What does it mean to "Challenge the Character"?

Hussar

Legend
I touched on this with Mort upthread, so I'll just quote myself from that earlier exchange in response to the above:



Nobody likes someone other than Gary.



Everyone plays the character they created, unless someone created it for them.



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.
So, because you feel that you should be able to min/max your character whatever way you like, the DM should just nod and smile and say, "Yuppers, it's your character, do whatever you like" and, not only that, but facilitate it by accepting certain descriptions of actions as automatic successes.

No thanks. I don't want to play at that table. If you cannot or will not play the character that you made, you can find another table.

See, to me, no one likes Gary. Gary is a colossal douche bag who ruins the table for everyone.

Which, if that means some folks don't want to play with me? Fantastic. I'll stand by having basic minimum standards for the table over accepting the garbage that players like Gary want to pretend is actually role play any day. Having just had a "Gary" have a giant hissy fit because the DM actually had the temerity to design an encounter that wasn't dove tail tailored to the character that "Gary" played, and leave the group, I'm actually going to stand by that one. I'd much, MUCH rather lose Gary than someone who actually takes the time to honestly attempt to play the character they created.
 

5ekyu

Adventurer
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.
"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. "

Just pointing out that wasn't bring said here. The " not talking about flowery language" and " not acting" is not what was just being put forth by Hussar.

Also if you just thought now was a good time to discuss other issues grest.

But, I can tell you that I can usually pick up on the subtle clues about NPCs personality, motives, etc presented by GM I have played with. I can formulate a very good set of arguments or presentations of deals to align our goals etc. So, if its just me... no stat involved... I would say easily I can play thru as 14 or better charisma without touching a fie - regardless of character - so if my GM showed me that those kinds of things were enough to resolve without checks, plus inspiration on hand whrn I do get stuck with a toll, then I would have almost no reason to put more than an 8 in cha - unless it's a casting stat. It would gain me almost nothing in a game and definitely not be worth putting a 14 there and accepting-3 for those ability scores ehere checks- were more common.

At that point, your system is better off removing Cha as an ability score.

But it's not about the player acting... it's about the player being better at navigating the social landscape than the PC.
 

Elfcrusher

Adventurer
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.

[MENTION=177]Umbran[/MENTION], did you include this one in the spreadsheet?
 

Elfcrusher

Adventurer
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.
Let's say I play a Sorcerer, and I "dump" both Strength and Int with 8's in each. (I won't even go into the fact that an 8, with a 5% penalty, isn't even really that low.) For some reason the sorcerer is separated from his party and now he needs to push a mine cart loaded with heavy silver ingots up a steep ramp, and you (the DM) have already decided that it's a DC 18 Strength check to accomplish this, and if two characters try it then the guy with the lower score makes the roll with advantage. A failed check means the cart makes an attack roll against the pushers, possibly doing a lot of damage.

But then I say, "Hey...I just thought of something. Those ingots weigh 10 pounds each, right? Heck, even with my 8 Strength I can carry 10 pounds. I'll just carry them up one at a time. I may be weak, but I've got Endurance (15 Con)!"

Question(s):
Do you still require a DC 18 Strength check, or does this approach succeed automatically (if taking longer)?

Is it unacceptable that a character with "only" 8 Int would think of this plan?

Am I "using talky talky" to "game the system" to "avoid playing the character I made"?
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
So, because you feel that you should be able to min/max your character whatever way you like, the DM should just nod and smile and say, "Yuppers, it's your character, do whatever you like" and, not only that, but facilitate it by accepting certain descriptions of actions as automatic successes.
I don't know what you mean by "min/max." It's one of those words like "metagaming" that to me means "that thing I have an uncontrollable emotional response to which I refuse to accept as a personal problem I need to work on." If you have a different definition though, I'm happy to work with what you think it means.

As for the DM's response, yes, I would say it's your character and to do what you like. And because I follow the "middle path" recommended by the DMG, I will balance the use of dice against deciding on success. So sometimes the actions the player decides for the character will automatically succeed.

