New Legends & Lore: Player vs. Character


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delericho

Legend
Ah, the age-old debate. As Mearls says, there's no one true answer to this one - perhaps this is an area where the game should be modular?

(I know that I get really annoyed if I'm playing a game where I'm the bard, I invest my few skills heavily in Diplomacy and the like... and then see the DM completely ignore those skills in favour of 'roleplay' - which too often is code for "my favourites prosper".)

The problem with going for the "immersion approach" Mearls describes is that the players will probably ask a lot of exhaustive questions about the statue... and every statue they encounter. They'll also proceed to miss almost every secret you place in a 'non-classic' location, since they probably won't even register the clues.

One final thing to consider: back in the 1st Ed. DMG, there is a discussion about the elven ability to detect secret doors simply by passing close to them. There, Gygax indicates that elf PCs should only get to roll if the player specifically remembers. That was an important distinction that was missing from the 2nd Ed. rules, but it's actually really important.

So maybe that's the middle ground: the stats on the sheet indicate what your characters can do... but you only get the benefit of those if the player thinks to ask. Challenge both the player and the character.
 

prosfilaes

Adventurer
Interesting. I think it arguably useful to separate the adventure specific stuff from the world stuff. Most of us know the weaknesses and strengths of most of the basic D&D monsters. Knowledge skills mean that not-so-experienced players have a chance there. And if a DM insisted that we separate player knowledge from character knowledge, and then threw trolls against us, without knowledge skills that let us know their weaknesses, I would find the resulting battle immensely frustrating. I think I might spend the entire battle wondering if it would be metagaming to bring out Melf's Acid Arrow.

As for adventure things... I think he has a good point about it being DM specific. Doing it player-wise would be a pain under any DM who expected pixel-perfect searching, and would take certain skills on the DM's part; you've got to provide the right information, with too little information or just something the players don't put together having the potential to stop the game. (Or worse, bad information; nothing is more frustrating then a DM giving out clues based on real world information that confuses the players because it's wrong.)
 

vagabundo

Adventurer
I'd like to think that their is a balance somewhere between the two approaches. And I don't think any version of DND has found the sweet spot - or the sweet spot that would enhance most games.

I've often despaired at the roll approach to everything from my group:

"You see a statue of a Thiefling, his arms raised to the heavens"
"I roll perception"
"BUT TELL ME WHAT YOU ARE DOING!!!!"
"ehhh, Perceiving?!?"
"ARGHGHGHG" <Bolt of lightening from the sky smites the character>
 


Frostmarrow

First Post
How about skill "visas"? If you have visa in a certain skill you are allowed to make in depth question about the subject matter.

If the RAW allows for two models of handling skills you have on the one hand a familiar system of skillpoints and die rolls. On the other hand you can have a system that allow certain characters to interview the DM about specific things.

For example: My character could have 14 ranks of Arcane Knowledge on my character sheet. However, in this particular game the group has opted for the visa approach and in that model I have Arcane Knowledge Visa. This gives me the right, if you will, to ask questions about matters of the arcane. My friend has Search Visa so he actively search for treasure. Now, If I try to search I can still find things that are pretty obvious such as hidden under a bed, however even if I did state that I'm looking for hidden mechanisms in a lock the DM would rule that I really don't know what I'm looking for. By the same token my friend could ask questions about magic but shouldn't count on knowing a lot about it.

In this way we make sure all players share the spot-light. The best part is that you can combine the two! I can have Search 14 and Arcane Knowledge Visa if the campaign is more about magical research than looting. The cost for Visa should be equivalent to a maxed out skill, if you buy ranks with points.

Thoughts?
 

I have been torn on this one for a long time. I can see the value in both approaches. But I have to say, I ran a 2E game recently (after years of 3E) and I noticed a huge increase in role playing and interaction with the setting. It was a Ravenloft campaign.

I've run Ravenloft since the early 90s, and rand several 3E ravenloft campaigns when the new edition came out. However I did notice my 3E campaigns never quite felt the same. Don't get me wrong, I love 3E. I just found in the games I was running it didn't work as well for Ravenloft somehow.

