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What does it mean to "Challenge the Character"?

Elfcrusher

Explorer
This, all about this.

The whole goal:method approach is all about the declaration. Whether or not you need to make a roll is based on the declaration. Whether you have advantage/disadvantage on the roll is based on the declaration. It makes the declaration very, very important.

The actual skill of the character only comes up after the declaration, and, even then, only if the declaration triggers a skill roll called for by the DM.

Who judges that declaration? The DM, of course. Which places the DM front and center of all player facing actions. Which means that since the character's abilities don't come up until after that judgment, the character's abilities are less important than the player's ability to make declarations. They have to be.

So, the player uses his Noble background to get past the gate guards. To me, that's not goal:method. That's pretty much purely a character challenge. The player looked at his character sheet which tells him that, as a Noble, he can do this. It's no different than the player casting a spell or making an attack. It's based on the character's abilities, not on the player's abilities.

IOW, there was no "method" being declared here. Any player decisions were made at chargen and not during the challenge.
So, I think this might be a sign of progress, because the "Noble at the gate" story is a great example of goal-and-method. The reasons you say it's not may help us finally get at the disconnect.

First, there is no mechanical ability attached to Noble that allows them to influence guards. The mechanical ability that is attached to that background is totally unrelated. So the player is definitely not invoking an "ability" or "skill" when he/she proposes that course of action. He's describing an approach narratively, not mechanically.

Second, goal-and-method or goal-and-approach does not prevent the DM from factoring in the character sheet when deciding if it's a success, a failure, or whether it needs a dice roll. That seems to be a point of misunderstanding. The exact opposite, in fact. Players *should* choose methods that leverage their character sheet, whether that's because of a specific mechanic they have, or because of something related to their background, race, or class that may be relevant, even if there's no mechanic. Goal-and-approach doesn't require support from the character sheet, but it definitely can benefit from it.

Third, how eloquently (or not) the player describes his interaction with the guard is completely irrelevant.

So the only two things that should really factor into the DM's ruling are:
1) The approach, which is invoking noble status to be allowed through the gate
2) The fact that the character doing this actually is (or is at least related to) nobles, which increases the probability of the approach working.

That still doesn't make it an autosuccess. The DM could factor in any number of things, and maybe still require a persuasion check (guards are suspicious that he's really a noble) or, like I suggested earlier, allow that PC to pass but not his companions, etc. But I think however I ended up ruling this, based on the specifics, I would give this approach a higher probability of success than an approach of "I try to persuade the guards that they should let us pass because we have a wood elf in our party, and wood elves are kind and gentle nature-lovers, so obviously we must be nice guys." The noble play just seems to me like an approach that is more likely to succeed.*

And, yes, that is inserting my judgment and biases as a DM into the game. Guilty as charged.

*Now, if they DID choose the "wood elves are nice guys" approach and rolled really well, that would be an excellent time to use roll-then-narrate, and make up some reason why this guard is especially soft on wood elves. Turns out he has been madly in love with the wood elf bartender at his favorite watering hole. Whatever.
 

Hussar

Legend
So, I think this might be a sign of progress, because the "Noble at the gate" story is a great example of goal-and-method. The reasons you say it's not may help us finally get at the disconnect.

First, there is no mechanical ability attached to Noble that allows them to influence guards. The mechanical ability that is attached to that background is totally unrelated. So the player is definitely not invoking an "ability" or "skill" when he/she proposes that course of action. He's describing an approach narratively, not mechanically.
Wait. Hold on. Right there? That's a disconnect.

According to the Noble Background (PHB 135)

Feature: Position of Privilege.

... You are welcome in high society and people assume yo uhave the right to be wherever you are... You can secure an audience with a local noble if you need to
Sounds like a mechanic to me. It would be pretty hard to secure an audience if you can't get through the gate after all. So, no, the player doesn't have to state anything like an approach. The fact that he's a noble means that there's no challenge here at all.

But, if goal:approach means that I can just point to my character sheet, then, well, I guess I do goal and approach too. :D
 

Elfcrusher

Explorer
Wait. Hold on. Right there? That's a disconnect.

According to the Noble Background (PHB 135)



Sounds like a mechanic to me. It would be pretty hard to secure an audience if you can't get through the gate after all. So, no, the player doesn't have to state anything like an approach. The fact that he's a noble means that there's no challenge here at all.

