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Sigh
2015-10-01, 02:24 PM
So I was originally going to have this be just one of those "can you guys help me with this specific problem" threads, but I figure the topic at hand is broad enough that it can be a general topic.

What do you, whether as a DM or as a player, expect when dealing with fictional races and characters? Everyone has a rough idea of what an orc should act like, or an elf, but playing to the same stereotype gets a bit boring after a while, especially if there are multiple characters of the same race or from the same place. With this in mind how should we handle variances within the parameters given to us regarding these fictional races? Getting back to me, for example, my original reason for making this thread was that I had created a rather young dragon who knew and was mentored by a very powerful wizard long ago, and the final wish of said wizard was to have him include some powerful artifacts in his hoard up until the time when our intrepid heroes come along to prove themselves worthy of using them. I was criticized by my party, who said that a dragon would never give freely of their hoard, while my argument was that these objects were never really a part of his hoard to begin with.

On the one hand, we can keep with the classical interpretations of dragons in that they are greedy, self serving and conniving, and while in most situations that would be true my dragon made an exception in this particular instance. This is only one example of many, however, and like I said I wanted to hear from the rest of you guys about how you deal with these kinds of things in your own games. This doesn't even need to go as far as characterization! Language, accents, and just the way certain characters talk can also be discussed.

Nerd-o-rama
2015-10-01, 02:33 PM
1) There are always exceptions to every "rule"
2) This is a young dragon who was mentored by the wizard, and presumably respected him enough to honor his wishes.
3) This is a young dragon who knows what adventurers normally do to dragons, and is presumably pragmatic enough not to give them cause to kill him and take all his stuff.
4) Not all dragons are evil. A Lawful Good Dragon would typically honor any bargains made in good faith, for example. Relatedly, a Chaotic Good dragon might take the hilarity factor of making a bunch of mortals "prove themselves" as adequate compensation for his services as a guardian, and a Lawful Evil dragon might abide by the precise letter of his agreement with the Wizard while trying to abuse it to his advantage and keep the goods. If it's a Chaotic Evil dragon, what exactly was going through the wizard's brain?
5) There are always exceptions to every "rule"

And in general, the world is made up of individuals. There are certain traits you can ascribe to any given category, but they will never universally apply in the same way to everyone, and any player who insists that is not the case deserves to have his character skewered from behind by a foppish rapier-wielding Dwarf Rogue, what ho.

Thrudd
2015-10-01, 02:37 PM
The GM decides what is so in the setting. The players' previous expectations really don't mean anything, no matter what it says in the monster manual. They are mistaken in presuming to tell you what can or can't be.

Red Fel
2015-10-01, 02:59 PM
The GM decides what is so in the setting. The players' previous expectations really don't mean anything, no matter what it says in the monster manual. They are mistaken in presuming to tell you what can or can't be.

Much this.

As a DM, you have every right to say that your races are different. Your Orcs are surfer dudes, your Elves are accountants, your Dwarves behave like dachsunds on amphetamines, and your Humans are entirely Cockney. That's your prerogative, and if a player wants to tell you otherwise, he can find a table that fits his preconceptions. (Do note, however, that if every player at the table complains of your campaign's tone, you might want to actually address that problem.)

As a player, you have every right to create a PC that comports to the setting requirements. Your Gnome can aspire to be the greatest swordsman of his time, your Tiefling can dedicate himself to humble service in the Church of Pelor, your Dragon may be studying the experience of absolute poverty for a decade or so. That's your prerogative, and if a player wants to tell you otherwise, he can run his own character that way. (Do note, however, that if every player at the table complains of your character concept, you may have brought the wrong sheet to the campaign.)

In the OP's illustration, the players complained about your concept, not because of tone (for example, a comical character in a grimdark game) or optimization (bringing an optimized Batman Wizard to a game populated by Monks and Truenamers), but because their Dragons are different.

The other players are doofi and you don't need to listen to them.

Now, if the DM stepped in and agreed with them, that's different. If the setting actually requires that no Dragon would willingly part with his hoard or any part thereof (a concept I find laughably simplistic and dull), then you're crossing the line by proposing that your magical Drizz't snowflake Dragon would do otherwise. But if you're the DM, or if the DM approved your character, then the rest of the players can go play with their Orcs that are always evil ugly and stupid, their Elves who are always elegant long-lived and wise, and their Kender who smell like cheese and need to die. And that's fine. They can run their stereotypes however they like. You don't have to.

