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Realistic Consequences vs Gameplay

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."
I'm not saying anyone is playing their characters incorrectly. I think I was clear that this is my view in general...and yes, it's my preference. And I never once advocated for the GM to tell people they're playing them incorrectly, so I don't know where you got that. If I think to myself "wow, Mike's really playing his barbarian conservatively" it doesn't mean I'm going to tell him so, or demand that he change how he's playing.

Your fireman analogy doesn't work because there's no player controlling the fireman in real life, and the conflict I'm pointing out comes from character and player outlooks. If the player of a fireman character won't rush into the building because he's worried about his hit points.....then that would be more along the lines of what I'm talking about.

I like when the bold and risky lives of the characters is kind of matched by a bold and risky play style. I'll add the general caveat that "not at all times and not in all ways, and ultimately it's up to the player" if needed. And I absolutely do discuss this with my players. Not in the way you've proposed, but we're very open about discussing the approach to play, and the desires of play, and so on , for all involved.

You're taking a general comment about a preference for players to play boldly and accept the consequences as some kind of badwrongfun nonsense, and it's simply not the case.
 

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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've become more and more inclined to share at least an idea of possible consequences for any action. I generally feel that very often characters would be aware of such, and I don't mind when players know more than their characters.

And as you say, if it has been made clear through the fiction, then what's the harm in stating it directly?

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.

Yeah, if players over-react that's a problem. If characters over-react, however, that's just part of the game.
Yeah, I'm not worried about characters overreacting. But you want to make sure everyone at the table is happy and engaged as much as possible. I think this is why I'd rather be open and direct about things so that there's less chance of someone misunderstanding or misinterpreting something.
 

Retreater

Legend
We didn't have a Session 0 per se. We had to move our in person game to virtual and started a new campaign to make that transition less jarring. (Plus giving me the ability to use a prepackaged module instead of trying to design a lot of custom, homebrewed campaign material to a VTT I was trying to learn.)
In introducing the campaign I did explain to them the feel and flavor of it, the realism, the darker tone, the focus on roleplaying and investigation over kick in the door approaches. I presented other options of campaigns with different feels, and this is what they picked.
 

Darth Solo

Explorer
Seems the GM is afraid of Player reaction.

Why?

You told them before the game started what to expect.

Crimes against nobility are normally punishable by death, to keep the citizenry in line.

Now, you're afraid of doing what makes the most sense. Why? Because your good friend is involved?

Execute them and tell your "friend" it was the more gentle option. Nobility take deadly offense deadly serious.

I don't know why slaying the offending PCs could be problematic, unless "I let my friend do whatever without consequence."

You DO want realistic consequence, correct?

Talk to him/her/it after the game explaining how player agency works both ways.
 

We didn't have a Session 0 per se. We had to move our in person game to virtual and started a new campaign to make that transition less jarring. (Plus giving me the ability to use a prepackaged module instead of trying to design a lot of custom, homebrewed campaign material to a VTT I was trying to learn.)
In introducing the campaign I did explain to them the feel and flavor of it, the realism, the darker tone, the focus on roleplaying and investigation over kick in the door approaches. I presented other options of campaigns with different feels, and this is what they picked.
Wow! They already knew what they were into and they did it anyways? And it was THEIR choice on top of that? Behead the characters, burn their remains as to make sure they'll never be raised and throw their ashes to the four wind. Erase all mention of their name from the records so that history forgets them. Good riddance I'd say.

Then, make them roll/prepare new characters with one level below the others. I don't know if these are your friends or not, but they were into a totally different ballgame than what I was understanding. It might not have been what they expected but they knew. This is a whole new playing field. I would have been ruthless to say the least.
 

I'm not sure that this opportunity has passed, but this seems ripe for an uprising. If these adventurers seem at all capable would not the Resistance come to their friends who escaped and plot to rescue those imprisoned? Or at least commiserate with them and introduce two of their own to the party?
 

