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  1. - Top - End - #1
    Ettin in the Playground
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    Oct 2011

    Default How does this work - monsters with cinematic HP?

    Lots of DMs cheat. And they cheat in lots of different ways. They fudge rolls. They give plot armor to the PCs / the BBEG / their dmpc. They coincidentally make things happen to move the game along / to "make things interesting".

    One that I've seen before was recently brought up: making monsters last as long as it feels like they should last from a cinematic perspective. This behavior is generally coupled with many other forms of cheating, including giving the PCs plot armor.

    My personal feelings about this style - which generally range from "dislike" to "abhor" - are not why I made this thread. I realize that it is a valid style that some people really enjoy.

    To those people who use this style, I ask how they handle the logical consequences of the style.

    When one of the players tracks the damage the party has dealt the monster, and realized how valuable a 10 HD, 2,500 HP monster is as a base for simulacrum, for example. Or tries to investigate how it was so tough, to emulate that toughness themselves.

    What do you do when the party is augmented by a dozen 1,250-HP constructs (which probably have saves listed as "yes"), magic jarred into willing/conscripted villagers/goblins to make those HP healable? Or when those constructs have contingencies to magic jar into party members who would take lethal damage (or possibly even fail (or be subjected to) a saving throw)?

    What do you do for the scientifically-minded PC who investigates these oddities? How do you reward their efforts?

    And what do the rest of us do when these characters wander into our campaigns with their totally legit spoils?

    Because I'm already working on my next character concept...

  2. - Top - End - #2
    Ogre in the Playground
     
    Comet's Avatar

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    Default Re: How does this work - monsters with cinematic HP?

    Fudging and cheating and cinematic style really rely on a shared sense of narrative responsibility. The reason you fudge is because you don't enjoy the mechanics, so someone coming in and really enjoying the mechanics and analyzing them is going to break things down really quickly. So it's pretty important that everyone understands that we're here to enjoy a cool story and the mechanics are kind of just there and we shouldn't really give them too much attention.

    It's a different thing if the GM is fudging things but insisting to the players that he's playing by the rules. In that case he deserves every bit of misfortune coming his way

    Also, high five for characters wandering between campaigns! Surprisingly rare thing to see.
    "What can change the nature of a man?"
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  3. - Top - End - #3
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    ElfPirate

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    Oct 2014

    Default Re: How does this work - monsters with cinematic HP?

    When this is done, the assumption generally is that the PCs can't get those abilities because PCs and monsters aren't built using the same rules.

    Interestingly, Mutants & Masterminds actually has rules for something like this, in that certain villains are listed as Power Level X. Some examples of PL X characters would be Mr. Mxyzptlk, Trigon, or Nekron.

    Beings that are PL X don't have stats, they can simply do whatever the story requires. Fighting them outright isn't possible, even for a group like the JLA. Defeating a PL X enemy requires either some sort of trick, or the use of some kind of plot macguffin.
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    I've tallied up all the points for this thread, and consulted with the debate judges, and the verdict is clear: JoeJ wins the thread.

  4. - Top - End - #4
    Orc in the Playground
     
    ClericGuy

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    Default Re: How does this work - monsters with cinematic HP?

    That example seems a bit extreme to me, but if I saw that actually happen as the DM I'd laugh. Then again, I don't run systems where that amount of backfire is possible, and that a fair amount of trust is built in on monster health and what not. So if anyone did that amount of awesome, I'd congratulate them. I mean, sometimes even the players think it's fairly anticlimactic to kill the boss they'd been expecting in the first round, and thus I don't say things are dead until they provoke an actual challenge (for the types of enemies that would, at least). If it's through clever planning, that monster is dead. If it's something that is a fluke, then it will come back somehow. Just to make it interesting. Ramble over.

  5. - Top - End - #5
    Troll in the Playground
     
    OldWizardGuy

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    Aug 2010

    Default Re: How does this work - monsters with cinematic HP?

    The problem, as described here, is trying to apply cinematic rules to a game (like D&D) that wasn't built with "cinematic logic" in mind.

    Cinematic rules aren't inherently bad - but applying them randomly to games they're not designed for will frequently give poor results.

  6. - Top - End - #6
    Orc in the Playground
     
    PaladinGuy

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    Dec 2014

    Default Re: How does this work - monsters with cinematic HP?

