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Outright lying to your players about game world


Advice


A bit of a crisis of conscience here.
I'm getting a new game and game world prepped, and I'm using the automatic bonus progression from Unchained with the 'magic items are so rare that you can't reasonably expect to find one' level. The justification for this is that the nature of magic simply forbids it from being bound to objects.

This ... is not technically true, it's just what everybody thinks. The techniques for binding magic to items are lost (and I intend for the PCs to discover them eventually, though note it'll be a LOT harder than taking a feat and spending money).

I feel a little bad about this, since it will result in a blatant lie to the players. I don't want to preface it with 'as far as anybody knows', since that's pretty much saying that it's possible, kind of like 'I can neither conform nor deny' is just a long-winded way of saying 'confirmed'.

If you were in such a game, and suddenly found out that one of the basic things the GM told you about the world turned out to be empirically false, would you be upset about it, whether or not there was a good in-game reason for it?

Silver Crusade

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Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Modules, Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Roleplaying Guild, Tales Subscriber; Pathfinder Comics Subscriber

Yeah, as much as you don’t like it, I would put the lie in a mouthpiece in game rather than come directly from you, since as stating something outside the narrative as the GM your players will trust that to be how things work in this setting.

You could have researchers in game trying and failing to create magic items to give it more gravitas?


If I was a player and I bought the basic premise of no magic items I would count everything we find as a bonus. I certainly wouldn't be upset. That said you don't have to hide the fact you could just say items are not available now through quest you'll be able to rediscover the creation methods. It does destroy the magic a bit, and it's possible that some players will metagame the search.
Generally I wouldn't have an issue about hiding it, it's basically a plot point. You don't reveal the killer if you're running a murder mystery, and this is pra tically the same.


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Zhayne wrote:
I feel a little bad about this, since it will result in a blatant lie to the players. I don't want to preface it with 'as far as anybody knows', since that's pretty much saying that it's possible, kind of like 'I can neither conform nor deny' is just a long-winded way of saying 'confirmed'.

Embed the factoid in a larger document giving all the PCs' knowledge of the game world. Preface that document with "This information is what your characters believe; while at least 90% of it really is accurate, there are probably portions that diverge from game reality." Now you've disclaimed your factoid w/o singling it out, so it's not confirmed.


I like rysky's idea.

Instead of stating it, hint at it through the world.
When you describe the town describe the shops and temples and wizards tower's.
Describe how even though there is magic in the world nobody is selling any. Explain that this isn't unusual to the characters as they will never have seen any magic items and magic items are spoken of as legends.


Ditto on the instead of just saying it outright express it in your game world.


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necromental wrote:


Generally I wouldn't have an issue about hiding it, it's basically a plot point. You don't reveal the killer if you're running a murder mystery, and this is pra tically the same.

You raise a good point there, a very good one.


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Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Card Game, Class Deck, Maps, Modules, Pawns, Roleplaying Game, Tales Subscriber; Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Deluxe Comics Subscriber; Pathfinder Legends Subscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber
Zhayne wrote:

A bit of a crisis of conscience here.

I'm getting a new game and game world prepped, and I'm using the automatic bonus progression from Unchained with the 'magic items are so rare that you can't reasonably expect to find one' level. The justification for this is that the nature of magic simply forbids it from being bound to objects.

This ... is not technically true, it's just what everybody thinks. The techniques for binding magic to items are lost (and I intend for the PCs to discover them eventually, though note it'll be a LOT harder than taking a feat and spending money).

I feel a little bad about this, since it will result in a blatant lie to the players. I don't want to preface it with 'as far as anybody knows', since that's pretty much saying that it's possible, kind of like 'I can neither conform nor deny' is just a long-winded way of saying 'confirmed'.

If you were in such a game, and suddenly found out that one of the basic things the GM told you about the world turned out to be empirically false, would you be upset about it, whether or not there was a good in-game reason for it?

It definitely wouldn’t upset me. I’d prefer you lie about it, to be frank - then the experience of learning it as a player mirrors the in game discovery (albeit briefly).

I guess if it was something less plot-centric it might bug me. If I asked to play a cavalier or something and you said no on the grounds that “they don’t exist” - then we met some a few levels in. That might irritate me briefly. However, even in a situation like that - it’s not a big deal, in my opinion.


I guess I'm not seeing the lie - you just aren't revealing a secret. What you'll be telling them is true as of the start of the game, before they learn the secret. You hope they'll discover how to make magic items (the secret), but maybe the PCs won't figure it out. Or maybe they won't care if they do figure it out. Why invest a LOT more than a feat and some money when we already get plenty of bonuses for free/automatically?

However, if this is a big part of the main story, you'll want to tell them to get buy-in. "This adventure is about a group living in a world without magic items, who will need to rediscover the lost art of making magic items to defeat their enemy/save the world/whatever."


