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Realistic Consequences vs Gameplay

pemerton

Legend
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.
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.
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?

<snip>

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.
To what extent is a player expected to play a boring game? "Boring" is a word that covers a wide range of possibilities.

For instance, if I sit down to play a game of five hundred or bridge, I have to expect to sit and observe whle others play their cards. But (in my view) someone who takes 5 minutes to decided on their play in a casual game of cards is being pretty discourteous! I've plenty of times been in situations where other players - in a card game, a board game, or similar - urge a very slow player to speed things up because it's not fair on everyone else.

In the context of a RPG, what power does a player have to speed things up or make things not boring? There are a few things that seem relevant First, at many tables and across the play culture of RPGs there can be a tendency to favour in game or even in fiction approaches as opposed to overtly meta-conversations. Second, the disinctive feature of RPGs - that they invovle cooperatively (in some sense of that word) establising a shared fiction - means that players have a responsibility to use their authority over their PCs to make things interesting rather than boring. Third, a player may therefore look for opportunities to use that authority and hence declare actions for their PCs that - from their perspective - will spice things up or move things along.

It's a long time since I played (as opposed to GMed) a D&D campaign. In that campaign much of the action involved the GM dealing with one particular player (whose PC was the prophesied one, naturally). The rest of us entertained ourselves by establishing a pretty fun intraparty dynamic, set of subsests, our own theories about the meaning of the various prophetic texts, etc. The GM largely ignored all this stuff and - in the end - ended up "blowing up" the campaign world and thus invalidating all the fiction the rest of the players had created by teleporting the PCs 100 years into the future. As a result the campaign ended shortly after when I and others quit.

As I said, boring covers a wide range of experiences and in the context of a RPG can reflect a wide range of ways that the game is ending up. But I don't really see that a player is olbiged to sit through a tedious scene where nothing is progressing and the fiction is not moving forward. Was the OP describing such a scene? I dont know; I wasn't there. Some of the posts others have made about this module make me think that's a possibility.

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.
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.
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.
I think FrogReaver's post here is pretty insightful.

What has been "telegraphed" about this NPC? That he's mad and angry? That he wants to see the PCs (or perhaps that the PCs "have" to meet with him because that's what the module says)? What expectations are the players meant to have? What are they supposed to be doing in the scene? Listening to the GM? Going along with the mad NPC? Is any back-and-forth expected, and if so about what?

Which also relates to the suspension of disbelief. Where is it established that the Mad Tyrant would execute anyone who insults him? In the GM's mind? As a result of reading the module? This looks like what @Manbearcat has called "GM setting solitaire play".

I think that a GM who sticks to an image formed in his/her mind - whether via his/her own invention or from reading the module - and then uses that to inflict "realistic" consequences - wher the realism is only in his/her mind - is likely to run into trouble as soon as the players try and play their own preferences or conceptions of the fiction.

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.

<snip>

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.
I fully agree with this too. That's why I've said that it was the GM, not the players, who resorted to violence. And why I think the idea that the players should have just had their PCs surrender is unrealistic. In practice, surrendering is thorwing themselvs on the mercy of the GM. Where do they get the information about what the result of that will be? How are they meant to know what the GM thinks is a "realistic" consequence of surrendering as opposed to fighting?
 

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Lanefan

Victoria Rules
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.
So - self-censor?

At the least, those who self-censor wil end up frustrated and-or bored.

At the worst, if the change in scene represents a threat to the PCs that those players/PCs have realized while the talkers haven't, their declining to act could leave the PCs - all of 'em - in a world o' hurt.

In neither case is this good.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
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.
Hence my emphasis on 'ideally' when I first brought this up. :)

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.
After the fact I'll celebrate the PCs' achievements along with the players.

During the fact I'm cheerin' for the monsters - they're my team, dammit! :)
 

pemerton

Legend
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.
Who do you think is denying this? The discussion is about the principles according to which a GM should make that decision.

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.
I am asserting that the existence of the rules for ability checks - including the description of what those are for, and what CHA chekcs are for as a special case of those general rules - is one of the things that is relevant to the GM's decision.

For instance, given that the rules for ability and CHA checks tell us that CHA "measures your ability to interact effectively with others" and that "an ability check tests a character’s or monster’s innate talent and training", it follows that a GM who decides the tyrant's reaction without calling for a check has decided that no amount of innate talent or training in respect of interacting with others can influence this outcome. When should a GM make such a decision? According to what principles? With what goals and hopes in mind?

