New OOTS products from CafePress
New OOTS t-shirts, ornaments, mugs, bags, and more
Page 1 of 2 12 LastLast
Results 1 to 30 of 39
  1. - Top - End - #1
    Titan in the Playground
    Join Date
    Feb 2011

    Default The Cliffs of Insanity

    This is one of those DM-only threads, so my players should go off and fire up Halo 4.



    In our last session, the players took the ship's launch across a hundred miles of open ocean, seeking out a small, craggy island with an abandoned monastery hidden somewhere high above. After an encounter with some local wildlife, we ended with the ship's boat being dragged up onto the beach and the party collapsing on the sand to tend their wounds.

    To reach the monastery they'll need to plow through some challenging terrain, and first on the list is a massive cliff-face. One of the PCs had the foresight to bring several lengths of rope and a dozen pitons, so they're expecting to do some climbing. I want the challenge to, shall we say, exceed their expectations.

    In particular:

    1. How should I manage the skill checks having to do with climbing, hammering pitons, using the rope, etc.? The party is fifth level with no flight whatsoever, and I want this to be a challenging climb in its own right.

    2. What sorts of encounters can I throw at a party while they're hanging from ropes on a sheer cliff-face? I'd like this to be rigorous, memorable, and hopefully panic-inducing.

    .
    Last edited by Palanan; 2013-01-28 at 11:56 AM.

  2. - Top - End - #2
    Titan in the Playground
     
    Snowbluff's Avatar

    Join Date
    Sep 2011

    Default Re: The Cliffs of Insanity

    Bat Swarms are fun. Throw some of those at them.

    Also, a man who screams "Inconceivable!"
    Avatar of Rudisplork Avatar of PC-dom and Slayer of the Internet. Extended sig
    GitP Regulars as: Vestiges Spells Weapons Races Deities Feats Soulmelds/Veils
    Quote Originally Posted by Darrin View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Snowbluff View Post
    All gaming systems should be terribly flawed and exploitable if you want everyone to be happy with them. This allows for a wide variety of power levels for games for different levels of players.
    I dub this the Snowbluff Axiom.

  3. - Top - End - #3
    Titan in the Playground
     
    ClericGuy

    Join Date
    Jan 2013

    Default Re: The Cliffs of Insanity

    Far as panic inducing, it's hard to beat something like a small rockslide when you're 500 feet up a cliff face.

    And of course having a Spaniard at the top of the cliff who offers to lower a rope to them. And not cut it on his honor as a Spaniard.

    I'd avoid having things actually attack them while climbing though. The rules for Combat while Climbing are, well, a pain in the ass. And even with a rope and pitons likely to lead to a few deaths just through falling, least in my experience. Particularly if there are party members who haven't maxed their skill ranks in Climb.
    Currently sick as a dog and unable to focus properly. Will heal soon.

  4. - Top - End - #4
    Troll in the Playground
     
    RFLS's Avatar

    Join Date
    Feb 2012
    Location
    Spring, TX
    Gender
    Male

    Default Re: The Cliffs of Insanity

    Cliff dwelling creatures of any sort could be entertaining. Darkmantle swarm is always fun, but, if they're on cliffs, I actually recommend giving four or five of these a climb speed.

  5. - Top - End - #5
    Bugbear in the Playground
     
    Mephibosheth's Avatar

    Join Date
    Jul 2005
    Location
    At the home of the blues
    Gender
    Male

    Default Re: The Cliffs of Insanity

    This is an interesting challenge. The problem, in my experience, with using skill-based obstacles as encounters is that they're so often overcome (or not) with just a couple rolls of a d20.

    I'd recommend first making each player describe how their character is climbing. I played a game once where my character (a nimble scout) and another character (a hulking barbarian) were trapped on an iceberg and had to jump on chunks of ice to go from our iceberg to the shore. It was really just a series of Jump checks, but describing the differences between how my character and the barbarian managed the challenges made all the difference. It could have been a one-and-done skill roll, but we got into the descriptions and it's now one of my favorite gaming memories. I don't know if you have any rock climbing experience, but there's a lot more to it than brute strength. Encourage your players to take advantage of that fact. I'm happy to answer any rock climbing questions if you need more information.

    I'd also recommend varying the terrain. A lot of the challenge in rock climbing comes from finding the best/most difficult/most enjoyable route up a rock face using the different features that are available. Cracks, chimneys, inside corners, prows, long horizontal breaks, pockets, and other features all make for very different climbing experiences and would allow you to vary the DCs. Perhaps some stretches of cliff are easy to traverse whereas others are more difficult. This being a sea cliff, you could have some interesting features to work with. Cliffs near bodies of water often have stalactite-like limestone formations, as well as large eroded pockets. Make the players imagine how their characters are dealing with these various features.

    I also second the rock slide as something that could induce some panic. It might also be fun to have one of them fall and a piton or two pull out. They might still be caught by a third piton, but losing one or two pieces of protection will make them think twice about taking risks.

