5E Oops, Players Accidentally See Solution to Exploration Challenge

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
A situation arose in our Saltmarsh game last week and I'm curious to hear what you would do about it. I'll try to be somewhat vague so as to avoid spoilers, but be advised that some stuff might be given away in this thread. Anyway, here's what happened:

While playing one of the Saltmarsh scenarios on Roll20, the DM had us on an overland map that depicted a beach on which we were landing to pursue some pirates who are led by my character's nemesis, Captain Whiskers, the nefarious tabaxi pirate. It was fairly nondescript as maps go, really just showing a number of dunes stretching off to the north until it reached higher ground. The map had a grid on it for us to presumably plot out our path through these dunes.

By mistake, the DM accidentally sent some stuff from the GM Layer (which players can't see) to the Map Layer (which players can see). Said stuff included a bunch of numbers showing keyed map locations, some of which were repeated and others unique, plus a dotted line showing what was presumably a safe, circuitous route through the dunes to the location we were trying to find.

We let the DM know about the mistake and he dropped the numbers and path back down to the GM Layer so we couldn't see it anymore. But at that point, we were pretty sure were already knew the best path to take. Still, we had to make a decision in the face of this to play on.

So what would you do here as a player and DM?
 

Celebrim

Legend
As with most cases of metagaming, the fault lies with the DM. The DM should be very upfront about that and apologize. The player's cannot 'unknow' what they now know, and it would be entirely wrong for the DM to try to force them not to use the information he's accidently revealed however they like.

In this case, if I were the DM it would depend on whether I'd also give you other information. If this was the only leak, I'd say, "Errr.... sorry about that mistake. I am now quickly sketching out another map. Please proceed normally, because what you just saw is no longer relevant."

Or if that wasn't possible, I'd just shrug it off and let the players do what they wanted with that information knowing that really this is just one scenario and I blew it, not the players.
 

billd91

Hobbit on Quest
I'd consider saying "Those are the tracks of a sand piper who seems to make regular rounds, enough to make a faint trail. What do you do?"

Maybe the players will assume that, because it's a regular trail, it's safe. On the other hand, as a fairly small bird, it may be able to walk right over things that would otherwise be unsafe for a PC. Then, I might have more fun by saying that there's a spot where there are a bunch of lost feathers - as if that sand piper got suddenly snatched up by something bigger and more ornery than itself.

Unless it pulled a Batman TV show and had a big, Lucite sign saying "Safe Path" on the GM's layer, you're working from incomplete info. You can probably presume it was intended to be a safe path, but presumptions have been wrong before. I'd probably throw that change up.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
As a DM, I would thank the players for pointing out the mistake, apologize, and offer the players the choice: we can take a 6-10 minute break for me to devise a new path and re-arrange the DM layer elements, or just let this challenge go and assume the characters were just lucky enough to guess the safe path on the first try.

As a player, I would ask the DM how they wanted to proceed.
 

Mistwell

Legend
A situation arose in our Saltmarsh game last week and I'm curious to hear what you would do about it. I'll try to be somewhat vague so as to avoid spoilers, but be advised that some stuff might be given away in this thread. Anyway, here's what happened:

While playing one of the Saltmarsh scenarios on Roll20, the DM had us on an overland map that depicted a beach on which we were landing to pursue some pirates who are led by my character's nemesis, Captain Whiskers, the nefarious tabaxi pirate. It was fairly nondescript as maps go, really just showing a number of dunes stretching off to the north until it reached higher ground. The map had a grid on it for us to presumably plot out our path through these dunes.

By mistake, the DM accidentally sent some stuff from the GM Layer (which players can't see) to the Map Layer (which players can see). Said stuff included a bunch of numbers showing keyed map locations, some of which were repeated and others unique, plus a dotted line showing what was presumably a safe, circuitous route through the dunes to the location we were trying to find.

We let the DM know about the mistake and he dropped the numbers and path back down to the GM Layer so we couldn't see it anymore. But at that point, we were pretty sure were already knew the best path to take. Still, we had to make a decision in the face of this to play on.

So what would you do here as a player and DM?
As a player you should act based on the knowledge the character has, not the knowledge the players have.

But we're human, and that can be difficult to do sometimes.

If it's an issue the players are having trouble getting over, the DM should alter the scenario to deal with it. Just explain to the players that was the original layout, but the DM is changing the layout to make it easier for the players to handle the difficulty of them wanting to act on player knowledge.

