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Realistic Consequences vs Gameplay

MGibster

Hero
I've encountered players that sound a whole lot like this. For whatever reason, there's a certain type of player, that when presented with a figure of authority, cannot help but insult and abuse them. It's related to the Instigator player type - they like to do stuff just to make stuff happen, good or bad. But I think it's also a way at pushing at the boundaries of the game, like trying to find the limit to the map in a videogame. They want to see just how much they can push at the world without it breaking.
This is a particular pet peeve of mine and one I too often encounter. I tend to place characters into the following broad categories.
  • Instigators: Players who just like to stir the pot and sow chaos.
  • The Anarchist: Players with a pathological dislike of any character in a game with some authority over their PC (it's not like they can tell their boss to go #%%# himself in real life).
  • The Unliable: Players who think the role playing aspects don't really matter, believing the plot will plod along as planned regardless of their character's behavior (kind of like how it does in video games).
 

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FrozenNorth

Adventurer
A lieutenant of the mad ruler even offered to return the weapons to the party and free them from the stockades under the promise that they leave town and never return. He said he would just tell the ruler he had killed them during an escape attempt, because even the lieutenant was tired of all the bloodshed. [And I feel like this was giving in too much as a DM.] Even this compromise was unacceptable to the hot-headed player.
What did the other player think about this? I mean, I would be pretty peeved if I’m about to be executed because I tried to save a player from his own recklessness, and when the chance to escape comes up, he’s like “I would rather die than compromise!”

As for the reckless player, looks like he wants to reroll a new character. He may even want to reroll a character that fits the campaign better.
 


FrozenNorth

Adventurer
Yes, I’m all for facing the consequences. I think the best advice about playing that I’ve read in recent years is to play your PC like you’d drive a stolen car. I think that players are generally far too cautious with their characters in play.
Wait, don’t you drive a stolen car super cautiously to avoid being pulled over by the police?
 

Retreater

Legend
I agree. It breaks immersion when your power mad tyrant acts like a reasonable authority figure.
True. And the mad tyrant would've put them to death. However it was his lieutenant who decided to show mercy to the party and let them escape (before they attacked the guards and threw the offer in his face).
 


CleverNickName

Limit Break Dancing
I think the OP did everything he could do to set the scene, describe the risks, and foreshadow the consequences. This doesn't sound like it was some kind of "ha ha gotcha, you're dead" trap; the characters fully knew what they were dealing with and what to expect. Instead of heeding the DM's warnings, they decided to call him on it, and that's that. The characters must now face the consequences--the very well-defined, forewarned, and expected consequences--of their action.

Had this happened at my table, I would have broken the fourth wall when the character barked out "you're a terrible leader" or whatever. I would have asked the player if that was truly the action they wanted to take, or if he's just frustrated with the amount of time the scene is taking and needs a break or something. If he insists on the former, I would remind him that the person he is speaking to would have him imprisoned or worse for that offense, and his character is well-aware of this, etc. Essentially give him an "are you sure?" button to click. If he still insists on it, I'd ask one last question: how do you want to deal with the imprisonment and/or death of your character...like, do you want to roll up a new character if this goes poorly?

Yes, it's immersion-breaking. But I feel that pivotal points like this in the story kind of warrant it.
 

That would normally be great advice, and I'd be much better about improvising, but we're playing online with Roll20 and a published adventure. If they go too far off the rails, there's simply nothing there. I could create my own stuff, but it takes a lot of extra time online. And I can't do it at the drop of a hat.
Ah. definitely understand that. The amount of time to do "from scratch" is crazy on Roll20. So without a doubt, redirect, redirect-redirect.

I am glad you guys worked it out. That's nice to hear. Have fun and enjoy!
 

So, I'm afraid that's not a fully stated point.

Players are far too cautious with their characters... for what?

They are far too cautious... to have fun? ...to meet your personal tastes? ...to justify the time they spend on play?

Unless you complete the thought, we don't actually know what you are saying.
I thought that the context of that statement was pretty clear given the back and forth about reckless behavior and being willing to face consequences in play, and how I was advocating for playing your character like a stolen car. I prefer when players are less cautious in the actions that they declare for their characters.

But to elaborate....typically, RPG characters are in some way bold. They are often literally adventurers or heroes or criminals or some sort of other type of person who would often be bold and daring. They lead risky lives.

But very often they are not played so.

This can be for many reasons, I've found. Primary among them is fear of losing the character to death or some similar fate that takes them away from the player. People get invested in their characters and they get attached, and they don't want to lose them. Related to this is whether the game mechanics support bold action or caution. Players also sometimes fear "going off the rails or some similar disruption of "the story".

