What does it mean to "Challenge the Character"?

Celebrim

Legend
"...and also roll a saving throw against that fireball for your equipment. Oh, right! You are carrying a small keg of gunpowder, aren't you....?"
Indeed.

The first thing that happens in my campaign world whenever some player that thinks they are clever does the clever and creative thing that countless such players have tried in countless games before him is that NPC's laugh at him.

You see, unlike the player or the player's character, the NPC's have ranks in alchemy and knowledge (history) and so forth, and they know just how incredibly stupid this idea is and how disastrously it has failed in the past. Far from being a novel idea, "firearms" have been invented 3 or 4 times in the past by would be world conquerors (most of them goblins who delight in such things), only to have their efforts end in ridiculous calamity. Indeed, in learned circles, the names of such would be BBEG's are bywords for folly - figures of comedy rather than figures that inspire terror.

One of the central tenants of my campaign world is that the PC's are not more clever than NPC's. Anything that a clever player or PC is likely to think of is likely to be something that some NPC in the 10,000 year written history of the world has also tried. Quite naturally, the learned alchemists of the world have recognized the potential value of explosives and have spent 1000's of years of collective effort researching practical explosives. By the time a player proposes this sort of thing, whole libraries of books researching the problem have been written. And what all that effort has so far discovered is that practical explosives are hard. The most practical explosives known have a brisance equivalent to blackpowder, but a stability and shelf-life slightly on the touchy side of raw nitroglycerine. So you can in fact make a bomb, or a grenade, or a firearm. That's easy, and any master alchemist in a large town in theory could do it (although most of them will refuse to do so because they have an unreasonable attachment to their fingers). What you can't however do is safely store or transport such an item, especially in large enough quantities to supply an army. And if you try, the almost inevitable result is that your stockpile of munitions is of greater threat to you than it is to your enemy. And one wizard on the opposing side with ranged fire spell or a summoned fire elemental, can trigger a chain reaction that will decimate your entire army.

So sure, you can spend a great deal of resources building up an army of musketeers and grenadiers. But don't expect to be the first person who has thought of this idea or for it to turn the game into easy mode. By all means, take some ranks in alchemy and build yourself a bomb or some grenades for your personal use. I will do nothing to stop you. Just don't expect this to be cheating.
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
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.



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.



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.



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.



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.
I understood Director stance to be making choices for the betterment of the fiction, and then retroactively inventing character motivation. You can use fiction authoring authority from within the other stances (pawn being obvious), so that can't be the defining line. In Director stance you choose actions that make for a better story, vice following player or character goals.
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
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.
Dude, you just complained about making points in an unnecessarily disparaging manner. Physician heal thyself!
 

Celebrim

Legend
I understood Director stance to be making choices for the betterment of the fiction, and then retroactively inventing character motivation. You can use fiction authoring authority from within the other stances (pawn being obvious), so that can't be the defining line. In Director stance you choose actions that make for a better story, vice following player or character goals.
As I use the term, that's Author stance.

The difference between Author and Director, is that in Author stance you make propositions which are based on the fictional positioning. In Director stance, you out right declare new fictional positioning. As I define a proposition, it does not let you declare new fictional positioning, but only the intention to perform some action within the capabilities of your character. Declaring new fictional positioning, such as declaring that the guard is your friend Francis, is not a "proposition" but a "call". I call out that the hitherto unidentified guard is my friend Francis through some process of play, and then I propose that I greet him. I could then call out that Francis greets me warmly, but calling that Francis greets me warmly is not a proposition since it isn't about my own character's actions.

I don't understand how you can claim Pawn Stance has fiction authoring authority, or maybe I just don't understand what you mean by that. A proposition does let you author fiction, in that you adjust the fictional position by saying something like, "I strike the goblin with my sword", which then may result after a fortune test in the goblin's death, changing the fiction. But this is different than calling out that the goblin is crushed by a falling rock, which authors the fiction much more directly.

I personally feel that Director stance needs to be split into two different stances, one of which involves advancing player goals and another which involves advancing character goals. I don't think Director's are inherently interested in creating story, or that Director's inherently do create story (much less quality story). A Director Stance can be assumed for the same reason as a Pawn Stance, simply to "win".

UPDATE: The canonical definition of "Director Stance" is:

"The player determines aspects of the environment relative to the character in some fashion, entirely separately from the character's knowledge or ability to influence events. Therefore the player has not only determined the character's actions, but the context, timing, and spatial circumstances of those actions, or even features of the world separate from the characters."
 
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Elfcrusher

Adventurer
Dude, you just complained about making points in an unnecessarily disparaging manner. Physician heal thyself!
Fair point.

