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View Full Version : DM Help Players expectations in combat: how to handle.



Kalmageddon
2015-11-14, 04:14 AM
I've recently had a big argument with one of my players, the details of which are not important. Suffice to say, amidst a lot of stuff, he commented how the enemies during combat never behaved like he expected.
He cited the example of our last session, which I will now quickly describe:

-The players are assaulting a fortress full of xill.
-They arrive at the heart of said fortress and I describe the placement of the enemies and their surroundings (we actually drew a map on the tactical grid), which consisted of them being scattered roughly along the borders of a more or less circular arena, with the boss at the center.
-The characters come in from the top and player X has his character move halfway to the center and then ready an action to move again if the enemies come close.
-At this point I have to mention that the PCs had already encountered xills, which, as presented in pathfinder, have both ranged and melee weapons.
Conclusion: the xills pepper him full of arrows, while a few of them move between him and his allies and him and the boss in order to block his retreat and prevent him from advancing further, therefore negating his readied action.

The critique I recieved was that xill are stronger in melee and that I had described them as a warrior race (which they are), therefore they should have all charged in melee. Anohter more veiled complaint was that it was somehow unfair to have them play tactically and do more than 40 damage to this character in one round, the underlying statement being that since this player obviously didn't expect this outcome I made him look like a fool by punishing his action so much.

This raises the interesting point of player expectations in combat and during challenges in general. If a player decides that the best way to overcome an obstacle is X, should the GM try to play along with the player and make X work, or should he aim to challenge his players and play out the outcome logically, therefore potentially either making X a sub optimal choice or even, as I did, a critical mistake?
(of course sometimes X might just work, but I'm talking about those times when it obviously shouldn't, like in the case of the example above)

DuxAstrorum
2015-11-14, 04:49 AM
It sounds like the player decided to solo tactic an arena. Having npcs take advantage of a lone wolf is actually pretty common. Warriors aren't constricted to only using melee either, so if he separated himself from the group it is completely fair to have the minions DO THEIR JOB and take advantage of a weak point. If he can't understand that basic concept then he may need to be sat down with and explained how minions are supposed to work.

I have myself learned from experience as a player that rushing in alone is generally a bad idea. It's just something that needs to be learned. He made a mistake and had to pay for it.

hymer
2015-11-14, 04:55 AM
An interesting exercise might be to try giving the actions of the monsters over to the players to decide. You could start by explaining what you wouldd have had them do, but the players collectively decide for an encounter or two. If that's too radical, a few simulated encounters could be used instead.
It should give you something fairly concrete to base the discussion on (after the encounter is played out). Re-enacting that xill encounter could be the first experiment.

Surpriser
2015-11-14, 05:30 AM
For this specific encounter: Xill are smart and often trained combatants, especially so with a leader (with presumably more experience and higher intelligence) present.
Their ranged options (3.5, PF is probably similar) are actually not inferior to their melee attacks, with the additional advantage of being, well, ranged.

So they behaved exactly like one would expect of intelligent opponents: Make use of an opportunity created by a tactical mistake on the player's part and take him out before the others catch up.

In addition, the player was metagaming in a way: there is no tactical advantage in running a bit, then stopping and waiting for the enemies to close before continuing your movement. This tactic could have worked only due to the way ready actions can be used to force enemies to "waste" their action by running towards an empty spot.
Now, there is nothing wrong in general with using this tactic - after all, this is D&D and not real life and some abstractions have to be made. But since the complaint by the player was that the behaviour of the xills was not "realistic", you can point out that neither was his.
If he is using rules quirks for a tactical advantage, so can the enemies.

Also, running ahead and trying to solo a group of enemies (without a specific plan) should nearly always be a mistake and result in consequences.

To sum it all up: I would have let the xill act exactly the same, although I would have probably pointed out the flaw in that player's plan before he rushed in.


This raises the interesting point of player expectations in combat and during challenges in general. If a player decides that the best way to overcome an obstacle is X, should the GM try to play along with the player and make X work, or should he aim to challenge his players and play out the outcome logically, therefore potentially either making X a sub optimal choice or even, as I did, a critical mistake?
(of course sometimes X might just work, but I'm talking about those times when it obviously shouldn't, like in the case of the example above)

This depends on your style of play. If you are going for a more cinematic style, then that million-to-one chance might actually work out, simply because it's a cool idea. For a more "realistic" (I think the term simulationist is used here) style, enemies should make tactical decisions according to their knowledge and intelligence. If that means exploiting mistakes made by the PCs, so be it.

Personally, I prefer the second variant, because it promotes tactical thinking and simply feels ... right.

EDIT: Of course, you should talk about this with your players (preferably before the game starts, but better late than never) and clarify how adversaries and obstacles will work in your game.

Broken Crown
2015-11-14, 05:36 AM
The critique I recieved was that xill are stronger in melee and that I had described them as a warrior race (which they are), therefore they should have all charged in melee.

Klingons aside, warrior race ≠ tactical stupidity. Generally, being a successful warrior means using tactics that will help you win.

I'm not sure what the player in question was trying to achieve here. If he was hoping to engage the xill boss in melee, why did he stop halfway? And if dealing with the boss wasn't his plan, why did he deliberately surround himself with enemies while cutting himself off from allied support? Was he counting on support, but the xill cut him off due to initiative order?

Do your players know the old military adage, "No battle plan survives contact with the enemy"?

If plan X is a good plan, it should work, up to the point where the enemy figures out that the players are doing X and take appropriate countermeasures. (If the enemies are unintelligent or have poor situational awareness, this might not happen before the battle is over.) If X is a bad plan, the players will find out soon enough (and hopefully be able to retreat and regroup before suffering too many casualties).

You shouldn't completely discount a plan that's "so crazy, it just might work"; that's valid from a narrative standpoint at the very least. But there's a difference between being taken by surprise because the enemy did something unexpected, and not taking advantage of the fact that the enemy did something stupid.

Kalmageddon
2015-11-14, 05:42 AM
EDIT: Of course, you should talk about this with your players (preferably before the game starts, but better late than never) and clarify how adversaries and obstacles will work in your game.

