D&D 5E Do you let PC's just *break* objects?

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
My answer to this statement would likely be "It's a warship built of oak planks several inches thick, hitting it with your long sword isn't going to do much of anything." This is a case of the PC is asking to do something impossible, so I'm verifying the scene and abilities of the PC.
But, as per the actual example the OP gave way back in the first few pages. it only seems like it’s an impossible task because the player neglected to mention that they’re using a magic item that actually does make it possible.
It's practically asking to jump over the moon but maybe, just maybe, they have some trick up their sleeve in which case they should have specified it.Just like if the wizard says they target an enemy with a spell they have to specify which spell.
My point exactly.
But this is that 1 in a 1,000 scenario that I don't recall ever coming up in a real game, at least not in 5E. Maybe in 3.5 with adamantine weapons which were stupidly broken it could have happened.
What I'm asking for is examples that would come up in game, things that are at least possible for the PC to achieve.
The whole point of this technique is that I need to know both what a player wants to achieve and how to know whether or not it’s possible to achieve by the specified means (and if so, is there risk involved in the attempt, and how difficult?)
Unless there are extenuating circumstances, I don't see how the method of smashing would ever be relevant.
But there may be extenuating circumstances, and if that’s the case, I don’t want to give that fact away by asking for more details than I normally would. If those details are always expected, I don’t even have to ask. Also, the fictional action will be far clearer and more explicit instead of all existing in a hazy void of abstraction, without me having to narrate what the PC is doing (which again, is a hard no for me.)
I assume the common mode, that they walk since chickens can't fly far enough. "I cross the road" is fine by me, "I cross the road by walking" would be clunky.
But if the chicken had a carpet of flying, it would be relevant to know whether they walked or used the carpet of flying. Especially if there happened to be a pit trap in the road.
 

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Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
And asking for the method is a big red flag to the player that in this case there are extenuating circumstances.
Again, not if the method is a required part of all action declarations.
And in neither case is it specified whether the chicken looks both ways first or just walks/flies out into whatever traffic might be going by at the time. :)
Sure, and in some cases that might be relevant.
 

greg kaye

Explorer
The two 5e contact poisons are a mucus and an oil. I doubt that they would last so long on a vase or that the vase might typically be the best place for these substances to be placed.
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Oofta

Legend
But, as per the actual example the OP gave way back in the first few pages. it only seems like it’s an impossible task because the player neglected to mention that they’re using a magic item that actually does make it possible.

There are exceptions to every rule. Punching a hole in the ship and the player not saying that they are using their sword of battle ship sinking
is a 1 in a 1,000 case. But so what? Once every 10 games or so I may have to ask for clarification. It's not a big deal.

My point exactly.

The whole point of this technique is that I need to know both what a player wants to achieve and how to know whether or not it’s possible to achieve by the specified means (and if so, is there risk involved in the attempt, and how difficult?)

I could also base my retirement plan on the possibility of winning the lottery. I don't base my DMing on "Could theoretically happen". Because even if it did happen, the cost is so incredibly minimal. As DM I say "No you can't do that" and then they pull the rabbit out of their posterior, the players cheer, I groan (and secretly plot revenge ;) ) and the game moves on.

Again ... we're talking about real world games, not hypotheticals.

But there may be extenuating circumstances, and if that’s the case, I don’t want to give that fact away by asking for more details than I normally would. If those details are always expected, I don’t even have to ask. Also, the fictional action will be far clearer and more explicit instead of all existing in a hazy void of abstraction, without me having to narrate what the PC is doing (which again, is a hard no for me.)

But if the chicken had a carpet of flying, it would be relevant to know whether they walked or used the carpet of flying. Especially if there happened to be a pit trap in the road.

Then they should have stated that they are using magic. If it matters, I may remind them that this is Detroit which is known to have killer potholes if that's something their PC would know. But generally if they didn't state they were using their carpet I assume they walk unless they fly absolutely everywhere. There are some things where a player will tell me "Assume I'm always doing [insert whatever]". If the PCs are in the dark, I'll ask what their light source is and in most cases after the first time we'll just come up with a blanket "When the group is in the dark Samantha uses her light cantrip because she doesn't have dark vision."

But unless you've had chickens riding flying carpets in a recent game, this still isn't a real-world game scenario.
 


Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
If you don't trust your players enough to simply ask them to not metagame, yeah it does follow that there is a lack of trust.
I don’t even care if my players metagame, so a lack of trust has nothing to do with it for me. But, for someone who did care about that, preferring a technique which didn’t create opportunities to metagame over relying on the players choosing not to metagame doesn’t indicate a lack of trust. To use the bank robbing example people keep using here, just because I prefer people not to bring guns to the bank doesn’t mean I don’t trust them not to rob it. I would prefer no guns at the bank, whether or not anyone has any intention of robbing it.
If it works for you that's fine, I also don't think it's necessary.
Of course it’s not necessary. Plenty of people run perfectly successful games without doing it. I make no claims about the necessity of it. It does have some impacts that I, personally, find to be advantageous, and I find it curious that people who do care about metagaming seem vehemently opposed to this technique.
I'm just trying to explain why the justification "Because the players may do something I don't like unless I prevent it" is not something that sits easy with me.
That’s not my explanation. I am not bothered by players metagaming, and don’t prevent it at all. It is, however, odd to me that players who do care about metagaming seem so strongly opposed to a technique which would prevent metagaming. It’s great that you trust your players, but that, to me, doesn’t seem like a reason not to use a technique that would prevent it. It’s one thing to say “it’s unnecessary for me because I trust my players not to metagame anyway, and here are the advantages of the technique I use instead:” or “it’s unnecessary for me because I trust my players not to metagame anyway, and here are the disadvantages I perceive with that technique:” but that’s not happening. People are instead reacting with seeming visceral disgust at the mere mention of the technique, ruthlessly interrogating me on why and how I use it, and then accusing me of distrusting my players and being adversarial or dictatorial towards them, which is just… wild, and makes me wonder why the reaction is like that.
Okay, but I'm asking for a real example from a real game.
I’ve given this example like six times now in various threads just like this one, but here goes again:

One time I had a player declare that she wanted to check a door for traps. I responded “I’m hearing that you want to find out if the door is trapped; what does your character do to try and find that out?” She initially said “something my character who’s trained in perception and investigation would think of that I can’t?” to which I said, “I understand you’re not an expert in trapfinding; neither am I. I just need to know what your character is doing in the world of the game so I can determine if it could succeed, if it could fail, and if there are any potential consequences for failing. Just go with something that seems reasonable to you, and I will do my best to interpret that generously.” She said she gave the door and the seams around it a thorough visual inspection, and I determined that this would have a chance of resulting in her seeing through the seam at the top that there was a lever, which would trigger a bell to ring when the door opened. I called for a check, she passed, and saw the lever. The party then went on to try to disarm this trap by wedging something (I no longer remember what, maybe it was a dagger or something) through the seam to hold the lever in place while they opened the door, which I determined would succeed without need of a roll. From that point on, the player in this exchange has consistently been one of the most creative players at my table when it comes to coming up with novel approaches to actions that often result in her succeeding at things without needing to roll.
 
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Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
There are exceptions to every rule. Punching a hole in the ship and the player not saying that they are using their sword of battle ship sinking
is a 1 in a 1,000 case. But so what? Once every 10 games or so I may have to ask for clarification. It's not a big deal.
Nor is it a big deal to have an expectation that the player specify that they’re using a magic item in the first place. Yet here we are, 18 pages later, arguing about it for some reason.
I could also base my retirement plan on the possibility of winning the lottery. I don't base my DMing on "Could theoretically happen". Because even if it did happen, the cost is so incredibly minimal. As DM I say "No you can't do that" and then they pull the rabbit out of their posterior, the players cheer, I groan (and secretly plot revenge ;) ) and the game moves on.
Alternatively, if the player had just said, “I smash the boat with my magic sword of boat smashing,” which is equally trivial of not even more trivial, we could have avoided that break from the narrative happening in the first place.
Again ... we're talking about real world games, not hypotheticals.
So far we have been talking pretty much exclusively about hypotheticals. That’s generally easiest, because we can all individually extrapolate from those hypotheticals to analogous contexts that are applicable to our own games.
Then they should have stated that they are using magic.
My point exactly.
 

That a player hasn't acted as their "own agent" in a given exchange, however, does not give the DM de facto permission to do it for them.

Yeah, no. I find that neither reasonable, nor practical. The game would turn into a semantic and epistemic nightmare as you continually navigate the Two Generals Paradox.

I don't believe I've seen anyone advocate for that approach in this discussion.

Really? You can get back to it immediately by following the backlinks.

[NB: Your statement was in response to a quote of mine you boldfaced: "Rewinding time a few seconds breaks immersion far less than telling the player that traps exist that their characters don't know about and then expecting the players to roleplay honestly."]

