Who Knows Better, a Player or Their Character?

Physical stats in RPGs are usually handled by rolls of the dice, but how to handle mental challenges without biasing against a player or their character?

PC.jpg

Picture courtesy of Pixabay.

The "C" in "PC"

In Dungeons & Dragons, players take on a role for their character. Because tabletop games aren't live action role-playing games (LARPs), physical abilities are handled with ability scores and die rolls. A player doesn't have to do a flip if they want their character to jump over a chair, for example. So feats of strength, of agility, and overall health are relegated to a game abstraction that lets players control characters who may look nothing like them. This is particularly important in playing characters that are more alien from a standard humanoid.

But things get complicated with the mental attributes: Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma. How smart, wise, or charismatic a character can be depends on a combination of both die rolls and how the character is role-played. It's may be easier to play down than up in this case: playing a dumber character is feasible while playing a smarter character (smarter than the player, that is) requires some help with die rolls.

If the massive thread in Corone's article about how video games affect role-playing is any indication, there's quite a bit of variance in how groups approach this dichotomy. And some of that has to do with the game's level of abstraction.

Just How Abstract Are You?

Some players may reference their character in third person ("Talien tries to intimidate the barkeep") while other players may role-play the experience out ("Listen bub, if you don't do what I say you'll be mopping up more than beer"). Most groups probably shift between the two, with a player role-playing their character's efforts and then the dice determining success.

The abstraction challenge happens when these two are wildly out of sync. When a player role-plays exceptionally well, should he be required to still roll to see if their check succeeds? Or maybe just a check with advantage? Conversely, should a player who role-plays poorly be penalized because they're not as charismatic as their character?

Tabletop role-playing games have a tantalizing promise that anyone can be whatever they want, but the reality is that complex characters that are markedly different from their players are harder to play, from both a role-playing and abstraction perspective.

All this comes to a head in a staple of dungeon crawling: riddles and puzzles.

Who Knows What?

I've previously mentioned how there's a lot game masters can learn from escape rooms. GMs have always drawn on a variety of sources for their in-game challenges. Thanks to the increase popularity of escape rooms, there's been an explosion of riddles and puzzles. But there are limits.

Escape rooms put players in a physical role without a lot of expectations that the player will role-play it. It's expected the player brings all their skills to the game to the succeed, and by working together as a group any flaws one member may have are offset by the talents of other team members. This is why escape rooms are often used for team building purposes.

But since the player isn't playing a role, their physical and mental capabilities are no different from their daily life. No player will play poorly because they're playing a character who isn't good at puzzles, for example. Not so in tabletop RPGs, where playing better or worse than "you" is part of role-play.

This becomes problematic with thinking games, where the push-and-pull between a player's brain and their character's brain might be at odds. Should a player not mention the answer to a riddle because the character wouldn't know it? Should a character be able to tell their player somehow what the answer is?

My Solution

When it comes to any puzzles, I've learned that there's a fine line between enforcing role-play (thereby staying true to the character's mindset) and having fun (thereby giving the player agency in the game). To that end, I pose riddles and challenges and then use skill checks, with a target number giving hints. The higher the roll over the target number, the more hints the character gives their player.

In my current online D&D game, players are participants in a game show. There are five categories with gold prizes ranging from 10 to 1,000: arcana, history, nature, medicine, and religion. The easiest questions have a base DC of 5, while the hardest have a base DC of 14. The answer determines how many letters the character automatically guesses, increasing the DC by the number of letters, with the player left to puzzle out the answer from there.

For example, a 100 gold piece arcana question of "what powers the mechanical automatons guarding the keygnome front gate?" with an answer of "clockworks" and a DC of 5 (categorized as an easy question that I think the player might guess anyway) would have a "solve" DC of 15. Players roll an arcana check for their character: a 15 or higher solves the puzzle, while a 10 would just give the word "clock" and the player could potentially puzzle it out from there. For characters who are well-versed in a topic (e.g., druids for nature, clerics for religion) I give them advantage on the check. I also try to make the questions relevant to the game, rewarding players who are paying attention to our in-game fiction.

What this does let players still feel their character is confident in their knowledge, while ensuring their players aren't passive participants. There's still a roll to determine the answer, and a bad or good roll can make the puzzle easier or harder. I also still have the ability to tweak how hard the riddle is by changing the DC as needed. Some puzzles may have longer letter counts but be easier to guess.

