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D&D 5E Respect Mah Authoritah: Thoughts on DM and Player Authority in 5e

pemerton

Legend
pemerton said:
The latter two characters had no obvious motivation for entering the dungeon, but we didn't dwell too much on these petty details!
I'll take note of the clerics backstory because it comes up later. The last line here is interesting because while you call the backstory details petty they do seem to drive your improvisation later.
You've misread. The petty details on which we didn't dwell were the lack of obvious motivation for the monk and warrior-mage to enter the dragon.

1. I notice you have no explanation of who made this decision, DM, players, or if it was a table negotiated decision.
2. If the decision was made by the DM were the players aware of why they were starting at level 2?
I imagine I suggested it. I doubt it was very controversial - three of the four players are old hands (for the fourth this was his first time playing non-4e D&D) and know the difference that dloubling from 1 to 2 HD makes to survivability in classic D&D.

3. Was this decision made before or after the dungeon and it's inhabitants were created?
The title of the thread is "Played AD&D yesterday (using Appendix A for a random dungeon)". The very next line after the one you quote about not wanting a TPK is "I rolled the dungeon using Appendix A: Random Dungeon Generation, and Appendix C for wandering monsters and room inhabitants". The dungeon was created during play.

1. Dungeon was procedurally created by DM and Appendix A+C. I'm curious if parts of it were created during play or all before (no specification).
2. Only the DM knows how the Dungeon was created - meaning a player telling of this adventure couldn't provide this integral detail.
The players could absolutely provide this detail! I told them something to the effect of I'll roll up a random dungeon and they could see me rolling my dice and looking at my Appendix A charts and drawing my map as we went along.

Only the DM would know this information.
How do you know? For all you know, I expressed a complaint to the players about not going near my ear seekers! It's certainly the sort of thing I would do, either once the moment had passed or at the end of the session.

You've listed no explanation on how the check to determine success or failure worked, nor if the players would have known how such a check worked.
I'm assuming that the reader has some basic familiarity with AD&D. The rules for bend bars/lift gates checks are stated in the PHB, p 9:

The attempt may be made but once, and if the score required is not made, the character will never succeed in the task. ]There follows an example of rolling percentile dice against a 10% chance, which makes it clear that bending is a different task from lifting.​

The players rolled their dice, as they would for any declared action that doesn't expressly dictate the GM make the roll.

pemerton said:
The PCs then found an octagonal room, which was inscribed with strange runes and sigils (an ad lib by me, not coming from the random tables). The cleric cast Know History, and learned that the sigils were sigils of Chaos, and that the octagon (and other figures featuring the number 8, like 8 crossed arrows) was a sign of Chaos. The chaotic origins of the dungeon also explained its weird architecture, and suggested that the scrolls of Law that the cleric was looking for must have been taken here as loot or for destruction by the chaotics.
Here we see the information the PC learns ties directly into his backstory. There's a clear indication that you moved away from the procedures you were relying on for the rest of the dungeon. You've given no explanation for why. You didn't explain when you determined the sigils were sigils of chaos.
l did say when it happened - I ad libbed it! As to why, the post does explain that:

I think if I was going to try AD&D again I would really need to put the effort in to designing a more interesting dungeon - the number of empty rooms was a real issue. On the other hand, a greater density of inhabitants increases the proportion of combat to exploration and the likelihood of a TPK, so I'm not sure that that is a straightforward solution. And increasing the "story" elements (eg chaotic sigils and ancient scrolls) tends to push things in a direction that other systems are probably better at. So, in the end, I'm not sure that this sort of classic D&D is the best fit for our group.
That is, having rolled an octagonal room I adlibbed the chaos symbols because they fit with both the octagonality and the PC backstory. I think it's in the Elric/Stormbringer stories that eight crossed arrows are the sign of Chaos. (And a quick Google just confirmed this.)

And more importantly, would the players have known about any of the behind the scenes decision making processes you were using?
I don't know if they could tell what I was or wasn't taking off the random tables, but I'm pretty sure that they would be able to guess that the tables don't have a chaos sigil entry. I may even have said as much at the time!

But as you can see so far, the excerpt you've provided leaves alot of key analysis and play experience questions unanswered. And if you weren't the DM there would be so little mechanical information that such an excerpt would look mostly like just the fiction - something I've been criticized of focusing on.
It seems that you have missed that this was a real-time random dungeon generation.

