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Author Topic: [D&D 3.0/3.5] Spells and swords - fight!  (Read 21251 times)
Ron Edwards
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« on: May 17, 2006, 08:19:32 PM »

Hello,

For context and previous play, check out the threads [D&D 3.0/3.5] The kid two houses down and [D&D 3.0/3.5] Skill combat and blood drinking.

We played our third session last Sunday. It was all about the showdown fight with the secondary villain Eladd, who I discovered in my notes was originally named Aledd, a name I like better, but somehow was transformed during play so far. Eladd is a wizard who's using attitude-influencing spells to allow him to steal this blessed castle blind, including a whole bunch of holy stuff.

If you remember, I'd forgotten to provide them with better information in the previous session, considering they'd successfully interacted with an NPC who could tell them a whole lot. So we re-wound just a little to the with the Beezah conversation, for a bit more brush-up information about the back-story.

To bore you with it, a little, here's the deal. There's this ghast named Garfauld "out there" in the woods, and he's the father of the Lady who just died. He is all cursed and evil and so on, and right now he's fixated on destroying his grandchildren. One of them is the heir at the castle, and the other is running around being kind of wild-woman with a bunch of hyenas. So, now they know about Garfauld and the whole back-story; Much to my pleasure, and with no prompting or previous discussion of the concept, Dan whipped out a blank page and sketched a neat relationship-map within 30 seconds, looked at it, and said, "Ah!"

And then according to the players, they wanted to go back to the castle, and this was just right, as I'd prepped for the crisis awaiting them there. Who knows what I'd have done if they didn't go back there. Something. Maybe a fight with a monster for no good reason at all.

A bit more social stuff

I started with a Sense Motive check on the guards, which was failed by all characters except Forin, the barbarian (Dan rolls well for him most of the time). He figured out they were taking the characters' armor and weapons differently this time, as in, not likely to give them back, as opposed to the usual routine when they entered the castle and checked their stuff. This brought up some interesting lessons in role-playing for Christopher, who instantly started talking about what his characters were going to do about it - interesting for me, because Dan and I did not say "You have to act in character" or anything like that. Instead, I said something like, "Remember, only Forin knows this, and he hasn't told anyone. What would you do?"

Dan then had Forin intimidate the guards into letting the characters keep their armor on, which was sort of, you know, not in my DM plans. Damned social conflict skill rolls. Also, Christopher fixated a bit on this bit of interaction, wanting to follow up on the various guards and make a continuing big deal out of this scene. I decided that scene closure still remained my prerogative, and also checked out the retry rules. More on that in a moment.

Anyway, up they go to the main hall of the castle, and meet Lord Khoros, who's currently under several powerful mind-altering spells and absolutely convinced that they are all agents of Nerull (evil god, blah blah), traitors, assassins, blasphemers, and so on. I point out that Lord Khoros is Lawful Good ... and that it would be perfectly reasonable in that context for him to have them executed, if he were correct. Oh, and Eladd's just hangin' out there, smiling evilly at them and picking his fingernails.

It was kind of pleasant to see the look dawn on both their faces that the time had come - they simply needed to fight. I purposely said nothing of the kind, but with every sentence moved closer to Lord Khoros ordering their deaths.

The fight!

What were they up against? A 5th-level wizard with Mage Armor, Blur, Protection from Law, Protection from Good, Shield ... it added up to AC 24 against the LG clerics, AC 22 against the NG and CG characters. All those defensive spells meant that the clerics (Joshua: 2nd-level fighter, 1st-level cleric; Vall, 2nd-level paladin, 1st-level cleric) were in trouble, hitting only with criticals (or whatever the new things are called that are potentially criticals, "threats" or whatever).

Eladd didn't have either Lightning or Fireball, given the importance of Suggestion to his whole scenario/character concept, so his offense consisted primarily of Magic Missiles. I was kind of annoyed as well that the characters had kept their armor and main weapons ... the armor wasn't the main thing, but I'd kind of hoped they'd be stuck with daggers. Forin had really intimidated the guards, though.

Lord Khoros was addled by a Suggestion and a Charm Person; Hathic was kept out of things with Cause Fear; both had been cast prior to the fight. I also had a few guards present, and when the players' frustrated rhetoric (to which Khoros was immune, being enspelled) started to affect them, Eladd hit'em with Sleep.

