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Realistic Consequences vs Gameplay

prabe

Aspiring Lurker (He/Him)
Supporter
{snip}
Now it's true that p 58 also says that "The DM calls for an ability check when a character or monster attempts an action (other than an attack) that has a chance of failure. When the outcome is uncertain, the dice determine the results." But I would take it as obvious that the GM is meant to make that decision havng regard to the text I already quoted, as well as to what will make for satisfying play.


So the GM might decide (say) that it is impossible to influence a zombie or skeleton via threats, because they are mindless undead which have no heed to their own physical integrity. Or the GM might decide that an otyugh is not amenable to influence via tact or social graces, because it's an otyugh. But nothing there suggests to me that the GM should decide that an ordinary human being can't be influenced because the GM thinks it would make for a better story if that doesn't happen. Or because the GM thinks it would make more sense for the NPC not to influenced.
Three things.

First, I don't think I said that the DM had to decide the NPC in this case couldn't be persuaded not to have the PCs executed. I think my position has been pretty consistent that the DM could decide that, and has rules support to do so. Whether it's good or bad DMing is probably a matter of taste.

Second, the rules you quoted strongly imply the possibility that the outcome might not be uncertain. The judgment on that is left to the DM. Do you think it doesn't make sense that a Mad Tyrant might not be in a mental place to listen to reason after being insulted then attacked in his chambers?

Third, I think it's possible the DM has allowed the Mad Tyrant to be placated somewhat--he didn't have the other PCs arrested, after all, after what the OP described as (probably paraphrasing) "excellent die rolls and good roleplay."
 

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Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
And yet where the likelihood of things is in doubt you seem incapable of accepting the use of mecanical resolution, rather than GM railroading, to determine outcomes. Why am I not surprised?
Mod Note:

If you want to make this personal, you can be removed from the discussion right now to save everyone a lot of time and annoyance.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
This sounds pretty sensible to me. Although in some contexts (and some systems - I know you've got 5e D&D in mind but our thinking about RPGing can be helped by a range of comparisons) I think it can make sense to see if a NPC is spontaneously hostile or generous. A related idea is @Hriston upthread referring to setting the baseline attitude via random roll.
It's a D&D 5e adventure.

So I had a quick look at the Basic PDF for 5e.

On pp 57-58, 62 I found this:

Each of a creature’s abilities has a score, a number that defines the magnitude of that ability. An ability score is not just a measure of innate capabilities, but also encompasses a creature’s training and competence in activities related to that ability. . . . An ability check tests a character’s or monster’s innate talent and training in an effort to overcome a challenge. . . .​
Each ability covers a broad range of capabilities, including skills that a character or a monster can be proficient in. A skill represents a specific aspect of an ability score, and an individual’s proficiency in a skill demonstrates a focus on that aspect. . . .​
Charisma measures your ability to interact effectively with others. It includes such factors as confidence and eloquence, and it can represent a charming or commanding personality. . . . A Charisma check might arise when you try to influence or entertain others, when you try to make an impression or tell a convincing lie, or when you are navigating a tricky social situation. . . .​
When you attempt to influence someone through overt threats, hostile actions, and physical violence, the DM might ask you to make a Charisma (Intimidation) check. . . . When you attempt to influence someone or a group of people with tact, social graces, or good nature, the DM might ask you to make a Charisma (Persuasion) check.​

Now it's true that p 58 also says that "The DM calls for an ability check when a character or monster attempts an action (other than an attack) that has a chance of failure. When the outcome is uncertain, the dice determine the results." But I would take it as obvious that the GM is meant to make that decision havng regard to the text I already quoted, as well as to what will make for satisfying play.

So the GM might decide (say) that it is impossible to influence a zombie or skeleton via threats, because they are mindless undead which have no heed to their own physical integrity. Or the GM might decide that an otyugh is not amenable to influence via tact or social graces, because it's an otyugh. But nothing there suggests to me that the GM should decide that an ordinary human being can't be influenced because the GM thinks it would make for a better story if that doesn't happen. Or because the GM thinks it would make more sense for the NPC not to be influenced.
DMG, p. 237 goes on to say that the DM decides if the proposed task falls somewhere between trivially easy and impossible and if there's a meaningful consequence for failure, then some kind of roll is appropriate. The DM decides whether those criteria were met. If the DM decides there either is not the case, then there's no roll and the DM proceeds to step 3 in the play loop which is the DM narrates the results of the adventurers' actions. Whether or not the DM analyzed this situation thoroughly before narrating, in this specific case, the DM effectively decided that achieving whatever goal the player had in mind via his stated approach was impossible. Thus, no roll. This is perfectly in line with the rules.
 

