The GM as Judge -- how to stop it without ruining their fun?

edited March 2015 in Play Advice
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?
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Comments

  • I dunno man. In the same situation I would have interpreted him saying "roll" as meaning "roll to see if it's doable", which I would have done, and then the fiction would have crashed as soon as he said anything besides yes or no. But in his mind, saying "roll" may have meant "of course it's doable, provided you make the actual roll."

    Given those two interpretations, I'd have to say that the GM not only has a good chance of being as heavy-handed as you imply he is, but before that: he's the one who broke the clarity of the conversation.

    If no talking good, how GM is good to be alsoing?

  • edited March 2015
    This is obviously without enough context, but to me it looks like one of two things.

    Either the GM thinks their role is to be a real-life-simulator. And in real life you don't know for certain what will happen when you push someone until you do push them. He's being fair as he sees it, and describes the most likely consequences of an unexpected push as he sees them.

    Or the GM is following common passive-aggressive advice on how to deal with disruptive players without actually confronting them (by providing consistent, unpleasant consequences in-game to unwanted in-game behaviours).

    (Or he's doing what you described, which is something that never occurred to me but does explain a lot about the behaviour of a fledgling GM I played with a long time ago.)

    Also in my experience there's no way for a new guy in any group to provide negative feedback without stepping on someone's toes or ask for explanation why something happened without giving the vibe of questioning the authority.

    I suppose you could ask about how, in future, if you wanted to do XYZ, should you go about making sure that XYZ happens as described, without unintended consequences. This is basically asking about the preferred communication format of the GM, and the way they view the role of the GM.
  • edited March 2015
    I totally get your point about wanting to know consequences before rolling. I'm exploring the idea of playing more (I think) in something like Eero's style, so I'm curious, David, what you would think about this kind of response:

    David: "Is that doable?"
    Me: "Describe how you do that."

    Assuming you describe how your character does it, and the description contains intent (the part about the position you want him in), the way I would want to "resolve" that would be that you simply get what you want, or if I think it should be a challenge, I would start describing the obstacles in your way that you would have to roll against should you choose to go through with what you described and roll the dice. But you could step back from your description if you don't like the sound of the obstacles in your way.

    This is clearly not the same method as having a dialogue with me about stakes. That's why I'm curious what your take on it is.

    Edit: So about the part about ambushing you with unexpected consequences. For the most part, I think the consequences of your actions should be clear. You try to jump over a pit and fail and you fall into the pit. But there are at least two things here:

    1) Sometimes there are surprises. You climb a cliff and it starts to rain halfway through. Now you have a harder difficulty. In your example the surprise was the GM sort of punishing you for "not paying attention to the rules" That's my interpretation; that he thinks you weren't thinking out the consequences of moving a character near an enemy, the consequences of which in modern D&D is an AOO. I think with a game like modern D&D with all its rules, it's way better to do the "let's talk about stakes before rolling" thing. But this GM may very well think this is part of the fun: letting players "fall on the sword of the rules" until they know them well enough to not fall prey to the same consequences? Not my cup of tea since I abandoned pouring through tomes of rules-texts and character abilities years ago.

    2) This surprise happened even though you were successful on your roll. I can't imaging running a game like that, but I also dislike modern editions of D&D (just a matter of style-preference). Again, I don't think the GM cares/thinks about player intent. I think there is just a different agenda to get to the fun.
  • Also, to be clear: I think the GM's point of view is perfectly valid in his agenda. The rules are pretty clear about the message of what AOO is for. I don't know your GM here, but my experience has been that this is a common agenda for people who exclusively play one RPG: knowing the rules by heart and expecting the other players at the table to see the world's operation in light of those rules also. Or to learn to. Just my 2 cents.
  • My approach as a player would probably be to ask the GM point-blank as to why they judged the way they did, immediately when they judge in a way I do not understand. I'd ask on the spot whether it was OK to talk about it right here, now, as it's fresh. Either way, on the spot or after the session, I'd try to find out what the basis of the ruling was. After all, communication is key and the GM might have admirable justifications for their call.

    (As a GM I always have these discussions on the spot because I very much consider them part of the game. A GM's legitimacy rests on nothing but the justifications of their rulings, so how could you not encourage and embrace players who dare to call you on your bullshit...)

    Anyway, assuming the GM is amenable, perhaps you could ask them to fine-tune their play for the future. The particulars of how would presumably depend on your shared goals; it could be that he needs to predeclare consequences more thoroughly before rolls, or he needs to double-check that the players know what they're asking for, or he needs to outline risks explicitly before things are attempted, or whatever.
  • Tough call.

    I'd say that one experience isn't enough to make an informed decision from. You really need a bit more exposure to them to determine if the person is normally pretty solid, or makes 'bad calls' regularly, or if there's simply a different table environment than you're used to.

