Player Autonomy VS shooting yourself in the foot


Pathfinder Second Edition General Discussion


Pathfinder Pawns, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

Had an interesting interaction with a player today in which they were going to have their character take an action that would prove detrimental not only to themselves, but by extension, to the whole party. Thinking that the decision was born out of simple ignorance, I told them that their character was aware of particular details that would make it obvious that it was a bad move to be making.

The player then informed me that they wished to roleplay the character as ignorant of said details in this instance and insisted on following through with their original course of action anyways.

At what point does one draw the line with player autonomy? I feel the above player overstepped, making the game decidedly less fun for all others involved for the sake of roleplay. They think I overstepped as a GM by informing a player how they should play their character.

This is not a who is right or wrong thread. It's to discuss where we (as individuals or as a group) believe that line should be drawn.


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Is shooting yourself in the foot just an example of deliberately self damage themselves or the real thing?

Scarab Sages

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Whenever I want to signal to a player that their next action might be bad, I usually ask "Are you [i] suuuuuure?" in a lighthearted tone. I also encourage players to split the party, heal their foes, and attack one another.

I'm not an adverserial GM, but I enjoy referencing the trope.

I think it's important to let your players make bad decisions, especially since your player pushed back on you. I would only step in when they've repeatedly sabotaged the other players.


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I'd say...

- As the DM, you are totally allowed to say that a character knows certain things, or at least that they were exposed to that information at some point and were aware of it. That has to do with the world around the character, and is in your remit.

- As the player, they're totally allowed to say that they've forgotten things, that they weren't thinking about something, that (if intelligence is appropriately low) they simply haven't put two and two together, or that for whatever reason they do know that it's a bad idea, but, in character they want to do it anyway. That is all part of the internal life of the character, and is in *their* remit.

...but the disconnect doesn't actually seem to be at that level. The disconnect is more one of assumptions. You seem to be operating under an assumption that players will always choose the best available option for their characters (or at least a clearly good option) - that doing otherwise is "detrimental not only to themselves, but by extension, to the whole party", and that it made the game "decidedly less fun for all others involved for the sake of roleplay". They clearly want the freedom to make decidedly suboptimal choices from time to time. There's a lot to unpack here.

First of all, it wasn't for the sake of roleplay, at least as I read it. It wasn't for "doing what my character would do" because their character isn't changed based on the information they have, and they (at least apparently) acknowledged that they would have acted differently if their character *had* known. They had some other reason to want to do this clearly suboptimal thing. It would almost certainly be helpful in this situation if you could figure out what that thing was.

Second, how sure are you that it made things less fun for everyone else? Were the other players clearly expressing unhappiness, or was that just an assumption on your part? Some folks enjoy paying moderately suboptimal games, and you shouldn't confuse "optimal play" with "fun". Having fun is the point of all this. Optimal play is only one way to get there.

Now, in a broader sense, the issue here is a lack of a session zero agreement (or perhaps one in which certain assumptions were left unstated and thus unaddressed). If you're correct about the preferences and play experience of the other players, then you should probably have "we are all working together for party success, and aren't going to do anything to sabotage ourselves or each other" as part of the agreement. If you're not correct... well, a session zero is a good place to figure stuff like that out.

Liberty's Edge

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I say let it be as long as the player isn't going out of their way to do this frequently and uses it as a learning experience for their Character.

Flaws can be part of your character, and in my eyes, it can often help make them more interesting and dynamic. For instance, I'm playing a Numenera game at the moment as a Meddlesome Jack and while it tends to rub many NPCs and even the other party members the wrong way at times my Character takes and leans into opportunities to be nosy, talkative, and even downright annoying at times. It's caused us to have a handful of minor tribulations but at other times playing into it led to some genuinely fun and interesting RP experiences as well as helping to uncover and learn things that we otherwise would have almost certainly never known short of deciding to threaten or bribe people. It's not a real match to what it sounds like you went through but I can't be too sure as there is a general lack of context, either way though, it doesn't sound like what that player did caused much more than a temporary hiccup or less than ideal play.

If its a repeated pattern and it starts to create more real problems though, perhaps discussing it with them further in private would be a good idea since I know MANY people who would rather stick to their guns even after making a TRUE bonehead move if they're confronted in the moment and feel they need to get defensive in a group social setting.