The fight took about four and a half rounds. The party suffered significantly due to lack of teamwork, as well as unfamiliarity with their own spells. Christopher figured out he should have cast protective stuff on Forin well after Forin was sucking wind. Specifically, Forin took two threebie Magic Missiles, which zapped him below 0 hit points; remember, he'd been weakened by the blood-loss from the previous session.

But they got frackin' lucky with Forin's first Power Blow, which actually hit, and a later strike by Vall with a 19 at a crucial juncture in the fight. With these on the board, Corin's little plinking Magic Missile strikes were significant after all. Together, it all meant that Eladd didn't have time for what he really wanted - to take a couple of characters out of the fight, then make the others stand down, permitting him to escape with his loot, in exchange for Lord Khoros' life. Plus he used up more of his Magic Missiles than he'd planned, and he (I!) certainly hadn't planned on losing half his hit points in the first round.

A couple of preps ago, I'd come up with his magic toys, which included a scroll he used in the fight, and an Instant Steed. After a little suffering (see below), I finally had him use the Instant Steed, so there he was, thundering across the second-story castle floor, heading for the broad staircase to the lower floor and the open doors to the outside.

Dan looked up his spells and used Mage Hand to trip the Steed, Eladd went head over heels to the stone floor, and knocked himself down to -5 hit points.

Christopher, bless his good heart, instantly had his clerical characters run over and stabilized the villain from losing any more hit points and eventually dying, without any comment from Dan or me whatsoever.

Pause for bitchin'

Golly, looking stuff up is an intense pain in my ass. The first time we tried Barbarian Rage, it took ten minutes, half of which was annoying referencing (look up X, refers you to a bonus Y, look up Y, refers you to attributes table), half of which was Dan's unfamiliarity (I ask him his Combat Bonus, he gives me a derived value instead of the base value I need). Dan's wife, Liz, came by and asked how things were going, and all my modern tastes in role-playing seethed into my mind, almost forcing me to cry out to the heavens, "Looking stuff up for no damn good reason!"

I'll give the book credit for a decent index, though.

Retries

It was interesting to see Christopher clickin' the "try again" button a few times during this session. When a skill failed, he repeatedly said "do it again," or after someone else's skill failed, saying, "OK, then I try it." I think the same issue applied during the first guards-interaction, up to confronting Khoros. Christopher kept talking about having his clerics go and pray, or for everyone to rest up and heal some hit points, without really processing that in-game time mattered in this situation.

I remembered my friend John Marron talking about his role-playing experiences with people who'd begun their adventure gaming with CRPGs of a particular kind. According to him, they had a kind of "click on it again" approach to play, basically moving around rooms and touching everything over and over to see what it did, or expecting spells to be essentially "hit," "block," or "open." I think the healing-thing is similar too; you just type or click "wait" and recover a few points, and you basically do this as much as you want as long as you're not in a fight.

On a different note about retries for rolls, though, I have to say that is some seriously confusing and fucked-up text about the issue in the skills section of the book. You can't do re-tries. Except when you can. Except when you do the DM might not let them work. Except that sometimes they do. The words do this hyper-contradictory dance across a very few sentences in a way I've seen in a lot of game texts, but is a bit anomalous for this version of the Player's Handbook. I'm beginning to think that retaining skills in the rules (mainly a Second Edition thing; most older D&D only had "skills" as a few class abilities) was a bad idea, and T&T's Saving Throws, so-called, look better and better to me all the time.

Dubious stuff

All right, so far I have been a very good boy and played by the written rules with some care. I'm a little horrified at some others' readings of those rules, especially the balking at applying the actual skill rules, to the extent of insisting they say stuff they don't, for example. But for this session, here's your chance: you can now say, "Ron doesn't play D&D right." What you're about to see is some Old School DMing, bwah.

If you want a little more perspective on that, check out Sean's intro and my posts in The grognard speaks: System and Step On Up in OD&D.

1. Christopher hurled his two characters into melee right next to the berserked-out Forin, after the latter's dramatic first strike. I smiled nastily and upon Forin's next attempt, which missed, had Joshua make a Reflexes Save against the attack roll, which he failed, and hence Joshua got clipped by his pal's longsword. Full damage, too; I'm a bastard. "Here's the lesson: don't stand next to the enraged barbarian," I told Christopher. (Aside: the Barbarian Rage rules make for pretty limp-dicked berserker scenes, in my view. In real old-skool play, Forin would then have ravened after Joshua for his next attack.)

