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D&D General Styles of Roleplaying and Characters

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Aldarc

Legend
Since it's all a preference and there are already other games that include additional rules, why do we need to add those rules to D&D?

Why not play those other games and let D&D be what it is and always has been? It's the most popular TTRPG ever, it obviously doesn't need the secret sauce to be successful. Yet time and time again when people say "I like it the way it is" the response is always "Why can't we fix it?"

I don't want to fix or add to something that, for me, is not broken. Which obviously means I'm attacking everyone who disagrees ... even though I try to go out of my way to say that it's just a preference.

Meanwhile whenever I suggest that people come up with concrete ideas on how to implement things in D&D that could actually receive feedback, that gets rejected as well. A plus thread on how to add things to the game may actually be useful to those who want it; repeating vague assertions and complaints? I don't see the point. Publishing a supplement to DmsGuild? If it's successful it may be adopted in some form in an official supplement. Complaining on a forum like this? Never goes anywhere.

In any case, this is pointless. If there's ever concrete rules that we could critique I may have something else to say. Until then, it's a free country and feel free to yell at the wind.
There's not too much to add to D&D, to be honest, when it comes to social rules that isn't already there in rudimentary form. The current and past two editions of D&D have social mechanics of some sort, with the skill challenges in 4e probably offering the most robust support. The new Ravenloft book also provides rules for non-magical fear (and stress) for when encountering frightful monsters and the like. It's not much of a stretch to expand those rules for other aspects of social/mental dynamics or encounters that could affect your character's mind.

Usually the people who don't like social mechanics in D&D are typically the ones who are more inclined to actively ignore the rules rather than use the rules. I think one of the bigger issues is that some character/social rules (e.g., Bonds, Ideals, etc.) aren't particularly well integrated with the play loop of the core system.
 

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Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
But, we've been over this so many times.

Why do you think that a social mechanic system would suddenly force you to commit suicide? Do you really have that little faith in game design? Or, to put it another way, can you point to an actual game where this is possible? Or, are you just pulling examples out of the air without any actual experience? Because, from what others have said in this thread, it sure looks like that.
The point is that it should be player choice. If the player can just ignore the mechanics if he decides his PC doesn't want to feel the way the mechanic wants him to, then I have no problem with that. Beyond the possibility of gaining inspiration, bonds, traits and ideals have no mechanics at all. They're just RP aids like alignment is.

Also, I was just pointing out with that example that the traits, bonds and ideals can't by RAW make the character feel any particular way, so they aren't examples of a mental mechanic. I wasn't suggesting that all mental mechanics will force players to do suicidal things. ;)
This looks so much like the whole Exploration Pillar Sucks thread we just had. Any suggestion that the mechanics be changed to make exploration more robust is received with virtually the same reaction we're seeing here.
Just like this discussion, that one was also all about preferences. Not everyone is going to like every change. My position in that discussion was that exploration is already the biggest pillar with lots to it. I don't need anything else added. If exploration rules were created, I would look at them to see what I like and don't like and go from there.
 

Hussar

Legend
Since it's all a preference and there are already other games that include additional rules, why do we need to add those rules to D&D?
/snip
Because every time D&D has opened up to new rules, we've gained a much richer gaming experience.

For 20 years, D&D lacked a skill system. Then, 3e rolls along and adds one. Suddenly, all sorts of character concepts work right out of the box- the Batman character being a prime example - without either resorting to fiat all the time, or the game turning into Calvinball. Simply adding one system opened up a huge area of game design that was closed before. Every class now has something to contribute outside of combat and the rules support that.

So, why would this be different?

---------

/edit to add

I just wanted to expand on the point I was making above but, I ran out of time. 3e massively changed the mechanics of D&D. It added a complete skill system and the exact same arguments you see here about mental mechanics were, word for word, used to argue that D&D didn't need such a system for skills. We had been doing it without mechanics for years, why did we need them now?

But, look at what adding the skill system did to the game. It added so many elements that we take for granted now. I am pretty sure that adding things like mental and social mechanics would expand the game in the same way.