Numidius

Explorer
So we had the session last night. We started with a brief recap to get everyone back on the right page where we left off. One of the players had missed the previous session and rejoined the two stand-offish characters who were watching the instigator and assassin in the stocks. The rejoining character was told that the party was going to take the lieutenant's offer and flee the town.
This was unacceptable to him, so he started throwing his most powerful magic at the two town guards while the villagers watched on in horror. The two stand-offish characters tried to talk him out of it while also trying to keep the guards from dying with healing magic and trying to thwart the escape attempts at their friends in the stocks.
As the guards are being attacked, they blow their whistles, summoning reinforcements. Withing a few rounds, a dozen additional guards and the formerly friendly lieutenant arrive, and the lieutenant said that the party attacked his men, shed their blood, and his offer was off the table. The attacking sorcerer would be added to the stocks, and the two who tried to calm down the situation and healed his men should "just leave town."
The three men in the stocks would face the immediate judgment of the lord, likely to be executed. He left to get the lord, along with a small contingency of the guards.
I then paused the session. I told everyone to stop what was going on. I told them about the consequences. I asked them how they wanted to proceed. I wanted them to come to sort of agreement about what the party was going to do.
The two stand-offish characters decided to create a distraction to disperse a few more of the remaining guards and cast Fog Cloud to cover the escapes of those in the stocks - after a little lock-picking (with disadvantage). The party fled into the night, jumped the town wall. They are fugitives, likely never able to return to civilization and being hunted by the lord's men. They have lost many allies, they are hated by the townsfolk who saw them killing the town militia.
After the session I sent out an email telling them to expect consequences for their actions, that their characters can't just say whatever they want without any response from NPCs. If they don't like this style of game (and with the level of roleplay and mystery), then we can just play a dungeoncrawl.
Are you, as a group, going to continue to play the party of fugitives?
The situation looks quite intriguing, after all, despite a very different premise.

From this last report, I'm also curious how the "stand-off" characters feel about it; They helped their comrades, but at what price?
 

pemerton

Legend
I've read the OP and first page of responses. My first thought is that the way to work out consequences - "realistic" or otherwise - is via the action resolution mechanics. My second thought is that, if the PCs are in the stocks waiting to be executed for assaulting an evil ruler, that there might be rebels who will rescue them.
 

I would rule that the king would proceed with a public execution, and that he would want to make a spectacle out of it, to show his people what the consequences are when you make an attempt on his life. He will also personally oversee the execution. Possibly he'll make the execution into a grand spectacle, where the players are thrown into a pit with some horrible beasty.

However, in doing so the other players are provided with an excellent opportunity to free their companions, and possibly still kill the king. Perhaps with the aid of any npc allies they have. If the king is smart, he'll probably have one of his men keep an eye on the other players, to alert him if they try to free their friends.
 

pemerton

Legend
What is the job of the players in a RPG?

I think many - perhaps nearly everyone - would agree that it is not only to do what the GM would do, or what the GM thinks is a good or sensible idea. Which provokes the question - when is it ever to do what the GM would do, or what the GM thinks is a good or sensible idea?

And - closely related to the idea of consequences - if the players do something that differs from what the GM would do, or from what the GM thinks is a good or sensible idea, what consequences should flow for their PCs?

In D&D, the consequences are not always the GM's choice. The GM might think it is not sensible for the PCs to attack the monster, but there are combat rules which are supposed to be used to work out the consequences of that. Maybe the players are cleverer, or get luckier, than the GM anticipated. Should making threats to tyrants be fundamentally different in its resolution framework?
 

The players made their choice. It is up to the DM to follow up on their action, and not to block or negate their choices. A couple of heroes being sentenced to death by an evil king, sounds like a perfect movie plot. Roll with it. Go big or go home.
 

Nagol

Unimportant
I've read the OP and first page of responses. My first thought is that the way to work out consequences - "realistic" or otherwise - is via the action resolution mechanics. My second thought is that, if the PCs are in the stocks waiting to be executed for assaulting an evil ruler, that there might be rebels who will rescue them.
Umm, stocks are guarded. I suppose rebels might storm the guards to rescue two unknowns who apparently attacked the king so poorly they are merely in the stocks. It's probably more likely they would be tormented/injured by loyalists and/or children.
 

nevin

Villager
A game without consequences for actions eventually breaks.
1. Either execute them or let them escape and run away to another kingdom or become outlaws.
2. Depending on the political situation. some noble might want the kings attackers to escape and make the king look bad.
3. Or they may just be screwed and get beheaded.
4. Or you can get creative and the High cleric casts GEAS on them and sends them on quest that no sane person would take.
5. If it's a game where King rules by divine right a God steps in and curses them (with a really nasty curse that won't stop them from being able to play) and declares they will live as examples to the citizenry.
6. or an enemy Power Divine or infernal helps them escape. Great time for a powerful Devil to offer a wish to drive his or her agenda.