But, if goal:approach means that I can just point to my character sheet, then, well, I guess I do goal and approach too. :D
Gah. Damn. I should have looked up Noble background. I thought the mechanic only mentioned the reaction of other nobles.

Ok, so let's pretend that...

Oh, nevermind. If you were genuinely interested you would have been able to error correct around that mistake.
 
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Hussar

Legend
Gah. Damn. I should have looked up Noble background. I thought the mechanic only mentioned the reaction of other nobles.

Ok, so let's pretend that...

Oh, nevermind. If you were genuinely interested you would have been able to error correct around that mistake.
Hang on a tick. After taking me to task repeatedly for not following the rules of the game, you don't get to then hand wave things away when you aren't following the rules. You are claiming that this is a perfect example of goal:method. It isn't. It's a perfect example of a pure character challenge that the player doesn't really have a whole lot of input into. In a goal:method approach, the character matters less (not that it doesn't matter, I agree with you on that). Because the APPROACH is obviously important. And it's the player that states approaches.

And, it's not about getting wrapped up in flowery language. If the player picks an approach that the DM feels will work, regardless of how it is phrased, then it works, no check is required. Right? See, this is where we are talking past each other. When I talk about gaming the DM, it's not just using a funny voice and being entertaining. A lot of gaming the DM is knowing what the DM will and won't call checks for. If I know that Bob the DM doesn't really call for persuasion checks (or whatever check) very often so long as I can present my case well enough, then, well, I'm not going to bother investing character resources in persuasion.

For me, it tends to lead to players who expect that approaches will work and expect that challenges will be tailored to the approaches that the players use. When the DM then decides to do something else, and suddenly those ignored stats come into play, the player gets really huffy and arguments around the table start. Now, I'm NOT SAYING this happens in your game. It certainly doesn't happen all the time. But, it does happen. And it's one weak point for goal:approach methods. Groups that play together for a while begin to learn each other's expectations. I mean, heck, I just had a player blow a gasket and leave the group because the DM decided to play to the weaknesses of the group. So, yes, I know that it happens.

Look, I see how you folks are doing it. It's not exactly hard to see. Good grief, the PHB and DMG are pretty clear about it. I get it. Really, honest to goodness I do.

I just don't prefer to play that way. I find that it causes more arguments than it solves, because it places the DM to much in the forefront of the game. I am not interested in that style of game anymore and haven't been for a long time. So, I tend to run the game far closer to a 4e style, since, well, mechanically, the skill (whoops, mistype almost wrote skilly system :D) system is pretty much identical to 4e sans the level adjustment. It works perfectly fine run that way since the 4e skill system was pretty loosey goosey as well. However, in 4e, the advice was to let the players drive the system whereas in 5e, it leans more heavily on the DM. Meh, I let it lean on the players just fine.

The weakness of my approach though is that players who figure that they can just come up with different approaches or that the game will be tailored to not highlight deficiencies soon get frustrated. And I can see how if one player comes up with a great idea for getting past the gate guard and then rolls a fail on the check can get frustrating.

Perhaps the conversation would go forward a lot better if folks would point out the weaknesses in their own approaches rather than in others. And I am VERY MUCH including myself in that.
 
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.
Does this mean that you don't agree that the player can establish the backstory for Gord the Barbarian that was flagged upthread?

Or - and I'm not trying to impute views to you, just trying to map out some of the relevant space of possibilities - would you see that as a suggestion to the GM which the latter is free to accept or reject?

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.
That's what I'm getting at in the paragraph just above this one.

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.
After making my post yesterday and before reading replies, I was thinking about the following:

What happens if a player who suspects a trap (eg they've just had [MENTION=97077]iserith[/MENTION]'s description of the room with the broken pit surface, the alcoves and slots and the like) declares, Last week when I was hanging out at the thieve's guild I had a discussion with so-and-so about such-and-such and they were talking about this spear gauntlet trap they once encountered and told me such-and-such thing about it?

I can see several different ways of dealing with this:

(1) It's not a permitted action declaration because it's about matters in the past relative to the GM's most recent bit of narration.

(2) It's permitted as a bit of flavour, similar to the story about Gord the Barbarian's elders, but that's all it is and it has no bearing on the resolution of the current situation.

(3) It's permitted as a genuine action declaration - to be resolved, say, as a test on CHA (for being sociable with the guild members) or INT (because it's really about the lore the player is familiar with) - which, if it is successful, obliges the GM to tell the player something about the current situation.