This player is unable to take any level of criticism, so this really did not work. I actually gave him a detailed and in-depth explanation of why things happened the way they happened, including advice on how to handle similar situations in the future (which boiled down to "if you want to tank, raise your armor class and saving throws and please try to coordinate with the rest of the group"), all I got in return was a load of insults and accusations of being arrogant and saying these things just to "be right".
As I said, there was drama.
But this is not what I want to discuss, I just want to consider the merits of making stuff happen the way the players want it to happen in combat, like you would outside of combat to facilitate roleplaying or simply to have a campaign include stuff that the players want to see.

Satinavian
2015-11-14, 06:43 AM
Include things in a campaign the players want to see is one thing (and generally good)

That is not to make the stauff happen exactly like the payers want it. I don't do that in combat and i don't do that outside combat. Instead stuff happens like the rules say and (if left open by the rules) i think is most plausible.

That is because most players i game with want versimilitude. And as long as that is true for you and most of your table, the most plausible way is the way to go. If your tabel is different, well, you could try the other approach, i guess. It is not something i would do as GM or would want to experience as player, but people are different.

goto124
2015-11-14, 07:29 AM
It makes me wonder...

Let's say there's a game with a untactical player. Could be dumb, could be bad at thinking in general, could be just plain new to the type of games that require combat tactics. Lack of RL intelligence is enough to do addition and subtraction, but not enough to know stuff like 'flanking' or what we usually refer to as 'basic tactics'.

Should the GM make the NPCs 'stupidier' to accomodate for this player?

Avalander
2015-11-14, 07:38 AM
I should say, it's not uncommon that some courses of action look great in our head, but we only realise how stupid they are after executing them. Add to this that you have your own idea of what's going on and each player has his own idea, which will probably differ to some degree from yours, even if you draw a map and take time to explain everything carefully. When they are acting stupid, then, they might just have a different idea of what's going on.

After some years, I have discovered the power of three simple words: are you sure?

When a player proposes an action that seems stupid to you, he might actually have a different idea of what's going on in his head, but he might also have a crazy idea that could work. Anyway, when used appropriately, the players can learn to recognise these words as a signal that they could be missing something and should reevaluate their chosen action.

goto124
2015-11-14, 08:07 AM
After some years, I have discovered the power of three simple words: are you sure?

A related link (http://thealexandrian.net/wordpress/8406/roleplaying-games/thought-of-the-day-are-you-sure-you-want-to-do-that).

It's better to (in no particular order, and not necessarilly all of them):

- explain what will happen, possibly phrasing it as if the character had made an intelligence check and is realizing it,
- ask "what do you expect to happen after you do that?"
- ask why the player expected things to happen as he/she expected

Avalander
2015-11-14, 08:56 AM
A related link (http://thealexandrian.net/wordpress/8406/roleplaying-games/thought-of-the-day-are-you-sure-you-want-to-do-that).

It's better to (in no particular order, and not necessarilly all of them):

- explain what will happen, possibly phrasing it as if the character had made an intelligence check and is realizing it,
- ask "what do you expect to happen after you do that?"
- ask why the player expected things to happen as he/she expected

Granted, that's what I do when they answer with "yeah, why?", but I don't see any issue with letting the players figure out what's the problem before explaining it. I guess different tables have different preferences.

goto124
2015-11-14, 09:43 AM
IMHO, if a player has announced hir actions, the answer to "are you sure?" is going to be "yeah, what's wrong with it?" anyway. Especially in the cases of "I thought it was 20ft tall" or "I was planning on casting Feather Fall".

By now we're just quibbling over minor differences in playstyles though!

The Fury
2015-11-14, 11:01 AM
Maybe this comes down to difference in player preferences, though for my part my favorite DM I've played under is one I'd describe as "tough but fair." I've made my share of tactical blunders over the years and my characters have payed dearly for them. Though I think I'm better at having my characters come up with plans for dealing with encounters now. I gather this player may just simply prefer encounters that they can win.

Not to say that I wouldn't react like this player did if an encounter was legitimately unfair. By which I mean, no amount of clever tactics would allow the player party to prevail. Like if the orcs that we were warned about turned out to all be wizards twice the party's level or something.

valadil
2015-11-14, 03:10 PM
Everyone's a critic. Your player is a butthurt critic. I think he's pissed because he's secretly ashamed of his choice to charge into battle.

I have two suggestions for dealing with this kind of thing. One is an overt hint. Just say the xill have their bows out. If they're standing around on guard duty, that's more likely than having their melee weapons out. The other is some sort of sense motive check. Let the player use his skills to analyze the situation and guess what the enemy will do. Since it's a check it can be botched, but most of the time it should help.



This raises the interesting point of player expectations in combat and during challenges in general. If a player decides that the best way to overcome an obstacle is X, should the GM try to play along with the player and make X work, or should he aim to challenge his players and play out the outcome logically, therefore potentially either making X a sub optimal choice or even, as I did, a critical mistake?
(of course sometimes X might just work, but I'm talking about those times when it obviously shouldn't, like in the case of the example above)

All paths do not lead the victory. The GM should allow the players to go down any path they choose. He should warn them if them if that path is particularly stupid. But if you only let them down paths they can win or turn every path they take into a path they can win, what's the point of playing your game?

Honest Tiefling
2015-11-14, 03:16 PM
I agree, ditch this player. A player who cannot take criticism is going to make issues later down the line. Save yourself the pain.

I do not agree that every group should change how NPCs work. In my groups, the other players don't want to treated as idiots who cannot take a challenge, nor would I find it fun to basically describe another person's story. There might be a case where people would enjoy it, but I cannot honestly think what it might be like.

goto124
2015-11-15, 01:56 AM
When I play a game, I expect eventual victory. There will be many setbacks and difficult things along the way, but if the quest was "kill the dragon and save the princess", I expect to eventually kill the dragon and save the princess by the end of the campaign.

Is this unreasonable to expect?

