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  #1  
Old Jan 8th, 2023, 09:56 PM
Maya Conti Maya Conti is offline
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Do you tell your players about things happening outside their characters' PoV?

So, I DMed a game somewhere sometime ago (the game stalled at some point) where I made my players encounter a pod of giant frogs. As expected, they killed most of the giant frogs, except one. I made it so that the remaining frog managed to escape with its life if the players failed to hit it. And of course, they failed to hit it, and the frog escaped.

Just to make things more interesting, I told my players that while the frog was fleeing, grievously wounded, it encountered an evil druid (who's meant to be an enemy that my players would encounter somewhere down the line), and the druid decided, on a whim, to cast Awaken on it, making the frog intelligent and sentient. Still remembering the encounter with the players, the frog with its newfound sentience swore to kill the players as it would become stronger, taking class levels as it did so.

Still, this got me wondering; is it alright to tell your players things that are happening outside of their characters' PoV? I mean, if I suddenly reintroduce the Awakened giant frog who has taken a few levels in fighter without providing any context or background, they're gonna say 'whaat? how the hell that happened?' or stuff like that. So, what do you think?
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Old Jan 9th, 2023, 02:06 AM
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I think this is mostly a question of stylistic choice, so you'll probably hear a few subjective answers to this. Here goes mine.

Personally, I don't divulge too much about what's happening outside of the player characters' discernment. There are a lot of reasons for this, but the biggest ones are probably how the thrill of the unknown adds mystery to the game and gives the players motivation to explore while also helping manage the games tension curve (for example knowing that there is a connection with the druid and the awakened frog will take the surprise out of meeting the druid as well as take away the reason for the players to investigate/interrogate the frog), and the other reason is that reducing my narrative to the characters' experiences helps the players with maintaining their immersion (the player's brain will be forced to put effort into banning any 'secret' lore about the frog from their character's thoughts which is a counter force to the player's immersion).

That said, especially in PbP which can tend to take more of an author perspective on the narrative rather than an immersive/improvisational one, I've personally narrated things which the characters couldn't know but at least tangentially experience like another character's thoughts, and I've seen other GMs do this as well to enhance the narration of a particular scene. There always will be a balance of how many in-character secrets you put on the players to carry around and keep from their characters, and I believe my general perspective would be that some of those secrets enhance the play experience while some of them should be kept from the players until it's time to reveal them to both the players and the characters at once.

I think there isn't a straight science for this so you pretty much have to rely on your gut about it, but it's one of those things which you'll get more of a feeling for the longer you GM. Basically, this falls into the storyteller aspect of GMing. Sometimes it's cool to know the story fully to have some added context, but there will be instances when preceding the in-character reveal of information will lessen the impact of revealing said information in-character later, essentially spoiling the climax to what otherwise could have been a surprise. But as I've said at first, this is definitely a stylistic choice and a matter of personal preference. Some GMs are very strict and take their game's secrets to the grave if they must, and some simply want to show everybody all that there is to know about their shared narrative.

My personal stance is that it improves most adventures when the GM manages to keep their cards to their chest, but I also keep experiencing the desire to spill the beans. I tend to catch myself being less strict with myself than I maybe should, but in the end I don't mind it too much because sharing the lore is fun, especially if the players fail to unveil it as part of the story. I think how you should handle this all depends on how serious you want to be with creating mystery and fostering the exploration aspect of your game. If you want your players to use their characters to explore your game world, never tell them more than their characters would know or actively experience.

@edit:
For the Giant Frog example, I would have probably kept it a secret and then later reintroduced the frog as an enemy with something like, "with a grumbling croak the beast jumps onto the massive log, but it doesn't attack you immediately. For just one second it stares down at your party knowingly, the evil glint of deep resentment in its eyes as it has come to take its revenge! Roll initiative!" And alternatively you could have kept the story going by handing out a few tidbits of foreshadowings to the party of some curious giant frog moving throughout the region and doing whatever it will do to earn those fighter levels. In the end, I'm sure there will be some dots connected, and even if not you can still do the reveal of what had happened with the druid at that point. It's all just a matter of presentation and then maintaining your own patience. Everything can be the seed for an exciting reveal down the line if you tend to it in the right way (well not everything, but you know what I mean).
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Last edited by Mindsiege; Jan 9th, 2023 at 04:25 AM.
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Old Jan 9th, 2023, 04:20 AM
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for me it really depends on the tone of the game.

