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D&D General Styles of Roleplaying and Characters

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It doesn't have to be about challenging someone's decision so much as discussing the decision. Not "your character wouldn't do that" so much as "why did you decide your character would do that?" or maybe even "I was surprised that you had your character do X".

I think these kinds of conversations are interesting, and they can be helpful. They can also, of course, go wrong if people don't handle the situation properly. If it's an open session to question every other player's choices, then yeah, that's probably not productive.

Agreed. It's 100% about whether the motivation/attitude going in. If the point is to school the player on proper roleplaying, then no. Just no. But if it's more about "hey, we obviously are looking at things differently, and maybe a conversation will help us both learn something " then that makes a lot of sense.

Actually, that would also apply to threads like this.
 

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Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
I didn't miss those examples. I didn't see them presented in such a way that they were conducive to the discussion of "I like this kind of thing, here's how it works in XYZ" They were presented, rather, in the context of "I'm redefining a common phrase that has a common meaning, and here's an example to prove why I'm right and you're wrong for not accepting my more elevated use of the terms than the plebian use that you bitterly cling to."

Or at least it seems that the responses have generally been interpreting them that way, and that's the general tenor of the discussion overall. Semantical arguments that completely sideline the conversation that you're TRYING to have can probably be better read as a more articulate or defensive statement that boils down to "I don't like your tone!" Unless they really boil down to "I don't even understand what you're talking about because you're not using the words in the way that people usually use the words." And sometimes, it's "Yeah, yeah, I see that you're trying to define things using those terms, but that's not what that means, and I can't get over the fact that you're using the words in a way that is totally incongruent with how they are usually used. It's a major distraction. Try rephrasing."
The semantic argument is not one of my making. I picked terms (and strong dispute there's a common understanding of these), defined them, and then made an argument with them. The response that those words could mean something else is the semantic argument -- I don't care what we call it, I found exploration/expression to be useful for my interests but am totally open to other terms if exploration is to precious to use. However, I don't think the terms I've used are the problem at all - the complaints about my wording (the actual semantic argument) won't really change if I use different terms unless I pick such loaded terms as "BEST play" for what everyone's trying to claim and "SHITTIEST PLAY" for my points.

In other words, the term "exploration" makes no difference to the root of my argument.
 

On the whole "explore your character" thing I'm still not understanding the difference. Or, at least, why one is "explore" and the other is not. In one case you're making a choice and in the other a choice is being made for you, but if it's leading to something you weren't planning, it's still "exploring" new ideas. Sure, you may choose the well-worn path, but the dice might also choose it for you.

I can see how somebody who never explored new ideas might benefit from the dice (let's say 50% of the time), but somebody who always explore new things would be constrained by the dice (the other 50% of the time).

Ergo...
1) I will agree that exploring new character concepts can be fun (but is not mandatory for fun).
2) Two ways this can happen are by player choice, and by external imposition.

What exactly is the argument that one is substantively better, or even just different, than the other?
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
Heh, @Aldarc and @pemerton, you have rightly hit the nail on the head.

For some reason, it is perfectly acceptable for the mechanics to dictate your actions, but, for some reason, things like emotional responses, while just as involuntary and beyond a person's control as missing with an attack, are completely unbelievable and rip people from their immersion. :erm:

I would LOVE to meet people whose control over their emotional responses were so completely under their control that no matter what, no matter what the stimulus or in the face of anything, they are 100% in control at all times.
For me it's not about my PC having 100% control. It's a player/DM issue. If I determine that my PC get embarrassed and blushes when the queen smiles at him, that's an emotional response that the PC is not in control of. It happened involuntarily to him as decided by me, the player. If the DM tries to take control of my PC and dictate to me that my PC becomes embarrassed and blushes when the queen smiles at him, that's a problem. The DM has no business trying to control my PC like that.
 

Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
It doesn't have to be about challenging someone's decision so much as discussing the decision. Not "your character wouldn't do that" so much as "why did you decide your character would do that?" or maybe even "I was surprised that you had your character do X".

I think these kinds of conversations are interesting, and they can be helpful. They can also, of course, go wrong if people don't handle the situation properly. If it's an open session to question every other player's choices, then yeah, that's probably not productive.

The OP stated, in pertinent part (the part I picked up on):
How would you feel if either the GM or the player of another player character wanted to have a conversation to critique your play or discuss why you performed a particular action? Would you be open to critiques around fictional positioning?

To critique is to evaluate in a detailed and analytical way. Which is fine.

