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  1. - Top - End - #1
    Barbarian in the Playground
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    Default How to handle players' crazy ideas

    So, at my group's usual 3.5 session last week, the players found themselves on top of a tower, fighting a dragon. On the tower was a ballista, loaded with a bolt that will explode in acid on impact. One of the players (playing a ranger) decides that he wants his character to try to ride the ballista bolt to grab onto the dragon and attack it at close range (with a pair of dual-wielded bastard swords). The other players, thinking (probably rightly) that this was a bad idea, grappled the character before he reached the ballista to keep him from doing anything stupid. If they hadn't, how should I, as the DM, have handled the situation?

    Should I discourage the player from trying actions that are likely to fail catastrophically? (I mean, beyond the usual DM's "Are your really sure?") Should I tell the player what he would need to roll to make the plan work or let him decide whether to do it and then just start telling him what to roll? If he does go for it, should I let the predictable consequences ensue or try my hardest to make the crazy plan actually work?

    As it is, I did very little in the scenario, as the other players kept him from trying his plan, but I still feel like the whole thing was handled poorly all around. Any thoughts?

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    Ettin in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: How to handle players' crazy ideas

    I think that had the other players not restrained him, that you should have totally let him pull it off...on the condition that he shout WEEEEEEEE!!! at the top of his lungs as his character sailed gleefully through the air to his certain doom. That would be awesome!

    Then again, I'm a silly person sometimes.
    I apologise if I come across daft. I'm a bit like that. I also like a good argument, so please don't take offence if I'm somewhat...forthright.

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    Titan in the Playground
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    Default Re: How to handle players' crazy ideas

    If he had tried it, there would be two possible results: Either he would fail spectacularly, or he would succeed spectacularly. Either way, it would have been spectacular. Yeah, it might have been the death of his character, but we all have stories about epic character deaths. And really, isn't creating great stories the whole point of characters in the first place?
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    Default Re: How to handle players' crazy ideas

    let them have crazy ideas? Lemmie tell you, you should be facilitating them!
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    Default Re: How to handle players' crazy ideas

    I had a player busy himself for well over an hour trying to saw a horse in half with his staff, and couldn't figure out why the horse would fight back.

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    Ettin in the Playground
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    Default Re: How to handle players' crazy ideas

    Quote Originally Posted by Lord Il Palazzo View Post
    So, at my group's usual 3.5 session last week, the players found themselves on top of a tower, fighting a dragon. On the tower was a ballista, loaded with a bolt that will explode in acid on impact. One of the players (playing a ranger) decides that he wants his character to try to ride the ballista bolt to grab onto the dragon and attack it at close range (with a pair of dual-wielded bastard swords). The other players, thinking (probably rightly) that this was a bad idea, grappled the character before he reached the ballista to keep him from doing anything stupid. If they hadn't, how should I, as the DM, have handled the situation?

    Should I discourage the player from trying actions that are likely to fail catastrophically? (I mean, beyond the usual DM's "Are your really sure?") Should I tell the player what he would need to roll to make the plan work or let him decide whether to do it and then just start telling him what to roll? If he does go for it, should I let the predictable consequences ensue or try my hardest to make the crazy plan actually work?

    As it is, I did very little in the scenario, as the other players kept him from trying his plan, but I still feel like the whole thing was handled poorly all around. Any thoughts?
    Ask a semi-provactive question. For example, "Does your character understand the likely consequences of gravity in this world?"

    I personally would have had him take fall damage to the ground AND get the explosion damage of the bolt. Why? Because riding a flipping bolt is either going to do nothing (It won't fire, or it'll slip out from under you), or you'll fall.
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    BlueKnightGuy

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    Default Re: How to handle players' crazy ideas

    Personally I always go for the 'Any plan has a chance of succeeding' style. I would have let him try if he wanted to, but told him in no uncertain terms that it would be a difficult series of checks to pull it off and that failure could result in injury or even possibly death.

    If he still wanted to proceed I would have probably started off with a moderately difficult acrobatics check to stay on the ballista (failure = fall damage and the bolt goes on without you), a reflex save to avoid the acid when the bolt when off (failure = take the damage), and some kind of modified grapple check (maybe grapple vs. a set DC? Or a climb check to 'catch' your fall) to grab onto the dragon (failure = fall damage but you're now adjacent to the dragon). Net result on all successes would be some kind of atk/dmg bonus from being up there, something enough to make it worth it, but not enough to completely shift the battle (if this was 4E I would do something like +1 atk and you can add your weapon critical damage to non-crits. In 3.5 probably +1 atk and reroll the lowest 1-2 damage dice, something nice and a reward for the hard work, but not something that auto-wins the battle).

