D&D General How much control do DMs need?

pemerton

Legend
A failure to look further at something that bears looking at is at the very least a partial failure on the part of the players.
Meaning they should probably ask some more in-character questions rather than just wander over and check it out.
This approach to play - the players declare actions for their PCs that prompt the GM to tell them more about the setting - is one way of RPGing.

It's not distinctively virtuous, nor in my experience distinctively rewarding.
 

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Oofta

Legend
Isn't there usually some kind of way to handle this? Like in a dungeon delve, generally speaking things will get tougher the deeper you delve. Or in a hexcrawl or wilderness exploration, the further you go from civilization, the greater the danger. Obviously, this is not always true... but when not, shouldn't the GM then be trying to cue the danger in some other way?

Letting a very low-level party walk up to a lich's tower that's guarded by demons and then blaming them for not being more resourceful seems pretty bad to me. What resources did they have at that level? And which of those would have somehow helped against a lich and demons?

Why not give them a warning of some sort so that they're actually making a decision? Maybe three demons manifest, and the two laugh as the weakest chases off the mortals.



Why?

There's no right or wrong answer, I don't think, because it's a matter of preference. But why do you feel that way? I can explain my feeling about it... that the real players are more important than the pretend events of play.

Also, can't some reasonable result be found that satisfies both? I came up with just one above, in a matter of a minute or so.

So in my game, I'd likely remind them before they head in that directions that their PCs had heard the tower was dangerous. But beyond that? If they still head to the tower? They were lucky some got away. I don't control the PCs, the players do.
 

hawkeyefan

Legend
So in my game, I'd likely remind them before they head in that directions that their PCs had heard the tower was dangerous. But beyond that? If they still head to the tower? They were lucky some got away. I don't control the PCs, the players do.

Right. But do you just say dangerous or do you add some details? The party was low- level… dangerous could mean anything from some ghouls to some ogres to demons to the tarrasque.

This is the point. “Dangerous” isn’t a sufficient description to lay blame on the players. The DM’s at fault.

Why not just say “legend says an undead wizard has lived there for decades, conjuring demons and other awful things”? Then if they go there they’ve only themselves to blame.

What’s gained by keeping them in the dark?
 

Oofta

Legend
Right. But do you just say dangerous or do you add some details? The party was low- level… dangerous could mean anything from some ghouls to some ogres to demons to the tarrasque.

This is the point. “Dangerous” isn’t a sufficient description to lay blame on the players. The DM’s at fault.

Why not just say “legend says an undead wizard has lived there for decades, conjuring demons and other awful things”? Then if they go there they’ve only themselves to blame.

What’s gained by keeping them in the dark?

If the party heard it was dangerous but didn't follow up with details, that's all they get. I only give players information I think the PC would know. What's gained? Minimize meta-game knowledge when I can. I'm generally pretty generous when it comes to what PCs know, but there are limits.
 

pemerton

Legend
So here's a question:

Back in the days of module B2 Keep on the Borderlands, it was taken for granted that the scenario that the GM presented to the players, via "hooks" and "rumours" and so on, was the one the players were expected to engage with. In this particular example, that's the Caves of Chaos.

Part of play consisted in gathering information, but that information - whether gained from collecting more rumours, or speaking to rescued prisoners, or whatever - was expected to help the players do better at the scenario in front of them.

But now we're discussing an example where the GM is foregrounding some bit of fiction - the dangerous tower, the dragon in the hills, etc - and the players are not expected to engage with it, and the point of collecting rumours etc would be so that the players can confirm that they ought not to engage with it.

That's a big change in gameplay. When did it happen? And why?
 

hawkeyefan

Legend
If the party heard it was dangerous but didn't follow up with details, that's all they get. I only give players information I think the PC would know. What's gained? Minimize meta-game knowledge when I can. I'm generally pretty generous when it comes to what PCs know, but there are limits.

So in this specific case, you wouldn’t let a low level party know anything more than “it’s dangerous”?

What would make you stop at “dangerous tower”? Why not add a detail or two more? You’ve already shared that it’s a dangerous tower.

Seems pretty arbitrary.
 

pemerton

Legend
So in this specific case, you wouldn’t let a low level party know anything more than “it’s dangerous”?

What would make you stop at “dangerous tower”? Why not add a detail or two more? You’ve already shared that it’s a dangerous tower.

Seems pretty arbitrary.
Here's another angle on it.

When Jack climbed the beanstalk, he didn't get squashed by the giant straight away. At least as I remember it, the giant was out, and turns up partway through Jack's exploration of the castle at the top of the beanstalk.

So when the (too) low-level PCs turn up to the tower, why is the lich not away (eg travelling the Astral Plane, or whatever it is that liches do to pass the time). There's any number of choices the GM can make to turn this into a viable, even interesting, scenario for those PCs.

Not to do so seems pretty arbitrary.
 

Mort

Legend
Supporter
Here's another angle on it.

When Jack climbed the beanstalk, he didn't get squashed by the giant straight away. At least as I remember it, the giant was out, and turns up partway through Jack's exploration of the castle at the top of the beanstalk.

So when the (too) low-level PCs turn up to the tower, why is the lich not away (eg travelling the Astral Plane, or whatever it is that liches do to pass the time). There's any number of choices the GM can make to turn this into a viable, even interesting, scenario for those PCs.

Not to do so seems pretty arbitrary.

Exactly,

Or if not away, recognize that an ancient litch likely has MANY motivations and plots. Pick one that involves using the party in some way (as pawns etc). rather than one that involves the annihilation of the group. Hoards of demons are nice and all, but they lack a certain subtlety the lich might require!
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
This approach to play - the players declare actions for their PCs that prompt the GM to tell them more about the setting - is one way of RPGing.

It's not distinctively virtuous, nor in my experience distinctively rewarding.
I don't think anyone has claimed it to be distinctly virtuous(nor is any other style of play) or distinctly rewarding. It is rewarding for all of those who enjoy playing that way, though.
 

hawkeyefan

Legend
Here's another angle on it.

When Jack climbed the beanstalk, he didn't get squashed by the giant straight away. At least as I remember it, the giant was out, and turns up partway through Jack's exploration of the castle at the top of the beanstalk.

So when the (too) low-level PCs turn up to the tower, why is the lich not away (eg travelling the Astral Plane, or whatever it is that liches do to pass the time). There's any number of choices the GM can make to turn this into a viable, even interesting, scenario for those PCs.

Not to do so seems pretty arbitrary.

If you've let them know it's "a dangerous tower", why stop there? In what situation would they have learned that it was dangerous, but not why?

And even if there is some reason for that, why not then use the opportunity to introduce something more useful as you've suggested? Why just play it out as harshly as possible?

There just seems so many opportunities that the DM is passing by in order to punish the players.
 

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