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Realistic Consequences vs Gameplay

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
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.
Oddly enough, I agree with what you say here but not entirely with the blog you quoted.

The story can be changed, altered or amended in a myriad of ways both minor and major - but it can never in the end be truly ruined unless it is outright ended by somethng like a TPK. Even someone maliciously out to wreck the story is only going to end up changing that story to something different. "Ruined" is in the eye of the beholder; and while one person at the table (usually but not always the DM!) may think that some unexpected changes that just happened are a story-telling disaster, another might think the story just improved a hundred-fold.

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.
Thing is, "any other game" has far more constraints (borders) and directives on it than does an RPG.

Even though many RPGs have tomes full of rules they're still way less constrained in some ways: there's no final endgame, there's no outright win condition, there's few if any limits on what can be done within the game's parameters, and many of those parameters are guidelines rather than hard rules anyway. A player in an RPG has gobs more freedom when it comes to in-game action than a player in pretty much any other game.

Treating it like it were any other game becomes, then, somewhat self-defeating.
 

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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.
I don't disagree. I just don't know if we can say all this for certain....whether he was bored, whether he thought he was doing the "right" thing by calling out the NPC.

There are plenty of times where I've had a NPC with whom I expected the PCs to speak, but then watched surprised as they attacked. It turns out that what I expected wasn't as obvious to the players as I thought it would be. And then there's always the fact that, as has been stated, beating up bad guys is part and parcel of D&D, and that the game kind of pushes things toward combat because that's where 75% of the game's mechanics are.

I think I've learned from those instances, and now I work to position things more clearly, and I also try not to expect too much ahead of time....I let the players do what they want to do, rather than trying to get them to do specific things, generally speaking.

I've also seen plenty of examples where the PCs try one approach, and for whatever reason it doesn't go well, and then one player declares an action along another path, and things then proceed that way.....and the other players are relieved.

So is it always disruptive to the game for one player to seek an alternate path to others? I wouldn't answer yes to this....I think it varies. The player in question seemed to think that his actions were a problem after the fact, and he apologized.....so I don't know if his intention was to disrupt or end anyone else's fun so much as to try and have some himself. Again, incomplete picture, so it's hard to say for sure here.
 

This conversation would be a lot more productive if we stop speculating about boredom or insincerity or actual malicious intent by the player.

If a disruptive player does something clearly disruptive, then this thread is 100 % pointless. It can be summed up in “deal with your disruptive player outside of the game.” (Uninteresting) Conversation_over.

What is interesting is if you assume sincere play and legitimate thematic advocation for PC by the player.

What then?

How do you cast THAT PLAYER with THAT ACTION DECLARATION who challenged this NPC?
 

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.

I actually think we agree on this much. However, you then go on to say this:
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.
That's a fair point. I suppose I should be clearer.

My primary goal of play is for everyone to have as much fun as possible. So anything that happens in play is always happening with that goal in mind. Beyond that, though, I'm not as concerned about consequences for the players as I am for the characters. So in this situation, the characters have attempted something very dangerous and with potentially serious consequences. I don't look at it as a way of teaching the players a lesson and so on. Things happen to the characters, not the players.

Yes, players will have feelings about what happens, but even if something negative like PC death were to happen, and that made the player sad, that's a response to the fiction, not the goal of the fiction. Hopefully, the player is engaged and is sad the same way a reader or viewer might get sad reading or watching a story where a character dies.

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.
Yeah, I agree....or I agree that there should be. Sometimes a game dos fall apart....but as the blogpost that @Campbell shared, the fiction itself can't be ruined. I agree with that. There is always a way forward in the fiction, but the actual game can fall apart if participants are not engaged, or have otherwise lost interest, or if their goals of play are so radically different that there's no finding common ground. But none of that is specifically a problem with the fiction.

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 it really depends on the comparative level of the PCs and the NPCs. We don't know what level the PCs in the OP were, so it's hard to say for sure. If they were 3rd or lower, maybe this would be something beyond them. At about 4th level, I think that stops being the case, and at 5th or above it's pretty much a moot point.


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.
I try to give them such cues in whatever way it makes sense in the fiction, but I lean more toward generous sharing. I tend to think PCs should be competent folks, and I think that my ability to fully portray the fictional world is limited when compared to a person's actual ability to perceive their world.....so I'll give them pretty clear cues so that they can make meaningful choices. I do agree that the less they try to learn or look into things, the less I'll give, but I am guessing I'm more generous on average than you would be in the same situation.