And then the DM should pick up an 8 sided die and roll it once (secretly) for random keyed location on the map, assigning locations away from it's current position to each roll of the die (1 = northwest, 2 = north, 3 = northeast, 4 = west, 5 = east, 6 = southwest, 7 = south, 8 = southeast). Whatever result comes up on the die for that keyed location, moving it some appropriate amount in that direction (and adjust accordingly if it's now bumping into another location), until a new safe path can be determined and new locations for each keyed location.

It will be a bit messing and time-consuming, but it shouldn't be too difficult.
 

ccs

40th lv DM
I wouldnt say anything. I'd just continue to play on as normal. Search the area, decide my characters actions based on what the DM says, etc.
If one of the others led the group around via meta gaming I'd follow. But I wouldn't be the cause of it.

But then I'd be doing that anyways because as a DM I've read/run/used an immense amount of published stuff over the decades.
I'm very good at not revealing what I know as a player.
 

MNblockhead

A Title Much Cooler Than Anything on the Old Site
I'd make it the path of some fearsome monster. Something high enough level that the only non-suicide course of action would be to avoid it.

That's why all those other "dangerous" areas are away from that path--the other denizens know enough to keep far from the trail of the Monstrous SeaMcGuffin who goes out with the high-tide.

I wouldn't say anything to the party. Let them start following the path and describe giant footprint, evidence of something huge being dragged from the sand. Trees knocked over.

What might make good monsters?

Maybe it is hatchling dragon turtles making their way from the laying grounds to the ocean. Sure, the party can likely defeat any they come across (though it would still be a challenge), but doing so risks the wrath of mama. Now the party could probably survive an attack by an angry dragon turtle mama just by running away. It would be too slow dragging itself on land. But, how did they get to the island? Mama dragon turtle just smashed their ship apart? How are they going to get off the island with an enraged dragon turtle in the nearby waters?

What I like about this approach, is I have to change very little. Chose one monster and how that path relates to it. If chosen well, its a "mistake" that adds to the game. Also, your players will wonder whether you did that on purpose. They'll be hesitant to rely on "spoilers" in the future, either because they think you are trying to trick them or because they know that you may make a change on the fly to correct it.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
As a player you should act based on the knowledge the character has, not the knowledge the players have.

But we're human, and that can be difficult to do sometimes.
It’s not just difficult to do, it’s literally impossible. You can choose not to follow the safe path based on the reasoning that your character doesn’t know it’s there. But that’s still acting on the knowledge that it’s there, it’s just doing so in the negative.
 

Iry

Adventurer
It’s not just difficult to do, it’s literally impossible.
While you can never eliminate it entirely, you can do a good job of coming close to it. It depends on their ability to compartmentalize, which is a trait I look for when choosing players.

As for my own answer to the OP, I either don't care since my players are very good about keeping things separate, or I randomize the numbers to eliminate the temptation in the first place.
 

Mistwell

Legend
It’s not just difficult to do, it’s literally impossible. You can choose not to follow the safe path based on the reasoning that your character doesn’t know it’s there. But that’s still acting on the knowledge that it’s there, it’s just doing so in the negative.
It's not impossible and players have done it since the 1970s. You simply ask what direction your character would go based on what they do know. However they made decisions about which direction to head prior to the player finding out that information, that's the same decision they should make now. So if they were using tracks to follow, or trying to keep below the hills to not be seen from afar, or staying on the hill to try and see ahead, or trying to stay out of difficult terrain, or avoiding areas where there could be an ambush, or all the things which go into overland travel - those are the same things they should use now.

This idea that you cannot separate player knowledge from character knowledge is absurd. It's a key element of role playing. You can do it to play an elf rather than the human you are, you can do it to play a spellcaster or sword fighter instead of whatever profession you are, why can't you do it to play a character who didn't see a map you as a player have seen?
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
It's not impossible and players have done it since the 1970s. You simply ask what direction your character would go based on what they do know. However they made decisions about which direction to head prior to the player finding out that information, that's the same decision they should make now. So if they were using tracks to follow, or trying to keep below the hills to not be seen from afar, or staying on the hill to try and see ahead, or trying to stay out of difficult terrain, or avoiding areas where there could be an ambush, or all the things which go into overland travel - those are the same things they should use now.

