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  1. - Top - End - #1
    Ettin in the Playground
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    Default How common is the Idiot Ball?

    These two threads have me wondering, just how commonly does an author hand their characters the idiot ball, and to what degree?

    The examples from those threads:

    Spoiler: Flamsterd in Halls of the High King
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    He casts invisibility, "to protect the presence of another person"… before Teleporting them *both* away, rather than just teleporting them both.

    Also…

    Spoiler: not necessarily the same level of Idiot Ball material, but…
    Show
    This "gentle" "polite" and "kindly" man will "step on anyone who's sleeping", kill "those who thwart his will" "ask the corpse questions" and "apologize to the remains if he's made a mistake".

    What qualifies as "thwarting his will"? Unknown. But this "gentle" "polite" and "kindly" man will curse any of the (low-level) PCs who have the gall to reject his generous offer of 0 GP to go to a foreign land to fight minions of a dark god that are steadily overwhelming said land (a wealthy militarized nation that has just commissioned the crafting of over 1,000 additional swords, the delivery of which is the initial focus of chapter 1 of the module), cursing them to have their weapons *automatically break* *for months*.

    Oh, and let's not forget that Flamsterd thinks that it's a good idea to goad people into attacking him, so that he can learn their "bad tactics", when his own tactics are (as listed above, and) authorial fiat: assume that he is immune to anything anyone tries.


    Spoiler: N. in Halls of the High King
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    she starts with vastly superior ranged troops, then casts spells to penalize ranged attacks, block LoS, and otherwise force the conflict into melee.

    Also…

    Spoiler: not necessarily the same level of Idiot Ball material, but…
    Show
    On top of penalizing her troops, she also splits them up, several ways.

    Concepts like "number of spell slots per level" and "maximum spell level" are clearly too complicated for her.

    Eh, there's too many things wrong with that encounter to explain them all.


    Spoiler: The Circle of Eight in Vecna Lives
    Show
    There seems to be some disagreement on this, but… even knowing that something bad was going to happen…

    They didn't tell anyone where they were going.

    They didn't bring any backup (especially "meat shields" for their squishy Wizard selves).

    Maybe they prepared their spells poorly. Maybe they had good spells, but chose poor tactics. However, the supposedly "good" tactics - that they could / should have used Wish, or shape change to become immune to the BBEG - have some issues.
    in 3e, "expensive" spells cost XP, and "XP is a river". But, in 2e, "expensive" spells cost years, and time is not a river. Wish, IIRC, costs around 5 years.

    Shape Change requires the caster to leave a Jade circlet behind; breaking the circlet ends the spell. Other than requiring the Wizard to actually *know* the individual's capabilities in order to correctly choose a form that is immune, Boss + minions all but ensure that any immunities shape change might grant don't last beyond the round.

    They rush in, as a mob, Leroy Jenkins style.


    Spoiler: someone in The Open Door
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    Failed to keep tabs on / remain aware of the location of a Primarch.

    Failed to consider the possibility that the Primarch was not an illusion.


    So, it seems to me that there are several considerations.

    Source: "world lore", "novel", "module", "fanfic".

    Target: who is holding the idiot ball? Is it "their characters", "someone else's characters", or "the PCs"?

    Is the error "tactical" or "strategic"?

    How bad is their action? "suboptimal", "useless", or "actively detrimental"?

    How much role-playing sense does the Idiot Ball or the correct answer make? Ie, while something may be obvious to us, the reader, should it be obvious to the character?

    So, how many idiot balls can we find in RPG lore?

  2. - Top - End - #2
    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    DwarfClericGuy

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    Default Re: How common is the Idiot Ball?

    Irony is what you get when the audience knows something that the character does not, and the character's actions frustrate the audience because of this disparity in knowledge.

    "No, Oedipus! That's your mom!"

    Is this what you are talking about?
    Last edited by Democratus; 2021-01-04 at 06:47 PM.

  3. - Top - End - #3
    Ogre in the Playground
     
    Flumph

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    Default Re: How common is the Idiot Ball?

    Wait? People making totally stupid decisions?

    Even if they should know better from theoretically canon information sources of knowledge they have to work with and previously demonstrated intelligence?

    Sound familiar.

    History abounds with this stuff.

  4. - Top - End - #4
    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    Batcathat's Avatar

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    Default Re: How common is the Idiot Ball?

    Quote Originally Posted by Democratus View Post
    Irony is what you get when the audience knows something that the character does not, and the character's actions frustrate the audience because of this disparity in knowledge.

    "No, Oedipus! That's your mom!"

    Is this what you are talking about?
    I think it's referring to this kind of Idiot ball. Basically, characters acting stupid for no other reason than making the plot work.
    Last edited by Batcathat; 2021-01-04 at 06:59 PM.

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    Halfling in the Playground
     
    Chimera

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    Default Re: How common is the Idiot Ball?

    I'm not sure idiot ball is the right trope.