2. Christopher had Joshua hurl a Protection from Evil onto Lord Khoros. I ruled that it provided the dotty enspelled lord a new chance to Save vs. the Suggestion & Charm Person spells affecting him (cast by an evil guy). I tell ya, I don't even know if this is legit, and my perusal of the rules at the time of play provided me with no help at all. I shrugged and went for it. It was a nice thing for Christopher to do, and a good indication that he understood that a given fight isn't necessarily about my to-hit + hit points against his to-hit + hit points in some little microcosm.

I did encourage that choice, actually. Christopher said "Protection from Evil!" and I asked him to consider very carefully whom he would throw it on. He and Dan debated that one for a bit until he chose Lord Khoros.

3. I really needed a morale check for Eladd in that crucial second-to-last round. He had 3 hit points left, was a highly selfish and self-preserving character, and had done a lot of damage, but not achieved his goals of putting the player-characters at his mercy. He really wanted (a) to kill Forin, stabilized at -5 hit points, with his last Magic Missile, and (b) to escape. But doing (a) meant another round of nasty risks. I really didn't want this decision to reside with me as a person (I'm still a little irked by pulling the hyenas out of the fight in the first session), and without a good grasp of how 3.0/3.5 morale checks work, or if it even has them, I said, OK, Fortitude Save, against a DF of 15. He failed it, so that's why he went with the Instant Steed and tried to escape.

4. Tripping the horse with the Mage Hand ... another hint-hint from me as DM, I'm afraid, mainly through pointing out to Dan that his Magic Missile only did 2-5 points, and he didn't know how many were left. He asked, "Can I do anything with Mage Hand?" I clicked out of play-Eladd-opponent mode and into helpful-coach mode.

H'mm ... I knew that I, as a player, would use Mage Hand to seize a loose weapon lying around (all those sleeping guards) and huck it into the path of the magic horse's legs, into the spokes as it were. Looking on our little battlemap, the range was right, in fact, as if it had been set up with that spell in mind. The spell's description seemed to match that goal. So I suggested it in broad, vague terms: you can lift up something and put it where you want, and remember the guards all collapsed right over there ... and admittedly due to rather obvious coaching, Dan indeed announced that as his action.

Which to my way of thinking meant Eladd had to make a Reflexes Save to avoid injury from the automatic tumble he'd take (roll for the horse first? forget it, enough layering already), which he failed, and thus I wondered about falling-from-horse-at-a-gallop damage ... screw it, 2d6, I said, and that took him down to about -5.

Next

Regardless of the dubious stuff above, as far as I can tell, they beat Eladd fair and square. How many XPs should they get for the fight? Four 3rd-level player-characters against one 5th-level.

Well, we're finally getting to the part where they're going to deal with Garfauld and make some choices about what this messed-up, fragmented family is going to have to do. One thing they'll find out is that Eladd isn't an agent of Garfauld or anything like that, just a Neutral Evil wizard enjoying his chance to mess other people over and make a fast buck. I have a few scary-looking graveyard and crypt type maps to use, and it's probably going to be a vile fight-undead horror-type session to finish the story off. I'm interested in how I'm going to play Raetha, whom they plan to meet next and who I haven't really characterized well in my mind yet.

All comments welcome.

Best, Ron

edited to fix the grognard link
« Last Edit: May 18, 2006, 09:09:39 AM by Ron Edwards » Logged
Asteele
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« Reply #1 on: May 17, 2006, 11:32:45 PM »

Quote
2. Christopher had Joshua hurl a Protection from Evil onto Lord Khoros. I ruled that it provided the dotty enspelled lord a new chance to Save vs. the Suggestion & Charm Person spells affecting him (cast by an evil guy). I tell ya, I don't even know if this is legit, and my perusal of the rules at the time of play provided me with no help at all. I shrugged and went for it. It was a nice thing for Christopher to do, and a good indication that he understood that a given fight isn't necessarily about my to-hit + hit points against his to-hit + hit points in some little microcosm.

This was actually a really good move under the rules (I probably would of done the same thing), Pro Evil prevents compulsions from working on the target.  Under the rules this would of prevented the suggesstion spell from affecting Khoros, but wouldn't of done anything about the charm (which is a charm not a compulsion), I once employed a similar move on a baron who was being dominated by a vampire.  I do agree that this is some pretty deep in the woods rules stuff though, your solution certainly wasn't a bad one.
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cdr
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« Reply #2 on: May 18, 2006, 12:05:07 AM »

Sounds like fun!  I'm very much enjoying this sequence of threads.

