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View Full Version : Player Comprehension and the art of story telling: solutions?



Frenth Alunril
2012-05-30, 09:12 AM
I tend to run a pretty descriptive game. I don't like to say, “It's a Slaad” if they have never seen one before, I like to say, “This 8 foot tall giant with a flat toad head and rough rubbery skin appears at the top of the hill in front of you. It's intelligent eyes flash brightly, as it raises it's huge hands in the air, and produces a torrent of gibberish, suddenly, there is another one of the large red creatures standing next to it, and they start to advance on you.”

My problem is:

P1: “We are fighting toads?”
P2: “No he said Giant Toads.”
P1: “Bullywugs”

DM: “Can I have an initiative roll please”
(initiative rolls)

P3: “Oh, I attack it.”

DM: “It's a them now.”
P1: “Two Bullywugs, on a hill? Shouldn't they be in a swamp?”
P2: “Okay, I go in an grapple one of them.”

DM: “Okay, but they are 8 foot tall, giants, so they get a size bonus on the grappling modifier”

P2: “You didn't say that!”
P4: “Is it my turn?”
P5: “What are we doing?”

Now, I have been told to make it a lot more simple, example:

DM: “There is a hill, you are tired, you have been walking all day.”
P1: “I ain't got job, so I can't pay the rent.”
(everyone laughs at a song joke)

DM: “When you look at the top of the hill, you see a large creature, it's a Red Slaad”
(Sound of PDF's opening across the globe)
P1: “I cast protection from Chaos.”
P2: “We can't beat his DR”
P3: “Someone cast Dimensional Lock before he calls another one.”
P4: “That looks like your sister, P1”
(everyone laughs)
P5: “What are we doing?”

I guess my question is, since I have been misunderstood more often than I have been understood, what is the best way for me to keep the party focused on what is actually happening. Are their tricks you use to keep abreast party comprehension? Is there a method which I could apply that would reveal their misunderstandings... aside from, "Any questions?"

(Keep in mind I run a game with adults between the ages of 25 and 37)

hamlet
2012-05-30, 09:59 AM
It looks like, mostly, you're having a problem with players paying attention.

Much as it may seem like a jerk thing to do, you might consider making your description (being 100% sure you got it right) and then, when they don't listen, hit them with the consequences of not paying attention. For example, grappling an 8 foot Red Slaad should just not go well for them and, when they gripe, point out that the description was clear and it behooves them to pay attention when you set the scene.

That said, when and if you do this, you must be sure that your description is right. Otherwise, you are just a jerk.

Rallicus
2012-05-30, 10:02 AM
I think it really depends on your players. Some enjoy the roleplaying aspect more than others, and some just enjoy good old "roll" playing. It seems like your party leans more towards the latter, and couldn't care less about your plot.

Try to find common ground, or compromise. I once DMed for my friends and found that they hated any sort of downtime, including roleplaying with NPCs. They enjoyed large encounters with more lower level creatures instead of one big equal-level creature. They loved rewards, treasure, and magical items. So my entire campaign had this contrived story that would go from killing a goblin king on a random island to fighting goblinoid juggernauts (homebrew creature) capable of sinking their fleet of ships with a well placed punch to the boat, to journeying into dungeons with freakishly deformed kobolds (homebrew creature).

So while I wasn't able to create a good, cohesive story, I was able to create in other ways, such as making homebrew creatures. That was okay with me, and the party enjoyed it.

If you can't find common ground, or if you're not happy as a DM, I'd say just quit. You shouldn't have to cater to the players, and tabletop is about fun. If your idea of fun isn't the same as the players, or if you're not having a good time, you shouldn't have any obligation to stick with it.

Also: what sound does a PDF make when it's opened? :smalltongue:

EDIT: I think I went off on a tangent and misunderstood this entire thread, thanks to being exhausted. As the user above me said: have consequences for not paying attention. I guess some of my points still apply though.

