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D&D General DM's: How transparent are you with game mechanics "in world?"

Fanaelialae

Legend
Either cheating or making a mistake of that size. You see, when there is trust, the players are also careful to avoid breaking that trust, so they will not do anything outrageous without checking, usually quietly between themselves if their understanding is correct, or with the DM before pulling it off.

It also goes with the "not breaking the flow of the game", pulling something outrageous will always to this. If it's justified, it will be fantastic, and everyone will applaud, if it's unjustified or really borderline (in particular in terms of interpretation), might as well double check before pulling it off. And I think that this is why it has not happened in years (or more exactly, it happened about 3 years ago with the last real powergamer at our table before he left the table by mutual agreement, but it has not happened in much longer with the other players, at all the tables of our groups).
You can trust that they've neither made a mistake or cheated, but given that you've stated that you don't know what's on their character sheets, you can't possibly know that they aren't. They might be making frequent mistakes, and you would never know. That they may confer with each other is no guarantee (they might all be mistaken regarding how something works).

On the other hand, if they check with you, then you know whether or not they are handling it correctly, but you are also aware of those capabilities. You can then plan accordingly with your tactics, unlike the players (who require the DM to be transparent in order to strategize effectively in respect to their opponents' capabilities).

Even if they don't ask, you likely see their characters in action enough to have a good assessment as to what they're capable of. Whereas the monsters in a D&D game are disposable, and tend to be used in variety, meaning that without transparency the players may have difficulty coming up with meaningful tactics.
 

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Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
You know that VTTs can hide everything, including monster name, type, etc. it's just a standard option in at least the two mainstream VTTs that I have extensively gamed with.
Um, so? I don't see how this changes anything I said, and I'm quite aware you can do this.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
Yep, I agree that, in the typical case, in the middle of a fight, the action economy cost of figuring out exactly where the numbers come from doesn't pay well. There will be some cases where it pays off, but it'd be highly situational.

But... so what? Not every choice of action is optimal. Indeed, for choice to be particularly meaningful, there ought to be some that pay off well, and others that don't. If the question is asked to trying to gain tactical success, then it should be lumped in with the myriad other possible choices, some of which are really bad ideas.

If the question isn't being asked to gain tactical advantages, then it can be saved for after the action scene is done.
The point isn’t whether it’s optimal or not. The point I was making is that it is unnecessarily, punitively, excessive, for no discernible reason other than to avoid questions during the fight by a means other than talking OOC with the players about that behavior.
 

Chaosmancer

Legend
It's one thing to ask once in a while. It's another thing to question constantly and repeat the question after the DM double checks.

If you really think it's an issue, discuss it with me after the game or during a break.

Sure, but that seems far more like a social skills issue than a "this player is terrible" issue. The responses I've seen are very much leaning towards this player being a blight, but I'm running the conversation in my head and coming away with "poor social skills" which is something far different.

And I think this is something worth separating. Is the issue that they are asking questions of the DM, or is the issue that they aren't asking questions at the proper time? Because those are very big differences.
 

Chaosmancer

Legend
This is highly campaign dependent, though. In bog-standard D&D in FR, sure, characters are all somehow familiar with meta concepts like "class abilities", etc, so they might well have a good in-world idea what all mechanics look like*.
On the other hand, in a "mysterious magic" or weird or especially gonzo setting, that is not a solid assumption. At all.

* Of course, PCs in wolrd would also understand that lots of beasties don't follow in "the rules", so they shouldn't be surprised when something weird shows up.

Sure, pretty campaign dependent, but if you have a wizard in the party who has been studying the "mysterious magic" and have the Arcana skill then there are going to be things that they know that the players don't. And it would be really weird for the master of magic to have the same knowledge of magic as the fighter... of course if they are a grizzled verteran, maybe they learned about some of this magic in the army.

Again, totally campaign dependent, but your PCs are generally not Strangers in a Strange Land, they generally were born and grew up in this world. The legends are different, the knowledge is different, and if Hunter's Mark is something a random bandit can do, then it would be something that a veteran soldier or learned mage has most likely heard about or encountered before.
 

Chaosmancer

Legend
The basic way to address this is a simple, "That's a great question. However, your character does not have the answer. If you want to spend an action to figure it out, please let me know."

Characters do live in the world, but that doesn't mean everyone is an expert in everything that everyone else can do. We specifically have skills they can use to check if they understand the import of what they see, and those should be applied where appropriate.

But that is just asking to waste their time.

