Dm readying an action (Question)

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Centauri, I appreciate your perspective, but I'm not interesting in repeating the same debate with you. I did talk to my players about this Saturday night. I asked what they would think about moving towards a more collaborative game, and described how we could all design the adventure together, decide what kind of monsters and encounters would be fun, what specific challenges and rewards their characters would be looking for, and that my role as DM would be more of a mediator, guiding us all towards this collaborative goal, and running the NPCs and monsters. I honestly presented this as something I would be willing to try if it appealed to them. The universal response was this idea was "dumb" and "not fun". So while your style may work fabulously for your group, I'm satisfied that mine isn't interested. If you find a podcast or transcript that sheds some real light on your approach, please share with me, but otherwise I'm not interested.



I'm sure you provided them with the most generous and informed perspective on the method.

What I'm not sure about is why this is relevant to the discussion. 
Whether DMing is a job or not is word choice. Call it a hobby if you like. Or a diversion, a passion, a supporting role, whatever.

Arbitrary suggests a lack of reasoning. When a DM makes a judgement, there is bound to be a certain degree of whim, but if the decision is entirely arbitrary, then replace the DM with dice. The DM applies judgement and game knowledge and characterization to his decision and the degree to which he is successful reduces the degree of arbitrariness in his decision. 

I agree, failure in dice rolls can communicate quite a bit. Quick players can calculate a monster's AC based on a couple of hits and misses. Also, a DM can describe the failure in interesting and helpful ways.

"That 14 doesn't hit, your sword doesn't come close to penetrating the beast's scaley hide."
Oh crap, this monster has super good defense. Now my character knows this and may adjust tactics accordingly. 

"You rolled an 18 on your Perception check? After fiddling with the dwarven war machine for a few minutes, you just can't figure it out."
Hmmm, better find a smart Dwarf to work on this thing. 

----

I see what you mean about the metasharing. I suppose it comes down to player preference. Do they want to make the call themselves or trust the DM to make it? Some players may be uncomfortable with maintaining willing lack of full knowledge and find it more fun to simply have their character know most of what they know about an encounter. But if they like knowing everything and deciding what their character knows, I can see how that would work.
So while your style may work fabulously for your group, I'm satisfied that mine isn't interested.

Just because I'm quoting you doesn't mean I'm talking to you. I'm talking to people who might be reading what you're saying and be interested in a counter-statement.

Arbitrary suggests a lack of reasoning.

It might suggest that, but what it actually means is that it depends on one person's discretion. "Arbitrary" becomes "lack of reasoning" when the arbiter doesn't have all the facts. Which a DM does not and cannot about a PC.

Some players may be uncomfortable with maintaining willing lack of full knowledge

I usually find that this is because they're concerned about misusing the player knowledge in some way. Once it's made clear to them that the DM trusts them broadly with it, I find players get much more comfortable possessing and using player knowledge.

But if they like knowing everything and deciding what their character knows, I can see how that would work.

Then you do understand. It doesn't need to be everything, either.

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

What I'm not getting is why the DM couldn't tell the player

You don't seem to be catching what I'm referring to despite the examples, so we might just have to drop it (which I'm ok with). But here's a final try:

The players come up with a cool combat plan involving readying actions for events that their enemies will not know about. They might not want to share the details about their readied actions because they don't want to ruin the surprise*, but (because the DM has to adjudicate the rules) they usually tell him anyway.

Conversely: the DM comes up with a similar cool plan involving triggers that the PC's would not know about. He doesn't tell the players the information about the triggers because there is no need to, and it's more fun to keep the surprise*.

*not referring to a 'Surprise Round'

You can still have ambushes after combat has started.

Wouldn't those involved in the ambush just be given a surprise round in which only they acted?

There are no Surprise Rounds once regular initiative is in progress.

What would happen if the players knew about that readied action? What would happen if they didn't know, but never went through the door anyway, for whatever reason?


First one, they would be wondering why I told them that two people they couldn't see have ready actions.

Players can't see anything, and a commonly aware of things their characters aren't, so there's not really anything to wonder about here.

Second, the Guards would wait a short amount of time then investigate.

Why wouldn't they just go int?

