Mike showed up sporting his newest gear supporting the Bard. This was pretty awesome. Mike was showing his level of support and commitment to the game.
The session started similar to other sessions. We spent an hour talking about things which had nothing to do with the game. We talked about local politics, local food, national politics, international food, jobs, retirement, told stories and a lot more. You know, what friends do when they get together.
After about an hour, we started the game. Gaming to me is a reason to get together with friends and have a good time. If the people want to derail the game and chat, that is just fine with me. I like the people I game with, and the game is a good reason to get together, but the primary reason is to be with the people I like. Some people do this with football parties, some people do this with alcohol. I do it with a game.
When the game started, the party were with Meepo, the kobald dragon keeper. Meepo wasn’t much of a help. After all, he knew the password to get through the kobald guards. or at least he hoped he still knew the password, since he had been abandoned by the other kobalds for losing the dragon wyrmling to the goblins. The party hasn’t given that much thought. I think that the party thinks of Meepo as a mascot.
So the party leaves the dragon hold and starts down a long hall that turns right, then left. The monk is in the lead. Now the monk has no trapfinding abilities. That is ok. The rogue is right behind. The rogue and the monk find no traps. The problem is that there is a trap. So traps are not really well defined in D&D. It is kind of an open ended possibility.
Some adventures have some information. For example this adventure in the Yawning Portal does include some information about “traps”, where they are mostly an annoyance. IF you don’t see the tripwire as you enter the room, a bucket of kobald poop and pee drops from above the doorway onto the unsuspecting party member. Wooo… scary. In another trap in this adventure, if the rogue opens up the trapped door without checking first, they are pricked by a spike, which does only one HP damage. I get it, this is a learning adventure. The intent of the adventure is to let the brand new player who has never played a rogue before learn how to survive some trapped thing.
Most fantasy adventures don’t have a lot of information about traps. It doesn’t matter if it is Pathfinder, D&D, DCC, or other game system. The traps tend to be pretty unexplained. So how to make a rogue’s life interesting (miserable?), much less the rest of the party.
Well, my fall back has always been a toned down version of Grimtooth’s traps. I bought the first book way back when in 1981 or 1982. I don’t remember for sure. I used the heck out of it. These traps are stupidly overkill. However, they can be modified to be a major annoyance, or at least a real challenge to the party.
Here is a favorite of mine. The corridor has a trapped section of floor. Where the X’s are are tripwires. If the party discovers the really obvious tripwire, they will probably try to step over it. The tripwire is actually there specifically to be triggered. If you trigger the tripwire, then the latch locks, securing the trap. Now, I usually put a few of these in the dungeon when I use it. The tripwires are set up to do one of the following:
- tripping one wire will secure that side of the trap
- tripping one wire will secure both sides of the trap
- tripping one wire will secure the other side of the trap
- tripping one wire will unsecure that side of the trap
- tripping one wire will unsecure both sides of the trap
- tripping one wire will unsecure the other side of the trap
- releasing tension on one wire will secure that side of the trap
- releasing tension on one wire will secure both sides of the trap…
- and so on
- and so on
The best type is where you give them two in short succession. The first one trap includes a greased section of floor (as in the magic spell grease … bwooohahahahaah), followed by one tripwire that secures the near side of the trap, and the tripwire must be tripped on the other side of the trap to secure the other side of the trap. Also, include a shear pin, on the trap, so that the rogue can get over it, but the armored fighter or paladin can not without breaking the shear pin.
Put a mild annoyance, such as they figure out the first side, slip and fall into the second side, but the tripwire and catch are obvious, so they learn. The pit is full of something mildly bad, like a short drop doing some damage or maybe some rusty iron spikes. You know, something which will cause the cleric to use up some healing. Soften them up a bit.
Do a few of these in a row. Program the party to start thinking that they have figured out the trap system. Make sure that the trap mechanism is obvious. The party sees the broken shear pins, the party gets the idea of what to do.
Then put in the same trap type, where the first tripwire sets BOTH pins. The second tripwire unsets BOTH pins, and both sides have a shear pin. In this one, place something nasty for the party to fall into.
The books are full of all sorts of awesome over the top traps. Some of them are downright funny.
But enough about inspiration. I regularly ask the rogue if they are looking for traps before they enter a room, as they walk down a hallway, or go to open a door. In this adventure, the player playing the rogue has been role playing for a while, but she does not always look for traps. I figure that I will keep her on her toes, but asking her to roll, to see if she finds something.
