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> Keeping secrets from players
draglikepull
post Jul 7 2007, 01:56 AM
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During the last game that I GMed I had the players infiltrate a facility to dump a vial into a large water pump. When they got to the pump, a Johnson representing the company they were attacking had set up an ambush to present a counter-offer and, if the players refused, to try to take them out. The players succeeded in wiping out this ambush team and dumping the vial as they had agreed to do.

After the game was over one of my players asked me how the rival Johnson knew they were coming, which I said I couldn't tell him. He complained that this was unfair. He said that after a game session is over the GM should give the players a debriefing outlining all the alternate possibilities and revealing all the information they were unable to uncover.

Personally, I think that's an unfair request to make. For me, as a GM, a lot of the fun is that I get to know things the players don't, and seeing how they cope with that. Creating a mysteries and secrets and seeing how the players are able to unravel them is one of the main joys in GMing for me. I also think that, given the nature of the world of Shadowrun, the players are simply going to not be able to know certain information. I realize there's a difference between PC's and the actual player, but I still think it's a fair point.

On top of that, this was not a one-off adventure, it was the beginning of a larger story arch that I have planned, and to reveal any information the players weren't able to uncover during the mission seems like it could compromise the rest of the campaign.

So, two questions in relation to that: 1) Is it fair for a GM to refuse to divulge their secrets to the players in an ongoing campaign, even if they aren't actually sure whether or not the information in question will play a role later? 2) Is it fair for a GM to refuse to divulge their secrets once a campaign is over?
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Nerf'd
post Jul 7 2007, 01:58 AM
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Your player is whining like a kicked puppy.

unless I am absolutely sure that I am done with a plot point, my players do not get to know the back story. Full stop, end of story.

Tell them they've graduated beyond Choose Your Own Adventure, and to act like it
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TheMadDutchman
post Jul 7 2007, 02:06 AM
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It is up to the GM how much info to divulge. You don't have to tell them anything you don't want to. Especially if you're not done with the story elements the players want you to give up.
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adamu
post Jul 7 2007, 02:12 AM
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Ditto that.
As long as YOU know how the enemy J scoped them, you don't have to tell them squat.
If they wanna know so bad, they are free to have their characters investigate the issue.
If they wanna have all the secrets, let one of them GM and give you a chance to play.
Ungrateful cretins.

Seriously, even if that plotline will never come up again, you shoulcn't tell them anything (unless you want to for your own personal pleasure, of course). It sets at least two bad precedents -

First, think of poker - if the other guy folds, he does NOT get to see your cards. If he wants to look at what you're holding, he has to buy the right. No free chances to analyze your opponent's playing style.

Second, caving to that kind of whining just sets a bad precedent, gives problem players a sense of entitlement to your GM secrets, and lets them think they are empowered to somehow hold you accountable as to whether you played fairly.

And if players don't trust their GM to play fair and objective, they shouldn't be at the table.
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kzt
post Jul 7 2007, 02:16 AM
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No whining allowed!

I personally tend to wish that GMs I've played with are less talky about what cleverness they have put together.

Of course, like a leader who can't get his men to follow him to a whorehouse, any foe who can't organize an effective ambush isn't exactly a major threat.
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mfb
post Jul 7 2007, 02:19 AM
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oh hell no the player doesn't get to know my NPCs' secrets. especially if i'm not done! if i'm completely done, i might explain, just for fun, but i sure don't owe them anything.
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toturi
post Jul 7 2007, 02:20 AM
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Remember after the game, you are no longer the GM. After the session, you are one of a group of friends(hopefully).

So I think your player has a legitimate complaint. If I knew my GM was railroading me or if he had written his adventure with certain [Go straight to jail] triggers, I wouldn't be happy about it. At least when they are playing Choose Your Own Adventures, they know that the book is dealing it straight. If my GM were to refuse to talk about the campaign after it was over, I'd express my unhappiness to him about it. Remember, it is never about you as a GM, it is always about the players - if they enjoy being hoodwinked/lied to/fudged, then do it; if they'd rather you deal it straight up, then you do that.

You could tell them the adventure is a part of the campaign arc, but you'd give them a debrief once the arc was finished. Or if you are fine with players having GM info, then there would be no problem. The point about being transparent and fair is simple. If you do not want PC/s geared totally towards digging up every single piece of GM info out of you in-game(not that it is not a viable build, but it would save you a lot of headaches, speaking from experience), I find that a GM info-disclosure policy is quite useful.

If your player is "whining" about something, then chances are that he is unhappy about it. As a GM, your players should be enjoying the game and not being unhappy.
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Nerf'd
post Jul 7 2007, 02:30 AM
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The problem with full disclosure is that it never is. Yes, I could sit down with my players after a campaign and tell them what was really going on - and for some things, I do let my players have a bit of background info - but only when they can no longer use it in-game.

