What does it mean to "Challenge the Character"?

Celebrim

Legend
I agree that separating that knowledge is difficult if not impossible. It rarely comes up at my table, and people are generally more concerned with avoiding resistances and immunities that exploiting vulnerabilities, so the few times people do know something, it is a minor effect. However, I am a person who gets bugged by inconsistencies in stories, so if your character has knowledge about how mindflayers are created, despite being a poor street rat with no encounters with anything more arcane than a magic lantern, I'm going to wonder how you came by this explicit and detailed secret knowledge. It will bother me, simply because it alters your story and would seem out of place.
As far as inconsistencies in stories go, there have been at least 3 origin stories for Mind Flayers that I know of (and that's before we even finished 2e) and I wouldn't be surprised to find recent editions have introduced more of them, or that 2e settings I'm not that familiar with (Planescape, Spelljammer) had their own backstories that weren't completely congruent. Beyond that, I'd never assume that a particular DM was using one canon or another. Running a game in say a Marvel or DC universe would be equally ambiguous. The comics are full of retcons.

If a poor street rat knows a bunch about Mind Flayers because his player knows a bunch about Mind Flayers, and he chooses to act on that knowledge in character by relating all the stuff he knows, that's nothing I can do anything about. I can't tell a player how to play their character, and I can't make players forget what they know. They'll have to make choices about what they are comfortable doing. If we need to establish how he knows it, well, that's never that hard to do and in my experience often makes for fun story hooks especially if the player is willing to let me run with that.

Lots of things that players do used to bother me that elicit shrugs these days now that I'm older.

And myself and the entire table is going to be a little taken aback if their reaction to their kid being strapped to a torture device isn't some form of horror.
Maybe so, but that's the players choice how to play it as far as I'm concerned. If the player wants to play this as, "Don't worry Johnny, this will only hurt for a little while...", that's the player's decision, and the fact that everyone is taken aback by this reaction might well be interesting. I prefer not to tell players how their character acts. The player has little enough control over the game as it is with me stepping on the one prerogative that they unambiguously have.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
I haven't followed very closely on the argument you are having, but what passage from 5e do you think is a rule?

It's been my experience that a lot of things that people claim are rules aren't rules. For example, "wealth by level" in 3.X was not a rule, it was a guideline. Thirteen encounters per adventuring day, was not a rule, but a guideline. That this percentage of encounters should be above CR and this below it was not a rule, but a guideline. Yet I often got into arguments online that insisted that if the PC's didn't receive their suggested wealth by level that I was breaking the rules.

Generally speaking, I don't classify things that don't have to do with process resolution as "rules". Much of the DMG in every edition tends to be just good advice to novice DMs on how to play D&D according to its default assumptions.
I would say anything that isn't specifically called out as a rules variant (e.g., encumbrance or different resting options) or the like is a rule. This includes the stuff that doesn't seem very "crunchy," such as the section on "How to Play" or what the player gets to determine about the character. I think to parse it into various other words like "guidelines" or the like doesn't really help and certainly doesn't make for interesting discussion in my view. The books are instruction manuals on how to play a fairly complex game. Ignore or downplay parts of it at your own risk. Doing so may change nothing appreciable about the outcome. Or it may result in an undesirable experience - but so too might playing by the rules if the play experience isn't to your tastes. That might suggest a need for house rules, variant rules, table rules, or a wholesale change of game.

I want to be clear here: I am not advocating slavish devotion to RAW. I change rules depending on the campaign I am running to better support the campaign's theme. But like you said, I think it's a good idea to play as intended first before deciding whether things need to change and how.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
I agree that there are NPCs that the game suggests are "extensions of the PC" and thus under the control of the player. This is nowhere more apparent than in the background features.

From the acolyte's "Shelter of the Faithful":
While near your temple, you can call upon the priests for assistance, provided the assistance you ask for is not hazardous and you remain in good standing with your temple.​

From the criminal's "Criminal Contact"
You have a reliable and trustworthy contact who acts as your liaison to a network of other criminals. You know how to get messages to and from your contact, even over great distances; specifically, you know the local messengers, corrupt caravan masters, and seedy sailors who can deliver messages for you.​

From the noble's "Position of Priviledge":
You can secure an audience with a local noble if you need to.​

From the sage's "Researcher":
When you attempt to learn or recall a piece of lore, if you do not know that information, you often know where and from whom you can obtain it. Usually, this information comes from a library, scriptorium, university, or a sage or other learned person or creature.​