billd91

Hobbit on Quest
And yet where the likelihood of things is in doubt you seem incapable of accepting the use of mecanical resolution, rather than GM railroading, to determine outcomes. Why am I not surprised?
The OP said the PC tried to grapple... and failed. That mechanical enough for you? I've been saying right along that the PCs could have tried something to escape their fate but that it should come from them not a deus ex machina. They didn't, expressly in at least one case. If the players aren't going to give the DM anything to go on, that seems pretty final to me.

What I do have a problem with is cooking up a mechanical resolution for determining the burgomaster's reaction to the PC-based effrontery when it's completely unnecessary and potentially counterproductive. He's already arresting malcontents and putting them in the stocks. Why would he do anything different? Why would it be better for that evidence to not be indicative of what the burgomaster would do if faced with the same opposition from the PCs?
 

pemerton

Legend
DMG, p. 237 goes on to say that the DM decides if the proposed task falls somewhere between trivially easy and impossible and if there's a meaningful consequence for failure, then some kind of roll is appropriate. The DM decides whether those criteria were met. If the DM decides there either is not the case, then there's no roll and the DM proceeds to step 3 in the play loop which is the DM narrates the results of the adventurers' actions. Whether or not the DM analyzed this situation thoroughly before narrating, in this specific case, the DM effectively decided that achieving whatever goal the player had in mind via his stated approach was impossible. Thus, no roll. This is perfectly in line with the rules.
My point is that the GM is not - as best I can tell - expected to make that decision arbitrarily, or without having regard to the rest of the rules which (among other things) tell us what ability scores represent and what ability checks are for.

I particularly don't see how the possibility of a meaningful consequence for failure - which there clearly was in this case - can be a basis for deciding that an action fails without calling for a check.

And I don't see that it is good GMing to decide that a task is impossible when there is no reason in genre or logic for it to be so, and when - as appeared to happen in this case - it will create a less-than-satsifactory experience to so decide.

First, I don't think I said that the DM had to decide the NPC in this case couldn't be persuaded not to have the PCs executed. I think my position has been pretty consistent that the DM could decide that, and has rules support to do so. Whether it's good or bad DMing is probably a matter of taste.
I thought the topic of this thread is - roughly, and perhaps among other things - what makes for good or bad GMing. As @hawkeyefan postred upthread, the OP has a hint at least that the GM wasn't fully satisfied with how things played out.

Nothing I've read in the Basic PDF suggests that the GM should make decisions in an unpricpled way. What are the principles? Well in the PDF p 2 says the following:

Together, the DM and the players create an exciting story of bold adventurers who confront deadly perils. Sometimes an adventurer might come to a grisly end, torn apart by ferocious monsters or done in by a nefarious villain. Even so, the other adventurers can search for powerful magic to revive their fallen comrade, or the player might choose to create a new character to carry on. The group might fail to complete an adventure successfully, but if everyone had a good time and created a memorable story, they all win.​

For me, key words are together and everyone. The GM should be making decisions about when to allow a possibility of success having regard to the group nature of the roleplaying adventure. It doesn't seem consistent with those principles, to me at least, for a nefarious villain to end an adventurer's life because of a unilateral decision by a GM that a player's action declaration for his/her PC could not succeed. Not when the rules clearly provide a device for determining whether or not an attempt to influence a NPC succeeds - that is, by way of a CHA check.

the rules you quoted strongly imply the possibility that the outcome might not be uncertain. The judgment on that is left to the DM. Do you think it doesn't make sense that a Mad Tyrant might not be in a mental place to listen to reason after being insulted then attacked in his chambers?
Sure it might be possible. Equally it might not be so - maybe the tyrant can be influenced. That's what the dice roll is for. If the check fails, now we know that the tyrant is not in a mental place to listen to reason.

But the principles I just quotd don't say the GM should decide what is or isn't possible based on his/her sense of what is likely, let alone what is possible or what s/he wants to have happen. They talk about together creating an exciting and memorable story, and thereby having a good time.

