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jivjov

How to dissuade metagaming every check?

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My players have sort of a habit of backpedaling on plans once they find out what kind of check it will involve. Like, I'll tell my face character "Well, that's really more of a Coerce type of situation since there's a clear threat involved and you're not BS him". Sometimes they'll try to flavor it a different way to justify using Deception or Charm or whatever instead, and I usually will let it slide, but sometimes its just "Oh I don't want to try that after all" or turning to another player "hey, your Coerce is way better, you take over the conversation", which feels a little metagame-y to me. 

I don't want to be the jerk GM who says "You said it, now you're stuck with it" (especially since one of the players is very very new to tabletop gaming in general), but I also don't want to encourage the behavior of always shunting responsibility for a check onto the sole person with the best stat or skill to handle it.

In the process of typing this post, I had one idea I'll throw out there...adding setback dice to social checks when mid-conversation the primary PC doing the talking switches to someone else, since they're diluting they're own stance/case/argument if they're letting someone else do the talking.

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I don't want to be the jerk GM who says "You said it, now you're stuck with it" (especially since one of the players is very very new to tabletop gaming in general), but I also don't want to encourage the behavior of always shunting responsibility for a check onto the sole person with the best stat or skill to handle it.

 

This isn't being a jerk GM, this is being a GM, period. There is no difference between this situation and one in combat where a character with a low Ranged (light) skill says to the party's sharpshooter, "here, I suck at this, you take my action instead of me". The character on the spot is the character who makes the check. If a player insists on having his character being the one to enter into social situations without having any social skills, that's entirely on him. And with just a little creative thought on the GM's part a failed skill check can lead to even more exciting and interesting situations than a successful one.

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There are a few epesoides of Order 66 that are worth tracking down. The ones where Jay Little talks about forming the dice pool and getting player buy in. Look 'em up and have a listen. Jay has such a good handle on the game you'd recon he wrote the rules.

 

So if the players suggest a Charm roll and they were being less than charming throw in a black dice or two and adjust the roll based on the roleplay. Make the difficulty harder?

 

Again in the Order 66, just reciently Chris and Phil spoke to allowing players to take the skill they felt applicable and maybe making the roll harder based on the skill chosen. In this instance you can coerce your own players somewhat. Oh, you want a charm test, well that would be hard 3 purple dice, however, if you want to coerce them that would be just a normal test.

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Oh, you want a charm test, well that would be hard 3 purple dice, however, if you want to coerce them that would be just a normal test.

This is a really good point, and I use this a lot. In my NPC descriptions I will sometimes state that a person is, say, more likely to succumb to a Charm attempt than Coercion. Coercion might make them stubborn and uncooperative, making the difficulty PPPP, whereas Charm is only PP, and flattery adds a Boost die. Of course this isn't revealed right away, they need to discover it through roleplay, but by now my players know that getting something out of people takes a little finesse.

As for switching after knowing the dice pool, I'd definitely throw setback dice around just as discouragement.

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I was also going to mention Jay Little's approach. He pushes the purple dice forward as he's describing the approach they're taking, so the PC can see "oh that's how difficult it will be if I try that."

 

To be honest though, jivjov, I'm not sure I see what you're describing as that much of a problem. If the PCs are going back and forth continually to the point where it gets tedious, then at a certain point I just say "Somebody must do something, what are you going to do?" or else I just have the NPCs take an action because the PCs have been either standing there or discussing things amongst themselves.

 

 

I've had cases where a player who's good at Charm said he wanted to lie to an NPC using Charm, and I had to tell him, "that's Deception, not Charm", but if he had wanted to try to Charm the NPC by telling him something different, he could have tried that.

 

In most cases I try to have two or more possible skills that can solve a specific challenge I've created (either use Mechanics or Skullduggery, Computers or Education, etc), possibly with different difficulties.

 

If you're not in structured time, then it's not necessarily a case of "It is Sasha's turn now, she must act."

 

If the players themselves are dithering, just have the NPCs take some action. "Well if you're not going to say anything, we're going to start shooting/walk away/etc."

 

But I don't see anything wrong with, for example, Han going to Charm somebody but then letting Chewbacca take over when it's time to Coerce them.

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We're all there to have fun - I'll generally let my players backpedal a little bit if:

 

  1. it makes sense in the flow of the story
  2. the action the player is taking is out of character for the character
  3. the character would know some piece of information the player doesn't.

