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D&D 3E
I need some help. 
24th-Mar-2007 08:30 pm
As a DM, when players are interacting with an NPC and are considering the posibility of murdering them, they ask me subtle questions like "how big is he?" "does his sword seem to defy gravity or slice through the air faster/smoother than normal, or is it like a big heavy encumbrance to him?" as a way of figuring out what level the NPC is. Or, really, how close to their own level he is. Generally I'll answer with things like "he looks like a formidable challenge" or "he could definitely carry himself in a big bar brawl" or "the way he just ripped that tree out of hteground, used it to make a golfshot with the cart on that bridge, then javelin-tossed it into the next ravine, I'd say he can take you on and win without even realizing he was under attack."

However, as a player, the group I am with is being forced to turn over our newly found treasure (a magic device. what it does, we don't know yet, but someone offered us 800gp to get it) to YourStandardAdventuringGroup. It's a halfling thief, a human sorcerer, dwarf fighter, etc etc. While we have made a diplomatic solution to the situation (at least, a partial solution, we're still minus the payment promised by contract), we are considering combat to resolve the rest of the situation, but our DM absolutely refuses to give us any indication at all of what these characters levels are. "How big does he look?" "Dwarf sized." "Gee, really, the dwarf is dwarf size? Alright, that helped us out a lot, thanks!"

What kind of skill or ability can be used to determine another characters level in relation to your own? I don't think whatever it is should be charisma based (like diplomacy) because even noncharasmatic people in a bar can take aquick glance around and see who they can take on and who they shouldn't mess with. Heck, even stupid people usually can, tho sometimes they don't really head the warnings from themselves ... so I'm tihnking more of a wisdom based something instead.

Any ideas?
Comments 
25th-Mar-2007 04:47 am (UTC)
Sense Motive. One of its uses is "Assess Opponent", resisted by the target's Bluff check result. According to "Complete Adventurer", page 102, you'll get pretty accurate information if your check result is 10 greater than the target's.

The Combat Intuition feat (same book, page 106) provides a +4 bonus and allows you to assess someone as a free action.
25th-Mar-2007 05:12 am (UTC) - Hm. Yes, we'll try this.
Thank you. I haven't gotten that book yet, sadly :P

And yet I've preordered every single book slated for release this year so far. Harrah.
25th-Mar-2007 07:03 am (UTC) - Re: Hm. Yes, we'll try this.
complete adventurer is a MUST HAVE. go get it :)
25th-Mar-2007 02:19 pm (UTC) - Re: Hm. Yes, we'll try this.
Even without CAdv, Sense Motive leaves open a wide area under "getting a hunch" or some such, the last thing on its little list in the PHB.

It's open to interpretation (which is probably why they added the "assess an enemy" in the first place) but most DM's will allow it.
25th-Mar-2007 02:32 pm (UTC)
Actually, it is Charisma based--it's called Gather Information, or, for higher-level potential opponents, Bardic Knowledge.
25th-Mar-2007 02:43 pm (UTC)
Sure, after a few drinks and some conversation he'll give up his level willingly.
25th-Mar-2007 07:58 pm (UTC)
Sense Motive would definitely work, but try to avoid metagame thinking. No character says "I'm a level 7 Rogue, looking to take a prestige class." You can glean a general estimate of power from how someone dresses, carries himself, that kind of thing, because higher level characters will (in general, with notable exceptions) have nicer gear, bear a few scars, or even have money to throw around.

Usually, what we used to do was get the bard (often me) to go chat them up with some diplomacy, a little sense motive, and some drinks and song. Not only did I get the pleasure of a female adventurer's company for the evening, but the added bonus of either making friends or getting loads of information on enemies.
26th-Mar-2007 08:33 am (UTC) - Of course;
no, we don't holler "I'm down to 2 hit points" across the table, that's retarded.

"I'm a freakin' bloody mess, I got 4 arrows stuck in me and one of them is festering already!"

But yes, we asked those sorts of questions and couldn't get meaningful answers.

Tonights sessions solved the problem tho. We diplomatically suggested we tie their single horse to our cart (which our warforged was pulling (rather slowly I might add, but thankfully, we could sleep in the cart all night while it pulled), and once we did that, we all piled in and rode off without them.

