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D&D General Styles of Roleplaying and Characters

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Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
Because the player is never objective.

No matter what the player decides, it will always come from the very subjective position of the player. Even players who delight in torturing their characters are still making choices based on that particular preference of play. IOW, the player will nearly always choose a response that the player thinks of. Obviously.

Take a DM's example. The monsters have downed a PC but there are still standing PC's around. The monster's turn comes up. Now, as the DM, you could instantly kill the downed PC - two automatic death fails kills the PC in this example (assume the character has already failed one death save). So, as the DM, do you whack the PC or attack someone else? Well, either way you decide is tainted by your awareness of the table. If you choose to kill Dave's character, he might be kinda pissed off. OTOH, if you choose not to kill Dave's character, are you making that choice because it makes sense in the fiction or because you just don't want to kill Dave's character? But, if you kill Dave's character, are you doing it to avoid looking like you are avoiding not killing a character - on and on and on, around in circles.

So, if you're me, you let the dice decide. 1-2, kill Dave's character, 3-6 move on to the next target. It's objective and fair and doesn't put me, as DM, square in the spotlight for whacking Dave's character.

The same goes for players. Players will never choose something that they don't think of themselves. They can't. Obviously. So, that's where mechanics come in.
Before I was speaking as a player. Now I'll come at it from the DM side of things.

As a DM I much prefer to have control over whether the monsters kill the downed PC or not based on the circumstances surrounding the fight. Below I'll give some examples.

Example 1: The PCs are facing ravenous ghouls and the downed PC has a ghouls standing over him. Ghouls aren't that smart and really exist to eat human flesh. The ghoul would stop and start eating the PC, so the PC gets attacked while he is down. (this happened in one of my campaigns and the druid died).

Example 2: The PCs are facing an experience mercenary band who knows that downed enemies often don't stay down, so tactically the best thing to do is make sure they don't get back up. The mercenary over the downed PCs finishes the job.

Example 3: The PCs are facing off against townsfolk who have been enraged by an anger entity that is plaguing the town. The downed PC has farmer Joe standing over him. Angry or not, farmer Joe doesn't know tactics and isn't familiar with enemies getting back up in battle, so he just moves on to the standing PCs and tries to attack one.

Example 4: A new town guard that has only had a few weeks of training is standing over the PC. He has some small training in tactics and the idea that enemies can get back up, but he's very new and there's a good chance he's not going to think of it in the moment. I don't know for certain which way it will go, so I'm going to assign 1-2 he kills the PC, 3-6 he moves on to attack the others.

I don't want there to be set general mechanics for making that decision, because those mechanics cannot take all the details of the moment into consideration and give me what I consider to be reliable results on what the monster/NPC would do.
 
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Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
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, I'd like to note the strong correlation between hating it and preferring/experiencing only games where the GM has full authority over everything else and where the densest concentration of player-facing rules is in combat. I'm honestly not sure about the direction, though, as this seems like a classic chicken/egg problem.
 

Desdichado

Adventurer
No they aren't. I'm utterly confused by this.
Well... yes, they are. I guess I don't know what else to say about this then. So, for that matter, is almost all fiction, or all fiction that's any good. When I was younger and I used to read a lot of books by science fiction authors about science fiction authorship, almost all of them made this point explicitly; that the only good stories are the stories about characters; not plot, not setting, etc. Again, I think the problem here is that you've defined "character exploration" so narrowly that it has no relation to the way anyone else uses the phrase, and it's a major distraction, making discussion about whatever it is exactly that you meant (mechanical options for character behavior, I presume, although I'm even then not completely sure) impossible to have.
 

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
It became kind of confusing, with all that mixing of mechanics telling what the PC feels and GM doing the same. I'll focus on the first case, as the second is a bit more debatable.

So. Mechanics, rules, dice, all that fancy jazz.

Is there really any meaningful difference between using dice to determine whether the character can hit a head-sized target at 800m and using dice to determine whether the character can actually pull the trigger, knowing that this head-sized belongs to her lover? I, honestly, don't think so.

I can't see how something like



is somehow different from



After all, dice is a tool to choose between two equally interesting outcomes. If one of them is uninteresting, then there's no point in touching dice. Any rule out there exists to allow you to disclaim decision-making, after all.

There's a difference between the player making the decision, even if it's random and the decision being made for them.

