Please do not DM this way

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So I put together a group about a month ago to try and it has worked out pretty well. All of them are friends of mine and some of them are newish to DnD. Well last session I started talking to some of my players a bit more and discovered that they are in other games. It didn't suprise me for one of them because he was in my old game which I handed of to a player after I graduated. Here is what they each told me about their other DMs.

General
DM's should never use skill checks to determine a player's actions. Rail roading is fine, but saying that a player has to follow an NPC because the NPC rolled well on his Diplomacy check is taking a step too far. Players lose their sense of freedom because of this.

Also if a player decides to run as a special class that uses certain types of attack having monsters immune to his spells constantly is stonewalling. For example, a player is a specialist fire mage and every monster is immuned to fire.

My Old Campaign
I really like my old campaign, but I had been in a slump and about to move back home. So I handed the game over to a friend. He asked me for some input and I helped out where I could. I get a Facebook message from one of my old players about how the first session went and discovered that two of the three players died. Its sad to hear that a game I ran for a year might be done for. They seem to be on hiatus right now, but it sounds like it might end soon. 

The world's worst game
Most of my games have side conversations about other games that the players were in. The wizard and fighter of the group started talking about another game they were currently in. Apparently the Wizard's other character blew up half a town because of a stray fireball. The DM had ruled that one of her attacks had missed an enemy and hit a nearby building which just so happened to be the town's store of gunpowder and explosives. It was a funny story...

Until she told us what else happened. Her character was trying to stop two drunks from fighting in the bar. After critically failing her charisma check the DM ruled the drunks knocked her out and that they had drawn a permanent tattoo on her face...of male anatomy. I know sometimes DM's delve into some pretty dark humor, but this was far from funny and more hateful. In my mind this type of attitude is pushing away a lot of players.

Best Moment of my Game
After we were done fumming about our other games we got back on task. The players were fighting a group called the Cult of Stone that wore special goggles that used mirrors for some unknown purpose. The wizard picked up on this detail, but dismissed it. They came to a great hall with statues of people petrified in horror. The wizard started to pick up on the idea, "Their goddess must be some type of Medusa!" she announced. 

When questioning one of the kobolds he mentioned that one of the rooms was a prison for sacrifices to his goddess, who would look onto the beauty of her. Immediatly she put two and two together. "Put on the goggles!"

She was spot on and really excited about figuring it out. Its moments like this where I remind myself that a good DM can make all the difference.
Ant Farm
I make sure npc's never make any sort of role aside from saves/resists. This avoids a direct form of railroading. As to my DMing style, I allow a player to do what they ask, but they got to roll for it often.
I will second the whole things about the DM using monsters and powers that make your abilities useless. I left one of my games for this reason. His idea of "challenging my character" was causing my melee character to be prone, dazed, or imobolized for entire combats unable to make any sort of contribution to the game.

Another things that should be avoided are GMs with no control of their table. I have sat through numerous 2-3 hour combats as players argued rules and went off on tangents with the DM doing NOTHING to reign it in.
Over the years I have learned a lot of things from the different DMs I have gamed with, most importantly what not to do. Here's a quick list.

Play Favorites
Hey, you may be playing with your best friend/favorite cousin/brother/significant other, but that doesn't mean that the other players don't rate. Don't make one player the star and treat the others as also-rans. All too often I've seen the DM's best buddy get breaks they shouldn't. As a DM, I try and give every player the spotlight from time to time. I also treat them as equal under the rules. Never, ever treat one player as more important than another. Gaming is a group activity, and if you are the DM, you have a responsibility to make it fun for the whole group!

Treat the Players as Adversaries
I have played in games where the DM has set up encounters specifically to kill a certain PC. Or, worse yet, encounters that seemed designed to force a TPK. Or set up traps that were completely undetectable and  could not be disarmed that resulted in instant, irrevocable death. I mean, it's okay to throw the PCs in the deep end as long as they have a way out. Running from an encounter that's too tough is a part of the game, and smart players know when to do so. Setting up an encounter like that and not giving the players an "out" is just dickish. As the DM, you can kill the entire PC party at any time. It does not give you the right to do so arbitrarily. You do not win by killing the PCs. If the DM treats PC deaths as "winning" he's playing the wrong game. Everyone wins only if everyone has fun. The DM should create adversaries, not become one. 

Treat the Game as a Contest of "Who is Smarter?"
I remember one session back in high school where the DM had us trapped in a pit. It took about an hour for five players to get out. There was a lot of "Nope, that won't work" from the DM and a lot of angry stares from the players. I think he only relented because he was outnumbered. The look of smug satisfaction on his face as he shot down plan after plan as "not realistic" made me want to chick a d20 at his head. Yes, yes - your pit trap was sooo clever and we are not as clever as you, Mister DM Sir! Never play "DM may I?" with your players! Trying to prove that you are somehow smarter than everyone else at the table when you control what does or does not work (especially when trying to reach a sense of versimilitude that has nothing to do with the rules) is pure dickery. Just. Don't.

Apply the Rules of the Game Inconsistently
One DM (back in the AD&D 1st Edition days) would use the segment rules for spellcasting. Except of course, for his spellcaster NPCs and monsters. They could cast all spells in one segment. With the house rules he used, this meant PC casters could fire off two or three low-level spells a round (Magic Missile, Burning Hands), or one big spell (Fireball, Wall of Ice). NPCs could fire off three big spells (including stuff like Meteor Swarm, Bigby's Crushing Hand, and so on) every damn round. And PCs had absolutely no chance of learning this awesomeness! I have also had DMs use a ton of house rules inconsistently. They would literally change their rulings every other session, which made it impossible for the players to keep things straight. Stay consistent within the rules, as they are the framework by which the game runs. Don't change things without reason, and once they are changed, keep them that way. Don't apply them differently to monstes and PCs either!

Rely on Luck to Win (or Lose) the Day
I have a friend who uses a home-brewed crit system in his 1st Edition AD&D game that can result in one-hit kills. All too often, he has thrown the group up against overwhelming encounters under the assumption that we can win if we crit a couple of the bad guys. Of course, the bad guys have just as much of a chance as getting a one-hit kill against the PCs...gah! Don't make up encounters based on luck! The DM should provide challenges to the players to overcome, but the conditions for victory shouldn't be based on nothing but luck. 

Kill PCs Randomly or Stupidly. And Keep Them Dead Randomly or Stupidly.
Okay, related to the above, I once had a 14th level barbarian in the DM above's game that was killed by a manticore. It was one of his famous one-hit-kill crits. That would be acceptable if it was in battle, even if it was a "random" encounter. But it was from a manticore cub. After the battle was over and we were searching the monsters' nest. And the character was at near full hit points. WTF? Okay, then when the rest of the PCs hauled him back to town to get raised...nothing. A series of random, arbitrary rolls later and "Oh, there are no clerics in the city that can perform Raise Dead. And the time limit for raising him expired while you were looking." Months and months of character development and plotlines ruined by random stupidity. It's okay to kill off PCs. It's not okay to do so from random, stupid stuff. PCs are the main characters in a story. Even George R.R. Martin doesn't kill off characters by having them stub their toe and fall down a flight of stairs (well, I'm pretty sure...) so you can't do that either. 

So in short, being a DM does not give you a license to be a dick. Make the game fun for your players, and I guarantee you will have fun too.
The world's worst game
Most of my games have side conversations about other games that the players were in. The wizard and fighter of the group started talking about another game they were currently in. Apparently the Wizard's other character blew up half a town because of a stray fireball. The DM had ruled that one of her attacks had missed an enemy and hit a nearby building which just so happened to be the town's store of gunpowder and explosives. It was a funny story...

Until she told us what else happened. Her character was trying to stop two drunks from fighting in the bar. After critically failing her charisma check the DM ruled the drunks knocked her out and that they had drawn a permanent tattoo on her face...of male anatomy. I know sometimes DM's delve into some pretty dark humor, but this was far from funny and more hateful. In my mind this type of attitude is pushing away a lot of players.


If that's the worst game story you've heard, then you must play with some rather decent people, nowhere near as bad as That Guy
"Invokers are probably better round after round but Wizard dailies are devastating. Actually, devastating is too light a word. Wizard daily powers are soul crushing, encounter ending, havoc causing pieces of awesome." -AirPower25 Sear the Flesh, Purify the Soul; Harden the Heart, and Improve the Mind; Born of Blood, but Forged by Fire; The MECH warrior reaches perfection.
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DM's should never use skill checks to determine a player's actions. Rail roading is fine, but saying that a player has to follow an NPC because the NPC rolled well on his Diplomacy check is taking a step too far. Players lose their sense of freedom because of this.


