A Monster for Every Season: Summer 2
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  1. - Top - End - #31
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    Default Re: Talakeal's Campaign Diary (1 Day without a horror story!)

    Quote Originally Posted by icefractal View Post
    Why did this happen?
    The centaur folk make pacts with demons, and in this case The Poisoner needed help retrieving Ashley's soul from the Labyrinth in which it was bound. So he contracted Pumpkin Head, a fallen boggart, to assist him with the endeavour. The creature was lurking around in the ethereal plane to help as needed, and one of his spells allows him to open up short distance portals.


    Quote Originally Posted by icefractal View Post
    What's going on here? Clearly some funny business with time-lines, but I can't tell from the IC record what actually happened. Is a Kim a new PC being introduced?
    Kim is Brian's PC.

    On the meta level, the campaign is about several cosmic entities playing literal four-dimensional chess. In the "original" timeline the god of darkness, whom Anani is a priestess of, decided that it could not possibly win with the undead legion on the loose, and so it decided to just end the world.

    A third party rescued Kim from the apocalypse. They then dumped her into a very similar timeline where A: she had died in the Cataclysm a century ago and B: the centipede folk failed in their endeavor to unlock Ashley's power.


    Quote Originally Posted by icefractal View Post
    Secondly, I don't think you should be surprised that the players are taking this as a failure to be at least IC upset about, and it's not unnatural for that to bleed OOC a bit. They survives, yes, but here's what happened, from a slightly negative viewpoint (aka the viewpoint players who are frustrated by their previous plans not working probably have:
    "You ****ed up and you should feel bad. Let me explain how your ****-up is a tragedy."
    "You don't deserve the full reward, because you suck. Perhaps in the future you could prove yourselves not to be such losers ... maybe."
    Three things:

    1: The bad feelings and meltdown actually occurred mid-fight, not after the session. By the end of the session everyone was (mostly) over it and in good spirits. They had not gotten to their debriefing or rewards yet.

    2: There have to be some repercussions for failure on either a mechanical or narrative level. If not, there is no intensive for the players to try at all and the optimal strategy just becomes to bug out and abandon every adventure ASAP. I tried to make the consequences as light as I could without damaging verisimilitude though, as they players had wasted two sessions on the mission and I really needed them to continue their relationship with the Immaterium going forward.

    3: Here we get the double edged sword of giving information. I was trying to give the PCs as much exposition as possible, but it is interpreted as rubbing the player's failures in their face. I literally feel like I can't win here, as no matter how much information I give it is never precisely the right amount. Too little and I am being cryptic, too much and I am rubbing it in.

    Quote Originally Posted by icefractal View Post
    And that leads to the third point - I think you actually made this scenario too difficult.

    You yourself would not have been able to complete the scenario successfully without the benefit of hindsight. That's too difficult. You currently think that a diversion + assault plan would work, but are you even sure? Isn't there potential defenses the city could have had against that tactic also?
    Its possible. At this point I am kind of doubting myself.

    I really want to try having one of my players run me through the same scenario this weekend to see how it goes and troubleshoot it, but its hard to do without, again, looking like I am trying to prove myself the superior gamer and rub their failures in their face. The only problem with this, and it is one I am not quite sure how to handle, is how seriously the players take the encounter.

    I don't see why you say I would not have been able to complete it, what gives you that impression?



    Quote Originally Posted by icefractal View Post
    I wonder if you're falling into a trap that I've fallen into myself when GMing:
    "I know what this group's resources and level of preparation are, so I don't need to determine their exact defenses ahead of time. I'll just fill in what would be reasonable when it comes up."

    This sounds reasonable, but it's basically Schrödinger's Wizard in organization form. Because if the organization is equally or more powerful than the party, then there is likely to be a "reasonable" defense against anything that the party can do. Usually the only way that an underdog wins, other than sheer luck, is by exploting a blunder that the overdog makes. So if your opposition can be described as an "overdog" (more powerful than the PCs in aggregate, which is usually the scenario) then they need to make blunders! They need to not have thought of every contingency. So while it might seem like "an organization with many intelligent people in it should logically have better preparation than what I, a single person with other responsibilities, can provide", that's a path that leads to the PCs logically failing unless they outright overpower their opposition.
    Its funny, that is actually one of the go to rants for my players, but it didn't happen this time. Probably because Krystal got off without a scratch and Bob (Krystal's player) is normally the one who starts accusing the DM of ret-conning stuff to screw the PCs.

    Spoiler: My Notes for the Encounter
    Show

    It is an overcast day.

    Pyramids central chamber is 12x20 squares. The inside is divided into eight 3x3 square sacrificial chambers arranged in two rows of four. There are one meter wide corridors between them. Each is entered by a locked (dc 20) door which is located on the second and fourth vertical hallways.

    The outer wall is three meters thick. The center of the wide edge has a one meter wide entrance corridor at the center of the long edge nearest the canyon entrance.

    There is a three meter wide walk way all the way around.

    There is a ten meter high slope all the way around the pyramid. It is rough terrain which can be climbed.

    There is three meter wide stairway in the slope directly infront of the entrance corridor.

    There are three guards at the top of the stairs. They are level 2 centipede folk warriors armed with polearms, javelins, and their poisoned pincers. The center one is riding a buraq.

    Inside the pyramid, patrolling randomly, are four gods. These are smaller, only man-size, but are trained in alertness and wielding swords instead of pole-arms. They are otherwise identical to the outdoor guards.

    Each time one of the sacrificial chambers is entered (or someone attempts to teleport in) they roll a difficulty 40 reason test. They receive a +5 bonus to this test for every room that has already been explored. On a success, they find Ashley (who is comatose) and The Poisoner who is experimenting upon her. The Poisoner is a level four centipede folk alchemist who will defend himself and call for help if he or Ashley are disturbed.

    Pumpkin Head, a third circle fallen boggart, is hanging around the ethereal assisting the poisoner as needed. He has spells that involve fear and spatial manipulation. His first act will be to ward the room The Poisoner is in against teleportation.

    At the start of each enemy turn, roll a d20. If the result is equal to or less than the turn number, a reinforcement appears at the edge of the board. It has identical stats to the guards and cannot act the turn it enters. The d20 roll receives a -4 penalty if the players performed any especially loud actions (shouting, firing a gun, explosions, etc.) and a +4 bonus if they performed only quiet actions (whispering, sneaking, attacking from ambush, etc.)

    The three outer guards and the Buraq are an "appropriate encounter" that should use up ~20% of the party's resources and go down in 3-6 turns.
    The four inner guards and the Poisoner are an "appropriate encounter" that should use up ~20% of the party's resources and go down in 3-6 turns.
    Pumpkin Head and the Reinforcements are, by themselves, trivial encounters that should use up >10% of the party's resources individual, but can overwhelm the party if encountered at the wrong time and place.


    Spoiler: My Tactical Analysis of the Encounter
    Show

    The party had nobody who could see spirits and didn't think to summon any spiritual allies of their own, so Pumpkin Head could move about and act unchecked. This was bad luck.
    The first two reinforcement rolls succeeded. This was bad luck.
    They kept Quincy alone on the back edge of the board with nobody to protect or support him and no ability to move up. This was bad tactics.
    Anani didn't summon a shade until very late in the fight. This was bad tactics.
    Rather than pushing forward, the party just stood on the stairs fighting and letting their enemies surround them. By the time they were in a favorable position, Quincy and Feur were down and Anani was out of mana, and that point they would eventually lose to attrition.

    It was not over-tuned on paper, but this is a fight that requires an unusual strategy and an uncommon amount of tact, so I can see how it was too hard for the players in practice. I have no doubt that if they tried again and spent some time talking tactics they could clear it 99% of the time. But I really hope to get one of them to run it for me this weekend so I can test it to see how it goes from the other side.
    Looking for feedback on Heart of Darkness, a character driven RPG of Gothic fantasy.

  2. - Top - End - #32
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    Default Re: Talakeal's Campaign Diary (1 Day without a horror story!)

    Quote Originally Posted by Talakeal
    I don't see why you say I would not have been able to complete it, what gives you that impression?
    Because you initially said that a direct raid on the pyramid would be a viable plan, which it then wasn't and you mentioned that a diversion was really needed as well. But it sounds like the same strategy with different tactics would have worked?

    Quote Originally Posted by Talakeal
    It was not over-tuned on paper, but this is a fight that requires an unusual strategy and an uncommon amount of tact, so I can see how it was too hard for the players in practice. I have no doubt that if they tried again and spent some time talking tactics they could clear it 99% of the time. But I really hope to get one of them to run it for me this weekend so I can test it to see how it goes from the other side.
    Requires an unusual strategy that's not really intuitive if you don't know the rules the encounter operates under.

    For example, pushing past the initial enemies and getting inside ASAP makes sense in your version (unlimited reinforcements, searching the inside is fairly fast). But if the scenario was different:
    A) If there was a limited supply of reinforcements and those reinforcements would follow the party inside, then it makes sense to take them on ahead of time rather than get surrounded inside.
    B) If reinforcements would keep arriving while the party is inside, and searching the inside takes a fair amount of time, then this is kind a no-win situation, and no tactic other than having an escape power like Teleport would really work (except it would fail because of Pumpkin Head).

