Playing Pathfinder the other day, my character wanted to shove one (cowardly) party member in front of another (badly injured) one. I asked the GM, "Is that doable?" and the GM replied, "Roll!"
So I rolled a success, and the GM said, "You successfully shove the cowardly guy forward! However, he stumbles and knocks into the injured woman, causing her to fall and provoking an Attack of Opportunity by the gremlins."
"Uh," I replied, "if that was a success, what was I rolling for? I asked you if it was doable."
"You rolled to push him!" the GM answered. "And you did. And this is what happens when you push people who weren't expecting it!"
Obviously there's a problem here -- "Is that doable?" isn't about whether I can push a guy, it's about whether I can push a guy into the specific position I stated, and the GM ought to answer me with "yes", "no", or "you can't tell" before the action's in motion. I know many ways to fix this, and I've been pondering which one will go over most easily, socially, with a GM I just met and who is used to being in charge during game time. As I've pondered, I've assumed that he'll be on board with fixing this obvious glitch. But just now, I realized:
To him, it might not be a glitch. He might like having players act in ignorance, so that he can come down on them with his own judgment of the consequences, as a surprise, and without anyone else weighing in.
This just occurred to me, because when I was first GMing, I used to do this. I initially did it just because my first GM had done it, and this sort of authority seemed to fit naturally with buying books and prepping dungeons and hosting and facilitating and all the other stuff the GM apparently did. But I kept doing it because it was fun. Not good, healthy, sustainable fun for the whole group -- I see that now, and that's why I don't do it anymore -- but fun nonetheless. The players want to do something, and in my head I form a vision of what'll happen that clashes with theirs, and right then, as they're bent on the outcome of their effort and looking to me in suspense, I get to surprise them and express my own vision and provoke a strong reaction. What a rush! Often it led to arguments or disappointed players, but in the end, they willingly bowed to my authority often enough to keep me coming back to that well.
If someone had asked me, "Hey, could you not do that? Could you give the players the info they want so they can make informed decisions?", I probably would have been so surprised that I would have responded, "You must not know what 'GM' means."
I'm the new guy in a group of friends who've played together before. I don't want to rock the boat any more than I have to. I don't want to tell the GM that I'll only have fun if I can take his toy away. Is there a way we can both be happy?