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Author Topic: [D&D 3.0/3.5] Undead, real dead  (Read 9084 times)
Ron Edwards
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« on: June 20, 2006, 07:25:11 AM »

Dan and Christopher and I met for a brief D&D session last week, which I was thinking might lay the groundwork for the end of the adventure. To review, the previous sessions have been:

1. Our heroes fight strangely-acting hyenas on their way to a funeral: [D&D 3.0/3.5] The kid two houses down.
2. They discover some tragic secrets about the family concerning the evil grandfather, and that a wizard has been exploiting and confusing the family: [D&D 3.0/3.5] Skill combat and blood drinking.
3. They defeat the wizard in combat: [D&D 3.0/3.5] Spells and swords: fight!.

In this short bit, they went to meet Raetha, the estranged daughter of the family, who's been living in exile and seems to have become tight with a band of hyenas. We really didn't have much time to play, about an hour and a half.

The session began with a great character conflict with the son, Hathic, in the beginning - would he or wouldn't he accompany them to meet his sister. The players are well aware that they are facing an upcoming sticky-situation regarding who's heir to the lordship, and they initiated this conflict specifically to address the problem, hoping at least to get the siblings to meet as people, away from the castle. It ended up being a character's (non-existent) Diplomacy against Hathic's Bluff (he pretends he doesn't care), and Hathic won, so he didn't accompany them. Both Dan and Christopher exchanged worried glances, and Dan flatly stated, "That is definitely going to be a problem later."

I was really happy with this very short but significant interaction. I'd originally prepped Hathic to be a bit of a blowhard, then he ended up being a bit better than that in the second session, but in sum, according to Dan, just a little too wimpy to be a good lord. And yet, Christopher also rightly pointed out that his sister probably wouldn't be much of an appropriate leader based on a life running around with hyenas. I am making a special point of playing the family NPCs as solid characters with flexible reactions, but not outright tagging them as "good guy" or "bad guy." So I was pleased that they were thinking in terms of the NPCs' characters, the situation, and their own judgments based on my role-playing rather than simply following direct cues, or perceived ones.

In my never-ending quest actually to make use of the stuff on their character sheets, I figured that evil old Garfauld would have moved into action with his undead minions by about this point. So with a couple of Wilderness Lore and Listen skills, Vall (elf, cleric/paladin) perceived that something odd was stealthily pacing the group, scaring away local wildlife. Dan got tactical, and they set up a trap based on his character Corin's skills and magic familiar to bring the thing out into the open and surround it. Quite satisfyingly, the relevant rolls went well, but then they were less happy about the result: a huge, decaying zombie hyena. "Oh goody, we cornered it."

Why a zombie hyena? Actually, I'd asked Clinton to build me this thing all the way back before the first session. See, Raetha has her buddy hyenas, but now evil Garfauld, the grandfather, is killing them, thus killing her friends, and making zombies out of them. So this situation satisfied some very early prep notions about the content of this game, even though my mind-set at the moment had concerned meeting Raetha, not fighting anything. But hey! They wanted it, they acted on it, their skills were rolled, and here we were. I was good with that.

The fight was a lot more dangerous than they realized at first. This thing had 33 hit points, and their toughest hitter, Forin, was still sucking wind on his HP total. They're all armed with swords, and it had Damage Reduction worth 5 points. Their magic is fairly paltry in general, and doesn't do much against pile o'points undead. I thought to myself, h'm, this is probably going to hurt and even kill characters (no bad thing), and it'll probably take a long time (not ideal at this point). Oh well! No retroactive re-tooling, so on we went.

The zombie hyena ripped their asses up, man. I enjoyed myself thoroughly in planning its moves, taking attacks of opportunity (hah), and describing how impassively it acted upon taking damage. It bit them, it slammed them, it took some hits that shaved off points (so what!), and various characters' details were illustrated, like Joshua's fancy-footwork Feats that kept him alive through sensible maneuvering. I was just getting into it enough to anticipate using the critter's Trip attack ... when Christopher busted out the fact that he was playing clerics. So on Joshua's turn, it was, Holy symbol: out! Turn undead: on!

