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  1. - Top - End - #61
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    Default Re: When did good and evil outsiders become so mundane and boring?

    Quote Originally Posted by Kaptin Keen View Post
    No, that's simply not true. Outsiders are - by design - endless hordes of identical, unmotivated evil. The blood war is a stunning example of just enormously unimaginative, crappy design: Endless armies fighting endlessly for no reason what so ever, with no result what so ever. There are many flaws in published RPG works, but none quite so galling as the outsiders*.

    I hardly ever use cookie cutter enemies for anything - but then on the other hand, I hardly ever really use combat either. Not ... really. Generally, there's only boss fights. And I'm not saying that's a good thing, btw, just that I'm generally not very good at running combat, and also I find it tedius. Especially if it's just .. 'an encounter'.

    * Some outsiders are cool - like, bariaur are awesome. Even if they too are 2-dimensional, they're so blank, fluff wise, that I can do anything I want with them.
    Orcs are, by design, endless hordes of identical, ummotivated bandits.

    Elves are, by design, endless hordes of identical, unmotivated racist superiorists.

    Barbarians are, by design, endless hordes of identical, unmotivated superstitious beatsticks.

    Wizards are, by design, endless hordes of identical, unmotivated scholars and mad scientists.

    Ergo, practicing reductionism with RPG elements can always strip an element down to an uninspiring trope that feels lame. Instead, we should focus on what can be added to these elements to make them work.

    Just because a person might belong to a culture that is at war doesn't mean that individual is directly involved. After all, if a given demon is very entrenched in that conflict, what brought them to the material plane that the heroes are encountering them?

    If a monster has more than 3 intelligence, it stands to reason that they have a name. If they have a name, then they are unique to other members of their people.

    The fact that you find outsiders and the blood war uninspiring doesn't mean it's objectively shallow. It means the creators worked very hard to leave ample room for customization.

    You know the blood war is optional fluff, right? If you don't like it, handle them better in your games.

    Maybe we could handle this question better by turning it around. How would you change outsiders to make them interesting?
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    Default Re: When did good and evil outsiders become so mundane and boring?

    Quote Originally Posted by redwizard007 View Post
    Ok. So what do you want to get out of your outsiders, etc?
    A cardinal point of my setting is that almost everyone in it is, fundamentally, a person. They're "human", for lack of a better word. Meaning that they all have desires (strange though those might be), all have agency (so no one is good or evil except by personal choice, including outsiders), and they all are in some measure comprehensible. The gods were once mortal (200 years ago, in fact). Any time you meet an outsider (including elementals in this category) on the Mortal plane, they have a body and so can be dispersed. This is because they have to be portrayed by me, and I'm human and so can't portray truly alien things well at all. The only truly alien mindsets are found among the kami, but those don't interact directly except as translated through mortals, and the Incarnations (manifestations of concepts that have been "broken"), but those are few and far between (and certainly not uniformly terrible).

    Kinds of beings are categorized by their role in the universal economy, not by their alignment.
    Angels are empowered by the universal Mechanism to the degree that they follow their oath to protect and police the Astral and Elemental planes, especially against threats from Beyond. They don't interact with mortals, and when they do they're of the "had to destroy the village to save it" mentality. They're understandable, just not incredibly friendly most of the time.

    Devils are the messengers of the gods (appearing in angelic form some of the time), as well as the contract workers of the universe. They "police" the Mortal plane. They take tithes of the energy of mortals in exchange for non-divinely-mandated services and are generally organized into mafia-like families by specialty. 90% of the time, that outsider is really a devil.

    Demons once were mortals (or outsiders) who chose to gain power by consuming the whole soul of a mortal or who were exposed to the corrupting influence of the Abyss long enough to be unable to live comfortably outside its ambit. Despite being universally reviled by everyone else, they're not inherently evil, just inherently dangerous. They have just as much a vested interest in the survival and progress of the universe as anyone else and have their plans and goals. Heck, the PCs at one time made a deal with a couple of the Demon Princes for aid, because the alternative was even worse.

    Elementals (including genies and other denizens of the elemental planes) are responsible for maintaining the Mortal realm, from whence all power comes. The water cycle? That's the job of the plane(s) of Water. Refreshing the air and the weather patterns? That's not photosynthesis, that's the plane(s) of Air. Thermal regulation? Not coming (directly) from the sun, but from the plane(s) of Fire. Geophysical changes? Not plate tectonics, but the planes of Earth and Fire cooperating. Etc. The plane of Earth is responsible for the fact that despite the world being inhabited for millennia, new mines can find new minerals. Basically everything that "physical laws" do here on Earth is done by the elemental planes.

