Jun 25, 2009
Some of the attached post has interesting points, but the charge of ethics violations might seem ridiculous if applied to real people in the real world.
DM to player: Happy Birthday! I know I told you we were playing D&D today; I was actually throwing you a surprise birthday party, my friend! SURPRISE!!! Yo dawg, I heard you like RPGs, so I bought you an RPG so you can shoot your RPG while you play your RPG.
Player to DM: Surprise Birthday Party ?!?!?!? You lying deceitful *******! All my trust is broken! Our friendship is OVER! I'll never trust you again. How can we be friends after this? I'm taking the RPG, because it is unethical to re-gift.
DM to his clergyman: I deceived my friend by promising dice and delivering ice cream, cake and an RPG instead.
Clergyman: Yo dawg, thatz whack! You could say ya sorry, but you so two-face, nobody b'lieve ya.
When did people become so nancy pantsed, fragile minded, and weak willed?
I would say April 6, 1992, with the first episode of Barney & Friends, which features the title character Barney, a purple anthropomorphic Tyrannosaurus rex who conveys educational messages through songs and small dance routines with a friendly, optimistic attitude.
I always knew that giant purple bastard was up to no good. *slams fist on desk*
My username should actually read: Lunar Savage (damn you WotC!)
*Tips top hat, adjusts monocle, and walks away with cane* and yes, that IS Mr. Peanut laying unconscious on the curb.
Aug 21, 2003
The DM is in a position of authority, like it or not. Call it arrogance if you will. But the DM is invested with a level of authority over the events of the game that players are not. The advice hinges on not being a slave to mechanics and dice rolls. Sometimes, a player will come up with a really creative way to do something, something that even wows the DM, and a poor roll on a skill check that the player should have passed easily (maybe he rolls a 2), makes what should have been a really fun and engaging moment sort of anticlimactic and disappointing for everyone. This helps nothing. The RAW do, in at least some editions, support overriding mechanics in some cases (see "Avoiding Dead Branches", 4e DMG2, page 9).
If someone has a creative solution to a problem that should work...why roll the dice? That seems like the ultimate kind of slavishness. If a solution would work and you can avoid rolling the dice, I would always suggest doing so.
I thought you were advocating making the player's choices matter and letting them succeed on their own merits? Isn't letting something auto-suceed just because you like thier creative solution "railroading" by your own definition? The 4e DMG2 quote I cited mentions discreetly lowering the DC of the skill check as one possible solution. That works, as well as does discreetly giving the player extra bonuses for their creative solution. Letting the player still roll the skill check lets them feel like they still have some measure of control or input in the mechanics.
For example, whenever my players decide that they doubt or mistrust an NPC and declare that they want to make a Sense Motive check (or Insight in 4e), I allow them to make such a check, and, regardless of whether to NPC is lying or not, I roll a Bluff check behind the screen. It's my personal rule that anyone telling the truth has a +30 circumstance bonus to Bluff checks. So when a player announces a desire to make a skill check that the DC is always an opposed roll (like Sense Motive), they always have something to roll against. Not rolling and telling the player they believe the NPC would simply be a meta-game clue to the player that the NPC is automatically telling the truth. By using my method, the players (in this case, distinguished from the character), don't automatically know if the NPC was telling the truth, or just a really good liar. But their character responds in-game the same way. The only difference is the meta-game consideration that the player derives from the scenario.
And mine rely on me to adjudicate the rules fairly, and neither pamper them nor try my best to kill them. I rely on them to roleplay well, and solve problems creatively for themselves, rather than wait for me to fix it for them.
But you have to hide certain things from your players because you are not adjudicating the rules 100% fairly, yes?
I use my judgement where that's concerned and don't abuse the power I've been invested with. That's a key distinction.
Again, I have emphasized that diice fudging is something I do very rarely. I do have one exception. Far too many times, by sheer luck, a monster will get knocked down to exactly one hp. Especially when it was a big hit or big spell that brought it down so low, I'll just call the monster dropped. It's just anticlimactic for monsters to hang around at one hp all the time.
Very rarely is still not zero. I do not fudge dice rolls. Period. That is what I am advocating.