But what if that tightly planned plot hook that they just happen to miss is something that you want to use for your build of a city? I tend to build a world for my players - and sometimes, it makes players more comfortable if you don't keep changing the world on them every other campaign. So I have to ask myself: as a player AND a GM, would I rather be ignorant or totally confused?

Personally, I'd rather be ignorant, and let my GM build the world as they see fit.
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sunnyside
post Jul 7 2007, 02:45 AM
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I will occasionally pull back the curtain a little bit, but typically only if I think it'll make things better. Generally I'd only do this with a new group.

For example once after an adventure I explained some things they'd missed so that hopefully they'd be in the mindset to pay attention to the details in the future.

Sometimes I'll also come out and tell them, usually over pizza mid session, that they aren't on a railroad, just that success isn't guaranteed. A lot of players just expect the railroad and assume they could have saved that NPC or whatever. I don't roll that way and like to remove that mindset.
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Sterling
post Jul 7 2007, 02:54 AM
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Wow, I can't recall ever having a player demand OOC info at any point during a game.

I think if the player was afraid that the team was compromised, like one of their commlinks was hacked, that he was fishing for info to verify that.

@Toturi, I agree that after the game I am not the GM anymore, but one of a group of friends. But the effort and time that went into running the game is not going to be compromised by revealing information that the players didn't discover in game. If a player is curious about something, that's a good reason for IC legwork to occur.

I can't decide on the proper response to a player demanding a debriefing with the overlooked and the other possibilities being laid bare to everyone. I'm debating between 'icy stare', 'you all would have died', and 'devil rats make a loving, caring home in your dessicated rib cage.'

If one of my games ended with a plot point unresolved, I fully reserve the right to use, or discard said plot point. If the characters go on the run, break into the lab, grab the widget, deliver the widget, discover the use of the widget is nefarious enough to interrupt said use of the widget, and then destroy the widget and the evil scientist who plans to use it to destroy the world/Renraku/Atzlan/any clothing made of synthleather, that's great! But they missed the crafty manipulative lab assistant who had carefully prodded his superior to these ends, and he or she will be after meticulously plotted and coldblooded TEA after a nice cup of revenge with no cream and two sugars, please.

Why on earth would I let them know they only got 8 out of 10 goals? This isn't a video game with an 'end clear' scoring screen.

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Talia Invierno
post Jul 7 2007, 03:00 AM
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It's a tricky line. On the one hand, you have continuing NPCs who will -- must -- have their secrets. On the other, players may want to know you are playing fair, and may even want to learn.

One compromise is to show them one or two of the most obvious clues on which the other Johnson could have acted -- "could", because you're also not going to tell them whether it was this or that specific thing that triggered reaction.

Beyond that: well, it's a balance every group must find for itself.
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bibliophile20
post Jul 7 2007, 03:04 AM
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I "lifted the curtain" once last session and told them what was going on. It wasn't anything major, just a minor reveal on a minor plot point, but now my players know that I have a reason for anything that happens in the game and that I'm playing straight with them. They also told me not to do it again, so it works on both ends--they know that I'm playing fair, and I know that, so long as there's a logical and in-game reason for it, I can pretty much pull anything I like and they won't complain (much).
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Sterling
post Jul 7 2007, 03:26 AM
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I guess it has to do with players learning that you're not doing anything they can't do by the rules.

If the Fixer who matched you to the Johnson then turns around and sells that info 'Johnson A meeting with runner team for B&E work' it's not farfetched for Johnson B to prep for action against his facility.

I'm actually surprised (now that I think of it) that there aren't more mission ideas such as 'follow this Suit and find out who he works for. He's an unattached Johnson, a wild card.' If you think about how the Shadowrun world works, it's even more important to keep tabs on your colleagues (if you're a Johnson) than ever before.

I had a Lone Star cop pull a funny gambit on a PC last session. He showed up outside a notorious Runner bar, intercepting the PC as he left. In a previous meeting, the Officer had given the PC a business card, and the character, not being technically savvy, didn't think about how this was a very large RFID tag. The player knew, but agreed the character would be duped by this trick.. but only once.
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TheMadDutchman
post Jul 7 2007, 03:33 AM
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In the end it comes down to trust.

Personally, I'll never lift the curtain at the request of a player unless I both want to tell them and feel the plot issue is fully resolve and that I will never revisit it in any future campaign.
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knasser
post Jul 7 2007, 07:44 AM
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Talia has the right answer for you. You're under no obligation to reveal anything and for the reasons others have given it could actually be very detrimental. The issue is whether your player is asking because he has lost faith in your integrity and suspects you of just making things happen by magic (not spellcasting magic, of course ; ) In this case, you need to restore that faith, but you can hopefully do it just by giving a few possible explanations (not the real one) to illlustrate that there was no handwaving going on.

If there was magic handwaving going on however, your player is right to be suspicious and you should retro-actively work out a reason the Johnson intercepted them and not do it again.