These are abilities, on the order of class and racial features on the character sheet, that the player can invoke that give his/her character access to NPCs with which s/he is connected and over which the player can exert some degree of influence.
Sure, but all of the organizations, locations, and NPCs are under the full control of the DM during play as are the outcomes of all action declarations by the player related to the background features above, since you still have to declare an action to seek assistance from the priests of your temple, get messages to your criminal contact, secure an audience with a noble, and so on. This does not suggest control over the environment outside of the character to me; rather, they are rules the DM may choose to use to decide on the outcome of the action declaration. As DM, I'm inclined to say your action declaration to get an audience with the local noble automatically succeeds if you have the "Position of Privilege" feature. But that might not always be the case, for example, if there is no local noble in the town or (for reasons I sure I hope I telegraphed previously) the noble refuses all audiences due to some plot-relevant reason.
 
I would say anything that isn't specifically called out as a rules variant (e.g., encumbrance or different resting options) or the like is a rule. This includes the stuff that doesn't seem very "crunchy," such as the section on "How to Play" or what the player gets to determine about the character. I think to parse it into various other words like "guidelines" or the like doesn't really help
There's definite differences among, say, a crunchy mechanic, a clearly stated but vague rule, an a section explicitly labeled 'advice.' Since such distinctions exist, labeling them isn't unreasonable.

If you want to use 'rule' in every label, why not. Maybe: 'rule mechanic', 'procedural rule,' 'rule of thumb,' respectively, for the above instances.

Or, we could call none of them rules: resolution mechanic, sequence of play, advice.

It shouldn't make a difference.



The books are instruction manuals on how to play a fairly complex game.
They're closer to self-help books than technical manuals. Again, intentionally so, other WotC eds were more manual-like, heavier on the jargon and all, less conversational, etc, and 5e design explicitly moved away from that.

Ignore or downplay parts of it at your own risk. … I want to be clear here: I am not advocating slavish devotion to RAW.
It's a good thing you clarified, because the bolded bit, sounds like exactly that (and stated none too gently, at that). Language is ambiguous, that way.

By the same token, absent Mike Mearls sitting at your table, clarifying every word of the books, interpretation is called for, and different interpretations may well be equally valid.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
Maybe so, but that's the players choice how to play it as far as I'm concerned. If the player wants to play this as, "Don't worry Johnny, this will only hurt for a little while...", that's the player's decision, and the fact that everyone is taken aback by this reaction might well be interesting. I prefer not to tell players how their character acts. The player has little enough control over the game as it is with me stepping on the one prerogative that they unambiguously have.
I agree. I think it may have been this thread where I mentioned that even if the DM "gives" the player the freedom to react however he or she likes after the DM establishes how the character feels about something, the DM still established a constraint in which the player may feel compelled to take into account when deciding what to do. As [MENTION=6801228]Chaosmancer[/MENTION] points out, the rest of the table might be taken aback if the character acts in a manner that is incongruous with what the DM established about the character's feelings. This is a subtle (or sometimes not so subtle) form of control, even if the DM doesn't intend it that way. Better to steer clear in my view.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
There's definite differences among, say, a crunchy mechanic, a clearly stated but vague rule, an a section explicitly labeled 'advice.' Since such distinctions exist, labeling them isn't unreasonable.

If you want to use 'rule' in every label, why not. Maybe: 'rule mechanic', 'procedural rule,' 'rule of thumb,' respectively, for the above instances.

Or, we could call none of them rules: resolution mechanic, sequence of play, advice.

It shouldn't make a difference.
Yeah, we can play all kinds of word games if you want. But I don't think that's very interesting or helpful.

They're closer to self-help books than technical manuals.
More word games.

It's a good thing you clarified, because the bolded bit, sounds like exactly that (and stated none too gently, at that). Language is ambiguous, that way.
It looks more to me that you're reading into my words an intent I do not have.
 

Satyrn

Villager
And who among us old-timers haven't been in games like that?! I sure as heck have.
One of the guys at my table spends way too much game time trying to buy a nice sword.

Meanwhile, I'd pay double, triple or even tenfold, the listed gold price to just buy the thing without playing out the shopping scene.
 
Yeah, we can play all kinds of word games if you want. But I don't think that's very interesting or helpful.
More word games.
Insisting everything between the covers be called a 'rule' is a word-game, in that sense, too.

