D&D General Supposing D&D is gamist, what does that mean?

I think 5e does what it does because that’s the way it’s been done in the past, and they didn’t consider how other changes made would impact that (or perhaps more likely they realized and decided not to worry about it). I think this also applies to a lot of players and GMs. This is the way it’s always been done, and nothing else makes sense to them.
Yeah, I'm sorry, but I just see 5e as mostly a marketing thing. The whole point was simply to go back to 'old coke', at least at a superficial level. If something exists in AD&D (especially 2e) then it must exist in 5e and at least superficially 'look the same' and allow you to reproduce the same play activities (IE buying your equipment, paying out your GP and adding up encumbrance). To me it always came across as a kind of cowardly system, it doesn't really commit to ANYTHING. Old school dungeon crawls are not really supported well, because the encumbrance/equipment system seems to be basically designed to let you do whatever you want and not have to think too hard about it. Nor does it dare to stray into the other useful possibility, which is a 'loadout' kind of system something like DW or BitD (take your pick).
 

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pemerton

Legend
Because the chance of a randomly selected artwork having been done by a master the player knows is related to the amount of knowledge the player has, and so it seemed like a name to use for the die roll?
Here's my personal take on knowledge checks - what a character knows is something I would prefer we use judgement and/or work together to establish as needed. The uncertainty we are resolving is not fictional uncertainty, but the uncertainty of the players at the table (including the GM).
What @Campbell says in the second quoted sentence seems right to me: given that the uncertainty is not uncertainty in the fiction - ie can the PC successfully recall fact X or not - but rather uncertainty at the table - ie a gap in the authorship of who painted the painting - why is it being resolved as if it were an effort being made by the PC (ie a knowledge check, which is structurally analogous to a STR check or an acrobatics check or whatever).

I have read endless posts explaining how Come and Get It in 4e spoils immersion, because something that is largely independent of a PC's efforts - namely, whether or not some enemies close with them in melee - is determined by the player making a decision.

I have read endless posts explaining how Wises checks in Burning Wheel must spoil immersion, because something that is largely independent of a PC's efforts - namely, whether or not a certain famous wizard, sometime in the past, built a tower somewhere nearby the PC's current location - is determined by the player positing that their PC recalls that that tower is nearby.

Pejorative terms like "martial mind control", "Schroedinger's tower", etc get thrown around. And in this thread, we've seen the inventory rules for BitD described as "quantum gear" - a description that is clearly meant to have a critical tone, and to suggest that the gameworld lacks depth and substance.

And now you're telling me that this is exactly how 5e D&D knowledge checks work, and have worked all along? Yet for some reason, this has no effect on the depth and substance of 5e gameworlds, nor the ability to immerse. Are you inviting and expecting me to take this seriously? Or are you now agreeing that all those criticism of CaGI, BW Wises, BitD inventory, all misfired?

Because there was no reason to specify it before?


Because it would be pretty tedious to have detailed lists about everything in the world that a player might be interested in?
How is inventory different from this in any respect? Or geography? Or the location of ogres? Yet people on these boards will post endlessly about "quantum ogres", the need for maps to avoid railroading, etc. There is an active thread in which you are participating that deals with these very things!

Because the list of things likely to be carried feels like a really small proper set of "everything in the universe the players might possibly care about and maybe know about?"
So is the list of paintings. How many paintings come up in the typical D&D campaign? As many as the number of iron spikes? Or lengths of rope?

So the GM says sure, you find out there's a person in the town you're in who is known to have a nice specimen of artwork. Your source for that info doesn't know who the artisan is. And so you have your character do whatever and go to the location and looks at it.

Can the GM say it's by a young master Hergberty that your character doesn't know?
If you're talking about D&D as traditionally played, then surely the answer is yes! Just like, no matter how observant and keen to spot secret doors your PC might be, the GM can specify that there are no secret doors in the environs.

Having a high Perception bonus, in traditional D&D, doesn't increase the likelihood of secret doors being around; so why would having a high Knowledge of Artists bonus, increase the likelihood that any given painting was painted by one of the artists that the PC knows about?

Does the answer depend at all on that being the GM determining something about your character's past? (That you weren't, say, one of the judges that decided Hergberty became a master.)
In traditional D&D, as I understand it - based on play and reading the rulebooks - the player does not have that sort of authority over their PCs' past. The systems that establish that sort of control - eg BW Wises, DW Spout Lore, BW Circles, etc - are the ones that tend to be dismissed or derided as "Schroedinger's X" by advocates for traditional D&D.

If it is ok, is it ok even if the GM made a roll based on your art knowledge skill to see if it was a master you knew or not, or are they not allowed to make such a roll?

If you are fine with the GM rolling themselves, but not asking the player to, please briefly elaborate. (If you previously objected, never mind).

