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Ulukaï
2018-01-29, 05:42 AM
Hello playgrounders,

I have a question concerning descriptions, immersion, player/character knowledge and whatever. I'd just like to have some opinions about the following:

Situation:
- The Players enter a room and the DM descripes what they see. Eventually:
- 'Ok, on the table ther's standing a microscope. It's a rather new invention, does any of your characters could have seen something like that or even know it?'
- The collective answer: 'No, that's unlikely.'
- Ok, moving on...

After the session:
The players collectively are unsatisfied with the DMs description of said microscope. Their characters don't know such apparati and so the DM should have just described what they see, without using the word microscope.

What do you think? Please state your opinions, I#m willing to be enlightend. Thank you very much!

Sinewmire
2018-01-29, 05:48 AM
Hello playgrounders,

The players collectively are unsatisfied with the DMs description of said microscope. Their characters don't know such apparati and so the DM should have just described what they see, without using the word microscope.

What do you think? Please state your opinions, I#m willing to be enlightend. Thank you very much!

It could have been more fun to describe the microscope from first principles, but it's the characters who won't recognise it, not the players.

If the characters aren't familiar with it or how it works, why describe it at all?

"There's some sort of alchemy tool on the table, it looks worryingly complicated."

MeimuHakurei
2018-01-29, 05:53 AM
Yeah, it was probably a mistake of the DM to name a device the players might not recognize. Then again, it is basically a spyglass pointing down to a glass surface, so the characters might have the idea you're supposed to look into it. The more educated party members could possibly even discern what a spyglass oriented this way could accomplish.

It could also be a mistake that the DM possibly attached a plot hook to the microscope, which the players didn't recognize. You shouldn't make the plot hinge on the players passing a specific skill check.

Knaight
2018-01-29, 06:02 AM
It could have been more fun to describe the microscope from first principles, but it's the characters who won't recognise it, not the players.

If the characters aren't familiar with it or how it works, why describe it at all?

Sometimes it's a fun way to get perspective across - how things are perceived by a subjective observer says a lot about that observer, and while the subjective observer in this case doesn't map to any individual character there's still a sort of implicit setting everyperson that can be characterized, and in so doing the setting itself is explored.

Ulukaï
2018-01-29, 06:17 AM
First things first: DM was me, obviously :smallwink: , and in fact it was my first time DMing ever (no excuse). The Feedback gave some good stuff, some bad stuff, mostly I understood it, but this one critique really irritated me. But I'm willing to learn and thanks for the replies so far, would like to hear more!

What are these "First principles"? I am new to this and not native english.


Sometimes it's a fun way to get perspective across - how things are perceived by a subjective observer says a lot about that observer, and while the subjective observer in this case doesn't map to any individual character there's still a sort of implicit setting everyperson that can be characterized, and in so doing the setting itself is explored.

Sorry, I have no idea, what you are talking about...

Also, there was no plotpoint attached, just a thingy to perhaps do some other thingy with. There was no rolling involved. I just asked the players, if their characters' background let them know it.

My point is, why describe it wordily (probably insufficently), when I just can use one word, everybody knows what's on the table and can make with it what they want or move on. Is it this strange creature calle immersion?:smallsmile:

Florian
2018-01-29, 06:23 AM
What do you think? Please state your opinions, I#m willing to be enlightend. Thank you very much!

Much work for very little gain, if you ask me. The game uses language as a medium so you should try to be as precise as possible to get the information across to your players. If it´s a microscope, call it a microscope. If there's something special to it, add the information, like "... made of brass and using crystals as lenses". That might ruin the immersion a bit, yes, but the main point is still getting information across.

Edit: What Knaight means is that sometimes, describing a thing but not directly naming it can be fun in itself, because that turns finding out what the thing is into a kind of riddle. Think about describing a "steam-powered panzer" in a fantasy setting instead of directly calling it a "panzer". But that only makes sense if you want your players to actually play around with the thing instead of it just being pure backdrop.

Mordaedil
2018-01-29, 06:31 AM
I'd just apologize and say I described it that way for their benefit as I don't know quite how I'd describe a microscope to someone who is unfamiliar with it. I mean, how would you describe it, a telescope aimed at a small tray? Even that might just give it away so a player might accidentally say "oh, is that a microscope?", not considering their character wouldn't recognize it.

In short, I think you handled it correctly.

Knaight
2018-01-29, 06:34 AM
Sorry, I have no idea, what you are talking about...

I'll reexplain then, with more concrete examples. Take first person literature - everything that gets described is what the character perceives and does. Looking at what is perceived in particular, there are different ways to write the same scene depending on which character is looking at it. Raskolnikov is a man haunted by guilt and seeing shadows around every corner, so descriptions of his perception routinely include aspects of his paranoia. Humbert Humbert is a disgusting pedophile screwed up in the head, so his first person perspective of Lolita (the character) is colored by that in a way that makes the typical reader nauseated*.

Another step out and slightly more abstracted are the Fabled Lands gamebooks. They're sort of a choose-your-own-adventure but with character stats, relayed in second person and with a flexible main character that nonetheless has some implicit history. There's a scene you can chance across where your character finds a crashed spaceship with an astronaut inside it (something akin to the lunar lander, not a space dreadnaught) floating in the ocean, parachute out.

The character is in a fantasy setting. They have no idea what any of this stuff is, and so the description from their perspective says none of that. It's all about strange shiny boats, and a probably demonic metal being with one big dark eye dead in the craft, with a strange sail lying limp in the water. This scene works, it sticks with you, and the way that scene is described tells you about the character. Had another character come across that same scene they might describe it differently, with another astronaut having a particularly different perspective.

