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5E Is This Odd?

Zardnaar

Adventurer
So I went into my flgs and picked up a premium copy of Ghosts of Saltmarsh. Had a chat with the owner.

Anyway a young fella came in and he got called over and got told "don't do what you did the other night".

I assumed he had made some inappropriate comment, or done something stupid. He didn't know what he did. Anyway it turned out he looked at his copy of the MM in the middle of a combat.

I was off to the side and was asked what I thought. I was kind of puzzled as it was phrased like "should players have access to the MM".

Now I do remember when I was young I read the monsters but not in the middle of combat. I said something like it's not really kosher but yeah players can use it for things like wildshape, summoning etc.

Anyway I thought it was odd the DM got the gamestore owner involved. She runs for new players so the young in probably didn't know gaming etiquette. If I was the DM I would deal with it myself.

I haven't run a game in over a year and for the most part my group was self contained, one player left, one player joined and player turnover was very low. My newest player has been 8 years, another known for over a decade and the last regular since 2003. Oh one semi regular I've known for 5 years.

So these new groups are basically strangers meeting via Facebook or game store organising stuff. More groups at the local university. It just seems odd to me IDK if there's a DM shortage but for me D&D has always been with friends.

I also look at is as a learning curve for myself as well.
 

jasper

Rotten DM
No. It is not odd. Unless you have an ability you should not be opening the MM during the game. NOT COOL. As to the gamestore owner getting involved. I think "Young Fella" open the book, was told to put away, and told the DM to take a hike. So the DM send him to the mommy for a spanking.
 

Zardnaar

Adventurer
No. It is not odd. Unless you have an ability you should not be opening the MM during the game. NOT COOL. As to the gamestore owner getting involved. I think "Young Fella" open the book, was told to put away, and told the DM to take a hike. So the DM send him to the mommy for a spanking.
That may have happened idk. I've talked to 4 other DMs and they're all doing their own thing.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
I don't care if someone reads the Monster Manual during play. If the difficulty of my challenge is hugely affected by players knowing something about the monsters, then I've designed a poor challenge. I don't expect veteran players to pretend like they don't know something about a monster they've been fighting for years and years. Basically the same thing in my view. If I want the difficulty of the challenge to be based in part on not knowing what the monsters can do, then I'll just change the stat block before presenting it.

As for why the store owner was involved, perhaps the DM is an agreeable person and avoids conflicts or sees herself as having some kind of duty not to drive off customers by being confrontational, so leaves such things to the owner.
 

Jer

Explorer
Anyway I thought it was odd the DM got the gamestore owner involved. She runs for new players so the young in probably didn't know gaming etiquette. If I was the DM I would deal with it myself.
Eh - are you sure she didn't deal with it herself? She may have dealt with it and told it as an anecdote to the store owner, then the store owner also felt like they had to say something about it because that's what adults tend to do around kids. A kid makes a mistake and they get it from every adult who thinks they have some level of personal relationship to the kid - either in the form of making sure they know it was serious, or razzing them about it, or sometimes support for the kid cause they think the other adults are out of line. But they all feel the need to comment on it, even if they've been told that it's been settled.

Also D&D is the weird game here. If you were playing Settlers of Catan or Magic the Gathering and a new player pulled out the rulebook to look something up, you wouldn't be phased. But in D&D there's this mystique about hiding certain rules from the players because if they know the monsters stats then it impacts the game - looking in the Monster Manual is less like looking at Hoyle's Rules of Games during a card game and more like looking at the other player's cards. But new players don't know that yet - it's not like the kid was peeking at the DM's notes or something. So it's part of the training new players process to make sure they know "hey, it's poor form to do this in front of the DM - you're supposed to commit all the stats to memory away from the table and then pretend you didn't read the book when called on it. That's how we did it in the 80s."
 

dnd4vr

Explorer
Most beasts and such that can be summoned are in the back of the PHB or DMG aren't they? I am sure some aren't, but IIRC I remember seeing quite a few. While I would say this is up to the DM, when I am running a game I very much discourage players from using the MM (especially during game time). Of course, I own one and always have in other editions, so as a long time player myself there is little I don't have at least some knowledge on when it comes to monsters. But to me normal table etiquette is very much against it.