On a side note, I do see a bit of irony here. Apparently the mechanics tell you what your character feels is absolutely off the table. Must never be done. But, the mechanics telling you what your character knows is perfectly acceptable. We've had knowledge skills in the game since 3e and most tables make pretty good use of them.

So, again, what's the difference? Now, it's not a case of adjudicating some physical act. You are asking the DM, "Hey, my character is trained in Arcana, can I make a check to know stuff about this monster?" It just seems very strange to me that we accept mechanics determining nearly everything about your character - what he/she/it can do, think, even say (after all, what is a persuasion check if it's not telling you what your character says, or at least how well it is said) - but we absolutely cannot use mechanics to influence how our characters feel?
 
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Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
Because every time D&D has opened up to new rules, we've gained a much richer gaming experience.

For 20 years, D&D lacked a skill system. Then, 3e rolls along and adds one. Suddenly, all sorts of character concepts work right out of the box- the Batman character being a prime example - without either resorting to fiat all the time, or the game turning into Calvinball. Simply adding one system opened up a huge area of game design that was closed before. Every class now has something to contribute outside of combat and the rules support that.

So, why would this be different?

---------

/edit to add

I just wanted to expand on the point I was making above but, I ran out of time. 3e massively changed the mechanics of D&D. It added a complete skill system and the exact same arguments you see here about mental mechanics were, word for word, used to argue that D&D didn't need such a system for skills. We had been doing it without mechanics for years, why did we need them now?

But, look at what adding the skill system did to the game. It added so many elements that we take for granted now. I am pretty sure that adding things like mental and social mechanics would expand the game in the same way.

On a side note, I do see a bit of irony here. Apparently the mechanics tell you what your character feels is absolutely off the table. Must never be done. But, the mechanics telling you what your character knows is perfectly acceptable. We've had knowledge skills in the game since 3e and most tables make pretty good use of them.

So, again, what's the difference? Now, it's not a case of adjudicating some physical act. You are asking the DM, "Hey, my character is trained in Arcana, can I make a check to know stuff about this monster?" It just seems very strange to me that we accept mechanics determining nearly everything about your character - what he/she/it can do, think, even say (after all, what is a persuasion check if it's not telling you what your character says, or at least how well it is said) - but we absolutely cannot use mechanics to influence how our characters feel?

I know a lot of things. Lyrics to miscellaneous songs, the names of way to many vehicles, obscure facts related to my profession as someone who writes software. But would I recognize a 1930's Ford Coupe on sight? Maybe, maybe not. Kind of random depending on what "old car" books I happened to read or what car shows I went to.

Would I think it's a cool car whether or not I recognized that it was a Ford Coupe? Sure. I have a fondness for that era of vehicles. On the other hand I wouldn't actually want to own one because vehicle technology has come a long way and I'm not into maintaining a show car.

No matter how you conflate knowledge with mental state, it's apples and oranges to me. I never want a game to tell me my mental state unless it's supernatural. Knowledge? There are too many weird random things I happen to remember. Completely different.
 

Hussar

Legend
I know a lot of things. Lyrics to miscellaneous songs, the names of way to many vehicles, obscure facts related to my profession as someone who writes software. But would I recognize a 1930's Ford Coupe on sight? Maybe, maybe not. Kind of random depending on what "old car" books I happened to read or what car shows I went to.

Would I think it's a cool car whether or not I recognized that it was a Ford Coupe? Sure. I have a fondness for that era of vehicles. On the other hand I wouldn't actually want to own one because vehicle technology has come a long way and I'm not into maintaining a show car.

No matter how you conflate knowledge with mental state, it's apples and oranges to me. I never want a game to tell me my mental state unless it's supernatural. Knowledge? There are too many weird random things I happen to remember. Completely different.
Like I said, arbitrary and contradictory.

You insist on having 100% total control over something that no living being in history has ever had control over - emotional responses - but have zero problem with the game telling you whether or not you know what a particular car is. Which is it? Is your character your character or not? What happens when you know it, but your character doesn't? Do you get to over rule the mechanics? Oops, nope, that's meta-gaming by most accounts and a bad thing.