 

There's always a little metagaming going on at the table, seems like it's human nature.  If your players are being obstinate about it, it's time for a break and a talk.  Surely your friends at the table can see how disruptive this behavior is, and as your friends, you can work it out.  

 

All that aside, I see no problem mixing up skills and characteristics if it makes sense to the story.  

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One point here is that we are mostly talking about social skills. While the difficulty is often set as an opposed roll against the NPC's appropriate skill, such as Discipline against Coerce and Deception, or Cool against Charm, the GM can use Boost and Setback dice, increase or decrease the difficulty, or even upgrade or downgrade the difficulty. Depending on situations. I use these in some cases to encourage players/characters who normally do not engage in the social interactions to role play it out. 

 

An example: the PCs were looking for information about a lost ship, and went to an asteroid mining facility where it made regular stops. They found a pilot who regularly flew escort missions for the ship they were looking for. The Scholar in the group normally did the talking, and gave his honest pitch about how they are seeking the ship for its historical significance, and not just it's value in credits. This was a charm check, he was being honest and wanted the old pilot to like them. Still, the pilot was skeptical because of all the treasure hunters who came asking him. Eventually he commented that he had seen the group arrive at the base, which happened to be on the outer orbit of an asteroid field. "That was some flying!"  That was when they changed, and although the team's smuggler hadn't put much into charm or Presence (he's a Gand so had only a 1 in the characteristic) he was able to talk with the old timer "pilot to pilot" and earned his trust. 

 

Similarly, you might need something from a retired soldier or merc. I would give this guy an ability called "Jaded." The old soldier has no time for flattery and resists Charm using his (impressively high) Discipline skill. However, another military type character could actually win him over with impressive smack talk using Coercion.

"I could beat the information out of you with a gaffi stick. I just happen to have one that I wrestled from a Tusken."

"I'd like to see you try it, son. You wouldn't even get close, but I like your style. Tell me, did the Tusken make that awful honking noise when you hit him?"

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To be honest though, jivjov, I'm not sure I see what you're describing as that much of a problem. If the PCs are going back and forth continually to the point where it gets tedious, then at a certain point I just say "Somebody must do something, what are you going to do?" or else I just have the NPCs take an action because the PCs have been either standing there or discussing things amongst themselves.

 

The specific part I see as a problem is the players going "Oh, the Charm is a Diff 3, hey other-player, you should take over for this check" and just kinda breaking narrative flow.

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To be honest though, jivjov, I'm not sure I see what you're describing as that much of a problem. If the PCs are going back and forth continually to the point where it gets tedious, then at a certain point I just say "Somebody must do something, what are you going to do?" or else I just have the NPCs take an action because the PCs have been either standing there or discussing things amongst themselves.

 

The specific part I see as a problem is the players going "Oh, the Charm is a Diff 3, hey other-player, you should take over for this check" and just kinda breaking narrative flow.

 

 

Well, I'd certainly penalize them for that.  A couple setback because they're "dithering", and the NPC is just going to take them less seriously.  The NPC might even say "wow, you guys are real pros..."  :)

 

Also, there no problem setting a time limit on decisions they need to make...social encounters can (and often should) be just as structured as combat.  If the players have too much time, that's when they get fiddly about optimizing.

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One table rule I have is that unless the Player that comes up with an idea specifically has their PC ask another PC to do an action it's their PC thats the one to do it. It takes a few times to get used to but it does lead to fun situations where the least skilled PC tries to do something and the most skilled has to try and fix it. It's also led to the Players beefing up other skills and make more well rounded PCs, well some of them at least...

I also allow Players to use other skills as people have discussed above and adjust the difficulty accordingly, or give different results or information. 

Edited by FuriousGreg
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For me it would depend on the circumstances.

 

I really like the scenarios GM Stark described. In those cases, it depends not just on what the PC's specific skill value is, but WHO the PC is and how they'll relate to the NPC they're trying to communicate with.

 

I still don't really see the problem of realizing you need to Charm someone and stepping aside so the charming member of your group can speak to them.

 

Pilot: "This is the Krayt Fang, trying to make a landing."

 

Starport: "Certainly, the docking fee is 1000 credits."

 

Pilot waves over the party's Politico to the comm.