    But, yes, nearly all fiction needs idiot stuff. If there was no idiot stuff, then the plot simply can't happen.


    Pick nearly any fiction, but movies and TV shows are right at the top. For the plot to happen, the fiction needs to be full of idiots. Not to mention crazy coincidences and straight up unreality.

    Really watch the first couple minutes of just Star Wars, you have the 'no life form' gunners that don't shoot the escape pod(and they are people that live in a universe full of non living driods too). Then for some reason the Empire can't find two driods in a desert...only if they had a couple hundred troops, speeders, sensors, droids, and flying craft to comb the desert with.....but they don't so the plot can happen.

    RPGs are no different. Though the module examples feel more like just tactical blunders. And people just don't understand even basic tactics. Or when it comes to RPGs, not all players know or understand all the rules.

    But I think every module, every adventure really, needs the idiot factor to work.

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    Default Re: How common is the Idiot Ball?

    Quote Originally Posted by Bugbear View Post
    I'm not sure idiot ball is the right trope.

    But, yes, nearly all fiction needs idiot stuff. If there was no idiot stuff, then the plot simply can't happen. ...

    ...But I think every module, every adventure really, needs the idiot factor to work.
    Well H.P. Lovecraft & adjacent fiction usually didn't require idiot balls. Mind those stories went something like: unsuspecting normal people + surprise tentacle hentai = corpses, basket cases, & burning things down.

    I think railroady modules may need more idiot ball than sandboxes. The sand boxes may have something more like requiring someone to have had the idiot ball in order for them to happen, but don't seem to usually require on going idiot ball carrying.

    Now that circle of eight thing though... Yeah. Major idiot balls all over the place there. AD&D high level wizards got apprentices, taxable lands, and hired guards. Just by being over 10th level. Assuming of course they didn't just trash their own class features because... well, that's idiot balling again.
    Niven's Laws, #5
    If you've nothing to say, say it any way you like. Stylistic innovations, contorted story lines or none, exotic or genderless pronouns, internal inconsistencies, the recipe for preparing your lover as a cannibal banquet: feel free. If what you have to say is important and/or difficult to follow, use the simplest language possible. If the reader doesn't get it then, let it not be your fault.

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    Bugbear in the Playground
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    Default Re: How common is the Idiot Ball?

    It is very common. I think it has become better through the last decade as more and more authors become aware of all the internet complaints.

  8. - Top - End - #8
    Ettin in the Playground
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    Default Re: How common is the Idiot Ball?

    Quote Originally Posted by Bugbear View Post
    I'm not sure idiot ball is the right trope.
    Is there a better trope for people doing really dumb things?

    Quote Originally Posted by Bugbear View Post
    But, yes, nearly all fiction needs idiot stuff. If there was no idiot stuff, then the plot simply can't happen.
    How much Exploration requires idiocy? Star Trek - explore strange new worlds. D&D - explore strange magical sites / monster-infested dungeons / beyond the map.

    Quote Originally Posted by Bugbear View Post
    Pick nearly any fiction, but movies and TV shows are right at the top. For the plot to happen, the fiction needs to be full of idiots. Not to mention crazy coincidences and straight up unreality.
    I'll not deny having similar problems with many plots.

    Quote Originally Posted by Bugbear View Post
    Really watch the first couple minutes of just Star Wars, you have the 'no life form' gunners that don't shoot the escape pod(and they are people that live in a universe full of non living driods too).
    This piece is problematic. Star Wars is fairly *consistent* that droids are ignored / underestimated. And probably generally programmed to go down with the ship rather than take an escape pod. So I don't actually fault the "no life signs" bit.

    But I will (and always have, ever since I watched the movie when it first came out) fault the *entire* droid blind spot, as well as "wait… if they *all* have this blind spot, why doesn't she?"

    Quote Originally Posted by Bugbear View Post
    Then for some reason the Empire can't find two driods in a desert...only if they had a couple hundred troops, speeders, sensors, droids, and flying craft to comb the desert with.....but they don't so the plot can happen.
    Really, I'm more concerned with, "after the destruction of the Death Star, how come a couple dozen Star Destroyers didn't pound their base to dust?".

    Quote Originally Posted by Bugbear View Post
    Though the module examples feel more like just tactical blunders.
    Is there a better trope for numbskull tactical(/strategic) blunders?

    Quote Originally Posted by Bugbear View Post
    And people just don't understand even basic tactics. Or when it comes to RPGs, not all players know or understand all the rules.
    Drizzt dodges Magic Missiles, so clearly one needn't understand the setting to write about it, but is it really too much to ask that understanding the rules be a prerequisite for writing modules?

    Quote Originally Posted by Bugbear View Post
    RPGs are no different.
    Quote Originally Posted by Bugbear View Post
    But I think every module, every adventure really, needs the idiot factor to work.
    A storm came up unexpectedly, and shipwrecked the party on an unexplored island.