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Such a situation can be due to many things:
- A character roleplay is repeatedly putting the others at risk, but everyone is cool with it: I'd make sure to take it into account when designing challenges.
- A character roleplay is repeatedly putting the others at risk but the other players are not cool with it: I take some time to have a conversation with the player.
- A logical action from the character point of view is really bad when looked at with the GM level of knowledge: I will improvize if it's possible. If it's not, I may hint that there's something bad that the player ignores, or even more than hint and give the character new information to avoid the bad idea.
- Players don't want to follow some common tropes, like don't split the party, because they find it illogical from their character point of view: I adapt the challenges to take that into account.
- A player wants his character to behave a certain way that doesn't make sense mechanically but the player likes it (like the ugly 8 Charisma Barbarian who still wants to Intimidate people): I may make up feats or items for it to make sense mechanically.
- A player wants his character to behave a certain way that is against the overall tone of the campaign/party, like the Chaotic Neutral Rogue who acts shadily in a party of paladins: I try to find a proper place for the character to shine while keeping the overall tone for the other players.

Anyway, so many situations and I'm pretty sure I haven't thought about half of them. I think it's really situation-dependent.


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As a GM, it is my duty to inform the player about things that their characters would (or at least should) know. But once I have done that, it is up to the player to decide how much of that information their character actually uses and how they use it.


Themetricsystem wrote:
I say let it be as long as the player isn't going out of their way to do this frequently and uses it as a learning experience for their Character.

Yes. I just did that myself too. Currently a player in a new campaign. The initial meeting with the town council, I deliberately decided to go to it unarmed. As a player, I was about 80% sure that something was going to go down at some point (haven't read through or played through the AP before). But I love the dramatic irony of my character saying things like "I seriously doubt that anyone would try something as stupid as attacking a meeting full of adventurers."

Character is primarily a spellcaster though, so the mechanical hit isn't too bad.


SuperBidi wrote:


- A player wants his character to behave a certain way that is against the overall tone of the campaign/party, like the Chaotic Neutral Rogue who acts shadily in a party of paladins: I try to find a proper place for the character to shine while keeping the overall tone for the other players.

I imagine the shady rogue pretending to be a paladin himself, resulting even more Paladin than the real ones.


It's fine, I'd even recommend it to new GMs or GMs with new players, for you inform the player of what their PC is aware of that the player might have missed. It's unsporting to capitalize on a player's misunderstanding, going against the collaborative nature of RPGing. (RPG tournament settings would be an exception.)

The next stage falls in the player's arena IMO. Player agency (even if illusory because you've hidden the plot railroad so well) undergirds all aspects of a fun table experience IME. Of course principles clash, so if the player's desires shatter the collaborative atmosphere at the table, a GM's presented with a conundrum.
Ex. I'd let the player/PC increase the difficulty of an obstacle or cause setbacks (if in character!), but not slay the princess whom the party/players spent months rescuing.*

In session zero, I make a point that the main attribute that a PC should have is the ability to function as part of a party (and as part of specific campaigns at times, i.e. pirates at sea). This applies as much to the player working alongside others, so I suppose the question would be whether a player breaks that informal pact or not.

This instance feels wonky because there are several questions:
1. Was the player correct in that their PC should've been ignorant? Did they maybe feel it was cheating to act with greater knowledge?
2. Did the table agree the action would be "decidedly less fun for all others"? Or is there an understanding that sometimes RPing will screw over the party and that's okay?
3. How game-changing, campaign-capsizing was this action?
4. Is this reflective of the player's disruptive SOP (and it's time to put an end to it), or is this an anomaly?

So yeah, in a nutshell it's a balance between player agency and player collaboration, with no simple guidelines other than reasonableness.

*In some grimmer sub-genres I could see allowing this if it were consistent with the PC's shtick (like being an anti-royalist whose daughter was killed by the king's guards). "What?! You think I wanted to RESCUE her all this time?"


Pathfinder LO Special Edition, Maps, Pathfinder Accessories, PF Special Edition, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Maps, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

In both cases I'd start off by figuring out two things:
1) How upset the other players are acting/looking in the moment?
2) How upset will they be when they realize the likely outcome? (In PFS terms, is this a loss a treasure bundle or two; or is this going to fail the primary/secondary mission?)

If the other players aren't acting upset, and the stakes are low (missing some treasure, a slightly harder fight, losing some valuable information from a pissed off NPC, etc) --> no harm, no foul. Let them RP. If they do it consistently, players will probably become annoyed and we'll hit a different branch of this analysis in the future.

If the other players are acting upset, but it's a low stakes thing; this is tricky. If it a consistent group, it's time to have a OOC chat with all players, preferable before/after a gaming session -- not interrupting the current one if you can help it, to figure out boundaries. I personally feel its important for most adventures as a whole, and encounters individually, to be accommodating of both 'non-optimal' and 'intentionally sub-optimal' decisions and still be possible. These often make character defining stories and character growth. It might be tense, but it should stay fun. But if it's the same person always making things worse, it becomes a drain on most groups enjoyment.

