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Information to players. Prompted or Unsolicited?


Pathfinder Society GM Discussion

Andoran *

Just going over a few sessions, and a question popped up to me.

Party is derping along, find themselves in front of a wonderful old painting. DM notes say "A knowledge history DC: 15 will reveal this is a painting of the founding of Absalom."

Should the onus be on the players to request this information? Should they turn to me and say "What could I know about this?" and then I request the check? Should, upon them seeing it, I say "Ok give up them Knowledge History rolls!"

What about perception checks. The party is wandering by a pile of rubble, the session says "Searching the rubble and getting DC 10 perception will see a small pile of 100 coins!"

Should I ask the party to give me a perception check while going around the area - so the notice the coins? Or is it again on the onus of the PC's to specifically say "I'm checking the rubble for treasure."

And finally - and I'm pretty sure I know the answer to this one - if the PC's down an enemy, should I start instantly in to the "on it you find...." talk? Or should I wait to hear them say the magic words "I loot dat corpse."

In non-PFS games I tend to rule these however I feel at the time, sometimes mixing it up a bit. However with PFS, and with so many of the Faction/Session goals counting on players knowing, finding, or discovering something - Not only do I want to avoid cheating the players out of their victory. I also do not want to hand it to them on a silver plate.

Any advice?

**

It is really up to the GM.

For myself and the sake of time-restraint, I ask the players to give the appropriate roll and inform them if any hit the DC. It streamlines the game.

Some GM's that are prepared will have PCs roll a set number of d20's, and write down the result on a character card. Then they ask the player to write down any knowledge base modifiers and perception modifier. As you can see, this does take a little bit of prep work to perform before the game has started. If done correctly it gives a fluid sense of what the character knows and doesn't know.

As for looting, I ask before the game if the characters plan to loot everybody after a fight. So far, I've yet have a party say "No" to this. I do inform them that it will take at least 5 minutes of game time for looting. That way they are aware that most round/minute spells will be burned before moving on.

With regards to faction missions, most PCs will be concerned about of what they need to accomplish.

"Did that guy have a gold serpent ring on? What about that guy?"

"As we explore this house, I'm looking for the head of a snaggle-tooth wildebeest."

So in the end, it is how ever you want to run the game. Just go with what works for you and your player-base.


1 person marked this as a favorite.

I say for cases that spcifically require a Pc to do something, such as the rubble and corpse, wait until they say they do it. For cases where they just need to recognize something, such as the painting example, just ask for the roll.

***

I try to let the players choose make some rolls when appropriate, like searching that pile of rubble. If players have been told it is there but just walk on past to the next room that's on them.

For knowledge checks, I do tend to prompt them if it something that a character has a good chance of knowing. As in the case of that painting in the first post, I might say "the old painting looks familiar, perhaps depicting a scene from the past." Most players will catch on to this and role the appropriate skill check if they have it.

Taldor *** Venture-Captain, Oklahoma—Tulsa aka Rob Duncan

When I look at stuff in real life, it either (1) pops into my head (2) looks vaguely familiar or (3) I have no clue and need somebody to help me remember.

Quote:


Party is derping along, find themselves in front of a wonderful old painting. DM notes say "A knowledge history DC: 15 will reveal this is a painting of the founding of Absalom."

This sounds like a real life "You walk into an art museum with your wife. You see a beautiful old painting and it looks familiar."

Possible outcomes?

1) I ignore it because I don't want to be there and am speedwalking my way through.
2) I stop and look at it because I am curious.
3) I ask her because she's dragging me along.

Pathfinder analogy:

1) Is there high history/appraise on sheets? They probably know it. Roll 'em.
2) Hint like Craig suggested.
3) Unless they ask the GM, they don't know to look.

If I get the classic "I am searching for traps, taking my time to look for hidden stuff..." I'd probably give the roll. If they're just meandering through, I'd go for Craig's hint. If they're chasing down something or speedwalking, they have to point out they want to search/roll/do something.

Taldor **** RPG Superstar 2014 Top 32

How do you all feel about making the players make extra, unnecessary perception checks? Knowledge checks? My thought is that if they are assuming that every failed perception check was *something*, then it might alleviate a lot of those problems.