See, to me, no one likes Gary. Gary is a colossal douche bag who ruins the table for everyone.

Which, if that means some folks don't want to play with me? Fantastic. I'll stand by having basic minimum standards for the table over accepting the garbage that players like Gary want to pretend is actually role play any day. Having just had a "Gary" have a giant hissy fit because the DM actually had the temerity to design an encounter that wasn't dove tail tailored to the character that "Gary" played, and leave the group, I'm actually going to stand by that one. I'd much, MUCH rather lose Gary than someone who actually takes the time to honestly attempt to play the character they created.
The tragic part about Gary here is that if you go back and read any of the instances in which Gary was used as an example, he never actually did anything except have his low-Intelligence barbarian character Plunk try to participate in a social or exploration challenge.

He was advised to refrain from allowing "metagame thinking" to negatively impact the play experience (per the DMG). It was recommended Gary engage in tasks that his character Plunk would be good at in case he has to roll, which is smart play. Gary was even told to play Plunk to the DM's idea of what a moron should act like in order to get Inspiration (which he could then use on rolls where he's not as good).

This doesn't sound like a bad person to me. Rather, it sounds like a player trying to engage in challenges in D&D 5e.
 

5ekyu

Adventurer
Let's say I play a Sorcerer, and I "dump" both Strength and Int with 8's in each. (I won't even go into the fact that an 8, with a 5% penalty, isn't even really that low.) For some reason the sorcerer is separated from his party and now he needs to push a mine cart loaded with heavy silver ingots up a steep ramp, and you (the DM) have already decided that it's a DC 18 Strength check to accomplish this, and if two characters try it then the guy with the lower score makes the roll with advantage. A failed check means the cart makes an attack roll against the pushers, possibly doing a lot of damage.

But then I say, "Hey...I just thought of something. Those ingots weigh 10 pounds each, right? Heck, even with my 8 Strength I can carry 10 pounds. I'll just carry them up one at a time. I may be weak, but I've got Endurance (15 Con)!"

Question(s):
Do you still require a DC 18 Strength check, or does this approach succeed automatically (if taking longer)?

Is it unacceptable that a character with "only" 8 Int would think of this plan?

Am I "using talky talky" to "game the system" to "avoid playing the character I made"?
I cannot even see the connection.

The character can lift 10lbs is a reference to the characters strength.
The characters Con is such and such so they can do the longer task is a use of the character sheet.
The choice between a quick but risky cart move vs a slow but manageable ingot by ingot haul is a choice between two different uses of the character stats, neither necessarily unforeseen.
Some could a been accomplished by mage hand.

That's very different from the player navigating the maze of social cues and avoiding even a reference to their cha being needed - or any stat - if the GM resolves social situations by that means.
 

pemerton

Legend
What if they describe an approach to disarming the trap that obviously would work, that would take no specialized knowledge or skills? I.e., something your grandmother could do without trouble.
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.
I follow, but actually am now a bit more puzzled (not by you - by the overall logic of the situation) because of the post of Elfcrusher's that I've posted. (The emphasis is original, though I've changed it from italics to underlining so as to maintain it in the quote format.) And maybe "intrigued" would be a better word than "puzzled" - I'm not sure, but will post on.

Judging that an approach would work very clearly requires a robust sense of a not-too-mutable fiction. But (as you say) the player is permitted to exploit the mutability of fiction to make sense of his/her play of the character.

For this to work requires - I think - very clear boundaries around what is mutable in the hands of the player, and what the GM is permitted to rigdily establish in advance of adjudicating the "woulds" and "coulds".

I think that (eg) [MENTION=22779]Hussar[/MENTION]'s use of fortune very close to the framing, and postponing nearly all of the narration to afterwards, might be one way of trying to manage (by trying to avoid) this need for boundaries.

EDIT: I saw this just after posting:

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.
Presumably if the player disagrees, in the context of disarming a trap, about what would work because even one's grandmother could do it without trouble, the GM is expected to have the last word.