If the other players are having fun, but you know the stakes are high, I think the OOC warning you gave sounds right, but its still up to the player to choose. The rest of the table might become a little apprehensive about the decision now, and you might get some in-character attempts to change the characters mind. As a one-off its probably find even if it goes astray. If it's a constant thing, it's probably going to evolve into the final category.

If the other players are annoyed, and it's high stakes. It's probably time to call a time out, and discuss it OOC around the table. Is this a person trying to have their character go out in a blaze of glory? Is this a person who isn't enjoying the table and making it worse for everyone as a result? Is this a 'I'm CN, I just like to cause problems' role player, etc. This is the type of thing that needs to be addressed or the group will probably fall apart.

And of course if this is society play, rather than a home game, it gets a bit more nuanced as you might not have consistent players, what looks like a one-off, might in-fact be a pattern of behavior. If it's rising to the level of disruptive play you have some levers to pull on, if its not, it still might be worth reporting to the organizing VO to have a record in case multiple tables/GMs are seeing problems.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens Subscriber

If I realize or suspect that a player is having their character perform an action with a negative consequence because I have not accurately described the world environment (construction materials, room geometry, NPC tone, etc.), then I will clarify that they know these details and the logical outcome of doing what they said they wanted to do.

Example (off the cuff, don't judge too harshly):

GM: On the desk you find the log book. The pages have been defaced with Abyssal writing.
Player: I burn the book!
GM: This is the log book with the evidence you were sent to retrieve.
Player: Oh! Sorry. I just heard book with Abyssal writing.
vs.
Player: Oh, I know. My character doesn't realize it though and just sees the Abyssal writing and decides to burn it.

Whether or not the latter is a problem depends on the table and has been discussed by others above. I wouldn't take it upon myself to say, "No. Your character doesn't." If the rest of the table was obviously upset, I'd probably have to break and have a discussion with the whole table.


Blake's Tiger wrote:

If I realize or suspect that a player is having their character perform an action with a negative consequence because I have not accurately described the world environment (construction materials, room geometry, NPC tone, etc.), then I will clarify that they know these details and the logical outcome of doing what they said they wanted to do.

Example (off the cuff, don't judge too harshly):

GM: On the desk you find the log book. The pages have been defaced with Abyssal writing.
Player: I burn the book!
GM: This is the log book with the evidence you were sent to retrieve.
Player: Oh! Sorry. I just heard book with Abyssal writing.
vs.
Player: Oh, I know. My character doesn't realize it though and just sees the Abyssal writing and decides to burn it.

Whether or not the latter is a problem depends on the table and has been discussed by others above. I wouldn't take it upon myself to say, "No. Your character doesn't." If the rest of the table was obviously upset, I'd probably have to break and have a discussion with the whole table.

I'd allow the other players to intervene in this specific case. Burning a book takes a little bit of time (even if it's through a spell, you have to cast it).


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Blake's Tiger wrote:

GM: On the desk you find the log book. The pages have been defaced with Abyssal writing.
Player: Uh, that's Bad.
GM: But, it's also the log book with the evidence you were sent to retrieve.
Player: That's good
GM: Fiendish items usually carry a curse with them.
Player: That's bad
GM: But since it's a quest item, it would involve a reward for the group once you bring it back.
Player: That's Good!
GM: Often the reward includes consumable items.
Player: ... ??
Gm: And that's bad!
Player: Can I go now?

Fixed for you

Liberty's Edge

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Why should adventurers keep people who unnecessarily put them at risk ?


Hmmm… Aside from the obvious “it depends”, I do think that it’s very important that we all remember that this is — above roleplaying, above number crunching, above tactical choices — a group activity. In this way, expectations are set and met by the group, usually lead and orchestrated by the GM but, then again, not always.

I’ve been in plenty of groups where conflict is more than welcome by the players, for example. Rogues would lie and steal from the party; champions would impose themselves whenever any sort of plan of action that flirted with the idea of maybe doing something not that good would come up, etc. And plenty of times, it was more than fine!

Other groups hate interpersonal conflict, and they’re there to hit monsters and get the loot and forget about everyday’s problems.

Many, may enjoy nuance. I, for example, am not a fan of having a PC steal from the party, but I am more than okay with more dramatic interpersonal issues between the PCs.