Four 3rd level PCs defeating a 5th level opponent gain 450 XP each. (If they'd done it without armor and weapons 50% more would be appropriate.)  Possibly they should also get 150 each for cowing the guards
into letting them keep their armor and weapons.

(If you don't want to bother tracking XP exactly, note that it works out that a party of four advances after defeating 13 opponents of the same level.  An opponent 2 levels higher counts double, one 2 levels lower counts half, and NPC classes like Aristocrat count as a level lower than they actually are.  With the expected 3 fights per average 4 hour session that means advancing a level every 4 games, if one wanted to award just showing up and playing.)

Protection from Evil prevents magical orders from being given to the subject (among various other effects), so it was very clever of Christopher to cast that on the King so he couldn't be ordered to attack them, which would have been awkward.  And it's very pleasing that he stabilized the fallen wizard instead of finishing him off while he was helpless.

The bonuses for Protection from Law and Protection from Good are the same kind of bonus (deflection) so they overlap, not stack, so strictly by the book the wizard's AC would be 22 vs. both LG and NG/CG, but if you think that's a stupid rule that should be ignored, I wouldn't claim otherwise. And Shield blocks magic missiles.

I'm looking forward to hearing the next part, especially what they plan to do to the captured Wizard. I wonder if they'll think to offer to let Eladd live if he'll help them against the evil undead?  Enemy of my enemy and all that, although Paladins are often sticky about not wanting to work with evil folks.

--
Carl
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WiredNavi
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« Reply #3 on: May 18, 2006, 03:05:21 AM »

Quote
(Aside: the Barbarian Rage rules make for pretty limp-dicked berserker scenes, in my view. In real old-skool play, Forin would then have ravened after Joshua for his next attack.)

I'm really enjoying these threads, not the least to see someone who really groks Narrativism on a deep level having a very different perspective on playing something like D&D.  I, personally, applaud the limp-dickedness of Barbarian Rage, because I think its purpose is to be an interesting tactical choice for the barbarian's player, and not a tactical disadvantage of the party.  The tactical balance in D&D3.X is precarious enough at times that having your main damage-dealer turn on the party, even for one round, could result in a TPK.

If I was playing something like TSoY, though, then hells yeah, berserk everything that moves and cause as much trouble as possible.
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Dave R.

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James_Nostack
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« Reply #4 on: May 18, 2006, 05:42:33 AM »

How many XPs should they get for the fight? Four 3rd-level player-characters against one 5th-level.

450 each.  If this counts as some sort of "story goal" you might want to dish out a little more.

Can I ask a question?  What's with "each player controls two guys"?  It seems like an unnecessary complication.  Based on these reports, you've got two PC's--a Cleric, and a Barbarian.  In terms of arranging difficulty, just fool around with the Encounter Calculator until you get something listed as "Challenging" or "Very Difficult."

Quote
Who knows what I'd have done if they didn't go back there. Something. Maybe a fight with a monster for no good reason at all.

This made me laugh out loud.  D&D... (shakes head)

And then I've got one or two comments about GM'ing in general.  At some point, there really ought to be a discussion of these things--

* The tendency to retroactively tweak the last session for plot purposes.  I did this in the "Python God" Sorcerer game.  Big Sphinx shows up, bellows a warning--and it turns out I forgot to make it bellow the key clause of the warning!  Oops!  Same deal with the "Hanno Mad-Dog" thing, though in that case the tweak ended up almost completely destroying the game for that player.  (I'll post once that's settled.)

*  The consequence of the dice screwing with "the story"--like that guy getting the weapons past the guards.  Where does that feeling of let-down come from? 

* Giving a hint or somethin to the players--viz., the Mage Hand spell.  You seem to regard this as a bigger deal than I do.  While I see it as interference, if someone seems completely stumped when playing an unfamiliar game, and it would make a cool scene, I'm willing to offer a tentative suggestion.

-----
Also: yes, the retry rolls are kind of confusing.
And it's my impression that the Barbarian's Rage gets more powerful at higher levels.
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Dav
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« Reply #5 on: May 18, 2006, 06:15:42 AM »

Hey Ron:

These (your posts on this D&D phenomenon) are precious.  How does this relate to indie games (I had to)?