    I'd also say that as calls go, this one isn't all that bad really. I can see several 'outs' whereby the GM was acting well within scope and intent (BigJ mentions some). Without their input we'll never know the warrants for the decision, and therefore can't say with certainty. I don't personally find their choice there optimal by the way, just don't think it's awful either.

    Finally I'd mention that in many games, especially D&D (or directly derivative thereof), the DM is essentially God. Their power and influence is nearly limitless by design. Now, that can lead to abuse of power, or a mismatch between players and GM, but it can also lead to some pretty spectacular gaming...so long as the values and preferences of everyone present match. When they don't, and someone doesn't have fun because of it, it's not a 'right way to play' issue, it's a 'playing with the right group, or right game' issue. I don't think you'd be out of line to gather more info about the playstyle at the table to decide if it's something you're interested in, and doing so might communicate that you're questioning the fit enough that for the DM to make allowances, at least until you're 'up to speed'.
  • edited March 2015
    I dunno man. In the same situation I would have interpreted him saying "roll" as meaning "roll to see if it's doable", which I would have done, and then the fiction would have crashed as soon as he said anything besides yes or no. But in his mind, saying "roll" may have meant "of course it's doable, provided you make the actual roll."
    Except that he didn't use EITHER of those explanations. He instead basically meant, "If you roll, something will happen, and it won't necessarily be your intent, even if you succeed on the roll."

    I think your second interpretation is a perfectly legitimate thing for a reasonable GM to have meant. Unfortunately, the thing he actually meant is not.

    Also, Big_J_Money - I don't really understand where you are coming from here. What you describe as "Tell me what you do and I'll tell you what the obstacles/potential consequences are" is exactly a "discussion of stakes". Just because it's framed fictionally doesn't make it not a discussion of stakes. In fact, almost all discussions of stakes are framed fictionally, because the vast majority of the stakes ARE fictional. The only time it they're not is if the discussion is along the lines of "Just how much damage would I take from the fall?" because there's a direct mechanical 'real world' (even if it's just numbers on paper) consequence.

    Also, I disagree that the GM is within the rules here. First, I can't find anything anywhere for any D&D version that indicates that falling prone triggers an attack of opportunity (it clearly does NOT in 4E, and I'm pretty sure it doesn't in 3/3.5, though standing up from prone does). Second, the whole issue here isn't "he bumped into her and knocked her over, causing an AoO" but rather "My intent was to push him in FRONT of her, not INTO her, so why did he bump into her if I succeeded on my roll?" Or maybe you just misunderstand the circumstances? He's NOT complaining that the opponent got an attack against the person he PUSHED (in fact, as far as I can tell from the example, the enemy didn't get an AoO against the person they probably should have), he's complaining that the opponent got an AoE against the person he was trying to PROTECT (who, by all rights, should not have been involved in this action at all, except perhaps as part of a fail state). So no, I don't think there's a rules leg to stand on here.

    Similarly, phoenix182, I don't really think a "DM is all powerful! Kneel before Zod!" actually applies here either. This is right up there with "I shoot the goblin! I rolled a 20!" "Okay, you shoot your buddy who was standing along the line of fire! Hey, sorry, but melee is chaotic!" It's essentially denying the player agency.

    All that said, I don't really think there's a "comfortable" way to have this conversation. As framed, the GM clearly has different expectations. I would be strongly tempted to explain my stance and then bow out of the game, but I don't think that would make the point clear either.
  • Run. Don't look back.
  • edited March 2015
    Aw, it is a trust and social contract issue. This happens occasionally in both my groups - a statement is expanded on, embellished, maybe willfully misinterpreted, and it results in some complication or challenge. Or a question is answered with descriptive action. Because we carry our character agency lightly and are always looking out for interesting outcomes, and because we trust each other not to be dicks about it, it is a net gain. This not only happens GM-to-player, but also player-to-player. If the chain of events is really important to someone we just roll it back amicably.

    If your GM is doing this because of ignorance, or to demonstrate power, or for some other dumb reason, you should talk about it. But this behavior in and of itself can be great.
  • Seems like you handled it fine, David.
    It seems to me that you don't need to roll to push someone like that.
    What would have happened if you missed? "You push the air beside him, like the goofball you are"?
    You put it pretty well when you said: "if that was a success, what was I rolling for?" With that, you've said your piece.

    I agree with Jason also, this sort of thing happens sometimes. People talk past each other.
    DMs make bad calls. I'm the best DM of all time and even I make a lot of bad calls, every game. In the heat of the moment.
  • edited March 2015
    Seems like you handled it fine, David.
    It seems to me that you don't need to roll to push someone like that.
    What would have happened if you missed? "You push the air beside him, like the goofball you are"?
    The result that happened on a "success" here seems like a perfectly legitimate failure case. I think that's part of the original complaint - it's a "success" that feels more like a failure because of a change to the intent. Similarly, "You push him, but he doesn't move" or "you push him, and he just falls over where he is" are perfectly acceptable fail states.

