How do I deal with players breaking the campaign?

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Hello, everyone... As I'm sure some of you are aware, I am making my own system, which I am in the process of playtesting. One of my close friends, who is helping me playtest, has been a valuable resource to me for ideas and such... however, when I actually get around to GMing a campaign to test the ideas, he almost ALWAYS tries to "break" the game by playing a ridiculously overpowered monster of a character. While I don't have a problem with his efforts when it comes to mechanics (it helps a LOT when balancing player options), I do have a problem with the "monster" aspect of the characters themselves, as in specifically with how he roleplays them.

See, his first character ended up intentionally killing a fellow party member over a petty theft (and he metagamed to get that far - I admit, letting him metagame as he did was a mistake on my part, but I've learned my lesson), which certainly upset the player of the other character, but didn't require too much effort on my part to fix. It got harder with his next character, who committed various acts of theft, intimidation, torture, and pretty much everything up to and including cold-blooded serial murder against a whole bunch of innocent NPC's. Somehow I managed to pretend that his character could reasonably get away with it enough for the story to continue. Now, in the newest campaign, we're only one session in and he decides his new character is going to disease the entire water supply of the city he's in, which happens to be the regional seat of government (thus threatening social destabilization of 1/4 of a nation), all for the character's sadistic pleasure and feelings of dominance.

Now, I admit I find his characters morally abominable, and the extreme discomfort certainly adds to how much of a problem this is. However, we don't even need to consider that when there's already the factor of how disruptive this is to the campaign, both in terms of how it runs as a game and its role in the development of my system. I have to completely eschew all reason and make the campaign's world bend over backwards just so the campaign doesn't catastrophically halt, let alone allowing him to keep his character. Furthermore, all the brain-wracking effort going into the contortion of reason and plot is taking effort away from the development of the system.

So, how do I deal with this problem? Keep in mind, this is a close friend of mine, and one who, aside from this issue and a small number of ideas I've had to reject, has provided some meaningful and much-appreciated input to the design of my system.

P.S. Now, I know some of you are thinking "STOP RAILROADING!!!!11one," which is a reaction I've gotten before when trying to get help with this sort of thing here. First of all, that reaction JUST. DOESN'T. HELP., and second of all, I'm trying a new campaign format to cut down on the railroading in which the players pick and choose from a bunch of mini-quests, kind of like in the Final Fantasy Tactics or Elder Scrolls games, with additional plot mechanics to help add realism by allowing the world to move along seperate from their adventures. Therefore, don't even go there.
The only thing you can and should do is talk to him. If that doesn't work, nothing else will and you'll either have to not play with him or learn to have fun despite (or because of) what he does.

If I have to ask the GM for it, then I don't want it.

The only thing you can and should do is talk to him. If that doesn't work, nothing else will and you'll either have to not play with him or learn to have fun despite (or because of) what he does.



While I think that's good advice, it's easier said than done for a person such a myself who, quite pathetically, is generally so unconfident, unassuming, and afraid of rejection that I will sometimes panic about merely the act of intruding into the lives of others for even the most casual of reasons. But, that's for me to discuss with my therapist; more to the point, how should I approach the subject?
I think this so-called "close friend" needs to stop ****ing all over your campaign.

Like now.  Or he's gone.  He's not being your friend and he's not helping by doing this.  Tell him to stop and if he doesn't stop, don't invite him back to play with you anymore.  You can explain this however you like:  nicely, patiently, calmly, pleading or angrily, but if he doesn't stop he needs to go.

If this doesn't seem like a practical solution then you got even bigger problems going on.    

Plus, in my opinion, this guy sounds like a psychopath using your game to explore his fantasies.  I'd drop him like a bad habit.

OD&D, 1E and 2E challenged the player. 3E challenged the character, not the player. Now 4E takes it a step further by challenging a GROUP OF PLAYERS to work together as a TEAM. That's why I love 4E.

"Your ability to summon a horde of celestial superbeings at will is making my ... BMX skills look a bit redundant."

"People treat their lack of imagination as if it's the measure of what's silly. Which is silly." - Noon

"Challenge" is overrated.  "Immersion" is usually just a more pretentious way of saying "having fun playing D&D."

"Falling down is how you grow.  Staying down is how you die.  It's not what happens to you, it's what you do after it happens.”

But, that's for me to discuss with my therapist; more to the point, how should I approach the subject?

Politely and clearly explain to him that what he's doing is not helping and why it isn't helping, and make sure he understands that you don't like it.

Then demand that he stop now and tell him this is his only option other than not playing anymore. 

If he is really your friend he will stop doing what he's doing and probably apologize too. 

If he argues with you, tell him he's welcome to his opinion but he's not welcome to wreck your game, so his only option is to stop or leave. 

If he doesn't stop, do not invite him to play again.

If this causes hard feelings on his part, that's his problem, not yours.  Think about that.

If he shows up anyway after being asked not to come back, don't let him participate in the game in any way.

If, on the other hand, he stops his behavior and things are better, make sure to thank him for it and tell him how much you appreciate him accomodating you. 

OD&D, 1E and 2E challenged the player. 3E challenged the character, not the player. Now 4E takes it a step further by challenging a GROUP OF PLAYERS to work together as a TEAM. That's why I love 4E.

"Your ability to summon a horde of celestial superbeings at will is making my ... BMX skills look a bit redundant."

"People treat their lack of imagination as if it's the measure of what's silly. Which is silly." - Noon

"Challenge" is overrated.  "Immersion" is usually just a more pretentious way of saying "having fun playing D&D."

"Falling down is how you grow.  Staying down is how you die.  It's not what happens to you, it's what you do after it happens.”

Consider even the 'real' campaign games to be playtesting.  When he finds another loophole, thank him for finding it, and then start working on ways to close it.  Next game session (or whenver you find a solution), tell him what the change was and re-work his character.
Consider even the 'real' campaign games to be playtesting.  When he finds another loophole, thank him for finding it, and then start working on ways to close it.  Next game session (or whenver you find a solution), tell him what the change was and re-work his character.



Pardon me if I'm incorrect, but it sounds like you're under the impression that the problem is that he's breaking the game's mechanics. In fact, I actually want him to do that, so that the game will be balanced. The problem, as stated above, isn't about mechanics but rather about him breaking the plot. Effectively speaking, the only way I can think of to allow the campaign to continue after his character started to breed diseases in the water supply of the city is to have an unknown god-like figure (who is secretly the catalyst for many of the acts of heroism in the last several centuries) break the fourth wall and interfere directly with the player character's actions.

Also...

Centauri and Red Siegfried, I just sent him a message on Facebook, telling him about not only how am I personally uncomfortable with his characters, but also how his characters stress and contort the reality of the campaign. Now I have to wait and see how he responds.
Centauri and Red Siegfried, I just sent him a message on Facebook, telling him about not only how am I personally uncomfortable with his characters, but also how his characters stress and contort the reality of the campaign. Now I have to wait and see how he responds.

