What does it mean to "Challenge the Character"?

One wonders if the person making these claims believes their own person extends to encompass all that they can observe or think on?
What? Like Solipsism?

I think they are less serious arguments than attempts to justify a process of play that includes a gentlemen's agreement over what different participants can introduce to the fiction in an effort to improve the game - something I think that is neither justified by these red herrings nor which needs to be justified. It's not badwrongfun to cooperate together.
There's a lot of that still goin' around, even though you'd think in the 5e era there'd be less. Ideally, DMs should just feel free to run their games in their style, using the rules as a toolset & starting point to do so, and leave it to other DMs to do so in their ways, too. (With the obvious exception of organized play, like AL, were some consistency from table-to-table is desirable). But, invariable, someone is too insecure in their prefered style to just do it, and instead need to justify it to themselves as 'how the game is really meant to be played,' (whether that's based on a by-the-book reading of rules, or an assumed intent of the designers, or immemorial tradition or simulation/verisimilitude/whatever) and, then, by extension, to get on-line and make that argument to the circumambient ether.
Of course, as soon as the second person does that, the circumambient ether erupts in flames.


However, as soon as the player tries to declare something that is not about his PC's beliefs, feelings, or actions, but rather about the beliefs, feelings, or actions of NPCs or the existence of novel things in the fiction, then he's not playing his character. I can't believe I'm saying that, because I would have thought it was obvious and axiomatic, but here we are.
Or as the Forge might've said, he's "not in Actor Stance." ::shrug::

There are fundamental differences in approach among playing a character as if you were: creating & developing a character in fiction vs choreographing the actions of a fictional character to fulfill its role in a story vs portraying a fictional character on stage or screen vs inhabiting an alternate self in a dream or dissociative state vs literally 'playing' a typed or unique game-piece in accord with rules governing its moves.

IMHO, those approaches mostly, at worst, conflict on an aesthetic or theoretical level, they're not only compatible at the same table and/or workable in a variety of systems, but it's likely any given player's style is a mix of several of them rather than 'pure.'
 

5ekyu

Adventurer
Forgive me, but this interpretation seems like a lawyerly effort to screw over the players. I think it's pretty clear that hazardous assistance refers to assistance that would be hazardous to the priests themselves, not hazardous to anyone in general.



What's wrong with sticking to only the conditions of the spell or feature, and not imposing additional restrictions that the DM deems "compelling" in his/her judgement?



This all seems good to me and sounds like it avoids mismatched expectations. If the "why" has already been established though, I wonder why you would ever get to the "no", unless I'm misunderstanding you.
On the lawyerly part... well if you mean its lawyerly to point out what was written in contrast to what you claimed, then guilty.

But, if one accepts that the actual text is telling you to only consider hazardous to the priest, then on gets the door opened to a lot of very strange results. If it means the priest spends his time casting raise dead instead of using a cantrip to stabilize an injured child then hey, if that's good for you, great.

As for sticking to the components... in 5e and in the games I run, NPCs are not under the control of the player and its recommended they be played as characters, not as tools or props. There are certainly some exceptions with compels and the like.

But as a very broad rule of thumb, NPCs are handled very very different than the other components. So, yes, that means that your cleric might have to wait and get your healing or remove curse tomorrow because you are not "casting my NPC" feature but rather asking this person for help knowing they will help me but not *controlling* the specifics of it.

What the Acolyte describes in general and more specifically with phrases about keeping in good standing and remain on good terms us a relationship - not a slot machine of free Healing, housing, care and assistance- just insert your acolyte chip.

Many of the background work this way, setting up prior established contacts and allies and avenues... not just "meat-spells" like some "cure wounds with feet".

So, yeah, even if it wont cause specific hazard to the priest, he may say "no" when you ask him to flame strike the innkeeper for overcharging you.

In my game, NPCs are not just "features" even when they are from backgrounds.
 

Celebrim

Legend
What? Like Solipsism?
If a player believes he is the only person playing at a table, my solution would be to make this conclusion a fact and leave him to it.

As far as the whole, way things are meant to be played thing goes, I'd say there are certainly ways that RPGs are traditionally played, and often they are played in this way for very good reasons. But, I've got no problem with people experimenting beyond the way things are traditionally played if they can make that work for them. Typically though, I find that real problem is that they can't explain how they make that work for them, and sometimes when you scratch the surface there is less there than the raging flame war in the heavens would at first lead you to believe.

Or as the Forge might've said, he's "not in Actor Stance." ::shrug::
Speaking of raging flame wars, and badwrongfun, and the devil appears.

I kid a little, because occasionally the Forge produced something actually worthwhile, and the stance language is one that tends not be too bad as long as it is descriptive and not judgmental. Pawn stance is easier to do than some others, but if you are doing pawn stance because you like it and not just because you are unaware of any other approaches, feel free to play pawn stance at my table without me telling you, that you are doing it wrong.

I agree with you whole hearted about the sort of statements that would have caused an auto-de-fe at the Forge, that the stances and aesthetics of play are compatible and that most players are pure about neither.

However, there is a difference between a player not being in Actor Stance or Author stance or some other stance normally associated with play, and assuming a Director Stance or some other stance associated with GMing in a game that has a GM and no mechanics for sharing the Director's chair. It would I think require a phenomenal degree of interpersonal understanding to share a Director Stance without conflict if you had no mechanism to ensure equitable allocation of the Director chair. Heck, I generally advice GMs to avoid Director Stance as a GMing stance as much as possible, since - as the term applies - it becomes too easy to start telling the players what to do in order to get your story done.
 
If a player believes he is the only person playing at a table, my solution would be to make this conclusion a fact and leave him to it.
He'll be fine.

As far as the whole, way things are meant to be played thing goes, I'd say there are certainly ways that RPGs are traditionally played, and often they are played in this way for very good reasons.
… and often to not so good effect and/or for not so good reasons … really, most of the time, said tradition is unexamined.

Typically though, I find that real problem is that they can't explain how they make that work for them, and sometimes when you scratch the surface there is less there than the raging flame war in the heavens would at first lead you to believe.
Speaking of raging flame wars, and badwrongfun, and the devil appears.

I kid a little, because occasionally the Forge produced something actually worthwhile, and the stance language is one that tends not be too bad as long as it is descriptive and not judgmental. Pawn stance is easier to do than some others, but if you are doing pawn stance because you like it and not just because you are unaware of any other approaches, feel free to play pawn stance at my table without me telling you, that you are doing it wrong.

I agree with you whole hearted about the sort of statements that would have caused an auto-de-fe at the Forge, that the stances and aesthetics of play are compatible and that most players are pure about neither.
OK, you deserved XP already, but you're getting it for that reference.

However, there is a difference between a player not being in Actor Stance or Author stance or some other stance normally associated with play, and assuming a Director Stance or some other stance associated with GMing in a game that has a GM and no mechanics for sharing the Director's chair. It would I think require a phenomenal degree of interpersonal understanding to share a Director Stance without conflict if you had no mechanism to ensure equitable allocation of the Director chair. Heck, I generally advice GMs to avoid Director Stance as a GMing stance as much as possible, since - as the term applies - it becomes too easy to start telling the players what to do in order to get your story done.
Honestly, back in the day, I recall what we'd now call 'sharing director stance' /just happening/ as part of the GM* & player trying to get through the fuzzy/dysfunctional/non-existent resolution systems we had to work with.










* normally if I'm talk'n 'bout "back in the day" it'll be DM, but the specific memory is of something that happened more than a few times in a Traveler campaign, so GM it is.
 

Satyrn

Villager
I agree.

The smelly chamberlain example is just the latest example of attempt to assert that the boundaries of the PC extend to encompass all that the PC can observe or think on.

One wonders if the person making these claims believes their own person extends to encompass all that they can observe or think on?
As I was typing up a reply for another thread, it dawned on me that I was also writing up a real-life example akin to the smelly chamberlain:

I had . . . :.-( . . . a cat, a very beautiful cat with flowing white fur and the most gorgeous silver-blue eyes. And though he was a charming buffoon, he carried himself with a natural elegance, like the whole world was his catwalk.

I also had a neighbour . . . insisted on calling him by a flowery name she christened him with and referring to him as her. The cat was so beautiful, my neighbour just could not she him as masculine. This went on for years, I just stopped correcting my neighbour.

But for all her thinking my cat was female, her thoughts never changed the sex of my cat.
 

Elfcrusher

Adventurer
As I was typing up a reply for another thread, it dawned on me that I was also writing up a real-life example akin to the smelly chamberlain:

I had . . . :.-( . . . a cat, a very beautiful cat with flowing white fur and the most gorgeous silver-blue eyes. And though he was a charming buffoon, he carried himself with a natural elegance, like the whole world was his catwalk.

I also had a neighbour . . . insisted on calling him by a flowery name she christened him with and referring to him as her. The cat was so beautiful, my neighbour just could not she him as masculine. This went on for years, I just stopped correcting my neighbour.

But for all her thinking my cat was female, her thoughts never changed the sex of my cat.
I'm glad you didn't take away her agency.
 

Chaosmancer

Villager
What is the Arcana check for? I don't see an action declaration from the wizard in your breakdown.
I'll assume that was a serious question. For seeing if the wizard's character does actually know that knowledge. Arcana is the skill linked with knowledge about elementals and their strengths and weaknesses after all. And as a DM, I can call for checks, correct?


