Secretive players

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How secretive should players be about their characters when playing an LFR module? And should it be allowed for players to be very secretive about their character race, class and level. Below is an experience of mine and I would like to know what your opinions about it are.

The other day I was playing a LFR game in the local gamming store. While the DM was setting up he had us all introduce ourselves. With the exception of one player we informed the table of our name, race, class, level and a little bio of our characters. The one player refused to tell the group his race, class or level and instead handed a note to the DM, he did give his name and an extremely weak description of his character. The only reason we knew he was a striker was because the gaming master asked everyone their character type to divide the people up into two groups, there where enough people for two tables.

I have a bit of a problem with a player not informing the group about the basics of their character, which in my opinion, are name, race, class and level. What I found to be the major issue with the player being so secretive was when deciding if we should play up or down level. Since he gave no information about his character it was hard to go against him when he said lets play down level (it was a 1-4 mod). The battle encounters in the mod turned out to be far too easy and boring. And I believe the decision to play down level was the cause.

Aside from the up or down level issue I found the secretive nature of the other player an unnecessary distraction. These are pickup games and the challenge is not figuring out what the other characters at the table can do but getting through a challenging module and winning. In my opinion overcoming difficult challenges is where the fun is.

I would like to see more RPG in when playing the modules but it should be brought out in how the character reacts to a situation not how little information the other players know about the characters at the table.
While I agree that secretive players can be annoying and often try to "steal the spotlight," everyone has fun in their own ways and if a player wants to be secretive, that's entirely his prerogative, as long as he provides sufficient information to the DM.

It seems to me that your "playing down" issue with the player had nothing to do with his secretive nature - that's a group decision and if he pressed you guys to play down, you probably should have worked harder to find out the reason, or simply have had him outvoted and played up anyway.

For the record, players that try to hide information about their PCs from the other players at the table annoy me to no end. However, I don't think it's my place to tell them how to play the game - I just ignore them as much as possible at the table.
Dave Kay LFR Writing Director Retiree dkay807 [at] yahoo [dot] com
Interesting. I just read through the player responsabilities in the RPGA guidlines section. It says that players must behave in a respectful and sporting manner at all times. Then the other rule is that you cannot argue with the session GM or any other officials within the club. So as far as I can tell there is nothing you can do about this unless your session GM finds fault with this. With loose wording like respectful and sporting it would be up to the GM to adjudicate if these secrative actions would apply as transgressions. Hope that helps!

Christopher M O'Neill
1202-812-947

Player of:
Thomas 5th lvl Windsoul swordmage
Ahkros Thorfin 1st lvl Human Cleric
While I can see situations that a player would want to keep his race a secret (such as a drow or orc) for roleplaying purposes, I can't see a good reason to hide one's class or level. Personally, I would disclose the player's information to the table but rule that a player cannot act on it unless their passive perception exceeds the secretive character's passive bluff. I think it is arrogant of a player to assume that he can bluff everyone's character at the table because he's special; especially if it is not covered in his skill set (i.e. no bluff skill - seen that).

In a Living campaign event, you have to metagame the part where you decide what tier (high or low) you decide to play period. Hiding key information is unfair to the other players at the table and that goes against the spirit of the campaign.
If someone wants to be secretive then let them. It's unfortunate that we as players can not worship evil gods as I would -so- make my cleric of Bane, and thus need to be secretive as well...however...we can't.

As far as the "play up vs play down" is concerned...

I feel the DM of the mod should have the final say if there is indecision in a group. They know wether the group will live or not based of their decision to play up or down. Usually if a group has mostly 1st level characters with a few 2nd thrown in then they should probably play down, however once you start mixing 3rd level characters in a group like that then playing up seems to be the best option.

...in my opinion anyway...
If someone wants to be secretive then let them. It's unfortunate that we as players can not worship evil gods as I would -so- make my cleric of Bane, and thus need to be secretive as well...however...we can't.

It is obvious why in a living campaign we cannot play evil PCs.

