Should a low level character know to burn a troll?

Should a low level character know to burn a troll?

  • Yes

    Votes: 86 78.2%
  • No

    Votes: 24 21.8%

  • Total voters
    110

Nagol

Unimportant
This is well presented, but it has at the heart of it the assumption that the DM should keep the information about the monster secret as a matter of course. I'm not sure that's entirely warranted, although it is, largely, how the game has been played for quite some time. I'm going to challenge that idea, though.

A quality encounter is one where the players are engaged in the action and make choices that have heft -- that matter and change the fiction. This doesn't happen very well if the DM's running gotchas on the monsters because the players are playing guessing games to figure out the secret or asking for rolls to know things. To me, this represents a failure on the part of the DM to present a complete situation where the characters can act. The DM should have been foreshadowing the threat, and the nature of the threat, in the scene framing or in previous scenes. So long as the DM provides strong avenues to discover the secrets of the encounter, then it becomes a meaningful player choice if they fail to follow up. It's in the keeping of the secret, or gating behind random chance, that this is lost.

So, to make the case for Yes, the DM should endeavor to provide the secret in play such that the players can make decisions with heft. Doing otherwise is just playing gotcha.

I've been doing this for a few years now -- providing lots of info, often for free. There were some growing pains where I felt that I was making encounters too easy, but that passed quickly for two reasons -- one, I stopped building encounters based on the gotcha so that wasn't a problem and b) I found out that I could give my players my notes straight out and they'll still find ways to screw it all up by the numbers.
That assumption is built into the original question. If the information is immediately shared with the players to use as they see fit, the original question is nonsensical.
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
That assumption is built into the original question. If the information is immediately shared with the players to use as they see fit, the original question is nonsensical.
Okay, so you're saying that the assumption that the information is secret is built into the question. Wouldn't that mean the original question is equally nonsensical because the answer should be no?
 

Nagol

Unimportant
Okay, so you're saying that the assumption that the information is secret is built into the question. Wouldn't that mean the original question is equally nonsensical because the answer should be no?
No. The assumption in the original question is the information may be a secret to the PC. Which means it would be a nonsensical question if the DM's technique is to always provide the information (unless of course, he's having second thoughts about his approach).

For the question to have sense, there must be a situation where either answer could be true.

Breaking down the cases where it could be uncertain and how each would adjudicate the uncertainty doesn't introduce the assumption
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
No. The assumption in the original question is the information may be a secret to the PC. Which means it would be a nonsensical question if the DM's technique is to always provide the information (unless of course, he's having second thoughts about his approach).

For the question to have sense, there must be a situation where either answer could be true.

Breaking down the cases where it could be uncertain and how each would adjudicate the uncertainty doesn't introduce the assumption
You're engaged in special pleading -- you want my position, default yes, to be excluded because of the logic of the question, but you'll adapt the logic to allow your position, which is default no. Default no is just a nonsensical given your argument as default yes, you just prefer it and so are excusing it. Regardless, I'll be happy to discuss the particulars of my argument but have tired of discussing you trying to exclude it from consideration.
 

Elfcrusher

Adventurer
You're engaged in special pleading -- you want my position, default yes, to be excluded because of the logic of the question, but you'll adapt the logic to allow your position, which is default no. Default no is just a nonsensical given your argument as default yes, you just prefer it and so are excusing it. Regardless, I'll be happy to discuss the particulars of my argument but have tired of discussing you trying to exclude it from consideration.
And this is why I think the semantics of the original question matter.
 

akr71

Explorer
Ok.

EDIT: Actually, I started to write something longer, then thought "what's the point?" so changed it, but I really find this fascinating so I do want to ask the question:

If your players are genuinely enjoying this process of "re-discovering" the world, or at least of pretending that they are by roleplaying their characters that way, why do you (the DM) need to adjudicate that? Why not just let the players decide what their characters do or do not know? In the example you gave, it sounds like your player both wanted his character to know, and had a good justification for it. Why do you need to make a ruling on whether or not that reason is good enough, and call for a dice roll?