    Now none of this means that these creatures are benign. Their motives and goals are frequently at odds with those of individual mortals; the wolf is understandable to the sheep, despite being fundamentally opposed to their individual well-being. But many of them will talk first; even those that won't still have goals and plans that a mortal might understand.
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    Default Re: When did good and evil outsiders become so mundane and boring?

    I think the roots of the issue came long before D&D even existed. Familiarity breeds contempt, and things aren't as scary when they're not utterly indestructible. When extraplanar beings started to be something you could fight and have some kind of a shot of beating, and stopped being something you should run away from (or at least not attract their attention), they started the slow road to being mundane. Trying to pick my examples very carefully (per forum rules), but consider how things shifted in literature between Paradise Lost, to Faust, to "The Devil and Daniel Webster," to the "Deveels" of Robert Aspirin's "Myth" series. Same thing's at play over the course of the series, Supernatural. Demons started out as completely undefeatable monsters; it ended up with Crowley cracking jokes about Moose and Squirrel.

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    Default Re: When did good and evil outsiders become so mundane and boring?

    Quote Originally Posted by PhoenixPhyre View Post
    So an imp or wyrmling = TPK threat? Even at level 20? Because that's what that means to me. Am I reading you wrong?
    Redwizard's post was a reply to "How do you include dragons, undead, drow, shoggoths, etc. in a way that shows them as the demonic forces that they are?"

    If that's what you're aiming for, then why would you ever send a wyrmling against the PCs? The only wyrmlings to be encountered are in their nest, and if the PCs ever kill them while mommy dearest is away, then they just unleashed a rabid beast of fiery doom that will track them to the end of the world, and devastate whatever city they're calling home. And maybe they'll pull a Smaug, and the beast's fury will be its undoing, but its passing will be remembered for generations to come.

    Of course, that may not be your idea of a fun game, and it's fair. And I tend to work the same way (awe inspiring heavy hitters do exist in my campaigns, but I don't throw them at the PCs face, they have to be sought or antagonized, with all the danger that ensues) But if you only throw level-appropriate encounters and fair fights at your players, including watered-down versions of your Ancient Evils, everything WILL feel mundane. No reason for the dragon or the devil to make a stronger impression than an orc. And preserving/recreating the sense of wonder of these things is the topic of this thread.

    I really dislike the "size-and-color-coded for convenience" dragons of D&D, because its purpose is to create weak dragons for the PCs to slaughter, and that feels wrong. Doesn't mean they have to be unkillable, but even if the PCs do kill them, dragons should be special. Not an encounter, not a treasure-guardian, not "some monster in the manual"... It's a Dragon!
    Last edited by Kardwill; 2019-06-04 at 09:07 AM.

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    Default Re: When did good and evil outsiders become so mundane and boring?

    Quote Originally Posted by Kardwill View Post
    I really dislike the "size-and-color-coded for convenience" dragons of D&D, because its purpose is to create weak dragons for the PCs to slaughter, and that feels wrong. Doesn't mean they have to be unkillable, but even if the PCs do kill them, dragons should be special. Not an encounter, not a treasure-guardian, not "some monster in the manual"... It's a Dragon!
    If that's so, then why give them stats at all? They're just pure DM fiat at that point, the animate equivalent of "rocks fall, everyone dies."

    That, to me, is a total waste. And makes it so they just don't get used, because throwing challenges like that (that aren't challenges because the party cannot win under any normal circumstances) is widely considered to be bad play.

    And I don't subscribe to the idea that dragons should be "special". Powerful, yes. But if they're apocalyptic doom machines...then either the setting is DOOOOOMed, the beasts are so rare as to be negligible, or it's ruled by these beasts and there's nothing to be done about it. Any one is not to my taste. It strongly restricts the stories I can discover in the world by forcing it down certain paths. And in a game called Dungeons and Dragons, there better be both dungeons (adventure sites full of strange beasts, treasure, and...well...adventure) and dragons. As allies, as enemies, as people that get interacted with...any of the above.

    I ran an adventure with multiple groups (at different times). It involved putting an end to sheep thefts for a local goblin tribe. The culprits were some other goblins-turned-bandit, being led (secretly) by a black dragon wyrmling (it was a level 2 adventure). The goblin chief was described as a large, fat goblin who the party found en flagrante with some less-than-willing females. Every group unanimously, without discussion, decided to string him up by his guts. They got...inventive...with him. On the other hand, when I described the dragonling as having smooth spots on his neck and "wrists", as if from fetters and limping a bit, plus his speech about not going back to "him", every group decided to break stealth, talk to the dragon, and eventually help it on its way in return for it promising not to raid any other civilized folk. One group even spent resources to try to heal it. That dragonling (along with another thing found in the tiny hoard it had amassed) were foreshadowing for a couple later quests. The point of the story is that if you break out of the "dragons are apocalyptic doom beasts" mindset, you can use them in many ways and make them much more real. My groups treat every dragon they encounter with a healthy respect, despite the fact that so far only one of them (a crazy, mutated green) has been openly and directly hostile. They don't need them to be unfightable doom beasts for that. Same with demons, devils, etc.

