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Saturday, 4th December, 2010, 07:41 PM #561
Lama (Lvl 13)
Fascinating. Thanks for the frank insight into your game here Sagiro.
What surprises me here, and believe me I mean no disrespect to you or any of your players by saying this, is that after all this time your guys didn't give you the benefit of the doubt?
Great campaigns are successful collaborations between player and DM, so “Sagiro was going to have his battle no matter what we did, and so we blew a ton of time and resources for nothing” seems an uncharacteristically prickly response from a bunch of people who have forged such an incredible game together.
Still, I can totally understand how their disappointment at failing to protect themselves adequately spilled over into criticism of your handling of the situation, implied or otherwise. That's just what happens when you play D&D at this kind of level, and it would be extraordinary in the extreme if you all made your way through to the end of the campaign without once feeling hard done by.
On the player-DM level, players at some point have to realise that they're pitting their multiple brains against the DM's one. That's several players, all of whom know the game and their characters intimately, conniving (and I mean that in the best way possible!) to out-fox anything the DM throws at them. Great DM's will be up to the challenge a lot of the time, and you've certainly shown yourself to be more than a match on most occasions, but sometimes, rarely, the DM should be able to say, in answer to how the PC's sixteen-stage defensive preparation was breached, that it just was. Bad luck. Trust me when I tell you it wasn't easy, but they did it. Now roll initiative and let's fight! (I say that even knowing that wasn't the case here, although it might have seemed that way to them at the time.)
Perhaps, when dealing with villainy of such vast power and resources (comparable to their own in fact), the time simply comes when the PC's have to accept the fact that they aren't gods, and that there is essentially no plan they can put into motion which agents of equal cunning can't outwit. The only recourse now is to confront the threat, head-on, winner take all.
The alternatives aren't very pleasing at all. The PC's become so powerful, and their players' command of the game so complete, that there is essentially nothing the DM can do. He's beaten. Either that, or the campaign devolves into a battle of one-upmanship with the winner the person who can find the most obscure spell loophole first. I don't really like the sound of that.
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Saturday, 4th December, 2010, 09:02 PM #562
Thaumaturgist (Lvl 9)
I hear what you're saying... but there has to be a limit to the enemy's power, or what's the point, right? I control all the dials. I could have the enemies "win" any time I want, for any reason. My job is to craft a campaign where the enemies don't have the wherewithal to arbitrarily thwart players' plans, or what's the point in playing?
Perhaps the problem was this: there's an unspoken agreement hanging over almost every aspect of the campaign, that when I present a challenge, and the players are both clever and thorough about taking it on, that there should be some way to allow them a victory. Otherwise, why did I give them the challenge in the first place?
The answer, perhaps, lies in how granular one wants to be about it. If one considers the challenge to be: "Save Praska by performing the ritual on Mokad," then I certainly did make victory possible. But the sub-challenge of "prevent the Black Circle from finding out what we're doing" turned out to be too difficult, despite clever and through solutions from the players. And the players don't really know (and have no way of knowing) what "zoom-level" they should be considering.
I certainly didn't feel at the time that my players were being petulant or unreasonable. I felt more like: "Oops. Yeah, I sure set the party up to fail at this sub-challenge, as a part of making the main challenge appropriately difficult. I'd be upset too."
As a side-note, I have no business throwing first-stones here. I nitpick at Piratecat all the time (in a good-natured way, of course! ) looking for angles, things he's missed, and "wondering out loud" how the bad guys managed to hose us so badly again.
Sunday, 5th December, 2010, 04:42 AM #563
Minor Trickster (Lvl 4)
The key, I think, would have been the mind blanks - but to be fair the players had been the first to "up the ante" on that one. I think I'd have been miffed a bit up until reminded of that.
But really, I don't think it would have registered much with me if the Black Circle was obviously underpowered in the spell department when they arrived and had a throw-away line or two bemoaning how difficult the heroes were to find.
Sunday, 5th December, 2010, 05:59 AM #564
A 1e title so awesome it's not in the book (Lvl 21)
First, please let me say that I think you're misinterpreting what happened last game. We're bummed both in and out of character, and I think a certain NPC did something in character but very stupid, but our (my?) good-natured grousing didn't mean we feel screwed. It meant "of course something like that happened, we should have expected it but hoped it wouldn't happen, and it kills us that we can't affect it." Very different from feeling cheated. The stakes have just been raised, and we're worried.
That's different from the battle over Mokad. I'd forgotten how much a difference your explanation made, because we really did feel screwed. Interestingly, a big reason for that was the prep time involved - we spent a LOT of time on our defenses. If we'd heard "don't spend two hours planning, because it won't matter. Fight!" we'd be irked and surprised but we'd probably shrug. Wasting that time for (we thought) no reason made it worse. It's the same reason why I love it when a GM says "don't overthink your watch schedule" or "don't overthink your plan, because something disrupts it," and saves what would be 30 minutes of needless planning.
That's why I love the behind-the-scenes so much. Actually seeing how our enemies out-clevered us made a huge difference.
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Sunday, 5th December, 2010, 10:48 AM #565
Lama (Lvl 13)
Sunday, 5th December, 2010, 11:14 PM #566
Acolyte (Lvl 2)
Because 99% of the world is in the DM's control, when the players feel like that 1% you can do is taken away then they get angry. After all this is a SHARED story, and if the DM is going to cheat and take away that 1% control a player has, then they have to ask why am I playing. Any good player is there to help shape the story, not to have an oral recessitation by the DM.
Most players understand and even wink/knod when this happens sometimes on minor things, but the unspoken contract most (non-railroad) games have is that when a player really chooses to do something, and is willing to pay the costs involved, the DM lets them do it.
Now, that said, If a DM can show how within the rules they have stopped pretty much anything my character has ever done, my reation typically goes from hurt to gruding respect about how I was out thought. It's all a matter of perspective, and I have to say on intial reading, my first reaction was that the Company got cheated on that exchange.
The follow up post did explain it away and actually impress me quite a bit, but I have to say my inital reaction was to be shocked that Sagiro had been so well "Railroady" on the player for probably the first time in the whole story...
Tuesday, 7th December, 2010, 03:02 AM #567
My personal philosophy is generally that the players set the bar for what is acceptable and what is not-acceptable by their actions. There was a SH (I forget which one) I read before that specifically called out Disjunction as a specific tactic that both players and enemies avoided. However, if the players chose to use it, they could expect the enemies to start as well. So, as Aravis have implied, if the players are using commune and wish/miracle, they should be expecting their opponents to be doing the same. It would be a crappy DM move to use it all the time, but using it once to ensure a climactic battle seems more than fair to me.
Tuesday, 7th December, 2010, 06:23 AM #568
Lama (Lvl 13)
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Tuesday, 7th December, 2010, 06:50 AM #569
Thaumaturgist (Lvl 9)
On the flip side, Aravis drops disjunctions on my bad guys fairly regularly. It's not quite as bad when he does it, since most monsters aren't as heavily reliant on items, but it's still something I worry about. My inclination is to let it go -- that is, continue to be reluctant to use it on the PC's, but not penalize Aravis for casting it. I'll just have to continue to take it into account when designing encounters. I can always give enemies different spells/abilities that are similar in immediate power but not so long-term hosing.
Tuesday, 7th December, 2010, 01:40 PM #570
Guide (Lvl 11)
You could always adapt the Pathfinder version -- the area effect version only suppresses magic items for 1 minute/level, unless they roll a 1 on the saving throw (then that item is destroyed). You can also target one item, which has to save at -5 or be destroyed. That version has the same effect on artifacts, too.
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