    Good advice in general, but no, the PC is by and large the prisoner of the dice on skill checks just as he is on attack and damage rolls.  When the PC rolls a 1 on insight the DM should tell him he believes the NPC fully, just as a 1 on a perception check means the player is convinced there is no ambush ahead.  [& the DM should be having him make checks when there is no ambush so he can't conclude from the call for a roll that there is an ambush.]  The NPC should also roll box text 20's whenever the plot demands it. [And telling the honest NPC "seems" honest is just another way to prevent the metagame.]
    Now the 4e skill system is not one of the strong points of the game and you don't want to have the party risking big stakes on just one roll anyway.  But even if we don't want the adventure to be decided by a skill check, the PC must suffer for having failed that check, and that means the failed insight roll means the PC believes the lie [or does not believe the truth, or ...]
1 on a skill check is NOT an automatic failure in 4e.

As for NPCs using Bluff, Diplomacy or Intimidate against the PCs, I always found that a tough one. On the one hand, you don't want to force your players to RP in a certain way. On the other, why is it fine to use such force when it is magic (e.g. charm person), but not when it is a NPC who is so much better at those skills than the DM? I usually avoid the whole discussion by simply mentioning that the NPC got X on the Diplomacy check, leaving it completely up to the players on how they react. If they ignore it, fine, if they RP based on that result, great (and yes, my players are well aware it is truly optional and especially in cases of Bluffs they have ignored it in the past ;)).
1 on a skill check is NOT an automatic failure in 4e.


    A skill check where one is not a failure is an unnecessary roll, and one the DM should normally not have demanded.  Granted, we still have skill monkeys who can tap a difficult, but they are the rare case.  In anything close to normal the DM can look at the roll of 1 and routinely say he failed without asking for the total.


As for NPCs using Bluff, Diplomacy or Intimidate against the PCs, I always found that a tough one. On the one hand, you don't want to force your players to RP in a certain way. On the other, why is it fine to use such force when it is magic (e.g. charm person), but not when it is a NPC who is so much better at those skills than the DM? I usually avoid the whole discussion by simply mentioning that the NPC got X on the Diplomacy check, leaving it completely up to the players on how they react. If they ignore it, fine, if they RP based on that result, great (and yes, my players are well aware it is truly optional and especially in cases of Bluffs they have ignored it in the past ;)).


     Some of our favorite plots involve the patron being the villain, which means the patron always beats the PC's insight roll [unless we want to allow a little hint.  But the player must not be allowed a reason not to fall into the trap.]  The patron very obviously uses bluff, and is going to be fully successful at it.  The PC can roll all sorts of 20s, and will fail.  The example of Charm Person has already been mentioned.  And 4e has lots of dominate effects that force the PC to do what he doesn't like.  So no.  The player who wants to ignore a bad insight roll is cheating just the same as the one who insists he rolled a 20 instead of the one he actually rolled.
You know, I thought that the concept of the DM making an NPC who the party had every reason to trust and then leading them into the trap was the ultimate example of DM betrayal.

No, the DM making an NPC who the PCs have every reason to distrust and then telling them that they have to trust the character because of a die roll is the ultimate example of DM betrayal.

Never do what DavidArgall suggests.  Ever. 
I tend to treat NPC Diplomacy checks the same way I treat such checks made against other players - as suggestions. Basically, the NPC or player says what he/she wants to say (more or less), and then rolls to see how well the message was actually conveyed.

Players will become suspicious of NPCs based on details given by the DM regardless of dice rolls. (And it really sucks when I'm DMing and accidentally convey information wrongly, putting the players on alert for false reasons - at that point I drop out of RP for a second to emphatically try to convince the players I'm not trying to make the NPC sound evil or like a jerk!) I view Insight/Sense Motive checks as being the character's ability to pick up clues that a player could not, generally visual in nature.

A combat use of Intimidate seems legit against PCs. Not the surrender aspect of course, but characters can be placed under the effects of fear without the players consent in many other ways.
4e D&D is not a "Tabletop MMO." It is not Massively Multiplayer, and is usually not played Online. Come up with better descriptions of your complaints, cuz this one means jack ****.

Some of our favorite plots involve the patron being the villain, which means the patron always beats the PC's insight roll [unless we want to allow a little hint.  But the player must not be allowed a reason not to fall into the trap.]  The patron very obviously uses bluff, and is going to be fully successful at it.  The PC can roll all sorts of 20s, and will fail.  The example of Charm Person has already been mentioned.  And 4e has lots of dominate effects that force the PC to do what he doesn't like.  So no.  The player who wants to ignore a bad insight roll is cheating just the same as the one who insists he rolled a 20 instead of the one he actually rolled.



Failing an insight check does not mean that you automatically trust someone (or distrust someone), it just means that they can't call their bluff.   Bluffing someone is not the same as charm person - it is not magical compulsion. 

It's easier when you think of it in poker terms.  You are playing poker - everyone at the table folds except for you and one other player, and you have a good hand.  That player puts on their best poker face and goes all in.  This is where you would roll for insight to determine are they bluffing or not?  A successful roll means that you can tell that they are bluffing, and you know to call them on it.  A failure means that you don't think that they are bluffing - but that doesn't mean you automatically fold.  The information that you would give to the player would be "You can't see past his poker face to determine if he is bluffing, his move seems genuine" - then the player makes a choice for their character.  You would not tell the player "He won his bluff against you, you fold and lose your bet" (which is basically what you suggested).
 
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Some of our favorite plots involve the patron being the villain, which means the patron always beats the PC's insight roll [unless we want to allow a little hint.  But the player must not be allowed a reason not to fall into the trap.]  The patron very obviously uses bluff, and is going to be fully successful at it.  The PC can roll all sorts of 20s, and will fail.  The example of Charm Person has already been mentioned.  And 4e has lots of dominate effects that force the PC to do what he doesn't like.  So no.  The player who wants to ignore a bad insight roll is cheating just the same as the one who insists he rolled a 20 instead of the one he actually rolled.



Failing an insight check does not mean that you automatically trust someone (or distrust someone), it just means that they can't call their bluff.   Bluffing someone is not the same as charm person - it is not magical compulsion. 

It's easier when you think of it in poker terms.  You are playing poker - everyone at the table folds except for you and one other player, and you have a good hand.  That player puts on their best poker face and goes all in.  This is where you would roll for insight to determine are they bluffing or not?  A successful roll means that you can tell that they are bluffing, and you know to call them on it.  A failure means that you don't think that they are bluffing - but that doesn't mean you automatically fold.  The information that you would give to the player would be "You can't see past his poker face to determine if he is bluffing, his move seems genuine" - then the player makes a choice for their character.  You would not tell the player "He won his bluff against you, you fold and lose your bet" (which is basically what you suggested).
 


    If you are not going to call or fold based on the insight roll, why are you making the insight roll? 
   You have a royal flush.  You don't care what he has.  You call.  You have 4 cards of a straight flush.  All sorts of draws that would make your hand the winner, but there are also a lot of draws that make you a loser.  Again you don't care whether he is bluffing or not.  Statistically, you would be risking a huge amouth to gain petty cash.  You fold.
     But here we have a hand that might win, if he does not have a stronger.  All other factors have been considered and you are uncertain.  So you are deciding based on the insight check.  What grounds do you have for doing anything else?

     Let us get closer to the D&D game.  You are chasing a thief down ye dark alley and come to a split where it turns left and right, but the only one in sight is this begger.  You ask him which way the thief went and he points [after demanding some gold].  You rush in the indicated direction, unless an insight roll tells you this is a strange place for a begger since there is nobody to beg from.  The DM might also give you a perception check to notice he is wearing new shoes, unlike the typical begger who may not have shoes at all.  But that would be a trigger for the insight roll, and/or a bonus to it.  If the quickly disguised thief successfully bluffs you, you will rush off "chasing" him.
    
     We still come down to the player who wants to ignore the bad roll and do what a good roll would suggest is cheating, with no real difference from wanting to say he crited on a 1.

What.

WHAT?

WHAT?!?

The insight check is to see if the PC gets extra information from the scene.   If the PC realizes that there's something fishy and checks the beggar, you're going to say "no, roll insight, to see if you figured things out in character?"  Really?  

