Dealing with a DM who takes things too literally

Raven Crowking

First Post
I don't think it's intrinsically unfair to run 4e in such a way that you can make judgment calls to deny power use or allow for creative power use.

Here we agree. The method of running 4e that LostSoul described, upthread, would be a case in point, IMHO.

I think it has the potential for being unfair, though.

IMHO, there are very few things that do not have the potential for being unfair.

Taking away a legitimate use of a power from a fighter without giving him something not permissible in the rules, or not imposing comparable penalties on other classes, is pretty much dictionary-perfect "unfair."

Again, in this case we don't even know that. As far as we know, the DM simply expected the player to narrate the use in a way that made sense in the milieu.

Overall, though, this suggests that 4e is balanced on a dime, even moreso than 3e, and that it is relatively easy to push past the balance point. Which would mean that if the basic assumptions are ones you enjoy, 4e is likely to purr like a kitten.....but if not, changing those assumptions can break the game.

Maybe the judgment calls even out over the course of a campaign. But they're not guaranteed to, particularly if the GM's of the opinion that, say, martial characters should just not be allowed to achieve a certain level of "fantastic" in their actions, but characters who use magic are. That could easily lead to unfairness as a trend throughout the campaign.

Especially in a system that blurs the lines between fantastic and mundane to the degree that 4e does. Since 4e puts few sharp limits on the fantastic, and plausibility puts real limits on the mundane, either one should accept that 4e martial characters are not mundane or that 4e is not the best ruleset to run non-fantastic martial characters in.

It was this previous argument that was countered with the "DM judgement call" defense (as mentioned previously). It was argued that, while playing 4e, the DM could simply rule anything implausible not to work, and that 4e would still work fine. As this thread shows, though, that simply isn't the case (although there are, no doubt, DMs who could make this work, LostSoul apparently among them).

If it is okay for the DM to veto powers on the basis of plausibility, then the DM in this case cannot be assumed to be "broken" or unfamiliar with the rules. There is simply not enough information to tell. If it is not okay for the DM to veto powers on the basis of plausibility, then the problem of implausibility still remains (for those to whom it is a problem).

You claim that you can have it both ways, but that is hypocritical at best, and doesn't make it so.



RC
 

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Dausuul

Legend
I would agree, but let me point out how many people have said that the DM in question is "lazy", "wrong", or "broken" (using those or similar terms).

If someone says "I don't like playing 4e because the PCs are superheroes" the first thing trotted out is that the game doesn't have to be played like that -- you can simply restrict powers on the basis of makes sense.

Yet, as soon as one hears of a DM restricting powers on the basis of what makes sense, he is a poor DM, lazy, and wrong. Or simply doesn't know the rules.

Gonna have to go with Raven Crowking on this one, and I say that as a 4E DM who has no desire to go back to 3.5. I do think this DM needs to put a whole lot more thought into the mechanical impact of his rulings (in particular the immobilize = stun thing, which is a drastic change), but his basic approach is not one that I have a problem with.

Terminology matters. I had a bard at my table with the Vicious Mockery power. So he'd say, "I use Vicious Mockery on the cultist over there," and the cultist, being a minion, would die. Totally wrecked my suspension of disbelief, to the point that I banned Vicious Mockery* after that session... not because I had a problem with the mechanics but because the name and the fluff text had everybody imagining the bard yelling insults at people who then dropped over dead. Which is funny, but the funny wears off fast.

(If the player had wanted to, I would have allowed him to re-name and re-skin it, so long as he was careful to use the new name consistently. However, I find most players - quite understandably - don't want to have to constantly remember that the effects of "Psychic Lash" are listed under "Vicious Mockery" in the rulebook.)

There is a certain amount of "English to D&D" translation that I am willing to do at the table. I don't have a problem with terms like "push" and "pull," because the words are succinct and non-evocative, and they perform a valuable function; they distill a huge variety of effects into a few very simple words and rules, which makes everybody's life easier.