1. The asusmption of heroism is required for campaign staff to make even the most basic plothooks work.
2. The assumption of a shared goal (heroics) is required for a party that is not used to each other to be willing to play in the random table selection of a living campaign.
3. Evil acts may offend other players and cause issues at the table, as one PC's fun is at the expense of another.
4. Many pressure groups would cause problems for the campaign if it encouraged the roleplaying of evil acts, regardless of how 'make-beleive' it is.
5. This game is played by KIDS. It needs to be acceptable to most audiences.

As to being secretive, if a PC doesn't reveal what they bring to the party (I don't care what class they are, I care what they offer) than they deserve any alienation, or lack of attention they receive from the rest of the party. If they don't help out in what is clearly a TEAM game, than I will make it clear that they are not helping their case for further gaming with my PCs.

Hide your character concept/past all you want, but if you refuse to cooperate with the party, don't be surprised if they ignore the rude hooded stranger as a random NPC and go off adventuring without him!
Most of my characters would simply refuse to partner up with someone who won't tell them anything about themselves. If they don't tell me what benefit they bring to the table, I presume there is no benefit. And where there is no benefit, there is risk.

Adventuring can be dangerous work. You have to know that you can trust those with whom you keep company and that they'll work together as a TEAM (obvious emphasis in 4e). If they can't even tell me their name? Bah... I'd leave them at the Inn where we met.

OOC: If that means that I need to leave the table, so be it. I can suspend certain preferences (like thinking Warforged is antithetical to fantasy roleplaying), but I can't condone wasting 4+ hours of play with someone like that. *shrug*
There can be good reason for PCs to be secretive. I'm actually rather annoyed at all the 'monster' PCs I've seen that make no effort at disguise or stealth but walk around town as if nothing is going to happen to them. (Just because nothing *is*, other than the adventure -- but the monster PC doesn't know that.)

But since 4e in particular is a team game, it's only fair for the *players* to know what they're dealing with. The *player* ought to be up front and let everyone know he's playing a Drow warlock (or whatever) even though the *character* is introduced as "A heavily robed and hooded individual, wearing leather gloves, sits down at the corner table away from the light."
From a *character* perspective though, if that "cloaked figure" won't tell them "I can heal you in combat" or "I'm always ready to get into a flank and stick a dagger into a foe" or... "You can call me Jack". Sheesh - ANYTHING...

From a *character* perspective, why would I want to trust you? Why would I submit to joining with you on an adventure? If I know absolutely nothing about you other than you wear a brown cloak - I'm not travelling with you.
This is a subjective matter. Other people will feel differently than I do, and there are no rules really to consider beyond vague things like "respect" and a "sporting manner".

I would consider the following information to be "required" for other players at the table: Name (or at least a pseudonym), level, role, and physical description (including a version for someone with very high Perception/Insight skills).

I would consider the following infomation to be "nice to know" for the other players: race, class, chosen class features.

I've played with a person who never told anyone (in LG) what his class was, or even what spells/abilities he was using (beyond the effects). It worked out perfectly fine. I haven't played with him in 4E yet, but I'd assume that he's gonna change the names of his abilities (without altering anything below the title line in the power description) and provide as little information as possible.
There is also the element of "are they cheating". If a player never reveal's a PCs race or class, who's to say they aren't changing it every other mod?

"Weren't you a dwarf last week?"
"Nah - I wore a cloak. I was crouching last week."

2 weeks later...

"Weren't you taller last week? I could've sworn you were human height."
"Nah - I wore a cloak. I was on stilts."

2 weeks later...

"Didn't you have brown hair last week? I could've sworn it wasn't fire."
"Nah - I wore a cloak. It is magically treated to hide all effects underneath."

2 weeks later...

"Didn't you cast wizard spells last week?"
"Nah - I wore a cloak. When I said 'spell', I was just putting descriptive labels on weapon attacks."

etc...
Well...its sort of absurd to "cheat" in an RPG...particularly since the whole point is to cooperate toward a common goal. Of course much of my experience with RPGs is with a group of friends whom I know well...aside from conventions I've never played with total strangers, and I've been lucky enough to make fast friends with those I do meet at conventions.

I think there needs to be some official distinction between what is allowed when a player is "in character" and what is allowed during what I would consider "set up". While it might make perfect sense for Dudenkarn to want to keep certain aspects of his background a secret from the rest of his party; it makes no sense for Tom Schmidt to keep his character a secret from those who'll he'll be playing with for the next few hours or so.

