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Realistic Consequences vs Gameplay

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
I'm not sure what you think the force of the bolded can is here. Maybe there's some GM somewhere who makes those decisions based on a coin-toss. I don't think anyone would advocate that as good GMing, thoiugh. In this thread I'm not asserting that any rule was broken. I'm asserting that the system has ways to resolve the sort of action described in the OP, and that gameplay is likely to be better - more fun, more dynamic, with more player satisfaction - if those resolution mechanics are used.
I assert that may be so or it may not be. It depends.

As far as this particular case, given that - per the OP - the upshot was one player apologising to the GM for "ruining the campaign." I'm going to conjecture that everyone did not have a good time creating an exciting and memorable story.
Maybe, maybe not. Perhaps on the whole they did. Or maybe this one outcome ruined it. It's for the OP to say. You seem to be asserting that it is likely to have been better if they had just employed some Charisma checks. That is far from certain in my view even if I would have personally used the DMG's social interaction rules for this challenge. (And even if I did, there's no guarantee there'd be any ability checks either.)

And what you said didn't seem to add anything to what I had already posted in the thread. You quoted me saying "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 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." Which bit of that do you disagree with? Clearly not the stuff on the right of the ellipsis, given that you have simply gone on to repeat it. The stuff on the left side? You think the GM is not meant to have regard to the rest of the rules, including what ability scores represent, in making decisions about whether or not a check should be called for?
What I did was point out some rules you left out, likely because you don't play D&D 5e to my knowledge and as a result don't read the D&D 5e DMG. Those rules state that the DM decides if something has an uncertain outcome, full stop. Tasks don't have an uncertain outcomes or meaningful consequences for failure by default. And if you're going to say there should have been some Charisma checks here and quote rules to make your case, you can't leave out the rules that say it's up to the DM to decide that if the task qualifies for a check. Not without making an argument that is full of holes.
 

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Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
I think the following, on p 2 of the Basic PDF, is relevant.:

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.​
I've bolded a couple of words that I think are especially salient. It is everyone together who create a memorable and exciting story. It seems to me that that is highly relevant to a GM wondering what decision to make about what is and is not possible in relation to action resolution.
So creating the story together simply refers to the back and forth between the players and the DM. The player states his action, and the DM narrates the result. Whether that result involved a roll or was decided upon by the DM does not alter that together they created the story. Now, ideally everyone is having fun, but I know of no one that I play with who would enjoy allowing utterly ridiculous results like the one I described in my last response to you. Similarly, I've never met anyone who would be upset when I didn't allow the PC a roll to jump a 3 mile wide canyon.

I further think that a GM who never permits a CHA check at any moment of crisis or confrontation, because s/he has always already pre-decided how an NPC might react, is not playing the game in the spirit that the Basic PDF presents.
Holy Strawman Batman! How the hell did you get from, "I know when something like an absolutely ridiculous result would be an auto fail." to "never permitting a check."? I know that the merchant won't under any possible circumstances be persuaded by a CHA check to give away his entire store and warehouse inventory to a PC he has never met. I do not know whether or not he will give the PC a 2 copper candy for free. One gets a roll and the other doesn't.
 

Fenris-77

Small God of the Dozens
Supporter
@pemerton - I might disagree about evidence for bad faith play. From the description, at least part of the player decision making stemmed form boredom. That doesn't always result in bad faith play, but it certainly can. So we're at least in the right ballpark. Also, the lack of interest in and interaction with the variety of lifelines subsequently thrown by the DM also could index bad faith play. I'm not suggesting that bad faith is the case, only that there is enough circumstantial evidence for the possibility that the idea is worth bringing into the discussion.

I don't think 'not breaking any rules' moves the inquiry forward either, which is why I though we might switch the conversation from right and wrong to good and bad, although I might now push that even further to useful and not useful. What we're really talking about the is use of the latitude provided the DM by the rules. Also at issue, and why I came back to my point above, is that adjudication is fine, but the conversation that moves the fiction forward has two sides, and the DM can only control his half. So we are also talking about good and bad, and useful and not useful, in terms of player engagement with the outcome of adjudication. The extent to which 'good GMing", whatever that exactly is, might have avoided this mess is also dependent on player response, which seems to have been an issue.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
I think the following, on p 2 of the Basic PDF, is relevant.:

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.​

I've bolded a couple of words that I think are especially salient. It is everyone together who create a memorable and exciting story. It seems to me that that is highly relevant to a GM wondering what decision to make about what is and is not possible in relation to action resolution.
Nice in theory.

