View Profile: Jonathon Robinson - Morrus' Unofficial Tabletop RPG News
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About Jonathon Robinson

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Monday, 14th May, 2018

  • 09:34 PM - Tony Vargas quoted Jonathon Robinson in post How do you surprise your players?
    I actually did mean surprise the players. As soon as one calls for an initiative roll, the surprise is sort of lost. I feel it would be more theatrical if the ambush began *before* the players roll for initiative thus surprising the players (whether or not the characters are surprised). There's no reason not to go there. Describe the resolutions of the enemy's surprise-round actions to the players all at once, /then/ describe the situation as they can see it, and when one of them declares an action, then, finally, call for initiative. All you lose is the possibility of a PC using a reaction if they won initiative. No big loss, reactions get anoying, anyway. This is the sort of thing I was thinking of. How would you run "floor collapses"? Do you announce "you hear a rumbling sound" and have the players roll for initiative? ... "Rocks fall, everybody dies." Because, sometimes the Old Ways are the best.... ;P
  • 05:14 PM - toucanbuzz quoted Jonathon Robinson in post How do you surprise your players?
    Reference basic rules (PHB p189). If no one is trying to be stealthy, ignore surprise. Otherwise, make an opposed skill check (generally Perception vs. Stealth). Now, if you have 20 goblins, this can become cumbersome. Could one goblin step on a branch while the other 19 are quiet as mice? Sure. Does this mean you roll 20 times to see if this happens? In principle, yes. If that doesn't work for you, consider a home-brew rule where you assume everyone but 5 goblins rolled a 10 and just roll for those 5 (or whatever arbitrary number seems fair]. Otherwise, RAW you're left to try a "group check" (if half succeed it works) and that doesn't work too well because (1) you're still rolling a ton of dice and (2) you have different Difficulty Checks of the players to beat. If even 1 goblin is noticed by a player, s/he isn't surprised (and vice versa if the players are sneaking around). How do you manage PCs that roll higher initiative than the monsters doing the ambush? Surprised creatures cannot t...
  • 02:53 PM - Schmoe quoted Jonathon Robinson in post How do you surprise your players?
    I actually did mean surprise the players. As soon as one calls for an initiative roll, the surprise is sort of lost. I feel it would be more theatrical if the ambush began *before* the players roll for initiative thus surprising the players (whether or not the characters are surprised). ... This is the sort of thing I was thinking of. How would you run "floor collapses"? Do you announce "you hear a rumbling sound" and have the players roll for initiative? What about the harmless NPC vendor that suddenly tries to suck their blood? "The NPC turns towards you with a gleam in his eye: roll for initiative" or is it more of a "The NPC bites your neck" sort of thing? This is where I get stuck and the narrative is lost for me. Players that roll high initiative are stuck wondering what the gleam in his eye means and effectively lose their turn. Or they simply attack because they know initiative means combat... I use Insight (Sense Motive in 3E) as a sort of Perception check in social situations. For t...
  • 04:35 AM - guachi quoted Jonathon Robinson in post I am not ready to ready the ready action...
    I bet you get strange looks from the other players too. :) We had a Nature Cleric in our AL party who liked to get into melee. At one point he cast bless or spirit guardians or something and keeping the spell up was more useful. He also had cast spiritual weapon and he was in some situation where he was standing next to me and he didn't want to lose his spell so I suggested he dodge. I didn't care if the opponents attacked me. I had riposte if they missed or parry (whatever the damage reducing maneuver is) if they hit. He did look at me strangely for a second. But he knew the rules well enough that the wheels turned and then he dodged. Dodge is frighteningly useful for people who have potent concentration spells up. If I ever do this I'll have my PC say "Is this bugging you? I'm not touching you! Is this bugging you? I'm not touching you!"
  • 03:27 AM - 5ekyu quoted Jonathon Robinson in post I am not ready to ready the ready action...
    I can just imagine the cleric now, dancing around his foes while his spells wreak havoc in the background.Yup that spirit guardians 3d8 wis save for half mobile aoe plus spirit hammer/ healing word option each round with dodge keeping your defenses up... A lot of groups in a lot of circumstances would not be giving you funny looks and a well trained set of enemies might well decide to gang up if you ever did drop dodge. Of course, smarter foes likely go for grapple if they got numbers. So not perfect but good.