It doesn't have to be just letters. When figuring out colors, shapes, or any other aspect of a puzzle, rolling high enough could provide hints that solve some but not all of it -- just enough to let the player feel like they're making progress but not so much that the character automatically solves everything and there's nothing for their player to do. Conversely, the goal is to make players who are not nature or arcana experts still feel like their character is competent enough to know things the player doesn't.

I developed this methodology in 5E Quest: Mastherik Manor, but the streamlined version I'm using in 5E Quest: Clockwork Carillon has led to a much faster and engaging game. My players are enjoying it so far!

Your Turn: How do you manage player vs. in character knowledge when using puzzles or riddles?
 

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Michael Tresca

Michael Tresca

aco175

Legend

My Solution

When it comes to any puzzles, I've learned that there's a fine line between enforcing role-play (thereby staying true to the character's mindset) and having fun (thereby giving the player agency in the game). To that end, I pose riddles and challenges and then use skill checks, with a target number giving hints. The higher the roll over the target number, the more hints the character gives their player.
I tend to have a hint or two that I hold for if the players asks for a roll. I find that some players like puzzles and others hate them- sort of like roleplay. I'll give a few minutes and eventually someone will ask if they can roll. There may also be a couple skills that I would allow but may change the DC depending on the skill.

There seems to be a lot of the interaction that is not structured and created with the DM/players going back and forth on the spot. One player may be close to solving the problem and another asks to roll Arcana to help. I may have been thinking History, but ask why Arcana. If I like the answer, I'll say ok, and roll as I'm thinking of a DC 1-5 higher than the History generally.
 

DEFCON 1

Legend
Supporter
If I put a puzzle into the game, it is there merely to vary up gameplay for the players-- give them some new type of challenge rather than the same set of typical D&D challenges the game presents-- combat scenes, tracking, finding your way through confusing mazes, speaking to important people etc. I know full well that the puzzle (or any kind of mental deduction exercise) is there for the player's benefits and action and not just the characters themselves. Because anything that isn't just the board game of rolling dice (as you spoke on) is testing the players' intellect and insight because they're the ones who are actually doing the work to figure out the answers. And thus I do not really care if they attempt to "roleplay" a 10 INT character versus a 14 INT character versus an 18 INT character while solving puzzles. To me trying to enforce that sort of meta knowledge of what they characters may or may not be able to actually figure out is a waste of my time. Especially considering that if we were to incorporate the dice rolling of the board game into determining whether a character could or could not solve a puzzle... the full range of 20 points from the d20 die roll more than makes up for the 1-6 points of difference the various INT modifiers would give.

You can't state a puzzle would be okay to be solved by the 18 INT character but that the 8 INT character shouldn't get to participate... when that supposedly much-less-intelligent 8 INT character can still hit a 19 on an INT check with a Nat 20 and thus beat that 18 INT character on any check when the 18 INT character rolls a 1 to 13. So even when the board game's dice rolls are brought into it... mechanically there is no justification for not allowing the player of the 8 INT character to participate in puzzle solving in my opinion.
 
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payn

Legend
I do like puzzles the players have to figure out. However, I am quite well aware of the old school days when it was players figure it out or the game grinds to a halt and/or the characters die. So, I have switched to using the kind of riddle puzzles of skill play to block optional hidden passages that might help the PCs or give them some neat treasure but are not essential to moving on in the game.

I mostly use the advice in the OP about the escape rooms. You need to put together a series of items to operate machinery to open a passage, or complete a map to figure out where to go. Searching and collecting the items is the adventure but you don't have to solve complex puzzles as PC/player to do it.
 

jgsugden

Legend
I'm a firm believer that a player should play as their character, and not use their own intellect. Here is how I go about it resolving this challenge in my games.

Player better than PC: If the player is more intelligent, wise, or charismatic than their PC, and the player has their PC do something out of line with their attributes, I ask the player to roll an appropriate roll with a DC that I set. If they beat the DC, then we figure out how their PC came up and executed the approach. If, however, they fail, I ask the other players to make similar rolls for their PC and if any of them beat the DC, I say something like, "Now, Grog may not have been smart enough to come up with that solution, but Keyleth was."