I also get the impression that your norms for communication between the GM and the players are very different from mine. Most of the stuff that you think players wouldn't know, I'm pretty sure would have been obvious to my players.

As a player in this game, I would be able to report the process of PC gen, and also that the GM rolled a random starting point for the dungeon, and then used the Appendix A tables to generate encounters. I would probably be able to tell that monsters in the corridors, or that turn up in rooms after a time, were wanderers. I would know how the bend bars rolls were resolved, and how the combats were resolved, and that a reaction check was called for. I would know or at least be able to have a good guess that flavouring the octagonal room as a chaos room is not something found on the Appendix A tables. Not very much would be opaque - or, better, not very much was opaque.
 

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Lanefan

Victoria Rules
It seems fairly straightforward: the rod leads the adventurer to the gorge, wherein sits a tower occupied by a chamberlain. Does this show that there is no difference between backstory first and situation first?
All I know is that while he was waiting for the PCs to find the tower and get past the chamberlain so they could kick his door in the Orc got bored, ate the pie, and went home.

This backstory situation is not first, but neither is it last. It arrives exactly when it means to. :)
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
ETA: What does AC represent? Let's say I have an 18 AC. What's going on there? If an opponent misses my AC, did I dodge? Did I direct the blow to the strongest part of my armor? Did I parry? I mean, what's up here? It's whatever's convenient.
One can, if one really wants to be so precise, break down how the AC number is arrived at and then narrate the result based on what the roll came to vs. the various AC factors. Example:

Let's say someone's in leather (AC 12) with a shield (so now AC 14) but the shield is +1 (so now AC 15) and has pretty good Dex (so now AC 18). This gives us four "miss" gradations tied to the modified to-hit roll:

To hit --- narration
1 - 9 - Complete miss (or parried by weapon, optional)
10-12 - Attack blocked by the armour
13-14 - Attack blocked by the shield (user)
15 - Attack blocked by the shield (due to its enchantment)
16-18 - Attack dodged due to superior dexterity
19+ - Hit. Roll yer damage.

Now as you say, for convenience these are often all mushed together into whatever narration happens to leap to mind at the time. But it is possible to do it this longer-handed way, and doing so is perhaps more reflective of what's actually happening in the fiction.

edit: changed numbers above to their correct versions; I had them all one too low.
 
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pemerton

Legend
perhaps the potential pre-planned adventure is better framed as giving the player an opportunity to choose to go on a particular adventure that aligns with his characters priorities. Heck one could even present 2 competing adventures based on 2 different character priorities to make the player have to choose what's more important so everyone learns more about his character. To me this kind of stuff seems very similar to story now in many important ways and I think it's important to note how other playstyles achieve similar results in this arena because often this gets referred to as something that only story now does when it isn't.
I don't know what the similarity is that you're envisaging to "story now".

For instance, the following looks like it might be two competing adventures based on two different character priorities:

* Character priority 1: Find my brother's killer.
* Character priority 2: Be appointed to a magistracy.

*Adventure 1: Faction A offers information about the brother's killer in exchange for raiding an outpost of Faction B.
*Adventure 2: Faction B offers to put in a good word for the character with the governor, in exchange for infiltrating the HQ of Faction A and stealing a MacGuffin.

But that does not look very much like "story now" play to me: the two factions seem like they could be arbitrary relative to the player priorities; likewise the outpost, and the MacGuffin.

pemerton said:
The more the authority lies squarely with the GM, the more the play experience will depend on how the GM decides to exercise it. How the GM takes on board and runs with player cues. Or doesn't. Etc.
Agreed. But this is also the same if the authority is the players. Or a hybrid of GM/Player authority. Or if there's a mechanic that determines who gets the authority, etc. It always depends on how whoever has authority decides to exercise it.

<snip>

I think it matters who has the authority in those situations and what the resulting fiction is much more than it matters what mechanics they engage with that authority to determine the resulting fiction.
In making my point that I've requoted here, I was assuming that if the players have authority then there is no real need for mediation in having the exercise of that authority reflect their priorities.

As far as mechanics are concerned, I still think that Vincent Baker said it best:

Roleplaying is negotiated imagination. In order for any thing to be true in game, all the participants in the game (players and GMs, if you've even got such things) have to understand and assent to it. When you're roleplaying, what you're doing is a) suggesting things that might be true in the game and then b) negotiating with the other participants to determine whether they're actually true or not. . . .