    The D&D party is exploring the ruins of the Playboy Mansion, now infested with trolls / beholders / etc.

    The Enterprise Q has been equipped with formerly illegal Romulan-derived phasing technology in order to explore a Dyson Sphere. And it's inhabited.

    Alien invaders begin pouring out of a wormhole over New York city. Can you stop them?

    I'm just not seeing the necessity for idiocy - certainly not idiocy of the class of "invisibility before teleportation" or "let's Leroy Jenkins our squishy Wizards with no backup".

    Quote Originally Posted by Telok View Post
    Well H.P. Lovecraft & adjacent fiction usually didn't require idiot balls. Mind those stories went something like: unsuspecting normal people + surprise tentacle hentai = corpses, basket cases, & burning things down.
    Thanks for the laugh!

    Quote Originally Posted by Telok View Post
    I think railroady modules may need more idiot ball than sandboxes. The sand boxes may have something more like requiring someone to have had the idiot ball in order for them to happen, but don't seem to usually require on going idiot ball carrying.
    Huh. A more thorough look at the connection between "rails" and "idiot balls" may be in order at some point.

    Quote Originally Posted by Telok View Post
    Now that circle of eight thing though... Yeah. Major idiot balls all over the place there. AD&D high level wizards got apprentices, taxable lands, and hired guards. Just by being over 10th level. Assuming of course they didn't just trash their own class features because... well, that's idiot balling again.
    Lol. Yeah, I haven't managed to figure out how they could be that dumb yet.

  9. - Top - End - #9
    Ogre in the Playground
     
    HalflingRogueGuy

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    Default Re: How common is the Idiot Ball?

    Quote Originally Posted by Quertus View Post
    Really, I'm more concerned with, "after the destruction of the Death Star, how come a couple dozen Star Destroyers didn't pound their base to dust?".
    They did. That's why Empire Strikes Back starts on Hoth and not the Yavin moon.
    A better question would be "why wasn't the Star Destroyer fleet alongside the Death Star?", to wich the answer is "the entire point of the Death Star was to be an indestructible one-ship fleet".
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    Quote Originally Posted by Fyraltari
    Also this isn’t D&D, flaming the troll doesn’t help either.

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    Halfling in the Playground
     
    Chimera

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    Default Re: How common is the Idiot Ball?

    Quote Originally Posted by Quertus View Post
    Is there a better trope for people doing really dumb things?
    I'm not sure. It's really Idiotic Setting, but I don't see a trope for that.


    Quote Originally Posted by Quertus View Post
    How much Exploration requires idiocy? Star Trek - explore strange new worlds. D&D - explore strange magical sites / monster-infested dungeons / beyond the map.
    Nearly all Exploration. How often do you see the Idiotic Setting in Star Trek? Nearly every episode. The plot of the ship finds a random planet and then the senior bridge crew goes down to the planet in dress shoes and one piece thin uniforms and wait to be effected by some strange new thing? Then as soon as that happens, take them right back to the ship.

    The RPG Exploration is just as bad. A small group, without even basic supplies but plenty of weapons, goes into the unknown.


    Quote Originally Posted by Quertus View Post
    This piece is problematic. Star Wars is fairly *consistent* that droids are ignored / underestimated. And probably generally programmed to go down with the ship rather than take an escape pod. So I don't actually fault the "no life signs" bit.
    Well, it's more the case of "why not just shoot all escape pods automatically?" Why does officer gunner guy feel the need to even scan for life forms in that one second after the pod is launched? Why not just say "fire!". And where was this amazing life forms scanner later in the hanger deck when they caught the Meliiniunm Falcon?


    Quote Originally Posted by Quertus View Post
    Really, I'm more concerned with, "after the destruction of the Death Star, how come a couple dozen Star Destroyers didn't pound their base to dust?".
    Well next you will ask why the Death Star did not have a Combat Task Force Fleet and a fighter Combat Space Patrol.


    Quote Originally Posted by Quertus View Post
    Drizzt dodges Magic Missiles, so clearly one needn't understand the setting to write about it, but is it really too much to ask that understanding the rules be a prerequisite for writing modules?
    Well, I'd note some weird 2E magic missiles don't auto hit. And when a writer says "magic missiles" then might really mean "magic force missiles" but not the spell Magic Missiles.

    Though, yes, it's often too much to ask for nearly any writer to know the source material. Writers are paid to produce content, so many don't care about details.

    Quote Originally Posted by Quertus View Post
    I'm just not seeing the necessity for idiocy - certainly not idiocy of the class of "invisibility before teleportation" or "let's Leroy Jenkins our squishy Wizards with no backup".
    It has to be done to make the plot work in most cases. At least must be done if the writer wants to do it the easy way.

    When a writer makes a scene they need to make it foolproof: but most writers lack the desire or ability to do this...and even if they want to and have the skill, it still takes up time and space.