All kinds of options can give proper consequences.
 

MGibster

Hero
And - closely related to the idea of consequences - if the players do something that differs from what the GM would do, or from what the GM thinks is a good or sensible idea, what consequences should flow for their PCs?
I'm of the mind that consequences in game should logically follow whatever action the PCs took. It doesn't really matter if the action is something the DM doesn't think is a good idea. I find that PCs frequently make decisions I never considered, and a lot of time those actions lead to delightful or interesting results. I'm fine with unexpected actions provided they make sense within the context of the game itself even if the results are negative.

Example: I was running Hell on Earth (post-apocalyptic nuclear wasteland), and the PCs were working for a city called Junk Town. JT sent the PCs to recover the nuclear football of the former president as their city was soon to be at war with a mutant army from the west and a robot army to the east. They succeeded in recovering the football but one of the PCs decided JT was just as bad as the mutants and robots and decided to destroy it. There was a struggle that involved several grenades being thrown at the PCs but finally the saboteur was killed but in the process the football was damaged. I decided right then and there that JT was going to lose the war because they really needed that nuclear device to win.

The PC's actions were completely unexpected but made sense within the context of the game. And the ramifications of his actions weren't realized until the very last session after the PCs broke off from the main battle to pursue their own mission, which they succeeded at, so the campaign really wasn't disrupted at all. It just led to a bitter sweet ending.
 

My thoughts after reading only the lead Post:

1) In certain games, it’s very explicit when you’re “punching above your weight.” Tier/Level transparency (and the affect on actions declared and the attendant severity of fallout on failure) is baked in. If you’re not playing in that type of game, unless there is clear conversation on the Tier relationship of PCs to obstacle or its extremely well-telegraphed, that can lead to play that is fraught with action:fallout issues.

2) Was there an explicit consensus on what the players were trying to accomplish in parley with the king?

3) Is there any reason to not go to the dice here to decide the King’s response in the moment? Humans are complex. Hard men don’t respond uniformly to challenge and have been dealt with in odd ways aplenty in both real life and in works of fiction authored by a single person. This is neither real life nor a fiction authored by a single person. It’s a game where 2/5 participants clearly didn’t feel like their actions were hostile to fun/interesting play. Perhaps they didn’t think it was hostile to thematcally coherent/compelling play in the moment as well. When it happened, they appear to have thought either it’s reasonable (in a “we’re playing a fantasy RPG with bold heroes who confront tyrannical dragons in their lairs”) to “confront the bully obstacle” or “back your buddy’s play.”

Is there any reason to not go to the dice to see how the setting responds (maybe word gets out of the confrontation and it’s the spark to ignite the overgrown kindling of an uprising against tyrant?) or the king’s council responds (maybe there are usurpers in his midst that are sympathetic)?

4) If anyone at the table felt like there was clear malice involved, would this even be posted here (vs just dealing with it).
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
Umm, stocks are guarded. I suppose rebels might storm the guards to rescue two unknowns who apparently attacked the king so poorly they are merely in the stocks. It's probably more likely they would be tormented/injured by loyalists and/or children.
More likely the rebels use the distraction of the PCs' public trial and-or execution to launch a plot somewhere else e.g. while the King and most of his guards are at the town square the rebels bust into the now-lightly-guarded palace and cause some mayhem...
 


More likely the rebels use the distraction of the PCs' public trial and-or execution to launch a plot somewhere else e.g. while the King and most of his guards are at the town square the rebels bust into the now-lightly-guarded palace and cause some mayhem...
I like this angle. The king is distracted, and a bigger plot unfolds, possibly allowing the players to escape due to plot convenience. As a DM I would always use an opportunity like this to move the plot in unexpected ways and surprise my players.
 

pemerton

Legend
I'm of the mind that consequences in game should logically follow whatever action the PCs took.
But D&D has never been free kriegspiel in the strictest sense. Combat is resolved via dice rolls, which means that unexpected and "illogical" things can happen.

The effect of this is also that combat in D&D often has a degree of uncertainty associated with it.

Is it important or necessary that other fields of endeavour by the characters have less uncertainty and/or more "logic"?
 


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