    I agree with Jason also, this sort of thing happens sometimes. People talk past each other.
    DMs make bad calls. I'm the best DM of all time and even I make a lot of bad calls, every game. In the heat of the moment.
    I dunno, this feels less like a "bad call" and more like a mismatch of expectations to me.


  • So no, I don't think there's a rules leg to stand on here.

    Similarly, phoenix182, I don't really think a "DM is all powerful! Kneel before Zod!" actually applies here either. This is right up there with "I shoot the goblin! I rolled a 20!" "Okay, you shoot your buddy who was standing along the line of fire! Hey, sorry, but melee is chaotic!" It's essentially denying the player agency.

    Agreed, it's not RAW. It should have been on the one he pushed (or himself), and only if the push resulted in movement in/out of a threatened square or other provoking action (and I don't think even a trip provokes). Going prone doesn't provoke, as you said.

    In early versions of D&D (pre-3rd) players have very little agency, and the DM truly is God. He can ignore any rule, change any rule, and dictate reality through narrative fiat. While what you describe is ridiculous, it would be well within RAW in those early editions. Such a DM would likely lose all his players, but he would technically be acting within the rules. Since this was Pathfinder (which was based on 3.5) I would expect a natural inclination more towards technical rules, and less towards DMcentric fiat. However, if they come from an earlier edition background I can easily see how they'd slip back more towards that style, hence my mentioning it.
  • However, if they come from an earlier edition background I can easily see how they'd slip back more towards that style, hence my mentioning it.
    That's true; It might just be a 'force of habit' thing, in which case it might work to just politely point out "That's not actually what the rules say should happen."
  • edited March 2015
    Seems like you handled it fine, David.
    It seems to me that you don't need to roll to push someone like that.
    What would have happened if you missed? "You push the air beside him, like the goofball you are"?
    The result that happened on a "success" here seems like a perfectly legitimate failure case. I think that's part of the original complaint - it's a "success" that feels more like a failure because of a change to the intent. Similarly, "You push him, but he doesn't move" or "you push him, and he just falls over where he is" are perfectly acceptable fail states.
    I agree.
    The DM should've handled it in one of two ways:
    "Sure, you can push him. Let's have a roll to see how well that goes" (And then roll some sort of "awareness" on the NPC or whatevs.
    Or tweak the rules -- if only for a moment -- to be more "conflict resolution" (intent focused) than "task resolution" (action focused). I do this all the time. Failure in my campaign doesn't mean "You're a goof". It means "You didn't get what you wanted".


    Or, well, just let it succeed, easiest.

    That said, I didn't get that the thread was "What should the DM have done, boo, bad DM", I thought it was "What should David, the player, do in that situation?"
    And I thought he handled it perfectly. He said pretty much the perfect thing to say. He noted it. He moved on. He can remember it if similar bad calls come up. He can talk about the GM after the session.
    Mismatches of expectations are the most common cause of bad calls; it's pretty much a hyponymical relationship. If you want to argue semantics.
  • edited March 2015
    Mismatches of expectations are the most common cause of bad calls; it's pretty much a hyponymical relationship. If you want to argue semantics.
    At risk of nitpicking, I think they are two separate things. One is a fundamental misunderstanding, and the other is just a lapse of judgement. It's the difference between meaning well and not.

    In any event, in terms of how to handle it, I think that the non-confrontation described feels inadequate to David (or so I infer from the fact that he's posted asking for advice), so it's probably not a perfect handling of the situation by the one metric that matters.
  • edited March 2015
    I get it now; we're talking about whether or not this was a one-time-laps, shit-I'm-tired bad call or an all-the-time, this-is-how-I-roll bad call. But I don't think there's anyway to know that after just one thing.

    I was just so happy with "You call that a success?". Perfectly put.
  • It is one moment in a game so I would be careful of projecting your own GM history into this guy when it comes to deciphering intent. It is entirely possible this group would view hashing out outcomes like Attack of Opportunity S putting the cart before the horse if they place greater emphasis on in character point of view. From that standpoint this could have been more about you only getting info available to your character. i do think it would still make more sense if your character knew there was a risk involved in the push. But it is a bit hard to go by the one example.

    What were the other players' reactions? If you are the only one that seems upset it is probably just how they do things and the group might not be right for you. In that case trying to alter how they do things could just be disruptive. If on the other hand, the players seemed to share your frustration, it may be a sign he has habits that are at odds with the group and could use some constructive feedback.
  • I think, from a player's perspective, one way you might approach this is to ask a lot of questions about what different outcomes may mean before you roll the die. Be clear about what outcome you want (and what you want to avoid), and ask: Will success get me what I want? Is there a way to get what I want in the circumstances without rolling? What will happen if I fail? Is there a way to avoid a bad outcome without rolling?