    Even something simple as an NPC getting away and escaping from the PCs can take five pages of a module as the writer needs to describe the many things the NPC has to do to foil the PCs. Often they simply don't have the space. So they go with the simple "an arch mage grabbed him"...a Wizard Did It.

    I'd guess the invisibility before teleport is to stop the annoying players that would do obsessive extreme things to follow the NPC.

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    Eldritch Horror in the Playground Moderator
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    Default Re: How common is the Idiot Ball?

    Quote Originally Posted by Bugbear View Post


    Well, it's more the case of "why not just shoot all escape pods automatically?" Why does officer gunner guy feel the need to even scan for life forms in that one second after the pod is launched? Why not just say "fire!". And where was this amazing life forms scanner later in the hanger deck when they caught the Meliiniunm Falcon?
    Isn't that why Luke and the others hid in the Falcon's smuggling compartments? Thats probably one of the few anti-examples of Imperials playing it smart; they detect no life, assume the crew ejected, but send troopers in to check just in case. It goes poorly for them, but that is how plot works.
    Quote Originally Posted by Red Fel, on quest rewards View Post
    "Is a stack of ten pancakes too many pancakes to give to the party, even if most of them fell on the floor and one or two were stepped on? I wanted to give my party pancakes as a reward but I'm unsure if it's too much. The pancakes are also laced with blowfish poison so the party would have to get an antitoxin before they could eat the ones which weren't pulverized by shoes."

    I don't think anyone would want those pancakes even if you paid them to eat them.

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    Ettin in the Playground
     
    Chimera

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    Default Re: How common is the Idiot Ball?

    Quote Originally Posted by Quertus View Post
    How much Exploration requires idiocy? Star Trek - explore strange new worlds. D&D - explore strange magical sites / monster-infested dungeons / beyond the map.
    I suspect herein lies the/a major site of the problem. The primary function/point of pre-module (and also early modules like Keep on the Borderlands) D&D was to have Players bring their PCs to new dungeons (or hexes, if you get to the wilderness hexplore part of the game) and have them explore them (avoiding or confronting challenges) looking for treasure and other avenues of advancement (to make them better at exploring new dungeons in search of… etc. etc.). The modules you reference, on the other hand, have a primary point of leading (preferably with clues or challenge-gated discoveries, rather than rails, but often failing in that regards) players through a set series of plot points towards some form of narrative payoff. They are teleological trajectories, rather than emergent ones. Both have strengths and weaknesses. Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series was a masterpiece of emergent character arcs, but it also meant that it became nightmarish to actually wrap up plot arcs. Some of Agatha Christie’s best mysteries are masterpieces of teleological writing (most people do want to end mysteries with the detective finding out who did the crime and how), and it’s interesting to note that the stories written when (we retroactively realize) she undoubtedly was starting to head into dementia where things start to seem like something contrived happens that drags the plot from where it is to the ending envisioned. Certainly an author who is good at one but bad at the other trying to do that other can cause serious dissonance (see: the show was finished by hacks, but supposedly one reason George R R Martin is having trouble finishing his book series is that he is better at writing characters reacting to the situation in which they find themselves than he is at sending them in the direction of the destination whereupon he wants to end the series. These modules are being written with a strong bit of ‘we really need the villain to escape here,’ or ‘we need to give the PCs a chance to stop the villain from escaping, even though the game rules don’t really make that easy,’ or similar.

    As for Drizzt dodging magic missiles, I suspect it is because ‘the wizard hit Drizzt with magic missiles, but it was insufficient damage to cause him to hit 0 hp and drop’ would make for a really unfulfilling novel.

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    LordCdrMilitant's Avatar

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    Default Re: How common is the Idiot Ball?

    Well, in RPG's, very common. Mostly held by PC's. ;)

    There have been so many times where one of my players does something, it goes bad spectacularly, and then they go "well, honestly, I don't know what I expected to happen when I did that."
    Guardsmen, hear me! Cadia may lie in ruin, but her proud people do not! For each brother and sister who gave their lives to Him as martyrs, we will reap a vengeance fiftyfold! Cadia may be no more, but will never be forgotten; our foes shall tremble in fear at the name, for their doom shall come from the barrels of Cadian guns, fired by Cadian hands! Forward, for vengeance and retribution, in His name and the names of our fallen comrades!

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    Firbolg in the Playground
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    Default Re: How common is the Idiot Ball?

    Originally Posted by Cazero
    They did. That's why Empire Strikes Back starts on Hoth and not the Yavin moon.
    This. Destroying the Death Star bought the Rebels enough time to evacuate the Massassi base, but they still had to leave.

    Originally Posted by Bugbear
    Then for some reason the Empire can't find two driods in a desert...only if they had a couple hundred troops, speeders, sensors, droids, and flying craft to comb the desert with.....but they don't so the plot can happen.
    You’re underestimating just how huge a desert can be. And in this case, the entire planet is desert.

