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Best Version of DnD?


Kendal
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Sure, it means you might spend 4-5 hours doing prep work every so often, but then you've got a bunch of reusable reference cards and generic events that speed things up both in game and in future planning sessions because you can go "Oh, right, I already have this guy's spell/ability cards mostly made because his spell list is 90% the same as <enemy you used before>, and look at that I've already got this region of the map mostly covered because I prepped it last month when they were in this other region nearby."

 

This is why 4E is easier to run. You don't even have to do that. Monster attack is 5+level, so if I need a level 15 stone Golem, he attacks with +20. Easy. You can literally convert it on the fly if you know the formula. So you have the Monster Manual, 'Hrmm, I need a level 25 fire themed lizard. OK I take this level 12 Salamander' put a sticky note in the right spot and then at the table you plug in new stats and done. You can even do it at the table due to a pretty good index when required. 

 

Whereas in 3.5 I now need to work out new spells which is painful and requires me to look at multiple books. 

 

 

So I look at the spell list if provided and pick out just the top two levels worth of spells, and keep a list of what is available for the lower levels. I keep score of how many spell slots are available at each level and keep track of how many "slots" get used during play. I might pick a few lower level, utilitarian spells like Shield or Stoneskin and have them in place when the encounter begins, if the NPC has warning and time to prepare.

 

 

 

My chief compliant is I don't have the ability to do this on the fly at the table - and saying 'leave the lower level spell slots' free is not a useful solution for me. I don't know off the top of my head what level 4 cold themed spells there are, and I'd have to look up what they did anyway (How much dex damage does freezing touch do? Is that even level 4?) If the GM is having to reference multiple books at the table the game's pacing just dies. 

 

Also, it doesn't super work. I mean, let's consider an Ice Devil. He casts a bunch of spells but summons more guys that cast different spells! Of which I know what about a third do off the top of my head.

 

 

It comes down to the responsibility for a fun game falls mostly on the GM. We cheat all the time. We already know what class, level and gear the PCs have, and they don't know what monsters we're going to throw at them, or what abilities or gear the NPCs have. Tailoring the campaign to best fit the PCs make each player feel like they are contributing in a meaningful way; don't throw a bunch of traps and locks at a party without a rogue. We can add random combat or role playing encounters, traps, puzzles and hidden caches of healing potions or other loot anytime we think it will keep the game moving. Quite frankly, it's our job.

 

A broader point would be there is a pretty solid argument that fudging dice etc is a bad idea. Fudging spell slots is probably in the same category, though less obvious. 

 

I generally don't do it. 

 

As far as high level spell caster go, I rarely pick all the spells ahead of time, for the very reason you mentioned: the players (and there are 4-8 in a typical session) have had weeks or even months to study and pick out which spells they want. As a DM with a life, I just don't have time to put that kind of effort into every NPC. The Big Bad of the campaign? Sure, but not the evil wizard who will be around for one encounter.

 

So I look at the spell list if provided and pick out just the top two levels worth of spells, and keep a list of what is available for the lower levels. I keep score of how many spell slots are available at each level and keep track of how many "slots" get used during play. I might pick a few lower level, utilitarian spells like Shield or Stoneskin and have them in place when the encounter begins, if the NPC has warning and time to prepare.

 

Yes, this is cheating. But it makes for a much better encounter, because I can adjust the encounter on the fly. Too tough? Maybe the evil wizard chose memorize Fly instead of Fireball, and runs away rather than risk real harm. Too easy? Swap out for a spell that immobilizes the PCs and use the resulting advantage to summon monsters, or cast invisibility on a minion.

 

It comes down to the responsibility for a fun game falls mostly on the GM. We cheat all the time. We already know what class, level and gear the PCs have, and they don't know what monsters we're going to throw at them, or what abilities or gear the NPCs have. Tailoring the campaign to best fit the PCs make each player feel like they are contributing in a meaningful way; don't throw a bunch of traps and locks at a party without a rogue. We can add random combat or role playing encounters, traps, puzzles and hidden caches of healing potions or other loot anytime we think it will keep the game moving. Quite frankly, it's our job.

 

That doesn't mean that we should railroad the story, but we need to make sure everyone at the table is having fun. Part of that comes in when there is a chance to absolutely dominate an encounter. If the players planned well and played well, then they deserve to steamroll the encounter. If they just bum rushed and didn't work together, then there should be a chance characters could die. Otherwise what's the point? And if they realize that the encounter has suddenly gone horribly wrong for them and still manage to pull it together and pull out win, well then you have an epic tale that will be told for years to come.