That's not the DM's problem. It's up to the players to play their characters effectively.
I'm not saying it is a problem, but you keep using it as a defense. Everything is fine, because the smart play is to verify. But, just because it is smart does not mean that is what the player will do.

And you know what is a DM problem? The players not having fun. Which is something which I could see happening in extreme cases of this whole discussion.


My players do because they have an incentive to. As an example from my current Eberron campaign, the players found a chamber in the dungeon containing crates covered in brown mold. I telegraphed an unusual chill in the adjoining chamber. A couple of characters ran afoul of it and took a bit of cold damage when they kicked down the door to said chamber. Everyone in my group is an experienced player. They knew this was brown mold and how to do deal with it (cold damage) and how not to use fire on it. But, they know that I change things up from time to time and, with the wizard having no cold-damage cantrips and only one spell slot remaining, they could not take any risks on this.

So the wizard used mage hand to collect a small sample of the brown mold, not enough to do damage to anyone, with a test tube. He handed it off to the warforged fighter who has integrated alchemist's supplies. Ten minutes of testing and analysis, a wandering monster check (no wanderer), and a successful Intelligence (Alchemist's Supplies) check later, they verified it was brown mold. The wizard cast an ice knife spell, destroyed the brown mold, and they were able to obtain the schema they were seeking to complete their quest.

The players chose to play effectively. All I had to do was describe the environment and narrate the results of the adventurers' actions.
What you described isn't incentive. They were cautious, yes, but if later in the campaign they encounter a brownish mold in a cold room will they check it again? How about the third time? The Fourth?

Sure, you might change it, and then you'll telegraph it by describing something different about the mold this time, maybe by adding yellow stripes to it or something.

But, despite their caution, look at how you describe the thought process. Cold room, brown mold. It is probably brown mold, but we don't have more than one spell slot and no cold-based cantrips so we should verify it is brown mold first. The entire verification was based upon their lack of resources, if they had had a cold cantrip, they would have just shot it at the mold, because there would have been no loss of resources to the party. Unless you had changed it to do something else. That is what I've been talking about. Verification will not happen every time.


I can't speak for any one else, but for my part its because I repeat the same things over and over and they just bounce off. I have a hard time believing that you aren't at this point able to answer your own questions. I mean just considering what you've now posted, the answers to your own questions are present if you are willing to see them. I admit I have weird pet peeves and my social-emotional framework doesn't well align with the rest of the human race, but honestly if you made attacks and cast open aspirations or said "You make me so angry", it would be less frustrating to me and more understandable than what you are doing.
I try not to assume what people will say, I can sometimes predict what an answer will be before I see it, but then I'd be talking to myself and not the actual other person.

I apologize if it frustrates you, but repeating the same thing over and over does not necessarily convince me of anything, and in fact, if I bring up a counter-point that doesn't get addressed, then it is nothing more than circular movement.

How is it that when you've well understood that people were saying "players have absolute authority over their character's thoughts and actions" that you've now added to that something of your own invention in order to condemn their position as illogical, namely that the players also have absolute authority over the character's background, and by which you mean something that they never said, that they also have absolute authority to create any background that they like at any time in the game?
I've added nothing, just followed the logic.

Absolute Authority over thoughts and actions is translating to absolute authority over the character's mind. That's what thoughts and actions are, since the Player does not have the authority to automatically succeed. This would then include authority over your own memories. Barring an outside influence, if I have absolute authority over my character's thoughts, then I should assume I have absolute authority over what they do and do not remember. We even include emotions in this, relationships.

That means they have the same authority over their past that they have over their actions, because they are the ones telling that story.

Now, you can lock backgrounds, tell the player that they are not allowed to alter or add to their background after the first session, but most tables do not do this. It is perfectly acceptable at a lot of tables to allow players to flesh out backgrounds over the course of play, because writing the full life story of a 25 year old soldier who lost his way in war and converted to the worship of a peace goddess... well that is hard.

Also, I just confirmed this character was 1) in a military unit, 2) fought in battles if not a full war 3) joined a temple or religion 4) worships a goddess of peace. All of that is setting information, the existence of these things should be in the realm of the DM, but, I have full control over my character's thoughts. I can say that my character believes in peace because he has buried too many friends, by the way, he know has dead friends.

I'm not being a problem player, I'm not going beyond the pale, but I've been adding to the setting. Now, the DM is fully within their rights to veto any of this, but if they, for example, say that there has been no war for the last 20 years, then my character drastically changes, because he can no longer have the thoughts he had about war, because he no longer has the experience of war. I did not have absolute authority over my character's thoughts, because the DM declaring a peaceful era immediately changed those thoughts.

So why is it surprising that someone who you admit said "players have "absolute authority" over their characters thoughts and actions" should think that absolute authority over their background is a step too far? And further, in the Francis example, we have gone even one step further past claiming that the player has absolute authority over their background, and are now asserting that the background has absolute authority over the setting.

Why should it even be confusing that someone who only started from the proposition "players have absolute authority over their characters thoughts and actions", should not able to answer your question regarding whether Francis exists in the city? After all, even if someone did assert that players had absolute authority over their background, that would only mean that the player could assert that Francis existed sometime in the city in the past. You could not assert on the basis of your authority over background, that now in the present Francis is still alive, still in the city, and still serving in the guard. All of those things could have changed between the point you asserted Francis had existed and the present moment in game, and regardless of your absolute authority over background you could not decide those things without absolute authority over the setting. So of course people can't answer your question in any general way or give you any other answer but "Maybe."

And remember, these people by your own admission never began by asserting players had absolute authority over their background in the first place.

In point of fact, while I've asserted that players do have a sort of absolute authority over their background, I asserted that only in the sense that a player character's background is inviolable. That is to say, a player may absolutely refuse any other participant's suggestion to alter their background. A GM cannot force a player to have a backstory they don't want. A player can say, "Mess with me. I want to have complications and drama because that's the sort of game I want to play.", and thereby give the GM permission to introduce backstory elements. But a player can also say, "My backstory is meant only to serve as backstory, and I only want my character to evolve through forestory, and not by making unwanted revelations about his past." All that is fine, but it is also very different from the assertion that a player has an absolute right to introduce backstory, much less that having introduced backstory, he has some absolute right to insist that present situations conform to his desires and expectations. Even if the player's relationship to Francis is inviolable and even if their is a table agreement to be "hands off" with respect to Francis, such a social contract does not mean Francis is here now in the present. The GM, being absolutely in charge of the setting, could say, "This guard isn't Francis. The Guard says, "So you're a friend of Francis? Yeah, he has the night watch tonight. I'm Robert. We agreed to switch because I'm going to see a lovely little lady tonight at the festival.", or any number of other things. Francis is after all, an NPC, whether he's in your backstory or not.
So, I think I cover some of this up above, but a few salient points.

There is no "sort of absolute authority". If authority is not absolute, then it is not absolute authority.

Secondly, while you very much could respond to the player searching the city for Francis with "Well, Francis is dead" that feels a bit... squicky, to me at least. "Hey, I want to look for an old friend in this city." "Okay, he's dead, let's move on"

Now, you can turn any of these into interesting points. Maybe with him moving you'll encounter him later because the player is curious why Francis decided to leave. Maybe with him no longer being a guard you can explore some aspect of the city or have a personal character building moment. Maybe with him being dead you can get a personal sub-quest to avenge your friends death. All of these can be interesting. All of them also mean the player changed the setting, because Francis did not exist until the player said so. The DM okayed it, the DM allowed it, but the Player changed the setting here, which is why I've said these lines are not burnt into the ground. Authority over thoughts leads to emotions and memories which leads to relationships with NPCs which leads to the player changing the setting.


In point of fact, the GM could say that. The GM could for example overrule a character whose IC motivation is to kill the other members of the party, or could overrule a character whose concept is that he's working for the bad guys. I'm not saying a GM should always do that, but it takes an extraordinarily mature group to deal with that in a cooperative fashion.
So, reading this it seems we are actually in agreement.

A DM can tell a player what their character does not do or does not think. Therefore their is no absolute authority. If you claim an absolute authority, then you must accept everything that flows from that.

I especially agree that a DM should be very receptive to players who point out aspects of their character or backstory that are inviolable. Making sure the players are invested and feel like their investment matters is key to a successful game.

It seems after reading this entire post that you think I'm being unfair by saying if you give a player absolute authority over their character's thoughts, that will apply to memories, emotions, and relationships as well. But, our thoughts are shaped by are past, by how we are raised, by what we feel. You cannot separate them.


One wonders if the person making these claims believes their own person extends to encompass all that they can observe or think on?
This made me chuckle, because I thought about someone who would claim to have absolute authority over their own thoughts. I find that idea to be wrong, we do not have that sort of authority over our own minds.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
I'll assume that was a serious question. For seeing if the wizard's character does actually know that knowledge. Arcana is the skill linked with knowledge about elementals and their strengths and weaknesses after all. And as a DM, I can call for checks, correct?
Yes, if the player declares an action that has an uncertain outcome and a meaningful consequence for failure. In this example, including what you added, we have two action declarations: (1) The barbarian wants to go to Ye Ole Magick Shoppe to buy some thunderwave scrolls for the wizard and (2) The wizard's player wants to retroactively give the barbarian a reason to take the aforementioned action to satisfy what appears to be an incredulous DM's questions about the validity of the action declaration.