If you're going to take role playing to that extreme, then I would think that those around you will make better choices playing their respective roles by knowing your motivation.
I agree it's absurd. Unfortunately though, it does happen.
perhaps the character tracker should have the entries more permanent.

and they could add the race and class choices as well. have it give you like 2 warnings before you save it and once you save it its there. all you can do is retire it etc.
Some systemic mechanism would be nice, but I don't have a lot of faith in the current tracker. Errors are made during data entry (human nature - people goof sometimes). Getting those errors corrected appears to be an uphill battle, which I can understand as it's an added workload on WoTC for a "free" campaign. Also, some games simply don't get reported so information like level could be off. In the end, it comes down to player integrity because even with a 100% accurate system, you can't verify a build at table time since most people play face-2-face.

Without a good system in place, that is maintained and accurate, it's unfortunately of almost no benefit at all.
Based upon my reading of the mods, a group that "should" play low can only play up with 100% agreement, and a group that "should" play high can omly play ow with 100% agreement. Regardless of the player knowledge, the DM should determine the appropriate level and count the "mystery" vote appropriately.
I find it rather odd that in a team game you'd want to keep your abilities secret.

For a start, how can you (in character) keep your race secret? You just have to look at them (if you're really trying to hide it you could roll bluff vs insight, I suppose...).

Secondly, so many powers, features etc. have a secondary effect on your allies, or require their co-operation to help (righteous brand, flanking for sneak attack) that if your allies don't know what you're doing, you can't help them as effectively.

Finally, surely you can only keep things secret until the first encounter anyway. 'Curse you, eldritch blast...' ah, he's a warlock. In character, roll arcana to work out what the power is. Why bother keeping it secret until then?
I find it rather odd that in a team game you'd want to keep your abilities secret.

Not everyone has figured out yet that 4.0 is a team game.

I suspect that these secretive players will find it more and more difficult to find other players willing to play with them.

I certainly wouldn't put up with another player behaving in such a matter. (It's easy enough to avoid them when possible and, when not, offer them no assistance . . . . it's tough to survive in 4.0 without a little help from your friends . . . ;) )

Dan Anderson @EpicUthrac
Total Confusion www.totalcon.com
LFR Calimshan Writing Director
LFR Epic Writing Director

LFR Myth Drannor Writing Director

Unfortunately I do not see anything wrong with this and I would roll with it..
He gives the DM the necessary information that he needs and as players you need to figure things out. (im saying this with the presumption there is no mal-intent)
There are mechanics in game to figure out things about the player such as race level and class perhaps he was wanting you to figure things out. Also there is nothing that keeps your PC from healing that player or tagging along with him or being nice to him (In character) so just don't strangle him when its his turn to sleep. If I am playing with my rogue I don't want any character to know im a rogue... When push comes to shove you will find out in time. Now when im playing my Apprentice Purple Knight of Cormyr you will know exactly what is there...


In regards to playing high tier I believe everyone needs to agree to go high or else you play low... Simple as that... RPGA is a system where you play with all sorts of players so you will at times play with someone you dont like etc but other times you will be pleasantly surprised by what you find.
If I am playing with my rogue I don't want any character to know im a rogue...

Right - - but this is a player vs. character difference.

The "teamwork" approach to the situation is to say "Hey fellow players, I'll be playing a drow rogue today. Of course, he disguises his race and profession so that you can't tell exactly what he is . . ."

This is a simple courtesy to the other players at the table, while still allowing the character the role-playing mystique within the game.

(I'd like to focus my time and energy on solving the mysteries the DM is presenting, not trying to figure out how someone else's character is supposed to add to the team.)

Dan Anderson @EpicUthrac
Total Confusion www.totalcon.com
LFR Calimshan Writing Director
LFR Epic Writing Director

LFR Myth Drannor Writing Director

Have each player give a visual description of his/her character during introductions. Race, gender, visible armor/weapons. If they want to look like another race or gender, they can make a disguise check. This description usually gives some strong clues about what someone does.