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.
Not really. A "glaring inconsistency" is only as much of an issue as you make it. You can literally hand wave the inconsistency away. You don't like to do that, and that's fine....it's your preference, and that's fine. Others won't care as much, even if their campaign is longer.

My 5e campaign is actually a continuation of the campaign my players and I had as kids, along with some other unfinished campaigns we've had over the years. So it's pretty long term in that regard. However, if I have a player who wants to do something cool that they're interested in, and it might conflict with some detail from back in the day, I'm not going to worry about it. The fiction can be changed, the conflict can be explained, and so on.

Ideally the DM is every bit as neutral as the dice are. Ideally.

Reality may vary. :)

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.
So a DM should be as neutral as dice.....but you don't think that dice would actually help him achieve that?
 

This conversation would be a lot more productive if we stop speculating about boredom or insincerity or actual malicious intent by the player.

If a disruptive player does something clearly disruptive, then this thread is 100 % pointless. It can be summed up in “deal with your disruptive player outside of the game.” (Uninteresting) Conversation_over.

What is interesting is if you assume sincere play and legitimate thematic advocation for PC by the player.

What then?

How do you cast THAT PLAYER with THAT ACTION DECLARATION who challenged this NPC?
I posted earlier how my players handled the Vallaki situation, and it was so similar to how things started off in the OP that I've been very surprised at how many people seem to frown on a PC refusing to negotiate or cooperate with a villain. The burgomaster is a villain.

Whatever confrontation comes about, I think the book has given enough of a framework to allow for it. So in this case, ultimately the PCs openly fought the Burgomaster and his forces, and then they fled the town as a result. That's really not a problem in the book.....there are other locations where the PCs can go. The Burgomaster's authority ends at the borders of his town.

Then what happens in Vallaki in the PCs' absence? Does it remain exactly the same? Does the fact that some folks stood up to the Burgomaster embolden others? Did the loss of any of his guards leave him open to attack from others? And so on.

The situation can change as a result of the PCs' actions in a number of ways.
 

prabe

Aspiring Lurker (He/Him)
Supporter
I posted earlier how my players handled the Vallaki situation, and it was so similar to how things started off in the OP that I've been very surprised at how many people seem to frown on a PC refusing to negotiate or cooperate with a villain. The burgomaster is a villain.
I think what is being frowned on isn't that he refused to negotiate. It's that he refused to let others continue to negotiate, once they'd started to do so. It doesn't seem as though he objected strongly to talking to the Burgomaster beforehand, so I can see why everyone was caught badly off-guard (which probably didn't make DMing what happened next any easier).
 

Fanaelialae

Legend
I posted earlier how my players handled the Vallaki situation, and it was so similar to how things started off in the OP that I've been very surprised at how many people seem to frown on a PC refusing to negotiate or cooperate with a villain. The burgomaster is a villain.

Whatever confrontation comes about, I think the book has given enough of a framework to allow for it. So in this case, ultimately the PCs openly fought the Burgomaster and his forces, and then they fled the town as a result. That's really not a problem in the book.....there are other locations where the PCs can go. The Burgomaster's authority ends at the borders of his town.

Then what happens in Vallaki in the PCs' absence? Does it remain exactly the same? Does the fact that some folks stood up to the Burgomaster embolden others? Did the loss of any of his guards leave him open to attack from others? And so on.

The situation can change as a result of the PCs' actions in a number of ways.
My impression is that it isn't the refusal to negotiate that is being frowned upon. It's that the party was trying to negotiate and this one player decided to sabotage the negotiations. It wasn't even as though the other players decided to agree to something the other player simply couldn't agree to. He killed the negotiation before any provisional agreement could even be reached.
 

I think what is being frowned on isn't that he refused to negotiate. It's that he refused to let others continue to negotiate, once they'd started to do so. It doesn't seem as though he objected strongly to talking to the Burgomaster beforehand, so I can see why everyone was caught badly off-guard (which probably didn't make DMing what happened next any easier).
My impression is that it isn't the refusal to negotiate that is being frowned upon. It's that the party was trying to negotiate and this one player decided to sabotage the negotiations. It wasn't even as though the other players decided to agree to something the other player simply couldn't agree to. He killed the negotiation before any provisional agreement could even be reached.
This is a valid point you both make. I'm not trying to discount that. I'm just trying to not assume his intention was to deny the other players having fun.