 

Politico: "This is the special liaison to the Duchess of Tiburnia. I was told by the governor of this system we'd be given the appropriate treatment here. We're already late for the Duchess's audience with the Governor."

 

Politico makes a Deception check, passes with 3 success.

 

Starport: "I beg your pardon, we weren't informed. Please dock at landing bay 37 with our compliments."

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I still don't really see the problem of realizing you need to Charm someone and stepping aside so the charming member of your group can speak to them.

I think it's not the OP's belief, or mine, that it's a problem for one PC thats not as good at something to hand it off to one thats better at it thats the issue. It's that we think it shouldn't be meta-gamed without role-playing that hand off. Think of it like this:

 

Player 1: We tell the Guards we're here to deliver Important Space News.

GM: Okay, since you're not actually delivering Important Space News it's a Deception roll.

Player 1: Well Player 2's PC is better at that, so he can roll.

Player 2: Ya, I'm a Politico so I'll roll.

GM: Okay, you're right in front of the guards, do you ask PC 2 to do this? How?

Player 1: My PC waves his hand to quietly signal for PC2 to take over.

PC1 waves over the party's Politico.

PC2 the Politico: "I'm the Important Space News delivery guy to the Duchess of Tiburnia. I was told by the governor of this system we'd be given the appropriate treatment here. We're supposed to get this Important Space News to... blah blah"

GM: Well the Guard noticed PC1 was a little uncomfortable telling him what you guys were doing here before he waved you over so I'm going to add a Setback die because it made him a little suspicious...

 

See this example is not only potentially more exciting but also more realistic because people aren't psychic. Basically if the PCs aren't in a situation where they can be seen or overheard by an NPC then I wouldn't bother having them role-play their communication but if the PCs are in an encounter where NPCs can see or hear them then they should have to.

Edited by FuriousGreg
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When I'm running and a party member says they're going to do/say something, I give the skill and difficulty... If they are standing in front of the goons they're trying to convince... at that point as they've already committed...  Sorry, make your choices and take your chances.  The whole point of this game is that things don't always go smooth.  Part of the fun is getting out of the trouble they create.

 

If they are "out of character" trying to determine what kind of roll it would be and they ask, I will tell them what kind of roll, but not the difficulty.  If there is no pressure and they can take their time, then they can discuss briefly... They won't know about difficulty or any set-backs (other than ones added due to threat previously).  Of course, I can always upgrade difficulty too if it is story relevant.  If they have no time, I step up the pace and give them less time or things can be bogged down.

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I would agree with Dupre.

 

 

 

 

Player 1: We tell the Guards we're here to deliver Important Space News.

GM: Okay, since you're not actually delivering Important Space News it's a Deception roll.

 

That would be the end of it.  Player 1 said the line, so Player 1 is the speaker.  Ergo Player 1 makes the Deception roll.

 

If the action in question is a "group effort" of some sort that clearly involves the contributions of multiple PCs, then I would treat it as a cooperative roll using the best attribute and the best skill in the group.

 

But if it's a one-man action, then whoever declares the action is the one who rolls.

 

Also, in my game there is no such thing as "backpedaling" on an action after finding out what the roll will be.  A player won't be told what the roll will be until after he's declared the action, at which point he's already committed.

 

The player declares the action - "I'm doing such and such [Described in whatever narrative terms he chooses]" - and is thereby committed to it.  I then tell him, "Okay, roll skill X at difficulty Y with a setback die for Z, et cetera."  If the player then said, "Oh, that sounds harder than I expected.  Maybe I shouldn't do that after all?" I would simply say, "Too late, time to roll."

Edited by OverMatt

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Once they stated they are doing something they gotta go trough with it, no takebacks.

The best trick is tell your players that if they get to re-do things, then so can you (the GM).

Example:

 

Gm: "when you enter the bridge of the star destroyer you see a giant of a man dressed in black and hear his wheezing mechanical breath. He ignites a red lightsaber."

Player: "cool! Vader! i draw my lightsaber and swing for his head!"

Gm; "vader steps forward and accepts your challenge, foolish jedi!"

*rolls*

Player " a crit! i critted! take that vader! damage roll! another crit! YES! OMG I killed Vader!!!"

Gm: "Oooooh wait, re-do! Darth Vader scoffs at you as he  holds back and force chokes you from 10 feet away."

