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    Pixie in the Playground
     
    ClericGirl

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    Default How to handle the PC as the "Native Guide"

    Or rather, how best to handle a player character who, by virtue of backstory, knows a good deal more about the campaign setting than the rest of the party.

    Say, for instance, you're running a situation of courtly intrigue. While most of the party are outsiders to this particular social order, lets say one player wishes to play a member of this court. Such a character would, of course, have far more knowledge about people, situations, social mores, etc. than other characters. That's absolutely fine, I have no problem with a character knowing things. My problem is how I let the player know these things.

    There are, of course, your typical knowledge/culture checks, or simply telling the player what their character would obviously know. But I find that doing this too often is bit distasteful. Merely telling the player something and having them parrot it to the rest of the party eventually turns into the GM sticking their hand up the character's backside and using it as a puppet. You could also give the player themselves a huge info dump at the start of the campaign, though it's hard to know beforehand what specific information will be needed. Is there a better way of equipping the player with the knowledge their character would by all means have without assuming direct control?
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    gkathellar's Avatar

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    Default Re: How to handle the PC as the "Native Guide"

    I'd allow the player to improvise to a degree, while giving them enough info to do so in keeping with your vision.

    Meet and talk it over. Figure out what particulars you think you'll need, and then set some boundaries on what they should feel free to invent.
    Last edited by gkathellar; 2017-12-31 at 06:06 PM.

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    Imp

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    Default Re: How to handle the PC as the "Native Guide"

    I'm a fan of the "start of campaign info dump" method. This doesn't necessarily have to be reams of paperwork for the player to read up on. I actually like to have an individual "prep session" with each player to familiarise them with what their character knows about the setting, any private information that player might want me (as GM) to know and generally discuss the goals and desires of that player.

    It's time consuming and, now I think about it, a lot of work, but it also makes for a campaign setting that the players are engaged in, allowing them to participate in the tone and content of the setting and being able to relay what their character knows to other players without having to break immersion during play by having to ask the GM.

    Then again, this might not work with more casual players who aren't so concerned with such things.
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    Default Re: How to handle the PC as the "Native Guide"

    Quote Originally Posted by Khi'Khi View Post
    There are, of course, your typical knowledge/culture checks, or simply telling the player what their character would obviously know. But I find that doing this too often is bit distasteful. Merely telling the player something and having them parrot it to the rest of the party eventually turns into the GM sticking their hand up the character's backside and using it as a puppet.
    I disagree, passing notes (or PMing for the roll20 folks) is a time-honored tradition. In my experience, players don't mind, especially if you're playing in a custom/homebrew setting where they would have no hope of retaining all the fine details of your rich and elaborate world anyway. Doing so doesn't actually make the player your "puppet" - because the fun comes not from the information itself, but from your know-it-all getting the chance to roleplay it. They get to decide how much to reveal to the party, and the manner in which they do so - whether to be eager and helpful, or snarky and condescending, etc. It creates all kinds of rich roleplay opportunities, and lets the player behind a smart PC feel smart themselves.


    Quote Originally Posted by The Giant View Post
    But really, the important lesson here is this: Rather than making assumptions that don't fit with the text and then complaining about the text being wrong, why not just choose different assumptions that DO fit with the text?
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    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    NinjaGuy

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    Default Re: How to handle the PC as the "Native Guide"

    You can also skip the parroting, and whenever the player rolls the proper amount, you can respond to the entire group "______ lets you know that..." and then let the player take over after the info-bump is done.

    You can also further define what the player knows, and just give them a pamphlet or something of raw, dry information - like houses, populations, sigils, and names - with instructions not to make copies for the other players. It's not something that's going to be readily available, nor really useful for the other people in the party, depending on the information, until you decide it'd be useful.

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    Ettin in the Playground
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    Default Re: How to handle the PC as the "Native Guide"

    Quote Originally Posted by Khi'Khi View Post
    You could also give the player themselves a huge info dump at the start of the campaign, though it's hard to know beforehand what specific information will be needed. Is there a better way of equipping the player with the knowledge their character would by all means have without assuming direct control?
    Smaller info dumps before individual sessions is more likely to stick in the player's memory, and you can better keep it relevant. Fill in with parroting as needed.
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    Knaight's Avatar

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    Default Re: How to handle the PC as the "Native Guide"

    Another somewhat more out there option is to give the player limited declarative powers. Every player has the basics (saying "I pick up a stick" while in a forest without first asking if there are sticks in the forest), but the native guide gets an expanded version of this where they can invent NPCs by implying them in dialog, declare cultural practices, etc. Obviously this is subject to GM veto.

    With that said, directly telling them the information works fine.

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    RangerGuy

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    Default Re: How to handle the PC as the "Native Guide"

    Remember that the PC who knows this stuff also has much more at stake and likely a much lower margin of error...

    There are always secrets that some will kill to keep...

    And the Court knows the PC could share those secrets, so they'd better watch their mouth. And if the other PCs learn too much, it's a fair bet that they've been talking...

    In short, while the PC knows more, there can also be story reasons why it isn't in the PC's best interest to blab. Then the PC does have the choice to do so, but they and the party have to face the consequences.

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    Ogre in the Playground
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    Default Re: How to handle the PC as the "Native Guide"

    I have found info dumps, the occasional mid-session "you know this" statement and letting them fill in details that should exist, but individually aren't that important works. With veto/modify rights if the details clash with any underlying information they don't know yet.

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    Default Re: How to handle the PC as the "Native Guide"

    If the system you're using has such a feature, I remember a version of Fate recommending that you give players fate points in exchange for using them for info-dumps.

