Flying without Magic in D&D, or, Your Favorite Non-Pass/Fail System

Aldarc

Hero
Some people in this thread seem to be taking an absurd thought exercise regarding pass/fail far too seriously. It's okay to lighten up. We're talking about games here.
 

pemerton

Legend
By regulation, it would go like this: declare your intent to hit the ground. This is a Very Easy task, with a DC of 5.

<snip>

Do you use a non-pass/fail system? Does it allow for spontaneous character flight?
I mostly use systems that are pass/fail. But they don't have the problem that you describe, because there is a prior step before framing the difficulty of the check. The only system I know that gives it a formal lable is HeroQuest revised, where Robin Laws calls it the credibility check,.

That is, before a DC is set the action declaration has to be a credible one, given the established fiction, the logic of the genre, the known capabilities of the character, etc.

A practical example from actual play: when the epic tier chaos sorcerer in my 4e game wanted to use his magic to seal the Abyss, I set a DC and the check was made. If the player of a heroic tier character attempted the same action declaration, I wouldn't set a DC. That simply wouldn't be a permissible decllaration for that character. It's not something that is within the PC's capabilities.

Unless I was playing some sort of surreal scenario, the same would be true for missing the ground.
 

Eyes of Nine

Everything's Fine
What @DMMike has uncovered is actually a huge potential space for new rules. The FAIL rules. Cool unexpected and hilarious things that can happen when you fail to do something totally wacky.

I want to fail to hit the wall as I run at it full tilt. You Fail! You get the benefits of Passwall, but just for you, and just for an instant. On a Success, you take 1d8+STR bonus bludgeoning damage. You can only attempt to fail at hitting the wall once per short rest.

I want to fail to look threatening. I Fail! The opposite party, decides I look cute and pitiful instead, and decides to leave immediately so that they aren't burdened with taking care of me. On a success they find me threatening, and attack with advantage!


One last thing about the OP: you can fly because you missed hitting the ground (btw, if you succeed, take 1d6 bludgeoning). But can you control your flight?
 

aramis erak

Adventurer
Do you use a non-pass/fail system? Does it allow for spontaneous character flight?
Several, in fact. The thing is, rolling to hit the ground with yourself isn't even Easy. It's automatic.

Many games pay little attention to the two most important difficulty levels: Automatic and Autofail. Throwing oneself at the ground is automatic - you can't fail. Attempting to fly without, wings, magic or tech is autofail.

But there's also the other element: A GM should be asking not only "What are you doing?" but also, "To what end?"

Non-boolean systems range from 3 position (Fail, mixed, success), the old standard CF, F, S, CS, and not quite as standard CF, F, PS, S, CS (both in pendragon and many BRP flavors). and the CF, F, S, SS, CS of RQ 3... through qualitative result systems like Sentinel Comics (You always succeed on a reasonable action, the roll is for how well, how much effect).

It's also worth noting that D&D since 3E isn't boolean, either. Fail, Success, Crit Success. (And AD&D 1e/2e as played by many wasn't either, at least not after the "Good Hits and Bad Misses" in Dragon 39 (July 1980).
 

pemerton

Legend
I mostly use systems that are pass/fail. But they don't have the problem that you describe, because there is a prior step before framing the difficulty of the check. The only system I know that gives it a formal lable is HeroQuest revised, where Robin Laws calls it the credibility check,.

That is, before a DC is set the action declaration has to be a credible one, given the established fiction, the logic of the genre, the known capabilities of the character, etc.
Many games pay little attention to the two most important difficulty levels: Automatic and Autofail. Throwing oneself at the ground is automatic - you can't fail. Attempting to fly without, wings, magic or tech is autofail.
I prefer to frame this in terms of the pre-resolution "credibility check" rather than treat it as an option for action resolution as such.

I think this helps make it clear that what's going on is avoiding type of genre-violation rather than determining the success of something that is permissible within the fiction.
 

DMMike

Game Masticator
Hmm. The Genesys crowd has been suspiciously quiet here. Or did they get shut down with the rest of FFG's RPG department?

What @DMMike has uncovered is actually a huge potential space for new rules. The FAIL rules. Cool unexpected and hilarious things that can happen when you fail to do something totally wacky.

One last thing about the OP: you can fly because you missed hitting the ground (btw, if you succeed, take 1d6 bludgeoning). But can you control your flight?
You can go wild on the fail rules. Me, I'm more of a minimalist...

Arthur Dent (from Hitchhiker's) could control his flight, and do some other NSFW things... but as a PC, I wouldn't push my luck too hard if I were already such a colossal failure that I couldn't hit the ground.