Serpentine
2012-05-30, 10:08 AM
Seems to me the problem here is more with your players metagaming than with your descriptions. I'd say talking to them about that should be your first step - just "your characters don't know everything you know. Respond appropriately."
In the case of the sort of people I game with, just showing them a picture of a monster in the Monster Manual and saying "it looks like this" is fine, because I know my players will (usually...) go "oh, it's that thing. I know it's immune to fire, but my character wouldn't, and they really like using fire... So I fireball it." I actually give them extra credit for "roleplaying to their disadvantage" - doing what their characters would do in a situation, even though out of character they know it's a bad idea.
You could do something like that, and/or combine it with a penalty system as well - encourage use of in-character knowledge, discourage out-of-character knowledge.

For the descriptions specifically... Try to keep them on their toes. Try throwing in "likes" a lot, and exceptions and abnormalities and change things around a bit - "it looks like a slaad, with dark red lumpy skin, spikes on its head and wearing long soft gloves" (it's still just a slaad, but adding the extra detail might get them second-guessing themselves. Or maybe it's a really weird, mutated blue slaad).

edit: You could also say something like, say, "his 8 foot tall giant with a flat toad head and rough rubbery skin appears at the top of the hill in front of you. It's intelligent eyes flash brightly, as it raises it's huge hands in the air, and produces a torrent of gibberish, suddenly, there is another one of the large red creatures standing next to it, and they start to advance on you", and then either "Out of character, there are two red slaads descending on you. You can roll Knowledge checks to see if you know that and anything about them" or "roll Knowledge to see if you know what they are."

Textor44
2012-05-30, 10:24 AM
“This 8 foot tall giant with a flat toad head and rough rubbery skin appears at the top of the hill in front of you.

P1: “We are fighting toads?”
P2: “No he said Giant Toads.”
P1: “Bullywugs”


Have them roll a check for nature or whatever skill covers the creature. If they succeed in the DC, the character recognizes it:

"You recognize that figure as a Slaad. This is what you know about them..."

That way they aren't looking in the books for something, and the ICly know what is in front of them when they haven't encountered it before. The better they did on the check (vs DC) the more they'd know about the creature off-hand. For bad misses, you can even misidentify the creature for them, so they think they are fighting something they aren't (natural 1 or substantially below the DC, for instance).

Nyarai
2012-05-30, 01:36 PM
The Monster Lore Compendium (http://community.wizards.com/go/thread/view/75882/19546370/Monster_Lore_Compendium?post_id=332154930#33215493 0) is pretty helpful if your players do make knowledge checks. For example:


-link (http://community.wizards.com/go/thread/view/75882/19546370/Monster_Lore_Compendium?post_id=332154930#33215493 0)- Characters with ranks in Knowledge (the planes) can learn more about slaadi in general. When a character makes a successful skill check, the following lore is revealed, including the information from lower DCs.

DC 17: Slaadi are violent, unpredictable creatures native to the seething outer plane of Limbo. They vaguely resemble humanoid toads, and exist in several varieties. This result reveals all outsider traits and the chaotic and extraplanar subtypes. Slaadi speak their own language, Slaad.

DC 23: Slaadi are resistant to acid, cold, electricity, and fire. They are immune to sonic damage.

DC 27: Slaadi can summon more of their kind, though the exact type summoned varies from one variety to the next. Slaadi make for uneasy allies, however, so they tend to summon each other only when their lives depend upon it.

Jay R
2012-05-30, 02:13 PM
First, establish out of combat that you will not correct their false identifications. Second, tell them that you will not repeat information unless they have time to look around. In melee, that means taking a round to do so. Here are more specific in-combat suggestions.


DM:“This 8 foot tall giant with a flat toad head and rough rubbery skin appears at the top of the hill in front of you. It's intelligent eyes flash brightly, as it raises it's huge hands in the air, and produces a torrent of gibberish, suddenly, there is another one of the large red creatures standing next to it, and they start to advance on you.
DM: (continuing) OK guys, we're in an encounter with creatures you have never seen before, and cannot identify. Everybody needs to focus. I will repeat this - once. This 8 foot tall giant with a flat toad head and rough rubbery skin appears at the top of the hill in front of you. It's intelligent eyes flash brightly, as it raises it's huge hands in the air, and produces a torrent of gibberish, suddenly, there is another one of the large red creatures standing next to it, and they start to advance on you.