    So I'd say that if you want to take on the challenge yourself - don't use the one you wrote, because of course you'd know how to solve that. Have one of the players make some changes to the scenario, then try to defeat that. Lack of information makes a big difference.
    Last edited by icefractal; 2021-09-20 at 05:13 PM.

  3. - Top - End - #33
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    Default Re: Talakeal's Campaign Diary (1 Day without a horror story!)

    Quote Originally Posted by icefractal View Post
    Because you initially said that a direct raid on the pyramid would be a viable plan, which it then wasn't and you mentioned that a diversion was really needed as well. But it sounds like the same strategy with different tactics would have worked?
    Note that in post #2 I said "perform a smash and grab before the defenders could mount a defense".

    The idea is to keep moving forward and not get bogged down in reinforcements, which is precisely what the PCs didn't do.

    Neither the forces outside or inside are a match for the party, or even half of the party. But exactly how they split up their forces really depends on how things are going from moment to moment.

    Quote Originally Posted by icefractal View Post
    So I'd say that if you want to take on the challenge yourself - don't use the one you wrote, because of course you'd know how to solve that. Have one of the players make some changes to the scenario, then try to defeat that. Lack of information makes a big difference.
    What changes would you recommend to make it a "fair" challenge though?

    The players hypothesis is that I put them in an impossible scenario, and my hypothesis is that it is perfectly winnnabl, they just went about it in the wrong way (and had some cold dice).

    I don't know how you would test either of those hypothesis while changing the scenario.

    Especially when you consider that going into it they already had full information of the scenario thanks to Krystal's scouting and Feur's time manipulation.
    Looking for feedback on Heart of Darkness, a character driven RPG of Gothic fantasy.

  4. - Top - End - #34
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    Default Re: Talakeal's Campaign Diary (1 Day without a horror story!)

    Quote Originally Posted by Talakeal View Post

    Spoiler: My Notes for the Encounter
    Show

    It is an overcast day.

    Pyramids central chamber is 12x20 squares. The inside is divided into eight 3x3 square sacrificial chambers arranged in two rows of four. There are one meter wide corridors between them. Each is entered by a locked (dc 20) door which is located on the second and fourth vertical hallways.

    The outer wall is three meters thick. The center of the wide edge has a one meter wide entrance corridor at the center of the long edge nearest the canyon entrance.

    There is a three meter wide walk way all the way around.

    There is a ten meter high slope all the way around the pyramid. It is rough terrain which can be climbed.

    There is three meter wide stairway in the slope directly infront of the entrance corridor.

    There are three guards at the top of the stairs. They are level 2 centipede folk warriors armed with polearms, javelins, and their poisoned pincers. The center one is riding a buraq.

    Inside the pyramid, patrolling randomly, are four gods. These are smaller, only man-size, but are trained in alertness and wielding swords instead of pole-arms. They are otherwise identical to the outdoor guards.

    Each time one of the sacrificial chambers is entered (or someone attempts to teleport in) they roll a difficulty 40 reason test. They receive a +5 bonus to this test for every room that has already been explored. On a success, they find Ashley (who is comatose) and The Poisoner who is experimenting upon her. The Poisoner is a level four centipede folk alchemist who will defend himself and call for help if he or Ashley are disturbed.

    Pumpkin Head, a third circle fallen boggart, is hanging around the ethereal assisting the poisoner as needed. He has spells that involve fear and spatial manipulation. His first act will be to ward the room The Poisoner is in against teleportation.

    At the start of each enemy turn, roll a d20. If the result is equal to or less than the turn number, a reinforcement appears at the edge of the board. It has identical stats to the guards and cannot act the turn it enters. The d20 roll receives a -4 penalty if the players performed any especially loud actions (shouting, firing a gun, explosions, etc.) and a +4 bonus if they performed only quiet actions (whispering, sneaking, attacking from ambush, etc.)

    The three outer guards and the Buraq are an "appropriate encounter" that should use up ~20% of the party's resources and go down in 3-6 turns.
    The four inner guards and the Poisoner are an "appropriate encounter" that should use up ~20% of the party's resources and go down in 3-6 turns.
    Pumpkin Head and the Reinforcements are, by themselves, trivial encounters that should use up >10% of the party's resources individual, but can overwhelm the party if encountered at the wrong time and place.


    Spoiler: My Tactical Analysis of the Encounter
    Show

    The party had nobody who could see spirits and didn't think to summon any spiritual allies of their own, so Pumpkin Head could move about and act unchecked. This was bad luck.
    The first two reinforcement rolls succeeded. This was bad luck.
    They kept Quincy alone on the back edge of the board with nobody to protect or support him and no ability to move up. This was bad tactics.
    Anani didn't summon a shade until very late in the fight. This was bad tactics.
    Rather than pushing forward, the party just stood on the stairs fighting and letting their enemies surround them. By the time they were in a favorable position, Quincy and Feur were down and Anani was out of mana, and that point they would eventually lose to attrition.

    It was not over-tuned on paper, but this is a fight that requires an unusual strategy and an uncommon amount of tact, so I can see how it was too hard for the players in practice. I have no doubt that if they tried again and spent some time talking tactics they could clear it 99% of the time. But I really hope to get one of them to run it for me this weekend so I can test it to see how it goes from the other side.
    reading through this, it sounds a bit like you fell into the common Gm's trap. Having read your notes, I'm reasonably sure I could clear this scenario, but your players didn't have your notes.

    It sounds like you're a bit too cautious about telling them things, I don't see how "Rubbing it in" can be a thing if you're giving them intel ahead of time.



    The big thing that I notice is the idea of speed. Your scenario calls for the PC's to break through the outside guards as quickly as possible, get inside, search the place, and get out. This makes sense, and isn't an unreasonable thing to expect, but the reinforcements mechanic does make the outdoor fight have a non-standard win condition, which can sometimes be difficult for Players to recognize.

    Namely, that the goal was to get inside and close the door, not to take every enemy off the field. The PC's seemed to be approaching it mostly as a standard locked room encounter, where the purpose is to defeat all the enemies presented and then move on. I can't say for sure if that was just them having blinders on, or you not communicating properly, or what.
    My gut tells me that Quincy stayed back because, at least subconsciously, he forgot that the world extended beyond the battlemap, and was approaching things from a "Kill all the enemies out here, and then go inside" perspective, two discrete encounters (outside and inside) rather than one full scenario.


    A question: How good were you about communicating the mechanics of reinforcements? Driving home that more guards will just Keep Showing Up until the PC's get inside and shut the door.

    Edit: How much do you use "GM Patter", how talkative are you outside of explicitly communicating game actions being taken?


    were I running this scenario, I'd be going on about how the guards are trying to block the PC's from getting through, mentioning the shouts of reinforcements on the way, ect ect. Trying to keep "Get past and get inside" in everybody's heads.

    If you're a bit less talkative, mostly just communicating direct actions ("The guard attacks you and misses, this one moves over here, another guard shows up") the players might have not gotten the message about "Endless Reinforcements" and the importance of forward momentum.

    Specifically, the Players might think of this as an Impossible Scenario because they thought you just had 20 extra guards they were expected to fight through, who would spawn one at a time at the back for whatever reason, instead of their victory condtion being "Get through the door and close it".
    Last edited by BRC; 2021-09-20 at 05:31 PM.
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    My Homebrew:Synchronized Swordsmen,Dual Daggers,The Doctor,The Preacher,The Brawler
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  5. - Top - End - #35
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    Default Re: Talakeal's Campaign Diary (1 Day without a horror story!)

    Quote Originally Posted by BRC View Post
    reading through this, it sounds a bit like you fell into the common Gm's trap. Having read your notes, I'm reasonably sure I could clear this scenario, but your players didn't have your notes.

    The big thing that I notice is the idea of speed. Your scenario calls for the PC's to break through the outside guards as quickly as possible, get inside, search the place, and get out. This makes sense, and isn't an unreasonable thing to expect, but the reinforcements mechanic does make the outdoor fight have a non-standard win condition, which can sometimes be difficult for Players to recognize.

    Namely, that the goal was to get inside and close the door, not to take every enemy off the field. The PC's seemed to be approaching it mostly as a standard locked room encounter, where the purpose is to defeat all the enemies presented and then move on. I can't say for sure if that was just them having blinders on, or you not communicating properly, or what.
    My gut tells me that Quincy stayed back because, at least subconsciously, he forgot that the world extended beyond the battlemap, and was approaching things from a "Kill all the enemies out here, and then go inside" perspective, two discrete encounters (outside and inside) rather than one full scenario.
    IMO this is all spot on.



    Quote Originally Posted by BRC View Post
    It sounds like you're a bit too cautious about telling them things, I don't see how "Rubbing it in" can be a thing if you're giving them intel ahead of time.
    Lots of ways.

    Typically, they will either try and justify their mistakes, blame me, or just blow up.

    Examples:

    Q: Why aren't you guys buying any rope?