    Also keep in mind that both droids were fairly quickly snapped up and housed in a sandcrawler, and transported a fair distance from the crash site. To their credit, the Imperials realized this and chased down the sandcrawler, then backtracked to the Lars homestead. It’s a question of timing, not stupidity.

  15. - Top - End - #15
    Ogre in the Playground
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    Default Re: How common is the Idiot Ball?

    Quote Originally Posted by Willie the Duck View Post
    Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series was a masterpiece of emergent character arcs, but it also meant that it became nightmarish to actually wrap up plot arcs. Some of Agatha Christie’s best mysteries are masterpieces of teleological writing (most people do want to end mysteries with the detective finding out who did the crime and how), and it’s interesting to note that the stories written when (we retroactively realize) she undoubtedly was starting to head into dementia where things start to seem like something contrived happens that drags the plot from where it is to the ending envisioned. Certainly an author who is good at one but bad at the other trying to do that other can cause serious dissonance (see: the show was finished by hacks, but supposedly one reason George R R Martin is having trouble finishing his book series is that he is better at writing characters reacting to the situation in which they find themselves than he is at sending them in the direction of the destination whereupon he wants to end the series. These modules are being written with a strong bit of ‘we really need the villain to escape here,’ or ‘we need to give the PCs a chance to stop the villain from escaping, even though the game rules don’t really make that easy,’ or similar.
    The realities of history rarely match up with the narrative structure of effective storytelling. This has a tendency to lead massive epic stories that aspire to historical scope into a morass where there's no easy or logical way to get the characters back to the initial story. This is why actual historical epic fiction often has narratively unsatisfying events and conclusions. Zhuge Liang just dies 3/4ths of the way through the Three Kingdoms with all his goals unaccomplished, because even though he's absolutely the hero of the tale, he was also a real person and the year and circumstances of his death was a known historical fact the author couldn't ignore.

    Any plot of sufficient completely is going to, at some point, require some fairly heavy-handed authorial action in order to make sure key characters are where they need to be when they need to be there. This doesn't necessarily require anyone to hold the idiot ball, but it can easily involve that if not considered very carefully. Generally RPG plots shouldn't be so complicated that this is necessary.
    Resvier: a P6 homebrew setting

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    Default Re: How common is the Idiot Ball?

    Quote Originally Posted by Bugbear View Post

    Really watch the first couple minutes of just Star Wars, you have the 'no life form' gunners that don't shoot the escape pod(and they are people that live in a universe full of non living driods too). Then for some reason the Empire can't find two driods in a desert...only if they had a couple hundred troops, speeders, sensors, droids, and flying craft to comb the desert with.....but they don't so the plot can happen.
    Name any other droid in the Lucas series that has same amount of initiative as C-3P0 and R2-D2 (BB-8 and K-2SO were added decades later, and so far every self-willed droid has worked for the Rebels). It's very likely that the gunners have *never* encountered a droid capable of doing anything other than following direct and limited commands. Keep in mind that these were Clone Troopers created to fight the Trade Federation droids that were notoriously stupid, and every other droid we meet in the series is relatively dim.

    As far as finding the droids goes... they wiped out the Jawas and killed Owen and Beru like two days later. Which is actually *crazy* fast when you consider that the escape pod could have landed *anywhere* on the planet due to orbital mechanics. Tatooine is at least in the same ball park as Earth in terms of size (Wookiepedia says it's a lot bigger, presumably it's made of less dense material to have Earth-like gravity), that's actually *insanely* fast.

    Sorry, I'm nerding out here, but seriously... both the Imperials and the Rebels actually behaved fairly rationally here, especially when you consider that both sides were working with incomplete information.

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    Default Re: How common is the Idiot Ball?

    Quote Originally Posted by Palanan View Post
    You’re underestimating just how huge a desert can be. And in this case, the entire planet is desert.
    Quote Originally Posted by Grendus View Post

    Sorry, I'm nerding out here, but seriously...
    So the first question is why the Star Destroyer can't scan for two robots in a desert. Unless there is technobable that says scanners can't do that.

    The Empire knows the location of the crash site, so it's not like the are searching everywhere. Just a circle around the crash site.

    And instead of five guys and a big lizard, how about send anything else? 25 tie fighters or whatever other flying craft they have? 25 probe droids? 25 troopers each with a speeder bike?

    The way it should have gone.....the guy says "look sir droids", then they send the tie fighters and speeders to follow the trail. Droids caught in minutes.

    But the whole point is the plot needs the droids to escape.

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    Default Re: How common is the Idiot Ball?

    Quote Originally Posted by Grendus View Post
    Name any other droid in the Lucas series that has same amount of initiative as C-3P0 and R2-D2 (BB-8 and K-2SO were added decades later, and so far every self-willed droid has worked for the Rebels). It's very likely that the gunners have *never* encountered a droid capable of doing anything other than following direct and limited commands. Keep in mind that these were Clone Troopers created to fight the Trade Federation droids that were notoriously stupid, and every other droid we meet in the series is relatively dim.

