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  1. - Top - End - #1
    Ettin in the Playground
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    May 2012

    Default Well, that ... looked ... pretty bad...

    So have any of you folks ever prepared something that - completely by accident - makes you look like a terrible DM and/or human being?

    Here's the situation... Dark Sun*. 4e. The party is investigating rumors of an ancient goddess reawakening. The priests in the temple above sent them looking in the catacombs for her "heart" to help her awaken further. Turns out, the priests are a bunch of psurlons who've been tapping into her divine powers via an intricate ritual, and the Heart is an ancient primal artifact they intend to use as a bludgeon to prevent her from waking fully. They don't want to lose the source of their powers.

    The party tipped off the psurlons that they knew their nature before venturing into the catacombs and grabbing the Heart. It took about an hour of in-game time to get it, so the "priests" had an hour to prepare. In that hour, they put their contingency plans into place...

    (1) They bound a captive Angel of Vengeance to guard the temple
    (2) Put 2 psurlons and 2 non-psurlon mind-clouded believers with the angel to guard outside the catacombs and slow down/defeat the party (hopefully ending in the deaths of the 2 non-psurlons who might otherwise ally against the slugs).
    (3) Retreated to the seat of their power, the heart of the ritual, where they are at their strongest,
    (4) Readied their traps and wards on the tunnels leading in and out of their secret hiding place, and
    (5) Began plans to hunt down the party if they escape - involving mobilizing a few giant Psurlon Warworms in the city.

    After the party (violently) dealt with the guards, they decided to descend into the depths of the Shrine to finish off the slugs once and for all. There was a brief parley, and the party said, "heck with it, we're outta here."

    So that's where the trapped and warded tunnel comes in. The tunnel behind them started collapsing; I'm picturing a rather dangerous escape sequence with later follow-up from vengeful slugs. You know, the classic "run out of a collapsing building and try not to die" scene.

    It was a pretty simple skill challenge (I thought); the DC was reasonable for the task at hand. Basically, the party would make Acrobatics or Athletics checks (their choice) to succeed and dodge falling rocks from the collapsing tunnels; Dungeoneering checks could be used to get the party a bonus. If half the party succeeds, they make progress towards getting out. Anyone who fails a check takes a decent amount of damage, but if half succeed, they can pull their companions along. It's a short one - only 4 successes were needed before 3 failures.

    The problem is ... 4 out of the 6 PCs are really, really bad at Athletics and Acrobatics. Even the party's Fighter is weighed down by his armor/shield and needed a 12 to succeed on the Athletics check. So what I thought would be a fairly easy - though hopefully kind of tense - escape ... didn't turn out that way. At all. The party failed abysmally twice, took some damage, and turned back to fight the psurlons.

    So it basically looks like I'm a huge railroady DM saying, "Go fight these dudes or ... ROCKS FALL, EVERYONE DIES."

    And now I'm looking for other stories of other DMs' sessions that have gone pear-shaped so I don't feel so bad.



    * In my version of the campaign setting, there were once gods on Athas, but they were arguably just as bad as sorcerer kings, with less "defile the world" and more "destroy all heretics." Distant ancestors of the beast-headed giants, they drew on divine energies but were fully on this world and mostly spent time warring with one another. Working together with Rajaat, the sorcerer-kings vanquished them (though they had trouble actually killing them) before turning to the Cleansing Wars. The party inadvertently released a god quite a while ago because I have a player who can't resist pushing every metaphorical button he sees. And they also paved the way for Dregoth's Coruscation - his ascendancy into godhood - which I'm saying opened up the gates to divine power, causing the gods to reawaken ... slowly. My players wanted to pursue a "bring the gods back" campaign, and this is where it's led.

  2. - Top - End - #2
    Dwarf in the Playground
     
    BardGuy

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    Jun 2008

    Default Re: Well, that ... looked ... pretty bad...

    I worked with a player who was really interested in playing a redeemed villain type PC, and so we worked up a former Paladin of Vecna who was secretly fleeing the cult with the aid of Kas. He got "assigned" to infiltrate the party by the cultists, and planned to reveal his past and plans to the party once he knew they were safe enough that he would not be immediately caught as a traitor to the cult.

    The player planned to appear to "betray" the party in the final fight and then intentionally get killed, having saved up the cost for a Rez and put a note on his body explaining his remorse for messing with them, and his plan to let the cult think he had died working for them so he could be free to turn to Good.

    The other PCs when they realized the many subtle clever ways he had messed with them during the adventure were so suspicious that the players never even finished reading the note OOC, stopping after the confession that he had been a Paladin of Vecna. They were all convinced the character had been an intentional Enemy all along that they were "lucky" to have killed off before he was able to do worse things.

    To be fair, the player had done some pretty sneaky stuff to hinder the party and keep up his cover, but the rest of the group was convinced it had all been DM planned.
    To Prevent Serious Injury: Be Awesome.

  3. - Top - End - #3
    Ettin in the Playground
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    Default Re: Well, that ... looked ... pretty bad...

    Quote Originally Posted by BlckDv View Post
    To be fair, the player had done some pretty sneaky stuff to hinder the party and keep up his cover, but the rest of the group was convinced it had all been DM planned.
    Nice. Did they ever find out out-of-character?

