636 – White Smoke Mountain • 05

Dear DM

@Dacatus: Dear DM, shooting the breeze with my friends, we came up with the following scenario: a character is tossed into a lion pit or similar where some rapacious creatures devour her. The animals are hungry enough to devour all of the character, leaving maybe some scraps of clothing behind only. Now, what you would think could happen if someone casts a Resurrection spell on the devoured character? The body is all there in the pit, just inside the beasties. For the full EWW factor, what if the spell is cast over the pile of crap the beasts leave the next day?

Dear Dacatus,

In order to Raise a character (no more Resurrection spell) you only need part of the body, but you do need to be able to handle it, applying mystic salves, unguents, and foot creams. This more or less renders to question moot. However… if we’re kickin’ this old-school, I’d figure out which beast had the most PC in him and rez that dude in his stomach. I don’t think it would really matter if the PC was already poop, though it would be a lot funnier.

@TSED: Dear DM, I have noticed that when I play video games, no matter what the system, I tend to default to a “gronk” kind of character. Not as in dumb, but as in “hit things until they die” (fighters, warriors, soldiers, whatever). Since I normally am quite enthusiastic about tactics, number-crunching, and strategy, I find this surprising. Anyways, this question is two-fold. 1) What do you normally default to, and 2) What do our default class-choices in games say about our psychology?

Dear TSED,

I sympathize. In D&D, I love wizards and tactically complex characters, but in video games, especially games where there’s a time factor, I get frustrated if I’m trying to juggle too many balls at once. (With turn-based video games I gravitate back towards the complex characters again. I just really hate being rushed.)

Psychologically I’d say this makes me inherently awesome, and you proximally awesome.

@Christina: Dear DM, do you have an evil laugh and if so, do you practice it daily? Do you prefer the Mad Scientist(tm) devious laugh, or do you try to lull your victi, er I mean players into a false sense of security by affecting a pleasant, soothing laughter right before their characters stumble into a death trap?

Dear Christina,

Evil laughs don’t cause evil, evil laughers do.

However, if I did have an evil laugh, I would only use it after the party had activated that trap. It’s not evil to warn the players the trap is coming.

@anonymous coward: Dear DM, why dungeons? Really.

Dear anonymous coward,

Because it starts with D and Dishcloths & Dragons sounds stupid.

@Alan: Dear DM, if you have a specific idea for a campaign in mind, or using pre-written scenarios, is it a good idea to write and allocate characters to players so that they will have the necessary skills to complete the adventure, or leave it as it is and let them find a way? Also, what is the best way to allocate characters – player choice, luck, gladiatorial combat etc?

Dear Alan,

If I’m making up pre-gens I’ll always make sure at least two characters have a relevant ability, since at best there is only ever a 50% chance that anyone is paying enough attention to realize what’s going on. Allocation is fairly easy, just tell everyone what’s available and let them decide. If more than one player wants the same character, let the one who kisses better take it. (Might require a judgement call.)

@chris: Dear DM, as a War Hammer wielding character it is with great principle that I be allowed to Smash things. It is after all the most effective tool for any situation and given the large radius of the head not smashing things would seem uncharacteristic. Smashing is simply a way of life for one such as I but now people are telling my character that smashing is bad, that it has no value, and it impedes on other characters abilities, such as slicing. It is not that I want to take away from other characters but the lack of utter and complete destruction from these ‘other’ forms seems innefficient. I believe it would in fact be wrong to Smash my comrades because then there would be no one to see me Smash, which is very important, but group is getting mad at my character for always smashing and talking of no wanting my smashing anymore, what do I do?

Dear chris,

Can you just smash parts of your comrades? If so then they’ll really understand how impressive and important smashing is, but still be able to watch. (I like it when people watch me too.)

@Moginheden: Dear DM, what are your thoughts on high powered, but cursed player characters, (for example a mage who has access to spells 4 levels higher than his level, but has a chance to go insane for a few rounds every time he casts anything?) I’ve been toying with the idea because I think it would be fun/funny but I’m worried about how to balance it and not piss off the other players when the player’s curse kicks in.

Dear Moginheden,

I entered an existing 12th level AD&D game once with a 14th level wizard. I had convinced the DM to allow me the extra levels by giving my character an unbreakable curse that made all magic items immaterial to him, and thus completely unusable. (It was a very magic item-heavy game.) By the second week we had a battle that literally went like this…

DM: As you enter the room the Pit Fiend standing at the altar turns and smiles. “I’ve been expecting you.” he says.

Me: A Pit Fiend? Fantastic!

DM: (Sigh.) Aw come on. Why is that good? I’m not gonna like this, am I?