    If you're looking for ways to insert creatures into the encounter but don't want to deal with the dangers and complications of fighting and climbing, maybe insert some large ledges where combats could take place in situations where balancing. Or place encounters that can be avoided through judicious use of thrown rocks and ranged weapons. Things that can be either killed or scared away at range. An encounter in a chimney might be fun; the PCs would have to stand their ground in order to avoid leaving the relative safety of the chimney.
    Last edited by Mephibosheth; 2013-01-28 at 12:56 PM.
    The Scroungers Campaign Setting
    Main Thread | Crunch

    Other Projects
    The Giver d20
    Other Homebrew
    A Zombiemageddon Campaign Journal!

  6. - Top - End - #6
    Titan in the Playground
    Join Date
    Feb 2011

    Default Re: The Cliffs of Insanity

    Thanks for the suggestions so far. The rockslide is a good idea, and I may also use natural creatures like bats or cliff swallows.

    Originally Posted by Mephibosheth
    I don't know if you have any rock climbing experience, but there's a lot more to it than brute strength.
    I've done a little climbing, but not enough to take on a cliff like this. (Also, I have to say I love your avatar's bodhran. ; )

    Originally Posted by Mephibosheth
    I'd also recommend varying the terrain.... Cracks, chimneys, inside corners, prows, long horizontal breaks, pockets, and other features all make for very different climbing experiences and would allow you to vary the DCs.
    This is exactly what I'd like to do, although I don't have a strong sense of what the DCs should be for each of these. --Help me plan a route? I'll take one of everything.

    Originally Posted by Mephibosheth
    An encounter in a chimney might be fun; the PCs would have to stand their ground in order to avoid leaving the relative safety of the chimney.
    ...and this, too. That kind of tactical dilemma is just the sort of thing I'd like to throw at the players.

    Can you suggest a real-world cliff face with some of these features? That would help me get a sense of how and where they naturally occur.

  7. - Top - End - #7
    Firbolg in the Playground
     
    RogueGuy

    Join Date
    May 2010
    Location
    ganiseville GA
    Gender
    Male

    Default Re: The Cliffs of Insanity

    http://www.d20srd.org/srd/skills/climb.htm

    Well, you base climb DC will vary from a very rough natural wall (DC 15) to a smooth natural wall (DC 25)

    Then a chimney or corner feature of reduces the DC by 10 and 5 respectively.

    Then you have moss or a spring of water that makes some sections slippery, upping the DC by 5

    So your actual DC to climb the wall can range from 5 to 30 for a natural cliff.

    Make there be a couple paths, and let the party decide if they want to climb the chimney or up the shear face. Of course the bats all nest in the chimney and don't like someone climbing through their nest.

  8. - Top - End - #8
    Bugbear in the Playground
     
    Mephibosheth's Avatar

    Join Date
    Jul 2005
    Location
    At the home of the blues
    Gender
    Male

    Default Re: The Cliffs of Insanity

    As far as pictures of sea cliff features, I highly recommend doing image searches for climbing in Krabi (Thailand), Kalymnos (Greece), or Mallorca. Kalymnos especially is a great example of interesting sea cliff features. And don't forget that climbers higher up can be a major cause of rockfall! And water could be another major problem, either from sea spray or from the top of cliff (seeping down or in waterfall form).

    As far as determining Climb DCs for various features, this is what I usually do. It's probably more complicated than most people need, but it combines my love of climbing and D&D, so I don't mind putting a lot into it. So, I live and learned to climb in the US, where we use the Yosemite decimal system. Because I'm so familiar with it, I find it helpful to base Climb DCs off of what I guess the face's Yosemite rating would be. Here's a page that explains different rating systems if you need clarification or conversion between systems.

    I start from a baseline of 5.7, which is where my experience tells me that climbing gets truly difficult for complete beginners. So, a 5.7 climb is DC 15. The DC then increases by 1 for every increase in difficulty rating. So:

    5.8 equals DC 16
    5.9 equals DC 17
    5.10 equals DC 18-19
    5.11 equals DC 20-21
    5.12 equals DC 22-23
    5.13 equals DC 24-25
    Etc.

    And don't forget the circumstance modifiers in the PHB. Inside corners and chimneys can reduce DCs, overhangs have higher DCs, etc. If find that this, while not perfect, helps me in visualizing what a DC X rock face should look like. It might or might not help you, but this is my methodology.

    So, with all this in mind, here are some sample pitches. A pitch is usually defined as being approximately one rope length but can really just be a stretch of cliff of any length that has a fairly well-defined beginning and end. I'd actually recommend just having a list of possible pitches to mix and match as needed to make the route. I'd also recommend planning a few adjacent routes in case the PCs want to traverse sideways onto an easier stretch. And don't be afraid to have the easy routes peter out and force them to backtrack! ;) And feel free to elaborate on these descriptions.

    Pitch 1: 60-70 feet of really hard climbing at the base of the cliff. Wave action has eroded a very steep overhang that goes back into the cliff about 50 feet but only climbs about 30 feet above the waves. Lots of stalactite-like features make climbing possible, but the overhang makes it possibly the hardest pitch on the cliff. DC 22 ish. Pulling over the edge of the overhang onto a slightly-less-than-vertical lip (where they can rest) can be a hard (DC 24) move by itself.

