• Welcome to this new upgrade of the site. We are now on a totally different software platform. Many things will be different, and bugs are expected. Certain areas (like downloads and reviews) will take longer to import. As always, please use the Meta Forum for site queries or bug reports. Note that we (the mods and admins) are also learning the new software.
  • The RSS feed for the news page has changed. Use this link. The old one displays the forums, not the news.

What does it mean to "Challenge the Character"?

5ekyu

Explorer
Exaggerating my post for rhetorical effect isn't terribly helpful. Also, while I didn't mention STR dumps, I didn't exclude them either. I'm curious if you actually read my post, or if this is more of a knee jerk reaction, because what you say I said, and what I actually said really aren't the same. Additionally, and perhaps more importantly, I believe I was pretty clear that my issue was a philosophical one about the feel of the characters created using the standard point buy system. Maybe I wasn't as clear as I hoped...
In my experience Int 8, Str 8 and Cha 8 are frequently seen on various characters, as are 12s in some others. I tend to view both as "slightly below/above average but well withing "normal range". That tends to play out fine as far as our "philosophies" go. 8 int vs 10 Int vs 12 int isnt "kinda dumb" at all, it's more akin to the difference one would see in a modern school system between somebody who went to the underfunded rural high school system vs the higher end capital high schools. Maybe the diff between someone born into an affluent household with lotsa books and parents who encouraged reading vs poorer ones where books were not readily available and were not part of the day-to-day life. For strength, it's more akin to the difference between someone who drives a cab or runs a cash register vs doing carpentry and hanging dry wall or even yard work for a living.

I think for some the "problem with the 8" stems in large part from the exaggeration of the 8.

A technique I tend to use, borrowed ages ago from "other systems" is to encourage the players to give one adjective for each plus or minus in stats.

"give the plus a name or a face"

This is like "puuting a face on the plot" as one is often encouraged to do in fiction.

So, two characters with a -1 Cha and -1 Str and +3 dex might get entirely different adjectives and be very different people in play. Its not uncommon for those adjdetives/descriptors to play a role in advsntage/disadvantage either.

Yeah, I know, some might object cuz its using stuff "from other game systems" and not playing 5e purely how they think the designers intended, but it works for us.
 

Elfcrusher

Explorer
Exaggerating my post for rhetorical effect isn't terribly helpful. Also, while I didn't mention STR dumps, I didn't exclude them either. I'm curious if you actually read my post, or if this is more of a knee jerk reaction, because what you say I said, and what I actually said really aren't the same. Additionally, and perhaps more importantly, I believe I was pretty clear that my issue was a philosophical one about the feel of the characters created using the standard point buy system. Maybe I wasn't as clear as I hoped...
I wasn't referring just to you. Your post just brought this recurring pattern to mind. So, no, I wasn't saying that "you said" anything specific.
 

Fenris-77

Explorer
Fighting monsters (or anything really) you can also gate appropriate knowledge behind passive checks at levelled DCs. You can write it right into encounters - passive DC 15 Arcana (or whatever) - you remember x about stone golems, DC 20 the knowledge is more specific. I wouldn't go to the effort of writing this into every scenario, but it is an effective way to gate information behind what feels a little more like "hey, you remembered this thing....".
 

Fenris-77

Explorer
I wasn't referring just to you. Your post just brought this recurring pattern to mind. So, no, I wasn't saying that "you said" anything specific.
Fair say. The issues I have aren't the same as most people's, in this instance anyway. Unless you're thinking of people who are also existentially bothered by the public optics of standard character builds.
 

Elfcrusher

Explorer
Fair say. The issues I have aren't the same as most people's, in this instance anyway. Unless you're thinking of people who are also existentially bothered by the public optics of standard character builds.
No, I was just referring to the fact that you called Int 8 "dumb" and Cha 8 "socially inept". Mathematically that should be "5% less smart than average" and "5% less charismatic than average".

Or, to put it another way, would you call Int 12 "smart" and Cha 12 "socially adept"? I think most people view 12's as "a bit above average, but nothing to write home about". So shouldn't an 8 be the same, but in the other direction?
 