The Insight check is to see if the PC gets extra information, not to see if the PC gets to control his character.  NPCing PC characters is a complete jerk move that no DM should ever do.  Ever.  

Please do not do that to your players, ever.   

    If you are not going to call or fold based on the insight roll, why are you making the insight roll? 
   You have a royal flush.  You don't care what he has.  You call.  You have 4 cards of a straight flush.  All sorts of draws that would make your hand the winner, but there are also a lot of draws that make you a loser.  Again you don't care whether he is bluffing or not.  Statistically, you would be risking a huge amouth to gain petty cash.  You fold.   But here we have a hand that might win, if he does not have a stronger.  All other factors have been considered and you are uncertain.  So you are deciding based on the insight check.  What grounds do you have for doing anything else?



The roll is to see if you gain any information from the other player - did he give up his tell.  Maybe as best as he did, you can tell from the way he keeps looking at the money on the table that he is obviously a little nervous that you migh call him on it.  Not succeeding just means that you don't know that he's bluffing.  But you still have to choose what to do with the information (or lack of information).

Let us get closer to the D&D game.  You are chasing a thief down ye dark alley and come to a split where it turns left and right, but the only one in sight is this begger.  You ask him which way the thief went and he points [after demanding some gold].  You rush in the indicated direction, unless an insight roll tells you this is a strange place for a begger since there is nobody to beg from.



You MIGHT run down the direction that was indicated by the beggar.  As DM I would first check to see if the passive insight or perception of the character would clue them in on anything.  If not, I would simply describe the scenario.  If the player asks me "Does my character think the begger is telling the truth", and assuming they fail, I would simply say "He seems truthful"

At that point the player may decide to go down the path the begger indicated, go down the opposite path, or badger the begger more.  It's the players choice what the character does, all the roll does is dictate how sure they are about the information that is being fed to them.

The player may think the Begger must be the thief and drag him off to the police - but he doesn't know, he may be wrong and will get in trouble for roughing up the begger.


  The DM might also give you a perception check to notice he is wearing new shoes, unlike the typical begger who may not have shoes at all.  But that would be a trigger for the insight roll, and/or a bonus to it.  If the quickly disguised thief successfully bluffs you, you will rush off "chasing" him.
    
     We still come down to the player who wants to ignore the bad roll and do what a good roll would suggest is cheating, with no real difference from wanting to say he crited on a 1.




Sure, the DM may allow for a Passive perception check to provide that information without the player probing for it, but if the player asks for a description of the what the begger is wearing you give them the description.  A perception check would help determine how detailed the information would be - a failed result might be "He's wearing a long cloak, tattered pants, and some leather boots" while a really good roll could be "He's wearing a long cloak with some fresh mud stains on it, his pants look to be recently torn, and his boots are made of high quality leather". 

The player might not even feel the need for an insight check and just jump the gun and accuse the begger, but even here a good roll isn't going to ensure success. The begger could just be a nobleman who tries to live the life of a commoner during his nights.

The bottom line is this - Insight, Perception (and also Knowledge checks) do not dictate actions of the player.  All they do is improve the quality of the information being fed to the player for them to make a decision on what they want to do. 
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Over the years I have learned a lot of things from the different DMs I have gamed with, most importantly what not to do. Here's a quick list.

Play Favorites
Hey, you may be playing with your best friend/favorite cousin/brother/significant other, but that doesn't mean that the other players don't rate. Don't make one player the star and treat the others as also-rans. All too often I've seen the DM's best buddy get breaks they shouldn't. As a DM, I try and give every player the spotlight from time to time. I also treat them as equal under the rules. Never, ever treat one player as more important than another. Gaming is a group activity, and if you are the DM, you have a responsibility to make it fun for the whole group!

On the other hand, don't play unfavorites either. My players would be as upset with me for making the game harder for my wife as they would for me making her life easier (and she'd tear me a new one for giving her an easy out instead of an actual challenge).

My Old Campaign
I really like my old campaign, but I had been in a slump and about to move back home. So I handed the game over to a friend. He asked me for some input and I helped out where I could. I got a Facebook message from one of my old players about how the first session went and discovered that two of the three players died. It's sad to hear that a game I ran for a year might be done for. They seem to be on hiatus right now, but it sounds like it might end soon.

And no one called the police or the CDC? 8o)

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To the list I would add resisting unexpected PC actions. Don't tell players they can't do something simply because you didn't plan for it or it threatens to take the game off track. Be ready to make things up in response to the players' actions instead of forcing them back onto the tracks. It will stretch you as a GM and make your players happier.


Years ago I gave up bothering to even lay out tracks that branched in dozens of directions. I could spend every spare moment of three weeks planning for a session and my players would ignore everything I prepped and do something else entirely – so I stopped planning and rely solely on improv. Instead I create the setting and set up the initial situation, but leave it to the players from there. Even when running Encounters I am prepared for the players to dig up the tracks and burn them (honestly, I'd be happy if they did since I prefer improv to modules; on both sides of the screen).


My current HackMaster 5e campaign is so player-driven that the world is built by the group instead of me. I have a notebook full of ideas for villains they might see and situations they might run into, but I simply drop them in as seems appropriate and make up any combat encounters on the fly.


For several sessions they've been tracking down the rat infestation in a city. Wading through the sewers they discovered that the rats, and even the ROUSes, were fleeing from firebeetles and paralyzing imps. Digging further they found that the varmints were apparently being summoned by a mage wearing robes decorated in flames. When he discovered the party near his lair he ranted about having to report to his master then triggered a sewage wave that wiped out his lab and all of his creatures (and nearly drowned two PCs).


The thing is, I don't yet know who is master is. I won't bother trying to figure it out unless the party decides to try and find out. That way I'm not doing a bunch of extra work, and the players only have to tackle bad guys that interest them, thus the game is more fun for everyone.


Naturally, not everyone is comfortable with that much improv, but if you can't improvise at all then your GMing career will be short and painful. Realizing that, after discovering that my players were going to ignore all of my prep and make me improvise everything anyway, I decided to run a one-shot specifically designed to improve my improv skills. I gave the players 10 minutes to make 50 point GURPS characters in any genre, any setting, any time period (but all Disadvantages required my approval). Then I launched into my now famous opening for the game that has come to be known as "Middle of Nowhere":


"You fall asleep as usual but awake, fully dressed, facing each other around a round table in a typical fantasy tavern. Among the patrons you see not only dwarves, elves, and fairies, but also astronauts, cowboys, and US Navy SEALs. [The example patrons are different every time I run the game and every time I tell the story.] Now what."


That intro was all I planned during those 10 minutes. What lay outside the door even I didn't know. We played for several hours, and I've run the game twice more since then, and now may actually make a campaign out of it because of how things turned out the last time I ran it.


There was a sizeable group that time and they spread out a bit in their explorations. They eventually discovered that the whole city was contained within a 20 mile radius sphere of nothing – literally nothing; beyond the perimeter was pure vacuum but there didn't even seem to be a forcefield or anything else holding it back – and that there was apparently no escape, yet there were regular deliveries of food that appeared in the middle of the city once a week and all of the plumbing and lights worked perfectly. So I'm beginning to think that it's a pocket dimension set for an intergalactic version of Big Brother that kidnaps contestants from various points in the multiverse, but I'm not really sure yet.


Typing all that's got me thinking again. I need something to run for a couple of weeks while my new players finish their characters for my Victorian slightly-steampunkish version of Warehouse 13 that ended last year when our location suddenly became unavailable and with it went four of the players, so I may have them make quick FURPG characters and run Middle of Nowhere again to fill in that time... especially since some of them haven't yet decided what characters they want to play.


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And now to join the threadjack for a moment:


If you are not going to call or fold based on the insight roll, why are you making the insight roll?

Precisely. But please continue.

You have a royal flush.  You don't care what he has.  You call.  You have 4 cards of a straight flush. All sorts of draws that would make your hand the winner, but there are also a lot of draws that make you a loser.  Again you don't care whether he is bluffing or not.  Statistically, you would be risking a huge amount to gain petty cash.  You fold.   But here we have a hand that might win, if he does not have a stronger.  All other factors have been considered and you are uncertain.  So you are deciding based on the insight check.  What grounds do you have for doing anything else?

