What does it mean to "Challenge the Character"?

Hriston

Explorer
I think they would inform but not constrain the DM's narration of the outcome of the adventurers' outcome. This may seem like splitting hairs, but we have to take any rule into the context of the idea that the rules serve the DM, not the other way around. In this case, it may well be likely that the DM always says the character can (for example) get an audience with a noble or help from his or her temple; however, in the realm of infinite fictional possibilities, that might not always be the case and the DM decides the result, not the rules and not the player, even if the rules inform the DM's decision. Thus, I would say background features such as the ones you quoted fall short of demonstrating that some NPCs are "extensions of the PC." In a practical sense, it might look and operate that way if it always works, but it's not an exception to the standard adjudication process.
Okay, but what I'm talking about is that background features that give reliable access to (and outcomes from) NPCs are as much a part of the character sheet as the character's ability scores, equipment list, and (if the character is a spellcaster) spell list. Of course the DM can rule that your spell doesn't work for circumstantial reasons, but that doesn't mean that the ability to cast that spell isn't part of your character's identity, and that the DM isn't overriding the character sheet to some extent by doing so.
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
Okay, but what I'm talking about is that background features that give reliable access to (and outcomes from) NPCs are as much a part of the character sheet as the character's ability scores, equipment list, and (if the character is a spellcaster) spell list. Of course the DM can rule that your spell doesn't work for circumstantial reasons, but that doesn't mean that the ability to cast that spell isn't part of your character's identity, and that the DM isn't overriding the character sheet to some extent by doing so.
When did "control over PC thoughts" turn into "on the character sheet?"
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
Okay, but what I'm talking about is that background features that give reliable access to (and outcomes from) NPCs are as much a part of the character sheet as the character's ability scores, equipment list, and (if the character is a spellcaster) spell list. Of course the DM can rule that your spell doesn't work for circumstantial reasons, but that doesn't mean that the ability to cast that spell isn't part of your character's identity, and that the DM isn't overriding the character sheet to some extent by doing so.
They may be listed on the character sheet, but as the outcome of all action declarations are decided upon by the DM, I don't think where they are listed says anything about the player controlling the fiction in this regard.
 

Hriston

Explorer
When did "control over PC thoughts" turn into "on the character sheet?"
I don't know what you're talking about. This exchange isn't about whether players have control over the thoughts of their PCs. It's about whether certain background features turn certain NPCs into "extensions of the character" in the way a spell like dominate person does, unless you're making a connection that I've missed.
 

Celebrim

Legend
So we've reached the point where this is claimed to be a rational series of steps:

a) Player decides to have his PC gas-light an NPC.
b) Player declares that the false to facts belief of the PC with respect to the environment is something the PC actually believes.
c) Therefore either the PC is correct and the environment retroactively conforms to the PC's belief, or else the GM is playing the player's character?

This is at the point where if I were the GM, and something like this happened, I'd conclude that the player - not the character, but the player - was insane.

Somehow we've gone from, "The GM can't tell the player what the PC thinks." to "The PC can tell the GM what the setting is because the PC's thoughts are invariably true to facts." "My character believes this" is something that the player can declare. "My character believes this, and therefore it is true." is not something the player can declare, least of all when such a declaration contravenes established fact. We've recreated the "I've shot you! No you missed!" problem of a playground Make Believe games, only this time no rules process can possibly resolve the one-up-manship of this process of play because we have no way of establishing any of the facts upon which rules processes depend. Like the game of playground make believe, either the participants must yield to the most stubborn participant or the game cannot continue. Any game played according to this process of play would not long endure, because at most it can support the aesthetic goals of a single participant - the player who insists his right to play his character extends to the right to describe the setting as well.

And as long as we are supposedly discussing what it means for a game to have "challenge", this game cannot support the pillar of "challenge" even for that player, since the player has fiat authority and can basically declare "checkmate" regardless of the board position because he can arrange the board position without respect to any rules process.

Furthermore, this example doesn't even have the thin tissue of rules lawyering that supposedly justified the example with the guard. In no way can the player claim that the Chamberlain's smelliness was in some fashion part of the player's backstory, and if through some twisted logic he can, then he can claim the entire setting belongs to the player through the same set of steps.
 