Those are the questions to which I am offering some answers.
 

pemerton

Legend
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.
Even if they're playing The Hulk?

Have you ever had a player who is playing an ordinary person sincerely declare the action I jump the 3 mile wide canyon?

I'm assuming not, which is why I think it's more interesting to focus on actual instances of sincere action declaration - which to my mind is what we have in the OP.

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.

<snip>

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).
Which perhaps is what the bored player in the OP's game did.
 

prabe

Aspiring Lurker (He/Him)
Supporter
So - self-censor?

At the least, those who self-censor wil end up frustrated and-or bored.
And if they don't, the people who are doing the negotiation will--legitimately--be irritated at least, and probably frustrated. If they felt they were making any headway in the negotiation, they might legitimately be angry. This is probably something the players/party members should sort out, ideally before starting the negotiation. If you (the player) agree to have your character there, you are implicitly agreeing to let that scene play out. If there's something else you want to do, split the party. You'll have to sit through the other PCs negotiating, but you'll have your opportunity to do whatever it is you'd prefer.

If the boredom is going on for whole sessions, then maybe you need to bring it up out-of-game with the GM, rather than crapping on a fellow-player's fun--though I suppose it's possible to have a table that handles things more in-game than that.
 


pemerton

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.
I share your surprise.

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.
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).
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.
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).
If you (the player) agree to have your character there, you are implicitly agreeing to let that scene play out.
I think the posts I've described are broaldy overlapping in the approach they set out. It's one approach. It's not the only one.

Suppose negotiations commence on the understanding (eg) that the PCs might buy a widget from a NPC. Then in the course of the negotiations it comes to light that the NPC acquired the widget by steatling it from one of the PC's uncles. Is the player of that PC obliged to keep up the negotiation?

As I said, approaches might differ. The approach that suggested in the passages I've quoted seems to make more sense if we assume that negotiations are something like puzzle or traps to be overcome. To me it makes less sense if we imagine that negotiations might contain moments of revelation or development.

And I personally would find it very strange that at such a moment of revelation or development - ie just when things are becoming most intense for the characters - we would suddenly shift to an out-of-character, meta-level conversation rather than continue playing our PCs. To me that seems more appropriate either to something like a cooperative boardgame, or to a shared storytelling game where we want to all get back onto the same page. But to me it seems to be at odds with the idea that I see as central to RPGIng, which is inhabiting, and declaring actions for, your character.

Of course when declaring actions for one's PC one shouldn't be disruptive or discourteous. But that goes all ways. If the revelation has taken place, the players who want their PCs to keep negotiating are making a call that has implications for another player's PC just as much as that player is making a call that has implications for their PCs.

What class/alignment/beliefs does the PC hold that may flavor how he behaves toward a person such as the Burgomaster? And so on.
These are the sorts of things that can produce different reactions, especially when a moment of revelation occurs.

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 I've answered your questions above, though more from the player point-of-view.

From the GM's point of view I need to follow the fiction, but also to keep the game going for all the players. What that second thing requires depends a bit on system, but in D&D - with its strong premise of party play - keeping the game going for all the players means keeping aspects of a scene alive that are relevant to everyone. That's one of the major challenges in being a GM. Experience helps.
 


iserith

Magic Wordsmith
Who do you think is denying this? The discussion is about the principles according to which a GM should make that decision.
It was rather more about what to do in the aftermath of the OP's decision. Some have piled on to criticize the DM's decisions, but I wasn't there, so I really can't say how I would have ruled. The only thing I can say is that I wouldn't have had several sessions of mostly talking with little action preceding it and I would likely have used the DMG's social interaction rules as a framework for the scene with the baron.

I am asserting that the existence of the rules for ability checks - including the description of what those are for, and what CHA chekcs are for as a special case of those general rules - is one of the things that is relevant to the GM's decision.

For instance, given that the rules for ability and CHA checks tell us that CHA "measures your ability to interact effectively with others" and that "an ability check tests a character’s or monster’s innate talent and training", it follows that a GM who decides the tyrant's reaction without calling for a check has decided that no amount of innate talent or training in respect of interacting with others can influence this outcome. When should a GM make such a decision? According to what principles? With what goals and hopes in mind?