The roll is to see if you gain any information from the other player – did he give up his tell.  Maybe as best as he did, you can tell from the way he keeps looking at the money on the table that he is obviously a little nervous that you might call him on it.  Not succeeding just means that you don't know that he's bluffing.  But you still have to choose what to do with the information (or lack of information).
Let us get closer to the D&D game.  You are chasing a thief down ye dark alley and come to a split where it turns left and right, but the only one in sight is this beggar.  You ask him which way the thief went and he points [after demanding some gold].  You rush in the indicated direction, unless an insight roll tells you this is a strange place for a beggar since there is nobody to beg from.

You MIGHT run down the direction that was indicated by the beggar.  As DM I would first check to see if the passive insight or perception of the character would clue them in on anything.  If not, I would simply describe the scenario.  If the player asks me "Does my character think the beggar is telling the truth", and assuming they fail, I would simply say "He seems truthful".

At that point the player may decide to go down the path the beggar indicated, go down the opposite path, or badger the beggar more.  It's the players choice what the character does, all the roll does is dictate how sure they are about the information that is being fed to them.


I'm pretty sure that's exactly the point he's trying to make. He's not saying the character must run down the alley in the direction he was pointed, he's saying that if the player only saw two options, then that's the one he'd do given the results of the roll. Doing otherwise is cheating.

In this case the GM won the bluff vs insight check, which means the PC believed the lie. That's the problem with simple pass/fail mechanics. I prefer to factor in the margin of success or failure, a habit I developed from GURPS' Quick Contest mechanic: both players roll the requisite skill. If only one succeeds then the winner is obvious. If both do then the one with the higher margin of success wins. If both fail then the one with the lower margin of failure wins. That idea has guided me in every Bluff vs Insight and similar situation in every system over the years.


Applying that to the interaction above: if the NPC won by at least 5 then I would tell the player he seems truthful and the player would most likely have his character head down the directed alley. But let's say the player only failed the roll by 2. In that case I would tell him something like, "you are inclined to believe him, but something seems off." That will likely prompt a Perception check that could result in his character noticing the shoes and hauling the thief off to jail.


----------


From the way I read it, in none of his posts has David suggested GMs should tell players what their characters do (perhaps clearer phrasing in future could prevent such misunderstandings). He is saying that rolls should consequences, and GMs should enforce them. Otherwise there shouldn't be rolls... and I agree wholeheartedly, if that is in indeed his point. I really don't think he's arguing that GMs should determine PC actions, but just in case it is I'll come down on the side of thinking that's a great way to drive off your players and never get to GM again.


It may stem from the fact that the first trpg I played was HackMaster 4e, where the cardinal rule is "Let the dice fall where they may", but I'm a firm believer that once you start ignoring dice rolls they become useless. Simply put, if you aren't going to accept the consequences of your rolls, good and bad, then you shouldn't be rolling them. And there ends my slightly tangential rant against dice fudging and other forms of cheating, as well as my participation in this thread which has wandered from its original, commendable topic into a circular argument of people with similar views growling in circles around each other simply because they don't see it.

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PCs and NPCs are never required to act a certain way based on a failed skill contest of that sort. There's simply no basis for that belief, common though it is.

[N]o difference is less easily overcome than the difference of opinion about semi-abstract questions. - L. Tolstoy

PCs and NPCs are never required to act a certain way based on a failed skill contest of that sort. There's simply no basis for that belief, common though it is.



In the case of NPCs, it's usually easier and faster to just let the dice decide if they are persuaded to do something. But I agree, it's not a requirement.
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Almost all of these issues come down to the DM not saying "Yes, and...," not erring on the side of the players, not letting people play their own character, deprotagonization, and playing gotcha. Even the story about the story about the medusa glasses was walking a razor's edge between cool and disasterous. I'm no longer conviced that the occassional instance of of that kind of cool is worth the risk of disaster.

In regards to keeping the rules consistent, I'm in general agreement, but one of the best things 4th Edition did was to separate monster creation from PC creation. One could have monsters that can do things players never could, and that's ok - though if players do want to obtain some sort of monster capability, the DM should work with them to figure out a way to do that, or some compromise along those lines.

[N]o difference is less easily overcome than the difference of opinion about semi-abstract questions. - L. Tolstoy

 I'm pretty sure that's exactly the point he's trying to make. He's not saying the character must run down the alley in the direction he was pointed, he's saying that if the player only saw two options, then that's the one he'd do given the results of the roll. Doing otherwise is cheating.



Calling out someone as cheating is worse than telling them what their character has to do.

Perhaps it's a bad example because there are so many possible scenarios as how this could turn out, I don't see it as the player only having two options, there are actually many many possible options in the eyes of the player: Beggar is the thief, beggar is not the thief but is lieing, beggar is not the thief and is telling the thruth, beggar is not the thief but doesn't know but wants money, etc.  

Scenario 1 - Player doesn't bother to roll:
It's quite possible that the player doesn't even bother to check to see if the beggar is telling the truth.  As soon as they come across the beggar, they personally feel they put two and two together and the beggar must be the thief.  They have no evidence to back it up, and have not made any rolls to make this determination - but it's completely plausible that they would do this.

Scenario 2 - Player rolls and succeeds:
The issue then becomes how do tell the player the beggar was lieing? You could perhaps take a look at how much the player succeed the roll by, it makes sense to me though and when you compare it to how we handle some other knowledge checks make perfect sense.  But past that you could say "He appears to be lieing" or "You can see through his hastily made disquise that he is not really a beggar" - both would techincally be "right" for a success.  The player action is going to depend on how you present the information.

Scenario 3 - Player rolls and Fails:
This is the one that we are in question, so let's take a differen scenario.  What do you do if a player inspects a treasure chest for traps and fails the roll.  Would you consider it cheating for them to be cautious anyways and try to open the treasure chest up with a sword?  They failed the check and for all they should know there are no traps, but is it ok for them to be cautious.  What if they search a room with a statue, and you say they don't find anything, would it be bad for the players to want to inspect the statue more? Would you never tell them about the hidden button if they are specifically looking the right place for it.  

Insight, Perception, and Knowledge checks are there to give information.  The only action being determined is "Do I know".  "Do I know what this monster is weak against?" "Do I know what traps are in this hallway" "Do I know if he is lieing" - Not knowing, and then still acting in a certain way is not cheating.  

There are however, two scenarios that I can think of that would bother me

Scenario 4 - Metagaming
It doesn't even require the player to roll.  If the player says something along the lines of "The DM wouldn't have placed this beggar here for no reason - either he's going to lie to us or he is the thief".  That's metagaming, and that is something that should be discouraged.  Also if the DM is bad at placing monsters and simply says "Here are two Trolls" the first the players meet them and the players just use Fire/Acid without a knowledge check.


Scenario 5 - Cheating
DM is using a published adventure that the player has read, and the player knows that the beggar is the thief and simply acts based on that knowledge.

Is there a fine line between a metagaming and continuing to persue an option even if you failed an information check? Yes, but metagaming is not cheating.  

In this case the GM won the bluff vs insight check, which means the PC believed the lie.



Not quite, the DM winning the bluff just means that the player was unable to tell the beggar was lieing.  It's a very important destinction - the way you worded it means that you are dictating what happens to the PC.  In the second it just means that the Player has bad information in determining what happens next for their PC. 

That's the problem with simple pass/fail mechanics. I prefer to factor in the margin of success or failure, a habit I developed from GURPS' Quick Contest mechanic: both players roll the requisite skill. If only one succeeds then the winner is obvious. If both do then the one with the higher margin of success wins. If both fail then the one with the lower margin of failure wins. That idea has guided me in every Bluff vs Insight and similar situation in every system over the years.



The same could be said for even things like athletic checks - making a roll right on the dot could mean that you hit the ground and one of your feet slip so you stumble a bit.  Hitting the highest possible on the roll could mean that you landed it perfectly.   

Applying that to the interaction above: if the NPC won by at least 5 then I would tell the player he seems truthful and the player would most likely have his character head down the directed alley. But let's say the player only failed the roll by 2. In that case I would tell him something like, "you are inclined to believe him, but something seems off." That will likely prompt a Perception check that could result in his character noticing the shoes and hauling the thief off to jail.



The key thing is that you know the NPC won and you tell the player he seemed truthful.  The difference is it appears that some people feel that if the player does anything other than run down that alley that the NPC pointed down is cheating - which is not true.  Again, there is a big difference between telling the Player "You believe him" and "He doesn't seem to be lieing"


From the way I read it, in none of his posts has David suggested GMs should tell players what their characters do (perhaps clearer phrasing in future could prevent such misunderstandings).