The OP makes it clear that that episode of play did not lead unequivocally to everyone having a good time. Hence this thread. Hence my posts.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Why would it be better for that evidence to not be indicative of what the burgomaster would do if faced with the same opposition from the PCs?
In fact, very specifically, if you are using mechanical resolution, you are supposed to inform the players of the stakes. That indication is doing exactly that - the players are informed that their life and liberty may be at stake. So, they already know what can happen if they choose poorly.

They chose poorly. In effect, they tried an intimidate check that the GM determined was not possible for them to succeed at - well within the GM's rights in mechanical resolution systems.

So, by the basics of mechanical resolution, we know something bad is going to happen to the PCs. This whole discussion is over exactly which bad thing the GM will choose to apply - it isn't like mechanical resolution would say, in detail, "He throws them in the stocks," or, "He has them flogged," or, "He has them executed at dawn." A mechanical resolution would typically say, "They failed badly. Figure out what that reasonably means in your fiction."

This entire discussion seems really to be about that last step, while several of you are arguing several steps prior.

Edit to add: I can totally see this scene happenign just as described in a Fate game that had a social stress track - in which this is certainly a mechanical determination. The PCs enter a conflict, start to lose. Two of them concede (and negotiate a retreat, failing to get what htey want, but get away with their lives), the other two get Taken Out. This specifically and explicitly gives their opposition the choice of what ultimately happens to them - they can die, or not. GM's choice.
 
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It's easy enough to tell someone on the internet to go kill the characters for their crimes. It's another for the DM to do so with players that are likely friends in varying degrees. Sure, character death can be fun in the hands of a good DM and player, but most of the time, it's a bummer. If people aren't having fun (and granted, this should also include the DM), why are they going to play in that DM's game? Gone are the days when a person is stuck in a game because they're the only DM available.

Sure, throw them in jail, awaiting execution. Then give them the opportunity for an exciting jailbreak. If you really want to chop off their hand, you could do so, but then have them hear about a magical prosthetic to quest for. As long as you have the trust of your players, you can have these sorts of highs and lows. But just killing off the characters, that's hard to come back from, even with that player trust.

I'm sorry, but consequences for situations this dire are not supposed to "fun", at least not for the players who jumped feet-first into this insane act.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
My point is that the GM is not - as best I can tell - expected to make that decision arbitrarily, or without having regard to the rest of the rules which (among other things) tell us what ability scores represent and what ability checks are for.

I particularly don't see how the possibility of a meaningful consequence for failure - which there clearly was in this case - can be a basis for deciding that an action fails without calling for a check.
But nothing there suggests to me that the GM should decide that an ordinary human being can't be influenced because the GM thinks it would make for a better story if that doesn't happen. Or because the GM thinks it would make more sense for the NPC not to be influenced.
Simply being human does not mean that there is always some small chance success. If the DM thinks that it makes more sense that there is no chance, then there is no chance. Other rules in the game are not relevant to that decision as such a decision is based on the DM's knowledge of the NPC.

For example, I don't care how good a talker your PC is, you are not going to have a roll to persuade the merchant you just met to give you the contents of his store and warehouse for free. There is no other rule that has any bearing on that. It simply makes more sense that you have no chance to achieve such a nonsensical result, so you get no roll.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
My point is that the GM is not - as best I can tell - expected to make that decision arbitrarily, or without having regard to the rest of the rules which (among other things) tell us what ability scores represent and what ability checks are for.

I particularly don't see how the possibility of a meaningful consequence for failure - which there clearly was in this case - can be a basis for deciding that an action fails without calling for a check.

And I don't see that it is good GMing to decide that a task is impossible when there is no reason in genre or logic for it to be so, and when - as appeared to happen in this case - it will create a less-than-satsifactory experience to so decide.
It may not be what you want to hear, but the DM can make the decision as to the uncertainty of the outcome or the existence of a meaningful consequence for failure by whatever means he or she wants. There is no roll except by the DM's leave. Different DMs will make different calls here and none would be wrong. Some calls may result in the group failing to achieve the goals of play - that is, everyone having a good time and creating an exciting, memorable story by playing - but we don't know that this is the case here.
 

Fenris-77

Small God of the Dozens
Supporter
@iserith - Wrong? Maybe not, but better or worse? Sure, some of those DM calls will be better or worse, for a host of potential different reason. A lot depends on meeting the table expectations, maybe more than any particular opinion on example X or Y. If the DM makes a call that is in keeping with how play normally proceeds at the table he plays with, and is one that makes sense in terms of the pre-existing fictional context (i.e follows from the fiction) then it's probably a fine call, whether I personally agree with it or not. However, when the DM or the players depart from the table conventions things quickly start to unwind.

