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Thread: Is this unfair?

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    ElfRangerGuy

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    Default Is this unfair?

    In the game I am currently running the adventurers are clearing a lair of undead. The lair was once the home of a great beast who was slain in a fight by a dragon. The dragon has looted the lair but did not find an artifact hidden in the beast's den. The artifact is attracting undead in the region towards it and opening portals to the Shadowfell, through which more undead are entering the Material Plane. There is currently a 'dark fellowship' working for a demon lord who are seeking the artifact. The adventuring party is level 4 (with a few level 5) and has 6 total members with an average of 5 appearing at each session.

    The DC to find the artifact is 18. If they miss it, the demon lord's followers will find it soon because they know that the artifact is somewhere in the lair, and have been searching for the lair the last few weeks.

    The adventurers are also accompanied by a follower of a rival demon lord who knows the artifact is within the lair and might attempt to get the adventurers to go back and search again, or do it themselves.

    Is this an unfair scenario? Would you be upset at your DM if the campaign's villains stole an artifact because you failed an ability check? Sorry if I am being vague with the details, I can clarify if necessary.

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    Default Re: Is this unfair?

    Will your game carry on if they dont?

    My advice is to roll with the punches, or just let them find it if you dont want them to fail.
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    NecromancerGuy

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    Default Re: Is this unfair?

    I wouldnít call it unfair but, why would you tie story progression to a single die roll? Do you want your players to find it or do you not?

    Perhaps the dragon just didnít want the artifact because it didnít want to deal with all the undead baggage. Which means that the artifact isnít that difficult to find, it is just behind a trap or puzzle.

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    GnomeWizardGuy

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    Default Re: Is this unfair?

    Quote Originally Posted by Ronnocius View Post
    In the game I am currently running the adventurers are clearing a lair of undead. The lair was once the home of a great beast who was slain in a fight by a dragon. The dragon has looted the lair but did not find an artifact hidden in the beast's den. The artifact is attracting undead in the region towards it and opening portals to the Shadowfell, through which more undead are entering the Material Plane. There is currently a 'dark fellowship' working for a demon lord who are seeking the artifact. The adventuring party is level 4 (with a few level 5) and has 6 total members with an average of 5 appearing at each session.

    The DC to find the artifact is 18. If they miss it, the demon lord's followers will find it soon because they know that the artifact is somewhere in the lair, and have been searching for the lair the last few weeks.

    The adventurers are also accompanied by a follower of a rival demon lord who knows the artifact is within the lair and might attempt to get the adventurers to go back and search again, or do it themselves.

    Is this an unfair scenario? Would you be upset at your DM if the campaign's villains stole an artifact because you failed an ability check? Sorry if I am being vague with the details, I can clarify if necessary.
    I wouldn't make it a once and done check. Instead, I would leave clues as to how it might be hidden in the lair, and let the PC description of their search influence how their chance of finding the Artefact. You may want to consider a having an encounter where they have a chance to intercept the artefact retrieval to prevent a feeling that they couldn't have found the artefact.

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    WolfInSheepsClothing

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    Default Re: Is this unfair?

    as long as it is reasonable for them to find it, and especially as long as the campaign can progress either way, I see no problem with it
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    Bugbear in the Playground
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    Default Re: Is this unfair?

    If it's plot-critical, I wouldn't hide it behind a check of any sort. If the party clear the dungeon, it's there.

    From the players' side, it feels cheap to have something that important relegated to complete random chance. You might as well flip a coin before they get there and progress the story down whichever branch regardless, it'll save you a lot of time developing the other possible outcome.

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    ElfRangerGuy

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    Default Re: Is this unfair?

    Quote Originally Posted by Mith View Post
    I wouldn't make it a once and done check. Instead, I would leave clues as to how it might be hidden in the lair, and let the PC description of their search influence how their chance of finding the Artefact. You may want to consider a having an encounter where they have a chance to intercept the artefact retrieval to prevent a feeling that they couldn't have found the artefact.
    I've mentioned a few times that it seems the undead are attracted to something within the lair. They will find some undead attempting to break down barricades and go deeper into the lair. Hopefully this will foreshadow it enough so that they will know something is here at least.

    Thanks everyone for the advice. I don't like to decide the course of events (a big part of by DM style is letting dice decide what happens to some degree) but I will allow them to aid each other in the check to reduce the random element.
    Last edited by Ronnocius; 2019-06-14 at 07:04 PM.

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    Orc in the Playground
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    Default Re: Is this unfair?

    I don't know if I'd call it unfair, but I don't think it's very good GMing/game design.

    You've set yourself up with two possibilities: the players find it, or the player's don't. Either could happen, so you have to do at least some prep for both. That's not inherently a bad thing, but it does mean more work for you. Very frequently, that kind of branching adventure design is really cool. It's a lot of fun when you can see your choices take the story in different directions.