Those are the questions to which I am offering some answers.
Whatever the DM decides is correct within the scope of the rules, but may or may not contribute to the group achieving the goals of play. If a DM has determined that a specific approach to a PC's goal is impossible, then that's how it is and there's no roll. What is fun to a given group and what the group thinks is an exciting, memorable story, however, will vary.
 

Fanaelialae

Legend
So - self-censor?

At the least, those who self-censor wil end up frustrated and-or bored.

At the worst, if the change in scene represents a threat to the PCs that those players/PCs have realized while the talkers haven't, their declining to act could leave the PCs - all of 'em - in a world o' hurt.

In neither case is this good.
It's less about self-censoring and more about not sabotaging the agreed upon plan. If there is a need to alter course, the players can have a quick side bar to discuss.

We agree to it in advance. Hence, if someone thinks a negotiation won't be fun, they have an opportunity to express that. It's a group decision and they are part of that decision.

Just tonight, we staged an ambush for someone we thought was a murderer. But when he arrived, he behaved unexpectedly and we, through pantomiming, agreed that someone should approach him and talk to him. As my character is the least threatening, I was elected. So I had a 10 minute conversation while the other players watched. Once I was satisfied that an ambush wasn't necessary, I waved them out to join. I've similarly waited patiently while other players have done scenes that I wasn't a part of.

I don't think it's boring at all, and moreover it's simply good table manners IMO. Players shouldn't typically make unilateral decisions that impact the entire group. Obviously, sometimes that cannot be avoided, but when it can be avoided it should be. YMMV
 

prabe

Aspiring Lurker (He/Him)
Supporter
To what extent is a player expected to play a boring game? "Boring" is a word that covers a wide range of possibilities.

For instance, if I sit down to play a game of five hundred or bridge, I have to expect to sit and observe whle others play their cards. But (in my view) someone who takes 5 minutes to decided on their play in a casual game of cards is being pretty discourteous! I've plenty of times been in situations where other players - in a card game, a board game, or similar - urge a very slow player to speed things up because it's not fair on everyone else.
That's not unreasonable, though as with TRPGs it might depend on table culture, things like how chatty the players are, how well they know the game, the extent to which the game is an excuse to socialize. Some players just play more slowly than others, too. In a competitive game, there might be some gamesmanship involved in pacing your play, as well, though how acceptable that is seems like a table convention (probably not formal enough to be a rule).

In the context of a RPG, what power does a player have to speed things up or make things not boring?

{snip}

It's a long time since I played (as opposed to GMed) a D&D campaign. In that campaign much of the action involved the GM dealing with one particular player (whose PC was the prophesied one, naturally). The rest of us entertained ourselves by establishing a pretty fun intraparty dynamic, set of subsests, our own theories about the meaning of the various prophetic texts, etc. The GM largely ignored all this stuff and - in the end - ended up "blowing up" the campaign world and thus invalidating all the fiction the rest of the players had created by teleporting the PCs 100 years into the future. As a result the campaign ended shortly after when I and others quit.

As I said, boring covers a wide range of experiences and in the context of a RPG can reflect a wide range of ways that the game is ending up. But I don't really see that a player is olbiged to sit through a tedious scene where nothing is progressing and the fiction is not moving forward. Was the OP describing such a scene? I dont know; I wasn't there. Some of the posts others have made about this module make me think that's a possibility.
So, that DM was clearly a bad DM. I don't get the feeling the OP is. Should you stick in a campaign that is as stifling as you describe? Probably not. Should you allow your fellow players to finish a scene, even if you think it's maybe running a little long? Probably--if there's a pacing problem, or if the campaign is focusing too much on an aspect of the game you don't enjoy, you should take it up with the GM (and maybe your fellow players), before crapping on their fun. Courtesy is a form of thoughtfulness; the player's discourtesy is why I described this play as "thoughtless" above.

What has been "telegraphed" about this NPC? That he's mad and angry? That he wants to see the PCs (or perhaps that the PCs "have" to meet with him because that's what the module says)? What expectations are the players meant to have? What are they supposed to be doing in the scene? Listening to the GM? Going along with the mad NPC? Is any back-and-forth expected, and if so about what?
Per the OP:
Going into the meeting, they knew the ruler was unstable and severely punished any dissent in his land - having heard from various NPCs and seeing it firsthand.
I do not know the adventure any better than you do. Nor do I know how the OP went about conveying that to the PCs. I don't know what the intent of the PCs who were negotiating was. The OP says it was going pretty well--which implies progress was happening, at least in some direction--before the "probably bored" player started insulting the ruler. I don't see anything about "severely punished dissent" that implies "tolerates being insulted." Frankly, he sounds as though he's the sort of weak ruler who'd overreact to any little thing--and even if being insulted is a little thing, being physically assaulted is not.