Take one step further out. The second person description is likely still there ("you see"), but the characters are different. The perceptions involved are those of the PCs as a whole, and while you can tailor things to them specifically (a bunch of seasoned adventurers are likely to perceive things differently than the typical civilian who's never been more than twenty miles from home) the description can also be tailored less to any individual character and more to the setting. Things are described as a hypothetical average setting-person would see them, and the choices made in that description tell the players about the setting.

*There's also non-depressing examples, but sometimes you just have to turn to Russian literature.

Ulukaï
2018-01-29, 06:50 AM
I'll reexplain then, with more concrete examples. Take first person literature - everything that gets described is what the character perceives and does. Looking at what is perceived in particular, there are different ways to write the same scene depending on which character is looking at it. [...]

Ok, thanks for explaining and sorry for being a little bit flippant at first. That's how I understood it, but I still quite don't get, how this matters here. For me, I have to draw the line between player and character somewhere. Why should I make up that elaborate description for THEIR characters, when I just can name it to the PLAYERS and let them make that transfer and decide for their characters how they perceive it. I thought we are talking about roleplaying, not about storytelling (be it out of first or third perspective).

Darth Ultron
2018-01-29, 07:34 AM
My point is, why describe it wordily (probably insufficently), when I just can use one word, everybody knows what's on the table and can make with it what they want or move on. Is it this strange creature calle immersion?:smallsmile:

In A general sense, to just say what something is just using one word is dull and boring and very much breaks the immersion of the game. At least for people that want to role play their character. It's simply no fun to be told X is X, lets move on.

You don't want to take a half hour describing the ''curved object with soup in it'' on the table(aka a bowl), but anything that is not common you do want to describe it.

And for like a microscope, it's not like you need to do a 500,000 word detailed description, ''a metal spyglass attached to a stand looking down at the table'' is more then enough. You can even go the route of ''a metal device with some glass'' or even ''odd deceives''.


Your players might also not like the mid game question of ''does your character know this?", as again it breaks the immersion. A lot of players would much rather role play out not knowing something, then just saying ''my character does not know that''.

Knaight
2018-01-29, 07:56 AM
Ok, thanks for explaining and sorry for being a little bit flippant at first. That's how I understood it, but I still quite don't get, how this matters here. For me, I have to draw the line between player and character somewhere. Why should I make up that elaborate description for THEIR characters, when I just can name it to the PLAYERS and let them make that transfer and decide for their characters how they perceive it. I thought we are talking about roleplaying, not about storytelling (be it out of first or third perspective).

Think of it this way - you're not providing characterization for THEIR characters. You're providing characterization for YOUR setting. As for roleplaying vs. storytelling, that whole model is a distraction right now. There's a lot of overlap that comes from both using description and both benefiting from good description in general, and more than that setting knowledge helps role play a character in a setting.

Take this microscope example. There's a table with a microscope on it - that much is setting reality. There are other parts of setting reality here though. There's a table with a strange object wrought from uncharacteristically advanced technology on it. That has meaning in the setting, that affects character decisions.

Meanwhile, in another setting you could have a parallel. There's a table with a microscope on it - that much is still setting reality. There's also a table with an antique on it, a neat little knick knack of no practical value that might be appreciated with antiquarian. That too has meaning in the setting, that too affects character decisions.

These character decisions are likely to vary between those two settings. This raises obvious questions of which of those two settings you're in. Those are fairly extreme, and distinguishing between them is probably going to be pretty obvious by what's going on with the rest of the setting, but there's a lot of subtle shades in between. More than that, these subtle differences are all over settings for basically anything within them, and how you describe things can convey that information in ways that just describing them as you would for the "setting" of real life doesn't.

Plus, it can be a fun little easter egg in and of itself.


You don't want to take a half hour describing the ''curved object with soup in it'' on the table(aka a bowl), but anything that is not common you do want to describe it.
The decisions for which objects merit this treatment can also say a lot about a setting. Just saying "a bowl" suggests that bowls are common in the setting. If, for some reason they aren't (the characters have spent their whole lives in zero gravity or something), then you actually might want to use a more elaborate description.

This also applies to word choice. "Curved object with soup in it" and "Concave ceramic sheet containing nutrient slurry" both describe the same object (assuming a ceramic bowl, a different term would be used for wood), but they say very different things about the setting other than the one point of overlap of how bowls are weird in setting.

Ulukaï
2018-01-29, 10:06 AM
Ok, as I said, I am just starting and at this point I don't think I have the capacities to go into such deliberations :smallwink: . I will keep it in mind and will try to watch these things further.

At least two people here could deem my handling as the correct approach and that is enough for me. I just wanted to know if there are people who can see it my way or if I am the only one not seeing the impact of my choice of words. I think it is a matter of expectations and playing style (obviously), so, to each his own, I guess. For me, immersion is not the holy grail and surely does not come from those descriptions.

I will keep lookout for further posts here, but consider my question as sufficiantly answered :smallsmile: . Thanks to all!

Knaight
2018-01-29, 10:39 AM
Ok, as I said, I am just starting and at this point I don't think I have the capacities to go into such deliberations :smallwink: . I will keep it in mind and will try to watch these things further.

Keep in mind that there's a yawning chasm between the theoretical and the practical here - I'm explaining the virtues of a particular technique, which involves delving in to theory a bit. When actually GMing it's a subconscious process at most, where there's not really a great deal of thought going into how exactly stuff gets worded. Instead, existing practice and just a general familiarity with language and writing tends to translate into a style that gets gradually refined. Theory and analysis has its place, but it's usually not during a game session.