    But your player's aren't making a choice, they're rolling a die. That isn't particularly fun or interesting, and having major plot consequences for the failure of a single die roll isn't particularly fun either (especially when it's not a dramatic die roll). Plus, if they fail, there's a chance they might hold up the whole campaign and camp in the tomb searching for it (or some similar off-the-wall player character BS). I think you're giving yourself extra work and running the risk of frustrating your players for little to no benefit.

    If you don't want them to find it, I would tell them that after a thorough search, they don't find the artifact. It must be somewhere else. Maybe the enemy demon lord already has it. Perhaps the "allied" demon lord either has or is unreliable information?

    If you do want them to find it, you've got two options. You could make it an interesting challenge (puzzle/boss fight) to get the artifact, or if that doesn't fit in your game, you could just say "after a thorough search, you find the artifact!" Either way works, depending on what's best for your game.

    If you do use a puzzle, I'd caution you against similar "roll to succeed" kinds of challenges. Rolling is an excellent mechanic for resolving things like combat or environmental hazards, but when it comes to other kinds of tasks, it can bog things down. I usually don't ask my PCs to roll for out-of-combat tasks unless 1) the outcome is uncertain, 2) there is something at stake (you can't just try again), and 3) the campaign/character doesn't immediately end if the PC fails. It's not fun or dramatic to lose a character because you failed your third Athletics check to climb a cliff--at least, not unless something's chasing you. Similarly, breaking down a door isn't necessarily easy, but if you're not in combat or otherwise time-constrained it's definitely doable for pretty much any adventurer.

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    BardGirl

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    Default Re: Is this unfair?

    Do you let them try the check again in if they donít succeed on the first try, if the characters are convinced itís there and they keep searching? The in that case you might as well narrate how long they search before they find it.

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    ElfRangerGuy

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    Default Re: Is this unfair?

    Quote Originally Posted by Tangleweed View Post
    Do you let them try the check again in if they donít succeed on the first try, if the characters are convinced itís there and they keep searching? The in that case you might as well narrate how long they search before they find it.
    No, I would probably not allow them to reroll the check.

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    Ettin in the Playground
     
    Zombie

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    Default Re: Is this unfair?

    I think it's fine. What you've got is a path where if the party finds the item, one potential path opens up. If they don't find the item, another potentially more interesting path opens up. It's better to me this way. As a player I'd feel less like I was pigeonholed.
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    SolithKnightGuy

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    Default Re: Is this unfair?

    Quote Originally Posted by Ronnocius View Post
    No, I would probably not allow them to reroll the check.
    I would advise that if they have reason to believe they are in the right spot (IE found the room where all the undead were trying to get) and fail their roll, but are convinced (due to previously stated in game reasons) you instead just say something like 'You're thorough search of the room finally reveals McGuffin A in the room after a two hour top to bottom search' then ask for perception and/or initiative to start the combat with the undead that showed up during the search.

    That way if they are convinced it had to be there the dice can't say they don't find it. They just say whether they find it before or after the undead would show up.

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    Dalebert's Avatar

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    Default Re: Is this unfair?

    I was going to ask if they have been told it's there, and then...

    Quote Originally Posted by Ronnocius View Post
    I've mentioned a few times that it seems the undead are attracted to something within the lair. They will find some undead attempting to break down barricades and go deeper into the lair. Hopefully this will foreshadow it enough so that they will know something is here at least.
    So that's different. They have suspicions of something weird but not a seer saying "There is an artifact in that cave. You must find it!" If that were the case and if they say something like, we're going to keep searching if we don't find it and potentially take more drastic measures like moving large boulders and such or smashing furniture to bits. If so, then I'd say they're going to eventually find it unless they somehow specifically fail to search where it's actually located. Maybe have them roll to figure out how long it ultimately takes, e.g. they roll 16: 18-16=2 hours of searching before they find it.

    Quote Originally Posted by Ronnocius View Post
    No, I would probably not allow them to reroll the check.
    Now this bugs me. Why not? I kind of feel like ability checks are there mostly for particularly time-sensitive situations or for when there is some negative consequence for failure like a rogue triggering a trap while trying to pick the lock. How many times have you searched for something IRL and found it in 6 seconds versus how many times have you searched for 10 minutes or an hour before finding something? It took you 100-600 attempts before you found it. If something is fairly central to the plot and is going to move the game forward and avoid tedium, I would likely just forgo the roll. I guess some people have fun rolling but I usually find it tedious and love it when someone in the party has a pretty high passive perception or passive investigation and a module has the DC at like 12. If a module has the DC that low, they're planning on someone finding it. It's a plot hook. If they miss it, all you've done is added time to the game that's boring versus time that's fun. I just let them find it and the game moves forward.
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    RogueGuy

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    Default Re: Is this unfair?

    I think it is important that they have clues towards where this artefact might be, and by the sound of it you are already doing that.
    Still, I'm not a huge fan of making something like finding an important artefact a single roll pass or fail scenario. If a character rolls a 6 on investigation for scanning a room they feel like there is nothing of interes, but if they just crawl under the bed, they're going to find that lock box without making a check.

