What does it mean to "Challenge the Character"?

Fair enough. I think we're mostly talking about the same thing generally, just with different wrinkles. I do exactly what you just described regularly, so we can't be that far apart, my current mechanics idea aside anyway.

Modelling character knowledge not possessed by the player has been a constant source of frustration for me since 2nd. I know that no one answer or mechanic is going to get it done, but I like to putter with rules.
 

Celebrim

Legend
But that would be telling the player what his character thinks!
No, very literally I did not. I said, "You have no phaser, and there is no Klingon in the environment." I have said nothing about the characters beliefs or feelings or actions. Everything I described is external to the character.

So, clearly, he's just delusional.
It's not really up for me to decide that. If the player tells me, "The character is delusional.", that's fine. However, my first thought is likely to be something like, "This is an OOC joke.", and my second thought is likely to be something like, "I've not clearly communicated the shared fiction with the player, so that our understandings of the fictional positioning have diverged." That second thought might instead be, "The player wasn't paying attention.", if the player has been on his phone or engaged in OOC table chatter. While the case with the phaser and the Klingon is comical and exaggerated, far less exaggerated and less extreme versions of players offering up propositions based off poor understanding of the fictional positioning occur all the time. Making sure the player is not operating under a false assumption is an important GM job.

If the player tells me his character believes he has a phaser, then I'll work with that. If on the other hand the player insists that the character has a phaser, I'm likely to become nearly as concerned as if the player insisted that they have a phaser. Either way, the player has clearly lost it.

The DM could narrate him pointing his finger at someone (or at empty air) and making a trilling sound, for instance.
The DM could but the DM shouldn't. The player has purposed to shoot a Klingon with a phaser. I will certainly not narrate anything like pointing a finger at someone or empty air and making a trilling sound. If the player narrates that, then fine, but it's not my job to interpret the player character's actions to the degree I'm imposing anything on the character that the player hasn't proposed. If after a discussion, we establish that the player understands that the character doesn't have a phaser, but that the character is delusional then I will ask the player what it is that the delusional character actually does that he believes is shooting something with a phaser. It's not really my job to explain to the player that the character couldn't possibly know what a phaser or Klingon is, even if delusional. Perhaps he's recovering from a mind blast from a being from beyond the Far Realms, which in my game is an infinite realm of uncreated things that the primal creator could have created but didn't, and so some fragment of unreality has tainted the player. But even if a convenient explanation didn't exist, it's still not my job.

But again, if the player believes that the player character really has a phaser and insists on it despite all my explanations, then chances are that player needs psychiatric care. It's not something that has ever come up in 30 years of play, sometimes with some fairly dysfunctional teens and occasionally dysfunctional adults.

Speaking in tongues or something. Heck, you might even interpret that the character is speaking English rather than Common. ;)
But again, why would I do that sort of interpretation? It's my job to resolve the interaction with the environment caused by a proposition the player makes. A proposition that a player makes that doesn't interact with the environment calls for no resolution. It's not my job to interpret what the proposition is. If I don't know exactly what the player intends, then I need to establish that first. Regardless of whether the character thinks he's speaking English or speaking in tongues or whatever, the likely result of such babble is probably that the character will be treated as being drunk or insane. I'm not interpreting what the character is doing, only what the NPCs are doing. At some point, I should always be able to explain to the player why the result that happens is logical and fair (although sometimes to avoid releasing OOC information, that may not be for a long time after the session). I can't do that, and it will be immediately obvious that it isn't, if the interpretation I put on an action was at odds with the player's intention.

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.
I agree with that. What I'm trying to say is that the "interpretation" thing you keep bringing up isn't really part of the proposition->fortune->resolution cycle. I can interrogate the player to try to figure out what exact action that they intend, and often should do that. And I can force the player to phrase a proposition in a way that passes the games proposition filter, whether formal or informal. But I can't and shouldn't be transforming the proposition to anything that might lie outside the player's intent. Only after a valid and clear proposition is understood, do we start cranking handles and come up with a resolution. To do anything else is to be a very dysfunctional sort of "Gotcha DM", that would cause even Nitro Ferguson to shake his head and declare that you've got some maturing to do.

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.
Well, with caveats above, "Yes." If a player purposes, "My character delusionally thinks he's Captain Kirk, and that a Klingon has entered the room. He points his finger at the Chancellor of the Exchequer and makes a "Zap!" noice.", then that's a valid proposition that I can act on. It might not be a very good one. It might not be a very artistic one. It might not be a very mature one. But, heh, one man's art is another man's trash, and it's not my job to play the character. Besides, in some games, for some characters, that proposition might even make sense.