What if the player knew what the readied action was? If the player were to get off the wolf, that's to the beastmaster's advantage.

If the player knew what the readied action was, most likely he would have jumped off the wolf. However, it would steal away from the threat of the Enemies.

No, it wouldn't. The enemies are still threatening without the misapplication of readied actions.

Instances like this make me feel like NPCs are more than just a stat block.

I understand, but a readied action and a secret kept from the player are not necessary (and possibly a hindrance to) bringing instances like this about.

For example, I tell the player that the Dragon Warrior has readied an action to hit anyone who attacks his healer minion, are they going to attack the healer minion? Depending on the situation, No. Because why attack just to get attacked back when you can make the enemy waste his action?

As you say, it depends on the situation. If they healer minion is going to end some effect on the Dragon Warrior, it might be worth an attack to take out the minion first. And if the players don't know what the Dragon Warrior is readied to do, then his threat is useless.

Second, it might be to the beastmaster's advantage, but is it as cool as having your wolf bring your enemy to you?

No. I think that's very cool. So do you. But there's another person involved here: the player. If the player doesn't find it cool, it doesn't matter how cool you or I think it is. So, tell the player your cool idea. If they think it's cool, they'll go along with it, otherwise they won't, and you've saved yourself the issue of an annoyed player.

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

The players come up with a cool combat plan involving readying actions for events that their enemies will not know about. They might not want to share the details about their readied actions because they don't want to ruin the surprise*, but (because the DM has to adjudicate the rules) they usually tell him anyway.

And they trust the DM to act in a way that's the most enjoyable for everyone.

Conversely: the DM comes up with a similar cool plan involving triggers that the PC's would not know about. He doesn't tell the players the information about the triggers because there is no need to, and it's more fun to keep the surprise*.

It is very risky to assume that it's more fun to keep the surprise. Anyone who has DMed even a little knows that players can have a much different reaction to being surprised than the DM expected, such as arguing why they shouldn't have been surprised, or becoming excessively cautious to prevent future "fun" surprises.

In short, it is NOT "more fun" to keep the surprise, and the DM should trust the players to act in a way that is the most enjoyable for everyone.

You can still have ambushes after combat has started.

Wouldn't those involved in the ambush just be given a surprise round in which only they acted?

There are no Surprise Rounds once regular initiative is in progress.

I don't see why not. I'm sure I've read advice about bringing in new combatants and giving them what amounts to a surprise round: a free standard action with combat advantage against anyone who didn't see it coming.

Which actually is a rather telling aspect of the readied action question. If it's supposed to be a surprise, why doesn't it involve granting combat advantage?

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

it is NOT "more fun" to keep the surprise

Then we are divided about revealing future events to the players.

There are no Surprise Rounds once regular initiative is in progress.

I don't see why not. I'm sure I've read advice about bringing in new combatants and giving them what amounts to a surprise round: a free standard action with combat advantage against anyone who didn't see it coming.

Link?

it is NOT "more fun" to keep the surprise

Then we are divided about revealing future events to the players.

I think we're divided about trusting the players.

There are no Surprise Rounds once regular initiative is in progress.

I don't see why not. I'm sure I've read advice about bringing in new combatants and giving them what amounts to a surprise round: a free standard action with combat advantage against anyone who didn't see it coming.

Link?

I believe the 4e DMG has a section on bringing new creatures into combat. In any case, I've never read that there can't be a surprise round during combat.

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

I think we're divided about trusting the players.



Right, this is frequently the divide I see especially when it comes to issues involving the metagame. It's often only seen as a way for players to gain an advantage or "spoil" things somehow. I don't look at it that way at all, but I'm sure I once did. Now if a player wants to advantage himself with metagame information, I assume (1) it's okay and we'll imagine some fiction to explain it which adds to the richness of the character or setting or (2) the challenge or surprise being presented isn't very interesting to the player so there's no loss to moving on to something else that is interesting.
I think we're divided about trusting the players.