In practice, unless a DM happens to have a group of players who all think the same (or only has one player) and-or who consistently enjoy an extremely similar style of play, it's inevitable that from time to time situations are going to arise where no matter what happens next someone's not going to have fun. The original example around the mad tyrant may be one of these: talking to him isn't fun for some, attacking him isn't fun for others, and walking out of the encounter completely isn't fun for the DM.

Players (and DMs) don't necessarily always want the same things from the game, either in general (overall style) or on specific nights (temporary mood).

And while on hearing this some here will immediately jump to saying those who want something different should find - or start - their own game, that's not always possible, feasible, or desirable. My take on it is if you're having fun keep at it; and if you're not having fun either a) assume that lack of fun will be a temporary state* and suck it up or b) find a way to make it fun. Personally, I strongly recommend b).

* - particularly true if the campaign up to now has been fun and you've simply sailed into a hole.
 

prabe

Aspiring Lurker (He/Him)
Supporter
@pemerton - I might disagree about evidence for bad faith play. From the description, at least part of the player decision making stemmed form boredom. That doesn't always result in bad faith play, but it certainly can. So we're at least in the right ballpark. Also, the lack of interest in and interaction with the variety of lifelines subsequently thrown by the DM also could index bad faith play. I'm not suggesting that bad faith is the case, only that there is enough circumstantial evidence for the possibility that the idea is worth bringing into the discussion.
The OP has, I think, described the player as "probably bored" and "a long-time friend." I get the feeling the play was more impulsive/thoughtless, followed by a species of stubborn, than it was malicious. Whether that qualifies it as bad-faith play may depend on who's deciding.

I don't think 'not breaking any rules' moves the inquiry forward either, which is why I though we might switch the conversation from right and wrong to good and bad, although I might now push that even further to useful and not useful. What we're really talking about the is use of the latitude provided the DM by the rules. Also at issue, and why I came back to my point above, is that adjudication is fine, but the conversation that moves the fiction forward has two sides, and the DM can only control his half. So we are also talking about good and bad, and useful and not useful, in terms of player engagement with the outcome of adjudication. The extent to which 'good GMing", whatever that exactly is, might have avoided this mess is also dependent on player response, which seems to have been an issue.
Yeah. If you've telegraphed something about an NPC, you have less latitude as a GM, I think, when the players push that NPC's buttons. I also think there's a limit to how hard a GM should work to protect the characters from the consequences of the players' choices--and attacking someone with the authority and disposition to have you executed is a choice.
 

Fenris-77

Small God of the Dozens
Supporter
I would probably characterize thoughtless play at a key moment as bad faith play, yeah. It doesn't need to be malicious, any actions taken without thought for the table, and/or for reasons other than the fiction and the rest of the players is headed in that direction. Maybe something different that 'bad faith' would characterize that better, I just couldn't think of a different term that worked for me.
 

prabe

Aspiring Lurker (He/Him)
Supporter
My take on this is that players have to change their conceptions of their PCs all the time - eg I might conceive of my bold warrior as indomitable, but if I fail my save against a dragon's frightful presence, it turns out I'm not as inomitable as I thought!

Given how much more peripheral to the GM any given NPC is, compared to the PC as the core of the players' engagement with the fiction and experience of the game, I would expect a GM to be able to handle similar sorts of things.
Sure, characters grow. Players come to an understanding of their characters that changes as a result of in-game experiences. IMO this is usually a good thing (one of the characters I'm playing continues to surprise me).