Good.

You mention him breaking the plot. Try not having a plot. Then you have much less reason to care what he does. You could also try asking him what plot he'd like to pursue, and build off of that. If he breaks that, let it be broken, and ask him again what plot he'd like to pursue. He should get the message that he's shortcircuiting his own ideas, not yours, and that might change his attitude. But that's much less reliable an approach than trying to talk to him, so good job and good luck.

If I have to ask the GM for it, then I don't want it.

...Try not having a plot...



The biggest reason I have trouble with not railroading is because, well, without a plot, there's nothing driving the action. Without something driving the action, nothing happens. And when nothing happens, what you have isn't a game, but rather a bunch of people just sitting at a table with nothing to do.

Either way, hopefully the issue will be resolved soon. He hasn't yet responded to my message, so...
...Try not having a plot...



The biggest reason I have trouble with not railroading is because, well, without a plot, there's nothing driving the action. Without something driving the action, nothing happens. And when nothing happens, what you have isn't a game, but rather a bunch of people just sitting at a table with nothing to do.

Either way, hopefully the issue will be resolved soon. He hasn't yet responded to my message, so...



You can have action without a plot, even compelling action created by the DM (content) and still not have a plot. Check my signature for some helpful articles on how to do it, if you like.

For any decision or adjudication, ask yourself, "Is this going to be fun for everyone?" and "Is this going to lead to the creation of an exciting, memorable story?"

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The biggest reason I have trouble with not railroading is because, well, without a plot, there's nothing driving the action. Without something driving the action, nothing happens.

It's not true that without a plot there's no action. Obviously things will still happen, but without a plot, they don't have to happen in order for things to proceed. Without plot, there is still cause and effect, and if the players aren't causing anything, then the rest of the world still can be. If the tavern they're causing trouble in suddenly explodes because of separatists expressing their discontent, something is definitely happening, but whether the players side with the separatists, or fight the separatists, or ignore the separatists and do something else, stuff is still happening. If the players don't engage in that event, have something else happen, or ask them what they would find engaging. As long as you don't rely on them doing a particular thing, or not doing a particular thing, it doesn't matter what they do. Without a plot, there's no plot to ruin.

If I have to ask the GM for it, then I don't want it.

It's not true that without a plot there's no action. Obviously things will still happen, but without a plot, they don't have to happen in order for things to proceed. Without plot, there is still cause and effect, and if the players aren't causing anything, then the rest of the world still can be. If the tavern they're causing trouble in suddenly explodes because of separatists expressing their discontent, something is definitely happening, but whether the players side with the separatists, or fight the separatists, or ignore the separatists and do something else, stuff is still happening. If the players don't engage in that event, have something else happen, or ask them what they would find engaging. As long as you don't rely on them doing a particular thing, or not doing a particular thing, it doesn't matter what they do. Without a plot, there's no plot to ruin.



In my experience, whenever I try to have the world act first, the one or two most experiences players in my regular group end up ignoring or trying to circumvent every call to action I give them so their characters can either become the setting's Public Enemy Number One, or settle down to a life of inactive civilian stagnation. The less experienced (and very much so) players, not knowing what to do, follow their lead.

It's rather odd, too, since they could just as easily tell me they're not interested in playing, but aside from their actions in-game, all indications point toward the group wanting to keep playing.
In my experience, whenever I try to have the world act first, the one or two most experiences players in my regular group end up ignoring or trying to circumvent every call to action I give them so their characters can either become the setting's Public Enemy Number One, or settle down to a life of inactive civilian stagnation. The less experienced (and very much so) players, not knowing what to do, follow their lead.

It's rather odd, too, since they could just as easily tell me they're not interested in playing, but aside from their actions in-game, all indications point toward the group wanting to keep playing.

You're conflating "playing" with "playing out the DM's plot." They clearly don't want to play out your plot, but they clearly want to play. So, don't give them "calls to action," just have things happen and let them decide what they want to do in response (or not in response). Also, ask them what they think happens and build off those ideas.

Also, get them out of civilized areas. Put them someplace where they can be as bad as they want, and still be the nicest people around in comparison. Conan's hardly a paragon of virtue, but those he generally faces off against are far, far worse.

If I have to ask the GM for it, then I don't want it.

In my experience, whenever I try to have the world act first, the one or two most experiences players in my regular group end up ignoring or trying to circumvent every call to action I give them so their characters can either become the setting's Public Enemy Number One, or settle down to a life of inactive civilian stagnation. The less experienced (and very much so) players, not knowing what to do, follow their lead.

It's rather odd, too, since they could just as easily tell me they're not interested in playing, but aside from their actions in-game, all indications point toward the group wanting to keep playing.



Interesting. Normally when I see players doing the Public Enemy thing, they're screaming for narrative control or at the very least some compelling action. Out of curiosity, what do you mean by "call to action?" Adventure hooks, quest-givers, or something like that? There's definitely a difference of expectations at work here, plot aside. Perhaps a discussion about what the fantasy adventuring genre is all about would be helpful.

I agree with Centauri on getting them outside of civilization. Games that I run see almost no screen time spent on towns. It's not where the action and adventure is in my view (unless the players want it to be). Not in D&D anyway.

For any decision or adjudication, ask yourself, "Is this going to be fun for everyone?" and "Is this going to lead to the creation of an exciting, memorable story?"

DMs: Dungeon Master 101  |  Session Zero  |  How to Adjudicate Actions  |  No Myth Roleplaying  |  5e Monster Index & Encounter Calculator
Players: Players 101  |  11 Ways to Be a Better Roleplayer  |  You Are Not Your Character  |  Pre-Gen D&D 5e PCs

Content I Created: Adventure Scenarios  |  Actual Play Reports  |  Tools  |  Game Transcripts

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Centauri and Red Siegfried, I just sent him a message on Facebook, telling him about not only how am I personally uncomfortable with his characters, but also how his characters stress and contort the reality of the campaign. Now I have to wait and see how he responds.

Good.

You mention him breaking the plot. Try not having a plot. Then you have much less reason to care what he does. You could also try asking him what plot he'd like to pursue, and build off of that. If he breaks that, let it be broken, and ask him again what plot he'd like to pursue. He should get the message that he's shortcircuiting his own ideas, not yours, and that might change his attitude. But that's much less reliable an approach than trying to talk to him, so good job and good luck.



Very well said.

Try not rewarding un-conctructive gaming.  You can do it subtly by not giving it time or attention, or you could have his heinous act come with devestating consequences.  Put a bounty on his character's head and make every game session a fight for survival against nasty odds.

You're conflating "playing" with "playing out the DM's plot." They clearly don't want to play out your plot, but they clearly want to play. So, don't give them "calls to action," just have things happen and let them decide what they want to do in response (or not in response). Also, ask them what they think happens and build off those ideas.