Shadow Lodge *****

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Netopalis wrote:
How do you all feel about making the players make extra, unnecessary perception checks? Knowledge checks? My thought is that if they are assuming that every failed perception check was *something*, then it might alleviate a lot of those problems.

I do this all the time, especially on trap-heavy or creepy scenarios. If I'm only asking them to roll perception when there's actually something to see, they unconsciously will be more vigilant and wary.

Sometimes I even put out minis where there are statues in-game, just to keep my players on-edge about what's "Real" and what's just there to keep the players (rather than the characters) on-edge and more "into" the scenario.

Osirion

Pathfinder Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Comics Subscriber; Pathfinder Campaign Setting, Cards, Companion, Maps, Modules, Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Searching the rubble or looting a corpse?

These are both actions that require active input from the PCs, so it only occurs when they ask.

Recognising the painting? Or, indeed, identifying anything that the PCs are already aware of?

In home games, there's no need for the players to ask, since I've already rolled it for them, or decided they know it, sometimes before the session started.

Why would I do that?
In most cases, it's to speed up the game.
Or, I already know at least one PC can't fail the roll, or would ace it with a 'take 10' check.
Or, I know one or more players have expressed specific interest in the subject, such that I can assume they will be looking closely at certain things as standard MO. (This relates to R Duncan's post above; if a player has been specifically topping up a knowledge skill beyond it being a level 1 hobby, that says to me that the player and PC are actively interested in a subject.)
Or, it relates to something the PCs have been advised to look out for (including but not restricted to, faction missions).
Or, it is someone/something the PCs have already encountered, thus it is less 'identifying', and more 'remembering'.
Or, there is some mystery involved, and I don't want to give away the secret, by revealing what skill is involved.

This assumes I know the players and PCs; in PFS, a GM doesn't have that luxury, so you will have to occasionally ask for rolls.
Still, if given sufficient prep time, a GM could take a quick look at the PCs sheets, and be aware of anyone with ranks in skills that would be valuable to that scenario.

Andoran *

Excellent advice guys, thanks a bundle.

I am doing the prep work for my second session, and just want to make sure everything is going to be done properly. I don't want to screw anyone over - but I don't want to hand it to them on a silver platter with a nice side of buttered asparagus.

Knowing that I have a wide variety of options will allow me to adapt the table to be different between veteran and novice players.

Grand Lodge *****

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Tales Subscriber

Great advice here

What do I have to add?

In regard to looting bodies / finding the treasure in a room I often just ask - everyone please roll perception. This assumes that I expect them to look anyhow and that they are good enough to find it with a single character taking 10.

I then use the results to hand out information (the highest roll finds the most difficult to spot item, etc.).

The reason behind doing it this way - players feel involved (because they rolled a die) and I have different players who can 'shine' for a moment as they feel it was me who found the ring / potion / etc.

This way I weave the treasure into the story - using perception rolls rather as a story help - who finds what. This way even the fighter with perception 0 feels involved from time to time if he rolls high as 'he also found something'.

Apart of that

The amount of information prompted vs unsolicited depends on

Timing - the more time the is - the more time I give players to ask for it instead of presenting it to them.

Experience - the less experienced players are the more do I help them.

Moving them through the story - the trick is to get a party from A to B but have the players feel that it was 100% there own decisions how they got there and that they don't feel railroaded even for a moment how they got there. The information flow solicited vs uncolicited information is a very important tool in achieving this.

*****

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Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

With new players, sometimes they need help being prompted. I usually make a joke of it and say something like, "Oh, you want to know how you're expected to get to Riddleport?! Well I've booked you passage on..." or "How will we know who he is, you ask? Well he's an elderly gentleman with..."

One of the most important jobs we have as a GM is to keep the game moving. If the players aren't talkative or inquisitive, sometimes we have to give a little push to keep things moving.

***

Kyle Baird wrote:

With new players, sometimes they need help being prompted. I usually make a joke of it and say something like, "Oh, you want to know how you're expected to get to Riddleport?! Well I've booked you passage on..." or "How will we know who he is, you ask? Well he's an elderly gentleman with..."

One of the most important jobs we have as a GM is to keep the game moving. If the players aren't talkative or inquisitive, sometimes we have to give a little push to keep things moving.