*lots of general banter where we tricked a number of different people, got gold from all inerested parties by conning them... etc etc*

And finally, "Uhm, yes, we were afraid of An'gart getting his hands on that, so we sent these people after you... due to a shortage of man power at the moment, yes, they were not our best group. But, they did plant seeds in your mind to go questioning others about that artifact, so in a twisted way, they did indeed succeed!"

They were level 1's.

Secretly, I hope we run into them again at a later level. recurring NPCs are great.
26th-Mar-2007 03:59 am (UTC)
Except in rare situation, characters should not be able to do this with NPC's who are not intended as a challenge. Your PC's should trust you as a DM, and you should trust YOUR dm not to pit you against things you should not be able to handle.

If there is an NPC that the players want to murder, ask yourself these questions?

1. Is this an evil game?
If your party is evil, murder should be primarily a background or modus operendi (sp?) and you shouldn't have to worry about levels unless you want to play it as a planned encounter. Otherwise, they all fall under their knives.

2. Is the person guilty of some crime?
If the NPC in question has done something wrong, a lawful or neutral party should try to subdue them. Level is irrelavent if they are trying to do the right thing. This is an opportunity for good role playing. If the person has not done anything wrong... well see the next one.

3. Is this an opportunistic killing/attack?
If the dm has not set up the NPC to be a challenge, and they are not guilty of some crime or offense, are they killing for need or pleasure/advancement? If it's pleasure/advancement, see number one, your party is evil unless the person in question needs a good killing anyway, such as an evil warlock. But, if they need to be killed, they fall into the need category. If the person needs to be killed, they fall into one of two categories; Villains and speedbumps. If they are a villain, then they should be preplanned by the dm and the characters shouldn't question becomming involved. If they are a speedbump, their death is only important to the story, and it is someone the party should have killed anyway to move the plot forward.

In short, and comparison of an NPC's level to PC edges far to close to metagaming. Unless your DM drops you within' sword reach of the high overlord of evil doom, a hero should assail any challenge, no matter how big. This is not to say they needn't prepare for it or get help, but how many times does a hero say "gee, I'd love to assault the stronghold of the goblin king you just told me about, but I think he's a few levels higher than me". The hero just does it. If he can't walk in the front gate whistling, then he sneaks in, or leads an army there. And if the DM is putting you in situations where you don't know how strong your adversary is, it's probably for a reason.

The Dwarf you m entioned seems like he is a bit of a mystery to your party. He hired you to retreive a mysterious artifact. This probably makes him a mysterious benefactor. Unless your group has probed into his background, do you really know anything? If he has access to 800 gold readily, he is probably more than saavy enough to hide his capabilities.

If your characters think combat may be the answer, escalate the situation in that direction. If your DM is not a sadistic bastard he'll move the situation in a different direction if you are not up to the challenge.

I would let my descriptions do the talking as needed by the situation. For example, if the party started shouting and laying their hands on weapons, he might drop into a battle stance and draw his sword with lightning speed. That would be a good indication he was tough... but you'd only know when it was too late. That's how it works when you leave the numbers out. The story is what's important. As a DM, I frequently leave those kind of things vague; mostly because you never can tell, but also so I can change them at a moments notice. I like flexibility.

In summary, I wouldn't allow any kind of skill check to know those kinds of things. If however your DM insists, try wisdom. Or maybe just ask for a better description as you arrive at a situation.
26th-Mar-2007 08:40 am (UTC) - The situation was pretty specific.
We, the players, were considering combat as an alternative backup plan, but before committing ourselves to THAT prticular plan B, wanted some way of knowing we could actually handle it.

Otherwise, screw it, if anything goes wrong we split and all meet up at Galethspyre in 3 weeks.

And again, we were prodding for signs of size, shineyness of weapons, scars, the whole gambit. The only thing we actually found out is that my rogue could hit their rogue with a crossbow bolt, and their Elf could use scrolls to cast sleep on us and some kind of enchantment on one of her own party. That pretty much limits them to being level 1 or higher..

27th-Mar-2007 05:06 am (UTC)
we usually use sense motive. usually a streight dc of 20 will get you vauge discriptions of "this guy looks pretrty tough" of he looks like a punk,but if they have bluff or intimidate i will roll for thew npc so it doesent allways work in there favor. mostly the players in my game use it to see how bad someone is hurt dc 20 will get you "he looke in pretty bad shape or this dude looks as he is about to drop. some of the players are good charictors so they tend to like to switch to non lethal damage when someone is pretty beat up so they can turn em in or interagate them (mostly to pry em for info)
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