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Librarian Astelan

Player knowledge vs. PC knowledge

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Hi everybody,

 

 

I just started with the first session of my new homebrewn campaign. The session went great, but we had some minor issues that I'd like to adress to improve the quality of the game.

 

1. My players and I are trying to emerse ourselves as much as possible in the 40k universe. Which is within the possibilities of the group since everybody read a lot of fiction from Black Library and other sources. They are aware that their characters do not possess all knowledge that they as a player have. For example: No one has the slightest idea how psykers function and they all took a disposition towards this group in the Imperium.

 

However, sometimes they get stuck and use assumptions (black ships are run by sisters of battle, so why aren't we finding any on this one?), and it's pretty hard to adjudicate these cases. Another example is when they factor in our 21th century knowledge about, for example, physics to explain certain thinks; For example: they found the wreck of a submarine that was completely crushed. Out game they knew it was about an overload of pressure, but such things is beyond the knowledge of the ordinary character.

 

So how do you keep the out game knowledge out of the in game experience?

 

2. Slightly related. They found themselves on an agriworld were the major voxinstallation of the planet had been destroyed by a storm and hadn't been repaired for 2 years. They immediately left with the assumption that some foul play was at hand, while I, as a GM, had taken out the station by a natural storm and found that this agriworld didn't had the means to repair it. If the players would have shared my opinion about agriworlds not able to repair complex tech on their own, they wouldn't have started a full-blown operation to find non-existing rebels that blew up the tower. 

 

It seems impossible to go over all the different facets of the setting. In fact, I count myself blessed with this group that has a good idea about the general setting of 40k. This way, I don't have to explain every single thing such as "armourcryss windows" or "pictrecorder". On the other hand, it causes some disruptions of the game when we (sometimes pretty late) discover that our opinions on the setting are a bit too divergent.

 

So how do you create a uniform vision of the setting, without going over every single detail (and there are a lot of details in this setting) beforehand?

 

Cheers

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So how do you keep the out game knowledge out of the in game experience?

 

So how do you create a uniform vision of the setting, without going over every single detail (and there are a lot of details in this setting) beforehand?

 

Cheers

 

1. Try and gloss over it for the most part. Yeah your acolytes don't know pressure crushed the submarine, but they have a suspicion the machine spirit failed somehow, if they're really curious, which is dangerous in itself, they should ask a representative of the Adeptus Mechanicus to investigate. Stuff like that. It can be difficult, but sometimes it just comes down to saying, "You know that, your character doesn't however." Which breaks immersion yes, but is really the only way to deal with it.

 

2. You knew it was a storm, but the players thought it was foul play. Well guess what, now it was a storm caused by a cult to destroy the vox communications so the cult could begin infecting the agriworld's tithes with a nurgle plague in peace because they knew that it wouldn't be prepared for a long time. Go with the flow the players are setting. That vox station should've had some Adeptus Mechanicus members around, or at least someone would've checked it out eventually. An agri world isn't barren of all technology, it's just incredibly scarce.

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1.

It's called firewalling. Your character isn't you, nor are you your character. You are separate people with different training, worldviews and knowledge.

 

A player being an IT tech (most of my group) doesn't mean their characters won't wast hours trying to identify the cogitators "any" key.

 

Likewise player needn't know about Gellar filed fluctuations/voidship navigation/deamonic possession/psychic manifestaiton/mutational physiology for their character (who has the relevant lore skills) to be able to drone on explaining it in excrutiaing detail at every possible oppurtunity. (Sound like any adepts you know?)

 

2. Punish players foolish assumptions. Either by ignoring them, making them horrifyingly true in unexpected ways, or so humiliatingly untrue that your players feel like idiots and their superiors start to doubt their ability.

 

In a related point one of our group's GM has taken to giving small bumps of insanity points when players use knowledge their characters would have no reasonable explaination for having or mention game mechanics in-game.

Edited by Askil

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Characters can learn and have intuition as well of course.  Submarine is case in point.  Depending on the circumstances and intelligence of the character they might reasonably be expected to deduce that the weight of the water on the submarine caused the damage even if they couldn't explain the exact formulas or science behind the explanation.

 

This isn't such an issue as long as the leaps made don't affect the game too much.

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My group of players is at extreme polar opposites, one player, has read just about every book written about 40K, FFG and Black Library (it's a perk of being a manager of a book store). While 2 of my other players are So new to 40K, that they've never heard of a Space Marine. It makes the game interesting, because the player with all of the out of game knowledge has absolutely no in-game character knowledge. The inexperienced players have all bought lots of lores on various subjects.

Also I liked Askil's idea of giving insanity points for our of character knowledge. It will discourage the assassin from innately knowing the layout of a Warlord Titan (Moderati stations are up, and cogitators core is down)

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Likewise player needn't know about Gellar filed fluctuations/voidship navigation/deamonic possession/psychic manifestaiton/mutational physiology for their character (who has the relevant lore skills) to be able to drone on explaining it in excrutiaing detail at every possible oppurtunity. (Sound like any adepts you know?)