    I've found that allowing players to run with their crazy plans but keeping realism in there somewhere (while allowing it to be thrown out the window by a good set of rolls or a high modifier) gives the best balance of chances for epic moments and more mundane battles (that let the real epic moments really shine, can't have any highs if you don't have a baseline).

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    Sen isSaqqara's Avatar

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    Default Re: How to handle players' crazy ideas

    Yeah, you might want to go over the mechanics of how crossbows work. There's likely a bar between where he'd position himself and the place the bot is going. Even if there weren't, it would probably just shoot out from under him, giving him a nasty friction-burn to the crotch if not simply exploding like it is supposed to upon contact.
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    Default Re: How to handle players' crazy ideas

    Let him hit the dragon, let both of them be showered in the acid and tell him to make an attack roll. When he makes it (you're giving bonuses for awesome ideas, aren't you?), describe how he slams his sword into the hide of the dragon and is hanging onto it by the hilt of the sword.

    The dragon roars in anger, surprise and pain while it gets annihilated by a dedicated melee character with no sense of self-preservation that it CANNOT get away from.

    When the dragon dies, let him jump on its back and surf it through the air, until it crashes horribly into the ground, letting him roll gracefully off its back, a crazy glint in the eye and with another notch in his belt.


    Hell, I love cinematic games and wish that the people I play with would come up with crazy s**t like this more often. Of course, considering that the "DM vs. players" mentality seems ingrained in several of both players and GMs I've played with that doesn't happen often.
    So, I gotta do whatever I can do to encourage it.
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    Default Re: How to handle players' crazy ideas

    My general rule goes like this: If the player can explain how it will work, and they understand the possible consequences, the rule of cool applies, and let the dice roll (with severe penalties of course. Nothing is ever cool if its easy)

    The risk involved with failing in that situation is massive. Like, automatic gruesome death massive. If the player is willing to take that risk, ide say let them try. And of course its best to have them make six or seven checks in the process. This allows you to keep control, while still allowing the players to have stupid fun.

    Because honestly, that is the absolutely greatest stupid fun ive ever heard.

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    Ogre in the Playground
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    Default Re: How to handle players' crazy ideas

    Let the players do what they will think will work... and even have it work most of the time.

    Nothing pulls a player out of the game faster than springing "gotcha!" consequences on them, especially if you don't tell them beforehand exactly what's going to happen. Players always have expectations for how the world works, and they'll oftentimes not match yours. Don't punish them for having different expectations, especially in games about magic, heroes, or pulp action.

    So the first rule is, tell them how you're going to rule the situation, the consequences of failure, and the consequences of success. If it's something that the player character should not immediately be able to judge the reason for failure, like trying to put out a grease fire by throwing water on it (in a setting where this isn't commonly known) allow something like a Wisdom, Idea, or equivalent check for the system, and tell him why that would be a bad idea.

    The second rule is, let the players have their fun. If the guy playing the valiant knight wants to throw his magic sword into the dragon's throat for the final blow... why not let him? Hell, unless your game makes a point of being gritty and realistic, even give him a bonus for it.
    It always amazes me how often people on forums would rather accuse you of misreading their posts with malice than re-explain their ideas with clarity.

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    RedWizardGuy

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    Default Re: How to handle players' crazy ideas

    The answer to your question is going to depend on your gaming group. You'll need to figure that out at your table. You have a ranger dual wielding bastard swords trying to ride exploding balista bolts, he's already voted for the type of game he wants with his character choice and actions. The other players voted by trying to restrain him.

    I suggest asking your gaming group about the type of game they want. It would be best to find some common ground to work from, and use that to answer your question.

    Quote Originally Posted by Delvin Darkwood View Post
    If the player is willing to take that risk, ide say let them try. And of course its best to have them make six or seven checks in the process.
    The problem with this is that the more times you roll the dice, the more chances you have to fail. Making six or seven checks works out to telling the player "No, you can't do that" in the vast majority of games.

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    Barbarian in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: How to handle players' crazy ideas

    As long as he jumps when he gets close so he doesn't end up with his legs getting dissolved I actually think this would have a decent chance of success if the party worked with him to make it happen.