And let me be clear that I don't think you are "doing it wrong." It's just that I personally wouldn't find this approach particularly fun, and I'm genuinely curious why others (because, based on some of the posts here, you're hardly alone in this) do think it's fun.
TL/DR: I have spent a good amount of time DMing for brand new players over the past couple of years. They often don't know what they can or can't do. What their character does or does not know. Asking the player why they would know that sometimes gives them confidence to go into depth with their backstory.

In all honesty, my example was entirely made up. As to why bother adjudicating - that is a very good question that I do not have an answer for. At least not a good one ... Sometimes a player asks a question and I don't have a ready answer, so my first reaction is "Hmm, I'm not sure - roll a [insert skill] check." This is usually designed to give me a few extra seconds to develop a response - even an abysmal roll will get them some information and an excellent roll will get them something a little extra. I think it has just become part of my DMing style - rightly or wrongly.

Let me change things up for a moment and lets say the new party has encountered skeletons for the first time - which is more likely to happen for a green party than trolls. There is no mistaking what is going on - an obviously dead creature is up and walking around swinging a sword, trying to harm the characters. It is fairly likely that one of the party uses a bludgeoning weapon and when they hit with it, it damages more than normally. The adventurers learn than sometimes one type of weapon or damage is more effective than others. By the time that fighting trolls is a fair encounter, fire or acid is highly likely to be part of the regular arsenal, especially if there is an arcane caster around.
 

Doc_Souark

Explorer
To get beck to the original post. Yes it would be general knowledge that burn a Troll. Mostly though formal Adventures, militia etc. "
If a Troll attacks the village Lads BURN IT.
 

Nagol

Unimportant
You're engaged in special pleading -- you want my position, default yes, to be excluded because of the logic of the question, but you'll adapt the logic to allow your position, which is default no. Default no is just a nonsensical given your argument as default yes, you just prefer it and so are excusing it. Regardless, I'll be happy to discuss the particulars of my argument but have tired of discussing you trying to exclude it from consideration.
No.

The two trivial cases: always yes and always no need no consideration. If the information is always available the question is meaningless. The answer always being no suffers the same fate.

The question only has any merit if there is a possibility of uncertainty.

Now, if the question were put to a population of games and rephrased such as "Are there game styles such that a low-level PC would or would not know enough to burn a troll and how do the games differ?" then the "always" cases merit contrast and comparison.
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
No.

The two trivial cases: always yes and always no need no consideration. If the information is always available the question is meaningless. The answer always being no suffers the same fate.

The question only has any merit if there is a possibility of uncertainty.

Now, if the question were put to a population of games and rephrased such as "Are there game styles such that a low-level PC would or would not know enough to burn a troll and how do the games differ?" then the "always" cases merit contrast and comparison.
Ah, so, no, you have no comments on my post other than to continue to argue it should be dismissed out of hand. Since you're not the OP, I find it interesting that you've decided to engage in policing the thread for proper responses rather than discussing things. Does what I posted threaten you that much? That seems odd, I wouldn't expect it to do so.
 

Nagol

Unimportant
Ah, so, no, you have no comments on my post other than to continue to argue it should be dismissed out of hand. Since you're not the OP, I find it interesting that you've decided to engage in policing the thread for proper responses rather than discussing things. Does what I posted threaten you that much? That seems odd, I wouldn't expect it to do so.
No.

I'm going to take the charitable explanation that we arguing at cross purposes.

@lowkey13 presented 3 common models which have been used to answer the original question over the course of multiple editions. You suggested that in doing so, he introduced an assumption preventing a fourth model I'll paraphrase as "Of course, everyone at the table knows".

I merely pointed out that the assumption of some uncertainty is built into the original question. Indeed, even the default answer is assumed by the question. Contrast the original question with the logically identical but contextually opposite question of "Must a low level adventurer know to burn a troll?"

There is nothing wrong with using either always yes and always no in any particular game other than the question would not be asked at those games unless those asking wanted to introduce some uncertainty. The model required to answer the question becomes trivial.