P1: “We are fighting toads?”
P2: “No he said Giant Toads.”
P1: “Bullywugs”

DM: Call them whatever you like. Roll initiative.



(initiative rolls)
P3: “Oh, I attack it.”

DM: OK, you attack the first one, not the one that just popped into existence. (Note that I am now repeating crucial information they seem to have missed.)



P1: “Two Bullywugs, on a hill? Shouldn't they be in a swamp?”
P2: “Okay, I go in an grapple one of them.”

DM: P3, finish your attack. P1, are you attacking one of them or asking it about its habitat? P2, it's not your initiative yet. There are now two of them, so when your initiative comes up, tell me which one you target. As they close on you, it becomes more obvious that it's 8 feet tall, and has a size bonus on grappling. (Anybody attempting to grapple would see that before the attempt, so I tell them.) You have time to retreat and draw your sword if you prefer. (Give them a reasonable option.)



P2: “You didn't say that!”
P4: “Is it my turn?”
P5: “What are we doing?”

DM: P4 & P5, I will call for an action on your initiative. P5, if you aren't ready with an action then, you can say 'My character is looking around,' and I will repeat all the information, at the cost of one melee round. (This is a first warning.)


Now, I have been told to make it a lot more simple, example:

DM: “When you look at the top of the hill, you see a large creature, it's a Red Slaad”

No. Their characters don't know that information, and they are clearly using it to do things their characters wouldn't know to do.


(Sound of PDF's opening across the globe)

If you're playing at a table, I recommend telling them that they cannot open books during combat, unless their character owns the book, and spends a few rounds getting it out.


...P5: “What are we doing?”
DM: Character 5 spends six seconds taking stock. You might all want to listen carefully. He sees the party standing against two 8 foot tall giants with flat toad heads and rough rubbery skin, with intelligent eyes. One appeared at the top of the hill in front of you. raised its huge hands in the air, and produced a torrent of gibberish. Then another one of the large red creatures suddenly appeared standing next to it, and they advanced on you. P3 attacked the first one and did x amount of damage. (He gets a complete rundown, including any crucial fact they have so far ignored. He's earned it, by spending a round to look. Note that I do this on the second time he asked, not the first. Also, if there's something they haven't spotted yet, I will roll his Spot check, to see if the extra time allows him to see it.)


I guess my question is, since I have been misunderstood more often than I have been understood, what is the best way for me to keep the party focused on what is actually happening. Are their tricks you use to keep abreast party comprehension?
They major "trick", if you want to call it that, is to make paying attention pay off. They will never pay more attention than they do now, unless they have a clear incentive to do so.

JadedDM
2012-05-30, 02:17 PM
Yeah, it sounds like your players just aren't paying attention to what you're saying.

I have the exact same problem. However, all of my games are currently play-by-post. So it isn't mere distraction; they're actively not reading my posts (or rather, just skimming them).

Just a few of many examples in my games:

I once described a blacksmith as being 'a large black man' but at least two players afterward referred to him as a dwarf (I guess all smiths are dwarves?)

I once described an elven city as having buildings carved from amethyst, on the ground. One of my players had their character comment on the 'nice treehouses.'

I described an inn as having only one story, and posted a detailed map of where everything was, even labeling the party's rooms. There were still multiple references among the players of coming and going 'upstairs' to reach their rooms.

This happens so frequently in my games, that it really annoys me; makes me feel like nobody is paying any attention at all. The fact that it is play-by-post just makes it all the more egregious.

Dreamteller
2012-05-30, 03:01 PM
Like Rallicus noted, your players might just not care for roleplaying and making decisions according to character knowledge is just that. No matter if this knowledge is conveyed by your description, or what you allow them to use from bestiary as a result of skill check or common sense decision.

