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    Default Do you rule that water breaks line of effect for Mage Hand?

    Could you use Mage Hand to retrieve visible items from the bottom of a pool of water? I've found diff. editions to have different rules for Mage Hand. I think it probably comes down to a determination of whether water breaks line of effect? My players certainly have a strong argument that the hand is 'spectral' as well.

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    Default Re: Do you rule that water breaks line of effect for Mage Hand?

    Water doesn't break line of effect, because you can target underwater enemies with ranged attacks just fine. Mage Hand doesn't have special targeting rules or unique line of effect rules that do not apply to other powers.
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    Default Re: Do you rule that water breaks line of effect for Mage Hand?

    Personally, I'd say ranged attacks have to deal with refraction (call it concealment) and the effects of the water's mass (which might count as cover). I mean, terrain interactions are one thing I especially love about 4e battles, why leave that out?

    Shouldn't matter for Mage Hand, anyway, unless seconds count. You can just re-aim if you "miss".
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    Default Re: Do you rule that water breaks line of effect for Mage Hand?

    Quote Originally Posted by Dimers View Post
    Personally, I'd say ranged attacks have to deal with refraction (call it concealment) and the effects of the water's mass (which might count as cover). I mean, terrain interactions are one thing I especially love about 4e battles, why leave that out?

    Shouldn't matter for Mage Hand, anyway, unless seconds count. You can just re-aim if you "miss".
    Although arguably ranged radiant attacks would be refracted in the same manner, cancelling out the concealment.

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    Default Re: Do you rule that water breaks line of effect for Mage Hand?

    Quote Originally Posted by Beoric View Post
    Although arguably ranged radiant attacks would be refracted in the same manner, cancelling out the concealment.
    Do we really want to start arguing about different refraction angles for different frequencies of light here?

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    Default Re: Do you rule that water breaks line of effect for Mage Hand?

    Radiant magic is clearly an infinitesimal amount of light of infinite frequency.

    What is more divine than dividing by zero?

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    Default Re: Do you rule that water breaks line of effect for Mage Hand?

    Quote Originally Posted by Beoric View Post
    Although arguably ranged radiant attacks would be refracted in the same manner, cancelling out the concealment.
    That's beautiful, and I am behind it 100%.
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    Default Re: Do you rule that water breaks line of effect for Mage Hand?

    Quote Originally Posted by ve4grm View Post
    Do we really want to start arguing about different refraction angles for different frequencies of light here?
    Not if we insist on using square fireballs.

    *sigh* I miss the 1e and 2e fireball. "The fireball fills an area equal to its normal spherical volume (roughly 33,000 cubic feet--thirty-three 10-foot 10-foot 10-foot cubes)." Now 1e was an edition that invited arguing over refraction angles.
    Last edited by Beoric; 2018-05-31 at 09:38 PM.

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    Default Re: Do you rule that water breaks line of effect for Mage Hand?

    Quote Originally Posted by Beoric View Post
    Not if we insist on using square fireballs.

    *sigh* I miss the 1e and 2e fireball. "The fireball fills an area equal to its normal spherical volume (roughly 33,000 cubic feet--thirty-three 10-foot 10-foot 10-foot cubes)." Now 1e was an edition that invited arguing over refraction angles.
    Do you honestly miss the arguments that Gygax's inability to write rules clearly used to provoke? :)

    (And, I know; he claimed it was a feature rather than a bug, but what do you expect from a guy who then went on to write Cyborg Commando and Dangerous Journeys? Rules and clarity weren't his thing.)
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    Default Re: Do you rule that water breaks line of effect for Mage Hand?

    The spell descriptions weren't so much rules as descriptions of phenomena, with damage mechanics attached. In corner cases the DM made rulings, just like they would do with any other phenomena. The unexpected consequences are half the fun.

    We pretty much never argued, and when we did, it was generally because of a difference between what the DM meant to describe, and what the player thought he had described, and the player consequently declaring an action based on incorrect information. We resolved the issue by figuring out where the problem was, and letting the player then make his choice based on the correct information. Arguing about rules never happened.