This discussion could do with a dissertation on the Proposition Filter concept, I think, if you haven't already provided one up-thread.
If I started one, I'd do it in a different thread. I'm concerned that we've been too long off topic and are no longer advancing any discussion in a meaningful and useful manner. In fact, I'd abandoned the thread until some fresh voices joined it.

Because at least some of the concern with metagaming and "you can't do that" seems to be related.
Yeah, "you can't do that because you're metagaming" is definitely an informal proposition filter I've seen employed at tables. Heck, at one time - say before age 20 - I probably would have deployed it myself. I do think that there is value in playing in character as much as possible, and would encourage players to adopt more mature stances toward their player character. However, I've since decided that "You can't do that because you're metagaming!" is unworkable as a proposition filter and is ill-advised on several grounds:

a) Sometimes metagaming is helpful to everyone's enjoyment and many sorts of metagaming are blessed by GMs. As such, whether a particular metagamed action triggers the filter pretty much comes down to, "I don't like that.", and a GM shouldn't really be filtering PC actions to that degree.
b) It's not actually possible for a player to not metagame, so a GM asking a player to not metagame is often asking the impossible of them. And again, whether or not the GM accepts that a particular action is not metagaming often comes down to whether the GM thinks it's the right action, which eventually comes down to the GM playing the PC.
c) Most of the time that a GM faults a player for metagaming, the GM is actually the one at fault for using some process of play that gave the player metagame information - including not just keeping his mouth shut when he should have. By passing the responsibility to the player, the Gm is not adopting more mature methods of play and growing as a GM.
d) There are always better approaches to dealing with any sort of metagaming that is having a negative impact on play.
e) It's entirely possible that the GM deploying "You can't do that, it's metagaming." is actually the dysfunctional participant and the real motivation is that the GM wants total control over the game.
 

Riley37

Visitor
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...
Not exactly, no. Nor can any person can sing perfectly on pitch, and yet some humans still sing, because many of us do it well enough for entertainment purposes.

Sure, there's a discrepancy between character knowledge and player knowledge. I cannot bring that gap to zero point zero, nor do I want to. That said, there's a significant difference between "bought the scrolls" and "didn't buy the scrolls", and my imperfect, non-exact RP still falls on the side of "didn't buy the scrolls"... when I'm a playing a PC who knows that she's likely to encounter stone golems, and who doesn't know how useful those scrolls would be. Yes, when we actually encounter the stone golems, I the player will think "too bad my PC didn't know about thunder damage", but even if some NPC had cast Detect Thoughts on my PC, that thought was not in the PC's mind *at an observable level*.

Is this, in your experience, an unusual level of compartmentalization? I consider it a low bar to clear. If a player cannot (or will not) refrain from declaring character actions which act on information which their character could not possibly know, then I consider that player an unskilled and/or immature TRPGer, and I'd rather not sit at the same table.

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.
There is, however, the option of recruiting players to your table, who have *their own goal* of managing their meta gaming, in order to co-create an enjoyable story. Some players are okay with the suspension of disbelief necessary for "we encounter stone golems", while disliking the suspension of disbelief necessary for "the barbarian just happened, for unrelated reasons, to have some scrolls of Thunderwave, which the barbarian now hands to the wizard for immediate tactical use".

I want many things, as a player. One of those things is the respect of the DM and my fellow players. The players, at the table where I play every week, would not be impressed by "hey, guys, look, my barbarian character has scrolls of Thunderwave!". They would give me a disapproving side-eye, or a spoken "Riley, that's crappy role-playing. We're not munchkins here". They'd rather have their PCs either win without those scrolls, or fail without those scrolls, than win by using those scrolls.

The question of whether the DM suppresses that kind of meta-gaming does not often arise, at this table, because peer pressure among players suffices to discourage that kind of meta-gaming.
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
I'm glad to see you: "Proposition Filter!" is what I've been trying to remember, and it wasn't coming to me.

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.


Speaking in tongues or something. Heck, you might even interpret that the character is speaking English rather than Common. ;)

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.
This is like teaching someone checkers and telling them they can move a piece on their turn only to be interrupted with, "I play a Draw 4!" You politely point out that's not checkers but Uno and are met with a, "so I can't move a piece on my turn then?"
 