Except ... that's not a curious question. That's not, "Woah, I was surprised that Olaf the Selfish did something so altruistic! What's up with that?*"

To critique is to provide an evaluation. Which is not something I do, unbidden, to someone else's roleplaying decisions. YMMV.



*
fleetwood-mac-bill-hader.gif
 

Agreed. It's 100% about whether the motivation/attitude going in. If the point is to school the player on proper roleplaying, then no. Just no. But if it's more about "hey, we obviously are looking at things differently, and maybe a conversation will help us both learn something " then that makes a lot of sense.

Actually, that would also apply to threads like this.

Yeah, these conversations...whether with my gaming group or here on the forum...are helpful in my mind because they force me to actually think about what I do and why, which I might not otherwise do.

Ergo...
1) I will agree that exploring new character concepts can be fun (but is not mandatory for fun).
2) Two ways this can happen are by player choice, and by external imposition.

What exactly is the argument that one is substantively better, or even just different, than the other?

For me, I kind of agree that there is not as big a difference as some are saying, but I do think there are some differences.

With player choice, yes, I think you can be surprised. I think it's less likely, and I also think that ultimately you have the freedom to decide, so if you get to a decision point, and something pops into your head that makes you lean toward a surprising decision rather than the one you expected.....you can always choose the unsurprising and comfortable option if you want.

That surprising decision that may lead to you learning something new about the character is not binding if you don't want to go with it. In that sense, it's like rolling the dice and seeing the results, and then deciding if you want to go with them or ignore them.
 

Again, my point is, where is your cut off line? Is it ANY mechanics which impact the mental/emotional state of your character (besides flat our mind control of course)? And, if that's true, why is it acceptable that the DM can dictate your physical state? The DM can declare that you are now Exhausted, for example. So, any physical changes is perfectly fine, but, all mental ones are not?

I guess I'm just having a tough time seeing the difference. Your character is a high dexterity acrobat Rogue who routinely walks on tightropes, can climb a waterfall and has the reflexes of a cat. And I just made him look like a Keystone Kop because you failed a Perception check. How is that not impacting the portrayal of that character?

First off, I don't think your hyperbolic Keystone Kop argument holds water: just because a highly trained ninja fails to observe something doesn't make him look like an amateur. Unless, of course, that thing was completely obvious. In which case why did you make him roll? Ergo, if you made him look like a Keystone Kop the reason is that you made him look like a Keystone Kop.

But to the larger point, about why the cut-off line between physical and mental: it's because it's the only clear, objective line. If that line isn't there, where is it? Is it arbitrary? Since you tend to argue things by showing how it breaks if taken to the extreme (at least, that's the pattern I'm seeing from your posts in this thread) let's imagine a game in which the player doesn't get to make any decisions: you have to roll for every choice. On your turn in combat (which you got into because you looked up the Engage In Combat probability on the table on page 1,417 and rolled less than 32%) you roll on another table to see what your action is for the turn.

You keep saying how this is a roleplaying game and therefore it's about playing a role. Well, what comprises a "role"? Whether or not a sword cuts you? Or what decisions you make and emotions you have? I'll assume you'll agree it's the latter (if I'm wrong I'll be interested to hear the argument). So if you're not deciding emotions and actions, are you actually roleplaying?

Look, I get the arguments for why some imposed emotions/decisions can be interesting roleplaying...it's not my cup of tea, but I can appreciate the appeal...but can't you just lean on that for your arguments? Isn't "fun" a compelling enough reason? What's the point of claiming you don't see the difference between external (physical) states and internal (mental) states?
 

The OP stated, in pertinent part (the part I picked up on):
How would you feel if either the GM or the player of another player character wanted to have a conversation to critique your play or discuss why you performed a particular action? Would you be open to critiques around fictional positioning?

To critique is to evaluate in a detailed and analytical way. Which is fine.

Except ... that's not a curious question. That's not, "Woah, I was surprised that Olaf the Selfish did something so altruistic! What's up with that?*"

To critique is to provide an evaluation. Which is not something I do, unbidden, to someone else's roleplaying decisions. YMMV.



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fleetwood-mac-bill-hader.gif

Yup, and my point is that it needn't be like that.

Just discussing, remember? Not arguing!
 

Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
Yup, and my point is that it needn't be like that.

Just discussing, remember? Not arguing!

Not arguing with you- explaining my answer in the context of the question. :)

If people volunteer, that's great. Honestly, it's my experience that you usually can't stop them from volunteering.

Sometimes, it's best to let the mystery linger. Most decisions seem a lot cooler until they're explained.
 

For me, I kind of agree that there is not as big a difference as some are saying, but I do think there are some differences.