Fenris-77

Explorer
Setting the bar at average seems low for heroic roleplaying. To me anyway. Plus that math doesn't scale going all the way to 20. A fighter with 18 STR is more than 40% stronger than average.
 

DM Dave1

Present
Setting the bar at average seems low for heroic roleplaying. To me anyway. Plus that math doesn't scale going all the way to 20. A fighter with 18 STR is more than 40% stronger than average.
Given that a Commoner in the MM has 10s across the board, that is a pretty good standard for average in 5e. I hadn't really thought about it this way before but, yeah, according to 5e math, 18 STR actually means 20% stronger than average. Then again, the heroes of the story are so much more than their ability scores and modifiers.
 

Fenris-77

Explorer
Given that a Commoner in the MM has 10s across the board, that is a pretty good standard for average in 5e. I hadn't really thought about it this way before but, yeah, according to 5e math, 18 STR actually means 20% stronger than average. Then again, the heroes of the story are so much more than their ability scores and modifiers.
Sure, if you're counting mods not stat points. Neither really makes sense as straight scaling math compared to an 'average' 10, at least not in the context of anything else we've ever seen about what an 18 means in D&D. Mind you, I'm not convinced that talking about the stats in percentages, whether points or mods, makes much sense anyway. Agree with the second point completely.
 
It's not a problem, just an example illustrating the latitude given players in declaring actions under one interpretation.
Although D&D doesn't have an explicitly defined proposition filter, I imagine that in practice any PC proposition that is nonsense will be rejected.

So, "I set my phaser on 'kill and shoot the Klingon!", probably receives the error response, "You have no phaser, and there is no Klingon in the environment."

And, "I catch butterflies!", probably receives the error response, "There are no butterflies in the immediate vicinity, so you should probably specify a bunch of other steps before you try to catch any. For example, where are you planning to go to catch them, and how do you plan to get there?"

Propositions like, "I invite everyone in the grand ballroom to play an RPG that doesn't suck!", while not errors, in that a player could start inviting everyone, probably require clarification, "By invite, what do you mean? Are you going to go to each person individually or are you planning to shout out your invitation?" Once the clarification is made however, the player's statement is probably going to be seen as some sort of nonsense by everyone in the grand ballroom, who are likely to have no idea what an RPG is and may not understand the idiomatic phrase "suck" either. At best, their going to treat this as some weird joke which they don't get. At worst, the PC is likely to be treated as drunk or insane.

Whereas, "I apologize for my friend's aberrant behavior, and explain that their still recovering from a Mindflayer's psionic blast.", might possibly be actually good RPing at a grand ball in a typical D&D setting where a PC is going on about "RPG's that don't suck!"

I'm struggling to understand the point you are trying to make with these examples.
 
Fighting monsters (or anything really) you can also gate appropriate knowledge behind passive checks at levelled DCs. You can write it right into encounters - passive DC 15 Arcana (or whatever) - you remember x about stone golems, DC 20 the knowledge is more specific. I wouldn't go to the effort of writing this into every scenario, but it is an effective way to gate information behind what feels a little more like "hey, you remembered this thing....".
While you can use such gates to feed players more information than they have, once the information is past the gate for whatever reason, including the player owns the Monster Manual and has read it, there is no effective way to put the information back on the other side of the gate. If the player knows everything about stone golems, it doesn't really matter what the player character knows, his play will be inevitably and unavoidably colored by his knowledge of stone golems. The player can, if he wishes, try to pretend he is the character who doesn't know anything about stone golems, but no person can exactly pretend to act as if he did not have knowledge that he has. No person can predict how they would behave if they didn't know something.