My original answer to the question (way back on page 1) is it entirely depends on the campaign. I have used all 5 of the models I touch on in this post inside different D&D campaigns (depending on a mixture of tone, group composition, and starting circumstance) and even more when other RPGs are considered.
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
No.

I'm going to take the charitable explanation that we arguing at cross purposes.

@lowkey13 presented 3 common models which have been used to answer the original question over the course of multiple editions. You suggested that in doing so, he introduced an assumption preventing a fourth model I'll paraphrase as "Of course, everyone at the table knows".

I merely pointed out that the assumption of some uncertainty is built into the original question. Indeed, even the default answer is assumed by the question. Contrast the original question with the logically identical but contextually opposite question of "Must a low level adventurer know to burn a troll?"
It is not. I can tell because it's not in the original question, and the OP has declined to add it, emphatically.

The question is "should a low-level character know to burn a troll?" The available answers are "Yes," and "No." Where is the uncertainty part of this question? The OP was queried on adding uncertainty, and declined to, rather emphatically. You're adding to the question in a way that cuts out my answer but leaves the ones you like. It's special pleading.
 

akr71

Explorer
@Elfcrusher I should add that your comments & a good chunk of this thread has given me cause to consider how and why I ask for rolls and what I expect my players to know or not know. I am using it as fuel to grow as a DM.

As a player, I still enjoy playing that my new characters know very little except his small corner of the world.
 

Elfcrusher

Adventurer
@Elfcrusher I should add that your comments & a good chunk of this thread has given me cause to consider how and why I ask for rolls and what I expect my players to know or not know. I am using it as fuel to grow as a DM.
I'm doing the same thing myself (c.f. all the threads about Goal and Approach.) Many of my posts here are about the play/DM style I aspire to, but I'm not a master at implementing it. Yet.

As a player, I still enjoy playing that my new characters know very little except his small corner of the world.
I do, too, but I like it when I actually don't know very much, as opposed to pretending to not know very much.
Some people use the term "immersion" to mean "staying in character." For example, pretending to not know about trolls and fire.

I use it to mean "feeling in character". For example, you, not just your character, being scared $%@^less because this thing is not dying and half your party is down and it looks like a TPK if you can't find something that hurts it. If you, the player, know that all you have to do is use a torch, this just isn't as scary.

And achieving that feel is up to the DM:
1) Describe creatures, don't use their names. That is, "Big ugly brute with warts" not "Troll".
2) Change things up: make your creatures look different, and/or change their abilities.
 

Nagol

Unimportant
It is not. I can tell because it's not in the original question, and the OP has declined to add it, emphatically.

The question is "should a low-level character know to burn a troll?" The available answers are "Yes," and "No." Where is the uncertainty part of this question? The OP was queried on adding uncertainty, and declined to, rather emphatically. You're adding to the question in a way that cuts out my answer but leaves the ones you like. It's special pleading.
No. One last attempt.

"Should a low-level character remember to breathe?" is a question that would appear for only a few campaign styles. It would not be asked in the grand majority of cases because in most campaigns it would be nonsensical.

In much the same way, "Should a low-level character know to burn a troll?" becomes nonsensical if the table has already determined the answer is "everyone does" or the answer is "no one does". Those tables do not require any model other than the answer "yes" or "no" in much the same way almost every table would not require anything but the answer of "no" to the first question. The model is trivial: there re no inputs that affect the output.

There is nothing wrong with your answer for campaigning. I merely pointed out assigning the assumption's insertion to lowkey13 was incorrect. For the question to have a non-trivial answer requires the questioner to be faced with uncertainty.

Lowkey13 presented 3 non-trivial models (as in there are inputs that affect outputs) previously commonly used for those tables where the answer was not globally predetermined. It matters not what the default answer is.

Again, there is nothing wrong with using a trivial model and predetermining global answers. There's nothing wrong with swapping the default answer and using a non-trivial model (though swapping the default answer typically accomplishes little from a modelling or logical perspective).
 