Broken Crown
2015-11-15, 02:19 AM
I think it's reasonable to expect victory, but not to assume victory.

If the DM gives out a quest, it should be one that the PCs can achieve. If the PCs undertake a quest on their own initiative, I likewise think that the DM should at least warn them if it's beyond their abilities.

It's very different, though, for the players to feel entitled to succeed, just because the quest was given to them. As with any game, you don't win a prize just for showing up; you have to earn it, by actually overcoming the obstacles in your way.

Deophaun
2015-11-15, 03:02 AM
About the only thing I can say from player expectation is that since combat rounds are an abstraction, it is reasonable to assume a level of chaos on the battlefield that makes opponents behave in a non-optimal fashion. Large groups of enemies probably shouldn't be focus-firing down PCs as a matter of course.

But then, when someone is so willing to offer themselves as an easy and obvious target, it's tough to ignore it.

Slipperychicken
2015-11-15, 03:13 AM
them being scattered roughly along the borders of a more or less circular arena, with the boss at the center.

What's the in-universe reason for this configuration? Without much more info, that sounds a lot like the setup to some kind of honor-duel.

Surpriser
2015-11-15, 06:43 AM
About the only thing I can say from player expectation is that since combat rounds are an abstraction, it is reasonable to assume a level of chaos on the battlefield that makes opponents behave in a non-optimal fashion. Large groups of enemies probably shouldn't be focus-firing down PCs as a matter of course.

By the same reasoning, a player should not employ ready actions in a way that seems more like spontaneous teleportation: "I wait until all the xill rush me and then suddenly I will have been somewhere else all along".
At the very least (assuming the xill actually do what the player expects and try to close to melee), the xill would have acted one after another, with the first one rushing the player's old position (thus triggering the ready action), and all others closing to his new position.
Congratulations, you just sacrificed your standard action to put a single enemy 30ft behind you.

So no matter whether you go for "versimilitude" (as in: the rules are an abstraction for what is really happening and have to be bent to accomodate reality) or whether you see the rules as defining the reality of the game, this specific tactic simply should not have worked.

Kalmageddon
2015-11-15, 02:12 PM
What's the in-universe reason for this configuration? Without much more info, that sounds a lot like the setup to some kind of honor-duel.

I gave an oversimplified descritpion, the "arena" was actually the control room for a fortress able to move through the ethereal plane, at the center there was the commands and a sort of "security console", so to speak. I went a bit magitech with that, but given how boring the ethereal plane is, I thought giving it a bit of an alien vibe would have worked.
Anyway, the boss was at the center because she was keeping an eye on the ongoing battle through that object, while the guards were simply at their posts around the room, at vantage points that let them keep an eye on things. They weren't expecting the PCs to barge in, but they weren't caught completely off-guard because they knew there was a battle going on.

YossarianLives
2015-11-15, 02:34 PM
When I play a game, I expect eventual victory. There will be many setbacks and difficult things along the way, but if the quest was "kill the dragon and save the princess", I expect to eventually kill the dragon and save the princess by the end of the campaign.

Is this unreasonable to expect?
If a campaign run by me? Yes. But it is variable and depends on the group. I find a story that has a real risk of failure to be ultimately more satisfying.

In my opinion being TPKed by a random encounter can be fun, but it can also be very anti-climatic. Once again it depends on your group's personal tastes.

Mr. Mask
2015-11-15, 03:00 PM
Does separating yourself from the group really matter in DnD? I mean, tactically all the minions should focus on one PC at a time, so they can take out the party's damage output as quickly as possible. So if you stay together as a group, unless yuo're actively preventing the archers targeting the same person, they ought to do that.

Vitruviansquid
2015-11-15, 04:01 PM
While I'm sure you're trying to present events and characters as close to the truth as you can, I have doubts about your perceptions of events. I mean come on, you make this guy sound like the worst player ever and a terrible person to boot.

That said, I would agree you need to set up situations as the GM where players can fail if they make the wrong choices (or at the very least, have the illusion of failure). After all, if you can't fail, there is no excitement in succeeding. If someone does something patently ridiculous, like stand out in the open to soak up missile fire from an entire encounter's worth of monsters, let them die. That is fair and realistic.

However, I suspect that's not how your player actually feels about the situation. What I see happen fairly often from DMs who like to believe they are tactical masterminds is the DM will set up situations according to "how the monsters would behave if they were intelligent," which end up being totally unfair and unbeatable ultimate death traps for the PCs. Because the DM conjures his fictional spike traps, murder holes, and boiling oil out of nothing, he gives no thought to the appropriate amount of resources or paranoia for the situation. Instead, that DM always thinks "well, there's no reason why a pack of kobolds serious about defending their den would *skimp* on a scythe trap here," ending up with supposedly shoddy monster lairs pimped out with defenses far more paranoid than any actual medieval fortresses could've ever had. Likewise, the DM will set up battles where the monsters "use tactics based on terrain" by making the perfect Hannibal-chosen terrain that the monsters happened to bring the perfect cheesy weapons to. If the party is fighting monsters with spears, of course it'll be at a narrow pass of perfect width that flanking is impossible. If the party is fighting monsters with bows, of course they have to go uphill through mud and over earthworks. Then, once the players fail, the DM gets to jump up, puff out his chest, and say "ah ha! Looks like this whole time you weren't prepared to fight monsters with REAL tactics! You can't just charge in with swords swinging to every situation and expect to win! Looks like you were outsmarted once again by your tactical genius DM!" Even more annoying is when the DM has some obscure notion about how real life fighting was done and expect players to figure out what it is and execute it perfectly, like to say "you should've ran into the orc pikemen while declaring you would leap down and roll under the pikes, because that's how real life Spanish swordsmen defeated the pikes of their enemies!"