My REAL question(s) is(are) as follows: how are you, or are you bothering, to treat alignment in your game?  I've always despised this aspect of D&D more than most other aspects, as it seems to want you to be "X and only X", which is dumb.  One other quick one:  I lost it (well, I probably didn't, and actually missed it in the skimming of the first session, but, y'know), how are you seizing upon focusing the characters toward one particular story (or are you)? ---> i.e. moving clue, Bobby G, many-hooks-where's-the-bite, etc.  I ask because it seems these are beginners, to a degree, and I find beginners only occasionally intuitively grasp the idea of steering the narrative without seeing it accomplished by others a few times.

Dav
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #6 on: May 18, 2006, 10:58:29 AM »

So the Protection from Evil was legit? Bonus!

Thanks for reminding me about the compulsion/charm distinction, which I tend to forget. It turns out that nailing the Suggestion was more important anyway, because that's what convinced Khoros the player-characters were evil-guys. The Charm Person just made him like Eladd and (of course) be unable to attack or oppose him. He might be a bit shocked that they attacked such a nice guy, but the spell-counter took away the conviction they were evil assassins. So that works fine.

Seems to me that, yeah, not letting Protection spells stack is stupid. Especially since all the offensive stuff in the book seems to stack.

Dammit to hell about that Shield spell, though. I think my solution will be to knock down their XPs a little for that reason; it was significant. Also, I'm a little back-and-forth about it, but I don't think getting through the guards is worth any points. It wasn't that hard.

Carl, you might be interested to know that Dan and Christopher have no intention whatsoever of killing Eladd. That just hasn't occurred to them and I don't think it will. The whole question of "let's let him live if he helps us against the ghast" is therefore right off their radar screen. I do think it's interesting that Dan is playing a Chaotic Good and a Neutral Good character (Forin and Corin, respectively) who also happen to be half-brothers; and Christopher is playing the two Lawful Good guys. So maybe some talk about justice and so on will appear next session after all, we'll see. More on that in a minute.

James, you seem awfully puzzled about "two characters per player." Didn't you know this was a standard way to play dungeon-y fantasy back in the old days? Hell, in Tunnels & Trolls, it's practically assumed, if not 100% spelled out in the rules as an instruction. To answer your question, it has nothing to do with beefing up the strength of the party. Rest assured, I know alllll about setting up scenarios for one, two, five, or ten player-characters, or however many you'd like. Instead, I suggested doing this for two reasons: (1) so a player-character might die and the player would still have something to do; and (2) so we could see more of the rules in action. The latter wasn't realized as completely as I'd've liked, as Christopher went all cleric-happy, but that's OK.

I'm going to use you as a pinata now, if you don't mind, for at least two of your three detailed concerns.

Quote
The tendency to retroactively tweak the last session for plot purposes. I did this in the "Python God" Sorcerer game. Big Sphinx shows up, bellows a warning--and it turns out I forgot to make it bellow the key clause of the warning! Oops! Same deal with the "Hanno Mad-Dog" thing, though in that case the tweak ended up almost completely destroying the game for that player. (I'll post once that's settled.)

Well, hold on a second. There are two degrees of this issue that should be distinguished. In my case, there was no retroactive revision, merely an extension of the scene with which we closed the last session. "Oh, hey, Beezah tells you guys a bunch of other stuff too. Here it is." Nothing that was previously narrated had to be revised. If you encountered versions of this that threatened your group's Social Contract, then I'm betting it was a more extreme kind of revision.

Quote
The consequence of the dice screwing with "the story"--like that guy getting the weapons past the guards. Where does that feeling of let-down come from

You ready for this? From being such a teeny weenie.

No, really, I mean it. If you really get your Gamism on, then such an event is merely a good move on the other guy's part. It may disadvantage you (or "you" in the sense of the part of your mind playing Eladd), but it's not a letdown to see the other guy make a good move. If it is, then I suggest you avoid Gamism. Alternatively, if you really get your Narrativism on, and something equivalent occurs (less strategic, more thematic), then hey, there's no downside to that either unless you were invested in something happening and hoped the players would obey you until you got there. Which is just as lame, for Narrativist play, as being let-down for good play by an opponent is in Gamist play.

Sorry, man, it's harsh but true. Quit being such a teeny weenie, and the problem goes away.

