Posted by : David Guyll December 20, 2015
Having pored through a few threads and posts on the subject, it's pretty clear that most don't interpret it that way (which leads me to wonder why it's phrased that way at all), and think it's perfectly fine for GMs to say no in various circumstances (which of course vary).
I only found one post that said to ask the player if they felt that their question, suggestion, or action was plausible; if they could figure something out to just give it to them, but if they can't roll anyway.
I still disagree with it (especially the "roll even if the player can't cook up a decent explanation"), but not because of improbable scenarios in which players will make ridiculous requests like asking for magic items, thereby forcing the GM to either comply or roll to see if they get what they want anyway. No, my problem is the notion of just giving players whatever they want, and/or letting them do whatever so long as there's "nothing at stake", it's "not a big deal anyway", and so on.
The way I run my games is, simply put, a player tells me what they want to, and I determine if it's a definite yes, definite no, or—most often—an "I dunno so lets roll the dice to figure it out". For example, a character tries to bribe a guard. I can decide that the guard is absolutely loyal, so no amount of money is going to work. I might also decide that, yeah, he can be bribed, but depending on how much money is offered will determine if they have to make a Diplomacy roll or not.
I don't care if the player has a "totally cool idea", or if it's in the "best interest of the story". Those aren't part of the equation, because if you, the GM, make decisions based on "cool ideas" and "good story", then you're just creating the illusion of wit and success: the characters don't succeed due to the player being clever or resourceful, they "succeed" because the player was able to persuade the GM to give them what they wanted, or otherwise adjust the scenario in their favor.
This does not mean that I just deny everything players ask for. If they want a rock, and ask if there's a rock lying about, and I think that there would definitely be rocks lying about, then I say yeah, there's a rock. It's only when they want a rock of a very specific size and shape that I might say no, or roll if I think there's a chance but I dunno. Factors like time, the environment, the inhabitants, and so on influence my decision, not how badly you want it.
(Note that this also don't mean that I won't mine the players' theories and suggestions, and the characters' backgrounds for adventure material. It also doesn't mean that I'll never change my mind when provided with compelling evidence: it's entirely possible for me to change my "no" to a dice roll, or even to a yes. Just depends on the situation.)
Back when I ran the original A Sundered World campaign, the players tried all sorts of crazy things, like throwing a chest brimming with treasure at a red dragon to distract it long enough for them to escape. The warlord player had jumped into the campaign after 1st-level, so I ruled that he would have accumulated some wealth (in addition to his astral vessel), though I still required a roll to see if the dragon went for it (which, fortunately for them, it did).
What made those moments really awesome was the fact that the players knew I wasn't obligated to "say yes or roll the dice", or "say yes if they explain it well enough, and let them roll the dice even if they couldn't", or whatever. They knew I could say no, because I had said no before. If I said yes, it's because I genuinely thought that whatever they were asking for or trying to do was a certainty. If I told them to roll, it's because I genuinely felt that whatever they were asking or trying to do was possible, but I was uncertain.
I once had a player that was running a changeling something-or-other. Rogue, I think. The party was in a dungeon, and there were wraiths, and for some reason she wanted to use Bluff to convince the wraiths that she was also a wraith. Were I am adherent to "just say yes or roll the dice", then despite the fucking absurdity of her declaration, I would have had to choose one (obviously I'd go with rolling, because that would be the only chance I had of maintaining some semblance of reason in the campaign).
Thankfully I'm not: I told her that while she could change her skin black, she couldn't change her clothes, and also couldn't make herself partially transparent, so there was no fucking way it would work. It wasn't even a case where I pegged the DC so high she couldn't make it, or said that she could make it on a natural 20: it was just an outright no. She didn't like it, and that's fine: you don't always get what you want, not everything goes your way, etc.
The important thing was that, again, it reinforced the fact that when I tell a player you just do what you wanted to do, find what you wanted to find, or I dunno let's roll the dice, they know I'm not just pulling punches or playing nice, because I can and will just say no.
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