So I've found this to be a point of frustration in some games, as both a GM and a player.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
It's now my policy to pause the game whenever a PC decides to do something monumentally stupid that will likely derail the campaign and ask them if they wish to proceed.
'Derailing' assumes it was ever on the rails in the first place... :)

Also, what to some might appear as a derailing would to others simply be a new wrinkle. Depends how flexible one is as DM.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
I said topics like this ought to be discussed, I did not say what form that discussion would take, so I don't see how you can say it would be too formalized.



So, I recognize that I am at a table (real or virtual, these days) with other real-world people. [...] They are busy. They have stress, and fears, and complications.
All of which I expect to have been left at the door when arriving at the game.

They are coming to a table with me to spend a few of their precious few hours of entertainment time. We are each using each other to enhance those precious hours of entertainment time.
Absolutely!

And doing something rash or gonzo is oftentimes far more entertaining - or directly leads to far more entertainment - than not doing so.

Mature adults can spend a half hour or an hour talking over expectations before starting a thing that's going to take dozens to hundreds of hours to complete.
Not for the first time, you speak as if the players are complete strangers before starting the campaign; which makes me ask whether gaming with strangers is your general background? (if yes, there's most of our differences right there; I generally only game with people I already know from out-of-game)

And, if you are gaming with folks who might have a problem with it, don't you want to know beforehand, so that you can choose to either not join the group or not have a character for whom this would be a notable point?
If I'm gaming with folks who might have that much of a problem with rash in-game actions my first concern would be they're taking it all just a bit too seriously, thus my response would be to do whatever I could to get them to lighten up.

In this case, "the point" may have been, "I cannot manage to use my words to state that this is boring the crap out of me, the player, and it has not been made clear to me that actions have consequences, so I will act out in-game." Yes, if that's the point of the action, I do want that defeated before we get to the table.
One thing to keep in mind is that it might be just the character who's bored, not the player. I've been in this situation many a time, where I-as-player am engaged enough with what's going on but if I'm playing a character with the attention span of a kitten I'm duty-bound to roleplay that; and so away we goooo..... :)
 

prabe

Aspiring Lurker (He/Him)
Supporter
Not for the first time, you speak as if the players are complete strangers before starting the campaign; which makes me ask whether gaming with strangers is your general background? (if yes, there's most of our differences right there; I generally only game with people I already know from out-of-game)
Not speaking for @Umbran here--he can speak for himself--but I just started gaming in stores, for the specific purpose of gaming with new and different people, stepping a little bit outside my comfort zone. I know some of the people at the table really well, others a good deal less so.

One thing to keep in mind is that it might be just the character who's bored, not the player. I've been in this situation many a time, where I-as-player am engaged enough with what's going on but if I'm playing a character with the attention span of a kitten I'm duty-bound to roleplay that; and so away we goooo..... :)
There are exceptions, I'm sure, but I generally find that if a player is telling me his character is bored, he's rationalizing his behavior. I expect--and kinda prefer--that player goals and character goals align.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
Yes, I’m all for facing the consequences. I think the best advice about playing that I’ve read in recent years is to play your PC like you’d drive a stolen car. I think that players are generally far too cautious with their characters in play.

That being said, I absolutely think that anytime a PC is doing something reckless or dangerous, that it’s the GM’s job to make that clear beforehand. The player should know about the scope or scale of potential consequences even if they character may not be aware.
My preference is that player knowledge = character knowledge.

That said, if the setting background has been laid down clearly enough during the campaign, any consequences should be at least vaguely predictable as to severity and scope, if not specifics.

I suppose that’s true. Generally speaking, I think that any activity that people spend hours actively doing is generally one they’re invested in, and so I kind of proceed with the expectation that the game matters to them.
I fine-tune this one step further: I proceed with the expectation that the game matters to them on the meta-level - as in, they want to come back next week - as opposed to whatever might happen within the fiction; interest in which predictably waxes and wanes for each player at different times depending on what's going on.

Sure, at times people can go overboard or can overreact to something that happens in the game, but I find if I proceed with the expectation that they do in fact care about the game, such instances are fewer and also less surprising.
Yeah, if players over-react that's a problem. If characters over-react, however, that's just part of the game.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
This is a particular pet peeve of mine and one I too often encounter. I tend to place characters into the following broad categories.
  • Instigators: Players who just like to stir the pot and sow chaos.
  • The Anarchist: Players with a pathological dislike of any character in a game with some authority over their PC (it's not like they can tell their boss to go #%%# himself in real life).
  • The Unliable: Players who think the role playing aspects don't really matter, believing the plot will plod along as planned regardless of their character's behavior (kind of like how it does in video games).
I will proudly plead guilty to being, at times and depending on situation, each of the first two. But I plead innocent of the third as defined, though I don't know what "Unliable" means.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
....I prefer when players are less cautious in the actions that they declare for their characters.