Reading the adventure is considered a pretty bad thing to do right? Yet, totally justifiable. My character just knows those things. You cannot tell me what goes on in the head of my character so how can you insist that I don't know something that I, the player, know? And, conversely, how can my character know something that I don't?

You keep calling everything apples and oranges. Only problem is, a lot of your apples are citrus fruits with orange skins, but, you insist on calling them apples. This is why everyone is arguing with you @Oofta. Your arguments don't make any sense. Sure, you don't like it. Fair enough. But, not liking it doesn't make it bad. It just means that you don't like it. So, why are you insisting that these things have no place in the game? Is it that you just think the game should be designed for you personally?
 

B. Conversely, we do not need any rules to determine the character's mental states. That is 100% up to the player who apparently must be given absolute authority over the mental states of the character. Unless, of course, we add in handwavium in the form of magic. Or a few other corner case kinda/sorta magic effects. And alignment. And traits and bonds and ideals. And a few other things. But, by and large, we must not ever have rules to determine the character's mental state.

This is exactly the sort of unnecessary hostility that caused me to bow out of this thread.

But, against my better judgment, I do want to respond to a couple of things that I think you're either not understanding or misconstruing:

To put it another way, the lack of social mechanics means that social characters - characters that excel at the talky bits - are never really a viable option in the game. At best they're support characters.

Here (I'm only quoting the final paragraph) you seem to be missing the point that social mechanics can be asymmetric. They can allow the DM to be a (more) neutral arbiter of social interactions: while players still get to decide what their reactions is, NPCs are influenced by the mechanics.

Games don't have to be designed or run this way, but they can be, and doing so addresses your concern in that post.

On a side note, I do see a bit of irony here. Apparently the mechanics tell you what your character feels is absolutely off the table. Must never be done. But, the mechanics telling you what your character knows is perfectly acceptable. We've had knowledge skills in the game since 3e and most tables make pretty good use of them.

There is no contradiction if the player is allowed to decide what their character believes to be true. That is, if they have player knowledge they can decide whether or not their character also has that knowledge (which, as has been pointed out many times, might turn out to be erroneous). If they don't have player knowledge they can either:
a) Make something up and decide their character believes it
b) Perhaps make a knowledge check, if the rules/DM allow it.

Either way, the player is in control.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
You insist on having 100% total control over something that no living being in history has ever had control over - emotional responses

This is why everyone is arguing with you. Your arguments don't make any sense.

Please stop for a moment. Now is the time to think about what you've said, and what that implies for how you are approaching this discussion (and really, any discussion around here).

So - people are not in control of their emotional reactions. You assert that yourself.

Then, what do you think happens when you aggressively press, and make discussions personal? You elicit emotional responses... which the people are not in control of. And you then want them to "make sense"?

Your own manner of engagement here runs contrary to what you say you want from people. You are actively working against people making sense!

So how about you back off, and think about how to constructively engage without the confrontation.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
You insist on having 100% total control over something that no living being in history has ever had control over - emotional responses - but have zero problem with the game telling you whether or not you know what a particular car is. Which is it? Is your character your character or not? What happens when you know it, but your character doesn't? Do you get to over rule the mechanics? Oops, nope, that's meta-gaming by most accounts and a bad thing.
Knowledge is not the same as emotional response and neither is the same as what you are thinking. Do we have full control in real life over emotional response, what you remember(knowledge) or what you are thinking? No. I don't play D&D as an effort to mirror real life, though. And even in real life I have some measure of control over all of those things.

In D&D(or any other RPG) I don't want any rules telling me what my PC is thinking or feeling unless there's something supernatural going on that can exert control over my PC. Knowledge is a bit different. I can't know for sure everything the PC knows, so rules for helping me to figure that out are helpful and appreciated.
Reading the adventure is considered a pretty bad thing to do right? Yet, totally justifiable. My character just knows those things. You cannot tell me what goes on in the head of my character so how can you insist that I don't know something that I, the player, know?
No, your character does not just know everything that you know. He has no idea who first made it to the moon in real life, nor has he ever heard about WWII. If you read an adventure and try to use that knowledge, you are cheating. You've broken the social contract pretty badly.
And, conversely, how can my character know something that I don't?
That one is easy. HE grew up in a fantasy land and knows or might know many details that you the player who did not grow up there probably do not.
 