...AND I think there’s a difference between denigrating someone’s playstyle and calling them out for rhetorical tricks.

But I could be gentler in doing so.
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
As I use the term, that's Author stance.

The difference between Author and Director, is that in Author stance you make propositions which are based on the fictional positioning. In Director stance, you out right declare new fictional positioning. As I define a proposition, it does not let you declare new fictional positioning, but only the intention to perform some action within the capabilities of your character. Declaring new fictional positioning, such as declaring that the guard is your friend Francis, is not a "proposition" but a "call". I call out that the hitherto unidentified guard is my friend Francis through some process of play, and then I propose that I greet him. I could then call out that Francis greets me warmly, but calling that Francis greets me warmly is not a proposition since it isn't about my own character's actions.

I don't understand how you can claim Pawn Stance has fiction authoring authority, or maybe I just don't understand what you mean by that. A proposition does let you author fiction, in that you adjust the fictional position by saying something like, "I strike the goblin with my sword", which then may result after a fortune test in the goblin's death, changing the fiction. But this is different than calling out that the goblin is crushed by a falling rock, which authors the fiction much more directly.

I personally feel that Director stance needs to be split into two different stances, one of which involves advancing player goals and another which involves advancing character goals. I don't think Director's are inherently interested in creating story, or that Director's inherently do create story (much less quality story). A Director Stance can be assumed for the same reason as a Pawn Stance, simply to "win".

UPDATE: The canonical definition of "Director Stance" is:

"The player determines aspects of the environment relative to the character in some fashion, entirely separately from the character's knowledge or ability to influence events. Therefore the player has not only determined the character's actions, but the context, timing, and spatial circumstances of those actions, or even features of the world separate from the characters."
Ah. I'm experiencing that rare moment when a misunderstanding corrected lessens your appreciation. Stance theory, with my now corrected understanding, is much less useful as a tool to analyze play. This is evidenced by the fact that i can play a game with some form of plot point mechanic entirely in pawn stance, except when I use the plot point I'm momentarily in director stance. This discards useful information about actual play motivations for a shallow description of where a move occurs -- within the character ir without.
 

Celebrim

Legend
Ah. I'm experiencing that rare moment when a misunderstanding corrected lessens your appreciation.
I had that experience with pretty much all of The Forge some years ago.

This discards useful information about actual play motivations for a shallow description of where a move occurs -- within the character ir without.
Stance does not directly address motivations for play. In theory GNS as a whole addresses motivations for play, but in my opinion has some huge holes in it. When I address motivations for play, I use the 'aesthetics of play' terminology. Stance only addresses the relationship of the player to the character. In pawn stance, the character is to the player only a playing piece, but the player could still have most any aesthetic of play, including narrative. Director differs only from pawn stance in that the player treats the entire fiction as if it was his character, and doesn't draw a line between the player character and the setting.

At The Forge, director was typically treated as if it was inherently the superior and more mature stance. I tend to treat it as if it was the least useful and least mature stance. After all, if you watch the play of a group of pre-schoolers, they are really only able to play in director stance. As the participants in that play mature, eventually the director stance becomes incapable of meeting their maturing aesthetics of play, and unless they evolve a more mature stance most of them will give up their game of make believe.

Now from the perspective of making Director work, yeah, it probably requires more skill than any other stance. I wouldn't really want to participate in a game that allowed director stance to players that wasn't composed entirely of participants sophisticated enough in their RP to successfully run an RPG as the GM. There is just two much that can go wrong with fiat call outs. I'm interested in playing more with a skilled group, but only because I want to find out whether anything can be achieved with Director that really can't be achieved in other stances. I'm hoping to have some time to go to a Con, but I don't have a lot of hope that a random group of convention players is high skill.

There is also a problem I have with the canonical definition of the Director stance in that unlike the other stances, it doesn't fully address the player's relationship to the character. It notes that there is a difference between the other stances and director in that the other three involve delimiting your character and in some fashion playing within the character with varying degrees of RP primacy, by contrast and Director doesn't do that but treats the whole imagined setting as something available for you to play, but to me you could make a Director stance call and be in any other stance.

For example, you manipulate the setting to meet your goal as a game participant, irrespective of any justification for it. You want the goblin dead, so rocks fall. This mirrors pawn stance where you offer propositions regardless of whether they make the slightest sense from the perspective of the character's knowledge, stated personality, or goals.

Or, you manipulate the setting to meet your goal as a game participant, but you try to put a color of verisimilitude or reasonableness to that manipulation. In other words, you beg for suspension of disbelief which mirrors how you play in Author stance.

Or, you make a call on the setting because you think it is highly realistic, even if in doing so you are potentially thwarting your own goals. For example, you might call that your character has become sick from ingesting polluted water because you legitimately think that is the sort of thing that should happen, and not because it helps you win or gives you some mechanical benefit or makes for a good story. This mirrors playing in Actor stance.