Florian
2018-01-29, 10:47 AM
Keep in mind that there's a yawning chasm between the theoretical and the practical here - I'm explaining the virtues of a particular technique, which involves delving in to theory a bit. When actually GMing it's a subconscious process at most, where there's not really a great deal of thought going into how exactly stuff gets worded. Instead, existing practice and just a general familiarity with language and writing tends to translate into a style that gets gradually refined. Theory and analysis has its place, but it's usually not during a game session.

Going by your previous example, you've got to add that the technique is about juxtapositioning the "mundane" with the "fantastic" and highlight the "unknown" even more by doing so.

Geddy2112
2018-01-29, 11:26 AM
Our group tends to handle this kind of stuff as follows.

"You see a strange looking box, one side is glass. connected to the box are a ton of buttons on a board. It seems like some kind of magical machine. Based on the amount of dust and age of the rest of the things you have seen in this building, you can guess it has not been used in quite some time." If somebody in the group has their eyes glaze over and miss it, the DM will then say to the players "it is a computer".

For the sake of playing the game, I want to know it is a computer. If my character grabs the thing and puts it in their bag of holding, I don't want to write a three sentence description of it, I just want to put "computer" on my character sheet. It also helps quick reference should I try to sell it, show it to an NPC, use it. I can tell the dm "my character shows the wizard the computer I got in said dungeon". That said, I really like having the description for immersion, and to use as well. I would rather say "Sakura reaches into her bag and pulls out that ancient magic box with buttons she got on the island of Harvest Moon. She shows it to the Syndril mage, and says 'I think it it some kind of magic from the first or second age. Do you know anything about it?" But again, I can quickly clarify should the DM forget I had it, or say, my bag is full of other weird oddities my character does not know and just say "the computer I grabbed last session".

I like both-If it is a microscope, I want to know as a player because it makes the game easier to play. For immersion and all, I like things having a description. Extra so in scifi or fantasy settings where technology we know can have magical or futuristic abilities. It is a microscope, but it has magical lenses that detect X, or something like that.

Quertus
2018-01-29, 11:31 AM
There are several valid approaches to this problem.

The most efficient, obviously, is to simply call it a microscope.

The second most efficient is to call it a microscope, while explicitly making sure that the players know whether or not their characters have the knowledge to understand it, and outsourcing that translation of perception to the players. This is the technique you used, and the feedback you received clearly indicates that it does not match your players' preferences.

Or you can attempt to laboriously describe its size, shape, color, materials, construction, etc. This will often lead to, "so, a microscope?", but is important if, say, the module had the party fighting a Rakshasa that can only be harmed by brass, and the microscope is one of two brass items in the game.

Or, you can just describe it as some strange alchemical device. However, this requires you to know that none of the characters have the appropriate skills to recognize it, and can lead to the very inefficient (but, for some players, such as myself, very fun) game of 20 questions with the GM.

EDIT: personally, I'm fine with any of these techniques, so long as they're done well. I hate when the GM fails to do their homework to know that one of the characters actually would recognize the device in the third option, and we have to retcon several sessions of "things obviously would have gone differently", or when the players fail to roleplay their ignorance under the first two options, or when the GM slows the game to a crawl by using the third or fourth option on everything, no matter how familiar it should be. So, they ask can work well, but all have horrible fail states.

I would suggest going over this list with your players, and getting their feedback on their preferred style, and why it is their preference.

Ulukaï
2018-01-29, 11:38 AM
Ok, here I am, getting sucked back in...

First: Is everybody here really that theoretical? Is nobody here just playing the game? Am I taht short-sighted?

Second: Geddy2112s answer is exactly that kind of double standard I really cannot grasp. So the DM has to go and make up some really "immersive" descriptions, so he does not upset his players. But the player than just can say and write down: "It's a computer!" , Isn't that self-imposed immersion-breaking right there?

I have the feeling my language barrier is too great here or I am just plain stupid.

EDIT: Ok, thanks Quertus, finally some stuff I can follow. As I've written, it was plain, that the players had other expectations than me and obviously should go ahead and look for a ne DM ;) .

HidesHisEyes
2018-01-29, 11:42 AM
Hello playgrounders,

I have a question concerning descriptions, immersion, player/character knowledge and whatever. I'd just like to have some opinions about the following:

Situation:
- The Players enter a room and the DM descripes what they see. Eventually:
- 'Ok, on the table ther's standing a microscope. It's a rather new invention, does any of your characters could have seen something like that or even know it?'
- The collective answer: 'No, that's unlikely.'
- Ok, moving on...

After the session:
The players collectively are unsatisfied with the DMs description of said microscope. Their characters don't know such apparati and so the DM should have just described what they see, without using the word microscope.

What do you think? Please state your opinions, I#m willing to be enlightend. Thank you very much!

I would describe the microscope without saying the word “microscope”. The players would understand what it was and would interact with it as if it’s a microscope. Sure their characters have never seen one, but we can assume they’re smart enough to figure out you’re supposed to look through it. This kind of thing happens all the time in RPGs, and my advice is not to stress about player knowledge vs character knowledge too much. Many would disagree with me, but in my experience trying to keep character and player knowledge separate breaks the immersion more than just not worrying about it.

And if it gets ridiculous trying to describe something without saying what it is, just say “out of character, it’s basically a microscope”. Again, that breaks the immersion a little, but not as much as a long drawn out attempt to describe an everyday object in an unfamiliar way.

Slipperychicken
2018-01-29, 11:57 AM
- 'Ok, on the table ther's standing a microscope. It's a rather new invention, does any of your characters could have seen something like that or even know it?'
- The collective answer: 'No, that's unlikely.'

If there's any uncertainty at all, I'd rather just employ the game's version of knowledge or lore abilities here to decide whether the characters know. One of them may well have overheard a scholar loudly gushing about it the line at a butcher shop, or had a friend who described it to them. People can know some surprising things outside their areas of expertise.