    Generally, the type of game where any of the stuff you mentioned actually happens tend to be the exception rather than the rule. Any reasonable DM, no matter how many or few times they fudge any result behind the screen, is not going to let that sort of absurd stuff happen unless there is a common understanding that that is the type of game being played. Outside the world of "RAW" or "Theoretical Optimization", or what have you, you cannot break the game without the DM letting you.

  7. - Top - End - #7
    Ettin in the Playground
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    Oct 2011

    Default Re: How does this work - monsters with cinematic HP?

    Quote Originally Posted by Comet View Post
    Also, high five for characters wandering between campaigns! Surprisingly rare thing to see.
    It's an artifact of my gaming experience, which primarily consists of a long series of one shots, interspersed with a few longer campaigns.

    One of the up shots to such experience is diversity. No single DM, no matter how good, will ever present the variety of situations that running under 20 DMs provides. This results in a much more rounded set of experiences - both for the player, and for the character(s). You get to know the character far better than you would in a single DM campaign.

    Quote Originally Posted by NorthernPhoenix View Post
    Generally, the type of game where any of the stuff you mentioned actually happens tend to be the exception rather than the rule. Any reasonable DM, no matter how many or few times they fudge any result behind the screen, is not going to let that sort of absurd stuff happen unless there is a common understanding that that is the type of game being played. Outside the world of "RAW" or "Theoretical Optimization", or what have you, you cannot break the game without the DM letting you.
    I've seen stuff this blatant a few times - even had players in groups who did the whole keeping track of how much damage had been done. And there were also the monsters whose AC was quite literally, "only hit on a 20" - those were comparatively common, actually (and, unlike the cinematic HP, explicitly stated as such).

    In most if not all of these games, in order to maintain the illusion of "fairness", the DM would have had to allow the simulacrum to exist with the stats we all knew it to have.

    Because that is probably the best way to describe these worlds - not RAW or TO, but "maintaining the illusion of fairness" (AKA "story time"). The narrative takes precedence, but don't tell the players - they think that their actions matter.

  8. - Top - End - #8
    Ettin in the Playground
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    Dec 2010

    Default Re: How does this work - monsters with cinematic HP?

    I think that attempt to maintain the illusion of fairness is only for groups that haven't come to terms with the fact that they're doing it. The DM is using cinematic HP without saying so, and feels guilty if they were to be 'caught', so they overextend into the deception.

    If the group is already on board with this, the DM can say things like 'well, he had 2500HP when he faced you, but on your side he has 65HP, because that's the cinematic conceit and HP aren't real '

  9. - Top - End - #9
    Ogre in the Playground
     
    oxybe's Avatar

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    Jan 2009

    Default Re: How does this work - monsters with cinematic HP?

    It could just be experience talking but groups who run such cinematic rules also play by the cinematic rules. It's the reason modern Batman didn't just go "WHELP, here's to a lead lobotomy Joker!" and leaves once the deed is done after their first encounter.

    That is, 100% against the themes and conventions of the genre UNLESS Joker had done something to hit so close to Bat's home, that he's willing to throw away his principals... Yet it's a very stereotypical PC reaction to a dangerous villain being introduced. Joker tries to escape wounded, the PCs track him like a pack of vampiric bloodhounds and feed off the sweet, sweet XP laden nectar held within his squishy form.

    Can the PCs exploit this? Only if the conventions of the genre allow it. Will the PCs exploit this? Again: if it falls within the conventions of the genre.

    The reason you can't just make viable simulacrums of Clayface is because his body is too unstable at a molecular level and was created under such unique circumstances that you can't just reproduce him willy-nilly. You're one step closer to understanding his composition that you are able to use the knowledge gained through this to create a liquid that, when aerosolized, will temporarily bond with him on a molecular level and can harm his ability to hold form proper, if only temporarily.

    But you can't make an army of Clayface-bots.

    If you're playing a game where certain themes and conventions are above the rules, this applies to some actions taken by the PCs when they try to manipulate the rules... but if they agreed to this game of genres, themes and conventions, they likely wouldn't anyways or are doing so because it's what the character would try though the player's intention is the clayface scenario: metagame-wise, the player's actual wishes are to understand more about his enemies and gain way to fight them should they bump into each other again, in-game the character is fascinated in trying to reproduce the unique enemy but instead gains one more piece of knowledge in his failure to do so, and weaponizes it.

    again: the genres, themes and conventions rule all in these games. It's why you don't bring an AK47 to a toon fight... you bring a giant, squeaky, rubber mallet.

  10. - Top - End - #10
    Titan in the Playground
     
    Flumph

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    Nov 2010

    Default Re: How does this work - monsters with cinematic HP?