 

I dunno. A player who doesn't know anything about these things isn't going to be able to do much besides go

 

"And then Kari talks about warp fields for an hour."

 

And that's going to be it. If the player has no idea what sort of content to put into their character's statements, there's, well, going to be no content in their character's statements.

 

Take as another example a player who has made an Imperial Guardsman, from a proud Imperial World background, with a long history of warfighting and heresy-smashing. It's not going to make much sense past the first dozen or so times an NPC talks to them about something martially-focused and the player has no idea about how to have their character respond due to not knowing what a squad rush, or an echelon left is.

 

In cases like this, you run into equally huge problems (from a standpoint of breaking verisimilitude) of a character knowing things the player doesn't, and the player having no idea in the world how to express these things.

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Quite often, this issue is part of a much larger problem: a lack of abstraction on the part of a player. This attitude seems to stem from the predominant mind set of the western world, preaching from an early age on that knowledge (as well as creativity, for that matter) is power, and that to remain silent about an unanswered question results in one's counterpart's implying a lack of knowledge on one's part, thusly marking the victim as stupid and weak. Few people enjoy this role, even while gaming.

An in-game solution to fall back to might be to rely entirely on the numerics on the character sheet. Thus, if a character wishes to make a knowledgable statement about the matter at hand, the alter ego requires an appropriate skill. Success indicates that the player may make his statement, the level/margin of success indicating the depth of the cognition as usual. The skill descriptions in the rule book specify which skills can be used as Basic skills, that is, untrained.

The conversation might unfold as follows:

GM: »You'd like to make a statement about the Horus Heresy? Give me roll on Scholastic Lore (Legend), please. You don't have that? Well, give me an Ordinary roll on Common Lore (Imperial Creed), or, alternatively, an Ordinary roll on half your character's Fellowship to determine your wits. You really made that one? Phew! You shut up before you could fall into a meaningless litany of jabbering that would most probably result in your making a fool of yourself, right in front of your Inquisitor.«

Some players, being introverted and low-key, actually prefer to roll dice on social skills too. That's what Charm/Command/Deceit are about. Then again, other players prefer to play a part in the game more literally, and the quality of their performance may or may not influence the final roll, if dice are involved at all.

I, for one, prefer to turn statements into questions, resulting in tentative questions like

»Would I, by any chance, have an idea about this topic? You know my background in this field.«

… which works particularly well in combination with a GM who knows one's personal knowledge, as well as the approximate numbers on one's character sheet.
 

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Quite often, this issue is part of a much larger problem: a lack of abstraction on the part of a player. This attitude seems to stem from the predominant mind set of the western world, preaching from an early age on that knowledge (as well as creativity, for that matter) is power, and that to remain silent about an unanswered question results in one's counterpart's implying a lack of knowledge on one's part, thusly marking the victim as stupid and weak. Few people enjoy this role, even while gaming.

An in-game solution to fall back to might be to rely entirely on the numerics on the character sheet. Thus, if a character wishes to make a knowledgable statement about the matter at hand, the alter ego requires an appropriate skill. Success indicates that the player may make his statement, the level/margin of success indicating the depth of the cognition as usual. The skill descriptions in the rule book specify which skills can be used as Basic skills, that is, untrained.

The conversation might unfold as follows:

GM: »You'd like to make a statement about the Horus Heresy? Give me roll on Scholastic Lore (Legend), please. You don't have that? Well, give me an Ordinary roll on Common Lore (Imperial Creed), or, alternatively, an Ordinary roll on half your character's Fellowship to determine your wits. You really made that one? Phew! You shut up before you could fall into a meaningless litany of jabbering that would most probably result in your making a fool of yourself, right in front of your Inquisitor.«

Some players, being introverted and low-key, actually prefer to roll dice on social skills too. That's what Charm/Command/Deceit are about. Then again, other players prefer to play a part in the game more literally, and the quality of their performance may or may not influence the final roll, if dice are involved at all.

I, for one, prefer to turn statements into questions, resulting in tentative questions like

»Would I, by any chance, have an idea about this topic? You know my background in this field.«

… which works particularly well in combination with a GM who knows one's personal knowledge, as well as the approximate numbers on one's character sheet.

 

 

 

I quite like using a combination of this apporach and seeing how the player roleplays their character.

 

So for example if the player makes a Charm test and simply abstracts it that is fine if however he makes an effort to actually be charming and it is even half decent I might give him an extra bonus (of course if comes across extra sleazy or says blatently the wrong thing there might be a negative modifer)

 

I get frustrated with the Lore Skills because they are far too broad.  Common Lore Imperium? Really, a Galaxy of a million worlds and the player has decent general knowledge of this?

 

Personally I rule that Lore Skills give very broad over views of subjects and then the PCs can gain detailed Lore Skills (Like Common Lore: Hive World or Forbidden Lore: Dark Eldar etc.  These detailed Lore Skills are much cheaper to purchase, obviously have more limited applicability but give more detailed information used.  i.e a degree of success with a detailed lore skill might be worth the equivilent of two or three degrees  of success on the general lore skill.

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