Bully for you.
But isn't that making it more about you, the DM, then it is about the player's? You've been so critical about DMs "making it about themselves", but you place your own moral superiority at a higher level of consideration than you do the product you present to your players? How is that an less self-absorbed, even if it is well-intentioned?
Also why not leave it with 1 HP? It is an awesome time for the creature to drop down, try to escape and or plead for mercy or whatever. It can lead to great moments. I've done it plenty of times. Seriously give it a try. It's what lets players get in those awesome movie-style one-liners before executing an enemy. Seriously, try it! I mean this in all seriousness too and I know that a lot of people fudge that last die roll but that's because they assume the monster should keep acting the same way it has been when it had more HP...but creatures and people are aware of their general well-being (so they're pretty aware of their HP) and it gives you great opportunities to have them react to their impending doom.
Sometimes, yes, and I did not say I do that EVERY TIME it happens. What I was trying to convey is that, for some reason, this seriously happens all the time. If it seriously happens to at least one enemy almost every game session, then after awhile, those "great moments" become much less great. And so, SOMETIMES, I just let the monster be dropped.
The problem is that you extrapolated AT ALL. I let the players make their choices, and I adapt to the choices they make. Having some things prepared a session or so in advance, in expectation of certain decisions, is not demeaning any of their choices. If they go completely off the map from what I had expected, I can work on the fly, but planning for reasonable decisions the players might make is something I do.
I have never spoken against have pre-planned material. I use quite a bit of pre-planned material...I just know what it is pre-planned for and I stick to that. If the game deviates, I do not use the material as I pre-planned it. Nor do I simply reskin it to give my players the same experience regardless of the deviation they made. You are reading into my own statements. Can we agree that this might be inevitable and both work towards understanding one another better? I will start by clarifying...
I am not against pre-planning things. I pre-plan quite a bit in that I prepare materials for the game. However, I do not force those materials into the game. I discard them if they are not relevant...and I save them for later if they are still "true" in the game but not topical. For instance, I prepared a crypt the other day for the players because they were nearing it and were considering investigating. They ended up investigating. If they had not the crypt would have remained there, unused for now...I would not have changed that dungeon to the next dungeon they went into.
Why does it matter? If the next dungeon (or the one after) is similarly a crypt?
No, that was just his policy, it was something he was trying out. From the negative feedback he got on that, he decided to abandon the policy. You're too quick to assume everyone is as judgemental as you, and makes immediate judgement calls on the intelligence of those involved.
I simply said it was a bad policy, the meta-gamey-ness of the policy was jarring.
I'll point out that calling me judgemental is, in fact, the act of judging me. Hmm.
Do I judge you as "less intelligent"? No. I do not immediately judge those who think, feel, and act in ways that I do not. Just because somehing or someone is different does not necessitate a value judgement. Some people I work with in the Navy, for exampe, do not have the same kind of values that I do when it comes to behavior when in port. I dont judge. My way is better for me. Doesn't make it better, objectively, than the way they choose to act.
I decide what material is allowed and what is not at my table. I decide how monsters behave in combat (I use the Tactics section in the monster entry as a guide, yes, as well as taking monster intelligence into account, but it's still my call). When there's a major story arc, some encounters are simply not a part of that story. If the party is on a mission to reach Blackwall Keep before a massive army of lizardfolk invade, and they encounter a wanderin war party of orcs...yes, that is "piddly crap".
Robbing the players the chance to, perhaps, try and sway the orcs to try and help them rout the mutual lizardfolk enemies. Or any number of interesting things the players might come up with.
This is non-sequitr. You were criticising my adjudication of what was "piddly crap" in the game, and criticising me for deciding what is and is not importnt to the stroy, calling it "arrogant". I was talking about a random combat encounter, the PCs are already in combat with said orcs, and you counter with "what if they creatively decided to do something else?" Well, they didn't.
I called his policy ridiculous. He's actually a friend of mine. And he's quite intelligent, thank you. Just because someone is smart doesn't mean they are incapable of making bad calls.
Gonna call you out on this one.
Here is your quote.