Certainly much of this depends on the players and the GM. I think what happens sometimes is people lean on those social skill rolls like Diplomacy, Bluff or other types of skills like Detect. One can certainly role play and make a Diplomacy roll. But in practice there seems to be a muffling effect.

Once again don't get me wrong. Like I said I am torn on this issue, and in the game system I designed I ended up with tons of social skills and detect-like skills.

This is probably the first Mearls article so far I've enjoyed. This is an important question in game design, and more importantly, it is an honest difference between 1e/2e and 3e/4e.
 


Jhaelen

First Post
For things like Perception I prefer skill checks (or even better using passive perception). I don't even mind if my players tell me they 'search everything'. Then I do a little calculation and tell them how long it would take, which may or may not cause them to be more specific.

Hiding secret compartments in particularly devious ways and requiring players to have exactly the right idea is not something I consider fun:

"Poking the statue's right eye at the same time as its left nostril while twisting the ringfinger of its right hand counter-clockwise will open a secret panel behind the fifth row of the third bookcase on the wall left from the entrance of the room two doors down the corridor."

In the worst case you have something REALLY BAD (TM) happening if they pcs do anything differently. Like, say, in the Tomb of Horrors ;)

Nah, I really don't care for this at all. It's just an elaborate variant of "Mother, may I."
 

For things like Perception I prefer skill checks (or even better using passive perception). I don't even mind if my players tell me they 'search everything'. Then I do a little calculation and tell them how long it would take, which may or may not cause them to be more specific.

Hiding secret compartments in particularly devious ways and requiring players to have exactly the right idea is not something I consider fun:

"Poking the statue's right eye at the same time as its left nostril while twisting the ringfinger of its right hand counter-clockwise will open a secret panel behind the fifth row of the third bookcase on the wall left from the entrance of the room two doors down the corridor."

In the worst case you have something REALLY BAD (TM) happening if they pcs do anything differently. Like, say, in the Tomb of Horrors ;)

Nah, I really don't care for this at all. It's just an elaborate variant of "Mother, may I."


I think if the secret compartments are totally arbitrary with no visible clues, then it is an issue, but if there are clues and it is a challenging but beatable situation, then I have tons of fun. One thing dice rolls can't replicate is the thrill of puzzle solving.
 

Klaus

First Post
I think the middle ground is best here: the immersion triggers the roll.

"You see a statue of a lizardman."
"I roll a Perception check!" <Roll>
"Okay. You still see a statue of a lizardman."
"I want to examine the statue's base." <Roll>
"Okay, the base seems to have grooves around it that suggests it might pivot."
 

DEFCON 1

Legend
Supporter
I suspect part of the reason to move towards Skills in 3E in the first place was because player action had evolved to the point where "good playing" had turned into long, drawn-out, and monotonous checklists of actions that every character had to do with every step forward in a dungeon.

When the game was still new back in the 70s... having trapdoors open up underneath the PCs feet, or hearing monsters on the other side of a closed door were all novelties. They were unexpected and exciting. Over the years though, as those tropes became more well-known and players started taking actions to eliminate those threats as a matter of course... DMs started inventing even more obscure methods to try and surprise PCs, even if they resulted in many times illogical locations for traps and whatnot.

And then as PCs evolved again to begin suspecting even those things... we reached a point upon the approach to 3E where every single character carried 10' poles to tap every single square in every single room, every object or furniture piece was checked for traps and secret compartments, every door was first checked for traps, then listened at for sound, then the lock was picked etc. etc. etc. The PCs became so used to trying to second-guess every surprise a DM threw at them, that every single room became a two hour ordeal just to make sure the DM wasn't hiding something to screw with them. The meta-game of D&D overtook the game.