Which also relates to the suspension of disbelief. Where is it established that the Mad Tyrant would execute anyone who insults him? In the GM's mind? As a result of reading the module? This looks like what @Manbearcat has called "GM setting solitaire play".

I think that a GM who sticks to an image formed in his/her mind - whether via his/her own invention or from reading the module - and then uses that to inflict "realistic" consequences - wher the realism is only in his/her mind - is likely to run into trouble as soon as the players try and play their own preferences or conceptions of the fiction.
Maybe the OP misunderstood the adventure; maybe not. I don't get the feeling the OP was invested in the setting in the way "setting solitaire play" implies.

As to the GM sticking to an image formed in his mind ... isn't that a big part of what the GM is supposed to do, at least in a game like D&D? Isn't the DM supposed to have the scene in his mind and convey that to the players? Isn't the DM supposed to have the NPCs in his head and convey those to the players, and have them react to the PCs according to their natures (shaped by whatever mechanics come into play)? If the players don't understand something, that's on the DM, sure, but I don't see why trying to have the world behave at least plausibly is going to interfere with the players playing their characters, following and eventually achieving their goals.

That's why I've said that it was the GM, not the players, who resorted to violence. And why I think the idea that the players should have just had their PCs surrender is unrealistic. In practice, surrendering is thorwing themselvs on the mercy of the GM. Where do they get the information about what the result of that will be? How are they meant to know what the GM thinks is a "realistic" consequence of surrendering as opposed to fighting?
I'm not sure having a character behave according to his nature can fairly be described as "resorting to violence."

Yes, getting players to surrender is hard. The player who attacked the ruler when he called for the guards at least wasn't behaving unreasonably, and it sounds as though there were some interesting and tense moments as the other two players talked their way out of the ruler's chambers. And the king's guards didn't kill anyone in that moment--that wouldn't have been an execution. There were two players looking at execution, and two that weren't.

I guess it seems to me as though you're willing to throw the GM under the bus, here, while I figure the players (or at least one specific player) to be more the problem, in this specific instance; and that the problem is probably more among the players than between the players and the GM.
 

prabe

Aspiring Lurker (He/Him)
Supporter
Suppose negotiations commence on the understanding (eg) that the PCs might buy a widget from a NPC. Then in the course of the negotiations it comes to light that the NPC acquired the widget by steatling it from one of the PC's uncles. Is the player of that PC obliged to keep up the negotiation?

As I said, approaches might differ. The approach that suggested in the passages I've quoted seems to make more sense if we assume that negotiations are something like puzzle or traps to be overcome. To me it makes less sense if we imagine that negotiations might contain moments of revelation or development.
You think a player who's "probably bored" is going to have that moment of revelation? Anyway, it's not about negotiation as a "puzzle" or a "trap." If the party goes into a negotiation with a goal, it's about progressing toward that goal.

Of course when declaring actions for one's PC one shouldn't be disruptive or discourteous. But that goes all ways. If the revelation has taken place, the players who want their PCs to keep negotiating are making a call that has implications for another player's PC just as much as that player is making a call that has implications for their PCs.
Yes, if an NPC says something that causes one PC to want to stop negotiating, there can be tension between that player and the others, but I don't get the feeling the NPC said anything particular here to generate that sort of response.
 

MGibster

Hero
Which also relates to the suspension of disbelief. Where is it established that the Mad Tyrant would execute anyone who insults him? In the GM's mind? As a result of reading the module? This looks like what @Manbearcat has called "GM setting solitaire play".
I think you got some pertinent facts wrong. When the first PC told the tyrant he was crazy and unfit to lead the baron called his guards. At that point, another PC pulled his dagger and attempted to take the baron hostage and the guards ended up taking two of the PCs into custody. The PCs would have been executed for attempting to take the local ruler hostage not for the insult.
 

pemerton

Legend
Whatever the DM decides is correct within the scope of the rules, but may or may not contribute to the group achieving the goals of play. If a DM has determined that a specific approach to a PC's goal is impossible, then that's how it is and there's no roll. What is fun to a given group and what the group thinks is an exciting, memorable story, however, will vary.
I'm still not sure who you think is disputing the bolded clause.