Even cRPGs with limited player choice and tightly constrained proposition filters can't perfectly deal with that. For example, the old RPG Planescape: Torment gates certain multiple choice dialogue options behind the player character having sufficient INT, WIS, or CHR. Thus, even if the player knows the choice exists and wants to take it, the player can be prevented from making that choice. However, this wall is still imperfect. The player can still select INT, WIS, or CHR specifically to pass certain challenges or receive certain rewards, and the player can still acting on his knowledge of the game solve certain puzzles the first time through without error based on past play throughs or a published walkthrough. Once you know the 'spoilers', you can't ever know how you'd play without them. If the player has the 'spoilers' before the first play through, he'll never know whether his choices are based consciously or unconsciously on the knowledge or consciously or unconsciously trying to avoid basing the choices on the knowledge.

There is no way to accurate fake ignorance. If reading a mystery novel, if you have spoilers, you'll have no way of knowing whether without the spoilers you would or wouldn't have figured out the mystery before it was revealed. It just can't happen.

As such, there is no real way to stop players from metagaming even if you wanted to. Even if they want to cooperate with your goal, they will be at some point unable to do so.
 
Last edited:

Fenris-77

Explorer
I'm not trying to fake ignorance. Nor was I really talking about MM info, "golem" was just the first word that popped into my mind and maybe wasn't the best example. The gating works better with stuff from the History/Arcana/Religion type skills that players usually index when they ask "what do I know about that..." but often don't actually know themselves. This makes it feel more like something their character did, and should, know without having a game mechanic intrude between player and character. Not my original idea, but I like it, it's elegant.

On the monster side, I usually just kitbash new monster variants when I have players whose encyclopedic knowledge of the MM might make my life difficult. It keeps players on their toes.
 

Tony Vargas

Adventurer
Although D&D doesn't have an explicitly defined proposition filter, I imagine that in practice any PC proposition that is nonsense will be rejected.
I'm glad to see you: "Proposition Filter!" is what I've been trying to remember, and it wasn't coming to me.

So, "I set my phaser on 'kill and shoot the Klingon!", probably receives the error response, "You have no phaser, and there is no Klingon in the environment."
But that would be telling the player what his character thinks! So, clearly, he's just delusional.

The DM could narrate him pointing his finger at someone (or at empty air) and making a trilling sound, for instance.


Propositions like, "I invite everyone in the grand ballroom to play an RPG that doesn't suck!", while not errors, in that a player could start inviting everyone, probably require clarification, "By invite, what do you mean? Are you going to go to each person individually or are you planning to shout out your invitation?" Once the clarification is made however, the player's statement is probably going to be seen as some sort of nonsense by everyone in the grand ballroom, who are likely to have no idea what an RPG is and may not understand the idiomatic phrase "suck" either. At best, their going to treat this as some weird joke which they don't get. At worst, the PC is likely to be treated as drunk or insane.
Speaking in tongues or something. Heck, you might even interpret that the character is speaking English rather than Common. ;)

Whereas, "I apologize for my friend's aberrant behavior, and explain that their still recovering from a Mindflayer's psionic blast.", might possibly be actually good RPing at a grand ball in a typical D&D setting where a PC is going on about "RPG's that don't suck!"
I'm struggling to understand the point you are trying to make with these examples.
I'm struggling to make it, so I don't blame you. Really, it's probably not worth the struggle. I guess I'm just trying to say that, yes, players can decide what their characters think and do, but that latitude is best exercised with some thought to the scene the DM has set, and the character's place in it.
Importantly, I'm not saying the players or the DM in the example are doing anything wrong. The DM has (previously) set the scene, and describes a situation, the players declare actions (albeit all at once, since there's no initiative order), and the DM calls for a check on the one action declaration that is in doubt as to success/failure. He'll go on to narrate the results of all the actions. It's a perfectly cromulent example of play, that way.


This discussion could do with a dissertation on the Proposition Filter concept, I think, if you haven't already provided one up-thread.