Inchoroi

Explorer
My quick and dirty method: Make a Nature check. The DC is 10 + the monster's Challenge Rating. If you succeed, you get an interesting tidbit that might help you, and for every 5 over the DC, you get more information.
 
Who fights trolls?

The source for the D&D troll is Poul Anderson's novel Three Hearts and Three Lions. It's clear from the quote upthread that in the world of the novel, only knights do. Anderson is following in the style of the classical and medieval epics, where only nobles matter.

Americans generally aren't too keen on this notion, preferring a world of Jeffersonian yeoman farmers and Alger-esque barbarians who start off with nothing but a sword and a loincloth and rise to rule a kingdom.

So your answer to this question will depend partly on whether you're a Yank.
 

robus

Lowcountry Low Roller
I really think this is some kind of meta-forum test by Morrus to see if we would actually feed a troll if presented with one and I guess we know the answer! :D

Should a forum regular know not to feed a troll? Apparently, no.
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
No. One last attempt.

"Should a low-level character remember to breathe?" is a question that would appear for only a few campaign styles. It would not be asked in the grand majority of cases because in most campaigns it would be nonsensical.

In much the same way, "Should a low-level character know to burn a troll?" becomes nonsensical if the table has already determined the answer is "everyone does" or the answer is "no one does". Those tables do not require any model other than the answer "yes" or "no" in much the same way almost every table would not require anything but the answer of "no" to the first question. The model is trivial: there re no inputs that affect the output.

There is nothing wrong with your answer for campaigning. I merely pointed out assigning the assumption's insertion to lowkey13 was incorrect. For the question to have a non-trivial answer requires the questioner to be faced with uncertainty.

Lowkey13 presented 3 non-trivial models (as in there are inputs that affect outputs) previously commonly used for those tables where the answer was not globally predetermined. It matters not what the default answer is.

Again, there is nothing wrong with using a trivial model and predetermining global answers. There's nothing wrong with swapping the default answer and using a non-trivial model (though swapping the default answer typically accomplishes little from a modelling or logical perspective).
Man, this is a pretzel. Okay, let's break it down.

The OP question is pretty straightforward. It asks a question, which you've quoted, that has no uncertainty component. It gives two possible answers, yes and no, neither of which have any uncertainty component. Yet, you're insisting that answers to this question are trivial absent an uncertainty component. And that "yes" answers fail this and also "no" answers fail this. So, since, due to your assumptions about what a valid question is, you've decided that only uncertain answers are valid, despite this not being in the OP. And, you've decided that you'll be the person to police answers you think fail this and tell them they're not good answers to the OP. Despite not being the OP, and the OP having explicitly declined to add any such requirements even when asked. So, let's be perfectly clear, this is you, not the OP question. Now that we have removed the shield of the OP, let's address your other points.

You state that a general question to a message board must have answers that have uncertainty, because non-uncertain answers are trivial. You say these answers are trivial because, in a game where they were true, no one in that game would bother to ask the question. I agree, however you've committed a pretty big category error here in that the question from the OP isn't asking me to to answer myself in my own game, but is instead polling all possible games. To which, a 'yes, always' answer is not trivial because it informs that such a game exists. So, that axis is flawed.

Finally, let's deal with the specific. You say @lowkey13's answers are good because they contain uncertainty. Mine is bad because it doesn't. However, this is a strawman of my argument you've presented. I clearly lay out in my post that the presumption should be that the PCs know, and that it's the DM's job to present that information in game. I do, however, note that if this is done and the PCs fail to engage it, then the lack of important knowledge in on them now, not the DM. I say this because I feel secret knowledge about encounters that PCs cannot discern is playing gotcha. I made these points in my post which started your argument that I had failed to answer the question. So, this line is flawed because it argues against a strawman of my post to establish a difference you're using to dismiss my post.

So, your entire argument is flawed. The OP makes no need for uncertainty in response. A "yes, always" response is not a trivial response to the question asked in the OP. And, you've strawmanned my argument to categorize it into your already flawed bin of "yes, always" in the face of a more nuanced point.
 

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