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  1. - Top - End - #1
    Firbolg in the Playground
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    Default Immersion Question

    On the weekend, we had an incident at our table where the DM busted out a single bard at level 12, with NPC WBL. The party was level 12 with above average WBL.
    This encounter is technically below their CR. However, the Bard proceeded to kill 2 party members in the same turn with Weird Words and (the word casting variant of) Celerity.
    Also, stuff like this isn't really new.

    The party complained that a single enemy should not be able to pull off something like that. Kill two party members in a single turn before anyone has a chance to act.
    I'll shorten the discussion somewhat, as it lead to an interesting question in my head that I didn't really voice at the time.

    Are there tools that are perfectly okay in the hands of a player but not in the hands of an NPC, or as part of a CR appropriate (or lower) encounter?

    The arguement made by the party is that in the hands of a player, killing NPC's before they have a chance is okay. Because they are NPC's, the DM can just dig out more. But doing so to the player characters is unacceptable because then they are removed from the encounter. A particular player specifically seems to take this as a signal from the DM to not participate in the encounter, and admittedly does so rather personally. This player's specific remark was "if you throw a mailman at the party, you get books thrown at you."
    Again, similar remarks have come up VS similar incidents.

    However, in a world where the NPC's have access to the same stuff that the party does, where do we draw the line here? Especially when the player party grew up and trained in this world, knowing full well that other people like them exist.

    This arguement will probably make a B-line for the 'save or suck/die' arguements, and partly stems from it. It seems that save or suck is okay in the hands of the party, but not the NPC's/DM.

    Any thoughts?
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    Default Re: Immersion Question

    You may as well ask the question you pose in reverse: Are there abilities/spells/etc. that, though technically accessible to PCs, shouldn't be used by them?

    I think the case in point demonstrates rather reasonably that it's a matter of fun, and that yes, the DM should probably pull his punches just like players should. We all know the game is rather fragile to the optimizer with internet access.

    And I happen to think it's perfectly acceptable to ask the DM to stop doing stuff like that (thus giving him a chance to explain himself and declare his course of action, before you decide whether to show up for the next game).
    Last edited by hymer; 2012-11-19 at 03:16 PM.
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    Default Re: Immersion Question

    Ultimately, this road (asking the players for permission before using materials, as the DM) seems likely to lead to lots of cakewalk encounters. I'm of the opinion that, if a given spell/ability/PrC is viable for a game, it's viable for everyone playing the game; the DM is among the players.
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    Imp

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    Default Re: Immersion Question

    My rule as a GM is I will escalate Optimization to my players. So If my players are pulling off tricks then the NPC's can pull off the same tricks. I have stated this to my players and all agree... to be fair though we all Like the whole NPC's/PC's should be able to do the same things.


    I think that each group needs to make that determination and it should be clear from the get go about how the GM approaches it.
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    Default Re: Immersion Question

    So first question is was everything done by Raw?

    The wordspeak "celerity" reads:

    The target of a wordspell with this effect word takes either a standard action and a move action or a full-round action immediately after a wordspell with this effect word is cast (maximum once per round). The target skips its next turn, but any effects that would occur on its turn or spell effects that would expire on its turn occur normally. The target is not helpless on its next turn, but can take no actions.

    Boost: Instead of losing its next turn, the target of a wordspell with this effect word is staggered on its next turn.
    I dont really see how that could be used to gain 2 uses of Weird Words (assumed from killing 2 PC's) as he would have had to target himself with something else first. Weird Words also specifies that it cannot be initiatied with anything faster than a standard action.

    10d8 + (10 * Cha Mod) with Fort save for half doesnt seem like it should be lethal for 12th level characters. Did the NPC know exactly which PC's to target due to low fort saves? Would the NPC actually have the information as opposed to the DM?

    Also, the ability has to be used within 30' which is pretty close for initiative to have not been rolled yet (obviously not impossible).

    I'm certainly one who thinks lethality is a very important part of the game, but I also think the DM has to be very careful when crafting encounters to make sure he's not using his knowledge of the players and their PC's.

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    Default Re: Immersion Question

    @ Diarmuid: I'll take your word for it. Though I don't actually see that as OP's question.
    I think it's worth considering regardless of this particular failing, as we know it's quite possible to make the game excessively lethal within RAW.

    The problem is, I guess, the line drawing. I think it's very difficult or impossible to come up with a rule for when you're crossing the line. It has to come about in play and conversation, and it can move from game to game.
    In the end, if players feel they're consistently ill treated, they cease to have fun, and cease to contribute (as much) to the game. On the other hand, if players feel consistently able to wipe the floor with anyone and anything that isn't PC, they may well feel unchallenged.
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    Default Re: Immersion Question

    I guess my point was that there can be a difference between a DM making up an NPC who's tough, and a DM who makes a mistake reading an ability and an encounter ends up much differently than intended.