Maybe my PC pulls the trigger because their lover doesn't really mean much and it was just for fun. Maybe they don't pull the trigger, consequences be damned. Maybe as a player I'm uncertain in the moment what they would do, so I roll a die.

Frequently I make the decision without conscious thought, especially if I've been playing the PC for a while. Occasionally that decision will surprise me.

Or not. It's just a game.
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
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?
I don't think so, because your question is phrased in a way that makes me think something was missed. That could easily be my fault for failure to adequately explain it, but it's a complicated concept.

If I retain 100% control over my character, I cannot learn anything about it, I can only learn what I think about my character. My character can never surprise me, I can only surprise myself.

If I stake something about my character such that it's at risk and no longer entirely within my control, then I'm essentially engaged in trying to learn who this character is -- I've risked my control to get an answer, and will then be stuck with it.

In the example, I posed a possible question about my character (and this happened in game), but went with the first bit -- my character chose to just be dismissive and snarky towards the other character rather than take any other action. This choice was made because, well, 5e is foremost about the party, so I needed to take that into account and say that my character's flaw, in this case, was expressed very mildly. I didn't learn anything about my character, here, I learned what choice I was going to make, and just expressed it with my character. In another game, it's quite possible I wouldn't be free to make that choice because I've staked that my character has this flaw and it might be triggered here, forcing new actions and finding out something about this character -- that the party's goal is not more important than their personal beliefs. Or maybe I find out they are. I can't say, because it's not really my choice in this matter. And, key to this, is that when I make a character in these kinds of games, I'm expressly giving up this choice during creation and staking this point of my character as something I want to learn about in play. It's not ever just a random die roll to tell me what my character thinks, it's a question I've demanded the game challenge so I can learn the answer.
 

tetrasodium

Legend
Supporter
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.


But, apparently, that's more believable than having the mechanics tell you that you believe a lie or that nameless horror from beyond is just really damn scary and makes you wet your pants. Hell, even apparently being beaten literally to death, and then being ripped from whatever just rewards you have shuffled off to to reinhabit your scarred, broken, body has zero impact on a person's psyche.
A person with that sort of conscious control over their emotional responses would likely be deep into wide range of mental illnesses far beyond mere psychopahy & sociopathy. In the context of such a person acting as even the most well behaved murderhobo d&d PC it might be difficult to class them as anything but a starfish alien simply because you could no longer reliably map understandable motives & desires to their actions.
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
Well... yes, they are. I guess I don't know what else to say about this then. So, for that matter, is almost all fiction, or all fiction that's any good. When I was younger and I used to read a lot of books by science fiction authors about science fiction authorship, almost all of them made this point explicitly; that the only good stories are the stories about characters; not plot, not setting, etc. Again, I think the problem here is that you've defined "character exploration" so narrowly that it has no relation to the way anyone else uses the phrase, and it's a major distraction, making discussion about whatever it is exactly that you meant (mechanical options for character behavior, I presume, although I'm even then not completely sure) impossible to have.
Yes, I know it's a popular thing to say. It's also popular to say it's raining cats and dogs. Metaphors do not become true on repetition. At no point is an author's character actually making any choices. If surprise happens during the process of authoring, it's because the author has surprised themselves with an unexpected thought. I surprise myself all the time this way. I've used that phrase to describe it. But, it's not actually true -- it's a metaphor.
 

Again, I'd like to note the strong correlation between hating it and preferring/experiencing only games where the GM has full authority over everything else and where the densest concentration of player-facing rules is in combat. I'm honestly not sure about the direction, though, as this seems like a classic chicken/egg problem.

Oh I think there is definitely a connection. I think it's kind of about the established distribution of authority. In D&D (most editions, though it varies a bit) the DM has the majority of the authority in this area, and the players receive authority over their PCs. So any time the DM intrudes on that authority in any way, you tend to see strong reactions.

Which is kind of understandable.....it's the established dynamic of the game. A DM taking control of a PC is not really different from a player deciding what creature is in the next room.
 

Desdichado

Adventurer
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 we got rid of explore, but now we are likely to be stuck on "learning something." If you had mechanics like Dogs in the Vinyard, and I admit to not being super familiar with the social conflict rules of that game, only having read them once years ago and never played with them, but if I remember correctly, you still roll dice for that. You didn't learn anything about your character. All you learned was "this one time I rolled the dice and the result was 13." Suggesting that that teaches you something about your character is egregious hyperbole, in my opinion, so it's hard again to see what you're talking about when you say things like, "You aren't engaged with the character, the character is just an expression of what you're thinking." As opposed to what; just being an expression of some dice rolls?