    -O

  4. - Top - End - #4
    Dwarf in the Playground
     
    BardGuy

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    Default Re: Well, that ... looked ... pretty bad...

    Quote Originally Posted by obryn View Post
    Nice. Did they ever find out out-of-character?

    -O
    Sort of; the player in question had to leave the game for schedule conflict a month or two after the incident, and after he had left some of the other players did read the whole note when they were reviewing old info to plan their next move... but he had not written the clearest of explanations choosing to say he would tell them more when he was brought back, and with the player not around to give any explanation of odd phrases (he is somewhat famous for his ability to make simple facts very confusing when he explains them), the conclusions the players drew from the note were still not in line with the whole truth. For my sake they did at least believe me that his actions were not DM dictated after reading the note.

    Led to several long term plans being altered as the party was even more distrustful of Kas than I had anticipated them being, because of what they inferred from the note. (Anti-Vecna activity was the focus of the campaign)
    To Prevent Serious Injury: Be Awesome.

  5. - Top - End - #5
    Ettin in the Playground
     
    Lord Torath's Avatar

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    Default Re: Well, that ... looked ... pretty bad...

    Quote Originally Posted by obryn View Post
    ...So it basically looks like I'm a huge railroady DM saying, "Go fight these dudes or ... ROCKS FALL, EVERYONE DIES."

    And now I'm looking for other stories of other DMs' sessions that have gone pear-shaped so I don't feel so bad.
    Did the players ever find out that you didn't intend the escape tunnel to be lethal, but you miscalculated?

  6. - Top - End - #6
    Ettin in the Playground
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    May 2012

    Default Re: Well, that ... looked ... pretty bad...

    Quote Originally Posted by Lord Torath View Post
    Did the players ever find out that you didn't intend the escape tunnel to be lethal, but you miscalculated?
    Yeah, I was like, "Oh wow, sorry folks... I had no idea everyone sucked at those skills..."

  7. - Top - End - #7
    Dwarf in the Playground
     
    PirateGuy

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    Default Re: Well, that ... looked ... pretty bad...

    It almost looked like you were running a skill challenge.....I didn't think they ever worked.

    When my group tried 4e. I, as the DM, spent so much time on trying to decipher the concept and mechanics of the skill challenge that I think I may have lost sanity points and nearly unleashed Cthulhu on the world.

    A non combat oriented challenge really got me excited, and I've read they have been properly executed, but forget me if I ever got one to work.

    If you think about it, bonuses aside the more times you have players roll 1d20 to complete a single task the less those bonus has to do with it. It just becomes super random with a xd20 dice swing. I'm no mathematician or statistician or demonologist, but I'm pretty sure the skill challenge is the devil's work.

  8. - Top - End - #8
    Ettin in the Playground
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    Default Re: Well, that ... looked ... pretty bad...

    Quote Originally Posted by Surfnerd View Post
    It almost looked like you were running a skill challenge.....I didn't think they ever worked.
    Um... I've used them a lot and to very good effect. The DMG1 just sucked at explaining them and presented a crap system for it. The newer examples and rules in the Rules Compendium work just fine, and the math is finally on target.

    I never use them for stuff like negotiations; it's too artificial for me. I use them for disabling ritual effects in the middle of a combat, travel through hazardous terrain, crawling across a "reef" in the sea of silt, sneaking through an enemy stronghold, etc. And ... escaping from falling tunnels. In this case, it would have worked fine if the party composition were different.

    If you think about it, bonuses aside the more times you have players roll 1d20 to complete a single task the less those bonus has to do with it. It just becomes super random with a xd20 dice swing. I'm no mathematician or statistician or demonologist, but I'm pretty sure the skill challenge is the devil's work.
    That's ... that's actually exactly the opposite of how statistics work.

    The more rolls you make, the more your bonus matters.

    -O

  9. - Top - End - #9
    Troll in the Playground
     
    SowZ's Avatar

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    Default Re: Well, that ... looked ... pretty bad...

    Quote Originally Posted by obryn View Post
    Um... I've used them a lot and to very good effect. The DMG1 just sucked at explaining them and presented a crap system for it. The newer examples and rules in the Rules Compendium work just fine, and the math is finally on target.

    I never use them for stuff like negotiations; it's too artificial for me. I use them for disabling ritual effects in the middle of a combat, travel through hazardous terrain, crawling across a "reef" in the sea of silt, sneaking through an enemy stronghold, etc. And ... escaping from falling tunnels. In this case, it would have worked fine if the party composition were different.


    That's ... that's actually exactly the opposite of how statistics work.

    The more rolls you make, the more your bonus matters.

    -O
    It's the same reason that rolling 3d6 is more likely to yield average results, Surfnerd. The more dice you roll, the more likely they will average out. Because for every 1 you roll, eventually you will counter it with a 20. On a single contested roll, having a +5 versus your opponents plus one only gives you a 20 percent greater chance of success. You have about a 70% chance of victory.