(4) as (3), but a successful resolution has some indeterminate consequence in the fiction ("The player recalls something useful from the conversation") which then grants advantage on one (at least) subsequent check made to successful disarm/bypass the trap.​

Maybe there are other possibilities too that I'm missing at the moment.

I don't know what the "official" 5e answer is. It's something where I would expect very significant table variation. My own approach would be either (3) or (4) - which one would depend on further issues of how the game is being played, what the role of pre-authored GM notes are, etc. If adjudicating via (4), then a failure would impose a penalty/disadvantage on the subsequent check. If adjudicating via (3) then a failure also needs to give a penalty, but that might have to be more concrete than an abstract mechanical thing and what that might be would depend very much on context.

And to finish with a slightly different matter . . .

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.
I could be misunderstanding [MENTION=22779]Hussar[/MENTION], but I don't see that the concern is with "personal persuasiveness" in the used car salesman sense, but rather with being able to cleverly pitch solutions which will impress the GM.

Example roll-circumventing action declaration which are rather obvious, like using ladders to climb walls or using keys to open locks, clearly don't fall within the scope of Hussar's concern. But I can't imagine those are the examples that "goal and approach" advocates have in mind when they advocate their position, either, as those would be very banal examples of a clever approach obviating the need for a check.
 
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Good post.

I especially like the Blades in the Dark example (which I have also been reading lately). Maybe that mechanic is a kind of litmus test: whether or not you like it perhaps says a lot about where you stand on a number of other playstyle questions.

For the record, I love that mechanic.
But it was meant to be an example that would correspond to someone thinking that the player with the 8 INT PC shouldn't engage in clever play! (ie it was mean to be an anti-vessel example).

For what it's worth, I would haven no problem with the BitD mechanic, although I don't envisage actually playing that game. (I do play Marvel Heroic RP/Cortex+ Heroic, and in that system inventory is a matter of post-hoc checks or resource expenditure, not a matter of in-advance planning. So it's somewhat similar to BitD.)

In 4e D&D I take the same view as you do of the significance of an 8 INT or CHA in the 5e context, although because of my different approach to when to call for checks it perhaps comes into play more often than it would in your 5e game.

But when refereeing Classic Traveller I expect a player whose PC has a low INT to express that in his/her play of the PC.

Which is to say, that I don't think there is a simple dichotomy between PC as separate entity and PC as vessel. I think it's about the details of system. Stats in 4e or 5e mean one thing (they are inputs into the process of adjudication); stats in Traveller mean something else (they are part of a description of who the character is in the fiction). And I would say that AD&D and B/X sit somewhere in between these two ends of the spectrum.

Now, for other games, like say Ten Candles or VtM or OtE - my position on the scale between "entity" and "your play" shifts. Pretty much the more importance we show in chargen on mechanics and specifics for "the entity " the more I want to show that as time (choices) that matter.
Can you elaborate on Over the Edge? I haven't played it but am thinking I might get to run a session or three some time in the next few months. I would expect PC build to generate much stronger expectations about how a player will play his/her PC than would be the case in (say) 4e or (I think) 5e, even though the mechanical footprint is much lighter. An 8 INT on a D&D 4e or 5e character sheet does not carry much information about the personality/nature/propensities of the character - whereas it seems to me that the descriptors on the OtE sheet carry a lot of weight.
 

Ovinomancer

Explorer
Does this mean that you don't agree that the player can establish the backstory for Gord the Barbarian that was flagged upthread?

Or - and I'm not trying to impute views to you, just trying to map out some of the relevant space of possibilities - would you see that as a suggestion/I] to the GM which the latter is free to accept or reject?

That's what I'm getting at in the paragraph just above this one.

After making my post yesterday and before reading replies, I was thinking about the following:

What happens if a player who suspects a trap (eg they've just had [MENTION=97077]iserith[/MENTION]'s description of the room with the broken pit surface, the alcoves and slots and the like) declares, Last week when I was hanging out at the thieve's guild I had a discussion with so-and-so about such-and-such and they were talking about this spear gauntlet trap they once encountered and told me such-and-such thing about it?

I can see several different ways of dealing with this:

(1) It's not a permitted action declaration because it's about matters in the past relative to the GM's most recent bit of narration.