Right, this is frequently the divide I see especially when it comes to issues involving the metagame. It's often only seen as a way for players to gain an advantage or "spoil" things somehow. I don't look at it that way at all, but I'm sure I once did. Now if a player wants to advantage himself with metagame information, I assume (1) it's okay and we'll imagine some fiction to explain it which adds to the richness of the character or setting or (2) the challenge or surprise being presented isn't very interesting to the player so there's no loss to moving on to something else that is interesting.

Don't get me wrong: I like surprises in the game. But it's painfully clear to me that what the DM might think is a cool surprise will often fall flat (at best), spark a game stoppage as players try to retroactive avoid the surprise (at middling), or cause severe displeasure in the players (at worst). I have to admit that this is a matter of MY lack of trust that the players will go along with me, but that trust has had plenty of time to be rewarded and encouraged, and really never has been. Since there are ways to be surprised without having to play "gotcha" on the players, I prefer to use and recommend those.

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

Don't get me wrong: I like surprises in the game. But it's painfully clear to me that what the DM might think is a cool surprise will often fall flat (at best), spark a game stoppage as players try to retroactive avoid the surprise (at middling), or cause severe displeasure in the players (at worst). I have to admit that this is a matter of MY lack of trust that the players will go along with me, but that trust has had plenty of time to be rewarded and encouraged, and really never has been. Since there are ways to be surprised without having to play "gotcha" on the players, I prefer to use and recommend those.



Yes, and being an old hand at DMing, I'm sure I could pull off surprising (and pleasing) reveals to the players if I chose to do so. However, that potentially means violating their agency to "make" things happen in a certain way so as to preserve the reveal. That's not a risk I'm willing to take.

I'd add that in the collaborative method, surprising things happen all the time without anyone ever planning for it. It has to do with how the fiction interacts and comes full circle (which becomes seemingly more frequent the longer the game goes and as more fiction is established). I wish I had a better way to describe it. I worry that you're required to see it firsthand to "get" it.
Don't get me wrong: I like surprises in the game. But it's painfully clear to me that what the DM might think is a cool surprise will often fall flat (at best), spark a game stoppage as players try to retroactive avoid the surprise (at middling), or cause severe displeasure in the players (at worst). I have to admit that this is a matter of MY lack of trust that the players will go along with me, but that trust has had plenty of time to be rewarded and encouraged, and really never has been. Since there are ways to be surprised without having to play "gotcha" on the players, I prefer to use and recommend those.

 Yes, and being an old hand at DMing, I'm sure I could pull off surprising (and pleasing) reveals to the players if I chose to do so. However, that potentially means violating their agency to "make" things happen in a certain way so as to preserve the reveal. That's not a risk I'm willing to take.

I'd add that in the collaborative method, surprising things happen all the time without anyone ever planning for it. It has to do with how the fiction interacts and comes full circle (which becomes seemingly more frequent the longer the game goes and as more fiction is established). I wish I had a better way to describe it. I worry that you're required to see it firsthand to "get" it.

How about:

"In traditional games, each player in a table of X (X-1 players + 1 DM) has 1 person (DM) coming up with ways to surprise him/her. In collaborative games, each player has X-1 people (other players + DM) coming up with ways to surprise him/her, while simultaneously being part of everybody else's X-1"?

Founder - but not owner - of Just Say Yes!

Member of LGBT Gamers

Odds are, if 4-6 people can't figure out an answer you thought was obvious, you screwed up, not them. - JeffGroves
Which is why a DM should present problems to solve, not solutions to find. -FlatFoot
Why there should be the option to use alignment systems:
Show
If some people are heavily benefiting from the inclusion of alignment, then it would behoove those that AREN'T to listen up and pay attention to how those benefits are being created and enjoyed, no? -YagamiFire
But equally important would be for those who do enjoy those benefits to entertain the possibility that other people do not value those benefits equally or, possibly, do not see them as benefits in the first place. -wrecan (RIP)
That makes sense. However, it is not fair to continually attack those that benefit for being, somehow, deviant for deriving enjoyment from something that you cannot. Instead, alignment is continually attacked...it is demonized...and those that use it are lumped in with it.

 

I think there is more merit in a situation where someone says "This doesn't work! It's broken!" and the reply is "Actually it works fine for me. Have you considered your approach might be causing it?"