In any case, I'm not saying you were probably doing this as severely as described above, but it is worth some introspection to see if you've really designed encounters that are fair and fun for players. I would avoid any encounters where you put in some mechanic to negate player strengths. A player specializes toward blasting (or any other kind of) power because they think blasting (or that kind of power) is fun, so when you present an interesting tactical challenge by somehow negating the advantage of blasting, you've just served up a heaping spoonful of unfun times to your blasting player. Your xill fight sounds like it's designed as a death trap for melee players, which will obviously make the game unfun (honestly, what is he supposed to do? Wait out the fight against an entire room full of missile enemies? Do something crazy and sneaky that you thought of and wouldn't tell him? Stay in cover so that the next turn, the xill can all spam missiles another, even more vulnerable player?). Instead, fights should be difficult enough but vulnerable enough to make it mandatory for players to leverage their strengths. In other words, you don't want to design fights so that the player with reach can't use reach - you want to design fights so that the player with reach better abuse his reach hard if he wants to win.

In fact, I find the best encounter design to come from giving no thought at all to tactics. Make interesting enemies (it's as easy as "this dude can go through opponents instead of having go around, and these other dudes hit people harder with every attack.") put the fight in interesting locations (that's as easy as "there are lava geysers here, here, and here"), and then have the fight play out. Once you are starting to come up with synergies in designing your fight, you are *already on the road to making your encounter unfair and unfun.*

Mr. Mask
2015-11-15, 04:15 PM
That's sort of the problem with DnD's set up in general. "Encounters," AKA: Walking into an ambush. Surviving that, realistically, is fairly unlikely, especially not if it's on a regular basis. If players can't choose their fights, and how they approach situations, then there's very little they can do tactically to subvert an enemy's strength.

For this reason, I suggest setting up a living/defensive area for the enemy as if they live there and have their plans of attack and defence, where how alert they are depends on the situation (if the players have been raising a ruckus nearby, they'll be on full-alert--so you might want attack three days later). This way, the players can investigate, plan, and decide on a venue of attack, the defences they face being dependant on how and what they do (where luring the enemy out of the fort ahead of time could make it much easier).

nedz
2015-11-15, 05:52 PM
This player is unable to take any level of criticism, so this really did not work. I actually gave him a detailed and in-depth explanation of why things happened the way they happened, including advice on how to handle similar situations in the future (which boiled down to "if you want to tank, raise your armor class and saving throws and please try to coordinate with the rest of the group"), all I got in return was a load of insults and accusations of being arrogant and saying these things just to "be right".
As I said, there was drama.
But this is not what I want to discuss, I just want to consider the merits of making stuff happen the way the players want it to happen in combat, like you would outside of combat to facilitate roleplaying or simply to have a campaign include stuff that the players want to see.

What do the other player's think ?

Is it the case that you have one player who can't take this, or did all of them complain ?

I often find that peer pressure is the best solution to this sort of problem: if everyone else tells him he screwed up then there should be less drama.

Ultimately I think one lesson you could take from this is to never explain and never apologise to this player since that is obviously counter productive. I don't like this, but then life is short.

Kalmageddon
2015-11-15, 07:23 PM
While I'm sure you're trying to present events and characters as close to the truth as you can, I have doubts about your perceptions of events. I mean come on, you make this guy sound like the worst player ever and a terrible person to boot.
It wasn't my intention.
But he does play pretty badly, it's just that this time it had more of an impact on the encounter as a whole.



That said, I would agree you need to set up situations as the GM where players can fail if they make the wrong choices (or at the very least, have the illusion of failure). After all, if you can't fail, there is no excitement in succeeding. If someone does something patently ridiculous, like stand out in the open to soak up missile fire from an entire encounter's worth of monsters, let them die. That is fair and realistic.

However, I suspect that's not how your player actually feels about the situation. What I see happen fairly often from DMs who like to believe they are tactical masterminds is the DM will set up situations according to "how the monsters would behave if they were intelligent," which end up being totally unfair and unbeatable ultimate death traps for the PCs. Because the DM conjures his fictional spike traps, murder holes, and boiling oil out of nothing, he gives no thought to the appropriate amount of resources or paranoia for the situation. Instead, that DM always thinks "well, there's no reason why a pack of kobolds serious about defending their den would *skimp* on a scythe trap here," ending up with supposedly shoddy monster lairs pimped out with defenses far more paranoid than any actual medieval fortresses could've ever had. Likewise, the DM will set up battles where the monsters "use tactics based on terrain" by making the perfect Hannibal-chosen terrain that the monsters happened to bring the perfect cheesy weapons to. If the party is fighting monsters with spears, of course it'll be at a narrow pass of perfect width that flanking is impossible. If the party is fighting monsters with bows, of course they have to go uphill through mud and over earthworks. Then, once the players fail, the DM gets to jump up, puff out his chest, and say "ah ha! Looks like this whole time you weren't prepared to fight monsters with REAL tactics! You can't just charge in with swords swinging to every situation and expect to win! Looks like you were outsmarted once again by your tactical genius DM!" Even more annoying is when the DM has some obscure notion about how real life fighting was done and expect players to figure out what it is and execute it perfectly, like to say "you should've ran into the orc pikemen while declaring you would leap down and roll under the pikes, because that's how real life Spanish swordsmen defeated the pikes of their enemies!"

In any case, I'm not saying you were probably doing this as severely as described above, but it is worth some introspection to see if you've really designed encounters that are fair and fun for players. I would avoid any encounters where you put in some mechanic to negate player strengths. A player specializes toward blasting (or any other kind of) power because they think blasting (or that kind of power) is fun, so when you present an interesting tactical challenge by somehow negating the advantage of blasting, you've just served up a heaping spoonful of unfun times to your blasting player. Your xill fight sounds like it's designed as a death trap for melee players, which will obviously make the game unfun (honestly, what is he supposed to do? Wait out the fight against an entire room full of missile enemies? Do something crazy and sneaky that you thought of and wouldn't tell him? Stay in cover so that the next turn, the xill can all spam missiles another, even more vulnerable player?). Instead, fights should be difficult enough but vulnerable enough to make it mandatory for players to leverage their strengths. In other words, you don't want to design fights so that the player with reach can't use reach - you want to design fights so that the player with reach better abuse his reach hard if he wants to win.