 
Edited by CthulhuDreams
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They would much rather not be fighting against the PC kingdom as well - the orc leader wants to negotiate for safe passage through the PC kingdom, since he feels that their current situation is untenable.  (This of course has no possible way of going wrong - it went so well with the Goths....)

 

Well, it actually did go fairly well with the Goths, or at least it would have if Rome had honored their treaties and not been jerks to the people who made up the majority of their military at the time. At first, Rome promised them land and food payments in exchange for military service, but then a famine hit and the Romans didn't honor any part of their treaty, and on top of that they kept attacking the Goths in order to capture slaves. So the Goths said "If you're not gonna uphold the treaty, we're gonna beat the tar out of you" and did. Then the Romans struck a new treaty after being soundly thumped, which they followed for a while, and the Goths began serving in the Roman military with distinction(if not recognition) despite being given all the suicide jobs. But then a few years later the new Roman Emperor said "I don't like Goths, with their black makeup and clove cigarettes, so I'm not going to pay them or feed them, and my Roman troops are going to start killing their families." To which the Goths once again said "If you're not gonna uphold the treaty, we're gonna beat the tar out of you," and then once again they did.

 

So, I mean, as long as they don't go Roman on the orcs it may work out in their favor by earning them more citizens who are actually really good natural soldiers. Your players just have to treat them the same way as they'd treat any other humanoid race rather than treating them as the scum of the earth not deserving of food, pay, or their lives.

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I don't wish to get into an argument, but I have been known to fudge dice rolls on occasion. I generally let the chips fall as they as they may, because the game breaks down if you don't follow the rules the majority of the time. But by the same token strick adherence to the detriment of the groups enjoyment isn't right either. We might as well play a board game like Descent. The whole point of RPGs is that they are, in part, improvisational, and every edition to date encourages the GM to break the rules now and then if it makes a better game.

 

But not everyone enjoys the same play style, so go with what works for you. You're certainly not wrong for doing so.

Edited by DocPiske
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I don't wish to get into an argument, but I have been known to fudge dice rolls on occasion. I generally let the chips fall as they as they may, because the game breaks down if you don't follow the rules the majority of the time. But by the same token strick adherence to the detriment of the groups enjoyment isn't right either. We might as well play a board game like Descent. The whole point of RPGs is that they are, in part, improvisational, and every edition to date encourages the GM to break the rules now and then if it makes a better game.

 

But not everyone enjoys the same play style, so go with what works for you. You're certainly not wrong for doing so.

 

I roll everything out in the open when I GM.  I've played with enough people that will, at the very least, complain, if not pack their stuff up and leave, if they feel that the dice were fudged to let them, or another PC, survive something they shouldn't have.  It's sort of a "if your bad luck or stupid choices can't get your PC killed, then any good luck I have, or smart choices I make, are meaningless" thing.

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I make my rolls out in the open too, but the players don't know what the modifiers are most of the time, so there is still room for GM fiat. But I recognize not everyone likes that play style, so you do you. There's room for every purpose under the sun and all that.

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I make my rolls out in the open too, but the players don't know what the modifiers are most of the time, so there is still room for GM fiat. But I recognize not everyone likes that play style, so you do you. There's room for every purpose under the sun and all that.

 

Are your players incapable of math::o:  :poke:  ::P:

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I make my rolls out in the open too, but the players don't know what the modifiers are most of the time, so there is still room for GM fiat. But I recognize not everyone likes that play style, so you do you. There's room for every purpose under the sun and all that.

 

Are your players incapable of math::o:  :poke:  ::P:

 

 

It's pretty easy to conceal what the real modifiers (and AC, and HP, and caster level, and...) are for several rounds, which is usually enough to determine whether you need to ... adjust the numbers to match the group on the day. It's also trivially easy to send in a second wave or not send in a planned second wave if either is required. Fudging doesn't require any changes to the dice in most cases.

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I make my rolls out in the open too, but the players don't know what the modifiers are most of the time, so there is still room for GM fiat. But I recognize not everyone likes that play style, so you do you. There's room for every purpose under the sun and all that.

 

Are your players incapable of math::o:  :poke:  ::P:

 

 

It's pretty easy to conceal what the real modifiers (and AC, and HP, and caster level, and...) are for several rounds, which is usually enough to determine whether you need to ... adjust the numbers to match the group on the day. It's also trivially easy to send in a second wave or not send in a planned second wave if either is required. Fudging doesn't require any changes to the dice in most cases.

 

 

You must not have players that will call you out on the carpet for that sort of stuff.

 

"Sooo, this guy rolled a 13 and missed me last round, and now he hit me on a roll of 11.  Nobody cast a spell on him, and he's not flanking, so what gives?  Are we pretending he was secretly power attacking last round, despite you normally always calling out when someone is doing something like that?"