So what is the Arcana check for? What uncertain outcome does it resolve? What is the meaningful consequence for failure? Or, if you decide you don't like that rule, what actually happens if the wizard's player botches the Arcana check? Does the wizard not have the knowledge to retroactively give the barbarian a reason to buy the scrolls? If so, does that mean the barbarian's action declaration is made invalid and he or she can't take that action at all?

I'm not saying it is a problem, but you keep using it as a defense. Everything is fine, because the smart play is to verify. But, just because it is smart does not mean that is what the player will do.
Again, not the DM's problem, which appears to be something upon which we agree.

And you know what is a DM problem? The players not having fun. Which is something which I could see happening in extreme cases of this whole discussion.
What wouldn't be fun here in your opinion?

What you described isn't incentive. They were cautious, yes, but if later in the campaign they encounter a brownish mold in a cold room will they check it again? How about the third time? The Fourth?

Sure, you might change it, and then you'll telegraph it by describing something different about the mold this time, maybe by adding yellow stripes to it or something.

But, despite their caution, look at how you describe the thought process. Cold room, brown mold. It is probably brown mold, but we don't have more than one spell slot and no cold-based cantrips so we should verify it is brown mold first. The entire verification was based upon their lack of resources, if they had had a cold cantrip, they would have just shot it at the mold, because there would have been no loss of resources to the party. Unless you had changed it to do something else. That is what I've been talking about. Verification will not happen every time.
Again, not the DM's problem - which we appear to agree on. Going back to the thread's topic, if they had cold-damage cantrips, that just reduces the difficulty of the challenge to the player. The difficulty was higher because they didn't have that resource, so they had to work a bit harder to overcome the challenge.

But they do have an incentive, since they are encouraged by the DM changing things to verify assumptions before acting upon them. This doesn't mean they will always do it. Incentives don't guarantee an outcome; they merely motivate or encourage certain behaviors. In this case, reasonably cautious engagement with the environment to avoid additional resource expenditure.
 

Chaosmancer

Villager
Yes, if the player declares an action that has an uncertain outcome and a meaningful consequence for failure. In this example, including what you added, we have two action declarations: (1) The barbarian wants to go to Ye Ole Magick Shoppe to buy some thunderwave scrolls for the wizard and (2) The wizard's player wants to retroactively give the barbarian a reason to take the aforementioned action to satisfy what appears to be an incredulous DM's questions about the validity of the action declaration.

So what is the Arcana check for? What uncertain outcome does it resolve? What is the meaningful consequence for failure? Or, if you decide you don't like that rule, what actually happens if the wizard's player botches the Arcana check? Does the wizard not have the knowledge to retroactively give the barbarian a reason to buy the scrolls? If so, does that mean the barbarian's action declaration is made invalid and he or she can't take that action at all?
Okay, let us take this a bit at a time.

Let us cover the check first. Thinking is an action, to think is an action verb, so it counts. We do not know if the character has the knowledge, therefore we have uncertainty.

Now, meaningful consequences are hard to really nail down, and I don't like that stipulation. I can however point to the PHB, pages 177 and 178 where they lay out that Intelligence checks (including Arcana, History, Religion and Nature) all can involve checks to "recall lore" and Arcana specifically is used for recalling lore about the denizens of different planes of existence. Like Elementals.

So, an Arcana check to know the weaknesses of Earth Elementals seems to fit entirely within the game structure. Even without potential "meaningful consequences" beyond not knowing the information.

Now, since this check was to give the barbarian the reason to act on out-of-character knowledge, then yes, if the roll fails and they do not know that Earth Elementals are weak to Thunder damage there is no reason for the player to continue going to shop to buy scrolls of magic that the elementals are weak against.

In fact, knowledge checks and out-of-character knowledge really highlights the crux of this. Because the entire thing is predicate on knowing something their character does not know.

To give an example I'm sure you would not allow at your table. A player receives a secret letter from the Mob, and hides it in their bag. None of the other characters know about this letter. Later that night one of the players declares they are searching the Mob players bag for the hidden letter. Not only is this rude to the other player, but there is no reason for the character to do this. And sure, I can come up with reasonable answers to why they would suddenly go rooting through their companions bag and "accidentally" find the letter I know about but my character doesn't, but that does not change the fact that they were just finding a work around to act upon knowledge they did not have.

Also I enjoy you slipping in "to satisfy what appears to be an incredulous DM's questions about the validity of the action declaration". Because there is nothing wrong with questioning the validity of an action declaration, as a DM I am supposed to make sure that actions are valid. You can't climb a wall that doesn't exist after all. So the DM isn't "incredulous" they are simply confirming where the character received the information they are acting upon.


Again, not the DM's problem, which appears to be something upon which we agree.

What wouldn't be fun here in your opinion?
Nice job breaking up one statement into two.

Yes, I think we would agree that it is not the DMs problem if the players are not playing the game optimally. Generally, it isn't even a problem. However, we have two opposing perspectives of the game going on here. We have the DM who is going forth assuming the players will double check everything, and the players going forward assuming that they are allowed, perhaps even encouraged to use out-of-character knowledge in regards to settings, monsters, and NPCs.

These can come into conflict, especially the rarer it is that the DM changes something. Because if those changes just happen to be worse for the PCs, invalidating plans and actions they thought were clever because of some secret knowledge that is actually not viable, then it can give a poor impression on the DM. IT can cause tension at the table.

And I am fully aware, "this doesn't happen if the players trust the DM" and "That isn't the DMs problem" and "You are talking about problems away from the table, not at the table, and they should be handled away from the table". Yeah, I get all that. But, if one isn't careful with our their actions at the table effect things away from the table, then it is an issue. It is something that can cause problems. So, you have to examine things carefully, you have to weigh pros and cons.



Again, not the DM's problem - which we appear to agree on.
You know, I wonder if one of these days we will have something we are discussing that you will say is the DMs problem. So far, nothing involving the players or their characters is ever the DMs problem.

Maybe that is a side benefit of playing with the same group for decades instead of getting a new table every year, the DM concerns themselves with less and less.
 

Chaosmancer

Villager
Ok, so you are policing their thoughts.
If you mean in terms of using knowledge checks to see if a character has knowledge, then yes.

IF you mean yelling at my players for thinking bad things... then sometimes yes, but only when I can tell they've got their minds in the gutter.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
Okay, let us take this a bit at a time.

Let us cover the check first. Thinking is an action, to think is an action verb, so it counts. We do not know if the character has the knowledge, therefore we have uncertainty.
How the character thinks is in the control of the player, not the DM. As a result, there is no uncertainty - the character thinks whatever the player says he or she thinks.

Now, meaningful consequences are hard to really nail down, and I don't like that stipulation.
No doubt.

I can however point to the PHB, pages 177 and 178 where they lay out that Intelligence checks (including Arcana, History, Religion and Nature) all can involve checks to "recall lore" and Arcana specifically is used for recalling lore about the denizens of different planes of existence. Like Elementals.
The players in the example did not attempt to recall lore. One said he or she wanted to go buy some scrolls. The other said, only after the incredulous DM raised an eyebrow or the like, that he or she suggested a reason for the aforementioned task to the other character. No attempt to recall lore here. If there was, I might agree that an ability check was reasonable, provided it met the requirements for an ability check. But there wasn't. The DM just assumed there was and/or established for the player an action for his or her character which oversteps the DM's role.

So, an Arcana check to know the weaknesses of Earth Elementals seems to fit entirely within the game structure. Even without potential "meaningful consequences" beyond not knowing the information.
Without a meaningful consequence for failure, it doesn't fit within the game structure though. No meaningful consequence for failure, no roll. No roll, then either the character succeeds or fails outright, as determined by the DM.

That is, of course, assuming we have a verbalized action declaration, which we don't in this example (where recalling lore is concerned). What we appear to have is a DM attempting to invalidate an action declaration by establishing a knowledge prerequisite to the task and then and using the dice as a potential means to do it.

Now, since this check was to give the barbarian the reason to act on out-of-character knowledge, then yes, if the roll fails and they do not know that Earth Elementals are weak to Thunder damage there is no reason for the player to continue going to shop to buy scrolls of magic that the elementals are weak against.
No reason you can imagine, anyway. As established upthread, particular knowledge about earth elementals is not required to buy scrolls of thunderwave. The barbarian might just like the sound it makes, as it reminds him or her of stormy nights on the steppe, safe under the protection of a yurt, drinking fermented aurochs milk with Frances who later became a town guard.

In fact, knowledge checks and out-of-character knowledge really highlights the crux of this. Because the entire thing is predicate on knowing something their character does not know.
As a fun exercise, keyword search "knowledge check" in the D&D 5e Basic Rules PDF. You won't get any results. You might if you're capable of keyword searching older editions of the game though.

In D&D 5e, an Intelligence check may follow when the player describes the character attempting to recall lore or make deductions based on available clues, when there's an uncertain outcome and a meaningful consequence for failure.

There is no rules support for the DM calling for "knowledge checks" to determine if a player's action declaration is valid in the first place.