    A1: Well, actually, I have crunched the numbers and found that rope is absolutely useless as my ability to climb a wall is 70% without it and the extra 25% is not worth the weight.
    A2: Because you are so stingy with treasure that I can't even afford basic supplies!
    A3: Because I FORGOT! There, are you happy now, you made me look like an idiot in front of the whole group!

    (These all came up in this very session btw. Although the only one that was actually about rope was B, I forget what the A and C were about.)

    Quote Originally Posted by BRC View Post
    If you're a bit less talkative, mostly just communicating direct actions ("The guard attacks you and misses, this one moves over here, another guard shows up") the players might have not gotten the message about "Endless Reinforcements" and the importance of forward momentum.

    Specifically, the Players might think of this as an Impossible Scenario because they thought you just had 20 extra guards they were expected to fight through, who would spawn one at a time at the back for whatever reason, instead of their victory condition being "Get through the door and close it".
    Not great, no, I tend to get tired of narrating everything as the session rolls on. I could definitely work on it.

    In this case, unless they were totally absorbed in their phones (which is always a real risk) they knew there were reinforcements, knew it was based on a dice roll, and new how much noise they made modified the dice roll. They did not know the exact odds at any given time.

    Dialogue is a bit trickier. Two of my players absolutely HATE when NPC's quip during combat. They consider a single sentence "a monologue" and have said in the past "If someone is talking in an RPG, they are the only person at the table is having fun," and have for years ranted and raved about dying characters being allowed to have "last words" before expiring.
    Looking for feedback on Heart of Darkness, a character driven RPG of Gothic fantasy.

  6. - Top - End - #36
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    Default Re: Talakeal's Campaign Diary (1 Day without a horror story!)

    Quote Originally Posted by Talakeal View Post
    Valentine has wings and bluffing skills, Kim has the ability to reshape earth, and Anani has illusion powers. Feur and Quincy are also pretty agile and athletic. Between the group I didn't expect them to have any problems getting to the bottom of the canyon and infiltrating the city in a variety of ways; if they wanted to go the more direct route they could have simply sent in a scout (or used some form of divination) to find the temple where she was being held, drive the juggernaut into the city through the canyon's mouth, and done a smash and grab before the defenders could really mount a defense.

    Smash and grab seems totally non-viable. This is a city of some sort. In a dangerous world. A large, hostile, unidentified vehicle running through is going to provoke a massive response. They *might* be able to do a smash and grab fast enough, but it being a city, if they don't they WILL be overrun horribly. And sound travels far faster, so the moment they start, alarm bells (or equivalent) will result in a city-wide lockdown and hostiles all over. It also might be hard to get back out of the city, as the vehicle doesn't sound like it could handle the cliffs, and the main entrance probably has some sort of blockadeable system.

    Overall it feels to me like the mission was beyond the PC's capabilities (admittedly I don't have a good sense of the actual limits of their capabilities), or at least well into the area where failure is likely.

    All the timey-wimey stuff feels wrong to me, it feels like it's bringing in too many far more powerful people to decide things and involving matters far beyond what the PCs could reasonably handle/affect. Feels like NPCs deciding things.
    A neat custom class for 3.5 system
    http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showthread.php?t=94616

    A good set of benchmarks for PF/3.5
    https://rpgwillikers.wordpress.com/2...y-the-numbers/

    An alternate craft point system I made for 3.5
    http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showt...t-Point-system

  7. - Top - End - #37
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    Default Re: Talakeal's Campaign Diary (1 Day without a horror story!)

    Quote Originally Posted by Talakeal View Post

    Not great, no, I tend to get tired of narrating everything as the session rolls on. I could definitely work on it.

    In this case, unless they were totally absorbed in their phones (which is always a real risk) they knew there were reinforcements, knew it was based on a dice roll, and new how much noise they made modified the dice roll. They did not know the exact odds at any given time.

    Dialogue is a bit trickier. Two of my players absolutely HATE when NPC's quip during combat. They consider a single sentence "a monologue" and have said in the past "If someone is talking in an RPG, they are the only person at the table is having fun," and have for years ranted and raved about dying characters being allowed to have "last words" before expiring.
    It can be quite difficult to subtly course-correct when somebody thinks they understand what's going on and what the limitations of the constructed scenario are.

    Like, if your players are used to thinking about things as Discreet Tactical Encounters, the idea that the goal was to get past the guards rather than kill them all can be frustratingly out of reach.


    I'm going to go out on a limb here, but there's a phenomenon I see sometimes, I call it "Gamer Blinders". Video Games share enough tropes and similarities with tabletop RPGs that sometimes it can blind players to the possibilities, or the more fluid nature of a TTRPG scenario.


    Imagine your first fight modeled in, say, Fire Emblem.

    There would be a map with enemies. The gate would be marked "Goal!" and a mission card would say "Objective: move all units to the goal zone" or whatever.

    Absent those markers, the default goal would be "defeat all enemies", after which point the map would end as the Players win and move inside the pyramid, or whatever.
    There might be a "Reinforcements Arrive" turn timer or something.

    If your players play a lot of that style of game, or if they've played TTRPGs for a long time that mostly consist of Discrete Tactical Battles, then they may instinctively start thinking about fights in those terms. Like, NARRATIVELY they're trying to get inside, sure, but the schema they're using for "Success" is "Defeat all enemies", rather than fitting their success into the narrative.


    There are plenty of video games where the character's narrative goal is simply to escape, or get past some enemies, or what have you, but due to the nature of the game and it's mechanics, the game resolves it as a locked-room deathmatch (or, even if you can progress without killing all the enemies, that's the best way to approach it, potentially because trying to push forwards with enemies on your heels just leads to running into more enemies down the line, while the enemies chasing you catch up).

    If you ask your players "Why did you just stand there and keep fighting", they probably won't go through this chain of logic. To them, the OBVIOUS goal was to Kill All The Enemies, they never questioned it.

    I once saw a similar, if opposite, scenario occur. We fled into an enemy castle, the guards who had been supposed to stop us at the gate were a few rounds behind us.

    The rouge's player snapped into a new Schema. "We cleared the "Get through the Gate" encounter, and are now exploring this castle", and decided to Scout Ahead.
    In doing so, he ran into another pack of enemies, while we were still "In Combat" with the guards chasing us. Because once the enemy guards were 'Off Camera' as it were, the Rogue forgot they existed.


    When GMing, I try to keep up a constant dialogue with the Players, to make sure everybody is on the same page about what their immediate goals are, but if you don't have a great rapport with your players, that can easily come across as railroading and telling them what to think.
    Last edited by BRC; 2021-09-21 at 01:17 PM.
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    My Homebrew:Synchronized Swordsmen,Dual Daggers,The Doctor,The Preacher,The Brawler
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  8. - Top - End - #38
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    Default Re: Talakeal's Campaign Diary (1 Day without a horror story!)

    Quote Originally Posted by BRC View Post
    I once saw a similar, if opposite, scenario occur. We fled into an enemy castle, the guards who had been supposed to stop us at the gate were a few rounds behind us.

    The rouge's player snapped into a new Schema. "We cleared the "Get through the Gate" encounter, and are now exploring this castle", and decided to Scout Ahead.
    In doing so, he ran into another pack of enemies, while we were still "In Combat" with the guards chasing us. Because once the enemy guards were 'Off Camera' as it were, the Rogue forgot they existed.
    That is actually a very common mishap in my gaming group.


    Quote Originally Posted by zlefin View Post
    Smash and grab seems totally non-viable. This is a city of some sort. In a dangerous world. A large, hostile, unidentified vehicle running through is going to provoke a massive response. They *might* be able to do a smash and grab fast enough, but it being a city, if they don't they WILL be overrun horribly. And sound travels far faster, so the moment they start, alarm bells (or equivalent) will result in a city-wide lockdown and hostiles all over. It also might be hard to get back out of the city, as the vehicle doesn't sound like it could handle the cliffs, and the main entrance probably has some sort of blockadeable system.
    Note that I didn't say the smash and grab was the best plan, but it was the most direct and the one I mathematically balanced the combat encounters around.

    About 15 years ago here in Colorado we had a guy go on a rampage in a fortified a bulldozer and flatten a number of government buildings in Granby. Not only could the local authorities do nothing to stop him, but even the Denver SWAT team decided to just wait until he ran out of gas. I imagine a properly executed frontal assault would have turned out similarly.

    Nothing the centipede folk had could stop the juggernaut (bitch) on short notice. The juggernaut is basically a steam-punk tank, while the Omukudae have primarily bronze-age technology. I suppose with time or magic they could build ditches, swamps, and pallisades, but not out of the blue.

    As it was, the city was not really fortified and didn't have walls, it is protected on three sides by mountains and a desert on the fourth, and all of the valuable buildings are up on the canyon walls where invader's simply can't reach them. It was also a market town, it was not the military hub of the centipede empire.

    Now, sure, they would lock the place down, but the thing is that the juggernaut can outrun them, and those who hear it coming are likely to fortify themselves; keep in mind that they have no idea who the PCs are or what they are here for, and would first look to protecting their own rather than swarming to protect a pyramid that only a handful of them even know the significance of.