Class and level have no meaning "in-character", and if a character (for whatever reasons) doesn't wish to publicize what powers he possesses, that's up to them. You'll find out soon enough anyhow. I think saying "I won't play with you unless you tell me what class and level you are" is pretty lame, especially since it only applies the first time you adventure with a particular character. Once you've adventured with them and seen the guy in hide armor carrying the long sword toss a fireball or magic missile, it's not even a issue any more.

It's called Role Playing. I know, it's kinda weird, but some people are into that sort of thing. Some really strange people play D&D, you know.
Class and level have no meaning "in-character"...

They sure don't. Any character who marched up to my character and said "Hi, I'm a 3rd level Rogue" would get a funny look. The only meaning that level has is to the other players.

I've had time to consider, and the result is that I think the following information is the bare minimum that is absolutely required. I've split it into DM information, out-of-character information (what you should tell the other players) and in-character information (what you should tell the other characters about your character). Remember, I consider this a minimum:

DM information: Race, Class, Level, Character number

Out-of-character: Level

In-character: The alias of your choice, and two physical descriptions. One for low-Perception/Insight types (ie. however you want to look in your little disguise or whatever) and one for high-Perception/Insight types (ie. whatever race/gender/whatever that you actually are). It's your responsiblity to work out what the Perception/Insight DCs might be.


I struggled over whether to include Role under required out-of-character information or not, but decided that, while I consider it to be common courtesy, I wouldn't consider it required.

During play, as a DM, I would not require that a player use the proper names of any powers used, but i would expect proper effect wording. If the secret PC was a Rogue I would not expect them to say "I use Blinding Barrage", but I would expect them to tell me the effect in terms of Close Blast, and attack against AC, and the blind condition.
It's forth edition, you'll know what type of character they're playing after about one to two rounds of combat. Probably their race too if they don't actively try to hide it.

I don't see any reason someone has to declare all of that to everyone at the table.
It's forth edition, you'll know what type of character they're playing after about one to two rounds of combat. Probably their race too if they don't actively try to hide it.

I don't see any reason someone has to declare all of that to everyone at the table.

Well, it certainly helps with mustering. In 4E, having a balanced party is a big plus, and if players insist on being coy about what they're playing, it just makes it that much harder.
"Of course [Richard] has a knife. He always has a knife. We all have knives. It's 1183, and we're barbarians!" - Eleanor of Aquitaine, "The Lion in Winter"
Thanks for all the comments. There where many good points made that I hadn't considered, in particular dividing up in and out of character information. The posts leave me thinking that it should be no big deal if someone wants to be secretive about their character.

However, I do consider being secretive, out of character, very inconsiderate behavior that reduces the enjoyment of the game for others at the table. The focus of the game should on overcoming the challenges of the adventure, and the more challenging the better. Challenges should have nothing to do with figuring out what another character can offer in combat. Figuring out how the group can work most effectively together is fine.

The other issue I have with a secretive player is that it might be ok for one player to act this way but what if all the players do? Without a doubt this would make for a bad game.
Hi - first time caller, long time fan.

I hear that you'll be picking 5-man teams for a basketball tournament, and you have an A-league and a B-league.

Now, I know I'm participating by phone, but I don't want to tell you anything about my height, experience, speed, physical shape . . .

It's more fun for me for you guys to have to guess what position I'd be best at. Hope you're okay with that! (BTW, I get to bend a few of the basic rules when playing - but I'll give the referee a note before the game so they'll know what's allowed!)

Oh, and BTW, once we get on the floor, I'm still going to try to hide my true ability. ;)

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

So, who wants ME on their team??? :D

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

Moral of the analogy: If you're determined to be secretive, at least be considerate enough to give information to your teammates! (The other players at the table, even if not their characters.)

Dan Anderson @EpicUthrac
Total Confusion www.totalcon.com
LFR Calimshan Writing Director
LFR Epic Writing Director

LFR Myth Drannor Writing Director

I will make one caveat to my prior post. If a consistent group of people are playing together over a long campaign where many many levels will be earned, then players can take time revealing their characters. The breadth of time and consistency of players allows for the extra dimension.

It is the hobby store pickup games where I have issue with the secretive player.
Well, it certainly helps with mustering. In 4E, having a balanced party is a big plus, and if players insist on being coy about what they're playing, it just makes it that much harder.