Seed the world with legends of ancient magic items, lost for all eternity. This will prep the pcs with the idea that magic items are possible, just that no one knows how to do it any more. That way, they will be comfortable with the idea that they will never have magic items and they will also be comfortable with the idea that maybe they will discover the way to make magic items.


[Obligatory "playstyles vary" disclaimer]
I consider "lying about plot points" to be a GM privilege. If it's accurate from the character’s point of view, then that's how it is - even if the characters end up being wrong.
On the other hand, while players (and even more so, player characters) don't have to be honest with each other, the GM needs to know their secrets.
That being said, no one in our group can keep a secret good enough to pull it off, so I don't really have practical experience with lying GMs, and while I often have lying characters, I'm far too gleeful about it to fool anyone at the table...


"Don't expect to be able to find magic items in this game. No-one in this world knows how to craft them."


Agreed on mouthpiece. If you want to state any rules in a starting document, say "Magic items are not available for purchase. The item creation feats are not available.". That is all you need to do.


All you need to do is phrase it as such:

Quote:
I'm getting a new game and game world prepped, and I'm using the automatic bonus progression from Unchained with the 'magic items are so rare that you can't reasonably expect to find one' level. The justification for this is that, as far as anyone knows the nature of magic simply forbids it from being bound to objects.


You might want to phrase it as "It's common knowledge that magic can't be bound to objects in this world." That way you're establishing that this is what the people of this setting believe to be true, while giving yourself the safety net of "common knowledge" not always being right. Heck, it used to be "common knowledge" that you could treat illnesses by sticking leeches on somebody to suck out the "bad blood" causing the sickness.


You run the risk that the players will believe the initial lie so much that they ignore all the in-game clues that it is false. I have had players take a single misinterpreted statement to heart. The only way to break their belief was to tell them out of character that they had the fact wrong.

For example, if told that no-one can make magic items, then they might decide that all magic items are gifts from gods or devils, and anyone claiming otherwise is trying to trick them.


Pathfinder Companion, Modules, Roleplaying Game Subscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber

Given that you are using Automatic Bonus Progression, when you do introduce magic items to the game, be sure that they do not precisely mimic what your PCs can get just from leveling. Being able to focus on magic items other than the big 6 will be a fun discovery for them.


*signs up to play bonded witch/construct crafter/bladebound magus/anyone with an arcane bond*

**** your supposed reality! I know what can really be done!


You can, of course, have character histories with tragedies of ancestors trying to solve the enchantment problems and catastrophically failing. The whole noble and brilliant race of goblins effectively destroying itself, leaving, well, goblins.


I think you already stated the best way to inform your players. The techniques for Binding magi to items are lost. Stress that while legends of magic items are known, no known modern magic items exist.

Also inform them about any restrictions on creating magic items before character creation. Also let them know you are using the level of automatic bonus progression with no magic items to compensate. This is all you need to do to establish the setting.

If the players discover the secret of creating magic items themselves I doubt they will be upset. Make sure that this is something the players are in control of. Don’t have it be like some sort of switch was thrown and now anyone can create magic items. If the players are the only ones able to create magic items this will keep it special.

This is not lying to your players; this is setting the campaign tone.


I run many games in other worlds/systems (such as WoD) wbere there are many such "facts" or myths, or conflicting facts or myths, in the world background information. So myself and my players wouldn't have any issues.


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How surprised do you want the players to be when they discover that magic items exist after all? Some of these suggestions support such pleasant surprise more than others; if you tell them magic items used to exist but don't now, they'll strongly suspect that they'll run into some.


David knott 242 wrote:

Given that you are using Automatic Bonus Progression, when you do introduce magic items to the game, be sure that they do not precisely mimic what your PCs can get just from leveling. Being able to focus on magic items other than the big 6 will be a fun discovery for them.

Oh, definitely. No simple +X items will be coming into play. Never been too fond of those anyway, truth to tell.


Mysterious Stranger wrote:

Make sure that this is something the players are in control of. Don’t have it be like some sort of switch was thrown and now anyone can create magic items. If the players are the only ones able to create magic items this will keep it special.

Full agreement there. I've been kinda-sorta-a-little inspired by Skyrim; the PCs are in effect the game's 'dragonborn' chosen ones and as such will be getting abilities other people simply can't (NPCs, even PC-classed ones, do *not* get inherent bonuses, f'rex).

Sovereign Court

Some lies about the game world are worse than others. Consider:

A) You had in mind not using magic items but didn't tell the players. They picked classes and builds that assume the regular items are available, and they're going to run up against a wall.

B) You had in mind a slow reveal that there might be some items after all, but for the most part you'll use Automatic Bonus Progression. You told your players about ABP, and they designed characters that are fun to play with ABP. While you'll slowly reveal a few magic items, the game remains balanced around ABP being sufficient to keep up with level-dependent challenges.

There's nothing wrong with B. Nobody suffers as a result of there being "a little extra".

Option A is a jerk move, because you led people to believe some things would be viable and fun to play, and now they aren't.