To give an example I'm sure you would not allow at your table. A player receives a secret letter from the Mob, and hides it in their bag. None of the other characters know about this letter. Later that night one of the players declares they are searching the Mob players bag for the hidden letter. Not only is this rude to the other player, but there is no reason for the character to do this. And sure, I can come up with reasonable answers to why they would suddenly go rooting through their companions bag and "accidentally" find the letter I know about but my character doesn't, but that does not change the fact that they were just finding a work around to act upon knowledge they did not have.
This would be fine in my game. Knowledge of a letter is not a prerequisite for rifling through a backpack. Similarly, in my game, the barbarian could just go buy the thunderwave scrolls, provided they are available and he or she has the gold. There would be no eyebrow raising from me when presented with that action declaration.

Also I enjoy you slipping in "to satisfy what appears to be an incredulous DM's questions about the validity of the action declaration". Because there is nothing wrong with questioning the validity of an action declaration, as a DM I am supposed to make sure that actions are valid. You can't climb a wall that doesn't exist after all. So the DM isn't "incredulous" they are simply confirming where the character received the information they are acting upon.
The attempt to climb a non-existent wall just fails, no roll, since it does not meet the requirements for an ability check. It might be worth addressing what's going on in the fiction with the player in case he or she is under some kind of misapprehension about the environment, but ultimately, presuming that is not the case, the action declaration stands and the action fails.

This is not the same as you inserting a knowledge prerequisite into an action declaration. Which is a common enough thing, by the way. Lots of DMs who have a particular definition and view of "metagaming" do this. There's just nothing in the rules to support it. It's an approach that appears to be derived from other games and a particular gamer culture.

Nice job breaking up one statement into two.

Yes, I think we would agree that it is not the DMs problem if the players are not playing the game optimally. Generally, it isn't even a problem. However, we have two opposing perspectives of the game going on here. We have the DM who is going forth assuming the players will double check everything, and the players going forward assuming that they are allowed, perhaps even encouraged to use out-of-character knowledge in regards to settings, monsters, and NPCs.

These can come into conflict, especially the rarer it is that the DM changes something. Because if those changes just happen to be worse for the PCs, invalidating plans and actions they thought were clever because of some secret knowledge that is actually not viable, then it can give a poor impression on the DM. IT can cause tension at the table.

And I am fully aware, "this doesn't happen if the players trust the DM" and "That isn't the DMs problem" and "You are talking about problems away from the table, not at the table, and they should be handled away from the table". Yeah, I get all that. But, if one isn't careful with our their actions at the table effect things away from the table, then it is an issue. It is something that can cause problems. So, you have to examine things carefully, you have to weigh pros and cons.
I don't make any assumptions about the PCs' actions. They act as they please. I adjudicate the outcomes. As a player, it's smart play to verify one's assumptions before acting upon them. But I make no assumptions that players will actually do that. Sometimes they do, sometimes they don't. Sometimes their assumptions are correct and sometimes they aren't. As long as I am doing my part in adequately describing the environment and fairly adjudicating outcomes, it's fair as the players can pay attention and take action accordingly. If they want to take a risk, that's on them.

One of the many benefits of this approach is that I don't have to worry about the kind of "metagaming" that a lot of DMs and players concern themselves with. It simply doesn't matter.

You know, I wonder if one of these days we will have something we are discussing that you will say is the DMs problem. So far, nothing involving the players or their characters is ever the DMs problem.

Maybe that is a side benefit of playing with the same group for decades instead of getting a new table every year, the DM concerns themselves with less and less.
In the specific context of the elemental example we've been discussing, there really is nothing there that is the DM's problem, except if he or she creates one by requiring a knowledge prerequisite to validate an action declaration.

I don't really understand the point you're trying to make with how long a DM is running for a group though. I run games the same for my regular group as I do for one-shots with pickup groups with the possible exception that I'm more willing to entertain the Frances the guard situation from my regular group.
 

Celebrim

Legend
How the character thinks is in the control of the player, not the DM. As a result, there is no uncertainty - the character thinks whatever the player says he or she thinks.
You'd think that would be easy to explain and without controversy.

There's just nothing in the rules to support [mental checks to be allowed to perform some action]. It's an approach that appears to be derived from other games and a particular gamer culture.
It's a bizarre form of 'mother may I'. I don't doubt you are right that it's not unusual, but it can't be logically supported IMO by any tortured path.

There are plenty of GMs and even some players that seem frustrated by and even offended by the undeniable fact that the player's mind extends into the game universe and interacts with it. GMs and players with an aesthetic of simulation feel this somehow invalidates the game in some fashion. The player is supposed to be pretending that he's whatever character he created, and if the player brings any of his own mental skills to the table then that's "metagaming" or whatever. And I agree that at some level it is metagaming, I just find it absolutely bizarre that anyone would think that this is bad.

Yes, I prefer to have players mostly play their character in "actor stance", but even in "actor stance" the player's mind still extends into the game universe and animates the choices of the character. So "metagaming" is what happens every single time that a player decides to do something, because he can't ever be pure and not exist in this universe as well as the game universe. It only however is "wrong" with the GM doesn't get their way. A GM that tries to force a player to pass some sort of mental check in order to decide what the player's character does, is a GM that really wants to be playing the game by themselves with only their own mind making any choices in the game, or (to be more generous) wants no minds at the table extending into the game.

But consider the consequences of that if you aren't going to be a hypocrite about it and apply this idea evenly to the game. If what a PC or NPC chooses to do is to be left to a dice roll, why aren't all choices first tested against a dice roll. Choose to be bad or good? Pass an alignment check and then play that way. Choose to be smart or dumb? Pass an intelligence check. Choose to be greedy or generous, merciful or vengeful? Pass the associated personality tests to find out how the PC acts? Will you attack the orc on the left or the right? Don't metagame, flip a coin! The result of taking the player's mind out of the game is that the player becomes part of the audience of the game, and not a participant in it. If the player's intelligence, knowledge, intuition, or charisma is not to be trusted within the game, then the player obviously can't be allowed to make choices about how his character acts.

What it turns out is actually going on when a GM accuses the player of metagaming, is the GM is frustrated by their lack of control over the game and decides to start playing both sides of the table so that the player - who is getting it "wrong" - is forced to get it "right". The players are loading up with spells that thwart "Earth Elementals"? Well, the GM decides that is not how that wanted or planned the encounter to go, so by golly we are going to make it happen the way it "should". The biggest flaw common to new GMs is that spend a lot of time fanaticizing about how cool some planned encounter is going to be, reimagining the details as the player's are surprised or awed or a afraid again and again in their mind, and excited to spring some difficulty on the players. Such daydreaming may seem harmless, but is the mother of all sorts of GMing sins.

What are the stakes of these checks really? What meaningful consequence is calling for this Arcana check really adjudicating? Nothing less than who gets to play the player's character. If the player loses the roll, then the GM gets to play the character. And the GM is calling the checks, so presumably he can keep calling the checks until the player bows to his wishes.

Fundamentally, the problem I've had since the "Francis the Guard" issue was introduced to derail this thread and get us off the original topic, is that the side involved in declaring one ought to validate that the guard is Francis have claimed that they are doing so to empower the player and increase their agency. They have sneered against the idea of GMs that refuse to share their hat. Yet time and time again, when you scratch the surface, the actual stake being argued over is that the GM gets to play the player's character. The GM is allowing "Francis the Guard" only because by yielding on this point about the setting, he's gaining even greater leverage over the PC. For example, the same poster that introduced "Francis the Guard" claimed that his response to "Francis the Guard" was a "Yes, but..." response where he literally got to tell the player how his character had behaved.

There is nothing wrong with fielding ideas from the players, but don't tell me how empowering that is, if you are going to repeatedly bring up how small concessions by the GM involve big concessions by the player. All the denial that the player is absolutely in control of their character, seems in point of fact geared to proving the GM is in control of the PC by rights. The real issue in the twisted claim that for a player to be in control of the characters thoughts, the setting and the thoughts had to be in agreement, seems to actually be that in blurring the line, the GM wants control over the player character's thoughts. After all, once that wall separation goes down, it's a two way street but one which, if unregulated, is not equal in power.
 
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iserith

Magic Wordsmith
What are the stakes of these checks really? What meaningful consequence is calling for this Arcana check really adjudicating? Nothing less than who gets to play the player's character. If the player loses the roll, then the GM gets to play the character. And the GM is calling the checks, so presumably he can keep calling the checks until the player bows to his wishes.
Wow, I hadn't really thought about it in this way before, but that really is what's at stake. On the surface it's all "hey, we're just checking to see what your character knows, 'kay?" Which doesn't seem that unreasonable, especially if you are used to a paradigm where the DM just asks for checks sometimes without an action stated by the player and the player doesn't look too closely at the rules of the game. Under the surface, it's really about who gets to declare actions for the character. Which ought to be the player, by the rules anyway. Here though, the DM is taking that power or is being given that power by the player's acquiescence. Roll and get this number or better or you can't even make that action declaration.

Like the DM declaring how a character feels about something which reasonably constrains choices in response, this really is just a way to control the characters. The DM may not even realize this, if he or she learned to DM this way from another game or DM.
 

