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Critical Role Critical Role Episode #26 - spoilers!

Istbor

Dances with Gnolls
Personally, I see no problem with a player deciding that in a certain situation, they have disadvantage. Either due to fear, distraction, moral strife, or other emotions affecting their actions. Makes the Character feel more real, and not just a robot running around killing fools.
 

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iserith

Magic Wordsmith
Sure they can.
The player can close their eyes and gain the Blinded condition. At any time they can impose a negative effect on themselves.
The player can describe the character as closing his or her eyes. The DM then applies the appropriate rules to that action, as necessary.

So why can't a player declare "I'm terrified of spiders and suffers from acute arachnophobia. I'm making myself frightened of the drider."? Why do they need to ask "DM may I?" to hinder themselves. Is any DM really going to argue? The DM saying "No, you are NOT frightened" is so much worse...
Per the rules, a player can declare being terrified of spiders and having arachnophobia. A player cannot say the character is Frightened in a mechanical sense. My assertion is that this is the DM's role and the burden of proof for that assertion is satisfied in my view by pointing to the rules of the game. Now, if you or @Istbor want to allow players to decide the mechanical effects of their actions, nobody is stopping you. I'm just saying that's not what the rules say and it's likely why someone like @robus would find what he saw on Critical Role strange (in addition to it not being telegraphed). I would find it strange, too, and said as much.

Personally, I would advise a player against this. A player-imposed hindrance to a character is a hindrance to the entire team to varying degrees. It messes at some level with the difficulty of the challenge. I would instead encourage the player to write an appropriate personal characteristic (personality traits, ideal, bond, flaw) for the character regarding his or her fears, portray it accordingly with no mechanical hindrance, then take Inspiration for doing so. This encourages the behavior rather than discourages it via a disincentive.
 

robus

Lowcountry Low Roller
Supporter
Personally, I would advise a player against this. A player-imposed hindrance to a character is a hindrance to the entire team to varying degrees. It messes at some level with the difficulty of the challenge. I would instead encourage the player to write an appropriate personal characteristic (personality traits, ideal, bond, flaw) for the character regarding his or her fears, portray it accordingly with no mechanical hindrance, then take Inspiration for doing so. This encourages the behavior rather than discourages it via a disincentive.
Right - all this player needed to do to show their fear was to remain out of the fight (just take non-combat actions - dash, dodge) and for a melee fighter, just stay out of melee range and take cover. Then the others could have role-played an attempt to rally her and get her into the fight. But once she said she'd have disadvantage on everything the wind kind of went out of their sails. (I still think they were massively out of their depth especially once the intelligence they'd received also turned out to be flawed...)
 

I'm just saying that's not what the rules say
Fair enough.
What page of the rulebook are you referencing?

and it's likely why someone like @robus would find what he saw on Critical Role strange (in addition to it not being telegraphed). I would find it strange, too, and said as much.
She didn't say she was "frightened". She asked if she could roll with disadvantage because she was frightened or uncertain. (I forget the exact wording.) And the DM, of course, said "yes".

Personally, I would advise a player against this. A player-imposed hindrance to a character is a hindrance to the entire team to varying degrees. It messes at some level with the difficulty of the challenge. I would instead encourage the player to write an appropriate personal characteristic (personality traits, ideal, bond, flaw) for the character regarding his or her fears, portray it accordingly with no mechanical hindrance, then take Inspiration for doing so. This encourages the behavior rather than discourages it via a disincentive.
First, DM of Critical Role doesn't award Inspiration. So that aspect of a "reward" is absent.

Secondly, your argument is that you should portray your fear but take no mechanical penalties nor play your character as making poor tactical choices. And, by saying you're scared and RPing in an entirely cosmetic fashion, you get a mechanical BONUS?!

Third, isn't being scared supposed to mess with the difficulty of the challenge? It's emotional terrain at that point.
 

robus

Lowcountry Low Roller
Supporter
She didn't say she was "frightened". She asked if she could roll with disadvantage because she was frightened or uncertain. (I forget the exact wording.) And the DM, of course, said "yes".
I don't remember her asking but just stating that because her character was frightened she felt she should roll with disadvantage and Matt said fine (again this kind of led into my feeling that some of this was pre-planned... and perhaps it was discussed in character development...) Still it was quite a bomb to drop on a group that was already short staffed :)
 

MarkB

Legend
I don't remember her asking but just stating that because her character was frightened she felt she should roll with disadvantage and Matt said fine (again this kind of led into my feeling that some of this was pre-planned... and perhaps it was discussed in character development...) Still it was quite a bomb to drop on a group that was already short staffed :)
Yes, she asked. She specifically asked whether a player deciding that their character would have disadvantage in a particular situation was something that CR did at their table, and Matt answered that yes, players had done just that on previous occasions, Sam in particular.

