View Full Version : RP opportunity - changing PC perceptions

2013-02-28, 05:23 AM
Hi there.
In my new eberron campaign, which is very RP heavy with deep characters by design, we have an house rule about character deaths.

The first time a PC dies, he can use two action points to instead convert the death to a permanent penalty. The penalty is part numerical and part RP, and with time investment, RP and money, the PC can regain functionality, and even improve, turning the penalty into a bonus.

The second time the PC dies, the penalty is more severe, and can still be worked over, eliminating it with time, but not improving upon it.

The third time the penalty is permanent.

One character "died" once already. One lung was damaged, perforated by a sword: he was healed and had a mechanical bypass implanted, but now needs to drink special potions (costing money) each night to prevent death. Also, everytime he runs, charges or does strenous activity he must save or be fatigued.
The PCs have planned now to break into a bank, to recover some schematics which allow the PC to design a new mechanical lung, which will eliminate his penalty and also confer some bonuses.

<background explanation over>

The warforged alchemist also "died" last night. He fell off a lightning train and into a chasm below, while grappling another warforged (which tried to save him to keep him from falling, or at least the thinks so)
This warforged PC regards most warforged as brothers, while not getting along much with other humanoids.
The penalty idea was that the other warforged would implant a component in the PC's head.

This component would effectively change how the warforged PC perceives the people around him. He will no longer discern races: everyone he encounters will be seen as a generic warforged, even if he knows its not the case. He won't be able to discern warforged from other races. This is not based on sight, rather is a mind affecting effect.
He will however be able to "sense" other people, and his mind will assign "warforged" names to every person he can talk to. Even if someone tells him his "real" name, his mind will change it to a warforged name. In my campaign, warforged take names based on their personality or their traits. The villain was called "Wall" because he is based on survivability. Another was named "drummer", because he was, well, a drummer. And so on.
He will also be able to sense some personality traits, possibly emotions or something else (any help?) from the people he interacts with. The idea came from Death Notes, where character could see other people lifetime remaining. I want the warforged to "see" something too.

I think this is a nice idea, since at character creation we planned how his character will evolve, and will learn to judge people not based on their race, but on their actions.

This is very complex RPing. I'm not sure the player can handle it well, and also don't know if he will like it. I will offer him the chance to "bail out" by forcibly removing the component and taking some other damage instead.
I will have to prepare "warforged specific" description of every NPC they meet. Also (but this is a good think) he might discover things easily. For example, what if the warforged name he perceives for a friendly npc is "Traitor"? How will he react?

Everything i "say" as DM will have to be interpreted differently by the warforged PC. I might describe a family eating dinner, and all he would see would be warforged acting strangely.
RP will be complex: the player KNOWS it is a human family, his character does not. What if there are so many signs someone is human that even the character could not possibly believe their fake warforged form? What if the other PCs tell him they are human?

What do you think? Can this work and would it be enjoyable? Could you also suggest me some "mind reading" abilities the PC would have? I thought about the name, maybe current emotions, but what else?
Also i'd need some way to handle those situations where it is clear he is facing humans, not warforged. Should he be able to overcome his sense and, while still seeing them as warforged, can regard them has humans?

2013-02-28, 08:55 AM
Sounds a bit like the condition a few people have where their brains are unable to use any of the normal specialized face processing stuff. They see faces, but nothing on it is any more memorable or meaningful than the specific way that the person was wearing their scarf or what finger their ring was on. If you walk out of the room, run your fingers through your hair and put on a different color of coat, they'll think you're a different person when you walk in next, because they don't get anything more recognition out of looking at your face than you would looking at the face of a normal stick figure comic - change the hair and clothes and it's a completely different character.

2013-02-28, 09:02 AM
A problem with applying a penalty is that it makes the character that much harder to defeat the bad guys in the future. That's why effects like being shaken or sickened matter. However, it looks like you are avoiding that by not applying, say, a flat -1 or -2 to all rolls forever. That you're not having the penalties be permanent also helps. Having your character die sucks, but it's important not to add insult to injury. Colloquial you don't want to make the penalties too severe a player might as well make a new character. Having something is fine to mark the necessary sting of character death. The trick is knowing where to draw the line.

As an aside you should keep track how often PCs are dying and whether this house rule is a factor. This is important to note for any campaign regardless and the house rule could have nothing to do with it. While you want to check for player recklessness due to not caring if their character dies, you also want to check your own adventure design to be sure you're not making encounters more lethal than you otherwise would.

2013-02-28, 09:39 AM
After various bits of pondering I worked out that Raise Dead really isn't a problem for a campaign. It's the other related spells that are a problem.