Satyrn

Villager
No reason you can imagine, anyway. As established upthread, particular knowledge about earth elementals is not required to buy scrolls of thunderwave. The barbarian might just like the sound it makes, as it reminds him or her of stormy nights on the steppe, safe under the protection of a yurt, drinking fermented aurochs milk with Frances who later became a town guard.
One day, in the somewhat-distant future (or maybe tomorrow if the opportunity arises) I am gonna reply to some post of yours with a joke that references Frances the town guard.

Perhaps the joke will be about how Frances the town guard considers himself such an experienced guard he decides he need not bother reading the newest edition of the legal code, and goes about happily enforcing outdated laws
 
It's a bizarre form of 'mother may I'. I don't doubt you are right that it's not unusual, but it can't be logically supported IMO by any tortured path.
It's really just peeling another onion-layer off action declaration. Implicit in many action declarations is a reason for the choice of method that goes with the goal. If that reason is predicated on knowledge and the PC having or recalling that knowledge is in doubt, then in calling for the check the DM is just breaking down a declared action into necessary smaller actions. DMs have been doing that forever - there's an example of it in the 1e DMG, IIRC - a player declares an action that the DM rules will take several rounds to play out all it's steps.

And, yeah, it's common, and, no, it's not cross-pollenated from other RPGs, it was quite a common thing for DMs to do back in the day, IMX, even though the game had no actual official mechanics for 'making an intelligence roll,' DMs, confronted with a use of 'player knowledge' - be it knowledge of the MM, or "my character's going to try mixing sulfur and charcoal, hey, I think I'll add some saltpeter, just because" - would sometimes, rather than just flat-out saying "you can't do that, you're character wouldn't think of it," call for one, typically roll under INT on d20, sometimes some sort of percentile check...


But consider the consequences of that if you aren't going to be a hypocrite about it and apply this idea evenly to the game. If what a PC or NPC chooses to do is to be left to a dice roll, why aren't all choices first tested against a dice roll. Choose to be bad or good? Pass an alignment check and then play that way. Choose to be smart or dumb? Pass an intelligence check. Choose to be greedy or generous, merciful or vengeful? Pass the associated personality tests to find out how the PC acts? Will you attack the orc on the left or the right? Don't metagame, flip a coin!
Nod. Think about it as what choices are available. "Hit the troll with your usual weapon" probably doesn't come off the table very often. But /some/ choices may have a bar to clear before you can make them available. Not entirely crazy or unfair, just depends on what the play aesthetic of the group is like.

D&D saw a lot of it in the past, and 5e - by design, intent on supporting past play styles - grants plenty of latitude for it, if the DM cares to run that way.

If the player's intelligence, knowledge, intuition, or charisma is not to be trusted within the game, then the player obviously can't be allowed to make choices about how his character acts.
OTOH, if you are going to rely on those attributes being provided by the player, why give the character INT, WIS, CHA, or knowledge/social skills, at all? Just simplify the system by cutting them out.


What are the stakes of these checks really? What meaningful consequence is calling for this Arcana check really adjudicating? Nothing less than who gets to play the player's character. If the player loses the roll, then the GM gets to play the character. And the GM is calling the checks, so presumably he can keep calling the checks until the player bows to his wishes.
Maybe at a high, almost philosophical level. At a practical level, the consequence is the number of choices available to the player. Characters limit the choices available to players all the time. A wizard can't cast Cure Wounds, a fighter can't cast fireball (oh, wait EK, er, Cone of Cold), etc.


Yet time and time again, when you scratch the surface, the actual stake being argued over is that the GM gets to play the player's character. The GM is allowing "Francis the Guard" only because by yielding on this point about the setting, he's gaining even greater leverage over the PC. For example, the same poster that introduced "Francis the Guard" claimed that his response to "Francis the Guard" was a "Yes, but..." response where he literally got to tell the player how his character had behaved.
I suppose, in an adversarial play aesthetic, it could break down that way. In a 'shared storytelling' or troupe-style play, though, they're just engaged in a back-and-forth dynamic that builds a story not entirely under the control of either …
...'playing to find out what happens' on both sides of the screen, I guess.
 

Chaosmancer

Villager
How the character thinks is in the control of the player, not the DM. As a result, there is no uncertainty - the character thinks whatever the player says he or she thinks.
That debate seems to be the core of this, no? So, since you know my position is not the same as yours and you asked "why is there a check" did you not expect that this would be how things would go? You wanted to know which action caused the check, "thinking" was the action.


No doubt.
Slow Clap, great sarcasm.

But yeah, this stipulation causes more complications as we discussed in the last thread. As you know. And again, you knew my opinion, so what did you expect me to say here.


The players in the example did not attempt to recall lore. One said he or she wanted to go buy some scrolls. The other said, only after the incredulous DM raised an eyebrow or the like, that he or she suggested a reason for the aforementioned task to the other character. No attempt to recall lore here. If there was, I might agree that an ability check was reasonable, provided it met the requirements for an ability check. But there wasn't. The DM just assumed there was and/or established for the player an action for his or her character which oversteps the DM's role.
Okay, wait. DMs decide when the dice get rolled correct? So how does any of this overstep the GM's role?

One player said they were going to buy something based off a monster's weakness. When the DM asks how they know the monsters weakness, another player says their character could have told them. Neither player has established they actually know the information yet, hence the check. The barbarian is free to make the check as well, but there is an attempt to recall lore, since neither of them know the information yet. Therefore they must first either attempt to recall it or to go research it.

It is almost like you forgot the premise of the example while responding to why a check was called for.


Without a meaningful consequence for failure, it doesn't fit within the game structure though. No meaningful consequence for failure, no roll. No roll, then either the character succeeds or fails outright, as determined by the DM.

That is, of course, assuming we have a verbalized action declaration, which we don't in this example (where recalling lore is concerned). What we appear to have is a DM attempting to invalidate an action declaration by establishing a knowledge prerequisite to the task and then and using the dice as a potential means to do it.
Okay, two different points to address here.

The entire point of the example was that the players were acting upon information their characters might not have had. The players are the ones who claimed to have this knowledge, but without a solid reason beyond "I've read the Monster Manual" then the DM could call for a Arcana check, which is how the game handles recalling knowledge about elementals. This is not trying to invalidate an action, this is establishing whether they have knowledge in-character that they possess out-of-character. This is the point of the knowledge checks.

Other objection of yours, "meaningful consequences". How do we force "meaningful consequences" into checks to recall information? If I remember correctly from your position in the last thread, "meaningful consequences" cannot be simply failing the check. That isn't "meaningful" enough. But when the entire check is "do I know this" then there seems to be only three results, "Yes I do" "No I don't" "I think I do but am wrong"

Now, since you are saying there are no "meaningful consequences" to the check in this example, then none of those are good enough. In that case, what happens? Do all players automatically succeed knowledge checks? Do they fail? I can guess people would like to memorize as much information as they can, since otherwise you get to decide via fiat whether or not they know something in the game.


No reason you can imagine, anyway. As established upthread, particular knowledge about earth elementals is not required to buy scrolls of thunderwave. The barbarian might just like the sound it makes, as it reminds him or her of stormy nights on the steppe, safe under the protection of a yurt, drinking fermented aurochs milk with Frances who later became a town guard.
You are right.

Of course, the player started by stating he was going to buy them because earth elementals are weak to thunder damage. So, let us imagine the player says this, but the DM has them roll. They fail the check and do not know the weakness of earth elementals. They then declare that they are buying the scrolls anyways because.... He likes the sound and wants the wizard to cast it more often. But only against earth elementals because... that reminds him of the thunder against the cliffs back home.

They are clearing making excuses. That wasn't why they went to buy the scrolls in the first place, they just weren't happy with failing the die roll and wanted to get around that failure to continue with their plan. That isn't respectful to the DM, the game, or the other players.


As a fun exercise, keyword search "knowledge check" in the D&D 5e Basic Rules PDF. You won't get any results. You might if you're capable of keyword searching older editions of the game though.

In D&D 5e, an Intelligence check may follow when the player describes the character attempting to recall lore or make deductions based on available clues, when there's an uncertain outcome and a meaningful consequence for failure.

There is no rules support for the DM calling for "knowledge checks" to determine if a player's action declaration is valid in the first place.
So... you dislike my usage of terms? Fine.

Fun exercise, replace all uses of "knowledge check" in my posts with "Intelligence check, possibly using proficiency if they involve Arcana, Religion, History, or Nature, when used to recall lore about a feature of the game world including monsters and mechanical facts about said monsters"

Tons of fun for the whole family I imagine. While doing that would you mind informing me why those skill proficiencies are included since there seems to be no point in them? I mean, there are no "meaningful consequences" according to you and the players could just read the MM anyways, so there doesn't seem to be a good reason to include "recall lore" about monsters anyways.



This would be fine in my game. Knowledge of a letter is not a prerequisite for rifling through a backpack. Similarly, in my game, the barbarian could just go buy the thunderwave scrolls, provided they are available and he or she has the gold. There would be no eyebrow raising from me when presented with that action declaration.
Wow. I can't imagine a single table I've played at where that would fly. The player is clearly acting upon out-of-character knowledge and infringing upon the story and fun of a different player. I'm honestly shocked you would find that to be okay.


One of the many benefits of this approach is that I don't have to worry about the kind of "metagaming" that a lot of DMs and players concern themselves with. It simply doesn't matter.
Honestly, it doesn't seem like you worry about much of anything.


