What is the worst "I don't know how my own abilities work" you've encountered in a game?

Fauchard1520

Explorer
In complex systems, rules confusions are bound to happen. Sometimes that's down to new player inexperience, sometimes it's laziness, and sometimes it's an honest mistake. In all cases, I generally find it hilarious in practice: case in point.

So how about it? What is the worst case of "not knowing how the mechanics work" you've encountered in a game?
 

Ralif Redhammer

Adventurer
Hands down, I can think of one player and incident. The PCs were climbing up a mountain, in search of some magic crystals. Mid-climb, they’re attacked by some Perytons. The 5th-ish level warlock tells me he casts Fly on the whole adventuring party of six.

This sort of thing would happen repeatedly. Pretty much any time that player did something other than eldritch blast, I had to double-check the spell or ability to be sure. Not only would he often be wrong, but he’d also strongly insist he was right.
 

blargney the second

blargney the minute's son
We've got a player who can not figure out 5e upcasting to save her life. Every single session, she'll cast something and it'll go like this: "I cast flaming sphere. Oh what's this at the bottom? Well I'm ninth level, so I guess the sphere does 8d6 damage now." She does that specific spell, just like that, almost every session.
 

lowkey13

I'm sorry, Dave. I'm afraid I can't do that.
I have a player, in my teens game, that loves playing fighters.

No matter how many times it has been explained .... that player does not, ever, remember to use Action Surge.
 

Flexor the Mighty!

18/100 Strength!
One of my players often forgets how to roll initiative, or what dice to use for pretty much any of this attacks. Between rounds his brain resets itself and he forgets basic game mechanics. I'd boot him, for that and other reasons, but his two brothers play too and it would start a real mess. Of course he is the player that pays the least attention to the game, and is fundamentally unable to make up a PC on his own. The rest of the group has to basically finish all his characters for him or they are 50% finished and that is as far as it will get.

And this is in Swords and Wizardry, which doesn't need much more than an index card for a character sheet. In 3e it was a nightmare. Other players had to pretty much tell him what to do round by round or he would never use any of his feats or abilities. 5e is pretty bad for him too. But he just plays the same PC over and over.

I keep hoping he picks up an art group on game night, then I won't have to hear an endless rant about politics which is the only thing he seems to truly apply himself to.
 

Blue

Orcus on a bad hair day
"Worst" case of not knowing the rules in terms of impacting play speed was trying to have one player run another player's paragon 4e character when they were out. The misunderstandings, retcons because "oh, that's how it works", and time spent were ridiculous. This happened on a regular basis in one game, where the character was still there (and needed) regardless if the player could make it. Not really too much of a player's fault, just so many individual powers to evaluate that were close but not the same.

Worst case in the players should know better is I've gamed with people who need to do the math every single time. A melee combatant that needed to redo the to-hit and damage math every roll, even on the second roll of an attack sequence. Or those that can't get the listed on the character sheet skill bonuses correct. They try to refigure them each time, use the Save instead of the Ability mod (which may already include proficiency), etc.

Players regularly forget rules that don't come up very often - like only restoring half your HD on a long rest. Or disadvantage on Stealth from some types of armor.

Though the most common one is no one playing a caster ever, ever seems to remember to roll for Concentration, including the DM. I am in two campaigns with heavy overlap in players, and I swear that I am the only one in that group to ever, ever roll it when taking damage. And even an AL-type game I was in it was mostly forgotten.
 
I guess the worst part is someone who has access to the book and refuses to even crack the book to bother looking it up between turns, and then has the gall to ask you.
 
Storyteller: "If you kill her, you'll have to make a Humanity check."
Player: "What's that?"
Other Player: "You roll to see if you still feel remorse about it..."
Player: "Oh, so I want to fail it then!"
 

MGibster

Adventurer
I've been running various Savage Worlds campaigns for the last few years and I have one player who still asks me, "Do I roll the Wild die with this?" We've been using these rules for years and he still doesn't know the basics.
 
I

Immortal Sun

Guest
I once played with a guy who every session would need to be reminded which die he needed to roll to attack. This was 5E FYI. The first session? No biggie. Second? Understandable. By about the 10th session he was still asking what die he needed to roll to hit, what die his weapon used (he was a fighter BTW) and so on. By this point the group quite literally would have let him roll any die and just made up the result to get on with things.

We did eventually kick the guy from the group, but since we played publicly, he's still just wander around begging to get back into the group. It was one of the reasons we moved to a private play space.
 

hawkeyefan

Explorer
One of the players in my 5e game cannot grasp the difference between Action Surge and Second Wind, and has no idea how often he can use whichever he’s trying to use, or what kind of action it requires. He just can’t get it. We’ve been using these characters since the launch of 5e, and they’re level 12, and he’s been playing RPGs for about 30 years.

I attribute a lot of it to what we can “editionitis”; most of his gaming experience is with the different iterations of D&D, so the subtlechanges from edition to edition just confound him. We all get that from time to time, but he has it the worst.
 

