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Realistic Consequences vs Gameplay

prabe

Aspiring Lurker (He/Him)
Supporter
I think the number of people who turn up to chess clubs so they can flip over the table part-way through a game is pretty small.

If RPGIng has a significantly larger number of such participants, that would be a worry. But I don't see anything in the OP to suggest that that is what is happening here.

If A is bored by B's play, and therefore takes steps to make things interesting, without knowing more I have to treat it as an open question whether it's the proactive A or the boring B who is "in the wrong". But in any event that's not what I saw in the OP: a player, presuably playing his PC is frustrated by the Mad Tyrant and verbalises that frustration, then the GM narrates more stuff which includes an escalation to violence, and then another player has his PC respond in kind:

{A PC] yell[ed] out something to the effect of "you're crazy and don't deserve leadership here." For this affront, the ruler yelled for his guards to come and arrest that character. In response, another party member tried (and failed) to grapple the ruler and put a knife to his throat​

That's the GM, not any player, who treated violence as the universal solvent.
Nice job with the partial quotation, there.

The party got a private audience with the ruler and things were moving friendly enough, when a player (probably bored with the negotiations and playing the "but I have a low Charisma card") decided to trump the party's hand and yell out something to the effect of "you're crazy and don't deserve leadership here."
Do you see where the OP says the player is "probably bored"? (This is a player the OP says later is behaving similarly in another campaign, so ... probably not the character.)

As to who instigated the violence:

For this affront, the ruler yelled for his guards to come and arrest that character. In response, another party member tried (and failed) to grapple the ruler and put a knife to his throat to take him as a hostage.
The Mad Tyrant is behaving in character; it's a second PC who instigates the violence.

First, as with @chaochou I'm curious about what the resolution method is that was used to make the move from PC yells out to Mad Tyrant takes it badly to Mad Tyrant calls for guards to guards arrive and follow his order to arrest PC. At every point I can see a different possibility: the Mad Tyrant laughs off the insult; the Mad Tyrant personally challenges the affronting PC to a duel of honour; the guards are all drunk and don't come when called; the guard captain agrees with the PC that the Mad Tyrant doesn't deserve to rule, and seeing now a chance to strike against the tyrant takes up that chance. And I came up with those possibilities in the time it took me to type them up.
And none of those may be in character for the Mad Tyrant--who was described as not tolerating dissent. Certainly "laughing it off" is pretty much the opposite of that. And drunk guards? Might as well have a divine figure on a ladder come own to interrupt the execution.

Second, the Mad Tyrant isn't a natural phenomenon. It's an element of the fiction in a RPG, presumably intended to serve some purpose for RPGing. What's that purpose? To create a puzzle for the players, where if they don't guess the right thing their PCs die? (This is @Nagol's analogy to the trapped door.) To allow the GM to tell the players what their PCs should do on pain of dying? A chance for the players to show off their ability to follow the GM's lead? Something else?
The party sought out this audience. It doesn't sound from the OP's description of play that the plan going in was to try to assassinate the Mad Tyrant. This isn't "I failed a check and the trap blew up in my face." This isn't "I couldn't figure out the puzzle the GM put before me." This is "I pissed on an electric light socket."
 

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prabe

Aspiring Lurker (He/Him)
Supporter
Dice don‘t have whims.
Missing the metaphor, I presume. Apparently you'd rather have the events play out in some randomly-determined way that might or might not be coherent with prior events and descriptions.
 

Fanaelialae

Legend
If the DM must roll to determine how the NPCs react, does that mean that players must do so as well?

Does my bard need to roll to see if he's in the mood to flirt with the barmaid? Should the fighter roll to see if he feels like stepping between the wizard and the ogre?

That sort of thing works for a game like Pendragon (within its own context), but is quite atypical for D&D. The players role play their characters and the DM role plays the NPCs. I've, on occasion, rolled for a reaction when it was unclear to me how an NPC might react, but I don't really think it was necessary in this case given what we know of the Mad Tyrant.
 