I find that I do this quite a bit in the beginning of scenarios. Many times I get a "deer in the headlight" stare from new(er) players after the VC ends their initial spiel and I end it with "Are there any questions?" After a few scenarios most players start anticipating questions they should ask which is very cool.

Qadira ****

I try to do a mini audit on character sheets and look for skills that I can make the players take 10 on. If they ask about the history i'm not going to deny anyone a roll, after all people like rolling dice. However if I know a character is capable of knowing the info on a t10 I simply read it as part of the descriptive text.

"There is a painting on the wall, which *characters name* recognizes as the founding of absalom." I like to call out the character so they feel their skills are valuable, and if for whatever reason they don't want to tell the other characters that option remains available to them.

At cons and stuff it's not too much work to take a piece of paper, right a name, and right down their t10 knowledges :D.

Qadira ****

Benrislove wrote:

I try to do a mini audit on character sheets and look for skills that I can make the players take 10 on. If they ask about the history i'm not going to deny anyone a roll, after all people like rolling dice. However if I know a character is capable of knowing the info on a t10 I simply read it as part of the descriptive text.

"There is a painting on the wall, which *characters name* recognizes as the founding of absalom." I like to call out the character so they feel their skills are valuable, and if for whatever reason they don't want to tell the other characters that option remains available to them.

At cons and stuff it's not too much work to take a piece of paper, right a name, and right down their t10 knowledges :D.

wow... I hate to say this. I just know someone is going to flame me for it, 'cause I always argue to be allowed to T10, but...

.
"Take 10" is a players choice. The judge should never " ...make the players take 10 on..." something.

That said, as a player I almost always Take 10 when I can. Yes, this means my PCs sometimes don't know the name of the Countries ruler (Quick, whose the Mayor of Absalom?) Kn-Local 10, or be able to recognize a house cat - Kn: Nature 10.

This added to the fact that many players (and some judges) still think you CAN'T T10 on Knowledge checks. If you are forceing them to T10 when they don't even know it - how will they know they can when they want to?

*****

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Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Craig Stokes wrote:
I get a "deer in the headlight" stare from new(er) players after the VC ends their initial spiel

Two things I find that helps:

1) I pass out a note card with the VC's name, a picture, and some background info. On the back of that, I print the entire speech. I also let the players know that I'll be handing them this so they shouldn't feel the need to take notes. I believe this helps them pay attention during the speech and then they can also reference it later in the scenario.

2) An easier option is to provide a Cliffs Notes version of the speech after you're done. Usually two or three sentences of: Go here. Find this macguffin. Bring it to person X. I usually bold key sentences of the speech on the handouts. Then I ask if they have any questions.

A lot of players, myself included, have trouble following long speeches, especially when there's a lot of distracting noises in the area.

Qadira ****

On the note about using a character card. I currently use a character Initive card that the players fill out at the start of the game. I find it saves a lot of time during play. But if you were to walk by my table as the game is starting you would see the players all rolling dice and marking up a small card, while I set out my notes/figures/mapboards. Currently I ask for Init, and the PCs Sense Motive and Perception bonuses, and a note if they take 10 most of the time with those skills. Along the bottom of the card there are 6 blanks for random d20 rolls that I ask the players to roll for me - I use those for the skills above.
.
I sometimes might ask for a note on knowledge skill bonuses, or some other skill that I know the adventure will require. Perhaps I might need to know if a PC can speak Kelish (First Steps II) or Draconic (First Steps III). Filling out the sheet takes 5 minutes before the game starts, and saves lots of time later.

A note on perception checks. If the player says "I'm checking the room out from here - my take 10 perception is a 34..." would you require him to say "I'm looking for traps" and not give him the pile of gold coins in the room? Yes, I have played for a PFS judge who required DIFFERENT rolls for Traps, Treasure, Hidden Monsters, Secret Doors. Four rolls, for each 5' square.