In any game, no matter whether it has this kind of narrative stuff built into like like Dogs, or if it doesn't, like D&D, you're still engaged with 1) your character, 2) the setting, as presented to you by the GM, and 3) the mechanics. In fact, I would suggest exactly the opposite as what you conclude from your example. That's not more engagement with the character, it's less, and is instead favoring engagement with the mechanics. Making a decision about how to handle it yourself, rather than referring to a mechanical solution, isn't just "expressing what you're thinking" as a player it's actually engaging with the character, and using your knowledge of the character's (ahem) character to determine what the result will be. Having mechanics to do that for you is more disengaging from the character, in much the same sense that making a Search check rather than narratively exploring a room is more disengaging from the setting as opposed to the mechanics. Mechanical solutions to questions of setting and character tend, in most cases, to be shortcuts for when you're not interested in engaging with the setting or the character.

I know that there are some exceptions, and some (admittedly, quite unusual in relation to where the rest of the hobby is) games that specifically address trying to grapple with the setting as presented by the GM or your character in a mechanical sense, but they are so out in left field compared to the rest of the hobby that I'm honestly kind of surprised how much they come up in discussions about D&D playstyle, and why they tend to dominate those kinds of discussions.
 

I don't think so, because your question is phrased in a way that makes me think something was missed. That could easily be my fault for failure to adequately explain it, but it's a complicated concept.

If I retain 100% control over my character, I cannot learn anything about it, I can only learn what I think about my character. My character can never surprise me, I can only surprise myself.

If I stake something about my character such that it's at risk and no longer entirely within my control, then I'm essentially engaged in trying to learn who this character is -- I've risked my control to get an answer, and will then be stuck with it.

In the example, I posed a possible question about my character (and this happened in game), but went with the first bit -- my character chose to just be dismissive and snarky towards the other character rather than take any other action. This choice was made because, well, 5e is foremost about the party, so I needed to take that into account and say that my character's flaw, in this case, was expressed very mildly. I didn't learn anything about my character, here, I learned what choice I was going to make, and just expressed it with my character. In another game, it's quite possible I wouldn't be free to make that choice because I've staked that my character has this flaw and it might be triggered here, forcing new actions and finding out something about this character -- that the party's goal is not more important than their personal beliefs. Or maybe I find out they are. I can't say, because it's not really my choice in this matter. And, key to this, is that when I make a character in these kinds of games, I'm expressly giving up this choice during creation and staking this point of my character as something I want to learn about in play. It's not ever just a random die roll to tell me what my character thinks, it's a question I've demanded the game challenge so I can learn the answer.

Ok, then either I'm still not understanding your answer, or you misinterpreted my last attempt to translate. (I'm not being disingenuous...I think this is interesting and I want to figure it out.)

Because the character is entirely fictitious, and in your head, I've been struggling to understand what you mean by "learn" about it. What you can learn about is where the traits you've chosen might lead in the fiction, if you commit to them and try to keep more gamist desires of you, the player, out of the equation. That it in turn might lead to an interesting and genuinely surprising portrayal of the character. Which, I suppose, must be what you mean by "learn about the character".

Is that correct?
 