While I disagree with your philosphy, I'm actually not deviating from it all that much.
I do not design dungeons or encounters to be death traps, this encounter in particular was meant to be extra-hard because it was completely optional for the group and not something they were forced into, more of a "bonus" if they wanted to really triumph, something which they knew. But it was beatable and they did win in the end.
Anyway, with that said, the encounter was in the ethereal plane, which means everyone flies. So getting in melee and staying there was actually really easy from the first round.
Also, the room had quite a few bits of cover, so ranged combat didn't have much of an advantage.

So, to recap: I'm not the kind of GM you are describing.


That's sort of the problem with DnD's set up in general. "Encounters," AKA: Walking into an ambush. Surviving that, realistically, is fairly unlikely, especially not if it's on a regular basis. If players can't choose their fights, and how they approach situations, then there's very little they can do tactically to subvert an enemy's strength.

For this reason, I suggest setting up a living/defensive area for the enemy as if they live there and have their plans of attack and defence, where how alert they are depends on the situation (if the players have been raising a ruckus nearby, they'll be on full-alert--so you might want attack three days later). This way, the players can investigate, plan, and decide on a venue of attack, the defences they face being dependant on how and what they do (where luring the enemy out of the fort ahead of time could make it much easier).
I disagree with the first part.
There is always an optimal strategy and when there isn't, escape is usually an option.
Yet again, I'd like to stress that getting into this fight was entirely up to the players. And they won, in the end. The encounter was difficult but doable, it's just that the way Mr. A played, he made it even harder.

As for the second part, I already do that. What's so strange about the HQ of the enemy having a commander and a few guards to attend her? What does it matters if there were living quarters somewhere else in the building? There was a battle raging on outside, anyway, so everyone was either buisy at the front or guarding key locations, which, surprise surprise, included the very core of their fortress. I don't see anything counter intuitive or even "gamey" about it. The players made their way to the HQ by various means and they found the enemy commander and her bodyguards and associates.
That's it. :smallconfused:

What do the other player's think ?

Is it the case that you have one player who can't take this, or did all of them complain ?

I often find that peer pressure is the best solution to this sort of problem: if everyone else tells him he screwed up then there should be less drama.

Ultimately I think one lesson you could take from this is to never explain and never apologise to this player since that is obviously counter productive. I don't like this, but then life is short.
You couldn't be further from the truth. The main source of frustration from this player is that he's bad at the game, everyone thinks that he's bad at the game and even during and after the session, everyone was telling him exactly what he did wrong. He's convinced that he's right and that nobody else understands or that they maliciously disagree just to be right at his expenses.
And seeing that everyone agrees and doesn't have a problem with me made him mad, but that's something more to do with personal problems he has with me.

I'd like to point out that, again, discussing this specific episode is not the objective of this thread. This guy left the campaign shortly after this argument and my other players don't have any problems with me, so really I don't need advice on how to handle it.

I just wonder if he had a point in thinking that the GM should play into the PCs plans and tactics regardless if they are sound or not, just so they can feel smart and awesome. A bit like how in action movies, plans that should obviously never work are allowed to be effective, potentially making the villain look like an idiot, just because it's cool.
Personally, I disagree and I think that a plan can be both cool and functional and that tactics and teamwork should be encouraged instead of making everyone a Leeroy Jenkins. But that's because I see roleplaying games as probelm solving experiences first, so I like when faliure is an option. Otherwise it's just mindless escapism and we are all just playing make beliefs with imaginary characters instead of actually playing a game with rules, objectives and obstacles.

mephnick
2015-11-15, 07:50 PM
Sounds fair to me. My group expects me to prepare fair combats mechanic/number-wise and I'll give them opportunities to avoid, ambush, converse their way through encounters. However, once combat has started I will do everything in my power to see the side I'm running win. I'm role-playing the monsters and the monsters don't want to die, intelligent or not. If this means five rangers nuking the fireball slinging wizard in round 2 then so be it, she should have found cover. It's the player's responsibility to plan somewhat tactically and to respect their opposition. If my paladin demands a duel in the middle of battle with a hobgoblin warlord...it might happen! If she tries to duel the leader of a bandit group trying to rob her, he'll lie, and then she'll get jumped once she's separated.

Of course, everyone has a different play style and two styles coming in conflict with each other is no one's fault. All you can do is explain that's how you run combats and he'll have to adapt or find a DM more suitable to his needs.

Vitruviansquid
2015-11-15, 07:55 PM
That's sort of the problem with DnD's set up in general. "Encounters," AKA: Walking into an ambush. Surviving that, realistically, is fairly unlikely, especially not if it's on a regular basis. If players can't choose their fights, and how they approach situations, then there's very little they can do tactically to subvert an enemy's strength.

For this reason, I suggest setting up a living/defensive area for the enemy as if they live there and have their plans of attack and defence, where how alert they are depends on the situation (if the players have been raising a ruckus nearby, they'll be on full-alert--so you might want attack three days later). This way, the players can investigate, plan, and decide on a venue of attack, the defences they face being dependant on how and what they do (where luring the enemy out of the fort ahead of time could make it much easier).

Any time I ambush my players, I can control how many monsters are attempting the ambush and how tough they are. I can set how likely it is for the players to detect the ambush and come up with a counter, and I can force the players to fight their way out of it, or just escape, and so on. In a situation where the players have the initiative and come up with a plan to attack, it is still my whim as to whether the players' plans work or backfire, or how likely they are to either.

Make no mistake, the DM has total control over the likelihood of player characters surviving any encounter. Whenever a DM claims not to be in charge of this, he/she is usually screwing over the players in an unfair way.

Mr. Mask
2015-11-15, 10:49 PM
Well, you can try your best to keep the players alive against all odds, but that can get difficult. If they decide to attack the king's castle by trying to storm the front gates, it'll be tricky for it to result in much other than the guards coming down and slaughtering them. You could have the world fold to the PC's will, where because they tried the direct approach it turns out most of the guards are out of the castle, and the guards who are there get confused and so behave in a way that allows the PCs to survive, but after a while you start to need increasingly complex justifications for why the PCs survive. While the GM should try to have the players survive, I'm not sure that's to an unlimited extent.