    Having apocalyptic doom beasts in an RPG doesn't engender awe or terror in me. It feels lazy, like it's just a fixed element of the plot that there's nothing that we can do about, so we should adapt to it or ignore it. Like there being two moons. It's just a background fact. The things that engender terror or awe are the things that have to be interacted with. I'm a firm believer in the idea that people are the true monsters. But then again, all my monsters are people, whether they're shaped like people or not, so that holds trivially.
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    Default Re: When did good and evil outsiders become so mundane and boring?

    Quote Originally Posted by PhoenixPhyre View Post
    If that's so, then why give them stats at all? They're just pure DM fiat at that point, the animate equivalent of "rocks fall, everyone dies."

    That, to me, is a total waste.
    I feel like there's a middle ground here.

    Suppose there was a Deck of Dragon Stats. You meet a Dragon, you're not sure what kind it is (size and color are no longer guaranteed information). You know types of dragons are very resistant to certain attacks, but you have to live long enough to identify the dragon, or live long enough to work it out by trial and error.

    Now, so long as you haven't worked out what you're up against, they are similar to DM fiat level of strength and encourage players to make tactical retreats. Once players have idetified a viable strategy, it's back to just a particularly dangerous monster.

    On the point of PC retreat in RPGs, I think it's critical to make sure any monster that the players might want to back off from needs to have priorities besides killing the party. The monster should have some other objective the Party was preventing so by their retreat, the monster has reason to continue as if they were dead, letting them escape. By the time it's a grudge match and the objective IS to kill the heroes, they should have had enough encounters with this particular dragon to have a fighting chance.
    Quote Originally Posted by 2D8HP View Post
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    Default Re: When did good and evil outsiders become so mundane and boring?

    Quote Originally Posted by Pleh View Post
    Elves are, by design, endless hordes of identical, unmotivated racist superiorists.
    I thought elves were identical unmotivated hipsters

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    Default Re: When did good and evil outsiders become so mundane and boring?

    Quote Originally Posted by Max_Killjoy View Post
    "Terror" is a thin line anyway, since gamers all understand on some level that the "standard role" GM can in theory just keep piling on until the threat is beyond the PCs' ability to handle.

    And "horror" is about helplessness, and most gamers aren't looking for a steady diet of helplessness.
    I just had a brainwave. What if they gave the players a bunch of ancillary low level redshirt retainers to control in addition to their main character and then gave them bonus xp at the end of the adventure for the number of redshirts that survive.

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    Default Re: When did good and evil outsiders become so mundane and boring?

    Quote Originally Posted by Pleh View Post
    Stuff
    Elements designed to be individualised are not elements designed to be identical. Orcs, barbarians and so on are - by design - meant to be expanded upon, given backgrounds and indivuality.

    Demons, by design and by contrast, are not. They are quite literally endless hordes of copy/pasted identical fodder.

    How would I handle the blood war? I wouldn't.

    Ok, the designers have the cosmology entirely wrong. There is no great struggle among the alignments and their respective planes on the outer ring. Metaphorically you could maybe say there is, but it's important to note that the outer planes are derivative - they are representations of the ebb and flow of the prime material, of the minds and hearts and souls of mortals.

    So if there is any sort of struggle on the outer planes, it is only as a metaphorical representation of a real struggle among mortals on the material plane.

    How would I then handle outsiders?

    Well, good question. In Weaveworld (by Clive Barker) the Incantatrix Immacolata creates a .. spirit? .. I seem to recall she names The Rake. He summoned powers he couldn't control, they flayed him, and Immacolata summoned him as a ... 'demon', of sorts. A flying, boneless skin who flays her enemies. Point being, The Rake is unique, terrifying, has a history and a background that informs his powers and abilities. There is a hell somewhere, where Domville (the guy who became The Rake) is eternally flayed by the Cenobites for daring to summon him - and also, some shard of what he once was is summoned to serve Immacolata because he had the nerve to try and seduce her. He's in a very bad place, and there's really no upside for him to any of it.

    I don't much use demons at all, and I'm not quite Clive Barker, but that little bit of fluff there seems pleasing to me. A soul as thoroughly damned and tortured, in a specific and personal hell designed for him. That's a proper damn demon for you.

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    Default Re: When did good and evil outsiders become so mundane and boring?