    Admittedly at best then he's holding one a dragon by his swords which are stuck, or not stuck, in the dragon, meaning that at best he can maybe get one sword out to take attacks or at worst miss entirely and end up falling/being shot to his death (which, if this happens, ending up in the bolt's acid is a near certainty) But hey, it's something.
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    Barbarian in the Playground
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    Quote Originally Posted by Randomatic View Post
    The problem with this is that the more times you roll the dice, the more chances you have to fail. Making six or seven checks works out to telling the player "No, you can't do that" in the vast majority of games.
    I interpretted have "the player make six or seven checks" as meaning "give them lots of chances to succeed" rather than "give them lots of chances to fail". I feel like, if I were doing it again and the others hadn't restrained the ranger, I would have gone that route, giving enough checks that some part of the plan is more likely to work (if the bolt misses, make a jump check to reach the dragon from the bolt, if a modified grapple check fails, make a climb check (possibly keyed to dex) to catch hold of the tail, etc.)

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    Default Re: How to handle players' crazy ideas

    If I'd been DMing, and someone had suggested that, after a moment of dead silence to contemplate the sheer idiocy of that idea (me and the other players both), my response would have been:

    "Ahahahahahano.

    Ballistas do not work that way.

    *smacks upside the head, assuming the player nearest to victim hasn't done so already*

    Moving on."

    If I was running Rolemaster at the time, on the other hand, where I can just use extistant rules, I'd have been far more likely to say "okay, make me a Virtually Impossible1 manoeuvre, so that's a -200 penalty to the roll, and bear in mind that you will require a total of at least a 375 to actually succeed completely, and that any result below 100 is likely to instantly kill you, if not outright, then from the multiple E critcals you'll take. Still want to try? No? Thought not."

    Actually, on second thought, the player would be lucky to get away without a Maximised Disintegrate to the bowels. And yes, I DO mean the player, not the character. I treat player disipline very seriously...

    (I mean, where do I even BEGIN? If they player actually argued with that ruling, they would get a detailed explanation about how utterly ludicrous that idea is from start to finish...)

    Rule-of-cool does have a place in my games, but it is absolutely NOT king and takes second place to common sense, and often third place to the laws of physics unless aided by copious amounts of magic/technology etc. (You stand more chance with Rule of Funny, to be honest, if I personally, find it amusing and not simply innane. This would not be one of those times.)

    You play in my games, and regardless of what rules we're using, you're playing in an imperfect simulation of the real world. That means that you can't break the laws of physics without a reason (e.g. copious amounts of supernatural or technological powers/equipment) - "because the metaphorical player thinks it's cool/funny/wants to gain an advantage that the rules don't give them2" is not one of those reasons.

    (The player who came up with that in our games would be laughed out of the room (metaphorically) and we'd likely never let him forget that particular bit of attempted idiocy, like ever... Of course, over half our regular players are engineers and technicians, all of whom have at least a good grounding in physics, so allowing something that would totally destroy any semblence of immersion for everyone (myself included).)

    But, I, of course, am a miserable old toe-rag at the best of times.

    And a miserable old toe-rag who has to do 95% of the DMing these days, I mean, seriously, I have a weekly gaming group and four day-games per year, and on a good year I get to play maybe twice AND I'm a requires-heavy-prep DM, too. But if I don't do it, then we don't play. So you'll damn well play by my rules when I'm running, or yer can DM yourself. And, by all means do so, really, I'm not gonna moan, and I'm quite happy to accept whatever you're running - within reason, I mean I draw the line at Vampire, obviously...) Not that I'm bitter, nor that I got disproportionally petty enjoyment out of that demon grappling both the psion and the sorceress and using them as impromptu cymbols last gaming session or anything.



    But as Randomatic says, it depends on your gaming group. (And if the metaphorical you is the only one coming up with that sort of idea, and on a regular basis, then you need to either find a more appropriate gaming group for your playstyle or if unable or unwilling, you need to curb it back, lest you annoy everyone.)



    1A category I have yet to ever have to use in 20+ years of running RM.

    2Which has happened occasionally, when a player wants to do something like called shots or do something strange that they think that lets them do insta-kills, in a system like D&D where the rules aren't designed for that level of abstraction.
    Last edited by Aotrs Commander; 2012-01-17 at 07:59 PM.

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    Troll in the Playground
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    Default Re: How to handle players' crazy ideas

    If that was in Exalted, it'd be a two, maybe three-die stunt.
    Imagine if all real-world conversations were like internet D&D conversations...
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    RogueGuy

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    Default Re: How to handle players' crazy ideas

    In my (somewhat brief) time as a DM I've heard a lot of arguably insane ideas from players. That idea officially takes the cake. A normal ballista is not built in such a way that this idea is even physically possible.