Mechanics might model the stuff of the game world, that's another topic, but they don't exist to do so. They exist to ease and constrain real-world social negotiation between the players at the table. That's their sole and crucial function.​

In other words, there is not a contrast between mechanical processes and authority. The former are part of how the latter is (i) allocated and (ii) constrained.

For instance, it's fundamental to the experience of BW play that a player can call for a Circles check whenever his/her PC looks around hoping to encounter a helpful NPC, and that if the check succeeds then that is indeed what happens; whereas if the check fails, then the GM has licence to introduce an antagonistic NPC, or one who is a hindrance rather than a help. The GM's authority can't be described without reference to the mechanic.

Or if there is no mechanic of any sort - so the GM is free to stipulate whatever takes their fancy about which NPCs are encountered when and where, and what sorts of moods they are in - then that is also pretty relevant to getting a sense of what the play experience will be like. For instance, there will almost certainly be fewer chance encounters with helpful NPCs than occur in BW play!
 
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pemerton

Legend
This seems fundamentally off in that virtually all metagame currencies or metagame narrative controls can be viewed in some sense as corresponding to the fiction of which they allow or attempt to allow the player to 'alter'.

What's different about that kind of fictional correspondence and what @Thomas Shey is getting at is how closely the metacurrency or metagame control is limited to corresponding to just the character and their very immediate situation. This is why a metacurrency that a battlemaster fighter can spend to knock a creature prone (representing his skilled swordsmanship to some degree) is acceptable to such players

<snip>

The further away something drifts from that specific character and that immediate situation the more issues you will find these players have with it.
For some reason you seem to be presenting your agreement with my point as if it is a disagreement.

a metacurrency or metagame control that allows a character to specify 'this is the location of evards tower' is not acceptable. One is limited to the corresponding character and some particular contest they are in and the other is related to the character and establishing fiction outside a particular contest the character is in.
The right-hand side of your "and"-clause seems like a slightly more opaque way of making my point: my PC's success in remembering the location of a wizard's tower also establishes some backstory that is not "local" to my PC in the way that (eg) my PC's parents' names would be.

For instance, I don't think a contest has anything to do with it. Suppose the GM of a D&D game is planning a leprechaun encounter. And in the lead-up to that encounter, they casually (so as not to tip their hand too badly) ask the players about their PCs belt buckles, cloak clasps, etc. That would not be a contest; but I think at most D&D tables it would be assumed that the player can establish what sort of buckle their PC's belt has (provided the player nominates something reasonable eg no bejewelled clasps for 1st level money-hungry PCs).

Conversely, we could imagine the Evard's tower question arising out of a PC's battle of knowledge against a NPC loremaster.

The determining factor, it seems to me, is proximity of the backstory detail to the PC together with its relative irrelevance to the "bigger picture" of the campaign (and wizards' towers would normally be seen as quite relevant to the bigger picture).

Again, Vincent Baker describes this well:

What has to happen before the group agrees [to some proposed bit of fiction] . . . Sometimes, not much at all. The right participant said it, at an appropriate moment, and everybody else just incorporates it smoothly into their imaginary picture of the situation. . . . This is how it usually is for participants with high ownership of whatever they're talking about: GMs describing the weather or the noncombat actions of NPCs, players saying what their characters are wearing or thinking.​

In "traditional" RPGs, the GM is seen as having a lot of ownership - maybe sole proprietorship - over NPCs' dwellings, and especially when those dwellings are wizards' towers.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
In Gygax's DMG, I think this sort of issue arises in his discussion of "living"/"reactive" dungeons (pp 104-5). If a GM really takes that advice to heart, then the player advice in the PHB (about scouting and planning an objective for the dungeon mission: pp 107. 109) becomes less useful and even unhelpful, because the knowledge obtained in today's mission will be rendered outdated and perhaps even irrelevant by the changes the GM makes between incursions.
Well, yes, oftentimes the place you're raiding isn't necessarily going to remain static while you take two weeks to travel to town, recover, and head back out; and that's the point Gygax is trying to make.

A solution, of course, can be to leave one or two stealthy PCs on site (or at least able to see the entrance) to keep an eye on things such that when the bulk of the party gets back they can be provided an updated report. I've known parties to do this now and then, and it's usually been useful* when they did.