Desdichado

Adventurer
Yes, I know it's a popular thing to say. It's also popular to say it's raining cats and dogs. Metaphors do not become true on repetition. At no point is an author's character actually making any choices. If surprise happens during the process of authoring, it's because the author has surprised themselves with an unexpected thought. I surprise myself all the time this way. I've used that phrase to describe it. But, it's not actually true -- it's a metaphor.
Just like the repetition that "making choices" or "being surprised" has anything to do with character exploration, character engagement or "learning something" doesn't make it true that any of these buzz phrases have any relation to each other. I know debates aren't like democracies, because most people aren't all that bright and may well pick the factually incorrect answer in greater numbers than the correct one, but in this case, I think you should probably take at face value that when you get strong pushback from loads of posters saying that they can learn something about their character, or explore him, without having to have mechanics to do that for them, that they are not, in fact, wrong about their perception of what they are doing. It does NOT require mechanics to do that. Nor, in fact, does a mechanical solution actually "teach" you anything about your character other than that if you fail to get the result you were expecting, that you didn't put high enough modifiers in the relevant attributes, or just had a funny random roll that gave you a result that the character will now have to live with in one way or another.
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
OK, so we got rid of explore, but now we are likely to be stuck on "learning something." If you had mechanics like Dogs in the Vinyard, and I admit to not being super familiar with the social conflict rules of that game, only having read them once years ago and never played with them, but if I remember correctly, you still roll dice for that. You didn't learn anything about your character. All you learned was "this one time I rolled the dice and the result was 13." Suggesting that that teaches you something about your character is egregious hyperbole, in my opinion, so it's hard again to see what you're talking about when you say things like, "You aren't engaged with the character, the character is just an expression of what you're thinking."
If we're using this, then when in combat in 5e and we roll dice it doesn't mean anything, we just learned that you rolled a 13. Nothing else happens, right -- there's no context for this roll or intent this roll is resolving, we've just rolled a die in combat and gotten a 13. Oh well?

No, seriously, this is still the terrible take that somehow using a mechanic for something like this is just rolling dice -- nothing else. It's such a patently obvious double-standard.
In any game, no matter whether it has this kind of narrative stuff built into like like Dogs, or if it doesn't, like D&D, you're still engaged with 1) your character, 2) the setting, as presented to you by the GM, and 3) the mechanics. In fact, I would suggest exactly the opposite as what you conclude from your example. That's not more engagement with the character, it's less, and is instead favoring engagement with the mechanics. Making a decision about how to handle it yourself, rather than referring to a mechanical solution, isn't just "expressing what you're thinking" as a player it's actually engaging with the character, and using your knowledge of the character's (ahem) character to determine what the result will be. Having mechanics to do that for you is more disengaging from the character, in much the same sense that making a Search check rather than narratively exploring a room is more disengaging from the setting as opposed to the mechanics. Mechanical solutions to questions of setting and character tend, in most cases, to be shortcuts for when you're not interested in engaging with the setting or the character.
Sigh, again with the blatant double standard being applied that any mechanic must just be utterly superficial and disconnected from everything if it's for social or emotional stuff, but the rest of the mechanics really have heft and bite and depth such that they, without ever addressing the social/emotional stuff, have such impact that they encourage all the fun character stuff. Those other mechanics are awesome, so awesome we don't need stupid mechanics for social stuff.

I mean, it's very hard to have a discussion about these things when the immediate response is a gross caricature laid on bad assumptions.

Look, I really like playing 5e. I'm saying all of these things about my own play -- play that I like. This isn't an attempt to denigrate or reduce your fun or anyone else -- I'd have to be doing that to myself, and I very much feel I'm not. Instead, I'm trying to get to a core distinction about a difference in fundamental approach to roleplaying a character. The kneejerk move to somehow protect your own play isn't necessary - I 100% think it's a great and fun way to play and I engage it wholeheartedly. I'm not talking about that, I'm talking about a different way you can also play and what makes it different. You keep turning it into a complaint about semantics and complaining about my word choices. Oh, and badly construing how systems that do it differently work.
I know that there are some exceptions, and some (admittedly, quite unusual in relation to where the rest of the hobby is) games that specifically address trying to grapple with the setting as presented by the GM or your character in a mechanical sense, but they are so out in left field compared to the rest of the hobby that I'm honestly kind of surprised how much they come up in discussions about D&D playstyle, and why they tend to dominate those kinds of discussions.
And this unawareness of large parts of the hobby space is pretty obvious. What's not great about this take is that you're unaware of the impacts this space has had on the D&D hobby over the editions, and how 5e isn't independent of them, but made conscious choices in design that acknowledge the other approaches out there. That it was dissatisfaction with how D&D does roleplaying that led to White Wolf almost taking the crown in the '90's. About how popular PbtA games are, that work in this space of mechanics being able to affect character -- and how one of the largest ever kickstarters for RPGs (and boardgames for that matter) is a PbtA game system. It's a take that's very, very uninformed, but not surprisingly so because of how much market share 5e has -- you can easily go decades of gaming and never really run across a competing approach to play.

But, still, this gross appeal to popularity does nothing to support your claims.
 

