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D&D 3E
Times are changing... 
8th-Sep-2008 10:07 am
Disney-Mermaid Slobbery
I'm starting my campaign this week, and I'm a little nervous. I have a few changes that I want to make based on ideas that I got from reading up on other GM tactics online (specifically "How to awesome up your players"). I'm hoping you guys can offer me your advice as well.

I want to make 3 small changes to the way that I've run previously.

1. First, I'd like to use the 10-minute background that the_stray7 posted a while back. I think it'll be fun. I'm also going to add to that sheet:

List your top 3 skills and their bonuses:

I got idea from a website that talked about catering some encounters to fit the skills and strengths of the PCs (I can't remember what webpage it was, but it was a workshop on starting your own campaign).

2. Second, I'm thinking of taking a page from Jeff's Gameblog. The idea is that the PCs have the most fun if they get the chance to be heroes and that you should let them do that. I'm planning on implimenting this change in 3 parts.

a) First, I'm making the rule that a player will never be penalized for being flashy or unique about how he accomplishes an action. For example, perhaps our monk wants to jump up, flip over and land on the other side of the enemy, then smack him on the back of the head with his quarterstaff. In the purely mechanical sense, the monk needs to make a tumble check to move through the enemy's space, and there will be no penalties to his rolls based on *how* he wants to describe himself doing it.

b) Next, I'm going to say that a character MAY get a bonus to an action depending on how creative they are in doing it. This will only come into play if the character is a few points from succeeding, so I'm not going to think about the bonus unless it's a matter of success or failure. In the same way, I do NOT want my players to be asking me, "Do I get a bonus for this? Did I get a bonus there?" I'll probably wring their necks if they do. So, I'm going to tell them that if they ask me, the answer will be no. I'll decide whether there's a bonus when I determine if they hit or succeed. The point here is simply to urge my players to be more descriptive about how they go through combat. I want them to get away from "I kill it," and get more into describing what exactly their character does. This may or may not be effective, but I figured it was worth a try.

c) And lastly, I'm thinking of re-implimenting the "critical fumble" tables. The catch is that they won't be tables per se, but a list of possible outcomes that I can work with. I also want to give each possible outcome a save or check to avoid it. For example, if the monk tries to smack the enemy on the back of his head with his quarterstaff and he rolls a 1, I may decide that during his spin-jump, he gets dizzy and swings his quarterstaff at the ally standing adjacent to the enemy instead. But that ally would receive a reflex save to avoid the wild swing, with the DC being the attack that the monk rolled. The idea is that if the monk rolled a 1, his attack is, naturally, going to be pretty low. He might still hit his ally, but it's more likely to simply bring some laughs to the table when the ally cries out, "Hey! Watch where you are swinging that thing!" I also would like to come up with some possible "critical hit" outcomes, everything from making an enemies head explode when the monk crits the monster who only has 1 hit point left (a purely aesthetic outcome) to knocking the enemy back, letting me call a monster as down even though he should still have a few hitpoints left after the crit, or (as Jeff describes) describing an archer as finishing off one brute and killing the one right behind him at the same time. The point being that I want to give my players a way to bring the combat to life, to make it something that they will remember.

3. The last change I want to make has to do with the fact that I find the campaign modules very confusing - and I'm reading them cover to cover! I can't imagine how confusing it will be as players. So, I want to encourage my players to ask questions and to remember the questions that they think of during the week to ask at the next game session. To do this, I want to give the players a chance to gather information retroactively. If they go into a town, then leave and that week realize what they should have asked while they were there, I'm going to let them ask the question next week at game. The catch is that the questions can't involve an action that they didn't take. For example, if they meet some NPCs and get some information from them, the next week, they can ask, "Hey, did so-and-so know anything about this?" but I won't let them ask, "Hey, if I went across town to the local wizard's tower, were they able to tell me about this?" if they never said they were going to the wizard's tower.

Do all of these things sound acceptable to you guys?
8th-Sep-2008 05:18 pm (UTC)
a) this is critically important if you want to have a cinematic feeling game. Penalizing players for doing cool stuff means, surprise, they don't do cool stuff.
b) yup, this was the critical difference between Feng Shui (sure you can do more with your action, let's figure out an appropriate penalty) and Exalted (sure, you can do more with your action, that description sounds frakking awesome, here's a bonus)
c) eh, if it floats your players boat, sure, though overall it may just be extra rolls for not a ton of benefit, but that's dependent on how good you and your players are at keeping things moving and interesting. :)

3) that's pretty interesting, definitely post here about your experience with how well it works. If it does work, it sounds like it could be a cool technique for taking some of the pressure off of the rp moments of a game. Less time with the players sitting at the table stressing out to make sure they ask every possible question.
8th-Sep-2008 06:52 pm (UTC)
1. I've always liked to have a little background on each character to help motivations and give each one something specially geared toward him/her.

2. I like the a and b, but I'd be careful about c. If you stick to a chart, then players feel in control because they know what to expect. If you get to decide on a whim, they may call favoritism-- whether it's there to see or not. They won't claim a random chart is unfair, especially if you leave it in their hands.

My group enjoys crit hits/misses. We 'double check' a critical by rolling again; on a hit, if the second roll also hit you have something worthy of the chart. If the second roll didn't hit, it's just worth double-damage. On a critical miss, if the second roll also missed, it's worthy of the chart. If the second roll hit, then it was just a very poor attempt to hit and your turn ends without opportunity for more attacks or actions. I also approve of allowing characters to avoid effects, such as a REF save for slipping in a critical fumble, or a FORT save to avoid a critical wound.

3. I like this idea, too, it allows some leeway for both you and your players.
8th-Sep-2008 07:06 pm (UTC)
sounds like some good ideas.

Wish I was in the campaign to see how it works out.

9th-Sep-2008 01:18 pm (UTC)
I avoid using critical misses for players but implement them for NPCs. The players can get some easy laughs off an enemy's mistake, but if it's their asses on the line the humor is always going to be a little bitter.

Also, think about this: high-level martial characters can make many attacks per round, which lets them deal more damage and crit more often. But with critical misses, the more attacks you get, the greater your chances of crit-missing. It seems backwards to me that a 1st-level character full-attacking will only screw up on 5% of rounds, whereas a 20th-level character will screw up almost 20% of the time!

Finally, critical misses exclusively penalize characters who make attack rolls - that is, martial characters. The game's already skewed pretty heavily in favor of magic-users, and crit misses only increase this tendency.
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