We have been told that his decision was born "partially of boredom". So I'm assuming there was more to it. We're missing a lot of details since we weren't there. What was being negotiated? What class/alignment/beliefs does the PC hold that may flavor how he behaves toward a person such as the Burgomaster? And so on.

Let's look at this more generally.....if a situation comes up in your game, and two party members want to talk to a villain, and a third refuses and instead verbally confronts the villain.....how do you handle it?

Do you allow play to proceed?

Do you pause and let the players discuss as a group, and then proceed once they've come to some kind of consensus?

Do you shut down the one player in favor of the majority?

Something else?
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
Let's look at this more generally.....if a situation comes up in your game, and two party members want to talk to a villain, and a third refuses and instead verbally confronts the villain.....how do you handle it?
It would just never come up in my game. The players get on the same page and stay on the same page whenever they are faced with a challenge. A culture exists in our group of accepting other people's ideas and adding to them rather than negating or undermining them.
 

It would just never come up in my game. The players get on the same page and stay on the same page whenever they are faced with a challenge. A culture exists in our group of accepting other people's ideas and adding to them rather than negating or undermining them.
Yeah, that's a perfectly valid approach.

When I asked those questions, I wasn't trying to imply that there is one answer.

For my group, it will vary a bit. Sometimes, conflict among the group can be fun, so we would let it play out. But if it was a source of frustration, we'd likely pause and discuss.

I'm curious what others think.
 

Nagol

Unimportant
This is a valid point you both make. I'm not trying to discount that. I'm just trying to not assume his intention was to deny the other players having fun.

We have been told that his decision was born "partially of boredom". So I'm assuming there was more to it. We're missing a lot of details since we weren't there. What was being negotiated? What class/alignment/beliefs does the PC hold that may flavor how he behaves toward a person such as the Burgomaster? And so on.

Let's look at this more generally.....if a situation comes up in your game, and two party members want to talk to a villain, and a third refuses and instead verbally confronts the villain.....how do you handle it?

Do you allow play to proceed?

Do you pause and let the players discuss as a group, and then proceed once they've come to some kind of consensus?

Do you shut down the one player in favor of the majority?

Something else?
This occurs not infrequently in campaigns I run. I never interfere in player decision-making unless an outside force is doing so in the world.

Should different PC sub-groups provide different stimulus, the environment will adjust its response. The environment responds to stimuli in priority order. If sub-group A wants to provide a diplomatic or covert action and sub-group B provides a direct aggressive action, the environment will respond to sub-group B's violence as that is a more pressing concern than talking or potentially noticing something sneaky happening. Sub-group A's endeavour may be tainted by their association with sub group B (assuming it is known) simply because being friends of enemies makes one less trustworthy.

The PCs will respond to each other as well. If one PC acts contrary to the group's considered plans enough times, it likely becomes a NPC. If the group splits into a couple of factions, then they can either hash their tactics out amongst themselves before moving ahead or deal with the fallout from acting at odds with one another. If one group wants to hold back and one group wants to forge ahead then the group that wants to forge ahead will do so unless the other groups can find a way to prevent them in-game.

I do not take sides other than telling the group whether or not I am willing to run a side campaign. If I'm not willing, then the players need to maintain PCs that will work together even if that means some of the current PCs leave.
 
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prabe

Aspiring Lurker (He/Him)
Supporter
Let's look at this more generally.....if a situation comes up in your game, and two party members want to talk to a villain, and a third refuses and instead verbally confronts the villain.....how do you handle it?
The exact situation hasn't come up in the games I'm running. Both campaigns, though, have split when they've spent time in cities--and urban environments seem to be the ones where a party is most likely to want to do different things. Both groups I'm DMing for have taken ... hours, at least, to decide on a course of action, but once the groups have decided they've stayed signed-on. I guess this means the players work it out among themselves--like @Nagol above, I don't interfere with the players'/characters' planning.
 

Fanaelialae

Legend
This is a valid point you both make. I'm not trying to discount that. I'm just trying to not assume his intention was to deny the other players having fun.

We have been told that his decision was born "partially of boredom". So I'm assuming there was more to it. We're missing a lot of details since we weren't there. What was being negotiated? What class/alignment/beliefs does the PC hold that may flavor how he behaves toward a person such as the Burgomaster? And so on.

Let's look at this more generally.....if a situation comes up in your game, and two party members want to talk to a villain, and a third refuses and instead verbally confronts the villain.....how do you handle it?

Do you allow play to proceed?