    I mean, actual judges in real-life courtrooms aren't supposed to behave the way you describe. Arbitrators and referees and umpires aren't supposed to behave like this. They're supposed to clarify the issues at play in a given situation and explain the stakes well so all parties understand what's going on. They're supposed to always say what honesty and the rules require them to say.

    I think if your DM isn't willing to give honest answers and help you reach a consensus on what the stakes of a given roll are, it speaks to a deeper problem of the DM monopolizing the fiction.
  • I think, from a player's perspective, one way you might approach this is to ask a lot of questions about what different outcomes may mean before you roll the die.
    Yes. Dice rolling as "betting". Maybe this.

  • I realize my earlier response may have been a bit hyperbolic, but, in my defense, such a response from a GM does not, in my experience, indicate fatigue or the 1987 Pink Floyd album—it indicates genuine godmoding. And it's not just bad in the moment, it is, to borrow from Eero, unhygienic. That is, if you can do it now, where a success doesn't actually get you anything, why not do it later? Or all the time? Or vice versa, where you rolled a failure but nothing bad happens to you?
  • edited March 2015
    Because this isn't the Forge, I'm gonna be lazy and not bother to prove that my assessment of what happened, and of the GM's orientation, is correct. But I'm confident that it is.

    This was my third session with this group, and the GM has often responded to character actions that he judged to be ill-advised with, "Ha ha, that was dumb, now you're in trouble." I'm fine with winding up in trouble if I have any sense of the risks involved, and I'm also fine with being told "your character can't tell, so you're signing up for the GM's judgment!" The only thing I dislike is when my job is to determine "what can I do that will be useful here", and I don't have access to the relevant factors in judging that.

    If the group were playing as Jason describes -- interesting outcomes over character agency -- then I'd welcome the ignorance and simply strive mainly to be colorful and interesting. But this is a Pathfinder dungeon crawl, and no one seems eager to lose hit points because I decided to (e.g.) roleplay an interesting character reaction instead of choosing the optimal attack.

    Part of the problem is probably that I just find a long series of to-hit rolls with zero fictional positioning to be boring as hell, so I'm trying to mix it up. Unlike the min-maxed orc in the party, who gets to revel in doing 30+ damage per hit, my guy's a wizard, and when I chose that class I wasn't thinking that "wait until your initiative rolls around and roll to hit with your crossbow" would be the bulk of my contribution. I figured I could use my cute little first-level spells to distract opponents and make them waste actions at the very least -- but that depends on being able to agree with the GM on what's possible in the fiction.

    It's possible that my default job is to be irrelevant in combats and contribute elsewhere, which is something I could live with if we weren't playing a giant dungeon module.

    The other players seem mostly content to revel in their characters' mechanical combat abilities during fights, and provide comic relief whenever we're not fighting. I'm right there with them for the comedy; just looking for ways to engage with the dungeon crawl too.

    I absolutely can force the info I want out of the GM, simply by refusing to roll until I can get answers about whether a successful roll will accomplish my aim or whatnot, but I suspect that'd produce some unwelcome friction and, as I said, take the GM's "gotcha!" toy away.

    What I'm hoping to find is a way to let the GM play his "gotcha"s and also let me interact meaningfully with the dungeon.
  • edited March 2015
    I realize my earlier response may have been a bit hyperbolic, but, in my defense, such a response from a GM does not, in my experience, indicate fatigue or the 1987 Pink Floyd album—it indicates genuine godmoding. And it's not just bad in the moment, it is, to borrow from Eero, unhygienic. That is, if you can do it now, where a success doesn't actually get you anything, why not do it later? Or all the time? Or vice versa, where you rolled a failure but nothing bad happens to you?
    I think the issue is he was trying to do something very specific in combat. There is a legitimate approach to the game where the players are free to say what they want to try and the GM has to use some judgment to decide what possible outcomes that can lead to. Some choices the players make are going to have nothing but bad to somewhat bad results. Rolling a die doesnt change that necessarily. I't isn't just a game of rules and dice rolls but a game of choices and decisions. I am not sure the GM made the best call in this particular case, but I wouldn't say it is unhygienic for a GM to decide what the potential results of a successful roll are and not the player (I know as a player I like having the GM apply judgment here).
  • Brendan, I hope my last reply clarifies that "GM decides" is not my issue here.


  • What I'm hoping to find is a way to let the GM play his "gotcha"s and also let me interact meaningfully with the dungeon.
    I think the only way to do that is talk privately with him and see what his expectations are and what he is willing to do. I would be diplomatic (I wouldn't call it a "Gotcha toy" in the conversation) but be clear about what the problem for you is. If he is a reasonable person, you should be able to express your concern and he should be willing to find some kind of compromise (unless there is some sort of deep play style issue that makes that impossible for either of you). But if this is something he isn't willing to change, resents changing, or the group has zero concern for, I think your only two remaining options are to tolerate it and remain in the game or find a new group.