On the other hand, a power named "Vicious Mockery" should have an effect resembling that of, well, vicious mockery... which does not include three people dying from it in the course of one fight. Even if the designers try to handwave the problem by saying a wizard did it it's "laced with magic."

[SIZE=-2]*Actually, I banned the entire bard class, since several other powers were giving me similar narrative heartburn.[/SIZE]
 
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Obryn

Hero
I see that the Straw Man got lost on the way to Oz.

Hey! I guess you are just trying to score points!

RC
No, I'm looking for some logical connection between the evidence you're presenting and your conclusions. In other words, I don't know how Bob's group playing differently from Alice's group means that 4e fighters have to be magical in all games. Or, particularly, what either of their playstyles has to say about my game.

You're taking one group's example and applying it as a blanket statement to all groups. You are generalizing without any basis for doing so.

Could you do the math here? Because like I said, I'm not seeing it. It's hardly a straw man when you're not presenting a coherent argument.

-O
 

Mallus

Legend
Now, in previous discussions (more specifically focused around CAGI), many 4e defenders claimed that 4e could be run in an "Old School" way.
Sure. My group does.

Specifically, it was claimed that if the use of a power didn't seem plausible in a particular circumstance, the DM could veto its use.
Can != should (as Doug already pointed out).

We now see that, for a number of EN Worlders, this statement simply isn't true.
Why do you say that? I hear people saying 'in most cases a 4e DM should allow stated power effects to occur'. I don't see anyone saying 'a DM can never use his judgment to override a power's stated effect'.

If the "push" isn't a physical push (i.e., the character is not physically forcing the creature to move), then either the creature is in some way compelled to move or it is not.
The 'push' is a result. It's caused by whatever the the fighter does to make the opponent step back. It could be described --reasonably, I might add-- as stabbing the giant in the foot, whacking it so as to unbalance it, thrusting a spear upward in the direction of it's giant privates.

It's not hard to imagine how this would work.

Also, on the subject of plausibility... a man with a sword fighting a giant strains credulity from the start. Why doesn't a creature that strong and massive bat the poor man around like a rag doll? If you can believe the man stands any chance at all going toe-to-toe with a giant, then what's the difficultly in envisioning how said man can make said giant take a step back?

Say by stabbing it in the foot. (see how easy this is?)

BTW, I do agree with you that the issue is best seen it terms of expectations.

So, perhaps it is an "apparent lack of familiarity with the rules", or perhaps it is an unwillingness to allow rules to interfere with what makes sense (to the DM) in the game world.
In this case what made sense to the DM doesn't really make sense.
 


Barastrondo

First Post
IMHO, there are very few things that do not have the potential for being unfair.

Absolutely. But if a player is having problems with a call he finds unfair, it is not entirely helpful to say "There are a lot of potentially unfair things in life."

Again, in this case we don't even know that. As far as we know, the DM simply expected the player to narrate the use in a way that made sense in the milieu.

But we don't know that, either. And I have to agree with wayne62682 that having to provide a specific narrative in order to use one of your inherent character powers at all is not necessarily the most reasonable of GM calls, particularly if the GM is not wiling to let you use the power and then provide the narration himself.

Overall, though, this suggests that 4e is balanced on a dime, even moreso than 3e, and that it is relatively easy to push past the balance point.

I honestly think you're reaching with that comment. No offense, but you come across as looking for a lot more criticism of the 4e rules in my commentary than is actually there — giving the GM every possible benefit of the doubt and the 4e rules system none whatsoever. I'm not sure what you're trying to convince me of, but I'm not convinced that I've said that 4e is "balanced on a dime," and certainly my play experience hasn't given me any reason to believe that. I do think it can be broken by certain GMing techniques, and one of the ways you can break it is by applying a consistent bias.

Which would mean that if the basic assumptions are ones you enjoy, 4e is likely to purr like a kitten.....but if not, changing those assumptions can break the game.

Is there a reason you say "4e" and not "every RPG" here?

Especially in a system that blurs the lines between fantastic and mundane to the degree that 4e does. Since 4e puts few sharp limits on the fantastic, and plausibility puts real limits on the mundane, either one should accept that 4e martial characters are not mundane or that 4e is not the best ruleset to run non-fantastic martial characters in.