Tracing back the thread, I said this back in this post:

Ideally I would just say, "Alright, you pick it up and smash it against the floor." Then I'd wait for the player to say something. This is their last opportunity to alter their fate. If they say, "No, wait, I don't want to touch it. I want to hit it with a sling bullet from across the room," then that's what happens.

@greg kaye quotes exactly that in this post and basically nothing but an agreement with the above.

And your response is literally what I quoted from this post of yours:

That method (1) has the DM playing the role of the player by deciding for the player what their own character does and (2) potentially breaks "immersion" so the DM and player can hash out what the character is actually doing, after the player objects to the DM taking over their character for them. If you care about "no metagaming" and maintaining "immersion," how does this approach serve your goals?

That's the whole context. If you're not talking about minor retcons with the above reply when you mention "breaking immersion", then I don't have any idea what you're talking about at all. I can appreciate the thread has exploded in length since then, however.



Returning to the post this post is in response to:

I've stated how I run it already - the player is expected to state a reasonably descriptive goal and approach - what they want to do and how they attempt to do it - as part of their action declaration before the DM proceeds to adjudication. Is there anything about this that isn't clear?

So it requires all players to speak perfectly and roleplay perfectly in order to function? Like the whole premise of "I smash the vase" is that the player didn't do that. Now you have to resolve their vagueness without tipping your hand because that breaks immersion. Do you also stop to ask for clarification when the player's statements are concrete? That's the only way not to tip your hand, right? And when you do tip your hand, the only thing that saves you is if your player roleplays correctly.

If your method requires to either speak or roleplay perfectly and will still risk an immersion break, and my method doesn't require perfection and doesn't always break immersion... then I don't see a justification for your method. Going further, if we're going to require players to play perfectly in the first place, then why does it matter if we break immersion at all? Our perfect players are already immune to the effects of broken immersion.

It just feels like your method is a whole lot more optimistic in the assumptions it makes without offering a real upside for doing that. It requires players to always be really quite mindful, and I don't think that fits the sort of casual environment like a gaming table. Especially not when half the table has had a drink or two, and the other half also just worked an 8+ hour workday.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
Yeah, no. I find that neither reasonable, nor practical. The game would turn into a semantic and epistemic nightmare as you continually navigate the Two Generals Paradox.
Plenty of DMs in my experience have no problem with playing the characters for the players, so you're not alone. I prefer not to do that. I play the monsters, NPCs, and environment.

Really? You can get back to it immediately by following the backlinks.
Someone advocating for the first bit I quoted ("You open the door and see a 20x20 foot room. In the middle is a porcelain vase on top of a small stone pillar. None of your characters notice it without searching, but the pillar and vase are trapped with a contact poison. Also, there's a concealed panel in the floor by the wall, but again, you'd have to search to find it. What do you do?") or expecting players to roleplay that they don't know there's a trap present even though the DM explicitly told them there was one is what I was referring to.

Is anyone advocating either of those approaches? The threads gone on too long for me to go back and do research. Suffice it to say, if anyone was advocating for those, I would not find those approaches to be very effective or desirable.

So it requires all players to speak perfectly and roleplay perfectly in order to function? Like the whole premise of "I smash the vase" is that the player didn't do that. Now you have to resolve their vagueness without tipping your hand because that breaks immersion. Do you also stop to ask for clarification when the player's statements are concrete? That's the only way not to tip your hand, right? And when you do tip your hand, the only thing that saves you is if your player roleplays correctly.

If your method requires to either speak or roleplay perfectly and will still risk an immersion break, and my method doesn't require perfection and doesn't always break immersion... then I don't see a justification for your method. Going further, if we're going to require players to play perfectly in the first place, then why does it matter if we break immersion at all? Our perfect players are already immune to the effects of broken immersion.

It just feels like your method is a whole lot more optimistic in the assumptions it makes without offering a real upside for doing that. It requires players to always be really quite mindful, and I don't think that fits the sort of casual environment like a gaming table. Especially not when half the table has had a drink or two, and the other half also just worked an 8+ hour workday.
Perhaps you haven't caught up yet, but this has been talked about several times by myself and others. I don't care about "immersion" or "metagaming." Clarifying questions are fine in my game, though they're fairly rare. What my approach does do is create a situation where it's not unusual for the DM to ask clarifying questions such that it tips the players off that something is up. That was the concern Lanefan had, and my approach obviates that problem by creating an environment where reasonable specificity is the norm. So if you do concern yourself with "immersion" and "metagaming" this approach will serve you well. For me, it's just a byproduct of the clear communication I seek.

