What does it mean to "Challenge the Character"?

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
I think there is at least a modest tension between these two posts - which are from different posters, but posters who generally seem to be in agreement on most of the issues under discussion on these threads.

A GM judging whether an approach is a clever and/or logical one seems to be imposing shoulds - and relying on robust counterfactual assumptions more generally.

I think it makes sense to talk about who has authority over what aspects of the fiction; but I don't think it helps to explain this in terms of the robustness of "should" in a game of imagination.
I think there's a difference here. Mort suggests (and plenty of others believe) a player should have his or her character act a particular way, when that is not backed by the rules of the game we're playing and is easily explained given the mutability of the fiction. Whereas the rules saying the DM should be judging the efficacy of a player's stated approach to the goal is telling the person choosing to be DM about his or her role in the game.
 

Elfcrusher

Adventurer
I mean when a player consistently uses knowledge his character really shouldn't have.

And there are rules. The DM can expressly call for ability/skill checks. If for example a player consistently points out weaknesses of monsters his character really shouldn't know, or uses knowledge of history (as an example) the character couldn't possibly know, the DM can curb that.

But if the DM allows the player to play however they want on mental stats, the DM is favoring players who design characters a certain way.





Using out our character knowledge to aid play is in no way subjective, it's metagaming.





I never said the DM should tell the player what to think - but to discourage using out of character knowledge in playing the game.

The problem is self correcting if the DM calls for checks to essentially keep the player honest. But, while it's a long, long thread, I get the impression those checks don't see a lot of play at certain tables, certainly not in the examples provided.
All those bits I bolded are subjective.

Who's to say the character can't know these things? You, as the DM? Sure. But maybe your player disagrees. Maybe he/she says, "There was a village elder who was a great adventurer in his youth, and as a child Gord the Barbarian sat at his feet and listened to all his stories."

Now, you, as DM, may want to overrule that and say, "No, it's my game world and that didn't happen." But in that case the problem isn't metagaming (as AngryDM has done a great job of explaining) it's a problem between you and your players.
 

5ekyu

Adventurer
That's right there in the rules - well, using a portable ram is, anyway. So, yeah, maybe. But, then do you give advantage for using any tool? If I have a great axe do I get advantage to break open the door? How about a maul? Size 12 boot?

See, that's where the problem starts. Maybe I figure that because my character is a big, muscular barbarian, he should be getting advantage on breaking open a door. After all, Thunder is 6'2" and 260 pounds. Why am I not getting advantage?

Yet, I'll bet dollars to donuts that most of the DM's I play with or ever will play with, won't give me advantage for breaking down the door.



No, why? The only reason you can sneak in the first place is because of the distraction. Otherwise, you'd just get spotted.



Most often? Yes, you would be wrong. In these specific cases? Yes, you would be wrong. What you are doing is the basic requirements for getting the check in the first place. You can't hide if there is a direct line of sight to you, so, that distraction is a base requirement for being able to hide and sneak.

Honestly, thinking about it, having a crowbar probably wouldn't grant you advantage either. Maybe, but, unlikely.

Advantage isn't all that easy to get. And, in my mind, doing the bare requirements for performing a skill isn't enough.

--------

But, in any case, I would define challenging the character as any challenge in which the character being played impacts how that challenge is resolved. If the challenge is resolved the same way regardless of what character is being played then that is a player challenge.
The crowbar description says you get advsntage on strength checks ehere its leverage can be applied.

I should have been more clear on the others.

My assumption was that the basic situation was one where a statement of. "I sneak past the guards using hide" was possible (obscurement, cover, crowds etc ) and where these were added efforts to help the attempt, not that these were the enabling factors.

To me, the first (distraction by ruckus raising ally) is a pretty textbook "help action" (or more precisely working together) for advantage. The last is not using an ally but using your own prior actions to aide your effort - the DMG on advantage specifically calls out use of prior actions by the actor or others that help as one of their four bullet points for advantage.

But, hey, seems I was definitely wrong on where I saw the other positions.
 

5ekyu

Adventurer
What if they describe something that obviously would work, that would take no specialized knowledge or skills? I.e., something your grandmother could do without trouble. Do you still roll?
Like walking across the floor or lacing boots, sure.

There are tons of no-character-traits-needed actions in my games. There are even ones you can do for benefit - anybody can "share my rations with the hungry" or "go buy blankets for the refugees" and those might well pay off down the road.

That is different from the "challenges that matter" which are not (in my game) so simple that "your grandmother could do without trouble" or that "take no specialized knowledge or skills."