That's not the same thing (or it doesn't seem to me to be the same thing) as having the world react to the PCs in a way that breaks my suspension of disbelief. If it's not believable to me that the Mad Tyrant would do anything other than make a serious effort to execute the PCs who insulted and attacked him, he's going to make that effort to do that. If he has the resources to do it (this place isn't all that well-off, as I understand it, so he might not) the PCs are going to find it very difficult to escape without outside help, which might also not be believable if it has to come from outside the party.
 

prabe

Aspiring Lurker (He/Him)
Supporter
I would probably characterize thoughtless play at a key moment as bad faith play, yeah. It doesn't need to be malicious, any actions taken without thought for the table, and/or for reasons other than the fiction and the rest of the players is headed in that direction. Maybe something different that 'bad faith' would characterize that better, I just couldn't think of a different term that worked for me.
I get it. I don't have a better descriptor close-to-hand than "bad-faith," either. I guess there's an extent thing: there' a difference between play that might end a campaign and play that might end a friendship, but they both might reasonably be described as "bad faith."
 

And if the DM is running a module in which it clearly states that triggering the trap results in a no-save death (e.g. a 10'-cube chunk of roof falls on the PC who is in a 10x10' room), then what?
Well, they generally don't make traps that work that way anymore that I'm aware of, and in my opinion that's a good thing. If I was running such a module, perhaps an older one converted to 5E, then I'd alter that to give some kind of save or check, or otherwise make it very clear that there is a very certain outcome at risk.

And I think that stance probably also explains why I don't like the idea of PCs being executed without significant chance for the players to affect the outcome through actions and rolls.


True. I'm merely trying to find a basis for comparison here, to put the trap and the kill-the-king on the same footing.

If I put it as each event results in save-or-die rather than just die, are we closer?
I'm not a fan of save or die, generally speaking. Especially when there's a range of possibilities available.

So I think my stance on consequences was called into question....and I think that maybe it's a matter of punishment versus consequence? Or maybe consequence for character versus player, as you and I touched on earlier. I'm not as concerned with consequence for the player.

I am all for meaningful consequence for the characters. But there are any number of consequences....degrees of potential consequences....that we could assign to the situation. I think going to imprisonment followed by execution is a bit of a case of jumping the gun, and I'd only do so if I thought it would be compelling to do so, and if I knew there were ways to continue playing.

I disagree (with a caveat, see below); in that the DM has to be allowed to play her NPCs in a manner consistent with who and what they are - just like players have to be similarly allowed to play their PCs.

Here, the guy already has a reputation of being "the mad tyrant" and - one hopes - has already shown signs of living up to that reputation while the PCs have been in town. They know what they're up against; and if they choose to attack him anyway and fail, their fate is no longer their own.

The caveat: if the PCs had never heard of this guy before first meeting him and thus didn't know his reputation etc. one of two things would happen: if the PCs talked with him at all I'd make sure it was obvious he was both competely unstable and prone to fits of violence; if they attacked him on first sight only then would I resort to dice.
Well, sure, a GM should play the NPCs as he thinks is appropriate, similar to PCs. But the outcomes of their actions are what we're talking about. If there's risk of failure, then rolls are needed.

I think establishing stakes is a big part of players making meaningful choices, so I agree with you there. They need to know the situation, and if they don't already, then the GM should try to display that for them in some way, barring some kind of attack on sight situation.

Good question, and probably to no surprise I'd lean - often fairly strongly - toward "faith to the fiction".

In a long sprawling campaign like what I run, internal consistency becomes far more important than in a one-shot or even a hard-line AP; which means sacrificing that long-term internal consistency for the sake of a here-and-now moment in the story isn't something I'm going to want to do very often.
It's not about short or long term. It's about favoring the internal consistency of the fiction over people enjoying themselves. That's not something I want to do. Ideally, there's no need to choose, but if it comes up, then I have to prioritize the play experience.

This all just sounds like the role of the mechanics is simply to cover the DM's butt if things go wrong.....
I suppose that could be the case. I mean, if things go wrong in my game, I'm sure that I'm at least partially to blame, and I don't think that I would try and avoid blame in such a case. But I think a lot of times, it's easier for a player to accept something happening as a result of the dice than as a result of DM choice.

I suppose it depends on what you think the mechanics are for, I guess.
 

Hoffmand

Explorer
I would have just had combat on the spot and let the combat play out. If they were subdued and placed in prison for some form of trial I would ask myself based on the description of the mad king, what would Stalin, Mao, ghengis khan, or hitler do. And treat the players accordingly. But in any campaign have ever run (few exceptions) the guards would have killed them on the spot. And the Kings guards and attending nobleman are normally badass in combat. That’s how they become Kings and knights.
 