But in the PC backstory case, and the action declaration case (My INT 6 barbarian does such-and-such) which the PC backstory is meant to be ancilliary to, the GM having the last word is flagged as a possible source of problems.

This illustrates what I mean by the need for clear boundaries over who has what sort of authority over which bits of the shared fiction. I'm not suggesting it's going to be tricky in every case, but I think maybe it might be tricky in some cases.

Do you trust your DM to decide? Or don't you?
I don't think "trust" is the right notion, because in the context of Gord the Barbarian's backstory and action declaration you don't call on the player to trust the GM.

I think what is at issue here is the distribution of authority over establishing the fiction.
 
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iserith

Magic Wordsmith
I follow, but actually am now a bit more puzzled (not by you - by the overall logic of the situation) because of the post of Elfcrusher's that I've posted. (The emphasis is original, though I've changed it from italics to underlining so as to maintain it in the quote format.) And maybe "intrigued" would be a better word than "puzzled" - I'm not sure, but will post on.

Judging that an approach would work very clearly requires a robust sense of a not-too-mutable fiction. But (as you say) the player is permitted to exploit the mutability of fiction to make sense of his/her play of the character.

For this to work requires - I think - very clear boundaries around what is mutable in the hands of the player, and what the GM is permitted to rigdily establish in advance of adjudicating the "woulds" and "coulds".

I think that (eg) [MENTION=22779]Hussar[/MENTION]'s use of fortune very close to the framing, and postponing nearly all of the narration to afterwards, might be one way of trying to manage (by trying to avoid) this need for boundaries.
I'm not sure what you're commenting on or asking, if you're asking anything at all.
 

Elfcrusher

Adventurer
I follow, but actually am now a bit more puzzled (not by you - by the overall logic of the situation) because of the post of Elfcrusher's that I've posted. (The emphasis is original, though I've changed it from italics to underlining so as to maintain it in the quote format.) And maybe "intrigued" would be a better word than "puzzled" - I'm not sure, but will post on.

Judging that an approach would work very clearly requires a robust sense of a not-too-mutable fiction. But (as you say) the player is permitted to exploit the mutability of fiction to make sense of his/her play of the character.

For this to work requires - I think - very clear boundaries around what is mutable in the hands of the player, and what the GM is permitted to rigdily establish in advance of adjudicating the "woulds" and "coulds".

I think that (eg) [MENTION=22779]Hussar[/MENTION]'s use of fortune very close to the framing, and postponing nearly all of the narration to afterwards, might be one way of trying to manage (by trying to avoid) this need for boundaries.

EDIT: I saw this just after posting:

Presumably if the player disagrees, in the context of disarming a trap, about what would work because even one's grandmother could do it without trouble, the GM is expected to have the last word.

But in the PC backstory case, and the action declaration case (My INT 6 barbarian does such-and-such) which the PC backstory is meant to be ancilliary to, the GM having the last word is flagged as a possible source of problems.

This illustrates what I mean by the need for clear boundaries over who has what sort of authority over which bits of the shared fiction. I'm not suggesting it's going to be tricky in every case, but I think maybe it might be tricky in some cases.

I don't think "trust" is the right notion, because in the context of Gord the Barbarian's backstory and action declaration you don't call on the player to trust the GM.

I think what is at issue here is the distribution of authority over establishing the fiction.
Methinks your requirement of "clear boundaries" indicates a lack of trust in other players/DMs.
 

pemerton

Legend
I'm not sure what you're commenting on or asking, if you're asking anything at all.
Fair enough.

I'm commenting on the apparent need, in the action resolution scenarios being discussed in this thread, for very clear boundaries in respect of who has authority over what bits of the fiction. And adding that notions of "trusting the GM" - which were invoked by another poster - seem to be irrelevant to the context in which they were invoked.