Kalmageddon: Oh, that wasn't a complaint directed at you. It's just the way I often see DnD played nowadays, where you go from ambush to ambush with little choice.

It does of course make sense some areas will be prepared against attack, like your commander's throne-room.

Quarian Rex
2015-11-15, 11:30 PM
While the general consensus in the thread seems to be that the player was clueless and got what he deserved (with the vocal minority being Vitruviansquid, who, while having some valid points, could probably make them more diplomatically) perhaps you should approach this as a learning experience. Ask yourself how you could have logically justified the players actions (to an extent), and then ask yourself why you chose not to.

Granted, there are a lot of unknowns about the context of the encounter you described. How many Xill were there? How big was the room? Etc. Interesting things to know to have an idea of how the player evaluated the situation and how else you could have responded. All we know is that the boss was in the control room and the room was surrounded by his bodyguards. Lets say there were 16 guards (a wild estimate based on damage done, probable hit chance, and your comments about positioning and armor). Your player decides that he will SpeedTank/play matador to draw the guards out of position/cluster them/give the rest of the party a chance to get in the fight/drop an AoE/etc. They had fought Xill before and he knew that they were melee beasts (with 5 attacks, Grab, and Paralysis), yet chose to use himself as bait to get them to waste some charge actions and provide a tactical advantage to his party. That is actually a pretty ballsy move.

In response to this, you looked at the Xill statblock, saw an sub-optimal option that negated his efforts, and used it. Exclusively.

How could this have been handled differently? These are melee beasts on guard duty in an enclosed room. Start with the assumption that they had their melee weapons at the ready, not the ranged. If they get surprised the Xill want to be at their most capable, and that's melee. As bodyguards it is more important to neutralize threats than to inflict damage (without knowing how much damage an enemy can take before becoming ineffective). Guess what? Their melee attacks include options to Grab and inflict Paralysis. Sounds like that's the best way to fulfill the bodyguard role.

Does everyone have to mob the player? Nope, completely unnecessary (as far as they know). Have four of the Xill (or a quarter of however many you had) charge him from opposing points in the room. Let him do his Speedy Gonzales sprint to safety. Have half the Xill use a move action to draw longbows and a standard action to shoot this sneaky mammal who has decided to start playing silly buggers. Have the last quarter of the Xill use move actions to approach him (to see if he has any other tricks, instead of using charge actions) and then use their standard actions to claw/Grab or bite/Paralyze him. Maybe reserve two to re-position near the Boss and Ready attacks for anyone who gets too close.

What is the end result of this revised scenario? The player may actually be in a worse position, possibly grappled/paralyzed, but his action succeeded. It wasn't for nothing. There is now a little mutual chaos and players can work with that.

You even still get to have that talk...


"if you want to tank, raise your armor class and saving throws and please try to coordinate with the rest of the group"

... but now it is a recommendation on how to survive the side-effects of his big brass gonads instead of you telling him that he is a dumbass and that his plans are dumb.

Did you have to coddle to his whims and nerf the encounter? Not at all. Were his expectations valid? Yes, I think they were. Were your tactical actions useful? Yes. Are they mutually exclusive? Not at all. Is the scenario I described more engaging than the one you laid out? I think so. For both you and the players.

Now this isn't about mending fences. You and the player have apparently parted ways, and perhaps that's for the best. But you had an opportunity there to build one of those really cool moments at the gaming table, where a player does something a little sideways and it pays off in a weird (and probably painful) way. Those moments become the stories that we pass around the gaming table. They become the reason we keep playing this game. Keep this in mind the next time one of those moments comes around.

DMing is kind of like improv. It is always more interesting when you find a way to say yes.

nedz
2015-11-16, 05:38 AM
You couldn't be further from the truth...
OK slight miscommunication.

I just wonder if he had a point in thinking that the GM should play into the PCs plans and tactics regardless if they are sound or not, just so they can feel smart and awesome. A bit like how in action movies, plans that should obviously never work are allowed to be effective, potentially making the villain look like an idiot, just because it's cool.
Personally, I disagree and I think that a plan can be both cool and functional and that tactics and teamwork should be encouraged instead of making everyone a Leeroy Jenkins. But that's because I see roleplaying games as probelm solving experiences first, so I like when faliure is an option. Otherwise it's just mindless escapism and we are all just playing make beliefs with imaginary characters instead of actually playing a game with rules, objectives and obstacles.
As others have said this is a play style thing and it seems that this player wasn't compatible with your group anyway.

Some people play rule of cool, personally I prefer to offer a variety of challenges.

I think a DM should stick to their guns on their own play style, after all someone else can take over the job and run things differently. I will tweak it a bit in terms of emphasis on various minor factors to fit the group but not in a big way.

At the end of the day: would you enjoy running the game in a vastly different play style ?

Vitruviansquid
2015-11-16, 06:42 AM
Well, you can try your best to keep the players alive against all odds, but that can get difficult. If they decide to attack the king's castle by trying to storm the front gates, it'll be tricky for it to result in much other than the guards coming down and slaughtering them. You could have the world fold to the PC's will, where because they tried the direct approach it turns out most of the guards are out of the castle, and the guards who are there get confused and so behave in a way that allows the PCs to survive, but after a while you start to need increasingly complex justifications for why the PCs survive. While the GM should try to have the players survive, I'm not sure that's to an unlimited extent.

You can as easily say "the king's guards are stronger than the PC's, of course - they're the king's guards!" as you can "The PC's are stronger than the king's guards, of course - they're the PCs!" You could always say a direct attack against anyone turned out to be the best plan of action just as easily as you could demand that the players do something sneaky.

I meant the difficulty of encounters is totally in your hands, not that you should always do your best to keep the players alive against all odds. Like I said earlier, there must be a failure state for people to want to obtain the win state. That doesn't mean you are always trying to let the players win, that means you have to come up with a way to make encounter difficulty make sense. What I am advising DMs NOT to do is to say "here is the situation, you must give me a tactical plan and it is your own fault if the plan is foolish and does not work," because that actually means "here is the situation, I am going to use my own arbitrary criteria to determine whether you start the fight at an advantage or a disadvantage."