Players not caring for roleplaying and DM who does looks to be all too often scenario. If that's the case, you can try to give them a reason to roleplay. Remind them how cool your common experience may be if you'd jointly make efforts to add a depth and meaning to the created story.

It might be that the players would still rather have fun just by exploiting their knowledge about the rules and bestiary. And that's probably ok, but only if also accept it, because otherwise you may be spending a lot of time and effort on something that is not appreciated.

And this...

P1: “We are fighting toads?”
That sounds like my former team... and the one before, and again. It looks like a common problem that usually kicks in after few hours of play. Players simply get tired and although still eager to continue session, their attention spans shorten a lot. Any description, if longer then few sentences, gets easliy lost and boiled down to "toads". Even well rested players can have problems if your descriptions are too long and monolithic. Although the description of slaad you posted wasn't really long or any bad, so I don't know. Anyway if that's the problem, you have few options:
- make sure there are no side chats during your stage-setting
- get an eye contact with each player and make sure that noone's just rummaging in character sheets
- prepare some pictures or simple drawings your players can stare on when you talk
- when you describe, put emphasis on something every now and then just to resurrect attention
- take a short break

Shadowknight12
2012-05-30, 03:06 PM
If your players aren't making an effort to stay focused and pay attention, you have to start making the effort to capture it yourself. A good start is your tone. A lot of people have a very low monotone that makes it extremely hard to pick out what they're saying when they're rattling on long paragraphs. I'm not saying you should go all Brian Blessed on them, but you could start varying your tone, pitch and volume as the paragraph progresses, accentuating important words. This will be quite hard at first and I recommend you to practise beforehand, but you could give it a try yourself.

After all, we shouldn't rush to blame anyone for something when we don't have all the facts. We don't know if the players are really all that scatterbrained. :smallsmile:

Comet
2012-05-30, 03:13 PM
Whatever you do, don't punish them for not paying attention. Unless you don't want to play with them or talk to them ever again, in which case do whatever you want.

I think it would be best just to be patient with them and repeat information when needed. If the players are about make obvious mistakes in their actions because they misunderstood something just stop them there and ask them if they are really sure and repeat whatever information you gave them.

Also, be concise. Be efficient in your descriptions. Keep it short and manageable. A lot of players play these games to relax with friends, not to go through mental gymnastics every five minutes.

The important thing, though, and my bottom line here is: the character would not make these mistakes. They've got all the information. Making the characters act on the players' lacking information just breaks the narrative and then everyone has a bad time. Just take it slow and give the players a second chance if they are obviously not getting some major part of your scenario.

Dr. Yes
2012-05-30, 05:30 PM
Whatever you do, don't punish them for not paying attention. Unless you don't want to play with them or talk to them ever again, in which case do whatever you want.

I think it would be best just to be patient with them and repeat information when needed. If the players are about make obvious mistakes in their actions because they misunderstood something just stop them there and ask them if they are really sure and repeat whatever information you gave them.

Also, be concise. Be efficient in your descriptions. Keep it short and manageable. A lot of players play these games to relax with friends, not to go through mental gymnastics every five minutes.

The important thing, though, and my bottom line here is: the character would not make these mistakes. They've got all the information. Making the characters act on the players' lacking information just breaks the narrative and then everyone has a bad time. Just take it slow and give the players a second chance if they are obviously not getting some major part of your scenario.

I think the problem here is that if he does take the time to correct his players' misunderstandings, they metagame the encounter into triviality.

IMO the best fix would be to require knowledge checks before they implement any tactics that are clearly specific to the monster they're fighting---even ones they've encountered before, if they haven't explicitly done the research or seen the particular ability or property they're countering in action. This way you can just tell them what they're facing if they didn't get it the first time, without risking mistakes due to poor listening comprehension.

nedz
2012-05-30, 05:47 PM
... I'm not saying you should go all Brian Blessed on them, but you could start varying your tone, pitch and volume as the paragraph progresses, accentuating important words. This will be quite hard at first and I recommend you to practise beforehand, but you could give it a try yourself...

this, or rather not this.

