November 4th, 2007


PSA: Bad Mechanics


I wish to inform you about a class of bad mechanics existing in the core rules. They aren't unbalanced or illogical or anything, they are bad in a far more simple way.

I call these the "you can't play anymore" mechanics.

These are abilities like "panicked" and "paralyzed" that make it so that a player is unable to play the game anymore. Basically it's "oh, you failed a save? Sorry, you're not allowed to play in the game anymore. Instead you have to run away, or stand there quietly, or whatever." By using these conditions, you are are not allowing the player to have play the game.

These conditions should be used sparingly, if ever.

Yes, these fall under a broader category of "save-or-die" or "save-or-suck" effects, which in general are acknowledged to be bad design, as the fate of a character rests on a single die roll. But these are exceptionally bad to use, because the player has no way around them. It isn't that they now have to move into a flanking position to balance out that -2 from being shaken, or that they have to pull out a bow and shoot a guy because they are entangled. Using an ability that makes it so the player can't play is wrong. Period.

This message is brought to you by watching a fellow player storm away from the table after he was not allowed to participate in the only combat all session (after 8 hours of other crap which I can rant about another time) because he failed his save and became panicked and so was not allowed to play.

And for the record, I was just really really pissed off last night after an absolutely horrible session, and that was really the last straw. I understand that certain effects can be used well (and have seen them used to great effect), but the whole "sit around all day while the wizard talks to the DM, and then when you have a chance to do something (in a fight, no less) you aren't allowed to because you have to run away" seemed an easy target.

Lots of things went wrong (and are much, much more to blame). And that's enough of that. Please feel free to discuss the merits (or demerits) of save-or-die effects among yourselves as you wish, but I don't want to talk about what went wrong anymore. Ranting is just a waste of my time, and I'll try to talk to the DM when I've calmed down some.

The above is copied from a comment I made, which people don't seem to have read. I'm sorry I ever made this post in the first place.

But also for the record, I still maintain that not letting someone play the game is bad DMing. Whether you do this through a badly written story or through cruel use of mechanics, it's wrong. But I'll be careful to, in the future, not blame the mechanics for a poor run of DMing.