    Pitch 2: 30 feet of moderate climbing at the base of the cliff. A narrow extrusion of harder rock has resisted erosion, creating a narrow prow formation that can be climbed with holds on either side of the prow. DC 17.

    Pitch 3: 90 feet of easy-moderate climbing in a chimney. A dried-up river carved out a vertical chimney about twice as wide as the average adult human's shoulders. Smooth and somewhat shallow, but very climbable. DC 8.

    Pitch 4: 100 feet of blank slightly-less-than-vertical face with small handholds. Difficult to climb but the angle of the wall makes it easier. DC 21.

    Pitch 5: 55 feet of slightly overhanging face with large eroded pockets. Good holds but very tiring. DC 18.

    Pitch 6: 75 feet of vertical face with hard mineral extrusions. The extrusions form in horizontal ridges, resulting in regular holds that, while small, are easy to grab. DC 20.

    Pitch 7: A narrow spire just a few feet from the main cliff has collapsed, creating an inside corner. Climbers can wedge themselves in the corner and balance. Fairly easy to climb. DC 16.

    Pitch 8: 45 feet of gently-overhanging wall interrupted by limestone stalactites. Easy climbing (DC 15) but the stalactites are somewhat fragile and will crumble if used too extensively or if climbers are too heavy.

    Pitch 9: 65 feet of fist-width vertical crack. Very difficult to climb at first (DC 22), but if someone explicitly says they're jamming their fists and feats inside the crack, the DC lowers to 18.

    Hopefully that's enough to get you started.

    Quote Originally Posted by Palanan
    I have to say I love your avatar's bodhran
    Thanks! I'm glad you like it. I've been teaching myself to play bodhran piecemeal over the past few years. It's tons of fun!
    The Scroungers Campaign Setting
    Main Thread | Crunch

    Other Projects
    The Giver d20
    Other Homebrew
    A Zombiemageddon Campaign Journal!

  9. - Top - End - #9
    Bugbear in the Playground
    Join Date
    Mar 2011
    Location
    Yes
    Gender
    Male

    Default Re: The Cliffs of Insanity

    Throw in some fortitude checks too (give a bonus if they have the endurance feat).
    [PF] HP Calculator - Fractional HP, now without math!
    [PF] Initiator NPC Templates - Quickly applied maneuvers for DMs.
    [PF] Initiator Balance Rule - A lightweight fix to balance casting and martial classes.

  10. - Top - End - #10
    Orc in the Playground
     
    Planetar

    Join Date
    Jun 2012
    Location
    Taxachusetts

    Default Re: The Cliffs of Insanity

    You could put in a cave/hollow partway up with a crazy hermit living inside. Depending how your group is handling the challenge, you can alter the hermit's atittude towards them.

    He could be a loner hermit who throws rocks at them, a helpful one who gives climbing advice, one who feeds the party special mushrooms that he grew himself (it's not like there's a lot of food in cliffside caves), or perhaps a lonely fish-man who drinks Bailey's and falls in love with a party member (though that one will probably get PHBs thrown at you).

  11. - Top - End - #11
    Bugbear in the Playground
     
    Flumph

    Join Date
    Jun 2011
    Location
    Montréal, Québec
    Gender
    Male

    Default Re: The Cliffs of Insanity

    Whatever you do, you need an angry dire-gorilla at the top of the cliff who's hurling barrels at the players.
    Quote Originally Posted by doko239 View Post
    Or be a Bard Lich and tell people you're Keith Richards
    If I'm a monk using lettuce as an Improvised Thrown Weapon, does that make me a salad-tosser ???
    Les Goblins Toxiques : A geek blog (in French) where I write about RPG, M:TG and such. Also has a podcast / radio show. RIP 2012 We had a great run but RL caught up with us!

  12. - Top - End - #12
    Halfling in the Playground
     
    NecromancerGuy

    Join Date
    Nov 2012

    Default Re: The Cliffs of Insanity

    Quote Originally Posted by Zubrowka74 View Post
    Whatever you do, you need an angry dire-gorilla at the top of the cliff who's hurling barrels at the players.
    That is so obvious and great, that I stole it right now on the spot :-)

  13. - Top - End - #13
    Halfling in the Playground
     
    BlackDragon

    Join Date
    Dec 2012

    Default Re: The Cliffs of Insanity

    Do your players have any ranks in climb? If I remember correctly from your previous threads you have a barbarian and a bard. They don't have any sort of spell to help them out and no climb ranks, and you said you've given them some sort of nasty disease, and now they're injured from their last fight.

    Do you actually hate these characters and want your players to make new ones or something? Just asking cause this is a great way to lose one or both of your PCs, especially if they fight while climbing.