    But yeah, I am sure I could pull some sort of schrodinger's wizard out of my butt to stop the PCs (which is what the assume I do anyway), but it just isn't feasible.


    Quote Originally Posted by zlefin View Post
    Overall it feels to me like the mission was beyond the PC's capabilities (admittedly I don't have a good sense of the actual limits of their capabilities), or at least well into the area where failure is likely.
    I think with their current tactics and better luck or their current luck and better tactics they could have easily cleared it using the approach they did.

    Not that it was an optimal approach mind you; for example if Krystal had brought Kim and / or Anani with her on her first foray they would have likely cleared the mission almost effortlessly and only had to kill the Poisoner and maybe a couple of his guards. Magical mastery of stone and darkness would have been really useful there.




    Quote Originally Posted by zlefin View Post
    All the timey-wimey stuff feels wrong to me, it feels like it's bringing in too many far more powerful people to decide things and involving matters far beyond what the PCs could reasonably handle/affect. Feels like NPCs deciding things.
    I meant it to be more of a background element that it was. I didn't really have a good fail state for this mission, and kind of jumped the gun when put on the spot. Although with the party we have; a time-monk, a shadow priest, and a woman out of time it might be a little more appropriate to give it center stage.

    As for the second part, I honestly think having powerful people pulling strings behind the scenes is pretty normal. I can't think of many adventures / campaign setting where there isn't some big epic good vs. evil conflict happening in the background that the PCs never have the power to address directly and only deal with the downstream ramifications of.
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    Default Re: Talakeal's Campaign Diary (1 Day without a horror story!)

    Simply put, Talakeal, the question isn't whether *you* could pass this encounter. The question is whether, if you hand your players your notes, they can pass your encounter.

    And, if they can, stop trying (and failing) to communicate, and just hand them your notes. "Here's the mechanics of the scenario, what do you do?"

    If not, why not?

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    Default Re: Talakeal's Campaign Diary (1 Day without a horror story!)

    Quote Originally Posted by Quertus View Post
    Simply put, Talakeal, the question isn't whether *you* could pass this encounter. The question is whether, if you hand your players your notes, they can pass your encounter.

    And, if they can, stop trying (and failing) to communicate, and just hand them your notes. "Here's the mechanics of the scenario, what do you do?"

    If not, why not?
    In this case, its because they claim that the scenario is objectively impossible. Swapping roles shows them that it isn't; simply trying to run it again with full information doesn't prove anything because the incentive isn't there.


    Now, if you are suggesting handing them the notes before future games its because nobody; not even my players, would enjoy that. People like the story and the exploration and the verisimilitude. In a previous thread you mentioned you prefer rules as physics because you don't like the cognitive dissonance, how much worse would that be if you were trying to play a character in a scenario with limited knowledge but as a player had access to all the DM's notes? I don't know about you, but that would be actively horrible for me.

    And I don't think my players would even look at them if they did. Like, I have been doing what you suggested and putting NPC stats on index cards, and the players simply refuse to look at them, because they don't want to put effort into thinking about tactics and me giving them additional homework to do first doesn't encourage it.

    And that's the real thing IMO, the players aren't actually stymied by a lack of information or constantly tricked by my insidious wordplay or put in impossible scenarios, they simply don't like to lose and then say whatever they think will justify their tantrum. Its like I said a few posts ago about why I don't ask questions about their curious tactical choices; there are a lot of really weak egos at my table and everything is perceived as an attempt to undermine somebody else's confidence.
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    Default Re: Talakeal's Campaign Diary (1 Day without a horror story!)

    Ngl. You probably have 1 option for fixing this.

    1 tell them that if they keep doing tantrums that your gonna stop playing with them at all. Then if they don't stop genuinely stop playing with them. If they try to change your mind tell them you aren't unless they stop throwing tantrums. Start playing online games. You said earlier that this escalated to gas lighting. If i were you I'd stop talking to them. But hey that's just me.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Talakeal View Post
    In this case, its because they claim that the scenario is objectively impossible. Swapping roles shows them that it isn't; simply trying to run it again with full information doesn't prove anything because the incentive isn't there.
    It is a scenario that can be beaten with a specific strategy which is
    a) not obvious
    b) a wrong move im most similar situations
    c) relies on the surprise element so basically has to be used on the first try

    Furthermore the details that make that strategy optimal, layout and enemy distribution in the pyramid and the details of reinforcements can't be known to the players. And what is more, they don't match the fiction either, Why would reinforcements come in one at a time ? Instead of e.g. securing and blocking the entrance until enough people are there to take on the whole group that went in and maybe then sent in people in force while still making sure that no one can escape ? Why are they mobilized one at a time anyway, not at unit level?

    I know that fiction, especially pulp based fiction likes smash and grab scenarios. But it is something that hardly ever happens in reality because it usually is utterly stupid.


    It the players want to storm the pyramid (which seems suicidal anyway but it was the only option, wasn't it) it is not surpising or wrong for them to want to secure the entrance before they go further in.
    Last edited by Satinavian; 2021-09-22 at 01:45 AM.

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    Default Re: Talakeal's Campaign Diary (1 Day without a horror story!)

    You know, I am starting to think that maybe I need to start doing the things my players accuse me of; railroading, fudging dice, ret-conning my notes, and having NPCs meta-game.

    Because playing games with a chance of failure never works out for anyone, losing upsets my players and, on my end, makes it much harder to tell a story from a narrative perspective.

    A lot of good (and a lot of terrible) GMs run their games by pure illusionism, and while I am opposed to it on principle, it sure would make things a lot easier.

    Quote Originally Posted by Satinavian View Post
    It is a scenario that can be beaten with a specific strategy which is
    a) not obvious
    b) a wrong move im most similar situations
    c) relies on the surprise element so basically has to be used on the first try
    So you appear to be falling into the same trap as my players; a: assuming that because their strategy didn't work that it couldn't have worked with better execution and / or dice rolls and that b: because their solution didn't work then no solution could have worked / the DM requires a very specific solution.

    I merely said that I mathematically balanced the challenge of the encounters around the most direct approach, not that it was "the only solution that could have worked".

    There are a vast variety of options they could have used; trying diplomatic approaches, tunneling into the pyramid from beneath, staging some sort of distraction to pull away all the nearby guards, etc. Perhaps even convincing the dandelion folk to help them or starting a slave revolt. Probably dozens of others I haven't even considered. Just because I didn't balance the combats around those solutions (or didn't think of them) doesn't mean that I am going to arbitrarily shoot them down.

    Also, Feur can and did turn back time as a mechanically defined ability. They can keep trying this as long as he has spell slots to burn, so it is hardly one try.

    Quote Originally Posted by Satinavian View Post
    Furthermore the details that make that strategy optimal, layout and enemy distribution in the pyramid and the details of reinforcements can't be known to the players. And what is more, they don't match the fiction either, Why would reinforcements come in one at a time ? Instead of e.g. securing and blocking the entrance until enough people are there to take on the whole group that went in and maybe then sent in people in force while still making sure that no one can escape ? Why are they mobilized one at a time anyway, not at unit level?
    I have played lots of games, mostly wargames, with a staggered reinforcement roll.

    It doesn't seem that weird in the fiction; every time I have called 911 IRL response units arrivals are staggered, and while they would probably create a perimiter around an active shooter situation, I find it hard to believe that they wouldn't assist as they arrived to find the suspects already engaged in an active firefight with their fellow officers.

    But yeah, I could have done it that way. But imo that actually would make it more unfavorable for the players, because it essentially turns a combat encounter into another puzzle; how do you escape from the pyramid that is now on lock-down? (It also screws over the enemies, as that means they have also failed in their goal by sacrificing the alchemist whom they have trying to break the prisoner and potential risked the prisoner's death, and at that point the best they can hope for is revenge / interrogation).

    Quote Originally Posted by Satinavian View Post
    It the players want to storm the pyramid (which seems suicidal anyway but it was the only option, wasn't it) it is not surprising or wrong for them to want to secure the entrance before they go further in.
    The only option? Hardly.

    Now, their goal was inside the pyramid, so most approaches would involve "storming" it in some manner, but a direct assault would not be my first choice.

    Personally I think their best approach would probably be to have snuck in, have Krystal and Valentine do reconnaissance, have Kim and Anani buff Krystal and summon some shades to back her up, have Kim buff Krystal and open a tunnel into the pyramid, send Krystal and the shades in alone to grab the girl and kill her guards, have Feur manipulate time to make sure they came at just the right moment and stand by to rewind time if things go pear shaped, and then have Kim use her stone magic to create an escape route that closes behind them.

    But yeah, this is the fundamental disconnect in my group; they want to play action / adventure games where they are big powerful heroes and paid and recognized as such, don't like to put thought into tactics beyond "have big numbers hit hard", and then consider any mission which has inherent risk in it as "suicidal".

    Quote Originally Posted by Ameraaaaaa View Post
    Ngl. You probably have 1 option for fixing this.