    We are moving heavily in this direction in our 4e games now. Nobody knocks a gelatinous cube prone in our games. Nobody with a fire spell will ever freeze to death because an unlit campfire isn't a legitimate target. (I don't actually think that's how the rule for legitimate targets reads, but I've seen it argued.)

    However, I have to admit it is possible that the most important thing 1e was its presentation, not its rules. It really evoked a sense of magic and wonder. I reread the 1e DMG section on magic items recently and was surprised to find that many of the 1e magic items had essentially identical mechanics to the 4e equivalents. And yet there is no sense of the wondrous to be found in the 4e stat blocks, no encouragement to experiment or find creative ways to use them. 1e spells and magic items are just more fun than 4e equivalents - even when mechanically they are similar or identical. There was a good article recently at Hack & Slash that illustrates the phenomenon nicely.

    I really like the 4e core mechanics (other than skill challenges), but the game is presented with no joy. I had to bring the joy from my pre-4e experiences.

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    Default Re: Do you rule that water breaks line of effect for Mage Hand?

    Quote Originally Posted by Beoric View Post
    Nobody knocks a gelatinous cube prone in our games.
    I feel like I remember something in one of the books regarding this, where if an effect wouldn't make explicit sense (oozes being prone actually being the example), you should re-fluff it however you want, as something that just has the same mechanical effect. (So, I guess for an ooze, it could be something that causes it to lose some cohesion, and it needs to try and pull itself back together, or something like that.)

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    Default Re: Do you rule that water breaks line of effect for Mage Hand?

    Quote Originally Posted by Dark Shadow View Post
    I feel like I remember something in one of the books regarding this, where if an effect wouldn't make explicit sense (oozes being prone actually being the example), you should re-fluff it however you want, as something that just has the same mechanical effect. (So, I guess for an ooze, it could be something that causes it to lose some cohesion, and it needs to try and pull itself back together, or something like that.)
    Yerp.

    Specifically, from the Rules Compendium, for the prone state: "This condition can affect limbless creatures, such as fish and snakes, as well as amorphous creatures, such as oozes. When such a creature falls prone, imagine it is writhing or unsteady, rather than literally lying down. The game effect on that creature is the same as for other creatures."

    In 4e, unless the entry explicitly states that a creature is immune to a given condition, it'll be affected by that condition even if it makes no sense, you just have to refluff it, which is one of the things that I like about 4e: it separates the mechanics from the fluff.
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    Default Re: Do you rule that water breaks line of effect for Mage Hand?

    Quote Originally Posted by Dark Shadow View Post
    I feel like I remember something in one of the books regarding this, where if an effect wouldn't make explicit sense (oozes being prone actually being the example), you should re-fluff it however you want, as something that just has the same mechanical effect. (So, I guess for an ooze, it could be something that causes it to lose some cohesion, and it needs to try and pull itself back together, or something like that.)
    True, and not the point. If you re-fluff the effect, you also need to re-fluff the power that caused the effect.

    So a fighter trained for years as a page and then a squire until he learned a sweeping move that allows him to trip his opponent. Then, when he encounters a gelatinous cube, he suddenly knows how to do something entirely different, just so we can keep the same mechanical impact? Something that allows the cube to be squished flat in order to justify the penalty to ranged attacks against it? Maybe he should instead be smart enough not to try to trip a gelatinous cube.

    In-game choices should matter at least as much as out-of-game choices. If a trained move is supposed to work a certain way, in-game, then that is how it should work. Note the flip side of this is, if the player asks to avoid the damage reduction of an attack against a swarm of giant rats or jermalaine because that is how the move works in-game, I would allow it.

    At this point I pretty much let players pick the fluff for the move, and treat the mechanics as a recommended adjudication for use in normal circumstances. If in-game choices don't matter, then you may as well be playing a board game or a video game. Because what differentiates tabletop RPGs from those types of games is the freedom not to be bound by the rules in circumstances where the rules stop making sense.

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    Default Re: Do you rule that water breaks line of effect for Mage Hand?

    One issue is that it leads to the suck of the mundane.