A note on Perception:
Perception checks represent the PCs chance to notice something. If Mr. Holmes steps into the room, he is going to notice the name on the notes on the desk, the secret trap door under the rug, the man hanging from the roof beams and the villians aftershave. All without saying "I check the room of traps, monsters, loot and clues". Often Perception is passive - it can also be active. In PFS, I ask the players which way they want to run thier passive Perception rolls - these are the ones they have rolled on thier init. cards and I review them. They're just told what they Percieve...
"As you enter the room Watson, you see a man behind a desk cluttered with papers...
"Mr. Holmes, you see that the notes on the desk are addressed to a Baron Blackmoor, there is a secret trap door under the rug in front of the desk, a man is hanging from the roof beams ready to drop on someone as they approach the desk from the door and the man behind the desk wears Sandlewood aftershave - a Qadirian product that the Talden Lord Blackmoor would likely not wear."

Qadira ****

Kyle Baird wrote:
Craig Stokes wrote:
I get a "deer in the headlight" stare from new(er) players after the VC ends their initial spiel

Two things I find that helps:

1) I pass out a note card with the VC's name, a picture, and some background info. On the back of that, I print the entire speech. I also let the players know that I'll be handing them this so they shouldn't feel the need to take notes. I believe this helps them pay attention during the speech and then they can also reference it later in the scenario.

2) An easier option is to provide a Cliffs Notes version of the speech after you're done. Usually two or three sentences of: Go here. Find this macguffin. Bring it to person X. I usually bold key sentences of the speech on the handouts. Then I ask if they have any questions.

A lot of players, myself included, have trouble following long speeches, especially when there's a lot of distracting noises in the area.

D@%n, I need to play at your table. Even if it kills my PCs.

**

You need to use discretion.

Sometimes it just makes sense that characters would use their skills automatically. For example, indentifying a painting, creature or symbol, or noticing a body under a tree.

Other times, players should request information. Do I know anything about this noble family?

With that said, I've practically given up using knowledge skills to do anything more than basic identification of monsters. I rarely get anything useful, even with a 30 check. I mean a 25 history check will give you a long winded history of just about any happening. However, a 25 monster check will tell you that a zombie-like creature is undead and has slam attacks like a zombie.... I wish I was joking.

Qadira ****

Furious Kender wrote:

You need to use discretion.

Sometimes it just makes sense that characters would use their skills automatically. For example, indentifying a painting, creature or symbol, or noticing a body under a tree.

Other times, players should request information. Do I know anything about this noble family?

With that said, I've practically given up using knowledge skills to do anything more than basic identification of monsters. I rarely get anything useful, even with a 30 check. I mean a 25 history check will give you a long winded history of just about any happening. However, a 25 monster check will tell you that a zombie-like creature is undead and has slam attacks like a zombie.... I wish I was joking.

I realize you aren't joking. so yeah. I know what you mean, been there done that.


This may have already been said but heres what I do.

At the start of a session I have every player at the table give me a note card with their HP, AC, Perception, stealth, and any knowledges that they have.

Then if I end up having the historic artwork situation you talked about above I make the rolls and either give the player a note card with the info on it.

Similar with perception checks I roll them becuase if I ask for the rolls then the players at least will know to look for somthing. The same is true if they tell me if they are looking for something in particular because I dont want them to know that the rolled high or low. Basiclly preventing metagaming by removing the temptation. I also do this for stealth the character rolling the check always think hes hidden regardless of how good he rolls.

Also I do wait until a player states that he/she loots an enemy before give that player (and anyone else involved in the looting) a note card with any thing they have found on the enemy. I might roll a perception check if the enemy has something hidden on its person.

Osirion

Pathfinder Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Comics Subscriber; Pathfinder Campaign Setting, Cards, Companion, Maps, Modules, Roleplaying Game Subscriber
nosig wrote:

wow... I hate to say this. I just know someone is going to flame me for it, 'cause I always argue to be allowed to T10, but...

.
"Take 10" is a players choice. The judge should never " ...make the players take 10 on..." something.

I don't think anyone's 'making' a player do anything, or trying to catch them out. Quite the opposite. In my case, it's giving the benefit of the doubt, to give the PCs more info than they might have gotten from random rolls.

I.E., I was describing a situation, where, when there are no distractions, the PCs are taking their time, the PC has +10 skill, and the DC is 19, I just give him the info, on the assumption that the PC with that kind of investment in the skill is going to be the sort of person who would be taking notice of that particular detail.