I don't see the point in making my GM go through contortions to conceal the object's nature when he can instead rely on us to roleplay characters who don't know it. He can just say "Your real-world selves would recognize this as a primitive microscope. Your characters however are ignorant of the idea and see just another confusing arrangement of cylinders, platforms, and glass pieces". That efficiently communicates what our characters see and understand, and we can move on with the session.

Geddy2112
2018-01-29, 12:00 PM
Second: Geddy2112s answer is exactly that kind of double standard I really cannot grasp. So the DM has to go and make up some really "immersive" descriptions, so he does not upset his players. But the player than just can say and write down: "It's a computer!" , Isn't that self-imposed immersion-breaking right there?

It is not done to appease the players-I doubt anyone in my group would bat an eye if the DM just said "you see a computer". It is cool when the DM describes stuff, even if it is mundane stuff our characters know. However, I don't want to have ten pages of descriptions on my character sheet under loot. Then trying to remember which one is which from six sessions ago(months in the real world) then how the heck would I remember? It helps for brevity in recap, and brevity is the soul of wit. I don't care how good the description of something was if I have no idea what it is or how it related to the story.
There is the game, and then there is the fact that six people are sitting around a table playing together(the metagame). For the game to function, you have to realize you are six people sitting around a table playing a game. For my group, if that breaks immersion, so be it. We want a smoother game, even if that means sacrificing immersion.
Second Slipperychicken and Hideshiseyes that by going through the hoops like that, you do more damage and grind the game to a halt vs just saying "as players you would know this is a microscope."

If that is not your cup of tea and would ruin the game for you, then that's totally fine. You are just as right or wrong to sit down at a table and ban this kind of thing, in a world where you have tech that resembles/is real world tech, but in a setting where it is novel or truly unknown.

As I've written, it was plain, that the players had other expectations than me and obviously should go ahead and look for a ne DM ;)
You said it best. If the group does something a certain way that you can't stand, to the point it ruins the game, then you should not be in that group. What works for my group does not have to work for every other group, and vice versa.

Mark Hall
2018-01-29, 12:05 PM
I am reminded of a comic... (http://ffn.nodwick.com/?p=8)

Knaight
2018-01-29, 12:35 PM
First: Is everybody here really that theoretical? Is nobody here just playing the game? Am I taht short-sighted?
You're on an RPG forum for discussing RPGs. This should tell you two things - that the people here tends towards theoretical discussion, and that the people here are probably not particularly representative of the standard group.


Second: Geddy2112s answer is exactly that kind of double standard I really cannot grasp. So the DM has to go and make up some really "immersive" descriptions, so he does not upset his players. But the player than just can say and write down: "It's a computer!" , Isn't that self-imposed immersion-breaking right there?
That's not why the GM is making these descriptions. We're making these descriptions because we like doing so, because we care about the craft to at least some extent.

Quertus
2018-01-29, 12:42 PM
First: Is everybody here really that theoretical?

Yes. Yes we are.


EDIT: Ok, thanks Quertus, finally some stuff I can follow. As I've written, it was plain, that the players had other expectations than me and obviously should go ahead and look for a ne DM ;) .

I wrote something understandable? Dock me 50 XP for bad role-playing. :smalltongue:

I'm glad what I wrote was helpful to you, regardless on my XP penalty.

Tanarii
2018-01-29, 01:52 PM
My point is, why describe it wordily (probably insufficently), when I just can use one word, everybody knows what's on the table and can make with it what they want or move on. Is it this strange creature calle immersion?:smallsmile:
Because you don't have to do it wordily. In fact, Sinewmire gave a great way to do it in summary, since they're not going to understand it anyway. If they asked for more details, you could then either do the "wordily" in-character descriptive method, or the out-of-character "it's a microscope". Depending on how much your players care about puzzles, immersion, in/out of character separation, how much time you want them to spend playing around with the stuff, etc etc.

That's not to say I think you did anything wrong. I'm just saying that if your goal is to reduce PC and player knowledge separation, at least on the fly, then there are still ways to do that without being wordy all the time.


It could have been more fun to describe the microscope from first principles, but it's the characters who won't recognise it, not the players.

If the characters aren't familiar with it or how it works, why describe it at all?

"There's some sort of alchemy tool on the table, it looks worryingly complicated."

Koo Rehtorb
2018-01-29, 02:41 PM
This is 100% a taste thing. Some people are annoyed by doing the whole "describe a thing without naming it" dance, other people want exactly that. There's no right or wrong way to go about it.

Do what your players like, and they've made it pretty clear what they like.

Mr Beer
2018-01-29, 04:42 PM
I don't particularly care, there are times when I have said the equivalent of 'it's a microscope, not that you know what that is of course' and times I've gone the 'modified spyglass' route and times I've said the equivalent of 'looks like a natural philosopher's instrument of some kind, fiendish complex don't you know'.

EDIT

Generally I would tend to describe the object and when a player says 'oh a microscope' reply 'yes but you don't know that'.

Quertus
2018-01-29, 05:39 PM
This is 100% a taste thing. Some people are annoyed by doing the whole "describe a thing without naming it" dance, other people want exactly that. There's no right or wrong way to go about it.

Do what your players like, and they've made it pretty clear what they like.

And some, like me, don't care which you do, so long as it's done right.

But, yeah, if it's an issue, spell it out. And have the full pros and cons discussion with the group.

vasilidor
2018-01-29, 06:58 PM
In such situations, I just use pictures.