PC better than player: If the player is not on the same level as their PC, I'll ask the player to "Roll a d20 ability check". I won't tell them what ability they're using, or why we're rolling, but if the score high enough, I'll drop bread crumbs in their lap to guide them to the answer.

Intelligence is not knowledge: The intelligence of a PC is a measure of their ability, not a measure of their memorization. It measures mental acuity, accuracy of recall and the ability to reason. Accuracy of recall or ability to recall is not knowledge. It is the ability to access the knowledge to which you've been exposed.

I determine what a PC has been exposed to based upon their background, experiences in game, etc... Then, when they make an intelligence based role, it is a role to determine whether they are able to recall that informtation to which they've been exposed. The DC is set based upon how hard it would be to recall the information for that PC, which is going to be a factor of several things, including whether it is subject matter that they care about or whether it was a piece of trivia that would not really appeal to them. This is a DM judgement call, but it tends to lean in favorof the PCs.

The DC to remember anything significant that has taken place within the game is 10. If they're not rushed, it is automatic unless the PC has an intelligence of 7 or lower (as when a PC is not rushed I allow passive intelligence checks to be a floor for the roll). The DC to remember things that seems to be less significant when encountered rises up to 20 depending upon how trivial it would have beenat the time encountered.

In my setting, there is a book that is widely available and it covers lore on all the monsters in the Monster Manual, all the magic items in the DMG, and all the spells in the PHB. It is not an instruction book, but it is descriptive as to how these most well known magics and monsters work. If a PC is a spellcaster or is trained in any intelligence based skill, I assume they have read it closely and thus the DCs related to it are pretty low because they have reason to learn about these things if they plan to adventure (or are adventuring).

Puzzles are in game: A lot of my puzzles are built into the game. What I mean by this is that you need in game knowledge or in game observations to solve them. This prevents a player from solving the puzzle that is laid out for the PCs by themselves.

For example, if I give the PCs a riddle, I usually do not give the players a riddle. Instead, I describe the riddle to the players and tell them that this is not something the players would be able to solve, but the characters could using their in game capabilities. For example, "The Sphinx leans forward with a grin that shows both confidence, and curiosity. You have a moment to cast a spell such as guidance or enhance ability. Then is speaks the riddle. It tells you a story of a young boy that fishes in the same spot every day for 40 years, and each day he catches the exact same number of fish, of the exact same size, and at the exact same time of day. He describes the boy, the fishes, the beah upon which he fishes, and all of the tools the boy uses in very fine detail. At the end, the Sphinx asks you, 'Now - what will the boy do with his life?' You sense the answer is not a fisherman - that there is something about the story that has a hidden meaning for those with the right view. Everyone roll a d20 ability check. Sam and Liam, roll with advantage." After determining that Sam has beat the DC for the riddle, I pass him a card that explains that the beach and repetition are references to the Hourglass of Cyndor, the Oeridian god of Time, and that the 40 years of repetion refer to the rites to become a priest of Cyndor. Thus the boy must be studying to be a priest of Cyndor. Then I let him answer the riddle in character. If someone tolls particularly bad, I'll also have a card prepared with a wrong answer and tell them they feel confident in their answer to give them a chance to role play their perspective.

I can do similar things with physical puzzles. The key is to keep some elements of the puzzle dependent upon 'in game' knowledge.

However, I will say that I sometimes toss in puzzles where the players, using their real world knowledg, can solve it. These generally are not going to be a 'huge story element', and if a PC with a low ability score solves it, I use the technique listed above in the player better than PC area.
 


GMMichael

Guide of Modos
In my current online D&D game, players are participants in a game show. There are five categories with gold prizes ranging from 10 to 1,000. . .
I'll take famous titles for 500!
sean connery snl GIF by Saturday Night Live


Your Turn: How do you manage player vs. in character knowledge when using puzzles or riddles?
"Can I roll for the answer" is not a player option. It's quite possible for a genius to over-think an answer. Players of smart characters are very much entitied to clues, though.

If a player uses player-knowledge to solve a puzzle, it could just be dumb luck on the character's part. More likely, though, is that after using player-knowledge, the PC finds that the outcome is not what the PC had hoped for :devil:
 

overgeeked

B/X Known World
Policing the players and how they play their characters is a losing proposition. Brilliant characters can be completely distracted with how awesome they think they are and barely-sentient jello molds can have flashes of insight.

