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View Full Version : "Secret" Saves and conscious save boosts



Stegyre
2009-11-23, 11:39 AM
Some saving rolls really need to be done by the DM without player knowledge. How do you handle these (as a DM), when the character has an ability that could raise the saving roll, but only with some conscious action on the character's part. Some examples:

The ToB Diamond Mind maneuvers (which can frequently guaranty that a character will make a save)
Azure Will/Fortitude/Reflexes combined with Psycarnum Infusion (good for an instant +1 every 5 CL or so)

My own thought is that the character should be permitted to invoke the bonus, even if it means some of the surprise is lost. They just don't get any of the details:
DM: Make a will save.
PC: I use my Moment of Perfect Mind maneuver (makes save).
DM: You feel a momentary shiver; nothing more.
PC: [looks around, suspciously; whatever; refreshes maneuvers]

How do you play it?

dsmiles
2009-11-23, 11:43 AM
If a character doesn't know something is happening, they can't consciously do anything about it.

The wizard casts a silent, stilled dominate person. No save boost because the character has no clue what is happening.

Grumman
2009-11-23, 11:44 AM
You can't use Immediate actions when flat-footed, can you?

Person_Man
2009-11-23, 12:10 PM
The player should know when they makes a Save. Anything that effects the player against their will is considered an attack. It's not like a missed Spot check, where a PC would notice that he didn't see something, and thus the DM should roll it in secret.

But if it's really that important to you, then when each game starts make sure you have a copy of every player's character sheet, and ask them specifically what they do if a certain Save comes up. By default, they will most likely always use their boosted Save.

Also, what Grumman said. You can't use Immediate Actions when Flat Footed. So if someone is attacking a PC mentally, the PCs get a chance to notice (Spot and/or Listen). If a PC fails, they don't participate in the Surprise Round. And even if they succeed, they might lose Initiative.

Stegyre
2009-11-23, 12:52 PM
Also, what Grumman said. You can't use Immediate Actions when Flat Footed. So if someone is attacking a PC mentally, the PCs get a chance to notice (Spot and/or Listen). If a PC fails, they don't participate in the Surprise Round. And even if they succeed, they might lose Initiative.
!!
I'd forgotten that.
Now, for when I'm playing my own characters, I need to find a feat or class ability that would allow them to take an immediate action while flat-footed, sort of like a variation on Uncanny Dodge. Any suggestions?

Dervag
2009-11-23, 12:55 PM
The player should know when they makes a Save. Anything that effects the player against their will is considered an attack. It's not like a missed Spot check, where a PC would notice that he didn't see something, and thus the DM should roll it in secret...

Also, what Grumman said. You can't use Immediate Actions when Flat Footed. So if someone is attacking a PC mentally, the PCs get a chance to notice (Spot and/or Listen). If a PC fails, they don't participate in the Surprise Round. And even if they succeed, they might lose Initiative.The problem is that this can even happen in the middle of a battle. If your character has to consciously activate a defense, and they don't always use it, then it doesn't make sense to have characters automatically bring their guard up every time you tell the player to roll a save:

"Luckily, two seconds before the wizard cast his spell, even though I had no idea there was any wizard in the area, I just happened to use my powerful one-shot defensive technique!"

Talya
2009-11-23, 12:59 PM
The wizard casts a silent, stilled dominate person. No save boost because the character has no clue what is happening.


Technically, the target is still aware they are making a save (or being targeted by magic, if you prefer), and if not flatfooted, could still use an immediate action spell like Ruin Delver's Fortune to stop it. A save like that should never be made in a secret way, the player and character will be aware they made the save (or didn't make it, as the case may be.)

That only applies to magical spells though, since the process of making a save against a spell is always a conscious one. It might not apply to certain non-magical effects if it catches them unaware.

Stegyre
2009-11-23, 01:34 PM
Further to the issue of using martial counters when flat-footed (or not, as the case may be):

1. The rules for initiation of maneuvers clearly state, "You cannot use an immediate action if you are currently flat-footed." (Which I think is the basic rule, anyway.) (ToB 44.)

2. The initiation line for the saving roll counters identifies them as "immediate action" initiations.

3. But the textual description of each provides, "You can use this maneuver any time you would be required to make a _______ save," (e.g. ToB 64), with the follow-on that this "most-specific" text trumps the "general" text.

I think the argument is tenuous, but I'm sure it will be used against me (and in a bind, I'd probably resort to it myself). Without resorting to Rule 0, what's the response?

jiriku
2009-11-23, 01:46 PM
When in doubt, I tend to interpret grey areas in favor of allowing players to use their abilities. Saying "no, you can't use your maneuver because this NPC I built is uber and you don't know he's attacking you" is likely to come across as the DM being a jerk, while doing the opposite and reminding players that they have defensive maneuvers prepared that may be relevant to the saving throw is a nice-guy thing to do that people will appreciate.