My advice,

-K.
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fistandantilus4....
post Jul 7 2007, 07:58 AM
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QUOTE (Talia Invierno)
It's a tricky line. On the one hand, you have continuing NPCs who will -- must -- have their secrets. On the other, players may want to know you are playing fair, and may even want to learn.

I agree with this, because in this case, it seems that the player's was concerned that the other 'team' showed up just on the GMs say so. Which, sadly , does happen in some games. I think that was his concern. yet another one that just requires GM and player to sit down and understand how the game is ran and that yes, indeed, there is logical and satisfactory reason why they were there. The players just don't get to know it.

One very good reason not to tell the player, on top of the others, is for the players own good. If the player knows what's really going on, chances are, when clues satrt getting dropped, he's going to second guess what his character knows, and wonder whether he's making conclusions on his own, or from OOC information. You get in a rut where you can't objectively differentiate between what would and wouldn't be metagaming, and it makes the session that much more difficult.

Just tell him you'll explain it when all is said and done. Give him that olive branch.

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Critias
post Jul 7 2007, 07:59 AM
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QUOTE (mfb)
oh hell no the player doesn't get to know my NPCs' secrets. especially if i'm not done! if i'm completely done, i might explain, just for fun, but i sure don't owe them anything.

+1

I had one job (that I mentioned in the "positive GM interactions" thread over in Shadowrun general) where I had fun "coming clean" at the end of the adventure, and telling everyone what all was going on behind the scenes. But that was because it was over, none of that stuff would come up again... and because without that friendly explanation they might have lynched me for things seemingly so random being stacked against them and screwing them so hard.

If you WANT to share a secret, share a secret. If not, make 'em earn it. If they really want to know how so-and-so figured something out, well, not every session has to be a job for a Mr. Johnson, does it? Let them try to do their own legwork, investigate, pull jobs just to track down the secret, if it matters to them.
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Ryu
post Jul 7 2007, 03:18 PM
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Players have NO right to information that they can´t discern themselves. They do have a right to fairness, and proving that you as a GM are fair sometimes requires giving out "secrets". While I´ll admit that everyone is equal outside the game, he who wants a right to information has to be the GM.

I´d only give in to the request if my fairness is challenged with reason or if I want the players to think about the events in question. My prefered format for "debriefings" are questions asked by me. Some ingame secrets should be known to the players as that makes for better enjoyment of the game, but that choice is for the GM to make.

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Rotbart van Dain...
post Jul 7 2007, 03:50 PM
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A good debriefing is like watching the director comments and outtakes on a DVD - it can be quite fun.
Of course, those don't usually spoil...

But a reasonable player asking for a reason for certain events means usually one thing:
You, as a GM screwed up in presenting the world and your player subsequently lost trust in you: It's not that they instantly should know the reason when it happens - but they should feel that something else is going on.

That happens to anyone at a time - and usually, a bit of foresahdowing helps preventing such situations.
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adamu
post Jul 7 2007, 04:01 PM
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QUOTE (Rotbart van Dainig)


But a reasonable player asking for a reason for certain events means usually one thing:
You, as a GM screwed up in presenting the world and your player subsequently lost trust in you: It's not that they instantly should know the reason when it happens - but they should feel that something else is going on.

Or it usually means they are a whining munch with entitlement issues.

I definitely can see it both ways, and the most interesting thing is what one might discern from the reactions on this thread so far.

Most people are in the "GM don't need to play that" camp.

But a fair number are in the "GM has burden of proof of fairness."

I am guessing we could look back over the thread and guess which people spend most time on which side of the table....

Great to see the two sides of the issue.
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Rotbart van Dain...
post Jul 7 2007, 04:31 PM
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QUOTE (adamu)
Or it usually means they are a whining munch with entitlement issues.

Seriously - what kind of people are you playing with?
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Ravor
post Jul 8 2007, 04:08 AM
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Well personally I pretty much agree with Rotbart van Dainig, if your players are reasonable people (And why would you be playing with them if they weren't fairly reasonable?) then something is brewing OOC that you need to take care of before it ruins your campaign.

Personally I think I would refuse to explain OOC what was going on, but would allow the characters to figure it out IC.

However, my players know that they can trust me not to change the world mid-stride in order to punish them for displeasing me, so I don't have to deal with the trust issue as much as some might have to.

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odinson
post Jul 8 2007, 04:12 AM
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Wait, what? you mean rpg's aren't for punishing you're friends when they don't bring you pizza?
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DireRadiant
post Jul 8 2007, 04:33 AM
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If the player is concerned about figuring out how they were betrayed you can always tell him he needs to find out IC.

Next session.
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DireRadiant
post Jul 8 2007, 04:38 AM
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The other fun things to do;

Lie, tell the player you don't want to to betray the betraying players comfidence.
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