I started getting a bit iffy when he made the statement about charm person...

He is saying that rolls should consequences, and GMs should enforce them. Otherwise there shouldn't be rolls... and I agree wholeheartedly, if that is in indeed his point. I really don't think he's arguing that GMs should determine PC actions, but just in case it is I'll come down on the side of thinking that's a great way to drive off your players and never get to GM again.



And I agree that there are consequences, I think it's a difference of opinion on what that consequence is.  To me, not having enough information or the right information to reduce possible options is a consequence enough.  If a player goes into a situation with 10 possible solutions, the information (Insight, Perception, Knowledge) roll will maybe bring it down to 5.  From there, having that bit of success, they may make further actions to narrow it down further.  Sometimes they can bring it down to 1, sometimes there still is a 50/50 chance.   

It may stem from the fact that the first trpg I played was HackMaster 4e, where the cardinal rule is "Let the dice fall where they may", but I'm a firm believer that once you start ignoring dice rolls they become useless. Simply put, if you aren't going to accept the consequences of your rolls, good and bad, then you shouldn't be rolling them. And there ends my slightly tangential rant against dice fudging and other forms of cheating, as well as my participation in this thread which has wandered from its original, commendable topic into a circular argument of people with similar views growling in circles around each other simply because they don't see it.


We are saying something similar, and I do let the dice fall where they may.  The easiest way for me to explain it I think is this "Did the player need to make a roll in the first place to attempt their action?"

When you look at "Leap across a very wide chasm" - the answer is likely yes.  They needed to roll athletics to make the jump.  There is no question that if they fail that roll they will fall - so there is the consequence.

But when you look at "Accuse someone of being a thief" - the answer is no.  They didn't need to roll anything to make that accusation.  They DO need to make rolls to convince others that they are right unless they were able to obtain proof through other means.  Any rolls they failed might have the consequnce of the person they accused of getting away - even if the PC was right and they didn't know it.


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There are however, two scenarios that I can think of that would bother me

Scenario 4 - Metagaming
It doesn't even require the player to roll.  If the player says something along the lines of "The DM wouldn't have placed this beggar here for no reason - either he's going to lie to us or he is the thief".  That's metagaming, and that is something that should be discouraged.  Also if the DM is bad at placing monsters and simply says "Here are two Trolls" the first the players meet them and the players just use Fire/Acid without a knowledge check.



I don't think this troll example is all that bad though.  Instead of being bothered by it, you can easily turn this metagaming into a positive.  "Wow, Ragnar, that was awesome, you roasted those trolls good!  Where did you learn to fight trolls like that?"  At the very least, you get a little addition to the tapestry that is the in-game world, and he could give you something you can use to craft further adventures.  Maybe he says "My hometown was attacked by trolls many years ago..."  Now the DM can use that in the future to launch an adventure - have someone deliver Ragnar a message that the trolls are back.


Scenario 5 - Cheating
DM is using a published adventure that the player has read, and the player knows that the beggar is the thief and simply acts based on that knowledge.



This scenario can be avoided completely by either not using published adventures, or not planning out a plot in advance.
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Scenario 4 - Metagaming
It doesn't even require the player to roll.  If the player says something along the lines of "The DM wouldn't have placed this beggar here for no reason - either he's going to lie to us or he is the thief".  That's metagaming, and that is something that should be discouraged.  Also if the DM is bad at placing monsters and simply says "Here are two Trolls" the first the players meet them and the players just use Fire/Acid without a knowledge check.

I don't think this troll example is all that bad though.  Instead of being bothered by it, you can easily turn this metagaming into a positive.  "Wow, Ragnar, that was awesome, you roasted those trolls good!  Where did you learn to fight trolls like that?"  At the very least, you get a little addition to the tapestry that is the in-game world, and he could give you something you can use to craft further adventures.  Maybe he says "My hometown was attacked by trolls many years ago..."  Now the DM can use that in the future to launch an adventure - have someone deliver Ragnar a message that the trolls are back.



That's a fun approach. One could also reflavor how fire was hit upon as the right weapon. Heroes are always getting out of things by dumb luck.

My question is: So what if the player knew to use fire? What's the goal behind having secret information like that, and why risk that goal on the information not being known - especially if the information is widely available outside the game?

I can think of a couple goals:

To create a difficult encounter: Unless the characters succeed on some task (perhaps a skill check, or perhaps picking up on DM clues) they won't know the secret to this monster, and will have a harder time combating it.

To highlight a character's skills: One character is a master of monster knowledge and the DM wanted that character to be the one to figure out the secret, so as to highlight that character's ability.

Those are both noble goals, but hinging them on information not being known is a major risk, especially since metagaming is a fact of gaming life. Better to assume the information is known and will be used, and try to accomplish those goals in some way that doesn't hinge on secrecy.

Most players are conscientious enough to avoid metagaming, but no one is perfect, not everyone thinks about it the same way, and no one can control anyone else. So, do yourself a favor and don't assume metagaming won't happen, or get bent out of shape when it does happen. If you can use it to your advantage (as crimsyn and others have demonstrated), that's even better.

[N]o difference is less easily overcome than the difference of opinion about semi-abstract questions. - L. Tolstoy



There are however, two scenarios that I can think of that would bother me

Scenario 4 - Metagaming
It doesn't even require the player to roll.  If the player says something along the lines of "The DM wouldn't have placed this beggar here for no reason - either he's going to lie to us or he is the thief".  That's metagaming, and that is something that should be discouraged.  Also if the DM is bad at placing monsters and simply says "Here are two Trolls" the first the players meet them and the players just use Fire/Acid without a knowledge check.



I don't think this troll example is all that bad though.  Instead of being bothered by it, you can easily turn this metagaming into a positive.  "Wow, Ragnar, that was awesome, you roasted those trolls good!  Where did you learn to fight trolls like that?"  At the very least, you get a little addition to the tapestry that is the in-game world, and he could give you something you can use to craft further adventures.  Maybe he says "My hometown was attacked by trolls many years ago..."  Now the DM can use that in the future to launch an adventure - have someone deliver Ragnar a message that the trolls are back.


Scenario 5 - Cheating
DM is using a published adventure that the player has read, and the player knows that the beggar is the thief and simply acts based on that knowledge.



This scenario can be avoided completely by either not using published adventures, or not planning out a plot in advance.

Or have the beggar just be a beggar, since the player is obviously meta-gaming. Then have the real thief witness the meta-gamer character asking too many questions and deal with him accordingly. This gives the non-meta-gamers a chance to play the game and discourages meta-gaming in the future.

Fight meta-gaming with meta-gaming. Can the meta-gaming player complain if you do that? He'll probably call it railroading, but he is the one railroading the adventure with his meta-game tactics.
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What a tortured existence the anti-metagaming crowd must endure. Do yourself a favor and stop worrying about it!



Or we could just use one of the many solutions that have worked well over the years to deal with that behavior and be equally as not bothered by it anymore. 
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What a tortured existence the anti-metagaming crowd must endure. Do yourself a favor and stop worrying about it!



Condescendingly melodramatic, much? 
Or have the beggar just be a beggar, since the player is obviously meta-gaming.

Obvious in this hypothetical, maybe. It won't always be.

Then have the real thief witness the meta-gamer character asking too many questions and deal with him accordingly. This gives the non-meta-gamers a chance to play the game and discourages meta-gaming in the future.

I bet it won't, and in the near term there's a pointless argument with the player brewing.

Fight meta-gaming with meta-gaming. Can the meta-gaming player complain if you do that? He'll probably call it railroading, but he is the one railroading the adventure with his meta-game tactics.

Fight metagaming by not relying on people not metagaming.

[N]o difference is less easily overcome than the difference of opinion about semi-abstract questions. - L. Tolstoy

What.

WHAT?

WHAT?!?

The insight check is to see if the PC gets extra information from the scene.   If the PC realizes that there's something fishy and checks the beggar, you're going to say "no, roll insight, to see if you figured things out in character?"  Really?
  


    Really.  This is a roleplaying game.  Just as the stupid player playing a high IQ PC is supposed to get all the right answers, and the ugly player with a high Chr PC is going to charm people, the player's abilities are not supposed to help him.  You are an actor in a role.  Your own abilities simply should not count.
    Recall here that LFR allows you to play the same adventure several times, with different characters.  The 2nd time you play it, you know if that is a begger or not.  But you are not to be allowed to use that knowledge your PC doesn't have.  You must stick to the die roll.
Really.  This is a roleplaying game.  Just as the stupid player playing a high IQ PC is supposed to get all the right answers, and the ugly player with a high Chr PC is going to charm people, the player's abilities are not supposed to help him.  You are an actor in a role.  Your own abilities simply should not count.