So, this was not a player 'fiat' declaration, it was something the player thought would be appropriate for their character, and then went ahead and checked with the DM and the group in general for permission, both for the concept in principal, and for this specific instance.
 

Mort

Adventurer
Supporter
Thing #1 - Keg's rolling at disadvantage. I felt like this kind of blindsided the group and was not necessarily foreshadowed enough. Perhaps I missed it in the lead up - but I do think Keg should have been a lot more trepidatious about the encounter so that her immediate panic would have made more sense in context. I also think Ashley should have made Keg at least attempt to overcome her fear by making a charisma save (perhaps DC 20 to illustrate how hard it is for her character to overcome her fear). Making her frightened by fiat made it seem more of a screwjob. (Note: I don't want to make this into a pile on to Ashley. I thought she was a fun player that participated with gusto. :) I'm more interested in how others might have handled that development).
As has been mentioned - Keg's player imposing disadvantage on herself had no actual impact mechanically - she already had disadvantage because of range.

That said, it was a melee character running away from combat - so she was a complete non-factor. Considering how short the group already was (3 PCs in the fight vs. their usual 7) it was a crippling decision on the player's part.

She did redeem herself completely though, the seemingly only reason the encounter was not a TPK was because of her actions. As such, she really was the MVP here, not the dead weight.

Thing #2 - Molly's death. Did I miss it or were there no death saving throws made? Matt just said "Molly's dead" and that was it? Is this a homebrew rule? I have to think that this was pre-arranged (at least the possibility, and acceptability, was agreed upon before the session), otherwise this characters death was quite perfunctory.
This played really oddly. Mechanically it was fine - Molly drops, Lorenzo crits him twice - auto killing him. But the odd part was that Molly essentially suicides: he was standing in front of Lorenzo with 4 HPs and decides to do an ability that does 1d6 damage to himself? Now if this was a reaction and he was about to be hit anyway - then he really didn't have much choice (I suspect this is what happened, happened pretty fast!), if he could have disengaged though - then it was odd.

Thing #3 - Not a TPK. Given how on the ropes the party was it could have easily ended as a TPK. Matt dialed it back and made them witnesses to Lorenzo's brutality. Which is fine and well within the DMs purview. But it also supports my theory that Molly's death was pre-planned - otherwise Taleisin would feel even more screwed over (he could have been added to the prisoners instead).
The plan seemed to be to really shake up the players. Not sure if Molly's death was planned, but considering the encounter at least 1 death was extremely likely.

I suspect even if they had been much better tactically (as in Knot being fully involved in the fight, Keg not running, attempting to pick off the villains instead of engaging head on and splitting their attacks etc.) they still would not have prevailed. I have a very strong suspicion that Lorenzo is not remotely what he appeared to be and that the party had basically a 0% chance of taking him out.
 


robus

Lowcountry Low Roller
Supporter
Yes, she asked. She specifically asked whether a player deciding that their character would have disadvantage in a particular situation was something that CR did at their table, and Matt answered that yes, players had done just that on previous occasions, Sam in particular.

So, this was not a player 'fiat' declaration, it was something the player thought would be appropriate for their character, and then went ahead and checked with the DM and the group in general for permission, both for the concept in principal, and for this specific instance.
You're right - I just rewatched that bit and she does ask if it's weird to give yourself disadvantage and the answer from the table was no. So she then declares that she'll have disadvantage on everything and Matt says OK.

So I guess my question is asked and answered for their table, but it still felt off to me and not something I would encourage at my table for the reasons [MENTION=97077]iserith[/MENTION] has noted above.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
Fair enough.
What page of the rulebook are you referencing?
Same one as always: Basic Rules, page 3, "How to Play." :)

Also, DMG section on Master of Rules and Master of Rules preamble in the Introduction. The player and DM roles are well-defined in D&D 5e and the game works best in my opinion when those roles are respected. (That includes the DM not stepping on player roles, just so I'm making it clear I'm not just DM power-tripping here.)