(2) It's permitted as a bit of flavour, similar to the story about Gord the Barbarian's elders, but that's all it is and it has no bearing on the resolution of the current situation.

(3) It's permitted as a genuine action declaration - to be resolved, say, as a test on CHA (for being sociable with the guild members) or INT (because it's really about the lore the player is familiar with) - which, if it is successful, obliges the GM to tell the player something about the current situation.

(4) as (3), but a successful resolution has some indeterminate consequence in the fiction ("The player recalls something useful from the conversation") which then grants advantage on one (at least) subsequent check made to successful disarm/bypass the trap.​

Maybe there are other possibilities too that I'm missing at the moment.

I don't know what the "official" 5e answer is. It's something where I would expect very significant table variation. My own approach would be either (3) or (4) - which one would depend on further issues of how the game is being played, what the role of pre-authored GM notes are, etc. If adjudicating via (4), then a failure would impose a penalty/disadvantage on the subsequent check. If adjudicating via (3) then a failure also needs to give a penalty, but that might have to be more concrete than an abstract mechanical thing and what that might be would depend very much on context.

And to finish with a slightly different matter . . .

I could be misunderstanding [MENTION=22779]Hussar[/MENTION], but I don't see that the concern is with "personal persuasiveness" in the used car salesman sense, but rather with being able to cleverly pitch solutions which will impress the GM.

Example roll-circumventing action declaration which are rather obvious, like using ladders to climb walls or using keys to open locks, clearly don't fall within the scope of Hussar's concern. But I can't imagine those are the examples that "goal and approach" advocates have in mind when they advocate their position, either, as those would be very banal examples of a clever approach obviating the need for a check.
Hmm. In 5e I suppose it would have to depend on what already established fictions are. Assuming it fits that fiction, I'd probably go with a 4; if it doesn't fit, it's a 2. In Blades, 3 would be my choice, possibly leveraging the flashback mechanic depending on significance.
 

lowkey13

Exterminate all rational thought
Same debate, multiple permutations, lots of threads.

It's almost like a multi-front war being fought.

Who's up for opening the Pacific Theater? ;)
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
Sounds like a mechanic to me. It would be pretty hard to secure an audience if you can't get through the gate after all. So, no, the player doesn't have to state anything like an approach. The fact that he's a noble means that there's no challenge here at all.
The goal is to get past the guards into the noble's quarter. The approach is to draw upon the character's position of privilege to tell the guards he or she belongs here. I would have the guards ask the noble to see proof of the claim (if they aren't familiar with the PC), since anyone can claim to be noble, which the player may have in the form of a scroll of pedigree (noble starting equipment). If the scroll is produced, then the character is permitted entry (automatic success). If it is not produced, an ability check may follow depending on how the player has the character respond.

The challenge to the player is to get the character past the guards. The difficulty is made very low by applying the background feature and pedigree scroll.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
Does this mean that you don't agree that the player can establish the backstory for Gord the Barbarian that was flagged upthread?

Or - and I'm not trying to impute views to you, just trying to map out some of the relevant space of possibilities - would you see that as a suggestion to the GM which the latter is free to accept or reject?
What is not clear to me is the action declaration the player is making for the character. The player is free to establish what the character thinks which may include something about the character's backstory. But until I see an action declaration, I have nothing to adjudicate as DM.
 
What is not clear to me is the action declaration the player is making for the character. The player is free to establish what the character thinks which may include something about the character's backstory. But until I see an action declaration, I have nothing to adjudicate as DM.
If framed as an action declaration, presumably it's something like I (Gord) recall when the elders sat around and told such-and-such-a-tale about such-and-such-a-thing.

But I'm not sure that it can be true that the GM has nothing to do until an action is declared. Players can also implicitly or expressly try to establish fiction without actually declaring actions for their PCs - eg Gord's player tells the table, When I was a youngster the tribal elders told us such-and-such-a-tale about such-and-such-a-thing.

An intriguing example of implicitly establishing fiction is Vincent Baker's example of the smelly chamberlain.

To me, this seems to be the sort of thing that can put pressure on boundaries as to who gets to establish what about the fiction.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
If framed as an action declaration, presumably it's something like I (Gord) recall when the elders sat around and told such-and-such-a-tale about such-and-such-a-thing.
I'm still not seeing a goal here. What's the player trying to accomplish through the character?