    Quote Originally Posted by Kaptin Keen View Post
    Elements designed to be individualised are not elements designed to be identical. Orcs, barbarians and so on are - by design - meant to be expanded upon, given backgrounds and indivuality.

    Demons, by design and by contrast, are not. They are quite literally endless hordes of copy/pasted identical fodder.
    I just disagree. Nothing in D&D monster stats for demons are meant to imply these creatures must needs be identical any more than elves (who, I'll point out, also have a monster manual entry in 3.5). Demons are an element designed to be individualized. In fact, literally every monster in the manual can be easily individualized if you just modify their fluff and/or statblock, same as building a different type of elf.

    The blood war is just a default stand in piece of fluff for demons so DMs who have no preference have something to use. D&D demons aren't intrinsically attached to that paradigm.

    Quote Originally Posted by Kaptin Keen View Post
    Ok, the designers have the cosmology entirely wrong. There is no great struggle among the alignments and their respective planes on the outer ring. Metaphorically you could maybe say there is, but it's important to note that the outer planes are derivative - they are representations of the ebb and flow of the prime material, of the minds and hearts and souls of mortals.

    So if there is any sort of struggle on the outer planes, it is only as a metaphorical representation of a real struggle among mortals on the material plane.
    This only suggests that demons don't fit your personal headcanon, which is fine, but it only says they are ill suited to your games. It speaks to subjective dependency, not to objective quality.

    Quote Originally Posted by Kaptin Keen View Post
    How would I then handle outsiders?

    Well, good question. In Weaveworld (by Clive Barker) the Incantatrix Immacolata creates a .. spirit? .. I seem to recall she names The Rake. He summoned powers he couldn't control, they flayed him, and Immacolata summoned him as a ... 'demon', of sorts. A flying, boneless skin who flays her enemies. Point being, The Rake is unique, terrifying, has a history and a background that informs his powers and abilities. There is a hell somewhere, where Domville (the guy who became The Rake) is eternally flayed by the Cenobites for daring to summon him - and also, some shard of what he once was is summoned to serve Immacolata because he had the nerve to try and seduce her. He's in a very bad place, and there's really no upside for him to any of it.

    I don't much use demons at all, and I'm not quite Clive Barker, but that little bit of fluff there seems pleasing to me. A soul as thoroughly damned and tortured, in a specific and personal hell designed for him. That's a proper damn demon for you.
    I've always liked handling Ghosts like this. Rather than generic spirits with no backstory, what if they were halfway non combat encounters that dealt more with researching what kept them trapped here. Like in Witcher III.

    Funny thing is, nothing prevents me from simply doing that in my games (and I often incorporate some level of that kind of story behind them).

    I've never read Clive Barker, but these Cenobites that eternally punish mortals in an isolated domain seem like they tend to fit the profile, "a rose by any other name."

    The thing about the fiction of hell is that it wouldn't be a very small place full of only a small number of individuals. Say you have 6 billion unique demons similar to the Rake narrative, but changing the details. They all are there being punished for whatever they've done wrong and they now exist as a combination of suffering and terrible power.

    What you have are generic demons - on average. Each demon is unique, but statistically looking at the group dynamic, similarities will begin to crop up. Since no one has time to sit down and write out 6 billion unique demons, we abstract them to a generic statblock (or say about 12 generic statblocks) that can then be adjusted to fit a particular demon any time it would appear in the game.

    Almost like having a generic elf statblock that gets modified any time an elf appears in the game.

    As a side note, you may want to look into SCP stuff, if you haven't already. It sounds about like what you describe with Barker's Rake. It actually might be quite effective to model unique demons after SCPs (the ones that fit an RPG at least).
    Last edited by Pleh; 2019-06-05 at 04:33 AM.

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    Default Re: When did good and evil outsiders become so mundane and boring?

    the weird thing is that technically outsiders are just mortal beings who ascended/descended to their stations, so really both beings in question once you remove the nonsense cosmic morality bull, are just hyper-enhanced humans with very different philosophies.

    because lets be real: thats all they really are. humans with lot of enhancements and holding themselves to a certain philosophy of selflessness/selfishness. given the number of stories of people becoming angel or demon and the potential for one outsider to become another- redeemed demons, fallen angels- when you really think about it in that context, humans are just larvae angels and demons are just angels with different beliefs. To the point of it just being a matter of switching the programming if the concept of corruption and purification is introduced in, because you can force one to become the other against their will either way.

    so really, angels and demons are just magical transhumans who can be reprogrammed to become the other back and forth. of course if you want to preserve the morality of it you can say the demons are the viruses I guess and angels are the programming working right.....assuming the gods aren't themselves evil in any given setting and the demons aren't right in rebelling against them. because its not hard to see the potential fascist oppressive pitfalls that can come from powerful gods served by legions of loyal angels who believe that they are truly doing the right thing and won't listen to anyone else about it. the usual set up of demons being evil is too obvious for description.

    really in most depictions, angels and demons are just winged humanoids with different aesthetics for shorthand, sure there are greater variations for demons, but thats mostly for interesting, varied combat so there is incentive to make more as filler.
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    Default Re: When did good and evil outsiders become so mundane and boring?