There are valid distinctions between a crunchy mechanic, an overarching procedure, flavor/color text, etc... denying those distinctions by insisting on just calling them all 'rules' is as much a word game as picking one set of labels over another.

It looks more to me that you're reading into my words an intent I do not have.
Exactly. And, unless the designer is right there (and his memory good) to clarify (and, heck, if he were, he'd probably say something like "don't sweat it, the rules are just a starting point"), you might be reading an intent into any given 'rule' that wasn't there, either. That's language being ambiguous, and decoding ambiguous language means using judgement and coming up with reasonable interpretations. Not everyone reading the same passage will have the same interpretation - any that fit the wording may be equally valid.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
Insisting everything between the covers be called a 'rule' is a word-game, in that sense, too.

There are valid distinctions between a crunchy mechanic, an overarching procedure, flavor/color text, etc... denying those distinctions by insisting on just calling them all 'rules' is as much a word game as picking one set of labels over another.
All your position means is that we're at an impasse and there's nothing left to discuss on this front. I won't be changing what I call the rules.

Exactly. And, unless the designer is right there (and his memory good) to clarify (and, heck, if he were, he'd probably say something like "don't sweat it, the rules are just a starting point"), you might be reading an intent into any given 'rule' that wasn't there, either. That's language being ambiguous, and decoding ambiguous language means using judgement and coming up with reasonable interpretations. Not everyone reading the same passage will have the same interpretation - any that fit the wording may be equally valid.
I mean in a kind of postmodern sense, sure, anything can mean anything. But in a pragmatic sense, only some interpretations will actually be valid in that they actually work reliably in achieving the intended goal. If you're saying that some people can have a perfectly fine game by running it differently than I do, I have never disputed that and even acknowledged it just a few short posts ago (which you even partially quoted). So as above there is really nothing to discuss here. It's rather exasperating that you keep harping on these points, frankly, when it seems we're in agreement on just about everything.

Edit: And besides, we don't have time for this. There's a D&D sex scandal on and we have pearls to clutch.
 
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And who among us old-timers haven't been in games like that?! I sure as heck have.
Thus the example. I speak from direct experience more than I care to admit, sometimes.

But in a pragmatic sense, only some interpretations will actually be valid in that they actually work reliably in achieving the intended goal.
Some. Not exactly one.

And 5e professed rather a number of goals, not all of them mutually compatible. DM Empowerment was not only one of those goals, it was a safety valve by which each group could resolve those little contradictions.

It's rather exasperating that you keep harping on these points, frankly, when it seems we're in agreement on just about everything.
it can be more exasperating to /almost/ agree with someone than to be diametrically opposed ;)

I mean, I'll come right out and argue that the basic sequence of play + goal/method + improv + old-school DM experience/judgement + unrepentant 'illusionism' is the /best/ way to run 5e, hands down - if anything, a more extreme version of what you advocate. But I won't argue it's the only valid interpretation.

Edit: And besides, we don't have time for this. There's a D&D sex scandal on and we have pearls to clutch.
hard pass

Debating rules minutia - even if it's only debating whether it should be called 'rules minutia' or 'micro-mechanics' sounds funner.
 
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Celebrim

Legend
This is my sense of what belongs to the player:

1) Their character, once blessed for play, belongs to the player. Typically, the GM will establish a character generation process and make legal whatever the character generation process allows, but in some cases when using a large body of character generation resources, the GM might still impose a reasonableness test. Once in play, in a typical, fortune in the middle game - such as D&D and most traditional RPGs - the player may propose any action that their character could do, including any action an average adult could propose to do, as well as any action that is blessed by their characters described heroic or extraordinary abilities. They cannot however act with any assurance that a proposed action will succeed. So any statement like, "I pull the rope out of my backpack...", really means, "I attempt to pull the rope out of my backpack..."

2) The backstory of a character belongs jointly to the player and the GM, and neither ought to tamper with the backstory without some sort of formal permission from the other one to do so. Typically, the GM ought to bless any backstory that is reasonable for the setting, and make suggestions on how to make the backstory more appropriate to the setting or campaign, by supplying details that the player could not otherwise know. Some process of negotiation occurs where the GM and the player hash out something they are both happy with, and then it becomes an established truth of the fiction - part of the stories 'myth'. This process can continue after play begins, but should generally involve some sort of agreement between the GM and the player on how that process should be handled. Different players and GMs will have different ideas about what is reasonable to introduce, and if there is any question, they should defer to the other's judgment.