Wow, I hadn't really thought about it in this way before, but that really is what's at stake. On the surface it's all "hey, we're just checking to see what your character knows, 'kay?" Which doesn't seem that unreasonable, especially if you are used to a paradigm where the DM just asks for checks sometimes without an action stated by the player and the player doesn't look too closely at the rules of the game. Under the surface, it's really about who gets to declare actions for the character. Which ought to be the player, by the rules anyway. Here though, the DM is taking that power or is being given that power by the player's acquiescence. Roll and get this number or better or you can't even make that action declaration.

Like the DM declaring how a character feels about something which reasonably constrains choices in response, this really is just a way to control the characters. The DM may not even realize this, if he or she learned to DM this way from another game or DM.
Was talking to a friend of mine about my old 4e games and I remembered something.

I bet you wouldn't worry about it because you don't worry about what characters think, but this is another example of why that could be problematic.

We were playing a pirate-themed game, players started out on the largest island in an island chain. One player wants to track down the biggest shipbuilding company in the area. Seems reasonable, and one roll later to figure out who they are they show up.

Player declares that his dwarf who had never been on a boat before reaching these islands, begins to describe to one of the shipwrights how to build steel cargo carriers. The multi-ton ships that we currently use for shipping.

The player has the most basic knowledge of how this works, like googling how ships are made, and yet wants his character to revolutionize the entire shipping industry in the first session of the game. Just because a 21st century person knows how this thing works and his dwarf has a basic knowledge of blacksmithing.

This seems to be a clear cut example of something it is perfectly reasonable not to allow, because there is no reason that the character should be able to figure this out.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
That debate seems to be the core of this, no? So, since you know my position is not the same as yours and you asked "why is there a check" did you not expect that this would be how things would go? You wanted to know which action caused the check, "thinking" was the action.
It's frankly hard to say what's at the core of this discussion anymore. What I do know is that if you want to call "thinking" an action, then because of the rule that players determine what the characters think, then there can be no ability check here since there is no uncertainty as to the outcome. The character thinks what the player says he or she thinks.

But yeah, this stipulation causes more complications as we discussed in the last thread. As you know. And again, you knew my opinion, so what did you expect me to say here.
I don't see any complications with that rule. You don't ask for checks if there's no meaningful consequence for failure. Easy peasy.

Okay, wait. DMs decide when the dice get rolled correct? So how does any of this overstep the GM's role?

One player said they were going to buy something based off a monster's weakness. When the DM asks how they know the monsters weakness, another player says their character could have told them. Neither player has established they actually know the information yet, hence the check. The barbarian is free to make the check as well, but there is an attempt to recall lore, since neither of them know the information yet. Therefore they must first either attempt to recall it or to go research it.
The characters, as established by the players, think that earth elementals are vulnerable to thunder damage. There is no uncertainty here and thus no check. They might be right, they might be wrong, but there is no action declaration here to recall lore.

If you call for a check, you are de facto stating that the characters are attempting to perform a task with an uncertain outcome and meaningful consequence for failure because that is when the rules say the DM calls for a check. But only the players may describe what they want their characters to do. If the DM does it, that DM is overstepping his or her role.

Okay, two different points to address here.

The entire point of the example was that the players were acting upon information their characters might not have had. The players are the ones who claimed to have this knowledge, but without a solid reason beyond "I've read the Monster Manual" then the DM could call for a Arcana check, which is how the game handles recalling knowledge about elementals. This is not trying to invalidate an action, this is establishing whether they have knowledge in-character that they possess out-of-character. This is the point of the knowledge checks.
There are no "knowledge checks." You may be thinking of some other game, perhaps D&D 4e. In D&D 5e, players can attempt to recall lore or make deductions. Those are the tasks that might call for an Intelligence check, when there's an uncertain outcome and a meaningful consequence for failure. The DM doesn't ask for the checks until the players describe their characters as attempting to perform those tasks because that's how the play loop works.

Other objection of yours, "meaningful consequences". How do we force "meaningful consequences" into checks to recall information? If I remember correctly from your position in the last thread, "meaningful consequences" cannot be simply failing the check. That isn't "meaningful" enough. But when the entire check is "do I know this" then there seems to be only three results, "Yes I do" "No I don't" "I think I do but am wrong"

Now, since you are saying there are no "meaningful consequences" to the check in this example, then none of those are good enough. In that case, what happens? Do all players automatically succeed knowledge checks? Do they fail? I can guess people would like to memorize as much information as they can, since otherwise you get to decide via fiat whether or not they know something in the game.
The players in this example didn't describe their characters as performing a task to recall lore or make deductions, so there's no check in the first place and no need to determine if there are meaningful consequences for those tasks.

"Meaningful consequences" are determined by the context of the situation in which the PCs find themselves, so in the abstract it's not easy to say what might be a meaningful consequence for failure on a task to recall lore or make deductions. In context, however, it might be very important to be able to recall a fact and that failing to do so has meaningful consequences. In many cases, however, there won't be and so the DM just says whether the character recalls the lore or makes the deduction. Maybe he or she does and maybe he or she doesn't.

In the example I gave upthread from my Eberron game, the meaningful consequence for failure of figuring out if the substance covering the boxes was indeed brown mold was damage. The warforged was using his integrated tool to investigate it. With a failure on the check, the experiment goes awry, the brown mold grows at an exponential rate, shatters the test tube, and the character takes some cold damage. However, that would have been ruled as progress combined with a setback. The substance is confirmed to be brown mold, but at the cost of some hit points. As it happens, the check succeeded.

As you do not like the rule for meaningful consequences for failure being a requirement of a check and you also appear to declare actions for the characters so far as I can tell, then yes, you will most likely have more Intelligence checks in your game than in mine. But that doesn't mean my game has none. Verifying one's assumptions often entails recalling lore or making deductions, after all.

You are right.

Of course, the player started by stating he was going to buy them because earth elementals are weak to thunder damage. So, let us imagine the player says this, but the DM has them roll. They fail the check and do not know the weakness of earth elementals. They then declare that they are buying the scrolls anyways because.... He likes the sound and wants the wizard to cast it more often. But only against earth elementals because... that reminds him of the thunder against the cliffs back home.

They are clearing making excuses. That wasn't why they went to buy the scrolls in the first place, they just weren't happy with failing the die roll and wanted to get around that failure to continue with their plan. That isn't respectful to the DM, the game, or the other players.
Perhaps under your table rules, that is the case. But under the rules of the game, the DM is not properly adjudicating the only action on the table - the barbarian going to buy the scrolls. The reason given for doing so is completely irrelevant to the adjudication process. If the player has said nothing about why the character wanted to buy the scrolls, would you have asked for a check?

So... you dislike my usage of terms? Fine.

Fun exercise, replace all uses of "knowledge check" in my posts with "Intelligence check, possibly using proficiency if they involve Arcana, Religion, History, or Nature, when used to recall lore about a feature of the game world including monsters and mechanical facts about said monsters"

Tons of fun for the whole family I imagine. While doing that would you mind informing me why those skill proficiencies are included since there seems to be no point in them? I mean, there are no "meaningful consequences" according to you and the players could just read the MM anyways, so there doesn't seem to be a good reason to include "recall lore" about monsters anyways.
I neither like nor dislike your usage of terms. I point out that it doesn't exist in this game, but does exist in other games, because a lot of DMs in my experience do not revise their approaches when moving from game to game to, in my view, the detriment of their understanding and discussions of the game they are playing. Asking for a "knowledge check" before the player even declares an action to recall lore or make a deduction is an example of this.

Wow. I can't imagine a single table I've played at where that would fly. The player is clearly acting upon out-of-character knowledge and infringing upon the story and fun of a different player. I'm honestly shocked you would find that to be okay.
I think there's some bias at play here. While I've seen this sort of thing go wrong, I've also seen it go right. It depends on the players. My regulars would certainly be fine with it because of the culture at our table in which the expectation is that you accept and build while pursuing the goals of play.

Honestly, it doesn't seem like you worry about much of anything.
I worry about achieving the goals of play, that is, everyone having a good time and helping to create an exciting, memorable story as a result of play by performing the role of DM to the utmost of my ability.

Anything else seems superfluous, especially what some people call "metagaming." That is a self-inflicted problem in my view.

Was talking to a friend of mine about my old 4e games and I remembered something.

I bet you wouldn't worry about it because you don't worry about what characters think, but this is another example of why that could be problematic.

We were playing a pirate-themed game, players started out on the largest island in an island chain. One player wants to track down the biggest shipbuilding company in the area. Seems reasonable, and one roll later to figure out who they are they show up.

Player declares that his dwarf who had never been on a boat before reaching these islands, begins to describe to one of the shipwrights how to build steel cargo carriers. The multi-ton ships that we currently use for shipping.

The player has the most basic knowledge of how this works, like googling how ships are made, and yet wants his character to revolutionize the entire shipping industry in the first session of the game. Just because a 21st century person knows how this thing works and his dwarf has a basic knowledge of blacksmithing.