 

than a situation where someone says "I use this system and the way I use it works really well!" and the back and forth is "No! It is a broken bad system!" -YagamiFire

Don't get me wrong: I like surprises in the game. But it's painfully clear to me that what the DM might think is a cool surprise will often fall flat (at best), spark a game stoppage as players try to retroactive avoid the surprise (at middling), or cause severe displeasure in the players (at worst). I have to admit that this is a matter of MY lack of trust that the players will go along with me, but that trust has had plenty of time to be rewarded and encouraged, and really never has been. Since there are ways to be surprised without having to play "gotcha" on the players, I prefer to use and recommend those.

 Yes, and being an old hand at DMing, I'm sure I could pull off surprising (and pleasing) reveals to the players if I chose to do so. However, that potentially means violating their agency to "make" things happen in a certain way so as to preserve the reveal. That's not a risk I'm willing to take.

I'd add that in the collaborative method, surprising things happen all the time without anyone ever planning for it. It has to do with how the fiction interacts and comes full circle (which becomes seemingly more frequent the longer the game goes and as more fiction is established). I wish I had a better way to describe it. I worry that you're required to see it firsthand to "get" it.

How about:

"In traditional games, each player in a table of X (X-1 players + 1 DM) has 1 person (DM) coming up with ways to surprise him/her. In collaborative games, each player has X-1 people (other players + DM) coming up with ways to surprise him/her, while simultaneously being part of everybody else's X-1"?

Works for me, though it leaves out the fact that sometimes one's own declarations can surprise one.

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

Works for me, though it leaves out the fact that sometimes one's own declarations can surprise one.

Yes, good point. Not a perfect analysis, then

Founder - but not owner - of Just Say Yes!

Member of LGBT Gamers

Odds are, if 4-6 people can't figure out an answer you thought was obvious, you screwed up, not them. - JeffGroves
Which is why a DM should present problems to solve, not solutions to find. -FlatFoot
Why there should be the option to use alignment systems:
Show
If some people are heavily benefiting from the inclusion of alignment, then it would behoove those that AREN'T to listen up and pay attention to how those benefits are being created and enjoyed, no? -YagamiFire
But equally important would be for those who do enjoy those benefits to entertain the possibility that other people do not value those benefits equally or, possibly, do not see them as benefits in the first place. -wrecan (RIP)
That makes sense. However, it is not fair to continually attack those that benefit for being, somehow, deviant for deriving enjoyment from something that you cannot. Instead, alignment is continually attacked...it is demonized...and those that use it are lumped in with it.

 

I think there is more merit in a situation where someone says "This doesn't work! It's broken!" and the reply is "Actually it works fine for me. Have you considered your approach might be causing it?"

 

than a situation where someone says "I use this system and the way I use it works really well!" and the back and forth is "No! It is a broken bad system!" -YagamiFire

Yes, good point. Not a perfect analysis, then



Certainly better than I've described it, so thanks!
I think we're divided about trusting the players.

Right, this is frequently the divide I see especially when it comes to issues involving the metagame. It's often only seen as a way for players to gain an advantage or "spoil" things somehow. I don't look at it that way at all, but I'm sure I once did. Now if a player wants to advantage himself with metagame information, I assume (1) it's okay and we'll imagine some fiction to explain it which adds to the richness of the character or setting or (2) the challenge or surprise being presented isn't very interesting to the player so there's no loss to moving on to something else that is interesting.

Don't get me wrong: I like surprises in the game. But it's painfully clear to me that what the DM might think is a cool surprise will often fall flat (at best), spark a game stoppage as players try to retroactive avoid the surprise (at middling), or cause severe displeasure in the players (at worst). I have to admit that this is a matter of MY lack of trust that the players will go along with me, but that trust has had plenty of time to be rewarded and encouraged, and really never has been. Since there are ways to be surprised without having to play "gotcha" on the players, I prefer to use and recommend those.

This hasn't been my experience at all.  I run a semi-collaborative game, where I key my players in on some things and seek out their guidance on certain plot issues, but they've expressed an interest in having limited knowledge about large swaths of campaign issues large and small.  For example, they like knowing HP and armor defenses if their rolls point to them having such knowledge, but they don't want to know what enemies outside their line of sight might be doing, aside from any auditory, or other sensual clues.

