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View Full Version : DM Help Best way to deal with problematic items, negate or forbid?



Dornith
2018-12-18, 09:31 PM
I'm going to be running a horror themed RPG soon using the Dread system (for those who don't know, extremely open-ended system built for story telling and using Jenga for dramatic tension/chance).

I'm going to have my players running through a werewolf story where they're all camping when they get attacked. I had them draw up their character sheets and list what skills/items they would keep with them. The problem is two of them ended up listing a knife as one of the things they brought (one has a Swiss army knife, and another a actual weapon she keeps concealed). I'm worried this could cause an issue with the campaign if they have a weapon to fight off the werewolf.

I thought about forbidding them, but I'm afraid that might seem arbitrary, especially since it seems like something they would reasonably carry considering the situation + characters they developed.

On the other hand, I could just make the werewolf have a thick hide they can't cut through easily. I feel like this is a better solution, but I'm worried that the players might feel cheated if their tools don't work the way the expect. I guess I could try and play up how thick the hide is before they make an attack so it feels less cheap, but I'd like to hear what you all would do.

RazorChain
2018-12-18, 09:42 PM
Knife against a werewolf isn't really a problem. One great moment for my Black ops character was when he held off an werewolf with only a knife and survived to tell the tale. That character was a hand picked special ops soldier, not best of the best but the best of the best of the best. So your average joe shouldn't stand a chance.

Traditionally a werewolf can regenerate or is immune to conventional weapons except for silver.

Dornith
2018-12-18, 09:51 PM
Traditionally a werewolf can regenerate or is immune to conventional weapons...

Is this commonly established lore? I haven't heard that before (I have heard of weak to silver).

Erloas
2018-12-18, 10:24 PM
Yeah, not sure how far back into werewolf mythology it goes, but only silver killing them is at least a hundred years old.

Knaight
2018-12-18, 10:41 PM
A few weapons is hardly unreasonable - especially because bringing a pocket knife when camping is pretty standard. So are hatchets, shovels, etc. Werewolves are routinely effectively immune to them, or at least heal rapidly, and the PCs in Dread are more likely to be ordinary people going camping and not hardened adventurers.

That said this campsite being out of cell tower range is recommended.

Dornith
2018-12-18, 10:53 PM
That said this campsite being out of cell tower range is recommended.

Oh yeah. No way I'm giving them access to that kind of tech. Honestly, I'm not sure if I should even let them have a cell phone as the GPS might be a little too useful if they download a map of the area beforehand.

PaladinX
2018-12-18, 11:38 PM
A Swiss army unless it's a very good one is a bit ify as defensive weapon against humans. Verses a werewolf not a chance.

Pauly
2018-12-18, 11:41 PM
If Iím going camping Iím taking a knife. Itís a really useful tool. In fact Iíd probably pack my backup chefís knife, a paring knife, a filleting knife (if Iím fishing) and a folding knife to keep in my pocket.

Now me, if I have to choose just one of my knives for this scenario Iíd have my folding knife. My folding knife is a 13cm Laguiole which has a useful point and edge and is a solid blade which makes it a really good utility knife.

As a weapon, well itís substantially better than nothing but it isnít going to do a whole lot to a werewolf. But the real reason I want it is that itís a really good tool. It can be a screwdriver, a jimmy, a probe. It can cut rope and small branches to make things. Itís small and I can keep it safe without risk of injuring myself or others. I can tie it onto a rope and use it as a toggle or weight for casting. It has a corkscrew, which means if I canít defeat the werewolf at least I donít have to die sober.

Itís probably the first thing I pack whenever I go camping, or out to the lake for a BBQ.

Edit: so for your player who wants a knife as a weapon, Iíd probably say no unless there is a compelling character reason to have a combat knife. But a good utility knife or folding knife is definitely acceptable.

Son of A Lich!
2018-12-19, 01:45 AM
With Dread, don't worry about your players happening to have specific items that could be useful.

In fact, you should want them to have such items; It's important for the sense of tension.

Say Bob has a silvered knife and the players know they are going in against a werewolf. Even if it is meta-game knowledge, any time you ask Bob to make a pull, they are threatening to lose the item they need to defeat the evil. The tower falls, and you dictate how the body is disposed of. The players are trying to find some food and go fishing? You ask bob to pull from the tower and he tips it over, and you tell the team that he is being washed down stream.

Now the players have to go and find his body or they lose the item that he carried with him they will need to survive.

Bob is the hope that counters the fear, but in turn, he is the Dread that the players are feeling. Bob isn't going to sit out the entire game and never pull from the tower, but everyone else is going to want to make pulls on his behalf.

It's a great system, but one that you should expect a TPK from. I've only run two games of Dread and both ended with TPKs. It's a bit wonky to control the lethal aspect of the game.