    Should be a fun session though lol

  14. - Top - End - #14
    Titan in the Playground
    Join Date
    Feb 2011

    Default Re: The Cliffs of Insanity

    Originally Posted by Mephibosheth
    *wall of sheer climbing awesomeness*
    Whew. Thanks for the detailed route, I really appreciate it--and thanks also for the careful work calibrating the DCs to the Yosemite scale. I have a few questions, but wanted to give you a couple more details on the scenario first:

    Spoiler
    Show
    On a future island I'm planning for sea-cliffs straight up from the water, but for this session the cliffs will be upslope from the shoreline and about half a mile back. I'm taking my inspiration from the Nacimiento del Rio Asón, although in my version they'll be forced to climb up the cliff face rather than hiking up along an easier slope. (I'm not trying to replicate the Nacimiento cliff, just going for the general look.)

    Also, there's one other important feature I should mention: on the cliff in my scenario, there was originally a rather perilous set of steps which the brothers of the monastery had hewn from the rock over several generations.

    Centuries before the party arrived, unfortunately, the monastery was sacked and destroyed by adherents of another faith, and the steps were bombarded with a siege engine to prevent any further access. I'm thinking that only one-quarter of the original steps remain, and those are badly damaged--and they don't start until about 300 feet up.


    Originally Posted by Mephibosheth
    So, with all this in mind, here are some sample pitches....
    Again, thanks for all the thought you put into this. I assume this is designed for characters using ropes and pitons, rather than free-climbing?

    The party as a whole only has a few lengths of rope and a dozen spikes for pitons, plus a climbing kit which presumably has a few more. Should I let them pound the pitons without a problem, or will those require a Strength check or Climb check for proper placement and depth?

    You also comment about how tiring some of these pitches will be, which is something I can appreciate from a total beginner's perspective. Would you suggest increasing the DCs after a certain amount of time spent on a pitch, and decreasing after they've had a chance to rest? Or is there a better way to deal with the issues of fatigue?

    Originally Posted by Mephibosheth
    Pulling over the edge of the overhang onto a slightly-less-than-vertical lip (where they can rest) can be a hard (DC 24) move by itself.
    In fact, there are one or two members of the party who are so weakened right now that they probably won't be able to manage this maneuver. Can you suggest any options for hauling, assisting, or carrying by other party members?

    Originally Posted by Mephibosheth
    And don't be afraid to have the easy routes peter out and force them to backtrack!
    Hm. Am I this kind of DM?

    Yes, I think I am.


  15. - Top - End - #15
    Firbolg in the Playground
     
    SamuraiGuy

    Join Date
    Nov 2012
    Location
    Colorado
    Gender
    Male

    Default Re: The Cliffs of Insanity

    There are lots of good ideas already.

    I think an important idea is that if you want some parts to be really, really hard then you need what would in a video game be "save points". Ledges or caves or what have you where they can rest for a minute, let the low-strength people catch their breath, and plan their next move. Unless you want to have this be a "see, Endurance doesn't suck as a feat" event and have the Barbarian carrying the rest of the party the last 50'.

    As for encounters, once while rock climbing I came to a ledge, and a rattlesnake was rattling 6" from my face. It was a small rattler, I don't think it was any longer than 50 or 60 feet . That's the sort of thing I'd use - not battles to the death, but things that make them drop (and test how well their pitons are secured), and have to choose a new route or figure out how to deal with the small but dangerous beast.

    A cliff-dwelling anchorite who offers to show them a path via the cave to the top, avoiding the rest of the climb, but is actually teh evul and intends to lead them to Shelob-equivalent so he can loot the corpses is a possibility. You can throw in a big fight without having to also have the risk of someone rolling a 1 and falling far enough that any 5th level character is dead.

  16. - Top - End - #16
    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    sambouchah's Avatar

    Join Date
    Dec 2012
    Location
    Bowling Green, KY
    Gender
    Male

    Default Re: The Cliffs of Insanity

    Okay first off I really appreciate the Princess Bride reference. Always loved the R.O.U.S

    Secondly, possibly increase the DC for time spent climbing. Like for each hour without resting add two to the check. Or maybe even cause jump checks over gaps. I think in the players book there is a table for wind conditions which I believe change as you climb higher(I climb trees, not cliffs so I wouldn't know for sure).

    And if the party i relatively cunning and/or optimized you could throw a blood ape or two at them(if there is a tree nearby I suppose).

    Hope I helped
    Thanks to Gnomish Wanderer for my awesome avatar! Thanks to my friend John Thompson for the original photo.

    You may call me Pokefan Sam.






  17. - Top - End - #17
    Titan in the Playground
     
    Flumph

    Join Date
    Nov 2010

    Default Re: The Cliffs of Insanity

    You could have something trying to bump them off. Say they get too close to an eagle's nest, the eagles peck at them (forcing more Climb checks and making quickly fending them off imperative), or giant eagles try to Bull Rush them off if they make the Climb checks too easily. Obviously they only show up when the PCs are too high up to go down safely (although a successful Spot check means they see some eagles and have a chance to prepare) For some tension, the eagles could circle them for a while.

