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TOPIC: What to do about bad DMs?

Re: What to do about bad DMs? 5 years 3 months ago #133

  • TJRat
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[quote="Incognito" post=232835At least in Grind, there are several ways that the monsters can determine if a player is a threat.

1. Some are obvious like a giant hulking Barbarian with massive, rippling muscles but wearing nothing but a loincloth. Or a squishy, frail looking Wizard wielding powerful magic.

2. At least in Grind, monsters can learn from each other's mistakes. Monsters can communicate with each other (Undercommon?) just like players can. And oftentimes, monsters may be observing prior Grind combats before jumping in the fray.

3. Sometimes the boss monster is behind everything. I liken this to a lot of video games and movies where the waves of monsters are meant to weaken the heroes and test their capabilities - all orchestrated by the boss. This year's GenCon had the Son of Smoak as well as the genius-intelligence, telepathic Aboleth observing and communicating.

'Obvious' is relative. You're saying your monster chose a barbarian, lying dead two combats over, as a threat? Rippling muscles I'll buy, but 'loincloth?' Nonsense. He was wearing a full set of armor.
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Last edit: by TJRat.

Re: What to do about bad DMs? 5 years 3 months ago #134

If I were an intelligent monster, I would surmise that my enemy wearing naught but a loincloth would be a lot easier to hit/damage than my enemy wearing full plate armor. And since the nearly naked person is probably wielding a big stick, I might want to eliminate that potential damage source as quickly as possible.
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Re: What to do about bad DMs? 5 years 3 months ago #135

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Incognito wrote: Well, a monster should be able to determine the relative state of a player. Just like how players normally are able to determine the relative state of a monster.

If a player asks about the monster, I won't tell them the exact HP it has, but I am happy to describe whether the monster appears relatively untouched, bloodied, or on its last legs.

Similarly, a monster should be able to determine how hurt or unharmed a player is.

Secondly, player HP is supposed to be publicly displayed information shown with paper clips on the Character Card. But between the dark setting making it hard to see, paper clips getting lost, and players using their own HP counting devices instead (like those on the thumb), DM's are sometimes not able to access this public information.

Thirdly, since player HP is controlled by the player, there is a high potential for cheating or accidental mistakes. There have been times when players have not informed the DM that they are dead (and their dead corpse gets attacked). There are plenty of times when they make mathematical mistakes and end up with the wrong HP. There are plenty of times when they misapply damage reduction items.

Relative state, I agree. Asking for specific hit points while metaphorically 'standing over his body' couldn't have come across as anything but confrontational. Yes, HPs are displayed and controlled by the player. No mistakes were made. There were three of us trying to keep up with all the damage you were yelling out, and I think we did fine. No attempt was made to hide the info from you until the situation became very confrontational.

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Re: What to do about bad DMs? 5 years 3 months ago #136

TJRat wrote: Rippling muscles I'll buy, but 'loincloth?' Nonsense.


Depending on the Barbarian, that loincloth might look like a threat ...
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Re: What to do about bad DMs? 5 years 3 months ago #137

I do feel on my Grind this year I was meta gamed. One of the monster's (I don't remember which) knocked the wisdom out of the cleric. Okay he saw him cast 2 healing spells. A couple turns later the monster did the same to me as the druid. I am pretty sure (but not positive) I had not yet cast a double heal. I think Eric (and Raven) do wonderful job DMing and would never put the either of you in a bad DM category.

That said I was not happy about losing the access to a tokens worth thousands of dollars before even got to use them.
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Re: What to do about bad DMs? 5 years 3 months ago #138

jedibcg wrote: I do feel on my Grind this year I was meta gamed. One of the monster's (I don't remember which) knocked the wisdom out of the cleric. Okay he saw him cast 2 healing spells. A couple turns later the monster did the same to me as the druid. I am pretty sure (but not positive) I had not yet cast a double heal. I think Eric (and Raven) do wonderful job DMing and would never put the either of you in a bad DM category.

That said I was not happy about losing the access to a tokens worth thousands of dollars before even got to use them.


They didn't do this to our cleric at all. He was free casting most of the fight!
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Re: What to do about bad DMs? 5 years 3 months ago #139

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[quote="Incognito" post=232835

I recognize that DMs should have full control over the reactions of the monster, within the bounds of the description. But shouldn't they consider rolling a die to determine who gets attacked if no character makes an 'impression' upon them?

No, random flailing at a random character is very rarely a good or logical course of action, even for low intelligence or instinctual monsters, let along clever ones or those following orders.

Sometimes, for the sack of simplicity or for the sake of fairness I might introduce some randomness (say, if I have a deadly attack).