It was fun, because Christopher knew clerics could do something special to undead called "turning," and I think he got the basic idea of "undead" from video games and kidfic fantasy, but he didn't really have a clear idea of what any of this would be like. I pulled out the rules and went by'em carefully, because they've changed a lot from my old-skool notions. Basically, you have to roll to see how "much" undeadness you can turn, both for total levels and for number of individuals. OK, easy enough ... and Christopher rolled a 20. Well, well. Classic D&D moment. Joshua didn't have enough levels-oomph to disintegrate it, but he turned it plain and simple. Exit zombie hyena, and all praise Hieronymous! Given the intensity of the fight, and the general importance we've established about playing a cleric in this scenario, it was genuinely dramatic.

So, on to the meeting with Raetha. I'd given a little thought to it, and decided to make her a little piratical, probably Neutral Good without being too much of a patsy about it, a bit of a free spirit, with a wild streak (jargon-wise, "bordering on Chaotic"). The resulting role-playing was a lot of fun as I knew it would be - this was the first hot chick of the story, and I'm playing with (a) a dad who's enjoying the freedom of playing young single tough-guy characters, and (b) his son who's twelve and, although a bit cautious and bookish, all about the "girls" right on schedule. It added a little spice to things.

Their negotiation ultimately came down to another skill conflict, concerning whether and how Raetha would return with them to the castle for the funeral. I was impressed by Christopher offering to bring old Beezah back to the castle with them, supporting her return from exile, which the players know is a sore point for Lord Khoros. I'm not remembering exactly what Christopher rolled for Vall, but I do recall that I rolled Raetha's Sense Motive. And in this case, Vall won. Interesting! A negative, standoffish result for Hathic in the beginning, and at least the beginnings of a positive attitude on Raetha's part. The dialogue also solidly established the underlying situation with the hyenas, which worked out really well, folding Raetha's concern about her friends into the story as well, and playing up the "creeping evil" aspect of Garfauld, as yet unseen.

And finally, I had one last quiet Bang to deliver: when they went to fetch Beezah at her hut, she had died. Christopher again produced a spontaneous, no-argument decision about it: to bring the body back to the castle and to insist that Beezah receive an honored funeral with Lady Khoros, as a faithful servitor to the family who'd been unjustly treated. This kid's in-character speeches during play, at these moments, are impressive.

So for a short run, it was surprisingly eventful and rich in content. There were great skill rolls, both social and tactical; there was a fun fight that showcased the group's abilities in the face of actual danger; there was a lot of information to round out the whole "what's going on" picture; there was a moving death and a strong moral stance that is certainly relevant to every social conflict in the story; and the whole thing was framed by two crucial social-conflict skills, setting up content for the next session. And finally, I got what I really wanted out of the session and was briefly convinced wasn't going to happen (during my concern that the hyena fight would be prolonged): it ramped up the danger-based tension. They know Garfauld is going to strike at the family, and are now quite concerned about the funeral as a likely target.

I'm really liking the contrast, in this session, between the profanation of death (Garfauld, zombies) and the respect for death (Lady Khoros, Beezah).

Dare I have Garfauld seek to raise the corpse of Lady Khoros? I mean, standard as it would be among the pack of you gamers, it is grotesque in the context of this particular story and this particular group. They really care about their characters' relationship to this NPC they've never met.

Heh. I think you can see I've just answered my own question.

Best, Ron

P.S. I forgot to award the experience points from the previous session, but haven't forgotten them. They'll get 450 each for defeating Eladd, and 150 each for the scene with the guards. But hey! What should they get now, for the zombie hyena?
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Judd
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« Reply #1 on: June 20, 2006, 07:55:02 AM »

I'm really liking the contrast, in this session, between the profanation of death (Garfauld, zombies) and the respect for death (Lady Khoros, Beezah).

Ron, I just wanted to confirm something about those themes above.  They arrived through play, a surprise to you as much as to anyone else and were not premeditated.  Is that spot on?
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ffilz
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« Reply #2 on: June 20, 2006, 08:09:50 AM »

If the zombie hyena was built by the standard rules, it would be CR 1. By turning it, they defeated it, so should get full XP (which sounds like 300 XP assuming they're still 1st-3rd level).

Sounds like a really cool session. I've really been enjoying reading these writeups.

Frank
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Frank Filz
Roger
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« Reply #3 on: June 20, 2006, 08:34:56 AM »

P.S. I forgot to award the experience points from the previous session, but haven't forgotten them. [...] But hey! What should they get now, for the zombie hyena?