So it's possible Director isn't even a stance at all.
 

Chaosmancer

Explorer
Exposition is what happens in a narrative that is analogous to what happens in an RPG when there's a knowledge check.
Sort of? But, while dealing with different types of exposition is important in a novel I don't know what that has to do with players rolling knowledge checks in a DnD game.

I don't see the connection you are trying to draw here. It feels like talking about athletics checks and you mentioning how Nintendo designed Mario's jump. Yeah, they might be analogous, but it doesn't seem to apply to the discussion.


"I'm just not sure if there's a point in continuing this conversation... allow me to continue it."
Sorry, I try not to ignore people's points. So, I end up continuing to post and talk. But, I am tired of retreading the same ground over and over, so I'm going to skip.



Players can know whatever they want and establish that their characters think whatever they want. And to be clear, I do understand your claims. It's just that they are not derived from a reading of this game. There's simply no support in this game for your position. Which is not to say you shouldn't play that way. It's just a position that's better suited for a different game.
But you seem to think that "different game" is something like DnD 3.5 or ADnD, or ODnD... none of which had specific rules language about this either. But, the same rules and assumptions were used in later editions, while your style was expected in something like ODnD where player skill was paramount. Before things like arcana and religion were added to the game. These design principles stayed with the game though.


Regarding what I bolded above, NO, that is NOT what I am stating. Not only do you appear to conflate "thinking" and "knowing," but you seem to be conflating "action" with "check." I absolutely do not think that in order for the character to know something the player must make a check. Not even a little bit. In order to verify an assumption, the player describes what he or she wants to do to achieve that end. That may or may not involve a check. From the player's perspective, it is always better if it doesn't, provided they are shooting for automatic success.
Seriously? That required ALL CAPS. Yes, I am aware of your position on rolling the D20, actions, skills, goal and approach and all that. We've been discussing for over a month, you've mentioned it once or twice. But my statement seems to be good in terms of application. They must describe themselves calling upon their memories or education (which may or may not lead to an intelligence check using arcana proficiency) in order to change from "Well I think this" to "Well I know this".


The interesting thing to examine in my view is why you "feel like there should be a check." I submit it is because you learned this behavior from another game where that sort of thinking was more supported than in this game. Again, this isn't a problem on its own. Play how you want. But it's useful as I see it to understand why you choose to play that way so that you can perhaps understand the position of others who don't.
Why do you think that this idea is not supported in 5e? Just because it isn't stated in the rules? There are a lot of things not directly stated in game rules that still apply to those games. Especially in "roleplaying" games where one is supposed to enter into the "role" of someone else. In that case it is generally considered bad form to use knowledge your character would not have or use, since it would break the "role"


If I may, at this late juncture...

This argument is about something that's entirely downstream of the real issue, which isn't being address clearly enough (although [MENTION=97077]iserith[/MENTION] has touched on it repeatedly): what a character thinks is irrelevant to the game structure. The game let's players have the authority to declare actions for their characters. This is, really, the only authority players have outside of character build (creations and leveling). What a character thinks is just something the player establishes as color for the action declaration if they care to do so. So, of course the player has complete authority over what the character thinks, because the rule say that they player has complete authority over what the character tries to do. You cannot have the latter if you have restrictions on the former.

So, in the case of the thunderwave scrolls, the player has the authority to declare this action for their character. What the character is thinking here is color -- it's not important at all; the game doesn't care at all. If, however, the player wants information from the setting, then they can establish an action declaration for how their character is attempting to gain this information, which, presumably, the player will then use for future action declarations. Again, though, what the character is thinking is not part of this except as a emergent phenomenon of play.

Now, this is entirely anathema to a number of playstyle conceptualizations, but it is how this system is written. Anything that the players or GM wish to layer on top of the 5e system is up to them [MENTION=97077]iserith[/MENTION] has pounded this point home often), and more power to them. But, again, if you, as GM, are placing limits on what characters are allowed to think, the outcome is that you are declaring certain categories of action declaration as off-limits. Consider why you want to do this -- what does this gain you? I used to think that it was important to have such controls to encourage "roleplaying" in my players, but it turns out they're adult people that don't really need such external controls and I'm having much more fun not playing thought police with my players. It's also made me realize that if my game rests on the players pretending they don't know things, then I really need to step up my game. If I'm using Earth Elementals, for example, the players maybe knowing they're weak to thunder damage is the last thing I care about -- them knowing this will not, in any way, reduce any part of my game.
See, most players are adults who can handle things without any prompting. But not all players work on the same wavelength.