    Giant spiders and lizards may have made the cliff their home. Naturally, they're violent toward outsiders who stray too close. They might have little caverns containing rest-spots, webbing, cute harmless (or not so harmless ) monster-babies, and the gear of previous victims piled on one side like a trophy wall. They may find the victims' broken bones at the bottom of the cliff, a grim foreshadowing of the dangers above.

    A few trees and vines may have grown out of the side of the cliff, providing a slim chance that a falling character may still survive. Even if he succeeds the comparatively high DC to grab it while falling, he'll still take a bit of damage from the fall.

  18. - Top - End - #18
    Bugbear in the Playground
     
    Mephibosheth's Avatar

    Join Date
    Jul 2005
    Location
    At the home of the blues
    Gender
    Male

    Default Re: The Cliffs of Insanity

    First, I mis-remembered my Climb DC to Yosemite Decimal System breakdown. The actual version I use is:

    {table=head]YDS|Climb DC
    5.3 or lower|15
    5.8|20
    5.9|21
    5.10|22-24
    5.11|25-28
    5.12|30-33
    5.13|34-37
    4.14|37-40[/table]

    Quote Originally Posted by Palanan
    I assume this is designed for characters using ropes and pitons, rather than free-climbing?

    The party as a whole only has a few lengths of rope and a dozen spikes for pitons, plus a climbing kit which presumably has a few more. Should I let them pound the pitons without a problem, or will those require a Strength check or Climb check for proper placement and depth?
    For most of what we think of as rock climbing, there's no real difference between free soloing (not using any safety gear) and using ropes and pitons. Someone still has to climb mostly un-aided and place the gear as they go. So I assume that at least one party member is climbing without using the rope to make upward progress, but using it for safety and the odd assist (the +2 bonus granted by a climbing kit). Then that person can establish a strong anchor and the others can climb to that DC 5; a rope with a wall to brace against. If you want to deal with the rope catching a falling climber, let the lead climber make a Climb check against the DC of the face for each piton. If they fail to beat the DC by 2 or more, there's a 25% chance that the piton will pull out if they fall (though one farther down might still catch them). If they don't beat the DC, there's a 50% chance the piton will fail. Might be worth it for the fun of dealing with falling and not dying, but might also be too much work.

    Quote Originally Posted by Palanan
    You also comment about how tiring some of these pitches will be, which is something I can appreciate from a total beginner's perspective. Would you suggest increasing the DCs after a certain amount of time spent on a pitch, and decreasing after they've had a chance to rest? Or is there a better way to deal with the issues of fatigue?
    I'd just let them make Fort saves against fatigue starting at a low DC and growing slowly but re-starting after a rest. Give them meaningful bonuses to the save for high strength or ranks in Climb and Balance.

    Quote Originally Posted by Palanan
    In fact, there are one or two members of the party who are so weakened right now that they probably won't be able to manage this maneuver. Can you suggest any options for hauling, assisting, or carrying by other party members?
    You could use the partner system I described above or the rules for pulling someone up via rope, which are under the Climb skill description in the SRD.

    Hope that helps. Always happy to answer other questions.
    The Scroungers Campaign Setting
    Main Thread | Crunch

    Other Projects
    The Giver d20
    Other Homebrew
    A Zombiemageddon Campaign Journal!

  19. - Top - End - #19
    Titan in the Playground
    Join Date
    Feb 2011

    Default Re: The Cliffs of Insanity

    Much appreciated once more. You're giving this scenario the rigor and realism I really enjoy.

    Originally Posted by Mephibosheth
    Might be worth it for the fun of dealing with falling and not dying, but might also be too much work.
    No, no, falling and not dying is good.

    Originally Posted by Mephibosheth
    You could use the partner system I described above or the rules for pulling someone up via rope, which are under the Climb skill description in the SRD.
    The partner system sounds good, and I'm expecting the players to come up with something like this anyway. I don't think they have much personal climbing experience, but I have one player who's logical, resourceful and together. He's the one who assembled a climbing kit and the extra gear, and he knows these cliffs are the next challenge, so he'll have something planned.

    Originally Posted by Mephibosheth
    Always happy to answer other questions.
    Well, I do have one or two more.

    You mentioned earlier having some kind of fight in a chimney, where the party would be stuck fighting with their backs against the wall--or rather, with their backs against open air. I really like that.

    Any suggestions on the details of that encounter? Were you thinking the party would find a ledge or something in the chimney, or would they each be clinging with one hand and fighting with the other?

    Also, one of my players loves taking 10 or 20 every chance he can. I'm assuming that taking 10 on most of these checks will get you nowhere--with the exception of climbing the rope once it's been secured by the lead climber, since the anchored-rope-with-wall has a DC of 5. Are there any other situations here where taking 10 could get the character an auto-pass? (I don't see any, but of course my players will....)

  20. - Top - End - #20
    Titan in the Playground
     
    Flumph

    Join Date
    Nov 2010

    Default Re: The Cliffs of Insanity

    Quote Originally Posted by Palanan View Post
    Also, one of my players loves taking 10 or 20 every chance he can. I'm assuming that taking 10 on most of these checks will get you nowhere--with the exception of climbing the rope once it's been secured by the lead climber, since the anchored-rope-with-wall has a DC of 5. Are there any other situations here where taking 10 could get the character an auto-pass? (I don't see any, but of course my players will....)
    It treats the d20 result as 10, then adds that to the modifier. So it's strongly advisable against any skill or ability check for which the DC is less than or equal to [modifier + 10], because it guarantees success.