I mean, it's very hard to have a discussion about these things when the immediate response is a gross caricature laid on bad assumptions.

That seems to happen a lot. "Look I can prove your ideas about games are bad because I can take it to a ridiculous extreme."

Imagining the extreme case can be productive if accompanied by a genuine interest in understanding how/why things don't go to the extreme, but it seems that too often it's really a case of:

"I like pie"
"You say you don't eat any food besides pie and I think that's stupid."
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
Ok, then either I'm still not understanding your answer, or you misinterpreted my last attempt to translate. (I'm not being disingenuous...I think this is interesting and I want to figure it out.)

Because the character is entirely fictitious, and in your head, I've been struggling to understand what you mean by "learn" about it. What you can learn about is where the traits you've chosen might lead in the fiction, if you commit to them and try to keep more gamist desires of you, the player, out of the equation. That it in turn might lead to an interesting and genuinely surprising portrayal of the character. Which, I suppose, must be what you mean by "learn about the character".

Is that correct?
Nope, the opposite. So long as you have 100% control, you aren't learning anything about the character, because you're making the choices for that character entirely. You may surprise yourself, but that's you having a thought you didn't expect you would have.

To really get into a case where the character can surprise you, you have to cede at least some control outside yourself. As this is still a game, the only ways to do this are to engage with mechanics or let someone else make choices about your character. For an example of the latter, I just made characters for a Kids on Bikes game. As part of that process, there are questions asked to players about the relationship between characters. One of those, asked about my character to another player, was "What secret does your character know about <character>?" And here, they do not have to check with me (although that's nice), but can say what secret they know and that's now a secret my character has! I've learned something here about my character. Unfortunately (to me), KoB doesn't really offer explicit ways in play for whether or not that secret gets betrayed to be something that the other player learns about their character (it's implicitly left to be their choice), but you can drift the game such that if one of their character's pressure points is being leveraged that there's a check to see if they keep faith or not. I'm rather excited to find out how the game plays out, as I've never played with this particular person as a GM in any game, though they've been in my home game for the last few years (we've played a few campaigns of 5e and one of BitD together).
 

Nope, the opposite. So long as you have 100% control, you aren't learning anything about the character, because you're making the choices for that character entirely. You may surprise yourself, but that's you having a thought you didn't expect you would have.

To really get into a case where the character can surprise you, you have to cede at least some control outside yourself. As this is still a game, the only ways to do this are to engage with mechanics or let someone else make choices about your character. For an example of the latter, I just made characters for a Kids on Bikes game. As part of that process, there are questions asked to players about the relationship between characters. One of those, asked about my character to another player, was "What secret does your character know about <character>?" And here, they do not have to check with me (although that's nice), but can say what secret they know and that's now a secret my character has! I've learned something here about my character. Unfortunately (to me), KoB doesn't really offer explicit ways in play for whether or not that secret gets betrayed to be something that the other player learns about their character (it's implicitly left to be their choice), but you can drift the game such that if one of their character's pressure points is being leveraged that there's a check to see if they keep faith or not. I'm rather excited to find out how the game plays out, as I've never played with this particular person as a GM in any game, though they've been in my home game for the last few years (we've played a few campaigns of 5e and one of BitD together).

Arrggghh. Now I'm increasingly confused because:
a) You said "Nope, the opposite" but it feels to me like we are saying the same thing...
b) ...except that now you've changed the scenario from committing to a choice you made about the character to somebody else adding something to that character for you.
c) Earlier you said Traveler annoys you and that you are talking about these things happening in play, but isn't this new scenario (another player giving your player a secret) something that happens during character creation? Yes, the impact of that secret happens during play...but couldn't the same be said of Traveler? That is, the game dictates who your character is, but then you express that during play. How is one fun and the other annoying? Is it just that Traveler dictates too much about your character?

I'm seeing several ways the "character" acquires detail:
1. The player makes a choice
2. Another player (including DM) makes a choice
3. Dice get rolled according to rules

And in all three cases this can occur in two ways (i.e., there's a 3x2 table)
1. A trait* gets assigned/attached to the character
2. The trait gets expressed during play

*Broad meaning of trait; not a specific game term
 

Desdichado

Adventurer
Hmm... You've obviously filled in a number of blanks about me (incorrectly) that are making this more difficult than it should be. Let's try and address some of this in turn.
Sigh, again with the blatant double standard being applied that any mechanic must just be utterly superficial and disconnected from everything if it's for social or emotional stuff, but the rest of the mechanics really have heft and bite and depth such that they, without ever addressing the social/emotional stuff, have such impact that they encourage all the fun character stuff. Those other mechanics are awesome, so awesome we don't need stupid mechanics for social stuff.