For what it's worth, the "literature" (for lack of a better term) on RPG design has discussed this issue of boundaries at some length, but not normally in the context of presenting D&D rules. To the extent that D&D rules and discussion of them articulate the issue at all, it tends to use very informal notions that mix at-the-table and in-the-fiction notions, like the player has authority over the character and the GM has authority over everything else in the gameworld.

In [MENTION=6801328]Elfcrusher[/MENTION]'s examples, it's clear that the player is allowed not only to state that Gord the Barbarian believes, but that Gord the Barbarian knows, that the tribal elders told such-and-such tales. Whereas it's equally clear that Gord the Barbarian may believe that a certain approach to disarming a trap could not go wrong, but that only the GM is allowed to decide whether or not this belief is true.

Maybe you disagree that clear boundaries of the sort I describe are needed. Or maybe you agree, but think that they are quite clear and hence this need won't cause any issues in play. My own view is that a lot of the disagreement in this thread seems to be turning on differences of opinion and experience over whether those boundaries are (i) clear, and (ii) drawn in the right place to deliver a fun play experience.

Methinks your requirement of "clear boundaries" indicates a lack of trust in other players/DMs.
No. It indicates that if I'm going to fit in properly at youe table, it would be hellpful to know what bits of the fiction (like Gord's elders) I have authority over, and what bits of the fiction (like what will or won't work to disarm a trap) you the GM have authority over.

That's not a trust issue. It's an allocation of roles issue.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
Fair enough.

I'm commenting on the apparent need, in the action resolution scenarios being discussed in this thread, for very clear boundaries in respect of who has authority over what bits of the fiction. And adding that notions of "trusting the GM" - which were invoked by another poster - seem to be irrelevant to the context in which they were invoked.

For what it's worth, the "literature" (for lack of a better term) on RPG design has discussed this issue of boundaries at some length, but not normally in the context of presenting D&D rules. To the extent that D&D rules and discussion of them articulate the issue at all, it tends to use very informal notions that mix at-the-table and in-the-fiction notions, like the player has authority over the character and the GM has authority over everything else in the gameworld.

In [MENTION=6801328]Elfcrusher[/MENTION]'s examples, it's clear that the player is allowed not only to state that Gord the Barbarian believes, but that Gord the Barbarian knows, that the tribal elders told such-and-such tales. Whereas it's equally clear that Gord the Barbarian may believe that a certain approach to disarming a trap could not go wrong, but that only the GM is allowed to decide whether or not this belief is true.

Maybe you disagree that clear boundaries of the sort I describe are needed. Or maybe you agree, but think that they are quite clear and hence this need won't cause any issues in play. My own view is that a lot of the disagreement in this thread seems to be turning on differences of opinion and experience over whether those boundaries are (i) clear, and (ii) drawn in the right place to deliver a fun play experience.
In D&D 5e, players describe what they want to do. They decide what their characters do, how they think, and what they say. That's all they can do. The DM narrates the results of the adventurers' actions, sometimes calling for a roll to determine an outcome. A player is free to say what his or her character thinks, for example, about the weaknesses of trolls. Whether the character is right though depends on the trolls the DM puts in the world, so it's smart play to figure that out before acting on it to avoid a bad assumption leading to an undesirable outcome.
 
What if they describe an approach to disarming the trap 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?

Let's say it's a trip wire, and the character says, "Oh, I stand way back and use my grappling hook and rope to snap the trip wire and pull on it until the trap triggers." And there's no time pressure. Do they have to roll to disarm it?
In that sort of trap, the skill roll is a perception check. A magical trap might be disarmed with an arcana check. Not all traps have to use the same skill/proficiency, but there is no point including it at all unless there is some chance of failure.
 

Hussar

Legend
Let's say I play a Sorcerer, and I "dump" both Strength and Int with 8's in each. (I won't even go into the fact that an 8, with a 5% penalty, isn't even really that low.) For some reason the sorcerer is separated from his party and now he needs to push a mine cart loaded with heavy silver ingots up a steep ramp, and you (the DM) have already decided that it's a DC 18 Strength check to accomplish this, and if two characters try it then the guy with the lower score makes the roll with advantage. A failed check means the cart makes an attack roll against the pushers, possibly doing a lot of damage.