Roleplaying is a performance art, DMing doubly so.

I'm not sure what advice to give, ..., tread the boards, do some LARP, ..., I don't really know what would help ?

As an exercise try doing one encounter where it is dark, very dark, so dark that they can see nothing, not even their noses. Roll initiatives and have something start hitting them. After a round or so the lights come on. They ought to be in a listening mood now.

Ed: a good trick is to rehearse your descriptions, either mentally or even in front of a mirror. This shouldn't take too long. What you are looking for is more drama, which is about tension (i.e. timing) mainly.

Frenth Alunril
2012-05-30, 06:28 PM
I'm not saying you should go all Brian Blessed on them

Are you sure we haven't met? I tend to go Brian Blessed on Everyone! I even had the beard for a while.

Now a broad comment to everyone.

Thanks!

Actually, I think you have a lot of great points here. I to believe that there is too much metagame and table chatter distracting my players. 3 are in Australia, one in Japan, one in Italy, and I wake up at 3 am on Saturday mornings to run a game for them.

We play over vent. Every time someone comes on I can hear their little skype notifications going off in the back ground, so I think the text chat on their part is pretty heavy duty. They don't let me in on it, because they don't want me to see what they are planning. (apparently I run a pretty crazy game where they need to have every upper hand they can get against the dm) ...

They love it though, and I get a kick out of it as well. So. I will be sure to try to get the to focus better, and eventually I am going to have to ask for transcripts of their table chatter, because I bet it is crazy.

But thanks, a lot of good advice here.

As a side not for metagaming, Did you ever take a Monster with spells, and then change all of their spells to suit another idea of the monster type? Your players go Nuts! (after all, the spells they have are usually just a "suggestion")

Oracle_Hunter
2012-05-30, 06:29 PM
It is an exaggeration to say that Players have the attention spans of hyperactive ferrets, but not by much.

Your traditional method of description, while commendable, is simply too wordy for the average Player to focus on. They know a combat is about to start and so they're focused on getting all their "combat lore" into their brains and are only half-listening to your descriptions. There are a couple of ways to deal with this:

(1) Give more concise descriptions
"It's a Red Slaad" is the classic version of this but it can take some of the mystique out of the whole thing. If you're playing a pre-4e version of D&D, knowing the name of an enemy tells you an awful lot about its abilities (if you stick to Book Monsters) but on the other hand it means that the Players are less likely to be confused about what they're facing.

(2) Roll Knowledge Checks
By stopping the action and engaging the Players, you are more likely to have their attention. Say "you see 2 figures atop the hill. Roll an Arcana Check" and then tell them what that check tells them about the enemies. This way they'll be focused on you and not on digging out their character sheets; however it does slow down the flow of the game somewhat.

* * *
Those are really all that come to mind. I know they've been said before, but hopefully this will help frame the question better: what exactly is it you are having a problem with and what are your Players having problems with.

IMHO it sounds like you dislike the Players "solving" the encounter beforehand and your Players are having a problem remembering what they're facing because the descriptions are too long. Does that sound fair to you?

Heatwizard
2012-05-30, 06:53 PM
We play over vent.

Are you using Gametable, or something like that? Using miniatures solves problems like "I didn't know he was large size" with pieces that are visibly larger.

Frenth Alunril
2012-05-31, 06:42 AM
what exactly is it you are having a problem with and what are your Players having problems with.

IMHO it sounds like you dislike the Players "solving" the encounter beforehand and your Players are having a problem remembering what they're facing because the descriptions are too long. Does that sound fair to you?

It's not that they are solving the encounter. It's rather that they are doing two things, the first involves meta gaming, and the second is a derivative of the attention span/attention to detail.


For instance, Meta-gaming:
I had them face a lycanthrope, they all ran away because they didn't have a cure.

I had them face a level appropriate bad guy, they all ran away because they couldn't find stats on him.