    Aside from this one part of play, how much are enjoying the rest of it?
  • Hey Dave, your question was "can we both be happy?"

    I am going to guess that the answer is "no" in this situation. You're new; the rest of them like the way he runs his game.
  • Brendan, yeah, I guess "gotcha toy" doesn't sound very flattering. I don't know the guy well enough to know how sensitive he is, so my plan is definitely to be polite. I also agree that "privately" is the way to go -- much as I hate the idea of a GM feeling the need to stand up for their authority in front of the group, I'm not gonna pretend it's not a thing.

    Of the three other players in the group, one seems to also want to be able to make some fiction-based strategic decisions (the most excitement he showed all session was during my planning to light the gremlin cave on fire), another seems to want to do that only very occasionally and otherwise make jokes and inflict huge amounts of damage, and the third guy seems to enjoy doing the obvious in fights and otherwise heckling every PC and NPC in the game with innuendo or braggadocio.

    I am loving the comedic aspect of the game -- for example, our orc was raised by an intelligent axe and thinks our goblin is a baby orc. I am also enjoying the minor developments in our relationships with the townsfolk around the dungeon, and it's cool to see each new monster in the dungeon and go, "Whoa! What is that?" I'm also fine with HP loss as a pacing mechanism for when we leave the dungeon to get healed; the unpredictability of "How far will we get this time?" is kinda fun. I was also psyched for the premise of the adventure, which is about a crashed meteor, an extinguished magical flame, and a missing friend, but we've yet to actually encounter anything that sheds light on any of those.
  • edited March 2015
    Jason, perhaps. I hold out hope that both of us can be flexible.

    Even if the GM doesn't need to change anything, I'd like to think it's possible that he might do it anyway, just to be nice. It certainly isn't going to ruin the other three players' fun if he adds a little "here's what your character can see, which bears on your decision" description. Who knows? Maybe he'll want to support my desire to be useful in fights, and we can find a way to agree on how that could happen!

    Failing that, though, perhaps I can just give up on useful dungeoneering and find the fun elsewhere. Maybe I can find a new comedy niche, or act awed at the other characters' combat prowess and pump their players up or something. It is a fun group of guys to hang out with, so the gameplay certainly doesn't have to be seamless for me to enjoy my evening. (If this ever winds up conflicting with my more creatively fulfilling World Wide Wrestling game, though, WWW is totally gonna win.)
  • "If I were to succeed in this roll right now, would I know whether or not I had a chance of being happy with the result?"

  • To some extent the GM in a dungeon crawl situation has to have the power to say "you successfully attempted to do a stupid thing. Here are the consequences." or else there's no consequences for playing intelligently OR stupidly. BBrendan has it covered.
  • edited March 2015
    Right. That's what's rendered impossible by withholding information. No plan can be either intelligent or stupid if the GM's not sharing the relevant variables.

    If the GM lets me know that successfully shoving the guy will (or even might) send him into the injured woman rather than past her, then I would (intelligently) choose not to do that.

    If I do a stupid thing because of impatience or poor risk/reward assessment, punish me! But if I do an apparently intelligent thing, and then you introduce reasons why it's actually stupid, the results aren't consequences, they're just random.

    If you envision the passage as being too narrow or the character spacing as being wrong for me to shove one PC past another, please tell me that when I ask, "Is that doable?"

    I'm not saying this is intractable. I know plenty of solutions. Just pondering which ones might be most feasible here.
  • David, show him the Delve comics!
  • I suspect if you asked him he would think he had given you sufficient information to reach that determination, or that you intentionally decided not to ask for specific information that could have helped you with that. Give it a shot and see!
  • I hope you're right, J.D.! I am always happy to ask for more specific information. :)

    Sandra, I certainly don't want to push an entire play style on this poor guy! But if the right opportunity arises, I might mention the comics to him in a "just in case you're interested in this sort of thing" way. Good call.
  • With the private
    Right. That's what's rendered impossible by withholding information. No plan can be either intelligent or stupid if the GM's not sharing the relevant variables.

    If the GM lets me know that successfully shoving the guy will (or even might) send him into the injured woman rather than past her, then I would (intelligently) choose not to do that.
    .
    I think where I might quibble here is I think the GM has no obligation to tell you what a success will mean. He only has to tell you what your character can sense about the situation. I do think if it is easily foreseeable that you shoving one character foreword might hit another character, then the GM does need to say something like "You certainly can shove her but you also think so and so might be in her pathway" (though in some circumstances that may be something you can't see from your vantage point). So I don't think the GM needs to say "if you succeed, this will be the outcome" he just needs to have given you enough information about the situation that you can make an informed choice. It sounds like he wasn't doing that though in this case.
  • It seems to me that he's messing up IIEE basics which I wouldn't necessarily attribute to malice or god-mode, just a lack of exposure to other ideas.
    Maybe his way is good, don't shove people.
  • I'm a little confused here. Did the GM at least explain why your maneuver triggered an AOO? Did he point to a rule after the session or something?