Ravens_cry
2018-01-29, 07:27 PM
I'd have described it, myself. As both a player and a reader, I find it definitely adds an immersion factor when something that, while familiar to the reader/player, is described in detail. It helps put you in the mindset of the characters. If a character has reason to recognize it, then you can use the shortcut of the proper term.
For example, let's say I described a box of painted metal that hums and whirs, with a glowing rune or two you do not recognize. There is various protrusions and depressions on it. It is connected to another metal box with a glass front by a heavy rope or cable sheathed in some smooth, warm feeling material. Thinner sheathed ropes connect a trey of a great number of protrusions with further runes, and a palm sized box with a red light shining from the bottom from a small hole.
What have I described?
A PC with a CRT monitor, a keyboard, and an optical mouse/
Even if you the player work out what is, it, at least for me, helps put you in the mindset of it being a mystery to investigate.

Deophaun
2018-01-29, 08:44 PM
Rule of thumb: if it occurs to you to ask if anyone has a skill that would tell them that a widget is, indeed, a widget, then you should probably describe the widget instead of referring to it directly as a widget. Then you ask for a skill or skills you think would be appropriate, like craft(widget) or profession(widgeteer) or knowledge(widgets), and prompt players by saying "or something like that" to get them to possibly suggest things you missed.

Jay R
2018-01-29, 09:29 PM
Giving players information that their characters couldn't have puts them in an unfair situation. They can't honestly use the information, and it takes away the opportunity to try to figure it out.

Ideally, you can describe it in terms of what they know. Consider the same situation, described two different ways.

Scenario 1.
DM: After killing the orcs, you examine what they had. You see what appears to be an incomplete crossbow. The stock doesn't have the bow part, and there is no way to attach one if you had it.
Player 1: That's useless. I ignore it.
Player 2: My fighter Tarkington like bizarre weapons. He keeps it.
[Later that evening, after making camp]
Player 2: Tarkington examines the incomplete crossbow. He picks it up, looks at it, shoulders it, points it at a tree, and pulls the trigger.
DM: You hear a loud sound like thunder, the item strikes your shoulder harder than any crossbow ever kicked, and a big hole appears in the tree.

Scenario 2:
DM: After killing the orcs, you examine what they had. You see a Winchester 30-06 rifle. But none of you know what that is, so you ignore it.
Players: <doesn't matter what they say or do. Any interesting action has been prevented.>

Scenario 1 is more fun. Scenario 2 is more frustrating.

Duff
2018-01-29, 10:28 PM
I'm inclined to say to get the correct answer to the question:


does any of your characters could have seen something like that or even know it?'

you needed to use the word microscope.

Otherwise, I agree with those who say its a matter of style and taste.
Use of the term "microscope" is a more functional option and would suit a game where the solving of problems or mysteries is higher focus.
Saying a "strange alchemical tool" and describing in more detail if the characters look at it more closely is the more atmospheric or story focused option.

Kami2awa
2018-02-02, 04:27 AM
Question, did it look like this:

https://micro.magnet.fsu.edu/primer/museum/images/hooke.jpg

this:

https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/714tx9QbaKL._SL1500_.jpg

or like this:

http://jiam.utk.edu/images/microscopy/Zeiss-Libra.jpg

?

Description will actually add a lot more to your world. If it looks like the first one, it is likely the creation of a clever wizard or alchemist from your world. If it looks like the second, it's likely an artefact from the future. If it looks like the third, your PCs have probably just gone through a time portal or similar.

Altair_the_Vexed
2018-02-02, 09:47 AM
I'm definitely on the side of just plain naming objects and things that the way that players will quickly understand, regardless of whether their characters would - and let them, you know, role-play the situation.

I use dramatic irony in games all the time. My player group are all mature enough and happy to play along with the idea that their character don't know the things that they do. One of my players is 13. Two others are in their 30s. Two others are in the 40s. We have both ends of the gender spectrum, a range of philosophies and religions, and all that. Dramatic irony - it's a frame of mind.

I know some people don't like it, but I find it's just simpler to rely on good roleplaying and a fair love of storytelling - if it'd be cool or fun to get into trouble by having a character misunderstand a situation that's clear to the player, then great! Everyone is playing with their eyes open and no-one feels like they're being tricked.

BoringInfoGuy
2018-02-03, 08:23 PM
Hello playgrounders,

I have a question concerning descriptions, immersion, player/character knowledge and whatever. I'd just like to have some opinions about the following:

Situation:
- The Players enter a room and the DM descripes what they see. Eventually:
- 'Ok, on the table ther's standing a microscope. It's a rather new invention, does any of your characters could have seen something like that or even know it?'
- The collective answer: 'No, that's unlikely.'
- Ok, moving on...

After the session:
The players collectively are unsatisfied with the DMs description of said microscope. Their characters don't know such apparati and so the DM should have just described what they see, without using the word microscope.

What do you think? Please state your opinions, I#m willing to be enlightend. Thank you very much!


Ok, as I said, I am just starting and at this point I don't think I have the capacities to go into such deliberations :smallwink: . I will keep it in mind and will try to watch these things further.

At least two people here could deem my handling as the correct approach and that is enough for me. I just wanted to know if there are people who can see it my way or if I am the only one not seeing the impact of my choice of words. I think it is a matter of expectations and playing style (obviously), so, to each his own, I guess. For me, immersion is not the holy grail and surely does not come from those descriptions.

I will keep lookout for further posts here, but consider my question as sufficiantly answered :smallsmile: . Thanks to all!
The reason I bolded those two sections is that together, they indicate your “willingness to be enlightened” is less than genuine.

To be frank, to me it looks like what you want is justification for your approach. And hey, yay, you found it!

Here is the thing. YOUR players did not like your approach. These are the people you are playing with. When the rest of the table is unhappy with something you did, then that is YOUR mistake.