However, also as a DM, you can change whatever you want. If the players think they are about to face a green dragon and prepared, having them find out it is green dragon, but his breath is corrosive like acid and not poison!, quite the monkey-wrench into their plans! Not that I've ever done that... ;)
 

Seramus

Explorer
There’s nothing wrong with looking at the MM during play. I actually assume most players memorize a fair number of monsters anyway, just because reading those books is fun.

But I can see some disruption at the table if the player is like “It should be dead! That only has 256 HP and I’ve been counting!” Which has absolutely no obligation of being true at my table, and is rather rude in the first place. I love custom monsters.
 

lowkey13

Exterminate all rational thought
Such a new problem!

Wait a minute ....


One of the problems with D&D is that the players always know too much. This is news? “You obtain surprise over three Clickclicks.”

“Clickclicks? Oh, yeah, they’re in Supplement Three. Hand it to me. And where’s Greyhawk? It had a note about them.”

A pause.
“We shout out ‘November’.”


“That’s right, the Clickclicks fall over dead.”

Sound familiar?

The answer is to occasionally throw a monster at the party that keeps them on their toes, one that they have never seen before because it is unique. No rules cover it, so they have to find out the hard way what it’s like.
Dragon Magazine, October .... 1977 ;)
 

DM Dave1

Explorer
Such a new problem!

Wait a minute ....




Dragon Magazine, October .... 1977 ;)
Unpossible! The Clickclick could not have existed in 1977 as there were no interwebs at the time, let alone personal computers with mouseses. Wait... what?
 

lowkey13

Exterminate all rational thought
Unpossible! The Clickclick could not have existed in 1977 as there were no interwebs at the time, let alone personal computers with mouseses. Wait... what?
Goblin is to Hobgoblin

as

Clickclick is to Clickbait
 

Blue

Orcus on a bad day
I'm going to work this from both sides.

Should a player have access at the table to the PHB for information about their character? I think we can all say this is yes.

Should a player have access at the table to the adventure the DM is running? I think that we'll also get the consensus the answer is no.

So we have valid cases on both sides, and a lot of gray in the middle about player vs. DM information.

Should a player have as access at the table to the PHB to look up a spell a foe cast on their rogue? Very light gray - some DMs may not like it for some spells as it gives things away, but I'm firmly of the idea that the social contract says the PHB is a player book and they can know anything in it. (As players - their characters may not.) The PHB even includes common beasts that the player's should know, like low level wildshapes, their horses or pony's, familiars, etc.

Now, there are some valid points in the MM (and DMG) for players either explicitly or with DM permission. For example, summons, wildshape, and polymorph need to be able to reference. But by the same token the PHB reprints some information in Appendix D to keep this to a minimum. I feel that the intent here is that the MM is not a general player reference at the table, but may have specific needs.

On a personal side though ... I've been playing for the majority of my life. Even when I separate player knowledge from character knowledge, I know that a troll regenerates, the hierarchy of giant toughness, dragon's by color. Claiming that newer players shouldn't be able to take a look seems to be pushing them away.

On the gripping hand, last year we had a medusa encounter, and there was a question about resolving it's gaze attack that the DM asked the players their thoughts on (it is a really bad save-or-suck), and from that we learned it had a range limit. And at least one player's character "just happened" to be just outside that limit for the rest of the combat. So not everyone is good at separating player and character knowledge and is removing the temptation to metagame in that way a good thing?

I'm not sure there is a universal answer about unfettered MM access. Personally I tend towards restricted use of anything but the PHB at tables I'm at. And as a player I have pre-printed out polymorhs or wildshapes or whatever so I don't need the book. But half of that is not having to stick it in my bag and carry it.

I am about to run a game for all D&D newbies and since they are on the same playing field I'm asking them not to read anything in the MM so they can experience it first-hand - but because they are the same level there's no system masters vs. new player issues going on.
 

jaelis

Explorer
One of the problems with D&D is that the players always know too much. This is news? “You obtain surprise over three Clickclicks.”

“Clickclicks? Oh, yeah, they’re in Supplement Three. Hand it to me. And where’s Greyhawk? It had a note about them.”

A pause.
“We shout out ‘November’.”


“That’s right, the Clickclicks fall over dead.”

Sound familiar?

The answer is to occasionally throw a monster at the party that keeps them on their toes, one that they have never seen before because it is unique. No rules cover it, so they have to find out the hard way what it’s like.
To be fair, the clickclicks were probably invulnerable to any other form of attack ;)
 
It appears that even now, in this boom time, there are still more players than DMs. And lots of people play with strangers. Much of the time at cons you’re sitting down to game with strangers, after all. I have two groups, one with friends, and one at an open table with strangers (though the longstanding regulars don’t really count as strangers anymore).