2) The possessions of the character belong to the character, not the player. They are the things established by the fiction that the character is in possession of. The player can propose to interact with them, like for example, proposing to take the rope out of their pack. But they are in no way in control of the rope beyond what their character is capable of. They cannot introduce new possessions for the character except through the process of play, whatever that is. Note that some games do allow the player to introduce possessions for the character through the process of play, but typically those games require the player to spend some sort of resource - such as one of a number of limited inventory slots to do so. Thus, even though the player is introducing the specific possession, they are still doing it through the process of play. You cannot propose an action with an object you don't possess. That's just nonsense. If you don't have a Greatsword, you can't swing one. Nor can you introduce a possession from the setting unless it is established that the object is in the setting (usually by the GM). You could reasonably say, "Since I'm in a weaponsmithy, I look around for a weapon - preferably a greatsword. If I see one, I grab it." You cannot reasonably say, "Since I'm in a weaponsmithy, I grab a greatsword." You could reasonably say, "I grab the greatsword [which you previously described as being there] off the pegs where it is hanging on the wall.", but until the GM establish something is around and that you have acquired it successfully, it's not in your possession. This is all I think obvious.

3) NPC associates and other sentient resources established via backstory or character generation mechanics are part of the game's backstory. Quite often they exist to establish for the player what sort of setting resources that the GM will automatically bless. For example, the 5e "Criminal's Contact" is basically a sort of backstory resource. You could establish this as part of your backstory, but the GM is by having such a mechanic basically asserting that unless you acquire some sort of Character Generation resource, he's unlikely to bless anything as valuable as "Criminal's Contact". Mechanics like "Criminal's Contact" exist to put a limit on the player's expectations as to what they can introduce via their background. Generally speaking, an NPC is still an NPC and is still therefore part of the domain of the GM. The GM is just contractually agreeing with you that the NPC will meet certain basic expectations - the NPC is reliable, friendly disposed to you, well-connected, and famous enough that messages can be routed to them from anywhere you could route messages. Some Chargen resources introduce highly loyal NPCs with very close attachments to the player. Familiars and Animal Companions tend to fall into this category. They are still NPCs, and still part of the GMs world, and the GM may decide to RP them from time to time for the sake of color and interest, but the characters control over them is so complete because of telepathic or empathic connections, that for most purposes they can be considered an extension of the character. Or like any NPC a GM may extend permission to RP the animal companions to the player if that is interesting (for example the Familiar was sent on a mission or the PC is unconscious), but while that may be the norm it's not something that the player can really demand. Technically, when the character proposes an action for a Familiar or Animal Companion, they are only commanding the Familiar or Animal Companion to do these things. It's just that the player has such a reasonable expectation that the command will be obeyed, that normally all the extra steps are cut out for the sake of speeding play.

Personally, I'm not a fan of as weak of backstory resources as 5e provides for, since they end up siloing perfectly reasonable backstory resources. The implications of things like "Researcher" or "Position of Privilege" is that you can only do things like that if you chose the right chargen attributes. So the more of these you actually introduce over time, the more propositions you are making unreasonable for a player to expect to succeed.

4) Elements that are part of a player's backstory, such as friends, relations, family estates or homes are pretty much fair game for the GM to use just as any other setting element. GMs should however take care not to disestablish some truth of the backstory without permission. For example, if the backstory establishes that an NPC is a close and loyal friend, the GM should not establish through play that the NPC is actually treacherous and hates the player, unless the player has already agreed that he enjoys that sort of twist. And while the GM may have the authority to do with setting established through backstory whatever he likes, a well-mannered GM will not exercise that authority without restraint and without some consideration for the feelings of the player. Remember, players are often playing some sort of avatar of themselves, and as such things like family members are often in some way representative of their real family members. Since real life family relations can be strained and difficult, care should be taken not to carry out family drama that is too much like real sources of pain for the player, and GMs should be willing to back off story lines of that sort if the player expresses discomfort. It is perfectly valid for a player to establish with a GM certain "hands off" rules for NPCs that should not be made to be too much sources of risk or challenge. However, if an NPC is to be "hands off", the player shouldn't insist that they are in the foreground of stories where they would reasonably face danger and hardship. If you carry your kid into a dungeon after making a "hands off" agreement, you shouldn't expect that its now immune to fireballs. "Hands off" requires both sides to leave the NPC in the background of the story.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
Some. Not exactly one.

