Posts Tagged “ToKiTiMo”
My party’s cleric wields a large, two-handed warhammer. It’s not a weapon which appears in any of the Pathfinder books I’ve read, but I include it in my games as a piece of standard equipment because they are awesome. In our last game session, the party was ambushed by a number of animated goblin skeletons while they were exploring the base of a giant statue. As monsters go, skeletons are not particularly deadly. But they were numerous, and none of the players had ever encountered a creature with damage reduction before. The party’s ranger was none too pleased when his arrow simply clattered through the undead’s ribcage without dealing damage.
Once I explained how damage reduction worked to my party, they figured out that the cleric’s warhammer, as a bludgeoning weapon, was able to overcome this defense. The barbarian cleverly responded by finding the largest rock she could, hefting it, and waddling around the battlefield smashing skeletons to pieces. The rogue and ranger did the best they could, but found that their piecing and slashing weapons weren’t up to the task. They encouraged the cleric to take the forefront in the battle, since her weapon was ideally suited to the fight. She did, and eventually ended up in this position:
I know, my battlemat is out of scale with the miniature base. I need to do something about that eventually.
Anyway, when the player found herself in this position, she told me she wanted to try and attack all three of the skeletal goblins in a single horizontal swing. I couldn’t think of a single diegetic reason why she wouldn’t be able to attempt this. I made a quick ruling at the table, and told her that she would be able to attempt it as a full action, but that each attack would be made at a cumulative -2 penalty. So her attack on the first goblin in her arc would be at a -2 penalty, the center goblin would be at a -4 penalty, and the final goblin would be attacked at a -6 penalty. This seemed like a reasonable penalty to me, and I had the player roll her attack dice.
As it turned out, none of her attacks landed, nor did any of her attacks land on her next turn when she tried the same tactic again. The penalties didn’t even come into play, she never rolled above a 10. Bad luck, but the party prevailed, and continued on with their adventure. But the encounter stuck with me throughout the rest of the evening, and I’ve continued to ponder it ever since. My ruling ‘steps on the toes’ of two mechanics built into the Pathfinder game: multiple attacks from a high base attack bonus, and Cleave/Great Cleave feats.
If you’ve played Pathfinder, or D&D 3.x, you’re familiar with these rules. Each class has a base attack bonus which rises as the character goes up in level, and this bonus is added to most types of physical attack that the character will make. Once the creature’s BAB gets high enough, they gain secondary, tertiary, and even quaternary bonuses which are lower (-5, -10, and -15 lower) than their full BAB. As a full action, the character can make multiple attacks per round using progressively lower bonuses. But while a character must be at least level 11 to gain three attacks with their BAB, my table ruling allowed a 2nd level character to attempt three attacks. And she did it at a -2, -4, -6 penalty, rather than a -0, -5, -10 penalty. A net bonus over the official way of doing things.
Gaining iterative attacks from base attack bonus does have a few benefits which I would not have allowed the cleric, had she asked. For example, a character attempting multiple attacks using their BAB is allowed to choose the order in which they attack their foes, can take a 5ft step in between attacks, and can even decide whether or not they want to continue attacking, or take a move action instead, after the first of their attacks. None of these should be possible if all of the attacks are made in a single fluid motion. But nor would they seem to make up for the fact that my cleric was able to access an ability which (according to the rules) was far beyond her ability.
The second rule I stepped on the toes of, the cleave and greater cleave feats, serve a similar function. If a character with the cleave feat successfully deals damage to one foe, then that character may make a second attack (at their full BAB) against another adjacent enemy. The greater cleave feat works the same way, it simply allows the player to continue making new attacks against adjacent enemies so long as the chain of successful attacks remains unbroken. Both feats subject the player to a -2 AC penalty for a round after use.
My player did not have the benefit of being able to use her full BAB on each attack, as the cleave feat allows players to do. But she also did not suffer a -2 penalty to AC, nor did she need to successfully deal damage to the first enemy in order to attack the second, or the third. And, on top of that, she didn’t need to take 3 feats (Power Attack > Cleave > Great Cleave) to make the attempt in the first place. Once again, it seems that my table ruling gave the player more a net bonus over the official rules.
Despite my ruling interfering with two official rules, I can’t help but feel that I acted correctly. I still cannot see a single diegetic reason why Gibbous the cleric would not be able to attack all three of the closing skeletons with a single horizontal swing. And while I’m sure the rules could be debated forever, I don’t particularly care. Combat balance is not sacrosanct. Player Agency is.
None the less, I am left with a few thoughts on how to improve my game in the future.
- If a player attempts this tactic again, I think they should take a -2 penalty to AC for being off balance. I think it makes a lot of sense that a player who attempts a really wild attack wouldn’t be able to block attacks as effectively.
- If a player attempts this tactic again, a slightly more harsh penalty might be appropriate. A -3 cumulative penalty, instead of a -2, should be sufficient.
- Players with high base attack bonuses can make iterative attacks as a standard action, rather than a full action. This is a house rule that my twitter friend Rilgon first pointed out to me, and I’ve thought it sounded like a good idea for awhile now.
- I long ago abolished the Power Attack feat from my games, because it falls prey to my problem with feats. I now think I’ll remove the Cleave feat for the same reason. Great Cleave can remain, as a means of allowing players to overcome the cumulative attack penalty, but only if they hit each time. After that the penalty stacks for each attack they miss.
I’m curious how other GMs would have handled this situation. Personally, it’s just edged me closer to the day when I build my own tabletop role playing system, with blackjack and hookers.
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Posted by LS on Wednesday, June 6th, 2012 at 5:45 am
Tags: House Rules, My Games, System Critique, Theorycrafting, ToKiTiMo
Note: Members of my ToKiJaTiMo gaming group should not read this post.
I don’t remember precisely when I first obtained my copy of D&D 3rd edition’s Manual of the Planes. It was probably among the first supplements I ever owned. It’s almost certainly the first RPG book I read cover-to-cover. I spent much of my early life exploring fantastical worlds through books and video games, so I was no stranger to the idea of otherworldly dimensions where the laws of reality work differently. What was completely new to me was to see those worlds explained and quantified. In a narrative, it’s important to maintain an aura of mystique about such locals. But this book had diagrams, explanations of different types of gravity, even pseudoscience about how the planes interacted with one another. The volume of concepts the book presented set my imagination aflame. The possibilities of running a planar adventure are always wafting about in my mind, but in all this time, I’ve never got around to actually doing it.
In our most recent session I presented my players with four different hooks. The elves needed help in their war against the orcs to the south, and there were three different adventures the players would need to undertake to obtain the three different materials they would need to transform their sorceress into an Arachnohominid. So what happens?
Gibbous The Cleric “What about all those gnomes that were turned to stone in the dungeon?”
GM “Well, Pumofe [The party's new gnome barbarian] was one of them. The rest are still in there.”
Gibbous “We can’t just leave them down there. We should help them first.”
Poker the Rogue “I see no profit in that.”
Rosco The Ranger “Well, we could at least tell the gnomes that they’re in there.”
Pumofe “But they can’t get them out, can they? There’s the magical barrier thing that keeps gnomes out.”
Poker “Oh! Since we’re the only ones who can go in there, we can charge the village per statue we carry out!”
Gibbous “Guys, we have gotta help these gnomes! I wasn’t here last session, how did we rescue Pumofe?”
Rosco “We used Demon’s blood.”
Gibbous “I have some of that!”
GM “No you don’t, that’s the blood they used.”
Gibbous “Cuthbert damn it! We need to find some demons then. Come on guys!”
A few hours of gameplay later, the party had tracked down their wizard friend Mahudar Kosopske, and convinced him to make them a Gem of Plane Shift with 2 charges. One to get them to the Abyss, and one to bring them home. (a scene which I recently posted an illustration of, in fact). Assuming they stick to their present adventure path, it looks like I’ll be running my first Planar adventure pretty soon. I’m excited, and brimming with ideas.
The gem the wizard is making for them will teleport them to a relatively unpopulated area, ostensibly for safety’s sake, since they are still low level adventurers. But since the purpose of their trip is to harvest blood from demons, a remote location serves the double purpose of making their task more difficult. I’ve been trying to come up with challenges they’ll need to face which will test their mettle without giving them what they need too easily. So far I’ve com up with the following:
- Field of Chains an area of ground covered in barbed chains and dead bodies. At first these chains will appear to be set dressing, but once all players are standing on the chains, they will begin to make grapple attempts against the players. Once grappled by at least two chains, they will attempt to pull the player apart. Each chain is AC: 12, Hardness: 4, HP: 6, with a CMB of +6. Each round a character is successfully grappled, they will take 1 damage from the barbs on each chain, as they shift and twist. Once there are two chains on a player, they will make a combat maneuver check at a -4 penalty to pin the character. This penalty is reduced by 1 for each chain on the player. Once a player is pinned, the chains deal 1d6 damage per round as they attempt to pull the player apart.
- Suicide Forest An extremely dense forest of dead trees, with a body hanging by a noose from each tree. The branches of these trees are extremely brittle, and whenever one breaks, the tree screams in agony from an unseen mouth. It is impossible to move through this forest without breaking branches every few feet. And every scream has a chance to attract a hellhound–or worse. (Thank you, Dante Alighieri!)
- Acid Lake A titanic creature died here–violently. Only its top half is anywhere to be seen, and it towers above the players like a castle. It appears to have died some time ago, because it has rotted away enough that many bones are visible. Its stomach is completely gone, and from the rotted cavity a wash of green, bubbling acid flowed out to form a lake which deals 1d8+2 damage per round.
- The Gods are Not Welcome Anytime a player attempts to cast any good aligned clerical magic (such as Gibbous’ healing spells) demons nearby will sense the intrusion into their realm, and a random encounter will be rolled to appear 1d6 rounds later.
- Field of Razorgrass Field of waist-high grass. Any character not wearing armor takes 1d4 damage per square they move through. Characters wearing armor on their legs still take 1d4 damage, but only once per movement.
If anyone has any more environment ideas, I’m eager to hear them.
I think the best way to run this little planar excursion will be to style it like an outdoor dungeon. Instead of using 6 mile hexes, I’ll use 5ft hexes, and the players will need to solve problems in 10 minute turns. I’ll also need to figure out just how much blood they can get from each demon–and how big and bad the demons will get. If they’re not careful, they will probably encounter something severely out of their league, such as a Marileth.
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Only a short post today. As I’ve mentioned in the past, two of the members of my current gaming group are artists. This works out pretty great for me, because I regularly get to see my games come to life in cool ways. Such as the above picture.
Currently, my ToKiJaTiMo gaming group has a lot on their minds. They need to kill a dire spider for its eyes, find an entrance to the underdark so they can steal some hair from a drow, track down a spider which is more than a thousand years old so they can nab one of its eggs, investigate a nearby forest where gnolls are mysteriously being transformed into half-ogre monstrosities, hunt down a lich, and make a trip to the Abyss to harvest some demon blood. And some of them haven’t even reached level 2 yet!
In order to facilitate their rather ambitious goals, they traveled across the continent to meet up with their old friend Mahudar Kosopske. The wizard gave the original party members (now level 3) some of their first adventures, and they’ve remained on friendly terms. So when they came to him requesting information and supplies, he was happy to aid them. Even if he did require almost all of their treasure in exchange!
This piece, by the way, is from my rather talented ladyfriend. She’s done a lot of art for Papers & Pencils in the past, and you can see more of her work on her DeviantArt page.
Edit: My ladyfriend is on a roll! This post has not even gone online yet, but she’s already completed another piece based on the same game. Here she depicts a battle earlier in the adventure where the party fought some of those mysterious half-ogre monstrosities. I really love the coloring here, with each of the characters being highlighted in a color which thematically represents their class. Red for the barbarian, green for the ranger, blue for the rogue, yellow for the cleric, and purple for the sorceress.
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Posted by LS on Sunday, May 27th, 2012 at 8:45 am
Tags: Images, My Games, ToKiTiMo