Knowledge checks are weird, because they are not only binary, but they are binary about the things you recognize. If I see a Semi-Truck going down the highway with a round tanker on the back and the name "Speedway" on the side, I don't need six seconds to search my memory to figure out that this is a truck carrying gasoline to a Speedway station.

If I see someone wearing a Kippah, I don't need to search my memory to figure out that they are most likely Jewish, or at the least wearing a Jewish hat used for ceremonial purposes.

If someone is wearing the flag of the Canary Islands, no check needed, I've got no idea what that looks like. I don't even know if it exists.

Honestly, Passive Knowledge checks should be the norm. If someone's passive Arcana is 15, this is what they should know without needing to use an action to make an arcana check. Same with information from backgrounds. If you live in the Kingdom of Cottrel, you don't need a history check to know that the old king died of an illness and there was nearly a bloody civil war between the brothers ten years ago. You lived through it.
 

J.Quondam

CR 1/8
Sure, pretty campaign dependent, but if you have a wizard in the party who has been studying the "mysterious magic" and have the Arcana skill then there are going to be things that they know that the players don't. And it would be really weird for the master of magic to have the same knowledge of magic as the fighter... of course if they are a grizzled verteran, maybe they learned about some of this magic in the army.

Again, totally campaign dependent, but your PCs are generally not Strangers in a Strange Land, they generally were born and grew up in this world. The legends are different, the knowledge is different, and if Hunter's Mark is something a random bandit can do, then it would be something that a veteran soldier or learned mage has most likely heard about or encountered before.
Maybe, maybe not. Again: totally campaign dependent. No player should make any such assumptions beyond what's been established in session zero's campaign expectations.
 

Chaosmancer

Legend
It's D&D. the DM still has to say how much damage is sustained, it's the bare minimal technical information to be conveyed from him to a player. What he is not saying is "and out of this, it's one or more attacks, with such and such bonus and sneak and hunter's mark...".

Sure, he isn't likely saying that. But, what I'm trying to understand is where you draw the line between the players receiving technical information and them asking to clarify technical information.

A DM could totally choose to tell the player how many attacks and whether or not sneak attack was applying, but a player is wrong for asking if that was the intent behind the massive spike in numbers?

Damage and Hit Points are abstract counters in D&D anyway. For me, that kind of verification is quite often based on some sort of mistrust and checking that the DM has not forgotten anything about the defenses of the player. Now, coming back to the original post, it's clearly that "To him, we're playing a wargame with certain rules and there's a bias towards "perfect information" and that might be less a question of trust, but I have addressed this point separately.

Didn't you also say you haven't looked at a player's sheet in years? You might have forgotten something about the defenses of the player.

For example, I actually was playing on a VTT game where the DM was rolling a lot of attacks, dealing a lot of damage, and the had a character take some big number, and we asked "wait, isn't that poison damage?" when we saw the roll. Because the player had gotten a Periapt of Proof against Poison months before, and it had never come up, but he was immune to poison damage.

Or, a my tables, I tend to math quickly, and tell the players their damage total after resistance. But, sometimes my players don't know if I did after resistance or before, so they have to ask me. And knowing whether or not the extra damage from an attack qualifies for resistance is important information for the player.

Mistrust and making sure there is clear communication are two different things. I trust all my DMs. That doesn't mean I think they are incapable of making mistakes. Especially with how often I make mistakes as a DM.

And for me, it's in general not a problem. Of course, if it's all the time, and it screws up the vision of the universe because it's inconsistent, or if it's done on purpose to make the world seem more dangerous and in a sense screwing the players, it's bad, but I've almost never met that kind of case, especially the second one. And the first one is usually linked to an inexperienced DM.

But if once in a long while you take a bit more or a bit less damage, who cares ? For us, it's not worth interrupting the flow of the game for a technical discussion leading to ruleslawyering. If really it bothers you, wait until the end of the session and ask the DM about confirmation that something works one way or another, and if oyu don't go into accusatory mode, and the DM feels like explaining (he might not, by the way, as is his perfect right, in particular if the player has no reason to know about it - special magic, special NPC, special circumstances), discuss about it.

I'm sorry man, I don't buy it. Everyone messes up occasionally. Forgetting rules, mixing rules up, ect. It happens.

And since some fights and games can get down to the entire party in single digit hp with no resources remaining... taking a little bit more damage than you were supposed to can be a big deal. Yes, a big enough deal to stop the combat for a moment and double check. It isn't like the combat is a narrative cut-scene, you are dealing with technical information constantly in combat

And, I'm really not terribly comfortable with this idea that the player has to be polite and not accusatory (not saying that they should be accusatory, but it is being presented as a requirement) and if the DM feels like it they can explain what happened. This just comes across as... a bad power dynamic. Sure, if there is a good reason not to tell them, maybe because it is a plot secret, then don't tell them. Hint at the fact or outright say "it matters for the plot, so you;ll need to figure it out" but we are talking figuring out that an NPC used a spell instead of a PC ability. That's not something that is a big mystery. So why not tell them? Why act like you are doing them some big favor by being kind enough to explain the rules of the game to them?