As I have said, I am posting some thoughts about the basis on which a GM might make decisions about when to call for a check. It seems obvious to me that the rules which tells us what it is that ability scores represent in the fiction, and what it is that a check is for, are relevant to that.

To elaborate, and having regard not only to CHA (which I've already posted about) but to STR (which, says p 59 of the Basic PDF, "measures bodily power, athletic training, and the extent to which you can exert raw physical forcce, consider @Maxperson's example of the 3 mile wide canyon. In declaring that no check is possible, the GM is deciding that - in the fiction - the character lacks the bodily power and/or athletic training to make such a jump. This will not be controversial if the player's character resembles Aragorn; it will be controversial if the player's character resembles The Hulk; and depending on context) it might be controversial if the PC resembles some heroic or semi-divine character such as Beowulf or Hercules.

Suppose that rather than 3 miles wide the canyon is 20' wide. The GM deciding that - in the fiction - a character who resembles Aragorn in bodily power and/or athletic training automatically fails an attempt to jump that canyon would (I think) be controversial. Doubly so if the GM made that decision based primarily not on a consideration of what might be feasible in the fiction, but a consideration of what s/he would like to happen in the fiction (eg the canyon is intended as a barrier to constrain the geographic extent of the scene being resolved).

When it comes to CHA, and social interaction, parallel considerations apply. Is the GM being true to the fiction in having the tyrant be unflabble by opposition? Or is s/he deeming, in effect, that the PCs lack the sort of capacity to exercise influence that one might expect in fantasy heroes? Or even, is s/he just deciding - by fiat - how this particular bit of the fiction is to unfold, without regard to what the players want for their PCs?

The rules may not tell us what is the best approach here, but that doesn't mean it's pointless to talk about better and worse approaches. And as I've posted upthread, the Basic PDF even sets out some relevant principles - in particular, the plural contributions to the shared fiction and the goal of a memorable and exciting story. GM fiat that is grounded in desires for outcomes rather than fidelity to the fiction seems to contradict at least the first of those principels.
 


pemerton

Legend
that DM was clearly a bad DM. I don't get the feeling the OP is.

<snip>

I guess it seems to me as though you're willing to throw the GM under the bus, here
I don't think the GM is a bad one. I do think that the OP started a thread to talk about something that s/he felt went wrong, or at least less well than it might have done, in a session. That's what I'm responding to.

I don't know what the intent of the PCs who were negotiating was. The OP says it was going pretty well--which implies progress was happening, at least in some direction
It would be interesting to know more about what this looked like, and how it was being conveyed to the players. And to what extent is was in the mind of the GM.

As to the GM sticking to an image formed in his mind ... isn't that a big part of what the GM is supposed to do, at least in a game like D&D? Isn't the DM supposed to have the scene in his mind and convey that to the players? Isn't the DM supposed to have the NPCs in his head and convey those to the players, and have them react to the PCs according to their natures (shaped by whatever mechanics come into play)?
I guess that's one view. It's not really my view.

The GM's job is to frame scenes - what page 3 of the Basic PDF calls "describ[ing] the environment" and "presenting the basic scope of options that present themselves". That involves establishing a shared fiction: the GM obviously takes the lead in framing, but nothing suggests that his/her mental image of the situation is primary. It is a shared fiction. Certainly nothing suggests that the GM's mental image is more important than, or should operate as a constraint upon, the shared fiction.

Of course there can be problems, and how these are handled is a matter of GM dexterity and table expectations. If the GM describes the spiders in the room and s/he has in mind Mirkwood-type rat-and-pony-sized spiders while the players are envisagig daddy longlegs - something which will probably come out pretty quickly - there is going to be a need to get everyone onto the same page. Maybe the GM yields to the players; more likely in that sort of scenario I would guess that the GM clarifies the description and the players re-declare their actions.

But if the GM's mental image of the NPC is that s/he is unable to be cowed, while all the players know is that (i) the NPC is mad and angry, and (ii) the NPC seems no stronger than any one of their PCs, then why would they expect that the NPC can't be cowed? Where does that come from? From my own play experience, my reading of modules and my reading of threads I believe there is a tendency for GM's to treat ideas and images that only they have access to as constraints on the shared fiction. Or to go back to your language of "suspending disbelief", there is a tendency for GMs to treat as part of the established fiction, and hence part of the constraint on their own suspension of disbelief, stuff that has not emerged in play, is not part of the shared fiction, and will not necessarily be uncontroversial when revealed to the players.