This idea that you cannot separate player knowledge from character knowledge is absurd. It's a key element of role playing. You can do it to play an elf rather than the human you are, you can do it to play a spellcaster or sword fighter instead of whatever profession you are, why can't you do it to play a character who didn't see a map you as a player have seen?
I didn’t say you can’t separate player knowledge from character knowledge. I said it’s not possible to act based on character knowledge and not player knowledge. You can choose not to take the safe path you as a player know is there, but that’s still acting based on your knowledge that the path is there. You can choose not to attack the troll with fire, but that’s still acting based on knowledge that the troll is weak to fire. You can choose to act like you imagine an elf would act, but your idea of how an elf would act is still informed by your experiences as a human.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
While you can never eliminate it entirely, you can do a good job of coming close to it. It depends on their ability to compartmentalize, which is a trait I look for when choosing players.
You can choose to act contrary to what your player knowledge would suggest is the best choice. But at that point what you are doing is using player knowledge to act in a way you imagine someone without that knowledge would; you are making a conscious decision not to do what you would have done based on that knowledge, which is not something someone who lacked that knowledge would be able to do.
 

Mistwell

Legend
I didn’t say you can’t separate player knowledge from character knowledge. I said it’s not possible to act based on character knowledge and not player knowledge. You can choose not to take the safe path you as a player know is there, but that’s still acting based on your knowledge that the path is there. You can choose not to attack the troll with fire, but that’s still acting based on knowledge that the troll is weak to fire. You can choose to act like you imagine an elf would act, but your idea of how an elf would act is still informed by your experiences as a human.
You can choose to act contrary to what your player knowledge would suggest is the best choice. But at that point what you are doing is using player knowledge to act in a way you imagine someone without that knowledge would; you are making a conscious decision not to do what you would have done based on that knowledge, which is not something someone who lacked that knowledge would be able to do.
Informed by your experience isn't the same as informed by direct knowledge of this particular event. Metagaming is more the later.

I outlined how you would choose to travel in a way which 1) does not use the direct player knowledge, and 2) does not force you to act specifically contrary to what your player knowledge would suggest is the best choice. You didn't seem to talk about that part of my response so I will repeat it in hopes we can drill down on that issue - since I think it's the heart of this issue:

"However they made decisions about which direction to head prior to the player finding out that information, that's the same decision they should make now. So if they were using tracks to follow, or trying to keep below the hills to not be seen from afar, or staying on the hill to try and see ahead, or trying to stay out of difficult terrain, or avoiding areas where there could be an ambush, or all the things which go into overland travel - those are the same things they should use now. "

So I didn't say you act specifically contrary to what your player knowledge would suggest is the best choice - I said you should choose to take WHATEVER path it was your character would have chosen to take BUT-FOR you as a player having seen that map. That might still be the safest path if your character was likely going to choose those travel tactics and strategies. You should be able to make that determination. There are not that many factors in play. You know how you were playing your character before, you know the tactics and strategies they were using for overland travel before, so why can't you just do those same things? Be informed by your general experience as opposed to that particular direct knowledge.
 

Iry

Adventurer
You can choose to act contrary to what your player knowledge would suggest is the best choice. But at that point what you are doing is using player knowledge to act in a way you imagine someone without that knowledge would; you are making a conscious decision not to do what you would have done based on that knowledge, which is not something someone who lacked that knowledge would be able to do.
That's normal. Players are always compartmentalizing what they know of morality, science, and culture to get a 'Best Guess' of what their character should know and be doing. Heck, even in real life I'm constantly acting in a way I imagine someone without certain knowledge would. Such is office politics.
 

Jer

Adventurer
Caveat: I haven't used Roll20 in depth as anything more than a shared whiteboard, so I don't know if this is actually feasible:

As the DM I'd say "OK timeout - you all saw that so I'm going to reshuffle a few things so we don't kill the suspense with that knowledge".

Then I'd spend 5 minutes jiggering the map encounters around a bit - or not - to my taste and then pick back up again.

I'd hope that spending that amount of time and changing a few things around would be enough to give the players the sense of not knowing what's going on so they could have the fun of doing a challenge like that the way its intended (i.e. as a challenge to the players not the characters).

If I didn't think I was able to do that, then alternatively I'd turn it into a straight up challenge for the characters, let them roll some dice to find the "best path" and call it a bit of a wash. And remind myself to check my map settings in the future.
 

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