    It "auto-passes" wherever you would succeed by rolling a 10 or less on the d20, because it just treats the attempt as though you rolled 10. Say a character has a +15 on his skill check (including other modifiers like equipment and such), and is attempting an action which has a DC 22. The character may decide to Take 10, which results in a skill check result of 25 (modifier of 15, plus 10 for the "roll"), handily beating the DC, and "auto-passing". However, if the DC was 28 , the "Take 10" result of 25 would be lower than the DC and fail: rolling would be necessary to succeed (although one should think twice about such a difficult task -there's a very low chance of success).
    Last edited by Slipperychicken; 2013-01-28 at 06:18 PM.

  21. - Top - End - #21
    Titan in the Playground
    Join Date
    Feb 2011

    Default Re: The Cliffs of Insanity

    Ah. Thanks for the clarification on that point.

    Most of the party have zero ranks in Climb (including the PC whose player loves taking 10)--and then we have our scoundrel-acrobat, with a +9 modifier to Climb as well as a limited bonus from Daredevil Acrobat.

    I'm assuming he'll take the lead in setting the pitons, and he'll probably use Daredevil anywhere he thinks is an especially tight spot. Trying to figure out how to compensate for this.


  22. - Top - End - #22
    Bugbear in the Playground
     
    Mephibosheth's Avatar

    Join Date
    Jul 2005
    Location
    At the home of the blues
    Gender
    Male

    Default Re: The Cliffs of Insanity

    Quote Originally Posted by Palanan View Post
    The partner system sounds good, and I'm expecting the players to come up with something like this anyway. I don't think they have much personal climbing experience, but I have one player who's logical, resourceful and together. He's the one who assembled a climbing kit and the extra gear, and he knows these cliffs are the next challenge, so he'll have something planned.
    This is basically the way IRL rock climbing works for routes that are longer than one pitch. One person climbs up, trailing a rope and placing safety gear along the way while the other person belays from the ground. Once a suitable spot has been found, the first climber makes a strong anchor and attaches herself to it, belaying the second climber as she climbs the pitch and removes all the gear. Then they continue in that fashion until they reach the top. IRL climbing ropes are very thin and therefore very hard to climb, but in D&D I would imagine climbing the rope would be a better option, especially for those without a high Climb score.

    Quote Originally Posted by Palanan View Post
    You mentioned earlier having some kind of fight in a chimney, where the party would be stuck fighting with their backs against the wall--or rather, with their backs against open air. I really like that.

    Any suggestions on the details of that encounter? Were you thinking the party would find a ledge or something in the chimney, or would they each be clinging with one hand and fighting with the other?
    I agree with everyone who has said that creature-based encounters while doing this should not be conventionally-challenging. Nothing high CR, just stuff to inject some urgency and panic and break up the climb. I like the idea of disturbing bat or birds. Insects would be another good idea. I've definitely accidentally climbed hear hornets nests before; I can only imagine how much more frightening this would be in D&D.

    As far as the mechanics, the technique of climbing a chimney would allow for the use of two hands, as long as the character isn't moving. Basically, you press your back against one wall and your knees or feet against the other, depending on how wide the chimney is. You need your arms to make upward progress, but you can stay in one spot without them. So having one hand free would definitely be possibly, as long as you're not moving.

    Quote Originally Posted by Palanan View Post
    Also, one of my players loves taking 10 or 20 every chance he can. I'm assuming that taking 10 on most of these checks will get you nowhere--with the exception of climbing the rope once it's been secured by the lead climber, since the anchored-rope-with-wall has a DC of 5. Are there any other situations here where taking 10 could get the character an auto-pass? (I don't see any, but of course my players will....)
    I would feel fine allowing characters who aren't threatened to take 10 on Climb checks. Climbing is very slow and deliberative in most situations, so taking 10 seems to fit fine. Slipperychicken pretty much covered it on this point.
    The Scroungers Campaign Setting
    Main Thread | Crunch

    Other Projects
    The Giver d20
    Other Homebrew
    A Zombiemageddon Campaign Journal!

  23. - Top - End - #23
    Titan in the Playground
     
    Flumph

    Join Date
    Nov 2010

    Default Re: The Cliffs of Insanity

    Quote Originally Posted by Mephibosheth View Post
    I would feel fine allowing characters who aren't threatened to take 10 on Climb checks. Climbing is very slow and deliberative in most situations, so taking 10 seems to fit fine. Slipperychicken pretty much covered it on this point.
    It's also a rather unfitting way for the heroes to die, although it's the kind of environmental hazard which should only be a threat if they aren't careful about it.

    Climber's Kits will give them +2, Daredevil can Aid Another without fail for another +2, and other characters can try to Aid Another too. Even a character with a normal Climb mod of -1 can get up with the help of two buddies, tools, and pitons.