if you're playing some intrigue, where even players have their own agendas, the definitely give only the information they have. I also enjoy when occasionally there are some GM-player one on one because of specific shenaniganery. (though ideally it would be done between sessions to not slow everyone down)

However, if the game is light hearted, or even deliberately cinematic, then I'm definitely going all-in and having "scenes" where the big bad is twirling his mustache, or the monster is killing an NPC, etc...

one example of that is simply Brain Soda, a game where the characters are the main cast of a very bad and very cheap horror movie. In that game, I tend to have an introductory scene with the monster escaping from a facility, transforming, or doing it's first kill before the title of the movie / scenario "appears on screen". It's stupid, but it's a "stylistic choice" of sorts to put the players in the mood of relax, it's stupid, your characters are going to die in ridiculous gory ways, and we're going to have a laugh about it.

Having the little story of the frog is IMO a good way to set up a foe later on without having said frog "come back out of nowhere".

In my current Scion game, I have had a player ask me "so, what did we miss ?" because they are aware I prepare more NPCs, capacities and everything... and while I do give some information to them after the fact, I don't give all if it's related to a bigger, more important global narrative that they should be looking out for.


the question is mostly : how valuable is information ? the GM giving extra "freebies" is 100% up to them. There's no objective truth in this.
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Old Jan 9th, 2023, 04:32 AM
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It sounds to me like pi314 and I are exactly on the same page there. Their example is perfect for the kind of situation when you don't want to be stingy with giving your players more of a cinematic storytelling experience which extends past the scope of their characters' vision.

Even in the Giant Frog example, although I gave an example of how else it could have been handled, being overt with that side scene and entertaining your players with a bit of a look behind the curtain might as well have been perfect for the tone which you were trying to set with your game. There really are no wrong choices as long as it feels good to you and everybody is having fun.
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Old Jan 9th, 2023, 06:08 AM
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Well, it's more like I wanted to give the game a more cinematic feeling to it. Wanted to make it more than just a roleplay session, making it more complete as a story.

The game kind of stopped, though. Didn't reach the part where the giant frog showed up to confront the party to enact vengeance.
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Old Jan 9th, 2023, 06:31 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Maya Conti View Post
Well, it's more like I wanted to give the game a more cinematic feeling to it. Wanted to make it more than just a roleplay session, making it more complete as a story.
I suppose that leads us back to your initial question, "is it alright to tell your players things that are happening outside of their characters' PoV?"

As long as you know what you're doing and you're doing it for a good reason, you can do no wrong here. Knowing what flavour or style goes with what kind of game or story that you want to present to your players is all part of the learning curve, and I think it's one of those things where everybody just keeps heaping on more experiences as long as they GM.

So to answer your initial question more clearly, yes, generally it's alright to tell your players about things happening outside of their characters' awareness. Being more or less cinematic will lend itself to whatever style you are going with for your game, and as long as you're aware of the difference that using this stylistic choice will make for your game's flavour, you're definitely on the right track. Not every game needs to be exploration driven or wait on its narrative reveals for dramatic effect.
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Old Jan 9th, 2023, 06:32 AM
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I would generally say that I don't do that, in order to keep the players immersed in the "reality" of the imagination game.

Then, I realized, I kind of do, just out of character. In one game I GM, I took a moment in the OOC thread to remind the players that "You probably realize as you begin to leave, that the BBEG is waiting for you. She probably just used your party to do all the hard work, and will now swoop in and steal the treasure, with just a little effort."

In game reality, this should have occurred to them, but I know it hasn't, and I wanted them to get a glint of what was going to happen, if they proceeded without any thought or preparation. It's not quite in game, and it allows them to process the info as a PC, perhaps even drawing up their own clues to how they thought of this. Or not.
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Old Jan 9th, 2023, 09:56 AM
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Bards.