Hriston

Explorer
They may be listed on the character sheet, but as the outcome of all action declarations are decided upon by the DM, I don't think where they are listed says anything about the player controlling the fiction in this regard.
The player controls the fiction as it concerns how the PC thinks, acts, and talks. To me, it follows that automatic outcomes of PC actions are also examples of the player controlling the fiction. For example, if I decide my PC casts fireball and I have that spell listed on my character sheet, I have a spell slot available, etc., then I have controlled the fiction to the extent that the effects of the spell take place in the fiction. I think the same can be said of calling on the priests of my temple for assistance if I have Shelter of the Faithful listed on my character sheet. By doing so, I have controlled the fiction to the extent that the priests offer assistance as long as my request meets the conditions of the feature.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
The player controls the fiction as it concerns how the PC thinks, acts, and talks. To me, it follows that automatic outcomes of PC actions are also examples of the player controlling the fiction. For example, if I decide my PC casts fireball and I have that spell listed on my character sheet, I have a spell slot available, etc., then I have controlled the fiction to the extent that the effects of the spell take place in the fiction. I think the same can be said of calling on the priests of my temple for assistance if I have Shelter of the Faithful listed on my character sheet. By doing so, I have controlled the fiction to the extent that the priests offer assistance as long as my request meets the conditions of the feature.
But who decides that there is an "automatic outcome" to casting a fireball or seeking help from the PC's temple?

The DM, always.
 

Celebrim

Legend
I make a character, and decide in their backstory they have a childhood sweetheart. That sweetheart is external to the character, but it would be strange for the DM to tell me I have a childhood sweetheart, wouldn't it? What about a hometown? As a player, I could decide that my character's home town was a bit like Mayberry, and that the various people within that town and their relationships with my character shaped them in a variety of ways. That entire town and all the people in it are external to my character, but they are vital to my character's story. Heck, I have a paladin who is married. Actual character I am playing. His wife is definitely external to the character, but her backstory and their relationship is something I feel is under my control. Because having a loving wife is part of my character's story, it is part of my character, even if the wife is an NPC and external to my character.
I'll be honest [MENTION=6801228]Chaosmancer[/MENTION], at this point I consider you to be trolling and not even arguing in good faith. So I see no reason to continue any of the arguments we've been having.

However, I will say that I find this new element of the conversation highly ironic, since if you do believe this, then it is not me that you have an argument with but rather yourself and those that have been arguing similar view points.

Under my theory of play, all you've just said is true. Per the process of play I outlined, I cannot as GM tell you that a backstory relationship regarding a loving wife which was previously established to exist, in fact is false because to do so would be impinging upon the conception of your character. While the NPC wife is external to your character, the nature of the relationship between you and that NPC once established cannot be retconned without your permission because that relationship is part of how your character is defined.

But consider that it is your own side of this argument that disagrees with that. When the "Francis the Guard" example was introduced as a valid process of play, that is to say that the player could introduce an NPC to the setting who was his best friend and insist that that NPC was present right now at this moment in the setting, the claim was made that since the setting/character line was so blurry, the correct and proper response by the GM to the player introducing an NPC to the setting in the middle of an encounter or situation was for the GM to invent that the best friend now held some grudge against the PC on account of some thing that the player had done the past that the GM could now impose on the player. In other words, it was argued that sure, the player can impose things on the setting, but in turn the GM can (and ought) impose facts about the player's character on the player, up to and including changing the fundamental relationship between the PC and NPCs as the player understood them.

How can you not see not only how dysfunctional that is, but how obviously both sides are crossing a not so blurry line, how the ends of this argument actually contradict your claims about it, and how contrived these claims are?