MGibster

Hero
Whichever ones are available. In D&D that might be a reaction roll table - first to see how the tyrant responds to the insult, then (if that is adverse) to see if the guards answer the call, then (if they do) to see how the guards respond to the situation of the tyrant being under attack.
I'm not going to roll dice to determine how an NPC reacts to an insult, to see if the guards answer the call of their boss, or even how the guards are going to respond. I'm going to play the "king" as I think a power mad egomaniac would react to the situation. Based on the burgomaster's personality as described in the adventure, I certainly would have allowed the PCs an opportunity to placate him even after he called the guards. Once someone pulls a knife on the burgomaster and tries to take him hostage? Nope. As far as those two PCs are concerned, the burgomaster could not be placated. On the flip side, I wouldn't have led to an execution as I think the PCs would have ample opportunity to break their friend out. It's not like the village has an actual prison.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
Flipping through the module, I see on page 105 that it discusses possible reactions by the Baron. While it does not appear to specifically contemplate the PCs accosting him in the manner described, it does say: "If the characters get on his bad side, the baron accuses them of being 'spies of the devil Strahd' and sends twelve guards to arrest them, seize their weapons, and run them out of town." If the guard fails, the Baron's henchman and a mob of 30 commoners move to deal with the party. Failing that, the remaining guards just position themselves to guard the Baron's residence with him inside.

What I find interesting is that while one can probably derive the Baron's ideal, bond, and flaw from the text in this chapter, unless I missed it, these aren't specifically spelled out as they are with other NPCs in the module. (It's almost as if the Baron isn't as important as his henchman Izek Strazni who does have ideal, bond, and flaw listed along with his stat block.) These are very important in my view in giving the DM direction on how the NPC responds to actions from the PCs, especially in the context of the social interaction rules in the DMG.
 

Darth Solo

Explorer
Execute the defiant PCs and allow the players to make new characters. Maybe the new PCs emerge from local Revolutionaries.
 

chaochou

Adventurer
Missing the metaphor, I presume. Apparently you'd rather have the events play out in some randomly-determined way that might or might not be coherent with prior events and descriptions.
So combat, or any outcomes involving resolution mechanics in your game, only result random and incoherent outcomes?

An interesting suggestion, but your understanding of what I’d ‘rather’ is sadly ignorant of lots of other options.
 

prabe

Aspiring Lurker (He/Him)
Supporter
So combat, or any outcomes involving resolution mechanics in your game, only result random and incoherent outcomes?

An interesting suggestion, but your understanding of what I’d ‘rather’ is sadly ignorant of lots of other options.
Well the dice are by definition random. I didn't say they were necessarily incoherent; I said they might or might not be. In some circumstances--such as combat--they represent uncertainty and/or imperfect knowledge. In this situation they remain only offer the potential for incoherence (the guards, guarding the notoriously irrational Mad Tyrant, are drunk?).

Really, though, I was reacting to your refusal to acknowledge the metaphor language of the dice having whims.
 

Less specific; and yet more specific at the same time. By the sound of things the PCs in this case had all kinds of in-fiction reasons to believe that the King wasn't exactly either nice or forgiving, and that pissing him off (and trying to kill him certainly qualifies under that!) would very likely have dire and fatal consequences.

Which means there's a strong case to be made here than trying to kill him is in effect a glorified version of an educated save-or-die: you either succeed or you die trying or shortly thereafter. All the other mechanics have already been either expended or bypassed.

I applaud those players who took this gamble. It sucks that they lost.
Yeah, I'm fine with them making this move. Especially now that I have more context on the specifics knowing it's from Curse of Strahd.

The NPC in question is indeed mad. He's far from a king, although I suppose he's a tyrant of sorts. He's by no means beyond the ability of PCs to deal with. I'm curious what level they are that any possible number of guards may have given them pause.

Someone was comparing a save-or-die trap vs the save-or-die variant situation I note just above. You asked how much h.p. damage it'd do, and my point is that "die" doesn't care about hit points. :)
The problem with your analogy is that with some kind of save or die situation, it will either happen or it won't. Whether you're the DM or I'm the DM, the PC will trigger the save, and then they will either live or die based on their saving throw roll.