    As far as finding the droids goes... they wiped out the Jawas and killed Owen and Beru like two days later. Which is actually *crazy* fast when you consider that the escape pod could have landed *anywhere* on the planet due to orbital mechanics. Tatooine is at least in the same ball park as Earth in terms of size (Wookiepedia says it's a lot bigger, presumably it's made of less dense material to have Earth-like gravity), that's actually *insanely* fast.

    Sorry, I'm nerding out here, but seriously... both the Imperials and the Rebels actually behaved fairly rationally here, especially when you consider that both sides were working with incomplete information.
    For gunner man, we have two possibilities:

    1) He is high-rank enough that he has a good understanding of their mission parameters, and knows that stolen plans (or droids carrying them) wouldn't pop up on life scanners, and therefore it's still a good idea to shoot that escape pod out of the sky just in case the only copy of the plans are on-board. A droid may not be particularly dangerous, but they can follow orders and bring plans to somebody else, and that can make the trail go cold pretty quick - which is exactly what happens, so that's not just me speculating about theoretical problems "not shooting the droids" could cause. A stupid droid programmed with a prime directive of "bring plans to Obi-Wan Kenobi" would be just as problematic as R2 ended up being, so the initiative of the droids on board isn't the issue at all anyway.

    2) He is not high-rank enough to have been clued in on what exactly they're doing, so he doesn't know that they're hunting for stolen plans and wouldn't think shooting droids is 100% necessary. BUT in this scenario, he's also therefore not high-rank enough to make a call on whether or not to shoot the escape pods, or even to scan before shooting to figure out if wasting a shot on an unmanned escape pod is worth the trouble. He's paid to shoot down escape pods to prevent any potential escapes, not to question whether shooting is the right move in this situation. That's the higher-ups job, he just presses the buttons.

    In neither of these situations does it make sense to not shoot the escape pod. You could maybe make an argument that he was influenced by the Force or something I guess, but that doesn't make it feel any less contrived.


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    Default Re: How common is the Idiot Ball?

    Quote Originally Posted by Bugbear View Post
    Really watch the first couple minutes of just Star Wars, you have the 'no life form' gunners that don't shoot the escape pod(and they are people that live in a universe full of non living driods too).
    As others have pointed out, droids in Star Wars don't seem to have much initiative at all. R2 is a special case - C3P0 was completely ready to go down with the ship. Keep in mind that restraining bolts on droids appear to be very common, and very effective.

    Quote Originally Posted by Bugbear View Post
    Then for some reason the Empire can't find two driods in a desert...only if they had a couple hundred troops, speeders, sensors, droids, and flying craft to comb the desert with.....but they don't so the plot can happen.
    So.... I think this is slightly different. The "all forces find the droids" thing makes sense..... if you have unlimited resources or have exactly one lead to follow up on.

    In this case, they didn't necessarily know the droids had the plans. We have no idea what the forces were doing (and also keeping reserve capacity on the ship to defend it, etc.). And the Stormtroopers didn't show up until after R2 and C3P0 had been captured by Jawas - which is an indeterminate amount of time later but implied to be a good number of hours - so the area they could have been in was larger, and also shows that capturing them wasn't that high of a priority, as they didn't immediately jet down there.

    It seems most likely in this case that they spared the resources ththat the lead warranted, based on what they felt the likelihood of the crash site (remember, they still thought it was empty) actually leading to anything of value was.
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    Default Re: How common is the Idiot Ball?

    Quote Originally Posted by AvatarVecna View Post
    In neither of these situations does it make sense to not shoot the escape pod. You could maybe make an argument that he was influenced by the Force or something I guess, but that doesn't make it feel any less contrived.
    But, again, we're looking at one moment in time. We have no idea of how much stuff is on his scanner.

    His primary mission has to be "protect the death star". Shooting every piece of space trash on his scanner doesn't accomplish that.
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    Default Re: How common is the Idiot Ball?

    He could have been ordered to 'keep any people from escaping.' Or the orders could have been extremely specific 'shoot any escape pod with life forms aboard, <since a person with the plans and individual agency is a high-risk proposition>, but do not shoot any without a life form aboard <since plans hidden on board or held by a robot are considered low-risk, and blowing up the escape pod means you never know for sure if the plans were on board so Vader is going to be spending the next 2 years combing through the ship for the plans and boy howdy will he not like that and we all know how well things go for people that make his life difficult...>' However, overall yes it is pretty contrived (and the explanations pretty outlandish).

    I tend to treat the plot of ANH as the ramblings of an unreliable narrator about how they think things went down. From what we have been told, the entire process was a complete Charlie Foxtrot with massive re-writes and re-edits and it's just amazing we got a good movie out of the mess. I really tend to come down harder on the films made after they knew that SW was more than just a silly little space opera by that American Graffiti guy that just might earn back its' cost.