    I think anything a PC has access to, the DM should have access to as well. I also have seen DM's use things that the PC's didnt have access to (usually for plot reasons) and I dont disagree with it.

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    Default Re: Immersion Question

    That`s one of the reasons I dislike the Epic Rules: None of the epic-level (CR above 20) non-divine monsters and NPCs described by the handbooks have epic weapons, epic armor or epic magic: advanced Balors, advanced Pit Fiends, Elder Brains, Solars, Titans, Celestial Paragons, Aspects, Grazzt, Mephistopheles, Pazuzu, Yeenoghu, Elminster, the Simbul...etc., none of them seem to know about the epic magic cheese that could give them +100 to every ability, +100 to AC, +100 to attack and +100 to saves, or even how to craft epic stuff, at least until the characters get it. And even then, the ancient NPCs who have been millenniums gathering power have worse cheese than the PCs.

    P.S.: Yes, I know some of these characters were rewritten as epic ones in the Epic Handbook but, as I said, even there they didn't use efficiently Epic Magic to make themselves undefeatable.
    Last edited by Clistenes; 2012-11-19 at 04:23 PM.

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    Default Re: Immersion Question

    I should probably state for the record that I am of the mind that if the players can have something, the badguys can have it as well. That is my personal opinion. I'm actually on the DM's side of this issue. But, I am attempting to remain neutral on the matter, such as it is, I do admit my slight bias.
    I was physically in the room, but my character was not, as such I witnessed the entire exchange.

    Quote Originally Posted by Diarmuid View Post
    So first question is was everything done by Raw?
    The wordspeak "celerity" reads:
    ~Snipped Explanation~
    Come to think of it, I am unsure. Though I do believe that the DM may have mixed up Celerity and Wordspeak Celerity, as there does appear to be a bit of a difference. There may have been a slight error here.

    10d8 + (10 * Cha Mod) with Fort save for half doesnt seem like it should be lethal for 12th level characters. Did the NPC know exactly which PC's to target due to low fort saves? Would the NPC actually have the information as opposed to the DM?
    Bard with Wizard support had been scrying the party for months. The party was aware they were being scry'd but took zero action to deal with it or investigate it. It does stand somewhat to reason that he may have had an estimate on some party stats. That said, the bard attacked the first two things that made it through the snow storm/sleet storm and tried to attack him.

    @Hymer
    I agree that they have the right to ask the DM stop. Totally agree.
    The ramifications are then, that the NPC's aren't allowed to use certain tools, with largely no in-world reasoning. Which means you have things like Wizards who just didn't bother to take Flesh to Stone because 'it might upset someone' rather than a legitimate reason. Or any other of the assortment of equally lethal tools. Or worse.
    On top of which, it brings up the question for either side. What tools are left?

    @Rag
    I can certify that such escalation was stated from the onset, and there have been subtle and less than subtle warnings that this was coming. We have a Summoner who's Eidolon can do upwards of 1k per round through nothing but melee attacks. He's probably about to purchase a bunch of the Manyfang daggers and jack that up to an excess of 3K per round. Yet, if the same mechanics were to be turned back on him, I'm certain we would be right back to the same arguement.

    @Amphetron
    "Ultimately, this road (asking the players for permission before using materials, as the DM) seems likely to lead to lots of cakewalk encounters. I'm of the opinion that, if a given spell/ability/PrC is viable for a game, it's viable for everyone playing the game; the DM is among the players."
    I really want to agree with this.
    The Mailman Bard as the table nicknamed him, could easily be replaced with all kinds of archetypes.
    Heck, I even brought up that this could have been a Scry and Die Wizard/Sorc, and rather than blasting, he could have opened up with Orb of Fire, Quicken Orb of Fire, Celerity/Belt of Battle for another Orb of Fire, and probably achieved a similar effect. Or exchange the Orb spells with any number of other options.
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    If the party wizard can't survive a supersonic dragon made of iron at epic levels it's his own fault really.
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    ElfRangerGuy

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    Default Re: Immersion Question

    I realize that this is something that varies from table to table, and that different people play in different ways.

    That being said, my first reaction was to tell the players to stop being babies, and the post directly ^ has only reinforced that reaction. You don't get to 1000 damage per round and then whine when the bad guys can do the same thing, sorry but no.
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    Default Re: Immersion Question

    It really depends on the party. The priority, first and foremost, is fun. Immersion and fairness are good, but they're simply a potential means to an end, that end being Fun. But that means Fun for everyone, including the DM. Speaking from experience, it's annoying as all heck when an encounter you spent an hour statting out gets neutralized in one round. On the other hand, it's even more frustrating when a character you've spent weeks fleshing out gets destroyed.