What good does finding some strangers on the internet who say “I’d do it the same way”? They are not your players. What is the plan? Go back to your table and say “Some people on the internet said they would do things the same way, so I’m going to disregard your complaints”? I garantee that will not make your players any less frustrated if you stick to your approach.

You have two basic options:
1) Realize that as the DM, you need to be aware of the preferences of your players, and adjust your style so that you don’t annoy the entire table.

Or

2) Realize that you and your players are not compatible, and find a group of players that matches your style.

People are already trying to help you with option 1), so you could stop arguing with them and try to listen and learn.

If you want to go with option 2, then maybe you can start asking players here if they are interested in an online game.

DonLouigi
2018-02-13, 09:00 AM
Just chiming in because I remember the situation (or one very much like this, played with someone with the same name as the OP who is also not an English native speaker, so I'll just assume that we're talking about the session I remember).

I thought your way of handling this was fine. That gadget was just a background feature to show how sciency and advanced that guy was. Mind you, I would have found it equally fine if you had just said "A strange metal and glass apparatus stands on the table". It was, frankly, just a minor thing and the focus of the adventure was elsewhere. Yes, elaborate storytelling can be fun, and I like it when I read about "great lumbering grey beasts with giant tusks" and think "hey, those guys are using elephants" (there are some funny examples of this in the Wheel of Time), but in the context of RPG sessions, clarity is usually more important, for me at least. This is definitely, a taste thing.
Also, there is conservation of detail to consider: If you spent minutes to describe this one gadget, which then does not have the slightest influence on the adventure, I would consider that wasted time, unless done really well so that it is really immersive.

Also: Hi Ulukai, keep up the great work! :D

Max_Killjoy
2018-02-13, 09:39 AM
Giving players information that their characters couldn't have puts them in an unfair situation. They can't honestly use the information, and it takes away the opportunity to try to figure it out.

Ideally, you can describe it in terms of what they know. Consider the same situation, described two different ways.

Scenario 1.
DM: After killing the orcs, you examine what they had. You see what appears to be an incomplete crossbow. The stock doesn't have the bow part, and there is no way to attach one if you had it.
Player 1: That's useless. I ignore it.
Player 2: My fighter Tarkington like bizarre weapons. He keeps it.
[Later that evening, after making camp]
Player 2: Tarkington examines the incomplete crossbow. He picks it up, looks at it, shoulders it, points it at a tree, and pulls the trigger.
DM: You hear a loud sound like thunder, the item strikes your shoulder harder than any crossbow ever kicked, and a big hole appears in the tree.

Scenario 2:
DM: After killing the orcs, you examine what they had. You see a Winchester 30-06 rifle. But none of you know what that is, so you ignore it.
Players: <doesn't matter what they say or do. Any interesting action has been prevented.>

Scenario 1 is more fun. Scenario 2 is more frustrating.


That's very close to my take on the matter.

See also, the "let's cut away now to the villains... the players now know that they're walking into a trap, but the characters have no idea" thing that some people think is so great, and that would make me pull my hair out. Luckily I've never had that happen, but if it did, I'd tell the GM "This is not a movie. It will never be a movie. Stop trying to impose the genre conventions of the movies onto the RPG, and stop trying to make the RPG 'just like the movies'."

Don't deliberately give the players information they CANNOT use, it's just frustrating. I guess I understand that some people don't mind or even like playing the game like they're creating a work of fiction, but for others (me) it's just a quick way to ruin the campaign.


PLUS, it's a good way to cause strife between "I'm here to win" and "I'm here to RP my character" players, because IME the former likely consider the knowledge "in play now" and expect decisions to be made with it in mind for the greatest chance of winning, and the latter likely consider the knowledge "verboten" and won't use it (even though if like me they're frustrated that they have to zombie-walk their character into a trap and will probably just be going through the motions).

Tanarii
2018-02-13, 10:59 AM
PLUS, it's a good way to cause strife between "I'm here to win" and "I'm here to RP my character" players, because IME the former likely consider the knowledge "in play now" and expect decisions to be made with it in mind for the greatest chance of winning, and the latter likely consider the knowledge "verboten" and won't use it (even though if like me they're frustrated that they have to zombie-walk their character into a trap and will probably just be going through the motions).I'm usually "here" to do both, and I agree with you, don't give info to the me that my character doesn't have. That makes it harder to RP my character. Who is also trying to "win", whatever the win conditions are in universe for that character.

Max_Killjoy
2018-02-13, 11:21 AM
I'm usually "here" to do both, and I agree with you, don't give info to the me that my character doesn't have. That makes it harder to RP my character. Who is also trying to "win", whatever the win conditions are in universe for that character.


I'm drawing something of a distinction between viewing the character as a playing piece and being motivated to "win the game", full stop; and seeing one's character's goal as winning within the context of being a "person" in that "reality" who would want to succeed at their goals, defeat their foes, etc.

Tanarii
2018-02-13, 11:55 AM
I don't think there is a distinct in there, unless you want to create one intentionally. It's the exact same issue I have with people who insist player/character separation is must be a thing though, so it's ground we've already been over.

Max_Killjoy
2018-02-13, 12:25 PM
I don't think there is a distinct in there, unless you want to create one intentionally. It's the exact same issue I have with people who insist player/character separation is must be a thing though, so it's ground we've already been over.


It's a distinction being made because it exists across the broader spectrum of gaming approaches, even if it doesn't exist for you.

This is not a dismissal or criticism of your approach, but most gamers are perfectly fine with the idea that they know things their character does not, and their characters know things that they do not.

(For example, they don't know how to fight with a sword and shield, their character doesn't know what a cell phone is or how to use one.)