Amrûnril

Explorer
Like I said, arbitrary and contradictory.

You insist on having 100% total control over something that no living being in history has ever had control over - emotional responses - but have zero problem with the game telling you whether or not you know what a particular car is. Which is it? Is your character your character or not? What happens when you know it, but your character doesn't? Do you get to over rule the mechanics? Oops, nope, that's meta-gaming by most accounts and a bad thing.

If no one has total control over their emotional responses, that's true of the player as well as the character. If the goal is to simulate a human mind responding to unanticipated scenarios, then I think the best approximation is going to be a human mind responding to unanticipated scenarios.

I'm not convinced realism should be the goal here, though. A real person doesn't choose how their "ability scores" are organized or the setting they grew up in. But most tables let players determine those things for their PCs, because creating those parts of a character is part of what makes the game enjoyable. Similarly, I think having control over a character's personality and decision making is an important part of what makes the game fun, regardless of whether that level of control makes sense philisophically or psychologically.

With that said, I'm not opposed to specific exceptions, like those that already exist for magical control or fear effects. I just think player control over character behavior should be the default, and any exceptions to that need to be justified on a case by case basis.
 

Campbell

Legend
Speaking personally the desire to feel what my character feels is not due to a desire for realism, but because feeling like I am there in the moment is what makes roleplaying games fun for me. That meaningful sense of being present, feeling the tension, grasping against difficulties is fun for me. Not having to choose between what I know is good for team success and playing my character with integrity feels really good.

That last bit is pretty important to me personally. Part of the reason I sit down to play a roleplaying game is that I like games and I want to be playing a game, not telling a story. If I am always in complete control of my characters thoughts and emotions then those moments where core emotional beats are at stake than I stop playing a game and start telling a story.

In my personal experience the social and emotional environment at the table often does a fairly poor job of mimicking the social and emotional environment between characters. Not for lack of trying. The social context is just incredibly different. We can get somewhat close with deliberate effort and the right GM techniques and play principles if we cannot find the right mechanical tools for our group, but it's much harder.

I guess I would ask those who eschew mechanical tools what sort of techniques do you use to keep players focused in the moment? How do you create a social environment where players feel free to play against group interests when it's in character? How do you handle emotional stakes in a way that feels right?

Overall I don't think we should expect logical consistency or judge anyone for the sort of play experience they want. Not a big fan of should or should not being applied globally when it comes to gaming. I have all sorts of stuff in gaming I am not logically consistent about. We're dealing with aesthetic judgements here. Being overly concerned with the logical consistency of other people's aesthetic values is not aesthetic.

Once again I'm only speaking for my personal preferences for games that are fundamentally about finding out who these characters are. Not looking for any sort of change. I think creative decisions should be left to creatives, but that is another topic altogether.
 

pemerton

Legend
Speaking personally the desire to feel what my character feels is not due to a desire for realism, but because feeling like I am there in the moment is what makes roleplaying games fun for me. That meaningful sense of being present, feeling the tension, grasping against difficulties is fun for me. Not having to choose between what I know is good for team success and playing my character with integrity feels really good.

<snip>

I guess I would ask those who eschew mechanical tools what sort of techniques do you use to keep players focused in the moment? How do you create a social environment where players feel free to play against group interests when it's in character? How do you handle emotional stakes in a way that feels right?

<snip>

Once again I'm only speaking for my personal preferences for games that are fundamentally about finding out who these characters are.
I feel that this post fits together fairly well with my reply, not too far upthread, to @hawkeyefan about "Han Solo"-type character change.

There are a whole host of things in a game that contribute to that feeling of "being there in the moment". They are not all mechanical. In some contexts none of them need be mechanical; but mechanics can play a role.