Eugoraton Feiht
2015-10-01, 03:00 PM
I agree with Thrudd. Everyone has different takes/ideas on what different races are. For example, I personally view orcs/half-orcs as being more akin to Native Americans. They're a tribal people that predominately hunt(Orcs/half-orcs). I like to write them as being somewhat mystical and having deep respect for the Earth Mother. They view animals as kin and live as part of the land. They hate elves because they see Elves more as Termites. Elves, to them, don't live in touch with nature. They take what is already there and force it to change to suit elvish needs.

Sigh
2015-10-01, 03:19 PM
The GM decides what is so in the setting. The players' previous expectations really don't mean anything, no matter what it says in the monster manual. They are mistaken in presuming to tell you what can or can't be.

Yeah, the game that I hosted there was my first foray into being a GM, so some helpful pointers were warranted here or there, but eventually it did get to the point where I had to leave that group because (among other things) they didn't tend to respect my artistic direction in my games. Nevermind that one of the other guys who ran another game often had crazy scenarios that, while great from a storytelling aspect, often deviated from the source material found in the books and pitted us against creatures we couldn't actually fight/kill. (and when I'd call BS on these deviations he'd say exactly what you said just now, DM rules)

Thrudd
2015-10-01, 08:21 PM
Yeah, the game that I hosted there was my first foray into being a GM, so some helpful pointers were warranted here or there, but eventually it did get to the point where I had to leave that group because (among other things) they didn't tend to respect my artistic direction in my games. Nevermind that one of the other guys who ran another game often had crazy scenarios that, while great from a storytelling aspect, often deviated from the source material found in the books and pitted us against creatures we couldn't actually fight/kill. (and when I'd call BS on these deviations he'd say exactly what you said just now, DM rules)

There's a difference between making creative choices about your setting, and what that other DM was doing in railroading players or changing and adding rules without informing the players, or just plain having a bad adventure where the players are helpless. That's not an issue of "DM rules", it's a DM powertrip that isn't fun for players.

Jay R
2015-10-01, 08:46 PM
My usual answer when players question something I've done that disagrees with the established norms is this:

"Yes, you are correct. This disagrees with what you learned about dragons from your parents. You suddenly realize that they were turnip farmers, not dragonslayers, and suspect that their knowledge of dragons is not complete. 100 experience points for making an important observation."

Of course, I warn my players in advance that this can happen. The introduction to my current game included the following:

DO NOT assume that you know anything about any fantasy creatures. I will re-write many monsters and races, introduce some not in D&D, and eliminate some. The purpose is to make the world strange and mysterious. It will allow (require) PCs to learn, by trial and error, what works. Most of these changes I will not tell you in advance. Here are a couple, just to give you some idea what I mean.
1. Dragons are not color-coded for the benefits of the PCs.
2. Of elves, dwarves, gnomes, halflings, kobolds, goblins, and orcs, at least one does not exist, at least one is slightly different from the books, and at least one is wildly different.
3. Several monsters have different alignments from the books.
4. The name of an Undead will not tell you what will or won’t hurt it.
5. The first time you see a member of a humanoid race, I will describe it as a “vaguely man-shaped creature.” This could be a kobold, an elf, or an Umber Hulk until you learn what they are.

Darth Ultron
2015-10-01, 11:02 PM
"Yes, you are correct. This disagrees with what you learned about dragons from your parents. You suddenly realize that they were turnip farmers, not dragonslayers, and suspect that their knowledge of dragons is not complete. 100 experience points for making an important observation."



I agree with this, and even take it another step to say knowledge skills/intelligence checks/whatever do not give you pure absolute facts. It is just random stuff your character knows that might be true or false.


And, even if the players make a big deal about a dwarf pirate or such....I will admit to them that ''yes it is odd if your going by some kind of set ideas''.

PersonMan
2015-10-02, 02:53 AM
I wouldn't go that far, myself, as it makes investing in Knowledge skills pretty much pointless.

Cluedrew
2015-10-02, 06:55 AM
I wouldn't go that far, myself, as it makes investing in Knowledge skills pretty much pointless.