And you'll still have gained some knowledge during the first incursion in any case; for example unless the dungeon denizens are really fast miners the party's map of what they explored should still be accurate.

* - on one memorable occasion a party left a high-ish level Cleric-Thief behind to keep an eye on a half-explored dungeon's entrance while the rest went back to town for supplies and, I think, a few Raise Deads. During the fisrt few days the party were gone the enemy - now thoroughly paranoid - put up numerous until-triggered defensive spells around the entrance; the C-T watched this from hiding, and by the time the party got back she'd managed to dispel every one of them and thus save her crew a world o' headaches.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
Also, it gives at least weak precedent for the Wizard to use their familiar to store/hide items in the pocket dimension, or even creatures touching/grappling the familiar. There are GMs I would absolutely explore this revelation with...and others I would know better than to bother.
Explore this revelation, or exploit it? :)

A fine example of how seemingly simple spells can be wrecked by incomplete write-ups (here the write-up in the PH should clearly state what if anything can go with the familiar) and cause headaches for DMs as soon as the players start looking for loopholes.
 

Campbell

Relaxed Intensity
Offering the player character information about their brother if they perform some other mission is the opposite of Story Now! It's using the player character's dramatic need to bribe the player to participate in an unrelated scenario if they want to eventually pursue their character specific narrative. You could not be less like Story Now play if you tried. Scenarios in Story Now play should directly address the underlying dramatic needs of the player characters at all times, not be used as leverage to bring in stuff the GM wants to bring in (which could be good stuff - not knocking it). There's nothing wrong with that sort of play, but it's like the literal opposite of what Story Now play is about.
 
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niklinna

Looking for group
Explore this revelation, or exploit it? :)

A fine example of how seemingly simple spells can be wrecked by incomplete write-ups (here the write-up in the PH should clearly state what if anything can go with the familiar) and cause headaches for DMs as soon as the players start looking for loopholes.
It was the DM who introduced the loophole—and exploit—in this example. But I agree with you that the writeup is incomplete, As a player I generally avoid looking for loopholes, because that can move from gameplay to discussion about who can get away with what, at the very least adding a runtime burden the DM may not be prepared to think through thoroughly, and is likely to lead to resentment by other players.

I've been on that other side of this myself, playing a wizard with a familiar in a game with another player who played a forest gnome, and took the bit about "keep squirrels, badgers, etc." to mean they got a pet, which of course should be able to scout and steal things and fight, and the DM allowed that. Good thing we didn't have a beast master ranger at the table!
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
Well there were fey involved, and the familiar is a fey creature. So it kind of makes sense that when the familiar was dismissed to the pocket dimension, the redcaps may have been able to go along with it, and then when it was resummoned to the PC, they’d come along then, too.

When I say “makes sense” I mean it seems suitably backed by the made up elements



Well I won’t say you’re wrong. One of our group kind of balked at the idea. And I get it. I just don’t see any rules being overruled by the GM here.

This was not the PC’s initial casting of Find Familiar…it was already on scene and he sent it out to scout, and the redcaps jumped it. The PC was unaware at that point because it was more than 100 feet away. He dismissed it to a pocket dimension per the spell, and then brought it back within 30 feet (this allows you to dismiss and bring back your familiar multiple times with a single casting of the spell). The redcaps came along for the ride.

Again, it’s not in the rules in any way….but it’s less clearly overriding the rules. At least, that’s how it seemed to me.
I have a slightly different take -- neither of your examples are about overriding rules. Making a ruling you can't shoot arrows into water to successfully hit an underwater target isn't an override of rules. To me, the difference here is that in the first example, the GM had an outcome in mind -- the hag escapes -- and had described the hag as swimming away underwater. Then there was a negotiation between you and the GM as to why your declared action to shoot the hag failed. This went through a few iterations, with the GM putting their best reason according to the situation to show why it failed. First was distance, but you had an answer to that. Second was inability to see, which you had an answer to. Third was the fact that even if the first two failed, you still can't shoot a target underwater, and that's where it ended. This outcome was always there, it just took the GM walking through what they thought were simpler answers to get there. As far as I can see, the GM was not retconning the situation to achieve their goal.