If it is not ok for the GM to say your character doesn't know Hergberty without checking with you first, what mechanism could be used to make sure you didn't know them? (Can they ask you to name all the masters you don't recognize and which geographic regions your knowledge is less than 100% in?)
Are you still talking about traditional D&D? The GM is allowed to make secret rolls, and is also allowed to tell the player what they do or don't know - as per your post upthread about the GM telling you who you recognise when you enter a pub.
 

pemerton

Legend
When running traditional games my solution is to largely consult skills and what has been established about the character in question to decide what they know. The roll is just white noise.
This is more-or-less how we do it in Traveller - make an "estimate" based on the PC's EDU score, plus their established backstory which tells us what they are educated about (eg one PC is a xeno-archaeologist, while another knows nearly every Imperial Navy manual back-to-front).

We still do use rolls sometimes:
The PCs then decided it was time to jump to Olyx. In accordance with game procedures, we rolled for a random starship encounter upon leaving the system. (The roll for leaving Byron produced an uninteresting Free Trader result, coming in from Lyto-7; the roll for arriving at Enlil produced no result.) The result this time was interesting - a Type T starship, ie a 400 ton patrol cruiser with 4 triple turrets, but piratical, not official (although the players didn't know this last thing).

Curious about the arrival of such a ship at Enlil, the PCs decided to try and intercept the communications between the vessel and the starport. I set a rquired throw and the player who had the idea made the roll (with Methwit actually making the attempt) - and failed by 1. But then the player lobbied for help from Blaster, who has Commo-1 and Computer-2 and (with EDU 10) a good and recent knowledge of naval codes. So I set another required throw (maybe 7+ to grant a +1 DM for overall success) which succeeded, and so the PCs were able to intercept the patrol cruiser's transmissions.
The starship owner went out to meet up with a new patron. Successful checks (boosted by Carousing-1) led to contact with a government official (rolled by the player on the random patron table), who paid 55,000 credits upfront to hire the orbital lab for a fortnight's surveillance of a neighbouring, enemy nation (the world of Ashar having "balkanised" government, 6 different nations distinguished by differences of religious doctrine). The government had reports of some offworld pathfinder elements having entered the neighbouring country (Suliman), and wanted to know their numbers and capabilities

<snip>

The other PCs, meanwhile, had refuelled their vessel (including for jump as well as orbital capability, in case of the need for an emergency escape) and started the surveillance process. I decided the base check for intercepting signals or otherwise finding signs of the "pathfinders' was 12 on 2d6, rolled once per day, but with a +1 for the Communications-1 skill being dedicated to the task. The second roll was an 11, and so they intercepted communications in what some of the former naval personnel among them recognised as an imperial code, although a couple of unsuccessful Education checks told us that none of the PCs knew how to decode it. But the players were intrigued to learn that the pathfinder team were not simply from off-world but had Imperial connections.
 

pemerton

Legend
I think, since this thread was initially about gamism, I’d say that I wish game designers and players took that into consideration. How does the inventory aspect play as part of the game? Does it offer meaningul decision points? Does it create interesting events in play? Does it inform other elements of play? In short… does it matter?

Having encumbrance and tracked resources works for specific play modes like dungeon delving or wilderness travel. So for early editions of D&D or retroclones like OSE, that is an important part of the play experience; managing your resources versus acquiring treasure. That element is largely absent in 5e, which has a far less narrow focus.

As @Malmuria said, doing things that way is largely a lingering remnant of the earlier systems. But given the other changes in the game, it’s a remnant that doesn’t really make sense. The encumberance rules, the GP economy, the kits of equipment, and many many abilities that are immediately available at character generation… all of these things work against the kind of resource management that funcions as a gamist element. These different elements of the game are either not working in unison or are entirely at odds.
The dreaded incoherence!
 


Cadence

Legend
Supporter
How is inventory different from this in any respect?

I did say in multiple posts upthread that the inventory for standard items seemed akin to what happens in 5e for a variety of equipment things.

Or the location of ogres? Yet people on these boards will post endlessly about "quantum ogres",

I'm pretty sure I at least abetted one of the big quantum ogre threads. Seems fine to me if it isn't a huge part of the story or something the parties decisions about were being voided, and that it wasn't rubbed in the players faces that's how it worked (eg the players might know that kind of thing could happen, but not about specific incidences).

So is the list of paintings. How many paintings come up in the typical D&D campaign?
The original set up was that the GM wasn't planning on them looking for paintings, the player came up with the idea. It could have been anything any of the players decided to be interested in (which is a lot of things).

why would having a high Knowledge of Artists bonus, increase the likelihood that any given painting was painted by one of the artists that the PC knows about?
Since the painting wasn't pre-specified, it might as well have been randomly selected if one wanted to be Bayesjan. Presumably more knowledge makes a larger portion of paintings in the sample space recognizable?