With the NPC, that's simply not the case. You might play it one way, and I would play it another, and any number of other DMs would play it yet other ways. So no, they don't have to have the same effect.....not unless you have a specific in game means of producing that outcome through dice rolls, like reaction rolls or skill checks to influence or morale checks and so on. Absent those mechanics, then it's just the DM deciding, and he can decide anything he likes.

Therefore, that method is absent the mechanics that are present with the trap. So they are in fact very different.

Were I a player here and the King threw my PC in jail (as opposed to having my head lopped off there and then, which sounds like it's in play for this guy) then sure I'd try to escape - though unless I was playing a Thief-like character I'd assume my odds of success to be approaching zero; it would largely be an exercise in going through the motions.

More realistically, any escape attempt would have to be externally driven; my PC's fate would largely be in the hands of those PCs who were still at large. So, I'd proactively get started on rolling up something new while they sort that out (or decide not to :) ) and if my existing PC does get freed then whatever I roll up can be stowed away for later.
So you'd try to escape. As would most players, I'd expect. Why would you only expect success if you were a thief? Oh, in the edition you play, that class has mechanics that allow for such actions, right?

Kind of odd to rely on mechanics in only some instances, and to eschew them in others.
 


Well, no, realistic consequences are not whatever the DM says they are. Unless what the DM says also happens to be realistic. 'Realistic' there means that the consequences flow naturally from the fiction in some way. You're right that it is never just one answer though.
I think there's a lot of confusion between "realistic" and "likely" in this thread.
 

Huh, chaochou is complaining about the whim of the DM but apparently you'd rather submit to the whim of the dice? I dunno - which is more predictable to the players giving them a chance to make meaningful choices? Playing the mad tyrant according to his well-known personality quirks of being thin-skinned and arresting malcontents or rolling against a list that might make him play completely against personality or include things not at all causally related to the players' decisions like guards being drunk? How are the PCs going to guess anything rational if that's the alternative.

And no, having the guards arrest an insolent PC isn't the start of violence in this scenario. The PC could have gone along quietly and plotted a daring escape, but like a lot of players do, they overreact when faced with their PCs losing any sense of their physical freedom (even temporarily) and whip their weapons out, escalating the situation further like they were in a Knights of the Dinner Table story.
The dice are more predictable. They have a limited number of outcomes. A person's whim is essentially unlimited.

The PC accused a mad ruler of being a tyrant unfit for rule. Must every ruler immediately suppress such an insult? Especially one who is defined as being mad? Couldn't he simply have laughed at the PC? Or even agreed, but pointed out any other leader wouldn't do so good a job as he? I mean, any number of reactions could be supported.

Even if you did strongly feel that's the only reasonable response, something like "I am unfit to rule, and yet, I do rule. And you'd best remember that or else I'll have you arrested" would accomplish the same thing, and also clearly let the player know that escalation is likely for any future insult.
 

billd91

Hobbit on Quest
The dice are more predictable. They have a limited number of outcomes. A person's whim is essentially unlimited.

The PC accused a mad ruler of being a tyrant unfit for rule. Must every ruler immediately suppress such an insult? Especially one who is defined as being mad? Couldn't he simply have laughed at the PC? Or even agreed, but pointed out any other leader wouldn't do so good a job as he? I mean, any number of reactions could be supported.

Even if you did strongly feel that's the only reasonable response, something like "I am unfit to rule, and yet, I do rule. And you'd best remember that or else I'll have you arrested" would accomplish the same thing, and also clearly let the player know that escalation is likely for any future insult.
You're kind of missing an important point. The mad tyrant is fairly well-defined in the source material - well defined, enough, that believing that he'd laugh off the PC's insult is out of the picture. He's also well-defined enough that it's pretty easy for the PCs to learn what to expect when they enter into any kind of negotiation with him and avoid really stupid decisions (which, of course, one player pretty much blew off - apparently when he got bored). Even if you were to put together a random set of reactions for him to have, it should still be constrained within options reasonable to him and not unreasonable. That kind of precludes "any number of reactions" being supported - some of them would just be unreasonably unpredictable from the standpoint of a player trying to actually do a good job and interacting with the environment around them in a constructive manner.