    Also, something to think about, skill checks often represent being able to perform either a difficult task or a time sensitive task. Given enough time and scrutiny an party of adventurers will likely find that floorboard hiding the hidden switch.
    For reference, if you insist on fixing it to the check, in LMoP there is magical item towards the end with specific DC for finding it, though it states that any character can repeat the check for every hour they search. Something to think about as well.
    Last edited by ArgonGlow; Yesterday at 12:00 PM.

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    Wildarm's Avatar

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    Default Re: Is this unfair?

    Quote Originally Posted by Ronnocius View Post
    The DC to find the artifact is 18. If they miss it, the demon lord's followers will find it soon because they know that the artifact is somewhere in the lair, and have been searching for the lair the last few weeks.

    The adventurers are also accompanied by a follower of a rival demon lord who knows the artifact is within the lair and might attempt to get the adventurers to go back and search again, or do it themselves.

    Is this an unfair scenario? Would you be upset at your DM if the campaign's villains stole an artifact because you failed an ability check? Sorry if I am being vague with the details, I can clarify if necessary.
    If players know about the presence of the artifact I would not hide it behind a roll. Once they clear the dungeon, they could automatically find the item if they know it's there. It's just a matter of thoroughly searching.

    Now if you've dropped hints and they have ignored them then you could leave it to a roll. Even then, if the whole group(6) is searching that could be the best 3 perception/investigation rolls with advantage. Good chance someone will roll high enough to hit DC18. Honestly, if the campaign is more interesting if they find it, I'd let them roll and then say whoever rolled highest finds it.

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    Imbalance's Avatar

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    Default Re: Is this unfair?

    If it's a single fail check, but still important enough, they should have other opportunities to acquire it from the cultists.

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    MonkGuy

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    Default Re: Is this unfair?

    imho ist fine to hide the artifact behind a roll. just make sure your Campaign goes on with or without it. there have to be consequences of looting or not looting it.

    i had similar items or People in my Campaign. some got discovered - others didnt. in an world threatening Event (T3/4) some would come to aid the "heroes" depending on which the met and how they behaved towards themÖ just make it feel natural.

    in other words - dont punish them to hard if they didnt find it. =)

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    ElfRangerGuy

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    Default Re: Is this unfair?

    Thanks for the responses everyone. If they deduce that there must be an artifact hidden somewhere, they will roll to see how long it takes to find. If they are unsure, their roll will determine if they find it or not.

    It doesn't seem like the scenario itself is considered too egregiously unfair (I didn't think it was but I just wanted the opinion of other DMs and players).

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    Bugbear in the Playground
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    Default Re: Is this unfair?

    1) I wouldnít put any plot critical item behind a skill check unless there are fun continuations to the adventure whether they succeed or fail. Having the bad guys win due to a failed skill check when the players donít even know if there is something to find just wonít be fun.

    This seems to me to be another case of the DM not looking at things from a player perspective.
    -cave appears to be attracting undead
    -undead seem to be looking for something
    -other stuff is going on too and the players are killing the undead
    -DM expects players to search for cause .. cause is hard to find .. players donít even know exactly what they are looking for .. could be a hidden portal to the shadowfell that is attracting them .. could be whoever created the undead told them to go to a certain location or recover something .. could be there is some item .. could be something bad happened here and the dark nature attracts undead .. from the PLAYER perspective there are many possible explanations and searching for an artifact might be low in the list .. you already mentioned that the artifact is opening portals .. one natural conclusion the players could make is that the portals are attracting them .. question answered.

    2) As for searching, if you look at the rules for skill checks, then if there is no time pressure, nothing to stop them searching, then if the party searches long enough it WILL find whatever is there. Having only one roll allowed against a DC18 is basically saying .. ďI donít want you to find it because I prefer that plot line more, but hey, since that plot line will suck for you and the rest of the party/world, Iíll give you a chance to roll for it just to assuage my conscience since I didnít want to impose the bad result.Ē

    Since the players never know it was there to find if they fail the check, the only one affected by the roll is the DM as they chortle to themselves about the consequences for missing that die roll .. which isnít that fun for any of the players.
    Last edited by Keravath; Yesterday at 04:53 PM.

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    GreenSorcererElf

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    Default Re: Is this unfair?

    Build a world and let the players play in it and then build more world based on the directions they go. It's only unfair if missing the artifact leads to an unfairly difficult or unwinnable scenario. Otherwise that type of stuff is awesome.

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    BardGirl

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    Default Re: Is this unfair?

    Quote Originally Posted by Ronnocius View Post
    Thanks for the responses everyone. If they deduce that there must be an artifact hidden somewhere, they will roll to see how long it takes to find. If they are unsure, their roll will determine if they find it or not.
    For what itís worth, thatís just how I would do it. Maybe let them do a skill-challenge of it.

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