This seems to be a clear cut example of something it is perfectly reasonable not to allow, because there is no reason that the character should be able to figure this out.
On one hand, one could say this appears to be a player who does not understand or buy into the genre (e.g. sword and sorcery) and that warrants an out-of-game discussion. On the other hand, the DM can simply adjudicate the action by having the shipwright explain that the sort of thing the PC wants to do isn't possible. The shipwright might believe that such a ship would never float and, besides, there isn't that much steel in all the kingdoms of the realm to build something that big. "Now stop wasting my time, you lunatic!"

What I wouldn't do is tell the player he or she can't do that or ask for a check to invalidate the action declaration.
 

Chaosmancer

Villager
It's frankly hard to say what's at the core of this discussion anymore. What I do know is that if you want to call "thinking" an action, then because of the rule that players determine what the characters think, then there can be no ability check here since there is no uncertainty as to the outcome. The character thinks what the player says he or she thinks.
*sigh*

You know, I know why we keep going in this circle. Because you could care less about players using out-of-character knowledge, seemingly in any form. But this is also why a lot of people see Intelligence as a dump stat, because two of the biggest uses for Intelligence are Investigation and knowledge checks. Oh sorry, Intelligence checks using proficiency with the intent to recall lore. But, if players get to determine that they already know the lore, then there is no need for those checks.

If they just tell you they know something, then that is what they know. The only check upon that is that they might be wrong out of the game because you as the DM changed something. In which case, why do we even bother to have an Intelligence stat and the skills for recalling various types of lore. It seems meaningless under this style.

I don't see any complications with that rule. You don't ask for checks if there's no meaningful consequence for failure. Easy peasy.
Except what counts as a "meaningful consequence"? Not knowing something obviously isn't meaningful enough, taking a lot of time is probably not meaningful enough especially if players don't take these checks while under a time pressure or in dangerous territory. You have to actively work to make things worse for the players in response to them attempting things, just to allow them to make checks, or they auto-succeed on trying anything.

Sure, "the players just succeed" sounds really easy on paper, but it opens things to abuse that I don't want to deal with, and makes failing a roll dangerous enough that my players might not end up attempting interesting things. After all, who would try and woo a princess if failing the charisma check ends up with her ordering your execution. After all, her just not being interested isn't "meaningful" enough, you have to end up making things worse for you and your party.


The characters, as established by the players, think that earth elementals are vulnerable to thunder damage. There is no uncertainty here and thus no check. They might be right, they might be wrong, but there is no action declaration here to recall lore.

If you call for a check, you are de facto stating that the characters are attempting to perform a task with an uncertain outcome and meaningful consequence for failure because that is when the rules say the DM calls for a check. But only the players may describe what they want their characters to do. If the DM does it, that DM is overstepping his or her role.
The first paragraph is our point of disagreement. Players cannot just tell me they successfully recall lore. Recalling lore is an action, it has associated skill proficiencies. The fact that they might be right or they might be wrong tells us that there is uncertainty about that. Again, you as the DM are free to make changes, these earth elementals summoned by Zuul might be different, but the players have recalled facts about normal earth elementals because they have either fought them in other games or read the MM. That is not knowledge their characters are just born knowing.

So, if I call for a check, I am not telling the player what they are doing. They already declared the action, I am adjudicating. That is not overstepping my bounds.


The players in this example didn't describe their characters as performing a task to recall lore or make deductions, so there's no check in the first place and no need to determine if there are meaningful consequences for those tasks.
You are right, they didn't explicitly say "I try to remember what the vulnerabilities of earth elementals are." Instead, they just declared "I know that Earth Elementals are weak to Thunder damage."

So... if they player just tells you they succeed and get the end result, they don't need to make a check? That is ludicrous. You would never allow a player to simply state "I walk off with the Queen's Crown" and just let them do so, why then do we allow them to state "I perfectly recalled the weaknesses of this monster"?

They are attempting to do something with uncertainty, we at the table do not know if this character has this knowledge, so a check is called for.

"Meaningful consequences" are determined by the context of the situation in which the PCs find themselves, so in the abstract it's not easy to say what might be a meaningful consequence for failure on a task to recall lore or make deductions. In context, however, it might be very important to be able to recall a fact and that failing to do so has meaningful consequences. In many cases, however, there won't be and so the DM just says whether the character recalls the lore or makes the deduction. Maybe he or she does and maybe he or she doesn't.
So, not knowing the weakness of Earth Elementals and not being able to prepare for the coming fight by buying scrolls specifically targeting that weakness is not meaningful enough? How much more impactful does a consequence have to become to be meaningful?

In the example I gave upthread from my Eberron game, the meaningful consequence for failure of figuring out if the substance covering the boxes was indeed brown mold was damage. The warforged was using his integrated tool to investigate it. With a failure on the check, the experiment goes awry, the brown mold grows at an exponential rate, shatters the test tube, and the character takes some cold damage. However, that would have been ruled as progress combined with a setback. The substance is confirmed to be brown mold, but at the cost of some hit points. As it happens, the check succeeded.

As you do not like the rule for meaningful consequences for failure being a requirement of a check and you also appear to declare actions for the characters so far as I can tell, then yes, you will most likely have more Intelligence checks in your game than in mine. But that doesn't mean my game has none. Verifying one's assumptions often entails recalling lore or making deductions, after all.
Two things.

First, Holy crap. That was an integrated tool system, which means it was in the warforged's warm body. A failure led to them getting infested with quickly growing brown mold within their body, the only way to destroy said mold being to expose it to cold damage, so the player is either going to constantly be draining hp from taking the cold damage of being "near" the mold that is inside their body, or have themselves blasted with cold damage to destroy the mold. Cold damage which would have been Ice Knife from the wizard if I remember your example correctly. An Ice Knife which potentially would have needed to be targeted within the warforged's body to hit the mold growing over their integrated tool.

Did the warforge know they were courting death, loss of their tool set, and possible dismemberment from exploding ice shards when they tried to determine the nature of a mold? A mold they strongly suspected the nature of?

Secondly, how are they supposed to verify their assumptions with checks to recall lore? They are only thinking, which means they automatically succeed, because there are no meaningful consequences. Unless they could be wrong about what they are thinking... which is kind of the entire point of me calling for a check involving Arcana in the first place. So since you disagree with me, there must be something else players do in your game to recall lore. They cannot just make a check, because they cannot fail to think something they want to think.

Perhaps under your table rules, that is the case. But under the rules of the game, the DM is not properly adjudicating the only action on the table - the barbarian going to buy the scrolls. The reason given for doing so is completely irrelevant to the adjudication process. If the player has said nothing about why the character wanted to buy the scrolls, would you have asked for a check?
As we established before, I would likely ask them why a character who cannot use magic scrolls is going to go and buy magic scrolls. This would likely get their intent, which brings us back to the beginning of this discussion.


I neither like nor dislike your usage of terms. I point out that it doesn't exist in this game, but does exist in other games, because a lot of DMs in my experience do not revise their approaches when moving from game to game to, in my view, the detriment of their understanding and discussions of the game they are playing. Asking for a "knowledge check" before the player even declares an action to recall lore or make a deduction is an example of this.
But it does exist in this game. Players can make checks using Intelligence (Arcana) to recall the weaknesses of monsters. This is a knowledge check. "A rose by any other name" as it were. Sure, the game doesn't explicitly call them that, but since players can recall lore it is assumed that they don't know every fact about monsters, so what is the difference here? Did 3.5 have a rule that explicitly said "Players are not expected to have all the information on a monster from the monsters statblock, if they wish to use this information, they should make a knowledge check" and 5e says somewhere that I've missed that "players are expected to know a monster's statblock and do not need a check to recall lore about monsters"?

I mean, you keep saying that the rules allow the player to know this stuff, but the rules never state that. At least, not that I've ever found. The very existence of Arcana, Religion, Nature, and History seem to contradict this opinion that players can just know whatever they wish to know.


I think there's some bias at play here. While I've seen this sort of thing go wrong, I've also seen it go right. It depends on the players. My regulars would certainly be fine with it because of the culture at our table in which the expectation is that you accept and build while pursuing the goals of play.
Accept and build what? That there can't be secrets? That players will act on knowledge there is no way their character's could know?

I admit, I have biases, but I don't see how this improves fun at the table, if players can just know everything that happens no matter where their character is or what is happening.


I worry about achieving the goals of play, that is, everyone having a good time and helping to create an exciting, memorable story as a result of play by performing the role of DM to the utmost of my ability.

Anything else seems superfluous, especially what some people call "metagaming." That is a self-inflicted problem in my view.
But you seem unconcerned with actions that can impact people having a good time and creating an internally consistent story.

In fact, your description of a DM is very hands-off in every aspect.


On one hand, one could say this appears to be a player who does not understand or buy into the genre (e.g. sword and sorcery) and that warrants an out-of-game discussion. On the other hand, the DM can simply adjudicate the action by having the shipwright explain that the sort of thing the PC wants to do isn't possible. The shipwright might believe that such a ship would never float and, besides, there isn't that much steel in all the kingdoms of the realm to build something that big. "Now stop wasting my time, you lunatic!"

What I wouldn't do is tell the player he or she can't do that or ask for a check to invalidate the action declaration.
So players can bring modern designs, knowledge of chemistry, gunpowder, ect to the game. You may talk to them out of game, maybe pausing the game to tell them that isn't consistent with the world... but that's exactly what happens by telling them "No, your character wouldn't know that" when it comes to these applications. Because pausing the game and talking to them is telling them that that knowledge is not acceptable in the game world because it doesn't match the knowledge that exists in the game world.