Are you still talking about traditional D&D? The GM is allowed to make secret rolls, and is also allowed to tell the player what they do or don't know - as per your post upthread about the GM telling you who you recognise when you enter a pub.
Would you find it to be non-immersive to be told that the painting is by master Higeddly you didn't know as the GM describes it to you? Would it change if you knew there was a die roll behind it?
 

Yeah, I'm sorry, but I just see 5e as mostly a marketing thing. The whole point was simply to go back to 'old coke', at least at a superficial level. If something exists in AD&D (especially 2e) then it must exist in 5e and at least superficially 'look the same' and allow you to reproduce the same play activities (IE buying your equipment, paying out your GP and adding up encumbrance). To me it always came across as a kind of cowardly system, it doesn't really commit to ANYTHING. Old school dungeon crawls are not really supported well, because the encumbrance/equipment system seems to be basically designed to let you do whatever you want and not have to think too hard about it. Nor does it dare to stray into the other useful possibility, which is a 'loadout' kind of system something like DW or BitD (take your pick).

Blades is a fairly narrow game in scope: it's about playing scoundrels, who do heists, in this one specific city. In fact, it's so narrow and its mechanics are so interlocking that it is a bit intimidating to hack. 5e has, quite intentionally from the playtest, a wide scope. It's a toolkit, not a game but games. While I can see the argument that that makes it incoherent and thus cowardly, I just see it as a different kind of thing. It certainly does not make it "dysfunctional" in any meaningful way.

In terms of equipment, I do think it matters most in 5e in levels 1-3, i.e. the same scope of play of the 'B' in b/x. Past level 5 not so much, but if we're being honest this was probably also the case with the expert rules too. Moreover, I think shopping in 5e serves other purposes, namely world-building and hanging out in character. In terms of the game's "pillars" shopping becomes less about preparing for exploration/combat (of a dungeon or wilderness); rather it is itself exploration, usually of an urban environment, via a set of social encounters.
 

Since the painting wasn't pre-specified, it might as well have been randomly selected if one wanted to be Bayesjan. Presumably more knowledge makes a larger portion of paintings in the sample space recognizable?
Right, so making the question of whether you know a particular artist be based on the quality of your art education does reproduce a statistically reasonable outcome in terms of how often you get to say "I know this artist!" Honestly, this sort of knowledge check is, at least IMHO, not some kind of big issue. I just see it as very analogous to the Dungeon World 'adventuring kit' where you get to pick out a useful item of equipment when you need it, from a limited list of options. Likewise you know some artists and you can basically say "I know that guy." Each has a cost, in the case of the kit you expend one of its uses, in the case of the artist you are forced to make a check. Not identical, but both cases are intended to hold your ability somewhat in check.

OTOH, with knowledge, I don't really see the point in not just saying "yeah, you know that." You know artists, you know this one. If that will advance your intent, then you need to make a 'fate roll' essentially to see if the universe throws a wrench in your plans or not.
 

In terms of equipment, I do think it matters most in 5e in levels 1-3, i.e. the same scope of play of the 'B' in b/x. Past level 5 not so much, but if we're being honest this was probably also the case with the expert rules too. Moreover, I think shopping in 5e serves other purposes, namely world-building and hanging out in character. In terms of the game's "pillars" shopping becomes less about preparing for exploration/combat (of a dungeon or wilderness); rather it is itself exploration, usually of an urban environment, via a set of social encounters.

I've noted before that one thing that is very visible when you come from games with weaker and/or narrower magic is that D&D, particularly from 3e on, but honestly even earlier, progressively destroys any meaning to most gear outside magic items as you progress. There have been occasional attempts to address parts of this (making long distance travel magic difficult or limited for example), but its fundamentally slapping a bandaid on a bigger problem.
 

Cadence

Legend
Supporter
OTOH, with knowledge, I don't really see the point in not just saying "yeah, you know that." You know artists, you know this one. If that will advance your intent, then you need to make a 'fate roll' essentially to see if the universe throws a wrench in your plans or not.

So anyone with any skill just knows everything all the time about it unless the GM wants to throw a potential monkey wrench in? (That doesn't feel right, so I'm legitimately asking)

Last game I ran I regularly IDd things or gave info with no roll if it felt like something a competent character would almost certainly know. If it felt obscure I required a roll.
 
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pemerton

Legend
Would you find it to be non-immersive to be told that the painting is by master Higeddly you didn't know as the GM describes it to you? Would it change if you knew there was a die roll behind it?
The whole set-up you seem to be presupposing here strikes me as non-immersive: I'm playing someone who is a stranger in their mind and body, waiting for an external oracular force to tell them what they know and remember.

My approach, as a player and as a GM, is pretty similar to what @AbdulAlhazred has described: the player of the knowledgeable character takes the lead in telling us - that is, the others at the table - how things are, and if something meaningful will turn on this then a check is made to see if there is some twist or change or additional factor that they've forgotten or are ignorant of, that means things aren't quite as they expected or hoped.