    Quote Originally Posted by Pleh View Post
    I just disagree. Nothing in D&D monster stats for demons are meant to imply these creatures must needs be identical any more than elves (who, I'll point out, also have a monster manual entry in 3.5). Demons are an element designed to be individualized. In fact, literally every monster in the manual can be easily individualized if you just modify their fluff and/or statblock, same as building a different type of elf.

    The blood war is just a default stand in piece of fluff for demons so DMs who have no preference have something to use. D&D demons aren't intrinsically attached to that paradigm.
    The fluff for lower planes outsiders is pretty specific: Demons of all lower tiers are just so much meat for the grinder. It's not about the stats, it's about the story telling.

    Quote Originally Posted by Pleh View Post
    I've always liked handling Ghosts like this. Rather than generic spirits with no backstory, what if they were halfway non combat encounters that dealt more with researching what kept them trapped here. Like in Witcher III.
    I do all undead in this way - with the possible exception of mere animated skeletons ... but then I hardly ever use those, so ...

    Quote Originally Posted by Pleh View Post
    Funny thing is, nothing prevents me from simply doing that in my games (and I often incorporate some level of that kind of story behind them).

    I've never read Clive Barker, but these Cenobites that eternally punish mortals in an isolated domain seem like they tend to fit the profile, "a rose by any other name."

    The thing about the fiction of hell is that it wouldn't be a very small place full of only a small number of individuals. Say you have 6 billion unique demons similar to the Rake narrative, but changing the details. They all are there being punished for whatever they've done wrong and they now exist as a combination of suffering and terrible power.

    What you have are generic demons - on average. Each demon is unique, but statistically looking at the group dynamic, similarities will begin to crop up. Since no one has time to sit down and write out 6 billion unique demons, we abstract them to a generic statblock (or say about 12 generic statblocks) that can then be adjusted to fit a particular demon any time it would appear in the game.

    Almost like having a generic elf statblock that gets modified any time an elf appears in the game.

    As a side note, you may want to look into SCP stuff, if you haven't already. It sounds about like what you describe with Barker's Rake. It actually might be quite effective to model unique demons after SCPs (the ones that fit an RPG at least).
    You cannot reasonably make a billion unique demons with each their own clever back-story and personal hell torture.

    You can, however, avoid making hell and demons a boring drudgery of same-ness by not using boring, samey demons - and only using those you create, uniquely. It's what I do with demons, undead ... and elves, actually. Also, I don't use statblocks, at all. I modify every single monster I ever use.

    On the other hand, I'm really, really bad at combat - so that's part of the reason. Generally, any combat encounter is against a single, powerful enemy designed for that particular fight, and hardly ever against a group of enemies. Oh, I do use some sort of boss+minions setups, but frankly the minions tend to be throw-away fodder ... ironically, they fulfill all the criteria I hate about demons.

    You should consider reading Weaveworld. It made an immense impression on me, back in the day - enough that I read a pile of other Clive Barker books, without really liking any of them. But Weaveworld was great (to me, as a much younger and less jaded reader).

    Oh and um ... the cenobites were some sort of thing. They're not really in the Weaveworld book, but they're the demon guys in Hellraiser, if you've seen or read about that one. I believe they're ... mortals who ... gained immortality and power through suffering, or some such nonsense. I suppose I could look it up.

    Edit: Looked them up, got none the wiser. A friend of mine read Barker compulsively many years ago, and my above explanation is what I recall of his. It could all be entirely incorrect =D
    Last edited by Kaptin Keen; 2019-06-05 at 05:51 AM.

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    Default Re: When did good and evil outsiders become so mundane and boring?

    Quote Originally Posted by Pleh View Post
    I've never read Clive Barker, but these Cenobites that eternally punish mortals in an isolated domain seem like they tend to fit the profile, "a rose by any other name."
    The thing is that in their original conception they didn't punish people, they generally dealt with people who sought them out due to havig been deadened to mortal sensation by lives of hedonism and excess. Those who can handle this new level of sensation become part of the cult of the gash and become cenobites themselves ('cenobite' literally means 'someone who has been inducted into a religious order'), those who can't handle it, can't handle it.

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    Default Re: When did good and evil outsiders become so mundane and boring?