By "calls to action," I was actually referring to "[having] things happen." You know, just a clarification.

Also, get them out of civilized areas. Put them someplace where they can be as bad as they want, and still be the nicest people around in comparison. Conan's hardly a paragon of virtue, but those he generally faces off against are far, far worse.



So far, there really isn't anywhere in the setting that fits that description. To elaborate, there are four main nations in which an adventure could reasonably take place. They are listed below.

Milandria, where the current campaign is taking place, absolutely hates tyranny in just about all forms, and they also realize that a tyranny need not be an officially recognized government. If the people are only presented with two choices, either a villain under which things really suck or an evil "hero" under which things suck marginally less, the people will refuse both choices and go with a third choice, i.e. "give me liberty or give me death." In fact, a populist revolution is what founded Milandria in the first place, about 50 years ago in the setting's modern day. Since then, a lot of their struggles have been overcome - the two biggest domestic problems that remain are outlaws who mistook "liberty" for "legal degenerate hedonism," and the remnants of the previous government that they overthrew.

Gondrogar, which is significantly closer to your description yet still not quite there, is governed as a "chirocratic despotism," as in rule by brute force. The High Jarl, the highest governmental position in Gondrogar, is basically determined by whoever either wins a tournament to determine the land's best warrior, or whoever defeats the previous High Jarl in a duel. Additionally, there are many clans vying for power; typically, whichever clan produces the High Jarl is considered the most powerful. Those who either can't or won't fight to prove their worth are basically slaves; some lucky few end up emigrating to Milandria. Secretly, a Milandrian wizard captured and enslaved by the All-Slayer clan is trying to change the system to bring freedom to the weak and downtrodden in Gondrogar by magically imposing his own mind and soul on to the current High Jarl, Brigrada All-Slayer. I suppose this could potentially work, but it'd take a lot of effort to get the nation's finer details filled enough to run a full campaign from Gondrogar.

Parodesh is a polytheistic theocracy; I haven't nearly fleshed it out enough to run a campaign there.

Calmekanni is a place where, in the absence of viable magic use, technology has become more advanced to compensate. Before the aforementioned Milandrian Revolution, however, Baalicos, the nation before Milandria, ended up destroying (but not taking over) the government of Calmekanni. What remains is two powerful rival gangs and several less powerful gangs trying to reclaim the wasteland (and the advanced technology hidden within) and rebuild the nation in their own design.
Try not rewarding un-conctructive gaming.  You can do it subtly by not giving it time or attention, or you could have his heinous act come with devestating consequences.  Put a bounty on his character's head and make every game session a fight for survival against nasty odds.

I'm afraid I can't quite agree. The player probably does want people to oppose his deeds (so he can beat them), but to try to give disincentives for the actions is going to backfire.

Traps and monsters in dungeons only appear to be disincentives, but we really do want the PCs to face those and have a good chance of coming out on top. If a PC is piled up against to dissuade the player from taking an otherwise freely available course of action, the DM has departed from the intention of the game and moved into the realm of needing to talk with the player. As this DM is.

If I have to ask the GM for it, then I don't want it.

So far, there really isn't anywhere in the setting that fits that description. To elaborate, there are four main nations in which an adventure could reasonably take place. They are listed below.



In all of that description of your setting, there's no room for you to slap down some lost ruins filled with traps and monsters and let the character run amuck?

For any decision or adjudication, ask yourself, "Is this going to be fun for everyone?" and "Is this going to lead to the creation of an exciting, memorable story?"

DMs: Dungeon Master 101  |  Session Zero  |  How to Adjudicate Actions  |  No Myth Roleplaying  |  5e Monster Index & Encounter Calculator
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Content I Created: Adventure Scenarios  |  Actual Play Reports  |  Tools  |  Game Transcripts

Follow me on Twitter: @is3rith

By "calls to action," I was actually referring to "[having] things happen." You know, just a clarification.

I assumed you meant "having things happen that the PCs were expect to react to in a certain way." If not, I apologize.

Also, get them out of civilized areas. Put them someplace where they can be as bad as they want, and still be the nicest people around in comparison. Conan's hardly a paragon of virtue, but those he generally faces off against are far, far worse.

So far, there really isn't anywhere in the setting that fits that description.

Then make some. Surely the whole world isn't civilized. Even our whole world isn't civilized. There's no limit to how awful you could make an area of the world. Don't limit yourself. It's clearly not working to have these players in a city where what they do can be classified as criminal. Get them someplace where whatever they do, however evil, is just part of survival. Don't do this as a punishment: put in challenges that they will enjoy, and that you are fine with them beating. But try changing where things are taking place and see what happens.

If I have to ask the GM for it, then I don't want it.

There is a middle ground between no plot and all plot. You can create situations and scenarios without determining ahead of time how the PCs win or lose. Part of that is considering any outcome a win.

You also can create things based on what the players are wanting to do. If you create a spooky castle and they are more interested in the woods outside the castle, don't keep trying to get them to go into the castle. Play up the woods, that's what they want to do. That's why it is best to no go and flesh out an entire adventure based on a castle, unless the players are like "Hey, I really want to storm a castle!"

I had a DM in college who quit DMing because we were "ruining his world." That's one of those times where he was really enjoying creating stuff, but we as the players really weren't supposed to interact with it. We were there to tell him how cool it was and listen to the story he was telling, and that wasn't what any of us wanted to do.

Had we as a group actually discussed that before we sat down, we could have avoided many frustrating and wasted hours of each of us sitting at the same table trying to play a different game.
There is a middle ground between no plot and all plot. You can create situations and scenarios without determining ahead of time how the PCs win or lose. Part of that is considering any outcome a win.

You also can create things based on what the players are wanting to do. If you create a spooky castle and they are more interested in the woods outside the castle, don't keep trying to get them to go into the castle. Play up the woods, that's what they want to do. That's why it is best to no go and flesh out an entire adventure based on a castle, unless the players are like "Hey, I really want to storm a castle!"



Just to clarify: Situations or scenarios aren't plots. I think a lot of DMs get confused about this. I've seen insane arguments that any content is a plot when it's clearly not. A plot is a predetermined sequence of events. A situation or scenario is just something going on, a premise. How it plays out should depend on how the goals of the individual actors engaged in it interact (plus dice).

I had a DM in college who quit DMing because we were "ruining his world." That's one of those times where he was really enjoying creating stuff, but we as the players really weren't supposed to interact with it. We were there to tell him how cool it was and listen to the story he was telling, and that wasn't what any of us wanted to do.



You're reading my mind.

Had we as a group actually discussed that before we sat down, we could have avoided many frustrating and wasted hours of each of us sitting at the same table trying to play a different game.



Great advice.