I mean, sure, you could have the dice determine literally any number of reactions. But the style and genre kind of should be considered here. This is a Ravenloft adventure - gothic and dark, horrifying and menacing, with innocent people to try to protect, villains to destroy, and horrors to escape. It's not Toon where anything could happen, the more absurd the better.

What's an attentive and thoughtful player supposed to do when their research or gathered information about a situation reacts significantly contrary to their information because the DM rolled something unexpected? What's the point of doing the research and preparing?
 

My two cents to add to the large pile of change accumulating here:

With the information available, it's possible that the players in question simply have a different sort of fiction in mind than the DM does. After all, Conan gets away with this sort of thing.

If one wanted to support this kind of play, just imagine what would happen next if this were an action movie and the protagonists were in this pickle. A traitor in the palace offers to free them if they will promise to do X. A band of revolutionaries spring their compatriot from the dungeon, and just happen to free the PCs at the same time. As the axe descends on their necks the axe-head flies off (and kills somebody?) which is taken to be an omen with weighty implications. Etc. etc. etc.

If one does not want to support this style of play it sounds like the goals are not shared, and folks should go their own ways and find new people to play with.

And it's also possible the players are just immature.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
Yeah, I'm fine with them making this move. Especially now that I have more context on the specifics knowing it's from Curse of Strahd.

The NPC in question is indeed mad. He's far from a king, although I suppose he's a tyrant of sorts. He's by no means beyond the ability of PCs to deal with. I'm curious what level they are that any possible number of guards may have given them pause.
I'm not familiar at all with the specific module so I'll have to take your word for this. :)

The problem with your analogy is that with some kind of save or die situation, it will either happen or it won't. Whether you're the DM or I'm the DM, the PC will trigger the save, and then they will either live or die based on their saving throw roll.

With the NPC, that's simply not the case. You might play it one way, and I would play it another, and any number of other DMs would play it yet other ways. So no, they don't have to have the same effect.....not unless you have a specific in game means of producing that outcome through dice rolls, like reaction rolls or skill checks to influence or morale checks and so on. Absent those mechanics, then it's just the DM deciding, and he can decide anything he likes.

Therefore, that method is absent the mechanics that are present with the trap. So they are in fact very different.
All true, though I wasn't referring to the mechanics but rather just the most likely common-to-both end result.

Fail to disarm the trap: dead.
Fail to kill the King: dead.

So you'd try to escape. As would most players, I'd expect. Why would you only expect success if you were a thief? Oh, in the edition you play, that class has mechanics that allow for such actions, right?

Kind of odd to rely on mechanics in only some instances, and to eschew them in others.
Physical in-fiction actions have mechanics because we can't play them out at the table. This includes picking and-or breaking locks, beating up guards, hiding in shadows or corners, and so forth; as we don't have locks to pick or guards to beat up at the table we have to let game mechanics take over to handle these things.

Social interactions don't need mechanics because we can play them out at the table.
 

MGibster

Hero
The PC accused a mad ruler of being a tyrant unfit for rule. Must every ruler immediately suppress such an insult? Especially one who is defined as being mad? Couldn't he simply have laughed at the PC? Or even agreed, but pointed out any other leader wouldn't do so good a job as he? I mean, any number of reactions could be supported.
In this particular case...
The baron is under the delusion that making everyone in the village happy will spare them from Strahd's attention. He throws festivals one right after the other and many villagers are growing a bit weary. In recent weeks, the Baron has taken to arresting villagers who speak against the festivals either placing them in stocks or imprisoning them in his own mansion.
Must every ruler immediately suppress such an insult? No. But this particular ruler likely would believing them to be in league with the enemy.
 