Player: "but but but-"

Edited by Robin Graves

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*SNIP*

 

See this example is not only potentially more exciting but also more realistic because people aren't psychic. Basically if the PCs aren't in a situation where they can be seen or overheard by an NPC then I wouldn't bother having them role-play their communication but if the PCs are in an encounter where NPCs can see or hear them then they should have to.

 

 

This is the perfect way to handle a situation like this.  A hand-off is fine, and I don't mind my players letting whoever is best at something perform the task when it's at hand - after all, why have varying careers if the people who are tops in their skills don't get a chance to shine - but playing it out in-character is important, and can have some interesting story effects.

Edited by Simon Fix

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See this example is not only potentially more exciting but also more realistic because people aren't psychic. Basically if the PCs aren't in a situation where they can be seen or overheard by an NPC then I wouldn't bother having them role-play their communication but if the PCs are in an encounter where NPCs can see or hear them then they should have to.

 

Player 1: (To player 2) "Uh, sir — As the Special Liaison, do you want to explain things to this guard who is just doing his duty?"

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Player 1: (To player 2) "Uh, sir — As the Special Liaison, do you want to explain things to this guard who is just doing his duty?"

 

 

There's nothing wrong with this; but the point is that it shouldn't absolve Player 1 of responsibility.

 

In this case, we're talking about a PC trying to lie to an NPC - a Deception check.  If Player 1 tells the lie and the GM says to roll Deception, it doesn't make sense for Player 1 (the one who told the lie) to be allowed to step aside and pass off the roll to someone else.  He's the liar, so he's the one whose Deception ability needs to be tested.

 

However the following might be permissible in some circumstances:

 

Player 1: I lie to the NPC about our super secret made-up mission. :ph34r:

GM: Okay, roll Deception.

Player 1: I failed.  :wacko:

NPC: "That's nonsense!  Now tell me who you really are before I call the authorities!" :angry:

Player 1: "Now don't be hasty!  Perhaps I didn't explain this correctly...  I'm sure our Special Liaison here can answer all your questions..." :unsure:

Player 2: "Listen, what my incompetent colleague meant to say was..." :D

GM: Alright, Player 2 roll Deception with a significant increase in the difficulty due to the NPC having already heard one unconvincing version of this story.

 

In other words, the approach you describe might, in some cases, justify allowing the second PC to take a second shot after the first has failed (probably with a significant penalty for the prior failure); but it shouldn't prevent the original PC from having to roll himself in the first place.

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I think from the above examples people seem to get how to handle meta-gaming PC skills and such. It's never as easy as this because meta-gameing is just a part of RPGs but for us it usually works out.

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There are a lot of great ideas in this thread. I'm going to have to use some of these.

 

 

My players have sort of a habit of backpedaling on plans once they find out what kind of check it will involve. Like, I'll tell my face character "Well, that's really more of a Coerce type of situation since there's a clear threat involved and you're not BS him". Sometimes they'll try to flavor it a different way to justify using Deception or Charm or whatever instead, and I usually will let it slide, but sometimes its just "Oh I don't want to try that after all" or turning to another player "hey, your Coerce is way better, you take over the conversation", which feels a little metagame-y to me. 

I don't want to be the jerk GM who says "You said it, now you're stuck with it" (especially since one of the players is very very new to tabletop gaming in general), but I also don't want to encourage the behavior of always shunting responsibility for a check onto the sole person with the best stat or skill to handle it.

 

As for my 2 credits on the situation, I'd say go with the tough love. Before you start doing it talk to your players. Tell them that you'd like to try more Role Playing and that when a player says something that you're going to hold them to it. Hold their feet to the fire a few times and they'll learn. You don't teach a dog to not sit on the couch by rolling your eyes and hoping it doesn't happen again. No, you get the squirt bottle. Same with players. They need the tough love to un-learn bad habits.

 

This is especially important for the Face player. If one of his skills is higher than the rest, and he wants to use that skill, he should frame his action in a way that would be for the skill he wants to use. I don't know if this is considered good or normal Role Playing, but how I play is I first tell the GM which skill I'm trying to use then I roleplay what my character says. That way if I'm better at Charm, my GM knows what my intent is and will set the difficulty according to what I describe and how the NPC would react.