And mechanics can play other roles too.

In the Prince Valiant game that I GM, the use of PC-affecting social mechanics is primarily a device for maintaining "theme" and creating situations that the players have to deal with: eg, as per posts upthread, when I used the Incite Lust ability to compel the PC Sir Morgath to become infatuated with Lady Lorette of Lothian, I wasn't really trying to help the player have a "deep" inner experience. I was deliberately making life harder for his PC, and to that extent harder for him as a player. He could see exactly what was going on. He played along with it, and the result was a mixture of moment-to-moment in-character play, plus a few distinct moments of "hilarity ensues".

Pages 43-44 of the rulebook explain the general logic and workings of "special effects" in Prince Valiant:

Special Effects are ways in which a Storyteller . . . can decisively affect the action of the game without any coin throws [= dice rolls]. Special Effects give the Storyteller control over the course of events, even in the face of very powerful Adventurers.

When possible, the Storyteller should use coin throws to impose his will on the Adventurers. For example, it is more realistic and entertaining to assign a high Difficulty Factor to a task, and let the Adventurers all try and fail, than to simply say “it’s impossible to do that.” But leaving your story vulnerable to a lucky coin throw can be risky. . . . a Special Effect gives the Storyteller an event that occurs without fail. This can help him control the story without being too dictatorial. . . .

Special Effects are normally linked to specific characters in the story (see the Episodes for examples). Usually no more than three characters with Special Effects, or one character with three Special Effects, should be used, so as to let the players retain some control.

The players should not know what Special Effects your characters have, but they should be logical ones for the characters. . . . The Storyteller must create a reasonable explanation for the way in which the Effect takes place, in terms of the current situation.​

And Incite Lust is described on p 46:

This Special Effect makes one character’s primary thoughts turn to lust for another character of the opposite sex. The user of the Special Effect may select any two characters, even Adventurers, as the lustful party and as the object of desire. The emotion is permanent.

The current Storyteller will have to make a ruling as to how the lustful character behaves. If the lustful character is an Adventurer, the controlling player decides how lust affects his character. A Storyteller may veto the controlling player’s wishes only if the intended behavior is unrealistic.

If this Special Effect is used to permit one character to dominate another, common sense and logic should be used. The character will not jump off a cliff for the object of his lust, nor will he necessarily wish to marry her. This can be a cruel Special Effect to use, especially if the object of lust is unattainable.​

The reference to lust rather than (say) desire or infatuation is best seen, I think, as an artefact of the genre (Arthurian romance); likewise the hetero-normativity. These to one side, what we see here is (i) a recognition that this can be a big deal and hence needs to be handled with care ("a cruel Special Effect"), (ii) a discussion of the limits of desire ("common sense and logic"), and (iii) a recognition of PC/NPC asymmetry ("the controlling player decides how lust affects his [sic] character").

This contrasts, I think, with Burning Wheel which is aiming less at "hilarity ensues" and more at being there in the moment and feeling the weight of the situation as one's character. Upthread I've posted (inter alia) an account of my PC's prayer to restore vigour to his mother. The immediate trigger for this, in play, was that the GM was about to start a Duel of Wits in which Xanthippe (Thurgon's mother) was going to implore Thurgon (my PC) not to leave her alone again. The prayer had weight in itself, because (mechanically) is was slightly more likely to fail than to succeed and (in the fiction) having it go unheard in such a moment of crisis would have been devastating for Thurgon (and there are mechanical ways, too, to follow through on that). But it also had weight because of what would happen if it failed - I (as Thurgon) would be drawn into an argument about my past and future behaviour (I was not going to walk out on my mother, when this was the first time I'd seen here in five years!) and there was no guarantee I would win it! (Thurgon is not terrible at social actions but not great at them either. And Aramina probably would have helped Thurgon, but only by saying cruel things to Xanthippe, which would have been hard too!)

The goal here is different from the Prince Valiant one of the GM exercising limited control to create challenging/amusing situations. The pressure that the GM is piling on, through the interplay of framing - using particularly salient fictional elements - and mechanics (actual and threatened) is not making me laugh or groan like Sir Morgath's player did. It is making me sweat, and my heart speed up a bit.