I get it. I don't have a better descriptor close-to-hand than "bad-faith," either. I guess there's an extent thing: there' a difference between play that might end a campaign and play that might end a friendship, but they both might reasonably be described as "bad faith."
I agree that it's a tricky term in this case. Bad faith in this sense seems to mean "disruptive". And although I do think that this player's choice disrupted where the game was going, I don't know if that's bad. It certainly could be. Is boredom a reason to do that kind of thing? Is it justified? I don't know, that's hard to answer.

What's the point at which we accept that boredom should no longer be tolerated by a player? I don't want to imply that the game was boring....certainly a couple of players were engaged....but this one player was not. And perhaps for multiple sessions. How long should he have to tolerate his boredom?

Now, as always, conversation is likely the best way to resolve this. But for that you need either a player who is willing to speak up without coming across as offensive, or a GM who will notice and actually do something about it. And as OP said, it's much harder to do that online than in person, so I think that was a big part of it.

I've seen bored players ruin things. I've also seen bored players shake things up and get them going again. I've also been in games that bored me, and I've tolerated it often, but on a few occasions, I've done something about it.

"Bad faith" just implies a level of willingness to damage a game, I think. But as you say, it likely depends on who is defining it.
 

FrogReaver

As long as i get to be the frog
I think the problem was that the mad tyrant was being played as if:
1. The pcs were peasants
2. He gave the PC’s an audience with no goal in mind for his part.

thus, you end up with tyrant who calls for guards at the slightest insult with no other meaningful personality traits for the DM to highlight. It’s impossible for the pcs to interact with such a character meaningfully. About the only meaningful reaction they can get is guards or off with their heads because they will nearly undoubtedly offend me the NPC - Especially if they play their pc as heroic in the slightest.
 

Sadras

Hero
What's the point at which we accept that boredom should no longer be tolerated by a player? I don't want to imply that the game was boring....certainly a couple of players were engaged....but this one player was not. And perhaps for multiple sessions. How long should he have to tolerate his boredom?
He should tolerate it long enough so as not to be disruptive during a game, and certainly not while everyone else is having fun.

If I am bored for multiple sessions that is on me as a player if I have not spoken up or have not left the group, but it certainly does not give me the right to disrupt the fun of others.
 

FrogReaver

As long as i get to be the frog
I think a better interaction would be:

PC: I insult Mad Tyrant
Mad Tyrant: "you say you want an audience and so you obviously want something and yet you come to me speaking insults. And they call me MAD? HA. Tell me what you came for. Speak quickly now before I tire of this and do X. (Where X = {torture you, execute you, exile you, etc})

This leaves the players clear indications of the Tyrants mood toward them, what he wants and his plans if they don't give him what he wants. It also opens the door for another character to step in and play the role of diplomat and apologize for his friends behavior. All possible things that could change the trajectory of the interaction.
 

FrogReaver

As long as i get to be the frog
I can't speak for the OP but I imagine that when the DM had the Tyrant call for guards it wasn't to arrest and execute the PC. Instead I imagine it would have been to escort them away. But the problem is that the players don't know what 'guards!" means. To them it could just as easily be execution, imprisonment, all their gear taken, etc. It's easy for me to see why such uncertain stakes could provoke a player to believe that the chance of death via their actions was justified because they also had a chance of death if they failed to act. In that situation I think many players are going to go with known mechanics in order to try and avoid possible death and IMO this method sure beats the heck out of waiting for the DM to passively tell you what happens to your PC's. You are taking your survival into your own hands!

In this case i believe the player who tried to take the Mad Tyrant hostage was acting in good faith and that he was doing it to try and save his friends lives by relying on known grappling mechanics to put team PC in a position to bypass the guards. Of course failure at that point would mean something very bad, but then again - waiting on the guards could very well result in the same fate.

The player that actually insulted the Mad Tyrant, that's a bit harder to say, but the good faith versions are that he was either trying to play his PC as heroic or true to his personality. That's actually a PC I would love to have in my game - because he will play his character how he envision even knowing that doing so may cause some in game repercussions.