Raise Dead fixes being killed, and that can happen through little fault of the player. One game, we were dropped down through a trap door and found a doorway; I said "I think that door looks suspiciously like a trap. I'm taking cover as far back as I can get, behind something, even though I know we're locked in a deadend hallway at this point." The rest of the group, meatshields all, rolled their eyes and threw the door open. Fireball trap. I was the only one to die (d4 hit dice), and the blast took me to -11 hp. Everyone else just shrugged and kept going. If there is an extra death penalty, what is it meant to do in this case? Punish me for having crummy hit points and blowing a reflex save in spite of doing everything I had available to me to mitigate the risk?

Raise Dead can be foiled; you can still assassinate the king, you just have to get the assassins to cut off his head or some other major organ and hide it. Also, you can rule that certain dramatic acts make the gods (or their staff at least) take notice enough that the spirit gets special treatment that Raise Dead just isn't effective enough to deal with. "Oh, Raise Dead takes you out of the line to see the Celestial Auditor. The Valkyries collected you directly, after that bit of heroic martyrdom, and you skipped the line."

But the high powered versions can really short-circuit a lot of plots, because they're too effective. "Oh no, the Queen was murdered! Instead of dealing with all the planned campaign repercussions that the entire plot revolves around, we'll just Resurrect her."

2013-02-28, 10:41 AM
. If there is an extra death penalty, what is it meant to do in this case? Punish me for having crummy hit points and blowing a reflex save in spite of doing everything I had available to me to mitigate the risk?

In this campaign, no raise dead exists. Its E6 gritty, all raise dead spells are also banned.

The penalty i designed wasn't in addition to death, it was in place of death. You burn action points, instead of dying you get something else, that also add flavor to characters.
In your case i don't know, maybe you become seriously afraid of fire such that each time you take fire damage you have to make a simple will save. Or a scar that lowers your charisma. However if you invest time,money and RP, in 4-6 sessions you'll not only have recovered from your wounds, but maybe the process also made you that much more resistant to fire.

Anyway, i really wanted to discuss the playability of the warforged penalty rather the penalty system per se :)

2013-02-28, 11:02 AM
Right - in the game i'm setting up as E6, a form of Raise Dead is available as a ritual spell.

That said, any sort've Interface Screw (http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/InterfaceScrew) effect you come up with is mostly going to inconvenience you, not the player. The player gets used to trippy visuals and "Eeh, i'll just roll with it" and uses other cues to help them, and the situations where those cues aren't available are vanishingly hard to sustain. You on the other hand are going to be hopping trying to author multiple versions of reality.

2013-02-28, 03:36 PM
Sit down and discuss with your player first. Because of the kind of game you are playing I expect them to be up for it, so this isn't the problem, but the kind of 'penalty' you are inflicting is quite unique and you want everyone to be on the same page.
The bailout is a good idea.

Doubling your important descriptions will probably help the player get into it. You could use notes to keep the session moving along (instead of everything taking twice as long to describe).

The warforged character will quickly realise things have changed, and how they have changed. The character will probably be able to work out who is warforged and who is not, but he will now have to put effort into finding out. Quick decisions can no longer be made based on whether someone is warforged or not.

Names like 'Traitor' would not work, because one man's traitor is another man's loyal spy. Something like 'Liar' is more ambiguous and stems from a particular trait/personality - although it may not be 100% relevant (the NPC might tend to lie, but that doesn't mean they won't tell the PCs the truth if they have good reason).
I would advise finding a situation where an NPC's 'warforged name' is obviously misleading, just to remind everyone that it's not divine knowledge about all NPCs.
(bonus points, it's pushing the character to begin judging people on what they do / have done, not what a label says about them).

As for your 'reading' of people. It's important that this does not let the character quickly identify who is warforged and who is not - so medical vitals might be out.
If you're OK to go a bit meta with it, the reading could show a specific stat (WIS, for example?) or an unmarked stat array (18, 17, 14, 14, 8, 8, 8).

2013-02-28, 04:26 PM
That's really pretty good advice! Thanks!

2013-02-28, 07:22 PM
Agreeing with the person who said "Liar" instead of "Traitor" -- and there could be some fun ways to make the names misleading. (Maybe the name he hears is "Loyal," because the traitor actually is very loyal, but he's a traitor because his family is held hostage.)

If the player's up for it, I say go for it! It sounds like it could be a lot of fun, actually.

2013-03-03, 10:53 AM
Thanks everyone.
I finally also got the extra perception bit that i mentioned before.

Each night, the PC will be able to choose one character he interacted with during the day, and if he makes a (hidden, GM rolled) will save he will learn what is the most good thought and most evil thought that person has.
There is no guarrantee the person will actually follow through with his thoughts. Think a person outside a supermarket, that can either go home and reconcile with his dying father or grab the gun he has hidden in the pocket and rob the supermarket.

If the will save fails, he will get the thought of a random person he recently interacted with instead, without knowing who.