As GM I choose to not have those be the nature of "challenges that matter" or "not an obstacle" and leave them to the plenty of room of other stuff your character does.
 

Elfcrusher

Adventurer
That's right there in the rules - well, using a portable ram is, anyway. So, yeah, maybe. But, then do you give advantage for using any tool? If I have a great axe do I get advantage to break open the door? How about a maul? Size 12 boot?
Do you trust your DM to decide? Or don't you?

See, that's where the problem starts. Maybe I figure that because my character is a big, muscular barbarian, he should be getting advantage on breaking open a door. After all, Thunder is 6'2" and 260 pounds. Why am I not getting advantage?
The effect of high strength on that task is already accounted for in the rules. Just like the effect of low Intelligence and Charisma on other tasks is already accounted for in the rules.

But, in any case, I would define challenging the character as any challenge in which the character being played impacts how that challenge is resolved. If the challenge is resolved the same way regardless of what character is being played then that is a player challenge.
Q.E.F.D.
 
Last edited:

Celebrim

Legend
But my assertion is that a role-playing game requires that the player be challenged... otherwise it wouldn't be a role-playing game
Agreed.

If that player is not able to have direct input within the rules of the game (player not character)... is it really a an RPG?
No, it's a simulation or toy. I haven't seen a lot of these lately, but some of the old 'Sim' video games were correctly defined by Will Wright as not games but as electronic toys.

What we may have instead is a wargame or a dungeon crawler boardgame.
In a wargame or boardgame, the player still has control of the pieces in some manner, so your assertion is not true. The mind of "the general" is not simulated, but provided by the player, so a wargame or boardgame is not pure simulation. Your choices are not controlled by some algorithmic process and you do more than observe how the game plays out. Imagine the difference between the experience of playing a wargame, and observing a wargame where all the participants are AI. The later is what happens when your game stands on the simulation aesthetic alone.

To create a wargame or boardgame from a role-playing game, you remove the narrative and simulation pillars.
 

Hussar

Legend
Do you trust your DM to decide? Or don't you?



The effect of high strength on that task is already accounted for in the rules. Just like the effect of low Intelligence and Charisma on other tasks is already accounted for in the rules.



Q.E.F.D.
High strength? Yup. High size - as in height/weight? Not so much. My halfling with an 18 strength has exactly the same chances of smashing that door as a half-orc, despite the half orc being several times heavier. So, when my DM says, "Nope, you don't get advantage", well, I suppose we just trust our DM right?

The rules are hardly so robust as to account for every aspect of stats. There is no "check" to account for when that 8 Int character comes up with the really smart plan. Or the 8 Cha character makes that really good speech, negating the need for a check to influence the NPC.
 

Yardiff

Explorer
All those bits I bolded are subjective.

Who's to say the character can't know these things? You, as the DM? Sure. But maybe your player disagrees. Maybe he/she says, "There was a village elder who was a great adventurer in his youth, and as a child Gord the Barbarian sat at his feet and listened to all his stories."

Now, you, as DM, may want to overrule that and say, "No, it's my game world and that didn't happen." But in that case the problem isn't metagaming (as AngryDM has done a great job of explaining) it's a problem between you and your players.
If the bold part was part of the characters original background/backstory then I would have no problem with this answer.
 
Last edited:

Hussar

Legend
It's kinda funny. The whole "I listened to stories at the feet of my elders" thing doesn't bother me in the slightest. It's plausible, and I applaud players who want to add more backstory into their characters during play. I think that sort of thing is great.

What does bug me though is when players try to, what I see as, game the system. Yes, my character has no training whatsoever in persuasion and a below average Cha, but, because me the player can do good talky talky, I don't need to spend any resources there because I know that most of the time anyway, I can convince my DM that I don't need to make a check.

Play the character you brought to the table or bring a different character.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
It's kinda funny. The whole "I listened to stories at the feet of my elders" thing doesn't bother me in the slightest. It's plausible, and I applaud players who want to add more backstory into their characters during play. I think that sort of thing is great.

What does bug me though is when players try to, what I see as, game the system. Yes, my character has no training whatsoever in persuasion and a below average Cha, but, because me the player can do good talky talky, I don't need to spend any resources there because I know that most of the time anyway, I can convince my DM that I don't need to make a check.

Play the character you brought to the table or bring a different character.
How about instead the player plays his or her character how he or she sees fit - provided it's fun for everyone and helps contribute to an exciting, memorable story - and the DM describes the environment and narrates the outcome of the character's actions without telling the player how he or she ought to play that character?