And 5e professed rather a number of goals, not all of them mutually compatible. DM Empowerment was not only one of those goals, it was a safety valve by which each group could resolve those little contradictions.
I mean, I'll come right out and argue that the basic sequence of play + goal/method + improv + old-school DM experience/judgement + unrepentant 'illusionism' is the /best/ way to run 5e, hands down - if anything, a more extreme version of what you advocate. But I won't argue it's the only valid interpretation.
Already addressed upthread. And there are approaches that DMs take that simply cannot be derived from the plain English words on the pages of the D&D 5e rules books. Some certainly could if you were reading a rules book from some other game. When that happens, expect me to point it out, especially if the poster is reporting dissatisfaction with the game experience.
 
And there are approaches that DMs take that simply cannot be derived from the plain English words on the pages of the D&D 5e rules books.
Sure, and they're often running great games, too. The rules are a starting point - move beyond 'em or go nowhere. Goal + Approach (or is it method?) is a bit of user-defined jargon that makes a critical, overarching part of 5e a bit more systematic, consistent & playable, for instance. It's not derived from the rules, though it's entirely consistent with them. Illusionism - to pick on my favorite disfavored DMing technique to defend - is not spelled out as /the/ way to run 5e, but it's entirely consistent with the role, latitude, and Empowerment of the 5e DM, and it can work very well, indeed.

Conversely, trying to run the game by-the-book as if it were some kind of algorithm to be executed by a state-machine will halt and throw an error at the first action resolution. The game just absolutely requires DM judgement, from high-level processes down to minutia, there are ambiguities to be interpreted, judgement to be exercised, and rulings to be made.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
Sure, and they're often running great games, too. The rules are a starting point - move beyond 'em or go nowhere. Goal + Approach (or is it method?) is a bit of user-defined jargon that makes a critical, overarching part of 5e a bit more systematic, consistent & playable, for instance. It's not derived from the rules, though it's entirely consistent with them. Illusionism - to pick on my favorite disfavored DMing technique to defend - is not spelled out as /the/ way to run 5e, but it's entirely consistent with the role, latitude, and Empowerment of the 5e DM, and it can work very well, indeed.

Conversely, trying to run the game by-the-book as if it were some kind of algorithm to be executed by a state-machine will halt and throw an error at the first action resolution. The game just absolutely requires DM judgement, from high-level processes down to minutia, there are ambiguities to be interpreted, judgement to be exercised, and rulings to be made.
Yeah, so you just keep saying things I'm not arguing against as if I am and, because I feel obliged to respond to someone who responds to me, I feel like I'm wasting my time now. Probably best to just ignore each other.
 

Hussar

Legend
Already addressed upthread. And there are approaches that DMs take that simply cannot be derived from the plain English words on the pages of the D&D 5e rules books. Some certainly could if you were reading a rules book from some other game. When that happens, expect me to point it out, especially if the poster is reporting dissatisfaction with the game experience.
But, what if the poster is reporting satisfaction with their game experience? Why point out the "rules book from some other game" to those posters? What are you trying to prove? No one who is arguing with you here is saying, "Well, my game sucks, but, I'm not doing it your way." What you've gotten as counter arguments is, "We are running games that work quite well but, we aren't doing what you are advocating, therefore, what you are advocating isn't really universal, regardless of what the rules say".
[MENTION=4937]Celebrim[/MENTION], I largely agree with what you've said, with a slight amendment that, as a DM, I tend to fob off a lot more authority at the table onto the players. While I understand the notion that letting players have limited fiat control might be off putting to some, I find that since each player has their own fiat control powers, it becomes more a sense that everyone at the table is contributing towards authoring the game, rather than the DM being so central to the larger campaign. And, just because Bob adds in "Frances is my friend" to use an example, doesn't mean that the scene suddenly becomes a non-issue for the rest of the group.

As far as everyone else is concerned, does it really matter if "Frances is Bob's friend" comes from Bob or the DM? Either way, the rest of the group now has more information in the scene to work with. I just don't have a real problem with a player adding in elements like this. And, since 5e does allow for this sort of thing by leveraging backgrounds, nemesises (nemesi?) and the like, I find it encourages players to become more grounded in the campaign and thus, more immersed.
 

pemerton

Legend
Y'know, it occurs to me that are times when the DM deciding what the PC thinks is the whole point.