In fact, if I am unable to establish any limits, then nothing prevents one player from listing off the entire history of The Xanathar, ruining the potential discovery by players with no knowledge of that history.

Nothing prevents them from attempting to bring real world knowledge of physics or chemistry into a game where the other players do not want it.

It is my job as DM to make sure the story we are all building together is fun, interesting, and coherent. That may mean occasionally telling a player that they do not know the location of the Heart of Gith, which could end the war between the Githyanki and Githzerai. In fact, considering the player has never established any connection with the Outer Planes and grew up on a farm, I may wonder why they know about the history of the Gith and their war with the Mindflayers.

The player may be wanting to share their cool and shiny new knowledge because they read a new book, but it isn't something their character just immediately knows for no reason.


I would say that the assertion that an Int-8 character is "shortbus" needs some proof, given bounded accuracy. It sounds like some adjustments in perception or expectations is needed here.

If that doesn't work, the game does provide a way to address this via the PCs' personal characteristics. Just add a personality trait or flaw to the effect of "I'm about as smart as a bag of hammers and it shows..." then award Inspiration when the players portray that trait or flaw. It stands to reason that a player motivated enough to draw upon information in the Monster Manual to succeed might also be enticed to portray his or her character in a way that will net a further advantage.
Yeah, it will be great for them acting dumb on very rare occasions to get a single inspiration token that they can then use to ensure advantage on a roll when they decide to enact one of their "Devilishly clever plans".
 

Riley37

Visitor
Fair point.

...AND I think there’s a difference between denigrating someone’s playstyle and calling them out for rhetorical tricks.

But I could be gentler in doing so.
To be fair, you're not wrong about my use of parade-of-horribles. "I invent the musket! From scratch, in under a year!" is a classic cherry-picking example. It does not prove
that there are only two possible modes of play, one of them mature and the other immature. There are a LOT of mature options.

I spent last weekend at a gaming convention, playing in three games and observing a few others. No two of those games had exactly the same relationship between player initiative and PC initiative. None of them were immature, or at least not "fart noises and cheating dice" levels of immaturity.
 
Sort of? But, while dealing with different types of exposition is important in a novel I don't know what that has to do with players rolling knowledge checks in a DnD game. I don't see the connection you are trying to draw here. It feels like talking about athletics checks and you mentioning how Nintendo designed Mario's jump. Yeah, they might be analogous, but it doesn't seem to apply to the discussion.
My thoughts do go in strange directions, sometimes.

The point of exposition is to present the audience with information the characters have that they can't be expected to have. Players, like an audience, do not know everything their characters might or should know, especially when the DM is mak'n stuff up as he goes along (which is not exactly a bad way to run some RPGs). Sometimes the DM should obviously just present the players with that information directly, sometimes he can do it through an NPC, an inscription, or whatever. It's just like regular authorial exposition in those cases.

But, for whatever reason, we have mechanics available to test whether a PC has a specific bit of knowledge. If the PC passes the check *ding* he remembers/deduces something (and presumably relays it to his friends) in a fit of exposition.

Sticklers for continuity might also point out that exposition /establishes/ that the characters know something, at a certain time, and that informs what they do from then on, or that, contrarily, delaying exposition until after actions informed by it are complete is retconning. The same dissatisfaction such viewers might have with a retcon or twist like that, might be felt by a player or GM confronted with blatant use of 'player knowledge' to drive PC decisions.

I don't think it's a popular way of thinking about RPGs - usually it's realism/"verisimilitude" vs playability or the like - but I often think of RPGs as modeling a genre story, rather than imaginary characters in an imaginary setting that may or may not have a genre story happen to them in the course of play. So if there is a mechanic designed to impart character knowledge onto players, it should end up providing something like exposition in the narrative. Including doing so like /good/ exposition, that's not intrusive or pointless, and maybe even enjoyable.

...the rest of this is more me agreeing with you, if, again, maybe strangely so...

But you seem to think that "different game" is something like DnD 3.5 or ADnD, or ODnD...
Which is really a different version of the /same/ game. It's not unreasonable to expect some continuity from one ed to another - that was a major issue for some players with 4e, for example, and thus exactly the kind of thing 5e has tried to avoid. Yes, different prior eds handled skills differently from eachother, so 5e needed to be flexible enough in its handling - that is, the Empowered DM's handling - of skills, to let different past-ed styles port over more or less seamlessly. It's far from perfect, the DM can make it work.


Why do you think that this idea is not supported in 5e? Just because it isn't stated in the rules? There are a lot of things not directly stated in game rules that still apply to those games.
This is my sticking point, as well. The rules in 5e support a lot in the sense of giving the DM plenty of latitude, they don't close off much of the possible universe of play styles. They don't support much in the sense of forcing you to play one way. They definitely don't force anyone else to play iserth's way (even though it's a way that works really well with 5e, it's not the only way, and the rules don't prescribe or require it, nor do they proscribe other approaches).
 
