How to make an encounter with falling great distances interesting and dangerous, but not deadly? - Page 6
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  1. #51
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    I would have armored people automatically take a level of exhaustion due to the heavy and difficult experience of climbing up in metal. I would do that for no reason other than allowing the players to think about what they want to do regarding removing their armor. They have no idea there will be no combat, and the decision making will be something to entertain them as they debate what to do. I would give the rogues advantage on their checks just to make him feel good and that would reflect his life spent scaling and climbing. I might even take away the choice they have for failing a check. It isn't human nature to voluntarily fall 30 feet because you know a cleric can cure you. People will hang on, so I would make the level of exhaustion auto on the first two fails, and then a strength check on the final one, passing means you hang on and take another level of exhaustion, failing means you fall down for damage and now have to start again while exhausted. It becomes a puzzle moreso than just a string of rolls. How will they get to the top?
    Last edited by KenNYC; Monday, 10th December, 2018 at 02:36 AM.
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  2. #52
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    I ran this for my group yesterday and it was a lot of fun. There definitely was a looming sense of risking death climbing up so high on an exposed cliff. The 3-hour clock before the hard rains hit was effective at driving them forward, though it only took them 2 hours, so perhaps the window was too large. It took roughly 2 hours real time too. Also, the threat while real in the players' minds ended up being an illusion of threat, and the illusion gradually was revealed over the course of the challenge. Definitely could have incorporated more exhaustion to make players debate how long they should rest in Kir Sabal, but disadvantage on all checks would have been extremely punitive for this check-heavy challenge... I didn't find that happy medium

    I created...well...started to create a d12 table of complications based on the DW advice from @Manbearcat which I had a different player roll when a check failed, when they dawdled, or when a golden opportunity presented itself.

    At one point the lizardfolk rogue PC used his cape of the mountebank to reactively teleport to a fall, teleporting all the way up at the elder's house where he tried to petition the aarakocra saint, but couldn't reach her without a possible fight. Instead he learned that the aarakocra viewed this as a test of character, and so he rushed down through the whole monastery, skittering about like a gecko on all fours causing mayhem (I'd narrated that many aarakocra regarded lizardfolk as "egg thieves"). Much hilarity ensued.

    The funniest part was when the grung druid PC started conjuring animals in the hopes of gaining giant eagles who could fly the party up. Of course, the way conjure animals works is the player selects the CR and #, then the DM chooses the animals (from those in the current environment). I rolled summons for "cliff" deinonychus and serpopards, neither of which could fly, and so these poor critters plummeted over the edge of the cliff. This was noticed by Asharra, the aarakocra saint, who took a dim view on the local spirits being abused in this way, and once the party finished the climb, she asked for the offender to step forward...

    Now, the grung druid PC previously rescued a blue grung from captivity, and so the PC asked this blue grung artisan (who only spoke Grung) to step forward. Asharra promptly launched the "offender" off the edge of the cliff with a gust of wind...the shock on the players faces was classic...fortunately, since the aarakocra aren't evil, instead of death, the blue grung NPC was tossed about by young aarakocra who'd grab his belt or other bits of clothing and played aerial catch with him some 500 feet up for a solid 20 minutes. The grung druid PC's player was quite conflicted, but everyone had a good chuckle.

    Quote Originally Posted by KenNYC View Post
    I would have armored people automatically take a level of exhaustion due to the heavy and difficult experience of climbing up in metal. I would do that for no reason other than allowing the players to think about what they want to do regarding removing their armor.
    Only one PC their player couldn't make the session wore medium/heavy armor. Everyone else wears no armor or light armor. I would have called for a save vs. exhaustion for his player if he were present. Without his presence, I didn't remember to have someone roll for it.

    They have no idea there will be no combat, and the decision making will be something to entertain them as they debate what to do.
    They definitely were thinking that way, not knowing what to expect during the climb or once they reached Kir Sabal.