Quote
Giving a hint or somethin to the players--viz., the Mage Hand spell. You seem to regard this as a bigger deal than I do. While I see it as interference, if someone seems completely stumped when playing an unfamiliar game, and it would make a cool scene, I'm willing to offer a tentative suggestion.

I agree with you on this one, actually. Especially for new players who are still getting used to the routine of this kind of tactical play - "Let's see, check my hit points, check my spells, check my physical position, check where everyone else is and the various terrain, check what the other guys are probably up to, check my apparent chances to hit this guy, check my available Feats," and so on. I've been trying to restrict my coaching to establishing this sort of routine, rather than dictating specific actions. The ones I mentioned veered a little too close to my own internal boundary about that, although they didn't quite cross it.

Dav, I'll get to your alignment questions in a later post. A lot of you D&Ders out there need to brace yourself for that. Don't try to anticipate my point, either, and no, the "Narrativist flag" comment in the previous thread isn't a clue.

Best, Ron

edited to fix quote formatting (twice! argh!)
« Last Edit: May 18, 2006, 11:01:13 AM by Ron Edwards » Logged
Ron Edwards
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« Reply #7 on: May 18, 2006, 11:28:10 AM »

Oh yeah. Dav, answering your minor question may be instructive to others (you, you're beyond help).

Posting in this forum is not restricted to independent role-playing games. It never has been; you can find D&D talk going on here since the beginning of the site.

Why? Because in this forum, we're here to discover what really works and what really doesn't, and for whom, in role-playing, period. That knowledge and insight is valuable on its own, and secondarily leads to better game design.

So for purposes of independent game development, full discussion of role-playing using any system/title is absolutely crucial to the site's goals.

Best, Ron
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James_Nostack
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« Reply #8 on: May 18, 2006, 11:49:07 AM »

Quote
It may disadvantage you (or "you" in the sense of the part of your mind playing Eladd), but it's not a letdown to see the other guy make a good move.

Hey, I totally agree!  I'm just commenting that this reaction sometimes happens in play.  The GM, particulary in games like D&D, usually enters a scene with way more information than the PC's, and probably has a rudimentary idea of a few ways the scene might play out.   It's possible that clever play completely screws up the GM's ideas--and that's exactly how it should be IMO.  But, once in a long, long while, there's an extra cool aspect of a scene that gets short-circuited or by-passed, and it's natural to say, "Shucks." 

For example, with the "check your weapons at the door" stuff.  It's cool that the player rolled awesomely and won the weapons.  But that moment of Step On Up obviated a much more powerful Step On Up moment later on: "The wizard is going crazy with his magic spells and ya'll have no weapons or armor OH NO!!!!"  Now, it's no big deal: dude was playing the game well, and you knew it was a possible consequence, and that's why people play games.  But the hypothetical scene still would have been nifty to see.
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mneme
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« Reply #9 on: May 18, 2006, 11:58:40 AM »

I actually rather like the "no stacking the same bonus, dude" rule in theory, though in practice, it can be annoying to figure out which bonuses are which. (I've had discussions with my group like "no, I can't wear a Ring of Deflection because it doesn't stack with a shield" JK: er, no, dude -- the ring is a Deflection bonus; the shield is a shield bonus; they stack just fine.)

First: no, similar offensive bonuses don't stack either.  A +2 arrow shot out of a +2 gets...+2 -- they're both putting your shot into magical +2 land, but they're doing it the same way -- you don't get punished by them interfereing with one another.  If you had, say, a Boy of Dexterity, giving +4 to your dexterity (doesn't exist, but trivially easy to price; see the SRD), that would stack with arrows +2, because one bonus is to your bowshot and the other is to your ability to guide it.

By the same token, if you've got a shield and a Shield spell, they don't stack -- the shield is a moving object getting in the way of incoming blows and the Shield spell...same thing except that it's just made of force.  No matter how many +1 rings of deflection you wear, you're still only getting +1 to your AC, and you can't wear Armor and a Mage Armor spell to be extra-armored -- it's just good sense.

This said, it's still pretty fiddly, especially since two types of bonuses (dodge and circumstance) explicitly stack.