Fundamentally, you cannot introduce a backstory without the GMs permission. You may correctly observe that this means you cannot play a particular character without the GMs permission, and that is true, but even though this is so, this does not mean that the GM can play your character. Typically players create a backstory in good faith, and the GMs validate it as a reasonable backstory and therefore expresses facts that are true within the setting. Occasionally a GM may ask the player to make tweaks to better fit the setting, and the player can either except these tweaks or come up with a different backstory entirely. Very very rarely, a player might introduce a backstory that cannot at all be validated by the GM because it is totally at odds with the setting or else is obviously a bad faith attempt to unfairly hog the spotlight that ought to justly be shared equally by all players, but generally this indicates a problem player, or a player who is completely new to the setting, and isn't something that happens a lot with long running groups. In the case of your otherwise generic and simple background for your Paladin, in most cases I'd expect a GM to validate that, but if the GM was planning to run a game in a setting like Ravenloft or Midnight, he'd be well in his rights to tell you, "In this setting, towns like Mayberry don't really exist. At best, if you insist on playing a character that believes that they are from Mayberry, you have to understand that the character is in some fashion deluded and his beliefs regarding his hometown and the relationships in it are false."

Now, I will say that 30 years ago as a teenage DM I used to think that a GM had no right to tell a player what to play, and I would have probably had to have been convinced that that wasn't true if someone made that claim. But I had in my head at the time a very simplistic idea of character, and I would have been defending a proposition like, "The DM can't force the player to play a LG cleric." and defending a proposition like, "The player should be allowed to make their own character." And while I still might defend those propositions, I now realize that in a healthy game the DM can't approve every character that a player might create. Yes, the DM can and ought to try to accommodate the players wishes regarding his character as far as is possible, but there are some concepts for a character that will sooner or later (and usually sooner) result in dysfunction and a less than enjoyable experience for all parties.

These are muddy waters...
No not really.
 

Hriston

Explorer
But who decides that there is an "automatic outcome" to casting a fireball or seeking help from the PC's temple?

The DM, always.
Yes, that's true. But it reminds me of the example up-thread of the player declaring s/he pulls a length of rope out of his/her backpack when the player believed that item was in his/her inventory. The DM has the authority to declare an outcome other than what the player expects, but, without a good reason, it seems like a breach of the social contract.
 

5ekyu

Adventurer
The player controls the fiction as it concerns how the PC thinks, acts, and talks. To me, it follows that automatic outcomes of PC actions are also examples of the player controlling the fiction. For example, if I decide my PC casts fireball and I have that spell listed on my character sheet, I have a spell slot available, etc., then I have controlled the fiction to the extent that the effects of the spell take place in the fiction. I think the same can be said of calling on the priests of my temple for assistance if I have Shelter of the Faithful listed on my character sheet. By doing so, I have controlled the fiction to the extent that the priests offer assistance as long as my request meets the conditions of the feature.
I actually dont have much of a problem with this viewpoint except to,point out that *like fireball* but *unlike magic missle* both these features require an external factor not under your control in character and in plsyer - the material components which for the priests means a temple and priests.

Unless you are camping at the temple, the one "a town away" youmight find sacked, abandoned or under someone oe something else's control. This is not unlike losing access to materials.

There are other considerations but the background features like this establish s baseline, expectation not an absolute. For instance, there is nothing IIRC saying *immediate* or *unlimited* assistance and healing.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
Yes, that's true. But it reminds me of the example up-thread of the player declaring s/he pulls a length of rope out of his/her backpack when the player believed that item was in his/her inventory. The DM has the authority to declare an outcome other than what the player expects, but, without a good reason, it seems like a breach of the social contract.
"Social contract" exists as what the DMG calls "table rules" which are not the rules of the game. These will vary from table to table.

I have already given good reasons, based on what the rules describe as the DM's role, why the DM may decide that the player's action declaration to take the rope out of the character's backpack may fail. Those reasons might be that the DM needs to mediate between the rules and the players (e.g. no enough actions left to do it right now) or set limits (e.g. the rope was used in a previous location and not recovered). I don't imagine the rules contemplate a situation where the DM isn't performing his or her role properly, being a text on how to play the game in its respective roles.

I still think that those who believe the player has a right to declare fiction outside of the character during play have a lot of work ahead of them to show any rules support for their position. It's just not there in this game like it may be in other games. (And to repeat what appears to be a necessary refrain lest I be attacked by others for not doing so, people can play how they like regardless of what the rules say.)
 