For any decision or adjudication, ask yourself, "Is this going to be fun for everyone?" and "Is this going to lead to the creation of an exciting, memorable story?"

DMs: Dungeon Master 101  |  Session Zero  |  How to Adjudicate Actions  |  No Myth Roleplaying  |  5e Monster Index & Encounter Calculator
Players: Players 101  |  11 Ways to Be a Better Roleplayer  |  You Are Not Your Character  |  Pre-Gen D&D 5e PCs

Content I Created: Adventure Scenarios  |  Actual Play Reports  |  Tools  |  Game Transcripts

Follow me on Twitter: @is3rith

So far, there really isn't anywhere in the setting that fits that description. To elaborate, there are four main nations in which an adventure could reasonably take place. They are listed below.



In all of that description of your setting, there's no room for you to slap down some lost ruins filled with traps and monsters and let the character run amuck?



I've actually tried something similar to that; in fact, it was actually this last session. Granted, the dungeon crawl was actually the party being hired to clear out an excavation site full of zombies... It was the game's most experienced player (and the same player that this thread was originally about) who chose the mini-quest, and the rest, as stated before, followed his lead. Afterward, I found out that the only reason he wanted to do the quest was because he assumed the zombies were virulent in nature, and he wanted to try to bring the zombie virus into civilized lands. It disappointed him to find out that the zombies were not virulent in nature.

That said, it seems even less hopeful that this player's roleplaying style would be able to work with my GMing style (or my most lax of moral standards, for that matter).

I assumed you meant "having things happen that the PCs were expect to react to in a certain way." If not, I apologize.



Nope. I meant "having things happen, which hopefully (yet not necessarily) the PC's would react to at all." Maybe I'm overreacting, but honestly, I can't help but feel a bit irked that people just assume all these things about me or what I do, and only now, after having to explain myself at least two different ways on this thread alone, people start to think that maybe they were wrong.

Then make some. Surely the whole world isn't civilized. Even our whole world isn't civilized. There's no limit to how awful you could make an area of the world. Don't limit yourself. It's clearly not working to have these players in a city where what they do can be classified as criminal. Get them someplace where whatever they do, however evil, is just part of survival. Don't do this as a punishment: put in challenges that they will enjoy, and that you are fine with them beating. But try changing where things are taking place and see what happens.



As you'll see above in my mention of the reason for which the group took the quest to kill zombies, it seems the players (or, at least, the one player who is accustomed to roleplaying) wouldn't be content with that. He didn't just want to "run amok," he wanted to have his character do evil, for the sake of evil, in places where a high amount of innocent deaths would occur as a result.

Additionally, I don't think I as a GM could actually do a survival-themed campaign. In fact, that's why I personally hate Dark Sun so much: as far as I can tell, it's basically a simulation of hopeless misery and a guarantee of nothing worth living for, where the best your characters have to look forward to is leading a relatively-less-painful yet still pointless and wasted life in a world that's going to get worse no matter what you do. If, for whatever reason, you can actually be a hero on Athas, then that pretty much goes against the whole point of Dark Sun anyway, and so it's not really Dark Sun.
Jadebrain, in everyone's defense, it is very easy to misread things on a forum, and it is just as easy to have more being said in your head than what you put on the page. Don't take offense, no one thinks you are doing anything wrong, they are just reaching for answers/advice with only a sliver of a snapshot of the situation.

It's the nature of these and all forums.

Also remember you came and asked for advice, which indicates to everyone you think there is a problem. If you shoot down every solution offered, then why are you asking? (rhetorical question, not actually asking/accusing)

Again, read all of that in a very charitable friend voice. We want to help, otherwise we'd just ignore the thread.
Try not rewarding un-conctructive gaming.  You can do it subtly by not giving it time or attention, or you could have his heinous act come with devestating consequences.  Put a bounty on his character's head and make every game session a fight for survival against nasty odds.



yes and no. You can't let players get away with something and then suddenly trample all over them for it. It would be best to ensure there is a discussion before implimenting such a change. But in general I agree with your approach if it is done from the beginning of play and implimented fairly and not as a DM punishment. I believe that using proper cause and effect prevents this from happening, consequences play themselves out. Characters, being adventurers, will get themselves into trouble, so the DM should make it interesting of course, but the risks of doing so will always be there.

It has to be done realistically, which means the DM can't just continually whip up trouble for them when they step out of line and meta-game punishments are more frustrating then anything else.  Establish the setting properly, with this in mind, in advance, and then the DM can just let their actions play themselves out. That means a city's guards and resources, NPCs (weaker and stronger alike) are set up in advance, the more detailed the better, although much will have to be made up on the fly (PCs are unpredictable) based on what would reasonably be there.

This has several purposes. First it allows all sorts of PC shenanigans, players should be encouraged to attempt what interests them, and secondly it keeps them in check from the more troublesome, disruptive actions. PCs have a free hand, but they are responsible to ensure they get away with it. This encourages smart play and has the PCs clean up any mess they make.

Some worry about the PCs simply destroying everything sent at them, but remember that the DM is in control of the world, there is always someone bigger. A player who continually escelates a situation will run fowl of that eventually.

ie a small town, just some peasant farmers, the town "sherrif" is just a farmer who has a staff and wears a feather in his cap as his mark of office. there is absolutely nothing in the town that could stop a PC from doing whatever they wanted (except maybe the pther PCs) So what would happen if they slaughtered the whole town?   Well nothing could stop them, but consider the consequence of such an action, a town of farmers doesn't grow only enough food to feed themselves. What happens why you threaten the food supply of several cities? Or the supply to an army?

My point here isn't on what should be done to them in the above case (there are many possible results)  but rather the scale of which such actions can have. ie the events of what happens in this small town could end up being discussed thousands of miles away by the High King and his top military commanders about the threat to national security.....they really don't want to be Public Enemy Number One unless they are prepared to deal with the consequences.

And consequences are the point, the reaosn PCs that become serial killers, and other disruptive type of actions occur is generally because there is no sense of cause and effect in the game, and if they can always get away with it, no matter how terrible their actions or how sloppy they are, then there is no reason why they shouldn't do it  and every reason why they should. It really becomes an enabled behaviour, they've been given a green light to act that way, so they will.

So stop the game, talk to them and explain your issues with the game and correct the problem, and then start playing out the natural consequences. Not as punishment (that never works) you want the game to be interesting and allow for typical adventurer misbehaviour, but just so that you aren't enabling that situation. 
Jadebrain, in everyone's defense, it is very easy to misread things on a forum, and it is just as easy to have more being said in your head than what you put on the page. Don't take offense, no one thinks you are doing anything wrong, they are just reaching for answers/advice with only a sliver of a snapshot of the situation.

It's the nature of these and all forums.

Also remember you came and asked for advice, which indicates to everyone you think there is a problem. If you shoot down every solution offered, then why are you asking? (rhetorical question, not actually asking/accusing)

Again, read all of that in a very charitable friend voice. We want to help, otherwise we'd just ignore the thread.