That long setup leads to this main point: a surprise that the DM thinks is cool will (at best) be one that the players think is cool too.  I've seen it in my games.  Your at-middling and at-worst examples are right on. 
That long setup leads to this main point: a surprise that the DM thinks is cool will (at best) be one that the players think is cool too.  I've seen it in my games.  Your at-middling and at-worst examples are right on. 



I agree. I'm just wary of what it takes to make that happen for reasons stated. Caution is warranted if you value player agency in this regard.
For example, they like knowing HP and armor defenses if their rolls point to them having such knowledge, but they don't want to know what enemies outside their line of sight might be doing, aside from any auditory, or other sensual clues.

But the DM doesn't necessarily know what other clues there might be. Haven't you ever had it happen that the PCs come across something and point out that they would plausibly have heard or seen some signs of that thing? To use an earlier example I don't know what manning a ballista sounds/feels/smells like, so if I want to know whether the characters can hear a ballista being manned out of their line of sight, I have to tell the players that a ballista is being manned out of their line of sight.

Yes, I can just set a Perception or Insight DC, but that just moves the point of the potential disagreement with the players. The one thing we will absolutely agree on every time is that their characters would see what they believe their characters would see.

That long setup leads to this main point: a surprise that the DM thinks is cool will (at best) be one that the players think is cool too.  I've seen it in my games.  Your at-middling and at-worst examples are right on.

Sorry, I meant "best case if they don't enjoy the surprise." Of course surprises can work. But they're risky. Surprise is an unstable situation that requires a lot to go right and rarely, in these discussions, seems to account for what can easily go wrong.

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

Centauri and Iserith, I agree.  A ballista will make noise that the din of battle may or may not cover up.  Dealing with that information through stating the mechanics and/or describing the sound that hempen cord makes when pulled taut can both work.  As for PCs complaining that they should have more info, I think that comes down to a question of trust.  My players trust me as a DM to not play gotcha in a way that disempowers their characters while also putting those characters through the ringer and have the battle play out in ways that are -- at times -- unexpected.  They're on board with that.  If they weren't, we'd adjust.
I think we're divided about trusting the players.

As I indicated earlier: I've been fine with entrusting players with knowledge of future events (or even the entire adventure)... I just understood that it may not be as fun for them.

I've never read that there can't be a surprise round during combat.

Surprise rounds only happen at the beginning of combat. This was explicitly stated in the 3.5 Glossary (and the RotG that you mentioned) and is similarly indicated in the 4e PHB with "Some battles begin with a surprise round", with the remainder of the text referring to "the Suprise Round" (indicating there is just one). Adding hidden monsters to an on-going combat does not create another surprise round.
Centauri and Iserith, I agree.  A ballista will make noise that the din of battle may or may not cover up.  Dealing with that information through stating the mechanics and/or describing the sound that hempen cord makes when pulled taut can both work.

As can just telling the players more information about what's going on. I might not have the "mechanics" for a hidden ballista on hand, and I certainly don't know how much sound one makes, or whether a particular PC would recognize it. Better, I feel, to let them decide that upfront, than for me to spring the surprise on them and then have them show me on their background where it says or implies that their character is an expert with ballistae, or whatever.

As for PCs complaining that they should have more info, I think that comes down to a question of trust.  My players trust me as a DM to not play gotcha in a way that disempowers their characters while also putting those characters through the ringer and have the battle play out in ways that are -- at times -- unexpected.  They're on board with that.  If they weren't, we'd adjust.

That's good, it's just riskier than I want to be, and it's riskier than many games seem to be able to stand, judging by the questions asked on this forum. I find that even the most mature, trusting players very quickly become overly paranoid and cause the game to become less enjoyable, as soon as they realize that the DM will try to make them fall for things, and it's hard work to return the players to a state of engaged, action-packed adventuring.

As I indicated earlier: I've been fine with entrusting players with knowledge of future events (or even the entire adventure)... I just understood that it may not be as fun for them.

And do you understand that springing suprises on them might not be as fun for them?