Hriston

Explorer
I actually dont have much of a problem with this viewpoint except to,point out that *like fireball* but *unlike magic missle* both these features require an external factor not under your control in character and in plsyer - the material components which for the priests means a temple and priests.

Unless you are camping at the temple, the one "a town away" youmight find sacked, abandoned or under someone oe something else's control. This is not unlike losing access to materials.

There are other considerations but the background features like this establish s baseline, expectation not an absolute. For instance, there is nothing IIRC saying *immediate* or *unlimited* assistance and healing.
Right, but assuming you have the material components in your possession and faithfully perform the other components of the spell, and assuming you have ties to a temple that you are close to and have good standing with, and that the assistance you request is not hazardous to the priests, shouldn't the character's capabilities be somewhat reliable and operate in the game as they are described on the character sheet?
 

Celebrim

Legend
"Social contract" exists as what the DMG calls "table rules" which are not the rules of the game. These will vary from table to table.
Typically, a social contract exists to cover things that are so basic to the process of play, that the game either forgets to or doesn't bother to call them out. It's the usually unspoken agreements that a table comes to make the game playable for their particular group. It usually has at its basis, "We all cooperate.", and expressions like, "No one plays an evil character unless we all agree to play evil characters." or "Regardless of the alignment of the characters, we all work together to achieve the party goals."
 

5ekyu

Adventurer
Right, but assuming you have the material components in your possession and faithfully perform the other components of the spell, and assuming you have ties to a temple that you are close to and have good standing with, and that the assistance you request is not hazardous to the priests, shouldn't the character's capabilities be somewhat reliable and operate in the game as they are described on the character sheet?
Nitpick - "to the priests" did not accompany "hazardous" in the write-up in the PHB. So, for instance, if the priests' spells and efforts are tied up combating a local outbreak, they might consider casting cure spells on your scratches a lower priority than saving other people's lives - the hazard being yo those thry are helping.

But, to be clear, given your long list of assumptions, I would boil it down to "unless there is a compelling reason not to... "

A referencexwas made above yo sort of "without a good reason" and to me most of my playstyle revolves around "say yes, unless you have a compelling reason to say no" and I basically set the burden on me as GM through setting, circumstance and NPC to establish "why not" instead of on the player and their PC to establish "why."

So, really, more often than not the "no" is already expected as they see "why" before they get to the " no".
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
Typically, a social contract exists to cover things that are so basic to the process of play, that the game either forgets to or doesn't bother to call them out. It's the usually unspoken agreements that a table comes to make the game playable for their particular group. It usually has at its basis, "We all cooperate.", and expressions like, "No one plays an evil character unless we all agree to play evil characters." or "Regardless of the alignment of the characters, we all work together to achieve the party goals."
Right. My point being that nobody can really say that a social contract applies to all tables and, given how it will vary, it's not something that helps show an approach is a breach of the social contract. It might be for some and not for others. I think from the perspective of the rules the DM gets to say what the outcome of every action declaration is. Some might not like this or outsource some of this to the players, but that does little to show the game's support for players establishing fiction outside of their control.
 

Celebrim

Legend
Right. My point being that nobody can really say that a social contract applies to all tables and, given how it will vary, it's not something that helps show an approach is a breach of the social contract. It might be for some and not for others. I think from the perspective of the rules the DM gets to say what the outcome of every action declaration is. Some might not like this or outsource some of this to the players, but that does little to show the game's support for players establishing fiction outside of their control.
Right.

So from the perspective of the rules, the DM decides what every rules outcome of an action declaration is.

But a social contract might govern who gets to narrate what part of the consequences of that action is, because in D&D the rules themselves are usually silent on who owns the narration in cases where the player character is the focus of the narration or the results.

Consider the attack declaration.

The player declares, "I attack the ogre.", rolls a D20 and adds per the rules his bonuses to hit, resulting in say a "14".
The GM responds, after consulting the rules whether this hits or not, and reports back to the player accordingly.

The rules state that if the attack hits, the player rolls damage and its applied against the ogre's hit point total, and if he does not that he does not roll damage.