I had them find some neutral good mushrooms, again, they ran away because they couldn't find stats on them. (It didn't help that they went into attack mode.)

The result of metagaming causes for a lot of players to make odd choices. I know that I have done it in the past, and it's something to be avoided. To work out these kinks I assured them that they will never face something they can't handle, unless they start specifically seeking out things they can't handle. Now they trust me, so I am not worried about that any longer.

The Attention Problem:
This ones tougher. I set the game in a tiny town on the frontiere. There is a single inn. It doesn't serve drinks, it is an Inn. People kept talking about drinking at the inn. It took a few adventures to clear up that there is no drinking at the inn.

There is a single Long House for eating where everyone gathers.

Still people kept talking about going to the tavern to eat. There is no tavern, the owner of the long house is against Alcohol, and wont serve it. Still people talk about going to the longhouse and drinking. After a few adventures I confronted them about it. "Where do you get the alcohol from then?"

"Well, I don't know, don't they serve it?"

"Every time I describe the place I make not of the fact that there is no alcohol."

On the Alcohol front, people keep talking about drinking wine and beer. Sometimes hard liquor, and I had to make it abundantly clear that there is no tavern in town. The only liquor available is a horrid thing made by a dwarf that pulls around a cart and parks in front of a partially collapsed building that people use as drinking house.

Later, one of my players says he goes to this partially collapsed drinking house, which I described many times as being a condemned building, and he goes on to tell a story about music, many kinds of drinks a bar tender, loose women, and an upstairs that is private and comfortable. (none of which are in the partially collapsed house.)

Solution:
and then... after all of this I was kind enough to suggest to the Monk (who is super materialistic, and business motivated) that he had best fix the situation with alcohol in the town because the players were peeving me pretty bad. So he rescued a brewer from another town after a dragon had sacked the place, and offered to set her up anew in his town, then he opened a tavern, and set up trade deals to import wine and liquor.

I guess, what I really don't understand is why people pay so little attention to what you say, and they proceed to take creative license with what you have already created.

To be clear, that's my problem: Creative License of the already created. (the meta gaming, I don't really mind, it the fact that they don't listen/read)

I sent a story at New Years, talking about how bad the weather was in town, and the 8 feet of snow. I talked about how the murder they unconvered was executed, and how their friend had won the position of mayor of town. When we started our next game, many players though that they could go traipsing about in the forest with their friend, the guy who just became mayor. Not realizing that there was 8 feet of snow, or that he might have other duties to attend to. In the end, I just feel like I put in a lot to make it good for them, and they say, "Yay, Fun! But I don't like how I am not cool yet."

I have found some players respond well to personal story adventures... and those have come off well, I just worry that the whole party can't see how their personal adventures and interests can add to Role play...

hmmm...

That's a good question:
How do get your players to incorporate their character BG's and Side Adventures into Inter-character RP?

Can you ring a little bell, "P2, this is a point of interest for you. It might be time to share it with the party?"

prufock
2012-05-31, 07:29 AM
1. If your players are looking through the MM to find a monster's stats, stop using printed monsters. Create your own, use humanoids with class levels, or have them disguised. If the party runs from everything they can't look up in the book, they'll find that they don't gain any experience or accomplish any missions. At my table, the only time the players can look up stuff in the monster manual is for stats on summons or pets.

2. I'd echo much of what Jay R says.

3. "You didn't say that!" Do you have to? Are you supposed to explain every time they encounter a large or bigger creature that it will have a size modifier. They should learn the rules. I might not even TELL them it has a bonus, just do it descriptively. "It wraps it's 4' long arms around you."

Oracle_Hunter
2012-05-31, 09:29 AM
@Frenth Alunril -- so, it sounds like your Players aren't actually interested in playing your game. They don't pay attention to your setting details and basically run from any encounter they can't find in the MM.

To make them happy, you would have to take more cues from their actions. If they like boozing it up, let them go to a town with taverns. If they only like fighting things from the MM, then only give them things from the MM.