In your example — and I understand that you don’t necessarily want the discussion to be about it, but it’s the more obvious example that everyone will have at hand — your expectation as a member of the group is that a player would not act in a way that could potentially cause “unfun” to the rest of the party. Their expectation is that their character were their own: Not the GM’s, not the group’s, and therefore they should dictate such matters themselves.

Personally, as a GM, I’m only certain of what I don’t want to do, or narrate, or happen, or offer, and that’s where I draw a line, and it's an absolute line. If there’s something that I feel reticent about, then I try to get a feel on how strongly the player like that, and depending, if it affects other characters, I say that I think it’s important that other players are informed of that, and then we proceed as a group.
But realistically, if a player does a thing, and they are doing it wrong, and that’s a very important part of their character, then what happens when someone shows up in the within the narrative and says that they’re doing that wrong?


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens Subscriber
HumbleGamer wrote:
Blake's Tiger wrote:

GM: On the desk you find the log book. The pages have been defaced with Abyssal writing.
Player: Uh, that's Bad.
GM: But, it's also the log book with the evidence you were sent to retrieve.
Player: That's good
GM: Fiendish items usually carry a curse with them.
Player: That's bad
GM: But since it's a quest item, it would involve a reward for the group once you bring it back.
Player: That's Good!
GM: Often the reward includes consumable items.
Player: ... ??
Gm: And that's bad!
Player: Can I go now?

Fixed for you

While amusing, I'm not particularly fond of my name appearing as a quote of something that has been altered from my original.


I once put fire resist on a character before entering a field of explosive fire flowers because I knew our bard was going to somehow screw everything up and get us killed. Low and behold he gets eaten by a plant and panic casts fireball. I was the only one to walk away with single digit damage. The group was very unhappy with him but after we tongue lashed him for a while we continued on.
If your group expects that sort of thing from a character, then let it go. If it's either repeated constantly, ruining others fun, or seems malicious, then put a stop to it.


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Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber

This is hard to answer without more details, but I generally think "how sure are you that people had less fun?" Is the first thing that needs addressing.

The Raven Black wrote:
Why should adventurers keep people who unnecessarily put them at risk ?

This is a thing. I had a player whose character caused a lot of problems. When I talked to him about it, he said he didn't want to metagame by always doing the optimal thing for the group. I pointed out he was actually metagaming by assuming the other PCs would keep him around. A party staying together outside of meta conventions is based on whether they find it mutually beneficial to do so.

Sovereign Court

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It's extremely hard to answer with such a vague original situation. But it's a very interesting question.

I've been thinking about this subject for a long time and I've quite pivoted my views on it. More and more, I'm sympathizing with the "rebel" view that says that suboptimal actions should be more okay.

Consider movie or book protagonists like Iron Man or Harry Dresden. They give lip to "NPCs" all the time; they're arrogant and get themselves into trouble. That causes them some suffering, but the story goes on. And often, them being brash actually pushes the story forward. Sometimes, them not being impressed by powerful NPCs is actually the thing that allows them to succeed, while others meekly accepted the status quo.

Compare this to RPGs where often you'll hear experienced players scoff at a new player who's being obviously foolish because their rebel character won't bow and scrape for the oh so mighty NPC the GM made. And then gets punished severely for their "error".

Do you see the problem here?

Rebellious, arrogant, reckless protagonists are a TOTAL staple of movies and books. But if you bring them over to RPGs, suddenly that's playing badly, doing it wrong, and overall an error of the player for even attempting it? So that means that our RPG genre where we say people that they can be "anything" actually means you can be anything as long as it's polite and says yes and thank you to mighty NPCs. Playing a rebel is just a player error, not a valid option.

It feels like a mixing up the levels problem. I think as a player it's a totally valid to want to play a rebel. As the character, being the rebel is certainly going to get you into trouble and having some nasty consequences. Authority figures will smack you down now and then. However, you might also make friends with NPC rebels, or expose the big NPC for being not so powerful after all, or get them to show their hand to try to impress you. While the polite PC who just does as they're told, isn't playing "correctly" per se; maybe them being so meek and accepting actually means they basically get marched to their doom and never really protest it.

This goes a bit against the grain of the D&D family of games. They all have a tendency to favor cautious and polite PCs; make no enemies, avoid mistakes, avoid risks. It's a sort of defensive, due-diligence style of gaming that I associate with the pretty adversarial older modules a la Tomb of Horrors.

When a player proposes to do something "stupid" try to see it from the perspective of a script writer, not a "judge". Should it have consequences? Probably. Should this all be bad, because the character did something risky or arrogant? Not necessarily. In any case, they should push the story and character forward.