"But this DM was ridiculous."
You outright called him ridiculous.
All right, fair enough. Doesn't mean I think he's stupid.
And yes, I do try and stay one step ahead of my players. This means adapting to their choices, because such choices matter. But I feel that it is my responsibility to be at least one step ahead of the players. But not too far. Getting too far ahead of them means losing sight of what is going on with them right now. One needs to stay in the moment and in the present, while looking a step or two ahead, and know what's coming next. That's all I was saying.
Which makes sense. However is part of that "staying ahead" also to include keeping them in the dark regarding things you do that might (in your words) "endanger the trust" they have put in you?
Sometimes. Usually no. I don't care if my players know I'm not actually rolling on a random encounter table. And most of them would prefer if I planned "random encounters" anyway, since they'll have more thought put into them.
That's a sidestep. It's completely irrelevant to the part you were responding to. Unless you are somehow using this as a justification for saying "every DM who doesn't do it my way is inferior and lazy". I told you that this is how you are coming acros, an I take isssue with it, and you come back with an anecdote about how your playstyle has evolved.
No, I am outright saying what I do is superior. What I do tomorrow will be superior to what I do today. It is what I strive for. Again, I have done what you do...have you done what I do? If so, I believe I have a better basis for saying what may or may not be superior to the other. I think that is a fair line of reasoning.
It's not, though. It's fair for you say "what I do is superior for me and my group", but-especially since you're trying to make a moral argument here and take the high ground-you have ZERO RIGHT to denounce everyone else as "inferior and lazy". By doing so, you undermine any moral superiority you might claim, because it's hypocrisy. Either you advocate morality in a moral way, or you're just talking about your opinion. It's one or the other.
Again, does that justify you saying your personal opinion is so vital and universal that it makes all other ways inferior and lazy.
Justify it? Not 100% no.
I...I can't take this line of thought seriously. I'm sorry, I have a life with too many things in it that are more important than games. I'm in the Navy. The work I do on a plane could potentially affect a pilot's LIFE. My family, maintainin my house...all these things are far more important than gaming. I love D&D, but it's a hobby.
You are conflating "taking seriously" with "important". Several things in my life have to be taken very seriously...that does not make them more important to my life. I am defined by what I choose to do...not by what I have to do. I have to work...I do not let my work define me. I do not have to play D&D...I do so because it is something that defines me as a person. I did not need to get married...I chose to because the person I share my life with helps define me and my life.
Games are my life. I went to school for them. I study them. That you seek to diminish my interests by stating that you cannot take that seriously is...sad. You have nothing to tell me you are sorry for otherwise...that you have things in your life you consider more important than D&D is irrelevant to me. I do as well. However, I still consider it very important to me. Games define humanity...I consider them a defining part of culture, history and the very nature of human beings. It always disappoints me a bit to see people try to dismiss them and diminish them.
You said that games are more important than physical health. If one's health deteriorates too far, they can't well play games, can they? I can't take that kind of reasoning seriously.
I enjoy gaming. D&D is by far my favorite hobby. It's my favorite social engagement. I do place some priority on gaming, but it stays in context. I didn't have to join the military. I take a great deal of pride in serving my country and defending freedoms. I've been a part of some world-shaping events. I was aboard the USS Ronald Reagan in 2011 when the Tsunami hit Japan. We were the first responders to provide aid to them in their crisis. WWe spent over a month on short rations, donating most of our food to the people hurt by that disaster. Some of us donated our own clothes to the people who had lost everything. What we did made a HUGE difference and saved lives. While I love D&D, I cannot place it in a higher priority context than the real world.
It's not just "reluctance to make things that don't get used", because that can always happen if the players do something you hadn't planned for, which is fine. And you say you plan some encounters...isn't that restricitng player choices, according to you and tao?
Not if I am willing to discard those plans at the drop of a hat. Which I am.
so? I'm not advocating forcing the players to experience what I have planned no matter what, either. If neither extreme is the case, why discuss the extremes?