Me: I’ve been waiting for a really awesome monster who’s body I can steal for my own. This’ll be perfect!

DM: Do I want to know how you’re gonna do it?

Me: I’ve got it all written out here…

DM: No no, it’s fine. Okay, there’s 4,000 gold pieces, 8,000 silver…

I don’t play this way anymore, (much) but it illustrates the point. Giving a player one awesome ability is okay because you can control the situation he gets to use it in. Giving a player access to whole realms of magic the others don’t have makes that character the most powerful in any situation, which will shut down the other players. (Power is okay, power+versatility can be disaster.)

As far as the insane thing goes, that’s just going to make practical players want to leave that guy at home. I’d do this: Give the player one type of ability that he is completely ungodly at. He automatically explodes all pure dragons, otherwise he’s a normal character. However, whenever he uses that power, he goes temporarily crazy for a few days or so. I’d even figure out what kind of specific crazy to make him, so you can coach the player on how to role play it. It should be socially debilitating, and affect him tactically, though I wouldn’t touch his actual combat abilities.

@JD: Dear DM, how can I, as a DM/Storyteller, encourage more women to participate in roleplaying, when all the female roleplayers in the vicinity are either ex-girlfriends, or women my girlfriend would like to strangle bare-handedly, or both?

Dear JD,

See, that situation makes you what we in the gaming world call a “target”, and the roleplaying gives these women what we call an “excuse”. If I were you I might be trying to encourage as little role play as possible.

Honestly this question brings up all kinds of further questions in my own mind about you ended up here. How many of these people did you have sex with? Why do you game with wimmins your girl hates? What’s wrong with you… and do you have any dating tips for using D&D to bag chicks for the single guys in the audience?

26 Responses to 636 – White Smoke Mountain • 05

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    • There isn’t a polymorph in 4.0 that works that way. They all turn you into something fairly specific for a limited duration, and none of them are “half-orc”.

      Good idea though.

      • Unless 4.0 has changed it (I really haven’t read it, don’t get to game much these days cause of little kids), I believe it would be Dispel Magic, which once killed my Hackmaster char. I rolled a 100 after tripping a polymorph trap and became a dragon (dunno who was more pissed, the DM or the party. Since polymorph gives no breath weapon, I carried a magic boulder around in my mouth and spat it at dudes… the DM thought he was so smart when he put a +3 boulder in the game 2 weeks earlier). Eventually a high level NPC succesfully Dispelled on me, and my char rolled amazingly badly on his system shock save. Anyway I’m pretty sure even in 4th ed it’s the Achilles Heel of polymorph.

  2. Aha! I know what to do now, I will Smash everyone’s left foot (Save mine) so that non of the group CAN run away, and then they will have to rely on my Smashing to save them from the unending rushing hoards! Perfect! I better bring my extra hammer, there is going to be an epic amount of Smashing…

  3. ,mD raeD

    Other than GURPS, can you think of a (Good) way to do crossovers with different RPG systems, either using time travel, or due to some kind of time/space incident using, say, D&D, and WFRP characters in the same group universe?

    ,denrecnoc sruoY

    .nalA

    • Are you asking which generic system to use for cross-overs (i.e. Hero system, GURPS)? Or are you asking how to start a cross-over campaign?

      Just let them all make up characters, throw them into a Random Dimensional Rift Of The Week and then play semi-diceless.

      • Yes, I was thinking of a cross over campaign.

        E.g. D&D characters in a WFRP environment (Where they will likely break the world, but hey it will be fun!).

        • Um, IMHO a D&D char in Warhammer gets a really nasty surprise when the first crit chops off his legs, but I’m not really sure what the point is of crossing one fantasy system over to another. Anywayz my advice is give everyone X amount of points to work with and help them rebuild their chars as they see fit (don’t force them to be EXACTLY the same, that’s the point of a crossover, innit?). That way they’ll be emotionally invested when that crit table comes out 😈

        • (Oh, WFRP means Warhammer Fantasy RP? I had been wondering. and to think Warhammer Fantasy was the first “official” roleplaying game I ever played, along with Harnmaster… long long ago. I feel so old now. *sniff*)

          When I read “cross-over campaign” I thought you meant something along the lines of “fantasy world characters enter modern-day Earth, hilary ensues”. Or a “D&D meets Star Wars”, “D&D meets Superheroes” or “D&D meets Steampunk” setting. 😐 In that case I would have advised you to start a RIFTS or TORG campaign, or use the GURPS Time Travel “Infinite Worlds” campaign sourcebook.

