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Is it ever advisable to tell players about "content" they missed out on because of their actions or inactions? For example, in the game the other night, one of the players has been making nice (while interestingly succeeding all disquiet rolls, or I'm doing something wrong there) with a promethean.

During a combat scenario said promethean would have come to the characters aid, but this player decided to abstain from the combat (for plausible RP reasons), but this also meant the group didn't get the aid of a fairly powerful NPC. The outcome of the combat was always fixed, as it was more of a plot hook, than realistically dangerous. My question is should I tell her, and the other players, that by abstaining she lost help for the group? Should I just let the mistakes (mistakes meaning missed opportunities) pile up, as that is part of the game?

update: If there's potential information that could still be of use in the future should I bring that up? e.g. the promethean may of yet be of use to the characters. I'm not sure if I should retain the information that it was a missed opportunity caused by RP because that makes something that I've been leaving as vague (though in this case, I did make a note that the Promethean was able to move the Fae in a futile attempt to block the Fae, at that point the PC's had basically lost the fight, so I didn't bother rolling for the Promethean, or pulling out her powers, considering retconning that scene so that it's more obvious).

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When your players missed or circumvented any interesting content, just recycle it for a future session. –  Philipp Jul 16 at 20:48

3 Answers 3

I'm inclined to ask: Is it really a mistake?

I think the answer depends on the game, if you are trying to run a game about the being characters, a game about their stories, a game about resolving (or even just experiencing a plot, or a game about a series of challenges.

Each of these is a valid way to play, so I'll try not let my preferences color the answer.

Being Characters

No, if the character would have concievably done that then it's not a mistake. Telling them they missed out is telling her "You're roleplaying wrong". If there is a problem here, it's probably a feeling of railroading. They are likely to have a very different perspective on things than you do.

the Character's Stories

No, but they are possibly indicating that they want to take their story in a different direction. Might be worth dangling some hooks that will drag the party in from another direction. The game should adjust to fit with what the players are interested in, in this style. Ideally you should be, effectively, plotting from a player, not in world, perspective, then mapping it back onto the world.

a Plot

Maybe it was a mistake, as there is a failure to leverage their hard one plot-power. It could have been done intentionally, however. It'll likely be worth finding out, one-on-one, whether they knew, and to maybe give them a few things to keep in mind when weighing up future choices. May be worth mentioning that a certain amount of metaplay is helpful in keeping this sort of game going. (Unless you hate that stuff, in which case I'd recommend staying away from this style)

Challenges

Yes, it's likely a mistake, a case of the player not realising how things were progressing, that they had the option, or they missed some clues. Ask them what they thought was going on. Maybe up the telegraphing so they are in the right place at the right time.

Generally...

Don't do this in front of the group. She probably had her reasons, and putting the group against her is a pretty crappy thing to do in my opinion. That said, I don't know your group dynamic.

Whilst I'm on a group dynamic note, if people are playing in different styles at the same time (as opposed to different styles at different times, but in sync) you might want to let them know without trying to assign blame, find a middle ground. If they are changing style heavily but in sync, it may be worth discussing telegraphing intended changes more.

Edit: For reference, I'm quite big into post-game feedback, mainly for me but also for the players. OOC time feeds the game, too, so I try to help folks out with rules, remind them of plot hooks they may have forgotten, clear up any misunderstandings that occur in a scene, but I find it works best to address actual problems in private.