I mean, it's very hard to have a discussion about these things when the immediate response is a gross caricature laid on bad assumptions.
Not at all. Those other mechanics suck too, and if there were any other reasonable way to resolve them other than rolling dice and engaging with (hopefully unobtrusive and fade into the background) mechanics, then I'd obviously prefer them. (Assuming, of course, that you want to introduce an element of risk that can't be modeled any other way. I suppose you could always just talk through action scenes, but few people would find that entertaining in the same way that rolling dice to see if you succeed or fail on various elements is.)

In terms of character exploration and development and (many) social interactions: THERE IS another and superior way to handle it, so I have little interest in a mechanical solution to something that doesn't need a mechanical solution. I'm neither making gross caricatures (or even pleasant caricatures) nor bad assumptions, I just have a very strong preference for non-mechanical solutions whenever reasonably possible. You, I presume, see it as a double standard because you don't have that preference, and like to engage with clever mechanics, so clever mechanics that do something interesting to you in a scenario in which I have no preference for ANY mechanics, especially not overly precious ones seems like fun. I don't think that it is, and it's not because I have a double standard. I just have a different standard than you do.

I also take exception to the egregiously untrue assertion that you've repeatedly made that you can't explore character, or learn anything about character without having mechanics to introduce a random element into the equation, because without the random element giving you results that you don't expect, you can't actually learn anything.

Ahem... that is, in fact, a statement that requires a bad assumption and is therefore a gross caricature. In fact, it's that bad assumption and gross caricature that I believe is almost solely responsible for this tangent being dragged on as long as it has been. That's the kind of thing that people DO take exception to; being told that they're not even doing what they claim to be doing, because if they're not doing it the way you proscribe, then they better come up with a different label for it.

Look, I really like playing 5e. I'm saying all of these things about my own play -- play that I like. This isn't an attempt to denigrate or reduce your fun or anyone else -- I'd have to be doing that to myself, and I very much feel I'm not. Instead, I'm trying to get to a core distinction about a difference in fundamental approach to roleplaying a character. The kneejerk move to somehow protect your own play isn't necessary - I 100% think it's a great and fun way to play and I engage it wholeheartedly. I'm not talking about that, I'm talking about a different way you can also play and what makes it different. You keep turning it into a complaint about semantics and complaining about my word choices. Oh, and badly construing how systems that do it differently work.
Wow, I'm... not doing that at all. I honestly have no idea what you're talking about now. I don't even play 5e. I've never even read 5e. I'm not at all protecting my playstyle against some perceived attack. I am, however, taking exception to your characterization that certain things can only be done if you do them the specific way that you think that they should be done, and everyone else who says that they're doing exactly what you're claiming that they can't be doing just fine without those mechanics should probably be taken at face value.
And this unawareness of large parts of the hobby space is pretty obvious. What's not great about this take is that you're unaware of the impacts this space has had on the D&D hobby over the editions, and how 5e isn't independent of them, but made conscious choices in design that acknowledge the other approaches out there. That it was dissatisfaction with how D&D does roleplaying that led to White Wolf almost taking the crown in the '90's. About how popular PbtA games are, that work in this space of mechanics being able to affect character -- and how one of the largest ever kickstarters for RPGs (and boardgames for that matter) is a PbtA game system. It's a take that's very, very uninformed, but not surprisingly so because of how much market share 5e has -- you can easily go decades of gaming and never really run across a competing approach to play.
I don't play D&D. I've been dissatisfied with D&D since 1985, a least, if not earlier. I leaned heavily into White Wolf in the 90s, and eventually lost interest in them because the games were written and played more like D&D than they pretended to; they were just more smug and pretentious about it. I was heavily exposed to competing approaches to play long before 3e was even released or I discovered ENWorld in its earliest incarnation several usernames ago.