Now going down the hall, the monk is going first. He decides that he should go before the character that can actually find traps. I am not sure why this is the case, but if a monk wants to be a trapfinder, why would I suggest to the rogue that this is a bad idea? In business acumen, this is called initiative.
The monk finds a trap. Well, he doesn’t “find” the trap as much as actuates the trap. All of his uber dexterity doesn’t help too much.
So, here is the problem that isn’t well defined in D&D, much less any other system that I have seen. The trap goes off. But who does it affect? Will all traps blow up or go off at the tripwire? Maybe, maybe not. So here is how I deal with traps in hallways. Fair warning, this can be fatal.
I roll a d20. Depending on the roll, of the die, it affects the people in the following order:
- 1 – the trapfinder
- 2-3, the person behind the trapfinder
- 4-8, the third person in the row
- 9-16,the fourth person in the row
- 17-20, the fifth person in the row
Odds are in the favor of the trapfinder, that someone else will be hurt by the missed trap, or the crappy roll to disarm the trap. Now Brian / monk didn’t know that this is how I decide who gets the trap sprung on them. But I based this loosely off what we were told in the army about running point man on the field exercise. Being point is pretty scary. You are convinced that every leaf moving, shadow, or whatever is something nasty about to jump out on you and ruin your day. The sergeants and officers tell the point man “Don’t worry, since the enemy wants to draw the entire platoon into the ambush, they always let the point person lead the platoon into the ambush before they start shooting”. Now that is supposed to make the point guy feel better. It never did for me. And I only needed to worry about the “OPFOR”, since I never went to a real war, we only pretended to have wars against the other units in the same army.
But I figure that this type of distribution makes the rogue a little happier, but then pisses off the rest of the party a little more. Now when the monk wants to do the rogue’s work, and that results in the warlock getting an arrow in their side, that is ok by me.
In other words, the monk triggered the trap, and I rolled a 12, which focused the arrow attack on the monk who was fourth in line. Not good for the warlock, as he is not immune to arrows. Lucky for him, the arrows were not poisoned.
So the monk, bolstered by his success at not being hit by the trap that he missed, ends up at a single door at the end of the hallway. On the hasp of the door is a slimy substance. The monk, unperturbed, decides not to grab the wooden latch with the slimy substance on it. The monk pulls out his dagger, and touches the dagger to the hasp, to raise it up and open the door. Nobody listens at the door, nobody checks for traps, the monk is on a roll. The door opens, the limy stuff moves on its own onto the dagger and starts consuming the dagger, getting bigger as it eats the dagger. The monk drops the dagger. He is pretty sure that the slimy stuff that is consuming his dagger is bad.
Beyond the door is a relatively large room On the east side of the room is a fountain, with a dragon’s head. A little looking at the fountain shows that the dragon’s mouth has a finger sized hole, and the finger sized hole goes out to the long dragon’s tongue that appears to drip into the fountain. There is nothing coming out of the dragon mouth. The fountain is empty, except for some pond scum. Above the fountain, chiseled in the stone is a message in draconic “Let there be fire” The fountain radiates abjuration magic.
The other side of the room includes a stonework door which continues the dragon motif. Above the door also chiseled in stone is another message in draconic “Rebuke the dead, open the way”. The area around the western door is noticeably colder than the rest of the room. The door also radiates abjuration magic
To the north is a hallway passage, with no door.
The warlock is concerned about this abjuration magic. He is convinced that it is bad. Now if a warlock is concerned about how bad magic can be, maybe someone should listen? Nope.
Everyone wants Meepo to tell them what to do. Meepo says that he does not know much about this area of the dungeon. He knows that this way should go to the kobald king, but he always goes the other way. He suggested at the beginning of the adventure that they go the other way, but the party wanted to go this way. Meepo is not a lot of help… which is consistent with other adventures that I run where the NPC’s don’t fight, don’t really help much, but likely have something really important, which means that the party shouldn’t let the NPC die. hint. hint. hint. Maybe it is a red herring? After all, Meepo is a red skinned kobald…
Now Mike liked Meepo enough that he created a Meepo mini, where Meepo was wearing a yellow sun dress.