 

OR

 

"As the GM, I presume you know that 3 CR 4 monsters against our party of 5th level characters is supposed to be a very difficult encounter.  So, I have to ask, were the 3 that showed up immediately after we trounced the first 3 a result of our unexpected success, or were you actually aiming for a TPK?"  

 

Savvy players can tell when you're BSing them, especially after you've played together a while.  And one person's fudging is another person's cheating.

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Reinforcements are easy to account for, especially in a living dungeon. Actions do not happen in a vacuum, and the sound of battle can pretty easily draw in more monsters of either the same kind (helping their friends) or opportunistic buggers who simply saw the party battle the previous group and figure to move in for a easy kill.

 

I'm running another session of our ongoing LL game this weekend. Unless the party goes completely off the rails and heads off into the yonder, in which case I'll grab a pregen module and file off the serial numbers, they will finally make it to the evil gnome necromancer who will send them to the ruined elven temple to find the undead murdered sister-in-law of the spectre that is hitching a ride in the skull they are carrying. The local bugbears and goblins have become convinced that she is a goddess and the temple is populated with a combination of goblinoid clergy/worshippers and their undead minions. Since she is actually a variant Wight they have been providing her with sacrifices in order to keep her from using them as a source of life energy. I think it's going to be fun, since we have a wonderfully eclectic party.

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Let me perfectly clear: GMs never cheat. RPGs are not war games or board games; RPGs are a cooperative improv activity in which the GM's word is law. Now this doesn't mean the GM should not follow the rules, otherwise what's the point of having the rules in the first place. But it does mean that occasionally we do improvise, adapt and overcome. In other words, we make it up as we go along.

 

I understand this is not the preferred play style of some, but that does not make it wrong. I have had players who did not like this style of play and did not come back, but they are the rare exception in 30+ years of running games. And I agreed with their choice, if for different reasons.

 

If I tried to play that way when playing Kings of War or Descent it would be cheating and it would be wrong. Fudging dice rolls isn't something that happens often when I run a game, but there are times when it is the right call.

 

I think we will just have to disagree on this topic. Happy gaming!

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Reinforcements are easy to account for, especially in a living dungeon. Actions do not happen in a vacuum, and the sound of battle can pretty easily draw in more monsters of either the same kind (helping their friends) or opportunistic buggers who simply saw the party battle the previous group and figure to move in for a easy kill.

 

 

Of course.  But step back from the world for a moment and look at the realities of the game.  Why are you bothering with any notion of CRs, encounter design, and general fairness if you're just going to keep plowing bugbears into the fight until it is "challenging enough"?  Also, why even bother with the "sounds of battle" justification when you can just have extra monsters show up serendipitously?

 

I will grant you that D&D doesn't really talk about how many CR worth of critters you should populate a ruin with at any given level.  But it does generally operate on the assumption that you shouldn't force the players to face the whole host of them at once, or even merely in rapid succession.

 

I think DocPiske is right in that we'll probably have to agree to disagree.  I just chime in on this thread to present alternate viewpoints to the standard wisdom.  :devil:

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I make my rolls out in the open too, but the players don't know what the modifiers are most of the time, so there is still room for GM fiat. But I recognize not everyone likes that play style, so you do you. There's room for every purpose under the sun and all that.

 

Are your players incapable of math::o:  :poke:  ::P:

 

 

It's pretty easy to conceal what the real modifiers (and AC, and HP, and caster level, and...) are for several rounds, which is usually enough to determine whether you need to ... adjust the numbers to match the group on the day. It's also trivially easy to send in a second wave or not send in a planned second wave if either is required. Fudging doesn't require any changes to the dice in most cases.

 

 

You must not have players that will call you out on the carpet for that sort of stuff.

 

"Sooo, this guy rolled a 13 and missed me last round, and now he hit me on a roll of 11.  Nobody cast a spell on him, and he's not flanking, so what gives?  Are we pretending he was secretly power attacking last round, despite you normally always calling out when someone is doing something like that?"

 

OR

 

"As the GM, I presume you know that 3 CR 4 monsters against our party of 5th level characters is supposed to be a very difficult encounter.  So, I have to ask, were the 3 that showed up immediately after we trounced the first 3 a result of our unexpected success, or were you actually aiming for a TPK?"  

 

Savvy players can tell when you're BSing them, especially after you've played together a while.  And one person's fudging is another person's cheating.