    When martial characters get a bunch of "swing a sword fast or in clever ways" abilities which have similar mechanical effects to wizard spells, but the wizard spells also have a pile of "woo" fluff on them (fire, ice, poison, whatever).

    So a wizard picks a power and gets both a fire blast *and* the ability to do minor fire magic. The fighter picks a power and gets ... nothing extra.

    Maybe the issue is that the Fighter abilities need better fluff that both describe the *move* and *how you got the move*.

    "You have trained yourself to move at lightning speed. Make 3 attacks on up to 3 targets."

    Now, "move at lightning speed" becomes a bit of fluff you can hang improvised moves on.

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    Default Re: Do you rule that water breaks line of effect for Mage Hand?

    Sure, you can make up whatever fluff you want that matches the crunch. I'll just hold you to it, or to fluff that is derivative of it.

    Although fluffing 3 attacks to mean you can literally move at the speed of lighting might take some fast talking.

    But look at something like the stock fluff for the movement technique Arc of the Flashing Storm. I would totally let you teleport twice your move if you start and end adjacent to a long metal object, like an iron fence or steel cable. Maybe even further sine its so corner case. Or teleport through a steel door into an area you don't have line of sight to.

    IIRC, there was a note in the 1e DMG that said if you cast a lightning bolt underwater, it behaved like a fireball instead. I love that sort of thing.

    As for "the suck of the mundane", the flip side of this approach is to let anybody try anything that seems within their skill set. So if a PC wants to jump off a balcony and break his fall on some guy, I'm totally going to let him try it, and do MBA damage if he hits plus knocking the guy prone - but the PC is going to have to make an athletics check to avoid damage from the fall. (This has actually happened in my game.)

    And if a fighter with a shield doesn't have Tide of Iron but really wants to push that guy out of the way, I would let him try Tide of Iron without the proficiency bonus, which could be better than bull rush once the enhancement/inherent bonuses start kicking in. Or try Shield Bash in place of an encounter power using the same penalty. Shield Bash seems like something any sword and board fighter ought to be able to try, so in my game it is.

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    Default Re: Do you rule that water breaks line of effect for Mage Hand?

    That proves my point.

    A magical effect got a boost (double range) for no cost (just environment).

    Then, as an example of what you let martial characters do, you permitted a martial character to improvise another option, but made it suck. And you explicitly questioned letting the ridiculous speed and precision of "attack 3 times in 6 seconds at nearly no penalty" apply to non-attacks.

    Mundane usually get limited to improvised weak moves that a real life human expert or stuntsman could probably pull off. Magical abilities start with the text in question and explode further into many possibilities.

    ...

    I mean, you could make a game where "mundane expertise" rivals magic. Think of all the anime samurai/ninja fiction where people train and practice until they are superhuman.

    Or even old-edision Vampire, where one of the most powerful abilities is Celerity, which literally let you move 2 to 6 times faster (doing full actions) than anyone else. Heck, even the weaker Solar charms from Exalted that are social based could make for awesome "I'm just that good" moments. Or even Hollywood action hero reflexes and luck.

    ...

    So imagine if, instead of "you have to make an athletics check" and deal MBA damage it was "oh, you are falling and there is someone there? Awesome; make an attack roll (using martial powersource power). Subtract any damage you deal from your fall damage; if all the fall damage goes away, add it to your attack's damage."

    This approach is that the *only* cost for martial special tricks is the player thinking them up and it having an situational hook that isn't *always* present..

    ...

    Basically, the fluff surrounding magical attacks is far easier to turn into stunts than the fluff surrounding martial attacks, *unless* you roll the fact that martial attacks are the result of superhuman strength, reflexes and training.

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    Default Re: Do you rule that water breaks line of effect for Mage Hand?

    Quote Originally Posted by Yakk View Post
    That proves my point.

    A magical effect got a boost (double range) for no cost (just environment).
    Its pretty corner case, its not exactly going to break anything. And the cost is in flexibility, since he can only go where an unbroken length of metal goes.