So, on second take, this first example of the escaping hag wasn't Force (although it might have gone there), but rather just poor communication and the GM having enough fictional reasons to deny the action but needing to find the one the player didn't have resources to marshal against. We do not know if the GM would have allowed the shot if the player had a resource that said they can shoot into water with no penalties, so benefit of the doubt is needed.

The second example, though, seems like the GM wanted to ambush the party with redcaps, felt that the familiar would have spoiled that, and so did some quick thinking to line up some bits of fiction to make it happen. This is Force, though, because the GM is ignoring the intent of the player's actions and then deciding what the outcome was without regard to system (ie, no tests made). This actually feels quantum ogre to me.

To sum up, the first seems clumsy, but on second look I don't see Force clearly (it could be lurking). The second is still clearly Force, but well integrated into the fiction. To me, though, it opens up quite a number of questions that seem like it could abuse the familiar in the future. To me, there's some intent in the familiar rules that doesn't suggest the familiar is a key to a pocket dimension that allows for sneak attacks and time-delayed teleportation effects. I mean, I could, using this, get a squad of friendly attack fey, have them go with the familiar to the pocket dimension, and then summon them in for surprise and mayhem later.
 


Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
One can, if one really wants to be so precise, break down how the AC number is arrived at and then narrate the result based on what the roll came to vs. the various AC factors. Example:

Let's say someone's in leather (AC 12) with a shield (so now AC 14) but the shield is +1 (so now AC 15) and has pretty good Dex (so now AC 18). This gives us four "miss" gradations tied to the modified to-hit roll:

To hit --- narration
1 - 9 - Complete miss (or parried by weapon, optional)
10-12 - Attack blocked by the armour
13-14 - Attack blocked by the shield (user)
15 - Attack blocked by the shield (due to its enchantment)
16-18 - Attack dodged due to superior dexterity
19+ - Hit. Roll yer damage.

Now as you say, for convenience these are often all mushed together into whatever narration happens to leap to mind at the time. But it is possible to do it this longer-handed way, and doing so is perhaps more reflective of what's actually happening in the fiction.

edit: changed numbers above to their correct versions; I had them all one too low.
Which rulebook is this in? The rules of the game(s) leave this at the meta level. That you've decided to nail it down doesn't, in any way, remove this argument. It says that you wrote additional rules for you're table. But, even there, what you have is completely arbitrary and rather goes towards my point rather than away from it.
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
It was the DM who introduced the loophole—and exploit—in this example. But I agree with you that the writeup is incomplete, As a player I generally avoid looking for loopholes, because that can move from gameplay to discussion about who can get away with what, at the very least adding a runtime burden the DM may not be prepared to think through thoroughly, and is likely to lead to resentment by other players.

I've been on that other side of this myself, playing a wizard with a familiar in a game with another player who played a forest gnome, and took the bit about "keep squirrels, badgers, etc." to mean they got a pet, which of course should be able to scout and steal things and fight, and the DM allowed that. Good thing we didn't have a beast master ranger at the table!
I find reading D&D in a "doesn't say I can't" mode leads very quickly to (rules) abusive situations and increasingly broken cases of play. On the other hand, a strict "doesn't say I can" reading has it's own weirdness. I had a situation once, where a good friend was a "doesn't say I can't" player. He was an outstanding example of a D&D GM, though, like really good at the trad core of play and excellent at necessary improv. But, as a player, his characters were almost always either right on the edge of abusive rules invocations or were over that line. And he wouldn't check, because those readings made sense to him, so why would he. When these came up in play, there was always dissonance, though, and if I ruled against him, he would become quite upset (not actively, but in a passive aggressive way) and mostly pout. Understandable, as I just made a ruling he disagreed with that nerfed his character concept in the middle of play. We never managed to see eye to eye on this, and it was one of my reasons for burnout in 3.x. 4e was a nice change, as it limited this greatly and I could run comfortably for him. We never got far enough in 5e to see many problems before the incident occurred (outside of game and not involving me) that ended the association (jail was involved).
 

And spell slots. And turning attempts, and any ability with uses per day/turn/arbitrary period. And - prior to 4E - character levels, xp, Constitution points; yadda yadda; blah blah.

The entire game in any iteration is predicated on numbers which we track. The numbers go up and down. Meanwhile we beat our heads trying to cram them into representing something they really don't and cannot - some kind of objective measure in the game world.