I think what you're asking here is:  Does turning the zombie count as defeating/destroying it for XP purposes?  Yes, yes it does.


Cheers,
Roger
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #4 on: June 20, 2006, 09:05:24 AM »

Whoa.

WHOA. Stop, full stop, people.

I have been role-playing for almost thirty years and am fully steeped in the basic principles of D&D. You do not have to explain to me that "turn undead" means "defeat" in terms of experience points. I strongly recommend suppressing any instructional kindness you may be bringing to this thread.

I am requesting a total XP value for defeating this creature only because it seems to be so much fun for the participants on these threads. People seem to like conributing in this way. I am permitting them to do so.

Now, it does occur to me that I didn't tell you guys about the zombie hyena's features.

Size/Type: Medium Undead
Hit Dice: 4d12+4 (33 hp)
Initiative: +1
Speed:    50 ft. (10 squares)
Armor Class: 15 (+1 Dex, +2 natural, +2 undead), touch 11, flat-footed 14
Base Attack/Grapple:    +2/+4
Attack: Bite +5 melee (1d6+5) or Slam +5 melee (1d6+5)
Full Attack: Bite +5 melee (1d6+5) or Slam +5 melee (1d6+5)
Space/Reach: 5 ft./5 ft.
Special Attacks: Trip
Special Qualities: Low-light vision, Damage reduction 5/slashing,
SIngle actions only (move or attack - or charge at normal move, not double move)
Saves:    Fort +2, Ref +2, Will +4
Abilities: Str 16, Dex 13, Con -, Int -, Wis 10, Cha 1
Skills: None
Feats:    Toughness

So that's the beast in question, defeated by four 3rd-level characters.

No more basic instruction in D&D. I'm asking for XP totals as a favor to you.

Best, Ron
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #5 on: June 20, 2006, 09:12:22 AM »

Hi Judd,

You asked,

Quote
I just wanted to confirm something about those themes above.  They arrived through play, a surprise to you as much as to anyone else and were not premeditated.  Is that spot on?

That question borders on the psychological and metaphysical, which are of minimal and nil interest (respectively) to me.

If you're simply talking about the themes' presence based on their representative elements in the game, then hey - the funeral, the undead stuff, the cleric player-characters, and so on were all there from the very beginning, including prep.

If you're talking about the themes' intensity in play as revealed by our interactions and decisions during play, then they started small but solidly, with the players' latching onto the funeral as a big deal in the first five minutes of play, then have grown stronger and stronger, with some sharp peaks, with every session.

If you're talking about my personal articulation of the themes, then it developed only during the writing of that post about an hour ago. I had not verbalized it to myself or to others in any way prior to that point.

Best, Ron

P.S. Oh, also, for you XP junkies out there, I'd put the Challenge Rating for that hyena at a solid 2. Definitely not a mere 1.
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Andrew Cooper
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« Reply #6 on: June 20, 2006, 09:22:05 AM »

Ron,

I've been following this series of threads with some interest.  The fact that you are playing with 2 players that have multiple characters is one of the things I find interesting.  Mostly because it is working out so well for you.  I've got a question or two...

1) Do the players give equal spotlight time to each of their characters? 
2) Have you run into any situations where a player has said, "Hey.  I think <insert character A> would want this one thing but <insert character B> would definately NOT want that."?  Where character A and B are both controlled by the same player.

I ask these things because they have been issues in my own games before.  With multiple characters per player I find that a player generally has 1 character they really like and then one that sort of becomes a utility character, simply there for the abilities it confers to the group.  I've also had the second situation occurr and it always seemed really odd to me for a player to be in conflict with himself.  If these things have come up for you, how have you dealt with them?  Were they even problems to you?

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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #7 on: June 20, 2006, 09:34:57 AM »

Hi Andrew,

Excellent questions, and I'm also happy about the answers.

Both players apparently have no trouble at all distinguishing between their two respective characters and playing them in recognizable ways.

Dan does so fully. Corin, the half-elf fighter-sorcerer, is a "do it sneaky" kind of character, who delivers a lot of wry humor. His half-orc barbarian half-brother, Forin, is macho bad-ass, although in a way that reserves the big guns for emergencies rather than just throwing his weight around. Both of these have factored into both social interactions and fighting tactics.