Kardwill
2018-12-19, 03:19 AM
Oh yeah. No way I'm giving them access to that kind of tech. Honestly, I'm not sure if I should even let them have a cell phone as the GPS might be a little too useful if they download a map of the area beforehand.

Yeah, for a good "lost in the wilderness" horror story, I would set the game at a time when global communication and pocket computers were either nonexistent or unwieldy.

Let's say the 70? Of course, they may have a radio, but the only person they can raise from this valley is the Park Ranger, until he suddenly goes silent... (or is the werewolf...)

And yeah, as the other said, the knife will be a very useful tool, but it's not going to be a whole lot of help against a werewolf. On the contrary, their only weapon being ineffective against the beast (or only pushing it back for a moment) should shake their sense of security pretty hard.

Knaight
2018-12-19, 03:34 AM
Oh yeah. No way I'm giving them access to that kind of tech. Honestly, I'm not sure if I should even let them have a cell phone as the GPS might be a little too useful if they download a map of the area beforehand.

Not having a cell phone is generally pretty contrived - and there's no real need to specifically take everything away to keep the horror. Dread as a system works just fine when the characters have solid tools, not least because they're generally ordinary people and the horror element is genuinely threatening. Cell phones in particular pose a problem largely because something like an armed helicopter is on a whole different level than the werewolf and could conceivably be brought in, but if they don't have service? Having the map is entirely reasonable.

Pauly
2018-12-19, 04:26 AM
Not having a cell phone is generally pretty contrived - and there's no real need to specifically take everything away to keep the horror. Dread as a system works just fine when the characters have solid tools, not least because they're generally ordinary people and the horror element is genuinely threatening. Cell phones in particular pose a problem largely because something like an armed helicopter is on a whole different level than the werewolf and could conceivably be brought in, but if they don't have service? Having the map is entirely reasonable.

Maybe have the coverage be spotty and unreliable. Jenga check anytime anybody wants to use it.

Maps donít do you much good at night if you canít see enough to check your position. Also the light of the phone will bring the werewolf straight to you so every time you use it it brings bigger and bigger risks.

Quertus
2018-12-19, 08:45 AM
So, my first thought? "Oh, no, campers having a knife will ruin my story"? Really? Maybe you need a better story.


In fact, you should want them to have such items; It's important for the sense of tension.

Bob is the hope that counters the fear, but in turn, he is the Dread that the players are feeling.


the only person they can raise from this valley is the Park Ranger, until he suddenly goes silent... (or is the werewolf...)

I'd say that these sound like the feel I'd want from such a game.

Aliess
2018-12-19, 08:52 AM
Have you watched dog soldiers? That has a group of modern military types on exercise in Scotland run into werewolves and it all ends badly for them. So I wouldn't worry too much about a bunch of campers with knives.

Kami2awa
2018-12-19, 03:46 PM
It does sound a little bit like you are imposing too many restrictions on these PCs. No phone calls is reasonable for horror settings, but no knives, no maps, no navigation equipment? These sound like the worst-equipped wilderness campers in history. Are you going to disallow a compass? Boots? Tents?

Certainly there *are* people who go camping without any of these (and they may be well known to the Mountain Rescue service as a result) but it seems a bit contrived. If characters end up stranded in the wilderness this badly equipped, they're probably not on a camping trip - more likely survivors of an air crash, escapees from prison, or something like that. Or perhaps they have all their equipment in a vehicle that gets stolen or swept away.

Disallowing equipment that the PCs would reasonably have will get very frustrating after a while, and could be viewed as a form of railroading. What will you do if they want to improvise equipment or weapons? Will this also be blocked?

Furthermore, having some weapons in a horror scenario usually just serves to illustrate how tough the monster is, as a fairly established trope of horror fiction is that mortal weapons do absolutely nothing against supernatural threats.

Frozen_Feet
2018-12-19, 04:43 PM
Go watch some videos of police dogs and wolves pouncing on their targets.

An utility knife is not super comforting to have in those situations. If an angry canine is not held back by you shouting at it or kicking it, it will run and leap at you at lightning speed and you get to stab it maybe once before it has its teeth crushing your arm, leg or throat.

An angry dog barking and growling at you in broad daylight is a jump scare all of its own. A shadowy form sprinting towards you through the underbush is much worse, especially at night. You don't even need the supernatural element to make it horrifying.

Also, what's this about cell phones? GPS? Those really aren't fix-all buttons unless you're camping on momma's backyard. Most obviously, they have a bad habit of running out of battery. They're also suspectible to cold, moisture, breaking and being lost. Newer phones with fancy navigation application tend to be more so, really. For a long camping trip, you'd be better off with an old Nokia that doesn't have those fancy things. That way, if you really do need to call, you're more likely to have battery for it, instead of having run out the first evening.