With player choice, yes, I think you can be surprised. I think it's less likely, and I also think that ultimately you have the freedom to decide, so if you get to a decision point, and something pops into your head that makes you lean toward a surprising decision rather than the one you expected.....you can always choose the unsurprising and comfortable option if you want.

That surprising decision that may lead to you learning something new about the character is not binding if you don't want to go with it. In that sense, it's like rolling the dice and seeing the results, and then deciding if you want to go with them or ignore them.

I keep seeing the difference as between analogous to the difference in character creation between D&D 5e and, say, Traveler. In D&D you choose basically everything about your character you want to play, and in Traveler you roll a bunch of dice and then play the character the game gives you.

Both are cool. Both are fun.

But I'm struggling to see why there needs to be a huge philosophical debate about that difference. What exactly are people disagreeing about? (Sorry, sometimes I can be really slow on the uptake.). Is it just because if this happens during play it's crossing (or can cross) the line into internal mental state, and some folks (e.g. me) think this is the exclusive domain of the player?

If so, then, yeah, it does.
 

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
No, it isn't apples to oranges. The DM is telling you that your character is falling down (after being tripped by another character). Your DM is telling you that you cannot fight anymore.

In every case, the DM, through the mechanics, is telling you how your character is behaving, within the limits of the mechanics. You failed your check, so, you trip on the wire strung across the hallway and fall on your face, take D4 damage is the DM telling you how your character is behaving.

Now, you are saying you don't use Sanity, or Piety rules. Do you similarly not use inspiration or Ideals? Again, my point is, where is your cut off line? Is it ANY mechanics which impact the mental/emotional state of your character (besides flat our mind control of course)? And, if that's true, why is it acceptable that the DM can dictate your physical state? The DM can declare that you are now Exhausted, for example. So, any physical changes is perfectly fine, but, all mental ones are not?

I guess I'm just having a tough time seeing the difference. Your character is a high dexterity acrobat Rogue who routinely walks on tightropes, can climb a waterfall and has the reflexes of a cat. And I just made him look like a Keystone Kop because you failed a Perception check. How is that not impacting the portrayal of that character?

My PC determines their thoughts and actions. If I'm playing basketball, I decide to take a shot or pass. Do I decide if the ball goes into the hoop? No. Do I decide if a defender blocks the shot or steals the ball? Of course not. Same as my PC deciding to attack but not hitting.

I'd call this the flimsiest of strawmen, but you seem to be sincere. I am in control of my PC's thoughts and actions. I am not in control of consequences, results of my PC's thoughts or actions. Nor do I control the consequences of other creatures actions.

Apples and oranges.

P.S. I don't use inspiration for adhering to TIBF, alignment, or anything else. If I'm telling a player what their PC's internal thoughts and feelings are it's because they've been supernaturally influenced.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
From my standpoint I entirely agree that it is more believable that the character is impacted by events in the fiction rather than that the character has perfect control over their emotional responses.

I merely think that leaving it up to the player who best understands the character to decide how the character is impacted by events allows for more believable nuance than any game mechanic ever could.

I personally don't see any increase in believability from simulating the character's inability to control its responses to traumatic events by also mechanically preventing the player from controlling the character's response to those events.
I agree. The player should be the one to make that decision, because he has a FAR greater understanding of the character than the DM does. Perhaps I've decided that my PC just isn't attracted to people of any sort, so when the queen smiles at him he's just not going to react with anything other than a polite smile back. I don't tell the DM all of what's going on with my PC, because it's my business and he has enough to worry about of his own. If a DM tries to force that PC to blush and be embarrassed, I'm going to tell him no.
 

Campbell

Relaxed Intensity
Generally when I have a conversation with someone about their play it's not going to be about consistency. It's usually because I'm confused about an in character decision, think they might have either missed or filtered out an important part of the fiction, think they might not be expressing enough vulnerability in the moment or think they might be too attached to a particular conception of their character.

These are difficult conversations to have. I'm generally trying to understand what's going on, but I am generally having them because I am not getting what I need from them to do my thing. If I am going to be invested in play there are going to be expectations I expect people to live up to. I expect the same in kind. That if I get too locked in or I'm missing out on a crucial piece of fictional positioning I expect the other players to speak up (especially if I'm the GM).
 

Not arguing with you- explaining my answer in the context of the question. :)

If people volunteer, that's great. Honestly, it's my experience that you usually can't stop them from volunteering.

Sometimes, it's best to let the mystery linger. Most decisions seem a lot cooler until they're explained.

There's something to that, for sure. I think all of this coming up as part of a discussion about play is likely the best way, for me anyway, for this to happen. I don't know if a specific conversation about critiquing play and fictional positioning is necessary.