    1 tell them that if they keep doing tantrums that your gonna stop playing with them at all. Then if they don't stop genuinely stop playing with them. If they try to change your mind tell them you aren't unless they stop throwing tantrums. Start playing online games. You said earlier that this escalated to gas lighting. If i were you I'd stop talking to them. But hey that's just me.
    Yeah. But I am really bad at holding grudges, and I know I can't actually step away. They know that to.

    Its also really hypocritical of me to hold a single emotional outburst against them, as I know everyone (including myself) gets frustrated when they lose and says things they don't mean when they are upset from time to time.

    The gas lighting stuff is a bit weirder. Basically, someone says something that just isn't true; like in the last session Krystal's player insisted that the enemies spotted him every single time (they spotted him once when he rolled a 2 on stealth and one time the beast was able to scent that something was in the area but not what or where it was) or when Quincy insisted he was completely surrounded on the first turn (again, the PCs went first, got a surprise round, and a bonus round from haste, and on the enemy's first turn they were all incapable of reaching him, some depending on how you define it, it was impossible for him to be surrounded before 2-4 turns in) and when I correct them they say I am lying, and at that point we are both convinced that the other side is gas-lighting the other.
    Last edited by Talakeal; 2021-09-22 at 02:10 PM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Talakeal View Post
    So you appear to be falling into the same trap as my players; a: assuming that because their strategy didn't work that it couldn't have worked with better execution and / or dice rolls and that b: because their solution didn't work then no solution could have worked / the DM requires a very specific solution.
    My point was mostly about how your idea of replaying it with switched rolls is useless because you know all the critical details of the scenario to pick a good approach and your players didn't. That is not even remotely comparable a challenge and would prove nothing of value. It is a pure waste of time.
    When dealing with an unknown, the standard approach should be the benchmark for difficulty, not some nonstandard one.
    I have played lots of games, mostly wargames, with a staggered reinforcement roll.
    Sure, because that can be nice gameplay.

    But how many of those games had one side of the players oblivious to the reinforcement mechanics so they could not plan their tactics around it?
    But yeah, I could have done it that way. But imo that actually would make it more unfavorable for the players,
    Of course it is less favourable. Which is why players should expect their enemies to do exactly that if given the option. And thus avoid any strategy that would allow them to do that. And that is why pushing forward into the pyramid to search it with enemies in their back and at the only exit is quite stupid.
    Last edited by Satinavian; 2021-09-22 at 03:14 PM.

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    Default Re: Talakeal's Campaign Diary (1 Day without a horror story!)

    @Talakeal, from what you've told us, at the fiction layer, I agree with your players that this mission is impossible. (And your refusal to think about playing blind through a different set of mechanics that match your fiction likely means that, at some level, you understand this, too)

    I agree with @Satinavian that your mechanics don't match the fiction layer (and with most everything else in their post).

    I value Exploration most of all, so I don't recommend… no, not strong enough. Unless I had completely given up all hope of your games ever working, *or* I came to understand your players preferences and that Exploration wasn't among them, I would never suggest removing Exploration as a permanent solution.

    However, what i was suggesting was, *at the latest*, when the videogame version of your game would switch to "combat mode", hand your players the mechanics of the engagement as the "load screen". (Also do it when their recon is "sufficient")

    Also, your players have not employed bad tactics, your world has employed bad physics. No, seriously.

    At the fiction layer, where should the sniper be? Clumped up with the party, or on overwatch a good distance away?

    The reinforcements - could the sniper "see them coming"? At the fiction layer, probably. But, at the mechanics layer, no, because the reinforcements didn't exist until the roll says that they are there.

    From the party's PoV, at the fiction layer, with limited mana resources, why would it make sense to summon something early in the fight, when there's a whole complex - let alone a whole city - of hostiles (that overran and killed their alternate reality selves already), rather than save the mana for when it really matters?

    This mission is worse than impossible: it's possible in an illogical way. Showing your players how badly they need to approach the problem in order to win… almost certainly isn't the answer. Suppose I wrote a program and you said that it was impossible to make it work. If i showed you that, no, if you wear your pants on your head, and periodically shout "Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo", it works just fine, would that fill you with confidence in my programming ability?

    In order to get your players to switch from the fiction layer to the mechanics layer… you need to either learn to lead them to the mechanics layer, or (as I strongly recommend you do until you learn such skills) to simply hand them the mechanics layer.

    Had I been at your table, I would have been shocked to see these mechanics. (Well, probably - I wasn't exactly reading in full Player Exploration mode). But I could have (presumably) come up with a strategy that engages the reality of the mechanics layer, rather than the "fiction" of the fiction layer.

    Still, I think that this mission was impossible, because, by RAW, round 750, when they emerge from the pyramid, there's at least 730 guards waiting for them at the only entrance (unless the sniper was out there killing them all in god mode). TPK,gg, who's up for a nice game of thermonuclear war?

    Not that this addresses the Social issues at your table, which are a huge underlying issue. But at least it addresses the gaping chasm between the fiction and the rules, and how you need a way to get the group from one side to the other.

    EDIT: several posts since I started writing this. And… OK, this mission is more possible than I thought (pumpkin head… blocks teleport, but not stone shaping? Did the party, in character, comprehend *any* of this? (I thought pumpkin head was… completely different than your intent, tbh, and IC would have attributed the defenses to the *structure*, not to some imp guardian)) *if* they're willing to play to win (CaW) rather than beer and pretzels (CaS). But… since you keep trying to insist to your players that it's all fair fights, I'm now really confused what both sides want out of this game.
    Last edited by Quertus; 2021-09-22 at 03:39 PM.

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    Default Re: Talakeal's Campaign Diary (1 Day without a horror story!)

    Hmm. Could I put it this way?

    D&D is a game where the game physics and the kind of (alternative) reality do not exactly match (not exactly its fault though).

    How does the base game solve the problem? It describes the game physics in the book called "Player's Handbook" and encourages and requires the players to read it. The other books give DMs more know-how about how to run the game, but all game physics go to the Player's Handbook.

    So, if a DM is introducing a new "world physics" rule, he is, in effect, amending the Player's Handbook. The new rule, hence, should be given to players in OOC languages and clearly labeled as rules.

    Since it is a bit hard to imagine a stream of infinite reinforcement, outside a video game or a board game, it is a game mechanic, not fiction material. It's fine to have such a rule in your game, but let it be what it is. It belongs to the Player's Handbook, and wants to be public information for the players.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Quertus View Post
    @Talakeal, from what you've told us, at the fiction layer, I agree with your players that this mission is impossible. (And your refusal to think about playing blind through a different set of mechanics that match your fiction likely means that, at some level, you understand this, too)
    Eh, if I may

    So, at the Fiction layer, the mission is "Break into a hostile city to rescue somebody"


    Were I writing a novel about this, it would be a pure stealth operation in the dead of night, since if the alarms sound before you're more than a quick sprint from the exit, you're basically toast.


    But, unspoken rule at the table, The GM wouldn't send them to do this if it wasn't doable with their capabilities. Also, not everybody can stealth and splitting the party is usually bad.

    From the Notes, we know that this is perfectly doable as an assault, so long as you prioritize moving fast to break through the guards and search the pyramid (haven't read everything too closely, not sure how they were planning to get out).

    So, given that an Assault isn't an unreasonably approach, "Move fast to break through the guards" isn't an impossible strategy to guess, but it's not guaranteed. Like, you're not expecting your players to be 200 IQ Tactical Geniuses here, but you are expecting them to pick up the unspoken assumption that what they need to do is get inside the pyramid as fast as possible, which isn't a guaranteed standpoint for them to take.


    I havn't read through everything in perfect detail, but the approach laid out (Rush the outdoor guards, get inside before you get swarmed by reinforcements) only makes sense if

    1) The PC's know that they can "Lock out" the outdoor guards (Not guaranteed, Even if the PCs have a way to shut the door, the guards outside probably have somebody who knows how to open it again).

    2) The PC's have a way to escape regardless of how many guards are outside (Once again, didn't fully read this, maybe they can teleport out?)


    If the PC's assume that they need to/can clear their exit before heading in, and are acting under the assumption that an assault is a viable strategy, it's non unreasonble for them to assume that they CAN clear the entrance.

    It's also not unreasonable for them to assume that they just need to get inside ASAP.

    Unless I'm missing something, the scenario doesn't make a ton of sense either way. The "Realistic" thing is that the PC's will be swamped by endless reinforcements if they stay outside, and that if they go inside the enemy will open the door back up and the PC's will be stuck between the guards inside and the guards outside.

    So the assumption they must make is either "We can clear all the guards outside" or "Once inside we can ignore the guards outside". Neither makes a ton of sense narratively, but that doesn't make this scenario unique among RPG scenarios. They made the wrong choice, but it was in line with an assumption no more absurd than the one they were "Supposed" to make.

    The real issue is that this really needed to be approached as a Heist, and a Heist is very different from a tactical challenge. It doesn't seem like your players are interested in the level of planning needed for Heists.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Quertus View Post
    At the fiction layer, where should the sniper be? Clumped up with the party, or on overwatch a good distance away?

    The reinforcements - could the sniper "see them coming"? At the fiction layer, probably. But, at the mechanics layer, no, because the reinforcements didn't exist until the roll says that they are there.

    From the party's PoV, at the fiction layer, with limited mana resources, why would it make sense to summon something early in the fight, when there's a whole complex - let alone a whole city - of hostiles (that overran and killed their alternate reality selves already), rather than save the mana for when it really matters?

    In order to get your players to switch from the fiction layer to the mechanics layer… you need to either learn to lead them to the mechanics layer, or (as I strongly recommend you do until you learn such skills) to simply hand them the mechanics layer.

    Had I been at your table, I would have been shocked to see these mechanics. (Well, probably - I wasn't exactly reading in full Player Exploration mode). But I could have (presumably) come up with a strategy that engages the reality of the mechanics layer, rather than the "fiction" of the fiction layer.
    Out of character, they know that they are in the middle of a market city with guards scattered periodically throughout. Every round I rolled a dice, told them the difficulty was based on how much noise they made, and if it rolled high told them that one of the guards in the town has noticed the commotion and is moving over to assist, and placed his model on the board's edge (making him a viable target but NOT allowing him to act that turn).

    I am really not sure how one would more realistically handle that scenario on either the fiction or mechanical level.

    I also mentioned that several slaves were dispatched to notify the military.

    So yes, the sniper could absolutely see them coming. Also; I like your idea about the sniper covering them from a secure position. That is a really cool idea that neither I nor my players considered. Although it is a bit risky as he does need to escape and regroup with the party afterwards.

    As far as summoning, it doesn't matter how long the scenario is, they are best cast at the beginning of the battle where they can make the most difference. Now, how MANY summons you use in a given battle is a more strategic issue, but not at what point of the battle you summon them.

    Quote Originally Posted by Quertus View Post
    Still, I think that this mission was impossible, because, by RAW, round 750, when they emerge from the pyramid, there's at least 730 guards waiting for them at the only entrance (unless the sniper was out there killing them all in god mode). TPK,gg, who's up for a nice game of thermonuclear war?
    By RAW, at round 750 they would be long dead from exhaustion and reinforcements would be the least of their worries.

    But yes, it was a "smash and grab", they would have zero chances of taking on the city's forces head on, and they know that getting in and out quickly was vital both in and out of character.

    Quote Originally Posted by ahyangyi View Post
    Hmm. Could I put it this way?

    D&D is a game where the game physics and the kind of (alternative) reality do not exactly match (not exactly its fault though).

    How does the base game solve the problem? It describes the game physics in the book called "Player's Handbook" and encourages and requires the players to read it. The other books give DMs more know-how about how to run the game, but all game physics go to the Player's Handbook.

    So, if a DM is introducing a new "world physics" rule, he is, in effect, amending the Player's Handbook. The new rule, hence, should be given to players in OOC languages and clearly labeled as rules.

    Since it is a bit hard to imagine a stream of infinite reinforcement, outside a video game or a board game, it is a game mechanic, not fiction material. It's fine to have such a rule in your game, but let it be what it is. It belongs to the Player's Handbook, and wants to be public information for the players.
    Not playing dungeons and dragons. My system absolutely has rules for attracting attention to fights and they were followed (with situational modifiers).

    Quote Originally Posted by BRC View Post
    Eh, if I may

    So, at the Fiction layer, the mission is "Break into a hostile city to rescue somebody"


    Were I writing a novel about this, it would be a pure stealth operation in the dead of night, since if the alarms sound before you're more than a quick sprint from the exit, you're basically toast.


    But, unspoken rule at the table, The GM wouldn't send them to do this if it wasn't doable with their capabilities. Also, not everybody can stealth and splitting the party is usually bad.

    From the Notes, we know that this is perfectly doable as an assault, so long as you prioritize moving fast to break through the guards and search the pyramid (haven't read everything too closely, not sure how they were planning to get out).

    So, given that an Assault isn't an unreasonably approach, "Move fast to break through the guards" isn't an impossible strategy to guess, but it's not guaranteed. Like, you're not expecting your players to be 200 IQ Tactical Geniuses here, but you are expecting them to pick up the unspoken assumption that what they need to do is get inside the pyramid as fast as possible, which isn't a guaranteed standpoint for them to take.
    Agreed.

    Note that the party could have chosen a nighttime stealth mission, for even though not everyone can stealth, they have a shadow priest in the party who can cloak them in darkness (and whose powers are much more acute at night to begin with).

    In addition, their current approach absolutely could have worked, they just didn't have great dice rolls or positioning.

    Quote Originally Posted by BRC View Post
    The real issue is that this really needed to be approached as a Heist, and a Heist is very different from a tactical challenge. It doesn't seem like your players are interested in the level of planning needed for Heists.
    Actually, its kind of the opposite. I expected them to either split the party or simply kill the main host of guards and deal with any reinforcements as they trickle in one by one.

    The "locking them out" was actually something that Kim tried to do spontaneously, and was more or less countered by the boggart's magic.

    Quote Originally Posted by BRC View Post
    The real issue is that this really needed to be approached as a Heist, and a Heist is very different from a tactical challenge. It doesn't seem like your players are interested in the level of planning needed for Heists.
    Very much this.


    Quote Originally Posted by Satinavian View Post
    My point was mostly about how your idea of replaying it with switched rolls is useless because you know all the critical details of the scenario to pick a good approach and your players didn't. That is not even remotely comparable a challenge and would prove nothing of value. It is a pure waste of time.
    When dealing with an unknown, the standard approach should be the benchmark for difficulty, not some nonstandard one.

    Agreed.

    My players insisted that I set them up for a no win scenario and that it was impossible using the straightforward approach, and I want to show them that it can be solved using the exact same approach.

    Sure, IMO I can come up with better (and worse) approaches, but that is not what I am responding to.


    Quote Originally Posted by Satinavian View Post
    But how many of those games had one side of the players oblivious to the reinforcement mechanics so they could not plan their tactics around it?
    Of course it is less favourable. Which is why players should expect their enemies to do exactly that if given the option. And thus avoid any strategy that would allow them to do that. And that is why pushing forward into the pyramid to search it with enemies in their back and at the only exit is quite stupid.
    Why do you say they were oblivious?

    While I didn't reveal the exact target number, they knew they I was rolling a dice based on the amount of noise they made and placing models on the board (or not) based on the result. On a fiction layer, they knew guards were in the city (and that the military would eventually be mobilized so they needed to hurry) and that said guards were, in a disorganized fashion, coming over to investigate the commotion.

    Aside from the specific target number of the roll, what more information could I have given them?
    Last edited by Talakeal; 2021-09-22 at 04:58 PM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Talakeal View Post
    As far as summoning, it doesn't matter how long the scenario is, they are best cast at the beginning of the battle where they can make the most difference. Now, how MANY summons you use in a given battle is a more strategic issue, but not at what point of the battle you summon them.
    Although my tactically-inept signature academia mage would agree with you that summons are best used at the start of (or before) a fight, I do not.

    Granted, that's because I'm making certain assumptions… or, rather, *not* making those assumptions. Because I don't know your system.

    If summons are "encounter" powers, using them first is likely good. If they're "daily" powers (or your system uses mana), you might not want to use them at all this encounter.

    If character X can summon monster A, that points to early use. But if, instead, character X can summon one of [A,B,C…], that serve very different roles, that favors waiting to see which role is most needed.

    If summons are easily "countered" (a Mass Dismissal spell, fireball, whatever), and especially if multiple people in your party have summons, it can be better to wait / stagger the summons, to find / destroy / limit the action economy usefulness of such counters.

    Some systems, some summons, some battles, the summons get crushed far too easily early on, but are devastating once the enemy forces are otherwise engaged.

    Many systems, something summoned at "the start of the assault on the pyramid" would not still be around at "the boss fight against the poisoner, where we really need it", or "the escape from the archdeacon pumpkin head, where we really need it".

    But… at the *fiction* layer, I've never really seen a Summoner who summons things for no reason being tactically sound.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Talakeal View Post
    Yeah. But I am really bad at holding grudges, and I know I can't actually step away. They know that to.
    Do they have any reason to change? Is there any reason they should stop complaining every time something goes wrong until you give up?

    Its also really hypocritical of me to hold a single emotional outburst against them, as I know everyone (including myself) gets frustrated when they lose and says things they don't mean when they are upset from time to time.
    Yes, "single" that is why this is coming up now after years of happy play. Except that isn't true. This is roughly once a month each? And they don't appear to be trying to improve or are at all apologetic about it? That I think you can hold against them.

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    Default Re: Talakeal's Campaign Diary (1 Day without a horror story!)

    Quote Originally Posted by Talakeal View Post

    So yes, the sniper could absolutely see them coming. Also; I like your idea about the sniper covering them from a secure position. That is a really cool idea that neither I nor my players considered. Although it is a bit risky as he does need to escape and regroup with the party afterwards.
    I'm somewhat surprised about this, considering that covering allies and taking out key targets from a secure position is the whole point of a sniper. Admittedly, this can be problematic in this kind of scenario, since it requires the sniper to stay outside while the other characters infiltrate the pyramid. But I know my players would almost certainly have done that because they've done that kind of thing before. Of course how well that works also depends on whether the characters have a way to communicate over long distances.