The solution is to roll your stats and play ’em where they land as best you can.
 

talien

Community Supporter
I tend to have a hint or two that I hold for if the players asks for a roll. I find that some players like puzzles and others hate them- sort of like roleplay. I'll give a few minutes and eventually someone will ask if they can roll. There may also be a couple skills that I would allow but may change the DC depending on the skill.

There seems to be a lot of the interaction that is not structured and created with the DM/players going back and forth on the spot. One player may be close to solving the problem and another asks to roll Arcana to help. I may have been thinking History, but ask why Arcana. If I like the answer, I'll say ok, and roll as I'm thinking of a DC 1-5 higher than the History generally.
It's fascinating because some of this has to do with how players join a game. A convention could possibly be random, but if it's a friend group or acquaintances there may be a bias for role-play (or against it) depending on the group's preferences.

In my group, three players enjoy role-play and three are there to kill things and take their stuff. The non-role-players will still play in character, but they're not nearly as eager to engage with NPCs.

From an adventure design standpoint, the question is how do you keep both groups engaged at the same time? I think the compromise you came up with makes sense, and in some ways it's tailored to each individual player (and their character).
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
Your Turn: How do you manage player vs. in character knowledge when using puzzles or riddles?
I present the challenge. The players describe what they want to do. I describe the results of the adventurers' actions, sometimes calling for a roll. Same as anything else.

If a player chooses to portray their character according to their personal characteristics - personality traits, ideal, bond, flaw - then that may be worth Inspiration. Someone with an Int 8 may choose to have "Sometimes I'm dumber than a box of hammers" as a trait or flaw. When they then portray struggling with a riddle, they can be rewarded for doing so. What I'd never do is say "Nope, your Int 8 character wouldn't think or do that." That's not for me as DM to decide. Players decide what their characters think and do.
 

HammerMan

Legend
my tables have long leaned on Character skill not Player skill.

SOmetimes this means someone gets the right answer or makes the perfect argument then roll a 4 on an untrained Int or Cha check and it doesn't work, but then someone else makes a dumb idea and/or a really bad argument backed by a 24 skill check and it works.

I still assume somethings are just impossible (no jumping to the moon, no you can't convince the king to give you his kingdom) but once you start into possible things you need things on your sheet and in the game to do them.

Years ago we had problems doing the reverse, and found people dump stating Cha because they could "just talk around it" I found it funny because some of the smartest more charismatic characters in 2e and early 3e had 8-11 in those stats cause they didn't need them.

I also assume there are things you can 'just do' no roll required if you have a moderate level of in game knowledge. Any time a DC (yes including saves, yes even attack rolls vs AC, yes what every you are thinking) is 10 or less and you are trained you auto succeed, but you might roll to see how well you do. (and yes that means bards with + 1/2 prof to everything make every DC10 or lower check ever)

Over the years I have found that people that want to play smart characters (we used to play with an engineer) had to choose to either put stats/points/profs in things, or just advise other players that did with ideas. Mean while kids and shy people and ones that barely understand a lever can choose to play smart characters. (the same way people who are clumbsy get to play dex characters)

The harder end (but it did work before we stopped with 3e) was the good talkers... the real life salesmen, the charismatic players had a hard time with "Okay, I love it, sounds great, roll to see how well your character gets that across" followed by a few early complaints... but it is going smoothly now.
 

Voadam

Legend
For me as a DM, I care more about immersive roleplay than stats on a sheet. I want my players to play their concepts of their characters in the moments, and have the other players and me as DM react to their portrayals. I want players to roleplay whatever concept they want, not work towards the concepts of their stats.

I think of the roleplay concepts though as how they approach things, not whether they are successful or not. So a Sherlock Holmes concept I expect the player to look for clues and think things through and try to solve things, not that they will solve things at a glance when they come up.

I am not interested in playing contrary to people's portrayals, so if a high charisma, high persuasion character is played as abrasive and crude, I have no interest in playing NPCs reacting as if they were suave. I am more likely to react as I feel the NPC would to the actual roleplay that happens.

I think stats should support the mechanical character build but that most any roleplay concept should work with most any mechanical stat build.

