Player Knowledge vs. Character Knowledge

Also, closely related, is Player Intelligence/Wisdom vs. Character Intelligence/Wisdom (and, for that matter, Charisma).

While this usually couched in terms of things that the players know that the characters don’t, everything from simple Out-Of-Character knowledge based on listening to other players to a real-world doctor playing a character with no medical knowledge, I want to talk about this from the perspective of things the players don’t know that their characters do – many of these notable because I have done them so the disparity can be glaring when I try explain how something does or doesn’t work.

The short list I’ve run into in my games over the years:

  • What it is like to hike with a full pack for anything from short daytrips, to extended multiday backpacking trips.
  • Related to the above, but what it is really like to travel “overland” when there is no trail.
  • Also related to the above, but travelling or simply living in radically different climates. Forest is different from plains is different from jungle (not me, but my husband served during Operation Just Cause in Panama and my father served in Vietnam, so plenty of 1st Person data there) is different from badlands, is different from desert (husband also served in Desert Storm), etc.
  • What combat is actually like. Ok, so I have a couple of vets in my group, but most people have never even been in a serious fight as an adult. They’ve never studied martial arts, never thrown a kick or a punch or received one either (let alone a throw or taken a fall).
  • Related to the above. Guns. Never fired them, never handled them, no idea of what it takes to conceal one, etc. etc. etc.
  • Knives and swords follow – FWIW I’d almost rather be shot rather than stabbed…
  • Ok, wearing armor – and just how much it can mess with movement and comfort (and how much it doesn’t, depending on training and design)
  • Hunting and dressing game – I have players who would prefer to think that meat came in plastic packages on trees. The nuts and bolts of draining blood, gut removal, etc. is beyond them.
  • Amusingly, since I started doing rock climbing again last year (indoor only, this summer should see us grabbing rock again) the number of people who’ve never done rock climbing or any sort of technical (aka, with a rope and/or harness) climbing is pretty small.
  • Can we say the same thing about canoes?

Now, none of this is a problem exactly, the problem is when a player’s entire corpus on knowledge of this sort of thing comes from RPG’s, CRPG’s, movies, documentaries, and the occasional Reality TV show (though those latter two can be pretty illuminating for some topics). It’s been awhile since I’ve had a player who argued some point of detail, at this point my players have all pretty much established their areas-of-knowledge and expertise and we use them all to our advantage.

D.

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Categories: FYI, Game Design | Tags: | 2 Comments

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2 thoughts on “Player Knowledge vs. Character Knowledge

  1. DysgraphicProgrammer

    How the hell a Nobel is is supposed to act. How to aristocrat.

    • Doh! Of course! That one regularly comes up no matter what game we’re playing.

      D.

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