    Anyway, you said you balanced the encounter around a smash and grab; but I honestly don't see how that was supposed to work. I assume the pyramid was not just a room or two. The characters would have to explore the pyramid to find their target; after all the one person that has been there doesn't remember it due to time having been rewinded, not to mention that she was chased during that scene and might not remember all the turns she took. By the time they come back out, their retreat would likely have been cut off by reinforcements. Therefore, leaving the gards and make a run for the objective doesn't seem a viable strategy.

    As for the reinforcements, I'm not sure you considered the numbers there. First of all, that -4 penalty for loud noise will happen every round because the guards will be shouting for help. Doesn't really matter what the characters do, because its in the best interest of the enemy to alert their comrades. So you're already starting at a one in four chance that reinforcements show up; after five rounds, you're at a full 50% chance. By your numbers, reinfocements have about half the strength of the initial group, meaning you expect them to take about half the time to defeat, which is 1-3 rounds. If you do the math, you'll find that very quickly, reinforcements will show up faster than they can be dispatched. If the players try to conserve resources for what is to come, they pretty much fight a losing battle from the beginning.

    I'm curious; had you considered that the party might split up? Half of them stay at the front to fight the guards and keep their way of retreat open, while the other half goes and gets the target? How would that have affected your encounter balance?
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    Default Re: Talakeal's Campaign Diary (1 Day without a horror story!)

    Quote Originally Posted by Morgaln View Post
    Anyway, you said you balanced the encounter around a smash and grab; but I honestly don't see how that was supposed to work. I assume the pyramid was not just a room or two. The characters would have to explore the pyramid to find their target; after all the one person that has been there doesn't remember it due to time having been rewinded, not to mention that she was chased during that scene and might not remember all the turns she took. By the time they come back out, their retreat would likely have been cut off by reinforcements. Therefore, leaving the gards and make a run for the objective doesn't seem a viable strategy.
    Honestly, for a generic party it might not have been viable.

    But with Krystal's ability to teleport and Kim's ability to shape stone, it was perfectly doable. Actually going from room to room unlocking or kicking in doors may have taken to long.

    Quote Originally Posted by Morgaln View Post
    As for the reinforcements, I'm not sure you considered the numbers there. First of all, that -4 penalty for loud noise will happen every round because the guards will be shouting for help. Doesn't really matter what the characters do, because its in the best interest of the enemy to alert their comrades. So you're already starting at a one in four chance that reinforcements show up; after five rounds, you're at a full 50% chance. By your numbers, reinforcements have about half the strength of the initial group, meaning you expect them to take about half the time to defeat, which is 1-3 rounds. If you do the math, you'll find that very quickly, reinforcements will show up faster than they can be dispatched. If the players try to conserve resources for what is to come, they pretty much fight a losing battle from the beginning.
    The modifiers were purely based on the noise level of the party, the noise level of the guards was factored into the base roll (if neither side had been making noise for some reason there would have been no roll at all). It is a bit of a mechanical abstraction I agree, but I don't think the scenario would have been helped by additional mathematics calculating difficulty based on every person's cumulative noise.

    Note that I said >10%; a given reinforcement is unlikely to survive even a single round (or even get an action!) before dying if the party focuses fire on it.

    Quote Originally Posted by Morgaln View Post
    I'm curious; had you considered that the party might split up? Half of them stay at the front to fight the guards and keep their way of retreat open, while the other half goes and gets the target? How would that have affected your encounter balance?
    Oh absolutely. I assumed Krystal would go in an investigate the interior and Kim would stay and guard the door, and the rest of the party would move between them based on how much heat each location currently had.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Talakeal View Post
    Oh absolutely. I assumed Krystal would go in an investigate the interior and Kim would stay and guard the door, and the rest of the party would move between them based on how much heat each location currently had.
    And the characters would know how each was doing… how?

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    Default Re: Talakeal's Campaign Diary (1 Day without a horror story!)

    Quote Originally Posted by Quertus View Post
    And the characters would know how each was doing… how?
    Because no point in the building is more than 15 meters from the entrance?

    Not that I am really that much a stickler for meta gaming to being with.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Talakeal View Post

    The modifiers were purely based on the noise level of the party, the noise level of the guards was factored into the base roll (if neither side had been making noise for some reason there would have been no roll at all). It is a bit of a mechanical abstraction I agree, but I don't think the scenario would have been helped by additional mathematics calculating difficulty based on every person's cumulative noise.

    Note that I said >10%; a given reinforcement is unlikely to survive even a single round (or even get an action!) before dying if the party focuses fire on it.
    Are you sure your numbers are correct? You estimated 3-6 rounds of combat for a fight that should take about 20% of party resources. But you estimate less than a round for a group that still takesmore than half of that amount of resources. That sounds incongruous to me. Did you maybe mean <10% (less than 10%) instead of >10% (more than 10%)?

    Quote Originally Posted by Talakeal View Post
    Because no point in the building is more than 15 meters from the entrance?

    Not that I am really that much a stickler for meta gaming to being with.
    That does not fit the description of what happened previously in that building. Quote from the infiltration attempt in the previous session:

    Quote Originally Posted by Talakeal
    There are numerous patrolling sentries within, and Krystal leads them on a chase for several tense minutes, their javelins clattering to the floor behind her. When she thinks she has lost them, she picks the lock of a side room and sees a victim, not the one she was looking for, chained to the wall and awaiting sacrifice. It isn’t who she came for, and Krystal leaves the woman to her fate.

    She wanders the halls, always cloaked in shadow and a few steps in front of her guards, opening doors and always finding the wrong room.
    You can cover 15 meters in about 20 steps. That takes a few seconds. You simply can't lead anyone in a minutes-long chase in that confined of an area, especially if they know the layout and thus know exactly how to cut you off. There also wouldn't be enough room for numerous patrols to be around. You've certainly implied that this place is much larger than that.

    In fact, I did a quick calculation; assuming the door is in the middle of a wall, and the place is a square (it's a pyramid, it probably is):

    The underlying formula is a² + b² = c²
    The walls are equal length, and the door halfs that for one side, so b = 2a
    The distance from the door to the far corner (the furthest point form the door) is 15 meters, so c= 15

    a² + (2a)² = 15²
    a² + 4a² = 225
    5a² = 225
    a² = 45
    a ~ 6.7

    The length of the side of the pyramid is 2a so about 13.2 meters (or 43 feet for the Americans among you). That's roughly the length of three cars. Honestly, that's tiny. Maybe rethink your numbers, because they don't work out.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Morgaln View Post
    Are you sure your numbers are correct? You estimated 3-6 rounds of combat for a fight that should take about 20% of party resources. But you estimate less than a round for a group that still takesmore than half of that amount of resources. That sounds incongruous to me. Did you maybe mean <10% (less than 10%) instead of >10% (more than 10%)?



    That does not fit the description of what happened previously in that building. Quote from the infiltration attempt in the previous session:



    You can cover 15 meters in about 20 steps. That takes a few seconds. You simply can't lead anyone in a minutes-long chase in that confined of an area, especially if they know the layout and thus know exactly how to cut you off. There also wouldn't be enough room for numerous patrols to be around. You've certainly implied that this place is much larger than that.

    In fact, I did a quick calculation; assuming the door is in the middle of a wall, and the place is a square (it's a pyramid, it probably is):

    The underlying formula is a² + b² = c²
    The walls are equal length, and the door halfs that for one side, so b = 2a
    The distance from the door to the far corner (the furthest point form the door) is 15 meters, so c= 15

    a² + (2a)² = 15²
    a² + 4a² = 225
    5a² = 225
    a² = 45
    a ~ 6.7

    The length of the side of the pyramid is 2a so about 13.2 meters (or 43 feet for the Americans among you). That's roughly the length of three cars. Honestly, that's tiny. Maybe rethink your numbers, because they don't work out.
    The interior of the top floor of the pyramid is 9x12 meters, but consists of numerous dimply lit corridors. There were four guards patrolling the inside, plus the two door guards who followed Krystal inside and the few reinforcements who arrived later. She can teleport and turn invisible, and was able to evade them for several minutes before being cornered.

    But yes, I did mean less than 10%.

    Quote Originally Posted by Quertus View Post
    Although my tactically-inept signature academia mage would agree with you that summons are best used at the start of (or before) a fight, I do not.

    Granted, that's because I'm making certain assumptions… or, rather, *not* making those assumptions. Because I don't know your system.

    If summons are "encounter" powers, using them first is likely good. If they're "daily" powers (or your system uses mana), you might not want to use them at all this encounter.

    If character X can summon monster A, that points to early use. But if, instead, character X can summon one of [A,B,C…], that serve very different roles, that favors waiting to see which role is most needed.

    If summons are easily "countered" (a Mass Dismissal spell, fireball, whatever), and especially if multiple people in your party have summons, it can be better to wait / stagger the summons, to find / destroy / limit the action economy usefulness of such counters.