    I guess I misunderstood your OP. I didn't realize you meant to push the other character prone. I thought you were pushing them forward, and the reason this triggered an AOO was that they passed through a 5-foot square that triggered one.

    If the GM is making up house rules that trigger AOO just because he doesn't know what else to do with your fictional input, that's even more frustrating than what I had imagined. :(

    FWIW, I'll go back to what I said about some players who have only exclusively played one RPG, and specifically D&D. Some GMs are so used to relying on the rules in the text that this is all they know. They don't know how to handle more creative input. So you might just not be compatible with this group if the GM doesn't know how to handle your style in a way that's fun for him and everyone else.

    @Airk - If you don't understand, then you don't. To me there is a significant difference in play style between discussing stakes solely through the fiction versus out of the fiction. It's not that I'm aggressively opposed to doing it out of the fiction, it's just that it's my last resort. Also, my question to David wasn't "would this have been a viable way to resolve your frustrating situation" but it was "how do you think things would play out if I were the GM, and had done this instead?" (i.e. do you think this approach would have avoided such a frustrating situation to begin with).

    @Eero - Ok, it's interesting to know you have these discussions. It sounds like you save it for situations where someone feels slighted, or as if something has not gone according to their expectations, right?
  • I'm a little confused here. Did the GM at least explain why your maneuver triggered an AOO? Did he point to a rule after the session or something?

    I guess I misunderstood your OP. I didn't realize you meant to push the other character prone. I thought you were pushing them forward, and the reason this triggered an AOO was that they passed through a 5-foot square that triggered one.
    Since the moving character isn't even the one that received the attack of opportunity, I don't believe this is the case.
  • Yeah I reread the scenario more carefully: "causing her to fall and provoking an AOO"

    That does sound like the falling character provoked the AOO, and I don't remember if falling characters normally do that.

    In any case, that is even more different than how I read it at first. The real rub probably has nothing to do with the AOO itself, but the fact that the shoved character fell down in the first place. From David's description of intent here (to get a cowardly character in front of the injured one), it's easy to see what's so frustrating about that result.

    Sorry David, because nothing I wrote addressed this. I'll read more carefully next time :-/

    The only thing that addressed it, I guess, is the part where I said basically that this is why modern editions of D&D would do better with discussions of stakes up front. And your GM refused you that. Maybe if you have a discussion outside the game about why he takes that approach and if he could try something different in your case; if he'd be okay with learning a new technique (stakes discussion).
  • The technique this guy needs to learn isn't "stakes setting," it's "not cheating."
  • edited March 2015
    I am no Pathfinder rules expert, so I might be naming things incorrectly. Perhaps it wasn't an AOO. All I know for sure is that the injured character (controlled by the GM -- we have 3 players and 4 adventurers) fell over without a roll and was immediately stabbed by gremlins.

    My intent was not to push anyone prone; my intent was that both characters would be upright and ready to fight, but that the healthy guy would provide a closer target for the gremlins than the injured woman.
    I do think if it is easily foreseeable that you shoving one character foreword might hit another character, then the GM does need to say something like "You certainly can shove her but you also think so and so might be in her pathway" (though in some circumstances that may be something you can't see from your vantage point). So I don't think the GM needs to say "if you succeed, this will be the outcome" he just needs to have given you enough information about the situation that you can make an informed choice.
    Agreed 100%! That's my preference. "Here's what will happen if you succeed" is completely unnecessary in this game, in my opinion (which is why I specified "might").

    If the GM rejects our first preference, though, I do think that at that point a guarantee would be better than nothing.
  • edited March 2015
    The technique this guy needs to learn isn't "stakes setting," it's "not cheating."
    I just figured explicit stakes setting would be a fun way to motivate him to learn to not to cheat. Because I'm still giving him the benefit of the doubt -- that he's "cheating by habit", not by malicous intent. It would be a pretty damn obvious / catchable way to try to cheat!

  • Well, true. And it's true that 3.5/PF does have a lot of weird little rules for provoking AoO's (though I'm pretty sure that isn't one of them—if it was, then you'd get AoO's every time you got dropped to zero HP in melee!).
  • Well, true. And it's true that 3.5/PF does have a lot of weird little rules for provoking AoO's (though I'm pretty sure that isn't one of them—if it was, then you'd get AoO's every time you got dropped to zero HP in melee!).
    Now that I think about it that probably IS why, because rising from prone does provoke, so logically so should dropping.
  • I think an important point to figure out here is whether this group plays RAW or whether they just see things like AoO as potential tools for the GM to employ in rulings.
  • edited March 2015
    This was my third session with this group, and the GM has often responded to character actions that he judged to be ill-advised with, "Ha ha, that was dumb, now you're in trouble." I'm fine with winding up in trouble if I have any sense of the risks involved, and I'm also fine with being told "your character can't tell, so you're signing up for the GM's judgment!" The only thing I dislike is when my job is to determine "what can I do that will be useful here", and I don't have access to the relevant factors in judging that.
    From that comment, it sounds to me that the relevant factors are supposed to be the Pathfinder rules, and that the GM's prodding is meant to encourage learning them. The GM might consider the players' job to be to know the rules and use them to their advantage, or to learn them through trial and error.

