[RPG] Should I warn the players when they’re about to do something stupid


As a GM, I occasionally run into situations where the players want to do something very poorly thought-out. Honest mistakes, not intentional derailing. In these situations, I often feel the urge to warn them, or ask if they're really certain what they're doing. It just feels wrong for a situation to be ruined for the players just because a one of them forgot about something. A pronounced example:

GM: The gate is closed. Two guards stand before it. "I need to see your invitations", one says.

Player: Are they armed, do they look dangerous?

GM: They're armed and armored. Each has a halberd, a helmet and a breastplate with the comital emblem. They don't look very skilled or hardy, most likely they're peasants conscripted into guard duty.

Player: I can take two peasants, CHAAARG-

GM: Uh, you do realize you actually have an invitation, right? Are you certain you want to fight?

Player: Oh yeah. I produce my invitation and present it to the guard.

And a less pronounced one:

GM: The compound is ahead of you, surrounded by a wire fence. The barbed wire, as your informant let you know, has been temporarily removed for maintenance work. A lone security officer is patrolling the yard, looking bored.

Player: I wait for him to look the other way, and then jump the wire fence.

GM: Are you sure? In the last session you found out the fence has sensors all over, so you'd sound an alarm.

Player: Huh, right. I guess I'll start looking for a way to disable the alarm first…

Now, is this considered bad, undue meddling on the PC's behavior? If so, is there a better way I could handle this, rather than sanity checking player actions?

Best Answer

When things like this happen, I always give my players this chance to clarify/confirm, just like you've shown in the examples. My reasoning for this is simple: the game world and what is happening there is closer and more important for the characters than it is for the players. No matter how immersive your storytelling skills and how much everyone around the table has their mind sunk into the game, it's still just a game.

The characters have 100% of their mental capacity to devote to the action they're in—more often than not, their life (or at least career) depends on it one way or another. The players simply cannot pay the same amount of attention, the pesky real world will always commandeer a significant portion of it.

Another important point is that it is much easier to remember something you've actually experienced (seen, handled, been through) than something you have just heard told to you. Again, this gives characters a better chance of being in touch with the situtation than their players.

More than once, I've said to a player: "Yup, you've forgotten this or that, but I know your character wouldn't have. So I'll tell you." This can apply to a lot of things, ranging from the examples in your question to things like "the name of the tavern where we were beaten up last time we visited this city." Even if they don't remember the name itself, they would most likely recognise the place before they blunder in.