But then I say, "Hey...I just thought of something. Those ingots weigh 10 pounds each, right? Heck, even with my 8 Strength I can carry 10 pounds. I'll just carry them up one at a time. I may be weak, but I've got Endurance (15 Con)!"

Question(s):
Do you still require a DC 18 Strength check, or does this approach succeed automatically (if taking longer)?

Is it unacceptable that a character with "only" 8 Int would think of this plan?

Am I "using talky talky" to "game the system" to "avoid playing the character I made"?
It's far too easy to get lost in the weeds with specific examples which are always biased towards "proving" a particular point. I have been quite clear about my views on this and I don't think I need to explain further. If you cannot or will not play the character in front of you or at the very least, make an earnest attempt to do so, then you are not particularly welcome at my table. Is emptying a cart to make it lighter an earnest attempt to play your character? Then it is probably fine. OTOH, is the reason your character has an 8 Str and 8 Int because you are pretty obviously min/maxing your character because you think that you can do an end run around the skill system by playing "smart"? Then, well, there's the door.

I don't know what you mean by "min/max." It's one of those words like "metagaming" that to me means "that thing I have an uncontrollable emotional response to which I refuse to accept as a personal problem I need to work on." If you have a different definition though, I'm happy to work with what you think it means.
I'm having a really difficult time believing that. And a really difficult time thinking that you are answering in good faith.

As for the DM's response, yes, I would say it's your character and to do what you like. And because I follow the "middle path" recommended by the DMG, I will balance the use of dice against deciding on success. So sometimes the actions the player decides for the character will automatically succeed.
So, I can min/max my character so long as I do good on the talky talky, and I can end run around the game systems. Great. Good to know. I have no interest in playing at this table.

The tragic part about Gary here is that if you go back and read any of the instances in which Gary was used as an example, he never actually did anything except have his low-Intelligence barbarian character Plunk try to participate in a social or exploration challenge.

He was advised to refrain from allowing "metagame thinking" to negatively impact the play experience (per the DMG). It was recommended Gary engage in tasks that his character Plunk would be good at in case he has to roll, which is smart play. Gary was even told to play Plunk to the DM's idea of what a moron should act like in order to get Inspiration (which he could then use on rolls where he's not as good).

This doesn't sound like a bad person to me. Rather, it sounds like a player trying to engage in challenges in D&D 5e.
Yeah, again, using examples is always diving into the weeds. I regret using it.

So, to be perfectly clear. Play the character you brought to the table. Sure, you can try to engage in a social challenge, go right ahead. BUT, know that you will very likely fail difficult challenges regardless of what approach you use. Because, at my table, you are going to roll BEFORE you narrate.
 

Elfcrusher

Adventurer
No. It indicates that if I'm going to fit in properly at youe table, it would be hellpful to know what bits of the fiction (like Gord's elders) I have authority over, and what bits of the fiction (like what will or won't work to disarm a trap) you the GM have authority over.

That's not a trust issue. It's an allocation of roles issue.
Ah, ok. Then that's something else. I was misled by your focus on the word "would", which seemed to be a concern not about allocation of roles but fairness of adjudication. Which definitely seems to be a concern of some other posters: their primary concern is that players will be greedy, or DMs will be arbitrary and/or manipulable, and seem to want rules systems that are designed to prevent bad play. To me, that's simply a trust issue. Untrustworthy players will find ways to be untrustworthy regardless of the system, so I find it easier to just not play with those people.

I find their position puzzling. Sort of like being opposed to...oh, let's say freedom of speech, just because some people will say hateful things. Yeah, they will. But dealing with them is vastly preferable to not having that freedom. (Ok, against the best advice I've received I've now let that analogy loose in this thread...can't wait to see how it's tortured and abused to prove that I'm contradicting myself.)