    When I'm designing encounters, I tend to err on the side of durability rather than offense. It's more fun, in my opinion, if both sides can stand up to a bit of a beating. The monsters don't use save-or-dies, or pull out metamagic'd Rain of Stone spells for 300 damage in the surprise round, but they'll probably be well stocked on cures and defenses. As long as you don't overdo it, it's usually good.
    Last edited by Eurus; 2012-11-19 at 05:17 PM.
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    Default Re: Immersion Question

    @ Karoht: It may be assumed that both players and DM are fairly reasonable people looking for a balance where frustration is an appetizer for success and doesn't go beyond that save by accident.
    I don't think the players and DM should sit down and make a list of things the DM is allowed to use. Also, I don't think NPCs always do the most efficient thing possible. We're telling a story where rule of cool and rule of funny play in, and where the audience/players could get fed up with the tedium and walk out.
    If every wizard has Petrification as his main shtick and the players are sick of it, the DM should tone it down, either by allowing the PCs to get hold of some defence, or by having the next many foes not use it.
    Last edited by hymer; 2012-11-19 at 05:36 PM.
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    Default Re: Immersion Question

    Hey folks. Firstly, the bard in question is shown Here in all his table-flipping glory.
    The party is very much insisting they didn't get to do anything, but this encounter was actually 8 rounds long, with the 2 PC kills and the bard kill happening on rounds 7 and 8 respectively. (One PC died on round 7, one on round 8) The initiative order was 3 party members, Bard, 4th party member, which is why it seemed that two died on the same round (The second to die went AFTER the bard, and he had been holding his action to cast Steal Time. So it went "One person dies. Ok, entire party, go. Hold up, the last person's turn starts, one person dies.) (Reasoning: He didn't know what he wanted to do with the held action, so it was "Hold action for if anyone locates me, cast Steal Time")
    Anyhow, the build's all there, and he actually ended up targetting the people with the highest fort save. Two players sat out of the encounter (One entirely, the other using an Eidolon [summoner class thing] and sitting his actual PC out) so really, there were 3 PC's and an Eidolon.
    The encounter setup, they were in an abandoned vault room 30' by 30'. The door was closed. This NPC had been stalking them for a while and they were aware of said stalking. They holed up in a room with a heavy door.

    OK, so theoretically, he could just head down the hallway 60 feet, go into another room, open the door, buff to his heart's content and there's no way any of them can make the Listen check to hear him doing it. But I figure I'll be nice.
    So he Shatter's the door.(With a word spell, but it's that one what does sonic damage so I'm just calling it shatter) It's still up, but not looking healthy, and the sound wakes them.
    I have them roll initiative. They were sleeping at the time, so the first round was obviously "Get up, retrieve gear". I did not give them penalties for fatigue because I'm nice (1)

    So in initiative order, I have the Bard start buffing himself outside in the hallway. His actions were 1: Snow Storm (From wand). 2: Dragonfire inspiration. 3: Inspire Courage. 4: Shatter.
    The party had a full 3 rounds to buff and get ready, which they did (Several Greater Invisibility, two Displacement, a spell that allows Armor bonus to apply to Touch AC [never heard of it but apparently it's a blackguard antipaladin thing] and the two who did not participate directly hid in a box.)
    So that's 4 rounds, right there. On the 4th round, the door explodes. All they see is snowstorm, so they decide to go full defensive and fly around looking for him. He uses his Lightning bolt on the newest party member (Had not been scryed, was electric immune) and moves. They continue to look for him, taking a few false swings at things, at random, and communicating VIA yelling. Three rounds later, one finally bumps into him, and eats Weird Words for his troubles.

    Miraculously, the entire party then surrounds the guy, despite being in different areas, and two of them having to traverse a pit trap that the party set, also walking through a wall effect which I didn't have them roll for (2). (The bard put that wall of Fear/Wrack in front of the doorway to interrupt any charge attempts etc.) So now they have him surrounded except the one guy who just died. He gets to go, 5' steps and holds his standard to cast Steal Time. The last guy goes, Bard's held action goes off, Weird Words, guy dies. Bard is stunned next round, eats the monk's flurry and dies.

    I'd like to point out here I wasn't adding bonus Charisma damage to the Weird Words. (3) It was dealing 1d8+Inspire Courage+Dragonfire Inspiration. The targetted members had the highest fort save and the Bard was aware of that (4) The average damage on the words would have been 210 to a single target, if all 10 hit. He id not open with Weird Words, even though it was entirely possible for him to do so (5) instead he opted to play cautiously and see what the new guy was all about.