The way I see it if I as a GM fail to give proper information and context for what the players should know it is my fault. But if one of my players has the needed knowledge and still chooses something dumb it is their fault.

The GM is not responsible for making the party succeed every single time. They are responsible for making the game fun for the choices the players made. Regardless of what those choices are (baring stuff that would get you kicked out of the table of course).


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Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber
Ascalaphus wrote:
Rebellious, arrogant, reckless protagonists are a TOTAL staple of movies and books. But if you bring them over to RPGs, suddenly that's playing badly, doing it wrong, and overall an error of the player for even attempting it? So that means that our RPG genre where we say people that they can be "anything" actually means you can be anything as long as it's polite and says yes and thank you to mighty NPCs. Playing a rebel is just a player error, not a valid option.

I can't say I've really ever seen this sentiment expressed by anyone other than you before.

I'm also not sure it's really on point for this discussion, since usually the red line here is more about interparty relations.

Liberty's Edge

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I have more often witnessed PCs get away with arrogant and even outright insulting behaviour that should by all rights get the whole party executed right away.

And that no sane person would ever dream of trying.

It hurts the feeling of immersion pretty heavily. Because they only survive this by virtue of being PCs and the GM letting it fly so that the game will go on.


The Raven Black wrote:

I have more often witnessed PCs get away with arrogant and even outright insulting behaviour that should by all rights get the whole party executed right away.

And that no sane person would ever dream of trying.

It hurts the feeling of immersion pretty heavily. Because they only survive this by virtue of being PCs and the GM letting it fly so that the game will go on.

It's something I do as a GM. I consider that the party is obviously non conventional, but as heroes are a part of the world, NPCs tend to accept what they wouldn't accept from anyone else.

Liberty's Edge

SuperBidi wrote:
The Raven Black wrote:

I have more often witnessed PCs get away with arrogant and even outright insulting behaviour that should by all rights get the whole party executed right away.

And that no sane person would ever dream of trying.

It hurts the feeling of immersion pretty heavily. Because they only survive this by virtue of being PCs and the GM letting it fly so that the game will go on.

It's something I do as a GM. I consider that the party is obviously non conventional, but as heroes are a part of the world, NPCs tend to accept what they wouldn't accept from anyone else.

It makes total sense in-universe not to pick a fight with a party of lvl10+ murderhoboes who kill monsters for a living and wear several times your country's wealth in magic items.

When they are level 3 or below, not so much.


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I would need the full example to be able to make an informed comment.

I generally let the players do what they want.


My take is that PF2 is a roleplaying game after all and no computer simulation or simple board game. As such I as a GM generally handwave any player decision that matches how the character was presented and played in the past, not minding if it is a roleplaying situation or an actual challenge.

As such I would not mind, e.g. an arachnophobic character to run away from a fight with a spiderlike creature even while not suffering any mechanical fear effects or an idealistic character to boldly assume a "No, you move!" stance even in the face of overwhelming odds.

People make bad calls, mistakes and irrational decisions every day and PCs and NPCs are no exception to this.

I mean, nobody would probably bat an eye when I as the GM will have the evil cultists going for the good PC Paladin or Warpriest first because despite them knowing that those are probably the harder or even hardest targets for them they are also the prime "logical" targets, representing all they hate and oppose.

The only time I would probably step in as a GM is when the other players (not characters) are in more or less open disagreement about the players course of action, e.g. the player actions are the cause for permanent dissention in the character ranks or a player is having his character acting against the code of conduct established in session zero.


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If the action is detrimental to the party, but not something actively harmful to the players (like roleplaying stuff that makes people uncomfortable) then there is a pretty natural in-built mechanism to deal with it - they do the stupid thing, the consequences happen, then in-character the other members of the party can work it out with them.

Trust that your players can deal with it, and also understand that doing dumb stuff and dealing with the challenging consequences can actually be really fun for players. You should only step in if it is a pattern that the other players are complaining about out of character or is obviously really obnoxious.

Also, there is a fine line between telling a player what their character knows (x activity might result in injury) and telling a player what their character's opinion is - whether something is a good or bad idea is an opinion, and it isn't the GMs purview to dictate the character's beliefs.


The Raven Black wrote:
It's something I do as a GM. I consider that the party is obviously non conventional, but as heroes are a part of the world, NPCs tend to accept what they wouldn't accept from anyone else.

It makes total sense in-universe not to pick a fight with a party of lvl10+ murderhoboes who kill monsters for a living and wear several times your country's wealth in magic items.

When they are level 3 or below, not so much.

Level 10+ murderhoboes have been level 1 parties.