PhoenixPhyre
2018-02-13, 01:12 PM
It's a distinction being made because it exists across the broader spectrum of gaming approaches, even if it doesn't exist for you.

This is not a dismissal or criticism of your approach, but most gamers are perfectly fine with the idea that they know things their character does not, and their characters know things that they do not.

(For example, they don't know how to fight with a sword and shield, their character doesn't know what a cell phone is or how to use one.)

Personally, I can't see how one can seriously make the claim that player knowledge == character knowledge from either direction (or that that's the ideal even).

There are things the character knows that the player can't know (and not just skills). Being somewhere and actually perceiving it directly is very different from having it described to you. Words are a lossy medium--the players see, hear, feel, etc many things that the players can't. They know things by muscle memory--what a loose rock feels like as you're climbing. The rhythms of a particular religious service they grew up going to. The smell of cooking not!mutton. Etc.

There are things the player knows that the character can't know. The existence of a wide list of skills, feats, classes, spells, etc (assuming a D&D context, adjust as appropriate). The results of a rolled check. The exact probability of certain things happening. The effect of spells that are imperceptible (like mind control--the character may not know he's being controlled, but the player sure does).

This is inevitable.

Tanarii
2018-02-13, 01:26 PM
Personally, I can't see how one can seriously make the claim that player knowledge == character knowledge from either direction (or that that's the ideal even).
You just assume it gets translated both ways in some form or another.

http://theangrygm.com/through-a-glass-darkly-ic-ooc-and-the-myth-of-playercharacter-seperation/


It's a distinction being made because it exists across the broader spectrum of gaming approaches, even if it doesn't exist for you.

This is not a dismissal or criticism of your approach, but most gamers are perfectly fine with the idea that they know things their character does not, and their characters know things that they do not.
Fair enough.

Honest Tiefling
2018-02-13, 01:28 PM
Much work for very little gain, if you ask me. The game uses language as a medium so you should try to be as precise as possible to get the information across to your players.

I'm kinda in this camp. If the microscope was just a nice little doodad, no harm in glossing over it. Save the weird reveal things (such as the gun in an example mentioned earlier) for the important stuff. Players are creative people, they'll invent three new names, another use for it and a way to kill people with it in under five minutes. For flavor items, I see no reason to just let the players act out how they interact with it knowing what it really is.

If they will metagame THAT, you probably need new players.

Jay R
2018-02-13, 01:36 PM
This is not a dismissal or criticism of your approach, but most gamers are perfectly fine with the idea that they know things their character does not, and their characters know things that they do not.

(For example, they don't know how to fight with a sword and shield, their character doesn't know what a cell phone is or how to use one.)

Yup. And these two examples are no problem, because my character doesn't need to know what a cell phone is. And (at the table) I don't need to know how to fight with a sword and shield.

But I dislike having knowledge that my player needs but doesn't have, because it prevents a good faith attempt to learn it.

When the party enters the room, and I already know that the floor in the far left corner is a trap door, then I am prevented from fairly deciding whether to spend time looking for trap doors. I can:

a. deliberately walk on the trap door, knowing I'm setting off a trap, or
b.deliberately avoid that section, knowing I avoided the trap, or
c. deliberately search for raps, because I know that there is a trap, or
d. guess that my character wouldn't think to look for a trap, and not search.

But I can't try to figure out what the best action might be, if I already know what it is. That's been stolen from me.

Max_Killjoy
2018-02-13, 01:43 PM
Yup. And these two examples are no problem, because my character doesn't need to know what a cell phone is. And (at the table) I don't need to know how to fight with a sword and shield.

But I dislike having knowledge that my player needs but doesn't have, because it prevents a good faith attempt to learn it.

When the party enters the room, and I already know that the floor in the far left corner is a trap door, then I am prevented from fairly deciding whether to spend time looking for trap doors. I can:
a. deliberately walk on the trap door, knowing I'm setting off a trap, or
b.deliberately avoid that section, knowing I avoided the trap, or
c. deliberately search for traps, because I know that there is a trap, or
d. guess that my character wouldn't think to look for a trap, and not search.


But I can't try to figure out what the best action might be, if I already know what it is. That's been stolen from me.


I completely agree on that subset of the issue -- but there are two different discussions going on at present in this thread.

Quertus
2018-02-13, 06:53 PM
I dislike having knowledge that my player needs but doesn't have, because it prevents a good faith attempt to learn it. I can't try to figure out what the best action might be, if I already know what it is. That's been stolen from me.

My sentiments exactly.


I'm kinda in this camp. If the microscope was just a nice little doodad, no harm in glossing over it. Save the weird reveal things (such as the gun in an example mentioned earlier) for the important stuff. Players are creative people, they'll invent three new names, another use for it and a way to kill people with it in under five minutes. For flavor items, I see no reason to just let the players act out how they interact with it knowing what it really is.

If they will metagame THAT, you probably need new players.

One exception I'd like to point out is, I prefer to "break in" a new party to this style of play on something less important first, rather than having the one and only way to get the one and only clue to the one and only McGuffin involve the one and only time the party uses this new technique. Of course, there's a lot of "one and only" that a good GM would probably replace using the "Rule of Three"...

Mark Hall
2018-02-14, 10:56 AM
While I'm generally of the "Call it what it is" school, I will concede that fun can be had if you don't.

In one Palladium Fantasy convention game, I was playing a water warlock. We walked into... a modern bathroom. A large one, like you might find at a stadium or school, done over in porcelain and tile, shining and clean. The GM described it to us, and my character came to the only reasonable conclusion: that this was a Shrine to Water. Those sparkling tablets in the shrines? Those were communion wafers. I proceeded to eat one, because it was an obvious thing to do when one has the soul of a water elemental and comes upon a shrine to water.