Reading your (@Campbell's) post brought my mind back to that moment.
 

Hussar

Legend
This is exactly the sort of unnecessary hostility that caused me to bow out of this thread.
/snip
Huh? How is this hostile?

Pointing out all the ways that the game actually DOES tell you what your character is thinking is somehow hostile now?
@Maxperson said:
In D&D(or any other RPG) I don't want any rules telling me what my PC is thinking or feeling unless there's something supernatural going on that can exert control over my PC. Knowledge is a bit different. I can't know for sure everything the PC knows, so rules for helping me to figure that out are helpful and appreciated.

And, again, I'm really lost at sea here as to how there is any difference. You don't want rules that tell you what your character thinks. So, Sense Motive/Insight is off the table in your games? You say you cannot know for sure everything the PC knows, but, you can know for sure everything the character thinks? How is that even possible? How can you know what something is thinking if you don't know what it knows?
 

Hussar

Legend
Please stop for a moment. Now is the time to think about what you've said, and what that implies for how you are approaching this discussion (and really, any discussion around here).

So - people are not in control of their emotional reactions. You assert that yourself.

Then, what do you think happens when you aggressively press, and make discussions personal? You elicit emotional responses... which the people are not in control of. And you then want them to "make sense"?

Your own manner of engagement here runs contrary to what you say you want from people. You are actively working against people making sense!

So how about you back off, and think about how to constructively engage without the confrontation.
Since this wasn't put in red, I'll assume it's up for discussion.

I'm sorry, but, pointing out clear contradictions is now hostile? @Oofta and others have pretty clearly stated their position. That they absolutely do not want any mechanics which would tell the player what the character thinks. But, just as clearly, they have no problems with the mechanics that exist in the game right now that tell them what their character thinks. So, you'll have to excuse me if I make claim to some confusion since they seem to be holding contradictory positions.

And, no, I do not accept the notion that the mechanics telling you that your character knows something is any different than the mechanics telling you that the character feels something. It's all 100% mental, internal process. There's no external force going on here like in combat. "Your character knows X because of his knowledge skill roll" is no different than "Your character feels this because of this Feelings roll". Both can instituted by the DM, so, @Bill Zebub, no, there are many situations where the player is not in control.
 

Aldarc

Legend
Speaking personally the desire to feel what my character feels is not due to a desire for realism, but because feeling like I am there in the moment is what makes roleplaying games fun for me. That meaningful sense of being present, feeling the tension, grasping against difficulties is fun for me. Not having to choose between what I know is good for team success and playing my character with integrity feels really good.

That last bit is pretty important to me personally. Part of the reason I sit down to play a roleplaying game is that I like games and I want to be playing a game, not telling a story. If I am always in complete control of my characters thoughts and emotions then those moments where core emotional beats are at stake than I stop playing a game and start telling a story.
The intersection of these two beats in your post is interesting to me because I come at it from a slightly different angle, though I don't necessarily think that it conflicts with your point. If I am "always in complete control of my characters thoughts and emotions then those moments where core emotional beats are at stake," then I feel like the first bit in bold is where my conflict resides.

So it's not necessarily that I feel like I am stopping play a game. In some respects, it's actually the opposite. It draws attention to the meta concerns of the game, and I risk being brought out of my character. These are the moments where my character feels more like my game pawn than a character, as the meta-concern of "what I know is good for the team" or "what I know is good for the table" creates a conflict of interest with roleplaying my character with integrity. If "what my character would do" is disruptive to others' fun, then can I roleplay my character with integrity? But if "what my character would do" falls into line of the play group 99 out of a 100 times, do I feel as if I am playing my character with integrity either? These mechanics relieve some of that pressure and allow me to focus more on roleplay rather than less.

IMHO, why this matters is not only for me as a player, but also for the other participants as well. It's not just about me and my roleplay. It's also about them and their roleplay of their characters. It's about our roleplaying.