The other option, of letting them keep the knowledge and simply not have people believe them, leaves open the chance for them to try and make the thing themselves. Personally revolutionizing the economy is incredibly lucrative, and if you are trying to run a single game world for many different campaigns, it is incredibly destabilizing.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
You know, I know why we keep going in this circle. Because you could care less about players using out-of-character knowledge, seemingly in any form.
The rules of the game don't seem to indicate I should care about this as DM. The only exception is to encourage players not to waste game time or their characters' lives on bad assumptions and I do that.

But this is also why a lot of people see Intelligence as a dump stat, because two of the biggest uses for Intelligence are Investigation and knowledge checks. Oh sorry, Intelligence checks using proficiency with the intent to recall lore. But, if players get to determine that they already know the lore, then there is no need for those checks.

If they just tell you they know something, then that is what they know. The only check upon that is that they might be wrong out of the game because you as the DM changed something. In which case, why do we even bother to have an Intelligence stat and the skills for recalling various types of lore. It seems meaningless under this style.
It seems more likely to me that Intelligence is seen as a dump stat because there is only one class and a couple of sub-classes that use it regularly for attack rolls and DCs and very few spells or monsters that force Intelligence saves.

Intelligence checks can also come up in exploration challenges involving traps and secret doors. They may also come up in social interaction challenges (e.g. recalling lore trying to prove a point or trying to communicate wordlessly). Intelligence might also be used to resolve tasks performed with certain tools. The section on ability checks has a number of other tasks that might be resolved with Intelligence checks. XGtE expands on this in some ways with its Tools & Skills section.

At this point I'd like to retract my earlier statement that your game may have more Intelligence checks than mine. That doesn't seem like the case now if what I quoted of your statements above is something you believe to be true. Unless your players are asking to make Intelligence checks or asking a lot of "Do I know anything about..." questions during play.

Except what counts as a "meaningful consequence"? Not knowing something obviously isn't meaningful enough, taking a lot of time is probably not meaningful enough especially if players don't take these checks while under a time pressure or in dangerous territory. You have to actively work to make things worse for the players in response to them attempting things, just to allow them to make checks, or they auto-succeed on trying anything.

Sure, "the players just succeed" sounds really easy on paper, but it opens things to abuse that I don't want to deal with, and makes failing a roll dangerous enough that my players might not end up attempting interesting things. After all, who would try and woo a princess if failing the charisma check ends up with her ordering your execution. After all, her just not being interested isn't "meaningful" enough, you have to end up making things worse for you and your party.
The DM determines whether there is a meaningful consequence for failure given the fictional context. So if you're the DM, it's up to you.

The first paragraph is our point of disagreement. Players cannot just tell me they successfully recall lore. Recalling lore is an action, it has associated skill proficiencies. The fact that they might be right or they might be wrong tells us that there is uncertainty about that. Again, you as the DM are free to make changes, these earth elementals summoned by Zuul might be different, but the players have recalled facts about normal earth elementals because they have either fought them in other games or read the MM. That is not knowledge their characters are just born knowing.

So, if I call for a check, I am not telling the player what they are doing. They already declared the action, I am adjudicating. That is not overstepping my bounds.
There was no attempt to recall lore described by the players in that example. A player is simply stating what the character thinks which is under the player's control. The DM is overstepping his or her role by calling for a check without a corresponding action described by the player. The smart play for this player is, of course, to try to recall lore to verify that assumption, but that is not the DM's problem.

You are right, they didn't explicitly say "I try to remember what the vulnerabilities of earth elementals are." Instead, they just declared "I know that Earth Elementals are weak to Thunder damage."

So... if they player just tells you they succeed and get the end result, they don't need to make a check? That is ludicrous. You would never allow a player to simply state "I walk off with the Queen's Crown" and just let them do so, why then do we allow them to state "I perfectly recalled the weaknesses of this monster"?

They are attempting to do something with uncertainty, we at the table do not know if this character has this knowledge, so a check is called for.
"Walking off with the queen's crown" is (perhaps partially) describing what they want to do and as DM I get to say how that turns out in Step 3 of the play loop. "I know that earth elementals are weak to thunder damage" is just a statement of the character's thoughts and there's nothing I can do with that as DM.

So, not knowing the weakness of Earth Elementals and not being able to prepare for the coming fight by buying scrolls specifically targeting that weakness is not meaningful enough? How much more impactful does a consequence have to become to be meaningful?
The DM determines whether there is a meaningful consequence for failure. So if you're the DM, it's up to you.

However, the issue with this specific example is not that there is or isn't a meaningful consequence for failure. We don't even get to that point in the adjudication process since the player is only stating what the character is thinking and since the player is the one who determines what the character thinks, there is no uncertainty as to the outcome. If there is no uncertainty as to the outcome, then there can be no ability check. We don't have to imagine meaningful consequences for failure here.

Two things.

First, Holy crap. That was an integrated tool system, which means it was in the warforged's warm body. A failure led to them getting infested with quickly growing brown mold within their body, the only way to destroy said mold being to expose it to cold damage, so the player is either going to constantly be draining hp from taking the cold damage of being "near" the mold that is inside their body, or have themselves blasted with cold damage to destroy the mold. Cold damage which would have been Ice Knife from the wizard if I remember your example correctly. An Ice Knife which potentially would have needed to be targeted within the warforged's body to hit the mold growing over their integrated tool.

Did the warforge know they were courting death, loss of their tool set, and possible dismemberment from exploding ice shards when they tried to determine the nature of a mold? A mold they strongly suspected the nature of?
That's not how I would or did resolve it. The player was aware of the consequences of failure because I usually tell them what that is so they know the risks. You succeed, you figure out what it is. You fail, you figure out what it is but take damage in the process. Or you can skip that and throw the ice knife at the crates and hope you didn't just waste your last spell slot. Easy to understand the risks and trade-offs here.

Secondly, how are they supposed to verify their assumptions with checks to recall lore? They are only thinking, which means they automatically succeed, because there are no meaningful consequences. Unless they could be wrong about what they are thinking... which is kind of the entire point of me calling for a check involving Arcana in the first place. So since you disagree with me, there must be something else players do in your game to recall lore. They cannot just make a check, because they cannot fail to think something they want to think.
A player describes wanting to draw upon logic, education, memory, or deductive reasoning, often coupled with some elements of their background or adventuring experience to recall the specific lore they seek. Like any other action declaration, I decide if there's uncertainty as to the outcome and a meaningful consequence for failure. If both elements are present, I ask for a roll. If either element is absent, I decide if they succeed or fail and narrate accordingly.

As we established before, I would likely ask them why a character who cannot use magic scrolls is going to go and buy magic scrolls. This would likely get their intent, which brings us back to the beginning of this discussion.
I don't see why that's any of the DM's business. But in any case, there are countless reasons that can be given. Some might even be worth Inspiration, if they play into the character's personality traits, ideal, bond, or flaw.

But it does exist in this game. Players can make checks using Intelligence (Arcana) to recall the weaknesses of monsters. This is a knowledge check. "A rose by any other name" as it were. Sure, the game doesn't explicitly call them that, but since players can recall lore it is assumed that they don't know every fact about monsters, so what is the difference here? Did 3.5 have a rule that explicitly said "Players are not expected to have all the information on a monster from the monsters statblock, if they wish to use this information, they should make a knowledge check" and 5e says somewhere that I've missed that "players are expected to know a monster's statblock and do not need a check to recall lore about monsters"?

I mean, you keep saying that the rules allow the player to know this stuff, but the rules never state that. At least, not that I've ever found. The very existence of Arcana, Religion, Nature, and History seem to contradict this opinion that players can just know whatever they wish to know.
I haven't stated that "the rules allow the player to know this stuff." I said what the rules say - that it's the player who determines what the character thinks, does, and says. You seem to be conflating "thinking" and "knowing" as I have mentioned before.

Accept and build what? That there can't be secrets? That players will act on knowledge there is no way their character's could know?

I admit, I have biases, but I don't see how this improves fun at the table, if players can just know everything that happens no matter where their character is or what is happening.
That's for the players to work out among themselves in accordance with the shared goals of play as outlined by the rules.

But you seem unconcerned with actions that can impact people having a good time and creating an internally consistent story.

In fact, your description of a DM is very hands-off in every aspect.
I'm hands off where it comes to the player determining what the character thinks, does, and says. That is what the rules tell me to do.

Players and DM are all individually responsible via the shared goals of play to create a fun experience and an exciting, memorable story as a result of play.

So players can bring modern designs, knowledge of chemistry, gunpowder, ect to the game. You may talk to them out of game, maybe pausing the game to tell them that isn't consistent with the world... but that's exactly what happens by telling them "No, your character wouldn't know that" when it comes to these applications. Because pausing the game and talking to them is telling them that that knowledge is not acceptable in the game world because it doesn't match the knowledge that exists in the game world.

The other option, of letting them keep the knowledge and simply not have people believe them, leaves open the chance for them to try and make the thing themselves. Personally revolutionizing the economy is incredibly lucrative, and if you are trying to run a single game world for many different campaigns, it is incredibly destabilizing.
Perhaps you forget that it's the DM who narrates the result of an adventurers' actions.
 

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