The "basics" srd page (http://www.d20srd.org/srd/theBasics.htm) lists all the bonuses that exist in D&D.  It's not a long list (17 separate types of bonus, including ones you get from basic system stuff like "ability bonuses" and "size bonuses").
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mneme
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« Reply #10 on: May 18, 2006, 11:59:37 AM »

Er.  In paragraph 2, it should be "you don't get punished by them interfering with one another, but they don't help one another either."
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John Harper
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« Reply #11 on: May 18, 2006, 12:26:59 PM »

I'm with mneme. The stacking stuff is a pretty important mastery skill for serious D&D 3.0/3.5 play. Or, it was for my group in our long-ish 3.0 series, anyway. I'd take a long look at it before ruling it out.
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David "Czar Fnord" Artman
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« Reply #12 on: May 18, 2006, 12:32:21 PM »

The GM, particularly in games like D&D, usually enters a scene with way more information than the PCs, and probably has a rudimentary idea of a few ways the scene might play out.   It's possible that clever play completely screws up the GM's ideas--and that's exactly how it should be IMO.  But, once in a long, long while, there's an extra cool aspect of a scene that gets short-circuited or by-passed, and it's natural to say, "Shucks." 

There's at least one clear cause, I think, for the "aw, shucks" reaction. Over-preparation: the GM may have spent a lot of time preparing something for play and it is rendered moot by introductory actions. This is regardless of the GNS ramifications: it is a disappointment which can occur in any play style in which preparation occurs and player actions can circumvent it. Bummer. My advice, in this case: get away from static prep that could be circumvented. Which (surprise!) many modern game rules facilitate.

Or change your mind and prep for prep's sake. Or tuck away that well-crafted prep for the next session or tweak it to suit. Feeling the first twinge of "aw, shucks" is fine: most folks can't total control every emotional reaction they have. But once you recognize the feeling, move to a solution that serves to make you happy again (ideally, not including railroading).

That said... Ron, I suppose you figured being armored wasn't such a major bummer for the later (anticipated, maybe forced?) combat. Because you well know that drama could have ruled that situation, no matter how intimidating the barbarian is. Let's consider:
1) The guards are so intimidated that they call for back-up while they bar entry (and wouldn't that reinforce the Suggestion on the king, hmmm? The PCs get in to see him after arguing to remain armed and armored?! Sounds just like an assassin's plot to me!).
2) The guards are so intimidated that they let the PCs pass so they can go get a gang and catch up to them (unless, of course, the entry is very close to the king's throne room--was it the door to the reception hall itself?).
3) The guards do just what they did... and the next guards to see the PCs in armor say, "How dare you appear in arms in the presence of the king!? Seize them, and go relieve Frick and Frack and have them report to the kitchens!" (And, again, here's Eladd whispering away in the paranoid king's ear....)

From a Sim perspective, frankly, I can't personally see any sort of persuasion or social challenge convincing royal guards to disregard what is likely Rule One of being a royal guard: no arms around the king. Period. That barbarian would have intimidated his way into a fight or into the dungeon but no where NEAR into the king's reception hall. (It sounds patently absurd, put that way: "I was frightened into letting he who frightened me get closer to he whom I must protect, on penalty of death?!")

When you get down to "who is costed what" to consider that situation, the guards would have to literally fear the barbarian more than they BOTH love AND fear their ruler. In a "this smelly guy is gonna kill me right now... the king will kill me later... I'll take later" sort of way. For me (not versed in the politics of your world) this is a flat out impossibility. Royal guards are better vetted than that.

I am sure I'm not teaching you any "GM judo" or any great new trick. Mainly, I am asking if you can corroborate that this particular actual play situation you began to forge by disarming the PCs was probably not really all that critical for you to set up that way.

Great AP posts--I gotta stop designing and PLAY some, soon!
David
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« Reply #13 on: May 18, 2006, 12:37:33 PM »

Ron:

Waaaaaay beyond help... but not without reason (even if that reason is because I am too cool for those "popular games"...)

Starting your game, as, in my experience, D&D (or similar systems based around a contrived we-are-party ideal) waste at least a good portion of the opening scenario dealing with the "getting 'em together" concept for the group.  Later, I have often watched the devolvement of we-are-group vs. we-are-characters for these games.  You seemed to have sidestepped this niggling problem by starting somewhat in media res, or at least so I assume.  I have always felt that we-are-group games hamper a player's ability to explore different plotlines, as there seems this invisible and unspoken tether with the group.  Now, I know that these games do not specifically state the group-mind mentality, but when the company and designers, themselves, are concerned with "where a particular character concept works within the group", you know you've hit on something wince-worthy.  

My overall query is whether you see this mentality (the tether bit) more-or-less taken as a given by your players, or have they, to your mind (whether they have or not), felt free to explore the whatever-catches-their-eye-ness of your lil story?