    I would give the rogues advantage on their checks just to make him feel good and that would reflect his life spent scaling and climbing.
    His climb speed he's playing a variant lizardfolk was plenty advantageous. To force him (and the grung druid PC) to rely on something other than "I climb", I had sections of walkway be offset from the cliff face, and I also had sections with flaking stone that required a DC 12 Dexterity save to climb across without causing the stone to flake off.

    I might even take away the choice they have for failing a check. It isn't human nature to voluntarily fall 30 feet because you know a cleric can cure you.
    Yeah, I really overlooked this. Twice, when they realized the fall was only 30 feet, the players sort of shrugged. I had further complications up my sleeve, so I was able to added twists when that happened (and I remembered to!), however it definitely dispelled the illusion of threat.

    People will hang on, so I would make the level of exhaustion auto on the first two fails, and then a strength check on the final one, passing means you hang on and take another level of exhaustion, failing means you fall down for damage and now have to start again while exhausted. It becomes a puzzle moreso than just a string of rolls. How will they get to the top?
    It definitely played out as a sort of strategic "puzzle" you could say. I agree, I should have leaned harder on the exhaustion... I forget that the bard and druid have ways to counteract disadvantage. All in all, it played out good but not great. Definitely learned how I'd improve it next time.
    Last edited by Quickleaf; Wednesday, 12th December, 2018 at 01:21 AM.
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  3. #53
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    Thanks for sharing the post-play recap. Reading your question while designing the scene, all the discussions, and a recap of the play session is very helpful.

  4. #54
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    I agree with @MNblockhead - thank you for the recap. I think this is an interesting challenge and covers a lot a things that, out of the box, D&D doesn't do well. We really could use a DMG II or similar that covers more complex scenarios like this. One thing that got me thinking...

    Quote Originally Posted by Quickleaf View Post
    Yeah, I really overlooked this. Twice, when they realized the fall was only 30 feet, the players sort of shrugged. I had further complications up my sleeve, so I was able to added twists when that happened (and I remembered to!), however it definitely dispelled the illusion of threat.
    This made me think once again about the falling rules. How about in addition to damage: every 30 feet of falling requires you to either take a level of exhaustion (thus 180' = death) or a roll on the lingering injury table. Or possibly a combination of the two. That way falling as some real consequences other than damage (which we all know is not a real consequence in D&D)

  5. #55
    I managed to make my "falling" issues interesting by giving players a turn to react to it (if outside combat). For example my Warlock was about to fall down which would have been deadly, but I told him he still has 6 seconds to react and asked if he wants to do something. He then had the idea to cast Eldritch Blast (with Repelling Blast) on himself to knock him back to solid ground.
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  6. #56
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    Alternatives to the player choosing damage or exhaustion have been mentioned at least a couple of times. How about a little random table that you roll on for when/if the players fail a check.
    - damage
    - exhaustion
    - dropped equipment or supplies - Do they retrieve them? If not, how does that impact the rest of the climb?
    - the character is gripped by a sudden fear of heights and is reluctant to proceed any further

    Adding environmental factors (strong winds, possible storm, sun burn) could make the situation much more interesting and dynamic. I would also consider rewards for high rolls, careful planning, or good role play. Rewards such as a ledge that offers some shelter from the elements where the party can stop for a rest, maybe even a cave. Even the bodies of unsuccessful climbers can be a reward - maybe they have rope or pitons or even rations that can be scavenged.
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  7. #57
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    Quote Originally Posted by MNblockhead View Post
    Thanks for sharing the post-play recap. Reading your question while designing the scene, all the discussions, and a recap of the play session is very helpful.
    Absolutely! You're welcome. Glad to hear it was helpful for you.

    It was personally helpful for me to write down my retrospective, as I'm likely going to be using this prop and Kir Sabal again in a few sessions under more challenging circumstances during a gargoyle attack and/or heavy rain. That gives me the opportunity to tighten up the design and tweak what didn't work... for example, this just occurred to me I might delay exhaustion setting in until after they reach the top! That way it doesn't penalize the climb itself, but how they handle what's at the top. I also might give each player an index card of possible "fall reactions" jotted down.