I think that ultimately the best takeaway from this situation is to remember it's a game where players have very limited information. Having the Mad Tyrant state his intent when calling the guards would also have given the players the information they needed to react appropriately. I think if you as a DM like to see your players give you their action and intent for it that it's probably wise for you to do the same with your NPC's for them.
 

Campbell

Legend
I wanted to address something that has come up a couple times in this thread. There seems to be this idea that the campaign or story could be ruined by actions one of the player characters take. I really do not think our games or our characters are these fragile things that need protection. I contend the opposite can often be true. Exposing the things we love to real adversity or genuine transformative change is when we find out who they really are and what the world is really like. Play is really only interesting in motion.

At the end of the day none of us can really say what is or is not the right call for any moment of play. It is a judgement call and it will never be perfect. We should not expect it to be. Part of what makes this medium so compelling is how raw, authentic, and messy it is. I think we all owe it to ourselves to embrace the mess.

This passage from one of my favorite blogs gets to the heart of how stories are seldom really ruined.

Passionate Play #5: You Can't Ruin The Story said:
I’m going to make a bold claim (what else do I do on this site): Stories can not be ruined. Okay now let me qualify that: Stories can not be ruined through legitimate situational transformations alone. That might sound odd since my last Passionate Play post was all about how a Sorcerer game failed. However, I would like to point out that there was nothing wrong with the state of the fiction. The story was fine. Right now I could totally pick up the fiction where it left off and keep writing. What happened was that the players’ creative connection to the fiction was severed.

Recently Alex Duarte asked me to play his game unWritten. The setup is a pseudo-Europe with swashbuckling overtones. The Princess of Pseudo-France has just become of marrying age and the Kings of Pseudo-England and Pseudo-Spain are vying to marry her for political gain. My character is the Princess’s brother and Laura is playing her bodyguard.

The game is structured such that every player gets a turn to put their character in the spotlight where everyone introduces adversity for that character. It was Laura’s scene and I introduced an assassin who makes an attempt to kill the Princess. Laura’s character goes to stop him.

Now as this is going on Alex made a comment about downgrading my attempt to kill the Princess to simply attempting to wound her. Laura made a concurring comment about how if the Princess dies it deflates our entire setup. And they kind of proceeded assuming the situation was downgraded to wounding without really talking to me but that’s okay because Laura scored a partial success and although I had narration with that outcome my response was the same regardless of whether we were talking about wounding or killing.

However, I want to look a little closer at that sentiment that somehow the game/story would die along with the Princess. Is that really true? Yes, it certainly would have completely transformed the nature of the story at hand. I’m not convinced it would have ruined it. Let’s take a look at the characters.

My character has listed “his sister’s emotional welfare” as the thing he most values. Her death would certainly be shocking to him. Currently my story is about growing up and coming to terms with adult responsibility. My character projects a lot of that onto his sister and his somewhat controlling desire to preserve her innocence. Her death would likely have transformed those controlling elements from being less about change and responsibility and more about revenge or learning not to blame yourself for things you aren’t really responsible for.

Alex’s character is the son of the man ruling the country while the princess was still underage. I think he’s in love with her. Since line of succession would fall to my character that would have likely put us at political odds. His story would have likely changed from one about practicalities of politics interfering with love to one of childhood friendship put at odds through those same political practicalities.

Laura’s character probably would have faced the most radical redefinition. Her initial setup seemed to be about duty and honor and loyalty. The Princess dying would have transformed that into a story about dealing with failure or possibly having to find new purpose in life when the one thing you’ve dedicated yourself to gets taken away.

Now I’m not saying that any of these rather severe and radical transformations wouldn’t have severed our creative connection to the fiction. Indeed the commentary at the table suggested that it likely would have but I’d like to point out that The Princess’s death would not have “ruined” the story. The story would only have been radically redefined from our current expectations of it.

What I take away from this relative to my Play Passionately interests is learning to cultivate the skill in distinguishing between a genuinely bad artistic decision and these moments of radical transformation. I suggest that Playing Passionately as I envision it means being willing to risk having these kinds of transformations occur One moment you thought the story or your character was all about thing X but due to a turn of the situation or dice it’s no longer possible to pursue that thing. The story at hand has changed on a very fundamental level and you need to be willing to change with it.