But I wouldn't be against it if my players said they wanted to do that, or any GM in a game I play in did.
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
On the whole "explore your character" thing I'm still not understanding the difference. Or, at least, why one is "explore" and the other is not. In one case you're making a choice and in the other a choice is being made for you, but if it's leading to something you weren't planning, it's still "exploring" new ideas. Sure, you may choose the well-worn path, but the dice might also choose it for you.

I can see how somebody who never explored new ideas might benefit from the dice (let's say 50% of the time), but somebody who always explore new things would be constrained by the dice (the other 50% of the time).

Ergo...
1) I will agree that exploring new character concepts can be fun (but is not mandatory for fun).
2) Two ways this can happen are by player choice, and by external imposition.

What exactly is the argument that one is substantively better, or even just different, than the other?
Again, the issue is one of volition. If you always choose the path of the character, then, yes, you may have an unexpected thought, but the character is still just you directing it. You can ignore that thought, use it now and refine it later, follow it, whatever, but this path is solely because you chose it for the character. You aren't engaged with the character, the character is just an expression of what you're thinking.

Here's an example: My current D&D character has a Flaw that they will abandon those that don't contribute. This is tied to backstory, party due to upbringing by a literal ice devil and also due to the outlander background after he ran away and lived with barbarian tribes in the frozen north -- if you don't pull your weight you're exiled. So, a situation came up in game where another character not only didn't pull weight, but made a choice that actively endangered everyone's lives. This should have been a pivotal moment for my character if I was interested in finding out who this character is -- are they the kind of character that will demand this other be exiled or take action against them or will they suppress this and go along because it's for the greater goal? Here's the choice, and it could be one where I get to learn this about my character. If I, like I do, retain 100% control, then I'm just going to pick one of these and express it through my character. I haven't learned anything about the character in this situation, I've instead decided who the character is and then apply that. I chose the latter, because 5e isn't a game where this kind of conflict actually works. Had I been playing a different game, then I might still have chosen but it would cause problems if I did so because my character would have to be working through this conflict -- perhaps I have a penalty or there's a new distinction that can be triggered. Dogs in the Vineyard works like this, in that I can choose to escalate or bail on a conflict, but I'll likely suffer various forms of fallout due to this that pose changes to my character (Dogs is all about this). Other games might make this kind of choice something that gets directly challenged and I don't necessarily have control over the outcome - my character's flaw may overwhelm them and I now have to deal with the fact that my character absolutely wants to toss the other character down an icy ravine to die from exposure.

The difference here is if I'm just picking the outcome myself and can justify it however I want, then I'm just expressing the character I'm choosing. I haven't learned anything new here, I've just decided something new. And, note, in none of the examples I've list above is a die just picked up and I'm told what my character things. These all come from things I've intentionally staked as conflict points for my character, so I've picked these. It's a big difference in how roleplaying can be approached. Although, I'm not terribly surprised at the resistance to the concept because, quite often, this difference gets viewed as one being somehow lesser than the other rather than different. They do different things.

Also note that I didn't once use "explore" in this response. "Explore" is not at all crucial to the point I'm making.
 

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
So, who else is there? Can you write something into your character that you don't know? How exactly do you do that?

The whole, "the character is writing itself" thing is all well and good and it sounds really profound, but, at the end of the day, it doesn't really mean anything. It's just a shorthand way of saying that the character was easy for the writer to wrap his or her head around.

So everyone who has ever claimed this is just lying?

Because the option is that the author is not making decisions consciously. So not lying, just expressing a process we don't fully understand. Like, I don't know, not being in control of emotional responses.
 

Generally when I have a conversation with someone about their play it's not going to be about consistency. It's usually because I'm confused about an in character decision, think they might have either missed or filtered out an important part of the fiction, think they might not be expressing enough vulnerability in the moment or think they might be too attached to a particular conception of their character.

I'll just throw out there that this is a whole pile of red flags, from my point of view. It sounds to me like you have aesthetic preferences for the fiction, and they aren't shared by the player. It may be that we just have a different sense for how these things work: I see the players as full contributors to that fiction, and if we don't share the same values...well, it's their game, too. If they are attached to their conception of their character, or don't want their character to be vulnerable, that is 100.0% their choice. I either roll with it, or find a different group.