    If the fight is just going to last as long as the GM wants it to anyway, and have exactly the outcome he wanted no matter what, then what's the point of using rules for combat at all?

    I mean this question seriously. When the rules have next to no impact on what happens, what purpose do they serve beyond burdening the players' minds with their minutia? Are you trying to fool players who agreed to a game where fictional violence is resolved through well-defined rules? If not, why not just throw the combat rules off completely, make everything about the fight 'narrative' or 'cinematic' and be honest about it? I'm sure everyone would have more fun focusing on the fiction instead of on numbers that have no meaning in the game world.

  11. - Top - End - #11
    Troll in the Playground
     
    OldWizardGuy

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    Aug 2010

    Default Re: How does this work - monsters with cinematic HP?

    Quote Originally Posted by Slipperychicken View Post
    If the fight is just going to last as long as the GM wants it to anyway, and have exactly the outcome he wanted no matter what, then what's the point of using rules for combat at all?

    I mean this question seriously. When the rules have next to no impact on what happens, what purpose do they serve beyond burdening the players' minds with their minutia? Are you trying to fool players who agreed to a game where fictional violence is resolved through well-defined rules? If not, why not just throw the combat rules off completely, make everything about the fight 'narrative' or 'cinematic' and be honest about it? I'm sure everyone would have more fun focusing on the fiction instead of on numbers that have no meaning in the game world.
    Narrative and cinematic don't mean 'no rules' or 'whatever the GM wants'. Fate is 'narrative' in one sense of the world (it's designed to emulate fiction, etc.), and yet it's pretty standard guidance when playing Fate that failure should *always* be on the table.

  12. - Top - End - #12
    Ettin in the Playground
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    Dec 2010

    Default Re: How does this work - monsters with cinematic HP?

    Quote Originally Posted by Slipperychicken View Post
    If the fight is just going to last as long as the GM wants it to anyway, and have exactly the outcome he wanted no matter what, then what's the point of using rules for combat at all?

    I mean this question seriously. When the rules have next to no impact on what happens, what purpose do they serve beyond burdening the players' minds with their minutia? Are you trying to fool players who agreed to a game where fictional violence is resolved through well-defined rules? If not, why not just throw the combat rules off completely, make everything about the fight 'narrative' or 'cinematic' and be honest about it? I'm sure everyone would have more fun focusing on the fiction instead of on numbers that have no meaning in the game world.
    There are a couple of useful things you can get, even if you aren't treating the rules as a source of resolving the question 'what happens?'

    One thing is that having rules for some things and not for others can focus the mental image of the narrative in a concrete way - two wizards can agree on how many spells can be cast, and can recognize that if one guy has infinite spells then that's a big deal in-world.

    Another is that the rules can provide something where the player has the ability to anticipate the consequences of their choices without having to ask the DM, which means they can consider (and potentially reject) multiple possibilities before speaking up. That's an empowering feeling, and even if the mechanics of NPCs are totally opaque, its still nice to have the mechanics of PCs be transparent to the players themselves. You might not know when the dragon will drop or what spell-likes it has, but you definitely know you can fly for 10 more rounds at 60'/Average fly speed.

    A third is that rules can give a language for setting out specific tasks or challenges. Again with the example of the dragon, maybe the PCs don't know before the encounter what its stats are like, but during the encounter they find out for example that it has an AC of 30, 10 of which is coming from a spell effect that it put up. Once the DM has relayed that information, then it ceases to be meaningless and in fact its a concrete challenge to the PCs of 'figure out how to deal with this AC of 30' which can be passed or failed. The fight may still have cinematic components to it (or may just deviate from the monster rules, but be entirely concrete behind the DM screen), but the parts that are exposed become the explicit call-out challenges to the players. So this allows a finer degree of control as to what the actual challenges are (which is helpful when there can be a gigantic variance in ability between two different Lv10 parties depending on player expertise).

    A fourth is that some people just like playing with the mechanics and trying to optimize things. They get a good feeling out of doing so, but if they went up against things that didn't keep up with them then it'd quickly feel pointless (why optimize for 400 damage per round when 200 damage per round will kill anything?). So adding cinematic elements can permit a DM to give reasonable push-back to make that exercise feel worthwhile, without the player's optimizations increasing the DM's workload. Once I started using different rules for monster generation, I became a lot more comfortable with players pulling all sorts of high-op stuff because I knew that I didn't have to worry about trying to keep up with them.

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