Celebrim

Legend
Is this, in your experience, an unusual level of compartmentalization? I consider it a low bar to clear. If a player cannot (or will not) refrain from declaring character actions which act on information which their character could not possibly know, then I consider that player an unskilled and/or immature TRPGer, and I'd rather not sit at the same table.
Is it possible to provide examples where the obvious skillful move is known by the player? Sure. Can a skilled player choose when Actor stance is more appropriate than Author stance based on evaluating their own motivations? Probably so. But the real question for me here isn't player skill, but whether deploying a proposition filter that stops a player from metagaming is skilled play by the GM. I'm suggesting that it isn't and that there are strong limits to the ability of a GM or player to abide by a "no metagaming" rule. However bad unskillful play by the player may be, the proposed remedy is worse.

Let's move the earth elementals example back one step. A player character knows that they are going to encounter earth elementals and it's established by some process of play that that character shouldn't know anything about earth elementals. So now the player offers up the following IC proposition to the other players, "I don't know anything about earth elementals, and I don't think we should go face them without learning something about them. The sound magical and I'm not even sure a stone can bleed. I don't want to try to kill a rock with a sword. Let's find a wizard or a sage that might know something about earth elementals and see what we can learn about them." Now, is this metagaming? Possibly, but now the player is engaged in a more sophisticated Author stance. His motivation OOC might be that he wants to get Thunderwave scrolls, but he's offering a plausible in game explanation for his character's actions. Should this be stopped as an act of metagaming? Would this deserve side-eye from his fellow partipants?

And how do you know that, if the player was also ignorant, he wouldn't offer the same proposition? How can the player know whether, were he truly ignorant, he might offer the same proposition?

Sure, I think there are times when a player should try to ignore his OOC knowledge and play the character in a proper Actor stance based on what he thinks the character would do based on his IC knowledge. Heck, as a GM, I'm called to do this all the time, however imperfectly I can do it. "If I didn't know the PC's weaknesses, would I still use this sort of strategy? Would I still have cast this defensive spell before starting the encounter?" As a GM, I hold myself to not metagaming against the players at a much higher and more rigid standard than I would ever hold the players too.

However my points remain. Metagaming isn't always bad. Metagaming by the players is usually the GM's fault. And there are much better ways to deal with a metagaming problem than putting up a proposition filter that amounts to choosing what a PC is going to do.
 
Not exactly, no. Nor can any person can sing perfectly on pitch, and yet some humans still sing, because many of us do it well enough for entertainment purposes.

Sure, there's a discrepancy between character knowledge and player knowledge. I cannot bring that gap to zero point zero, nor do I want to. That said, there's a significant difference between "bought the scrolls" and "didn't buy the scrolls", and my imperfect, non-exact RP still falls on the side of "didn't buy the scrolls"... when I'm a playing a PC who knows that she's likely to encounter stone golems, and who doesn't know how useful those scrolls would be. Yes, when we actually encounter the stone golems, I the player will think "too bad my PC didn't know about thunder damage", but even if some NPC had cast Detect Thoughts on my PC, that thought was not in the PC's mind *at an observable level*.

Is this, in your experience, an unusual level of compartmentalization? I consider it a low bar to clear. If a player cannot (or will not) refrain from declaring character actions which act on information which their character could not possibly know, then I consider that player an unskilled and/or immature TRPGer, and I'd rather not sit at the same table.



There is, however, the option of recruiting players to your table, who have *their own goal* of managing their meta gaming, in order to co-create an enjoyable story. Some players are okay with the suspension of disbelief necessary for "we encounter stone golems", while disliking the suspension of disbelief necessary for "the barbarian just happened, for unrelated reasons, to have some scrolls of Thunderwave, which the barbarian now hands to the wizard for immediate tactical use".

I want many things, as a player. One of those things is the respect of the DM and my fellow players. The players, at the table where I play every week, would not be impressed by "hey, guys, look, my barbarian character has scrolls of Thunderwave!". They would give me a disapproving side-eye, or a spoken "Riley, that's crappy role-playing. We're not munchkins here". They'd rather have their PCs either win without those scrolls, or fail without those scrolls, than win by using those scrolls.

The question of whether the DM suppresses that kind of meta-gaming does not often arise, at this table, because peer pressure among players suffices to discourage that kind of meta-gaming.
One problem I have with all of this is that you are taking a personal preference...that not only you but also the people at your table strive to separate character knowledge from player knowledge...and then you start assigning value labels to that. Those who do that have "respect of the DM and fellow players". Those who don't are "unskilled and/or immature TPRGers".

As it happens, I've got my own way of describing people who insist on roleplaying exactly the way you like, but it's not very generous, so I'll refrain from sharing it.

You have a preference, which is great. Maybe it's safer to leave it at that, rather than trying to claim that it's superior, and that people who play some other way are inferior. Because the next thing you know the insults start flying.
 