So anyone with any skill just knows everything all the time about it unless the GM wants to throw a potential monkey wrench in? (That doesn't feel right, so I'm legitimately asking)
I read AbdulAlhazred as saying what I just said: if something turns on this knowledge, then a check is called for.

Does it matter who painted the painting? This isn't a question to which there's an abstract answer; it depends on what is actually going on in play.
 

Cadence

Legend
Supporter
The whole set-up you seem to be presupposing here strikes me as non-immersive: I'm playing someone who is a stranger in their mind and body, waiting for an external oracular force to tell them what they know and remember.

My approach, as a player and as a GM, is pretty similar to what @AbdulAlhazred has described: the player of the knowledgeable character takes the lead in telling us - that is, the others at the table - how things are, and if something meaningful will turn on this then a check is made to see if there is some twist or change or additional factor that they've forgotten or are ignorant of, that means things aren't quite as they expected or hoped.
Is that how you run it in Traveller and D&D as well?

I'm trying to mull over why someone would think a check to see if they wrong about how they identified something would be more immersive. And then I think of all the times I've been sure a program was bug free and hit run...
 

clearstream

(He, Him)
So anyone with any skill just knows everything all the time about it unless the GM wants to throw a potential monkey wrench in? (That doesn't feel right, so I'm legitimately asking)

Last game I ran I regularly IDs things or gave info with no roll if it felt like something a competent character would almost certainly know. I'd it felt obscure I required a roll.
What seems to be at issue is the degree of obligation on what others say when one player declares they have some item.
  • System A: player decides in advance how many slots their character has
    • they can later declare they have any item that fits those slots (using them up as they do so)
    • others are obliged to agree
  • System B: player decides in advance what items their character has
    • they may later declare they have some item they didn't decide on in advance
    • others aren't obliged to agree; they're only obliged to agree that they have the items decided on in advance
The systems I would contrast for A and B would be BitD and TB2. To me, the comparison with Knowledge checks would imply a system like this
  • System C: player decides in advance the probabilities their character has of having items
    • they can later declare they have an item and make a roll (just as items in A have slot-values, items in C will have target numbers)
    • others are obliged to agree, iff they make their roll
Regarding C, per RAW DM isn't calling for an ability check in 5e just to find out if a character knows something. They're only calling for roll because there are meaningful consequences. An example might be where it matters that the character can recall the author of a painting at a glance. Another example could be where an obscure fact such as the precise time and place it was painted matters. I think one can concede that a character has the requisite knowledge, without conceding that they can always recall it in an instant, or recall every precise detail. Bearing in mind that in 5e where time-taken doesn't matter, the recollection if possible always succeeds (simply taking longer... perhaps a visit to a library, consultation with a friend, or a good ponder.) For me at least 5e doesn't here supply the best analogy.
 

pemerton

Legend
Is that how you run it in Traveller and D&D as well?
I posted some examples from Traveller upthread. The player of the PC who knows the Imperial Navy manuals back-to-front is the one who tells us how things are done in the Imperial Navy. The character who is a Baron of Hallucida tells us what Hallucidan policy and interests are. Etc.

In 4e D&D, we had one PC with strong knowledge skills - a wizard/invoker whose Paragon Path was Divine Philosopher and whose Epic Destiny was Sage of Ages.

That player would explain how things worked - magic, the planes, etc - and declare checks based on this. If what they explained seemed to need a bit of massaging to fit with what else had been established, then we would talk it through, just as any other action declaration can sometimes require getting clear consensus on its fictional premise. If the check succeeded - which for that build it mostly does! - then that settled how things were. If the check failed, then that could be my cue (as GM) to introduce a twist.

Here are some examples of the player having his PC do magic things, which take for granted the player's conception of what is possible in this respect:
When they arrived, an Aspect of Vecna was waiting for them. It wanted to bargain to get the Eye of Vecna back from the party invoker. (Backstory to this is here.) The Eye is in the invoker's imp, placed there both to achieve a power up, and to stop Levistus (who placed the imp with the invoker) using the imp as a spy (by creating a Vecna-ish shield of secrecy). Unfortunately the party's conflict with Torog, as linked to above, had led to the invoker choosing the Raven Queen over Vecna as recipient of the souls of the Underdark's dead In retaliation, Vecna had used his control over the Eye to strike down the imp, which meant that the imp was currently lifeless (and hence the Eye inactive).

The bargaining was unsuccessful, however, as in an earlier session the invoker had already agreed to help the rest of the party try and destroy the Eye if they could find a way; and he now held to that agreement. The Aspect threatened a bit, but the PCs stood their ground and (recognising a superior force) it teleported away.