If you feel the change at hand is severing your connection with the fiction perhaps taking a break is in order. Call the game, go home, sleep on it, and reevaluate the fiction. Reevaluate yourself and your relationship with the fiction, find what does engage you about this new situation (and its ramifications on your character) and begin authoring from there.
 

And, with respect to the desire for mechanics - while I understand the point in general, for this example it is not clearly relevant. As has been noted already, mechanical systems typically have the clause, "don't bother using the mechanics if success or failure is clear to you, the GM". The GM already ruled that the failure was clear.

IF the game had relevant mechanics, it would have been reasonable for the GM to not invoke them, and just jump to consequences. That's why I think the "...but, mechanics!" is a bit of a misdirection.

That leaves us with the more general question of "When and how do we pull PC's bacon out of the fire?"
You said in this post (the snipped part) that you think hawkeyefan missed the mark.

I don't agree. But I do think that you're missing the mark (with respect to what hawkeyefan has said) with the above.

Go back to his comment about "the Venn Diagram of consequences pertaining to what is realistic and what is interesting (meaning thematically compelling and/or provacative while simultaneously leaving what comes next up for grabs)."

What hawkeyefan is saying (and what I agree with and have advocated the same) is the following:

1) "Shades of mad tyrant" does not equal one singular response to any given stimuli or likely even be limited to a handful.

2) His personal guard, his court, his besieged people, and his militia/watch would not respond to a situation with one singular response or likely even be limited to a handful.

3) Humans (GMs) trying to model these interactions have blind spots. Worse still, they have to actually (a) convey all of the relevant situation and setting information that goes into both (1) and (2) above and have related the context of the overarching conditions to the PCs such that they make informed decision-points while (b) filtering that through their own blind spots, fatigue, and the fog and difficulty of recall inherent to multiple sessions.

4) As such, "going to the (player-facing) mechanics" and/or having strong, player-facing principles (perhaps those that aim toward interesting outcomes that follow from the fiction) to guide your adjudication of consequence gives you a pretty damn good chance of hitting that "realistic/interesting" overlap spot of the Venn Diagram. And (i) it reduces your cognitive workload in the effort so you stay relatively fresh after facing these moments repeatedly in a singular session. And (ii) the players are (broadly across a collection of many players) more apt understand the causal flow (with respect to both play principles, resolution procedures, and in-fiction dynamics) of action declaration > mechanical resolution > consequence.

I'm not convinced that this is a "player problem." Now that isn't to say I'm convinced that its a "GM problem" either. What I'm convinced of is, regardless of anything else, any action declaration in this situation of "I'm not cowing to this sonuvabitch that wields power ruthlessly and callously...I'm challenging him directly (and maybe his bark is worse than his bite, or his guard won't back his play, or the beleaguered people will rise up against him)" is a completely legitimate action declaration and "the player was bored" is an irrelevant value judgement (which I don't even know to be true, but that is besides the point). Its a thematically legitimate action declaration in D&D when faced with even Ancient Dragons, kings, let alone low tier lords/barons the like. The resolution processes, the setting, and the GM should be capable of absorbing that boldness and seeing what happens rather than just shutting it down. I mean, even if you're just doing Charisma (Intimidate) vs a DC 20 (with a 10 % chance of success...or a 10 % chance of success and a further 10 % chance of success with cost/complication if you're using that 5e module) to see if that is capable of revealing a Flaw (perhaps, "My Captain is becoming a mutinous bastard")...that is at least something. Personally, I think that any NPC that doesn't have some sort of interesting and diverse Ideal, Bond, Flaw composite that any PC can hook into to leverage for subsequent social interaction is very poorly designed.

With respect, a module with a pivotal NPC interaction that is nearly the social equivalent of the classic (and terribly dull) Anti-magic Zone block (to shut down the overpowered Mage's ability to circumvent an obstacle/challenge) in classic D&D exploration should be under the lens more and (if it were capable) have a bit more self-reflection.
 

Players can sometimes be having a bad day. In the past I've offered to rewind the action after one of my players made actions that he came to regret, due to not being in a good mood. We are all human beings, and in the end it is just a game, not a gospel.
 