In pretty much every case the first litmus test I would use would be the question Does the ruling present interesting ways to move the fiction forward? If the answer is yes then the goals of play you list are probably being met. This does depend on the players buying in of course. One of things I don't really get about the situation in the OP is that several narrative lifelines were thrown to the PCs, with very little interest taken in them. That indexes a potential case of bad faith play, although without more specifics it is, as you say, hard to tell.
 

This to me conflates two separate and disconnected issues: mechanics use and end satisfaction.

Sure, what happened from the NPC side was completely within the DM's power to control. And in hindsight maybe the DM wasn't too pleased with what he-she did with it and how it all shook down - we've probably all had those moments more often that we'd care to admit :) - but that's much the same as a DM making any other call and later realizing it could have been done better: live with it and move on.

Had some systemized mechanics been used there's nothing saying they couldn't have led to the exact same outcome, and what then? Does the DM blame the mechanics for leading to an unsatisfactory result?
So there have been a lot of posts since I was last watching the thread. I'm catching up now, but I wanted to reply to you in regard to this last bit of your post.

To go back to the trap example; let's say a PC searches the door (or whatever) and triggers a trap, and the DM decides, "there's no reasonable way you can avoid what happens.....your PC is dead."

I think many would argue that, under some "DM has final word" type of caveat, that this is well within what can happen at the table. But I know many folks, even those who might say that yes the DM can decide such, would be very annoyed if this is how it was handled at the table.

So the question is whether this is as preferable as the PC being allowed a saving throw, and then consulting the results of what happens on a success or failure of that saving throw? Such a system is in place to create a clear process about what happens under these circumstances. So when it does happen, it's understandable why it's happened, and it doesn't boil down to "the DM decided this is what happens". It's much more consistent in that regard.

I don't think that social interactions need mechanics for every little thing or anything like that.....but if PC execution is being put forth as a possible result, then I think having rules that allow for a clear process of how we end with that result is preferable to relying almost purely on DM whim.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
@iserith - Wrong? Maybe not, but better or worse? Sure, some of those DM calls will be better or worse, for a host of potential different reason. A lot depends on meeting the table expectations, maybe more than any particular opinion on example X or Y. If the DM makes a call that is in keeping with how play normally proceeds at the table he plays with, and is one that makes sense in terms of the pre-existing fictional context (i.e follows from the fiction) then it's probably a fine call, whether I personally agree with it or not. However, when the DM or the players depart from the table conventions things quickly start to unwind.

In pretty much every case the first litmus test I would use would be the question Does the ruling present interesting ways to move the fiction forward? If the answer is yes then the goals of play you list are probably being met. This does depend on the players buying in of course. One of things I don't really get about the situation in the OP is that several narrative lifelines were thrown to the PCs, with very little interest taken in them. That indexes a potential case of bad faith play, although without more specifics it is, as you say, hard to tell.
It appears you are more or less restating what I said after the word "wrong" in my last post. Whether something is fun, exciting, and memorable is table-dependent. The poster to which I was responding was using rules to justify a position, while failing to quote the entirety of the rules that explains the DM's role in adjudication. In that context, the DM is not "wrong," but as I go on to say, this is independent from whether the goals of play are achieved.
 

Fenris-77

Small God of the Dozens
Supporter
It appears you are more or less restating what I said after the word "wrong" in my last post. Whether something is fun, exciting, and memorable is table-dependent. The poster to which I was responding was using rules to justify a position, while failing to quote the entirety of the rules that explains the DM's role in adjudication. In that context, the DM is not "wrong," but as I go on to say, this is independent from whether the goals of play are achieved.
You said the following:
Different DMs will make different calls here and none would be wrong.
I was expanding on this notion, and outlining a bunch of areas in which it could be bad, without being wrong. The tone of your posts seemed to suggest that whatever the DM decided would be right (i.e. not wrong) and isn't at all how I'd choose to descibe it. I think that value judgments, like good and bad, probably better describe the spectrum of possibilities than do right and wrong. Relative of course to the individual table and the goals of play for that table.

I think we agree, but a casual read of your first post might not suggest that. Hence my reply.
 