So the party asks Meepo a bunch of times about the door and the fountain. He knows nothing. However, the monk saves the day, sort of. He reads out the words on the fountain, and the fountain spills out a viscous red liquid out of the dragon mouth. No one bothers to catch it. It goes into the nasty pond scum basin of the fountain. Everyone is worried. The warlock tries to figure out what it is. He determines that it is full of abjuration magic. Nobody wants to touch it. The party asks Meepo what it is, and he walks up, scoops it up in a paw, swallows it, then belches out an enormous fireball. Meepo thinks this is great fun, but the magic is gone. Completely gone. The warlock finds no more abjuration magic near the fountain.
The cleric is working on the issue of the door, and how to rebuke the dead. He finally decides to use his turn undead ability. That was a good idea, but the skeletons inside the room, on the other side of the magically locked door roll a natural 20 on their save, so it doesn’t go so well. The party also made enough noise in the room, that they gathered the attention of some wandering monsters, a goblin patrol.
So when the cleric turned undead, the magic door opened. The adventure was very clear. There were three ways to get into the room. First was to use a Knock spell, the second was to beat it down, the third was to try to turn the undead. Well, the cleric tried to turn the undead, instead the undead came out swinging, as the door glowed blue and opened.
The party found themselves in the middle of combat. From the front were seven skeletons in armor. From the rear were four goblins on patrol.
The room was cramped.
Long story, short, the party vanquished the monsters, but in the process got seriously hurt, and used up too many spell slots.
They go into the room that held the skeletons and find several sarcophaguses, one for each skeleton. Also, they find a candle which can not be put out and a vial with liquid in it. Nobody knows what the liquid is.
Based on the fact that they have blown their wad, the party decides to take a long rest. We have some discussions about whether or not they want to secure the door. They don’t. The party makes up the roster of who is going to stand guard, and sacks out. I ask both people who are standing guard to make perception rolls, nobody makes it better than what I rolled for the stealth of the wandering monsters…
I have some discussions with the monk. You see, monks are usually a discretionary class, to be allowed, or not by the DM. Monks tend to be OP. This monk has a 20 dex, has a very high AC, gets at least two attacks per round at a +7 to attack, and regularly does 20 or more hitpoints damage with each attack. This is at 2nd level. Now not getting into discussions about how a character has a 20 dex, Brian says he rolled an 18, then added a +2 bonus for class, this character is OP. I understand having multiple attacks, or significant pluses to hit, or super high armor class when you are all in the middle to high level range. But at 2nd level, this unbalances the party. Most other characters only have one attack. Most other characters only have a +4 to +6 on a primary skill, such as lockpicking, or some such thing.
I explained to Brian that once the monsters figure out that he is the one who is doing the most damage, he is going to be the target that needs to be taken down. Monsters are not dumb. Brian disagreed, and thought that his character isn’t overpowered, as the barbarian can also do two attacks. I explained to Brian that the barbarian can do two attacks while raging, which can be done twice per session, between long rests. The monk always has the option of two unarmed attacks, plus they can do three attacks using their Ki, twice per session between long rests at 2nd level.
In addition to the monsters figuring out that he is a killing machine and needs to be taken out quickly in combat, the monsters may communicate to the other monsters in the dungeon that the monk needs to be taken out right away.
Brian disagreed that his monk is overpowered compared to the other players. This is part of the challenge of mixing groups of players. Brian is of the player type where he wants to create a superhero for every game. He engineers his character. The rest of the players in the party are more interested in the role play. There is nothing wrong with either method of play. However, mixing a player who is interested in engineering the best character possible with people who have taken more mundane characters creates some issues for the DM trying to run a balanced game. Please note that I also have run superhero characters, also known as Min / Max characters. This is a perfectly fun and valid way to play. It is the mix of Min / Max and mundane characters which cause the challenge. Note that I am not referring to this as a “problem”, or “issue” or any such negative thing. it is just a fact.
I chose to balance this by allowing the monsters to not blindly decide who to attack. The monsters have some level of intelligence, and they also want to survive the encounter. It is reasonable to assume that the monsters will figure out pretty quickly who the badass is in the party, and decide to focus on that person. It is also reasonable to assume that monsters in a dungeon, especially when that dungeon is “owned” by a group of monsters, that the monsters would try to gain intelligence on who the heck is invading their territory.
So the party takes their long rest in the side room of the main set of rooms that created the passage, and didn’t bother to remove the corpses of the goblins or skeletons that they killed. The guards didn’t make their perception checks compared to the wandering monster sneak…
Eight hours later, the party opens up the door from their room, and finds a dozen goblin archers and two ogres swinging pots of flaming stuff . The goblins fire arrows into the room, causing some pretty nasty pain. The ogres toss the pots of flaming material into the room, causing fires in their enclosed space.