    Quote Originally Posted by Sporeegg View Post
    I speak strictly in the sense of D&D and its surrounding pop culture. Heroes seem to never be afraid of these which is weird since even angels are described as scary not because they are winged super beings but because their form is so incredible it makes the human mind race. After all we fear what we cannot understand. Demons too. Most demon summoners in RPGs know what they are dealing with, and usually villains are also "too cool to show emotion" when they are not undead liches, half-fiends or some sort of angel-demon hybrid thingie.
    The thing is, even in non-D&D media, these ideas like angels are scary because their 'form is so incredible it makes the human mind race' is mostly depicted in block text (such as books we can't really quote on these forums, or the fanfic thereof some guy named Dante once wrote). Outside of that, it is usually an informed attribute (the artwork of angels where they are in the 'unknowable monstrousity' form instead of the 'giant humans with wings and trumpets' forms? Mostly pictures of giant balls of wings and eyes that are only really scary in that they are references to passages in religious texts that are actually scary).

    And that's the problem. Making something consistently scary (or let's just use the general term awesome, as in inspiring of awe) is a genuine writing challenge, something that even people who devote their career to it (the Clive Barkers or Steven Kings of the world) do so at select points in some of their works, and even then maybe only a simple majority of people (who are already self-selected as people who pick up a horror book) will find any given of their books all that effective.

    I've had DMs who've managed to make a creature encountered genuinely scary. Actually that's happened several times. But each one was a fleeting thing that's hard to replicate.

    Quote Originally Posted by jintoya View Post
    They became boring when D&D became more about winning than playing a character or escapism.
    Quote Originally Posted by AceOfFools View Post
    "It has stats, so we can kill it," has been a meme since at least 2nd edition (i.e. before I was born).
    There were discussions on the best way to beat gods based on their published stats on the usenet forums that were precursors to the modern internet.
    Quote Originally Posted by Yora View Post
    I think this goes back specifically to Deities and Demigods for 1st edition in 1980.
    As others have mentioned, jintoya, you might want to bone up on your game history. AOF and Yora, if we're discussing 'once gods have stats, they just become monsters,' it actually goes back to 1976's Gods, Demigods, and Heroes for oD&D. This is also the one where beating up Zeus et al for their stuff became an enduring trope. The designers were getting upset by what they saw as game power inflation, and tried making gods and heroes rather tame*, mechanically, to reinforce the idea that simply being 8 or 12 HD was supposed to be powerful (so your 14th level character you somehow built up over 12 months of gaming who had all the good magic items was just the DM being a pushover and you didn't really earn it, etc.). It didn't go over like that.
    *Leading to the Tim Kask quote, "This volume is something else, also: our last attempt to reach the "Monty Hall" DM's. Perhaps now some of the 'giveaway' campaigns will look as foolish as they truly are. This is our last attempt to delineate the absurdity of 40+ level characters. When Odin, the All-Father has only(?) 300 hit points, who can take a 44th level Lord seriously?"

    Quote Originally Posted by Mechalich View Post
    It's not a D&D issue at all though, it's a gameplay issue generally, one that's found across mediums. Players hate, hate, having to face real and serious consequences in games. In video games consequence is avoided by the save function, and your game design had better allow players to save sufficiently often to avoid wasting significant time or the knives will come out. In tabletop, any consequences need to be something you can brush off in order to get back to the action in a hurry.
    Getting back to the action is a definite issue. Even if the DM is willing to do something permanent like permanent level, hp, attribute, or magic item loss, the worst that they can do is kill off your character completely (in a 'fall into the lava pit' style situation where all your accumulated stuff also disappears). At worst, you were rather attached to that character, and maybe character creation in this game/edition is rather time consuming. I've known one group who one time tried to play 'if your character dies, you have to wait until the campaign ends to play again.'-- it worked about as well as you would imagine.

    Quote Originally Posted by PhoenixPhyre View Post
    D&D does not do fleeing well, especially from things that move faster than you do.
    I keep seeing this stated, but both early and late editions that's not really the case. OD&D and AD&D 1e had hard and fast rules about number of twists and turns you had to go around before monsters (of various level of intelligence/hunger) would break off pursuit. 5e has actual chase rules, such that a character with 5' less speed than their pursuers is not guaranteed to be caught. Certainly the overall tone of TSR-era D&D always was 'use the morale rules, intelligent opponents do not fight to the death, most all sapient creatures will negotiate.' I think a lot of people ignored those rules, and some are pretty silly (the orcs will stop pursuing if you turn a corner only makes sense as a simplification of an unspoken 'because there are other creatures in this dungeon that they are scared of, so they won't stray too far from their territory'), but they are there.

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    Default Re: When did good and evil outsiders become so mundane and boring?