    So! That's why Initiative didn't get rolled until he was within 45 feet, why the party had a total of 8 rounds to do things with, and how two of them ended up dead (Retconned into one so they wouldn't flip their shizz.) Also the bard could have easilly left, due to Consealment and his spell selection. Instead of killing that other party member. But they would have freaked HARDER if he came in, killed a guy and left without them getting him back. (6)


    So that's the encounter. It actually went a great deal longer than most encounters do, almost a full minute. Given that the PC strategy was effectively "Fly through every square until someone bumps into him", followed by "Kill him horribly" I'm not surprised that two of them died.
    I told them they're Level 12 almost 13, and if they can't handle a solo bard of their level, they certainly can't handle the wizard at the end of the dungeon.

    The six things I did to pander to the party are noted by number in little brackets above. This was not a case of the guy coming out of nowhere with an alpha strike.
    (Which, by the way, is their favorite tactic. Greater teleport while someone's sleeping/eating/otherwise unarmed followed by a gank)

    Honestly I don't know what all the crying is about, aside from the party eating buckets of damage from an =CR bard.

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    DrowGuy

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    Default Re: Immersion Question

    Quote Originally Posted by Karoht View Post
    Are there tools that are perfectly okay in the hands of a player but not in the hands of an NPC, or as part of a CR appropriate (or lower) encounter?
    No, not really. After all, where could you even draw a line? What is only for players or only for NPCs? Tons of things in the game can be powerful and even deadly to a character. How can you even start to pick what is what?

    Even more so, plenty of monsters have plenty of tools that are quite powerful even just by the book. A beholder, for example, can produce lots of powerful magical effects at will.

    Even if you stick to by-the-book things, NPCs can kill player characters. If the NPCs use what they have. Take the Arch Lich that attacks a group of PCs with magic missile and not say any more powerful spell or effect.

    Quote Originally Posted by Karoht View Post
    The arguement made by the party is that in the hands of a player, killing NPC's before they have a chance is okay. Because they are NPC's, the DM can just dig out more. But doing so to the player characters is unacceptable because then they are removed from the encounter.
    This kinda hovers around ''should the game have character death at all''. Yes, it's not fun to have your character killed with no chance to act, the same way it's no fun for a professional sports player to fumble or miss a shot.

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    Default Re: Immersion Question

    The OP's question is entirely subjective. Whether or not certain instantly lethal options should be available to everyone, pc's only, npc's only, or noone at all is entirely up to what the group thinks is most fun.

    Personally, I tend to prefer an all-or-nothing style. Either everyone has the instantly lethal options or noone does. Even within that limitation I seem to lean toward the everyone has the option side, since drawing the line between SoL and instantly lethal can be more difficult than it's worth.

    I do tend to shy away from save-or-die effects as a DM unless we're doing a high-lethality or high-level game where the "death" part of the SoD is reversible.

    Every now and again you want to stack up PC corpses like fire-wood, ya know. As long as you tell the players before the game starts that they should bring some throw-togther characters and a few extra character-sheets before hand it can be a lot of fun to go back to a gygaxian adventure. (Not that I played when these were the norm, but I see the appeal.)
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    Default Re: Immersion Question

    Well, in my opinion, your DM was in the right here.

    My DM follows a similar set, in where, he will not 'super-optimize' if we don't. The moment I flung around higher-end spells, he started having his casters do the same. This resulted in my character almost dying when the BBEG flung a POWER WORD: KILL at my Wizard, but thankfully, Celerity + Dimension Door out of range saved my ass.

    If I read your post right, in that your 'Summoner's' Eidelon [?] is able to deal around 1,000 damage per round, then I think the DM is perfectly within his right to drop a 12th Level Bard who can do what he did to the party. Perfectly fair.

    So yeah... I'd say, the DM can scale up optimization, if the players do. If the players are capable of dealing 1,000s of damage per round, then what the Bard did is nothing.
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    Default Re: Immersion Question

    Responded before I got to the DM's side of the story before.

    Stupid actions have unpleasant consequences. I have no sympathy for the party in this case, especially given that the DM didn't make hamburger of them when he obviously could have nor did the NPC escape when it would've been a simple matter.

    He was even nice enough to un-kill one of them for whining.

    I don't think the OP would enjoy a game I ran very much. I don't even own kid-gloves.
    Last edited by Kelb_Panthera; 2012-11-20 at 01:48 AM.
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    Kelb, recently it looks like you're the Avatar of Reason in these forums, man.
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