Ah, I admit, I'm a bit stressed out. But I must say, in response to your rhetorical question, I don't just "shoot down every solution offered." If I don't think something is going to work, I will say so, and I will say why I don't think it will work. That way, people who want to help me can (hopefully) think of something that will work, or at the very least, we can discuss further whether or not a solution already offerred will work given further clarification. It certainly beats automatically applying whatever advice I get without considering its possible effectiveness beforehand, does it not?

It has to be done realistically, which means the DM can't just continually whip up trouble for them when they step out of line and meta-game punishments are more frustrating then anything else.  Establish the setting properly, with this in mind, in advance, and then the DM can just let their actions play themselves out. That means a city's guards and resources, NPCs (weaker and stronger alike) are set up in advance, the more detailed the better, although much will have to be made up on the fly (PCs are unpredictable) based on what would reasonably be there.

This has several purposes. First it allows all sorts of PC shenanigans, players should be encouraged to attempt what interests them, and secondly it keeps them in check from the more troublesome, disruptive actions. PCs have a free hand, but they are responsible to ensure they get away with it. This encourages smart play and has the PCs clean up any mess they make.

Some worry about the PCs simply destroying everything sent at them, but remember that the DM is in control of the world, there is always someone bigger. A player who continually escelates a situation will run fowl of that eventually.

ie a small town, just some peasant farmers, the town "sherrif" is just a farmer who has a staff and wears a feather in his cap as his mark of office. there is absolutely nothing in the town that could stop a PC from doing whatever they wanted (except maybe the pther PCs) So what would happen if they slaughtered the whole town?   Well nothing could stop them, but consider the consequence of such an action, a town of farmers doesn't grow only enough food to feed themselves. What happens why you threaten the food supply of several cities? Or the supply to an army?

My point here isn't on what should be done to them in the above case (there are many possible results)  but rather the scale of which such actions can have. ie the events of what happens in this small town could end up being discussed thousands of miles away by the High King and his top military commanders about the threat to national security.....they really don't want to be Public Enemy Number One unless they are prepared to deal with the consequences.

And consequences are the point, the reaosn PCs that become serial killers, and other disruptive type of actions occur is generally because there is no sense of cause and effect in the game, and if they can always get away with it, no matter how terrible their actions or how sloppy they are, then there is no reason why they shouldn't do it  and every reason why they should. It really becomes an enabled behaviour, they've been given a green light to act that way, so they will.

So stop the game, talk to them and explain your issues with the game and correct the problem, and then start playing out the natural consequences. Not as punishment (that never works) you want the game to be interesting and allow for typical adventurer misbehaviour, but just so that you aren't enabling that situation. 



I remember, in another thread I created, that I tried advocating for this very same idea. I was pretty much aggressively and repeatedly accused of being a terrible GM and person for my supposed unwillingness to allow the PC's to do anything I didn't approve of.
I've actually tried something similar to that; in fact, it was actually this last session. Granted, the dungeon crawl was actually the party being hired to clear out an excavation site full of zombies... It was the game's most experienced player (and the same player that this thread was originally about) who chose the mini-quest, and the rest, as stated before, followed his lead. Afterward, I found out that the only reason he wanted to do the quest was because he assumed the zombies were virulent in nature, and he wanted to try to bring the zombie virus into civilized lands. It disappointed him to find out that the zombies were not virulent in nature.

Why not make the zombies virulent, if that's what the player wants? There's really no upside to disappointing the players.

I assumed you meant "having things happen that the PCs were expect to react to in a certain way." If not, I apologize.

Nope. I meant "having things happen, which hopefully (yet not necessarily) the PC's would react to at all." Maybe I'm overreacting, but honestly, I can't help but feel a bit irked that people just assume all these things about me or what I do, and only now, after having to explain myself at least two different ways on this thread alone, people start to think that maybe they were wrong.

I'm basing my assumptions off the things you're saying, like "plot" and "mission" and "hope." "Hope," other than hoping the players will have fun, is what needs to be managed here. Don't "hope" that the players will behave: either don't care if they behave or ask them to behave. Some will suggest using the game to make them behave, but that's a bad, bad idea.

As you'll see above in my mention of the reason for which the group took the quest to kill zombies, it seems the players (or, at least, the one player who is accustomed to roleplaying) wouldn't be content with that. He didn't just want to "run amok," he wanted to have his character do evil, for the sake of evil, in places where a high amount of innocent deaths would occur as a result.

You established those places in your world as important. You basically put a bullseye on them. This player might react very differently if the innocents of the world were downplayed, if the only beings the player had on hand to hurt were deserving of it, or at least not "innocent."

Additionally, I don't think I as a GM could actually do a survival-themed campaign.

That's not what I'm suggesting.

Your plot and this player don't go together. Something's got to give. You've already taken the best option and communicated with the player. You don't seem to be the least bit open to letting go of your ideas, so hopefully he'll be receptive to changing his behavior.

If I have to ask the GM for it, then I don't want it.

I've actually tried something similar to that; in fact, it was actually this last session. Granted, the dungeon crawl was actually the party being hired to clear out an excavation site full of zombies... It was the game's most experienced player (and the same player that this thread was originally about) who chose the mini-quest, and the rest, as stated before, followed his lead. Afterward, I found out that the only reason he wanted to do the quest was because he assumed the zombies were virulent in nature, and he wanted to try to bring the zombie virus into civilized lands. It disappointed him to find out that the zombies were not virulent in nature.



Let's rewind the clock for a moment: You're at the game and the player states his desire that the zombies be virulent and that he intends to use them to start the Zombie Apocalypse. I'm assuming here it was not established up front that the zombies were not carriers of some kind of undead plague. What was your objection to just letting it be so?

My theory is that this player is specifically doing these things because he feels he has no impact on the world in which he's playing, a world of your creation. That's no excuse for his passive aggression, naturally. But this is often just a symptom of an underlying issue.

For any decision or adjudication, ask yourself, "Is this going to be fun for everyone?" and "Is this going to lead to the creation of an exciting, memorable story?"

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Why not make the zombies virulent, if that's what the player wants? There's really no upside to disappointing the players.



Keep in mind, I'm not just GMing a game, I'm playtesting a system. I'm not planning on having virulent zombies being possible in the canon of the system.

I'm basing my assumptions off the things you're saying, like "plot" and "mission" and "hope."



I'm not trying to be rude or anything, but you have to consider not just the individual words used, but the context in which they are used, and other words used in that context. If you look again, I said "hopefully (yet not necessarily)," implying that while I would personally prefer a certain thing to happen, I would be willing to try working with something else happening.

You established those places in your world as important. You basically put a bullseye on them. This player might react very differently if the innocents of the world were downplayed, if the only beings the player had on hand to hurt were deserving of it, or at least not "innocent."