That all got changed with 3E when they instituted Skills... so that now the players could just walk into a room, make a Search check, and be DONE with it. It saved lots and lots of time, and for the most part removed the meta-game from the equation. It was a giant leap forward in speeding up 'dungeon delving'. But as Mearls comments... the only downside is that we'd lost a little bit of that "explain what you're doing" aspect of the game as part of the actual rules.

Of course... many of us DMs still make our players do this kind of thing occasionally anyway (Perception check rules be damned) because its an easy and quite often fun house-ruled variant to keep our players guessing... but with so many players getting so hung up on Ruled As Written, you really technically "can't" do it. As a result... Mearls is probably thinking about ways to have the rules eventually allow us to do both so to give options to both types of player.
 

Crazy Jerome

First Post
How about skill "visas"? If you have visa in a certain skill you are allowed to make in depth question about the subject matter.

I like that idea integrated with the previous two articles on skills. If you have a sufficient rank in the skill (automatic success in the articles), you get to ask, and the DM will give you appropriate level of information. So an "expert" searcher going after the statute might get everything there is to know. OTOH, if you have sufficient skill to roll, but not auto success, you get a reasonable amount of information, but not everything. If you lack sufficient skill, you can still try, but the DM gets to deliberately play extremely coy with the answer (as in the old school, "didn't say you were looking behind the statue).

Why? Because that gives a framework to the immersion/pixel bitching divide that the DM can learn to be consistent within. You don't have to ask to look behind the statute because the DM is being a dick. You have to ask because your skill is lousy, but asking in a particular spot reduces the challenge by a rank, allowing you to then roll. Succeed, and you get reasonable stuff. Fail and you get nothing.

No doubt this analysis is biased by my preference for, "roll first, then roleplay the results." But I like ways to make that preference more immersive, and this is certainly a candidate.
 

Scribble

First Post
I have to say I'm one of those DMs that tends to only have people roll after they tell me what they're doing. I like a sort of combo of the two ideas, which I think is why the system Mearls has been describing has been growing on me.

I think a lot of your experience really has to do with what kind of DM you faced back in the day, and I think that could be summed up by asking... What happened if you ever cast the spell Wish or found a ring of wishes?

Did you DM look at your wish and provided it wasn't too far out into crazyland let it be granted as requested?

or

Did your DM look at every wish no matter how small it was for an incredibly long time looking for any possible way he could read it to cause you the most suffering for ever having dared make it in the first place?



If your DM was the later type you probably hate DM fiat, and love the idea of skill points and dice rolling.
 

Dedekind

Explorer
I have to say I'm one of those DMs that tends to only have people roll after they tell me what they're doing. I like a sort of combo of the two ideas, which I think is why the system Mearls has been describing has been growing on me.

I think a lot of your experience really has to do with what kind of DM you faced back in the day...

I sorta do the same thing. I have them describe what they are trying to do and then say what check they need to make. That is a little frustrating for some players (like myself) who always make their characters try to negotiate even when they aren't skill in Diplomacy (ahem).
 

Extensive use of die rolls have caused players to become primarily engaged with the rules rather than the environment or situations.

Why listen to a description of anything if you can just make a good enough roll ? Just play angry birds until the descriptive snooze fest is over and you get to roll some dice. :hmm:

Wouldn't this speed up play even more:

DM:" Hallway 30' from this room leading North. Perception checks."

Player 1: " best check was a 24"

DM: " You don't notice anything strange. Door at the end of the hall."

Player 2: " I look for traps (rolls perception) 26!!"

DM: " you don't see any traps"

Player2: " I listen (rolls perception) 9 ".

Player1: (not metagaming at all :angel:) " I'll take a listen too (rolls) 23!!"

Me: .................................:yawn:


Once the imagined gamespace has only a tertiary effect at best on the outcome of play it starts to become ignored.

Back in the day that listen check was made by the DM in secret. Was there not any noise or did the check get failed? Additional listeners might help but with no more certainty of thier actions. Taking all that time standing around in the hall with ears pressed to a door had consequences too. The environment was important.