    That said, the example in your initial post was decidedly off from the Pathfinder rules; in Pathfinder, shoving people around is explicitly covered by the rules in some detail, and it works out quite differently (and arguably, more reasonably): 1) you attempt to shove the coward; 2) he gets an attack of opportunity against you, making your shove more difficult if he hits you; 3) if you make your check, you shove him, conceivably protecting the injured character by making him a more convenient target for the enemy; 4) he doesn't provoke attacks of opportunity for being shoved; 5) even if you do shove him into the injured woman, which is something that should be under your control, she doesn't fall down, he just bumps into her and stops moving.
    Part of the problem is probably that I just find a long series of to-hit rolls with zero fictional positioning to be boring as hell, so I'm trying to mix it up. Unlike the min-maxed orc in the party, who gets to revel in doing 30+ damage per hit, my guy's a wizard, and when I chose that class I wasn't thinking that "wait until your initiative rolls around and roll to hit with your crossbow" would be the bulk of my contribution. I figured I could use my cute little first-level spells to distract opponents and make them waste actions at the very least -- but that depends on being able to agree with the GM on what's possible in the fiction.

    It's possible that my default job is to be irrelevant in combats and contribute elsewhere, which is something I could live with if we weren't playing a giant dungeon module.
    Speaking from my experience of what is typical for Pathfinder, you're mostly right about the expected contribution of a low-level wizard in a dungeon crawl, but you're not necessarily right about the need for some sort of negotiation with the GM. The spells' effects are quite explicitly described, and you can mostly expect them to work as written.

    It might seem reasonable to be able to distract an enemy by making their sword light up with a light spell, but that's not what the Pathfinder light spell says it does: it just lights something up, no distraction. On the other hand, color spray is intended and described as a visual distraction spell, so if that's what you want to do, that's what you should use. No negotiation on what's possible in the fiction necessary, or (by most Pathfinder GMs, in my experience) expected.
    What I'm hoping to find is a way to let the GM play his "gotcha"s and also let me interact meaningfully with the dungeon.
    One way to do as above, learn the rules and play them to your advantage, giving you your own gotchas.

    But then there's a very real danger that might be labeled rules lawyering, rules abuse, or bucking the authority of the GM.
  • If the GM lets me know that successfully shoving the guy will (or even might) send him into the injured woman rather than past her, then I would (intelligently) choose not to do that.

    If I do a stupid thing because of impatience or poor risk/reward assessment, punish me! But if I do an apparently intelligent thing, and then you introduce reasons why it's actually stupid, the results aren't consequences, they're just random.
    Did you carefully study the relevant rules (bull rush)? Were you using a grid and miniatures, and were you paying attention to the relative positions of yourself, the coward, the injured woman, and the enemies?

    A lot of people, especially new players or players used to more narrative games, won't do that, relying on the at-the-table conversation to make those details clear, and a lot of enthusiastic Pathfinder players, especially GMs with a bit of an authoritarian bent, will see that precisely as impatience or poor risk/reward assessment, deserving of punishment in order to encourage learning.
  • edited March 2015
    I am no Pathfinder rules expert, so I might be naming things incorrectly. Perhaps it wasn't an AOO. All I know for sure is that the injured character (controlled by the GM -- we have 3 players and 4 adventurers) fell over without a roll and was immediately stabbed by gremlins.[/quote]
    Oh, I misunderstood for my earlier post, I though that the coward provoked an AoO (I think you're using correct terminology, an AoO is an out of turn attack for providing an opening by doing something you shouldn't have).

    That's another departure from the rules: you should be able to see, know, and say whether you shove the coward into the injured woman; even if you shove him into her, neither should fall down; even if she does fall down, she shouldn't provoke an AoO.

    [quote]My intent was not to push anyone prone; my intent was that both characters would be upright and ready to fight, but that the healthy guy would provide a closer target for the gremlins than the injured woman.
    As an experienced Pathfinder player, I just want to say: that's a pretty nice contribution to the fight for a low-level wizard, useful, unexpected, and quite strictly within the rules. It might not be to the liking of the shoved character considering you've described him as a coward, but I can easily see a character wanting to be shoved like that: you're basically using your shove action to give him a free move, and actions are one of the most precious resources in Pathfinder combat.
  • edited March 2015
    Great points, @shimrod, thanks! It's been so long that I played with a group that venerates rules mastery that I am severely out of synch with that. If I had pulled out official Bull Rush rules, I have no doubt that the GM would have honored them. Unfortunately, I don't enjoy memorizing which special-case rules apply to every situation, so I'm never going to be on top of that. My go-to for rules in this game is my friend Will (playing the orc), who does enjoy rules-mastery and generally remembers the rules better than the GM does. Next time I want to do something and I don't know how it's adjudicated, perhaps I should ask Will for rules rather than asking the GM for fictional positioning.