    I also highly recommend letting them improvise details.
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    Ettin in the Playground
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    Default Re: How to handle the PC as the "Native Guide"

    Quote Originally Posted by Vogie View Post
    You can also skip the parroting, and whenever the player rolls the proper amount, you can respond to the entire group "______ lets you know that..." and then let the player take over after the info-bump is done.

    You can also further define what the player knows, and just give them a pamphlet or something of raw, dry information - like houses, populations, sigils, and names - with instructions not to make copies for the other players. It's not something that's going to be readily available, nor really useful for the other people in the party, depending on the information, until you decide it'd be useful.
    This is basically how we do it. Info dumps at the start of a campaign have their place but a lot of players do not feel like committing tons of info to memory before the game even starts, and find it easier to handle in smaller bits, taking in new information if and when it becomes important to know it.

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    Default Re: How to handle the PC as the "Native Guide"

    Yeah if it's something very basic and we want to skip the roleplay aspect for time constraints, we do "Vaarsuvius tells you all that..." or "Vaarsuvius knows that..." Generally though, I prefer to deliver the results of a successful knowledge check only to the folks that succeeded at that check. Again, the goal is to make the smart player feel smart and make others want to come to them. This works especially well when different players are smart about different things, like the Fighter being able to chime in on Martial Lore.

    If the player in question doesn't feel like roleplaying their knowledge (common for the aforementioned martials that want to just grab an axe and bash things) they can simply say "I tell them what you told me" and then I as the DM can relay it normally. But I always want it to be the player's choice if I go that route wherever possible.


    Quote Originally Posted by The Giant View Post
    But really, the important lesson here is this: Rather than making assumptions that don't fit with the text and then complaining about the text being wrong, why not just choose different assumptions that DO fit with the text?
    Quote Originally Posted by gogogome View Post
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    Bugbear in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: How to handle the PC as the "Native Guide"

    Let your native guide roll and ask questions. Let's assume some sort of d20 system. In the case of courtly intrigue make a skill use like this one:

    When the character encounters an NPC for the first time, roll Knowledge (Court). On a 16+, let the player ask 3 questions. On a 11-15, the player may ask 1 question. On a 10 or lower, the player doesn't know much about this person.
    • What is this person's current primary goal?
    • What is a source of pride for this person?
    • What is a source of shame for this person?
    • What is a secret about this person?
    • What is a rumor circulating about this person?
    • How far is this person from the throne?
    • What is this person's best virtue?
    • What is this person's worst vice?


    You can do this for all knowledge skills really. It avoids info dumps and allows your players' knowledge skills to come in handy. Just make sure to tailor the questions to the play-style of the game at hand.
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    Default Re: How to handle the PC as the "Native Guide"

    ^ Do you provide "good questions" to the players ahead of time with that system? Because players can very easily ask the wrong things (since they don't know the right things to ask) rendering their knowledge check useless.


    Quote Originally Posted by The Giant View Post
    But really, the important lesson here is this: Rather than making assumptions that don't fit with the text and then complaining about the text being wrong, why not just choose different assumptions that DO fit with the text?
    Quote Originally Posted by gogogome View Post
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    Ogre in the Playground
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    Default Re: How to handle the PC as the "Native Guide"

    Quote Originally Posted by Thinker View Post
    When the character encounters an NPC for the first time, roll Knowledge (Court). On a 16+, let the player ask 3 questions. On a 11-15, the player may ask 1 question. On a 10 or lower, the player doesn't know much about this person.
    This is a Powered by the Apocalypse moves isn't it? That could also work, especially if you are willing to give them things with a real punch.

    To Psyren: If it is a Powered by the Apocalypse, you wait to decide what the right answers are after they have asked the questions. It is a very improvisational system. Or the variants I have played before.

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    Bugbear in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: How to handle the PC as the "Native Guide"

    Quote Originally Posted by Psyren View Post
    ^ Do you provide "good questions" to the players ahead of time with that system? Because players can very easily ask the wrong things (since they don't know the right things to ask) rendering their knowledge check useless.
    Yes. You should make clear the questions available ahead of time and the circumstances when they're available. If a player wants to use the knowledge for a different question, come up with a list of a few relevant questions. Ideally, you can anticipate what sort of information would be relevant to the group based on how you want the game to be played. A game of courtly intrigue will have very different relevant knowledge skills and questions from one about wilderness survival, which will have very different questions from a game about early 20th Century private investigators.

    Quote Originally Posted by Cluedrew View Post
    This is a Powered by the Apocalypse moves isn't it? That could also work, especially if you are willing to give them things with a real punch.

    To Psyren: If it is a Powered by the Apocalypse, you wait to decide what the right answers are after they have asked the questions. It is a very improvisational system. Or the variants I have played before.
    Yes. This is more or less the Powered by the Apocalypse model for knowledge, investigation, tracking, or similar skills. I find it can be a nice addition to other systems though. The key with improvising the answers is having a good idea about the world already as the GM and let the answers flow logically. You might not have considered what an NPC's secret is, but you might already know that he always hated his exiled brother-in-law and come up with the idea that he had a hand in the man's fall from grace.
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    Barbarian in the Playground
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    Default Re: How to handle the PC as the "Native Guide"

    I tend to combine it.

    At the start of the campaign a moderate size info dump about how the court works, what the factions are and how they relate, what the controversies are, how the standing of the PCs is and who his allies/enemies are.

    Then some details when it comes up. E.g. when the PCs meet some new noble, i would tell this player which faction the noble is part of and maybe 1-2 things he is known for.

    And then if the players ask about some detail, they would get the information based on a check.



    Those three things together usually work pretty well to let a PC be as knowledgable as he is supposed to while not requiring the player to memorize unreasonable amounts of setting details.

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