I confess. I deceived my players during my 2 year campaign. Constantly. I talked to Lenny Balsera about it and he really didn't like what I was doing, so after the end of the campaign, I told my players what I had done and they told me the couldn't tell the whole time. Then, when I teamed up with one of the players to tag-team a campaign that ran for another 1.5 years, we did it again. And the players never knew. And they loved it.
Suppose you are DMing a D&D 4e game and you want to spend time making some really cool things with a lot of detail. You know, like props that you can hand to the players, like long-ish documents, browned with age, NPCs with rich backgrounds that they discover, secret rooms containing important stuff -- that sort of thing. You don't want to make whether the players encounter these things based on skill rolls; you want to guarantee that they find these things.
But D&D and the like have skills for discovering things. Even FATE does. Should players just never take these skills? What does it mean
when you make a Perception roll to search a desk? Does it mean you are guaranteed only to find things that aren't important to the story?
Do you just hang it up and throw out D&D, saying it just doesn't work and switch to a game that has specific mechanics to handle this? I don't -- especially if my players want
to play D&D. I talked about some story telling techniques I use in this post
on my blog before Lenny Balsera turned me on to Story Games.
I cover a few techniques I used, which I tried to give pithy names to (FAIL?): "Ball and Cups," "Well, Aren't You Clever?" and "Reality Is How You Perceive It".
Ball and Cups: when the players are searching for something, keep "moving it" until they succeed. You might let them find it in the Nth place they look, so they feel like they've done some work
Well, Aren't You Clever: throw "soft balls" at the group, calling for Perception rolls and "punishing" bad ones with minor inconveniences. When they make a really good one, reveal the important thing
they were supposed to perceive
Reality Is How You Perceive It: when the players want to search for something that isn't there and the succeed, make something up and give it to them, Donjon-style
Here's my motivation for these things. When a PC majors in information-gathering skills, it means that the player wants the spotlight on their clever character. These are just ways to use some story telling techniques to highlight what that PC is good at and give them a little glory.
I know this is controversial. Some people really hate it!
I want to hear why you hate it!
If you do this, tell me how you do it!