How about the DM gives Inspiration for "playing the character you brought to the table" instead of seeing a player playing a game that puts no limits on action declarations as "gaming the system?"
 
How about the DM gives Inspiration for "playing the character you brought to the table" instead of seeing a player playing a game that puts no limits on action declarations as "gaming the system?"
JMHO, but Inspiration is a pita. (Yes, a tasty flat bread, thank you, autocorrect.) But it's not the (blessed) lack of hard restrictions on action declaration that makes a game susceptible to being, well, 'gamed.'

Heck, in Hussar's example, it's not the system that's being gamed, at all.

It's kinda funny. The whole "I listened to stories at the feet of my elders" thing doesn't bother me in the slightest. It's plausible, and I applaud players who want to add more backstory into their characters during play. I think that sort of thing is great.
Especially if the system leaves enough wiggle room for him throw a few ranks (or whatever) to that kind of knowledge.

What does bug me though is when players try to, what I see as, game the system. Yes, my character has no training whatsoever in persuasion and a below average Cha, but, because me the player can do good talky talky, I don't need to spend any resources there because I know that most of the time anyway, I can convince my DM that I don't need to make a check.
Play the character you brought to the table or bring a different character.
That's not really gaming the system: the system in that case says you suck at Persuasion, and if the DM ever calls for a check based on your declared actions, you likely will (though, binary result, on d20 check under BA - you could always get lucky).

It's just tailoring the character to your expectations of the campaign. You don't expect there to be a lot of call for persuasion, so you invest in something else.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
JMHO, but Inspiration is a pita. (Yes, a tasty flat bread, thank you, autocorrect.)
I got you covered: The Case for Inspiration.

But it's not the (blessed) lack of hard restrictions on action declaration that makes a game susceptible to being, well, 'gamed.'

Heck, in Hussar's example, it's not the system that's being gamed, at all.
Yeah, and somehow *I'm* the one who gets the "gaming the DM" argument thrown at him all the time.
 
Yeah, we've been there, yes, it's a fair way of implementing it to reduce one kind of DM headache (arguably in exchange for another).

Nope, still just something to hold the falafels.

And, y'know, it just doesn't fit with the rest of the game, for me (greybeard that I am). It's like a hummingbird got in the archaeopteryx display. Like a Sponge Bob episode being shown on Shark Week.


Yeah, and somehow *I'm* the one who gets the "gaming the DM" argument thrown at him all the time.
You are on record saying players should try to avoid making checks as much as possible, yes?

(I hope I'm not on record as disagreeing.)

The point "gaming the DM" accusations try to make sound bad is that, under DM Empowerment - or anytime the DM is doing all the heavy lifting - players obviously have to put a lot of faith in the DM.

(Other times, it's just less obvious.)
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
Yeah, we've been there, yes, it's a fair way of implementing it to reduce one kind of DM headache (arguably in exchange for another).
What headache is there in exchange?

You are on record saying players should try to avoid making checks as much as possible, yes?
Players "should" do what they want, as long as it's fun for everyone and helps contribute to an exciting, memorable tale. But the smart play is to avoid the d20.

The point "gaming the DM" accusations try to make sound bad is that, under DM Empowerment - or anytime the DM is doing all the heavy lifting - players obviously have to put a lot of faith in the DM.

(Other times, it's just less obvious.)
I don't see what you're saying here. I thought your previous point was that Hussar was getting gamed because he was cool with players establishing backstory to get past a knowledge deficiency, whereas he took issue with players not playing into some other perceived deficiency.
 
What headache is there in exchange?
It'd break up the normal flow of play.
At the same time, it seems like it defeats the purpose. Shouldn't a player want to play his character to /his/ satisfaction, in his judgement, anyway? Kinda the point of sitting down to a TTRPG in the first place. The point of carrots like Inspiration is to get him playing the character to the DM's satisfaction, in his judgement.

Which, AFAIC, 5e DM Empowerment already delivers copiously, without anything so tacked-on and indie-feeling as Inspiration.