I personally don't see it as part of the GM's job to convey NPCs to the players in that particular fashion.

And apropos of this:

pemerton said:
If they didn't know, then how did you the GM know they were impossible?
Different areas of knowledge. The DM having more knowledge of the situation. The DM knowing the NPCs better than the players. Other reasons.
The GM knowing the NPC better than the players is exactly the sort of thing I'm talking about: the GM applying his/her mental conception, which is not part of the shared fiction, as a constraint on that fiction.

You can't get this particular approach to GMing, and to resolution, out of the far more basic proposition that the GM is responsible for framing scenes. Or even that the GM is responsible for ensuring that the fiction remains consistent and "realistic".
 

pemerton

Legend
Here's how a different RPG might resolve the confrontation between PC and mad tyrant, at the point where the former insults the latter:

Make opposed checks (on Presence, Charisma, Will - whatever is the appropriate attribute in the system). Maybe the tyrant gets a buff for being confident in his domain. Maybe the PC gets a buff for beig resolute in his/her righteousness and being in the company of more than one strong friend.

If the player's roll beats the GM's roll, the tyrant yields. Perhaps the degree of failure determines the degree of yielding - from nervously laughing it off to outright capitulation.

If the GM beats the player's roll, the tyrant doesn't yield. Maybe on a narrow success the tyrant simply laughts off the insult, while on a very large success he demands the PC's head as payment.

Systems that work like this include Prince Valiant, HeroWars/Quest, and Burning Wheel (though rather than opposed checks it uses the tyrant's will score to set a static DC). As well as simple opposed checks these systems all include an option for complex resolution (eg Duel of Wits in BW) to allows for resolution of a more extended debate.

It's also possible to have social resolution in the form of players-roll-all-the-dice: Apocalypse World and Dungeon World have this (simple resolution) and so does 4e D&D (mostly complex resolution via the skill challenge frameworl).

A 5e referee is working in the 5e framework. S/he isn't bound by, or even expected to be familiar with, these other systems. But these systems have come about for a reason: they offer various responses to a recurrent area of difficulty in RPGing. The 5e GM might therefore want at least to be aware that there can be recurrent areas of difficulty, and that there are ways of handling them other than simply fiat extrapolation from the GM's unrevealed "knowledge" of the NPC.
 

Nagol

Unimportant
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.

Absolutely!

How can this happen? Players can't force another player to sign over a PC to the DM as an NPC.
It's happened a few times where the group effectively "fires" a PC. "Thanks for your efforts, but we feel your tactics/priorities are incompatible with the group. Now that we are back in civilization, here is your balance owing. We hope you have success with your future endeavours."

If I am unwilling to run a side campaign then the player has two choices: create a PC the other players will cooperate with or leave the campaign, Either way, the PC is now a NPC. If the group has fractured into large factions that refuse to cooperate, I instead give the player-group a choice: fix it (through retirement or healing the divide, I don't care which) or end the campaign.

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?

<snip>
A retired PC is still part of the world and continues to exist. All characters not controlled by a player are NPC. Unless the PC dies, (and sometimes even then), a retired PC is a NPC. The original player gets no more say in their future action than any other player would. That said, in most cases, the new NPC "wanders off" to be heard from no more. Occasionally, the NPC has privileged abilities, knowledge, or resources the other PCs still require and so the NPC is around.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
And if they don't, the people who are doing the negotiation will--legitimately--be irritated at least, and probably frustrated. If they felt they were making any headway in the negotiation, they might legitimately be angry.
As would their PCs, which is perfectly fine; and they're free to react in character in whatever way those characters might react.
This is probably something the players/party members should sort out, ideally before starting the negotiation.
Maybe.
If you (the player) agree to have your character there, you are implicitly agreeing to let that scene play out.
Maybe. I'm agreeing to have my character there. I'll take the scene as it comes.
If there's something else you want to do, split the party.
Not so easy to do when what I want to do is in the same location and time as the other PCs.
You'll have to sit through the other PCs negotiating, but you'll have your opportunity to do whatever it is you'd prefer.
Which defeats the whole point, if I as both player and character don't want to sit through it and would rather stir the pot a little.
 

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