          RIFTS and TORG practically define “crazy cross-over adventures”! RIFTS puts all sorts of settings and races in a blender, and TORG not only connects several different world settings that dimensionally invaded Earth Prime but even mixes different genres (Fantasy, 1940s era Pulp, Cyberpunk, Steampunk, Noir etc.)!

          I have to agree with Cthulhu*Hungers: What’s the point of crossing over two fantasy worlds that are almost identical in feeling when you get right down to it (pseudo-medieval with magic and monsters)? Especially if it means trying to fit D&D characters into a wholly different rules system? Either let your D&D character enter the Warhammer world, but keep the rules D&D, or ask the players to create their characters anew under Warhammer rules… which, unless they were 1st level chars, will probably lead to a lot of problems.

  4. Dear DM

    have you ever played or had a player play as a vampire? I’m not talking about sissy twilight vampires I’m talking Buffy’s Angel or Forever Knight’s Lucien LaCroix, The kind that can spank Buffy and eat her for breakfast, if so how did you balance it? did the typical weaknesses suffice and the player only could be at full power in certain ideal circumstances?

    • I haven’t done it in a role playing game, but I’d expect it would work similarly to the way it did in the Buffy series.

      There were basically 4 player characters:
      -Buffy a warrior who’s subclass was “slayer”. She showed up to every session.
      -Willow a mage who’s subclass was “witch”. She showed up to every session and had several alignment changes throughout the campaign. The GM obviously didn’t know how to handle a magic user so the first few sessions she was too weak and in the final few sessions she became overpowered, but he was learning and appropriately trying to balance her power vs the rest of the group, (seen by “magic addiction”.)
      -Angel a warrior with the subclass of “vampire” who stopped playing partway through the campaign.
      -Spike took over the open spot in the group left by Angel and rolled a similar character.

      And the GM used 2 NPCs to help guide the story:
      -Giles to give out quests
      -Xander to give out hints when the players couldn’t figure something out.

      Each of the player characters was roughly equal in power, but the setting called for mostly unarmed combat, and each of the 3 classes in use, (slayer, witch, and vampire) were given feats/skills that work best when unencumbered, and unarmed.

      I’d say most of the cannon fodder vampires Buffy killed would be level 1 of the same class as Angel/Spike, (the party would be have started at level 3-4 maybe?)

      Notice I put Xander and Giles in the NPC category. They were weak enough compared to the main characters that they would have felt useless if they had been player characters and probably left.

      As for balancing vampire vs slayer I didn’t see either “class” being more powerful, the vampires had advantages like immunity to bullets and no need to breath, but also the disadvantages like sunlight and holy water that were applied in equal measure. The GM of this campaign knew about the strengths of each of his player characters and designed the encounters so each of them got enough screen time to feel useful. As Dear DM pointed out in answer to my question the GM needs to be very aware of the powers of each character. The vampires in this universe seem to fit my idea of a superpowered/cursed character nicely, (although I didn’t think about this till I wrote this post.) The main difference between the Buffy campaign and the one Dear DM talked about is who setup the powers and curses. In Buffy the GM built the campaign specifically around one of the player characters having these powers and curses, (thus the need for Spike to be the same class as the missing player Angel.) In Dear DM’s situation a player came up with them and the GM wasn’t prepared for it, (and that wrecked the game.)

    • Wait, Angel was not an emo vampire? 🙄 Or are we talking about his nasty evil alter ego, Angelus?

      If people want to play vampires, there’s a whole game line devoted to that, called Vampire: the Masquerade. Or whatever it’s called now in the “new” World of Darkness 2.0. Otherwise, anyone trying to run a vampire PC in Shadowrun or D&D or Midgard should be staked along with his character.

      Well, technically, the LA and ECL rules in 3E D&D would allow you to create a vampire, starting weak and gaining more powers while the others gain more adventurer levels. Still, any truly evil, not-redemption-seeking vampire character is a bad idea unless the rest of the group consists of equally evil player characters, among them a necromancer who can make the vampire beg and heel on command. 😈

  5. specifically a vampire amongst normals, guys gotta eat after all, and I was thinking more like the setting being a normal D&D game
    oh and just to clear it up Lucien LaCroix vrs Buffy = Lucien LaCroix (gotta love the old fashioned vampires) =D

    • Oh I dunno. Lucien LaCroix was an old, powerful vampire, but not a fighter. He was good at hanging around shadowy rooms, playing Mr. Creep and emotionally torturing his offspring. But he’d get staked just as quickly as any other vampire… or goddess… or demon lord. Even LaCroix’s sire (his own daughter, back when they were both mortals!) could spank him hard, and did. (figuratively! Not literally, you perverts!) 😉 :mrgreen:

      It would be like having The Shadow in a boxing match against The Hulk. Uh… Hulk Smash.