    Depending on how long this takes them, it may become appropriate for them to make Forced March checks to avoid Fatigue (which indirectly penalizes Climb checks through a Strength penalty). Hopefully, they can avoid such prospects by carefully planning their ascent, or needing less than 9 hours to complete it. Since climbing is much more taxing and strenuous than walking, the Constitution checks may kick in earlier.

  24. - Top - End - #24
    Bugbear in the Playground
     
    Mephibosheth's Avatar

    Join Date
    Jul 2005
    Location
    At the home of the blues
    Gender
    Male

    Default Re: The Cliffs of Insanity

    So, this topic got me thinking that it might be a good idea to come up with lists of ways to spice up skill-based obstacles like this. Here's a thread I started with that goal in mind, in case anyone wants to throw out any ideas. Most of what I have so far are for Climb, but suggestions for other skills would definitely be welcome.
    The Scroungers Campaign Setting
    Main Thread | Crunch

    Other Projects
    The Giver d20
    Other Homebrew
    A Zombiemageddon Campaign Journal!

  25. - Top - End - #25
    Titan in the Playground
    Join Date
    Feb 2011

    Default Re: The Cliffs of Insanity

    Originally Posted by Mephibosheth
    I would feel fine allowing characters who aren't threatened to take 10 on Climb checks. Climbing is very slow and deliberative in most situations, so taking 10 seems to fit fine.
    I suppose I'm looking for a balance between the realism of the physical challenge, which I like, and the mechanical need to keep it from becoming an exercise in taking 10.

    Now, if I'm understanding the way this works, our primary climber can use this to get through almost every one of your pitches by simply taking 10, with the exception of Pitch 1. (He has a +9 mod for Climb, so his auto-19 powers him nearly all the way up, and Daredevil Acrobat takes care of the first pitch.)

    I could always increase the DCs by a few points, but that doesn't seem quite fair. The alternative, unfortunately, is that the genuine physical challenge for the characters becomes a trivial exercise for the players. I want the climb itself to be more than a little hair-raising for all involved.

    Originally Posted by Slipperychicken
    Depending on how long this takes them, it may become appropriate for them to make Forced March checks to avoid Fatigue (which indirectly penalizes Climb checks through a Strength penalty).
    Currently the entire party is suffering from the effects of a rather virulent disease; the monastery they're climbing to reach may have a cure. They've taken hits to Strength and Dexterity...but not quite enough to make it much of a challenge.

    Really, all I can think is to slide some of the DCs up a little higher, so taking 10 doesn't always do the trick. I wish I could think of some more elegant, involving solution.

    Originally Posted by Mephibosheth
    I've definitely accidentally climbed near hornets nests before; I can only imagine how much more frightening this would be in D&D.
    This was actually my very first thought. I had a close encounter with a yellowjacket nest not too long ago. It's the fastest I've run all year.





    EDIT: Just saw the table you put up in the other thread. Very comprehensive, but now I worry my players will see it....

    EDIT EDIT: It is awesomely comprehensive, though. And challenging.

    Let them see it. Let them know fear.



    .
    Last edited by Palanan; 2013-01-28 at 08:51 PM.

  26. - Top - End - #26
    Bugbear in the Playground
     
    Mephibosheth's Avatar

    Join Date
    Jul 2005
    Location
    At the home of the blues
    Gender
    Male

    Default Re: The Cliffs of Insanity

    Quote Originally Posted by Palanan View Post
    I suppose I'm looking for a balance between the realism of the physical challenge, which I like, and the mechanical need to keep it from becoming an exercise in taking 10.

    Now, if I'm understanding the way this works, our primary climber can use this to get through almost every one of your pitches by simply taking 10, with the exception of Pitch 1. (He has a +9 mod for Climb, so his auto-19 powers him nearly all the way up, and Daredevil Acrobat takes care of the first pitch.)

    I could always increase the DCs by a few points, but that doesn't seem quite fair. The alternative, unfortunately, is that the genuine physical challenge for the characters becomes a trivial exercise for the players. I want the climb itself to be more than a little hair-raising for all involved.
    You probably could increase the DCs a little. I was working from memory and underestimated how high the DCs should be on most of the pitches. And don't forget circumstantial things, especially on a sea cliff where water is going to play a big role. I'm not sure what Daredevil Acrobat does, but with a +9 he should still have trouble with pitches 1, 4, 6, and 9 as well as the possibility of a fall on pitch 8. Also, check out my new thread for some new ideas with higher DCs. And don't forget to factor in fatigue. And the logistical challenge of helping the others who don't have ranks.

    But above all, don't let the cliff become just about the dice rolls. Make them describe how their characters are climbing, what they're feeling, what goes through their minds when they look down or see how far they have to go. Depending on how tall the cliff is (and we know it's at least 300 feet) it could take them anywhere from a couple hours to a couple days to climb. People do multi-day routes in places like Yosemite, where they camp in hanging ledges in the midst of 3000 foot cliffs. You're probably not looking at anything like that, but it's definitely a situation where there's more going on than just one move after another.