Having the monster's attack be completely random is bad because it can be easily metagamed and removes a lot of the challenge. With this type of system, players legitimately argue that "AC is useless since you only have a 10% chance of being targeted anyway" and this leads to less diversity in builds. Not to mention certain effects like the Cloak of Shadowskin make such random tactics a complete joke.[/quote]

Randomness makes sense at the start of a melee, as does targeting those characters that stand out (taunting or damaging). No where in our plans or my discussion has there been any attempt to 'metagame' by reducing AC. The cloak will only function by surprise - if you choose to run the encounter to prove a point about builds, then you're missing the point of the game.
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Re: What to do about bad DMs? 5 years 3 months ago #140

TJRat wrote: Monsters reacting to taunting or big hits are a staple of our experience. DMs deliberately targeting a player due to low AC, saving throw, etc. should not be.
There's a big white 20-sided die provided on the table right there - DMs should use it when selecting targets in the absence of any guidance in the module or situations listed above.

Eh.

My monsters sometimes taunt players but players rarely take the bait.

And while occasionally my monsters will react to taunting, most of the time they know better than that. Also, I generally ignore most taunting b/c most of the time it is someone trying to manipulate/trick the DM/monsters.

I do think that "taunting" might be more interesting and interactive when there is an NPC.

So do you want monsters to be attacking based on DM notes? On randomness? Or due to manipulation and taunting?

Because if you want the monsters to be following the script or attacking randomly, then they definitely should NOT respond to taunting!

Responding to big hits IS valuable because it is a clear indication of damage/threat potential, as well as player skill (which isn't captured on the party card).

Second gripe (only because I hope it gets through to the DM): When requiring a player to make a saving throw, tell them what it's for. While trying to keep our Barbie from going full rage, I was constantly called to the table to roll a saving throw. When I asked about the nature of the attack, I was told to 'just roll - save time.'

it's my fault for not putting my foot down, but there's a compelling argument about saving time. However, with an amethyst and a violet prism, in retrospect I believe I might have been able to counter the attack.

In True Grind, I often ask players to "just roll" in order to save time.

In fact, one of my pet peeves is: Monster attacks, deals X damage, and requires a saving throw. Way too many players waste valuable time fidgeting with their HP counters, and only then rolling the die. It is far more preferable for them to roll the die first, and then deal with the HP adjustment afterwards.

Also, while you may know who in your party is what class, in Grind that is not often the case. So I might be attacking you (point to random person whose class I don't know) so when I ask you to roll a saving throw, it REALLY helps if you can say what class you are. I often explicitly ask players to announce their class when rolling but even then, maybe players don't.


Now when I ask players to roll a saving throw I will usually tell them if it is Fortitude/Reflex/Save or if the roll is for something else (to get through magic resistance, or I am letting the player roll the monster's attack against them).

Now some special attacks are more obvious. If you failed the save against the spider, I would explain that its poison seeps into you, making you feel sluggish and slow. At that point, if someone wants to use an Anti-toxin or says "hey I'm immune b/c of the Medallion of Greyhawk," that's fine. Sometimes, I might explicitly say make a Fort save vs poison.

However, there are other times when the exact attack form is intentionally not obvious. Say, the Lamia touches you and drains your wisdom. TD currently doesn't have tokens dealing with ability drain, but I intentionally designed the Lamia so that a Remove Curse would remove it. But part of the built-in "puzzle" was trying to figure out what it was. I recall Druegar asking what the source was and I told him "you aren't quite sure" and suggesting that he experiment (which he didn't). In contrast, a few groups actually did try Remove Curse and were pleased when they solved that little puzzle. I even saw one group use a Censer of Sacrifice twice, burning 200 GP to restore the Cleric and Druid.

If I simply said "it is a curse," that kind of ruins the mini-puzzle and gives players information that they should not have. If someone had a Shirt of Health then sure, they could say "I am immune to disease, does that make a difference?" And I could tell them that they are still affected for one reason or another. But the average player should not automatically know whether it was poison/disease/curse/etc.

A similar situation was the Aboleth. Those familiar with the creature might recall that it uses Dominate Person effects (which are not Charms). Explicitly saying "this is or is not a Charm" would reveal too much information. In addition, there were occasions when the Aboleth would be able to attempt Dominate when it was "offscreen" (if you had killed the Lamia but had not yet defeated the Purple Worm or the Mind Flayer). So hidden monsters were essentially attacking from offscreen. Revealing to much about the "mysterious attack or saving throw" would have provided too much information.

And the classic example is when you have a player make a Will save versus illusion. It is way too spoiler-ific to tell them to make a saving throw versus ILLUSION. Instead, just have them make a Will save for some mysterious purpose.