Because at least some of the concern with metagaming and "you can't do that" seems to be related.
 

iserith

Explorer
I'm not trying to fake ignorance. Nor was I really talking about MM info, "golem" was just the first word that popped into my mind and maybe wasn't the best example. The gating works better with stuff from the History/Arcana/Religion type skills that players usually index when they ask "what do I know about that..." but often don't actually know themselves. This makes it feel more like something their character did, and should, know without having a game mechanic intrude between player and character. Not my original idea, but I like it, it's elegant.
While I'm sure it works with little issue at the table, I think passive check DCs for set knowledge is more appropriate to D&D 3.Xe and D&D 4e than for D&D 5e. In the latter, I prefer to simply lay out the necessary context and basic scope of options sufficient for the characters to act and let the players describe what they want to do. That might include recalling lore to introduce new information into the situation. To ask for a check, passive or otherwise, from a player without an action declaration preceding it is putting the cart before the horse in my view. At least in this game.
 

Fenris-77

Explorer
I don't know if I agree entirely with that last statement. Using the passive check level as a gate to disseminate appropriate skill-related information is a pretty good approximation of passive knowledge use. By which I mean knowledge that people just have in their heads - nothing to figure out, we just know. Having to state and roll every time you want to access the character's memory for something that may or may not actually be there is an awkward mechanic, IMO anyway, at least for a lot of instances of trying to remember stuff rather figuring something out (which I submit does reflect passive versus active knowledge use pretty well, at least broadly stated).

I'm not suggesting that going entirely one way or the other is best mind you, I find a mix of the two works pretty well. Characters state and roll sometimes, retaining a sense of player agency, and sometimes the information is just given them because the character would know, which indexes character authenticity.
 

iserith

Explorer
I don't know if I agree entirely with that last statement. Using the passive check level as a gate to disseminate appropriate skill-related information is a pretty good approximation of passive knowledge use. By which I mean knowledge that people just have in their heads - nothing to figure out, we just know. Having to state and roll every time you want to access the character's memory for something that may or may not actually be there is an awkward mechanic, IMO anyway, at least for a lot of instances of trying to remember stuff rather figuring something out (which I submit does reflect passive versus active knowledge use pretty well, at least broadly stated).
Notably, in D&D 5e, "passive" in "passive check" doesn't actually refer to the character being "inactive." It just refers to there being no dice. Unfortunately, it's commonly interpreted as meaning the character isn't doing anything in particular but I don't think one can get there from a reading of the D&D 5e rules. One can get there by reading the D&D 4e rules which refers to both "actively using a skill" and "passive" checks and suggests that the DM might use a passive check to determine how much a character knows about a monster at the start of an encounter.

I'm not suggesting that going entirely one way or the other is best mind you, I find a mix of the two works pretty well. Characters state and roll sometimes, retaining a sense of player agency, and sometimes the information is just given them because the character would know, which indexes character authenticity.
The DM doesn't need the permission of the mechanics to establish the necessary (or optional) context though which is what gating is, effectively.

Which is not to say one shouldn't do this or that it's bad. But there's a b-plot in this thread about taking assumptions from other games and mixing them up in this game and I'm taking this as an opportunity to point what could be another example of this.
 

Fenris-77

Explorer
I'm aware of what a passive check is and I wasn't just making an interpretive mistake based on a generic reading of the word. I was just suggesting that a player having to actively roll a dice or ask the gm everytime he wanted basic access to the characters knowledge and memories feels like a awkeard mechanic to me. Moreover, i was suggesting that there might be positive dividends paid by an alternate mechanic for representing memory access type knowledge use. Its a rules hack, not a rules interpretation.
 

Tony Vargas

Adventurer
I'm aware of what a passive check is and I wasn't just making an interpretive mistake based on a generic reading of the word. I was just suggesting that a player having to actively roll a dice or ask the gm everytime he wanted basic access to the characters knowledge and memories feels like a awkeard mechanic to me. Moreover, i was suggesting that there might be positive dividends paid by an alternate mechanic for representing memory access type knowledge use. Its a rules hack, not a rules interpretation.
'Passive check' sounds like a contradiction. ;)

Apologies for the tangent, but a Passive score based on a stat mod or stat+proficiency or "skill" could have been a very useful little mechanic, if it had ever been used exclusively as a target number for someone else's check. 'Checking' a passive score vs a DC is just nonsense, both are static, the outcome is certain - it's precisely the situation in which you don't need a check. (Tangential to the tangent, opposed checks are just terrible, too! No d20 game should use 'em, make a check vs a passive score, instead.)

