Did I make a bad DM decision?

Plane Sailing

Astral Admin - Mwahahaha!
Last week I made a decision which indirectly led to the death of a character, and I'm not sure if I made the best decision (being a little jet-lagged).

The psion was in a web spell. He wanted to use matter agitation to burn the webs away, but I ruled that it wouldn't be possible to directly agitate the webs, since the strands of silk weren't thick enough to catch fire.

I was anticipating that he would use the power on his spearhead or his cloak to produce actual fire, but he didn't. A couple of rounds later he was killed be a couple of flaming arrow bolts which hit him within the web (and he failed both his saving throws).

Should I have let matter agitation set fire to the web? Or did I make a reasonable decision here?


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Umm... ouch.

I have to say that I'd have ruled differently - Matter Agitation can burn/melt metals - I'd think that it could ignite a web. On the other hand - it also reads "nonmagical object" and a Web is, I believe, magical. My first thought was that it wasn't, as it reads [Creation] but since it dissapears when the duration ends or under a Dispel Magic...

I think that you made the best decision you could come up with under tight circumstances... I mean, if there were other ways out - what did he do for the 'couple rounds' before he was hit with flaming arrows?

Either way, it sucks to lose a PC - but keep in mind that as long as it wasn't malicious, you're still doing alright!


For myself, I would have had the webs catch fire.

From the psi HB...

1st round: Readily flammable materials (paper, dry grass, tinder, torches) ignite.

Far from being too small, the rules seem to clearly indicate that the smaller the object, the better. For example, the spear head? Wouldn't have gotten to the point it could ignite the webs untill round three. And assuming the webs from the spell behave similar to spider webs, they are "readily flammable".


First Post
Sounds like a bad call to me. :(

The description of the web spell makes a big deal about how flammable the webs produced are. They can obviously catch fire and in fact burn away quite quickly and easily--as easily as a hand brushing through cobwebs, the book says.

Using matter agitation to burn the web seems like a really good idea to me. If you were looking for a way to disallow the use of this power, I guess you could rule that the webs were magical and thus (by the description of the power) unaffected by it, but the web description again emphasizes that even a torn can burn them away effortlessly. Your explanation that the webs are too thin to burn is completely unsupported, however.

Lousy DM! Feel free to go and scourge yourself now. :D
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First Post
Since the Web spell says it is very flammable, I would have allowed Matter Agiation to set flame to it. As Tsyr noted, Web thread is "readily flammable material".


Sorry, but I agree that the webs would have caught fire...and being a guy named Scorch (no longer Quickbeam) I should know, right?

In all seriousness, you made a judgement call and it happened to be not quite accurate. IMHO, what matters most here is that you've obviously spent some time mentally wringing your hands over the situation. Being a DM with a good heart and a strong moral conscience is great -- heck, the rules evade all of us on occasion. If the player has already introduced a new character and seems OK with the eventual outcome of the encounter, leave weel enough alone and move on. If, on the other hand, the player is mightily cheesed about losing his/her PC, perhaps a bit of clever DM interevention is in order...


First Post
Double ouch.

Well....yeah. It was a bad call. But its not like you were trying to kill off the character or anything.

It wouldn't have been a big deal, just a mistake. But a mistake that leads to a player character death is a double whammy. I would suggest some serious thought and see if its not easy to retcon his death. Could the character have reasonably survived and just have looked dead? How far did you get in the adventure after that scene? If you left of with the end of the combat, you could just say he didn't actually die and maybe work in a near death experience sub plot!! i always try to work in a plot/sub-plot when ever the possibility presents itself!! :p!

If you can't reasonably retcon the scene without loosing plausibility, then i would apologize to the player and chalk it up to experience!!


First Post
I agree, looks like you made a mistake. No bigee. I screw up all the time. I would, however, neglect to enforce the level loss due to death in this case.

'o Skoteinos

First Post
Plane Sailing: You made the right ruling, but with the wrong reason. Terrasim is right that Matter Agitation shouldn't affect Web, because it is magical. The real problem here is the following: How did the player know he couldn't use Matter Agitation? Did you tell him before he used the power (like "I use Matter Agitation to burn away the Web" "It doesn't work"), did he ask and did you answer (without a Spellcraft check), or did he wonder and use Spell/Psicraft, which he succeed?
If you told him before he used his power, without a spellcraft roll, you were wrong...
If you told him before he used his power, with a spellcraft roll, you might've told him that his equipment could burn the Web (if you didn't tell, you were quite harsh, but that's just talking afterwards).
If you just told him it didn't affect the Webs, after he had used his power, he should've been able to burn at least a small portion away where another (Agitated) object was touching the Web (and your ruling was wrong).
It just depends on the way it happened.

Amrynn Moonshadow

First Post
not to pile on . . .

but I think that one of the ways used to ignite the web could have worked, had the psion tried all of them. a web spell is a web, but it's a magical web. if it is strong enough to trap someone (hence a useful spell to have) then simply brushing at it isn't going to brush it away. similarly it must be strong enough to witstand casual brushing, and potentally, being set on fire.

depends on how you use them in your world. if webs are flamable (from the web spell) then agitating the matter would have worked. if they aren't, then you were right.

additionally, one thing to look at is how do psionics and magic deal with each other in your world. do they mesh completely? are they alien to each other?