I would say "if you have a token that might be relevant, mention the token." But in Grind at least, I exhaustively go through the potential tokens several times beforehand and a lot of the time the information given (or information omitted) is carefully designed for a reason.

So just about how you say there are cases where a monster shouldn't be able to know things, there are way more situations where a player shouldn't have 100% knowledge of the details of a particular attack.

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Last edit: by Incognito.

Re: What to do about bad DMs? 5 years 3 months ago #141

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Incognito wrote:

TJRat wrote: Sure - that's what I meant about reacting in the context of the monster's description. Unfortunately for this DM, when asked he clearly stated that he felt the 'monster would perceive the barbarian as the biggest threat.'

How, when the barbarian hadn't even attacked this monster? I've dealt with DMs who check the player card before declaring attacks - looking for the lowest AC or saving throw. In the role playing world, how would a monster be able to detect this information?

As mentioned in my prior post:

1. Monsters can see the difference between a fleshy unarmored target and a tin can of plate mail. For Reflex saves, they can see which characters are nimble and quick versus clumsy and slow. They can see which ones are massive and muscular and which are puny.

2. Monsters communicate with each other (just like players) and might be observing prior combats.

3. Monsters might be getting orders or advice (sometimes telepathic) from boss or sub-boss monsters.


I agree with the idea that monsters (if the encounter is set up as such) should cooperate similar to how players do. But then the DM should disclose monster vulnerabilities to the party, or the monsters should have to spend a few rounds to learn party vulnerabilities; even footing for two groups meeting perhaps for the first time.

Also, seems like your theoretical monster is judging these books by their covers. Big doesn't mean slow, and lots of armor doesn't mean best protected.

Turns out that was the case, doesn't it? While the baddie was pounding on the lifeless corpse of our barbarian, the five characters who were actually damaging it underwater killed it. Still wonder why the barbarian wasn't allowed to melee attack because he wasn't able to deal with water, yet he was bashed to death in melee....

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Re: What to do about bad DMs? 5 years 3 months ago #142

bpsymington wrote:

Kaledor wrote: Just need to tell the puzzle rooms DMs, doesn't matter how they solve the puzzle longs as they have the right solution. Great training topic for next year!


But the point is that "brute force" is not "solving" the puzzle. On the other hand, a requirement to "show your work" is not going to be desirable.


And herein lies some of the grey area where issues arose (in reading these threads and my own first experience). In my group of 11 on Normal Puzzle Underdark, a friend and I (both first time players) had Lava Boots equipped. Coming to a room roiling with Lava, we felt that even with our meager equipment choices available (I could've used that set or a different set of boots), we'd chosen wisely.

Until we were told that using them would cause us to lose out on the treasure stamp for the room.

So while they might have reduced or eliminated damage from a misstep, fall, or mistake, we felt like we'd 'wasted' a slot of our gear. It sent a bit of a mixed message; tokens are important, but using them might be counterproductive (I'd eagerly take damage over losing a token, as only a few of the more experienced players in our run even had treasure enhancing items, my 2 friends and I certainly did not).

While we killed the Carrion Crawler and the Spider without too much trouble, the Mushroom Choir proved difficult to understand for some in our midst, and the final table handily beat us (a mix of waiting on the timing, seeing a few people killed off quickly, and remembering the names but not the colours for more than a handful, essentially analysis paralysis that led to us rolling over and dying to time rather than spider bites).

Was it a fun experience? Yes. Was it something we intend to repeat? Absolutely. But as a newer player, it was a bit disheartening to find out that what gear we were 'lucky' enough to get was actively discouraged as use, and I think it highlights a consideration on the "not wanting to reward brute forcing puzzles", as it doesn't give much gradiation for feeling like gear can actually be used. Certainly, one wishes to avoid groups gaining insight into the rooms from other runs or other parties passing on info ("oh, all 10 of you are wearing lava boots? Of course you are"), but if a couple of people have them, is it really that big a concern?

And the feeling that trial and error is not only punished with damage but also loss of loot is something I'm trying to reconcile. That same lava room, we had a player who was... a bit overzealous perhaps, and stepped on tiles twice before we really had things sorted out, incurring damage. Then while people crossed over (we'd figured out the solution), someone mistepped and it was lost to us.

What I'm getting at are more philosophical questions; does the party need to perform perfectly if they can show their work? Isn't the damage taken sufficient as a penalty, and if so, isn't the loss of loot pulls both harsh (particularly against new players) and counterproductive towards encouraging people to try out solutions, especially coupled with the ticking limit?