But I'm not sure that it can be true that the GM has nothing to do until an action is declared.
No action, no adjudication. The DM's other role is to describe the environment.

Players can also implicitly or expressly try to establish fiction without actually declaring actions for their PCs - eg Gord's player tells the table, When I was a youngster the tribal elders told us such-and-such-a-tale about such-and-such-a-thing.
They're free to have their characters say what they want. The DM describes the environment and narrates the result of the adventurers' actions, sometimes calling for a roll when the outcome is uncertain and there's a meaningful consequence for failure. Until I know what the player is trying to achieve here and how, I have nothing to add as DM.
 
I'm still not seeing a goal here. What's the player trying to accomplish through the character?



No action, no adjudication. The DM's other role is to describe the environment.



They're free to have their characters say what they want. The DM describes the environment and narrates the result of the adventurers' actions, sometimes calling for a roll when the outcome is uncertain and there's a meaningful consequence for failure. Until I know what the player is trying to achieve here and how, I have nothing to add as DM.
How do players in your game establish backstories for their PCs - things like the clothes they own/wear, the names of their friends and family, place and date of birth, etc?

My impression from reading the Basic PDF is that these sorts of fictional elements are features of 5e D&D as much as of many other RPGs, including past editions of D&D. But they are not generally established by way of action declarations; yet their truth as part of the shared fiction has the potential to be relevant to action declarations.

A player can even attempt to establish fiction as part of an action declaration: eg the GM narrates the PCs arriving at a town gate, and describing the guard at the gate, and player A says, in character and addressing the other PCs "I recognise that guard - she's Frances - the two of us were raised in the same orphan's hospice but I haven't seen her since I left to fight in the Dales Wars. She'll let us in for sure!" and then adds, in the playter's voice, "I approach the gate and call out, Frances, remember me!"

If the player's posited fiction is true, then that has to be relevant to assessing the success of the approach vis-a-vis the goal. But who gets to decide whether or not that fiction is true?

And if the GM stipulates that it's not true, is s/he - in effect - stipulating that player A's character is delusional and suffering from radically false memories of his/her childhood? And if so, how does that fit with the idea that it's the player who gets to decide what the character thinks and feels?
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
How do players in your game establish backstories for their PCs - things like the clothes they own/wear, the names of their friends and family, place and date of birth, etc?

My impression from reading the Basic PDF is that these sorts of fictional elements are features of 5e D&D as much as of many other RPGs, including past editions of D&D. But they are not generally established by way of action declarations; yet their truth as part of the shared fiction has the potential to be relevant to action declarations.

A player can even attempt to establish fiction as part of an action declaration: eg the GM narrates the PCs arriving at a town gate, and describing the guard at the gate, and player A says, in character and addressing the other PCs "I recognise that guard - she's Frances - the two of us were raised in the same orphan's hospice but I haven't seen her since I left to fight in the Dales Wars. She'll let us in for sure!" and then adds, in the playter's voice, "I approach the gate and call out, Frances, remember me!"
There is nothing in the rules that suggest to me that this kind of authorial power is granted to the player in D&D 5e. The player can of course have his or her character take the action you suggest, but there is no obligation on the part of the DM to accept that this guard is Frances, someone the PC knows from before.

A character's background is created in Step 4 of the character creation process. I think it's reasonable to expand upon it during play, building on what has already been established with an eye toward avoiding contradicting previously established fiction.

If the player's posited fiction is true, then that has to be relevant to assessing the success of the approach vis-a-vis the goal. But who gets to decide whether or not that fiction is true?
The DM.

And if the GM stipulates that it's not true, is s/he - in effect - stipulating that player A's character is delusional and suffering from radically false memories of his/her childhood? And if so, how does that fit with the idea that it's the player who gets to decide what the character thinks and feels?
The DM can narrate the result of the character's greeting to the guard without saying anything in particular about the character.

But notably a player in D&D 5e who is familiar with his or her role in the game is not very likely to make such a statement in my view, effectively making this a non-issue. If the player is approaching D&D 5e as if it is some other game, however, and starts making such statements, then it's not hard to see what the problem is here - assuming this game is like other games in this regard.
 

5ekyu

Explorer
But it was meant to be an example that would correspond to someone thinking that the player with the 8 INT PC shouldn't engage in clever play! (ie it was mean to be an anti-vessel example).