Actually, I kinda think presenting multiple bad options as decided by the GM without player choices leading into them as not really consequences that matter -- if your option is choose this consequence or that one and you didn't get a say in being in that spot to begin with, it's not much of a consequence so much as the GM fiat enforcing a situation.

Now, I get what you're aiming at, I think, which is that hard choices are okay, and I agree. I don't think the presentation of Vallaki is a reasonable hard choice, though, as there's no way through the written material that achieves any good outcome and most result in the town turning against you. And, as you say, the fact that it's written this way in the module is not a requirement for a GM to run it that way, but that expects not the usual level of customization necessary but that you will wholly rewrite something that a professional presented. That's a high hurdle. Granted, I pretty much read anything pre-written by someone else and gut it, taking only the bits I like, but I've got that experience. The point of a module is that these things are supposedly written by a professional and present a reasonable situation.
I think I generally agree with you in this regard, and I think this is a really relevant point. The only way I disagree is that this situation largely worked for my group because the way I kind of framed things was that there was no clear favorable outcome available to the PCs, and that this speaks largely to the overall situation in Barovia. The land is corrupted, and things can't really be fixed until you deal with the actual cause of that corruption.....Strahd himself. So in that sense, it worked for my group. I think that it helped that they're all familiar with Ravenloft and the general themes and concepts at play. I agree that under normal circumstances, this kind of no win situation can be an obstacle to satisfying play.

My PCs behaved very largely in a way as described in the OP, although I hope and suspect it was not out of boredom. At one of the festivals of the sun, I played out the burgomaster punishing a villager for some minor infraction. A total injustice. The PCs saw this and reacted. At this point, they were known about town as outsiders (which is kind of a big deal in Barovia, I think) and as capable outsiders.

They tried to reason with him....it was like bashing their heads into a brick wall, and they quickly realized this. Things escalated. The fighter said that if anyone of the burgomaster's men made a move, he'd respond in kind. The other PCs agreed and got ready. It wound up being a showdown between the fighter and Izek Strazni, the burgomaster's champion. The fighter PC won.

Once that happened, the burgomaster retreated to his manor behind some of his guards. The PCs didn't even both pursuing him at that point. I figured that Izek (clearly the most physically powerful person in the town prior to the PCs' arrival) being killed would pretty much be a major blow to the burgomaster's grip on the town. The PCs left soon thereafter, realizing that if they didn't get rid of Strahd, nothing good would ever really happen in these lands.

When they eventually made their way back to Vallaki, they saw the burgomaster's body hanging in the town square and signs that there had been fighting around town. They didn't linger long enough to really even investigate what had happened, but I had figured that the Strahd-sympathetic lady (her name escapes me) had taken the loss of Izek as her cue to make her move, and she took over.

I expect that my experience with this whole scenario is why I'm questioning so much how it played out in the OP's game. I do think that the players not all being on the same page is a big part of why things went south, and I do understand that a player having his character do something solely out of boredom can be problematic.....but I can't look at it as a case of that player being solely to blame.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
You said the following:

I was expanding on this notion, and outlining a bunch of areas in which it could be bad, without being wrong. The tone of your posts seemed to suggest that whatever the DM decided would be right (i.e. not wrong) and isn't at all how I'd choose to descibe it. I think that value judgments, like good and bad, probably better describe the spectrum of possibilities than do right and wrong. Relative of course to the individual table and the goals of play for that table.

I think we agree, but a casual read of your first post might not suggest that. Hence my reply.
We do appear to agree overall. I stand by the notion that whatever the DM decides to do with regard to calling for a roll or not is correct because that is firmly defined as the DM's role and it solely at his or her discretion. What follows in narration of the results of the adventurers' actions (roll or no roll), however, may not achieve the goals of play.
 

I don't mind if they're going off the rails of the adventure path per se, but it's that I'm trying to run it using the module on a VTT, and not on a home F2F game I can easily adapt. So if the group wants to go to a new area not detailed in the adventure, to deal with different NPCs, face alternative challenges, etc, I can't easily change it in this format. Now given enough advance notice, I can make new maps, add new NPC stat blocks, etc, but we're all stressing out in our daily lives, I'm running a weekly session for them (instead of the normal biweekly or monthly) and I think going along with a general storyline the party agreed to play at the outset for the sake of DM sanity isn't too much to ask.
So with the pandemic I've recently discovered the challenges of playing D&D without relying on the published materials. My 5E campaign is largely homebrew, and although I use existing concepts and elements, I'm not running straight through any of the published books. So I know how challenging it can be to not have the proper materials to play in the way to which you've grown accustomed.

