How do you discourage “player knowledge” as a GM?

  • As a trivial random encounter is winding down, a player thinks “That was too easy… The GM wouldn’t give us an encounter that doesn’t give XP,” and starts searching for hidden bad guys or other clues.

  • There are four statues in a room, and you use miniatures to represent them. The players think to themselves “Well if the GM used miniatures, these things are definitely coming to life,” and get ready to fight.

  • When you lay down a map of a seemingly random part of the forest trail, the players think “This must be important, let’s search around / prepare for battle.”

  • You roll a 1 for a player’s knowledge check and feed them inaccurate information. They saw the roll and know you’re full of it.

Even the most disciplined players sometimes will take advantage of “Player Knowledge” over “Character knowledge.” Sometimes it’s hard to even tell the difference. You know that you should switch to your frost battleaxe against that Fire Demon, but does your city-raised fighter with the intelligence of an old boot know?

What strategies are there to discourage the use of player knowledge, and how can you cut back on perceptions that players have of the genre itself?

Should I discourage a group of players from all playing the same class with very similar builds?


Concerns I have

Traditionally the D&D party has been a Cleric, Fighter, Magic User and a Thief.

  • Adventures have been balanced around the traditionally party composition listed above.
  • Players feeling upstaged by another player doing the same thing better.

    So if I’m dealing with a group that all the players want to be trip build Fighters, should I encourage them to rethink their decision?

How to discourage mundane play?

I am freestyling a campaign w/out an °official° system, and I have run into a problem. With certain players, they refuse to play as adventurers, choosing instead to get a steady job, then saying things like: “I sweep the tavern floors every night for three months.” Then, with the subsequent money they obtain from this three-month saving session, they buy awesome gear and easily defeat everything I planned to put in their way. How do I get it into their heads that they are not mundane people and therefore should not act this way?

How do I discourage or work with “nuke it from orbit” solutions?

Here’s the issue: some of the players in my group tend to be pragmatic…a little too pragmatic. They are the type who’ll figure out the most efficient and cleanest way to take care of any problems, who rather to nuke it from the orbit to play things safe rather than taking on risks.

My current campaign is heroic fantasy, and I have taken pains to emphasis that while it is not ‘heroic stupid’, the players are to be the heroes. We used the Same Page Tool to ensure we all knew what that meant. However, one or two of the players still frequently come up with brilliant plans that negate them adventuring. For instance, if there is a brigand stronghold in town, the player will rather spread rumours to neighbouring lords that exaggerate the amount of wealth and atrocity of those brigands as to entice them to attack the stronghold, instead of venturing in themselves. And they would suggest heading back for reinforcements and so on.

There are a few reasons why I would rather them not do it. First, it’s not about them adventuring any more. Some other people will step into the limelight. Second, in case of reinforcements, it’s more combatants and that drag things out. Third, if I say “yes, but,” anything I do may come across as vindictive. Fourth, we agreed not to play those kinds of stories.

I have tried, the last time this happens, to say, “Look guys, this isn’t the genre of adventure we agree on. Don’t do this. I won’t enjoy GMing this type of game.” but I rather not do that a second time. (Meta-railroading, how low can I go?). Or, how I can accept such solutions, but still keep the PCs in the limelight?

It’s not that I don’t want creative solutions, but I want to—and we’ve agreed to—play dramatic stories. The specific kind of creative solution that results in a humdrum “safe” course of action is not a good fit as it doesn’t create a dramatic story.

We’re playing 13th Age, a narrative-centric variant of d20, which has this topical advice to players about creative solutions:

Create Dramatic Stories
In traditional roleplaying games, players try to invent the smartest, best or most efficient solutions… the worst approach is to come up with the safest solutions… We encourage you to be exciting rather than prudent. When inventing a solution to an open-ended problem, approach the issue the way a good writer approaches a plot point… Think about what would generate fun.

I am also looking for ways to work with the PCs’ solutions, as long as they remain the focus of the game. How do I encourage players to contribute drama to the narrative instead of playing it safe all the time?

How can I discourage gluttony while still granting buffs?

In Wendy’s Feast of Legends, characters gain bonuses for foods eaten by their players.

The game explicitly mentions that buffs stack and there are a total 6 different food items (briefly: burger, chicken, frosty, drink, fries, salad).

A particularly health-reckless power-gamer could gorge themselves on in order to gain limitless bonuses. Of course the intersection between power gamers and players of Wendy’s Feast of Legends should be fairly small, but even so.

It also feels unscrupulous to deny bonuses to someone that brought their own food that doesn’t fall into those categories (soup, for example), or doesn’t consume certain food items (beef, for example).

How can I fairly offer buffs (and debuffs?) without directly involving player-food-consumption?

How to discourage players from roleplaying out of their alignment when using a 3.5e alignment system in a 4e game?

My GM would like to implement the 3.5e grid-based alignment system in his 4th edition game. He would also like to implement better penalties for not playing within your alignment.

I understand that 4e doesn’t provide for any such thing as penalties so he doesn’t have an applicable framework to proceed from.

What are some house rules that could work here?

How can I discourage a player from making the same character if their current one dies?

This was inspired by this question: Should I allow players to recreate the exact same character if they die?

Whilst it was closed as too subjective (because it asks whether one should want to do this), I think there was an interesting subject matter here, so I’m going to start my question with the premise that I do want to discourage my players from doing this.

As for whether or not I should feel this way, I believe the answers to the other question already cover that (basically, is the rest of the table as troubled by this or is it just me, and if it is just me then does it really matter if that’s what the players find fun?).

However, if I need to justify my position, I personally find it boring and unimaginative and therefore it would take away from my fun to some degree if they just made the same character again after they die (especially since I try to work elements of the player’s character’s backstory into the game, so if the same character turned up with the same backstory, that would disappoint me). However, it doesn’t take away from my fun so much that I want to stop DMing for these players or force them to make different characters.

So, to restate that last point, I don’t want to force my players to make a new character; as some of the other question’s answers have said, some players just like playing the same character (either literally, same name and backstory and everything, especially if they don’t take character death well, or more broadly the same character, such as someone who always makes a dwarf fighter with roughly the same personality but with a different name and a slight variation to their backstory), in which case there probably isn’t an answer to this question that wouldn’t also reduce their fun. Hence this question isn’t about those players who won’t budge, it’s about players who aren’t quite so determined to make the same character over and over, but might do so anyway.

So, to try to keep this within the limits of “Good Subjective”, my question is: what methods have you personally used or seen that successfully encouraged players to make new characters or discouraged them from making the same character without forcing the players into it?

I imagine most answers will be answering from the perspective of the DM, but if someone has achieved this as a player, influencing another player to make a different character (without forcing them), then such answers are also welcome.