Fauchard1520

Explorer
I attribute a lot of it to what we can “editionitis”; most of his gaming experience is with the different iterations of D&D, so the subtlechanges from edition to edition just confound him. We all get that from time to time, but he has it the worst.
Serious, not-trying-to-be-glib question: has he read the book?

For me, trying to pick up a new game by playing it only goes so far. If I ever want to wrap my head around mechanics fully, I've got to actually muddle my way through the combat chapter at least.
 

hawkeyefan

Explorer
Serious, not-trying-to-be-glib question: has he read the book?

For me, trying to pick up a new game by playing it only goes so far. If I ever want to wrap my head around mechanics fully, I've got to actually muddle my way through the combat chapter at least.
No worries....it’s a good question! I assume he has. He has 2 copies of his own and I’ve seen him thumb through it plenty during play. He’s read most of the Champion Fighter abilities out loud during play (most more than once)!

I honestly think it’s just that he can’t shake rules from past editions. He always references 5 foot steps and flanking and full attacks. Also, he intentionally made a simple character and I think that’s left him less actively engaged than other players.
 

aramis erak

Explorer
Had a player who couldn't figure out how to track how many spell slots she had for her cleric. 4 different people had explained it - and failed to teach her.

So, I made a sheet for her...

"All boxes with your level or less get a chit when you recover spells. When you cast a spell, take off a chit, and cast it at the SL of the line the chit came from.
SL1: [ 1][ 1][ 2][ 4][10]
SL2: [ 3][ 3][ 4]
SL3: [ 5][ 5][ 6]
SL4: [ 7][ 8][ 9]
SL5: [ 9][10][18]
SL6: [11][19]
SL7: [13][20]
SL8: [15]
SL9: [17]"

That solved her issue. And she rapidly became much meaner to my monsters. :)
 

ClaytonStine

Villager
I had a player in Pathfinder who never bothered to learn his cleric abilities but loved using SRDs. In other words, he played every subclass ever made (official, 3rd party, homebrew) and routinely pulled names and phrases from them to say what he was doing. Which no one including myself knew. Then, when he had to know something like preparing spells or healing, he was at a loss and had to be explained how the default cleric worked.
 

Ancalagon

Dusty Dragon
I've been in a game where the bard never used her 3rd level spells because she didn't know she had them. This was not a new character.

So we cleared that up... didn't change anything.
 

Sword of Spirit

Adventurer
As a DM, I get unreasonably frustrated when players don't seem to remember their characters' basic abilities. Second Wind and Action Surge for fighters is a common theme I've seen for most first time 5e fighter players for some reason. I mean, they're the only actively used features a 1st-2nd level fighter has--how can you not remember them? Does you not like kEwL pOwErZ? Our bard also had a really hard time remembering Cutting Words. I literally wrote "Cutting Words" in big red letters on the background of the virtual tabletop for a while to help him start remembering (and it did). That player is highly proficient in D&D; I think it just got into a bad sector in his brain's hard drive.

My main frustration is because, as the DM I remember that they have these abilities*...plus I'm keeping track of a bunch of NPCs, monsters, etc. It seems like a small thing to ask for them to know just their own character's capabilities.

But, although I get frustrated, I'll generally bend over backwards to try to help them remember it. I've created what I call action-oriented character sheets, where I list any particular abilities they need to know that they have in categories such as Actions, Bonus Actions, Free Actions, Reactions, Passive Defense (and I think I might include a Passive Offense for some things). I include a brief description (usually enough to not need to look it up) with how often it recharges, or whether it takes some sort of resource, etc. I do think that helps people out.


*Okay, I don't have them all memorized, and I'm very pleased when a player remembers to invoke some feature they have that I don't remember. And, to be fair, I forgot the player had Cutting Words a lot of the time too.
 

MNblockhead

A Title Much Cooler Than Anything on the Old Site
I guess the worst part is someone who has access to the book and refuses to even crack the book to bother looking it up between turns, and then has the gall to ask you.
And, worse than that, when you give your players access to all of D&D Beyond by inviting them to your campaign in D&D Beyond, so they can easily pull up or search for rules...and they expect the DM to do it.
 

Flexor the Mighty!

18/100 Strength!
Had a player who couldn't figure out how to track how many spell slots she had for her cleric. 4 different people had explained it - and failed to teach her.

So, I made a sheet for her...

"All boxes with your level or less get a chit when you recover spells. When you cast a spell, take off a chit, and cast it at the SL of the line the chit came from.
SL1: [ 1][ 1][ 2][ 4][10]
SL2: [ 3][ 3][ 4]
SL3: [ 5][ 5][ 6]
SL4: [ 7][ 8][ 9]
SL5: [ 9][10][18]
SL6: [11][19]
SL7: [13][20]
SL8: [15]
SL9: [17]"

That solved her issue. And she rapidly became much meaner to my monsters. :)
That reminds of my clueless player and how the other guys would make up a "hot sheet" for him with all his stuff, which in the end was just as confusing to him as the character sheet. :lol:
 

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