My NPCs consider low level PCs the same way students from prestigious schools are considered: Sure, they have done nothing and are still quite weak, but they have a lot of potential. As such, they will be more lenient.
That's a personal choice, but I think it makes some sense in-universe.


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Where's Ravingdork in this thread? You always start interesting threads. I want to hear more details from the questions raised. In particular, what was the negative consequence for the party, and what was their reaction?


I had player become a serial killer in one of my campaigns on the spur of the moment. He murdered a girl he met in the bar, hid her body under the bed, when he was caught he climbed out the window and ran off. Ruined the campaign for that character, but I let him do it, made sure he turned his alignment evil, and let the situation play out. I still have no idea why he did it. It really started with some disagreement with the bar girl. He strangled her. Then it just went off the rails from there.

I let it play out. I did not stop his character. We just role-played from there with the other players deciding what they would do as they found out on of their members was a murderer. I think a few of them planned to track him down. We quit that party at that point.


Pathfinder Pawns, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

The player character in question used an attack against a creature that not only was immune to said attack, but would be buffed by it.

Due to prior encounters, Recall Knowledge checks, AND an NPC sage, this effect was known to the party prior to the action being performed. I suspected the player hadn't been paying attention, or forgot some of the details in between games, which is why I informed them that they would have known better.

The player's reaction caught me completely off guard, and ultimately inspired this thread.

Pretty much everyone else at the table was against the chosen action, for obvious reasons.

I don't really want the discussion to be about that particular instance though, so much as a more general discussion on finding a balance between the two viewpoints to the benefit of the many.


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Now that I know what it is, I wouldn't stop him. If the player wants to play his character as curious as to what happens if he does the thing he's not supposed to do, that's the player's call. The other players should react accordingly in character and maybe get pissed at said player. That's role-playing. Some looney in the group decides to do a science experiment during combat, the others are like, "What are you doing? You know better."

The player is, "I wanted to see what happened."

There are people like that out there. Horror movie plots rely on these types of people to make them work.


Maybe it's just me, but rather than the player wanted to see that happened, seems that the character ( as well as the player ) forgot about something.

For example, assuming a fast pace group which doesn't allow chit-chat during a player's turn, it's normal for a player to mess up, sometimes.

For example, during its turn the players decides "I stride there, then grab a frost vial and throw it to the enemy".

This could lead to issues like:

- The player forgot about the enemy being able to AoO
- The player forgot about the enemy resistance to cold damage
- The player forgot about difficult terrain, resulting into moving half the distance

and so on.

And would be totally fine, since it's normal for a player/character to make bad choices.

And stuff like "cmon, we fought it 5 before and you knew it was resistant to XXXXXX" would make no sense.

That said, there are also ( the majority of them ) tables where:

- people talk all over the session ( during other player's turns )
- discuss tactics ( "delay, so I can aoe" or "come closer so I can get in reach with just a stride", and so on )
- Warn players ( this may also include the DM ) about specific errors ( "beware of the AoO" or "I triggered the AoO, you can move next to him with no issue" or "The enemy is immune to cold, don't throw frost vials lol" )
- Etc...

I say it comes down to how players want to play.

For example, I tend to prefer fast pace rounds ( 6 sec max to declare what to do ) where nobody can talk but the player who's turn is on. Everything said can be heard by the enemies too. Initiative shifts at the beginning of each round ( reroll, making the combat dynamic ).

The current campaign I am into are slow pace rounds ( max 5 min per player's turn ) , where players and characters can talk between themselves. But, since this 2e is a boardgame compared to 5e ( for example ), I can say I am fine with a not so hardcore approach, because it pushes the party to cooperate.

Obviously, if the party forgets about something ( back to the previous example, that a creature would be resistant to cold damage ) I, as the DM, am not going to warn them ( though I could in different situations where I see descriptions are no so clear, or they can be misunderstood ).

Finally, as a player, I'd hate being told by my dm if I forgot about something important.


Like a lot of things, this is a question of frequency, motive, and how the other players react to it. As long as there's a passive encouragement not to take other player's characters and tell them to take a hike (and I'd argue there is in most groups) there's also some expectation that you're not going to go out of your way to make the game more annoying for other players--and someone who deliberately and repeatedly does things to make the game harder for others is doing that.

On the other hand, unless its kind of a group expectation, never expecting another player's character to do something counterproductive is not particularly reasonable. But its a well you can only go to so many times before it appears as a deliberate attempt to annoy others.

Liberty's Edge

You did well to remind the player, and then to allow them their action. This way they were not surprised by the other players' reaction.

Now, I could see the other players purposefully put the first player's PC in a bad place later on. Because team spirit works both ways.