Sunday, 13th May, 2018

  • 07:24 PM - Tony Vargas quoted Jonathon Robinson in post Surprise Round Variant: Preemptive Strike
    As soon as the players roll for initiative they know (or suspect) they are entering combat. So instead of the dragon surprising them, the characters with high initiative can potentially get the jump on the dragon, or mimic, or whoever. The surprised characters don't get to act on their turns, so, at most, might get to speak or take a reaction if they win initiative. If you want to avoid the 'on alert' effect of calling for inituative, don't call for it until the monsters have taken their first round of actions.
  • 06:46 PM - pming quoted Jonathon Robinson in post How do you surprise your players?
    Hiya! It isn't just feats that can give initiative bonuses or alertness. Do you also ban magic items that state a character can't be surprised (e.g. weapon of warning)? Nope, the would be fine. But I'm a rather "stingy" DM; it's always easier to give to players than it is to take away... What I'm saying is, magic items don't show up a lot in my games. I almost never have magic items be "obvious" to anyone, and my players are NOTORIOUS for finishing a big fight and being so glad they didn't die that all they think of is "Lets get out of here before something else shows up!"...leaving the chest full of treasure behind the throne un-discovered. A few years ago they brought up the "lack of treasure" and tried to complain to me about it. I then went through the last sessions adventure and recapped...and telling them where the treasure was. Since then, they've never complained. :) So, magic items are a bit different in that they are items that can be destroyed, stolen, lost or otherwise "not in us...
  • 05:37 PM - 5ekyu quoted Jonathon Robinson in post I am not ready to ready the ready action...
    I bet you get strange looks from the other players too. :)Actually if that concentration effect is some powerful aoe that is ongoing plus the spiritual weapon rd after rd and he keeps the concentration up due to not being hit... those looks might be more high fives.
  • 05:19 PM - Bitbrain quoted Jonathon Robinson in post How do you surprise your players?
    As a DM, how do you surprise your players? For example, if a module calls for an ambush, how do you run the ambush narrative and subsequent combat? How do you manage PCs that roll higher initiative than the monsters doing the ambush? How would you manage a character that has the alert feat or similar "can't be surprised" effect? If there is going to be an ambush, then the monsters will know that the PCs have broken into their lair/wandered into their home turf. The monsters will position themselves and hold their respective actions so that at least one of them will hit the adventurers in the instant that they see the adventurers walk into the room/enter the clearing.
  • 04:47 AM - pming quoted Jonathon Robinson in post How do you surprise your players?
    Hiya! As a DM, how do you surprise your players? For example, if a module calls for an ambush, how do you run the ambush narrative and subsequent combat? How do you manage PCs that roll higher initiative than the monsters doing the ambush? How would you manage a character that has the alert feat or similar "can't be surprised" effect? I was a bit confused when I read this post...the title says "...surprise your players", but then the actual post seems to indicate ambush, narrative, combat and PC's. Towards the end it is obvious you mean PC's, and not Players. Pro Tip: Player = the person at the table // Player CHARACTER = the in-game persona the Player is playing. :) Just a little nit-pic there; Player and Character are NOT interchangeable. Ahem. So...how do I surprise/ambush the PC's? Well, first of all I ignore the 5e rules about there being no "surprise round". In my game, I run initiative in a LOT of different ways, depending on our mood, the situation, and just whim. Overall, I use the...
  • 01:45 AM - SkidAce quoted Jonathon Robinson in post How do you surprise your players?
    This is the sort of thing I was thinking of. How would you run "floor collapses"? Do you announce "you hear a rumbling sound" and have the players roll for initiative? What about the harmless NPC vendor that suddenly tries to suck their blood? "The NPC turns towards you with a gleam in his eye: roll for initiative" or is it more of a "The NPC bites your neck" sort of thing? This is where I get stuck and the narrative is lost for me. Players that roll high initiative are stuck wondering what the gleam in his eye means and effectively lose their turn. Or they simply attack because they know initiative means combat... If you rule that they are surprised by the attack/action of the npc/monster, either via perception versus stealth or otherwise, ALL THEY GET IS A REACTION. If that changes the narrative, then thats okay in my opinion. If you have a pc that cant be surprised, you can still have the bad guy go first and "fire the arrow", the alert pc gets his full action as a reward for the feat. But...
  • 01:15 AM - iserith quoted Jonathon Robinson in post How do you surprise your players?
    It is interesting that you call out "those who are Keeping Watch, that is." I have always assumed that the characters are keeping watch at all times. It's a safe assumption, usually. However, if they're doing something at least as distracting as navigating, foraging, tracking, or drawing a map, then they aren't turning their attention toward keeping watch for danger and thus they have no chance of noticing lurking monsters. Therefore, they are automatically surprised. The key thing here is making those tasks and other such distracting tasks as valuable as having a chance to avoid surprise. After all, not every monster the PCs run across will try to be acting stealthily. So it's sometimes worth the risk to do other tasks if there's a good payoff for doing so. How would you run a relaxing night in the tavern suddenly ruined by a doppelganger? It depends. Surprise is resolved the same way as usual. In a social interaction challenge that turns into a combat challenge, as soon as the doppelganger r...