But if we're talking about boundaries, mine are basically the same as @iserith's, although...I'm hazarding a guess, here...I think mine are a little looser. I welcome players adding to the fiction outside of their character, especially if it's about their background; not sure if iserith does that.

In last night's session some low level characters encountered a partially used necklace of fireballs. One of the players announced he was going OOC and said, "I'm pretty sure I know what this is but I don't think my character would know." I said that's cool, he can have his character know or not know; it's all the same to me. But if he chooses to know, maybe he also knows why. The player said, "Ahhh..." and immediately invented a 'well-known' fairy tale from his homeland.

Another player (first time at my table; he kept saying things like, "I'll use Insight...") wanted to know if he had any friends/associates in the city who might have some particular information. I said, "Describe this friend." He did and...poof!...that friend existed. I added some personality, the player added a name, I added the backstory to the name, and by the end of the session this character was fully integrated (and completely annoying) in the adventure.

But I'm not sure I can give a concrete, specific rule for when it's ok for players to add details to the world outside of their own character. New players just have to listen to what other's do, and participate. If somebody is too hesitant I'll ask for details ("describe the friend") and if somebody goes too far over the boundary I'll work with it but give some feedback, too.
 
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Elfcrusher

Adventurer
It's far too easy to get lost in the weeds with specific examples which are always biased towards "proving" a particular point. I have been quite clear about my views on this and I don't think I need to explain further.
That's too bad, because as I've said a couple of times recently I think it's the tricky examples in between the two positions...rather than the obvious ones at the extreme ends...that can help us figure out what the fundamental differences in belief are.

You caricaturing my position ("talky talky") to make it look ridiculous, and me caricaturing your position ("search every 5' square") to make it look ridiculous, accomplishes nothing, except proving our mutual intransigence.

Of course, for it to work both sides have to actually be interested in understanding where the other side is coming from.

FWIW, I actually find it hard to believe that you never listen to players propose a good plan of action and think, "Oh, I hadn't thought of that solution...that's really pretty clever" and just let them succeed without rolling, even though you had expected them to have to make a specific ability check.

What I've been trying to accomplish (and, yes, your caustic dismissiveness has at times led to me reciprocating with the same) is to see if you acknowledge any middle ground between the player using personal persuasiveness to manipulate the DM and purely mechanical rolling of dice with zero creative problem solving on the part of the player.

If you'll indulge me, let me turn my example into a more generic example to see if we can find any common ground:

You've stated VERY clearly that you are opposed to a player "dumping" Cha and then proposing a course of action in a social interaction that lets him avoid having to actually roll Cha. Every time we've tried to describe it as "using an approach with a high probability of success" you've characterized it as just being player eloquence.

Ok, so what I'm trying to ask is: what if a player dumps Str, and then when encountering a problem that would seem to require Str he proposes an approach that still requires using his physical strength, but in such an obviously easy way that no roll would be needed. Is it the same thing for you? I was hoping that by moving it from a social challenge to a physical one the difficulty and probability of success would become less subjective. Sure, maybe to some extent you could say that the player is still "convincing" the DM it would work, but the DM is (probably?) much less likely to be swayed by "talky talky".
 

Celebrim

Legend
It's far too easy to get lost in the weeds with specific examples which are always biased towards "proving" a particular point. I have been quite clear about my views on this and I don't think I need to explain further. If you cannot or will not play the character in front of you or at the very least, make an earnest attempt to do so, then you are not particularly welcome at my table. Is emptying a cart to make it lighter an earnest attempt to play your character? Then it is probably fine. OTOH, is the reason your character has an 8 Str and 8 Int because you are pretty obviously min/maxing your character because you think that you can do an end run around the skill system by playing "smart"? Then, well, there's the door.
The problem with this is that it is a standard trope of fiction that characters which aren't particularly clever often think of clever plans by doing the simple obvious thing that the more clever character didn't think of. This is the "kids say the darndest things" trope and related tropes. So there is nothing particularly wrong with a player who is intelligent, playing a mechanically "dumb" character in a "Forest Gump" like manner where he solves problems despite his lack of intelligence rather than because of it. Yes, there are artful ways to play this out and less artful ways of playing this out, but I'm not going to show someone the door simply because they aren't an artful enough of a thespian for my tastes.