I agree. That's why the context of the original call is one that makes me leery. Determining that a fighter cannot apply a push mechanic to a giant doesn't seem particularly accepting of the idea of the genuinely fantastic character sans magic.

It was this previous argument that was countered with the "DM judgement call" defense (as mentioned previously). It was argued that, while playing 4e, the DM could simply rule anything implausible not to work, and that 4e would still work fine. As this thread shows, though, that simply isn't the case (although there are, no doubt, DMs who could make this work, LostSoul apparently among them).

The devil that is in these particular details is that applying the push mechanic to a giant is not commonly agreed upon here as "implausible." If you have two separate GMs, and both of them have different ideas of "implausible," and they both run the same system, it is entirely likely that the gameplay experience will come out very different under each.

I'm honestly not convinced that there's been any cogent argument against anything but a tendency to be over-literal when applying game terms. That's an issue regardless of system.

If it is okay for the DM to veto powers on the basis of plausibility, then the DM in this case cannot be assumed to be "broken" or unfamiliar with the rules. There is simply not enough information to tell. If it is not okay for the DM to veto powers on the basis of plausibility, then the problem of implausibility still remains (for those to whom it is a problem).

Which is why the question of "do you think it's implausible for a fighter to push a giant" is the basic context. That's enough information to determine whether you agree with the basic call of "is it plausible" or not.

You claim that you can have it both ways, but that is hypocritical at best, and doesn't make it so.

I don't claim "you can have it both ways," I say that there there's more than just two ways to the situation. It is okay for the GM to have veto power, but that does not imply that all uses of said veto power are implicitly fair. I'm of the school that says GMs are human beings, and capable of making bad calls every once in a while. That doesn't mean I don't believe in the GM having power. I just don't believe that their power should be de facto absolute, or that they're incapable of using it poorly by dint of being GM.
 

Obryn

Hero
Sure you are.

RC
...so there isn't one?

Here's a case in point of what I'm talking about...

It was argued that, while playing 4e, the DM could simply rule anything implausible not to work, and that 4e would still work fine. As this thread shows, though, that simply isn't the case (although there are, no doubt, DMs who could make this work, LostSoul apparently among them).
Let's take those first two sentences, and add what I feel is necessary verbiage.

"It was argued by some posters that, while playing 4e, the DM could simply rule anything implausible not to work, and that 4e would still work fine. As this thread shows, though, that simply isn't the case for all groups, because not everyone agrees."

What you're looking at is a simple table difference in how different groups interpret the same set of rules. You're expanding it and generalizing it into something it's not, with no foundation for doing so.

-O
 

Mallus

Legend
As far as we know, the DM simply expected the player to narrate the use in a way that made sense in the milieu.
RC, I think it's a great thing to encourage narration like that, but a terrible to thing to require it (specifically with regard to character powers).

This isn't too far from a DM requiring a magician's player to wave their arms about and speak a few phrases in Latin in order for their Magic Missile to go off, or telling a cleric's player that they're request for a Cure Light Wounds is denied because they didn't sound sufficiently pious.

Overall, though, this suggests that 4e is balanced on a dime, even moreso than 3e, and that it is relatively easy to push past the balance point.
9 months of play suggests otherwise to me and my friends, and our tastes in gaming are pretty varied.

There is simply not enough information to tell.
True. But we can only respond to what was presented in this thread.
 


Raven Crowking

First Post
Absolutely. But if a player is having problems with a call he finds unfair, it is not entirely helpful to say "There are a lot of potentially unfair things in life."

Nor is it helpful to say "OMG! The DM is broken!"

But we don't know that, either. And I have to agree with wayne62682 that having to provide a specific narrative in order to use one of your inherent character powers at all is not necessarily the most reasonable of GM calls, particularly if the GM is not wiling to let you use the power and then provide the narration himself.