<snip>

the Aspect of Vecna reappeared bringing back up (undead cultists, lich vestiges and four demons under its control).

<snip>

before Vecna's turn could come around again, the cleric-ranger stunned him with a reasonably newly acquired daily power. To add insult to injury, the chaos sorcerer rolled a 1, pushing Vecna 1 square. Vecna failed his save and went tumbling 100' to the ledges below the earthmote. Then something (I guess one of the demons?) hit the paladin and pushed him over the edge. At which point an Acrobatics roll was requested, to "do a Gandalf" (from the Two Towers film) and fall down on top of Vecna. The roll was successful, and the paladin dealt damage to Vecna with a successful basic attack, as well as taking damage himself for the fall.

While the other PCs cleaned up uptop, the paladin successfully solo-ed the now-bloodied Aspect, but (at the behest of the invoker) only knocked it unconscious (and then used his Marshal of Letherna daily utility to prevent any regeneration that might let it come back to consciousness). The invoker then came down and used an Undead Ward ritual, with the Aspect as a focus, to try and sever the connection between Vecna and his Eye. This was successful (between stats, feats and Sage of Ages the character has bonuses of around +40 to most of his ritual checks), so the imp came back to life, still powered up by the Eye but no longer subject to Vecna's influence. (But therefore once again able to send information to Levistus. When I chided the player for his PC not sticking the liberated eye in his own socket, his reply was that Malstaph (the PC) is not foolish enough to think that he's a god.)
The PCs (and players) then pondered how to get to Thanatos, on the 333rd layer of the Abyss. The invoker/wizard remembered that they had an Aspect of Orcus trapped back in the duergar hold that had been invaded by demons, and thought that it might have information about a secret way in.

The PCs therefore teleported to Phaevorul (the nearest portal that they knew) and travelled through the Underdark to the duergar hold. This provided a chance to introduce a bit of colour illustrating the effects that their godslaying had had upon the world: with Torog dead the Underdark had reverted to roiling chaos, and in combination with the death of Lolth dead this meant that the drow civilisation had virtually collapsed.

In the small skill challenge to travel to the duergar hold and deal with the Aspect:

* The wizard/invoker maintained the PCs' phantom steeds (with a +40-something Arcana bonus this was an auto-success that didn't need to be rolled for);

* The player of the ranger-cleric made a successful Dungeoneering check, aided by the dwarf, to steer a path through the now everchanging, roiling Underdark;

* The sorcerer made a successful Diplomacy check (he had retrained Insight to Diplomacy and succeeded against a Hard DC) to persuade the wandering and raving drow that now was the time to return to the surface and dance once more under the stars, as they had with their elven kin in the times of old;

* Once they arrived at the duergar hold, the paladin made a successful Diplomacy check to persuade the duergar to let them gain access to the trapped Aspect of Orcus so that they could take the fight to the Abyss;

* The duergar - who had always felt comfortable dealing with a fellow bearer of diabolic taint (the paladin is a tiefling) - explained that Asmodeus was now calling upon them to join him in an assault upon the Abyss, and sought advice as to what they should do;

* The paladin cautioned them against becoming bound to devils, instancing the downfall of the tieflings as an indicator of the possible costs and pointing to the fact that the drown were now freed from Lolth's yoke - I asked, to clarify, whether he was trying to persuade the duergar not to go along with Asmodeus, and he said yes, so I called for the Diplomacy check against a Hard DC;

* The invoker/wizard indicated that he would help, and made a successful check as he cautioned the duergar against being manipulated by Asmodeus into being his fodder in a futile war; but together with the paladin player's rather dismal roll this wasn't quite enough (from memory, 6 (roll) +32 (skill) +2 (aid another) for 40 rather than 41);

* There was then a brief discussion in which I reminded the player of the invoker/wizard of some backstory he had forgotten, namely, that the reason Levistus and Bane had let him be resurrected (back in mid-Paragon) was on the condition that he help prevent Asmodeus invading the Abyss and thereby risking a spread of chaos;

* Back in the game rather than the metagame, the PC could tell that his imp was itching to speak;

* So the player spent his action point to let his imp speak to the duergar, thereby giving an extra bonus to make the roll succeed - mechanically, this was the imp granting its +4 Diplomacy bonus vs devils and their friends (from the invoker/wizard PC's variant Devil's Pawn theme) to the paladin; and in the fiction, the imp explained to the duergar that it was Levistus who, of the archdevils, had the backs of mortals, and they should not let themselves be tricked by Asmodeus into a foolish sacrifice;

* The players weren't entirely sure that switching the duergar from Asmodeus to Levistus was maximum progress - the dwarf fighter/cleric was mumbling "What about Moradin?" somewhere in the background; but at least Asmodeus will not have his duergar army when he assaults the Plain of One Thousand Portals;