Christopher does so mainly in characterization. Vall, the elven paladin/cleric, is aloof, forbidding, and dignified. Joshua, the human fighter/cleric, is more of a "hands-on, street priest" kind of guy, who hobnobs with servants and young healers.

They tend not to fall into the idea that the group is an eight-legged creature, but the characters do definitely share a personal sense of justice and a personal interest in the larger social scale of the scenario. I get the idea that Christopher and Dan both like the fact that the scenario speaks to the characters' strengths and shared interests.

They have not encountered major within-person between-player sources of conflict so far. Based on all my observations above, though, I anticipate that they'd play out disagreements among characters fairly and with a good eye toward addressing the Premise-level content of any such scene (i.e. not merely posturing).

Best, Ron
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James_Nostack
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« Reply #8 on: June 20, 2006, 01:19:47 PM »

Hey Ron,

In an earlier thread about this game, you said you wanted to talk a little bit about how you handle Alignment, but I think Forges & Dragons Madness 3.5 set in, and the thread wandered.  I'm curious to hear your take on it.
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--Stack
greyorm
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« Reply #9 on: June 20, 2006, 02:41:57 PM »

What should they get now, for the zombie hyena?

For a standard party of four 3rd level characters against a CR 2 monster, the chart in the DMG suggests an award of 600xp. I just realized I don't know if you're diving total XP up per character or not, so don't bitch-slap me for saying that the by-the-book-method is to divide the XP given per character, resulting in a four-way split of 150xp per character for this encounter.

Since it sounds like the encounter was only won through some handy tactics on the part of the characters, I suggest giving them the full amount. Given that, and looking at what the creature has in terms of attack and defense power, how it was statted out -- especially with that damage resistance -- I might even argue it was a CR 3 encounter for the party, which is 900xp divided four ways.

But in comparing similar creatures in the Monster Manual, I think while the hyena zombie is slightly tougher than the average CR 2 creature, it is not quite as tough as a CR 3 creature; maybe a few extra XP than the standard CR 2 would be appropriate without jumping all the way up to the next reward level.

There, that's my D&D geekery for the day. Do with it what you will.
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Rev. Ravenscrye Grey Daegmorgan
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« Reply #10 on: June 20, 2006, 05:47:47 PM »

Pointless nitpick here:

In D&D 3.5 you cross reference the character's level against the CR of the monster on the CR chart and then divide by the number of characters in the encounter.  Characters who died during the encounter count for this (although the XP doesn't help them much).  If you have characters who are in the same party but are different levels, you'll get different amounts of XP for each character.

In D&D 3.0 you took the average party level and compared it against the CR of the monster to get the total amount of XP handed out.  Then you divvied that up equally.  This could mean a party would get more XP by bringing a newbie along to reduce their average level relative to the monster fought.
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My real name is Robert.
Aaron
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« Reply #11 on: June 20, 2006, 06:28:55 PM »

A couple of things.
The zombie hyena was doing 2 points damage per attack mare than it should have! d6+3(medium bite/slam and 16 STR) and had 1 more Hp than it should have(Toughness is +3HP).  I know Ron didn't stat the beastie but I thought it was worth mentioning since you said it gave them a beating.
 
A 4 HD zombie is CR 1 according to SRD.  Having said that though the zombie version of the Hyena shouldnt have had trip(assuming improved trip?) as zombie don't get and of the special qualities or attacks of the base creatures.  I mentioning this so that a fair CR can be calculated.  Is +2 Damage, +1 Hp and Trip worth an extra point of Cr?  A CR 2 zombie is usually 6 HD.  The base creature doesnt matter much as the zombie doesn't get any of the extras.

Ron, if the player running the clerics had realised he could turn the beastie straight away would you still consider it to be a solid 2 CR? He could have turned it before the fight even started.

Ron said:
"  It bit them, it slammed them, it took some hits that shaved off points (so what!), and various characters' details were illustrated, like Joshua's fancy-footwork Feats that kept him alive through sensible maneuvering. I was just getting into it enough to anticipate using the critter's Trip attack "(sorry I cant quote properly!!)

If I'm reading this correctly it looks like the beastie didnt attempt a trip attack? A beastie with improved trip automatically attempts a trip attack without provoking an AOOP when it uses it primary attack.  If it bit them is should have tried to trip them.