    That said, since IIRC we can't even see their faces (and thus we don't have a 'they could refilm the sequence, and were stuck with it' scenario), in a perfect world someone really should have noticed it and at least changed the line to 'our orders are only to shoot pods with life forms aboard' or the like.

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    Default Re: How common is the Idiot Ball?

    Quote Originally Posted by Quertus View Post
    Really, I'm more concerned with, "after the destruction of the Death Star, how come a couple dozen Star Destroyers didn't pound their base to dust?".
    I'd be more concerned with why they took 30 minutes to go around Yavin instead of blasting it out of the way. Presumably the weapon charges quicker than that....
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    Default Re: How common is the Idiot Ball?

    Quote Originally Posted by tomandtish View Post
    I'd be more concerned with why they took 30 minutes to go around Yavin instead of blasting it out of the way. Presumably the weapon charges quicker than that....
    Presumably the Death Star can't destroy gas giants.
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    Default Re: How common is the Idiot Ball?

    Part of why people roleplay is seeing characters make terrible decisions given circumstances, and then standing up on their pulpit to exclaim "I could do better!"

    i dont think i would ever want to truly go into a non-self serving or purpose serving character, because i still maintain the ending of Romeo and Juliet sucked, especially for those two.

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    Default Re: How common is the Idiot Ball?

    IMO, I see three different sources behind "idiot ball".
    (1) Actual error from the author/DM. Sometimes, the "idiot" is the author/DM. I mean, as a player, we once planed for a full takeover of an enemy base full of spellcaster, and not one of us remembered that "see invisibility" was a spell that existed, and we had to wait the end of the session for the DM to explain us how the enemies detected us. Sometimes, peoples are idiot.
    (2) NPC-railroading. If the DM is railroading the PCs, why would the NPCs be granted the privilege of messing with the DM plans by acting too clever for the scenario? And if the only reason why the DM is not railroading the PCs is to respect player agency, then there is no remorse at railroading the NPCs.
    (3) System inadequacy. As discussed in other subjects, a lot of peoples playing D&D would probably be better matched with another system. But that's also the case for module authors! Sometimes, they need to battle with the system because the universe they imagine is incompatible with the rule set (or the level of realism).
    Last edited by MoiMagnus; 2021-01-11 at 05:07 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bugbear View Post
    I'd guess the invisibility before teleport is to stop the annoying players that would do obsessive extreme things to follow the NPC.
    I do not know things that would be stopped by invisibility + a 30 foot movement that allows to track teleporting people.

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    PaladinGuy

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    Default Re: How common is the Idiot Ball?

    I would object to the idea that the Idiot Ball is in any way necessary for plot and drama to happen, because a character making a mistake isn't enough to claim they're holding the idiot ball.

    We all agree that if the evil vizier's plot is perfect and impossible to detect, then there can be no story about foiling the plot: there needs to be a hole in the plan, information getting leaked, etc. Stuff the PCs can use to achieve their goal. But the existence of those details doesn't mean the vizier is holding the idiot ball!

    The idiot ball requires the character to act in such a way that it seems they actually are being stupid or obtuse on purpose. For example, the vizier in question writing down all his plans on a diary and then leaving it out on the open. That's just dumb and feels extremely contrived, but there are ways to make PCs able to access the info that don't feel dumb: an eavesdropping servant referring what they overheard to the PCs, a member of the plot drinking too much and raising suspicions through his attitude, heck, it could be as simple as a defector trying to find help.

    Let's take the ending of Romeo and Juliet: the tragedy at the end is caused by faulty or lacking information, not anyone acting out of character in order to fuel the plot (in fact, that's exactly the tragedy: if Romeo had received the Friar's letter, both him and Juliet would have been alive). The plot happens because of honest mistakes and complications arising from the feud between Montagues and Capulets.

    EDIT: the Idiot Ball also requires the character in question to act unusually dumb. Which means a dumb character doing dumb things isn't a case of the Idiot Ball.
    Last edited by Silly Name; 2021-01-11 at 06:14 AM.

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    Default Re: How common is the Idiot Ball?

    The other problem with calling things "Idiot Ball" is that the viewer/reader usually has all sorts of information on:

    1) What vulnerability the heroes find
    2) How they found it
    3) The results of finding it

    and very little information on

    1) The constraints that the antagonists have (people, time, resources, etc.)
    2) All of the things that were defended against
    3) What information the enemies have on the vulnerability
    4) What other constraints that they have

    This means that most defensive plans look kinda Idiot-Ball-ish - we only see the weak points, and not all of the other stuff that wouldn't work that was defended against.

    Why didn't the Death Star destroy Yavin?