    Quote Originally Posted by dave2008 View Post
    I agree with @MNblockhead - thank you for the recap. I think this is an interesting challenge and covers a lot a things that, out of the box, D&D doesn't do well. We really could use a DMG II or similar that covers more complex scenarios like this. One thing that got me thinking...

    This made me think once again about the falling rules. How about in addition to damage: every 30 feet of falling requires you to either take a level of exhaustion (thus 180' = death) or a roll on the lingering injury table. Or possibly a combination of the two. That way falling as some real consequences other than damage (which we all know is not a real consequence in D&D)
    Yeah, I definitely agree with you that D&D could use a "book of challenges" or something similar. Running this showed me that, yes, while I was on to something, I still have a ways to go to tighten it up.

    At the table, I interpreted the map we were using as being relatively accurate so that ~450' of the climb was easily accomplished on a stone ramp while the challenging deteriorated walkways / windy / etc. section spanned just 100'. Because that's what the text kinda says and the map kinda shows. In retrospect, I think that 100' wasn't quite enough distance because twice I had players say something like "Oh, it's just a 25' fall or so at this point, yeah? *shrug*"

    Yeah, I did notice my players avoided opting into exhaustion. What I've noticed is that first level of exhaustion (disadvantage to checks) is so punitive that players avoid it as much as possible. Clearly the other "fall reactions" I presented weren't scary enough to warrant players considering exhaustion as an alternative!

    I have done lingering injuries attached to certain traps/hazards, such as a Sprained Ankle attached to a pit trap. Generally, I've attached a number to these injures, such that if the PC receives X amount of magical healing (or X / 5 long rests) their injury is healed; so a Sprained Ankle (5) would require either 5 hp magical healing (usually a healing potion or cure wounds at 1st-level) or a long rest.

    Quote Originally Posted by Rya.Reisender View Post
    I managed to make my "falling" issues interesting by giving players a turn to react to it (if outside combat). For example my Warlock was about to fall down which would have been deadly, but I told him he still has 6 seconds to react and asked if he wants to do something. He then had the idea to cast Eldritch Blast (with Repelling Blast) on himself to knock him back to solid ground.
    Absolutely. When I framed the scenario, in addition to the narrative description, I gave the players an aside: "Usually, falling from over 200' would inflict a lot of damage*. In this ascent, there are lots of options you can take as a reaction when you fall grab a vine, twist to fall onto a lower walkway, crash into a ruined cliff dwelling, or anything you can imagine. These reactions may require rolls to see what happens. Also, for physics purposes, you fall a maximum of 500 feet per round; so if you do manage to fall all the way down, once you're above this point, you and your companions will have an action to try and save you before you hit the bottom."

    It worked well, and my rogue player really ran with it, using his cape of the mountebank as a reaction.

    *One interesting thing was that at 6th-level all the PCs had maximum hit points under the average of a maximum hit point fall, i.e. 70 (20d6). But around 7th to 9th-level that changes, so there are characters who can endure that much damage (and earlier for monks), get up, brush themselves off and walk away. In this scenario, that maximum damage cap on falling at 20d6 does diminish the threat slightly. I get why the designer did this for example, in SAGA Star Wars the low damage from falling was specifically to model the heroic seen in the cinema but with rules as written, I think this sort of scenario would lose its teeth if the PCs were just a bit higher level.
    Last edited by Quickleaf; Wednesday, 12th December, 2018 at 02:06 PM.
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  8. #58
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    Space the falling frontier. These are the adventures of gaming group Enterprise. It 5 round mission. To seek out new falling encounter. To boldly stab where adventurers have not stabbed before.