Many games pay little attention to the two most important difficulty levels: Automatic and Autofail. Throwing oneself at the ground is automatic - you can't fail. Attempting to fly without, wings, magic or tech is autofail.

But there's also the other element: A GM should be asking not only "What are you doing?" but also, "To what end?"

Non-boolean systems range from 3 position (Fail, mixed, success), the old standard CF, F, S, CS, and not quite as standard CF, F, PS, S, CS (both in pendragon and many BRP flavors). and the CF, F, S, SS, CS of RQ 3... through qualitative result systems like Sentinel Comics (You always succeed on a reasonable action, the roll is for how well, how much effect).
Yeah? Ask Buckaroo Banzai if crashing into a mountain is automatic.

Final Fantasy RPG 4th Ed (ffrpg4e.wikidot.com) defines the Fail condition as a "punishment" created by the GM. So if (we're all on board with how this "if" works now, right?) the player rolls too low on her attempt to hit the ground, she doesn't just fail or make no progress. In FFRPG 4e, she (and the party) would suffer a punishment with (according to the rules) a "storytelling impact." That's what I call non-boolean.

Side note: FFRPG4e players can choose to fail, and then they get to "describe how his character fails." One ticket to the moon, please!

I prefer to frame this in terms of the pre-resolution "credibility check" rather than treat it as an option for action resolution as such.
A valid tool, especially if you're prone to the problem of assuming that there's a die roll in each action's future. I'm not sure that it bears on this particular thread, though, because the Credibility Check is basically falling back on Rule Zero, which is similar to falling back on Because God - it removes the utility of (rules) discussion.
 
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Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
Hmm. The Genesys crowd has been suspiciously quiet here. Or did they get shut down with the rest of FFG's RPG department?


You can go wild on the fail rules. Me, I'm more of a minimalist...

Arthur Dent (from Hitchhiker's) could control his flight, and do some other NSFW things... but as a PC, I wouldn't push my luck too hard if I were already such a colossal failure that I couldn't hit the ground.


Yeah? Ask Buckaroo Banzai if crashing into a mountain is automatic.

Final Fantasy RPG 4th Ed (ffrpg4e.wikidot.com) defines the Fail condition as a "punishment" created by the GM. So if (we're all on board with how this "if" works now, right?) the player rolls too low on her attempt to hit the ground, she doesn't just fail or make no progress. In FFRPG 4e, she (and the party) would suffer a punishment with (according to the rules) a "storytelling impact." That's what I call non-boolean.

Side note: FFRPG4e players can choose to fail, and then they get to "describe how his character fails." One ticket to the moon, please!


A valid tool, especially if you're prone to the problem of assuming that there's a die roll in each action's future. I'm not sure that it bears on this particular thread, though, because the Credibility Check is basically falling back on Rule Zero, which is similar to falling back on Because God - it removes the utility of (rules) discussion.
The "Credibility check" is to make sure the action is in genre and adheres to the established fiction. It checks action declarations like, "I pull a Ring of 3 Wishes from my pocket," against whether it's either established in fiction you actually have one or if it's genre appropriate to establish this now. It's less a resolution tool and more a "are we playing the game we agreed to play" tool. That puts it outside Rule 0 or GM fiat and more at the level of the table's social contract. Anyone at the table should have a voice on credibility.
 

aramis erak

Adventurer
Hmm. The Genesys crowd has been suspiciously quiet here. Or did they get shut down with the rest of FFG's RPG department?
Hardly. It just feels like the whole topic is a trolling; I responded how I did because I was giving the benefit of the doubt that you weren't trolling. I guess I shouldn't have.
 

pemerton

Legend
the Credibility Check is basically falling back on Rule Zero, which is similar to falling back on Because God - it removes the utility of (rules) discussion.
The "Credibility check" is to make sure the action is in genre and adheres to the established fiction. It checks action declarations like, "I pull a Ring of 3 Wishes from my pocket," against whether it's either established in fiction you actually have one or if it's genre appropriate to establish this now. It's less a resolution tool and more a "are we playing the game we agreed to play" tool. That puts it outside Rule 0 or GM fiat and more at the level of the table's social contract. Anyone at the table should have a voice on credibility.
I don't see that the credibility check is anything like Rule Zero. It's no more Rule Zero than a referee of Tomb of Horrors resonding to a player who says "I walk through the wall" asking How?

It's about adjudicating the fiction. I agree with Ovinomancer that the view of the whole table is relevant, but I'm enough of a traditionalist to suggest that, in the ordinary course, the GM has the last word because the GM is the participant at the table who has a special duty to adjudicae the fiction.
 