Riley37

Visitor
I've got my own way of describing people who insist on roleplaying exactly the way you like
I am indeed insisting on roleplaying exactly the way I like to role-play... at a table where, every week, that style is welcomed and encouraged. Last session, I told the DM "I think I know why the bad guys attacked this village, but I don't think my PC has figured it out yet", and the DM gave me a thumbs-up to keep playing accordingly. I had the "respect of the DM and fellow players" *specifically for that DM and those players*. Perhaps the DM and the players at *your* table would have formed a different opinion.

If I insisted on roleplaying exactly the way I like, at YOUR table, then I might wear out my welcome, and in THAT case, you'd have good reason to bluntly tell me what you think of my style.

Yes, there are player behaviors which I consider immature. Some of those behaviors involve fart noises. Some of them involve loaded dice. "My barbarian buys some scrolls of Thunderwave, just because he likes the noise they make", when actually the player's motive is tactical advantage, is *generally* one of the behaviors I consider immature, though with exceptions. (One exception: Session Zero established a zany, Loony Tunes level of suspension of disbelief. Another exception: The table has an understanding that the PCs are guided by Divine Providence, or nudged by the Valar, and sometimes make choices which turn out to be wiser than the PC knew at the time.)

If you have a problem with my opinions and preferences, then you can die mad about it. Or you can play at your table, and not at mine!
 

Riley37

Visitor
I'm suggesting that it isn't and that there are strong limits to the ability of a GM or player to abide by a "no metagaming" rule. However bad unskillful play by the player may be, the proposed remedy is worse.
I agree, more or less. I don't like the remedy of the DM veto, the declaration "You can't do that." I prefer the remedy of another player asking "Wait, do our characters know - at this point - that thunder damage will be extra effective?" If the barbarian's player responds "No, my character doesn't know, he's making a lucky guess", then I still want the DM to decide what happens *in the fiction* on the basis of whether anyone in town has such scrolls and is willing to sell them (and at what price).

"Let's find a wizard or a sage that might know something about earth elementals and see what we can learn about them." Now, is this metagaming? Possibly, but now the player is engaged in a more sophisticated Author stance. His motivation OOC might be that he wants to get Thunderwave scrolls, but he's offering a plausible in game explanation for his character's actions. Should this be stopped as an act of metagaming? Would this deserve side-eye from his fellow partipants?
If this is metagaming, then it's the kind of metagaming which I consider useful, appropriate and part of a good story. It is functionally equivalent to playing a PC who is cautious and resourceful... which is one of the many possible forms of heroism.

It *might* lead to the purchase of Thunderwave scrolls. It might lead to the DM inventing, on the spot, a new NPC, in the form of a wizard or sage; that new NPC might in time become a recurring character. It might mean that the DM gets to *finally* introduce that librarian NPC which the DM has been *aching* to introduce to the PCs (with a side quest to recover some missing books of arcane lore). It might lead to the discovery that an NPC bought all the Thunderwave scrolls in the city, last week, and also bought some rope, rations and similar adventuring gear - and thus the hint that there's another party, also heading into the same mountains, who now has a head start on the PCs. This range of outcomes, all arising from an IC proposal to do some research, is lush with opportunities, more so than just going directly to "mark off X gold pieces, and add Y scrolls of Thunderwave to your character's inventory".

Another example of Riley-approved metagaming: the PCs meet someone in a tavern who wants to join their party, and the PCs find plausible reasons to welcome that person to their party, even though the PCs don't know that this stranger is the PC of a new player joining the group. If the PCs go through the motions of reasonably wary precautions (membership in a faction such as Order of the Gauntlet, or perhaps asking the newcomer to consent to Detect Thoughts or Zone of Truth), then they're establishing a higher level of IC plausibility, but they're still moving towards the answer of yes. (Depending on the table's convention about PCs with ulterior motives, that is.)

Metagaming isn't always bad. Metagaming by the players is usually the GM's fault. And there are much better ways to deal with a metagaming problem than putting up a proposition filter that amounts to choosing what a PC is going to do.
I agree on the first. As for the second, the IC welcoming of a new PC to the party, on the first session of a new player to the table, isn't the GM's fault, because no error has happened and thus no one is at fault. I agree on the third.

Tangent: could you perhaps recommend to me an article or essay which explains the Author stance and Actor stance, as you are using those terms?
 
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Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
I am indeed insisting on roleplaying exactly the way I like to role-play... at a table where, every week, that style is welcomed and encouraged. Last session, I told the DM "I think I know why the bad guys attacked this village, but I don't think my PC has figured it out yet", and the DM gave me a thumbs-up to keep playing accordingly. I had the "respect of the DM and fellow players" *specifically for that DM and those players*. Perhaps the DM and the players at *your* table would have formed a different opinion.