That's true but, as the OP said, they did acknowledge their role which is about the only thing you need to worry about in forth. If someone tells me that they're playing a striker that's enough information for me to be happy. If they're a rogue or a warlock or a ranger or maybe something else that's all falling under the same "role" as the others so the differences aren't as significant.
As a role player who prefers to immerse myself in character, I usually dislike when other players ask me for meta information about my character during play, and I often reply with qualitative answers.

I do share class and level for decisions about table makeup though, always have for table balance reasons.

I also recognize that figuring out who is good with various skills, at least at the moment, is hard to do without disclosing skill modifier (for skill challenges). Not everyone role plays to the same degree, and some skills are hard to role play quanitatively.

So, maybe give some privacy, but explain the advantage of good team balance up front, and hope the player moderates his secrecy.

Keith
Keith Hoffman LFR Writing Director for Waterdeep
In the original post, I'd tend to agree that the secretive player is taking things too far but, it also sounds like the OP could a bit over-concerned with knowing every statistic of another player's character.

I'd certainly think level and role should be offered in out-of-game discussions but, everything else can be left to be found out in game. Dealing with it in game is probably the most appropriate, if your character feels he needs to know make the perception checks or bring up the issue and if the secretive player doesn't want to make himself a trustworthy member of the party, let him dangle until he comes around.

As far as playing up or down goes, I thought every player basically had veto power on playing up. Everyone's in for it or it doesn't happen without a table shuffle.

If the secretive player doesn't have a problem playing up, I'd assume he can handle his end of playing up.
I think saying "I won't play with you unless you tell me what class and level you are" is pretty lame, especially since it only applies the first time you adventure with a particular character. Once you've adventured with them and seen the guy in hide armor carrying the long sword toss a fireball or magic missile, it's not even a issue any more.

Indeed, which is why the fact that someone insists on playing coy about information that I'm going to learn in about five minutes anyway (but only after I don't have any further choice about playing with them) is a pretty good indication that this might not be someone I really want to be playing with.

Sure, there are lots of players I'd be willing to buy a pig in a poke from, and if they've earned that trust, I'm fine sitting down with them, counting that whatever they bring to the table will be fine.

Random player at a convention that I don't know from Adam? Sorry, unless I don't have any choice, I'm fine playing the odds and saying that someone who refuses to let me know basic information about their character (class and level) when mustering is probably not someone I want to play with.
I'm kinda the other way around, I guess. I trust up front and wait for that trust to be violated, rather than "not-trust" up front and wait for it to be earned. It's a game, not a mortgage.
I think ROLE and level is a more reasonable expectation.

Class? not so much. If my LG experience is anything to go by, just because WoTC now defines roles by class, doesn't mean that players do.

I would be offended if people demanded to know my build in order to gauge my effectiveness. That is not up to them to judge, As long as I do the stated role that I said I would effectively, than all is well.

If a PC says they are a controller when they are clearly playing a striker, that is another issue altogether.

I am not defined by my PC's Class - all of my 4th edition PCs are complex, Orc Cleric of Tempus, A Thayan Wizard 'Gish' and a Cleric/Warlock Warforged. Class alone does not encapsulate them, but I do tell people what role they will provide.

e.g: Azgul, my Orc is a competent healer and solid melee damage producer.
A local player here has a +2-vicious-execution-axe-wielding dragonborn Tempus cleric with a 20 STR and 10 WIS.

I think other people would get a better idea of what he does from his description ("Hugely muscled dragonborn wearing chainmail and a holy symbol of Tempus, carrying a massive axe") than his role ("Oh, I'm a leader...").

Is he clearly playing a leader (since he's a cleric) or clearly playing a striker (since he has a tendency to dump out 15 damage a round and 40 or so once per encounter)?
A local player here has a +2-vicious-execution-axe-wielding dragonborn Tempus cleric with a 20 STR and 10 WIS.

I think other people would get a better idea of what he does from his description ("Hugely muscled dragonborn wearing chainmail and a holy symbol of Tempus, carrying a massive axe") than his role ("Oh, I'm a leader...").

Is he clearly playing a leader (since he's a cleric) or clearly playing a striker (since he has a tendency to dump out 15 damage a round and 40 or so once per encounter)?