But they are pretty silent on how to handle this as a process of play, so...

a) Some tables may never narrate the result. The result is simply a deduction of hit points are not and what it looks like isn't important.
b) Some tables may agree to let the DM narrate the result of the hit or miss in a cinematic fashion - "You swing a mighty blow at the ogre, but he turns it aside with his great oaken club!" or "You plunge your blade deep into the ogre's flesh, tearing a gaping wound in its hip. The ogre staggers, roars in pain but despite the wound..."
c) Some tables may decide however, that since misses or hits primarily involve actions by the player's character, that the player ought to be the one narrating the scene once the player knows the general result. This avoids the DM establishing something about the character that goes against the player's conception of his character.
d) Some tables may use a combination, with either the GM or the player adding narration if they feel they have something that adds to the scene, and ignore narration if no one is inspired and we're trying to get the combat over quickly. Or these tables may let the DM narrate some general physical positioning, and allow the player to add detail and color by saying specifically how their character's respond to the success or miss. This works well with tables that have played with each other enough that they can take cues and understand intuitively where each side draws the lines.

All of that is "goodrightfun" if it works for the table.

What you'll find no table really doing if it is to remain a table for long is allowing players to overrule the game by narrating their own preferred results over what the rules process and the GM have established. For example, you won't find many tables that allow the player to narrate that, as a result of a hit on the ogre, that the ogre sits down and begins to cry, or flees in panic, or begs for mercy. Nor ought the player narrate the result of a non-lethal hit as a decapitation, since the rules haven't created the fictional positioning - "The ogre is now dead." yet, but decapitation tends to imply that it is. The ogre is after all an NPC, and so narration pertaining to the ogre properly belongs to the GM. Anything beyond what the has already confirmed, "You wounded it a bit.", is not proper narration, and a player that breaks the social contract and adds improper narration a lot will soon find that part of the social contract up for debate.

Likewise, any GM that violates the player's prerogative of playing their own character to the extent that he uses cinematic narration about a miss to consistently make a player seem ridiculous - every miss is cinematically an epic fumble, puts words in the mouth of the player's character so that they say stupid and unheroic things in response to missing, or interpreting the miss as the character perform ridiculous actions like attacking the wall by mistake, or stumbling around, is very likely to find he has dissatisfied players, because the player will eventually come to dislike having his character characterized by someone other than himself especially if they feel the characterization is unfair and disrespectful. (Of course, a player may want to be playing a ridiculous clown, but those players with very specific ideas about how they want to play are more than any others the ones who appreciate being allowed to narrate their own outcomes, or at least add on to them.)
 

Hriston

Explorer
"Social contract" exists as what the DMG calls "table rules" which are not the rules of the game. These will vary from table to table.
The social contract encompasses things like expectations and the rules of the game the group has agreed to play. I think an expectation that your character's capabilities work the way your character sheet says they do could fall under that for some groups, although admittedly not for others.

I have already given good reasons, based on what the rules describe as the DM's role, why the DM may decide that the player's action declaration to take the rope out of the character's backpack may fail. Those reasons might be that the DM needs to mediate between the rules and the players (e.g. no enough actions left to do it right now) or set limits (e.g. the rope was used in a previous location and not recovered). I don't imagine the rules contemplate a situation where the DM isn't performing his or her role properly, being a text on how to play the game in its respective roles.
Those are all good reasons, and I don't think a player would have any reason to expect their character to be able to take a rope out of his/her backpack once the mismatch between what the DM and player are imagining is cleared up. But without a good reason, if the DM is just going to say, "Okay, you find the rope in your backpack and take it out," I don't see how that's the DM controlling the fiction outside of the character. To me, that seems more like the DM agreeing that the player's view of the fiction is what prevails.