Some cows are sacred, but on inspection it transpires they are not flawless red heifers.
I really don't think most of these are metacurrencies. For example, I would assume that the caster is actually aware how many spells and how powerful they're able to cast and they're aware of the causal effects these spells have. This is not metacurrency. If the characters could more or less accurately discuss the thing in character (perhaps not using the exact mechanical terms) then it is not metacurrency. granted, some of these are weirder, like battlemaster manoeuvres. It would feel a bit weird that the character would know how many of these they could pull off. Though this is more to do with we having intuitive understanding that this is not how this would work in real world, whereas we have no such assumptions in magic.
 

One can, if one really wants to be so precise, break down how the AC number is arrived at and then narrate the result based on what the roll came to vs. the various AC factors. Example:

Let's say someone's in leather (AC 12) with a shield (so now AC 14) but the shield is +1 (so now AC 15) and has pretty good Dex (so now AC 18). This gives us four "miss" gradations tied to the modified to-hit roll:

To hit --- narration
1 - 9 - Complete miss (or parried by weapon, optional)
10-12 - Attack blocked by the armour
13-14 - Attack blocked by the shield (user)
15 - Attack blocked by the shield (due to its enchantment)
16-18 - Attack dodged due to superior dexterity
19+ - Hit. Roll yer damage.

Now as you say, for convenience these are often all mushed together into whatever narration happens to leap to mind at the time. But it is possible to do it this longer-handed way, and doing so is perhaps more reflective of what's actually happening in the fiction.

edit: changed numbers above to their correct versions; I had them all one too low.
I kinda do this, though only as rough approximation. But I take note about how much of a thing's AC comes from base AC+dex and how much from the armour. And attacks that wouldn't even hit the former are described as not connecting at all whilst those which are not hits due armour are described as being deflected by that. It's not exact as it really doesn't matter, but something I try to keep in mind a bit. It always bugs me when GM describes every miss as a literal miss, even when one might be attacking a slow, heavily armoured foe.
 

Aldarc

Legend
D&D is a democracy. An even democracies have presidents. The players elect the DM to run the game in a way where they all can have fun. If he’s not doing a good enough job they will either move to another table or elect a different DM.
Or they will stay and suffer through the experience because the DM and the rest of the group are close friends. Or no one else wants to run the game. Or there are no other DMs and this is the only D&D group they can find. Or maybe D&D is not a democracy at all and this is simply a poor analogy to make?

Well I'm in disbelief that you can't see that hit points are a form of metagame mechanic. And, given that they are a resource that gets spent and then replenished by various sorts of in-fiction and meta- moves, it seems reasonable enough to call them a currency.
Obviously a number of people go to great lengths to pretend that metacurrencies don't exist by attempting post hoc diagetic explanations for them with varying levels of success. Of course, if "metacurrency" or "metagame" or meta-anything, for that matter, weren't treated as taboo no-nos then they could be understood, analyzed, and utilized in ways that can better enhance their games.
 

I don’t think the rules support this happening, but I don’t think they specifically block it, either. Certainly the Find Familiar spell is worded in such a way that this kind of thing isn’t addressed at all. I think this is one of the reasons that it bothered me less. The situation with the fleeing hag undermined a few rules to some extent.
While I 100% understand your conclusion that the fleeing hag undermined some rules and I would have probably ruled it differently myself, I’m not sure it undermined any rules.

Sharpshooter allows you to ignore cover penalties (and range penalties): it doesn’t give you line of effect if you didn’t already have it. Likewise, Hunter’s Mark gives rangers a preternatural edge in tracking and detecting marked creatures, but again, does not grant line of effect if it does not otherwise exist.

On a featureless plain, you are absolutely correct that you have both the range and the line of effect to shoot the hag. In a swamp, with trees everywhere, boggy marshes and overgrowths, and with the hag already at 160’ it is not unreasonable that you would not have a shot.

Since you did have Hunter’s Mark on her, I would have probably allowed a hard Survival check: you aren’t tracking her, you are trying to triangulate her position so you can anticipate a break in the swamp where she will have to cross your field of view so you can shoot her. If you succeed, you position yourself to take a shot (this has no incidence on your ability to use Hunter’s mark to track her to her lair).

My only point here is to ask you to consider that maybe the DM wasn’t mistaken, he simply had a different conception of the combat area and failed to adequately communicate it to you.
 