 

 

That's a troubling way to think, because it assumes knowledge. It assumes that the DM is running something as written in the books, which one should never assume. I don't think I've met a single DM that doesn't make changes to monsters or just create new ones entirely while slapping a familiar skin on them. Just because you run into an orc doesn't mean it's going to be that CR 1/2 orc that's been listed in the Monster Manual. It might be half-starved and suffering from exhaustion, so I adjust its stats and CR downward. Maybe those ogres that you fought just before the group you're fighting now were the weaklings of the tribe, and these guys are their real bruisers so even though they were described the same they're much tougher than the first set. Maybe that dryad isn't actually a dryad, but a living embodiment of the soul of the forest, something that's basically a demigod, and it only appears to be a dryad because it acts identically to them in almost everything it does.

 

If I throw a pack of wolves at the party and describe one of them as being larger than the others, maybe that big one is just the pack alpha and just like any other wolf in the pack, maybe it's a Worg, and maybe it's a werewolf in wolf form. Maybe the whole pack is werewolves in wolf form, and I'm using the less dangerous wolf attack stats for the majority of them because they're showing restraint and not trying to kill the party but rather trying to chase them away because they just want to be left alone. If the players don't run away after finding themselves unable to damage the wolves without magic, maybe they'll stop pulling their punches and suddenly start hitting on an 11 instead of a 13 because they're now using full werewolf stats. As a DM I'm perfectly allowed to do that. For a player to assume that they know exactly what the DM is throwing at them at all times is foolish, and to then suggest that the player call the DM a cheater because it turns out that it wasn't what the player expected is just wrong.

 

After all, what you hear as "white dragon" may in fact be "wight dragon." Sure, maybe the DM should have said "dragon wight" but that sort of ambiguity is exactly what's needed in a game where practically everyone knows "white dragon" means "prepare for cold spells." When suddenly that frost breath turns out to be acid because the dragon was originally a black dragon, and the dragon's claws start literally draining life from the fighter, it creates the sort of memorable encounter that becomes a group legend.(Story stolen from the Dragon Talk podcast)

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I make my rolls out in the open too, but the players don't know what the modifiers are most of the time, so there is still room for GM fiat. But I recognize not everyone likes that play style, so you do you. There's room for every purpose under the sun and all that.

 

Are your players incapable of math::o:  :poke:  ::P:

 

 

It's pretty easy to conceal what the real modifiers (and AC, and HP, and caster level, and...) are for several rounds, which is usually enough to determine whether you need to ... adjust the numbers to match the group on the day. It's also trivially easy to send in a second wave or not send in a planned second wave if either is required. Fudging doesn't require any changes to the dice in most cases.

 

 

You must not have players that will call you out on the carpet for that sort of stuff.

 

"Sooo, this guy rolled a 13 and missed me last round, and now he hit me on a roll of 11.  Nobody cast a spell on him, and he's not flanking, so what gives?  Are we pretending he was secretly power attacking last round, despite you normally always calling out when someone is doing something like that?"

 

OR

 

"As the GM, I presume you know that 3 CR 4 monsters against our party of 5th level characters is supposed to be a very difficult encounter.  So, I have to ask, were the 3 that showed up immediately after we trounced the first 3 a result of our unexpected success, or were you actually aiming for a TPK?"  

 

Savvy players can tell when you're BSing them, especially after you've played together a while.  And one person's fudging is another person's cheating.

 

 

If a 13 missed last round, then it should continue to miss. But if a 19 hit last round, that doesn't actually tell you anything about what a 13 would do. And if a 9 missed, then how are you to know what a 13 would do?

 

As to CR? I think the most encounters I've ever thrown at my players in a single game day was about 15. Some of those were significantly separated in time and some were back-to-back. That was by design, and not design on the fly. Further, I regularly use advanced and leveled monsters when I think it's appropriate or fun, so knowing what the typical stats for a creature are doesn't really help much at all.

 

I use the CR by level guidelines as just that: guidelines. If a player ever tried to pull the sort of "You really shouldn't be throwing that encounter at us" in the way you describe, there would be a long discussion immediately about whether my game is one that will be appropriate for that player in the future. 

 

I will grant you that D&D doesn't really talk about how many CR worth of critters you should populate a ruin with at any given level.  But it does generally operate on the assumption that you shouldn't force the players to face the whole host of them at once, or even merely in rapid succession.

 

 

In at least one case, I threw all the zombies, skeletons, and ghouls I could find at my players in a single encounter. (They were at least four ranks deep all the way across my 40" wide table.) It was a warm-up encounter.

 

^_^

 

It was also intended to let the PCs demonstrate how awesome they had become after some pretty brutal earlier adventures. From after-game feedback, it worked pretty well at that, too.

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