Saturday, 12th May, 2018

  • 06:45 PM - DM Dave1 quoted Jonathon Robinson in post The EN World boards are great for discussing 5E
    My single favorite thing (and I think I've mentioned it before) is something iserith wrote a few years ago and I found it very useful in my early days of getting a grasp on 5e rules. And that is iserith's posts on Adjudicating Actions. I went so far as to put it into Word, edit it, make a pdf of it, and give it to new players. My edited version is 14 pages long and it's basically an entire adventure done with nothing but Ability checks (or no checks at all if the DM rules auto success or failure). The Combat portion of the game has lots of rules. But the Exploration and Social portions of the game can be quite tricky to adjudicate in a fun, exciting, and engaging way as the rules are sparse (relative to combat) and require a reasonable bit of extrapolation to get to a point the DM is comfortable with. I am intrigued. Can you share your PDF or what iserith wrote? Seconded! Please and thank you
  • 06:08 PM - Satyrn quoted Jonathon Robinson in post The EN World boards are great for discussing 5E
    (the posts I got XP on tended to be more insightful or drawn from my own experiences, and getting XP on those posts encourages me to do more of the same). I'm glad to hear that, as I've been working under that assumption - I'm in the top 10 for XP given, and when it comes to laughs given . . . I'm number 1, baby! (by a wide margin)
  • 01:15 AM - Saelorn quoted Jonathon Robinson in post I am not ready to ready the ready action...
    Ready doesn't change your combat order RAW. However, you can use ready to go after another player such as "after the wizard clears a path I charge in" I don't really like this because it feels weird to get two turns so close together. I preferred 4e rules that permanently moved your turn order.That's actually something to keep in mind, is that it effectively lets you take two turns in a row (if you don't mind pre-committing to the first action). If you're fighting a group of ogres or something, and they're likely to break formation after the first fireball, you can use this to hit them twice before they know any better.

Friday, 11th May, 2018

  • 10:57 PM - Dausuul quoted Jonathon Robinson in post Potent Cantrip: To "fix" or not to fix?
    In my opinion, the School of Evocation is the strongest school of magic for the wizard. Unfortunately, you just rolled a 3 on your attempt to convince anyone else of this. And I knew you would. *goes back to studying divination spells*

Monday, 30th April, 2018

  • 06:37 AM - Blue quoted Jonathon Robinson in post Thoughts on wands being overpowered in 5E
    I have found that the wands seem too powerful in 5E for their rarity. In particular, Wand of Fireball and Wand of Lightning Bolt. A wizard can't cast 7 fireballs in a day until 9th level., so having just one of these wands is like having an additional level 9 wizard in your party (who is particularly combat focused). In no way is this "adding another wizard" because it's not changing the action economy. Another wizard wouldn't be taking up your actions. So let's tone done the hyperbole and look at what's really happening. First, "adding in a fireball" is only half the equation. There's an opportunity cost of performing some other action. At the least, the action is of no cost - a cantrip. At the other end, the action is one with a cost but would be more effective - such as an upcast fireball that will end the combat sooner. Second, if you used 7 charges, you might have just destroyed the item. Likely you'll leave at least 1 charge. It regained d6+1 charges per day. Please note that Identifyin...
  • 12:04 AM - jgsugden quoted Jonathon Robinson in post Thoughts on wands being overpowered in 5E
    ..., but I've heard from others that the wand of fireballs in particular feels a little too strong for a 5th level character, when rare items start arriving.Again, FEATURE, not bug. Yes, a wand of fireballs in the hands of a 5th level party is extremely powerful. If the combats allow for it, it can allow them to devastate the enemy with blast afer blast of fiery wrath. At that level, it becomes tool #1. AWESOME. CELEBRATE. This is a moment when the heroes uncovered a powerful tool and saved the day with it! This is a great story moment! How many stories turn on the heroes finding a McGuffin and using it to save the day? Sometimes it is a quest just to find it, but ometimes they find it in the ruins when they thought they were there for another reason. And their legend will unfold as they blast across battle after battle with it in hand... until eventually the PCs become known not just as the fireball crew, but for other great abilities as well. If you don't want that in your game, ...

Sunday, 29th April, 2018

  • 11:26 PM - cbwjm quoted Jonathon Robinson in post Thoughts on wands being overpowered in 5E
    So in the particular group I mentioned, I was the party wizard with a Wand of Fireballs. I actually felt less useful. Sure, I had a bunch of free spell slots, but instead of using them to cast spells I wanted the party wanted me to "just cast fireball" instead as it is so much more powerful than any spell 3rd or even 4th level spell a wizard can prepare. I chatted with the DM about this - I wanted to trade for a Ring of Spell Storing instead so I could have one more casting of Greater Illusion instead. He said no because that ring is very rare and the wand is rare. I did manage to get an Ioun Stone which I put a charge if Invisibility into.Maybe I should have been more explicit but when I mentioned using the fireball preparation slot for some other spell, I meant a spell that wasn't made for combat. Something like charm person, levitate, or detect thoughts. Spells which you might want to prepare and may have been useful in earlier encounters but you didn't prep it because you wanted your combat spell l...
  • 11:19 PM - jgsugden quoted Jonathon Robinson in post Thoughts on wands being overpowered in 5E
    Sure, but at my table the wand basically turned fireball into a cantrip. I'm not sure that's the intent for magic items.I addressed that in my earlier post. Magic items are, in fact, supposed to be iconic elements of the characer that significantly change them. What you perceive as a defect was an intended feature. The 5th level spellcaster that levels waves or orcs with a flick of a wrist.... heroic. It makes them feel powerful... when it can be used In my games, fireballs tend to be hard to use. I'm not suggesting you look for way to make the fireballs harder to use, but you should look at the ramifications of using them (or lightning bolts).


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