Of course, it doesn't sound like you'd like that.

Advice: Talk to your Players out-of-game about your concerns. Ask them why they run from things they can't find in the MM; ask them why they don't pay attention when you give setting details.

As a rule, Ask Your Players First whenever you're having trouble with them.

Jay R
2012-05-31, 07:52 PM
As a side not for metagaming, Did you ever take a Monster with spells, and then change all of their spells to suit another idea of the monster type? Your players go Nuts! (after all, the spells they have are usually just a "suggestion")

I started a project in 1976 to re-write all the monsters. The theory was that everything in the book is what you heard from people in taverns and around campfires. Most of these people had never seen any monsters. They actually believe that dragons are color-coded for your convenience (http://www.giantitp.com/comics/oots0207.html).

Then the Monster Manual came out, and the number of monsters increased incredibly, and the project ended.

But I learned that you don't have to re-write all of them. Tell the players that the books represent general beliefs, but they can't trust any information that doesn't come from somebody who has faced that monster. Then have them meet an evil gold dragon early on, and they will stop trusting the books.

I recently had a party crawling through a small hole, when a few rats attacked them. One rat bit one of them, and I said, "One point of damage, and roll a d20, please." He rolled a die, and I said, "Nothing apparent happens." The rats were normal rats, with no disease, but because I asked for the d20, the party ran from 5 ordinary rats. (Later that same day, they attacked and slew a blue dragon.)

TheDarkSaint
2012-05-31, 11:15 PM
In my opinion, there is too much information being handed to the players on a silver platter, in both cases of the slaads.


“This 8 foot tall giant with a flat toad head and rough rubbery skin appears at the top of the hill in front of you. It's intelligent eyes flash brightly, as it raises it's huge hands in the air, and produces a torrent of gibberish, suddenly, there is another one of the large red creatures standing next to it, and they start to advance on you.”

This is a lot of info to process, especially with people that are far flung around the globe and can't see facial expressions and make eye contact. Hand gestures are huge and are missing in a Ventrilo/Gametable run game. Humans pick up lots of detail and nuance from body language and I think you may be running into that problem in not being able to see your players. If my students in school aren't watching me, I know they will only be able to process about 20% of what I say and this goes for most of humanity as well.


"It's a red slaad"

This too much information in the metagame context. It allows us to zoom straight in on the MM and while we are doing that, our focus isn't on what your saying anymore. Our characters didn't work at all for that information and we now have, at least OOCly, all the information on strengths and weaknesses.

I think we are learning the limitations of voice based gaming over the net and it's up to us to respond accordingly. These would be my suggestions.

Interactive descriptions and more skill checks to discover information. Make the PCs work to get information about what they might be fighting.

Example:

DM: You see on a hill a very large, misshapen creature on two legs. It's hard to make out details from the sun. In a blinding flash, it is joined by another. Actions in order of Wisdom score?


Player 2: I want to move closer to get a better look.
Player 1: I cast Clarivoyance on the hill to get a better look as well
Player 3: I join Player 2, sword drawn
Player 4: I flank out to the side with my bow and arrow in case there is trouble.
Player 5: What's going on?

DM: Player 2, 1 and 3, make an Know: The Planes check, DC 25

Dice roll. DM sends private message to player 1 listing the full description of the beast as well as what the knowledge check would get him.

DM: Players 2, 3, you see what looks to be very large amphimbion creatures with large heads. They spot you and start bounding down the hill, letting out deafing croaks. Player 5, you finaly become aware that the party may be under attack. Roll Inititive please.


Dice roll


Now, I can't promise that it would go like that, but without us all sitting around the table, being able to see your hands, body, where you are pointing, you imitating a giant frog slaad, we have just a disembodied voice.

Too long of a description and it gets difficult to process that information. Too short of a description is never a bad thing, in my opinion, as it forces us to pay attention, ask questions and react more appropriately. I'd save the long stuff for private messages when people make the appropriate skill checks.