She didn't say she was "frightened". She asked if she could roll with disadvantage because she was frightened or uncertain. (I forget the exact wording.) And the DM, of course, said "yes".
I don't know the entire context but I'd be inclined to disallow that for the reasons stated.

First, DM of Critical Role doesn't award Inspiration. So that aspect of a "reward" is absent.

Secondly, your argument is that you should portray your fear but take no mechanical penalties nor play your character as making poor tactical choices. And, by saying you're scared and RPing in an entirely cosmetic fashion, you get a mechanical BONUS?!

Third, isn't being scared supposed to mess with the difficulty of the challenge? It's emotional terrain at that point.
Inspiration is a critically underused mechanic in my experience. See my Case for Inspiration. When people play in my games, it is by far the #1 thing players tell me they take back to their other games.

If I'm trying to encourage players to portray their characters in accordance with established characteristics, giving them a mechanical penalty for doing so is not in my view a good method for achieving that goal, nor is it in line with the rules for Inspiration. I also took no particular position on the character making either good or poor tactical choices.
 

Henry

Autoexreginated
Based on the reactions I was seeing on the streams, I think having at least one character death is a good thing. There were so many "NNOOOOO!!!" and "Bring Molly back or I quit watching!!" reactions, and even a couple of insults thrown Matt Mercer's way, it actually kind of surprised me. I get having beloved or favorite characters, but PC death is sometimes a part of a D&D encounter, and it's good to show it, and good to show players reacting maturely to its occurrence.

I hope that they get to schedule Talesin a personal camera moment at the start of episode 27, so as to say, "I appreciate everyone's concern, I'm a little sad, too, but I'm fine, and it's all part of playing the game" or similar.
 

5ekyu

Adventurer
You're right - I just rewatched that bit and she does ask if it's weird to give yourself disadvantage and the answer from the table was no. So she then declares that she'll have disadvantage on everything and Matt says OK.

So I guess my question is asked and answered for their table, but it still felt off to me and not something I would encourage at my table for the reasons [MENTION=97077]iserith[/MENTION] has noted above.
Glad we got past that bit - thx to those who looked it up.

At my table, i have not infrequently used disadvantage on initiative checks to represent a character who is hesitating for various reasons including fright but not FRIGHTENED. But at that event they blew past the init rolls pretty quick.

I myself think the idea of only roleplaying the character in ways that don't affect the group is a sort of surrender the role to the roll mindset. Nott drinking herself into drunk stage during a dungeon crawl which directly impacted looking for traps is another case well ensconced in the CR gameplay this season already that i recall (effects again worked out with GM buy-in - just like here.)

And i do not think its unrelated that at the same time the issue of role vs roll applies for the player flaw disad issue is brought up the other point of the Gm "dialing it back" was a separate point issue raised... because that showed me also at their table that the Gm also played the character (role) with Loranzo over the Roll (combat kill Xp) when lorenzo carried forward his focus on Keg at the end with allowing the party to survive and go spread his reputation.

If you are playing with a Gm who plays ruthless by-the-book game/roll first and foremost, its doubtful you will see taking an actual penalty *that will matter* inb combat for something as unimportant as "role." if its all "transactional" gaming where the closest to role is "i will give you an inspiration if you..." negotiation art-of-the-deal, doubtful you will be just doing sub-optimal on your own... get the deal in writing first.

On the other hand, if you have seen your Gm do it as well, if you have seen it play out before as not going to savage you and crush the event if you take a penalty that matters, etc etc etc then such things become something more folks are comfortable with and it becomes a routine part of your gaming play.

As seen at the even, not just the Gm but pretty much everyone at the table responded with "oh yes sure" with no hesitation.

I think context of the table is also a big element here.

I would have no hesitation as Gm in this case with long term players and a long running game with how things played out.

if it were a pick-up game in a FLGS with a bunch of strangers, i would have responded to the player with a more moderate suggestion such as "Hey, sure, but what about taking the penalty on your initiative instead of your attacks... shows hesitation - cuz the foghting itself is more ingrained and trained and fear in fight is normal. Would that sound good?"

As it was that penalty was irrelevant as others have pointed out.

But, to me, in many games i have played in and ran, whatever mechanic is used for role-playing flaws, the stronger normal tendency in games is to reward *actual* penalties not just cosmetic lip service to penalties. Many point buy flaw systems have defined problems like "takes extra damage" or other such penalties right alongside the psychological issues.