It's not something I use to deny a PC a roll, as in "Hmmm, he only has +8 skill, and the DC is 19...it looks like he WILL NEVER KNOW WHAT HE MISSED! BWAHAHAHAHAH!"

They all have the option of rolling, and hoping for a better result.
Sometimes that makes sense, where there is a lot of information to be given, proportional to the amount the DC is beaten by.
But I set a minimum bar for what I've already decided will be known to each PC by default.
In the example of the portrait, the PC with Craft (Painting), or Profession (Art History) at +10 would always get at least the DC 20 result to identify the painting's creator, the PC with Knowledge (nobility) +10 would always be given at least the DC 20 result to recognise the subject, etc.

Does that sound like a PC is getting two bites at the cherry?
Maybe, but it does actually suck to have created a PC with a non-combat investigative skill, and have the outcome of the whole scenario hinge on one, highly variable roll.
After all, the Big Dumb Fighter, with the +10 attack bonus gets several chances per scenario to show the others what he can do. If he rolls poorly one round, he simply tries again. Eventually he will prevail, and you'll never hear the last of it.

By contrast, the 'Sage' PC; the one who actually read up on the premise of the Pathfinder Society; the one who signed up, primarily because it was a chance to play something different from the mindless hackfests he gets offered from the groups back home; the one who actually listens to the mission briefings; the one who actually knows what country, or Gods help us, what continent the scenario is set in; the one who's actually made a PC that matches what the meta-campaign is all about?
He will have maxed out several skills, hated every minute of the combats (which probably ate up the majority of the table time), and gets wheeled over to the Mystical McGuffin, for his One Big Moment. Everyone waits with bated breath, as they witness him perform his speciality, the reason they carried his ass this far....and he rolls a dud. On a check that should have been routine. Or at least, 'within his assumed experience'.
And everyone looks at him, like "Why did we ever bring you along?".

Qadira **** Venture-Lieutenant, Netherlands—Amsterdam aka Seraphimpunk

Kyle Baird wrote:


A lot of players, myself included, have trouble following long speeches, especially when there's a lot of distracting noises in the area.

Its my ADD medication and my audible dyslexia.

*****

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Seraphimpunk wrote:
Kyle Baird wrote:
A lot of players, myself included, have trouble following long speeches, especially when there's a lot of distracting noises in the area.
Its my ADD medication and my audible dyslexia.

I quite literally have issues understanding audible instruction, whereas I have (or used to have) a very keen visual memory. I ran into this trying to learn French and Japanese. I got very good at writing and reading them, but couldn't understand the spoken language at all.

I guess my GMing reflects that as I try to give players as much visual information as possible to make up for my lack of verbal presentation.

/cool story bro

Grand Lodge ****

1 person marked this as a favorite.

I found myself uttering this phrase yesterday when I wanted to give the PCs a clue...

"The Knowledge Local section of your brain is tingling."

I laughed after I said it and so did the player I was goading into noticing the Minotaur hair.

**

Kyle Baird wrote:


A lot of players, myself included, have trouble following long speeches, especially when there's a lot of distracting noises in the area.

I use those things to my advantage when playing certain types of characters. I find it adds to more roleplaying and fun if when playing a sort of clueless character to not pay much attention to long speeches, or to mypotically focus on certain aspects.

Plus, it always annoys me when the clueless gnome/halfling/paladin/barbarian is instructing the wizard/cleric on what to do....even if it's mine.

***

Kyle Baird wrote:
Craig Stokes wrote:
I get a "deer in the headlight" stare from new(er) players after the VC ends their initial spiel

Two things I find that helps:

1) I pass out a note card with the VC's name, a picture, and some background info. On the back of that, I print the entire speech. I also let the players know that I'll be handing them this so they shouldn't feel the need to take notes. I believe this helps them pay attention during the speech and then they can also reference it later in the scenario.

2) An easier option is to provide a Cliffs Notes version of the speech after you're done. Usually two or three sentences of: Go here. Find this macguffin. Bring it to person X. I usually bold key sentences of the speech on the handouts. Then I ask if they have any questions.

A lot of players, myself included, have trouble following long speeches, especially when there's a lot of distracting noises in the area.

Thanks for the advice, Kyle. I think I might try this.

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