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Why I 100% understand your conclusion that the fleeing hag undermined some rules and I would have probably ruled it differently myself, I’m not sure it undermined any rules.

Sharpshooter allows you to ignore cover penalties (and range penalties): it does give you line of effect if you didn’t already have it. Likewise, Hunter’s Mark gives rangers a preternatural edge in tracking and detecting marked creatures, but again, does not grant line of effect if it does not otherwise exist.

On a featureless plain, you are absolutely correct that you have both the range and the line of effect to shoot the hag. In a swamp, with trees everywhere, boggy marshes and overgrowths, and with the hag already at 160’ it is not unreasonable that you would not have a shot.

Since you did have Hunter’s Mark on her, I would have probably allowed a hard Survival check: you aren’t tracking her, you are trying to triangulate her position so you can anticipate a break in the swamp where she will have to cross your field of view so you can shoot her. If you succeed, you position yourself to take a shot (this has no incidence on your ability to use Hunter’s mark to track her to her lair).

My only point here is to ask you to consider that maybe the DM wasn’t mistaken, he simply had a different conception of the combat area and failed to adequately communicate it to you.
Yeah. Now that we know there is no map, this sounds even more possible. If the hag dived in the water and it is swamp presumably with all sort of bushes etc, it seems quite possible that there would be no line of fire. If the character is rather far away, the river bank would be likely to block the line of fire, even if the character could see through the water. It just sounds a bit dodgy as at first the issue is range, but then it is something else. But it kinda depends, perhaps the GM was just going through all the aspects of the shooting procedure. 🤷
 

pemerton

Legend
On a featureless plain, you are absolutely correct that you have both the range and the line of effect to shoot the hag. In a swamp, with trees everywhere, boggy marshes and overgrowths, and with the hag already at 160’ it is not unreasonable that you would not have a shot.

Since you did have Hunter’s Mark on her, I would have probably allowed a hard Survival check: you aren’t tracking her, you are trying to triangulate her position so you can anticipate a break in the swamp where she will have to cross your field of view so you can shoot her. If you succeed, you position yourself to take a shot (this has no incidence on your ability to use Hunter’s mark to track her to her lair).

My only point here is to ask you to consider that maybe the DM wasn’t mistaken, he simply had a different conception of the combat area and failed to adequately communicate it to you.
Yeah. Now that we know there is no map, this sounds even more possible. If the hag dived in the water and it is swamp presumably with all sort of bushes etc, it seems quite possible that there would be no line of fire. If the character is rather far away, the river bank would be likely to block the line of fire, even if the character could see through the water.
In reading @hawkeyefan's account of the unshootable hag, I don't get any sense that there was an established fiction about the hag's cover, from which it followed that she couldn't be shot. It sounds much more like the GM had decided that the hag was going to escape, and then authored backstory and tried to disapply rules in order to justify that result.
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
Well that's the thing about words...they have connotations and associations that exceed their literal meanings. And yes, generally, "active" has more positive connotations than "passive."

Relatedly, it's not the best word to actually describe what you are trying to describe. The 5e play loop does not situate the player in an inherently passive position. Passive players are those that are not engaged or have no reaction to the world as presented. I would say that 5e players are reactive: the DM initiates the play loop, the player responds, and then the DM responds in turn. The GM has more work to do in their steps, but that does not mean that all the puzzle-solving and tactical combat-having is passive (let alone the character-building and backstory-creating, which may as well be a pillar of play).
It is and it isn't. The part that isn't is that the GM doesn't have to honor the reaction by the players. And this is discounting bad faith or poor play -- if the players' reactions are not aligned with the GM's conception of the fiction, then they aren't honored. Effectively, in the usual mode of play for 5e, the GM is tightly constraining the players' options for their PCs with their situation. The players collectively learn and engage the fiction the GM presents within their limited channels. I mean, there's already quite a side discussion about what counts as engaging metachannels in play and what's allowable for action declarations by the players.

So, while there is a reactive element to play, it is still constrained and that constraint is largely the GM and how they allow for the fiction they've created and presented to be interacted with. Play isn't really just reaction/counter reaction, but rather hunting for the allowable reactions.