To me the biggest single issue that affected the outcome was the combo of Nott being out of the fight (so his rogue sneak damage pincushion was lost) and to a significant degree Molly's taking himself out. Not sure either would have turned the tide but it sure would have made a different series.

Like many battles, it was lost before it began.
 

robus

Lowcountry Low Roller
Supporter
Based on the reactions I was seeing on the streams, I think having at least one character death is a good thing. There were so many "NNOOOOO!!!" and "Bring Molly back or I quit watching!!" reactions, and even a couple of insults thrown Matt Mercer's way, it actually kind of surprised me. I get having beloved or favorite characters, but PC death is sometimes a part of a D&D encounter, and it's good to show it, and good to show players reacting maturely to its occurrence.

I hope that they get to schedule Talesin a personal camera moment at the start of episode 27, so as to say, "I appreciate everyone's concern, I'm a little sad, too, but I'm fine, and it's all part of playing the game" or similar.
Yeah - it was a bold move and something kind of new in this streaming world where the viewers expect characters to make it all the way to the end. It's quite refreshing and definitely made the combat feel quite real. Mercer is a master at narration after all. :)

But compared to TV shows where all hell's breaking loose each week and yet all the main characters live on to the next episode this was something else.

On the other hand, however, if the deaths seem meaningless or random that can cause trouble. One of the reasons (many) I quit Game of Thrones is because some key character deaths just seemed to happen willy-nilly with very little to no fore-shadowing. If you feel like your favorite characters can die at any moment it kind of takes the fun out of things :) This death seemed awfully close to that - it was not heroic, more realistic.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
On the other hand, however, if the deaths seem meaningless or random that can cause trouble. One of the reasons (many) I quit Game of Thrones is because some key character deaths just seemed to happen willy-nilly with very little to no fore-shadowing. If you feel like your favorite characters can die at any moment it kind of takes the fun out of things :) This death seemed awfully close to that - it was not heroic, more realistic.
If it'll help bring you back into the GoT fold, I've seen a number of YouTube videos that show all the clues foreshadowing this or that event including character deaths. And plenty of other videos trying to predict, based on clues like it, what will happen next!
 

robus

Lowcountry Low Roller
Supporter
If it'll help bring you back into the GoT fold, I've seen a number of YouTube videos that show all the clues foreshadowing this or that event including character deaths. And plenty of other videos trying to predict, based on clues like it, what will happen next!
Thanks I'm good. The torture porn was the biggest issue for me.
 

Henry

Autoexreginated
I don't know the entire context but I'd be inclined to disallow that for the reasons stated.
I'm of two minds on it -- if the player wants to do it, and no one at the table voices objection, then I would roll with it; everyone understands the impact, they are not new players, so I'm fine with it. However, it still feels a bit like watching someone play 5 finger fillet while their friends cheer them on, despite it being completely voluntary.

Inspiration is a critically underused mechanic in my experience. See my Case for Inspiration. When people play in my games, it is by far the #1 thing players tell me they take back to their other games.
Matt has said he started offering it when they first started playing, but quickly often forgot to award it; further, since his players are so good at following their character drives and flaws, he says the reason to offer it (according to the book) is kind of moot, his players should probably all start with Inspiration for every single game. :) However, since his players don't mention it, he doesn't either.
 

Henry

Autoexreginated
On the other hand, however, if the deaths seem meaningless or random that can cause trouble. One of the reasons (many) I quit Game of Thrones is because some key character deaths just seemed to happen willy-nilly with very little to no fore-shadowing. If you feel like your favorite characters can die at any moment it kind of takes the fun out of things :) This death seemed awfully close to that - it was not heroic, more realistic.
Yeah, agreed that frequent death would cause a lack of attachment to characters; however, one or two per campaign is about the right speed to remind people that all is not without risk to our happy-go-lucky Nein. :)

I can handle characters dying in TV and movies - that's not what put me off from Game of Thrones; it was the OTT violence and the Rape, Child Murder & Incest Fest that has peppered the show since the early days. It's like watching a video of Eastern Front atrocities, plus Dragons...
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
I'm of two minds on it -- if the player wants to do it, and no one at the table voices objection, then I would roll with it; everyone understands the impact, they are not new players, so I'm fine with it. However, it still feels a bit like watching someone play 5 finger fillet while their friends cheer them on, despite it being completely voluntary.
Yeah, to me it's a bit more cut and dry as it goes to defined roles. I won't describe what a player's character does and he or she doesn't get to narrate the result. At the table, I'd certainly explain my ruling as I've done in this thread (especially as it relates to how the player should be incentivized, not disincentivized for playing to established characteristics) and then move forward.