    That aside, let's say it was possible. Unless they've got a crack-shot ballista engineer operating the machine compensating for the weight of a fully equipped ranger is going to be extremely difficult, and that's assuming the ballista even produces the force necessary to launch the standard projectile and the 200-odd pounds of ranger plus gear along for the ride.

    I would say if he were adamant about trying this idea and nobody else tried to stop him you really should point out this idea has a very high chance of going completely and horribly wrong. For starters, the person firing the ballista needs to hit the dragon successfully. Second, the ranger needs to get a hold of that dragon and keep his grip even going at a high rate of speed. Then there's the matter of staying on a dragon that will be trying to roll him off AND trying to attack the dragon at the same time. If he still wants to try, start making some rolls and hope he's got a Feather Fall handy for the very likely event of him failing at least one roll.

    I'm all for crazy ideas that have a chance of working. Jumping onto a monster's back to try and strike it where it can't strike you. Rolling underneath a land-bound monster to aim for a soft under-belly. Trying to cripple legs, etc. This is not one of those 'crazy but workable' ideas. This is one of those 'just plain crazy' ideas.
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    Dr.Epic's Avatar

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    Default Re: How to handle players' crazy ideas

    Let them. Let them just do stuff that will get them killed, make them create a new character so that they waste their own time instead of having fun. Problem solved.

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    Default Re: How to handle players' crazy ideas

    I'm in the "let the player do it" camp on this. Absurd awesome is what many of us play the game for

    In my group it follows a structure as follows:
    Player: I am going to do X (wield a city bus as nunchaku/attack scenery/bullrush enemy off tower and ride him down/try to jump up falling meteors)
    DM: Are you absolutely suicidaly certain?
    Entire table: Honestly, we know you have an awesome addiction, I give him/her 80% odds
    DM: ...yeah

    Penalties or bonuses are applied to a general check (roll highish on a d20 type stuff) based on how awesome the description is

    Then I ask the following type of question:

    So, how are you getting down?
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    Default Re: How to handle players' crazy ideas

    Quote Originally Posted by Dr.Epic View Post
    Let them. Let them just do stuff that will get them killed, make them create a new character so that they waste their own time instead of having fun. Problem solved.
    I absolutely despise this attitude. The one from the post beneath it is a much better way of looking at the game than this. You don't "punish" people for thinking that something is awesome, whether directly or through "allowing them to face the consequences," JUST because said "awesome" thing is unrealistic.
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    When I opened my eyes, I was in a fantasy world. I quickly discovered that it functioned off of game-like rules (levels, EXP, skills, and so on). Taking the name Zenith, I decided to make the best of my new world and live as an adventurer aiming for the top together with my new best friend Rozenskye. And I might be functionally immortal? An Isekai-style story.

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    Default Re: How to handle players' crazy ideas

    I love when players have crazy ideas, for good or ill. I'd always warn a player about just how crazy and unlikely it is than an idea will work, and tell them how I'll resolve any checks, but if they want to try something, sure go for it.

    This would rank up there as "incredibly unlikely."
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    Default Re: How to handle players' crazy ideas

    Quote Originally Posted by DoctorGlock View Post
    Then I ask the following type of question:

    So, how are you getting down?
    "Gravity".
    Imagine if all real-world conversations were like internet D&D conversations...
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    Default Re: How to handle players' crazy ideas

    id say that idea is about a dc23 or 24 strenght check to hold on to the bolt being fired, a about -4 on the bolt to hit, and about a dc 25 reflex save to avoid taking the same damage from the acid as the dragon would get.


    .... yeah i had some silly players.. a greenhaired gnome ramping a river with a selfmade steampowered hoovercraft doesnt even make my top 5

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    Default Re: How to handle players' crazy ideas

    Quote Originally Posted by Belril Duskwalk and friends View Post
    Ballistae do not work that way! RARRR
    Well, to be totally fair, Video games have always taught us that ballistae are just really big crossbows, rather than boxy roman-like version, and he was probably expecting the crossbow.

    Also, depending on level, it might have been very survivable (but he probably didnít know that I.C.)
    Last edited by Doorhandle; 2012-01-18 at 02:21 AM.
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    Default Re: How to handle players' crazy ideas

    Quote Originally Posted by TriForce View Post
    id say that idea is about a dc23 or 24 strenght check to hold on to the bolt being fired, a about -4 on the bolt to hit, and about a dc 25 reflex save to avoid taking the same damage from the acid as the dragon would get.