I am fine with high int characters acting dumb or low stat int builds (like a tank fighter) played intelligently.

I generally trust players to roleplay in character knowledge versus out of character knowledge.

If I have puzzles or mysteries they are there to be interacted with. I try to be fine with players not figuring things out. If someone is playing a beer and pretzels joy of combat concept who will ignore most of the talking and puzzles that is fine. If someone wants to focus on the puzzles and intrigue fine. If someone focuses on the intrigue and puzzles but does not solve them, fine. The game will go on.

I try to have rolls be for more abstract less immediate things like downtime activities or skill challenges where the players describe an approach. I might call for rolls if they are trying to figure something out over time without going through each step of the process. I have run a bunch of games though where figuring things out is the plot and so we go scene to scene with roleplaying and the players come up with their own theories on the mysteries as things develop.

I like 5e's flexibility in DM adjudication, it allows me to RAW adjudicate everything according to my preferred style and to switch from one system of adjudication to another and to ignore the styles of adjudication I do not prefer. I also like that when I call for skill rolls the bounded accuracy means that it is much less a matter of specific character build than things were under the 3e d20 skill system. I am also a big fan of backgrounds as both a good conceptual hook and providing two non-class skills to every PC in 5e.
 
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Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
Physical stats in RPGs are usually handled by rolls of the dice, but how to handle mental challenges without biasing against a player or their character?


The "C" in "PC"

In Dungeons & Dragons, players take on a role for their character. Because tabletop games aren't live action role-playing games (LARPs), physical abilities are handled with ability scores and die rolls. A player doesn't have to do a flip if they want their character to jump over a chair, for example. So feats of strength, of agility, and overall health are relegated to a game abstraction that lets players control characters who may look nothing like them. This is particularly important in playing characters that are more alien from a standard humanoid.

But things get complicated with the mental attributes: Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma. How smart, wise, or charismatic a character can be depends on a combination of both die rolls and how the character is role-played. It's may be easier to play down than up in this case: playing a dumber character is feasible while playing a smarter character (smarter than the player, that is) requires some help with die rolls.

If the massive thread in Corone's article about how video games affect role-playing is any indication, there's quite a bit of variance in how groups approach this dichotomy. And some of that has to do with the game's level of abstraction.

Just How Abstract Are You?

Some players may reference their character in third person ("Talien tries to intimidate the barkeep") while other players may role-play the experience out ("Listen bub, if you don't do what I say you'll be mopping up more than beer"). Most groups probably shift between the two, with a player role-playing their character's efforts and then the dice determining success.

The abstraction challenge happens when these two are wildly out of sync. When a player role-plays exceptionally well, should he be required to still roll to see if their check succeeds? Or maybe just a check with advantage? Conversely, should a player who role-plays poorly be penalized because they're not as charismatic as their character?

Tabletop role-playing games have a tantalizing promise that anyone can be whatever they want, but the reality is that complex characters that are markedly different from their players are harder to play, from both a role-playing and abstraction perspective.

All this comes to a head in a staple of dungeon crawling: riddles and puzzles.

Who Knows What?

I've previously mentioned how there's a lot game masters can learn from escape rooms. GMs have always drawn on a variety of sources for their in-game challenges. Thanks to the increase popularity of escape rooms, there's been an explosion of riddles and puzzles. But there are limits.

Escape rooms put players in a physical role without a lot of expectations that the player will role-play it. It's expected the player brings all their skills to the game to the succeed, and by working together as a group any flaws one member may have are offset by the talents of other team members. This is why escape rooms are often used for team building purposes.

But since the player isn't playing a role, their physical and mental capabilities are no different from their daily life. No player will play poorly because they're playing a character who isn't good at puzzles, for example. Not so in tabletop RPGs, where playing better or worse than "you" is part of role-play.

This becomes problematic with thinking games, where the push-and-pull between a player's brain and their character's brain might be at odds. Should a player not mention the answer to a riddle because the character wouldn't know it? Should a character be able to tell their player somehow what the answer is?

My Solution

When it comes to any puzzles, I've learned that there's a fine line between enforcing role-play (thereby staying true to the character's mindset) and having fun (thereby giving the player agency in the game). To that end, I pose riddles and challenges and then use skill checks, with a target number giving hints. The higher the roll over the target number, the more hints the character gives their player.