It all depends on the way it's presented, see above. It might be a mistake, or it might not, and it's not a good thing, in my view, to encourage discussion of things which might or might not be mistakes during the game. Again, it might depend on your table etiquette and wishes, if at table the players went to go into wargaming style where everything is justified, that's cool, but it's also cool to let the story flow without peppering the DM with questions and without making the game technical, it does not need to be.

Yeah, if I make a mistake that negatively impacts the PCs, I want to know about it. I want to know about it now, not after the session when it is too late to fix it. Because I want to challenge the PCs fairly, not challenge them because I failed to run the encounters without errors.

Either cheating or making a mistake of that size. You see, when there is trust, the players are also careful to avoid breaking that trust, so they will not do anything outrageous without checking, usually quietly between themselves if their understanding is correct, or with the DM before pulling it off.

It also goes with the "not breaking the flow of the game", pulling something outrageous will always to this. If it's justified, it will be fantastic, and everyone will applaud, if it's unjustified or really borderline (in particular in terms of interpretation), might as well double check before pulling it off. And I think that this is why it has not happened in years (or more exactly, it happened about 3 years ago with the last real powergamer at our table before he left the table by mutual agreement, but it has not happened in much longer with the other players, at all the tables of our groups).

Again, people make mistakes.

I actually was playing with a friend in a one-shot not too long ago. He's played a rogue for years in various games. We were in a fight and his character hit, and he grabbed a bunch of D6's. So I asked "Dude, why are grabbing all those dice?"

And he looked at me, looked at his dice, looked at his character sheet and said, "Oh, right. I'm playing a paladin. I don't have sneak attack."

And that is why I wanted to pull attention to your post, because in the quote you were responding to, Fanaelialae specifically mentioned mistakes and that they have happened. But, your response, and even your response here, isn't about making mistakes. It is about cheating or powergaming. Look, I'm happy for you if you and your players never make mistakes or confuse things or misunderstand a rule, but not everyone has that experience. And since the discussion is about asking for clarification in general, I feel it is really harmful to the conversation to immediately assume cheating on either side. The point Fanaelialae was trying to make I think is that since the DM asking for clarification when something weird was going on is fine, it seems strange to hold the players to a different standard. Since we don't assume the DM is cheating in creating the scenario that is strange, why would we assume the player is cheating?

And if we are fine with the DM calling out the player on potential cheating, and DMs can cheat, isn't it equally fair to call out the DM on cheating if they are doing so? I don't want to assume cheating in either direction, because that isn't conducive to the discussion, but if we are, then I'd say the same standards apply both ways.
 

Chaosmancer

Legend
Maybe, maybe not. Again: totally campaign dependent. No player should make any such assumptions beyond what's been established in session zero's campaign expectations.

Should doesn't mean they don't. I'm talking purely practical here, not theoritical, there are many many many assumptions that the players will make when creating characters for a new world. For example, a player may assume that owning a dog is something reasonable, and that their knowledge of canines is then reasonable.

Yes, anything could be changed and you should make no assumptions... but that just leads to more questions about how things work, not fewer. And, again, I'm talking purely practically. This is just reality at the table. If you don't speak up and say differently, a PC is either going to assume or they are going to ask you. If you don't want assumptions, you need to accept that questions will happen. And neither you nor your players are going to ask every single question that might come up, so these questions might come during the middle of a combat. That isn't unreasonable.
 

J.Quondam

CR 1/8
Should doesn't mean they don't. I'm talking purely practical here, not theoritical, there are many many many assumptions that the players will make when creating characters for a new world. For example, a player may assume that owning a dog is something reasonable, and that their knowledge of canines is then reasonable.

Yes, anything could be changed and you should make no assumptions... but that just leads to more questions about how things work, not fewer. And, again, I'm talking purely practically. This is just reality at the table. If you don't speak up and say differently, a PC is either going to assume or they are going to ask you. If you don't want assumptions, you need to accept that questions will happen. And neither you nor your players are going to ask every single question that might come up, so these questions might come during the middle of a combat. That isn't unreasonable.
Obviously in-world and in-world-pertinent questions are fine, and completely expected-- even encouraged! Demands for meta-information are not.
 

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