Any of these three descriptions is more helpful to the other players at the table than a secret note passed to the DM. ;)

I think that the bottom line here is that nobody has a problem with a mysterious/secretive character. As players, it's a courtesy to the rest of the table to provide information as to how your character will be interacting with the party.

In home games, your fellow players will learn those "secrets" in time, which can add fun to a campaign.

At a convention or pick-up LFR game where the DM must keep the adventure in a time-slot and you're sitting down with people who you haven't played with before/may never play with again, keeping these "super-secrets" has the potential to detract from the fun of the other players. (Just not a nice thing to do.)

Dan Anderson @EpicUthrac
Total Confusion www.totalcon.com
LFR Calimshan Writing Director
LFR Epic Writing Director

LFR Myth Drannor Writing Director

Unless a secretive player is playing the party's only leader or defender, I can't say it would make much of a difference what he plays to me. There is very little penalty for death and failure in LFR, why get hung up on it.

If you are that worried that he is he is playing a critical role pull out of the table or play down but, I'd have to go along with the others in saying to trust him first and be proven wrong. He is unlikely to ask to play up and be that much of a drag on the party AND not be known to someone in the camapign as a problem player.

Wouldn't nature answer most of your questions from the in-game side?
While there are plenty of in-game reasons for keeping such secrets, I don't think I can come up with any real good reasons for a player to do so. And if the player's violate the in-character reasons or lack of information that the secret pertains to, the GM can judge that for themselves so keeping it from the other players and potentially even the GM is just taking things a bit too far.

As a GM, I'd like to know what powers you are using, so I can adjudicate them. If the secretive player is constantly having to pass me notes or power cards (if they are that prepared) to indicate what they are doing, that's going to slow the game down and be a distraction. So either they're going to have to basically "reveal" themselves sooner or later, or the game is going to be bogged down. And that's not fair to the other players.
I guess I have a different idea of what a secretive player is like. You guys are talking about not declaring powers and stuff now. I'm thinking of a guy who plays a multiclassing half-elf wizard who (for roleplay reasons) doesn't much like to use his magic. He refuses to reveal his class (he will tell the DM privately), tries to pass himself off as human, makes a lot of melee basic attacks, Wolf Pack Tactics an ally in place, Action Points and does a Sneak Attack, doesn't really use his wizard at wills, then after taking a hit or two falls back, whips out his Wand of Accuracy and throws a big zap. Even after an encounter or two, it's sometimes tough to tell what he is, heh.
I still remember laughing in the bookstore the first time I read White Wolf's disclaimer at the beginning of the Vampire RPG books. I'm not sure if they still put it in there...but to paraphrase:

You are not a vampire. When the game is over put the dice away and get on with your life.

I have no problem with those who put a heavy emphasis on role playing their characters. That's what puts the "R-P" in RPG!

There are, however, some "out of character" things that need to happen before, after, and sometimes even during the game in order to make the game a more enjoyable experience for all. If you want to role play a dark, brooding character that is full of mystery then I feel I can better support that during the game if I know a bit more about your character prior to the game starting.

In other words, the Role Playing doesn't begin until the DM fires the starting pistol. (Don't worry, it shoots dice, not bullets!) After that you can be as full of mystery as you want. But during set up it is essential to let your fellow players in on your motivation.
Perhaps secretive players get tired of constantly having to correct player vs. character knowledge? How many players do you know who can identify every monster in the book by description and then their characters start taking the most advantageous attacks, taking advantage of the monster's weakness, even if the character has not "discovered" them yet?

Additionaly, anyone else ever been accussed of playing a sub-par character and get tired of hearing about it? Maybe I just like playing wierd combinations, and I don't want to hear about how your super-tweaked muchinkin-esque character can kill an dragon at 7th level. So I keep information to myself.

It's not if the player is secretive, its if s/he is a good player other than that.
It's also knowing at muster time how to muster tables.

If I'm recruiting a football (USA) team, I'm going to want a quarterback, some linemen and some receivers (keeping it simple).

I don't want 6 quarterbacks and no-one else. I don't want 6 receivers and no quarterback.

And I definitely don't want "some guy in a black cloak with no obvious weapons, implements nor abilities."