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I'm not inclined to think this is actually a problem, other than perhaps going out of her way to avoid the fight, in a sort of weird way "I'm just gonna chillax over here, while ignoring the werewolf and fully exposed Fae duke it out". That might be a problem.. but the rest is more me debating on whether I should be pointing out missed opportunities. There was certainly more than one, though RP could explain it all. –  xenoterracide Jul 16 at 16:04
    
Which of the play styles above do you think your players tend to fall into? Did she know about the Werewolf? Did she have a compelling reason to put herself in danger? –  Dave Jul 16 at 16:06
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In theory she should have known about the werewolf and the Fae, I just kind of made a note that she wasn't paying attention or actively involved in the combat (worth noting that as much as a tagged problem players, could be problem dm). No active compelling reason to be in danger, just seems like a fight or flight sort of circumstance, neither of which she did, but I didn't push that either, which could be my fault. So this isn't so much of a "blame" game as to figuring out if I should be letting people know they missed opportunities for things that could have aided them. –  xenoterracide Jul 16 at 16:30
    
more simply put, they didn't know these things existed, but not sure if I should be telling them so they start looking for that stuff. –  xenoterracide Jul 16 at 16:31
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Which brings me back to play style: In each of the styles it's important to at least talk to them, but for different reasons. Make sure you and your players are on the same page first, then work out any issues from there. –  Dave Jul 16 at 16:34

There are two considerations here: revealing information out of game and the possibility of your players feeling lectured. Both are very different problems, better addressed separately.

Revealing information out of game

Actually, I don't have too much to say here. You, as the GM, the one that knows better the story, are responsible to know what information is too much spoiler.

Some GMs don't allow players to know anything their characters don't. Most are not so strict, revealing some information they think can be interesting out of game, but will not spoil latter plots.

In the given example, if the thing they missed is a character that is going to appear in the future anyway, I wouldn't reveal it. But that would be me. If you don't want to reveal him (because you think the story would be better that way), you have two options:

  1. Be vague. Not tell the player "there's a promethean character whose help you could have obtained", but "you could have obtained some help".
  2. Be patient. Wait until the character shows up and then tell your player about that time he could have gotten his help.

Players feeling lectured

As Dave pointed out, it depends heavily on the group dynamic and the player personality, but also on how you say it.

Specially for new players, it can be helpful if you pointed out the biggest mistakes. But:

  • Try not to make anyone feel guilty.
  • Emphasize that it doesn't matter any more. You just tell talk it for curiosity.
  • If the player justify his behaviour, don't extend too much the discussion. It's probable that if it takes too much time it would lead to arguing.
  • If the player seems sad, angry or embarrassed, assure him one more time it has no importance, and point out how he did well in other matters.
  • Don't assume it is a mistake. Maybe the player has his reasons. Ask for this reasons. When appropriate, assume your own mistakes (e.g., you didn't communicate well enough the situation).
  • Let the players clear you are not trying to control their actions, just talk about the consequences, and that they can do whatever they like.
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updated the question a bit to discuss the possibility of information not gathered that may be relevant in the future. –  xenoterracide Jul 16 at 17:34

I don't think this player actually made a mistake, unless you consider it a "mistake" that she didn't play out the encounter exactly as you expected she would (and I don't). Sure, gaining the aid of a powerful NPC would have been a boon to the party, but unless you've already statted out all future challenges with the assumption that said NPC would be with the group (which would be a mistake), it's less a loss than a road simply not taken.

I also would not tell the players that they "missed" any content. This allows you to use it later (if it's really good and/or important) or provide future plot hooks based on the fact that the players took the story in a different direction. Otherwise it's going to seem like you're telling them that they should have "played different" and that you're penalizing them for not coming up with the one solution you wanted them to. It's basically railroading with the added "bonus" of being lectured over it.

In one of my own games quite recently, I had a whole subplot set up whereby the players would stop a bank robbery and then investigate the super villain who'd planned it, since they'd dealt with him before and they should have connected the dots that the other super villain he was connected to was trying to recruit him from a local homeless shelter to break her buddies out of jail (long story...) - anyway, the players whomped on the bank robber but then handed him over to police and went on to another plot I'd set up, completely ignoring the whole recruitment/jailbreak bit. So, I'm simply going to let them know (via a convenient newscast) that something happened as a result of that (they didn't stop the jailbreak, so the bad guys are now free) and make a note to bring said bad guys back into play at a future date. They didn't do anything wrong; their choices simply have consequences, either good or ill.

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