Player Characters Doing The Dumb Things

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Interesting take, as a player I do dumb mistakes on purpose all the time if it fits the narrative, one of my players in the games I DM too. I assumed "non-optimal roleplay" is quite common and part of the fun. I mean flaws exist for a reason in character creation.


This almost never happens in tabletop RPGs. I don't mean that Players don't ever make bad decisions or dumb choices. hat i mean is it is exceedingly rare to see a player have their character intentionally make a dumb choice. if the PCs are all CIA operatives, they are cool and collected and awesome 100% of the time.
I feel as though my players would see this, laugh, and say, "Hold my beer." I won't say my players make stupid choices all the time, but sometimes they make some pretty baffling choices.

Star Wars: The players are trying to get off planet and I describe the endless hordes of Tie-Fighters in the area, we have rounds after round of combat, and more Tie-Fighteres are coming. Everyone else in the group gets the hint that they need to land and hide, but the pilot just flat out refuses and continues fighting until the ship is destroyed.

Hell on Earth: The PCs go on a mission to recover the nuclear football from a downed Airforce One. One PC decides that his employers, Junktown (formerly Salt Lake City), is just as evil as the horde of mutants from Vegas bent on genocide and the cybernetic forces from Denver bent on enslaving everyone, so he destroys the nuclear football. End result? The campaign ended with the destruction of PCs home.


I had a lot of fun running a rather stupid lizardfolk PC in a previous campaign. He not only had a low Intelligence (5 or 6, I think), but he had been raised as a slave to the drow in the Underdark since hatching from his egg, and thus he had no idea about how things worked on the surface world. The first time he saw the sun, he tackled the PC next to him, thinking he was saving him from the "fireball," and when they were tasked with taking out a caravan, he immediately went for the horse pulling the lead wagon, since he'd never seen (or heard of) a horse before and figured it must be the leader because it was so much bigger than the others (meaning the humans) in the caravan.

Sometimes his ignorance worked in the party's favor, though, like the time he bear-hugged a lich because he wasn't aware a lich's touch could permanently paralyze you; he made his save to avoid paralyzation and his bear hug prevented the lich from being able to cast any of his spells. The other PCs took him down rather quickly after that, much to the lich's chagrin.



It's not that hard to generate enough that players start making mistakes. The trick is doing it without confusing them about what the characters can see, hear, and so on, which is unfair. Time pressure and a lack of understanding of what's at stake will often produce errors: that's how Chicago got destroyed in one of our games.
Not the point I was making, you can generate a fog of war in games but ultimately it is a game. The pressure and fog and confusion that the real world generates the sheer randomness of it rarely translates in to good fiction.

So, let's expound upon that. Say your character isn't an alcoholic per se, but has a hard time not having a good time. The plan is that your character is staking out a bar to watch for a hand off between two rival agents. It starts innocently enough, having a beer to blend in. Then the attractive person sits down near enough to start chatting with. Soon enough the PCs is three drinks in and checking out instead of staking out. The agents meet and make the hand off and the character misses it.

Does this happen because the player failed a check? Does it happen because the player decided it should be cause it made sense? Did it happened because the GM said so? Was there a trade made -- say, metacurrency like Inspiration, Bennie or Fate Point -- for the behavior?
Our group had a "party paladin" (oath of the ancients). He totally "Delights in song and laughter, in beauty and art".

Within the last in-game year, a succubus has tried to kill him mid "flagrante delicto"(and he knew she was a demon), a besotted servant wished for her fiance to be more like the Paladin (and a malicious fey granted it), and an impoverished noble tried to drug/charm him into marrying her. We take turns keeping tabs on him so we can intervene as needed.

That's just how he rolls.

He's the most extreme, but not alone. The book-obsessed warlock will loot a book case mid-fight (just a dragon, no biggie...). The bard loves to speak truth to power and has (very politely) challenged both Mab and Titania's infallibility while in arms reach of them (Titania is the warlock's patron, btw).

So yeah, sometimes your character runs into their krypronite.


I guess I made a mistake by using "dumb" in the title. I am not really talking about people playing doofuses. I am talking about people playing humans: people with foibles and character flaws and vices, and those things influencing how things progress more than competence porn.

"I'm going to wrestle the Owlbear" is not what I'm talking about.

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