Maybe, next time an enemy hits them, the Champion will forget that they have a reaction.


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Pathfinder Pawns, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

I really don't believe in using in-game reactions to solve out-of-game issues. I've only ever seen that cause more strife and division, and I cringe every time I see an inexperienced GM recommend it as a valid course of action. I prefer to think my roleplayers are all mature enough to have a civil discussion about the perceived problems in order to work towards mutual solutions to our problems.

Anyone lacking that level of maturity doesn't get invited to play with us in the first place.


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Squiggit wrote:
Ascalaphus wrote:
Rebellious, arrogant, reckless protagonists are a TOTAL staple of movies and books. But if you bring them over to RPGs, suddenly that's playing badly, doing it wrong, and overall an error of the player for even attempting it? So that means that our RPG genre where we say people that they can be "anything" actually means you can be anything as long as it's polite and says yes and thank you to mighty NPCs. Playing a rebel is just a player error, not a valid option.

I can't say I've really ever seen this sentiment expressed by anyone other than you before.

I'm also not sure it's really on point for this discussion, since usually the red line here is more about interparty relations.

In the movies, the team of misfit rebels will dig themselves deeper into trouble until they learn to value each other and work together. The party in my Iron Gods campaign started as three misfits: Boffin was an orphaned adolescent dwarf gadgeteer, Elric was a loner half-elf magus, and Kirii was a journeying strix skald.

However, my players prefer to avoid the awkward we-can't-work-together stage, so they establish existing connections during Session Zero. Boffin and Elric were both employees of the missing wizard Khonnir Baine. Elric and Kirii had met on the road and had several days traveling together to forge a bond. When I offered that they could pick a 1st-level NPC from the town to fill out their party, for roleplaying reasons they instead chose 0th-level Val Baine, Khonnir's teenaged daughter. In retrospect, one of those roleplaying reasons was that she could help glue the party together.

Ravingdork's initial post brings up two questions:
1) Is it okay for a PC to deliberately roleplay making a serious mistake?
2) Does a player have an obligation to optimize their character and the character's actions for combat?

For question 1, deliberately roleplaying a serious mistake, I recommend gaining the approval of the other players first. A believeable mistake can make the story of the battle more exciting, but it is a risk for the entire party. As a GM I would speak up myself, telling them whether the mistake would make the combat too difficult.

For example, in my PF2-converted Ironfang Invasion campaign, at 4th level during Trail of the Hunted, the party was scouting the off-the-map village of Polebridge to see how its residents fared against the Ironfang Legion. The village had been conquered and I set up a garrison twice as strong as the party in it. The party scouted safely from the surrounding forest (experts at Stealth), saw the garrison and its numbers, and decided to attack anyways. That should have been a mistake, and they figured that they would have to retreat in defeat, but they wanted to strike back at the enemy.

They won. They had mastered the tactics of PF2 and could take advantage of terrain, cover, and deception better than the garrison could. (I had used a map of an ordinary coastal village, so the garrison lacked proper defensive barricades.)

Another deliberate decision across several campaigns is that my players don't care about loot. Looting enemies, selling the loot, and buying better gear to win more battles is a cycle that did not appeal to them. Because my parties were more powerful than expected by the module writers, due to size and tactics, I was regularly increasing the difficulty of the encounters. My players realized that better gear would not let them win more battles; rather, I always increased the difficulty to compensate. So they did not bother with heavy looting to optimize gear. When they gave loot away to its original owners or to charity, I roleplayed the villagers as friendlier to them and they preferred that.

For question 2, an obligation to optimize the characters, my players have demonstrated that many different builds and combat styles are as effective as the so-called optimal build. Their cardinal rule about tactics is to protect their teammates. All other decisions they will adapt new tactics around.


Pathfinder Pawns, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber
Mathmuse wrote:

Ravingdork's initial post brings up two questions:

1) Is it okay for a PC to deliberately roleplay making a serious mistake?
2) Does a player have an obligation to optimize their character and the character's actions for combat?

My thoughts and experiences on the matter largely seem to match yours.

Roleplaying negatives are perfectly fine if everyone is onboard with it. Players have an obligation towards contributing to the communal "fun" but not really a whole lot else.


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Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber

The thing that I'm curious about is how the player justified the character not knowing given how much had been established. Because if you're also breaking the fiction to do your determinatal thing you can't even call it good roleplay.

The Raven Black wrote:

You did well to remind the player, and then to allow them their action. This way they were not surprised by the other players' reaction.

Now, I could see the other players purposefully put the first player's PC in a bad place later on. Because team spirit works both ways.