As a point of note, our discussion of roleplaying regarding the presence or absence of these roleplay mechanics has overwhelmingly emphasized the player's play of that character. But it's also worth considering how these mechanics aid the process of roleplaying with integrity as a collective endeavor in regards to the other participants. The mechanics also help to resolve play for the GM and other participants.

When I make this roll regarding my character's emotional or mental stakes, then everyone is a witness to the process, and they are bound by the game to respect its outcome. My character's internal stakes and its resolution become public. The other players too learn something about my character and their mental states.

Likewise, when I as a player or GM watch another player make this roll where their character's thoughts, emotions, or drives are at stake, then I am forced to respect the integrity of the player's roll and their roleplay thereof in the fiction. We are all equally bound to honor the outcome of this player's roll as the player is.

In effect, this offloads and diffuses some of the potential table drama of the "that's what my character would do" excuse onto the dice resolution mechanic.
 

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
Since this wasn't put in red, I'll assume it's up for discussion.

I'm sorry, but, pointing out clear contradictions is now hostile? @Oofta and others have pretty clearly stated their position. That they absolutely do not want any mechanics which would tell the player what the character thinks. But, just as clearly, they have no problems with the mechanics that exist in the game right now that tell them what their character thinks. So, you'll have to excuse me if I make claim to some confusion since they seem to be holding contradictory positions.

And, no, I do not accept the notion that the mechanics telling you that your character knows something is any different than the mechanics telling you that the character feels something. It's all 100% mental, internal process. There's no external force going on here like in combat. "Your character knows X because of his knowledge skill roll" is no different than "Your character feels this because of this Feelings roll". Both can instituted by the DM, so, @Bill Zebub, no, there are many situations where the player is not in control.

I have no problem with what my character knows or remembers being somewhat random. Just because I know a lot about databases does not mean I'll be able to tell you about how a hashed index works unless I needed to read up on it for some reason.

Not my problem if you can't understand the difference. I don't want feelings or decisions determined randomly because I want to be the author of my PC and no, I don't care how unrealistic that is. Being persuaded by someone else because of a game mechanic is not realistic either. Many studies have shown that it doesn't matter how persuasive or convincing a person is, sometimes nothing they say can get someone else to change their minds. Just like no matter what I say, you're still going to keep telling me that my personal preference and opinion is somehow wrong because you disagree.
 

There is no contradiction if the player is allowed to decide what their character believes to be true. That is, if they have player knowledge they can decide whether or not their character also has that knowledge (which, as has been pointed out many times, might turn out to be erroneous). If they don't have player knowledge they can either:
a) Make something up and decide their character believes it
b) Perhaps make a knowledge check, if the rules/DM allow it.

Either way, the player is in control.
Very much this. Especially in 5e where roleplaying is defined in the PHB p185 as "you as a player determining how your character thinks, acts, and talks".

And, no, I do not accept the notion that the mechanics telling you that your character knows something is any different than the mechanics telling you that the character feels something. It's all 100% mental, internal process. There's no external force going on here like in combat. "Your character knows X because of his knowledge skill roll" is no different than "Your character feels this because of this Feelings roll". Both can instituted by the DM, so, @Bill Zebub, no, there are many situations where the player is not in control.
And then we could also add a mechanic to determine "your character does this thing because of this Doing roll". At which point we're playing an RNG game where the dice determine everything. Might be fun for some but I'm pretty sure at that point we're not engaged in a TTRPG anymore. See, some people - including the 5e designers apparently - draw the line at the player controlling how the character thinks, acts, and talks (with some exceptions for enchantment and supernatural effects). Having a "Feelings" roll is antithetical to that basic premise.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
I guess I would ask those who eschew mechanical tools what sort of techniques do you use to keep players focused in the moment? How do you create a social environment here players feel free to play against group interests when it's in character? How do you handle emotional stakes in a way that feels right?
I'm not sure how to answer this. We've agreed that we won't hold anything against the player if circumstances in game cause a PC to come into conflict(not necessarily physical) with another PC or PCs. As for being focused in the moment, I try to inhabit my PC as much as I can so that I can think as he would as effectively as I can.