You're kind of missing an important point. The mad tyrant is fairly well-defined in the source material - well defined, enough, that believing that he'd laugh off the PC's insult is out of the picture. He's also well-defined enough that it's pretty easy for the PCs to learn what to expect when they enter into any kind of negotiation with him and avoid really stupid decisions (which, of course, one player pretty much blew off - apparently when he got bored). Even if you were to put together a random set of reactions for him to have, it should still be constrained within options reasonable to him and not unreasonable. That kind of precludes "any number of reactions" being supported - some of them would just be unreasonably unpredictable from the standpoint of a player trying to actually do a good job and interacting with the environment around them in a constructive manner.
I'm not missing that at all. Laughing off an insult is not out of the picture. It's really a matter of how the DM chooses to play it, isn't it?

And yes, he's well defined in the book....but the players haven't read the book. So they're relying on the DM to convey what's in there. I don't think we have enough information to determine if he clearly established it. And even if he did, I still don't think that the player did anything wrong by deciding to challenge the NPC. My players did the exact same thing, really. They talked to the guy, realized he's batty as all get out, and then gave up on diplomacy.

I think that the part I've bolded above is what may be at the heart of my issue here. What makes this a really stupid decision? And, do you mean on the part of the character or the player?

I said earlier in the thread that many seemed to act as if the player needed to be punished in some way. And I don't know if that's the case. Yes, it turns out that this player may have some odd expectations about play based on additional information that the OP has offered. But I don't think that this specific instance must be a case of a player being disruptive.

I mean, sure, you could have the dice determine literally any number of reactions. But the style and genre kind of should be considered here. This is a Ravenloft adventure - gothic and dark, horrifying and menacing, with innocent people to try to protect, villains to destroy, and horrors to escape. It's not Toon where anything could happen, the more absurd the better.
Yes, I'd expect any and all methods of resolution to take the genre and fiction into account.

What's an attentive and thoughtful player supposed to do when their research or gathered information about a situation reacts significantly contrary to their information because the DM rolled something unexpected? What's the point of doing the research and preparing?
Why would a roll of some sort result in something more unexpected than what the DM can simly come up with off the top of his head?
 

I'm not familiar at all with the specific module so I'll have to take your word for this. :)
He's the equivalent of a mayor of a town. He's virtually a zero level human, to put it in a context you'll immediately get. And he has a cadre of guards at his disposal that are probably pretty rank and file "human guard/bandit" types.



All true, though I wasn't referring to the mechanics but rather just the most likely common-to-both end result.

Fail to disarm the trap: dead.
Fail to kill the King: dead.
Yes, I get that the end result is the same. Do you see how the means to that end is different for each example as I explained? How one will play out per the rules regardless of who is in the DM chair, and the other will vary wildly depending on who is in the DM chair? Would you agree with that? If not, why not?

Physical in-fiction actions have mechanics because we can't play them out at the table. This includes picking and-or breaking locks, beating up guards, hiding in shadows or corners, and so forth; as we don't have locks to pick or guards to beat up at the table we have to let game mechanics take over to handle these things.

Social interactions don't need mechanics because we can play them out at the table.
I don't think that's the only reason by any means. And it isn't a question of "need". We don't "need" saving throws. Hell, some editions said we didn't "need" skills.

I think that people have mentioned that mechanics can help in these cases because so much of what happened was well within the power of the DM to determine.....and yet, the DM is at least partially dissatisfied with the end result. But there were many points where he had influence on how things would play out. Plenty of them. So being dissatisfied with the end result, to me, indicates that something should have been done differently.
 

In this particular case...
The baron is under the delusion that making everyone in the village happy will spare them from Strahd's attention. He throws festivals one right after the other and many villagers are growing a bit weary. In recent weeks, the Baron has taken to arresting villagers who speak against the festivals either placing them in stocks or imprisoning them in his own mansion.
Must every ruler immediately suppress such an insult? No. But this particular ruler likely would believing them to be in league with the enemy.
Yes, I am familiar with him. But I don't think that means that he absolutely must behave in the way described in the OP every time anyone challenges him. Especially since he's used to arresting villagers. Not outsiders. Outsiders who may have obvious skill and power, and may prove to be either quite a problem for him, or quite a resource.

As I said, perhaps a line like "I'll forgive this insolence once because you are guests in my village....but do not mistake my mercy for weakness". Wouldn't this be "realistic"? Or must it be "GUARDS!!!!!" immediately, every time?
 

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