My prior example of how, in Rime, there is a fictional puzzle that can only be solved with one answer and that answer is not obvious (dispel magic is the only solution, but it's not clear that this is so) is a prime example of the kinds of constraints placed on the players by the GM's fiction, and how "react" isn't quite the right word. I mean, I did a lot of reacting to this puzzle, where I tried to destroy it physically (no roll allowed, action failed), to trying to smother the fire with snow and a wet cloak (no roll allowed, action failed), to attempting to use arcana to solve the problem via trying to figure out how to disrupt the magic (roll allowed, but meaningless, as the roll was to determine if I was allowed to know why the action failed).

So, yeah, here was a lot of reacting (and this is from a published adventure) that didn't matter at all, because I had to find the one allowed pathway and follow that. If this is the case, that's pretty passive as far as what play is allowed -- follow the path or the answer is no.
Perhaps more importantly, "passive" may or may not be how players describe their own experience with a system. For example, Call of Cthulhu scenarios are fairly linear, and a lot of what the keeper does is literally hand the players sheets with pre-made backstory. Yet from experience I've had, players find that experience to be engaging and dialogic, involving both their imagination and problem-solving skills. When considered in the whole range of ttrpgs, it's easy to forget that even traditional games and linear scenarios feel very "active" for a lot of people, new and continuing players. That feeling of engagement is what draws people to 5e as well.
Play here is pretty much the same as in 5e. It's just as passive. I've noted previously that I still find it fun, and that it can be very entertaining. This seems to be trying to talk up the play here, but I'm assuming that engaging in dialog with each other and using your imagination is a baseline for play of an RPG, so saying you meet baseline doesn't do much for advancing the claim that play isn't otherwise fairly passive.

To be clear, when we talk about playing an RPG, passive is referring to that play. If you imagine that passive is saying non-participatory, or that appeals to engaging in dialog or imagination defeat the claim, then you're missing the context of the claim. These are baseline to play of an RPG, and I'm not discussing degenerate play. So, with participation being baseline, what constitutes passive play? I've been clear on this.
Unlike me, you seem very confident that you can look at other people's games, and overwrite their own experiences.
Nope.
That if someone (and actually lots of people) say that they play 5e modules more or less by the book, and they find the time they spend with their characters to be active, collaborative, and engaging, you'll be able to step in with your "unromantic" analysis (with its already-set categories) and say, "nope, 5e is passive." That's what I mean when I say you are articulating a prescriptive, axiomatic perspective in these posts.
This isn't overwriting their experience. It's disagreeing with their characterization. It's like saying, "I went down the bunny slope at the ski lodge, and it is the most challenging and rewarding experience you can have on skis!" If I'm a skier, I'm going to look askance at this statement, even while I'll allow that that person felt challenged and rewarded. Disputing the qualitative claims made in general is not at all disputing the experience of the player. As I've said, I enjoy 5e as a player. My play is passive when compared to the possible scopes of play in RPGs. I'm okay with this. The experience can still be fun and rewarding. This doesn't change that there is little that the game expects of me.

Here's a reasonable test: if you run the same game for different players/characters, will the results be similar? In many 5e games, the answer to this is yes. Certainly for any of the published adventures. The same things will occur, the same general results obtained. Differences will be in details. Players that complete Storm King's Thunder will all have rather similar stories about the events of the game. This is an indicator of that passive play. Even in a sandbox, if the GM is instantiating the same set of factions and goals, and not creating brand new prep differently for a separate playthrough, many things will be similar. You can see this for a small sandbox very clearly, like Isle of Dread. Stories of this game all have very many points of similarity.

This isn't a bad thing. Comparable results lead to increases in shared experiences which are what can create a sense of community within a hobby. I've enjoyed trading war stories. I ran three separate groups through Return to the Temple of Elemental Evil, and was engaged with the small differences -- some groups made choices that resulted in encountering fiction other groups didn't, and vice versa. But, overall, the stories told with these different players and different characters (especially characters) are not at all different in any substantial way. They all went through the moathouse, they all went to the crater, they all dealt with the temples, etc, etc. At a certain distance, the play is indistinguishable, and that distance isn't terribly far -- at the level of a moderately detailed synopsis. If this is the case, if who the players are and who the characters are do not really move the needle much, then I'm okay saying that play is passive here -- the goal is to uncover the fiction the GM has prepared. This was successfully done. Also, as a note, this adventure has some strong sandbox elements to it, so it's not a linear railroad.
 

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