I'm not sure I know what you mean by "No more basic instruction in D&D. I'm asking for XP totals as a favor to you."  
A favour to you?
I posted this link in "How to convert" thread but thought it might also be appropriate here as it calculates XP.  Im not sure though, based on the above, that you need it but here it is anyway.

http://www.d20srd.org/encounterCalculator.htm

Hope that has been on some help
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Tommi Brander
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« Reply #12 on: June 20, 2006, 11:28:19 PM »

The alignment would be interesting to hear about, yes.

And the daily nitpicking...
[Correct stat block, changes in bold]

Size/Type: Medium Undead
Hit Dice: 4d12+3 (31 hp)
Initiative: +1
Speed: 50 ft. (10 squares)
Armor Class: 15 (+1 Dex, +4 natural), touch 11, flat-footed 14
Base Attack/Grapple: +2/+5
Attack: Bite +5 melee (1d6+4) or Slam +5 melee (1d6+3) [not quite certain about the bonus damage]
Full Attack: Bite +5 melee (1d6+4) or Slam +5 melee (1d6+3)
Space/Reach: 5 ft./5 ft.
Special Attacks: Trip [Should officially be none, though it makes no sense]
Special Qualities: Low-light vision, Damage reduction 5/slashing,
SIngle actions only (move or attack - or charge at normal move, not double move), Darkvision
Saves: Fort +1, Ref +2, Will +4
Abilities: Str 16, Dex 13, Con -, Int -, Wis 10, Cha 1
Skills: None
Feats: Toughness
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UffeThorsen
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« Reply #13 on: June 21, 2006, 03:55:51 AM »

Quote
They're all armed with swords, and it had Damage Reduction worth 5 points.

Sounds like you made a slight error. The zombie-hyena has damage reduction against everything except swords (and other slashing weapons).
Whatever is after the slash is what it takes to bypass the DR.

Uffe, who never thought he'd correct THE Ron Edwards *gasp*
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #14 on: June 21, 2006, 04:34:28 AM »

Hiya,

Aaron and Tommi, you guys have weird notions about correct and incorrect. Clinton built the zombie hyena for me based on my description of what I needed, and I liked it. Who cares whether it "should" have +4 or +5 in something? It's his zombie hyena, not yours or the book's.

I think this difference in philosophy runs pretty deep. Let's say I want a young-ish copper dragon as an encounter in a later session. I go and build one from the book, and if he gets some spells, I pick a few, and so on. Then, looking him over, I say to myself, "H'm, he seems a little delicate." So I bump up his Armor Class by 1 and add a hit die. No rules exist for doing this, I just do it.

Was that "incorrect" as you guys see it? Is he now a "wrong" copper dragon? If so, then I recommmend, at least for purposes of these threads, wrenching yourself out of that mind-set and looking around in the new place you find yourself.

Hi Uffe, thanks for chiming in. Too bad about Damage Reduction. I read "slashing" and figured swords slashed. Unlike my Shield/Magic Missile error from the previous session, I'm happy about this one and consider it a correction rather than an error. It makes more sense to me that swords wouldn't hurt this hyena much, or any undead, and I suspect that swords were exempted from Damage Reduction/slashing just to keep whiny-bitch teens who play fighters from rising up in indignation.

Oh, and Uffe - fuck all this talk about "THE" Ron Edwards. Especially in combination with status-games about "who knows D&D better," in which rules-clarifications are subtle attacks. Both are poisonous concepts and exemplify serious social problems in gamer subculture. These threads are not about showcasing expertise, and I'm interested in your rules-discussions and clarifications, not threatened by them.

About the 3.0/3.5 difference in experience, I'm pretty sure people have been using the 3.0 model for my game so far. Even if it's switched back and forth, I don't mind. Remember that this isn't a long-term game, and they have a bit of a chance to make it to fourth level, but it's not a priority or immediate concern during play itself.

In fact, the players seem to have no idea at all that quantity and size of defeated foes matter. They really don't run around looking for opportunities to gain experience points. Many of their decisions are tactical, but always founded on thematic concerns.

I've decided the internet isn't ready for alignment talk. I'll probably do an impromptu seminar over beer at GenCon, or something similar.

Best, Ron
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