Again, sidestepping. The original point, which MrCustomer was making, was about having some of the encounters along a travel route being pre-planned. You responded by strawmanning it into your littleschpiel about "oh no, get the players back on the choo choo if they try and do anything different". This is a strawman. Plain and simple. This particular point was a strawman, and you are guilty of it. Accept it and move on.
Pre-prepared is far different from inevitable. Again, I was extrapolating and asking questions. That it becomes ugly is the point...it is stress-testing the situation and line of thinking.
But you did not address the original point. You extrapolated (thus saying something other than he was advocating), and only asked questions based on your extrapolated example.
And that's your opinion. I run most of my game straight, but am not above pulling a string here or there. What "master D&D moral authority" am I culpable to?
Only the "moral authority" that I do not pull strings. I do not do anything behind my screen that endangers the trust my players have put in me. If you are endangering trust that suggests, at least to me, that something unethical is happening behind the screen. Again, "endangering trust" was your wording...not mine.
Again, I refer to my above statements regarding placing your priority on your moral stance as prioritizing your own moral/ethical standards over what you're presenting to players.
My own ethics don't enter in to this issue. To me, it's an amoral decision. Your insistence on attaching a moral/ethical value to this issue is, to me, akin to how some religious devotees insist that some issues are moral/ethical ones, while secular people disagree, focusing more on the rights of inidividuals to decide for themselves.
DMing is creativity. As such, the only ethics that enter into it for me are the ethics of aesthetics. To me, it is more unethical to present something sloppy and unfinished to my players than any concern for maintaining a moral superiority that matters to no one but me.
As I said before...if we are discussing the ethics of this matter in a vacuum, with pure hypotheticals, then yes, you are right about railroading and so on. But once we're talking about actual games and involving actual people, a lot of those high ideals bcome irrelevant, because the experience of the players matters way more, in terms of aesthetic ethics. Which is where I place my values.
You make it sound like that's the only way to make travel encounters without violating some kind of sacred bond of trust between DMs and players.
It can be part of it, yes. Not the end all be all however.
And I have been positing that it's not a part of it at all, and jplay36 has said the same thing. Nothing about rolling on a random encounter table even relates to the issues of railroading or violating player trust at all. If your players and my players say "we go through the forest", there is no moral difference between you rolling on a "Forest Encounters" table, and me pulling out a Monster Manual, finding a forest based creature, and picking it for an encounter. 4e MMs are great for "random encounters", by the way, because I can find the entry fro a forest creature, and grab one of the pre-collected "encounter groups". For example, I look up Gnolls, and I get a level 7 ecounter with 1 gnoll demonic scourge, 2 gnoll clawfighters, 2 gnoll huntmasters, and 1 cacklefiend hyena. I didn't pre-plan the gnoll encounter, I picked a forest-dwelling creature because the players decided to go through a forest, and selected an appropriate encounter. Let's say on your "forest encounters" table, you also rolled for gnolls. What is different, morally, about the two ways that was done? Nothing. Not one iota of difference.
Now lets say our players both ended that session still in the forest, still travelling. So, either way, for both groups, the next session will start with travel through the forest. Between sessions, I now PLAN another travel encounter in the forest, deciding to make this one more detailed, and maybe hinting at something more. To continue using the examples, I decide on a group of trolls, who all have a strange symbol painted on their hides, and one of which wears that same symbol. When they see the party, they attack, and the leader says "kill them! Redtooth will reward us for bringing their treasure!". Now I have done this because I happen to know that one of my players' character speaks Giant. And it's a hook. If they decide to go on a little sidetrek, I have decided that Redtooth is a Green Dragon in these woods, who has many subject creatures enslaved, inluding these trolls. If they decide to stay in these woods and invesigate further, then I have an idea for what other kinds of creatures they coud find, and I could whip up a quick Skill Challenge for tracking the rolls to where they came from (I have a few basic, multipurpose Skill Challenges pre-writen). And, of course, Redtooth himself. If they don't care to investigate...then they don't. Oh well.
You, on the other hand, next session, roll again for their next travel encounter. Just for the sake of showing similarities, you also roll a troll encounter.
What, morally, is the difference?