    But if you have to make the skill check five times? That is a difference of +20 on your 5d20 roll, which should be close to 52-53. The odds that either persons average will deviate 20 points from the mean, or about two standard deviations, is less than ten percent. Your chance of victory is now over 90 percent.
    Homebrew PrC: The Performance Artist
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  10. - Top - End - #10
    Ogre in the Playground
     
    Fortuna's Avatar

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    Default Re: Well, that ... looked ... pretty bad...

    Except that's not how the probabilities are calculated at all. The total doesn't matter - just the number of successes or failures.

    Nevertheless, it is true that with more rolls the bonus matters more. For example, say Alice needs to roll a 10 and Bob needs to roll an 11 to succeed on a given roll. I've tabulated below the odds that each will pass a single check, pass two of three checks, pass three of five checks and pass four of seven checks.

    {table=head]Roll|Alice|Bob|Difference (Ratio)

    1/1|0.55|0.5|0.05 (11:10)

    2/3|0.57475|0.5|0.07475 (2299:2000)

    3/5|0.59312|0.5|0.09312 (3703:3125)

    4/7|0.60828|0.5|0.10828 (15207:12500)[/table]

    The probabilities tip ever-further in Alice's favour. Although the results remain small, there was only a difference of +1 in the first place.
    If I creep into your house in the dead of night and strangle you while you sleep, you probably messed up your grammar.

    I'm always extremely careful to hedge myself against absolute statements.

  11. - Top - End - #11
    Troll in the Playground
     
    SowZ's Avatar

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    Default Re: Well, that ... looked ... pretty bad...

    Quote Originally Posted by Random_person View Post
    Except that's not how the probabilities are calculated at all. The total doesn't matter - just the number of successes or failures.

    Nevertheless, it is true that with more rolls the bonus matters more. For example, say Alice needs to roll a 10 and Bob needs to roll an 11 to succeed on a given roll. I've tabulated below the odds that each will pass a single check, pass two of three checks, pass three of five checks and pass four of seven checks.

    {table=head]Roll|Alice|Bob|Difference (Ratio)

    1/1|0.55|0.5|0.05 (11:10)

    2/3|0.57475|0.5|0.07475 (2299:2000)

    3/5|0.59312|0.5|0.09312 (3703:3125)

    4/7|0.60828|0.5|0.10828 (15207:12500)[/table]

    The probabilities tip ever-further in Alice's favour. Although the results remain small, there was only a difference of +1 in the first place.
    Oh, I've never done 4e skill challenges so I don't really know how they workand just calculated based on a cumulative number.
    Homebrew PrC: The Performance Artist
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  12. - Top - End - #12
    Ettin in the Playground
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    Default Re: Well, that ... looked ... pretty bad...

    Quote Originally Posted by SowZ View Post
    Oh, I've never done 4e skill challenges so I don't really know how they workand just calculated based on a cumulative number.
    It's always in the format of X successes (4, 6, 8, 10, or 12) before 3 failures. The exact process of the skill challenge can vary up a lot; sometimes it's a group challenge where everyone is rolling and you need at least half to pass. Sometimes it's a series of individual rolls. I tend to favor the group checks, myself.

    -O

  13. - Top - End - #13
    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    PirateCaptain

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    Default Re: Well, that ... looked ... pretty bad...

    Keep copies of PC Char sheets! When in doubt playtest it on your own with their chars to see if they can handle the challenge!

    I tend to make homebrew monsters so quite often i need to do this to make sure that encounters are of level to handle, Or to fine tune exp/loot received for encounter
    If you wish to have a voice chat, Send me a PM and we can arrange it. Provided you use skype.

    I do not give permission for posts may be used for research purposes unless written permission is given.

  14. - Top - End - #14
    Dwarf in the Playground
     
    PirateGuy

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    Default Re: Well, that ... looked ... pretty bad...

    Thanks for clearing that up. Like I said demonology. Seriously, where were you guys when they put the rules in the DMG1. Had the designer consulted these forums before going to print, I wouldn't have had to excercise some of the most excruciating googling to find help on the skill challenges.

    What book or books does WotC eventually clarify the skill challenge? I still think it has alot of potential and could be used in any RPG system.

  15. - Top - End - #15
    Ettin in the Playground
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    Default Re: Well, that ... looked ... pretty bad...

    Quote Originally Posted by Surfnerd View Post
    Thanks for clearing that up. Like I said demonology. Seriously, where were you guys when they put the rules in the DMG1. Had the designer consulted these forums before going to print, I wouldn't have had to excercise some of the most excruciating googling to find help on the skill challenges.

    What book or books does WotC eventually clarify the skill challenge? I still think it has alot of potential and could be used in any RPG system.
    Well, the thing to remember about early 4e is that, although the designers had some good direction and goals, it was all playtested miserably, if at all. Skill challenges as explained in the DMG don't make a bit of sense, with the parts about initiative, going around the table, etc. They gradually improved them, in a series of Dragon articles and in DMG2. The Rules Compendium has the best version, however.

    At its core, though, important part is the math behind it. Everything else is flexible; like I said, my favorite ones - the ones I've seen work best - involve group checks, sometimes with some penalty for individual failures. Otherwise, I love incorporating them into combat encounters to give the players two goals.

    -O

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