knows the people in the area.

Indeed. Your badass rogue can be the protagonist of a Michael Bay film rather than a Stephen Spielberg one.

Do you really spend your time in the real world thinking like this? I certainly don't. I don't walk into a room and say "I bet that my brother is standing in the corner of the room when I walk in. Oh, look, he IS!"

That depends. If I know we're going to be at a party, I know my hypothetical brother is coming, and I know the host, then I can be fairly confident that my hypothetical brother will be either (a) in the corner of the living room or (b) in the kitchen by the time I arrive. Therefore if I'm looking for my hypothetical brother at a party those are the two places I look.

Wait. You have control over your environment in real life? You can just close your eyes and say "I expect my long lost friend that I haven't seen in 20 years to be waiting for me when I get home" and it happens? No one has that power. It isn't a "loss of control" when you never had that control in the first place.

Therefore you don't scene frame that. On the other hand if we were in the party example, I'd be happy scene framing "I look for my brother. Finding him in the kitchen, pontificating about Derrida to another hipster I..." Because I have a realistic expectation that they will be there. If the GM then steps in and vetos, I'll feel that something's up. Because my hypothetical brother who I've hypothetically known for quarter of a century or more is not behaving the way they normally do. My next step if the GM throws in a veto will be to text that brother something inconsequential to check if they are OK.

There's a group of people who do a show called The D&D Improv show here. They basically play D&D on stage in costume using the methods you've described. They have a "Dungeon Master" but his job is only really to keep the actors on track, to periodically remind them about the "main story", to throw in plot twists they need to react to, and to make sure everyone gets enough "screen time". Their show is great for being a hilarious random group of things that happen with a plot that normally falls apart after their first show(they normally do 10 shows over 10 days, each show continuing from the last). It's awesome and funny. But I certainly wouldn't want it to be my actual D&D game. Too many cooks mean the story meanders around without any real focus. This normally involves me saying "So...does anyone remember they are searching for the Crown in order to become the ruler of the kingdom? No? Completely forgotten about, eh?"

And this is where Story Games fix things. The structure of the rules themselves, whether the hardcoded pathway of Montsegur 1244 or the much looser Season Advances/Penultimate Episodes of Monsterhearts or tight theme of My Life With Master (or pick another) means that there's a limited time, you get callbacks, and most things that happened turn out to be important. The discipline needs to come from somewhere - but it absolutely does not need to be because the GM keeps everything on track. And yes, in a Storygame plot threads do get abandoned. But the overarching plot can't be.

"scene framing" is GMing from the player perspective. Or in another sense, topping from the bottom. Which is not a compliment.

This is untrue. Banning scene framing is like insisting that the Sub never ever under any circumstance gets to choose their outfit and start a scene by being provocative. A direct and literal translation. And frankly I'm not interested in Total Power Exchange.

You decide what role you want to play in a game. If your not willing to put in the time and effort to be the GM then you dont get to set the world. You get to react to the world created for you. Because thats the role you chose.

Once again I'm not interested in TPE. And I am interested in communication. The way that I relate to a sub (or much more rarely a dom) is on a person by person basis and on a scene by scene basis. Because I'm interested in them as people rather than reducing them to their role. And if this involves a scene that's pulled out of my hat involving two pencils, two rubber bands, and a coin as toys because they were what I happened to spot on the sub's desk rather than an intricate and detailed plan every time (not that there's anything wrong with intricate and detailed plans - I just can't be bothered to come up with them every time) then that's more fun and more real both ways.

For something like invoking a Luck aspect, it involves the player making a choice where the character has no influence. The player decides to invoke it, and the form it takes, which is not analogous to any decision by the character.
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There are certainly some examples which blur the line, as with the paladin warhorse example. For the most part, though, abilities can be cleanly categorized as either belonging to the character or to the player. Spellcasting is an entirely in-character ability. The Lucky aspect in a Fate game, or the feat which grants a re-rolls (that the player is free to pick and choose), require player authorship in order to work at all.

On the other hand not all uses of Fate Point require that at all. You can if you want fluff all your Fate Points as willpower.
 

On the other hand not all uses of Fate Point require that at all. You can if you want fluff all your Fate Points as willpower.
That's cool. I purchased the Fate core book recently, for reasons, and I hope to look through it at some point soon. It would be neat if I could somehow work it into a system that removed all player authorship, while still keeping the many positive aspects of the system.
 

Mishihari Lord

First Post
I find that avoiding player side scene framing has costs as well as benefits. And the benefits massively outweigh the costs.

I, of course, strongly disagree. And that's cool. I have fun playing my way and you have fun playing your way. It's not like one way is better than the other by some objective standard. That's why some of the posts I've seen here seem really silly, people trying to tell each other that the costs and benefits they've experienced in a play style aren't there. If people have experienced them then they're incontestably there. It would be more useful to acknowledge the problem and suggest ways to ameliorate it than to try to deny it.
 

That's cool. I purchased the Fate core book recently, for reasons, and I hope to look through it at some point soon. It would be neat if I could somehow work it into a system that removed all player authorship, while still keeping the many positive aspects of the system.

Scene framing is absolutely unnecessary. I consider it desirable but it's not necessary. In my experience players rarely spend a Fate Point to establish things. And players very rarely offer compels to NPCs (and only rarely to each other). Which means that players mostly spend their Fate Points for boosts based on their own aspects. Therefore you simply need "Fully associated" aspects. You can have PCs who spend their Fate Points based on willpower (whether they gather this willpower through religion, through hedonism and memory of better times, or through guilt), another who's an athlete who paces themselves, and a third who's an outright Mage: the Ascension Mage and whose Fate Points are raw Quintessence.

What an interesting question about establishing is is whether you want to use it to allow for Batman's Utility Belt. Stuffed with devices that may prove useful, Batman spends a Fate Point to pull Bat Shark Repellant out of his belt (to name the most notorious example). This will be fine for some people and break for others. (See also researchers and engineers in general).
 

I, of course, strongly disagree. And that's cool. I have fun playing my way and you have fun playing your way. It's not like one way is better than the other by some objective standard. That's why some of the posts I've seen here seem really silly, people trying to tell each other that the costs and benefits they've experienced in a play style aren't there. If people have experienced them then they're incontestably there. It would be more useful to acknowledge the problem and suggest ways to ameliorate it than to try to deny it.

To me the issue is that banning scene framing locks you hard into one play style. The one advocated by [MENTION=5143]Majoru Oakheart[/MENTION] where the PCs are immediately sent into a situation they know next to nothing about and the driving emotion behind the game is exploration. And while I can and sometimes do run that playstyle it's ... limited. I see no reason to restrict my roleplaying to roleplaying a fish-out-of-water. And get cranky when people claim that almost all my most intense and emotionally engaging roleplaying experiences in which my characters have come alive haven't been roleplaying.
 

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