If I insisted on roleplaying exactly the way I like, at YOUR table, then I might wear out my welcome, and in THAT case, you'd have good reason to bluntly tell me what you think of my style.

Yes, there are player behaviors which I consider immature. Some of those behaviors involve fart noises. Some of them involve loaded dice. "My barbarian buys some scrolls of Thunderwave, just because he likes the noise they make", when actually the player's motive is tactical advantage, is *generally* one of the behaviors I consider immature, though with exceptions. (One exception: Session Zero established a zany, Loony Tunes level of suspension of disbelief. Another exception: The table has an understanding that the PCs are guided by Divine Providence, or nudged by the Valar, and sometimes make choices which turn out to be wiser than the PC knew at the time.)

If you have a problem with my opinions and preferences, then you can die mad about it. Or you can play at your table, and not at mine!
Hmm. I used to be big about the PC/player knowledge divide, but then I came to the conclusion that this was immature of me and I could make intruguing and challenging ganes without expecting my players to have to pretend they don't know something to preserve the challenge of my games. Now, I look at situations like the barbarian buying scrolls not as a point where the player has to justify the action but as an opportunity for the player to tell us something about his barbarian and how he knows such things, if the player cares to. The trick is to not base the narrative weight of your game on not knowing things about the game (like monster stats). Heck, I'll usually give that stuff away for free.

And, I'll put the narrative weight and depth of my games up against anyone's -- they won't suffer in comparison at all because I don't strictly regulate "metagaming."
 

Riley37

Visitor
an opportunity for the player to tell us something about his barbarian and how he knows such things
That sounds fun! Maybe long ago, a druid in her tribe fought earth elementals, evoked a thunderstorm, and won an amazing victory. Maybe there's a tribal folktale or song about that fight, which the barbarian heard as a lullaby. So the barbarian thinks "if I buy scroll and wizard makes thunder, then maybe the spirit of my glorious ancestor will return to re-enact great victory".

Okay, it's a stretch, but it's still an addition to the story, which I find vastly preferable to "uh, I bought these scrolls, which I can't use myself, for some reason completely unrelated to my actual intention". YMMV.
 

Riley37

Visitor
without expecting my players to have to pretend they don't know something to preserve the challenge of my games.
It's sticky and uphill for a DM to enforce "no, you don't know that, at least not yet" on determined players. If your D&D players insist on having their PCs invent gunpowder, refine caking and corning gunpowder to propellant grade, invent cannon, and refine those cannon into shoulder-fired flintlock muskets, all in a single year: okay, as DM you give the PCs foes and obstacles which are hard to defeat even with muskets.

As a player, though, I would generally not find those victories satisfying. In D&D, I'd rather win or lose with swords and sorcery, than resort to "Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court" methods.

IMO the core question - can a DM challenge characters? - hinges on whether the DM has players who want challenges.
 
When it comes to monsters, and spells and magic items, I don't actually have a huge issue with this kind of metagaming generally. First, this is the easiest and most obvious place where experienced players can bridge the player/character knowledge gap, and I'm in favour of that. Second, setting aside listed character skills for a moment, knowledge of monsters and magic represents the kind of professional knowledge one would expect an adventurer to acquire. Our actual game sessions only represent a fraction of a character's in-world social interactions and there are two especially large lacunae - downtime and travel time. In real life, what tends to happen when you put a bunch of people from the same profession in a bar, or on a bus, or in a training session? They tend to talk shop and swap stories. This is an obvious way for an adventurer to have gained the kind of knowledge we're talking about. While this might not fall inside D&D's specific skill mechanic that doesn't necessarily mean it's character inappropriate.

All that said, there are obviously instances where a player can go too far and it can certainly start to take away from a campaign or session - for example when it feels more like rule book reading and zero effort is made to role play the info into the game. That kind of table management is one of the GMs primary jobs though, so I can live with it when problems arise on a case by case basis.
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
It's sticky and uphill for a DM to enforce "no, you don't know that, at least not yet" on determined players. If your D&D players insist on having their PCs invent gunpowder, refine caking and corning gunpowder to propellant grade, invent cannon, and refine those cannon into shoulder-fired flintlock muskets, all in a single year: okay, as DM you give the PCs foes and obstacles which are hard to defeat even with muskets.

As a player, though, I would generally not find those victories satisfying. In D&D, I'd rather win or lose with swords and sorcery, than resort to "Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court" methods.