There was one 3e game I was in where I was playing a rogue. As part of his background he was married and had a daughter. We were still fairly new PCs, being no more than I think 3rd level. It was a long time ago, so the details are fuzzy, but we came across a prophecy that something very dark was coming and we would need the help of witch to overcome it. We had no idea when or where we would find her, or what she looked like. Some time after that we encountered a group of bad guys that were part of the darkness that was coming. They were quite a bit more powerful than we were and we had to run.

Not long after that my PC was doing some errand in town by himself and he was approached by the group. I was told that they had my character's wife and daughter, and unless I kept quiet about them approaching me and summoned them when we found the witch, my family would be killed. They then gave me a magical object to summon them with. My character did what many would under those circumstances, he kept quiet.

Fast forward a bit and we were traveling across country for some reason that I no longer remember. We decided to go through a swamp area and risk the danger in order to save time. At some point we came across a shack in the swamp and inside was an old and vile potion woman. My character had the clever idea of using the device to summon the bad guys to pick up the "witch." Since they also never described the witch to me, if this was wrong(and I was pretty sure it was), I had a very plausible reason for summoning them and at the same time exposing my situation to the rest of the group without getting my family killed. So I pulled out the item and used it...

Predictably, the bad guys transported to our location pretty quickly. Now for the part I didn't mention yet. At some point during the journey we encountered a caravan that had been attacked by bandits or orcs or something. We found a 9 year old girl hiding and we had taken her with us so that we could get her helped at the city we were heading to. When those bad guys appeared, they looked at the girl and smiled. They then thanked me for calling them to get the witch they had been seeking. The rest of the part was understandably confused by the course of events, not knowing about my family or the item, and none of us realized who that girl was.

The bad guys quickly took possession of the girl and opened up a portal. The rest of the group being the heroes that they were, prepared to rush and attack the bad guys, knowing that they couldn't win. My PC, however, knew that if we did that his family would be killed. I interposed myself in-between the part and the bad guys and let them know that the bad guys had my family and if they wanted to get to the bad guys, they were going to have to go through me first.

So at that point the encounter could have gone a few different ways. They could have gone through me and there wouldn't have been much I could do to stop 5 other PCs. Had they opted to go that route I wouldn't have held it against the players, just as they didn't hold what I did against me. Instead of going through me to the bad guys, though, they stopped and let the bad guys go. Afterwards we talked and I explained what had happened to them. The rest of the party understood and we began making plans to not only go rescue the girl, but my family as well.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
And, again, I'm really lost at sea here as to how there is any difference. You don't want rules that tell you what your character thinks. So, Sense Motive/Insight is off the table in your games?
Neither of those skills tells my PC what he thinks. If something seems a bit shady to me, I might try to ascertain whether the NPC is telling the truth or not. The DM might call for a sense motive/insight check. Success would be knowing that it is a lie. Failure does not mean that my PC has to believe the NPC. It only means that I cannot tell via the skill if the NPC is lying. I'm still free as a player to retain my suspicion, decide that my PC thinks he is lying, or whatever else.
You say you cannot know for sure everything the PC knows, but, you can know for sure everything the character thinks? How is that even possible? How can you know what something is thinking if you don't know what it knows?
Pretty easily. I use what I know he knows(there's quite a bit of that). If there's something he might know, I will use game means to determine if he knows it or not. For example, if we see a picture on the walls detailing a scene from the Battle of the Bones and I'm not sure if my PC would know about that battle, I would say something like the following, "I go over to the picture and examine it closely, looking to see if I recognize anything in it." At that point the DM will either say yes or no if the outcome is not in doubt, or ask me to roll a history check. No matter which way it turns out, though, I can still have my character think that it's an interesting battle scene.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
But, just as clearly, they have no problems with the mechanics that exist in the game right now that tell them what their character thinks. So, you'll have to excuse me if I make claim to some confusion since they seem to be holding contradictory positions.
Because there aren't any. 5e has not one single mechanic to tell my character what he thinks or feels that isn't magical in some way.
 


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