Well, I did here, in this forum, but in the game itself, the innocents themselves weren't mentioned at all until the player mentioned he was going to do what he planned on doing.

You don't seem to be the least bit open to letting go of your ideas...



As I stated earlier in a reply to someone else's "rhetorical question," I'm open to new ideas, but if I think the new ideas won't work, I'll say so, and I'll say why, in hopes that I'd eventually get ideas that would work.

Let's rewind the clock for a moment: You're at the game and the player states his desire that the zombies be virulent and that he intends to use them to start the Zombie Apocalypse. I'm assuming here it was not established up front that the zombies were not carriers of some kind of undead plague. What was your objection to just letting it be so?



As stated above, I'm not going to put in something which is impossible in the canon of the setting. Internal functional inconsistency in works of any media is bad in terms of quality, and it would be lazy for me to ignore how the setting's laws of physics work.

My theory is that this player is specifically doing these things because he feels he has no impact on the world in which he's playing, a world of your creation.



I'll have to ask him about that later...

Also, I just got a reply from the player. He said that his character is "a good character with a bad habit. He is not trying to kill everyone, he is trying to put them in danger so he can save them. Its kinda like a god complex." He didn't seem to get my point that, realistically speaking, his character's actions will probably have in-game consequences. I sent him another message explaining that:

"...in the context of the game, it's only realistic that A. the population of Erresse would be too much for just one doctor to handle, B. eventually, the parcel your character dropped into the water system would be found, telling the populace that this was an intentional act of biological warfare, and C. the oddball strangers who just showed up in town (the party), and especially the one in particular who mentioned being personally involved with something similar happening elsewhere to the adventurer's guild recruiter (your character) will be considered prime suspects."
As stated above, I'm not going to put in something which is impossible in the canon of the setting. Internal functional inconsistency in works of any media is bad in terms of quality, and it would be lazy for me to ignore how the setting's laws of physics work.



So you had the foresight to specifically establish that there was no possibility of a zombie plague in the canon of your setting prior to the player bringing it up during play?


I'll have to ask him about that later...



Yes, definitely. I recommend you do it face to face or at least over the phone rather than in text.

Also, I just got a reply from the player. He said that his character is "a good character with a bad habit. He is not trying to kill everyone, he is trying to put them in danger so he can save them. Its kinda like a god complex." He didn't seem to get my point that, realistically speaking, his character's actions will probably have in-game consequences. I sent him another message explaining that:

"...in the context of the game, it's only realistic that A. the population of Erresse would be too much for just one doctor to handle, B. eventually, the parcel your character dropped into the water system would be found, telling the populace that this was an intentional act of biological warfare, and C. the oddball strangers who just showed up in town (the party), and especially the one in particular who mentioned being personally involved with something similar happening elsewhere to the adventurer's guild recruiter (your character) will be considered prime suspects."



These are all great examples of the DM blocking player ideas using "realism" as an excuse.

Have you ever considered looking at it from a different angle? Instead of coming up with reasons why something can't work, maybe you come up with reasons why something can work? You seem to be able to devise plenty of realistic ways for the former, but I see nothing for the latter.

For any decision or adjudication, ask yourself, "Is this going to be fun for everyone?" and "Is this going to lead to the creation of an exciting, memorable story?"

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While I don't have a problem with his efforts when it comes to mechanics (it helps a LOT when balancing player options), I do have a problem with the "monster" aspect of the characters themselves, as in specifically with how he roleplays them.

I'm not sure how you go about the presentation of your game, but one thing that has worked for me in the past is to include a note somewhere in the playtest document (probably in the Foreword) that the game is primarily concerned with the actions of good characters who don't go around murdering innocent people for fun or profit. I seem to recall that 4E had a similar note.

The metagame is not the game.

Why not make the zombies virulent, if that's what the player wants? There's really no upside to disappointing the players.

Keep in mind, I'm not just GMing a game, I'm playtesting a system. I'm not planning on having virulent zombies being possible in the canon of the system.

Why on earth not?

In D&D the "system" doesn't really cover things like zombie plagues or werewolf plagues, or dragon overpopulation, or the like. (There are, in fact, rules for infectious zombies, and other undead plagues, and "moon fever" for PCs has replaced full blown lycanthropy, but it's pretty reasonable to imagine spreadable lycanthropy.) There are aspects of adventuring and tropes of fantasy that the rules simply don't speak to. I find it curious that your actual "system" would speak to this particular issue.

I'm not trying to be rude or anything, but you have to consider not just the individual words used, but the context in which they are used, and other words used in that context. If you look again, I said "hopefully (yet not necessarily)," implying that while I would personally prefer a certain thing to happen, I would be willing to try working with something else happening.

Right, and that's what I'm saying: don't "hope" for anything. And more than being willing for "something" else to happen, be willing for anything else to happen.

Well, I did here, in this forum, but in the game itself, the innocents themselves weren't mentioned at all until the player mentioned he was going to do what he planned on doing.

You didn't outline the major civilized areas for him, the way you did for us?

You don't seem to be the least bit open to letting go of your ideas...

As I stated earlier in a reply to someone else's "rhetorical question," I'm open to new ideas, but if I think the new ideas won't work, I'll say so, and I'll say why, in hopes that I'd eventually get ideas that would work.
My advice is that if you think something wouldn't work, ask the person questions about how it could work within your constraints, or if they see some way to achieve a particular design goal with different (or no) constraints. Don't just say why something won't work, explore how it might work.

As stated above, I'm not going to put in something which is impossible in the canon of the setting. Internal functional inconsistency in works of any media is bad in terms of quality, and it would be lazy for me to ignore how the setting's laws of physics work.

Most of the works of fiction you enjoy have "internal functioning inconsistency." Without it, you get the real world.

He didn't seem to get my point that, realistically speaking, his character's actions will probably have in-game consequences.

Realism and probability don't really enter into it. If there are in-game consequences, it's because you created them. If they occur, it's because you caused them to. If the player's idea is blocked, it's because you blocked it.

I understand why you want to block it. It's hard to see how to make his idea work, so all it makes sense to do is to either keep it from working or threaten the player with consquences. Unfortunately, neither method has a good track record when it comes to modifying player behavior. What I have seen work, though, is when the DM talks to the player (as you have begun to) and works to figure out what the player really wants and how to bring that about in a fun way for the group.

As suggested, put your substantial creative ability toward enabling players, rather than disabling them.

If I have to ask the GM for it, then I don't want it.

So you had the foresight to specifically establish that there was no possibility of a zombie plague in the canon of your setting prior to the player bringing it up during play?



As a matter of fact, yes. I wouldn't have used internal consistency issues as grounds for rejecting a player's wishes if no such internal consistency issues actually existed.

These are all great examples of the DM blocking player ideas using "realism" as an excuse.