IMO the core question - can a DM challenge characters? - hinges on whether the DM has players who want challenges.
I don't see the connection between knowing about in-game things like earth elementals to jumping to players introducing without challenge out-of-game knowledge like milled gunpowder. The firmer is within the scope of the game, the latter is not. Not to mention that a GM that allows players to dictate that gunpowder is even a thing, or that it's formulation is exactly like the real world's, or that there's no challenge at all in creating it has many, many more problems at their table than metagaming.

As to your core question, if the players don't want challenges, why is there even a game? However, taking this in the best light, of course the challenges presented in game should align with what the players want to be challenged with. Else, again, why is there a game?
 
I am indeed insisting on roleplaying exactly the way I like to role-play...

(snip)

If you have a problem with my opinions and preferences, then you can die mad about it. Or you can play at your table, and not at mine!
That's fine, but do you have to insult people who play a different way? Can't you just say, "I like to play this way, and like to play with people who share the same preference?"

Why do others have to be "unskilled" and "immature"?
 

5ekyu

Adventurer
When it comes to monsters, and spells and magic items, I don't actually have a huge issue with this kind of metagaming generally. First, this is the easiest and most obvious place where experienced players can bridge the player/character knowledge gap, and I'm in favour of that. Second, setting aside listed character skills for a moment, knowledge of monsters and magic represents the kind of professional knowledge one would expect an adventurer to acquire. Our actual game sessions only represent a fraction of a character's in-world social interactions and there are two especially large lacunae - downtime and travel time. In real life, what tends to happen when you put a bunch of people from the same profession in a bar, or on a bus, or in a training session? They tend to talk shop and swap stories. This is an obvious way for an adventurer to have gained the kind of knowledge we're talking about. While this might not fall inside D&D's specific skill mechanic that doesn't necessarily mean it's character inappropriate.

All that said, there are obviously instances where a player can go too far and it can certainly start to take away from a campaign or session - for example when it feels more like rule book reading and zero effort is made to role play the info into the game. That kind of table management is one of the GMs primary jobs though, so I can live with it when problems arise on a case by case basis.
Yeah, pretty much.

Not gonna buy into anybody's sense of "mature" this or "narrative weight" but for my worlds it's not uncommon for many of the major traits of creatures to be known. IRL I knew tons of monster lore by ten and also plenty of warnings about IRL dangers. In a fantasy world, likely they would be more similar.

It's not been uncommon for me to pass out stat blocks for foes pre-session, reflecting "common knowledge" or results of fact finding. In some cases, instead of stat blocks they got some useful descriptions. "The mage has been see casting fireball.... and ice storm".

But on top of that are frequent "exceptions exist."

When they were sent to stop hill giants, they were handed stat block for them and their dire wolves. Most fit that, but the leader ddmonic-tainted giant and his alpha wolf were exceptions.

Some info tho, is not common and so tharsxehen more cases of checks and research come into play.
 
I don't see the connection between knowing about in-game things like earth elementals to jumping to players introducing without challenge out-of-game knowledge like milled gunpowder.
He's just making a parade-of-horribles argument. Whenever proponents of his style shift from "I just like it this way" to "the other way is wrong", the only way to defend that position as some kind of objective truth is by giving examples of what could theoretically happen in an extreme case.
 

Celebrim

Legend
I agree, more or less. I don't like the remedy of the DM veto, the declaration "You can't do that." I prefer the remedy of another player asking "Wait, do our characters know - at this point - that thunder damage will be extra effective?" If the barbarian's player responds "No, my character doesn't know, he's making a lucky guess", then I still want the DM to decide what happens *in the fiction* on the basis of whether anyone in town has such scrolls and is willing to sell them (and at what price).
Sure. But, on the other hand, I don't expect the DM to decide that no scrolls are available purely on the grounds that a PC wants one. Fortunately, for me this sort of thing isn't usually a problem, as I have no magic shops to speak of and certainly not ones were arbitrary desirable items are available.

If this is metagaming, then it's the kind of metagaming which I consider useful, appropriate and part of a good story. It is functionally equivalent to playing a PC who is cautious and resourceful... which is one of the many possible forms of heroism.
Agreed. But I've heard of DMs that get upset at this kind of thing because they don't feel that the PC is intelligent or wise enough to be cautious and resourceful, and as such try to put a gate on those decisions because they claim that they don't think the decision is in character for the PC. Such is the perils of deciding that you have a veto on the player's play of their character - they might as well get up from the table and let you play both sides of the screen.