Do you pause and let the players discuss as a group, and then proceed once they've come to some kind of consensus?

Do you shut down the one player in favor of the majority?

Something else?
The players would agree beforehand as to what the approach would be. If they agreed to negotiate, they wouldn't torpedo the negotiations if the other players were still negotiating. If they wanted to raise objections, they would do so either before negotiations commenced or after they concluded (while the group discussed whether to agree to the deal).
 

billd91

Hobbit on Quest
Let's look at this more generally.....if a situation comes up in your game, and two party members want to talk to a villain, and a third refuses and instead verbally confronts the villain.....how do you handle it?

Do you allow play to proceed?

Do you pause and let the players discuss as a group, and then proceed once they've come to some kind of consensus?

Do you shut down the one player in favor of the majority?

Something else?
I think it depends on the table. Most of the time, the group is usually pretty cooperative. They will generally defer to at least giving the best supported plan an honest try without torpedoing it in its midst. But, in the past, I've also played with groups that aren't as... courteous? deferential? cooperative? united? In those cases, we've generally resorted to more personal punishments for the PC involved like disavowing their actions and leaving them to their just deserts.

As a GM, I generally don't interfere when a PC does something that undermines the rest. I leave that up to the rest of the players to decide how to deal with it. But if it's really egregious or seems kind of mean spirited, I might ask them if they're sure that's what they want to do. That usually serves as a signal to rethink. And if they decide to go through with it, then we'll see what happens from there.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
That's a fair point. I suppose I should be clearer.

My primary goal of play is for everyone to have as much fun as possible. So anything that happens in play is always happening with that goal in mind. Beyond that, though, I'm not as concerned about consequences for the players as I am for the characters. So in this situation, the characters have attempted something very dangerous and with potentially serious consequences. I don't look at it as a way of teaching the players a lesson and so on. Things happen to the characters, not the players.

Yes, players will have feelings about what happens, but even if something negative like PC death were to happen, and that made the player sad, that's a response to the fiction, not the goal of the fiction. Hopefully, the player is engaged and is sad the same way a reader or viewer might get sad reading or watching a story where a character dies.

Yeah, I agree....or I agree that there should be. Sometimes a game dos fall apart....but as the blogpost that @Campbell shared, the fiction itself can't be ruined. I agree with that. There is always a way forward in the fiction, but the actual game can fall apart if participants are not engaged, or have otherwise lost interest, or if their goals of play are so radically different that there's no finding common ground. But none of that is specifically a problem with the fiction.
We're all good thus far. :)

I think it really depends on the comparative level of the PCs and the NPCs. We don't know what level the PCs in the OP were, so it's hard to say for sure. If they were 3rd or lower, maybe this would be something beyond them. At about 4th level, I think that stops being the case, and at 5th or above it's pretty much a moot point.
In the specific module, maybe; but I don't know the module. I'm trying to talk about a perhaps-hypothetical scene where one or more PCs attack a true King, hence my Joffree example.

I try to give them such cues in whatever way it makes sense in the fiction, but I lean more toward generous sharing. I tend to think PCs should be competent folks, and I think that my ability to fully portray the fictional world is limited when compared to a person's actual ability to perceive their world.....so I'll give them pretty clear cues so that they can make meaningful choices. I do agree that the less they try to learn or look into things, the less I'll give, but I am guessing I'm more generous on average than you would be in the same situation.
Fair enough. :)

Not really. A "glaring inconsistency" is only as much of an issue as you make it. You can literally hand wave the inconsistency away. You don't like to do that, and that's fine....it's your preference, and that's fine. Others won't care as much, even if their campaign is longer.

My 5e campaign is actually a continuation of the campaign my players and I had as kids, along with some other unfinished campaigns we've had over the years. So it's pretty long term in that regard. However, if I have a player who wants to do something cool that they're interested in, and it might conflict with some detail from back in the day, I'm not going to worry about it. The fiction can be changed, the conflict can be explained, and so on.
As far as possible, in the name of internal consistency I'm very big on precedent within a campaign: if thing X worked in manner Y once then that's how it will normally work for all time.

Which is why I'm loath to reboot old campaigns. I've no idea what specific rulings I made 20 years ago in my previous campaign, and if I used today's rulings it wouldn't be the same game at all. Even things as basic as the level-advance charts get re-done and tweaked each time out.