There's one guy in my group who bases all of his characters on modern media characters. (Inigo Montoya, etc.). Some of them are totally silly (e.g. Jessica Rabbit). Not my preference. But, hey, it's his game, too. I would never, ever, ever "take him aside" and try to persuade him about (let alone lecture him on) "fictional positioning".
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
I keep seeing the difference as between analogous to the difference in character creation between D&D 5e and, say, Traveler. In D&D you choose basically everything about your character you want to play, and in Traveler you roll a bunch of dice and then play the character the game gives you.

Both are cool. Both are fun.

But I'm struggling to see why there needs to be a huge philosophical debate about that difference. What exactly are people disagreeing about? (Sorry, sometimes I can be really slow on the uptake.). Is it just because if this happens during play it's crossing (or can cross) the line into internal mental state, and some folks (e.g. me) think this is the exclusive domain of the player?

If so, then, yeah, it does.
No, actually. I find the random elements of character creation in Traveler to be boring and annoying. Just like I usually find most lifepath character creation systems. The points I'm addressing are things that happen in play.
 

I keep seeing the difference as between analogous to the difference in character creation between D&D 5e and, say, Traveler. In D&D you choose basically everything about your character you want to play, and in Traveler you roll a bunch of dice and then play the character the game gives you.

Both are cool. Both are fun.

But I'm struggling to see why there needs to be a huge philosophical debate about that difference. What exactly are people disagreeing about? (Sorry, sometimes I can be really slow on the uptake.). Is it just because if this happens during play it's crossing (or can cross) the line into internal mental state, and some folks (e.g. me) think this is the exclusive domain of the player?

If so, then, yeah, it does.

Yeah, I think most of this is just about preference. Or about the perceived pros and cons of each.

So what makes combat in RPGs exciting....or at least one of the things....is that it's dangerous. We don't know what will happen to our characters. They may get hurt or die. It's uncertain. We will make decisions that will determine how dangerous it may be, but there will be decisions made by others, and there will be chance, that will also be factors.

Some folks like that kind of excitement when applied not just to the state of our PCs during combat or other physical activities, but also their mental state in more social based interactions.

Others really hate it.
 

Again, the issue is one of volition. If you always choose the path of the character, then, yes, you may have an unexpected thought, but the character is still just you directing it. You can ignore that thought, use it now and refine it later, follow it, whatever, but this path is solely because you chose it for the character. You aren't engaged with the character, the character is just an expression of what you're thinking.

Here's an example: My current D&D character has a Flaw that they will abandon those that don't contribute. This is tied to backstory, party due to upbringing by a literal ice devil and also due to the outlander background after he ran away and lived with barbarian tribes in the frozen north -- if you don't pull your weight you're exiled. So, a situation came up in game where another character not only didn't pull weight, but made a choice that actively endangered everyone's lives. This should have been a pivotal moment for my character if I was interested in finding out who this character is -- are they the kind of character that will demand this other be exiled or take action against them or will they suppress this and go along because it's for the greater goal? Here's the choice, and it could be one where I get to learn this about my character. If I, like I do, retain 100% control, then I'm just going to pick one of these and express it through my character. I haven't learned anything about the character in this situation, I've instead decided who the character is and then apply that. I chose the latter, because 5e isn't a game where this kind of conflict actually works. Had I been playing a different game, then I might still have chosen but it would cause problems if I did so because my character would have to be working through this conflict -- perhaps I have a penalty or there's a new distinction that can be triggered. Dogs in the Vineyard works like this, in that I can choose to escalate or bail on a conflict, but I'll likely suffer various forms of fallout due to this that pose changes to my character (Dogs is all about this). Other games might make this kind of choice something that gets directly challenged and I don't necessarily have control over the outcome - my character's flaw may overwhelm them and I now have to deal with the fact that my character absolutely wants to toss the other character down an icy ravine to die from exposure.

The difference here is if I'm just picking the outcome myself and can justify it however I want, then I'm just expressing the character I'm choosing. I haven't learned anything new here, I've just decided something new. And, note, in none of the examples I've list above is a die just picked up and I'm told what my character things. These all come from things I've intentionally staked as conflict points for my character, so I've picked these. It's a big difference in how roleplaying can be approached. Although, I'm not terribly surprised at the resistance to the concept because, quite often, this difference gets viewed as one being somehow lesser than the other rather than different. They do different things.

Also note that I didn't once use "explore" in this response. "Explore" is not at all crucial to the point I'm making.

Ok, so I think what you mean by "learn about this character" is "what happens if I follow the path this concept is leading and find out happens, even if those consequences seem undesirable"?

I thought you were about to answer that in the long paragraph, but you kind of changed tack before telling me how the story unfolded. Was the denouement that you played out that flaw and "abandoned" another PC, rather than deciding to mitigate/change the flaw?
 

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