Thursday, February 24, 2011

From Under A Rock – Out of Character Knowledge

Today’s topic is Keeping Out of Character knowledge Out of Character. For many gamers this is a difficult concept. Why should you not be able to use all the myriad of knowledge that you have accumulated over the years in gaming to the best of your ability? If you know, for instance, that a displacer beast has the ability to blink in and out of reality or that a black dragon’s breath weapon is a line of acid spray because you have faced them before in other games why should you not know this with your current character? Even if you do attempt to not use this knowledge in character how do you keep it separate without either looking like a fool by running blindly into combat or making up excuses why your current character might have come across this knowledge?

What have you done as a player to keep from using knowledge you might have but your character might not have? What have you done as a player to use knowledge that your character might have but that you do not have or skills that your character has but skills you do not possess? Have you argued, “I would have known that” or “My character knows not to do that even though I don’t”?

On the flip side what have you done as a DM to keep players from using out of character knowledge? Do you reward their behavior if they do use out of character knowledge? Do you reward it if they do not? Do you not care and just let them use what knowledge they have? What do you do?

Lastly, does it even matter if you use out of character knowledge in the game? Your character obviously has skills that you do not have. For instance take someone who is tone deaf playing a bard or take a passive person playing a gung-ho fighter.

I invite you all to share your opinions on this. There are no wrong answers. This is an open forum topic.


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  2. First time posting.
    Coming from a player perspective, Everyone wants their character to survive, and when faced with the acid stream of a dragon that could very easily kill you, I would say yeah its probably ok. But in the situation of a displacer beast, the knowledge of that is a bit more lore focused, and the counters to that are more rare than common knowledge. Lets face it. Dragon - regardless of its type you know it has a breath weapon, just with that common knowledge, most would react the same to by not running blindly to fight the deadly foe. Displacer Beasts, I don't believe are as common knowledge, unless you happen to live in a kingdom where they have been heavily breeding and are everywhere.

    I am strong proponent of the "DM gets the final word". If a player wants to use outside knowledge to aid him against the displacer beast, then I would say let him make knowledge check. If he makes the odds great or rolls a 20, great. If not, then the character is just going to have to stay in character and deal with it. Having that special information isn't necessarily a life or death situation like the dragon breath one, so the DM should be more stern in that regard. Plus I think some DM's fall into a habit of giving a way too much information. Their telling of the environment includes "You see a giant black dragon breathing down upon you, acid dripping from its jowls." Where it could instead be said " Large eyes open and focus upon you, waves of emense heat hit you bringing with it an acrid stench that waters your eyes, upon closer you see ridges and scales all along its body." Then you let characters make a knowledge check. If they pass then share the information, if not then let them experience it first hand.

    Just my thoughts

  3. Silloh I am right there with you. I prefer more description and less specifics.