    We had minis on a map, and from that it looked to me like there was probably room to push the coward past the injured woman, but I was translating into the fiction by thinking about "so the mini's base isn't there in the fiction" rather than just asking about hex rules.

    One thing, though -- although an explicit, unmistakable rule is indeed treated as a final authority at this table, rules are definitely not the GM's starting point. He didn't mention a single rule about hexes or movement or bull-rush etc. when making his determination. Maybe some rules informed his judgment, maybe not, but he certainly didn't reference them aloud.

    If he wanted to punish me for poor rules-use, then I wish he'd clued me in to the fact that that was happening. I'm guessing, though, that he simply formed a vision of the fiction in which it was a dumb move, and arbitrated as per that vision.

    The fact that Will didn't jump in with the Bull Rush rules makes me guess that rules-lawyering generally isn't worth it to this group, and that poking the GM's authority in that way might be unwelcome. But perhaps I can find a polite way around it. I'll check in with Will -- I don't know if he can help, but if he can, it'll be a much easier conversation than the one with the GM. (Will's the guy at the table who I actually knew before I joined, and is much more chill than the GM.)
  • I GM'd for a rules mastery group for a while. That is a whole thing unto itself. One of the benefits was I really got to know the 3E rules system as a result. One of the downsides, at least for me, was I felt the rules started to dominate what was possible in the game (and one of the attractions for me as both player and GM is the sense that anything is possible).
  • Great points, @shimrod, thanks! It's been so long that I played with a group that venerates rules mastery that I am severely out of synch with that. If I had pulled out official Bull Rush rules, I have no doubt that the GM would have honored them. Unfortunately, I don't enjoy memorizing which special-case rules apply to every situation, so I'm never going to be on top of that. My go-to for rules in this game is my friend Will (playing the orc), who does enjoy rules-mastery and generally remembers the rules better than the GM does. Next time I want to do something and I don't know how it's adjudicated, perhaps I should ask Will for rules rather than asking the GM for fictional positioning.
    That's might be a good idea, people who enjoy rules mastery often enjoy sharing it with their teammates, and it's often viewed as more appropriate to ask for help or suggestions from teammates than the GM, who provides opposition, or impartial judgment at best, rather than assistance.
    We had minis on a map, and from that it looked to me like there was probably room to push the coward past the injured woman, but I was translating into the fiction by thinking about "so the mini's base isn't there in the fiction" rather than just asking about hex rules.
    Yeah, that seems like it would lead to disappointment in most typical Pathfinder games in my experience. The rules are quite precise, and if you're playing by the rules (and know them), a look at the grid tells you unambiguously whether there's room to push someone, whether or not you will provoke an attack from an enemy with a dagger, an enemy with a sword, an enemy rider with a lance... which might seem like details requiring fictional clarification to someone more used to a different playstyle.
    One thing, though -- although an explicit, unmistakable rule is indeed treated as a final authority at this table, rules are definitely not the GM's starting point. He didn't mention a single rule about hexes or movement or bull-rush etc. when making his determination. Maybe some rules informed his judgment, maybe not, but he certainly didn't reference them aloud.
    Maybe he just didn't know or recall the relevant rules at the time. Pathfinder has a lot of rules, and it can be difficult to remember to apply them rigorously.

    This, together with Pathfinder's general design philosophy that characters can try almost anything, but are only really good at stuff they really apply themselves to, means that it's not entirely unreasonable for a GM to rule that if your character tries something you don't know the rules for, it should probably go wrong.
    If he wanted to punish me for poor rules-use, then I wish he'd clued me in to the fact that that was happening. I'm guessing, though, that he simply formed a vision of the fiction in which it was a dumb move, and arbitrated as per that vision.
    I don't know the people involved, but I'm not sure a typical Pathfinder player even shares so much vocabulary with a typical story gamer. Are you sure your GM even thinks in terms of "poor rules-use decision" vs. "poor action-in-the-fiction decision"?
    The fact that Will didn't jump in with the Bull Rush rules makes me guess that rules-lawyering generally isn't worth it to this group, and that poking the GM's authority in that way might be unwelcome.
    That's a good observation.
    But perhaps I can find a polite way around it. I'll check in with Will -- I don't know if he can help, but if he can, it'll be a much easier conversation than the one with the GM. (Will's the guy at the table who I actually knew before I joined, and is much more chill than the GM.)
    Maybe just ask Will straight up for his opinion on the matter? Should you learn and stick to the rules? Should you ask for more clarification? Does the fiction have a bearing on results?
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