* Attention now turned to the Aspect of Orcus - it had been trapped by channelling power from Vecna, and the player of the invoker/wizard had already pointed out that Vecna would be alerted if the PCs tried to steal secrets from it; now, a successful Religion check (made easily against a Hard DC, with a +40 bonus) allowed the invoker/wizard to make contact with Vecna and ask him to rip information of a secret entrance into Thanatos from the mind of the Aspect;

* Vecna indicated a willingness to do so, but only on conditions - that the trapped Aspect of Vecna (whom the invoker/wizard and the paladin had bound drawing upon the power of the Raven Queen) be released;

* The invoker/wizard would only do this if the paladin agreed, and the latter was not keen; I told the players that with a successful Insight check vs a Hard DC the invoker/wizard could read the secret from Vecna without needing to be overtly told - so the PC said to Vecna "We'll find another way" and then rolled the check, which missed by 1, but then he activated his Memory of One Thousand Lifetimes and rolled a 6, which was enough for a success and, he hoped, enough to mean that Vecna may not know that his mind had been read;

* With the secret entrance into Everlost, Orcus's palace of bones on Thanatos, now acquired, all that was required was to cast the Planar Portal to teleport there: I read out to the players the description of Thanatos and the palace from the MotP, and they were glad they hadn't tried for a frontal assault; this also described Thanatos as being "inhospitable even by the standards of the Abyss", and so - although the PCs had Endure Primordial Elements up - I called for the 8th check of the skill challenge - a group Endurance vs Medium DC (ie 31);

* The dwarf has a +34 bonus, and so the player of the dwarf asked if he could try to shelter someone else - I said he could grant a +2 in return for facing a Hard DC (41), which he did - and he succeeded; the paladin also succeeded, as did the ranger-cleric once the bonus from the dwarf was factored in; the sorcerer failed by with an Easy success, so I docked him a healing surge; the invoker/wizard failed with a result below an Easy success, and so I rolled damage for him - about a healing surge's worth.​

The session ended there, with the PCs stepping through their portal into the secret way into Orcus's throne room.

And here's an example of the truth of the most important question in the campaign, namely, Is the Dusk War upon us?, being settled by play:

The PCs <snippage> scried on the tarrasque, which they knew to have recently begun marauding in the mortal world, identifying its location and noting that it was being observed by maruts. They decided that, to return to the mortal world to confront the tarrasque they would first teleport to their abandoned Thundercloud Tower

<snip>

When the PCs step through the portal from their resting place to the top of the tower, they find that it is not where they left it <snippage> but rather in the palace of Yan-C-Bin on the Elemental Chaos. This brought the PCs, and especially the chaos sorcerer, into discussion with the djinni who had retaken possession of the tower and were repurposing it for the coming Dusk War. Mechanically, this situation was resolved as a skill challenge.

Sirrajadt, the leader of the djinni, explained that the djinni were finally breaking free of the imprisonment they had suffered after fighting for their freedom the last time (ie with the primordials against the gods in the Dawn War), and were not going to be re-imprisoned or bound within the Lattice of Heaven, and hence were gearing up to fight again in the Dusk War. He further explained that only Yan-C-Bin (Prince of Evil Air Elementals) and the Elder Elemental Eye could lead them to victory in the Dusk War.

The PCs both asserted their power (eg the paladin pointed out that the reason the djinni have been released from their prisons is because the PCs killed Torog, the god of imprisonment), and denied the necessity for a coming Dusk War, denouncing warmongers on both sides (especially the Elder Elemental Eye, whom Sirrajadt was stating was the only being who could guarantee the Djinni their freedom) and announcing themselves as a "third way", committed to balancing the chaos against the heavens and ensuring the endurance of the mortal world.

<snip>

As the PCs continued to debate the point and explain their "third way" reasoning (mechanically, getting closer to success in the skill challenge), Sirrajadt - sufficiently unsettled by their claims - invited them all to resolve the matter in conversation with Yan-C-Bin, who moreso than him would be able to explain the situation.

<snip>

Yan-C-Bin <snippage> grudgingly acquiesced to the PCs' request, agreeing to let the PCs take the Thundercloud Tower and go and confront the tarrasque - but expressing doubt that they would realise their "third way", and with a final mocking remark that they would see for whom the maruts with the tarrasque were acting.

The player of the eternal defender had already noted that, when I read out the description of maruts and their contracts earlier in the session, the only being actually mentioned by name was the Raven Queen. So he predicted (more-or-less in line with what I had in mind), that the maruts observing the tarrasque would be there at the behest of the Raven Queen (who is served by three of the five PCs), to stop it being interfered with.

When the PCs then took their Tower to confront the tarrasque, that was indeed what they found. Upon arriving at the tarrasque's location they found the tarrasque being warded by a group of maruts who explained that, in accordance with a contract made with the Raven Queen millenia ago, they were there to ensure the realisation of the end times, and to stop anyone interfering with the tarrasque as an engine of this destruction and a herald of the beginning of the end times and the arrival of the Dusk War.