    Then, as an example of what you let martial characters do, you permitted a martial character to improvise another option, but made it suck. And you explicitly questioned letting the ridiculous speed and precision of "attack 3 times in 6 seconds at nearly no penalty" apply to non-attacks.
    Not sure which example you are talking about that sucked, but as a rule, if my players are improvising its because the options on their character sheets don't work in the situation. Where their options are an improvised ruling that has a shot, or doing nothing effective, they are going to go for the improvised ruling.

    Also, I tell the players the mechanics I'm adopting, so they can decide not to try it if its too risky. I'm not seeing how they are better off if I don't allow them the option of trying something they already said they wanted to try.

    To your other point, I questioned whether being very fast made you literally move at the speed of lightning. It doesn't mean you aren't very fast. To look at other applications would depend on how the power worked. I would consider whatever the player pitched.

    Mundane usually get limited to improvised weak moves that a real life human expert or stuntsman could probably pull off. Magical abilities start with the text in question and explode further into many possibilities.

    ...

    I mean, you could make a game where "mundane expertise" rivals magic. Think of all the anime samurai/ninja fiction where people train and practice until they are superhuman.
    Yeah, I have no issue with that, don't know what I said to make you think I did.

    Basically, the fluff surrounding magical attacks is far easier to turn into stunts than the fluff surrounding martial attacks, *unless* you roll the fact that martial attacks are the result of superhuman strength, reflexes and training.
    Yeah, I roll that way. I mean, if I'm accepting that a character with Rapid Shot can fire up to 9 arrows at 9 different targets in 6 seconds, I'm already in that territory.

    I dropped 1e, which I had played for 30ish years at that point, in favour of 4e because of the martial exploits and tactical combat. I was trying to get away from the "suck of the mundane". I just don't think taking the suck out of the mundane means you have to take the magic out of magic.

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    Default Re: Do you rule that water breaks line of effect for Mage Hand?

    So, "your ability says you can do X. But if you find an environmental excuse, you can do X *and more*" is the no-cost benefit. The lightning step that works as says, but also lets you go further along a metal object, is such a no-cost buff.

    So if a PC wants to jump off a balcony and break his fall on some guy, I'm totally going to let him try it, and do MBA damage if he hits plus knocking the guy prone - but the PC is going to have to make an athletics check to avoid damage from the fall. (This has actually happened in my game.)
    So, here we have a PC using the environment. They are on a balcony, a foe is right under them.

    The result is a MBA (substandard damage) with a knock prone, and you have to also make an athletics check to avoid taking a penalty (damage from the fall).

    Now imagine we remove the environment. They are now standing right next to each other. And examine the action: is it a great one?

    Odds are Str vs AC, 1[W]+Str, target prone, take 3d10 damage unless you make an athletics check wouldn't be the action they would be taking. They probably have better options on their character sheet.

    The magical character got "what I have on my character sheet, but I got to teleport twice as far". The martial character got something worse than what is on their character sheet; they got to *mitigate* the environment, not *leverage* it.

    Getting a situational benefit is not a *cost of flexibility*. If the power suddenly only worked when there was metal, that would be a cost of flexibility. But it working as written, plus it works better when there is metal, is a cost-free buff ; the only "cost" is the player finding things in the environment to leverage. I think that kind of creative cost-free environmental leverage buffing is great.

    My concern is that it becomes very easy to do this with magical effects, and really easy to restrict mundane effects to environmental mitigation.

    I mean, you could have said "sure, you can try that. Make an Arcana check to avoid taking 3d10 damage from the metal disrupting your teleport, but you do go twice as far. And you can slide the target 1 square." But that would be a crappy reward for the player leveraging the environment to think about lighting teleporting along a metal rail, so don't do that; I'm just saying that is the magical equivalent of what you made the martial character do.

    Maybe the problem is the poor example of martial improvisation. However, that is what I seem to always see when someone talks about martial improvisation; by using the environment, you get to mitigate it, or do some effect that is worse than what you already have as an option on your character sheet. And when people talk about magical improvisation, they talk about doing an effect *better* that what is on your character sheet.

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    Default Re: Do you rule that water breaks line of effect for Mage Hand?

