Forums Gaming Chat Roleplaying Player-Facing Knowledge, the Use Thereof

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  • #733850

    Pencil-Monkey
    • Posts : 5728
    • Mind Flayer

    One of the site contributors, the Sugar-Fuelled Gamers, used some interesting methods in their World’s Most Wonderous Year campaign. The GM planned out seven adventures (one per PC, which let everyone get a chance to have their backstory influence the game), and told the players up front about the titles and general nature of each scenario, e.g. pulp archaeological pyramid exploration, time travel, Scottish murder mystery in front of a camera crew, etc.

    The players could then pick which order they wanted to play through the adventures, while being required to maintain player/character separation of knowledge; for example, the players couldn’t research the name “Sekhmet” before traveling to Egypt, since the PCs wouldn’t learn that it was relevant until they got there.

    So, discussion time:

    Have you (or your GM) ever tried something like that in your own games? What’s your opinion on the use of “player-facing knowledge” in a tabletop RPG? Is it better to try to keep the players in the dark, so you can surprise them? Or do you enjoy the added interactivity and cooperative game-play between players and GM?

    #733852

    Reverse
    • Posts : 46
    • Flumph

    Oddly enough, I have tried something like that in one of my games 🙂

    It’s often a hard road to walk, between giving the players an idea of what they’re in for, and not taking away the mystery and joy of discovery.

    It’s particularly relevant in a long campaign, where you want character concepts to be valid from start to finish

    I have several opinions on this:

    No Bait and Switch campaigns. If it appears to be about being Space Traders, then turns into a game of Aliens, tell the players “Make ordinary Space Traders, who will be caught up in an Aliens-esqe planet of horrible dangers”. If the players make Marines as characters, reject them, and start again “The point is to play ordinary people in over your heads.” It avoids you getting players who don’t want to play Aliens, gets players who do want to play Aliens, and avoids annoying the players who have written backstories about the goods they intend to trade and their various merchant contacts. Likewise, if your campaign is set on a train, there’s often not a lot of point in making an African Big Game Hunter who specialises in Wilderness Lore and Helicopter Piloting as a character (if it is, I’ll often broadly hint as the GM “although there appears to be no reason to take Survival in a city-based campaign, it might come up in a later segment”).

    If it’s something that comes out in the first session or two, spoil it in advance at Session Zero. Call of Cthulhu, particularly, often relies on quest givers who have enough information to tell you the plot, but die before they can impart it, leaving only clues that need to be investigated. Endeavouring to prevent the characters from stopping his death can be a real pain and relies on a lot of railroading (“Tropes suggest he’s going to die, so I go hang around his house for no reason to prevent a murder my character doesn’t know about”), whereas players who accept that the NPC is doomed enjoy the “Hmm, he seems a little paranoid. I guess there’s nothing to worry about – Oh My God, my dear friend has been killed!” aspect.

    Players who lack player knowledge can’t make valid decisions, so they might as well be flipping a coin. If there’s a choice of 7 adventures to go on, like in World’s Most Wonderous Year, but no information on them, you might as well just roll a D7 to pick. If you have a few snippets on information, it’s actually a valid choice (“This one is urban spy adventure, this one is a Jungle Safari. Which sounds like more fun?”)

    Of course, it relies on players not metagaming that information, and enjoying not metagaming that information. Our Curse of the Crimson Throne game has Castle Scarwall, a haunted ruin full of undead outside of the city. The players know that sooner or later, they’ll end up heading there (because why would it be described if it wasn’t important, it sounds like a DnD adventure waiting to happen, and castles full of undead are cool). Yet they aren’t stocking up on holy water and all multi-classing into cleric, because although it seems obvious it’ll happen, they don’t know the when or the how, and the characters have no real reason to look into it. But I think the players will have more fun when they get there precisely because they know Castle Scarwall is something of importance that relates to the plot, rather than just a thing that pops up on the radar with no foreshadowing (anyone who’s listening to a Sugar Fuelled Gamers campaign knows I love my foreshadowing!).

    Kaylen, our PC in Kingmaker, receives prophetic visions at the start of each book. Rather than spoiling events (because they’re vague), it makes the player excited to figure out what might happen and why.

    Ultimately, it depends on if that style is fun for the players, and it doesn’t fit all games. In a wandering exploration game, or shorter one-shots, or a ‘make it up as I go along’ campaign, that style of meta-knowledge isn’t advisable.

    #733853

    Pencil-Monkey
    • Posts : 5728
    • Mind Flayer

    Plenty of excellent points, there. 🙂

    Call of Cthulhu, particularly, often relies on quest givers who have enough information to tell you the plot, but die before they can impart it, leaving only clues that need to be investigated. Endeavouring to prevent the characters from stopping his death can be a real pain and relies on a lot of railroading

    Unless you kill the NPC in a quick and surprising manner. For example, the NPC starts to monologue and explain everything to the investigators, pausing every so often to cough or complain about a stomach pain, and then, SPLAT! Suddenly, the evil witch’s rat-like familiar, Brown Jenkin, erupts from the NPC’s chest cavity in a fountain of gore! Sorry, the NPC’s internal organs have been gnawed to pieces, there’s nothing you can do to save him.

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