    Quote Originally Posted by Palanan View Post
    Currently the entire party is suffering from the effects of a rather virulent disease; the monastery they're climbing to reach may have a cure. They've taken hits to Strength and Dexterity...but not quite enough to make it much of a challenge.
    All the more reason to make this about exhaustion and mental fatigue and illness and vertigo in addition to the simple difficulties associated with Climb checks.

    Quote Originally Posted by Palanan View Post
    Really, all I can think is to slide some of the DCs up a little higher, so taking 10 doesn't always do the trick. I wish I could think of some more elegant, involving solution.
    Increasing the DCs would definitely help. Climbing is hard, especially for those not familiar with the techniques. You can also throw in some more complicated pitches than those I originally wrote. Ones like pitch 9 where it's very difficult until you figure out the trick. Hand and finger jams, arm bars, chimney techniques are all things the players should describe to you and you should reward with easier DCs or circumstance bonuses. Also, throw in some brief extra challenges, like how the entirety of pitch 1 is hard, but the last move or two are even harder, requiring their own checks. Or maybe make some areas where they can't see any hand holds and have to jump to a large ledge. Try searching YouTube for some climbing videos to get ideas of what sorts of hard techniques are out there.
    The Scroungers Campaign Setting
    Main Thread | Crunch

    Other Projects
    The Giver d20
    Other Homebrew
    A Zombiemageddon Campaign Journal!

  27. - Top - End - #27
    Titan in the Playground
     
    Flumph

    Join Date
    Nov 2010

    Default Re: The Cliffs of Insanity

    Quote Originally Posted by Palanan View Post
    It's the fastest I've run all year.
    That's not saying much, it's only a month in. Who knows what terrors 2013 will bring?

  28. - Top - End - #28
    Titan in the Playground
    Join Date
    Feb 2011

    Default Re: The Cliffs of Insanity

    Well, it does seem like nudging up the DCs a little would be the simplest way to address the issue.

    I also really, really like the idea of adding individual features which require separate climb checks. Those by themselves would go a long way towards increasing the tension--and impressing on the players that something which looks monolithic from a distance, "just a cliff," is in fact a vastly complex and intricate landscape in itself.

    Originally Posted by Mephibosheth
    I'm not sure what Daredevil Acrobat does....
    ...which is understandable, since the feat is actually named Daredevil Athlete. I managed to mistype that one several times.

    It's on p. 76 of Complete Scoundrel, and it grants a +5 competence bonus to any of several physical skills, three times a day all told. Definitely useful, but I'm thinking he'll burn through those by the third pitch or so.

    Originally Posted by Mephibosheth
    Hand and finger jams, arm bars, chimney techniques are all things the players should describe to you and you should reward with easier DCs or circumstance bonuses.
    Another idea I really like. I don't know if my players are that familiar with these techniques, at least not from personal experience...but they're probably googling it up right now.

    Originally Posted by Mephibosheth
    Depending on how tall the cliff is (and we know it's at least 300 feet) it could take them anywhere from a couple hours to a couple days to climb.
    I'm guessing 400-500 feet, although they'll have a bit of a respite for the last hundred feet or so, with the remnants of the old stone steps.

    This brings up a couple other questions, the first of which is how long a cliff face of that height would take to climb. You describe climbing as "slow and deliberative," which was definitely my experience (plus "aching and uncertain") so I'm thinking they'll proceed much more slowly than the standard climbing speed. Is there a way to estimate how long each pitch will take?

    Also, something else I've been meaning to ask: what happens if they try to take 10 on a pitch where the DC is too high? Does that mean no progress, or something that involves more screaming and flailing?

  29. - Top - End - #29
    Halfling in the Playground
     
    BlackDragon

    Join Date
    Dec 2012

    Default Re: The Cliffs of Insanity

    Is there going to be any way for clever players to get around this, or is it a case of roll the dice and hope you don't take too much damage?

  30. - Top - End - #30
    Titan in the Playground
     
    Flumph

    Join Date
    Nov 2010

    Default Re: The Cliffs of Insanity

    Quote Originally Posted by Palanan View Post
    Also, something else I've been meaning to ask: what happens if they try to take 10 on a pitch where the DC is too high? Does that mean no progress, or something that involves more screaming and flailing?
    It's all there in the Climb skill. Read it and be enlightened.

    [Seriously, it's right at the top of the page.]

    A Climb check that fails by 4 or less means that you make no progress, and one that fails by 5 or more means that you fall from whatever height you have already attained.
    Also, using pitons is 1 minute/3ft. So you take the total distance in feet (you said 500ft) and divide it by 3, giving you 167 minutes, or a little less than 3 hours if they spend each round proceeding upward and making all their DC 15 Climb checks.

    P.S. I realized it would be totally badass if the monks had hang-gliders (as described in A&EG) to give the PCs for the way back down. This is, of course, if the monks are crazy and don't have a normal way to get back down (or they just don't want to give the secret away).
    Last edited by Slipperychicken; 2013-01-28 at 10:39 PM.

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •