Philosophy.   Posted by GM.Group: 0
 GM, 14 posts
Thu 5 May 2016
at 21:37
I don't write bullet-proof fiction. I don't think anyone really does. What I hope I write is fiction that people want to work and will help work.

If something isn't making sense or could make better sense, I welcome your questions, but I also welcome your additions to the fiction. I strive to take a "Yes, and..." approach, so I welcome your explanations for things you think need explanations. You're more likely to believe your own explanations than mine, especially since I might not have an explanation.

Along those lines, I don't keep a lot of absolute secrets. I tend to tell players anything they want to know, and I don't police the player-character knowledge barrier terribly closely. I want to trust that players will metagame to get the game they want, rather than just to wreck things.

Along those lines, I'll be asking you what kinds of things you'll want to do. Not everyone likes every kind of scenario, and I see no point in forcing anything on anyone. If I don't ask, please speak up. I'll work with you to find a way to make the game fun for you as quickly as possible. I will try to keep the game relatively coherent, though, so that I don't have every player working on a different goal or approach. I try to accept and add on, but also keep things focused.
 GM, 15 posts
Thu 5 May 2016
at 21:49
Hit points (and general reflavoring):

They're abstract in 4th Edition. Particularly because characters can heal themselves and warlords can heal without magic, HP can't only mean physical damage. They also mean stress (both mental and physical), morale, luck and probably other things. Regaining hit points literally means extending a character's ability to keep acting (though depleting their own or the party's reserves in other ways), by physically repairing them, inspiring them, endowing them with divinity, giving them courage, voiding their pain, etc. A character with full hit points is not necessarily in pristine condition, and a character in pristine condition is not necessarily at full hit points.

Bloodied does not need to mean wounded. If an effect triggers on the bloodied state, it might be due to actual blood, or it might be due to some other sense that a creature is markedly close to being taken out. Notably for this game is warforged resolve which acts differently for bloodied characters. Why? You decide for your character. It can even be different every time. More on that below.

Ongoing damage and vulnerability are tricky to think about along with non-physical hit points, but I do it this way: a fire attack, for example, can set one on fire, causing physical damage over time until extinguished, or it can cause ongoing pain despite the effect ending, or the attack can miss, yet have been a near thing that rattles the character, gives them pause, stresses them out, damages their morale, spends their luck, etc. Warforged deal well with ongoing damage, and this can be taken to mean that they are resistant to the effects, or the pain, or just don't find such attacks as stressful or as important to avoid.

So, please reflavor hit point loss as you like. I will avoid describing hits against your character in my narratives. As long as the damage and effects are tracked properly, I don't even care if you describe a loss as a physical miss, or no loss as a physical hit. I'll probably write more later about general reflavoring, which I encourage.
 GM, 80 posts
Wed 25 May 2016
at 01:27
One thing any 4th Edition DM needs to consider is skill challenges. I really like them because they have codified something that was, to my knowledge, never really codified and really needed it. Others strongly disagree with that need, and strongly dislike skill challenges. I think they work and I like to get them to work, basically as written.

One way they don't work is as stand-alone situations with time for the characters to sit around and think their way through them. The mechanics of them don't simulate that well. Puzzles and talking scenes are still best handled as they have been.

I only like to run skill challenges when there's a lot of stuff that needs abstracting in sort of the same way as combat and where just looking around or remembering things isn't going to help. Everything is an action, but an abstracted action. I don't need to know how you swing your sword, just the target. I don't need to know how you reach for a hand-hold, just that you're choosing to climb. Relatively quick, one-off acts for which we just need to know success or failure.

(What about knowledge and Perception and Insight? I try to set things up so that the choice is not between action on success and inaction on failure, because that doesn't really jibe with the mechanics. I prefer to have the roll follow the choice of taking action, and decide whether the action taken was the right one. For instance, rather than "I roll Arcana to figure out which potion to drink," and then rolling to see if you actually do anything, it would be "I drink the potion I judge to be the right one," and rolling to see if your judgment was right.)

That doesn't mean that it's just a dice rolling exercise. It can turn into that when the characters are essentially standing around, putting the experts to work and making sure the non-experts keep their bumbling hands out of it. In challenges like that, why not just roll four times (or not roll at all, since it's easy for characters to blow past the standard DCs), flavor to taste and move on, right? Yawn.