You're misapplying that concept. A player doesn't have to know how to pick locks, or swing a sword, or explain how they're spotting an ambush or a lie, but they are expected to come up with, for example, their own battle tactics - even though actual tactical ability is modelled in-game with warlord powers and the like.

You're right that a player is playing a role, but they have control over that role, and how it reacts to information. What they don't have (in most games) is full access to that information. That's all their skill rolls are intended to be. Skill rolls are never required, after all. A player could make a "random choice" to take a certain action, or suspect a certain truth and act on that, without ever making a skill roll. There's simply nothing to require action from a player, based on skill results.

Edit: Play your own character however you want, of course. And let others play theirs how they want.

Edit: If it would bother you to have a player "cheat" by acting as if the character had learned something it hadn't, might I recommend not running adventures that hinge on such a tenuous concept? It's possible to arrange encounters that are challenging even with the PCs have full knowledge about them. It might be easier to do that than to attempt to force players to play dumb.

[N]o difference is less easily overcome than the difference of opinion about semi-abstract questions. - L. Tolstoy

Really.  This is a roleplaying game.  Just as the stupid player playing a high IQ PC is supposed to get all the right answers, and the ugly player with a high Chr PC is going to charm people, the player's abilities are not supposed to help him.  You are an actor in a role.  Your own abilities simply should not count.

You're misapplying that concept. A player doesn't have to know how to pick locks, or swing a sword, or explain how they're spotting an ambush or a lie, but they are expected to come up with, for example, their own battle tactics - even though actual tactical ability is modelled in-game with warlord powers and the like.

You're right that a player is playing a role, but they have control over that role, and how it reacts to information. What they don't have (in most games) is full access to that information. That's all their skill rolls are intended to be. Skill rolls are never required, after all. A player could make a "random choice" to take a certain action, or suspect a certain truth and act on that, without ever making a skill roll. There's simply nothing to require action from a player, based on skill results.

Edit: Play your own character however you want, of course. And let others play theirs how they want.

Edit: If it would bother you to have a player "cheat" by acting as if the character had learned something it hadn't, might I recommend not running adventures that hinge on such a tenuous concept? It's possible to arrange encounters that are challenging even with the PCs have full knowledge about them. It might be easier to do that than to attempt to force players to play dumb.




Agree.

LFR is a whole different entity unto itself, there isn't much room for roleplaying in many of those adventures if you run them as writen because you are expected to get X amount done in a couple of hours of playtime.  That is truly a case where you are likely roll-playing more than role-playing.  Bringing up LFR kinda shifted the goal post a little.

Your average player in your average game is going to be going through the adventure once.  Only if you are using a published adventure as published is there a chance for the player to have that level of detailed knowledge up front.  

Again, and same as what Centaur says, the player could have made that choice without even rolling the dice (LFR would probably not even build the encounter in a way that would let the player, and instead treat it as a very by the books skill challenge). 
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    Really.  This is a roleplaying game.  Just as the stupid player playing a high IQ PC is supposed to get all the right answers, and the ugly player with a high Chr PC is going to charm people, the player's abilities are not supposed to help him.  You are an actor in a role.  Your own abilities simply should not count.
    Recall here that LFR allows you to play the same adventure several times, with different characters.  The 2nd time you play it, you know if that is a begger or not.  But you are not to be allowed to use that knowledge your PC doesn't have.  You must stick to the die roll.


LFR is stupid for doing that.  Actually LFR is just stupid.  It was a terrible idea back when it was Living Greyhawk too, and more than anything that killed the entire Greyhawk setting.  I guess Forgotten Realms has more Mary Sue NPCs that can stop that from happening, so is "better" in that sense ... you know what, lets not get derailed on the subject of stupid things.  LFR is goalpost shifting, and we'll leave it at that. 

Why even have players at all if their existence is a function of the dice?  You could just roll some dice and discover what their character will do, you don't need a player in the least.  

Really.  This is a roleplaying game.  Just as the stupid player playing a high IQ PC is supposed to get all the right answers, and the ugly player with a high Chr PC is going to charm people, the player's abilities are not supposed to help him.  You are an actor in a role.  Your own abilities simply should not count.

You're misapplying that concept. A player doesn't have to know how to pick locks, or swing a sword, or explain how they're spotting an ambush or a lie, but they are expected to come up with, for example, their own battle tactics - even though actual tactical ability is modelled in-game with warlord powers and the like.

You're right that a player is playing a role, but they have control over that role, and how it reacts to information. What they don't have (in most games) is full access to that information. That's all their skill rolls are intended to be.



    Quite clearly wrong in the case of most skills.  [A good thievery check may get you zero information, just allow you to hold steady at a crucial time.]  Even in the case of an insight roll, a common result is "He is staring at your boobs.  You gain +2 to Diplomacy or intimidate next round." 


 Skill rolls are never required, after all.



     Skill rolls can be required at any time, possibly at all times when the result of the roll would be uncertain.  A common case for me is when a player tries something clearly stupid, I require a roll to issue the appropriate warning.  At other times, not making a skill roll is the same as failing it.


Edit: Play your own character however you want, of course. And let others play theirs how they want.



     This is the sort of feel good statement that falls apart on analysis.  You do not want to play with someone who insists he rolled a 20 every time.  Nor would you accept a great many other ways that the other guy might play his character.  You expect him to follow the rules, both written and unwritten.

Edit: If it would bother you to have a player "cheat" by acting as if the character had learned something it hadn't, might I recommend not running adventures that hinge on such a tenuous concept? It's possible to arrange encounters that are challenging even with the PCs have full knowledge about them. It might be easier to do that than to attempt to force players to play dumb.



     Some [possibly all in different respects] players are required to play dumb and the attempt to play smart is flat out cheating, no different than using loaded dice. 


LFR is a whole different entity unto itself, there isn't much room for roleplaying in many of those adventures if you run them as writen because you are expected to get X amount done in a couple of hours of playtime.  That is truly a case where you are likely roll-playing more than role-playing.  Bringing up LFR kinda shifted the goal post a little.


    Not at all.  LFR differs from the home game in only trivial respects here.  And the differences are heavily in the average, not the type.  I've been in home games that were nothing but combat, and in LFR games that had almost none.  And while LFR is normally played under the time constraints of a convention, it does not have to be, while there are many home games that are under very strict time constraints.


Your average player in your average game is going to be going through the adventure once. 


    Your average driver will get away with going thru a red light in the average case if he can't see a car going the other way.  The cop will still give him a ticket and he will catch all the blame if there is an accident.  We may not have to consider the unique cases, but the rules must cover the merely rare.


 the player could have made that choice without even rolling the dice (LFR would probably not even build the encounter in a way that would let the player, and instead treat it as a very by the books skill challenge). 


      Which means the player's actions are being dictated by the die roll.  Our DM might say "You are chasing a thief.  You can use endurance to keep up with him, insight to figure out how he is attempting to escape, or..."  And then describe the result of the roll without ever giving the player any choice.  "You follow the directions of a begger, which leads you to a dead end, but no thief.  Going back, you find the begger is gone and you realize that the begger was the thief in disguise.  You may use perception to see if he left a trail, or ..."  Or if successful, "you spot the begger's fancy shoes and realize this is the thief in disguise.  You may use intimidate to get him to surrender, diplomacy to get him to bribe you to let him go, or ..."
     This is right out of the DMG.  There is just no such right of the player to use knowledge or abilities the PC does not have.  You must follow the dice.  It is often too much trouble to roll, but that is the trivia of reality, not the rules.
1 on a skill check is NOT an automatic failure in 4e.


    A skill check where one is not a failure is an unnecessary roll, and one the DM should normally not have demanded.  Granted, we still have skill monkeys who can tap a difficult, but they are the rare case.  In anything close to normal the DM can look at the roll of 1 and routinely say he failed without asking for the total.



This is not directly what you're saying here but...

One of my current DMs pretty much ignores the actual result of skill rolls and goes by the die roll instead.  That really annoys me sometimes.  It essentially negates various character building choices I've made, and this is Pathfinder where character build is 90% of the game (whether you want it to be or not*).