Campbell

Legend
@Lanefan

My preferred solution for we all want different things dilemma is to just try to follow the directives of the game we are playing. In the absence of clear direction we make up an agenda and broad principles for this particular run of the game. Basically treat a roleplaying game like it were any other game.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
Well, they generally don't make traps that work that way anymore that I'm aware of, and in my opinion that's a good thing. If I was running such a module, perhaps an older one converted to 5E, then I'd alter that to give some kind of save or check, or otherwise make it very clear that there is a very certain outcome at risk.

And I think that stance probably also explains why I don't like the idea of PCs being executed without significant chance for the players to affect the outcome through actions and rolls.

I'm not a fan of save or die, generally speaking. Especially when there's a range of possibilities available.
Both save-or-die and straight-up die have a place in a game where the world really is out to kill you; where it's a game of war rather than sport in more realms than just combat.

So I think my stance on consequences was called into question....and I think that maybe it's a matter of punishment versus consequence? Or maybe consequence for character versus player, as you and I touched on earlier. I'm not as concerned with consequence for the player.

I am all for meaningful consequence for the characters.
I actually think we agree on this much. However, you then go on to say this:
But there are any number of consequences....degrees of potential consequences....that we could assign to the situation. I think going to imprisonment followed by execution is a bit of a case of jumping the gun, and I'd only do so if I thought it would be compelling to do so, and if I knew there were ways to continue playing.
That you're worrying about a) whether it's compelling and b) whether there's ways to continue playing both tell me you are very much concerned with consequence for the player.

There's always a way to continue playing provided at least one PC survives and-or remains free, and that's that those players whose PCs didn't survive either roll up new ones for the survivo(s) to recruit or hope the survivor(s) find a way of reviving the dead or otherwise getting the others back in play.

Well, sure, a GM should play the NPCs as he thinks is appropriate, similar to PCs. But the outcomes of their actions are what we're talking about. If there's risk of failure, then rolls are needed.
From what I can glean about the actual module being played it seems both the tyrant and his guards are relatively weak, thus yes there's significant doubt as to whether they'd successfully be able to arrest or detain or kill the PCs: it might have to be played out as an actual combat.

But in a situation where the PCs have just attacked a reigning mad-tyrant monarch in his throne room and thus can reasonably expect to be horribly outgunned by those present (which is a situation more worthy of discussion, I think) then jumping straight to imprisonment and-or execution is completely in play. For a well-known fictional example, consider attacking King Joffree in his throne room at King's Landing when his guards and court are present. The only question will be how long Joffree drags out the deaths of the PCs.

I think establishing stakes is a big part of players making meaningful choices, so I agree with you there. They need to know the situation, and if they don't already, then the GM should try to display that for them in some way, barring some kind of attack on sight situation.
When there's a reasonable opportunity to establish stakes, do it. I don't, however, give players/PCs info they wouldn't otherwise be able to learn - particularly if they make no effort to investigate or gather info - even if it means the PCs are standing in to their deaths.

It's not about short or long term. It's about favoring the internal consistency of the fiction over people enjoying themselves. That's not something I want to do. Ideally, there's no need to choose, but if it comes up, then I have to prioritize the play experience.
Actually it is about short or long term.

A glaring inconsistency in a short game isn't going to have long-lasting effect, because by the time it otherwise might the game has ended. In this case you-as-DM can bend consistency all over the place and nobody's likely to notice.

But in a long game, whatever I do in the here-and-now in the name of a good story is something I'm then going to be stuck with as a precedent for maybe the next ten years or more, which means I seriously have to mind my p's and q's in order to avoid potentially sacrificing lots of future enjoyment just for the sake of a here-and-now moment.

I suppose that could be the case. I mean, if things go wrong in my game, I'm sure that I'm at least partially to blame, and I don't think that I would try and avoid blame in such a case. But I think a lot of times, it's easier for a player to accept something happening as a result of the dice than as a result of DM choice.
Ideally the DM is every bit as neutral as the dice are. Ideally.

Reality may vary. :)

I suppose it depends on what you think the mechanics are for, I guess.
Regarding actions during the run of play: usually for resolving things that cannot be resolved through in-character role-play at the table - the physical stuff, as I mentioned in prior posts.
 

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