Maybe, next time an enemy hits them, the Champion will forget that they have a reaction.

I wouldn't necessarily do passive aggressive things like that... But I think the other party members openly confronting the PC in question about it would be perfectly reasonable. Wanting to avoiding using in game punishments to deal with out of game behavior is one thing, but this IS an in game issue when the characters are suddenly in more danger. Failing to acknowledge something like this in the fiction would be a real immersion breaker for many, myself included.

Like one character asking another "Why did you do that?" Is kind of important. And if the answer isn't satisfactory, then the player character would no longer be welcome among the party. Having the freedom to make bad decisions also means the freedom to accept the consequences.


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I can't remember the context, but I do remember playing a character and the whole party being in a difficult situation.

My character was going to do something very in line for the character, but also very likely to get themselves killed, and possibly bring the ire of greater beings.

I did it anyways. I checked with the other players first to make sure they understood what could possibly happen to their character as well as mine.

Ultimately, that character died but the party survived. When asked if I wanted the character to be resurrected I said that the character had run out of usefulness within the context of the party, and would be too hellbent on dealing with the organization of the person that had killed me. So even if they resurrected the character, they wouldn't remain part of the party.

They "resurrected" the character as they had been adventuring partners, but the character ran off at the first opportunity.

Sometimes characters are flawed and would make bad decisions.

However, this situation is a little different in that the character should have known it was a bad decision and would make the enemy stronger rather than harming them. That the character should know and not just the player is the big difference here.

To me it kinda crosses the boundary into "why would you do that"? Like casting a healing spell on an enemy who is actively trying to kill you and in no way incapacitated or restrained, and isn't needed or even useful if they survive.

It feels a bit like the player just wanted to screw with everyone else, which isn't okay. The big I would be looking at is exactly why the character wanted to do this thing.

Does the character have it out for their adventuring partners and secretly want to kill them and run away? Alright, bad for the player to bring such a character to the game, but it's a least a reasonable motivation.

Liberty's Edge

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TBH it makes me feel like player's motivation, rather than PC's. The CN character who behaves stupidly and ruins it for the rest of the party. And no one should tell their player what they should do, because you have to respect their roleplay and their fun. No matter that it destroys the fun of everybody else.


The biggest difference in pf2e vs pf1e, was that in pf1e one or two characters could win encounters by themselves, allowing other characters to do nothing or have a negative contribution.

In pf2e, things are tuned quite tighter in that without most of the group pulling their weight, an encounter, especially severe encounters can quickly turn bad if one or more characters decide that they don't need to participate positively in an encounter.


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Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber
The Raven Black wrote:
because you have to respect their roleplay and their fun. No matter that it destroys the fun of everybody else.

???

Doing stuff that makes everyone else at the table miserable isn't good roleplay, it's being a jerk.

Nobody has to respect someone being a jerk.


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↑ I think The Raven Black is being sarcastic?
(or noting a common thing jerk-players often resort to, a la "but I'm [insert alignment - usually CN...]: it's what my character would do! How dare you curtail my 'fun' & NO, I don't really care if the rest of the group isn't having fun because I'll play MY character the way I want!")


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Squiggit wrote:
The Raven Black wrote:
because you have to respect their roleplay and their fun. No matter that it destroys the fun of everybody else.

???

Doing stuff that makes everyone else at the table miserable isn't good roleplay, it's being a jerk.

Nobody has to respect someone being a jerk.

I think Raven was being especially dry about the attitude of the CN 'roleplayer' who causes these problems, not defending the sanctity of making people miserable because it's, 'what my character would do'

Liberty's Edge

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Quite right. I really dislike the "my alignment made me do it" line.


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The biggest issue isn't that the player did something that harmed their character. It's that the player did something that hurt other people's characters.

In some cases is it justifiable and makes sense in the context of the story, although it can still be pretty awful between players. But from what we've seen here, there is no justification. Just a player doing it "for the lulz".


I would treat it as catching a party member in a harmful AoE or PvP, it is okay if and only if everyone is okay.


Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber

Without reading anyone else's reply...

Personally, any player making a suboptimal choice for ROLEPLAY reasons would get a pass from me.

There are limits, however; if a glass of water triggers your PC's paralyzing fear of water, then I might get a little annoyed... unless that glass of water could somehow kill you, then you're back in the game, baby!

That doesn't exist in a vacuum though. I don't know your group, but if your PC's meta is a mechanics-trump-roleplay scenario - and this one player is going against the grain - then I'd let them know that their actions are adding more grit to the gears than he/she may expect.

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