Less rules on the players side of things also made things friendlier for new players. A new person could show up, generate a character in minutes and join in as a valuable contributing member of the party. By engaging the environment and describing intentions and actions in plain english (or whatever the spoken language was) the new player could settle in quickly.

Modern versions of the game require much more from players to reach that valuable contributing member level. Learning to engage in the game via the heavier ruleset can be time consuming.
 

Scribble

First Post
Why? Because that gives a framework to the immersion/pixel bitching divide that the DM can learn to be consistent within. You don't have to ask to look behind the statute because the DM is being a dick. You have to ask because your skill is lousy, but asking in a particular spot reduces the challenge by a rank, allowing you to then roll. Succeed, and you get reasonable stuff. Fail and you get nothing.

I think this is part of the divide in itself. The idea of numbers vrs actions.

I guess the question really is, does the existence of numbers in and of itself cause people to forget to even bother to announce what they're doing?

Earlier forms of D&D caused you to interact with the environment by default because there wasn't much you could do otherwise. (And if your DM was a stickler you really DID have to get into detail about exactly how you were interacting with the environment...) I don't think this is a "better" design, but did it accidentally lead to more immersion?

Not only did you have to describe say the bed that could be searched, but since the players ability to do anything relied solely on what they knew about the bed, you needed to describe it in detail so they could formulate a plan. After all, how would they know they might have to search UNDER the bed if they didn't know it wasn't the type that has sides that go all the way to the floor?

With skill ranks the DM can just say There is a bed in the room, and the players can say I search the bed.

I don't think this implies skill points or ranks are entirely to blame in and of themselves though. I think it's just as they stand, there isn't enough incentive to cause you to interact.

Nothing in the rules changes the DC if you say you're looking under the bed, as opposed to just saying you search the bed. By the rules using whatever skill you use implies you are doing everything necessary to complete the task.

I think as others have pointed out this is a direct result of people spending countless hours describing every facet of their action. I search under the bed. I search under the bed for cracks. I search under the bed for bumps. I search under the bed for discolorations, etc...

I would say this can be seen in the idea of taking 10 or taking 20. Instead of saying all those things taking 20 or 10 implies I do all that stuff.

I think in the end we don't need to dial things all the way back to pure DM fiat, but instead we need to find some compromise between the two. A system that allows your character to be better then yourself on paper, but at the same time promotes a bit of interaction with the imaginary world.

How do you balance those two things though?
 

SpydersWebbing

First Post
Less rules on the players side of things also made things friendlier for new players. A new person could show up, generate a character in minutes and join in as a valuable contributing member of the party. By engaging the environment and describing intentions and actions in plain english (or whatever the spoken language was) the new player could settle in quickly.

Except that if 4th is played as written everyone knows that their skill checks can make up powers in combat, which makes the system extremely friendly to new people. Eventually players that I introduce "RAW 4th" to realize that the powers are very useful as back-ups, and treat them as such. Player creativity shoots through the roof when 4th edition is actually played.
 

TerraDave

5ever, or until 2024
As an aside: skills and checks are old school.

Traveler had skills, Runequest and CoC had skills (and I guess they all still do).

I don't think anyone would say that CoC fails to challenge the player.

And D&D has always had checks. The check to find secret doors has always been there.

I guess I have spent so long having players say they do stuff, and then having a check involved, that I sort of see them going together, not being opposed to each other.
 

Dark Mistress

First Post
Me personally I have always done the middle ground. Typically I set a DC for something and then let the players tell me what and how their characters do it. Like if talking to a Lord they RP it out and the better they do the higher bonus I give them. If looking for a secret door, if they say they look in the spot it is I give them a bonus, if they say something like I light a cigar and blow smoke against the wall seeing if any smoke goes in any cracks I give them a much bigger bonus.

I think a combination of the two can work very well. The problem with just rolls is players soon have no reason to do anything but roll the dice. Their is no bonus to explaining things unless you tell them. The other end is no roles, well the point of RPG's is to play someone you are not. Some players would have trouble being a thief for lack of knowing what to look for, and even worse the social type rolls etc.
 

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