In my current online D&D game, players are participants in a game show. There are five categories with gold prizes ranging from 10 to 1,000: arcana, history, nature, medicine, and religion. The easiest questions have a base DC of 5, while the hardest have a base DC of 14. The answer determines how many letters the character automatically guesses, increasing the DC by the number of letters, with the player left to puzzle out the answer from there.

For example, a 100 gold piece arcana question of "what powers the mechanical automatons guarding the keygnome front gate?" with an answer of "clockworks" and a DC of 5 (categorized as an easy question that I think the player might guess anyway) would have a "solve" DC of 15. Players roll an arcana check for their character: a 15 or higher solves the puzzle, while a 10 would just give the word "clock" and the player could potentially puzzle it out from there. For characters who are well-versed in a topic (e.g., druids for nature, clerics for religion) I give them advantage on the check. I also try to make the questions relevant to the game, rewarding players who are paying attention to our in-game fiction.

What this does let players still feel their character is confident in their knowledge, while ensuring their players aren't passive participants. There's still a roll to determine the answer, and a bad or good roll can make the puzzle easier or harder. I also still have the ability to tweak how hard the riddle is by changing the DC as needed. Some puzzles may have longer letter counts but be easier to guess.

It doesn't have to be just letters. When figuring out colors, shapes, or any other aspect of a puzzle, rolling high enough could provide hints that solve some but not all of it -- just enough to let the player feel like they're making progress but not so much that the character automatically solves everything and there's nothing for their player to do. Conversely, the goal is to make players who are not nature or arcana experts still feel like their character is competent enough to know things the player doesn't.

I developed this methodology in 5E Quest: Mastherik Manor, but the streamlined version I'm using in 5E Quest: Clockwork Carillon has led to a much faster and engaging game. My players are enjoying it so far!

Your Turn: How do you manage player vs. in character knowledge when using puzzles or riddles?
Two issues:

1) you confuse roleplaying with playacting. Speaking in 3rd person about your character can be very deep roleplaying. Acting in character is orthogonal to roleplaying -- it's an associated activity that isn't required. I'm currently playing a character that I don't personally identify with, so I'm avoiding 1st person. However, I can understand and play to the motivations the character has, so my play of the character is absolutely roleplaying.

2) misalignment challenges -- you start by presenting puzzles and riddles and asking how to deal with these regarding players or characters. This is just a misalignment of challenge -- if you have a concrete puzzle or riddle, this will only every be a challenge for the players. You can bolt on some rolls for hints, but you're still centering this challenge at the player and not the character. Puzzles and riddles have to be abstract to be a challenge to characters. But this I mean that not only the answer but the questions are not specified but rather resolved through play. This way, the actions the characters take and the resolution of those action drives the challenge to completion without having to work the cognitive dissonance of player-oriented challenges in.

That said, I find 5e doesn't have much support for this kind of play because it's ability check system is largely based on distinct actions and not content generation/modification. As such, my solution for the OP question is to avoid having riddles or puzzles be a part of my 5e games and when they show up, acknowledge that they are player challenges and go from there.
 

HammerMan

Legend
For me as a DM, I care more about immersive roleplay than stats on a sheet. I want my players to play their concepts of their characters in the moments, and have the other players and me as DM react to their portrayals. I want players to roleplay whatever concept they want, not work towards the concepts of their stats.

I think of the roleplay concepts though as how they approach things, not whether they are successful or not. So a Sherlock Holmes concept I expect the player to look for clues and think things through and try to solve things, not that they will solve things at a glance when they come up.
okay, but if they find the clues and can't figure out your puzzel can having a high Int and Keen Mind feat help?
I am not interested in playing contrary to people's portrayals, so if a high charisma, high persuasion character is played as abrasive and crude, I have no interest in playing NPCs reacting as if they were suave. I am more likely to react as I feel the NPC would to the actual roleplay that happens.
if they are purposefully doing so cool... but what if the player is TRYING to be sauve and persuasive, but it is coming off as abrasive and crude?
I generally trust players to roleplay in character knowledge versus out of character knowledge.
were I agree with that generality, there are A LOT of specific examples I would argue isn't good to trust.