I would add that my group enjoys more than just a drink or two and we do play after work on Fridays. If we can say "I smash the vase with my bare hands" under those conditions, I'd wager just about anyone can. It certainly does not require perfection, just clear communication. Who knew a desire for clear communication would be so controversial?
 

Oofta

Legend
I don’t even care if my players metagame, so a lack of trust has nothing to do with it for me. But, for someone who did care about that, preferring a technique which didn’t create opportunities to metagame over relying on the players choosing not to metagame doesn’t indicate a lack of trust. To use the bank robbing example people keep using here, just because I prefer people not to bring guns to the bank doesn’t mean I don’t trust them not to rob it. I would prefer no guns at the bank, whether or not anyone has any intention of robbing it.

Of course it’s not necessary. Plenty of people run perfectly successful games without doing it. I make no claims about the necessity of it. It does have some impacts that I, personally, find to be advantageous, and I find it curious that people who do care about metagaming seem vehemently opposed to this technique.

That’s not my explanation. I am not bothered by player’s metagaming, and don’t prevent it at all. It is, however, odd to me that players who do care about metagaming seem so strongly opposed to a technique which would prevent metagaming. It’s great that you trust your players, but that, to me, doesn’t seem like a reason not to use a technique that would prevent it. It’s one thing to say “it’s unnecessary for me because I trust my players not to metagame anyway, and here are the advantages of the technique I use instead:” or “it’s unnecessary for me because I trust my players not to metagame anyway, and here are the disadvantages I perceive with that technique:” but that’s not happening. People are instead reacting with seeming visceral disgust at the mere mention of the technique, ruthlessly interrogating me on why and how I use it, and then accusing me of distrusting my players and being adversarial or dictatorial towards them, which is just… wild, and makes me wonder why the reaction is like that.

So either you trust your players or you don't. We agree on that. The point was raised that one of the reasons to have goal and approach is because it will remove opportunity from the players. If I trust my players, I don't need to remove opportunity. Therefore for me there is no reason to put a check in the "reasons to use" column. I've given my reasons upthread on why I don't like it, the only thing you seem bothered by is the trust issue.

I’ve given this example like six times now in various threads just like this one, but here goes again:

One time I had a player declare that she wanted to check a door for traps. I responded “I’m hearing that you want to find out if the door is trapped; what does your character do to try and find that out?” She initially said “something my character who’s trained in perception and investigation would think of that I can’t?” to which I said, “I understand you’re not an expert in trapfinding; neither am I. I just need to know what your character is doing in the world of the game so I can determine if it could succeed, if it could fail, and if there are any potential consequences for failing. Just go with something that seems reasonable to you, and I will do my best to interpret that generously.” She said she gave the door and the seams around it a thorough visual inspection, and I determined that this would have a chance of resulting in her seeing through the seam at the top that there was a lever, which would trigger a bell to ring when the door opened could be seen. I called for a check, she passed, and saw the lever. The party then went on to try to disarm this trap by wedging something (I no longer remember what, maybe it was a dagger or something) through the seam to hold the lever in place while they opened the door, which I determined would succeed without need of a roll. From that point on, the player in this exchange has consistently been one of the most creative players at my table when it comes to coming up with novel approaches to actions that often result in her succeeding at things without needing to roll.

Having to describe how I check for traps would be annoying and frustrating to me. If I, or a player, wants to add some fluff that's fine. Change the outcome? Heck no. I would no more want to have to describe how I check for traps than I would give the actual incantation for casting Bless. In your example? Only getting a check because the described something successfully and then succeeding in disarming without a roll? Big Bozo no-no from me. Because as a DM I have tells. Someone who has known me and played with me will know my style. If Jo is playing a rogue, it should not matter if they are capable of coming up with a good description. The PC doing the action matters at the level of in-world resolution of uncertain actions, not the player.

I think this whole "getting or automatically passing a check because of player skill instead of PC skill" is likely one of the biggest gulfs between our styles. I'm not sure I would want to play in a game where this happens, the player is playing "Persuade the DM" not playing D&D. I first had people suggest things like this in 1E, I had the same answer back then. I don't let the fighter automatically hit because they can explain how they're swinging a sword, player can give an eloquent speech that brings tears to the eyes of everyone there and it's still going to be a persuasion roll. The DC might be modified by the content of their speech, but not by their thespian skills.

NOTE: there is a big difference between climbing in a window thus avoiding the trapped door and describing how you're disabling the trap on the door. The former is bypassing an obstacle, the latter is IMHO playing "convince the DM".

Different strokes and all.
 

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