I still think that those who believe the player has a right to declare fiction outside of the character during play have a lot of work ahead of them to show any rules support for their position. It's just not there in this game like it may be in other games. (And to repeat what appears to be a necessary refrain lest I be attacked by others for not doing so, people can play how they like regardless of what the rules say.)
To me, this isn't so much about a player declaring what happens in the fiction outside of his/her character as it is about the player interacting with the fiction in a way that's reliable to his/her character and therefore should be reliable to the player.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
What you'll find no table really doing if it is to remain a table for long is allowing players to overrule the game by narrating their own preferred results over what the rules process and the GM have established. For example, you won't find many tables that allow the player to narrate that, as a result of a hit on the ogre, that the ogre sits down and begins to cry, or flees in panic, or begs for mercy. Nor ought the player narrate the result of a non-lethal hit as a decapitation, since the rules haven't created the fictional positioning - "The ogre is now dead." yet, but decapitation tends to imply that it is. The ogre is after all an NPC, and so narration pertaining to the ogre properly belongs to the GM. Anything beyond what the has already confirmed, "You wounded it a bit.", is not proper narration, and a player that breaks the social contract and adds improper narration a lot will soon find that part of the social contract up for debate.

Likewise, any GM that violates the player's prerogative of playing their own character to the extent that he uses cinematic narration about a miss to consistently make a player seem ridiculous - every miss is cinematically an epic fumble, puts words in the mouth of the player's character so that they say stupid and unheroic things in response to missing, or interpreting the miss as the character perform ridiculous actions like attacking the wall by mistake, or stumbling around, is very likely to find he has dissatisfied players, because the player will eventually come to dislike having his character characterized by someone other than himself especially if they feel the characterization is unfair and disrespectful. (Of course, a player may want to be playing a ridiculous clown, but those players with very specific ideas about how they want to play are more than any others the ones who appreciate being allowed to narrate their own outcomes, or at least add on to them.)
A D&D 5e DM who wants to act in the framework the rules provide in my view narrates the result of the adventurers' action without establishing anything new about what the player described as wanting the character to do. This is the effective limit for the DM in this regard, since he or she cannot determine what the character does, thinks, or says. One trick I do in an effort to avoid overstepping my bounds is to try not to describe anything by starting with "You." It's too easy to get from "You..." to saying what the character does, thinks, or says. By starting with the creature or object that is impacted, it's easier to steer clear of this - "The orc is bloodied from the blow..." or "The lock clicks audibly and the door is no longer secured."

What I've noticed at many (many, many) tables is that the players do an inadequate job of performing their role and the DM feels an obligation to pick up the slack. This then turns into a playstyle built on an expectation that the players don't actually have to describe what they want to do. They can just throw some dice and state a goal (e.g. "I convince the guard to let us pass, 18 Persuasion..."), even if it's not their role to decide that dice need to be rolled. The DM accepts the goal and perhaps the success at the task, then must now assume what "18 Persuasion" means, narrating what the character does to achieve the goal. (This is common in combat as well when the player offers little in the way of description and the DM feels the need to embellish.) The DM therefore steps into the player's role by saying what the character does, thinks, or says. Sometimes the player rightly objects to what the DM establishes, perhaps because as you say above, the DM narrates in a way that runs contrary to the way the player thinks of the character. Well, that would less likely if the player was performing his or her role adequately in the first place!
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
The social contract encompasses things like expectations and the rules of the game the group has agreed to play. I think an expectation that your character's capabilities work the way your character sheet says they do could fall under that for some groups, although admittedly not for others.

Those are all good reasons, and I don't think a player would have any reason to expect their character to be able to take a rope out of his/her backpack once the mismatch between what the DM and player are imagining is cleared up. But without a good reason, if the DM is just going to say, "Okay, you find the rope in your backpack and take it out," I don't see how that's the DM controlling the fiction outside of the character. To me, that seems more like the DM agreeing that the player's view of the fiction is what prevails.

To me, this isn't so much about a player declaring what happens in the fiction outside of his/her character as it is about the player interacting with the fiction in a way that's reliable to his/her character and therefore should be reliable to the player.
I can't really speak for the social contracts at anyone's table but my own. From the perspective of the rules though, that expectation does not hold up well in my view since the outcome of all action declarations are decided by the DM who is empowered to use the rules to inform his or her decision but is never beholden to them. (This necessarily includes something as simple as taking rope out of a backpack, even if this is probably too granular for most groups in a practical sense. It is an action declaration after all.)