and NONE of this is an attack (my poor cha score may make it seem like an attack) I just wonder how you handle it



now my go to example will always be Dave and Ross... it was early (but I don't think 1st campaign) in 3e. Ross irl is shy stutters and would not be considered a diplomat or a leader of men (he's cool, and those just are NOT his traits) and while he is far from dumb, he also didn't finish college. Dave is an electric engineer with 2 degrees and a bunch of certificates, and he was at the time his boss's go to for interoffice communication because he is so damn likeable.

we rolled stats, and made characters. Dave asked if he could lower 1 stat by 2 to raise another by 1. He then lowered his INT down to 9 and his cha to 8 to raise Str and Con. Then he tried out this new multi class rule and made a half orc barbarian/fighter
Ross made a sorcerer to try out a new class. So he put his 17 in Cha and tried these new skills (Diplomacy, Bluff ect)

for a few games when Ross tried to be the party 'face' Dave just talked over him. Finally I remembered those new skills and started asking for rolls.
All of a sudden the half orc barbarian with -1 check was no longer able to talk around things, or figure out traps and puzzels. BUT something AMAZING happened. Ross would step up and say "Can my sorcerer know how to smooth this over?" or "Can I look at what he is working on and get it to work" and as such the player skill no longer mattered as much and the characters did...
 

Voadam

Legend
okay, but if they find the clues and can't figure out your puzzel can having a high Int and Keen Mind feat help?
Generally no, they just don't figure out the puzzle. Same as if they had high stats and rolled poorly.
if they are purposefully doing so cool... but what if the player is TRYING to be sauve and persuasive, but it is coming off as abrasive and crude?
I have little interest in reacting to someone who is being abrasive and crude as if they are suave. Unless I am roleplaying a sycophant or a scared underling or such.

I know that in one high level email planar game I was trying to be suave and flattering with a marilith waitress and get some information. We were using German as Abyssal so I used google translate to do a whole paragraph inquiry. When the DM google translated it back to English the Marilith immediately tail slapped my character across the face without dropping any of her six trays of beer and wings. :)
were I agree with that generality, there are A LOT of specific examples I would argue isn't good to trust.


and NONE of this is an attack (my poor cha score may make it seem like an attack) I just wonder how you handle it
Sure. Understood.
now my go to example will always be Dave and Ross... it was early (but I don't think 1st campaign) in 3e. Ross irl is shy stutters and would not be considered a diplomat or a leader of men (he's cool, and those just are NOT his traits) and while he is far from dumb, he also didn't finish college. Dave is an electric engineer with 2 degrees and a bunch of certificates, and he was at the time his boss's go to for interoffice communication because he is so damn likeable.

we rolled stats, and made characters. Dave asked if he could lower 1 stat by 2 to raise another by 1. He then lowered his INT down to 9 and his cha to 8 to raise Str and Con. Then he tried out this new multi class rule and made a half orc barbarian/fighter
Ross made a sorcerer to try out a new class. So he put his 17 in Cha and tried these new skills (Diplomacy, Bluff ect)

for a few games when Ross tried to be the party 'face' Dave just talked over him. Finally I remembered those new skills and started asking for rolls.
All of a sudden the half orc barbarian with -1 check was no longer able to talk around things, or figure out traps and puzzels. BUT something AMAZING happened. Ross would step up and say "Can my sorcerer know how to smooth this over?" or "Can I look at what he is working on and get it to work" and as such the player skill no longer mattered as much and the characters did...
Sure. That is a DM choice to use the skill mechanics to handle social interaction results second person and not first person immersive roleplay adjudication. This puts the focus on character build and the mechanical roles and support of certain classes to do social activities and the specifics of the skill system.

If your goal is to make Ross feel cool about social interactions without doing first person immersive interactions and to shut down Dave from socially interacting with NPCs then calling for rolls with those character builds is a way to do that.

If Dave had been playing a decent charisma paladin warrior (say a pathfinder half-orc where they don't have a charisma penalty) with a maxxed out class skill diplomacy though it would be a different situation for Dave.

This DMing style puts the emphasis on the mechanical choices and not the first person portrayal.

Which is fine, just a different preference.
 