    Quote Originally Posted by Willie the Duck View Post
    I keep seeing this stated, but both early and late editions that's not really the case. OD&D and AD&D 1e had hard and fast rules about number of twists and turns you had to go around before monsters (of various level of intelligence/hunger) would break off pursuit. 5e has actual chase rules, such that a character with 5' less speed than their pursuers is not guaranteed to be caught. Certainly the overall tone of TSR-era D&D always was 'use the morale rules, intelligent opponents do not fight to the death, most all sapient creatures will negotiate.' I think a lot of people ignored those rules, and some are pretty silly (the orcs will stop pursuing if you turn a corner only makes sense as a simplification of an unspoken 'because there are other creatures in this dungeon that they are scared of, so they won't stray too far from their territory'), but they are there.
    Context is key here. I was specifically talking about fleeing from big things like demons and dragons, all of which move way faster than the party does. An adult dragon has a fly speed of 60. You can't even disengage enough to start the chase rules--it's always in melee if it wants to be unless you're a high-level monk. And you'll tire well before it does--a dragon may claim 10-20 miles of terrain at least.

    Monsters can flee, assuming the party lets them. That's because there's enough of them to not be able to hunt down each one if they scatter. The party doesn't have that luxury very much in most games.
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    Default Re: When did good and evil outsiders become so mundane and boring?

    Permanent consequences to things outside of an individual character are another way to go. The PCs revive, but the city burns. In one campaign I introduced a tempting/corrupting energy that could be used to empower things but twisted their purpose. One of the PCs used it to modify 'Cure Light Wounds' and found that their version (which was more potent, but basically caused horrendous mutations with repeat exposure) would also tend to spread itself to other casters and replace the original version in their spell lists. It was also addictive.

    They were rightfully pretty careful around that energy in the future, without the effects needing to make anyone in particular unplayable or at significant disadvantage.
    Last edited by NichG; 2019-06-06 at 10:51 AM.

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    Default Re: When did good and evil outsiders become so mundane and boring?

    Quote Originally Posted by PhoenixPhyre View Post
    Context is key here. I was specifically talking about fleeing from big things like demons and dragons
    Ah, okay. Within this context, I agree. Your actual statement was levelled at D&D in general, and I've seen a lot of people make claims about (particularly early, TSR-era) D&D that clearly never noticed the pursuit rules printed right there in the books. My apologies. You are correct, D&D seems to have always assumed that at levels 1-4 you were in the dungeon, and thus had a bunch of inherent passage-and-corridor level ways of evading pursuit, and levels 3-8 you were hexcrawling --where it was supposed to be dangerous (what are you doing out of the dungeon?) but you are big damn heroes now, so figure it out, and levels 9+ you are playing king and castle, or else you are doing planeshopping adventure and both you and your opposition have teleport (so why care about movement speed?). Running away often meant leaving behind the poor schmuck stuck in melee with the dragon, and that was part of the expected outcome. Which works... provided characters are interchangeable, or resurrection is possible (hope you like recovery expeditions ).

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    Default Re: When did good and evil outsiders become so mundane and boring?

    Quote Originally Posted by Kaptin Keen View Post
    Playing with a bunch of 12-14 year olds is an absolute joy! They can still be scared witless by a darkness spell =D

    It does feel like I'm cheating tho =)
    Yeah, tormenting teen newbies is the most fun Iíve ever had as a DM.

    Of course, back when I started out as a teen myself, one of the best moments we had was when the PCs opened the bottle with the cat in it in B1... everybody freaked! And freaking the players out was the whole point of that bit, so itís a tradition that goes back a long way.

    Back to the OT, I think itís all in the presentation. If you tell the players itís a demon, they have no reason not to simply view it as yet another potential notch on the axe hilt. But if you describe evidence of power and evil, and the very much clear signal that ďThis foe is beyond all of you! Your swords are of no use here!Ē, well then, thatís going to provoke a different reaction.

    (This is one of the reasons my standing rule in D&D is, nobody but the DM reads the MM and the DMG. NOBODY.)
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    Default Re: When did good and evil outsiders become so mundane and boring?

    Quote Originally Posted by The Insanity View Post
    I don't know. When did you start playing them as mundane and boring?
    ^ This, but two additional things as well:

    1) D&D is about empowerment, which is a key reason it doesn't do horror or unease very well. You have the tools to change that, but you have to fight against the system to do so - layering on variant systems like sanity or tweaking existing ones like delaying or even capping leveling.

    2) For outsiders in particular, angels and demons lost their niche as the "bizarre outsiders" once D&D started including Lovecraftian and Goetian stuff. No real reason to put everything into that thematic niche.