Dav

(hey, when did that "while you were browsing, someone posted something new" notification appear... that's handy)
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« Reply #14 on: May 18, 2006, 01:20:54 PM »

Interesting replies. Someday someone will write a dissertation on replies in D&D threads.

Joshua, many thanks for that stacking reference. John, if I ever do "serious" D&D, by which I mean playing long enough to go through multiple levels, I'll probably pay attention to it.

James, you seem to have backpeddled from a feeling of letdown to a fleeting aw-shucks. I agree that the latter is no big deal. But I think it was the former you were posting about, and that it had been a big deal for you in past. So let's not backpeddle from a real issue.

David, I don't think I'm in any real need of advice about how to prep or react during play. It's working very nicely so far. Your advice might be helpful for someone who'd expressed sentiments like James' letdown, so folks, if that applies to you, see David's advice.

Now, as far as your points about the guard-intimidation go, I'm glad you clarified your point to this question:

Quote
Mainly, I am asking if you can corroborate that this particular actual play situation you began to forge by disarming the PCs was probably not really all that critical for you to set up that way.

Yes, 100%. It wasn't that big a deal. I never, ever GM in such a way as to say, "Well, this has to happen or I can't get to this thing that has to happen." (Conversely, I do not any more GM in such a way as to say, "Well, if they don't do that, I can make the desired result happen another anyway, so no big deal.") When all is said and done, the guard bit came along because I thought it would be unfair for them not to get a Sense Motive check before heading upstairs. The consequences (weapons or no weapons) seemed like something I didn't want to leave to fiat.

That leads to an interesting question, though ... in many role-playing situations, the GM is responsible for saying, "This skill on so-and-so's sheet would apply right now, so I'll call for a roll." If he doesn't do that, it's considered unfair and irresponsible, and in fact, many of the skills in those games are constructed specifically for this purpose (i.e. the player never calls for their use). Whereas as I recall from old D&D days, at least in the games I played in, the player was responsible for all such stuff as Detect Traps or Find Secret Door. All ability-use was player-proactive, or you were shit out of luck.

Is there any rules-text in current D&D 3.0/3.5 regarding which of these is expected or instructed? My decision to call for that roll at the castle door made perfect sense in the first context of skills (it's basically the old Perception issue, warts and all), but now that I think about it, was rather different from the way I recall playing D&D back when, which was totally in the second context.

Oh yeah ... David, if you hadn't clarified that final question, I would have had hard words for you, and I know that because I wrote them before deciding they weren't warranted after all. However, I will take this opportunity to mention to everyone, especially in D&D threads, that you were not actually at the table, playing. In this case, in regard to your comments about guards and reactions, consider: the four characters had been received and welcomed formally by Khoros just the day before, Forin had been specifically acknowledged as an elf-friend with a direct family-friendship tie to the dead Lady, two are priests of Hieronymous in a castle where such priests left a while ago (and most everyone there is devout), and all four had received fine magical gifts by Khoros. The guards were well aware that Khoros was acting very strangely today. Citing their loyalty to him as an automatic block against the characters, at the level you're describing, was not valid in our situation.

Dav, that's an interesting question about the party-ness. I suspect that Dan and Christopher would be OK with splitting up a little bit, and in the previous run, had even done so for a while. But yes, they do think of the party as a united interest, and I further suspect that this view could fossilize into "party uber alles" over time. The whole justice-for-Eladd thing may be interesting next time in that regard, although I don't anticipate the acrimonious bullshit that arises among adolescents playing such situations using this game.

The party-mentality has all kinds of interesting aspects to discuss some day. Gareth (contracycle) once described to me his idea that it's related to romanticizing U.S. troops in Viet Nam with their raze-the-hamlet tactics, which does match to some of the kids I remember in the late 1970s, playing the game, and especially to a number of the servicemen who played it obsessively (and often served as role-models for the kids). I typically think it mainly has to do with social huddling, on the one hand, which is to say the people are socially huddling by playing, so the characters are thereby assumed to be a social unit with artificially-inflated automatic unity; and on the other hand, with the classic tourney-style competition in which groups competed against groups for fastest "run-through," highest kill-count, and highest treasure-count, which of course played such an enormous role in the development of the game and its culture in the late 1970s.

Alignment talk much later. I have stuff to do now.

Best, Ron
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