(Why the Raven Queen wants the Dusk War has not fully come to light, other than that it seems part of her plan to realise her own ultimate godhood. One idea I had follows in sblocks.)

With Ometh dead, it seems possible that those souls who have passed over the Bridge that May be Traversed But Once might be able to return - repopulating a world remade following the Dusk War and the restoration of the Lattice of Heaven.

I wasn't sure exactly what the players would do here. They could try and fight the maruts, obviously, but I thought the Raven Queen devotees might be hesitant to do so. I had envisaged that the PCs might try to persuade them that the contract was invalid in some way - and this idea was mentioned at the table, together with the related idea of the various exarchs of the Raven Queen in the party trying to lay down the law. In particular I had thought that the paladin of the Raven Queen, who is a Marshall of Letherna (in effect, one of the Raven Queen's most powerful servants), might try to exercise his authority to annual or vary the contract in some fashion.

But instead the argument developed along different lines. What the players did was to persuade the maruts that the time for fulfillment of their contract had not yet arisen, because this visitation of the tarrasque was not yet a sign of the Dusk War. (Mechanically, these were social skill checks, history and religions checks, etc, in a skill challenge to persuade the maruts.)

The player of the Eternal Defender PC made only one action in this skill challenge - explaining that it was not the end times, because he was there to defeat the tarrasque (and got another successful intimidate check, after spending an action point to reroll his initial fail) - before launching himself from the flying tower onto the tarrasque and proceeding to whittle away around 600 of its hit points over two rounds. (There were also two successful out-of-turn attacks from the ranger and the paladin, who were spending their on-turn actions in negotiating with the maruts.)

The invoker/wizard was able to point to this PC's successful solo-ing of the tarrasque as evidence that the tarrasque, at least on this occasion, could not be the harbinger of the end times whom the maruts were contracted to protect, because it clearly lacked the capacity to ravage the world. The maruts agreed with this point - clearly they had misunderstood the timing of celestial events - and the PCs therefore had carte blanche to finish of the tarrasque. (Mechanically, this was the final success in the skill challenge: the player rolled Insight to see what final argument would sway the maruts, knowing that only one success was needed. He succeeded. I invited him to then state the relevant argument.)
The basic idea, at least as I see it - but I think @AbdulAlhazred more-or-less agrees - is that a character with high knowledge skills succeeds by knowing stuff, just as a character with high physical skills succeeds by performing feats of great prowess.

We (or at least I) don't see the general function of knowledge skills being to allow the players to learn the content of the GM's notes - though in 4e some knowledge skills do have a secondary function, in the form of monster knowledge checks, which permits a player to learn a monster's stat block and description.
 

Cadence

Legend
Supporter
I posted some examples from Traveller upthread. The player of the PC who knows the Imperial Navy manuals back-to-front is the one who tells us how things are done in the Imperial Navy. The character who is a Baron of Hallucida tells us what Hallucidan policy and interests are. Etc.

In 4e D&D, we had one PC with strong knowledge skills - a wizard/invoker whose Paragon Path was Divine Philosopher and whose Epic Destiny was Sage of Ages.

That player would explain how things worked - magic, the planes, etc - and declare checks based on this. If what they explained seemed to need a bit of massaging to fit with what else had been established, then we would talk it through, just as any other action declaration can sometimes require getting clear consensus on its fictional premise. If the check succeeded - which for that build it mostly does! - then that settled how things were. If the check failed, then that could be my cue (as GM) to introduce a twist.

Here are some examples of the player having his PC do magic things, which take for granted the player's conception of what is possible in this respect:



And here's an example of the truth of the most important question in the campaign, namely, Is the Dusk War upon us?, being settled by play:

The basic idea, at least as I see it - but I think @AbdulAlhazred more-or-less agrees - is that a character with high knowledge skills succeeds by knowing stuff, just as a character with high physical skills succeeds by performing feats of great prowess.

We (or at least I) don't see the general function of knowledge skills being to allow the players to learn the content of the GM's notes - though in 4e some knowledge skills do have a secondary function, in the form of monster knowledge checks, which permits a player to learn a monster's stat block and description.
Thank you!
 

So anyone with any skill just knows everything all the time about it unless the GM wants to throw a potential monkey wrench in? (That doesn't feel right, so I'm legitimately asking)

Last game I ran I regularly IDd things or gave info with no roll if it felt like something a competent character would almost certainly know. If it felt obscure I required a roll.
Yeah, consider how Dungeon World's Spout Lore works. The player says "I talk about what I know about X." 2 things now happen. First the GM says "OK, you are using Spout Lore, roll 2d6." Now, that's generally +INT, so a smart guy does 'know more stuff' than a dumb dumb. If you get a 10+ the GM tells you something useful and interesting relevant to your situation. On a 7-9 its just interesting, you may make it useful, but its up to you. On a 6- you get nothing, and the GM is now entitled to make a hard or soft move, which basically means there are going to be consequences. Note that 6- doesn't mean you know NOTHING, but what you know is going to turn out to be bad for you, somehow, etc. Additionally, no matter what you roll, you have to explain how you know what you know.

