D&D General Should players be aware of their own high and low rolls?


If they want to go and check they can tell me how long they're going to wait before doing so. For example if the scout's not expected back for an hour but they're going to start worrying after only half an hour, then at the half-hour point I'll check and find out what they're doing.

It does, provided that - both in and out of character - people are willing to commit to doing what they say they're going to do.

If I ask what your character's doing for the hour the scout expects to be gone and you say your character's just going to wait for her to return, that's your action declaration and you're committed to it unless something interrupts you e.g. a wandering monster or a scream in the distance or whatever.

Which means that if after the hour I come back and ask "What next?" and you say "Well, after half an hour I would have..." I'm completely within my rights to shut you down right there for two reasons: one, you now know nothing happens in the full hour and two, you already committed yourself to doing nothing for that time.

And if you want to go to where people aren't committed to their action declarations once they've been made, we've got bigger and likely unsolvable problems.

So people in your world cannot change their mind mid-task? Hunches only come up at pre-determined times?

Doesn't sound very verisimilitudinous at all.

That dragons often have some sort of breath effect is fairly common knowledge if only due to all the stories told about them. Which dragons breathe what, or how big an area it covers, or any other fine details likely aren't learned by a party until they've faced a dragon or two and figured out how the things work.

That, and in the right situations some dragons' breath effects are pretty easy to telegraph through char marks on walls, acid pitting on stumps and logs, and so forth.

About the only thing a neophyte character would almost certainly know for sure is that standing in front of a dragon is probably riskier than standing behind one. :)

As luck would have it, they just took out a big ol' Blue in my game. They knew from numerous sources going in that it breathed lightning but had no idea what else it had going for it other than size, toughness, and a fearsome reputation built up over decades if not centuries; but they had circumstantial-evidence level reason to believe (correctly, as it turned out - long story) that it might be getting weaker rather than stronger as it aged. Once they met it they found it hadn't lost a thing on its lightning breath but its melee ability was nowhere near what it once was, and it could barely fly any more. Even then, it still knocked off two characters out of five in a real edge-of-the-seat combat.

Why is breath weapon "fairly common knowledge"? Has that been decided in some way ahead of time? Has it already been established?

This is my point... why require that players pretend to not know what they know when it comes to this stuff? It actively highlights the metagame aspect rather than avoiding it.

If someone in my game said "Disperse, don't group up!" I'd assume they'd heard about a dragon's breath weapon, or otherwise intuited the risk, and we'd move on without any disruption at all.

Burning Hands goes 15 feet these days?

In my game it only goes three, meaning that to cast it on a Troll you're going to be well within its reach.

Good luck with that. Please make sure your Wizard's will is up to date before attempting.

Oh I play my wizard in a risky way all the time. He's perfectly effective and what's more, it's fun to play.

Not that this is related to the actual topic, but this is just another "there are ways these things are supposed to work" example that I think is related to the larger issue which, as the thread goes on, seems more and more about control than anything else.

Interesting example, because they just met some Aarakocra recently in my game and had no clue what they were (which makes sense in one regard at least: I'm not sure if I've ever DMed any before now). I just called them "Flying People" or "Birdmen" or something similar, because that's what they looked like to the PCs. They weren't an obvious threat and could fairly easily be bypassed, so the PCs more or less left them be and kept going.

And nothing would have been different if one of the players was familiar with arakocra.
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Magic Wordsmith
While I'm 100% with @iserith and @Charlaquin about metagaming, I'm also anti-jerk. (The solution to jerks is to avoid playing with them, not impose layers of rules.). While I will happily burn trolls with a 1st level character without a second thought, if there's a new player at the table I might instead have my character freak out and shout "run away!" Not because of any kind of anti-metagaming philosophy, but to try to give that new player the experience I remember.

Likewise if I'm in a published adventure that I know, but the other players don't know I know (I always tell the DM), I will sometimes help keep the adventure exciting by intentionally making bad choices.

But if everybody at the table has some information? I truly don't understand the point of all of us pretending we don't.
I don't run as many one-shots with pickup groups as I used to, but lots of players would play games they'd already played. Some aspects of the game change because I base some of my design on random charts and such, but the bulk of it remains the same. These players just wanted to check out places they didn't explore in previous games or run the same areas with a different character. Once I had a group who had all played through one of my dungeons before, but decided to go in again as Small-sized characters as there was a whole section of the dungeon accessible only by Small creatures. I even encouraged players to build optimal characters for a given specific scenario and have at it again.

Not once was this is an issue. Sometimes they'd share prior knowledge with the group and sometimes they didn't. Nobody cared because everyone was having a blast and "player knowledge vs. character knowledge" made little to no impact on that. People did what they wanted.