Things got pretty nasty pretty quick. The monk ran out of the room towards all of the baddies, and tried to get so he was in the open hallway. He found two more ogres in the hallway, waiting as backup. He attacked one ogre, doing some damage.
The barbarian strolled up to the doorway and decided to be a meat shield. The warlock eldritch blasted one of the pots of fire that the ogres were still swinging around, causing some firey chaos. The cleric used his word of command to tell the other ogre to drop his pot, which he did. On the next round, the warlock eldritch blasted the dropped pot and caused more firey damage.
The rogue fired an arrow through the door, under the legs of the warlock and barbarian and hit one of the ogres. In retrospect, the rogue should have used their bonus action to hide, so the rogue would have gotten some extra d6 sneak attack damage.
Now it was the goblin’s turn. They moved around and only saw two targets. The monk in the hallway, and the barbarian in the doorway. I rolled evens / odds to determine where each goblin would attack. By the dice, most of the goblins shot at the monk. Now even if you have a ridiculous AC, eight goblins shooting arrows at you will get some through, eating up your hit points fast. The goblins dropped the monk the first round of combat. They pincushioned the barbarian also.
The fight was over pretty quick. Eric’s gnome fighter bravely moved behind a wall to “attack anything that came in”. The party harshed the goblins pretty badly, and they lost their morale check, and ran away.
Some of the players were upset at this concept that the monsters would not fight to the death. In reality, why would a monster, who was not cornered fight to the death? What possible reason would there be. I mean what monster is suicidal? what monster wouldn’t want to find a way to even the odds and come back for more later? If it is a fiend, demon or devil, depending on the trope or universe rules, dying on this plane of existence could result in being banished back to their own plane of existence for 100 years or more.
Previous versions of D&D included morale values, to allow for determining when the opposing side would route because they were being crushed.
Here is the basic rule that I use for morale checks:
If any of the following are true:
- Half the monsters of a given type are killed:
- Leader monster is killed
then the monsters make a will save. Monsters don’t have a “will” save per the monster manual, but the will save is based on the wisdom modifier. The CR for the will save is used to determine what that save is.
- CR 1 or less – DC 10 will save
- CR 2 – DC 11 will save
- CR 3 – DC 12 will save
- CR 4 – DC 13 will save
So on a goblin, the CR is 1/4. The base will save is 10 plus their wisdom modifier (10 + (-1)) equals 9. So when half the monsters are killed, or the goblin leader is killed, I roll each round against the will save of 9 on a d20 to see if they remain in combat.
Now, if you were fighting two pit fiends, the CR is 20. The base will save is 19 plus their wisdom modifier (+4). So when one pit fiend is killed, I roll each round against a will save of 23 to see if the other remains in combat. All the normal will save modifiers apply, so based on spells, bardic inspiration, curses, etc, that number could be achievable, even though you can’t roll a natural 23 on a d20.
This seems to work for me. I don’t force the players to do the same, but it might be reasonable.
So the party kills one ogre, badly damages another ogre, kills a bunch of goblins and they all run away.
Long story short, if you take a long rest, do it in a defensible room that has more than one exit.
Later on, Brian said “when my monk gets to the third level, I can deflect missiles”.
Here is what the Player’s handbook says about the monk deflecting missiles.
Starting at 3rd level, you can use your reaction to deflect or catch the missile when you are hit by a ranged weapon attack. When you do so, the damage you take from the attack is reduced by 1d10 + your Dexterity modifier + your monk level.
If you reduce the damage to 0, you can catch the missile if it is small enough for you to hold in one hand and you have at least one hand free. If you catch a missile in this way, you can spend 1 ki point to make a ranged attack with the weapon or piece of ammunition you just caught, as part of the same reaction. You make this attack with proficiency, regardless of your weapon proficiencies, and the missile counts as a monk weapon for the attack.
The Player’s handbook says the following about reactions:
Certain special abilities, spells, and situations allow you to take a special action called a reaction. A reaction is an instant response to a trigger of some kind, which can occur on your turn or on someone else’s. The opportunity attack, described later in this chapter, is the most common type of reaction.
When you take a reaction, you can’t take another one until the start of your next turn. If the reaction interrupts another creature’s turn, that creature can continue its turn right after the reaction.
More mayhem next week.