So last week, writing about following the player's instructions to the letter, there was a side point I'd meant to make but failed to get to it, in light of writing other things. This would be, what do I do when it's clear the player doesn't really understand what's going on, but would if they were actually there.
My favorite example - which might clarify the above paragraph - would be the casting of spells. Ages ago, when I started my online campaign on this blog, a character playing a mage (never mind who), standing in front of a guard, did not like how the conversation was going and started casting a spell to tip the matter in his favor.
I may have written about this at the time. I wish it was a unique event. It is not ... and since it has happened many times in my campaign, I demand the privilege of writing about it twice - if I am, in fact, doing so.
Long ago, I made the decision to remove spell components from my spellcasting. All spells, one must argue, would require some kind of movement ... and in a world where magic was common enough that the children of fishermen, farmers and bakers can grow up to be clerics and mages, OBVIOUSLY the non-magic folk are going to be able to tell when someone is casting a spell.
But try to convince a player.
I don't know, perhaps it is bad television that gives the impression that one flicks one's finger, and people die. It is patently stupid for a roleplaying game, given that the fighter must get in there and swing his or her damn sword and spurt blood for their experience, while the spellcasters are flicking their fingers here and there. The gathering of power necessary to cast a spell, to rework matter and energy into something the mind can control, cannot be done with tiny, silly movements! It must take a lot of freaking work! The spellcaster must be expected to sweat and suffer while it is done, and the evidence of this action must be clearly visible to everyone on a battlefield. To play the casting process any other way is to ENSURE that the casters in your world overshadow the fighters ... which is probably a thorn in your side as DM you've been thinking you have to live with.
No, no, no my gentle readers. Concentration to cast a spell means the caster cannot be thinking of anything else, seeing anything else, hearing anything else! If means that the caster must be as deaf, dumb and blind to the ongoing chaos surround him and her as an expert diffusing a bomb on a battlefield. Arguably, at the moment of casting, the mage or cleric ought to be considered AC 10 ... without any power to dodge whatsoever. I don't play it that way ... I don't want all my casters to die. But I do wish my casters would understand that throwing a spell is akin to holding your hands over your eyes, dancing a jig and saying nya nya nya over and over.
I may start forcing my players to get out of their seats when casting spells, just so they can get it in their ruddy heads.
The very second any of these fellows starts casting a spell, they need to recognize that for creatures of greater than LOW intelligence that they have effectively painted a target on their chests. Consider. I'm not a magic user. I have no idea what movements or words apply to what spells - but I can damn well see that the fellow jiggling around in the middle of the battle is casting something, and it is very likely to kill me and all my fellows. What am I going to assume? That it's a nice, considerate heal spell? That the fellow wants to grow some flowers or talk to the rocks? No. I'm going to assume the absolute worst, and so are all of my fellows. And if it means risking being hit by the mere fighter in front of me to pull an axe and throw it at that mage, for the love of heaven yes that's what I'm going to do.
I've designed my combat system so that a caster can, if they arrange it, stand behind something and create the spell, then step out and discharge it. Do they? No. Do they pick out some hireling that's taller and wider than they are, to stand in front of them and hide the hands over the eyes and the jigging feet? No. Do mages even back up a few hexes before casting their spells? Um, no.
Over and over, they insist on standing within arm's reach of the enemy, as if NOT actually swinging a sword makes one automatically exempt from attack ... as in, "Don't worry about me over here mumbling, I'm not going to fry you and your buddies in 12 seconds - look at that scary guy with a sword!"
Now, as a DM ... should I just kill my casters, or should I point out that, "Hey, you might not realize that everyone in sight knows exactly what you're doing when you begin to cast a spell ..."