Getting back to the original topic, as DMs, we reap what we sow. If the DM creates the conditions for "metagaming" to be the optimal choice, it should hardly be a surprise when it happens in my view. So, if you don't like "metagaming," or just want to have a variety of flourishes for narrating the result of a failed ability check, consider the following:

Did we fail our investigations in this office or was there just nothing to find?
Narrate with "progress combined with a setback" instead of saying "You don't find anything" after a failed check. They found something, but not the important thing that could have been found, and not nothing.

Did you disarm the trap with your thieves tools or is it still active?
"Progress combined with a setback" also works here - the trap is disarmed, but your thieves' tools are ruined in the process. Or it ends up making a lot of noise and draws in a wandering monster. Or, alternatively, your attempt to disarm the trap sets it off.

Did you correctly identify these flowers as either medicinal or poisonous?
The easy way to handle this is to just say that no determination either way can be made (same as telling a lie from the truth). It's not terribly exciting, and may instigate the skill dogpile, but again, the DM decides who rolls ability checks and who doesn't, not the players. Alternatively, "progress combined with a setback" reveals that the flowers are poisonous and, oops, now you're poisoned.

Did the rogue just succeed their death saving throw or roll a crit 1?
Ask the rogue's player what the result of their death saving throw looks like to the other characters so as to establish some kind of reasonable way they may know how they are doing.

It's good to remember, in my view, that when we point the finger at someone who is "metagaming," there are three more pointing back at us.


Now I'm trying to think of how I'd want to handle this. On the one hand, getting a bad feeling is an established trope of fiction, but on the other, half the party suddenly abandoning their posts (just after I narrate something bad happening to their friend) doesn't exactly feel good to me, at least sitting here right now hypothetically.

Just a straight fortune roll, maybe?

It depends on the situation, I suppose. I was picturing a split party to search different areas of a dungeon or similar location, but not having a specific task to perform, or post to maintain. In a case like I was picturing, I'd simply let it happen. What's the worst that happens? The player gets to take part in what is happening with the other group.

In a case where each group has a specific task to do or something like that, then I'd let the player go back to the other group, but would frame it as a choice. "Do you want to abandon your task and go check in on the other group? If so, then what you're doing here will be more difficult to accomplish without you."

Give the player a difficult choice and let them choose and deal with the repercussions.

I just don't see the advantage to blocking player-declared actions in this way. It almost always involves blocking something that could conceivably happen.

Do these metagaming things actually regularly crop up in people's games? Like sure, I can imagine hypothetical situations where I would object and say "Your character doesn't know that," but I don't remember such actually happening. I'm sure it has sometimes occurred over the years, but it definitely is not a an issue I would spent a lot of time worrying about as it simply doesn't come up.

I think it depends. It seems that for those of us who aren't as concerned about it, it comes up far less frequently. Or perhaps a better way to describe it is that it comes up, but we don't see it as problematic.

For people who seem to think it is an issue, it seems that it comes up quite often because "players can't help themselves" and so on.

Thomas Shey

If the DM lets the players know that monsters and lore may be changed from what is in the books, verifying one's assumptions before acting upon them becomes optimal play. That means recalling lore and possibly rolling ability checks with the Intelligence-based skills. Or they can not take them and hope their assumption is correct - a rather short-sighted strategy in my view considering the (usually) low cost for attempting and even failing such a check.

Yeah, but that requires the GM to tune up the monsters with some frequency to matter. My whole point in buying monster books is to be able to only do that minimally, so that's heavy lifting I don't want to and don't think I should have to do.

Thomas Shey

Fair enough, that is your prerogative of course. My response would be "There's the door."

If you, as a player, can't separate your own knowledge about what is happening in the story and things you know about the DM game from what your PC would know (or at least be reasonably likely to know), then I will do it for you until you learn how.

And my opinion is that generally, its out of your purview to do that. At the point you decide to, the least I can do is make you go to the trouble of throwing me out and replacing me. Teaching other people lessons about the price of actions is a two-way street, and I think it'd do for more players to teach GM's that.

Yeah, but that requires the GM to tune up the monsters with some frequency to matter. My whole point in buying monster books is to be able to only do that minimally, so that's heavy lifting I don't want to and don't think I should have to do.
even more then that... I have modified monsters like crazy, BUT I LOVE my modified monsters so I reuse them, and teh rework is only a shock once

Thomas Shey

correct... however we (again) just make sure we are all on the same page. make sure all 4-6 of you at the table can form an understanding of what is expected.

Well, that's an issue with all of this sort of thing, but I remain cynical that most groups are nearly as much all on the same page as is required for this sort of thing to never be a problem.

Just like the idea of having a "full" adventuring day. As long as players don't expect to have only one fight a day, and ration their resources accordingly, then the downsides to running fewer encounters largely disappear.
yup... as much as I have run into some 'nova' issues I often (as a player and as a DM) see people hold back 'incase'

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