DMMike

Game Masticator
It's about adjudicating the fiction. . . the GM has the last word because the GM is the participant at the table who has a special duty to adjudicae the fiction.
. . . Anyone at the table should have a voice on credibility.
Anything can happen. It's a game. (Thanks @Aldarc.) For example, you can cast magic missile even if there's nothing to attack:


My copy of Zweihaender (admittedly, an old one) says that a skill test should be rolled "any time an action is attempted." But you shouldn't roll a skill test if there's no dramatic consequence for failure. Since throwing one's self at the ground could be both hilarious and crippling, I'd call that dramatic. Given the game's attention to injury detail (and its dark nature in general), I can't say with certainty that I would try to fly in it!
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
Anything can happen. It's a game. (Thanks @Aldarc.) For example, you can cast magic missile even if there's nothing to attack:


My copy of Zweihaender (admittedly, an old one) says that a skill test should be rolled "any time an action is attempted." But you shouldn't roll a skill test if there's no dramatic consequence for failure. Since throwing one's self at the ground could be both hilarious and crippling, I'd call that dramatic. Given the game's attention to injury detail (and its dark nature in general), I can't say with certainty that I would try to fly in it!
You're missing the point. If I'm playing a grim and gritty game like Torchbearer, the idea that a whimsical Hitchhiker-esque flying scheme (HFS) is even genre appropriate is what I'm talking about. Similarly, a given D&D game may or may not allow HFS due to the agreed upon genre expectations. This "check" is not an application of game mechanics, so it's not Rule Zero, it's part of the basic agreement to even play.

The point is that your suggestion isn't just a matter of mechanical interpretation, but also the broader genre agreement the exists around the game. This only seems to be a point of contention because you seem to be pushing that a mechanical exploit to allow HFS is broadly universal. I contest that it's not -- it requires genre agreement first, mechanical adjustment second. If you've already made the genre agreement becessary for HFS, I don't think you're going to be stymied by pesky game mechanics.

In other words, you aren't really asking people to consider the mechanics, but instead adjust their genre expectations. This is why you have some agreement and some hard pushback.
 

pemerton

Legend
Anything can happen. It's a game.
I'm not sure what you're getting at.

When we're playing Classic Traveller, the PCs aren't going to encounter skeletons and zombies that they turn away with the power of prayer. And the action declaration I cast magic missile is meaningless.

When we're paying Prince Valiant, the PCs aren't going to encounter Roswell aliens in flying saucers. And the action declaration I draw my ray gun and blast it away is meaningless.

Etc.
 

MarkB

Legend
There is that. In theory. But given the number of times I've seen amateur and professional DMs answer "do I see/hear that" with "roll Perception," I'd say that a PC has a pretty good shot at getting to make the miss-the-ground roll.
Maybe you were missing the point on those occasions. When a player asks if they can see or hear something, it's because they think the situation is uncertain. By letting them go ahead and roll, the DM maintains that sense of uncertainty and suspense for the player, enhancing the experience of play.

When it comes to missing the ground, there is no such uncertainty to be maintained.
 

DMMike

Game Masticator
The point is that your suggestion isn't just a matter of mechanical interpretation, but also the broader genre agreement the exists around the game. . .
In other words, you aren't really asking people to consider the mechanics, but instead adjust their genre expectations. This is why you have some agreement and some hard pushback.
I think the pushback is about proportion and positioning, of all things. 60% of the OP is about breaking the rules in D&D, and that part comes first. 40% points out that that's dumb, but the rules kind of allow for it, so let's explore some kind ofs in other games.

I could have kept it to 40%, but what's the crunch without the fluff?

PS- I appreciate your analysis and tone. XP for that.
 

DMMike

Game Masticator
Burn Bryte:

Succeed/fail. Sort of. If you roll doubles, you fail (sounds crazy, but I'm excited to see it in action). Your poor skills use the lowest die type: d4. When an attempt gets more complex, you roll more dice, but the lowest is 2. And you can use any skill that you can justify.

I love this: "the player and GM work together to create the consequence for failure." If a GM is running a fight, it's easy for a GM to say "you miss" and move on, because that keeps the tempo of the battle moving. But in Burn Bryte, something happens, and the player contributes to it. However, they can roll on a d100 table to get a random failure outcome (which probably necessitates adjudication with several of the results).

So I could make an argument, with my 1-in-4 chance of rolling doubles on a bad skill, that failing to hit the ground meant that I was instead flying. The GM, curse her, would probably disagree, but I would have a pretty solid case if we rolled on the failure table and I got number 27 - "You miss the mark."
 

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