What the DM SHOULD do is have a logic to when players can put themselves at an advantage in an encounter and when at a disadvantage. My usual fallback is to open most encounters with some kind of out-of-combat skill check (or non-DnD equivalent) or ask players to come up with an appropriate out-of-combat skill check. If the players succeed, they receive some kind of advantage. If the players fail, they start off at some kind of disadvantage.

Take for example, if the players are assaulting a camp of orc raiders in the forest. I might allow a player to make a stealth roll to attempt to get close and set fire to something in the camp or set up a trap, or I might allow a player to make a Nature roll to get in close using cover from the trees in order to make a surprise attack, or I might allow a player to make an intimidate roll to attack with a powerful war cry that shakes the enemy's morale. On a failure, the player attempting the stealth roll might be spotted by sentries and start off taking a few more arrows and javelins than the others, or the player attempting to take cover in the trees gets tripped on a branch, or the player attempting a war cry receives a far louder and more intimidating cry back.

You could also set up your campaign so that encounter difficulties are tied to mere effort so as to "keep your players honest". As long as the players sell it to you that they made an attempt to come up with tactics, you bend the encounter to match the tactics. Maybe if the players propose a ranged sniping strategy should work and give some kind of argument for it, it does.

You could also set up your campaign so that encounter difficulties are tied to timing and made appropriate by the narrative. Fights are harder when the mood is supposed to be desperate and bleak, easier when the mood is supposed to be relaxed or empowering.

It doesn't matter what your criteria for setting encounter difficulty is, you are still the one setting it, so you need to make sure your method is logical and fair. What I am trying to draw Kalmageddon's attention to is that perhaps his player does not perceive his method as logical and fair. Perhaps what he thinks is logical and fair for the encounter is not what the players think. Maybe this attitude...


As for the second part, I already do that. What's so strange about the HQ of the enemy having a commander and a few guards to attend her? What does it matters if there were living quarters somewhere else in the building? There was a battle raging on outside, anyway, so everyone was either buisy at the front or guarding key locations, which, surprise surprise, included the very core of their fortress. I don't see anything counter intuitive or even "gamey" about it. The players made their way to the HQ by various means and they found the enemy commander and her bodyguards and associates.
That's it.

feels to the players like their DM is once again telling them their tactics were stupid by having them run into a room full of harder than normal enemies, when they were barely made aware that anything else was expected, or they had other options, or perhaps that the enemies were harder than normal because this is some kind of optional, bonus objective.

Now to switch gears...


While the general consensus in the thread seems to be that the player was clueless and got what he deserved (with the vocal minority being Vitruviansquid, who, while having some valid points, could probably make them more diplomatically) perhaps you should approach this as a learning experience. Ask yourself how you could have logically justified the players actions (to an extent), and then ask yourself why you chose not to.

I quite specifically said, "If someone does something patently ridiculous, like stand out in the open to soak up missile fire from an entire encounter's worth of monsters, let them die. That is fair and realistic."

In fact, I am puzzled, because saying that I have "some valid points" implies most are not, and yet all I can see in your post is basically putting what I already said about designing encounters to allow players to get to do what they like, but in different words. What exactly do you not agree with?

goto124
2015-11-16, 07:13 AM
Basically:

Ask for rolls, let the dice decide if the players succeed?

Nobot
2015-11-16, 07:57 AM
(...)
This raises the interesting point of player expectations in combat and during challenges in general. If a player decides that the best way to overcome an obstacle is X, should the GM try to play along with the player and make X work, or should he aim to challenge his players and play out the outcome logically, therefore potentially either making X a sub optimal choice or even, as I did, a critical mistake?
(of course sometimes X might just work, but I'm talking about those times when it obviously shouldn't, like in the case of the example above)

I'm not sure about this question and how it relates to the example you give, because I don't feel it's a very illogical choice that your player made. It's a boss fight, right? So charging in and getting ready for the boss to jump on him is not that stupid. And I don't see why, in general, the boss shouldn't jump on him? Let the player have his moment. Having said that, I don't know the guy/girl in question, and maybe he needs to be managed to the extent that a pummeling is in order...

Anyway, in this specific case, I would have managed expectations by being very literal about the bows and arrows the Xill probably already had out and strung. If players were going to move out into the open, I might even have thrown in an 'are you sure?' But that's a play style thing :smallsmile:

As for your question in general: really obviously stupid solutions should never work and--in my book--are one of the few situations that merit character death. But again, I'm not sure if you're example is one of those situations :smallsmile:

Mr. Mask
2015-11-16, 12:13 PM
Well, I really dislike the themepark kind of game where all challenges are tailored to my character, and where strategic decisions have little to no effect. If your games are like that, I'll probably get bored and leave the campaign. As a GM, admittedly that would be sort of fun, trying to think of a way that the players win despite it all like the attendant of Don Quixote. Generally though, I prefer some roleplaying to the world, where it exists outside the PCs' every whim. Your style of GMing has its pros, but it's not my style as a player or GM.

Segev
2015-11-16, 12:24 PM
I have only skimmed the thread, so it may have been brought up, but I think a valid thing to do to help your player out would be to offer him, when he does something that you feel is obviously tactically flawed (and which you fully intend to take advantage of), a chance to roll an appropriate skill or stat. Int as a stat, or maybe Wis. Knowledge: tactics, if it exists, or some other fitting skill if you can think of it.

The goal here is to provide him a chance for his character, who is physically in the situation and can see more clearly what the DM knows is there than can the player (who is relying on descriptions and his own imagination), a chance to realize something.

If he makes the check, you let him know, "You realize that Xill have ranged weapons, and could simply pepper you from that position without ever letting you get a melee attack on them, right?"

He might still feel you're "making a fool of him," but at that point, he's claiming that any correction of a mistake is "making a fool of him," and is being unreasonable.