In my world they are quite forgien to each other, such that trying to burn away a magical web with a psionic power would be more difficult than trying to set that magical web on fire with magical fire.

dunno if this helps, but my initial reaction was that it was a little mistake. (but usually one action doesn't doom a PC, someone could have tried to help him, or he could have made his saves) however, depending on the details of your world, it possibly was the right ruling.

and as the DM, it's always right anyway. :p


First Post
Bad Call.

Even when you consider the webs 'magic' or psionics versus magic, it is still a bad call.

You have on the one hand, a web which is clearly described as easily flammable.

On the other hand, you have a power that can easily set things on fire.

It should be a no brainer here that the power can set fire to the web. And just a minor physics note, the thinner something is, the EASIER it is to set it on fire. More oxygen fuel per surface area, you see.

That's why paper burns much more easily than, say, a log.

Lord Pendragon

First Post
JRRNeiklot said:
I agree, looks like you made a mistake. No bigee. I screw up all the time. I would, however, neglect to enforce the level loss due to death in this case.

JRRNeiklot offers the most eloquent solution I can think of. If you do decide that you made the wrong call (I can see it either way, considering the magical nature of Web,) simply waiving the level loss for raising the PC makes everything come out all right. The PC still died, preserving continuity, but the player doesn't get penalized for a mis-call on the DMs part.

I also want to second what Scorch said as well. Even if the call was a bit off the mark, I'd be glad to have a DM that not only was willing to admit to a mistake, but actually re-considered his own decisions to make sure he was callin' 'em straight. ;)

Amrynn Moonshadow

First Post
maybe it was just an "empowered" webspell . . . ?

anyway, i think the fact that you are even asking for info on this shows you're a good DM, and that your PC's should understand. give the Player his PC back, but have him have some sort of phobia of empowered web spells, due to his near death experience.


The web spell states than any flame will ignite it. Matter agitation states it only works on non-magical objects. The question is whether the strands from a web are non-magical or not. If they are the non-magical result of a magical spell, then clearly they should catch fire. If the strands are magical, then clearly they shouldn't catch on fire.

The web spell description states that the strands are "far larger and tougher" than spider webs. This implies that the webs are magical. The fact that the webs disappear after the duration is up doesn't really indicate that they are magical or not, and is only a result of the magical spell.

However, I would still rule that it would work. The web spell description doesn't state that the strands are magical, leaving that in doubt. My policy is to cut the players a break if I'm in doubt. I can always clarify the correct rules after the session, and challenge them with something else later. So I think you made a mistake.

But even if you did make a mistake (and I'm not sure you did) I wouldn't worry about it. Everyone makes mistakes, and it's better to make a bad decision than to slow the game down by arguing over rules or looking stuff up. You can always make it up to the player somehow later.


First Post
You're the DM. If you say Matter Agitation can affect web spells, it can. If you say Matter Agitation can't affect web spells, it can't. Curse the designers and throw out the book, you're the DM.

'o Skoteinos is where it matters. Did you tell the player it wouldn't work? Did you at least give him a psicraft check to know it wouldn't work? Changing the rules is fine, as long as the players know what you've changed (or at least know it if their characters should know it).


First Post

Well.....it doesn't say that the web is magical itself, but it does allow spell resistance, which would suggest the strands are magical things.
Reading the Matter Agitation its still not real clear.
Another part is whether you are using the "psionics are different" rule or not. If psionics are NOT different, then the agitiation should have worked

Personally, i say its a bad call because a character who gets webbed, then burns it off with his "mind fire" is too cool to rule against!! :)
but i've been accused of being to lenient with my players before...:p
Of course, lets not forget that probably would have damaged himself with the burning web!!!!

I'd say that there is enough gray area, that its really up to DM discretion. Different strokes for different folks and all that!


First Post
ordinarly I would be on the magical/non-magical side of the debate. But however if ordinary fire can burn through the web, it seems that the web itself is not really magical. If one does Summons Nature's Ally and produces a badger, no one is going to expect the badger itself to be a magical creature. It was summoned and then dispelled back to it's home by magic. Now if the Web had a DR rating or it reacted unaturaly to fire, then maybe so.

Heck, just say the fellow was left for dead, was found nursed to health and put him back in the game. If people have leveled up since then, offer to have the player come up with a story to explain what he did for his xp so he can level up as well.


First Post
No worries! You're Omnipotent

Whether you made a mistake or not is for you to decide, certainally there are valid arguments on both side, but if you decide that in fact you did screw up, then, take heart you are omnipotent, and it's a rare death that can't turn into a plot twist of some sort and end up making the campaign better than it would have been if the character hadn't died.

Plane Sailing

Astral Admin - Mwahahaha!
Thanks for all the feedback. There are reams of issues that I didn't consider (I *said* I was jetlagged at the time - I'd just completed a flight home from the other side of the world the previous day. Just gotta DM though :) )

I've pretty much decided that the guy wasn't dead - he will be captured by the opponents but there is a ready-made way for him to escape (which none of the others could manage, but is practical for that character).

Ideally I would have ruled differently, or at least given him a magecraft check to get info on his options. I'll just do what seems right on this occasion.


The Sunderer

First Post
I was going to suggest that you could justify the characters death by having the death actually be an illusion or even an finely crafted Astral Construct, and have the PC whisked away by some nefarious individual or other...

But you beat me too it :D

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