You might love or hate them, but they are good for info drops.

You could have a wandering bard encounter your party and offer to sing them the catchy new ballad about this unlucky group of adventurers who allowed a frog to escape, a frog who then was awakened, gained powers, and swore revenge.

But, of course, itís just a made-up ditty. Thereís no real reason to fear. Right? Errr, right?
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Old Jan 10th, 2023, 12:49 AM
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For me, I think of these non-PoV scenes as some sort of interludes, something that my players' characters shouldn't know, though it will enrich the roleplaying experience of the players themselves. At least that's what I think.
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Old Jan 10th, 2023, 01:00 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Maya Conti View Post
For me, I think of these non-PoV scenes as some sort of interludes, something that my players' characters shouldn't know, though it will enrich the roleplaying experience of the players themselves. At least that's what I think.
In that case you have found an answer to your initial question. As I said, this is a pretty subjective topic.

As I had alluded to before, it all comes down to what you consider makes for a good roleplay experience. For some players/GMs a good roleplay experience is one where they can deeply immerse themselves in their character, which such out-of-body experiences of course run contrary of. But like with the example of Brain Soda, there will be some RPGs that don't put as much of an emphasis on immersion. I think any horror game in which your character has a good likelihood of becoming brutally murdered is probably one where you don't want to get too immersed into your character as that could become quite emotionally taxing. In DnD-style games, I usually strive for high levels of immersion because that checks my personal box for what makes good roleplay.

But in the end, you can ask plenty of people and they will all give you a different answer for what makes good roleplay. So all of this is something that a playgroup will have to get on the same page about as they agree to play a TTRPG together. And usually the GM is the one who gets to set the tone that they prefer.

@edit:
But please don't mistake my meaning. Immersive storytelling isn't a mandate for good storytelling. Setting up your game with beautiful interlude scenes is certainly a valuable technique in each storyteller's arsenal. The only question to ask yourself would be when and where to use it. And I'm sure great minds will disagree about the importance of immersion, as they would about most other things in such a creative subject as is roleplay.
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Old Jan 10th, 2023, 02:01 AM
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Flashback.

When the frog returns seeking revenge you have a SPOILERBUTTON tag that has the frog's story. This way they remain immersed until the encounter, but still get the story.

This is actually easier in PbP than it is in TT as you can write it ahead of time and make sure it sounds like you want it to.

-me
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Old Jan 10th, 2023, 05:15 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jj_wolven View Post
Flashback.

When the frog returns seeking revenge you have a SPOILERBUTTON tag that has the frog's story. This way they remain immersed until the encounter, but still get the story.

This is actually easier in PbP than it is in TT as you can write it ahead of time and make sure it sounds like you want it to.

-me
Well, it's a face-to-face game, not a PbP game. It's kinda stalled now.
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Old Jan 10th, 2023, 03:42 PM
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The same concept applies on TT, you just need to narrate the frog montage...frogtage.

-me
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Old Feb 20th, 2023, 06:53 PM
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I don't usually give the players information that happens outside of their POV, but I have played with GMs who do and it has never caused a problem.

Wait. I said that I don't, but ... I do sometimes (ok, often times) run a one-shot session, mid-campaign, where each of the players is given a new character in the same world, in order for them to experience more of what's happening. Typically, these one-shot characters become NPCs later in the campaign. Does that count as "outside their POV"? I mean, it IS their POV at the time; it's just not the POV of their usual characters.

Regardless, this approach makes the players feel more connected to the game world and makes the game world feel like a living, breathing place. It also allows them to witness the ongoing story in a greater context, because they get to see firsthand how other people in the world have been affected.

For example, I ran a space campaign once where sentient robots were invading the planets of their civilization. While the PCs were flying around trying to stop the central AI, we took a step back and played a single session with different characters that were trying to escape one of the invaded planets. Later, those same characters joined the PCs' crew as NPCs.
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Old Feb 24th, 2023, 01:07 AM
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They could always find a recording device later, technological or magical.
There are also spells that can transfer memories.

-me

...frogtage...
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