We disagree here. I think that it is entirely reasonable to expect the player to supply narrative for how powers make sense. In RCFG, Combat Advantage allows you to use any skill check to help your combat abilities, provided that you can make it narratively plausable. The difference with 4e is how the powers are developed, and what the expectations of the players are. The DM has to narrate how the powers of everything else works; the players how the powers of their characters work. Nothing could be fairer.

I honestly think you're reaching with that comment. No offense, but you come across as looking for a lot more criticism of the 4e rules in my commentary than is actually there — giving the GM every possible benefit of the doubt and the 4e rules system none whatsoever.

I wonder how it is, then, that I could agree with LostSoul's advice?

I do think it can be broken by certain GMing techniques, and one of the ways you can break it is by applying a consistent bias.

And, do you think that "plausibility" is a consistent bias that can break 4e's balance?

Is there a reason you say "4e" and not "every RPG" here?

:lol: Because we are talking about 4e. I have said before, and certainly will again, that this applies to every RPG.

The devil that is in these particular details is that applying the push mechanic to a giant is not commonly agreed upon here as "implausible." If you have two separate GMs, and both of them have different ideas of "implausible," and they both run the same system, it is entirely likely that the gameplay experience will come out very different under each.

Indeed. But this doesn't mean that the DM is "broken" or doesn't know the rules.

...so there isn't one?

If you write something worth responding to, I will do so.

RC, I think it's a great thing to encourage narration like that, but a terrible to thing to require it (specifically with regard to character powers).

See above. Requiring some narration of powers isn't all that difficult -- it is a regular occurance in many supers games. The GM essentially says "That doesn't seem plausible" and the player offers a reason why it is plausible.

Obviously, in the case of 4e, part of the problem is the disconnect between power and description. 4e claims that the fighter isn't supernatural per se, then gives him powers that, if not supernatural, might well seem implausible to the DM. Better to simply say that all of these powers are fantastic, or magical, or whathaveyou.

This isn't too far from a DM requiring a magician's player to wave their arms about and speak a few phrases in Latin in order for their Magic Missile to go off, or telling a cleric's player that they're request for a Cure Light Wounds is denied because they didn't sound sufficiently pious.

Disagree. If the DM asked the player to push his Honda Civic, it would be like requiring a magician to speak Latin. There is nothing wrong with the DM requiring the magician's player to narrate his or her power usage.

(In pre-4e D&D, the mundane powers were "always on" while the supernatural powers had sharp limits. This helped the DM adjudicate when the mundane power applied, so that she could balance plausibility with fairness to each player with less chance of breaking that balance.)

Just to be clear: I am not saying that 4e cannot be run in an "Old School" way (although I do think it is not a particularly good vehicle for "Old School" gaming) -- I am saying that the arguments for why the DM is "broken", "wrong", or "doesn't know the rules" all point in this direction. And, if for no other reason, that should make those arguments worth a bit of a rethink.

9 months of play suggests otherwise to me and my friends, and our tastes in gaming are pretty varied.

I am not sure what you regard as "Old School" in this sense, but I certainly accept from LostSoul's posts upthread that he, likewise, has no difficulties in running a 4e game using judgment calls that support plausibility within the milieu.

If I accept LostSoul's claims (and I do), then I must perforce reject claims that judgment calls that support plausibility within the milieu destroy game balance and/or are inherently unfair. Therefore, I must also accept that the vehement judgments agains the DM in this thread are likewise baseless, if that is what they are based upon.

Likewise, if one supports the claim that "if the use of a power doesn't seem plausible in a particular circumstance, the DM could veto its use" as a response to concerns about plausibility, then "could =/= should" seems to me to be an inadequate defense for jumping on the DM in this case. Certainly, "if the use of a power doesn't seem plausible in a particular circumstance, the DM should not veto its use" is inadequate as a response to concerns about plausibility. You can have it one way or the other, but not both.

Also, to keep up some of the positivity in the thread:

I bring you Old School 4e as a present. 3d6 in order, Haunted Keep out of the back of the red-box manual.

And it works. Good read to boot.

I'll check it out.


RC
 

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