(I didn't take 10 ranks in Know: The Planes just for the PRC, you know) :)

As for the inn, you are fighting 30+ years of gaming tropes. It's hardwired into most gamers that the inn is where you get an ale and start a fight. You're fighting evolution having an Inn where they don't drink but eat and stay.

I think if you called it a different name, like a hostel, it would totally change the way we look at it. Basically, that's what you have, a hostel. A big one. People stay there, they eat there, but they wouldn't get drunk there. Names have a lot of power.

Dreamteller
2012-06-03, 05:36 AM
In my opinion, there is too much information being handed to the players on a silver platter, in both cases of the slaads.
Good point.

I remember a few years ago, I told my players that when setting up a scene I would only give them only as minimalistic description as possible. I was trying to think about how unattentive, imperceptive or selective (with regard to perception) people can be in real life. So this wasn't neccesarily a high-level, abstract picture, but just the things that I thought shuold kind'a jump out on them. I would only mention things like space, one or two major features (if any), be it a hill or furniture, strong smells (if any), loud and sudden and sounds (if any), and of course beasts or humanoids (if any).

Actually in an example case of characters entering a cave and being under sudden attack by say a hungry bear, they are likely not to notice any features or smells, but bear's jaws and drooling saliva.

One problem with this approach is that it doesn't play well with D&D tactical combat system. Other problem was that even if there was no dynamic action involved, my players often didn't prove to be very much investigative or interested enough to elicit all the important or cool details. It often proved more effective to shove it all in introductory narrative of the scene. So after a while I dropped it, but I sometimes still think it was a good idea, but badly carried out.

Heatwizard
2012-06-03, 06:03 AM
3. "You didn't say that!" Do you have to? Are you supposed to explain every time they encounter a large or bigger creature that it will have a size modifier. They should learn the rules. I might not even TELL them it has a bonus, just do it descriptively. "It wraps it's 4' long arms around you."

They don't get to know when something is large size even though looking at the thing would establish that, hey, that thing's 10 feet tall?

Malachei
2012-06-04, 06:21 AM
Oh, the magic of being new to D&D. How I loved not knowing the monster's stat, and even not knowing the monster at all.

For the same reason I ask players to avoid reading a published module, I ask them not to read monster entries, unless they are running a game themselves. For their own enjoyment, avoiding a sneak preview really helps build the suspense.

Especially on the various forums, a lot of people assume metagame knowledge to be the norm and actually appreciate system mastery. A common reasoning is that character would automatically know about the statblocks of any monster he can summon, for instance.

I prefer another reasoning: Characters are not aware of metagame information at all. As a fighter, you know an average ogre is more dangerous than an average orc, but unless you have a way of telling the orc chieftain from the average orc, the information may be misleading.

Unless you have had a chance to acquire such information, a Knowledge (X) roll against 15 plus the monster's HD will tell you nothing. If you're playing a tribal barbarian who's lived in the icy tundra for all his life and is now teleported into the steppes, then no, your Knowledge (Nature) check will not tell you about giant scorpion's poison in my game. I much prefer the monsters to have unknown, possibly mysterious powers when they first appear and not have players yawn and say "I cast Delay Poison".

Your players seem to be drawing upon their metagame experience, which leads them into making mistakes. Unless you want to have them recognize the slaad (in which case you can use more elaborate descriptions and grant them rolls), a possible solution would be to talk to them about this and inform them that they'll better expect the unexpected, because you'll customize monster's statblocks and looks as it suits the game. Which, IMO, is wonderful, because it keeps up the suspense and leads away from a mechanical focus that can dominate play when everybody talks about the monster's stats and defenses and how to break through those (the second is perfectly fine as well, just a different play style).

prufock
2012-06-06, 02:51 PM
They don't get to know when something is large size even though looking at the thing would establish that, hey, that thing's 10 feet tall?

Large sized is 8-16 feet tall for a biped. OP described the creatures as an "8 foot tall giant." If they're paying attention they know it's a large creature and as such will have a grapple bonus. There's no need for the DM to specifically point out the size category and bonus.