What are you going to do, tell the player that their character is too dumb to have come up with this plan? Force the player to make an intelligence check to come up with the plan? Are you also going to make the 18 INT character make an intelligence check to come up with the plan? Because if you are going to do that sort of thing, why allow players to play their characters at all?

If a player dump stats an attribute and in your opinion doesn't suffer enough of a penalty for it, then it suggests that attribute doesn't actually have enough impact on play and possibly should be removed from the game entirely. If it really was the case that there was no mechanical penalty for low INT, why do characters and the rules system have INT at all? That sounds like a problem with the system and not with the players.

So, to be perfectly clear. Play the character you brought to the table. Sure, you can try to engage in a social challenge, go right ahead. BUT, know that you will very likely fail difficult challenges regardless of what approach you use.
This is where I'm having the hardest time understanding your point of view. I don't think anyone has argued that for example in a social challenge you ought to succeed in difficult challenges regardless of your characters social skills. I think that regardless of the approach that a player takes for solving the problem, having high skill in social conflicts is going to make you much more likely to succeed. All people are suggesting is that approach does matter, in the same way that kicking down the door might be easier than picking the lock, or conversely the door might not even be locked and so opening it is easier than kicking it down.

I already know you and I have different processes of play, but typically what I'll do in a social encounters is allow the player a little bit to role play their character and then once I think they've reached a good point in the role play, I'll ask for a social check appropriate to their role play - intimidation if they were threatening, bluff if they were manipulative, diplomacy if they were trying to be persuasive. I'll apply a circumstance bonus based on how appropriate their argument was, whether they raised salient points, and how entertaining their role-play was (which means that if they are 8 INT and they played like their INT didn't matter and used a lot of big words and complex idea, I might penalize them). Then they have to roll. Success is far from guaranteed. If you are playing a misanthrope vermin sorcerer with multiple bloodline mutations, chances are you aren't going to succeed at anything regardless of what you role played. People are going to be too freaked out to even pay attention to you, and regardless of how apt you thought your language, what people heard is going to be uncanny and alien.

What I tell players is that what they hear as players in their own words isn't what the NPCs necessarily hear. I have a player who is socially awkward and stutters a lot when he tries to RP. Yet his character has very high diplomacy. Consequently, while the player may stutter and be awkward, the character doesn't. If the message is on point, the character will deliver it with the eloquence the player lacks. Conversely, if I had a player that is very eloquent, but has large charisma penalties, the character will deliver the message in a wholly awkward fashion. The player has in fact played out that trope scene from so many movies and TV shows where a character tries to achieve some brilliant oratory, but what has come out of there mouth has in fact made a fool of them.

Because, at my table, you are going to roll BEFORE you narrate.
Fortune at the beginning is a perfectly valid approach.

But my problem with it compared to fortune in the middle or even fortune in the end is that it tends to make the narration irrelevant and anticlimactic. There is a tendency that if the roll actually is everything and is all of the deciding factor for the narration to be deprecated and not really happen, because why bother? The results are known. Perhaps one sentence will be said to humorously explain the result of the roll, but since the narration adds nothing there is no more reason to do it than there typically is reason to narrate the specifics of what happens when someone swings a sword.

Point that I want to convey though is that just because you use Fortune in the Middle or Fortune at the End doesn't mean that the dice don't determine what happens and that you can make an end run around a games mechanics.

And the other point that I disagree with you over is that just because you have dump stated something doesn't mean that the proper way to play your character is failure.
 