Player: I pay attention not just to what he's saying, but to his body language how he's saying it, to try to get a sense of if he's being truthful or not.
DM: OK, roll WIS, Insight applies.
Player: 9 + 2 +5 that's a 15
DM: 16 You think he's probably being truthful.
Player: STOP TELLING ME WHAT MY CHARACTER THINKS!
I think your GM was meant to say "He seems to be truthful"!

Whether that's mere semantic sleight of hand, or a substantive compliance with a principle for allocating narrative authority, I'm not sure.

Player: I pull 50' of rope out of my pack and...
DM: You find no rope in your pack.
Player: I picked it before play, it's right here on my sheet!
DM: It's not there now.
Player: What happened to it?
DM: I hear a goal, but not a method.
Player: What do I think could have happened to it?
DM: Oh, no, I'm not falling for that again.
Well, quite.

Picking gear, for instance, is just simplified: you could - and might be required to by some DMs - acquire gear through a series of interactions with the environment - the DM describes the town, you declare you look for chandler, the DM narrates finding one, you declare the goal of acquiring rope & the method of honestly negotiating a fair price with said chandler, the DM narrates you getting ripped off because of the 'gold rush economy,' etc.
There's always been some ambiguity in how D&D presents its equipment rules: is the starting gp total a resource pool for equippage-by-way-of-points-buy (which is how I've always done it) or is it itself a piece of equipment, to be used in an episode of play that involves buying stuff?

I assume that the rules are intended to accommodate both styles, as well as allowing the equipment list to serve as an element of setting as well as a set of points-buy rules. There are systems that handle this differently - eg Burning Wheel has points buy for starting gear, but a completely different mechanic for resolving the acquisition of gear during play.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
But, what if the poster is reporting satisfaction with their game experience? Why point out the "rules book from some other game" to those posters? What are you trying to prove? No one who is arguing with you here is saying, "Well, my game sucks, but, I'm not doing it your way." What you've gotten as counter arguments is, "We are running games that work quite well but, we aren't doing what you are advocating, therefore, what you are advocating isn't really universal, regardless of what the rules say".
Again (and again and again...), me saying what I do as being something the rules books say to do isn't a judgment on how you play. But in a discussion about DMing approaches, especially one as meandering as some of the threads of late, it may be appropriate for any number of reasons to observe that someone's approach is clearly taken from some other game when it's obvious there is no support for it in the D&D 5e rules. It doesn't mean anything other than that or that the game is somehow bad. It may not be something I would do or even enjoy and that's fine. It's not me anyone has to worry about since I'm not at that table.
 
But, what if the poster is reporting satisfaction with their game experience? Why point out the "rules book from some other game" to those posters? What are you trying to prove? No one who is arguing with you here is saying, "Well, my game sucks, but, I'm not doing it your way." What you've gotten as counter arguments is, "We are running games that work quite well but, we aren't doing what you are advocating, therefore, what you are advocating isn't really universal, regardless of what the rules say".
Don't recall if it's been in this thread, specifically, but there's a fair a amount of "this game sux!"/"you're doin' it wrong!" out there.

To speculate wildly (which I'm sure he'll hate, which can only be a comedic bonus at this point, so far beyond the pale has our little high-velocity sub-conversation of acrimonious agreement gone, and only fair since he's diagnosed me with Post-Traumatic Edition-War Syndrome*), iserith might be reacting to some pretty disingenuous criticism of 5e that he's repeatedly demolished using his (pretty impressive, IMHO, & entirely valid) interpretation of how to run the game in a way that doesn't suck, like, at all, only to have it met with such flaming illogic that the only course of action left seems to be to seek cover in the big-R Rules. Like, "Ok, don't play this way because it's sensible, works wonderfully well, and is way more fun, DO IT BECAUSE THE RULES SAY SO!"

Which is a tragic level of foundational exasperation that I'm afraid I've only piled onto, with my own cynical-old-man posting style and lame attempts at humor.


As far as everyone else is concerned, does it really matter if "Frances is my friend" comes from Bob or the DM?
It might, if everyone else trusts the DM to tell a good story, while they're exasperated with Bob trying to get away with stuff all the time. (Or, vice-versa if Bob's OK, but the DM's a jerk.)








* Y'don't need even a BS in psychology to figure that one out, really.
 