For what it's worth, I would haven no problem with the BitD mechanic, although I don't envisage actually playing that game. (I do play Marvel Heroic RP/Cortex+ Heroic, and in that system inventory is a matter of post-hoc checks or resource expenditure, not a matter of in-advance planning. So it's somewhat similar to BitD.)

In 4e D&D I take the same view as you do of the significance of an 8 INT or CHA in the 5e context, although because of my different approach to when to call for checks it perhaps comes into play more often than it would in your 5e game.

But when refereeing Classic Traveller I expect a player whose PC has a low INT to express that in his/her play of the PC.

Which is to say, that I don't think there is a simple dichotomy between PC as separate entity and PC as vessel. I think it's about the details of system. Stats in 4e or 5e mean one thing (they are inputs into the process of adjudication); stats in Traveller mean something else (they are part of a description of who the character is in the fiction). And I would say that AD&D and B/X sit somewhere in between these two ends of the spectrum.

Can you elaborate on Over the Edge? I haven't played it but am thinking I might get to run a session or three some time in the next few months. I would expect PC build to generate much stronger expectations about how a player will play his/her PC than would be the case in (say) 4e or (I think) 5e, even though the mechanical footprint is much lighter. An 8 INT on a D&D 4e or 5e character sheet does not carry much information about the personality/nature/propensities of the character - whereas it seems to me that the descriptors on the OtE sheet carry a lot of weight.
On the question about OtE to me, especially vs the 8 Int 5e case.

I am intrigued by the latest OtE reboot myself. So, it's on my list of hopefulls.

But let me maybe shed a bit of spotlight.

First, I dont give most any weight in 5e to what an 8 int says about the character or how the player will play it. To me, my rough way of thinking (which draws on other games and lessons drawn from that) I see it as indicating a small gap or lack in the charzcter's knowledge compared to moat people. When I tun such, as GM of player, I try to include one minor adjective or aspect in background to show it and the scope of that lack. I would not expect that-1 to show in play frequently or in major way, just here and there, much like the 12 or 13 stat likely shows in play about as much.

When I talk about the linkage between chargen complexity and place thst leads me to on the "you" vs "character" I am speaking of the total complexity of the process as it pertains to mechanical choices. The nature cleric with high Wis and strength and an 8 int with proficiencies in nature and survival and animal handling and the hermit background etc gives a strong difference than say the rogue mastermind with high dex and Int and a sage background. This is even before we add in rsce.
There are a lot of different choices there with very defined impacts on play results

For games like OtE and others, with fewer traits thst are much more "define your own" there are a lot of undefined bits that are much more dependent on ideas drawn from the player and GM, on the fly or in between, than on more defined mechanical aspects.

If we look at 5e, there are options for far more generalized "make your own" play mechanics. The skill/tool proficiencies csn be scrapped entirely if you choose as GM (group) to go with either Ability score proficiencies or background proficiencies - both of which rely on the more OtE define on the fly style.

But the more "define on the fly" as opposed to system defined traits, the more how the play proceeds shifts to "what the player comes up with" as opposed to the player playing the charsacter as they setup the mechanics.

But each group will tend to find their own way. Some will use checks as more fiction defining that fiction revealing, for instance. An outstanding search might result in me as GM pulling from my list of "stuff I can throw in" as opposed to simply saying " great search, found diddly".

But that all said, if we shift off the "build" aspects and into the character aspects, weighing say flaw, bond, I deal, inspiration vs OtE and the way their "gets me involved" style traits, I find that area you tend to get better indicators from the OtE.

That's longer and rambling than I wanted but then I am trying to compress s btoad sense of results across a lot of games over a lot of years - with both different and some old players, so... its what it is.
 

Ovinomancer

Explorer
How do players in your game establish backstories for their PCs - things like the clothes they own/wear, the names of their friends and family, place and date of birth, etc?

My impression from reading the Basic PDF is that these sorts of fictional elements are features of 5e D&D as much as of many other RPGs, including past editions of D&D. But they are not generally established by way of action declarations; yet their truth as part of the shared fiction has the potential to be relevant to action declarations.

A player can even attempt to establish fiction as part of an action declaration: eg the GM narrates the PCs arriving at a town gate, and describing the guard at the gate, and player A says, in character and addressing the other PCs "I recognise that guard - she's Frances - the two of us were raised in the same orphan's hospice but I haven't seen her since I left to fight in the Dales Wars. She'll let us in for sure!" and then adds, in the playter's voice, "I approach the gate and call out, Frances, remember me!"