 

As for the players wanting to change who's doing the action because they don't like the skill you ruled should be used, stick to your guns a few times. Make them roll. But allow (or call for a destiny point flip) for the skilled character to jump in. Give him some setback dice or increase/upgrade the difficulty if the first player really flubbed it. That way the scene will play out with Player 1 stumbling over their words and putting their foot in their mouth while Player 2 swoops in and can save the day. After they get burned a couple times they'll start rembering to frame actions in such a way that if they don't want to be the actor they'll go into it describing who the approperate actor should be. Once you make them think on their feet a few times they'll start being able to do it as second nature.

 

I'd probably tell them in the conversation about being stricter on making the acting character actually roll  the skill that the soft "re-do" would be possible. That way they might be more willing to try to use skills that they aren't good with because they know that with a DP flip they'll be ok. You just want to be sure that no mater what you do, you don't stifle the role playing. There should be a balance to keep the players from clamming up from fear that you'll make them roll on a skill they aren't good at.

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My players have sort of a habit of backpedaling on plans once they find out what kind of check it will involve. Like, I'll tell my face character "Well, that's really more of a Coerce type of situation since there's a clear threat involved and you're not BS him". Sometimes they'll try to flavor it a different way to justify using Deception or Charm or whatever instead, and I usually will let it slide, but sometimes its just "Oh I don't want to try that after all" or turning to another player "hey, your Coerce is way better, you take over the conversation", which feels a little metagame-y to me. 

I don't want to be the jerk GM who says "You said it, now you're stuck with it" (especially since one of the players is very very new to tabletop gaming in general), but I also don't want to encourage the behavior of always shunting responsibility for a check onto the sole person with the best stat or skill to handle it.

In the process of typing this post, I had one idea I'll throw out there...adding setback dice to social checks when mid-conversation the primary PC doing the talking switches to someone else, since they're diluting they're own stance/case/argument if they're letting someone else do the talking.

You're not being a jerk.  Players need to know their own characters, and they need to know what the group is capable of, and they need to be told to have a plan going forward.  I usually allow robust planning conversation unless it is a combat situation or I've decided ahead of time there is a real world time constraint I am putting on the conversation.  Once they are moving forward there is no skill/player change midcourse, they have committed to path at that point.

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I can see why there might be a problem.. but...

In my group we knew who did the talking, who did the killing, who did the fixing, and who did the flying. While yes, we got them "confused" sometimes (amusingly when Killmiester P Trandoshans would talk) but generally we knew who to let do what job and didn't get in the way of them doing there jobs.

Also in general there was a bit of overlap for most people... except for Hisssk, sadly all he did was kill things and get shot, a lot.

Basically we rolled out the way 2P51 says he has his players do it. Plan in the planning time, act in the action time.

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I could be wrong here, but in the original post, you make it sound like you already have an idea of the roll that's needed to be made, before the players talk. You mention coercion and no BS involved. Is this from you, the GM, or from the players? If they start talking and don't make a threat, do you just call for the coercion check after they say how they want to handle it? From my little vantage point here, I don't see much in the way of meta gaming. Trying to use the characters for the best possible dice pool is not meta gaming in my opinion. I always ask my players how they are going to handle a situation first. Just this past weekend, I had a player who wanted to do a "social check" with no actual role playing. I have not gamed with this group for long. I explained to them that per RAW, that is acceptable, but I as the GM prefer the role playing aspect to the game. I know that we are not grifters, professional con men, liars, gamblers, thieves and the like, nor are we professional actors. I explained to them that they give me a very brief rundown of what their intent is, then I will assemble the difficulty dice pool. They get their skill pool ready, and as we roll play it out, they can get or loose boost dice to the situation for thier role playing. The skill check can never be worse than the original pool for "bad acting" but can improve the pool by "good role playing", with the caveat of saying really stupid things can have consequences. But 99% of the time, the check will either be given a boost, or left alone, very rarely is it made worse, and again, that is for a player saying something really, really stupid. My player did a good job, and it added in a couple of extra boost dice to his pool. But that's how I do it. The skill should always be known up front before any role playing or dice pool assembly begins if possible. But I really think it should be left up to the players on what kind of skill check they want to perform in social situations.

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I agree, R2builder. I don't *require* players to act out every line their characters say. If their character is a smooth talker but they're not, they can give the general idea of what they're going for with their dialogue without literally saying it all.

 

A cool performance or a vivid monologue with a great accent or something might get a boost die for fun roleplaying or if it makes everyone in the group laugh or cheer. I wouldn't penalize for bad acting.

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