That said, if a character from an old campaign (or from someone else's game) finds a way in to the current one it gets converted to the current rules, as that's how things work on this world. :)

So a DM should be as neutral as dice.....but you don't think that dice would actually help him achieve that?
<as Jack Sparrow> If a DM's already as neutral as dice she doesn't need dice to be neutral, does she, mate?
 


Lanefan

Victoria Rules
This occurs not infrequently in campaigns I run. I never interfere in player decision-making unless an outside force is doing so in the world.
If I-as-DM have any NPC adventurers (i.e. full party members, not just henches) in the party they'll have a say just like anyone else, but will usually in the end do what they're told.

Should different PC sub-groups provide different stimulus, the environment will adjust its response. The environment responds to stimuli in priority order. If sub-group A wants to provide a diplomatic or covert action and sub-group B provides a direct aggressive action, the environment will respond to sub-group B's violence as that is a more pressing concern than talking or potentially noticing something sneaky happening. Sub-group A's endeavour may be tainted by their association with sub group B (assuming it is known) simply because being friends of enemies makes one less trustworthy.
Absolutely!

The PCs will respond to each other as well. If one PC acts contrary to the group's considered plans enough times, it likely becomes a NPC.
How can this happen? Players can't force another player to sign over a PC to the DM as an NPC.

They can boot the PC from the party, but by no means does that make it an NPC: a PC always belongs to its player unless that player declares otherwise, right?

If the group splits into a couple of factions, then they can either hash their tactics out amongst themselves before moving ahead or deal with the fallout from acting at odds with one another. If one group wants to hold back and one group wants to forge ahead then the group that wants to forge ahead will do so unless the other groups can find a way to prevent them in-game.

I do not take sides other than telling the group whether or not I am willing to run a side campaign. If I'm not willing, then the players need to maintain PCs that will work together even if that means some of the current PCs leave.
There's also some characters - and some players - to whom 'plan' is a four-letter word; and who are best left out of any planning process 'cause they're gonna do what they're gonna do no matter what, and what they do is either gonna help or it isn't. I don't mind this at all.

I'll happily run side campaigns; but sometimes it means we play one group one week and the other group the next (in these cases the players without PCs often roll up new ones, thus there's now two complete parties).
 

The players would agree beforehand as to what the approach would be. If they agreed to negotiate, they wouldn't torpedo the negotiations if the other players were still negotiating. If they wanted to raise objections, they would do so either before negotiations commenced or after they concluded (while the group discussed whether to agree to the deal).
So your players have never decided on an approach, and then had something happen in the midst of it that may change their minds? Or some of their minds?
 

We're all good thus far. :)

In the specific module, maybe; but I don't know the module. I'm trying to talk about a perhaps-hypothetical scene where one or more PCs attack a true King, hence my Joffree example.
Sure. I think we agree overall. I think if the power levels are that mismatched, you can just as easily play things out. In most cases PCs will quickly realize if they're in trouble when they see a roll of 5 and the NPC hits them.

There are circumstances where I wouldn't bother rolling it out, though, but they'd probably have to be pretty extreme, or there would have to be other compelling reasons for the decision.

Fair enough. :)

As far as possible, in the name of internal consistency I'm very big on precedent within a campaign: if thing X worked in manner Y once then that's how it will normally work for all time.

Which is why I'm loath to reboot old campaigns. I've no idea what specific rulings I made 20 years ago in my previous campaign, and if I used today's rulings it wouldn't be the same game at all. Even things as basic as the level-advance charts get re-done and tweaked each time out.

That said, if a character from an old campaign (or from someone else's game) finds a way in to the current one it gets converted to the current rules, as that's how things work on this world. :)
I find that consistency of that sort doesn't really matter. One group of PCs in my 5E campaign is actually made up of characters we originally played in the AD&D and 2E days, and a few from 3E. We just recreated them in the new rules according to the spirit of the characters, and they work quite fine. XP Totals and the like aren't fictionally relevant, so I don't see the hangup on that.

<as Jack Sparrow> If a DM's already as neutral as dice she doesn't need dice to be neutral, does she, mate?
I find the idea that a person could be that consistently neutral to be a bit unrealistic. Even if they thought they were being so, there is still a good chance for bias at a subconscious level.

But I also don't think a GM needs to be neutral. I think a GM should be a fan of the PCs, but should also be hard on them.
 

Fanaelialae

Legend
So your players have never decided on an approach, and then had something happen in the midst of it that may change their minds? Or some of their minds?
Yep, but if the change isn't unanimous, they allow the players who are still engaged with the scene to play it out to it's conclusion.
 

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