Players "should" do what they want, as long as it's fun for everyone and helps contribute to an exciting, memorable tale. But the smart play is to avoid the d20.
I don't see what you're saying here. I thought your previous point was that Hussar was getting gamed because he was cool with players establishing backstory to get past a knowledge deficiency, whereas he took issue with players not playing into some other perceived deficiency.
My point was that player expectations about a campaign can reasonably be taken into account when building a character. A player who doesn't believe his character 'needs' a given skill, for whatever reason, isn't gaming the system, he's just putting build resources where they make sense. Whether he feels that way because of the nature of the campaign, the system, or the DM doesn't really make a big difference, it's still fair to try to build a character whose mechanical abilities will be relevant & useful in play.
But, yeah, it's a comment wide-open to "gaming the DM" spin. My feeling, really, is "yeah, so what?" The player maybe feels like he gets away with something, like the system-master who ekes out another 10 DPR (even though the DM is just tacking another 40 hps onto every monster he swings at).
Which, if that's what he needs to be a happy player, fine.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
It'd break up the normal flow of play.
At the same time, it seems like it defeats the purpose. Shouldn't a player want to play his character to /his/ satisfaction, in his judgement, anyway? Kinda the point of sitting down to a TTRPG in the first place. The point of carrots like Inspiration is to get him playing the character to the DM's satisfaction, in his judgement.

Which, AFAIC, 5e DM Empowerment already delivers copiously, without anything so tacked-on and indie-feeling as Inspiration.
The Case for Inspiration which I linked handles all this.
 

Hussar

Legend
How about instead the player plays his or her character how he or she sees fit - provided it's fun for everyone and helps contribute to an exciting, memorable story - and the DM describes the environment and narrates the outcome of the character's actions without telling the player how he or she ought to play that character?

How about the DM gives Inspiration for "playing the character you brought to the table" instead of seeing a player playing a game that puts no limits on action declarations as "gaming the system?"
Because when players ignore the character sheet, it hurts my enjoyment of the game because it's so blatantly obvious that the player is simply power gaming rather than actually playing the character in front of him or her?

I fail to see how, "Play the character you created" is a terribly difficult or unreasonable request to make of the players. Apparently, some people do find that to be too difficult and unreasonable. That's fine. They have their own tables to play at because they aren't playing at mine. And, I play that way as a player too. I'm not sorry for having minimal expectations for play.

You want to dump stat stuff and then build your character a certain way? Fair enough. But, that means you have significant disadvantages when attempting to do certain things. And, I'm not going to help you ignore those limitations simply because you can come up with a good idea. Thus, you roll first. Solves all those issues nicely. I don't have to police anything. You don't get to give a great speech and ignore your character sheet. You gave a great speech BECAUSE of your persuasion score.

The dice provide the direction, the player provides the script.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
Because when players ignore the character sheet, it hurts my enjoyment of the game because it's so blatantly obvious that the player is simply power gaming rather than actually playing the character in front of him or her?
I touched on this with Mort upthread, so I'll just quote myself from that earlier exchange in response to the above:

iserith said:
What Plunk "should" do is nothing the DM ever needs to worry about in my view, provided Gary is otherwise making choices that are fun for everyone and helping to create an exciting, memorable story. And if someone is the sort of person who is not having fun because Gary is not making decisions according to what that person thinks a low-Intelligence barbarian is capable of thinking, saying, and doing, then it might be worth examining if the problem is someone other than Gary.
Nobody likes someone other than Gary.

I fail to see how, "Play the character you created" is a terribly difficult or unreasonable request to make of the players.
Everyone plays the character they created, unless someone created it for them.

You want to dump stat stuff and then build your character a certain way? Fair enough. But, that means you have significant disadvantages when attempting to do certain things.
Yes, and those disadvantages will reveal themselves - sometimes - when the player has to make a check. Those significant disadvantages don't mean the player's action declarations are invalid.
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
As an add, when people respond to the goal and approach by claiming that you can pass off a low CHA-no-social-skill character because you, as a player, can talk well, you've completely missed the point. I'm not judging how you acted out your goal and approach, I'm judging your goal and approach. If you talk in flowery words, that's your approach -- "I use flowery words at the king to get him to see my point of view." How pretty you, as a player, talk really doesn't matter much, although it may earn you inspiration if that's one of your BITFs. I'm going to judge this approach and goal on if the goal aligns with what the king wants and if the approach is something that would work to get there. If the king already wants to do this thing, no check, you succeed. If the king would never do the thing (say, banish his favored heir) with that approach, then you just fail (and suffer consequences). If it's uncertain, and there's a consequence for failure, then you'll be making a check.

Just because I say that players should avoid making checks doesn't mean that making checks is a very common part of my games. As [MENTION=97077]iserith[/MENTION] says, when you delve into danger as adventurers do, stuff's gonna be uncertain and carry consequences. My game focuses on these moments of uncertainty and consequence and not on play that encourages searching every 5' spaces for traps.
 

Advertisement

Top