So my question for you is do you have Curse of Strahd on Roll20 or Fantasy Grounds? If so, don't you have all the sites in Barovia to run the game? Barovia is a finite area.

I'm just curious in what way you were worried about them going off on their own.
 

The OP said the PC tried to grapple... and failed. That mechanical enough for you? I've been saying right along that the PCs could have tried something to escape their fate but that it should come from them not a deus ex machina. They didn't, expressly in at least one case. If the players aren't going to give the DM anything to go on, that seems pretty final to me.

What I do have a problem with is cooking up a mechanical resolution for determining the burgomaster's reaction to the PC-based effrontery when it's completely unnecessary and potentially counterproductive. He's already arresting malcontents and putting them in the stocks. Why would he do anything different? Why would it be better for that evidence to not be indicative of what the burgomaster would do if faced with the same opposition from the PCs?
Um...because the PCs are likely decked out in armor and capable of tossing fireballs around?

The PCs aren't NPC villagers, used to living under the shadow of Strahd and the oppression of the Burgomaster. The Burgomaster agreed to grant them some kind of audience, per the OP, so it seems that he was played as recognizing their status or power. He already seems to be treating them differently than the villagers, no?
 

@iserith - Wrong? Maybe not, but better or worse? Sure, some of those DM calls will be better or worse, for a host of potential different reason. A lot depends on meeting the table expectations, maybe more than any particular opinion on example X or Y. If the DM makes a call that is in keeping with how play normally proceeds at the table he plays with, and is one that makes sense in terms of the pre-existing fictional context (i.e follows from the fiction) then it's probably a fine call, whether I personally agree with it or not. However, when the DM or the players depart from the table conventions things quickly start to unwind.

In pretty much every case the first litmus test I would use would be the question Does the ruling present interesting ways to move the fiction forward? If the answer is yes then the goals of play you list are probably being met. This does depend on the players buying in of course. One of things I don't really get about the situation in the OP is that several narrative lifelines were thrown to the PCs, with very little interest taken in them. That indexes a potential case of bad faith play, although without more specifics it is, as you say, hard to tell.
"Does the ruling present interesting ways to move the fiction forward?" is a great question to keep in mind anytime a GM has to narrate a consequence or judgment of this type.

This is why in my posts, I've been looking at the actions of all those involved, rather than just the player who decided to have his character start the whole confrontation. I think that many in this thread are too focused on "what's realistic" (read: what's likely) as opposed to "what's interesting". Ideally, there'd be a venn diagram overlap where these two things are both true. If so, great.

But if not....which do you choose? I think that's part of the actual question here....faith to the fiction versus faith to the fact that people are playing a game. I don't think there's one answer....or maybe the answer can vary depending on circumstances.

But generally speaking, I have to go with what's real....the people playing the game. My decision has to take that into more consideration than the fiction. Especially since with fiction, you can come up with any number of outcomes that could be considered "realistic".
 

prabe

Aspiring Lurker (He/Him)
Supporter
"Does the ruling present interesting ways to move the fiction forward?" is a great question to keep in mind anytime a GM has to narrate a consequence or judgment of this type.

This is why in my posts, I've been looking at the actions of all those involved, rather than just the player who decided to have his character start the whole confrontation. I think that many in this thread are too focused on "what's realistic" (read: what's likely) as opposed to "what's interesting". Ideally, there'd be a venn diagram overlap where these two things are both true. If so, great.

But if not....which do you choose? I think that's part of the actual question here....faith to the fiction versus faith to the fact that people are playing a game. I don't think there's one answer....or maybe the answer can vary depending on circumstances.

But generally speaking, I have to go with what's real....the people playing the game. My decision has to take that into more consideration than the fiction. Especially since with fiction, you can come up with any number of outcomes that could be considered "realistic".
That's a thoughtful post, and not at all an unreasonable end-position. In the abstract, I'm even inclined to endorse it ... right up until doing so as a GM would break my suspension of disbelief--once that breaks, I can't GM in the campaign. Others may draw that line differently, or not need to draw it at all, but it's a line that exists for me, and it's clear to me inside my head when I'm near it. I think something like that may be at the heart of why people are reacting at such variance, here: some people have an easier time with willing suspension of disbelief than others, and it's more important to some people than others.
 

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