A related, but more common version of this is when players in my pickup games less familiar with my approach think they need to roll for an action they've stated. I have to tell them they don't because there's no uncertainty and/or meaningful consequence of failure, so there's no need for them to be penalized by rolling and potentially failing. They're usually quite pleased by that.

Matt has said he started offering it when they first started playing, but quickly often forgot to award it; further, since his players are so good at following their character drives and flaws, he says the reason to offer it (according to the book) is kind of moot, his players should probably all start with Inspiration for every single game. :) However, since his players don't mention it, he doesn't either.
Yes, the problem with Inspiration as I lay out in the link I provided upthread, is that the DM forgets about it. So I put it on the players to claim. The result is a very clever system of players doing a thing then either outputting the character's trait, ideal, bond, or flaw into chat (on Roll20) or holding up an index card with it at the table. I think that would work well on a vodcast where the character's personal characteristic is shown on the screen when the player portrays the character in the appropriate way. And it's all controlled on the player's side of the table.
 

Mort

Adventurer
Supporter
Yeah - it was a bold move and something kind of new in this streaming world where the viewers expect characters to make it all the way to the end. It's quite refreshing and definitely made the combat feel quite real. Mercer is a master at narration after all. :)

But compared to TV shows where all hell's breaking loose each week and yet all the main characters live on to the next episode this was something else.

On the other hand, however, if the deaths seem meaningless or random that can cause trouble. One of the reasons (many) I quit Game of Thrones is because some key character deaths just seemed to happen willy-nilly with very little to no fore-shadowing. If you feel like your favorite characters can die at any moment it kind of takes the fun out of things :) This death seemed awfully close to that - it was not heroic, more realistic.
Interesting points.

At the end of the day, though, this is a gaming session not a TV show or other scripted format. If Matt and the players aren't fiddling behind the scenes, then just about any death would be random and quite likely meaningless - it's just the way gaming rolls.

Certainly Matt could decide that death isn't a thing in the game, replacing it with capture and other setbacks (I've certainly seen that used to good effect) - but he doesn't seem to have done that. We'll see what happens with Molly, if he actually stays dead then we'll know. Interestingly, if/when Laura comes back, it's less of an issue - she has access to revivify (assuming she can get the material component).

I'm really curious to see what the group does going forward, currently they have no one capable of any healing at all. Relying on potions etc. is really iffy - especially considering how dangerous Matt seems to set encounters.
 

machineelf

Explorer
I myself think the idea of only roleplaying the character in ways that don't affect the group is a sort of surrender the role to the roll mindset. Nott drinking herself into drunk stage during a dungeon crawl which directly impacted looking for traps is another case well ensconced in the CR gameplay this season already that i recall (effects again worked out with GM buy-in - just like here.)
I agree with the core point you are making, but I think you are confusing two different questions.

One question is, is it OK for a player to roleplay their character in such a way that it may bring negative consequences to themselves and the group. And to that I say, absolutely it's OK! In fact, when I have a player roleplay that way, I get excited, because it fits into the kinds of games I want, and that is the kind of player I want - one who is focused on "telling a good story" instead of focused on "I need to win this game." My belief is that roleplaying is primarily a group story-telling activity with game elements thrown in, rather than a game with story-telling elements thrown in. There is a balance there, though, and it's not polite to play a character with so many flaws that they are constantly a hindrance and problem to their teammates. Ashley was neither; she did fine!

But the other question is whether a player can determine the actual crunch and rules to apply to a given situation. And I say, no! That's the DM's job, and it begins to get a bit rude when players are deciding that they are going to make a skill roll just because they should, or deciding they are going to get advantage, because reasons, without at least asking the DM. Usually they shouldn't even ask, unless it's a situation where a roll might need to apply and it's easy for a DM to pass over it. Otherwise, they should focus on the narrative of what they are doing, and let the DM decide if any crunch rules and dice rolls and modifiers should apply. Again, Ashley asked Matt in a courteous way and was respecting his decision one way or another, so she did fine.
 

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