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Fenris-77

Explorer
To be fair, you're not wrong about my use of parade-of-horribles. "I invent the musket! From scratch, in under a year!" is a classic cherry-picking example. It does not prove that there are only two possible modes of play, one of them mature and the other immature. There are a LOT of mature options.

I spent last weekend at a gaming convention, playing in three games and observing a few others. No two of those games had exactly the same relationship between player initiative and PC initiative. None of them were immature, or at least not "fart noises and cheating dice" levels of immaturity.
How about "I fire a magic missile into the darkness!" levels of immaturity? It's a step up from fart noises I think.
 

DM Dave1

Adventurer
How about "I fire a magic missile into the darkness!" levels of immaturity? It's a step up from fart noises I think.
Wasting a spell slot is a good learning experience at our table. Players need to read their spell descriptions carefully.
 

Riley37

Visitor
ODnD where player skill was paramount. Before things like arcana and religion were added to the game.
Cherry-picking example: in “White Plume Mountain”, there is a puzzle involving a series of numbers, and which of those are prime numbers. I pondered the numbers for maybe a second, then stated the correct answer. My PC, a Folk Hero paladin, was unaware of prime numbers (and possibly fuzzy on multiplication tables). White Plume Mountain was written with the assumption of Pawn Stance, so I played accordingly. (See also, this exchange between Mark Hamill and Harrison Ford during the filming of Star Wars. Hamill notices a continuity issue, and wants to fix it; Ford responds gruffly with “Hey, kid, it ain’t that kinda movie.”)

In that case it is generally considered bad form to use knowledge your character would not have or use, since it would break the "role"
When did that idea or value emerge? The idea that using my knowledge of prime numbers would be “bad form”? It wasn’t the guiding principle of that puzzle in White Plume Mountain.

D&D developed from putting a name to tokens on a miniatures battlefield: this is a Squad of Archers token, this is a Heroic Warrior token - hey, what if this Heroic Warrior was named Fritz? (Two rounds later: “They've killed Fritz! Those vermin!”) There’s a long, winding road from that level of characterization, to games such as Fiasco or Masks.

The player may be wanting to share their cool and shiny new knowledge because they read a new book, but it isn't something their character just immediately knows for no reason.
Thank you for naming that particular player motivation. We’ve discussed the player motivation of “I want an easy victory over earth elementals” as a reason for declaring that the barbarian buys scrolls. The motivation of *showing off lore* is different from power gaming, and therefore responses from the DM - and from fellow players - might differ accordingly. “Shut up, your PC doesn’t know that” might provoke an even worse outcome, when the motivation is impressing one’s fellow players. “I’m glad you enjoyed that book, but look around the table: do your fellow players want spoilers?” might be more effective. (That question cuts to the root of the problem, more directly than a discussion of who in the setting knows about the githyanki.)
 

Riley37

Visitor
"...and also roll a saving throw against that fireball for your equipment. Oh, right! You are carrying a small keg of gunpowder, aren't you....?"
As an aside, one of my less-favorite rules in 5E, is that the fireball cannot ignite the musketeer's keg if it's "worn or carried". Let's assume the musketeer has set the keg on the ground. THEN we can get the secondary explosion.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
But you seem to think that "different game" is something like DnD 3.5 or ADnD, or ODnD... none of which had specific rules language about this either. But, the same rules and assumptions were used in later editions, while your style was expected in something like ODnD where player skill was paramount. Before things like arcana and religion were added to the game. These design principles stayed with the game though.
As I think I mentioned, I'd characterize some of your positions and preferences as being rooted in D&D 3.Xe and/or D&D 4e. I think you've mentioned playing those games before, so this makes perfect sense. My "style" is based on the game system. You would notice my "style" changes when I run and play D&D 4e. Just like it changes when I run and play Dungeon World. That's my point here: I don't have one "style" that applies to multiple games. I don't think that's a good idea. My "style" is derived from the rules of the specific game I'm playing.

Seriously? That required ALL CAPS. Yes, I am aware of your position on rolling the D20, actions, skills, goal and approach and all that. We've been discussing for over a month, you've mentioned it once or twice. But my statement seems to be good in terms of application. They must describe themselves calling upon their memories or education (which may or may not lead to an intelligence check using arcana proficiency) in order to change from "Well I think this" to "Well I know this".
If you are aware of my position and then misstate it, then a reasonable conclusion is that you are doing so purposefully. After all, we've been discussing this for over a month and I've mentioned it once or twice, as you say. Yet there you are, misstating my position. What's the appropriate response to someone who knows what you're saying and then chooses to misstate it?