Chaosmancer

Villager
What's not solid about it?
Blink Blink

The fact that you are saying nothing? Look, I said we can drop it, and we can, but in response to "Does Francis exist even if he isn't that specific guard" you have said "At some tables he might, at others he wouldn't" All while spending an awful lot of words telling me the rules say nothing about it.

That's a non-answer, there is nothing there to discuss. Some tables do, some tables don't. It is true, but it doesn't give us anything to talk about, it is a deflection.

Always right in that this is what the character thinks, anyway, since the rules say the player determines what the character thinks. Those thoughts themselves might be wrong.
And if you decide they are wrong about the existence of an entire person, what does that say about the Character's mind? In fact, since the player cannot choose for the NPC to be real, if they DM chooses that they are not, then the Character has an entire made up person in their head they believed to be real. Why?

You can say "Well, that answer doesn't matter to me" but as the DM it does, because you are the player's window into this world. If a player doesn't know where these lines are, because they have absolute authority over their character, they can end up with a character who is completely delusional, constantly wrong about facts of their own lives. And if the player didn't come forward with that as a concept, but is instead dealing with it because of the DMs rulings, that can become an issue at the table.

"Buying scrolls of Thunder damage spells" does not necessarily require knowledge on the part of the character of the weaknesses of earth elementals either, even if the player knows a battle with such creatures looms.
... So, to be clear. A player stating "I am going to buy scrolls with spell that deal thunder damage because I know we are fighting earth elementals and they are vulnerable to thunder damage" does not require knowledge of earth elementals being weak to thunder damage...

Because, I did state they were buying them under that assumption, therefore it was the driving motivator behind their decision. I didn't say they bought them because they were the cheapest spells in the store, or because they liked loud booms, I said it was because it was utilizing knowledge of a specific weakness. And your counter to that is that they don't neccessarily have to be buying them to utilize that specific weakness.



As far as inconsistencies in stories go, there have been at least 3 origin stories for Mind Flayers that I know of (and that's before we even finished 2e) and I wouldn't be surprised to find recent editions have introduced more of them, or that 2e settings I'm not that familiar with (Planescape, Spelljammer) had their own backstories that weren't completely congruent. Beyond that, I'd never assume that a particular DM was using one canon or another. Running a game in say a Marvel or DC universe would be equally ambiguous. The comics are full of retcons.
Completely beside the point. First of all, I said "Are created" not "Were created". Now, I will grant, easy distinction to miss, but I was talking their breeding habits, not their origin story. I can claim that, but either way the retcons of editions have nothing to do with the point we are discussing.

If a poor street rat knows a bunch about Mind Flayers because his player knows a bunch about Mind Flayers, and he chooses to act on that knowledge in character by relating all the stuff he knows, that's nothing I can do anything about. I can't tell a player how to play their character, and I can't make players forget what they know. They'll have to make choices about what they are comfortable doing. If we need to establish how he knows it, well, that's never that hard to do and in my experience often makes for fun story hooks especially if the player is willing to let me run with that.
First off, the bolded part is false. There are things you can do. Maybe not a lot of productive things, but things nonetheless.

For example, I encourage my players to ask me, just like I ask my DMs. I don't find that shameful or DM powertripping or anything, it just is useful. That way if they are going off of info in the MM that I changed, I can let them know that isn't what I'm using. Sometimes things make perfect sense, sometimes I need a second to think through how they could know something. And, I never try and have people hide mechanics, like resistances and vulnerabilities, those aren't the things I'm concerned with.

And frankly, it rarely comes up at all. But, as the DM, I am the curator of the story, I mix the player's various threads and make a whole, and that might mean setting limits on player knowledge, especially when the lore is meant to be revealed as part of a big plot. Sure, I can't wow the veteran player who knows the secret, but that doesn't mean they should ruin the fun for everyone by blurting it out when their character has no reason to know.

Maybe so, but that's the players choice how to play it as far as I'm concerned. If the player wants to play this as, "Don't worry Johnny, this will only hurt for a little while...", that's the player's decision, and the fact that everyone is taken aback by this reaction might well be interesting. I prefer not to tell players how their character acts. The player has little enough control over the game as it is with me stepping on the one prerogative that they unambiguously have.
But am I overstepping by saying they feel a "dawning horror" over the reveal? That's the only thing I'm saying that you aren't. I'm not going to narrate how they act, but, is it too much to give a nudge in the logical emotional direction?

Some people say yes, but I don't think so. I don't think I'm overstepping.
 

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