I just take exception to the fact that in your advocacy for PbtA (or Dogs in the Vinyard, or Fiasco, or whatever other Forge-esque game you care to refer to) type games you're making claims that people aren't actually doing what they think that they are doing, because without PbtA type mechanics, they aren't doing jack squat with character. That's patently untrue AND insulting, which is why you're getting so much pushback for making that assertion from so many people.
But, still, this gross appeal to popularity does nothing to support your claims.
See, even that you mischaracterize. I made a throwaway reference to the fact that maybe if a bunch of people are telling you that they're doing something just fine without your mechanics that it is, in fact, possible to do so without your mechanics, and all you see from that is a gross appeal to popularity?
 
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Campbell

Relaxed Intensity
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".

I see everyone at the table as a collaborative partner. There are certain things I need from my collaborative partners in a game where I am going to be emotionally invested in the situation and the characters. If I am going to go to an emotionally vulnerable place than I expect the other players to honor that, respect that, and value that. I expect them to also invest and do the same.

When I talk about being vulnerable I'm addressing the player and not the character by the way. I mean it in the same sense that actors meaning it. Being present in the moment, not trying to control the process, and not being attached to a particular outcome. That shared goal of playing to really find out what happens and who these people really are is important to me (in the context of a character focused game).

It's not about lecturing anybody. It's about setting boundaries, and valuing the time and commitment of everyone involved.

None of this applies to plot focused, adventure gaming or challenge focused play. It's just what I need if I'm going to emotionally engage in a character focused game. The juice needs to be worth the squeeze.
 
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None of this applies to plot focused, adventure gaming or challenge focused play. It's just what I need if I'm going to emotionally engage in a character focused game. The juice needs to be worth the squeeze.

Key paragraph.

“Play with people you enjoy playing with” is probably the most important rule.

Although the sidebar note might read: “But occasionally try something different with a new group, just to see what it feels like.”
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
Arrggghh. Now I'm increasingly confused because:
a) You said "Nope, the opposite" but it feels to me like we are saying the same thing...
b) ...except that now you've changed the scenario from committing to a choice you made about the character to somebody else adding something to that character for you.
c) Earlier you said Traveler annoys you and that you are talking about these things happening in play, but isn't this new scenario (another player giving your player a secret) something that happens during character creation? Yes, the impact of that secret happens during play...but couldn't the same be said of Traveler? That is, the game dictates who your character is, but then you express that during play. How is one fun and the other annoying? Is it just that Traveler dictates too much about your character?
Traveler does annoy me, because it's exactly the kind of random disconnected die roll that people complain about.
I'm seeing several ways the "character" acquires detail:
1. The player makes a choice
2. Another player (including DM) makes a choice
3. Dice get rolled according to rules
You're mistaking "detail" for what I'm talking about. I can create an extremely "detailed" character through just the act of authoring it and it doesn't require play at all.

No, my point is about finding out things about the character that I don't wholly create myself.
And in all three cases this can occur in two ways (i.e., there's a 3x2 table)
1. A trait* gets assigned/attached to the character
2. The trait gets expressed during play

*Broad meaning of trait; not a specific game term
I don't follow this at all. Your 1 and 2 aren't exclusive to each other, and I don't know what you're trying to describe here. Perhaps engage with one of the examples I've presented and point out where you're having trouble specifically? You keep generalizing back and somethings being lost but I can tell where exactly it's being lost because of the generalizations.

Also, good talk.

ETA: a negation in the last paragraph that was missing and made the 2nd sentence say the opposite of what was intended. I really should take more time to do an editing pass.
 
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Lanefan

Victoria Rules
I too rant to the wind against the GM/system denying my character's proper agency over my character's actions every time that I miss on an attack roll.
I don't see it as being the same.

In combat, the rules are (usually) pretty clear about what mechanics are used to determine outcomes. Why? Because we can't physically roleplay out the combats at the table and something has to step in and take over.

We can, however, roleplay out social interactions and-or our own characters' emotions at the table without recourse to rules (in which case, rules for such things become unnecessary); and if a character's emotional state is such that he both wants to assassinate someone and is in a positon to do so the game should not IMO attempt to interrupt that by arbitrarily challenging the character's emotional state. Ditto if the character falls in love with someone or feels any other strong emotion; that's the player's choice to make* and the game should not be able to arbitrarily interfere.

Once we get to the actual putting of knife to throat, of course, we're into combat; and all the associated rules of abstraction come into play.

* - in all cases I'm assuming the absence of mind-control magics or similar.
 

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