Reversefigure4
2018-12-19, 07:56 PM
All of Dread's mechanics revolve around pulling from the tower, which means equipment only solves your problem without a pull if the GM says so.

You can have a map of the area on your cellphone, sure. That doesn't help you know whether or not you're actually following it correctly, or if that cliff is safe to climb down, or if the cellphone will survive being dunked in the river. All of those things are resolved with a pull.

Moreover, everything is resolved with as many pulls as the GM feels are appropriate. At any given point in the story, one pull to swing at the werewolf with a knife might drive it back into the woods to stalk you some more, merely prevent it from ripping your throat out right now, or push it back over the waterfall to it's death.

Knaight
2018-12-20, 04:16 PM
Also, what's this about cell phones? GPS? Those really aren't fix-all buttons unless you're camping on momma's backyard. Most obviously, they have a bad habit of running out of battery. They're also suspectible to cold, moisture, breaking and being lost. Newer phones with fancy navigation application tend to be more so, really. For a long camping trip, you'd be better off with an old Nokia that doesn't have those fancy things. That way, if you really do need to call, you're more likely to have battery for it, instead of having run out the first evening.

A large part of the horror genre is the idea of isolation, and when you've already got heavy thematic stuff pointing in that direction (a campground in the middle of nowhere) you might as well go whole hog. The absence of cell service helps create the image of the campground being in the middle of nowhere, it supports the theme, it supports the genre, and it just generally works.

Darth Ultron
2018-12-21, 01:10 PM
I'm going to be running a horror themed RPG soon using the Dread system (for those who don't know, extremely open-ended system built for story telling and using Jenga for dramatic tension/chance).


This sounds more like a system question. Does this dread system even have combat rules? Can you say, punch a werewolf? Is there a rule like ''er move a Jenga block and kill the werewolf?"

If it is a ''storytelling system'', then it won't have combat rules right? Combat rules ruin storytelling.

But really, even using a Basic System:

Werewolf: 12 hit points
Knife Damage: 1-4 points
Character chance to hit Werewolf: 50%
Werewolf damage 1-8 points
Characters: 6 hit points
Werewolf chance to hit characters 75%

Then just translate the above into your ''system".

So the werewolf can KILL any character in two rounds of combat...maybe even just one.
BUT the character will need at least 4-5 rounds of very lucky all hits for max damage to kill the werewolf...

Quertus
2018-12-21, 04:42 PM
A large part of the horror genre is the idea of isolation, and when you've already got heavy thematic stuff pointing in that direction (a campground in the middle of nowhere) you might as well go whole hog. The absence of cell service helps create the image of the campground being in the middle of nowhere, it supports the theme, it supports the genre, and it just generally works.

And, if the werewolf has human intelligence, it may well take out the cellphone towers before stalking the campers.

noob
2018-12-21, 05:57 PM
And, if the werewolf has human intelligence, it may well take out the cellphone towers before stalking the campers.

Depending on the werewolf variant some have human intelligence while in human form but does not necessarily have the same objectives as the wolf form and might or might not be aware of its condition or they can be aware of their condition and try to do their best so that under wolf form they do whatever they want(which can be warped by the curse) and werewolves have variants that under wolf form can still try to impose their will on the wolf and variants that can not impose their will on the wolf form and variants that simply have them be the wolf under the wolf form and have full control(but usually the last of that list goes with a curse that warps the desires of the initial person).

If it is one of the variants that warps the desires of the person then they can take out the cellphone towers.

Pauly
2018-12-21, 10:41 PM
The werewolf doesnít meed to take out the towers.

It could capture a cell phone and use Ďfind friendí or similar app to track the campers.
The camperís phones could start sending emergency alerts, the ones that canít be muted, to their phones.
The light of the phone whenever they use it could attract the werewolf.
Cold weather can reduce battery life, especially if theyíve had their phones on allmday without recharging before the werewolf showed up.
The werewolf may be able to sense electrical impulses (similar to a shark) and use that to find electrical equipment, which the werewolf has learned is associated with his natural prey.
Pokemon go alerts could sound when they move around. (That can be fun if you use playing pokemon go as part of the setup of what the campers did during the day before the werewolf showed up).
They call emergency services, but they treat it as a prank they get every year on the anniversary of the release of the Halloween movie or a werewolf movie was recently released.

There are plenty of plot relevant things you can do with the campers having access to their cell phones without the cell phones being an auto-win button for the campers.

