There’s an old saying: easier to ask forgiveness than permission. And I think there should be a corollary for role playing. And it is one I plan to put into practice this weekend, future games I run, and most importantly, next time I play in Denver. That lesson is:
The GM can only tell you no if you ask
This is a big deal in my opinion, because it has an effect on how everyone plays the game. Now you can look at that phrase as being negative, as saying that asking if you can do something is going to result in a negative answer, so just go with the flow. And I will be honest, that’s how I played for years. And it is not illegal or wrong to play this way.
For example, on Sunday, my character is the group archer. And is built for speed and finesse, kind of like a Legolas type of character. But on Sunday when the combat began here is the general summary of my actions:
Round 1: I shoot at one of the crocodiles while standing behind the priest of Thor who is enlarged. No movement, just shoot the biggest thing I can see.
Round 2: Seeing that our main healer on the other side of the line was in danger of being flanked, I swap bow for shield and scimitar and run to attack the skeleton champion.
Rounds 3-8: I stand in the line and fight skeleton champions and undead Dire crocodiles.
That was it, no movement, no attempts to gain any advantages by moving. Granted, we were next to a river, on a raised road, in sunlight, so there were not a lot of places to hide and snipe from. But here is a list of things I could have tried:
We had time to set up an ambush, so I could have placed myself in the swamp, in hiding, and shot from there.
These were slow creatures, so there was no question that I would have been able to stay ahead of them (my move was double theirs.) So I could easily have shot, then moved, shot again, and then maybe hide.
We realized halfway through the battle that I could have accessed and used the undead destroying mace that our priest carries (but never uses.)
I essentially wasted a good chunk of my skills and Feats in this battle. And this is not the first time I have done this. And you know why I do this? It is because the way our GM sets up battles, and the way the other players act, I fall into an old fashioned way of playing. And I expect the GM and other players to tell me no, don’t do that, so I never ask or try. But the reality is that I could very easily have gotten away with some of these things, been more helpful to the party, and without pushing the rules envelope.
Now part of that also has to do with the old joke among players, never split up the party, the GM can do more damage that way. Having my character move out alone is dangerous, and a recipe for getting him killed, and also slows down game play.
But I need to get out of that mind set. And remind myself that the GM can only say no if I ask. I need to do more as part of the battle plan, take advantage of my skills. He can only ask me to make a roll, or at worst say no.
And as a GM I need to take the same advice. Instead of just saying: “okay, roll to attack”, instead “What do you want to do? Okay, for that you need to make this roll”. Obviously if they ask to do the impossible I can say no, but it might be more interesting to give them the chance first.