Actually I think Knowledge skills might even help in this situation, especially if some of the standards have changed and this isn't just an exception to the rule. "Roll knowledge, you suddenly recall the tale of Onyx the Guardian a dragon who in addition to collecting (with the family's approval) the helmets off all the paladins he had fought beside would often give treasure to those who could not afford clerics. Now Onyx was famed for his generosity so that is probably an extreme, but it seems with parting with their hoard is not as big of an issue as you might think."

Maybe that is a bad example, but I hope it gets the point across.

Hawkstar
2015-10-02, 07:41 AM
Your Orcs are surfer dudes
Hilariously, I've mixed classic orc depictions with Surfer Dudes (And other extreme sports enthusiasts, and tourists) in one of my (sillier) campaign settings. They ride Surfswords, Snowswords, and Skateswords into battle, depending on climate.

Nerd-o-rama
2015-10-02, 10:50 AM
Hilariously, I've mixed classic orc depictions with Surfer Dudes (And other extreme sports enthusiasts, and tourists) in one of my (sillier) campaign settings. They ride Surfswords, Snowswords, and Skateswords into battle, depending on climate.

Writing this down in case I ever have a chance to run Sigil Prep.

Mark Hall
2015-10-02, 11:43 AM
As others have said, there's variations on themes. So, while most dragons won't give powerful magic from their hoards, this one will... though he might extract furious vengeance on anyone who takes a copper more than is offered.

PersonMan
2015-10-02, 04:50 PM
Actually I think Knowledge skills might even help in this situation, especially if some of the standards have changed and this isn't just an exception to the rule. "Roll knowledge, you suddenly recall the tale of Onyx the Guardian a dragon who in addition to collecting (with the family's approval) the helmets off all the paladins he had fought beside would often give treasure to those who could not afford clerics. Now Onyx was famed for his generosity so that is probably an extreme, but it seems with parting with their hoard is not as big of an issue as you might think."

Maybe that is a bad example, but I hope it gets the point across.

In a situation like this, maybe. If you need actual information, no.

"With my years of intensive study and field research, culminating in a +11 Knowledge (Dragons and Draconic Lore), I should have an idea of whether or not it's unheard of for a dragon to willingly part with treasure."

[Roll happens]

DM: "You know that dragons will sometimes offer treasure to those who aid them [false] and that, with a few exceptions, they wish to do so to keep themselves from going into debt with other creatures [also false]."

So now the character who has spent years studying dragons and possibly spoken with some to learn more is armed with false information and therefore even less equipped to deal with dragons than the guy who knows nothing about them.

Cluedrew
2015-10-02, 05:21 PM
I'm confused why is the DM giving the player false information? Is this a problem with bad rolls or something?

PersonMan
2015-10-03, 04:10 AM
No, it's because...well, I don't know why, but this:


I agree with this, and even take it another step to say knowledge skills/intelligence checks/whatever do not give you pure absolute facts. It is just random stuff your character knows that might be true or false.

Emphasis mine.

Giving people without Knowledge a pile of quite possibly untrue 'facts' or 'common knowledge'? Cool. It both gives people more setting information and mirrors the whole 'everyone knows defibrillators restart hearts' sort of phenomenon that would be applied to magic/monsters.

Giving people who invest character resources into Knowledge, who have plenty of reasons to have sifted through a great body of information and pick out the facts, the same quality of 'it could be true, who knows', though? I don't think that's a good idea, unless it's only a phase and/or is only done when they fail a check (and, presumably, you tell them beforehand that failing by X or more results in False Information). Maybe as part of a 'deliberate disinformation' plotline i.e. 'you studied at the Academy of Mages in X-City, but unknown to you all of the books on dragons there have been altered by [villain] to be riddled with false information', where step 1 is finding out that everything you know (about dragons) is a lie.

EDIT: I think you may have mistaken my post for a direct reply to the OP; I was actually replying to the discussion about giving false information.

Cluedrew
2015-10-03, 07:25 AM
Oh, I somehow missed Darth Ultron's post, I thought you were replying to Jay R's. In response to that... having invested in knowledge skills should still help, as having invested in jump, climb or your attack rating. So generally it should be helpful, the same rules do not necessary apply to background knowledge which could be very inaccurate depending on your character's background. It should be accurate for things your character has actually met, not always in the turnip farmer situation.