So, the fiction has to support your knowledge, and its possible what you think you know is wrong, harmful, or that you simply don't know anything (6- doesn't obligate the GM to say anything, though the move they will make probably 'follows' closely on the current fiction and thus its very likely it touches on the subject at hand). It doesn't mean you ALWAYS know everything, but the player does pretty much "know what they know about." and gets to decide which things those are, within the bounds of needing to have a narrative explanation for it. Now, your fighter could simply say "Oh, I had this wizard buddy once, so yeah I know about this spell thing." OK, but now its established that you HAD a wizard buddy. What happened to him? He ain't here, so is he still your buddy? What does he think of you sharing out his knowledge? Remember the old adage, if you give the GM a hook, they will probably stab you in the eye with it and yank hard! lol.
 

Does it matter who painted the painting? This isn't a question to which there's an abstract answer; it depends on what is actually going on in play.
Right, so this is a definite point at which styles of play diverge. So, in a game like Dungeon World, if there's nothing at stake, there's really no reason to even call a move at all. If the Fighter decides he knows who painted a portrait and its in "Elder Realist Style" or whatever, so what? He can just say that. I mean, presumably he wants to play a character that is coherent with the fiction, so presumably he's not going to just say stuff like that out of the blue unless it fits. Since nothing hinges on it, a DW GM would probably just file it away. It might BECOME relevant at some point, and the GM should take the hint that art history is a thing that this player is into and wants to factor into play somehow. GMs in DW should also be asking a lot of questions. Heck, you can ask things like "what do you see that is interesting here?" and just cue the players to generate lore, personal knowledge, relationships, whatever.

This kind of thing is not that common IME in more traditional GM fiction type games. It IS possible of course, but generally speaking in trad play the GM carves out specific areas for it, like character backstory that is usually established outside of play at the table. Gygax mentions a couple of places it could helpfully be injected, like letting the character draw a map of their stronghold and its nearby terrain.
 

pemerton

Legend
This kind of thing is not that common IME in more traditional GM fiction type games. It IS possible of course
That second sentence is key.

In a puzzle-solving or dungeon-crawling style game, it's not consistent with the basic logic of play for the players to just inject backstory/setting/knowledge. Because then they wouldn't be discovering the dungeon and beating it!

But otherwise, there is nothing stopping the players injecting knowledge in this sort of fashion in a system like Traveller, D&D etc (as per my post not far upthread). The actual mechanics for balancing success against consequences won't be as robust as in AW/DW, but that's true of most of the rest of these systems too!, and so being permissive in respect of knowledge is not likely to be a distinctive site of game-breaking-ness.
 

Hussar

Legend
Oooh. @clearstream, I like that option C explanation. Would make for a neat system of inventory management too. Different items could have a different dc and the check could be based on different skills as well.

Do you have a climbing kit? Make an athletics dc X check. Do you have parchment? Maybe a knowledge check. So on and so forth. The more esoteric the equipment especially in context (umm, you are travelling over flat plains, why would you have a climbing kit?) modifies the dc.

Gonna steal that for my next campaign.
 

That second sentence is key.

In a puzzle-solving or dungeon-crawling style game, it's not consistent with the basic logic of play for the players to just inject backstory/setting/knowledge. Because then they wouldn't be discovering the dungeon and beating it!

But otherwise, there is nothing stopping the players injecting knowledge in this sort of fashion in a system like Traveller, D&D etc (as per my post not far upthread). The actual mechanics for balancing success against consequences won't be as robust as in AW/DW, but that's true of most of the rest of these systems too!, and so being permissive in respect of knowledge is not likely to be a distinctive site of game-breaking-ness.
Well, I agree it isn't very germane to something like classic D&D, at least in most low-level dungeon crawl style play, but it isn't really going to HURT if a player develops a backstory. The game will simply ignore it, and if the GM plays on it, or allows the player to leverage it in some way, that's cool. As you say, it really isn't guaranteed to even matter in the slightest, nor does the system really present any structural way to balance advantage and disadvantage in terms of how it plays. That is certainly something that just 'falls out' in a PbtA, you can explain your Spout Lore, or maybe call on allies or whatnot, and your backstory certainly informs things like bonds, but at the same time it forms a nice source of fiction for the GM to base moves on too! I don't know that the later is really a 'disadvantage', but it certainly provides a focus for things.
 

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