*mostly not...

That said, I played in a campaign once where the DM (different DM) handled all rolls that way.  Damage rolls were taken by him in the context of how he imagined things. (Swing a sword and do 6 damage and the enemy dies, roll really well on a shield bash for 10 damage and the same enemy will get knocked prone)

DM 1 I still play with, and overall he's a better DM than I am, even if there are things he does that I quibble with.  DM 2 I played one 4 session campaign with and never again.


 the player could have made that choice without even rolling the dice (LFR would probably not even build the encounter in a way that would let the player, and instead treat it as a very by the books skill challenge). 


      Which means the player's actions are being dictated by the die roll.  Our DM might say "You are chasing a thief.  You can use endurance to keep up with him, insight to figure out how he is attempting to escape, or..."  And then describe the result of the roll without ever giving the player any choice.  "You follow the directions of a begger, which leads you to a dead end, but no thief.  Going back, you find the begger is gone and you realize that the begger was the thief in disguise.  You may use perception to see if he left a trail, or ..."  Or if successful, "you spot the begger's fancy shoes and realize this is the thief in disguise.  You may use intimidate to get him to surrender, diplomacy to get him to bribe you to let him go, or ..."
     This is right out of the DMG.  There is just no such right of the player to use knowledge or abilities the PC does not have.  You must follow the dice.  It is often too much trouble to roll, but that is the trivia of reality, not the rules.



You may be misunderstanding what I'm saying.

Accusing someone of being the thief requires no die rolls.  If the player wants to try to know if the NPC is a thief, it requires a die roll - but per the DMG on page 15 - the player isn't supposed to know if they passed or failed.   Because the DM is supposed to be hidding this roll - there is nothing for the player to be going against.  It was an information roll.  

At no time is the player able to use information that the PC didn't have becuase they never know the result of the die roll.  

What you are describing is basically the reason that people are saying that there is no roleplaying in 4e and is the reason that Skill Challenges didn't work.  You're breaking it down to the players saying which skill they want to use and then rolling dice.  
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You're right that a player is playing a role, but they have control over that role, and how it reacts to information. What they don't have (in most games) is full access to that information. That's all their skill rolls are intended to be.

Quite clearly wrong in the case of most skills.

Every knowledge skill works exactly that way. The character doesn't learn misinformation that it them must act on, it learns "no pertinent information."

All other skills can (and do) operate the same way: Failed perception and Insight give you nothing you can use, not misinformation. Not finding a trap, or not sensing an ambush doesn't mean there isn't one. Not detecting a lie, doesn't mean it's the truth.

Skill rolls are never required, after all.

Skill rolls can be required at any time, possibly at all times when the result of the roll would be uncertain.

They're required when the PC is attempting something. In the example being used, the PC is attempting to use skill to determine what happened to someone he was chasing. If the PC just declared that they were making a specific choice, without trying to gain information, there'd be no call for a roll.

A common case for me is when a player tries something clearly stupid, I require a roll to issue the appropriate warning.

DMs who use the word "stupid" about their players always seem to be the best DMs, I've noticed. They never give bad advice, or come here looking for ways to keep their game from crumbling.

At other times, not making a skill roll is the same as failing it.

Which isn't the same as the roll being required.

Edit: Play your own character however you want, of course. And let others play theirs how they want.

This is the sort of feel good statement that falls apart on analysis.  You do not want to play with someone who insists he rolled a 20 every time.  Nor would you accept a great many other ways that the other guy might play his character.  You expect him to follow the rules, both written and unwritten.

Is this you analyzing it? Playing one's character how one wants has nothing to do with breaking the rules, because there are no rules about how a character must be played. There are rules about what rolls mean and what they do, what powers mean and what they do, etc. But that doesn't have anything to do with in-character choices.

Ah, the unwritten rules. Someone should really write those down, but then I guess people couldn't play "Gotcha!" with them.

Edit: If it would bother you to have a player "cheat" by acting as if the character had learned something it hadn't, might I recommend not running adventures that hinge on such a tenuous concept? It's possible to arrange encounters that are challenging even with the PCs have full knowledge about them. It might be easier to do that than to attempt to force players to play dumb.

Some [possibly all in different respects] players are required to play dumb and the attempt to play smart is flat out cheating, no different than using loaded dice.

That might be true if the rules dictated what "smart" and "dumb" meant. But they don't. Past editions made the attempt, by tying language skills to Intelligence, but they never really did a good job, and linguistic ability has tenuous ties to overall intelligence anyway.

If you want to force characters with low Intelligence to be bad at a task, then you must require rolls based on that skill in order to complete that task. Which still doesn't mean the rolls would be required, unless the task was being attempted.

And players are still allowed to play dumb, if they want. I've done that myself. But the rules don't require it.

[N]o difference is less easily overcome than the difference of opinion about semi-abstract questions. - L. Tolstoy

You're right that a player is playing a role, but they have control over that role, and how it reacts to information. What they don't have (in most games) is full access to that information. That's all their skill rolls are intended to be.

Quite clearly wrong in the case of most skills.

Every knowledge skill works exactly that way.


   Note you are changing from "skills" to "knowledge skills".


The character doesn't learn misinformation that it them must act on, it learns "no pertinent information."


     This is pragmatic reluctance, not a principle of the game.  Anytime a player rolls a 1 on a knowledge skill check, the idea of getting false information comes up.  It is not normally done simply because it is too hard to come up with the proper false information and expect the player to obey it, not because of any principle that says you can only gain truthful information from a knowledge skill check.
     And there are cases where you do get "false knowledge".  With certain feats/powers, a failed monster knowledge check results in combat penalties for example. 


All other skills can (and do) operate the same way: Failed perception and Insight give you nothing you can use, not misinformation. Not finding a trap, or not sensing an ambush doesn't mean there isn't one. Not detecting a lie, doesn't mean it's the truth.


      Perception-- The party is in a potential ambush situation and you call for a perception check, which everybody fails.  You do not let the players make any measures against the ambush they have not detected.
    Bluff-insight-- You don't necessarily think the statement is true, but you do believe the speaker is not lying.

Skill rolls are never required, after all.

Skill rolls can be required at any time, possibly at all times when the result of the roll would be uncertain.



 
They're required when the PC is attempting something. In the example being used, the PC is attempting to use skill to determine what happened to someone he was chasing. If the PC just declared that they were making a specific choice, without trying to gain information, there'd be no call for a roll.


     Since the next point describes a case when a roll is called for, we can consider this wrong on its face.  A roll is called for when the DM thinks a roll is called for, which may be when the PC is doing something, or when he is not doing something.

A common case for me is when a player tries something clearly stupid, I require a roll to issue the appropriate warning.



DMs who use the word "stupid" about their players always seem to be the best DMs, I've noticed. They never give bad advice, or come here looking for ways to keep their game from crumbling.


which is irrelevant and a fallacy here.  You are arguing the man.

At other times, not making a skill roll is the same as failing it.

Which isn't the same as the roll being required.


    Neither is pleading nol contendere the same as pleading guilty, but the judge treats it as the same.  You are pretty much accepting the point.

Edit: Play your own character however you want, of course. And let others play theirs how they want.

This is the sort of feel good statement that falls apart on analysis.  You do not want to play with someone who insists he rolled a 20 every time.  Nor would you accept a great many other ways that the other guy might play his character.  You expect him to follow the rules, both written and unwritten.

Is this you analyzing it? Playing one's character how one wants has nothing to do with breaking the rules, because there are no rules about how a character must be played.


      Trying to define rules as not rules does not make them any less rules.  And there are a great many ways you do not consider it acceptable to play a PC whether or not it is legal.  [His PC propositions your PC every round...  You do not care if there is a rule against it or not.  You want him to stop.]


Ah, the unwritten rules. Someone should really write those down, but then I guess people couldn't play "Gotcha!" with them.


    You play "Gotcha!" with the written rules, not the unwritten ones.  "Gotcha!" requires a set of clear rules, which unwritten ones are not almost by definition.



This is pragmatic reluctance, not a principle of the game.

The knowledge skills in the 4th Edition PHB say "Failure: You don't know any pertinent information."

And there are cases where you do get "false knowledge".  With certain feats/powers, a failed monster knowledge check results in combat penalties for example.

Quite so, but that is a mechanical effect, which doesn't rely on a character or player not knowing or pretending not to know something.

Perception-- The party is in a potential ambush situation and you call for a perception check, which everybody fails.  You do not let the players make any measures against the ambush they have not detected.