I think there’s something to that communal experience of sitting down to play with strangers. When it goes right, that is…

As for a player looking at a monster entry in the middle of a battle, that’s a big no-no. I’d be hella cheesed off at the person that did that. Even though I’ve read the MM cover-to-cover, it’s not like I can remember the HP of a beholder off the top of my head. I expect that my players have varying amounts of monster knowledge in their heads, but to blatantly use it is another thing.


So these new groups are basically strangers meeting via Facebook or game store organising stuff. More groups at the local university. It just seems odd to me IDK if there's a DM shortage but for me D&D has always been with friends.
 

DM Dave1

Explorer
I'm going to work this from both sides.

Should a player have access at the table to the PHB for information about their character? I think we can all say this is yes.

Should a player have access at the table to the adventure the DM is running? I think that we'll also get the consensus the answer is no.

So we have valid cases on both sides, and a lot of gray in the middle about player vs. DM information.

Should a player have as access at the table to the PHB to look up a spell a foe cast on their rogue? Very light gray - some DMs may not like it for some spells as it gives things away, but I'm firmly of the idea that the social contract says the PHB is a player book and they can know anything in it. (As players - their characters may not.) The PHB even includes common beasts that the player's should know, like low level wildshapes, their horses or pony's, familiars, etc.

Now, there are some valid points in the MM (and DMG) for players either explicitly or with DM permission. For example, summons, wildshape, and polymorph need to be able to reference. But by the same token the PHB reprints some information in Appendix D to keep this to a minimum. I feel that the intent here is that the MM is not a general player reference at the table, but may have specific needs.

On a personal side though ... I've been playing for the majority of my life. Even when I separate player knowledge from character knowledge, I know that a troll regenerates, the hierarchy of giant toughness, dragon's by color. Claiming that newer players shouldn't be able to take a look seems to be pushing them away.

On the gripping hand, last year we had a medusa encounter, and there was a question about resolving it's gaze attack that the DM asked the players their thoughts on (it is a really bad save-or-suck), and from that we learned it had a range limit. And at least one player's character "just happened" to be just outside that limit for the rest of the combat. So not everyone is good at separating player and character knowledge and is removing the temptation to metagame in that way a good thing?

I'm not sure there is a universal answer about unfettered MM access. Personally I tend towards restricted use of anything but the PHB at tables I'm at. And as a player I have pre-printed out polymorhs or wildshapes or whatever so I don't need the book. But half of that is not having to stick it in my bag and carry it.

I am about to run a game for all D&D newbies and since they are on the same playing field I'm asking them not to read anything in the MM so they can experience it first-hand - but because they are the same level there's no system masters vs. new player issues going on.
Good stuff.

As a DM, I'm in @iserith's camp of not caring what the players know. If they bring in prior knowledge of the MM from their playing experience or even from reading it, that's fine. The challenge I lay out should not be strictly based on the "hidden" info in the MM. When I introduce a monster at the table, however, I'll use paper to block out all but the image when I show they what they are up against. The name and stats remain hidden, just to give the illusion of a sense of mystery. Players, in general, seem to like this and I haven't had anyone bust open a physical copy of the MM at the table to "solve" a monster. Maybe they've done it on their phones, but it seems that would be against the spirit of play that we're implicitly agreeing to. Either way, I don't really worry about it.

I've mentioned this anecdote before on the forums here, but I think it is worth repeating because it's an example where player knowledge of the MM created an awesome scene in our game:
In our Curse of Strahd campaign, the PCs encountered the Death Slaad in the Amber Temple. My son, 11 at the time, had basically memorized the Monster Manual by reading it at night. After a tense, crazy battle, his Half-Orc Assassin decided to knock out the foul aberration rather than kill it outright and then excitedly announced that he wanted to operate to extract the Control Gem. My brother-in-law, not to be shown up by his nephew, had his Diviner challenge the Assassin to a contest of capability to determine who would conduct the surgery and claim the Gem! That's right, a WIS(Medicine) contested roll between PCs. The Diviner won fair and square, not even using his Portent to sway the result. After one failed attempt at a DC 20 WIS (Medicine) check that brought the Slaad closer to death, the Diviner successfully extracted the Gem and now had a follower to help the group. That's a long way of saying that my son's player knowledge of the MM created a gruesomely hilarious series of events at our table that will long be remembered in our shared D&D experience.