Have you ever considered looking at it from a different angle? Instead of coming up with reasons why something can't work, maybe you come up with reasons why something can work? You seem to be able to devise plenty of realistic ways for the former, but I see nothing for the latter.



I'm confused - are we still talking about the internal consistency of the setting itself, or the NPC reactions to what the players do in the campaign? If it's the former, I've actually come up with an explanation as to how magic works in the setting which treats it as being a physical process intrinsic to the reality of the setting, rather than some other systems which say that magic is literally the art of breaking the rules of reality, if they even care to explain it at all. I just haven't mentioned it before now because I didn't consider it to be vital to the conversation.
As a matter of fact, yes. I wouldn't have used internal consistency issues as grounds for rejecting a player's wishes if no such internal consistency issues actually existed.



Uh huh. In any event, it seems pretty clear that this internal consistency was either not known to the player or the player doesn't value that as much as you apparently do.

I'm confused - are we still talking about the internal consistency of the setting itself, or the NPC reactions to what the players do in the campaign? If it's the former, I've actually come up with an explanation as to how magic works in the setting which treats it as being a physical process intrinsic to the reality of the setting, rather than some other systems which say that magic is literally the art of breaking the rules of reality, if they even care to explain it at all. I just haven't mentioned it before now because I didn't consider it to be vital to the conversation.



What I'm saying is, use your powers of imagination to figure out a way, consistent with whatever you've devised and established with your players as true about the setting, to make it work such that the player's ideas are accepted, refined, and put into play in an interesting and fun way. As opposed to saying, "Here's why your idea wouldn't work..." and then rattling off a bunch of stuff that probably just frustrates and annoys your players, encouraging them to further act out in-game.

For any decision or adjudication, ask yourself, "Is this going to be fun for everyone?" and "Is this going to lead to the creation of an exciting, memorable story?"

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Content I Created: Adventure Scenarios  |  Actual Play Reports  |  Tools  |  Game Transcripts

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I find it curious that your actual "system" would speak to this particular issue.



Well, the fact that zombies exist at all in my game's setting, combined with my concerns about internal consistency, would imply that I've thought about how zombies would work in the setting. In this case, I've though of only one way that zombies can work: qi infusion, in which one would put qi, or soul energy, into a dead body, normally resulting in a very weak and slow zombie which, being dead and therefore unfit to hold qi, would be hard to control and only be animated temporarily anyway. One could also fix the body up first, either by restoring or replacing its non-functioning components, to make the zombie more powerful and longer-lasting.

The functioning of qi has also been explored, though I don't want to go on too much of a tangent if it's not necessary.

...And more than being willing for "something" else to happen, be willing for anything else to happen.



By that, do you mean I shouldn't expect something specific as an alternative, or that I should be open to literally anything?

You didn't outline the major civilized areas for him, the way you did for us?



That I did... I must have misunderstood what you were saying earlier about painting a bullseye on the innocents. I thought you were assuming I was specifically drawing attention to the civilians in the running of the campaign itself, which I did not.

My advice is that if you think something wouldn't work, ask the person questions about how it could work within your constraints, or if they see some way to achieve a particular design goal with different (or no) constraints. Don't just say why something won't work, explore how it might work.



Ah, one of those unwritten social rules... As a person with high-functioning autism, those things don't quite come naturally to me. I kind of thought that the exploration of how it might work would be initiated with my explaining of why it wouldn't work, as the idea-giver, if he found his idea was misunderstood, would clarify his position.

Most of the works of fiction you enjoy have "internal functioning inconsistency."



Yes, but I think they could be much better if they got their own rules right.

What I have seen work, though, is when the DM talks to the player (as you have begun to) and works to figure out what the player really wants and how to bring that about in a fun way for the group.



I'll try to do that more often.
Uh huh. In any event, it seems pretty clear that this internal consistency was either not known to the player or the player doesn't value that as much as you apparently do.



In case it helps to clarify, the player was informed of the non-virulent nature of the zombies though a skill check which he made to discern the nature of the zombies.

...

On to a broader subject, one thing I don't quite get is why everything seems to fall apart when I do things. This may come as a surprise to you all, but at the place where I run my game, I'm actually apparently the most accommodating GM when it comes to the players' desire. Just about every other game run there is a published adventure, and while a few games have tried to be open-ended, they never last more than a month. Meanwhile, I begin to take advice from here about not railroading the campaign, and now, according to the player this thread was originally about, I'm the GM who lets everyone "go nutz." And yet, here, on this forum, I'm still considered a railroading control freak who tyrannically doesn't budge from any of my stubborn preconcieved plots.

This is all very confusing and frustrating. Can someone explain this to me?
I remember, in another thread I created, that I tried advocating for this very same idea. I was pretty much aggressively and repeatedly accused of being a terrible GM and person for my supposed unwillingness to allow the PC's to do anything I didn't approve of.


Some of my point may have been lost in the length of my post. I am not advocating blocking the players, I encourage them to do whatever they wish, But the world they are in is an organic, living world that will react accordingly. It's up to them to ensure they can get away with it, that is I encourage Smart Play. The DM neither approves no dispapproves of the action, it is simply part of the adventure and is treated as such.

The issue is twofold. First DMs generally prepare the adventures and neglect the non-adventuring parts, ie everyone in a town or city is a no-level NPC so if a PC says, I am going to kill everyone there is literally nothing to stop him. The DM is at a cross roads, he is overran because he has essentially set up a super eaasy, low level encounter, and he can't whisk in chalenging content without meta-gaming against the PCs. Secondly the DM doesn't want to punish the PCs or railroad them, so he is forced to let them run rampant, even reward them for ruining the game, because as in the first part, meta-game punishments aren't popular.

My suggestion is to establish the non-adventure parts properly so that the DM is not overran, nor does he have to scramble or meta-game an appropriately challenged response.

ie they see soldiers as they enter the small town, described as "alert and well ordered, gear looks good quality, probably mid-level fighters". Now remember the small farming town I mentioned in an example of the players killing everyone? a small line like that prevents the whole uncomfortable situation because you've established that there were protected by a group of soldiers that could defend the town. Otherwise the DM would have had to either let them slaughter the town or else meta-game a hero (retired Paladin lives there) or a group of high level peasants with pitchforks. 


The second part of this, is that your aim isn't to discourage your players from their course of action. the DM neither approves nor disapproves, It is part of the adventure. Lets say you set up a plot where they sneak into the villains lair, they encounter traps and his minions etc etc, typical dungeon stuff. But what if they decided to sneak into the King's castle and steal the crown jewels? Well you would treat it exactly the same as the plot for breaking into the villain's lair. The only difference is that they've essentially turned the whole city or kingdom into a dungeon. (try selling a red dragon the treasure you stole back)

See i am not sayign to stop them, I am saying make them play smart. They can't steal the crown jewels, kill all the king's guards, servants and household, and then walk about town openly wearing them and not expect an army to desend upon them. They have to consider how they are going to do it, how they will get away with it, how they will fence the jewels off, how they will escape if/when everything goes terribly wrong, but I am not going to stop them from breaking in and stealing the crown jewels. 