  9. #59
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    Quote Originally Posted by akr71 View Post
    Alternatives to the player choosing damage or exhaustion have been mentioned at least a couple of times. How about a little random table that you roll on for when/if the players fail a check.
    - damage
    - exhaustion
    - dropped equipment or supplies - Do they retrieve them? If not, how does that impact the rest of the climb?
    - the character is gripped by a sudden fear of heights and is reluctant to proceed any further

    Adding environmental factors (strong winds, possible storm, sun burn) could make the situation much more interesting and dynamic. I would also consider rewards for high rolls, careful planning, or good role play. Rewards such as a ledge that offers some shelter from the elements where the party can stop for a rest, maybe even a cave. Even the bodies of unsuccessful climbers can be a reward - maybe they have rope or pitons or even rations that can be scavenged.
    Yes, totally. In addition to five defined obstacles, I had the players roll for complications whenever they failed a check, dawdled too much (I kept this to a minimum, preferring to say after a bit "5 minutes pass" and check off time on the encounter clock), attempted to "brute force" a challenge, or presented me with a golden opportunity. My table (which is incomplete & I was rushed to prepare) was inspired by @Manbearcat's suggestion and looked like this when we sat down to game...

    1. Make a monster, danger, or location move (d6): An ominous rasping comes from around a blind corner... (1) Rocks fall; 4d6 damage, DC 15 Dexterity save for half. (2) Curious young aarakocra, must make DC 10 Concentration saves each round to sustain spells until shooed away, treatment may affect Reputation. (3) Nothing there! A mimic disguised as walkway! (4) Surprise encounter with air elemental coming to/going from Kir Sabal, spooked Whirlwind Attack (DC 13 Strength save or 3d8+2 damage and flung 20 in random direction). (4) Surprise encounter with a cliff-dwelling basilisk, spooked Petrifying Gaze (DC 12 Constitution save or begin petrifying, extremities first, takes a long time for it to wear off, negating any climbing speed until a short or long rest). (5) Swarm of archaeopteryx (blood hawk stats). (6) ??
    2. Reveal an unwelcome truth: Humanoid skeletons reveal signs of being bound at the wrists, hinting at the aarakocra having dealt with would-be thieves or betrayers very harshly.
    3. Show signs of approaching threat: Strong Winds (30-50 mph) signal approaching rains, force flyers to land or fall, restrict verbal communication, need a free hand to stabilize, and 1-in-6 chance of loose items (e.g. capes, cloaks, hats, scarves, open satchels, scrolls without cases, etc) being torn free and falling off cliff.
    4. Deal damage: Need a 10-minute rest or else make a DC 10 Constitution save against exhaustion. OR kick down debris dealing 3d6 to 1-3 characters below.
    5. Use up their resources (d4): 1. Climbing gear (rope / pitons), 2. Backpack snags and potion falls out, 3. Belt pouch / spell components pouch torn and contents falls out, 4. Quiver upends spilling out arrows.
    6. Turn their move back on them
    7. Separate them: Section of walkway collapses after a fall, separating the fallen PC from the party.
    8. Target an ally: Artus, Dragonbait, Scometts archaeopteryx encounters a flock of aggressive archaeopteryxes, Mao (velociraptor) nervous of height, Eater of Ferns (giant lizard) confused over which way to climb.
    9. Show downside to class/race/equipment: Tangled in rope, stabbed by piton (1d4 and cant use leg/arm), ??
    10. Offer an opportunity, with or without cost
    11. Put someone in a spot
    12. Tell them the requirements/consequences and ask (yes, but)


    During play, they rolled #3, #4, #5, #6, #8, and #11.
    Last edited by Quickleaf; Wednesday, 12th December, 2018 at 02:18 PM.
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  10. #60
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    One last thing I forgot. The druid tried conjure animals twice, hoping to conjure giant eagles in a Gandalf moment. The way it's meant to work is the player chooses the CR of the beasts and the DM chooses specific beasts suiting the local ecology. I made snap decisions deliberately avoiding flying beasts. It was a bit of a cheap move (though still within the rules) to keep the encounter interesting. However, since we'll be using Kir Sabal again in the next two months, I sat down and crafted a quick random table which I'm going to hand to the druid player when it comes up again...


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