The DM already has the power to create challenges capable of doing whatever he wants. It's just good politics to always give your players the benefit of the doubt when they face your challenges.

Tyndmyr
2009-11-23, 01:47 PM
Some saving rolls really need to be done by the DM without player knowledge.

I disagree with this premise.

So, no problem.

Person_Man
2009-11-23, 02:41 PM
Also, there's a deus ex machina metagame concern:

DM: You suddenly go limp, and you feel as if your body is being controlled by a ghostly puppetmaster. You can't see or hear where it might be, but neither can you move under your own direction.

Player: What the heck?! Don't I get a Will Save?

DM: You did. I rolled it for you.

Player: Since when does the DM roll Saves for players? And what about my uber special ability that lets me auto-pass Will Saves?

DM: Well, this is a special situation. You weren't aware of what was going on, so you couldn't use your special ability. And I rolled for you, because had you passed, you as a player would have been aware of the Ghost controlling you, even though your character wouldn't be. So you see....

Player: So now you're just screwing us with Invisible mind controlling Ghosts? If you thought my build was too powerful, you could have just said so, and I would have toned it down. Besides, you can still make a Listen check to locate an Invisible enemy. Did EVERYONE in the group fail their Listen check, and then fail to warn everyone about the Invisible enemy...

And so on. Players need the illusion of being in control in order for them to feel a sense of efficacy. If they don't, they feel like they're being railroaded, regardless of whether or not that is actually the case. To further this, I let my players roll ALL of the dice, including the attacks and Saves for their enemies. For Listen and Spot, I use passive checks (ie, it's always assumed that they are Taking 10). You'd be surprised at how much more fun this makes the game for them.

Tyndmyr
2009-11-23, 02:46 PM
I DM without a screen, actually. This makes the players slightly uncomfortable, since they know that if the dice come up wrong, bad things do in fact happen.

I've never been accused of railroading/cheating them into trouble though, and it's a frequent accusation in the group, often justifiably(round robin DMing).

There are different PoVs on this issue, but in general, not getting to roll your save OR use your special abilities can feel a lot like trapping the player, yes. Definitely annoying.

It gets worse if they have means to detect possible ambushers. Are you using appropriate spot rolls and such too? Because if not, it kinda is railroading.

jokey665
2009-11-23, 02:48 PM
Besides, you can still make a Listen check to locate an Invisible enemy.

Well, if it was in fact a ghost, you wouldn't get a listen check.


An incorporeal creature moves silently and cannot be heard with Listen checks if it doesn’t wish to be.

ericgrau
2009-11-23, 03:39 PM
I'm pretty sure by the rules you are aware of when you make the save but not what the spell was, just some uneasiness about some kind of unknown offensive action. It's in the casting rules somewhere. So the OP's example works fine.

Optimystik
2009-11-23, 04:47 PM
!!
I'd forgotten that.
Now, for when I'm playing my own characters, I need to find a feat or class ability that would allow them to take an immediate action while flat-footed, sort of like a variation on Uncanny Dodge. Any suggestions?

Divine Oracle (CDiv) gets Immunity to Surprise (Ex). They can take a standard action in the surprise round, IIRC.

OverdrivePrime
2009-11-23, 05:15 PM
You can't use Immediate actions when flat-footed, can you?

Yeah, but what about the modestly experienced warblades who have uncanny dodge- they're never flat footed.

jokey665
2009-11-23, 05:18 PM
Yeah, but what about the modestly experienced warblades who have uncanny dodge- they're never flat footed.
I don't have the ToB with me, but assuming it's identical to the Rogue's:

Starting at 4th level, a rogue can react to danger before her senses would normally allow her to do so. She retains her Dexterity bonus to AC (if any) even if she is caught flat-footed or struck by an invisible attacker. However, she still loses her Dexterity bonus to AC if immobilized.
It never says you aren't flat-footed, it just says you still keep your dex to AC when you are. Biiiiiig difference in this case.

Mark Hall
2009-11-23, 05:23 PM
The player should know when they makes a Save.

RAW, you only know if you succeed at a save. If you fail, you don't know, though certain things might clue you off... acting weird for a few hours, forgetting chunks of time, suddenly being engulfed in flames.

Person_Man
2009-11-23, 05:45 PM
Yeah, but what about the modestly experienced warblades who have uncanny dodge- they're never flat footed.

IIRC, that's incorrect. Uncanny Dodge prevents you from losing your Dexterity bonus when Flat Footed or struck by an Invisible enemy. It does not prevent you from being Flat Footed. Thus you still cannot take Immediate Actions, and you're still subject to certain special abilities (Iajutsu Focus, Confound the Big Folk, etc).


Well, if it was in fact a ghost, you wouldn't get a listen check.

You are correct. My larger point is that if the DM starts to roll Saves for the PC and announcing the results, that it will likely lead to hard feelings and rules arguments.