So, I tend to make my skill challenges involve some time pressure, some action, and other things going on. You don't have to roll to decipher an ancient hieroglyph, you have to roll to decipher an ancient hieroglyph while the obelisk it's inscribed in sinks into lava, while the party is attacked by lava striders. If you fail, you lose precious time. If you put the wizard on it, he can't spend his standard action zapping lava minions. It becomes about pressure and choice, including a choice not to attempt the challenge at all, because failure doesn't mean a screeching halt to the game.

All that said, I'm open to different approaches and even setting aside skill challenges if people really don't like them. If I run them, I try to be open about it, as I am with hit points and defenses, but I can hide the details if people want.
 GM, 137 posts
Tue 14 Jun 2016
at 19:24
I don't want skill challenges just to be a roll-fest, but I do generally like the rules as written. So:

Regardless of what I or anyone else describes, you can use any skill you want. I recommend rolling first and then describing what you do, based on whether it's success or failure, and how much is left to go. Not that primary skills can be used any number of times at DC 12. Secondary (i.e. non-listed) skills can be used any number of times at DC 19, or once at DC 12. Please describe how "Intimidate" or whatever, makes things better/worse.

The lower the "success/failure" ratio, the lower the Complexity. So, successes makes things less complicated, failure makes things more complicated. Describe along those lines if you can.

Go for action! This is a moving, active machine! You aren't going to take damage or lose surges, but you can get knocked around, zapped, cooked, etc. and that makes things harder (i.e. more complex).

I want this to be fun. If it's not fun, let me know and we'll make it fun.

Edit: A little more:

Not everything that you do during a skill challenge requires a roll, and not every roll will necessarily be relevant to the skill challenge. If I or someone else describes that someone is knocked dangling by a moving piece of machinery, neither they nor anyone else needs to make an Athletics check to resolve that, but it makes a great excuse for anyone who wants to, and such a check could plausibly make things easier.

Actions you take don't need to be just about you, and I encourage you to take liberties in your descriptions. If you use Athletics to help with Sabotaging the Forge, maybe you made some adjustment yourself, or maybe you held something open or held someone up so they could make it. If you use Perception in Safety First maybe you dodged something, or maybe you warned someone and they dodged something.

Take actions. Arcana is a knowledge skill and Perception is not generally associated with action, but associate an action. If you're just thinking or looking, nothing changes and it's hard (though not impossible) to see how progress is made on a success, or slips away on a failure.

Ideally, describe how your character would approach this, and then if you think their actions would m

This message was last edited by the GM at 19:40, Tue 14 June 2016.

 GM, 141 posts
Tue 14 Jun 2016
at 23:57
I'm not a fan of knowledge checks that don't tell you anything on a failure, so I'll always try to tell you something. If the check fails, it will be something good to know, but not something that achieves what you were after. For instance, if you are rolling to see if there are pickpockets about and fail, your character will notice something else, unrelated to pickpockets (I'll tell you, the players, whether there are or not, though I generally don't do a lot of Perception based challenges like that. I'm a lousy liar.)

If it's a passive check or an opposed check (in addition to telling you, the player, it's happening), I'll tell you something you notice or know, other than what would stymie the opposition. For instance, if your pocket is being picked and your Passive Perception isn't enough to notice, I might tell you that you notice someone else in the bar patting their pockets or looking for their purse. When the character goes to check theirs, it's too late.

I'm not a fan of "roll to know checks" either. Looking at something or thinking about something doesn't give me much to go on. In general, you can assume your character believe they know the right answer and act on that information. Later, when the answer matters, you can roll to find out whether your action had the desired result.

For instance, if you're trying to find your way through a maze and you come to an intersection, sitting there rolling a skill as often as you're allowed doesn't make for an interesting scene. State that you travel down a path and then we'll roll your skill to see if it was the right one. This way, stuff happens.

As I've shown I don't mind telling you, the players, anything you want to know, that I know. The main function of "roll-to-know" checks without any associated action is providing yourself with a justification for your character knowing or not knowing something. I myself don't need the justification, but I know that some people prefer to have it.