Another example of Riley-approved metagaming: the PCs meet someone in a tavern who wants to join their party, and the PCs find plausible reasons to welcome that person to their party, even though the PCs don't know that this stranger is the PC of a new player joining the group. If the PCs go through the motions of reasonably wary precautions (membership in a faction such as Order of the Gauntlet, or perhaps asking the newcomer to consent to Detect Thoughts or Zone of Truth), then they're establishing a higher level of IC plausibility, but they're still moving towards the answer of yes. (Depending on the table's convention about PCs with ulterior motives, that is.)
Yes, this is the iconic example of positive metagaming. Basically, any time playing your character in a straightforward method might derail everyone's fun, the mature player invents a plausible scene that stays mostly true to the character while maintaining everyone's fun. This burden falls equally on all the players, so if the Paladin's player is trying to reach a compromise, then the Thief's player should be as well.

As for the second, the IC welcoming of a new PC to the party, on the first session of a new player to the table, isn't the GM's fault, because no error has happened and thus no one is at fault.
While I agree to some extent, the GM has a responsibility prior to play for making sure that the players have a plausible motivation to work together, and for establishing a suitably compelling hook in the first session. A GM that leaves all the burden on the player's for coming up with why this group will get together and stay together, and leaves it up to the players to hook themselves isn't doing his job as well as he could. Still, many groups just deal with the weakness of the hook by handwaving right past the problem, but for the more thespian minded this can be unsatisfying. Also, I tend to judge a new group by how well they can handle this sort of RP - the group I have the most fond memories of playing with handled the problem of integrating characters with extraordinary gracefulness.

Tangent: could you perhaps recommend to me an article or essay which explains the Author stance and Actor stance, as you are using those terms?
I could point you to one, but I couldn't recommend it. Besides, the concepts are pretty easy. Briefly, as I use them:

Pawn Stance: The player chooses his propositions entirely according to his goals with no consideration of the character's goals.

Author Stance: The player chooses his propositions according to his own goals, but tries to invent a plausible color for why the character's goals concur with his goals.

Actor Stance: The player chooses his propositions according to what he perceives to be the character's goals based on his understanding of the character's knowledge and personality, even when or especially when those goals might conflict with or sacrifice some of the player's goals.

As I see things, "Pawn Stance" represents immature but not wrong play. It's a starting point and for some tables a sufficient stance for fun, and in cases where there is no meaningful difference between player and character goals - surviving a combat for example - there is really no difference between Pawn and Actor stances. Actor stance represents an obvious and intuitive mature form of play, but is not in and of itself a better form of play than Pawn Stance. The trick and what really separates highly skilled RPers from run of the mill ones, is there ability to recognize when Actor Stance if followed blindly will reduce the fun of the group collectively, and to therefore temporarily switch in a collaborative way to Author Stance to promote everyone's collective fun while still staying in character. Thus, the player that says, "But I'm just playing my character" regardless of how dysfunctional what he is proposing is, is really no more mature of a player than the player in Pawn Stance and arguably is probably less fun to play with. Nor is Author Stance inherently superior either, as in my experience a player that stays in Author Stance all the time is just annoying. What is clever and mature for negotiating a tricky table issue becomes saccharine and groan-worthy if employed in continuous or heavy handed manner. You'd be better off just using Pawn Stance and not dragging things out and slowing the pace of play down.

There is also "Director Stance" where the player attempts to achieve goals by playing the metagame rather than the game, such as by altering the fiction rather than making a proposition within the fiction. In most traditional RPGs, "Director Stance" is limited to the GM, but as you may have noted from the thread some participants are advocating for "Director Stance" as a valid stance for the player as well. In some Indy RPG's, the players have limited resources that they can use to gain temporary rights to "Director Stance" in order to further their interests as a player. Indy designers have frequently made the claim implicitly or explicitly that games which allow shared access to the director's chair are inherently more mature and sophisticated than those that don't, so the participants in the thread advocating for "Director Stance" in 5e D&D are basically trying to show how in doing so they are playing a more sophisticated game than those of us that don't. For my part, I've held the position that "Director Stance" isn't inherently more mature than the other stances and that a perquisite for allowing it into a game is in fact having mechanisms for fairly sharing it and limiting access to it. Beyond that, in my own experience with "Director Stance" in the hands of the players, I tend to find as a player that it doesn't live up to the claims made on the packaging. Specifically, my goals as a player tend to be that I want to have the experience of being a character in a great story, and "Director Stance" inherently interferes with that experience in a variety of ways. Games that advocate for "Director Stance" as a tool for the players tend to mistake the production of a transcript for the experience of participating in a story, and at least for me, I find production of a transcript not the same as participating in a story. Instead, I find that a game that focuses on the production of transcript as the primary artifact of play tend to create the experience of collaborative screenplay writing for the players, and not the experience of being in a story. There is an inherent loss of emersion that goes with "Director Stance" because you are being taken out of character, and certain aesthetics of play like Challenge are harmed by the ability to employ deus ex machina on your own behalf. Heck, I'm not even that big of a fan of "Director Stance" in a GM. Every GM needs a little bit of illusionism and stage craft, but if it becomes obvious you are employing it, then it harms the enjoyment of the players.
 