Both parties decided to enter a forest with no urging from the DM. Both had a gnoll encounter, and the next session, had a troll encounter. If the same player was in both games, his experiences would have been nearly identical. Nothing about his choices were more valid in one than the other.
Now, you say, it is "ethically reprehensible" for me to have pre-determined what the party was going to encounter in those woods.
I think it is less ethical (by aesthetic ethics) to present a random encounter-that I put no more work into than rolling dice and consulting a pregenerated table-when I did, indeed, have the opportunity to make it better by planning.
The only difference, in this discussion? I don't criticize and judge those who don't choose to use my method as "inferior" or "lazy"
I said nothign about "presuming to know how my players will react", or invalidating their choices. I have advocated planing for some choices you forsee the players possibly making, and having some things ready. Bu if players do something completely cross to that, then adapt. Again, you're strawmanning my position.
Again, you are far too quick to run to the teddy-bear that is apparently this invocation of "ZOMG STRAWMAN". Let it go. Please for the sake of everyones sanity.
I am stating WHEN IT WOULD BE BAD. I AM STATING TO WHAT EXTENT IT BECOMES A PROBLEM. I AM NOT SAYING THIS IS WHAT SOMEONE DOES, I AM SAYING THESE THINGS ARE WHAT WOULD BE BAD.
I do not even disagree with what I just quoted from you...I agree with it. Pre-plan and prepare some things and adapt and improvise if unexpected things occur. Can you please stop crying wolf at me whenever I try to actually explain what WOULD be bad?
I already know what WOULD be bad. I've said as much a dozen times already. If ou don't want me to interpret what you say as your response to my post, why franme it as such?
You don't respond honestly to the situation at all, though. You extrapolate first, and THEN respond. Which is strawman, like it or not. Don't defend your extrapolation, just don't do it.
Here I will reply to this...
You are strawmaning my position. I do not do that. It is a strawman to say I make strawman arguments when I don't strawman with a strawman. Please do not strawman me by saying I strawman your strawman with a strawman. Straw. Man.
That enough strawmen?
You are reading into what is or is not "honest"...I am GENUINELY ASKING ABOUT or GENUINELY OFFERING hypotheticals or questions to be answered or addressed.
I have never once stated YOU DO something in that manner. You have put forth situations and I have ASKED questions about them. Again, if the first answer is a "No, this is how it would work" it could render the rest of the questions meaningless and that is just fine. I asked you once, quite politely, not to keep reading intent into simple questions...you insist on doing so. Again...can you stop? Seriously, this will be the second time I have asked nicely.
And I have asked nicely for you to stop extrapolating AT ALL, and just respond to what is said and presented AS IS.
Yes, we know that taking things to the far extreme right is a Very Bad Thing, but that's not what anyone here is advocating, ertainly not me. So top discussing only the far extreme right. Discuss what's presented. Because when you ALWAYS extrapolate, and reply ONLY in regards to that extrapolated extreme example-whether it is couched as a question or no-you are strawmanning. Or at least, giving the appearance of strawmanning.
Why is it so hard to NOT extrapolate and discuss only what is being presented. WHY do you have to take it to the far extreme in order to construct a response?
But I pose hypothetical situations the way I would-hypothetically-run them. My point is that you stop returning to this assumption that any "railroading" (as defined by you and tao) equates immediately to "hard railroading", and forcing the players down one path they don't want to go on.
Then we are back to one of the cruxes of the situation...it is railroading when a choice is invalidated. Well, less railroading and more an act that is "unethical" on the part of the DM...one that has violated or threatens to violate player trust. If the only thing seperating the action from that violation is the DM's screen and the DM's ability to keep the players in the dark, that is what I have an issue with. I do not advocate doing things that endanger/violate player trust...whether the players know it or not.
So, anything that looks like it MIGHT, one day, "threaten" the player's trust, needs to be decried as railroading and shut down before it becomes a problem, right? Because that's the only possible outcome, and it is a certainty that any such situation will turn into the kind of threat that completely violates player trust and their own ability to make choices, right?
Does that about sum it up?
DISCLAIMER: The author takes no responsibility for any failure of Irony Detectors that may have occurred while reading that last pararaph.