    1) Tarkin obviously thought it wasn't necessary. They weren't fully aware of the vulnerability until fairly late, and even then it was a slim shot - almost the entire attacking force was destroyed, Luke got bailed out with a last second save, and the only reason the shot even went in was because they had a damn Space Sorceror on their team. Without a Jedi? That plan fails at least 99 times out of 100.
    2) Tarkin's arrogance. Less Idiot Ball, more arrogance. And not unjustified, frankly.
    3) We don't know about the Death Star's effect on a gas giant. It might not do anything. It might cause it to supernova. It might piecemeal blow pieces of it away, so that "digging" a tunnel through the gas would take longer than thirty minutes.
    4) We don't know anything else about the Yavin system - any other resources that would be impacted by the destruction of, I dunno, its star?
    5) We don't know much about the constraints of the Death Star - how often can it fire, what is the cost of firing it, etc.

    So is not shooting through Yavin an Idiot Ball maneuver? I really don't think so. We can easily imagine a scenario where at least one of points three through five are in play, enough that the cost/viability of blasting through Yavin itself become unviable from a reasonable cost/benefit analysis, if not flat out impossible.

    So, like most Idiot Balls, I think it's more a matter of the viewer not trusting that the characters are actually smart, and that they have information that we don't. I think that's common.

    Not all Idiot Balls are like this, of course. But I think a lot are.
    Last edited by kyoryu; 2021-01-11 at 11:43 AM.
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    Default Re: How common is the Idiot Ball?

    Quote Originally Posted by Silly Name View Post
    I would object to the idea that the Idiot Ball is in any way necessary for plot and drama to happen, because a character making a mistake isn't enough to claim they're holding the idiot ball.
    It is not that all fictional plots and drama needs Idiot Balls, it is possible to write good plots and drama. There are three bits that make Idiot Balls:

    1.The writer is clueless about what they are writing. This is quite common, after all few companies test a writer to see how much of an expert they are on the topic. You can see this is countless modules.

    2.Blindness. This is when a writer has a one track mind. They think one way and think that one way is the same way everyone else thinks. So if the writer does not think of something, they assume everyone won't think of that something too. And if the writer does not think something will happen, it will show.

    3.Time and Space. A big one. A module only has so many pages of text, minus maps and artwork and things like stat blocks that can take up lots of space. So even if the writer wanted to make a plot and drama better, they simply don't have the room.

    You see clueless writers all the time, it's easy to see in stat blacks in modules. A character will typical have a couple random feats, abilities and spells that sound good....but are often very useless. Have a tough fighter character...oh look they took the feat Toughness. A wise wizard, oh look they took skill focus spellcraft. An evil cleric, oh, they took the evil spell Deathwatch!

    Blindness is just as common. The writer thinks that "no one" would ever just attack the king....so the king has three zero level guards. Or the royal vault has no traps or magic defenses.

    And space is always a problem. The evil wizards common sense tactics only take up two paragraphs....but it's cut that, or cut something else. A cut has to be made for space, and it will often leave a hole.


    Quote Originally Posted by Silly Name View Post
    The idiot ball requires the character to act in such a way that it seems they actually are being stupid or obtuse on purpose. For example, the vizier in question writing down all his plans on a diary and then leaving it out on the open. That's just dumb and feels extremely contrived, but there are ways to make PCs able to access the info that don't feel dumb: an eavesdropping servant referring what they overheard to the PCs, a member of the plot drinking too much and raising suspicions through his attitude, heck, it could be as simple as a defector trying to find help.
    There are plenty of examples of people leaving important information out in the open. But if a vizier keeps his diary on his desk in his study, that is not exactly in the open...but still someone might see it. And all ways for the PCs to get the information will feel contrived, as they are made that way.

    The twist here is the adventure is "stop the vizier" and not "find out the secret plan of the vizier". And it could be a long adventure just to have the PCs on their own, discover the secret plan...with no contrived help at all.

    Also a diary is nice as it can't talk back. The adventure can include a couple of diary handouts and then the PCs can start the adventure. To have an NPC talk to the characters has the problem that many players will want to know EVERYTHING and will want to talk to the NPC for hours, maybe the whole game session. Plus the players will often want lots of details that outright ruin the adventure: like the secret tunnel that bypasses the whole adventure. Sure the NPC can "not know" somethings, but they have to know lots of basic things that can ruin the adventure. With the diary you don't have that problem.

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    Default Re: How common is the Idiot Ball?

    On shooting escape pods, it's usually considered "not good" to shoot at sailors abandoning ship IRL. And my "not good" I mean "war crime".

    I think it's entirely reasonable for gunners to not shoot an escape pod, particularly since you can track precisely where it landed and just have guys land to pick it up and take the occupants as prisoners of war in an entirely non war-crimes-y way. They can't really go further on foot than you can in a shuttle or tank.

    Not that Star Wars has a particularly good track record of not committing war crimes. I would personally say that among a few other things, Star Wars is the leading reason why my players consistently think that pretending to surrender is an entirely acceptable thing to do.
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