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 "That is Cheating!"

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Tequila Sunrise
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PostSubject: "That is Cheating!"   Tue Dec 03, 2013 4:50 pm

[For the short version, scroll down.]

Currently there's a thread on the Paizo forum called "That is Cheating!", in which a player with poor system mastery makes the mistake of researching his PC's capabilities with the aid of google, telling his DM that he did so, and then turning a previously unwinnable encounter into a cakewalk. I leave you good folk to read the OP and then decide which one of those things was his mistake. Also, some of the knee-jerk responses he gets are pretty funny. (In a "Haha, I'm so glad I have 4e!" kind of way.)

Anyway, this has got me thinking about how D&D -- past and present -- treats those odd, often arbitrary resistances and immunities. Originally, as I understand the very early editions of D&D, monsters were given drastic resistances and immunities for two reasons: to curb caster power, and to challenge players tactically. PCs were essentially personal avatars and there were no knowledge checks, so metagaming wasn't an issue. It was expected.

But then D&D started to get somewhat storygamey. I'm not an expert, but I believe it officially began with 2e, with its focus on the game world and on characters as more than personal avatars. Then 3e gave us knowledge skills, and players were expected to separate IC knowledge from OC knowledge, sometimes with cartoonish results. (Like the Paizo poster who hacked at skeletons with swords and axes for an entire expedition with his group because someone in his party failed their K (religion) check!)

The Short Version: Regardless of your stance on metagaming, these resistances and immunities are boring, once you as a player have lost your D&D v-card. Whether your character knows how to deal with a particular monster or not, you do after having discovered its particular quirks during the last campaign. So it's not interesting or challenging anymore. (Even if you strictly abide by the no-metagaming rule, you pretty much know how the quirkiness will play out, so the mystery is lost.)

So I can't help but think that an element of random quirkiness would make monsters more exciting. Say your party discovers a clan of vampires in your current campaign. You discover that there's something that bypasses their damage resistance and shuts down their regeneration, but it's not garlic, silver, holy water, or any of the usual suspects. Maybe the clan's foil is based on its alpha-vampire's fall into depravity and undeath, or maybe the DM simply rolled on a table of random foils. Either way, you the player now have a mystery to think about -- even if it's only until someone in your group rolls a high knowledge check.

So, thoughts? Opinions?

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PostSubject: Re: "That is Cheating!"   Tue Dec 03, 2013 7:14 pm

Tequila Sunrise wrote:


So I can't help but think that an element of random quirkiness would make monsters more exciting. Say your party discovers a clan of vampires in your current campaign. You discover that there's something that bypasses their damage resistance and shuts down their regeneration, but it's not garlic, silver, holy water, or any of the usual suspects. Maybe the clan's foil is based on its alpha-vampire's fall into depravity and undeath, or maybe the DM simply rolled on a table of random foils. Either way, you the player now have a mystery to think about -- even if it's only until someone in your group rolls a high knowledge check.

So, thoughts? Opinions?
Ars magica has build pretty much every monster as a unique entity concept - a very good concept ... and I figure plot McGuffins done well are a feature but highly dm dependent - where as poorly handled ones like those wired down by the game system so that they are indeed predictable and staid are evil.

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One suspects Lugh Long-hand Samildánach (a wright/carpenter, a sailor, a smith/bronze craftsman, a healer, a champion, a harpist, a poet/historian, a sorcerer, cupbearer) would agree.
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Tequila Sunrise
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PostSubject: Re: "That is Cheating!"   Thu Dec 05, 2013 12:43 pm

How does Ars Magica handle making every monster unique? Does it have a monster book full of unique ones, does it have a monster book and a table of random quirks, or does it leave monsters entirely up to the GM?

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PostSubject: Re: "That is Cheating!"   Thu Dec 05, 2013 2:20 pm

Tequila Sunrise wrote:
How does Ars Magica handle making every monster unique? Does it have a monster book full of unique ones, does it have a monster book and a table of random quirks, or does it leave monsters entirely up to the GM?
Its fuzzy to my memory at the moment been awhile and I didnt do a whole ton of the game . Each monster in their book was presented as a possible sample "named" and not "generic" just because this Dragon named Smaug had a vulnerable spot over his left breast and a perception check would reveal didnt mean they all did, that kind of thing. Pegasus isnt a species in myth and legend its an entity.


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“A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.” - Lazarus Long via Robert Heinlein.

One suspects Lugh Long-hand Samildánach (a wright/carpenter, a sailor, a smith/bronze craftsman, a healer, a champion, a harpist, a poet/historian, a sorcerer, cupbearer) would agree.
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PostSubject: Re: "That is Cheating!"   Sun Dec 08, 2013 10:48 am

Tequila Sunrise wrote:


So I can't help but think that an element of random quirkiness would make monsters more exciting. Say your party discovers a clan of vampires in your current campaign. You discover that there's something that bypasses their damage resistance and shuts down their regeneration, but it's not garlic, silver, holy water, or any of the usual suspects. Maybe the clan's foil is based on its alpha-vampire's fall into depravity and undeath, or maybe the DM simply rolled on a table of random foils. Either way, you the player now have a mystery to think about -- even if it's only until someone in your group rolls a high knowledge check.

So, thoughts? Opinions?
I like it. Admittedly, I would probably keep a few of the more distinctive foils (like garlic for vampires or silver for werewolves), but that's out of pure personal preference and this is a great idea. I also might require the PCs to do some IG investigating before allowing the Knowledge check here.

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PostSubject: Re: "That is Cheating!"   Mon Dec 09, 2013 6:53 am

Tequila Sunrise wrote:
So I can't help but think that an element of random quirkiness would make monsters more exciting. Say your party discovers a clan of vampires in your current campaign. You discover that there's something that bypasses their damage resistance and shuts down their regeneration, but it's not garlic, silver, holy water, or any of the usual suspects. Maybe the clan's foil is based on its alpha-vampire's fall into depravity and undeath, or maybe the DM simply rolled on a table of random foils. Either way, you the player now have a mystery to think about -- even if it's only until someone in your group rolls a high knowledge check.

So, thoughts? Opinions?

I would put this type of situation as a mini-adventure.  Depending on the storyline, I would start with clues and hints to point the players in the right direction and then go from there.  Throw in a couple skill challenges and combat encounters and the players find out that all the vampires are sired by the same Alpha, which gives them a particular resistance to damage or an artifact of an ancient vampire god that does the same thing.  All the vampires would have a template associated with that condition and when the condition is gone (Alpha killed or artifact destroyed), the vampires are normal vampires again.  Actually, this would be a good Halloween adventure idea.  Thanks!  Very Happy 

As for quirkiness, I like to leave that aspect for memorable NPCs or the big bad guys.  It makes them stand out as being special.
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PostSubject: Re: "That is Cheating!"   Mon Dec 09, 2013 9:29 am

CHIA wrote:
I also might require the PCs to do some IG investigating before allowing the Knowledge check here.
thanson02 wrote:
I would put this type of situation as a mini-adventure.
After thinking about it a bit more, I think I'd handle quirky foils in one of two ways, depending on the situation:

This is a breed of monster, so simple knowledge checks can result in ascertaining its foil. The foil bypasses an annoying but otherwise surmountable trait of the monster -- low damage resistance, regeneration, low auto damage, etc. Or...

This monster is completely unique, and nobody knows its weakness. The PCs must go on an adventure to discover its foil, which bypasses a battle-ending trait of the monster. High damage resistance, high auto damage, or even outright damage immunity.

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