    Quote Originally Posted by The Giant View Post
    But really, the important lesson here is this: Rather than making assumptions that don't fit with the text and then complaining about the text being wrong, why not just choose different assumptions that DO fit with the text?
    Quote Originally Posted by gogogome View Post
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    Default Re: When did good and evil outsiders become so mundane and boring?

    Quote Originally Posted by Psyren View Post
    ^ This, but two additional things as well:

    1) D&D is about empowerment, which is a key reason it doesn't do horror or unease very well. You have the tools to change that, but you have to fight against the system to do so - layering on variant systems like sanity or tweaking existing ones like delaying or even capping leveling.

    2) For outsiders in particular, angels and demons lost their niche as the "bizarre outsiders" once D&D started including Lovecraftian and Goetian stuff. No real reason to put everything into that thematic niche.
    Yeah, Demons and Angels are more for morality play stuff these days. they appear to offer good and bad choices and try to persuade you to be a good or bad person. of course in a game, this never really works with PCs because they're not in moments of weakness where they can morally go either way and people generally don't play out their weaknesses, so its always an angelic win if the PCs aren't murderhobos and always a demon win if they are. because you have to really be not caring to actually listen to the demon when the choice of right/wrong is so obvious.

    of course, I guess the more plausible way to make it less obvious to the PCs is for both of them to be in disguise and for the demon to try and convince the PCs that the angel is just a trick if they reveal themselves and try to convince them its the right decision with their angelic nature alone, so both of them are forced to speak as if they're normal humans trying to convince them one way or the other.
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    Default Re: When did good and evil outsiders become so mundane and boring?

    Quote Originally Posted by The Library DM View Post
    This is one of the reasons my standing rule in D&D is, nobody but the DM reads the MM and the DMG. NOBODY.
    So what happens when you're playing with someone who's previously DMed?

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    Default Re: When did good and evil outsiders become so mundane and boring?

    Quote Originally Posted by The Library DM View Post
    (This is one of the reasons my standing rule in D&D is, nobody but the DM reads the MM and the DMG. NOBODY.)
    Quote Originally Posted by InvisibleBison View Post
    So what happens when you're playing with someone who's previously DMed?
    Yeah, this isn't 1979, the idea that there are "players" and then there are those who have "graduated" to "DMs", and that "players" shouldn't read parts of the system, should have died a long time ago.
    Last edited by Max_Killjoy; 2019-06-07 at 09:02 AM.
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    eek Re: When did good and evil outsiders become so mundane and boring?

    My world doesn't have a blood war and most things resembling the standard D&D cosmology I decided to keep has been tossed into a blender and poured into a different mold, with some other spices and flavours to taste.

    Demons are the corrupted form of mortal creatures. A tiefling is a corrupted human, an orc a corrupted elf, a kobold a corrupted dwarf, etc... These are very purposeful entities in the malicious service of a deity-like figure, an ancient and mad chaotic entity that wishes to undo the order of the cosmos and return all to the twisted chaotic mess it was before the deities started putting things in some measure of order. They are at best akin to a twisted AI wearing a meatsuit that now only resembles in vague passing what it once was. There are no good orcs, and if you see one, there is likely a whole pile of trouble nearby.

    Devils are corrupted lesser divinities, demigods, powerful supernaturals and their various messengers. Devils are all unique creatures as the powerful forces needed to twist these great entities will never warp two in the same way. If orcs are trouble, these are your reason to take an extended and sudden vacation out of the county.

    There are no "good" outsiders. what would have been considered an "angel" in D&D are now "messengers". The intermediaries between gods and mortals of all ideologies. As such the solar in service to a god of farming and the home will have a vastly different mindset then one that serves a war god, or one that follows the god of death. Check who they're serving first and act appropriately.

    Elementals are still there. Chilling and being all elemental-y.

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    Default Re: When did good and evil outsiders become so mundane and boring?

    Quote Originally Posted by AceOfFools View Post
    "It has stats, so we can kill it," has been a meme since at least 2nd edition (i.e. before I was born).

    There were discussions on the best way to beat gods based on their published stats on the usenet forums that were precursors to the modern internet.
    And to be fair beating gods has its place in fantasy literature, Lu Tze's duel with the god of time at the end of Pratchett's The Thief of Time comes to mind


    Quote Originally Posted by Sporeegg View Post
    I speak strictly in the sense of D&D and its surrounding pop culture. Heroes seem to never be afraid of these which is weird since even angels are described as scary not because they are winged super beings but because their form is so incredible it makes the human mind race. After all we fear what we cannot understand. Demons too. Most demon summoners in RPGs know what they are dealing with, and usually villains are also "too cool to show emotion" when they are not undead liches, half-fiends or some sort of angel-demon hybrid thingie.
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