Why do you think that this idea is not supported in 5e? Just because it isn't stated in the rules?
Yes. Do you care that what you do is or isn't in the rules? If you do, why? If you don't, then good.

There are a lot of things not directly stated in game rules that still apply to those games. Especially in "roleplaying" games where one is supposed to enter into the "role" of someone else. In that case it is generally considered bad form to use knowledge your character would not have or use, since it would break the "role"
"Roleplaying" is defined in the D&D 5e rules. In that same section, it says the player determines how the character acts, thinks, and what it says. There is nothing in the game about it being "bad form to use knowledge your character would not have or use." That is something you got from another game or from your group's culture. At best, the section in the DMG on "metagame thinking" suggests you should think as your character might think so as to avoid dying needlessly or wasting valuable game time because of your bad assumptions. Any such prohibition on using "knowledge your character would not have" has to exist at the level of what the DMG calls "table rules," which vary by group.

Now, I'm pretty sure if we crack open a D&D 3.Xe PHB or DMG, it does support your position on this issue. So when playing that game without any table rules to the contrary, I'd play like you play. I can max out all my skill ranks in Knowledge skills and then ask to make checks to see if my subsequent action declarations will be seen as valid by the DM.

Yeah, it will be great for them acting dumb on very rare occasions to get a single inspiration token that they can then use to ensure advantage on a roll when they decide to enact one of their "Devilishly clever plans".
I agree, that would be pretty fun, which is why I suggested it.
 

Riley37

Visitor
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.
Indeed. In your scenario of the players choosing “let’s invent muskets!” as a campaign objective, and a DM interested in running that campaign, I’d recommend the following as background reading to the DM:
(1) Twain’s “A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court”. The protagonist succeeds - at some levels and to some extent, but not in all his goals. He’s got the hands-on experience, as a fire-arms factory foreman and he develops the in-setting time and resources to set up the necessary production chains.
(2) Piper’s “Lord Kalvan of Otherwhen”. Greater success, with different social commentary.
(3) Poul Anderson’s “The Man Who Came Early”, which demonstrates, as a counterpoint, ways in which such attempts could fail disastrously (with technologies other than gunpowder).
(4) Stephen Stirling’s “The Reformer” dives deep into many of the problems which one might face, along the way, including social (such as what happens when a jealous noble decides to thwart the upstart who's suddenly become so popular with the King).

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.
Yes. THAT is the core of the play style which I consider unskilled and immature, now that you've handed me a low-hanging, easily-skewered version. Anyways, I agree with you, that this is a problem which is not best solved by the DM responding "Your PC doesn't know that".
 
When did that idea or value emerge? The idea that using my knowledge of prime numbers would be “bad form”?
The idea that any "player knowledge" (and I recall people spitting it out like a curse, that way, back in the day) would be bad form was already familiar when I was still the annoying youngest kid at the table, c1981 (probably was in '80, too, but I was playing with other annoying kids my own age, and we hadn't a clue what we were doing).
Prettymuch as soon as people started thinking of it as a Role Playing Game rather than "Rules for Fantastic Medieval Wargames Campaigns Playable with Paper & Pencil & Miniature Figures." It was a 180 from the Gygaxian ideal of 'skilled play,' still apparently expected in the Tournaments of the day (of which I went to exactly one and found it awful, for the record), and quite popular with some groups, to this very day.

Of course, that was in one region, limited to the radius a kid's bicycle could reach.




Edit: Now that I think of it, the idea might have been broached in Out on a Limb, too, or in some TD editorial, around that time. Not at all certain.
 
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Riley37

Visitor
when I was still the annoying youngest kid at the table, c1981
In 1981 or 1982, at age 14 or so, I started a group using "The Fantasy Trip", in which PCs allocate stats, then choose skills up to the limit of their INT. When I handed off the role of DM, I wrote a PC with lots of INT, so that my PC could have all the major lore-related skills, and thus I could *in character* reasonably draw on my extensive knowledge of the setting. I named that PC "Loremaster Chester", riffing off a character in the Niven and Barnes novel "Dream Park". Chester wasn't particularly effective in combat, with neither high STR/DEX, nor spellcasting to make good use of high INT. It just seemed narratively necessary, since I was the only player who'd read the setting book (such as it was) (not that the next DM actually drew much on that book for lore).

So yeah, sometime between 1974 and 1981, a schism had developed (or was developing?) between gamers who preferred solving prime number puzzles in Pawn Stance, and gamers who preferred actor stance.
 