PhoenixPhyre
2018-02-14, 11:08 AM
Honestly, I don't agree with the "if I know there's a trap there I don't have agency" thing. That would imply that in a murder mystery, if I figure out whodunnit early, then I've ruined the game/book/plot. I know, but my character doesn't. Or doesn't care (depending on the character).

Yes, I'm smart enough to realize that X is probably trapped. Because I know it's a game and I know that there's lots of traps like that. My character may or may not be. The INT 20 paranoiac? Absolutely. The INT 8 meat-wall? Nope. Or in the second case, he may not care even if he does know.

The issue comes in where everything is high stakes. If tripping that trap will likely cause a character death (or a TPK) or a failed mission, then sure. My desire to "win" (more "not lose") will insist that I avoid the trap and "metagame". But if the consequences are more mild, I have no issue. I prefer the "constant drip of small choices" (where each choice changes things but none are failure = end of everything scale) style to "one check to rule them all". Many small fights, each changing the future slightly, instead of one big do-or-die fight. Many small skill checks, each of which is recoverable (even if at a cost).

Tanarii
2018-02-14, 12:25 PM
Honestly, I don't agree with the "if I know there's a trap there I don't have agency" thing. That would imply that in a murder mystery, if I figure out whodunnit early, then I've ruined the game/book/plot. I know, but my character doesn't. Or doesn't care (depending on the character).

Yes, I'm smart enough to realize that X is probably trapped. Because I know it's a game and I know that there's lots of traps like that. My character may or may not be. The INT 20 paranoiac? Absolutely. The INT 8 meat-wall? Nope. Or in the second case, he may not care even if he does know.This is the type of circumlocutions that seem entirely unnecessary to me. If I can figure it out, my character can figure it out. If I can't figure it out, my character can't figure it out. If my Int 20 character can pass an Int check that gives me, the player, a hint that helps me figure it out, great. If my Int 8 character fails and gets bad information that causes me to make a mistake in figuring it out, also great.

PhoenixPhyre
2018-02-14, 12:39 PM
This is the type of circumlocutions that seem entirely unnecessary to me. If I can figure it out, my character can figure it out. If I can't figure it out, my character can't figure it out. If my Int 20 character can pass an Int check that gives me, the player, a hint that helps me figure it out, great. If my Int 8 character fails and gets bad information that causes me to make a mistake in figuring it out, also great.

That's not necessarily true. In part because words are lossy--there's lots of things the character can see that can't be described well in words. In addition, being removed from things (and having lots of experience that the character doesn't have) can make it easier to deduce the presence of a trap (to continue that example). A level 1 character wouldn't know that's a trap (he's never seen something like that before), when the experienced player is dead sure it is.

Tanarii
2018-02-14, 01:07 PM
A level 1 character wouldn't know that's a trap (he's never seen something like that before), when the experienced player is dead sure it is.Why? That's an assumption on your part. You're intentionally separating player/character knowledge here. There's no particular reason to except you want to. Which is fine and dandy, but it's certainly not required.

PhoenixPhyre
2018-02-14, 01:10 PM
Why? That's an assumption on your part. You're intentionally separating player/character knowledge here. There's no particular reason to except you want to. Which is fine and dandy, but it's certainly not required.

No, it's experience and logic. A farmboy who's never seen a complex mechanical device isn't likely to recognize that that combination of gears, gizmos, etc. will spray poison gas. The player, who has seen hundreds of such traps, on the other hand...

I deal with kids continually as a teacher. Things that are obvious to any experienced adults are complete mysteries to them because they lack salient experiences. "Obvious" things aren't so obvious, most of the time.

Tanarii
2018-02-14, 01:29 PM
No, it's experience and logic. A farmboy who's never seen a complex mechanical device isn't likely to recognize that that combination of gears, gizmos, etc. will spray poison gas. The player, who has seen hundreds of such traps, on the other hand...Now you're making two assumptions. First, that an experienced player will decide to play a farmboy character that has never seen such things. If they do, that's on the player.

And second, that an experienced player has actually seen the inner workings of traps and knows how they work. Experienced players might have intuition that tells them to be careful in a dungeon, that pit traps and spike traps and swinging blade traps are a thing. But that's not the same thing. That's what ability scores and skills are for.

Creating artificial player/character separation is something players choose to do, because the character is nothing but a construct in the players mind. If a player chooses to do so, they need to decide how they're going to handle that separation themselves, since it's not a natural or automatic thing. If there is a problem, the player has caused it. Similarly, if a DM chooses to provide information to the player that the character isn't supposed to have and then expects the player not to act on it or declares it a problem if they do, the DM has caused the problem.

Quertus
2018-02-14, 02:21 PM
Funny thing - this argument really sounds like why I built Quertus, my signature character for whom this account is named.

See, I believe in both roleplaying and player skills. As my player skills grew, I moved from playing "wide-eyed farm boy" archtypes to, um, "trained adventurer" archtypes, I suppose. My character's expected starting skill level leveled as I leveled my player skills.

Then, I noticed some players just didn't get it, even after playing the game much longer than I had. And new players got to have that sense of wonder that, if I continued on my current path, I realized, my characters never would have again. This also meant that, in certain vectors, my characters would become / were becoming rather "same-y"*. :smallyuk: This was something I clearly needed to fix.

Thus, Quertus was conceptualized. He represents a particular type of intentional separation of, not just player/character knowledge, but player/character skill.

So, I certainly can see how the game can be played both ways, as I have played it both ways. Personally, I went down one particular path, of enjoying the diversity possible when you separate player and character, and I've never looked back.

* Yes, I know, "I play wizards". Most of my characters are same-y in that vector. But that's the "mechanics" layer, not the personality and mindset layer.