Passive Warnings versus Active Warnings (Alan)
I would appreciate some general clarification about what we'll be told without having to ask for it, particularly in situations where success hinges upon making proper use of all the information at hand, and bad consequences can occur if the player fails to take into consideration, remember or be aware of things the character ought to.
How much warning can we generally expect to help us avoid having our characters do things they should know are unwise, without actively asking about how our character perceives the situation each time before we make a decision?
I'm going to distinguish between four categories of things which might be seen to require passive warnings and my attitudes to each:
If I think the player ought to know better than to do something (moon a line of pikemen who are within pike-reach, discuss family secrets in a highly secure prison, knowing that hiding secrets about the Outsiders from the family is going to get you in trouble), then if they choose to do it, I am not going to give a passive warning unless I think they're about to do something hideously campaign-wrecking (as I don't think it's fair to other players to have their enjoyment spoiled by one lone player having a moment of idiocy).
I do this because in my experience, giving passive warnings for every possible mistake results either in me becoming frustrated because my warnings are ignored at every turn or frustrated because I end up feeling I am basically telling the players what to do all the time, in which case I might as well just go write a story instead of bothering to have players. I do not feel it is my job as a GM to shield the players from all possibility of disaster.
I recognize there is a certain amount of fuzziness between category one and category two, and I sometimes err in my estimation of people's real life knowledge.
Category two, I recognize it is my job to try to provide as much of the relevant knowledge as possible and to make sure that people benefit from things their characters know which they do or cannot. There are a wide variety of things here, from being able to read the warning label written in Sidar to recognizing the sigil of the Bayashi Assassins to knowing the fundamental precautions before disarming a bomb.
I think players have a right to expect to be as informed as they need to be to make intelligent decisions when it comes to this category of things because it's my job as the DM to fill in the blanks of player knowledge, since you can't read my mind, and our characters often have skills we don't possess.
I try to remember to give out what I think is relevant information in this area without having to be asked, but I sometimes forget that people should know something or I fail to realize the player would have done something differently because they assessed the importance of knowing X differently than I did.
Category three is related to category two, but has an additional component, which is the fact that while your characters have a lot of relevant knowledge that you don't, your knowledge is typically less reliable because you rarely have an iron-clad knowledge of what your opponents are doing or their full capacities.
The amount of passive advice you get in such a situation is going to depend on a variety of factors, such as whether you or your foe has better tactics, how much category 2 knowledge comes into play (You may not know how good a foe is, but if you see he's wearing the sigil of the Bayashi Assassins, you can at least use your knowledge of that as a reference), and what I think your character is capable of casually observing / likely to have their attention drawn by.
The final category is that of adjusting to new powers. I know it takes a while to get the hang of say, Logrus or Trump or whatever, and I am pretty generous with advice because it is easy to make really bad decisions with powers you do not have the hang of yet. While I take the training wheels off eventually, I fully understand how you can easily lose track of what all you can do and not yet have a grasp on how to use your new abilities effectively. A lot of players have branched out into powers they had no previous experience with in this game, so I've tried to help people adjust to that.
As a general rule, I will try to give you enough information to work from to make informed decisions, but I generally do not spontaneously offer warnings not to do something. If you ask for tactical advice, I will tell you whether or not you think something will work, but keep in mind that because your character has limited knowledge, you may sometimes be told that something is a good idea which is actually a BAD idea, because you have been out-tacticed or your opponent has something up their sleeve you didn't know about. If I the DM know something is stupid, but your character has no way of knowing, you will not get a warning. In combat, this is frequently the state of affairs.
Ultimately, my opinion on passive warnings can be summed up in this manner. It is the player's job to make decisions about what his character does, for good and ill. I do not want to second guess you all, or hold your hands so you never err. It is not my job to make sure the player does not make mistakes (except in the case of trying to prevent one lone player wrecking things for everyone). It IS my job to answer the player's questions about what his character knows, so they can make an informed decision. Character knowledge, however, is not always accurate, and especially in combat, is not always completely reliable.
As a general rule, I prefer that players ask for more details if they feel I haven't given them enough to make an informed decision. In some cases, I may spontaneously give warning if I think a decision is either going to make a huge mess for other players pointlessly or if it causes me to realize I haven't told you some detail that I should have told you up front (Like you tell me you're going to charge the Orcs and then I realize I never mentioned the canyon in the way) or when one player has knowledge the others do not (Chloe recognizes the Sidar runes for 'Certain Death' on the package).
To do otherwise is to create a situation where I ought to just run everyone's characters for them, because if I'm going to tell you what to do and what not to do, then there is no point in having players, and I might as well just write a story instead of gaming.
What does John expect out of this game? (Misc.)
After last night's discussion, I had several people tell me I was more enigmatic than I actually thought. Obviously, everyone's been forgetting to read my mind, I guess. So I decided to make a page to lay out my expectations for the game and to do my own bitching about things.
You can find it right here.