Celebrim

Legend
So yeah, sometime between 1974 and 1981, a schism had developed (or was developing?) between gamers who preferred solving prime number puzzles in Pawn Stance, and gamers who preferred actor stance.
It was a pretty early division. At the time, they wouldn't have used the terminology. They would have distinguished between games that described characters in terms of "what they can do" versus games that described characters in terms of "who they are". And very likely they would have described the problem with player knowledge as it being "unrealistic" because back then, everything that was a problem was perceived as a problem with a lack of "realism" and a game that enforced "realism" on the play and resolution was perceived as being the cure all for all problems - whether poor role-playing or table arguments or fun.

They probably had other terminology that I'm not familiar with, but there was definitely a schism between role-playing as played by the wargamers and role-playing as played by the thespians that developed early one.
 

Chaosmancer

Explorer
Cherry-picking example: in “White Plume Mountain”, there is a puzzle involving a series of numbers, and which of those are prime numbers. I pondered the numbers for maybe a second, then stated the correct answer. My PC, a Folk Hero paladin, was unaware of prime numbers (and possibly fuzzy on multiplication tables). White Plume Mountain was written with the assumption of Pawn Stance, so I played accordingly. (See also, this exchange between Mark Hamill and Harrison Ford during the filming of Star Wars. Hamill notices a continuity issue, and wants to fix it; Ford responds gruffly with “Hey, kid, it ain’t that kinda movie.”)

When did that idea or value emerge? The idea that using my knowledge of prime numbers would be “bad form”? It wasn’t the guiding principle of that puzzle in White Plume Mountain.

D&D developed from putting a name to tokens on a miniatures battlefield: this is a Squad of Archers token, this is a Heroic Warrior token - hey, what if this Heroic Warrior was named Fritz? (Two rounds later: “They've killed Fritz! Those vermin!”) There’s a long, winding road from that level of characterization, to games such as Fiasco or Masks.
You want to disprove my point, but you are actually proving it. White Plume Mountain is an old module, published in 1979 by TSR in an era where they expected player skill and knowledge to be highlighted and used. The same with The Tomb of Horrors, it is designed for the players to check everything and the characters are just the board pieces they are using to interact with the Tomb.

It has been forty years since then. The game has evolved, and this applies to trap design as much as it does to player interactions. We've been down the long, winding road, I don't understand why we what to pretend like modern DnD is the same as it used to be.

Thank you for naming that particular player motivation. We’ve discussed the player motivation of “I want an easy victory over earth elementals” as a reason for declaring that the barbarian buys scrolls. The motivation of *showing off lore* is different from power gaming, and therefore responses from the DM - and from fellow players - might differ accordingly. “Shut up, your PC doesn’t know that” might provoke an even worse outcome, when the motivation is impressing one’s fellow players. “I’m glad you enjoyed that book, but look around the table: do your fellow players want spoilers?” might be more effective. (That question cuts to the root of the problem, more directly than a discussion of who in the setting knows about the githyanki.)
Yes, you should always be polite and understand when talking to other people.

At least face to face, it gets harder and harder to do that over the internet. :p


As I think I mentioned, I'd characterize some of your positions and preferences as being rooted in D&D 3.Xe and/or D&D 4e. I think you've mentioned playing those games before, so this makes perfect sense. My "style" is based on the game system. You would notice my "style" changes when I run and play D&D 4e. Just like it changes when I run and play Dungeon World. That's my point here: I don't have one "style" that applies to multiple games. I don't think that's a good idea. My "style" is derived from the rules of the specific game I'm playing.
I've actually never played 3.5 beyond a single starter set adventure. Had the rulebooks and read them for a while, but no one ever wanted to play after that first game. We talked about playing, just never did.

Played 4e once and ran it once, and I've been playing 5e for years.

So, I guess I was just corrupted by the one game of 4e I played and it taught me all those 3.5 -isms that have rooted my games.


If you are aware of my position and then misstate it, then a reasonable conclusion is that you are doing so purposefully. After all, we've been discussing this for over a month and I've mentioned it once or twice, as you say. Yet there you are, misstating my position. What's the appropriate response to someone who knows what you're saying and then chooses to misstate it?
I'd hope you would understand that after reading pages and pages to catch up and then writing three to four pages worth of response on word to copy and paste back into ENworld that I might take the occasional shortcut in formulating a response. I mean, it is rather annoying to have to state things like "an intelligence check using Arcana Proficiency" instead of just saying "an Arcana check" and then having to remember to preface that with "a player will declare an action such as thinking back to their education as a wizard to recall the effect thunder magic has on earth elementals, then the DM will determine if there is a chance for success, a chance for failure, and a meaningful consequence for failure and then only after that might they call for a d20 to be rolled, which a player should try and avoid."