I let the players do whatever they want. I can generally imagine plausible justifications for the measures they might take, or I can ask them. Telling them "No, you can't do that" isn't going to lead anywhere productive.

Bluff-insight-- You don't necessarily think the statement is true, but you do believe the speaker is not lying.

No, I don't control what anyone believes, but I can say they have no indication that he's lying. He might be a very good liar. If the PCs still don't trust him, that's their choice.

A common case for me is when a player tries something clearly stupid, I require a roll to issue the appropriate warning.

DMs who use the word "stupid" about their players always seem to be the best DMs, I've noticed. They never give bad advice, or come here looking for ways to keep their game from crumbling.


which is irrelevant and a fallacy here.  You are arguing the man.

I sure am.

At other times, not making a skill roll is the same as failing it.

Which isn't the same as the roll being required.

Neither is pleading nol contendere the same as pleading guilty, but the judge treats it as the same.  You are pretty much accepting the point.

If I don't make a roll to see if I know something, how can it be said that I know and then must act as if the opposite or something else was the truth? It's clear that I don't know the thing, but I might act anyway on the best of my incomplete knowledge.

Incidentally, the example of the chase is easily handled. There doesn't need to be an explicit choice of paths to take or disguises to see through. The DM can simply make a roll the requirement for continuing the chase, with success indicating progress (such as realizing what way to go, or seeing through a disguise) and failure indicating complication (such as taking the wrong route, or realizing a trick after it's too late.) The player can even collaborate on what the successes and failures mean.

Edit: Play your own character however you want, of course. And let others play theirs how they want.

This is the sort of feel good statement that falls apart on analysis.  You do not want to play with someone who insists he rolled a 20 every time.  Nor would you accept a great many other ways that the other guy might play his character.  You expect him to follow the rules, both written and unwritten.

Is this you analyzing it? Playing one's character how one wants has nothing to do with breaking the rules, because there are no rules about how a character must be played.

Trying to define rules as not rules does not make them any less rules.

There just aren't rules for how to play one's character. You play it however you want, within the rest of the rules.

And there are a great many ways you do not consider it acceptable to play a PC whether or not it is legal.  [His PC propositions your PC every round...  You do not care if there is a rule against it or not.  You want him to stop.]

That's a player issue, not a rules issue. Everyone could be following the rules perfectly and this could still arise.

Bottom line: There's nothing that requires players to act dumb. I think it's fair to say that most players will try to act appropriately, but it's best to avoid situations where disagreements are likely to arise over what information it's fair for a player to act on or not. One way to avoid those situations is not to worry about them and just let players justify their in-character reactions to themselves. Trying to clamp down on them is probably just going to cause arguments.

[N]o difference is less easily overcome than the difference of opinion about semi-abstract questions. - L. Tolstoy

I tend to come down on both sides of this supposed dichotomy.  For example, if my PCs failed a perception check to notice the ambush ahead, I wouldn't allow my PCs to draw and ready weapons -- they'd have no reason to do so.  If the PCs insisted that they are always on high alert, I'd tell them that they are free to do so, but could probably only go about 5 miles a day, or something like that.  Hell, it may even be worth it to do constitution checks to represent the toll that the stress of constant watching would put on a party.

On the other hand, with the thief/beggar example, I would be loathe to tell my players they had to interact with an NPC in a certain way based on a failed insight/perception check.  I would likewise not tell them they had to do something based on a successful insight/perception check.  I agree that a failed check simply does not provide the PCs with any useful information, and I wonder if that's not the best way to handle it at the table.  Players roll a 1, and the result is, "You don't know."  Player rolls a success and they know, or gain further information based on how handlily they beat the DC.

That said, I'm DMing again after a long hiatus, so I'm not married to any of these ideas and would entertain different ways of looking at, whether I decide to apply those perspectives in my own campaign or not. 
I tend to come down on both sides of this supposed dichotomy.  For example, if my PCs failed a perception check to notice the ambush ahead, I wouldn't allow my PCs to draw and ready weapons -- they'd have no reason to do so.

What if the players provide a reason?

If the PCs insisted that they are always on high alert, I'd tell them that they are free to do so, but could probably only go about 5 miles a day, or something like that.  Hell, it may even be worth it to do constitution checks to represent the toll that the stress of constant watching would put on a party.

When I've seen DMs doing things like this, it's often a passive-aggressive way to say "No." The players can do this annoying, metagame thing, but are they sure they want to? If the DM has that much of an issue with it, it's better just to talk about it. The players in that example clearly don't like being surprised. Who can blame them? In books and movies it's classic, and it a game it adds a little extra challenge to an encounter, but it can make a player feel deprotagonized, made into a chump instead of a hero. So, does the DM really need to resort to that tactic (or whatever it is the players are trying to avoid) or is there something else the DM can be doing that will bring more enjoyment to the table, perhaps even so enjoyable that the players put themselves in a spot in order to experience it?

[N]o difference is less easily overcome than the difference of opinion about semi-abstract questions. - L. Tolstoy

I tend to come down on both sides of this supposed dichotomy.  For example, if my PCs failed a perception check to notice the ambush ahead, I wouldn't allow my PCs to draw and ready weapons -- they'd have no reason to do so.

What if the players provide a reason?

It would depend on what the reason is.  As a for instance, let's say the players are on a well-traveled road that is also known to have bandits prowling about.  They're going to be alert to their surroundings, be in a tactical formation, and may even adjust that formation prior to entering bottle-necks, etc.  But let's say at the table I have them role perception to see if they are alerted to any signs of a coming ambush and they fail it with a miserable 1.  I say, "You don't notice anything," and my players say that they re-adjust their formation and ready weapons/attacks, whatever.  I wouldn't flat out say "No," but I would say, "Why?"  What do you think would be a compelling reason for the PCs to come up with?

If the PCs insisted that they are always on high alert, I'd tell them that they are free to do so, but could probably only go about 5 miles a day, or something like that.  Hell, it may even be worth it to do constitution checks to represent the toll that the stress of constant watching would put on a party.

When I've seen DMs doing things like this, it's often a passive-aggressive way to say "No." The players can do this annoying, metagame thing, but are they sure they want to? If the DM has that much of an issue with it, it's better just to talk about it. The players in that example clearly don't like being surprised. Who can blame them? In books and movies it's classic, and it a game it adds a little extra challenge to an encounter, but it can make a player feel deprotagonized, made into a chump instead of a hero. So, does the DM really need to resort to that tactic (or whatever it is the players are trying to avoid) or is there something else the DM can be doing that will bring more enjoyment to the table, perhaps even so enjoyable that the players put themselves in a spot in order to experience it?



I think players naturally want their PCs to be on top of any situation, but that they get more enjoyment out of the game when their characters end up in dire straits every now and then.  Being surprised won't ruin their chance of success or make them out to be chumps, but it could paint these particular bandits as very good at their job, add tension and "realism" to the encounter, and make that particular combat encounter stand out because they're not able to rely on the same old formation and tactics if they get separated, etc.

These are just some ideas and I look forward to your feedback.
Edit: I'll also say that I don't have a problem with my PCs metagaming -- at least not yet -- but I am answering the topic with what seems natural to me. 
I think players naturally want their PCs to be on top of any situation, but that they get more enjoyment out of the game when their characters end up in dire straits every now and then.  Being surprised won't ruin their chance of success or make them out to be chumps, but it could paint these particular bandits as very good at their job, add tension and "realism" to the encounter, and make that particular combat encounter stand out because they're not able to rely on the same old formation and tactics if they get separated, etc.

These are just some ideas and I look forward to your feedback.



Just an idea to get what you want while not worrying about weapons-out traveling ruining a potential "surprise" encounter: Give all the monsters +1d10 damage in the first round (or whatever die is appropriate). You get what you want - an uptick in the challenge to represent whatever you want it to represent - and the players get what they want, that is, to not look like chumps.

Edit: I'll also say that I don't have a problem with my PCs metagaming -- at least not yet -- but I am answering the topic with what seems natural to me. 



Good on you. Try to keep it that way with regard to metagaming and you'll be doing yourself and your group a big favor. "Metagaming" can be explained by anything in the fantasy world. If something doesn't "feel right," just work with your players to add details until it does. This has the added benefit of fleshing out details you might not have considered before.

No amount of tips, tricks, or gimmicks will ever be better than simply talking directly to your fellow players to resolve your issues.
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