If he's like me, and hates having serious characters made fools of, then he should appreciate the DM acknowledging that his character is clever and tactically-minded enough to recognize the flaw in a plan, so he can try to come up with something else.

Do this until, at least, any OBVIOUS flaws in his plans are addressed. You don't have to tell him about the ambush over there, or the trap in his path, etc., unless you think it's obvious. But let him know things like, "your readied action won't trigger unless you give them a reason to come at you; they have ranged attacks, otherwise." Then let him change his mind about what his character does.

Mr. Mask
2015-11-16, 01:05 PM
I have wondered about a hint/you're-about-to-crush-yourself Save that players get, when they're about to do something. This doesn't necessarily have to be a, "stop it, stupid!" roll, so much as a, "OK, let me tell you the risks involved, and you can go through with it or not". They can make this roll of their own will, and may be advised to, but if the players decide to do something suicidal, the GM rolls the save and tells them just how dangerous it is.

Interesting idea, but I wonder if it'd work out as intended.

Knaight
2015-11-16, 01:22 PM
In general, I think that tailoring things like enemy tactics to the group is a good idea - I don't bring out the really mean tactics in a group where the players aren't particularly tactical, unless it's in the context of an enemy with significantly less firepower knowingly compensating for that. With that said, this particular example is just the player screwing up based on an understanding that is downright clumsy. The core assumption they made is that a warrior culture wouldn't use ranged weapons, despite significant obvious counter examples (the Mongol empire, the Scythians, and most of the warfare in Japan come to mind here).

obliged_salmon
2015-11-16, 01:22 PM
Should the GM let "obviously flawed" plans work out or not? The question relies upon a slanted premise.

In my games, if a player does something I think won't work, we talk through why our expectations aren't matching up and come to a compromise. We're building stories together, after all. When we have found something that we both think would look awesome, the player rolls the dice to see how well the effect is executed.

I.e., in the OP's example, if I were running the game, a conversation might have gone something like this:

Player: I fly into the center of the room and ready an action to move backward when they approach
Me: What are you trying to accomplish?
Player: Well, when they all charge up to me, I'll back up, and they'll have wasted their turn. Also, they'll all be clustered in the center of the room so the wizard can zap them.
Me: It's an interesting idea, but I'm not sure they'd just crowd around in the middle of the room after you'd left. Now, if you stayed put and let the wizard blast you, too, I could see that. It's certainly ballsy, but I don't see you getting away unscathed. Or maybe, you'd like to bluff them into thinking you're headed somewhere that you aren't?
Player: Yeah, that sound good.
Me: Describe what that looks like for me, and we'll figure out what kind of roll we need.

This approach, to be fair, is more geared for an "indie game" kind of experience. If a table is all about the wargaming, tactical aspect of the game, then they probably want to play things closer to the chest in combat. Expectations about this should be clearly brought up at the outset of the game.

Mr. Mask
2015-11-16, 01:41 PM
In general, I think that tailoring things like enemy tactics to the group is a good idea - I don't bring out the really mean tactics in a group where the players aren't particularly tactical, unless it's in the context of an enemy with significantly less firepower knowingly compensating for that. With that said, this particular example is just the player screwing up based on an understanding that is downright clumsy. The core assumption they made is that a warrior culture wouldn't use ranged weapons, despite significant obvious counter examples (the Mongol empire, the Scythians, and most of the warfare in Japan come to mind here). While I see that point, tactically, I'm not sure what difference rushing forward or staying back has in DnD. Unless there's specific cover you can use, or a character whom standing by gives you a bonus against missiles, you need to reach the ranged characters as quickly as possible. You could ready an action to move when the other players move, so you all move forward simultaneously and guard your own flanks, but the ranged units can still focus fire on one enemy till he drops.

So, it seems to largely be tactics based off a meta of what you believe real combat is like--which is hard to simulate when only one person can move or act at a time. Another way to look at it, with an initiative system, is the player expected the group to charge forward to take out the archers as quickly as possible, but because he was early in initiative and the others were late, all the monsters got a shot at him before the rest of the group did anything, even though they should have moved forward with him.


So I feel it's less a problem of people, and more a problem that the system makes it very hard to meet goals of tactical enemies or realism (as tactical enemies would have to understand the mechanics, and the mehcnaics don't make for realistic tactics or play).

Knaight
2015-11-16, 05:16 PM
While I see that point, tactically, I'm not sure what difference rushing forward or staying back has in DnD. Unless there's specific cover you can use, or a character whom standing by gives you a bonus against missiles, you need to reach the ranged characters as quickly as possible. You could ready an action to move when the other players move, so you all move forward simultaneously and guard your own flanks, but the ranged units can still focus fire on one enemy till he drops.

At the very least, leaning around a corner or something would probably be viable, and being focused fired goes from a possibility when rushing in as a group to all but guaranteed when doing it completely on your own. There are things like smokesticks, darkness spells, etc. that offer concealment. Even in D&D, there are ways to mitigate getting shot at by everyone. More than that though, the error was in assuming that there wouldn't be ranged attacks, because a warrior culture wouldn't use ranged weapons. A setting assumption was made based on having a terrible understanding of history, and demanding that you're right about said assumption after the fact is sketchy.

Mr. Mask
2015-11-16, 05:22 PM
The way initiative works, you often have no choice but to charge out alone. It's true that you could/should ready your actions to move at the same time as the other guys, that isn't typically how DnD has been taught as to how you should play (I can't think of any group that did that). And if the enemies are being smart, they'll always focus-fire on the main DPS in range.

Of course, if you can aggro the enemies, it's better to lure them to the corner. But still, the tactics in DnD aren't really intuitive to real life, so trying or expecting the application of real-life tactics is sort of flawed. You essentially have to agree to a house-ruled compromise, where you and the players have to be on the same page for what is considered "realistic" behaviour in combat.

tgva8889
2015-11-17, 04:53 AM
The way initiative works, can't you just delay until your other teammates can move with you? Not to say this is necessarily tactically advantageous, but delaying your action is always an option available to you if you can't figure out something useful to do right now.