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HammerMan

Legend
If your goal is to make Ross feel cool about social interactions without doing first person immersive interactions and to shut down Dave from socially interacting with NPCs calling for rolls with those character builds is a way to do that.
yup... you worded it betterr then I would but that is the long and short of it.
If Dave had been playing a decent charisma paladin warrior (say a pathfinder half-orc where they don't have a charisma penalty) with a maxxed out class skill diplomacy though it would be a different situation for Dave.
right, but if we had to decide if he did well or not his sheet would back what he siad... much like having a backstory for an epic warrior for your first level fighter doesn't work, neither does playing what you suggested when his sheet says otherwise.
This DMing style puts the emphasis on the mechanical choices and not the first person portrayal.

Which is fine, just a different preference.
cool I am very please to have had this exchange
 

Jer

Legend
Supporter
Your Turn: How do you manage player vs. in character knowledge when using puzzles or riddles?
For my regular group I have one player who absolutely loves puzzles and wants more of them in the game. No one really hates them so we'll have some puzzles that the players need to solve. Generally when things are slowing down and people are starting to disengage from the problem I'll call for a wisdom or intelligence check and give the highest scoring character who beats the DC I set (usually 10 - I'm not in the mood for stopping a game entirely just because we're doing a puzzle) a hint in the form of a "sudden insight that comes to them" about the puzzle. I'll have about 3 of those prepped for a puzzle and after the third one if they still can't get it the next roll will provide the solution. It basically hides a skill challenge-like structure inside of a player oriented puzzle.

It works for us. For other tables I try to gauge what the players want. The tables I run for kids usually want to solve the puzzles themselves and don't even like to get hints. It's mostly the adults I run games for who want to roll to have their characters solve the puzzle, but IME that's because for them if they wanted to solve a puzzle they'd be putting together a jigsaw, not playing D&D.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
I'm a firm believer that a player should play as their character, and not use their own intellect. Here is how I go about it resolving this challenge in my games.

Player better than PC: If the player is more intelligent, wise, or charismatic than their PC, and the player has their PC do something out of line with their attributes, I ask the player to roll an appropriate roll with a DC that I set. If they beat the DC, then we figure out how their PC came up and executed the approach. If, however, they fail, I ask the other players to make similar rolls for their PC and if any of them beat the DC, I say something like, "Now, Grog may not have been smart enough to come up with that solution, but Keyleth was."

PC better than player: If the player is not on the same level as their PC, I'll ask the player to "Roll a d20 ability check". I won't tell them what ability they're using, or why we're rolling, but if the score high enough, I'll drop bread crumbs in their lap to guide them to the answer.
Pretty much the same as what I do; except in the "player is better than PC" piece I'll often substitute a party NPC as having had the player's idea, given as party NPCs don't usually do much other thinking.
Intelligence is not knowledge: The intelligence of a PC is a measure of their ability, not a measure of their memorization. It measures mental acuity, accuracy of recall and the ability to reason. Accuracy of recall or ability to recall is not knowledge. It is the ability to access the knowledge to which you've been exposed.
I'd agree with this if it weren't for the long-standing example of wizards and mages having memorization capability directly tied to intelligence via both the number of spells they can prepare each day and how easy/hard it is to learn (i.e. memorize) a brand new one.

Do you put memorization under Wisdom, then?
 

Stormonu

Legend
Many times I let other players interject to ascribe what a brighter character might otherwise know or think of. Sort of like lifelines on Who Wants to be a Millionaire. Also, in the past I encouraged players to try and solve puzzles themselves and not by die rolls by awarding larger XP awards if they didn't resort to die rolls. They could use die rolls to get by something that had them stymied, but at a cost of XP.

If you want to put limits on having others interject ideas for the "smart" character, I suggest something like 1 suggestion from a person per point of Int or Wis modifier might be appropriate.
 

Largely, I see the gathering of information as being under the purview of the character-- e.g. perception checks, knowledge checks, that tell the player about the world around them, or point out things that might not be obvious to all characters; similarly I see execution "how well do I do something" as the purview of the character e.g. lockpicking or balancing across a narrow bridge; ultimately "problem solving" the actual decision making of what to do and how to do it, belongs to the player. So if there's a puzzle, the intelligence character may be able to make observations about the constraints of the puzzle or the environment, but the player still has to be the one to decide on the solution, or if appropriate a systematic way of solving it, even if they don't know the actual solution.
 

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