    Some systems, some summons, some battles, the summons get crushed far too easily early on, but are devastating once the enemy forces are otherwise engaged.

    Many systems, something summoned at "the start of the assault on the pyramid" would not still be around at "the boss fight against the poisoner, where we really need it", or "the escape from the archdeacon pumpkin head, where we really need it".

    But… at the *fiction* layer, I've never really seen a Summoner who summons things for no reason being tactically sound.
    Each of the players can only summon a single thing. If the battle is serious enough to warrant using a spell, there is no reason not to do so as early as possible under ordinary circcumstances.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jakinbandw View Post
    I put the question to a few of the more left wing people I know, and the consensus is that you didn't really do anything wrong. My advise would be to apologize for your part in the miscommunication, and to ask him to stop telling people you raped his character.
    Everyone whom I have talked to has given a similar response.

    I posed the same question on rpg.net and received a lifetime ban, not for violating any rule, but because even asking the question demonstrated that I was a “bad fit” for their community.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Quertus View Post
    @
    This mission is worse than impossible: it's possible in an illogical way. Showing your players how badly they need to approach the problem in order to win… almost certainly isn't the answer. Suppose I wrote a program and you said that it was impossible to make it work. If i showed you that, no, if you wear your pants on your head, and periodically shout "Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo", it works just fine, would that fill you with confidence in my programming ability?
    This baffles me.

    If I was presented with a mission of “rescue a hostage from enemy territory” my first thought would be to get in and out as fast as possible and drawing as little attentin to myself as possible.

    To me, nothing in this scenario seems counter intuitive, let alone random and arbitrary like your examples.

    Could you please show me specifically why it is so very counter intuitive or how you would have approached it?
    Last edited by Talakeal; 2021-09-24 at 03:25 PM.
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    Default Re: Talakeal's Campaign Diary (1 Day without a horror story!)

    It seems to me like the core problem is that you're not designing to the table. You're not planning encounters for players of their competence level/tactical ability. You're planning for much smarter players.

    I'd also ask your players just how 'clear' it is to them that their steampunk tank really is that tough, especially in a world full of strange magic and fantastic beasts.

    In that denver swat team case you mentioned, I bet that if they were more willing to use lethal force they'd have been quite able to stop it.
    A neat custom class for 3.5 system
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    Quote Originally Posted by Talakeal View Post

    Everyone whom I have talked to has given a similar response.

    I posed the same question on rpg.net and received a lifetime ban, not for violating any rule, but because even asking the question demonstrated that I was a “bad fit” for their community.

    Have I mentioned how much I love the community here at giantitp recently?
    Oh trust me, I know that feel.

    All I did was get involved with DnD discussion on there, expressed something that was slightly less than nice and they banned me for the same reason.
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    Default Re: Talakeal's Campaign Diary (1 Day without a horror story!)

    Quote Originally Posted by zlefin View Post
    It seems to me like the core problem is that you're not designing to the table. You're not planning encounters for players of their competence level/tactical ability. You're planning for much smarter players.
    I wouldn't say not smart enough, sometimes they do very clever things and have outsmarted me on more than one occasion.

    Its more like single minded; once they have decided on a course of action they refuse to modify it or even consider switching tactics.

    Quote Originally Posted by zlefin View Post
    I'd also ask your players just how 'clear' it is to them that their steampunk tank really is that tough, especially in a world full of strange magic and fantastic beasts.
    Maybe so.

    It is certainly not invulnerable; but it is going to take said magic or fantastic beasts to take it down without a lot of prep-work.

    Quote Originally Posted by zlefin View Post
    In that Denver swat team case you mentioned, I bet that if they were more willing to use lethal force they'd have been quite able to stop it.
    Reading the wikipedia article, it appears that they tried numerous weapons, including guns, grenades, and explosives in attempts to both disable the vehicle and kill the driver to no effect. It is rumored that the governor was considering calling in the national guard to deploy anti-tank missiles when the bulldozer became stuck in a basement and made it unnecessary.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Talakeal View Post
    Have I mentioned how much I love the community here at giantitp recently?
    This is so right! The Playground is just so awesome!

    Quote Originally Posted by Talakeal View Post
    This baffles me.

    If I was presented with a mission of “rescue a hostage from enemy territory” my first thought would be to get in and out as fast as possible and drawing as little attentin to myself as possible.

    To me, nothing in this scenario seems counter intuitive, let alone random and arbitrary like your examples.

    Could you please show me specifically why it is so very counter intuitive or how you would have approached it?
    Well, in part, it *should* baffle you, because part of my statement was made in ignorance.

    In part, it *will* baffle you, because it's one of those "put the sniper on overwatch" things.

    And in part, it *shouldn't* baffle you, because, as I already said, even *knowing* the mechanics, by RAW, the gathering guards should overpower the party on round 750 when they exit the pyramid.

    Ignorance first: you're absolutely right, things like "using earth bending to tunnel under and into the pyramid" is a great plan, and it's your good for… not being a railroad GM, and allowing such solutions. And my bad for either being too shell shocked to put it forward, or for not trusting you to accept it.

    That said, a short combat seemed to take the wind out of the PCs / deplete their mana, so I'm… struggling to gauge just how much they can accomplish.

    Afaict, they've got a whole slaver city of unknown disposition to search, some finite number of rewinds (which… aren't instantaneous, and, thus, aren't guaranteed), and an unknown timeframe.

    Also, unknown enemy capabilities… but their detection powers, at least, quickly seem reasonably high.

    The terrain is… uh… "death trap"? Might die just trying to get *to* the city; escape with pursuit sounds impossible.



    … gah. Last time I tried to build a big "if then" flowchart, I had my post scrubbed into meaninglessness, so I'll not bother trying that again. Instead, I'll just hit a few random highlights.

    At T=0(iteration 1), the party doesn't even know what kind of reception they'll get - IC, simply showing up might get them killed / enslaved. So they have to "scout it out" in a way that doesn't risk their ability to rewind time - ie, pretty much exactly what they did.

    Based on knowledge of the mechanics of the encounter, they cannot let anyone sound the alarm until after they're out of the pyramid. *Or* they need to leave a sufficient force topside to eat the endless pez dispenser of guards (ie, sufficient ranged attacks, with infinite ammo - summons, maybe?).

    "Creating a distraction" might have helped. Or it might have put the guards on alert, increasing their arrival rate. Or it might have caused the enemy to put the city on lockdown, or to start killing all foreigners. Alien mindset, remember.

    The best plan I had in that scenario was "invisibility" the Earth Bender, drive the tank up to the pyramid, have the Earth Bender pop out the bottom and bend their way into the pyramid, pull a Toph to avoid guards / find the target, grab the target, and escape unseen while the entire rest of the party (sans chronomancer, who is preparing a rewind inside the tank) is keeping the guards distracted.

    How? Well, they didn't have the foresight to bring slaves to trade/sell, and most questions should probably be asked elsewhere, so… *maybe* they can say that they were told to speak to the poisoner? Or, *if* they understood the mechanics, the time displaced demon could be asking to speak to pumpkin bread… although that itself might trigger the alarms.

    If they don't know the mechanics of the encounter, they have to plan for the possibility that there's a barracks / guard post, or even a retired old Archmagi's house, nearby, and in X rounds after the alarm sounds, they'll be overrun.

    And they know that, last time, the city put out so many defenders, the tank was being overrun. So *not* aggroing the city seems the smart move… except that Diplomacy at the pyramid also seems to auto-fail.

    Even with a chronomancer, there's just too many unknowns (for anyone who isn't the GM) to make a working plan. Especially when the GM is themselves one of those unknowns. Does the GM grok "sniper"? Does the GM grok "Toph"? Does the GM grok "scouting"? The GM believes in alien mindsets - how do these creatures think? Is it worth aggroing this city/nation just to please the current patron? Would we be better off selling our patron out to the slavers? Maybe even get them to hand over the target as your payment for helping them defeat said patron, thus preserving your reputation as the ever-victorious company.

    Would any of that work? Depends on the specifics of the scenario, that aren't visible to the players.

    Thus, impossible. For the players.

    So… what tests could the players have performed to determine the likely outcome of Diplomacy vs bluff vs trade vs "clear the outer defenses" vs "clear the pyramid" then fight their way out vs split the party (sniper on overwatch) vs Toph vs Talakeal buff vs set the city on fire vs ram the pyramid vs illusion "everything's fine" -> no alarm vs assassinate archbishop pumpkin bread vs assassinate the poisoner (does he live in the pyramid?) vs impersonate the poisoner vs impersonate pumpkin bread vs bribe the guards vs betraying their patron vs…?

    EDIT: oh, and if the target *hadn't* been locked up in a pyramid, my plan was to "assassinate" the target, Romeo and Juliet style. Retrieve and revive their body after it is disposed, no hard feelings. *Might* even work with the target in the pyramid, with the application of enough Toph… except that her keeper is known as "the poisoner".
    Last edited by Quertus; 2021-09-25 at 12:34 AM.

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