Elfcrusher

Adventurer
But my problem with it compared to fortune in the middle or even fortune in the end is that it tends to make the narration irrelevant and anticlimactic. There is a tendency that if the roll actually is everything and is all of the deciding factor for the narration to be deprecated and not really happen, because why bother? The results are known. Perhaps one sentence will be said to humorously explain the result of the roll, but since the narration adds nothing there is no more reason to do it than there typically is reason to narrate the specifics of what happens when someone swings a sword.
I'm a huge fan of roll-then-narrate because it promotes creativity (and, as you say, humor), which I enjoy. But it doesn't (in my experience) promote genuine problem solving. Why find a creative, workable solution to a problem when it's going to be the same roll regardless of what you do? And I like D&D where the players have to figure things out.

Example: you need to persuade an NPC of something, and somewhere in the adventure you find some 'dirt' on that NPC. If you threaten to expose the truth the NPC might be much more likely to cooperate. (And, in my opinion, if the dirt is sufficiently damning the PC's Charisma score shouldn't matter.) But if telling the DM you are going to do that won't change the difficulty of the roll, why propose it? Why even think about? None of it matters. Just say, "I roll Persuasion..."

That's why I use goal-and-approach AND roll-then-narrate.

And the other point that I disagree with you over is that just because you have dump stated something doesn't mean that the proper way to play your character is failure.
Yes. Especially since in 5e "dumping" usually just means an 8, which is 5% worse than average. That suggests to me that there is latent antipathy toward the idea of dumping, brought over from previous editions, where you can be genuinely terrible at something. Thus, when you use the standard array and put the 8 somewhere, and then you don't invest in skills related to that ability, you are "minmaxing" and you must be punished for it.
 
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iserith

Magic Wordsmith
I'm having a really difficult time believing that. And a really difficult time thinking that you are answering in good faith.
Ask 10 different people what "mix/max" means and you're likely to get 10 different answers, especially since it's obvious it's all wrapped in some emotional response you're having. If you want to talk about it, you'll have to define what it means to you.

So, I can min/max my character so long as I do good on the talky talky, and I can end run around the game systems. Great. Good to know. I have no interest in playing at this table.
What is the "talky talky?" Do you mean coming up with an efficacious approach to a goal? Such as using a key on the locked door instead of bashing it down with a portable ram? In a dramatic situation, the former approach likely doesn't require an ability check. The latter likely does.

What's the minimum Intelligence required to use a key instead of a portable ram to open a door?

So, to be perfectly clear. Play the character you brought to the table. Sure, you can try to engage in a social challenge, go right ahead. BUT, know that you will very likely fail difficult challenges regardless of what approach you use. Because, at my table, you are going to roll BEFORE you narrate.
This seems like a very easy challenge - choosing the highest bonus skill, randomly generating a number, then describing what you did. What's the DC for putting a key in a lock to unlock the door? Or do I not worry about that until I've said I want to open the door, roll some kind of ability check, then if I succeed say I used the key instead of the ram? What happens if I fail - did I use the ram instead or maybe the key breaks?
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
But if we're talking about boundaries, mine are basically the same as @iserith's, although...I'm hazarding a guess, here...I think mine are a little looser. I welcome players adding to the fiction outside of their character, especially if it's about their background; not sure if iserith does that.
Yes, I think it's fine and I encourage players to keep their backstories to less than the length of a Tweet so that it's focused, easy for others to digest, and full of possibilities that can be expanded during the game. But that expansion really has very little impact on the game other than to flesh out their characters since I don't require players to justify the validity of their action declarations - that is not the DM's role in this game. If you want to say your character thinks something, that's up to you because that is the player's role. It's just the character might not always be right.
 

Elfcrusher

Adventurer
It's just the character might not always be right.
Yes! Elsewhere I gave the example from last night of my players finding a necklace of fireballs. If I were really concerned about so-called 'metagaming' I would have either:
- Described something that doesn't look like a necklace of fireballs. (E.g., bracelet with pearls)
- Made it look like a necklace of fireballs but do something totally different.

If I'm concerned about "knowledge the characters wouldn't have" and I include a necklace of fireballs that looks like what it is, then who's to blame but me?
 

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