Celebrim

Legend
It's sticky and uphill for a DM to enforce "no, you don't know that, at least not yet" on determined players. If your D&D players insist on having their PCs invent gunpowder, refine caking and corning gunpowder to propellant grade, invent cannon, and refine those cannon into shoulder-fired flintlock muskets, all in a single year: okay, as DM you give the PCs foes and obstacles which are hard to defeat even with muskets.
I have said before that I have no proposition filter on actions declared for OOC reasons. I never abuse a player for metagaming or using OOC character knowledge, and I tend to believe that if any metagame knowledge is a problem for the game, then that problem was created by the GM. So, I'm pretty extreme on the end of the spectrum that says, "It's not wrong to metagame."

And I don't think your example with gunpowder and muskets, which is a stock example for why using player knowledge is wrong, is or should be a problem in play. There are so many obvious solutions to the issue that don't require playing the PC that as an example, I find it pretty hollow.

a) Just because you have the ability to recite things, doesn't mean you have the hand skills. Players may have a solid understanding of how to create gunpowder (though IME that's really rare), but just because they do doesn't mean the character has the craftsmanship to accomplish the player's propositions. A player may have a solid idea of how to perform carpentry, but describing how do joinery and actually doing it is like the difference between watching a youtube video and actually doing it. Anyone that has done home crafts based on watching a youtube video knows that watching the video may help, but it won't make you a master plumber, carpenter, blacksmith or seamstress just having watched a video. It takes tons of practice, and as such appropriate skill checks can be and ought to be called for.

b) Just because you have great knowledge of real world physics, doesn't mean that the fantasy world will exactly correspond to the real world. In a world with magic, four elements, and all the rest, there is no reason to suspect that knowledge of real world chemistry necessarily makes you into a great fantasy alchemist. Not only may your real world knowledge fail to work in a fantasy world, but it may actually be actively dangerous. Thus, again, appropriate skill and knowledge checks can and ought to be called for, even if the player has a PhD in chemical engineering. Rather quickly, you can start undermining the player's expertise by having character knowledge checks inform the player that his perceptions are not correct for the world. If the player's motivation is a desire to win easily and dominate the game world, he's very likely to lose interest in the project.

c) Building up the infrastructure to produce gunpowder and musketry is in and of itself a potentially interesting campaign, and if the group collectively is interested in this, the simplest thing to do might simply be let them play that campaign and start throwing complications for them to solve. If the group really is interested in it, then everyone has fun. And if it is just one player stroking his own ego in a dysfunctional manner, then his spotlight stealing behavior is likely to lead to peer pressure to drop this storyline and just let the "real game" go on. At that point, the problem is revealed to an OOC character problem, and it's best to not try to deal with player problems IC.

d) In a world with magic in it in which you have full control over the rules of resolution, flintlock musketry is unlikely to be game breaking. The player not only has to build a character that can build muskets, but which also is skilled in their use, and the result is still not likely to be more powerful than simply building a wizard or other spell-caster. Nor are the armies of musketeers likely to be all that impressive in a world with wands of fireballs. You suggest that as a player you would generally not find those victories satisfying, as if in fact going the route of trying to recreate modern technology in a fantasy setting is easy mode. But I think on the other hand it's likely to prove much harder than just gaining XP and leveling up, and if the motivation of the player was to figure out the "cheat mode" of the game so that he could win without effort, the bigger problem you are likely to have at the table is that the player will be frustrated and angry when his "clever idea" which is anything but clever or creative doesn't lead to the plaudits and respect he was actually seeking. If the issue is you have a player that wants to "win" and doesn't want to be challenged, then the problem you are going to have is that player hasn't really thought through his plan as much as he thinks he has and then he's going to be angry that you don't just validate that yes he does win. And fundamentally, that's the real problem with gunpowder. It doesn't break the game. But a player whose goal of play is Validation and whose unconscious plan for achieving that is having a GM that just says "Yes" all the time, and which in his mind is forced to concede just how brilliant and unbeatable the player is, is going to be angry when you don't validate him as brilliant all the dang time.
 

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