As a player, between sessions I have refrained from looking up any particular monsters I know we'll be encountering so I can enjoy some extra challenge and discovery at the table. If I know something about a monster already, I won't necessarily announce it, but might have my character mention his familiarity should that be pertinent to the scene. The DM that I play with doesn't care either way. Our shared goal is to have fun at the table and that can suffer when a DM gets bent out of shape over the occasional player knowledge being used at the table.
 
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SkidAce

Adventurer
I don't mind what players know, but I am off the opinion that it is more fun for them to discover that the troll needs fire to kill it dead, than to read it during the game.

So I try to lead new players to discover via play, but ultimately its on them.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
Good stuff.

As a DM, I'm in @iserith's camp of not caring what the players know. If they bring in prior knowledge of the MM from their playing experience or even from reading it, that's fine.
It's not clear to me where the presupposition that players shouldn't be drawing on hard-won information even comes from. It seems to me to be as old as the hills but I don't really recall any rules books saying we should be doing this. And it certainly doesn't say that in the D&D 5e books. "Metagame thinking" is solely a risk to the player in that he or she might be basing character actions on bad assumptions. If that's a risk they want to take, that strikes me as no different than any other risk an adventurer might take. It's a risky job and the player's role to mitigate said risk to avoid undesirable outcomes.
 
I agree that a player shouldn't really be looking in the MM during a game. But in all honesty I'm less bothered about that sort of thing these days than I used to be.

The thing is that coming down on that sort of thing really just penalises new players. If you know a monster's strengths and weaknesses because you've been playing and running D&D for lots of years or even if it's just that you fought the same monster last month, then you've probably got more knowledge than your character should have. And while I'm sure everyone on here would say they always try to separate player knowledge from character knowledge, it can be very difficult to do that absolutely in all instances (especially if your party is getting its collective a** kicked). So the experienced player can be perceived as having an edge over a new player that the latter may see as unfair.

Now that's not to say that the DM shouldn't be saying to the kid that he really shouldn't be looking in the MM during the game, but it should be accompanied by a proper explanation about why it's uncool and by letting the player know if his character should know something about the creature he's facing (I generally assume, for instance, that everyone in a D&d world would know that you need to use fire to finish trolls off permanently).
 

DM Dave1

Explorer
It's not clear to me where the presupposition that players shouldn't be drawing on hard-won information even comes from. It seems to me to be as old as the hills but I don't really recall any rules books saying we should be doing this. And it certainly doesn't say that in the D&D 5e books. "Metagame thinking" is solely a risk to the player in that he or she might be basing character actions on bad assumptions. If that's a risk they want to take, that strikes me as no different than any other risk an adventurer might take. It's a risky job and the player's role to mitigate said risk to avoid undesirable outcomes.
Yup. Insisting that players pretend they don't know something just doesn't make sense IME. A DM saying "Your PC would not do/say/think that" is even worse (and old DM me had done that once - and it created unfun awkwardness at the table). Better to let folks role/roll with it and get on with the fun.
 

Blue

Orcus on a bad day
It's not clear to me where the presupposition that players shouldn't be drawing on hard-won information even comes from. It seems to me to be as old as the hills but I don't really recall any rules books saying we should be doing this. And it certainly doesn't say that in the D&D 5e books. "Metagame thinking" is solely a risk to the player in that he or she might be basing character actions on bad assumptions. If that's a risk they want to take, that strikes me as no different than any other risk an adventurer might take. It's a risky job and the player's role to mitigate said risk to avoid undesirable outcomes.
If you were running a published adventure, would you be fine with players reading that adventure and learning plot twists, NPC motivations, and the like? Without changing it - the question here is about player knowledge.

I personally would not, and have had this come up before when I was a player years ago (AD&D 2nd era). I was very angry at another player who read the module and his character knew where all the loot was hidden and what was cursed, the vulnerabilities of all the monsters, how to disarm every trap and solve every puzzle. Called him a cheater to be exact.

This is more extreme then reading the MM, but not an absurb reduction - it's players with knowledge and using it. The DM could change thing around (and did after the end of that all-day session), but only after it became obvious what was happening - i.e. "the damage was done".
 

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