---

With all that said, if you're not using magic items at all, be sure to warn the players. Because the Big Six that ABP aims to remove aren't the only important items. The versatility gap between wizards and sorcerers becomes a lot bigger when there aren't any scrolls for example.

It might be a good idea to just sit your players down for an evening and all brainstorm about what the consequences of a no-items game are; just to get everyone's expectations on the same page.


Conventional wisdom and practiced magical theory suggests that the very essence of magic, the raw, preternatural energies, are too chaotic and indefinable to be bound into items. There are of course heretics, crackpots and outright madmen who insist that, in the ancient days items of legend could be crafted by mortal will and talent, but these claims are unsubstantiated or flat out dangerous as in the case of the Blackraven Covenant.

This was the last recorded cabal of arcanists who attempted to craft a "magic item" as they were referred to. The group was 9 strong, maintaining a tower of high magic on the highest peak of the Windvex Highlands, north up the Cyphon coast from the city of Yngersol. Archmage Bryuhn claimed to have developed a method of enchanting armor for the greatest warriors of the Emporer's army and set about to test his theory on the first full moon of the harvest.

So it was, after the earth-shattering explosion collapsed the northern Windvex into the sea, that the Emporer's forces at Yngersol spent that long winter engaged in the War of the Eldrytch Colossus when sections of the tower fused with the magic-tainted armor to form the unyielding juggernaut of devastation that laid waste to a quarter of a continent before it was finally destroyed.


Zhayne wrote:
NPCs, even PC-classed ones, do *not* get inherent bonuses

That might turn out to be a mistake.

Creating NPC opponents for PCs is a lot of work. It's often a lot more efficient to find existing stats.

And the ones that make interesting opponents are often relatively high CR, meaning that in a regular game the party (a) gets lots of XP, if you're using XP, and (b) gets a ton of magic loot, which can be unbalancing.

The 'too much magic loot' problem can be fixed by giving pre-built NPCs automatic bonus progression instead - e.g., their item enhancement bonuses turn into inherent bonuses. If you don't give them any bonuses, you'll have to build NPCs from scratch, or modify the pre-built ones to take their bonuses away. And the resulting characters will have very specific weaknesses - trivial ACs, inability to hit high-AC PCs, and terrible saves.


Matthew Downie wrote:
And the resulting characters will have very specific weaknesses - trivial ACs, inability to hit high-AC PCs, and terrible saves.

Echoing this. At level, say, 15, NPCs will have at least 8 less AC, 5 less AB, and 5 less saves than an equivalent PC. That's absolutely massive. And will heavily favor casters with even more rocket tag (less saves being made).


Start with a document: This is what your character believes about the world...

RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32

You can say you just don't feel like including magic items, and want to try out the Auto Bonus system as an experiment, and then surprise them later with some goodies.

It shouldn't be a problem unless all your players want to play artificers....


I think in general it's best to put things in perspective of "What their characters know about the world" or "what they've heard about from other people". If you keep things in these terms, then you don't have to be worried about "lying" when the players stumble on something nobody knows about.

Like if you're going to do a campaign about the PCs rediscovering a lost civilization you can talk about how their trade ships stopped arriving at friendly ports, and how no envoys sent to lands have returned, and how experts believe a volcanic eruption (for example) destroyed their civilization. Then when the players actually get there, you can let them discover the actual truth.


Ascalaphus - I fully intend to tell them I'm using the automatic bonuses. I kinda have to, since they'll have a bonus at first level.


SmiloDan wrote:

You can say you just don't feel like including magic items, and want to try out the Auto Bonus system as an experiment, and then surprise them later with some goodies.

It shouldn't be a problem unless all your players want to play artificers....

If there was an artificer class for PF, I'd have to ban it for not fitting the game ... plus, since the item creation feats are banned, it'd be silly to want to play one anyhow. :)


Balkoth wrote:
Matthew Downie wrote:
And the resulting characters will have very specific weaknesses - trivial ACs, inability to hit high-AC PCs, and terrible saves.
Echoing this. At level, say, 15, NPCs will have at least 8 less AC, 5 less AB, and 5 less saves than an equivalent PC. That's absolutely massive. And will heavily favor casters with even more rocket tag (less saves being made).

The game isn't going higher than 8th ... past that, I find it virtually unplayable, so that margin is significantly less troubling. I'm basically doing Epic 6 rules, but going to 8 'cause it seems like every class gets something cool at 8th. But good points have been made, I'll rethink this one.


Matthew Downie wrote:
"Don't expect to be able to find magic items in this game. No-one in this world knows how to craft them."

It is a well-known fact that magical fields originate from living creatures. The idea of a "magic item" is absurd! Next thing you'll be telling me is that heavy things don't fall faster than light things. Look sweetheart, your pottery is beautiful, but it will never be magic.


Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

I make sure that at least one 'World Truth' gets hit every game. A twist, exception or outright debunking, the players actually started a tome of things to remember! Today, they'd have it on the web.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

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