If the player's posited fiction is true, then that has to be relevant to assessing the success of the approach vis-a-vis the goal. But who gets to decide whether or not that fiction is true?

And if the GM stipulates that it's not true, is s/he - in effect - stipulating that player A's character is delusional and suffering from radically false memories of his/her childhood? And if so, how does that fit with the idea that it's the player who gets to decide what the character thinks and feels?
I think this is malformed: you're asking if this action declaration violates a principle of the DM not controlling characters thoughts before establishing that the action declaration violates established norms on who has this authorial control. In other words, we can even reach your last question before resolving the authorial control one.

And, simply, in 5e the GM has this authority, the player does not. So, again, we can't reach your last question without stipulating that the player has already broken the rules. In which case, I think your question is mooted.
 

Satyrn

Villager
. . . Have your orcs burst tentacles from their chests . . .
So. I had started out with the intention of the tentacles being a part of the orc, but instead the idea, uh, morphed into an alien (of the Far Realm kind):

Aberrant Orcs

These are just like regular orcs, but there's a Tentacle Mass living inside them. When the orc becomes bloodied, there is a 50% chance that the Tentacle Mass bursts forth from its chest (killing the orc host). If the swarm doesn't burst forth then, it does so when the orc is dropped to 0 hit points.

The tentacle mass has an uncountable number of tentacles constantly writhing through the space and time of multiple dimensions. However, each mass has a small number of tentacles that appear permanent. They do not fluctuate between dimensions (or they exist simultaneously in all) and are slightly larger than the rest. These tentacles each control and act independently of the mass like a hydra's heads.

Tentacle Mass
Medium Aberration, chaotic evil

Armor Class: 13 (dimensional phasing)
Hit Points: 39, or 13 (2d8+4) per "head"
Speed: 20 ft.

STR +2
DEX +0
CON +2
INT +4
WIS -2
CHA +4

Damage resistance: psychic
Condition Immunities: prone
Senses: Blindsight 60 ft.
Languages: Orc
Challenge: 2 (450 XP)

Living-ish. The tentacle mass doesn't eat, breathe, sleep or exhibit any sort of normal behaviors.

Multiple Heads. The tentacle mass has 3 (1d4+1) heads . While it has more than one head, the tentacle mass has advantage on saving throws against being blinded, charmed, deafened, frightened, stunned, and knocked unconscious.

Whenever the mass takes 13 or more damage in a single turn, one of its heads dies . If all its heads die, the tentacle mass dies, seemingly winking out of existence. At the end of its turn, it grows 1d4-1 new heads for each of its heads that died since its last turn, unless it has taken fire damage since its last turn. The mass gains 10 hit points for each head regrown in this way.

Reactive Heads. For each head the tentacle mass has beyond one, it gets an extra reaction that can be used only for opportunity attacks.

ACTIONS

Multiattack. The tentacle mass makes as many slam attacks as it has heads.

Slam. Melee Weapon Attack: +4 to hit, reach 10ft., one target. Hit: 5 (1d6 + 2) bludgeoning damage.
 

Elfcrusher

Explorer
I think this is malformed: you're asking if this action declaration violates a principle of the DM not controlling characters thoughts before establishing that the action declaration violates established norms on who has this authorial control. In other words, we can even reach your last question before resolving the authorial control one.

And, simply, in 5e the GM has this authority, the player does not. So, again, we can't reach your last question without stipulating that the player has already broken the rules. In which case, I think your question is mooted.
Yes. And also 'yes' to [MENTION=97077]iserith[/MENTION]'s response.

Now, in my own games I welcome this sort of thing, even though it's technically a violation of the Player/DM division of authority. If for some reason I didn't want the guard to be the Francis the player knows, it would just turn out that he's mistaken, this is not Francis.

IT'S HIS EVIL TWIN!!!!

Or just somebody who looks like Francis.

But, anyway, it's not an action declaration, it's the player assuming some of the DM's role.
 

Mort

Community Supporter
But, anyway, it's not an action declaration, it's the player assuming some of the DM's role.
Yes, a separate question.

This is the player having a form of narrative control.

Some people are all fort this, some are (near violently) against it.

It's a very interesting question (and one that may need to be revived for 5e though I remember it causing quite the ruckus in past threads) but would likely only muddy the waters here.
 

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