I am a fan of people thinking things out, of discussing their potential solutions, but when enough potential penalties are looming, it's easy to be caught not wanting to be 'that guy' who tried what seemed like a viable answer and ended up costing the team part of the 'prize'.

Yes, buying packs is more efficient than loot pulls, but that doesn't mean that people don't enjoy getting to see what they snagged from those boxes, especially with the immediacy of getting them right on the way out.

My friends and I got 1 treasure token apiece. One pulled a crafting item (I've let him know people value those highly), another pulled Universal Solvent. I chose to just keep my single 2015 treasure pull token, an obvious trophy amidst my small pile of tokens.

To reiterate, I do respect that TD is a business, that there is meant to be measures in place to keep people 'solving' puzzles, but it's fascinating to join the forums and hear what runs were like in days past, how the 'metagame' has evolved, and perhaps provide feedback from a new participant as to how the rest of us live, as it were.

I'm impressed by the dedication many have made both to the game and the mechanics around it, appreciate the advice, and can't wait to go delving into the dungeons again. And I hope that this feedback (among that from many others) can help make our next journey even better.

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Re: What to do about bad DMs? 5 years 3 months ago #143

Kaledor wrote: We have the same issue... fighter critically hits... wizard standing there looking through scrolls. DM targets the Wizard (lowest AC) did that three times in a row.

Same dungeon same DM... wizard slides a critical hit, paladin says guarding wizard. DM targets next lowest AC. New players asked "So what is the point of a paladin guarding lower AC when he calls out wizard, you just change targets." Interesting question.

Since we had two wizards DM asked which one are you guarding. He said which one are you attacking. Everyone just busted out laughing! DM picked the Barbarian. hehehe

Well, fortunately, that doesn't sound like it was your Grind run, since my notes show you Sunday 10:30 AM run as having only a single Wizard! B)

Eh, even if the Fighter is critically hitting sometimes he is still too heavily armored for the monster to hurt. So instead of useless pawing at the Fighter (however much the monster wants to get him), he has to settle for a more accessible target.

Kaledor wrote: While I agree with the random attack method, but every DM always attacking the lowest AC gets old. Then if the Paladin announces he is guarding said play, the DM switch targets because of the guard. Which makes Guarding a skill that isn't worth it.

There should be a way that the Paladin writes down who they are guarding so the DM does not pick a different target to avoid the guard.

You see, I view the Paladin's Guard ability as a constant process.

He is staying close to his target, constantly interposing himself between the Guard target and the monster.

I don't see it as a "Paladin magically appears in between whenever you are about to get hit."

Say you are a hungry lion, eager to eat some tasty elephant. There are two baby elephants and one big protective mommy elephant. The mommy elephant can only protect one baby elephant at a time. So do you go after the one that is being protected? NO! You go after the undefended one!

And if the mommy elephant starts guarding the other one, then you, the predatory lion change your target to the now undefended baby elephant.

The monster should be able to see who is being guarded and act accordingly.


Now from a balance perspective, it has been well-documented that since players outnumber monsters (10:1 in most dungeons, and still 10:2 or 10:3 in most Grinds), that a monster turn is more valuable than a player turn.

Which is why "monster loses turn" effects like that Prestige Summoner spell or the Monk's Stunning Fist are so powerful.

The main issue with "Paladin can declare guard target whenever" or "Paladin's guard target is secret" is that most of the time it just amounts to "monster loses turn."


Now the Paladin's Guard ability, as well as high AC, in general, are both powerful but a lot of its strength comes from its deterrent effect.

Now I do realize some people want to see obvious, salient effects.

So players who say "I have AC 40 but I never got attacked so AC is useless" don't realize that their AC WAS useful - it meant that the monster didn't bother attacking them in the first place (and instead attacked someone else). Why waste effort blowing down the brick house when there is a straw house right in front of you?

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Re: What to do about bad DMs? 5 years 3 months ago #144

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Druegar wrote: If I were an intelligent monster, I would surmise that my enemy wearing naught but a loincloth would be a lot easier to hit/damage than my enemy wearing full plate armor. And since the nearly naked person is probably wielding a big stick, I might want to eliminate that potential damage source as quickly as possible.


I can only agree. However, there were no loincloths involved. If we delve into the tactical situation and try to sort out the mindset of the monster, we'd get lost in details. Suffice it to say that our barb was lying dead two combat boards over. He was wearing armor.

Despite efforts to explain the monster's actions in a convoluted and unending spiral of 'perhaps' statements, Incognito chose to focus the monster's attention on one character. This runs counter to our experience in regular runs and hit us hard. Throw in the pace of grind and the chaos inherent in the setup, and you may see how this didn't end well for us.
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