And doing that every single time UNLESS I WANT ALL CAPS FURY DIRECTED AT MISCHARACTERIZING YOUR POSITION.

It does get a little tedious after a month.


"Roleplaying" is defined in the D&D 5e rules. In that same section, it says the player determines how the character acts, thinks, and what it says. There is nothing in the game about it being "bad form to use knowledge your character would not have or use." That is something you got from another game or from your group's culture. At best, the section in the DMG on "metagame thinking" suggests you should think as your character might think so as to avoid dying needlessly or wasting valuable game time because of your bad assumptions. Any such prohibition on using "knowledge your character would not have" has to exist at the level of what the DMG calls "table rules," which vary by group.

Now, I'm pretty sure if we crack open a D&D 3.Xe PHB or DMG, it does support your position on this issue. So when playing that game without any table rules to the contrary, I'd play like you play. I can max out all my skill ranks in Knowledge skills and then ask to make checks to see if my subsequent action declarations will be seen as valid by the DM.
You know what, fine. Let me dust off that 3.5 PHB I buried.

Let us see here, pg 4 "The Core Mechanics: Whenever you attempt an action that has some chance of failure, you roll a twenty-sided die (d20). To determine if your character succeeds at a task (such as attacking a monster or using a skill), you do this:" It then lists out roll, add, check against DC and explains that meeting or beating the DC means you succeed and rolling below it means failing.

Maybe in this part on pg 5, What Characters Can Do "A character can try to do anything you can imagine, just as long as it fits the scene the DM describes. Depending on the situation your character might want to listen at a door, search an area, bargain with a shopkeeper, talk to an ally, jump across a pit, move, use an item, or attack an opponent. Characters accomplish tasks by making skill checks, ability checks, or attack rolls, using the core mechanic" This must be the rule you are looking for right? After all, it says character accomplish tasks and then give a list... though the first quote also says you only roll when there is a chance of failure. Hmm. I'll keep digging around.

The Player's Role? "As a player, you use this handbook to create and run a character. Your character is an adventurer, part of a team that regularly delves into dungeons and battles monsters. Play where everyone feels comfortable and there's a place to set ....[List of potential supplies]... and character sheets. The DM sets each scene and describes the action. It's your job to decide what your character is like, how he or she relates to the other adventurers, and act accordingly. You can play as... [another list, they loved listing different archetypes in this book]... With your character in mind, respond to each situation as it comes up. Sometimes combat is called for, but other situations might be solved through magic, negotiation, or judicious skill use."

Is this the rule that says players shouldn't use out of character knowledge in 3.5? It sounds like it, after all it is calling for players to play with their character in mind, to keep their character in mind when reacting. Of course, in 5e, there is an entire section of the book dedicated to player's backstories and personalities. So, while the rules never directly state you should keep your character in mind while responding to situations... it seems kind of heavily implied doesn't it? Your background and personality get their own chapter in 5e, while 3.5 they get a single paragraph each, with multiple pages written about the gods of greyhawk and the alignment system.

But, this isn't about personality, this is about using out-of-character knowledge. I doubt I'll find it in the races or classes section, so let us skip to skills. Surely if it is anywhere, it will be there right?

Well, what do you know, a whole sidebar about it. "It's pretty simple to measure a character's knowledge of things the player doesn't know. That's what a Knowledge skill check represents-for instance, the player of a character with many ranks in Knowledge (geography) isn't required to memorize all the geographical data about the campaign world to use his character's skill ranks. The opposite case, however, is harder to adjudicate cleanly. What happens when a player knows something that his or her character does not have any reason to know? For instance, while most veteran players know the black dragon breathes acid, it's entirely likely that most inexperienced characters don't know that fact. Generally speaking, it's impossible to separate completely your personal knowledge (also called player knowledge) from your character's knowledge. Ultimately, the decision on how (or if) to divide player knowledge from character knowledge must be made between the players and the DM. Some DMs encourage knowledgeable players to use their experience to help their character's succeed. Other prefer that characters display only the knowledge represented by their skill ranks and other game statistics. Most fall somewhere between those two extremes. If in doubt, ask your DM how he or she prefers to handle such situations. The Dungeon Master's Guide has more information on this topic."

So, I guess that is the final verdict. I was corrupted by the sidebar in the 3.5 PHB that said that is was up to the DM whether or not players should use out of character knowledge. Wait, no, I was probably lured in by homebrew table cultures of people in my area to think that using out of character knowledge was discouraged.

I mean, 3.5 said either way is fine, and 5e doesn't even talk about it at all except in that section where they talk to DMs about how they might want to handle this exact issue. The rules in these two games are just so entirely different, I'm shocked I got them so mixed up.
 

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