    Quote Originally Posted by Yakk View Post
    So, here we have a PC using the environment. They are on a balcony, a foe is right under them.
    Odds are Str vs AC, 1[W]+Str, target prone, take 3d10 damage unless you make an athletics check wouldn't be the action they would be taking. They probably have better options on their character sheet.
    When players do the "I want to use the height of the fall to do something extra", I tend to make it more of a "damage transfer" than a "cost/benefit" thing.

    In the example in question, the falling damage (which, if you take falling damage, you fall prone) *always happens*; the successful trick attack on the part of the player just transfers the potential falling damage from the PC to the NPC target, so it would end up being something like "Str v. AC; Hit: 1[W] + 3d10 + STR and target is knocked prone; Miss: No damage and you take 3d10 damage and are knocked prone."

    In this way, it becomes a high risk, high reward attack (especially since I would also argue that you can't roll to break your fall as normal with Acrobatics because you're *specifically trying* to fall as hard as possible) rather than a substandard at-will that requires leveraging the environment.

    I do agree with Yakk, however, that, because the real world doesn't give us a reliable manner in which to gauge how magic interacts with the normal physical laws of everything, using the fluff (which is written specifically to make the ability sound *awesome*) to justify improving magical effects is liable to make martial techniques fall flat on their face: magic breaks reality while martial/mundane has to follow the same rules.

    Btw, if a player *really* wanted to do the whole "the metal rail makes my lightning teleport go twice as far", the inverse of that effect is "the target's chainmail armor redirects all of the lightning damage they take by a *huge* amount" since you're recognizing in the first part that magical lightning conducts along metal more effectively than air which means that metal armor (which will redirect electricity along the outside of the body where it won't injure the person wearing it) will do the same, interfering with magical lightning's ability to do damage. Magic gets to do unrealistic things because magic doesn't exist in the real world. Trying to tie the two together is going to cause a whole slew of problems (since who wins the argument largely depends upon where you end the argument) so, imo, I would generally try to *avoid* anyone trying to use real world physics to improve or modify the physics of magic.
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    Default Re: Do you rule that water breaks line of effect for Mage Hand?

    The falling example was something that actually happened in a (modified) version of Keep on the Shadowfell I ran. Last room, party is trying to shimmy down the chains. The adventure seems to assume team monster politely waits for the party to get to the "start" area; I had them taking potshots at the PCs as they came down. Its a fairly long climb, and was going to take a round or two before the party could engage.

    The adventure contemplates the PCs jumping down and taking damage; the player just wanted to hit an enemy on the way down. I made it an attack instead of an autohit because, IIRC, the fall is about 40 feet and there was no guarantee. I think I even made it a charge - I mean, he was moving directly toward the target for more than 2 squares and attacking with an MBA at the end of it. He rolled an Acrobatics check to mitigate falling damage and ended up taking next to no damage. So, if jumping 40 feet to attack a guy and not getting hurt much is "mundane", then I guess it was mundane.

    It is perhaps not a good example of what I am talking about, because looking back I think it is technically within the rules. It makes little sense to compare that to an arcane power I chose at random. They aren't all that adaptable; choosing another arcane at power, Sorcerous Pulse, I have no idea how you would do anything with that outside of the described mechanics.

    I actually think the creative application of spell-like powers is more limited in combat, because they already do quite specific things; whereas for martial characters the players are already looking to do things that seems physically possible but aren't allowed for in the rules. Trying to bully your way through an enemy's square, for example, or various sorts of simultaneous maneuvers. Cutblocks, flying tackles, hip-tosses, shield bashes, the list goes on. Parkour. This is a game of the imagination, I don't know why you would want to limit yourself. Sure, you are going to be better at your practiced moves, but they don't work in all situations, sometimes you have to improvise.

    So if the party is pinned down in a hallway, and some of the melee guys are suck behind the line with crappy RBA attacks, while the enemy BBEG controller is in the back row pounding the party with area spells, maybe the front line wants to make a hole in the enemy line, so the running back barbarian can punch through and take him out. Or throw the halfling over the front line so he can do the same. I'm not going to say no because nobody has a power to do it, nor am I going to make it impractical to pull off.

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