Because of this, as a player, I have absolutely zero expectation that the things on my sheet will matter in all situations, though if the DM is consistent in his or her application of the rules and the internal logic of his or her setting, I can probably reliably predict that it will or will not matter. Sometimes I will be wrong though. If the DM is not consistent, then all bets are off. This argues for consistency in the DM's approach, whatever it may be, more than anything.
 

Celebrim

Legend
The social contract encompasses things like expectations and the rules of the game the group has agreed to play. I think an expectation that your character's capabilities work the way your character sheet says they do could fall under that for some groups, although admittedly not for others.

Those are all good reasons, and I don't think a player would have any reason to expect their character to be able to take a rope out of his/her backpack once the mismatch between what the DM and player are imagining is cleared up. But without a good reason, if the DM is just going to say, "Okay, you find the rope in your backpack and take it out," I don't see how that's the DM controlling the fiction outside of the character. To me, that seems more like the DM agreeing that the player's view of the fiction is what prevails.

To me, this isn't so much about a player declaring what happens in the fiction outside of his/her character as it is about the player interacting with the fiction in a way that's reliable to his/her character and therefore should be reliable to the player.
I think I agree with all of this. The rope is in the backpack. That has been established in the fiction by some process of play. The player has a reasonable expectation that, "I take the rope out of my backpack..." is something that should automatically succeed, and is probably the preamble to some larger proposition like, "And start tying one end around my waist." The play may expect that in some games, using the rope successfully is something that might be checked, or that the DM may require a full round of searching through his stuff to find the rope. The player probably doesn't expect, "You don't find the rope."

However, I think we both agree that the GM could say, "You don't find the rope.", if the GM has some knowledge of the fictional positioning that the player doesn't, or the player has forgotten that last week he tied the rope to a pillar at the top of the pit the party is now in, and it is logically still back there hanging down the wall. The GM may know that one of the other players handed the GM a note saying, "I steal the rope from his pack while he's sleeping.", or he may know that the Mite in area #26 stole the rope back when the PC put the backpack down while they were fighting the Steam Mephits, or that the rope was actually an illusion cast by the imp in area #43 and never existed in the first place.

The fact that we both agree that the GM could say this because he has more knowledge of the fictional positioning than the player is proof that the DM controls the fiction outside of the player. The two say the same thing. While he may agree that the player's view of the fiction ("the rope is in my backpack") prevails, he is not required to do so. Ultimately, the player can't force the DM to accept the player's view of the fiction. The player may insist that he recovered the rope, or that there was no way it could have been stolen, or that he has two ropes - and depending on the persuasiveness of the argument the GM may yield - but the GM is meant to be the judge of what is true here.

If that isn't true for rope, then isn't it true for +5 Vorpal Swords? Surely a player could validly argue he'd enjoy the game more if his player happened to find a +5 Vorpal Sword is his backpack? Surely it's easy to imagine a player arguing this find would make the game better for everyone, and the player honestly be arguing in good faith. The player may even be correct - everyone at this table might enjoy the game better if they were less gritty and playing in a higher tier. However, ultimately, the GM still runs the game, and if the GM overrules rope or +5 vorpal swords, it's his reasons for doing so that prevail good or bad.

Maybe a player can propose to the table that they play a different game with different assumptions. They still can't control the setting.

These aren't entirely hypothetical examples. I had a DM friend of mine invite a new college aged player to his game and told him to make a third level character for 1e AD&D. The player showed up with a third level character (with multiple 18's)... and a +5 vorpal sword, wand of wonder, a ring of elemental command (fire), and a dozen other items on his character sheet. The player couldn't understand why the DM (or the rest of the players for that matter) weren't affirming his view that his character needed and perforce had these items. Why couldn't he just select whatever equipment he wanted? (To make it more ludicrous, this happened after the DM explicitly told the player before hand it was a low-magic gritty campaign.)

I don't think that it should be controversial that the player, not my friend the DM, was confused regarding the role of a player in the game, and what was or was not the DM's prerogative.
 

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