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My final question (for now) deals with the knowledge of the players of what is actually happening in AD&D 1e.

Take for example AD&D's initiative system. I'm not sure whether or not the players should know exactly what the initiative order is. I'm afraid that if I begin to explain what segment we are in, it might break the immersion of the game and turn it more so into a convoluted wargame (my enemy).

Or, in regards to combat itself, I'm unsure of whether or not the players are supposed to know the AC of their adversary. I believe that they might as well, as there seems to be a THAC column in their character sheets anyways.

In general, how many (or few) of the game's "behind-the-scenes" mechanics should be known to the players? My concern is that knowing these could do harm to the game's immersive qualities.

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The answer to this really depends on the table. Some players prefer to know the results of all roles, while some DMs may prefer to hide it. Other players may choose to remain in the dark. In the end, its an expectation that should be discussed before the game starts so everyone can be on the same page. Also, okeefe's comment. –  Jason_c_o Mar 30 at 10:58
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At some point, you have to engage the rules for what they are. Immersion as goal in and of itself makes a poor game. –  okeefe Mar 30 at 22:31

3 Answers 3

up vote 8 down vote accepted

This depends on your group. Eventually they'll figure out stuff like armour class by seeing which rolls are enough to let them land a hit and which miss, and telling them beforehand lets them see whether they hit without you needing to look up any tables, so in my games I usually let the players know what armour class an enemy is, at least once they've declared they're attacking.

Initiative is also something that is simply easier to tell the players. In-game, they'll notice the order in which people act, so there isn't any sort of player-knowledge vs. character-knowledge issue. It also lets each player prepare what they'll do when their turn comes, and it's easier for the group to co-ordinate attacks. For example, if there are two warriors (A and C) and an archer (B) fighting two enemies (X and Y) and the initiative order is ABCXY, then it makes more sense for B and C to attack one target (so that the archer doesn't fire into melee and risk hitting the warrior) than for A and B to attack one target. Also, you don't necessarily have to tell the players what segment you're in - just tell them the order in which everyone acts.

In general, I let players know about the mechanics if either A) they will figure it out for themselves in a fair span of time, or B) they should know it in-game anyway. I don't usually have trouble with immersion, but if I do, then I just tell the players that we are all going to act in-character for a little while (usually until the next break) and then no-one is allowed to mention mechanics except for the DM. Players say things like "I land a heavy blow, carving into the nearest goblin's leg" and show me that they rolled a '6' instead of "I roll a 14, which is a hit on the goblin in front of me, and deal 6 damage".

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From what I had read, it seemed as if everybody decided their actions before initiative is rolled. I thought this was a bit weird, as it could lead to contradictions. Are you saying the proper way is to declare your action simply before it is carried out? Also, as a side note, can players have their own initiative count? In your example the players' side does not altogether at the same time. –  ComradeYakov Mar 29 at 18:30
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@ComradeYakov Whoops, I think this might have been a houserule I'm so used to I forgot it wasn't in the official rules. The first game of AD&D I played in the DM would get everyone to roll initiative before we decided our actions. He also rolled individual initiative for each player and monster in the smaller skirmishes. I'm not sure either of those are in the PHB or DMG. –  Dakeyras Mar 29 at 18:33
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On AC... I let them roll attacks and keep track of what hit and what didn't; after a couple of rolls, they figure it out. From what is already known, we all just say it out loud (out of character). Something like: "That guard has AC between 3 and -1, so I'll attack the other one first". Or if they ask me, I'll remind them that their lowest roll that hit was X. –  Roflo Mar 29 at 19:00

The simplest answer is to hide those things that cannot reasonably be known by the character, or figured out routinely by the player, and give such details as are necessary.

AC is a tricky one. Some details can be figured out easily (the guard is wearing chain mail, so his AC is probably around X), but sometimes you'll want to lob a few surprises at people (like the guy with magic armor, or a Ring of Protection, which are each a little less obvious). My way around this was simple: give the players the combat tables, so that when they roll and add all their modifiers they can say "I hit AC X", and then you can tell them whether or not that was good enough. This way, you can maintain a little bit of mystery if need be (Was that high roll needed to hit? Did I just miss, or was I way off?) and also let you insert a little color in the results ("The guard barely manages to get his shield up to deflect your blow, you almost had him!", or "The creature easily dodges your attack, and you hear a hissing laugh as he prepares to strike." for instance.)

Other bits of information should definitely NOT be revealed easily...my favorite example being the check for traps. One of my favorite phrases as a GM has long been "You don't find any traps...", which could mean anything from "you blew it" to "there aren't any", and is a lovely little paranoia-inducer, though it requires that you use some method of obscuring the value of dice rolls (for example, randomly determining whether a high roll or a low one will be successful, which keeps the players from automatically knowing...some groups really dislike this sort of thing, however.)

The trick here, though, is remembering the difference between "information" and "mechanics". Mechanics don't, by themselves, need to remain hidden from the players (and characters). Players should have a reasonable expectation of knowing how the game and the world works, at the relatively simple level of mechanics, so that they can make plans and devise tactics. What they shouldn't have is perfect information about the situation (without having earned it) that will allow them to devise "perfect" plans and tactics. Gaining information is part of the game, and success or failure at it should have an impact upon the outcome of an adventure in some way.

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Great last paragraph on the difference between information and mechanics. To use a contract bridge example, it's the difference between knowing your opponents' bidding convention, and knowing their cards. –  kmoe Jul 20 at 11:59

There are really two questions buried in this one.

1. Should I try to mask the mechanics for immersion purposes? I've found that actively trying to hide mechanics like AC and initiative can actually be more distracting from than supportive to the immersion. Although I'm sure it depends on the mood of the table, in my experience keeping the rolls and calculations light and quick is a better strategy. Die rollers naturally want to know what numbers they're trying to beat, and if you make every fight a math challenge they'll spend a lot of brain power focused on the very details you're trying to suppress.

2. Should I hide combat statistics of enemies from the players? No tactic is interesting if it becomes routine. The suspense behind not knowing what you need to roll, or even if you have a decent chance of hitting, can be a great effect, but it's best if used sparingly. Suddenly holding back that info will also have a greater effect on their mood, i.e. put real doubt/fear into them, if it isn't the norm.

When you do hold back how tough an opponent is, if you don't want your players fiddling with the combat charts, use statements like "You just barely missed him with that one...", or "He effortlessly batted that shot away with his shield." to give them a sense of whether they rolled high or low. (If they look at you puzzled, you may have to follow up with "You almost hit with that roll." or "You missed by a mile.")

From a narrative perspective, it makes some sense that to hit rolls will often be routinely known. These characters have some amount of training. They've probably seen most forms of armor and weapons in use, if not used them themselves. The relative difficulty of hitting an orc in leather armor with your sword or whacking a wild dog with a staff really shouldn't be as big a mystery to them as we sometimes make it out to be. At least that's how I justify giving out AC's and telling players what rolls they need in general, until they face that unknown or surprisingly well-equipped enemy for the first time.

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