Nothing is stopping them, they carry the risks and have to accept them. But then again, so what? It's the same risk they carry when they disguise themselves to infiltrate a Drow city to break into the High-priestess' temple and steal the Jewel-o-Impending Doom. The only difference is that in one they are thieves and criminals and in the other they are Heroes. In the long run the payoff for being heroes will be better (because given the choice the Drow adventure is going to be more interesting then hanging around the city)   
    
In case it helps to clarify, the player was informed of the non-virulent nature of the zombies though a skill check which he made to discern the nature of the zombies.



What would have happened if he failed that check?

On to a broader subject, one thing I don't quite get is why everything seems to fall apart when I do things. This may come as a surprise to you all, but at the place where I run my game, I'm actually apparently the most accommodating GM when it comes to the players' desire. Just about every other game run there is a published adventure, and while a few games have tried to be open-ended, they never last more than a month. Meanwhile, I begin to take advice from here about not railroading the campaign, and now, according to the player this thread was originally about, I'm the GM who lets everyone "go nutz." And yet, here, on this forum, I'm still considered a railroading control freak who tyrannically doesn't budge from any of my stubborn preconcieved plots.

This is all very confusing and frustrating. Can someone explain this to me?



Perhaps there is a disconnect between what you're doing during play and what you're reporting (or how you're reporting it) here.

There may also be a difference in perception or expectations between the game you're running and the game most people are used to in that particular store. It might also be that, sure, the characters have more "freedom" to do as they will because you have a "world" rather than a published adventure, but where you might be perceived as blocking is when you disincentivize or explain why a particular action or idea you personally don't approve of (your words I believe) wouldn't work well in the context of the world.

For any decision or adjudication, ask yourself, "Is this going to be fun for everyone?" and "Is this going to lead to the creation of an exciting, memorable story?"

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Content I Created: Adventure Scenarios  |  Actual Play Reports  |  Tools  |  Game Transcripts

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Some of my point may have been lost in the length of my post. I am not advocating blocking the players, I encourage them to do whatever they wish, But the world they are in is an organic, living world that will react accordingly. It's up to them to ensure they can get away with it, that is I encourage Smart Play. The DM neither approves no dispapproves of the action, it is simply part of the adventure and is treated as such.



I knew very well what you were saying. My point was that, when I said pretty much the same thing in another thread, having the world react in a realistic way according to the actions of the players was immediately and mistakenly seen as a form of the GM (me) punishing the players for insubordination, which led to the assumption that I wanted the player characters to follow a specific path.

What would have happened if he failed that check?



His character would have not been sure if the zombies were virulent. A critical failure would have led to his character believing that the zombies were definitely virulent; after that, I can only guess how his character would act.


Perhaps there is a disconnect between what you're doing during play and what you're reporting (or how you're reporting it) here.



Perhaps, but if I knew how to fix or avoid that problem, it probably wouldn't be a problem in the first place. I'm not sure how to perfectly balance between the need for brevity (so people would actually be willing to read my words) and the need for detail (which I could easily write large essays on if I tried). I'm not very articulate or good at choosing words, so people often misunderstand what I'm saying. Even in situations when I would think the message is clear, to my surprise words are taken out of their context and taken to mean I'm saying something else, even when (to my knowledge) I have given no indication of whatever message people are getting from my words.

...but where you might be perceived as blocking is when you disincentivize or explain why a particular action or idea you personally don't approve of (your words I believe) wouldn't work well in the context of the world.



Other than the importance placed on my own feelings (which I try to disallow from clouding my judgment), that seems accurate. I don't just say "no" to my players when I disagree with them, I tell them what my objections are and why I have them when I feel it's important in a non-subjective way.
Other than the importance placed on my own feelings (which I try to disallow from clouding my judgment), that seems accurate. I don't just say "no" to my players when I disagree with them, I tell them what my objections are and why I have them when I feel it's important in a non-subjective way.



To some players of the game, a "No," is still a potentially bad thing even with logical justification. The reason is that it shuts down ideas which can be very discouraging, even frustrating. When a player comes up with an idea, this is something the player is interested and engaged by. To shoot it down, even for "good" in-game reasons is to potentially lose the interest and engagement of the player. Basically, the player is saying, "Hey, I'm really interested in seeing what happens if I do this," and the DM says, "No, it doesn't work because of X, Y, Z..." In my view, I'd rather use my imagination to figure out how it could work in the context of the established fiction, rather than state why it can't. It is very easy for DMs to say "No." It's more challenging to say "Yes, and..." (at first) but the payoff is amazing.

For any decision or adjudication, ask yourself, "Is this going to be fun for everyone?" and "Is this going to lead to the creation of an exciting, memorable story?"

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To some players of the game, a "No," is still a potentially bad thing even with logical justification. The reason is that it shuts down ideas which can be very discouraging, even frustrating. When a player comes up with an idea, this is something the player is interested and engaged by. To shoot it down, even for "good" in-game reasons is to potentially lose the interest and engagement of the player. Basically, the player is saying, "Hey, I'm really interested in seeing what happens if I do this," and the DM says, "No, it doesn't work because of X, Y, Z..." In my view, I'd rather use my imagination to figure out how it could work in the context of the established fiction, rather than state why it can't. It is very easy for DMs to say "No." It's more challenging to say "Yes, and..." (at first) but the payoff is amazing.



I'm still not sure if you're talking about the internal workings of the reality itself or the world's reaction to what the characters do - assuming the former, I'd imagine it would take a huge amount of time and effort (far too much to do so on the spot) to rework the very reality of the setting to suddenly allow what was impossible before, and even if that wasn't a problem, doing it too much would result in the setting becoming unlike what it was intended to be. Just imagine how, in real life, things would be different today if certain technologies which turned out to not work ended up working after all, or if breeding across species were possible!

Assuming the latter, on the other hand, it could work - given my group's tendencies, it would likely result in a huge amount of TPK's or other event horizon situations, but technically it could work.
Saying "No" is perfectly acceptable, not all ideas will work, simple as that, and it destroys creativity to simply pander. Brainstorming ideas is an essential part of the creative process to make good ideas work. There are a such a thing as bad ideas or unbelievable ideas that don't work in the setting, don't be afraid to say no. However, that being said, you should try and accomidate the PC, allow for alternative suggestions or ask for further refinement.   

My general policy is to neither say no or yes, but rather to ask "How?" this places the emphasis on the player to make the idea work in the setting. remember the game is supposed to challenge them, so this is part of that challenge, working within the setting to make the ideas work
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