I've never read that there can't be a surprise round during combat.

Surprise rounds only happen at the beginning of combat. This was explicitly stated in 3.5 Glossary (and RotG that you mentioned) and is similar indicated in the 4e PHB with "Some battles begin with a surprise round". The remainder of the Surprise round section refers "the Suprise Round" (indicating there is just one). Adding hidden monsters to an on-going combat does not create another surprise round.
Lawyer it to whatever preposterous extreme you want. There's nothing wrong, and a lot right, with giving new creatures the effect of a surprise round under certain circumstances. Dismiss it as a "house rule" if you want, but the same then applies to ruling that players would not be aware of readied action triggers.

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

Not really part of the main thread, but the mid-combat surprise/ambush doesn't have to equate to a "surprise round." The effect is achieved by inserting the newly arrived bad guys together in the initiative so they all get to act. Done.
do you understand that springing suprises on them might not be as fun for them?

Yup. Well stated. Agreed. What do you believe the default is in D&D?

Lawyer it to whatever preposterous extreme you want. There's nothing wrong, and a lot right, with giving new creatures the effect of a surprise round under certain circumstances.

It's not that I'm trying to rules lawyer so much as clarify. You can absolutely give a hidden creature CA and a standard action during combat. However, if you semantically refer to it as a secondary "surprise round" (while still staying in initiative order), you may confuse some people (and potentially create some rules issues). It's off-topic anyway.

Not really part of the main thread, but the mid-combat surprise/ambush doesn't have to equate to a "surprise round." The effect is achieved by inserting the newly arrived bad guys together in the initiative so they all get to act. Done.

Agreed. But a surprise round might also be appropriate. Yes, I would let my players know that the new monsters would be entering combat, and if the monsters were using Stealth or Bluff to gain surprise, I'd give the players chance to prevent granting combat advantage to them.

do you understand that springing suprises on them might not be as fun for them?

Yup. Well stated. Agreed.

You can absolutely give a hidden creature CA and a standard action during combat. However, if you semantically refer to it as a secondary "surprise round" (while still staying in initiative order), you may confuse some people (and potentially create some rules issues).


Ok. I won't argue it further then. But I feel any issues arising from either calling a surprise round or it actually being a surprise round, are pretty minor, especially compared with the issues of keeping readied action triggers secret.

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

I don't think not announcing a readied action to the players is anymore of a gotcha or a surprise then failing to give the players a complete breakdown of each enemies next 5 turns, detailed stats and tactics in advance, what treasure they have, and lets not forget giving them the list of prepared spells if there is an enemy spell caster.

my point is that you don't need to tell the players in advance what their enemies will do next, the same as with readied actions, which may or may not bapartment to the players.

there is a difference between a gotcha manoeuvre, such as a plot twist, and pre-narrating the story. Readied actions that are not obvious or visible do not need to be told of in advance, just as the enemies next several moves don't need to be told in advance.

"ok the group isnt there yet, but in the next room at the end of the hall there will be 5 goblins. You will have the surprise round, but be carefthey one is an adept and has the following spells...... After 4 turns, if it doesn't look like they will win, which incidentally you will be winning, the goblin with the funny hat will try run to pull the alarm cord, which can be cut, just be careful of the fire trap, a DC 20 to find and DC25 to disarm....."

and my players would in turn ask me if there is any point in actually playing.

DM shouldn't be telling the players how to play their characters. you don't need to give them information their characters wouldn't know, you should ask what would they know And tell them accordingly, such as "the Orc notches an arrow and is aimed in the general direction of the casters" if it is plainly visible to them, from there it is up to the players to deduce the enemies intention and what to do about it, such as call a warming to the caster that the Orc might be readying to interrupt them. There is a point where the DM a detaches himself from the croup and outs the enemy outo according to the intended challenge of the encounter.

this is the part of the game  intended to be a combat simulation, and the DM is presenting the players with a challenge, and this Pantone of the favorite parts of the game for most people. combat is not just about rolling dice, it's a tactical challenge.
Anyway, don't worry about telling the players what the trigger is. It's generally not a big deal, and doesn't run the risk of derailing the game with a rules dispute.

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