Shinizak
2018-12-22, 02:13 AM
First thing's first: A scenario in which the players cannot win is wrong, even if you are playing a horror game. Make sure that there is a win scenario (even if it's Hard as hell to reach). For an example, play until dawn (or watch a lets play). Basically, Make the game brutal, but with a steady hand and some luck, they can over come the werewolf. (otherwise the characters just feel like the DM is having a power wank)

Now, for the question you actually asked: I'd say do the opposite. Make the knife, SPECIFICALLY that knife one of the things NEEDED to kill the werewolf, but also put in plenty of places to lose it.

Like, push the character over a cliff, but when make he/she catches him/herself, make them pull a block to not have the knife plummet out of their hands.

Or have them get their finger stuck in something (a vice, a rock, a heavy door, etc), give them the option to pry open the thing at the expense of the blade snapping. Have them make that decision.

you get the gist. the end goal is to REQUIRE the players to have the knife for the end encounter, otherwise everything goes tits up regardless of what they do.

but that's my 2 cents.

Marcotix
2018-12-22, 04:01 AM
PC w/ Knife vs monster = :sigh: PC w/ Knife vs PC's = :amused:

If some shlub with a the knife can take out the monster, the monster isn't an interesting monster. So make sure it alone isn't a viable solution, though it can be a part of a viable solution. Telegraph that to the PC's.
You could have an NPC's right? Maybe Old man Marty, the hermit/drunk steal the knife in the night. The PC think he's the monster, but no! In a surprise twist of ineffectual heroism he dives the knife into the creature! As the creature rips Marty apart the PC's can flea!

Pick a random PC and have the knife fall at their feet. They can grab it, putting them behind the "run away" group or run away.

If the PC's do anything less then work together then the monster wins. So if/ when the PC's get the knife add drama by adding reasons for the party to fight one another. Maybe have them come across a solo vehicle, or one of them needs to be sacrificed to a god. Hell, maybe their chase goes on for months in a never ending forest, and suddenly Tommy is looking pretty tasty.

Then we are left to pondering who the real monster is.

Oh yeah, if one of the PC's goes murder hobo, make sure they don't live. Horror is, at its base, a morality story.

Tanarii
2018-12-24, 10:32 AM
A large part of the horror genre is the idea of isolation, and when you've already got heavy thematic stuff pointing in that direction (a campground in the middle of nowhere) you might as well go whole hog. The absence of cell service helps create the image of the campground being in the middle of nowhere, it supports the theme, it supports the genre, and it just generally works.
Having the security blanket of a GPS / satellite device and then taking it away later will be far worse,

Quertus
2018-12-24, 04:37 PM
So, is it fair to say that the general consensus to "problematic items, negate or forbid" is, "no - make them not a problem", and even "(not that they should have been a problem in the first place)"?

Silly Name
2018-12-24, 04:54 PM
I have to agree that a knife in a camping setting isn't supposed to be problematic or unexpected. You might as well ask if flashlights would be problematic.

If your werewolves can be killed by some whimp with a pocket knife, they are pretty ineffectual monsters. Could Jason be dispatched with a frying pan? Would Freddy be put out of commission with a shotgun? Should Dracula be slain with a sword? Of course not! Part of the horror of those monsters is that they appear to be invulnerable to anything the protagonists can throw at them, and that's a large part of their dread factor.

You're the GM, you're effectively god: just rule that the knife is not enough to kill the monster, although as an utility item it could be used to craft traps, cut ropes, etc. Just make sure the players don't auto-succeed (but no automatic failures either!), and you should be all set.

Quertus
2018-12-24, 05:58 PM
So, I just thought of another way to look at this scenario. Say I'm camping. I've got my trusty camping knife. And a bear wanders into the campsite. Am I going to charge out, and try to stab the bear to death? No, because that's a ****ing bear. If I was camping with my identical clones, who brought a baseball bat, a katana, and a chainsaw, would I consider going out and attacking the creature to be a good plan? No, because that's a ****ing bear. If the beast turned aggressive, would I be confident of our ability to kill it? No, because that's a ****ing bear.

Now, maybe we could drive it off, convince it to go elsewhere. And, sure, maybe we could actually kill it in as close to a straight-up fight as I'd engage in against such odds with minimal casualties - but, being the one with the meagre camping knife, I'd know that my role was "bait" and would not fancy my odds of surviving.

So, how does that translate to a werewolf?

Well, that depends. If us campers perceived it as a wolf, well, I'd still not want to engage it, but I'd feel reasonably confident that a lone wolf would not "TPK" my clone army. With just 2 knives, and people who aren't me? I'd give quick knife-fighting lessons, pep talks about how we can win, and volunteer as the sacrificial bait to encourage their participation.

If we knew that it was a werewolf? **** No, because that's a ****ing werewolf.

Honestly, I'd be asking people how willing they were to be turned, and hoping that it was that kind of werewolf...