But to elaborate....typically, RPG characters are in some way bold. They are often literally adventurers or heroes or criminals or some sort of other type of person who would often be bold and daring. They lead risky lives.

But very often they are not played so.

Oh, so... because you don't think they are roleplaying their characters "correctly"?

Firefighters walk into burning buildings. They are bold. They lead lives with a lot of risk. That risk is extremely calculated. A reckless firefighter is a dead firefighter... possibly several dead firefighters. I see no reason why that doesn't hold for heroes, criminals, or anyone else in a high-risk profession.

Now, if you opened the campaign with a Session Zero that said, "I want this to be a campaign with lots of poorly considered actions - high action, high drama, lots of consequences!" and the players then failed to meet that, then you might have a point. Lacking that, though, the character's behavior is the one thing the players get to control. I don't think it is appropriate for the GM to say, "You aren't playing your character correctly, they should behave differently."
 

MGibster

Hero
I will proudly plead guilty to being, at times and depending on situation, each of the first two. But I plead innocent of the third as defined, though I don't know what "Unliable" means.
It just means they're not liable for any of their actions. i.e. They can say what they want with impunity because there are no meaningful consequences.
 

MGibster

Hero
The problems with discussons as it pertains to role playing games is that there are so many darned variables. What game your group is playing, the campaign itself, and even the participants can radically influence what's appropriate. Actions which one might consider perfectly reasonable and prudent in Delta Green might appear overly cautious in Dungeons & Dragons. Groups which are heavily invested in characterization and role playing are probably not going to be amused by a player who does random stuff just for the lulz.
 

Fenris-77

Small God of the Dozens
Supporter
Now, if you opened the campaign with a Session Zero that said, "I want this to be a campaign with lots of poorly considered actions - high action, high drama, lots of consequences!" and the players then failed to meet that, then you might have a point. Lacking that, though, the character's behavior is the one thing the players get to control. I don't think it is appropriate for the GM to say, "You aren't playing your character correctly, they should behave differently."
I think it's very possible to have high action and high drama without poorly considered actions. That's actually probably my favorite playstyle, so I'm actually quite sure it's possible. I would agree that session zero is the place to address genre expectations though, for sure. You can't say someone is doing it 'wrong' if they didn't agree to do it any particular way to begin with.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
All of which I expect to have been left at the door when arriving at the game.
Ah. I have found that to be, at best, a polite fiction. We are not from the planet Vulcan, and our ability to push aside our emotional contexts is limited. So, rather than deny, I accept, expect, and work with issues as they arise - which isn't all that often.

For example, I have one regular player who has PTSD. It is clinically impossible for them to, "leave it at the door".

And doing something rash or gonzo is oftentimes far more entertaining - or directly leads to far more entertainment - than not doing so.
I'm not arguing against doing rash and gonzo stuff. I'm arguing for being thoughtful of the people at the table.

You want to do something rash? Before you declare the action, look around the table. Will this make things suck for the other real-life people? If the answer is, "Likely, yes," then maybe you shouldn't do it. I think it is likely the players in the OP did not make this check.

It isn't hard. It isn't even deep. And, no, it isn't onerous or a major imposition.

Not for the first time, you speak as if the players are complete strangers before starting the campaign; which makes me ask whether gaming with strangers is your general background? (if yes, there's most of our differences right there; I generally only game with people I already know from out-of-game)
I have run sometimes with folks I don't know, but that's not my usual. My main groups tend to stick together for 5+ years. My current has been together (with one person leaving, one passing away, and one addition) for... 14 years now, I think? I check in with them at least once a year about how we are doing with table expectations, and what they want to see. I do a whole new Session Zero whenever we start a new campaign, because that typically includes some genre expectation changes.

Mature adults - they talk to each other.

If I'm gaming with folks who might have that much of a problem with rash in-game actions my first concern would be they're taking it all just a bit too seriously, thus my response would be to do whatever I could to get them to lighten up.
Again, with the "you are too X." Elsewhere it is "too cautious". Here it is "too serious". Again, I ask - too serious for what? The "too serious" line has an implicit expectation on your part about how the game "should" be played. It is not a priori any better than anyone else's.

Rather than say, "they are wrong". I say, "talk about it before you start." That's all. Rather than have an implicit expectation, have an explicit one.
 


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