    .... yeah i had some silly players.. a greenhaired gnome ramping a river with a selfmade steampowered hoovercraft doesnt even make my top 5
    Not bad. I'd add that for the bolt to hit has the penalty, but as long as it reaches touch attack range he's close enough to make the attack, but the acid bolt wont hit.

    Anyway, since the DMG doesn't have a section entitled "The one of my players is a madman" the correct way to deal with a situation like that is kludge together a rule for what they want to do using an arbitrary system of penalties and bonuses mostly based on a combination of gut-instinct and strange hunches.
    Last edited by Gettles; 2012-01-18 at 06:24 AM.
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    Imp

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    Default Re: How to handle players' crazy ideas

    Ok so, first you get a major penalty to hit because there's a ranger on the bolt weiging it down. If you miss the dragon then that would just be totally hillarious.
    Secondly, there's a strength check involved to hold on, if failed the ranger will still be tossed off the tower.
    Since the ranger is sitting on the bolt, he'll take the acid damage without a save, unlike the dragon.
    And if everything goes as planned, he'll be within reach of the dragon, but his weapons will be occupied.
    And if he manages to kill the dragon in mid-air, he'll take fall damage, after he's taken acid damage and collision damage with the dragon.

    Basically, you should've let him do it.
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    SwashbucklerGuy

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    Default Re: How to handle players' crazy ideas

    As others have said its all abou the game you want to run and the group.

    Some games I have run (Mainly Torg here, running around the new nile empire) this would work, in fact not doing this kind of thing would be frowned upon.

    Trying to do this in DnD would get me explaining the rolls needed and how slim the chance was of success and how little you would gain even if it did work.

    Niether is right or wrong. I always try to give my players a hand out at the start of a campaign detailing what kind of game I am looking for. They usual play within the bounds, if its a pulp super heroics kind of thing then they would try the crazy, if not they leave it behind.

    Oddly in Torg, I could have this kind of actions for a few weeks of play as my PCs romp through the New Nile Empire fighting super villians and saving the day. Then the same characters can end up in Orrosh and spend time investigating the horrors that seem to be taken children from a nearby town. No fighting or stuns just horror and investigation.

    I miss Torg.
    Spoiler
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    Milo - I know what you are thinking Ork, has he fired 5 shots or 6, well as this is a wand of scorching ray, the most powerful second level wand in the world. What you have to ask your self is "Do I feel Lucky", well do you, Punk.
    Galkin - Erm Milo, wands have 50 charges not 6.
    Milo - NEATO !!
    BLAST

  28. - Top - End - #28
    Ogre in the Playground
     
    Comet's Avatar

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    Default Re: How to handle players' crazy ideas

    Let him or don't but do it all out of character before the actual action happens. While the player might have different expectations to how the world works, the character most likely would not. So making things clear out of character would be the only way to keep the story in any way sensible.

    I'd most probably allow it, assuming D&D. Probably with a fairly good chance of serious injury but still.
    "What can change the nature of a man?"
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    Titan in the Playground
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    Default Re: How to handle players' crazy ideas

    If he's the sort of player who complains when I enforce the rules that I'm "not letting him play his character", then I will let him play his character.

  30. - Top - End - #30
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    Default Re: How to handle players' crazy ideas

    When (funny that it's never 'if') my players come up with a crazy idea like that, what I do is work out a fair procedure to attempt it and then let them go through with the plan.

    In this case, I could see the procedure going something like--

    Step 1: Climb check to hold onto the ballista bolt when it's launched. Rationale for using Climb is it's Strength based and the skill to use when you want to hold onto to something solid against gravity or an opposing force. My group has made presidence for this before.

    Step 2: Splash damage from Acid (Assuming the bolt hits the dragon). The player takes "X" Acid splash damage, mitigated by any Acid resistances or Evasion abilities (I personally alow Evasion for splash damages).

    Step 3: Grapple check to grab onto the dragon. The important step here! Even if the bolt misses its target, the player could easily jump off and grab a hold onto the dragon (No need for a Jump check in my mind. i'm keeping it simple). A successful grapple check means you hold onto the dragon. A failure means you're bucked off/slip/lost your grip and you now face the oncoming ground at 9.8 m/s^2.


    And yeah, I've had players jump onto flying dragons from odd locations. Though not from a sailing ballista bolt. That's a new one.
    Digo Dragon - Artist
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