OK, ranting tangent (rantgent?) over.
 

iserith

Explorer
I'm aware of what a passive check is and I wasn't just making an interpretive mistake based on a generic reading of the word. I was just suggesting that a player having to actively roll a dice or ask the gm everytime he wanted basic access to the characters knowledge and memories feels like a awkeard mechanic to me. Moreover, i was suggesting that there might be positive dividends paid by an alternate mechanic for representing memory access type knowledge use. Its a rules hack, not a rules interpretation.
That's fair and my apologies for attributing to you anything that you don't believe.

I think that the fewer exceptions to the basic play loop the better. I would also say that "basic access" is something I see as available to anyone through the DM's description of the environment and the things within it and it's on the players to speak up if they want to recall more information that may be useful.
 

Fenris-77

Explorer
No one's upset, I was just trying to set my thoughts out as clearly as possible. In some ways this ends up looking, at the table, like just a slightly different method of exposition wherein certain things the party knows/is told are attributed to the skills of particular characters, which is neat.

The major difference comes in the encounter design phase. To answer Tony's objection above, its not at all pointless if you are writing the gates into an encounter before you know exactly what characters will be in the party and what skills they may or may not decide to take. At that point you only know one of the two static numbers. Obviously when you already know that both it is indeed pretty silly to compare them and call it a check. GMs may differ in how they write up "addition info" into encounters, and how they adjudicate acquiring that knowledge, but most of them do it in some form. I'm just suggesting a tweak to that which ties the info to specific skills and occasionally hands it out without waiting for players to actively decide to roll. Handing the info over, for example, on a post it, can further enhance the fiction of character memory and knowledge at work. Ive done both on occasion, and its worked well for me and my players. YMMV.

"Is 4 still bigger than 2? Yeah? Ok, cool just checking.";)
 

iserith

Explorer
No one's upset, I was just trying to set my thoughts out as clearly as possible. In some ways this ends up looking, at the table, like just a slightly different method of exposition wherein certain things the party knows/is told are attributed to the skills of particular characters, which is neat.

The major difference comes in the encounter design phase. To answer Tony's objection above, its not at all pointless if you are writing the gates into an encounter before you know exactly what characters will be in the party and what skills they may or may not decide to take. At that point you only know one of the two static numbers. Obviously when you already know that both it is indeed pretty silly to compare them and call it a check. GMs may differ in how they write up "addition info" into encounters, and how they adjudicate acquiring that knowledge, but most of them do it in some form. I'm just suggesting a tweak to that which ties the info to specific skills and occasionally hands it out without waiting for players to actively decide to roll. Handing the info over, for example, on a post it, can further enhance the fiction of character memory and knowledge at work. Ive done both on occasion, and its worked well for me and my players. YMMV.

"Is 4 still bigger than 2? Yeah? Ok, cool just checking.";)
Yeah, I have a player pool which includes more players than seats in a given game and, often, multiple PCs per player. There is no way, especially considering my increasing age and penchant for drink at the table, that I can remember anything about the characters' stats. So I don't see any issue with choosing a DC for a task ahead of time which is later resolved by a passive check. I've had that argument with said poster before. I must not have been very convincing if he still holds that view.

A small correction on one statement though as it relates to my position: I don't think it's in line with the rules of the game for "players to actively decide to roll." What I'm talking about is describing a task and leaving it to the DM to decide if a check is necessary. So I might describe the environment as including a troll that goes out of its way to avoid a flaming brazier (telegraphing its aversion to fire), then the player might describe a task of trying to draw upon the character's time as a sage in the world's greatest libraries to recall if trolls have a particular weakness to fire. At that point I can decide if a check is necessary per the standard adjudication process or whether the character simply recalls the desired lore or fails to recall it with no check.
 

Advertisement

Top