Limitations on Plane Shift?

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
I'm happy to use quotes from the 5e version of the spell to point out my problems with the spell in its current form.
I think I understand your problems with the spell and I disagree with your analysis in the context of D&D 5e and how it defines the pillars of play. Upthread it appeared you suggested that there were objectively problems with it. If that is not your position, then I'm good.

My analysis is that the DM did not take into account the capabilities of the player characters when designing the scenario. Nothing wrong with that (it happens) and does not indicate to me any particular issue with the spell. And kudos for the DM coming clean on it with the players as the means of resolving the issue.
 

Uller

Adventurer
Do the players know the plane of existence the temple is on? If not, then plane shift doesn't work at all.

If they do but have no teleportation circle in the temple, building a plot device that prevents this should be easy enough...the spell description gives a lot of leeway to the DM. If yoy use planeshift to go to (for example) Buckingham Palace (and you have a rod attuned to real life earth), you will end up somewhere in London, probably in sight of the Palace but there will be a lot of ground to cover to get to where you want to go.

Since the temple is purposefully hidden, it is likely surrounded by anti magic zones that prevent scrying, prevent teleportation in or out and terrible guardians that are beyond the strength of even high level parties. Without direct reliable knowledge of a safe way in, planeshift would be a foolish option at best. Maybe give them access to some lore that says they aren't the first to think of using planeshift. The last ones to attempt that approach was never heard from again...if it were me, I'd hint that one of those that hid it built in a backdoor for his or her own purpose...so there might exist a teleportation circle in or near the temple that might be safe to use if the PCs can learn its sequence.
 

robus

Lowcountry Low Roller
I appreciate all the discussion, but the material component requirements of the spell and the vagary of the exact arrival point seem to adequately constrain the players options to more reasonable levels than I was originally thinking at the time.
 

Celebrim

Legend
Upthread it appeared you suggested that there were objectively problems with it. If that is not your position, then I'm good.
There are objective problems with it. I believe I can prove that using a standard that a design is objectively problematic, if it is incoherent with itself.

My analysis is that the DM did not take into account the capabilities of the player characters when designing the scenario. Nothing wrong with that (it happens) and does not indicate to me any particular issue with the spell.
Not taking into account the capabilities of player characters of a given level is a thing. But it is not the thing here. The problem the DM is encountering is introduced to 5e by ill thought out changes to the spell which not only creates the problem the DM is facing, but which are incoherent with the design goals of the system which can be inferred from its treatment of the similar spell - Teleport.

I propose that there exists some level of PC solving capability which if it existed would mean that there were no traditional pillars of play remaining because the player could resolve all challenges by fiat, thereby making not only some but all scenario design pointless, and that further it seems to be a general design goal of 5e to avoid this and if so that the plane shift spell as written is incoherent with this design goal.
 

Celebrim

Legend
I appreciate all the discussion, but the material component requirements of the spell and the vagary of the exact arrival point seem to adequately constrain the players options to more reasonable levels than I was originally thinking at the time.
This is true if and only if the players do not know the plane that the lost temple is on. But in general, the spell as written makes it impossible for any location whose plane can be discerned to be lost. For example, the location of anything on the material plane can be discovered by simply Planeshifting to any other plane, and then Planeshifting back.

While it's 'thoughtful' that the writer of the spell realized that pinpoint travel could be problematic to encounter design and so at least gives the GM permission in the spell text to block travel directly into the Great Khan of the Dao's personal treasure chamber or otherwise to the last room of a prepared adventure or scenario, the fact that he overlooked that some locations might be campaign secrets is baffling. The exact text is nearly a worst of all world's scenario where neither the player nor the GM are empowered, since the mechanics depend explicitly on GM fiat but the GM's ability to craft scenarios is constrained for no good reason.

The material component only constrains the players if planar travel is such a new thing in your game world that the exact notes and constructions of tuning forks needed to travel to other planes is not widely known. This is unlikely in a world with as widespread of magic and literacy as is presumed, which is I think the default for 5e (see description of the 5e Teleportation Circle spell for example). In the past, the tuning fork issue existed only to prevent transport to entire planes that were secret, such as Gygax's beloved 'demiplanes'.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
There are objective problems with it. I believe I can prove that using a standard that a design is objectively problematic, if it is incoherent with itself.
What is incoherent about it? There are particular parameters. If those parameter are met, you are transported there.

Not taking into account the capabilities of player characters of a given level is a thing. But it is not the thing here. The problem the DM is encountering is introduced to 5e by ill thought out changes to the spell which not only creates the problem the DM is facing, but which are incoherent with the design goals of the system which can be inferred from its treatment of the similar spell - Teleport.
Both how a spell is written in another game entirely (D&D 3.Xe) and as compared to another spell entirely are not important in my view and not evidence of some objective problem with the spell as written.

I propose that there exists some level of PC solving capability which if it existed would mean that there were no traditional pillars of play remaining because the player could resolve all challenges by fiat, thereby making not only some but all scenario design pointless, and that further it seems to be a general design goal of 5e to avoid this and if so that the plane shift spell as written is incoherent with this design goal.
This appears to presume that the spell solves all possible problems and not just the one - getting to the adventure location. You don't necessarily "win" by casting it. You just skip some amount of content the DM prepared which, in my opinion, should be taken into consideration by the DM. It's really no different than a DM crafting a difficult combat challenge with trolls only to see it trivialized by a party well-armed with fire magic and alchemist fire. If you want that combat challenge to be difficult, some adjustments need to be made. Same deal here with assuming the PCs will engage with the content prior to the hidden temple. An incentive needs to be created to encourage that ouctome (treasure and XP might be sufficient, or the necessity of finding a McGuffin or talking to some NPC prior to the final showdown) or some limitation to plane shift introduced.

This discussion, frankly, is as old as the hills. There's a common complaint that once the PCs get the ability to fly or teleport that all manner of exploration challenges, particularly overland travel, are trivialized. Well, yeah, some are. But not all, and certainly not when the PCs have an actual reason to engage with them or a compulsion due to limitations on their resources.
 

Celebrim

Legend
This discussion, frankly, is as old as the hills. There's a common complaint that once the PCs get the ability to fly or teleport that all manner of exploration challenges, particularly overland travel, are trivialized. Well, yeah, some are. But not all, and certainly not when the PCs have an actual reason to engage with them or a compulsion due to limitations on their resources.
Oh, I get it now. You're not having a conversation with me. I was wondering. I've stumbled into some pet peeve of yours and now you are busy engaging in some tired old but still heated debate you've had before.

What is incoherent about it?
A design is incoherent if the design direction from one set of rules works against some other element of the design. To give a hypothetical, suppose a homebrew version of D&D increased all the hit points of all characters by a factor of 10, but then at the same time an additional house rule was introduced so that whenever a character took hit point damage the character had to make a fortitude save with a DC equal to the damage taken or die. These two rules end up working against each other. The increased hit points now almost never matter, because the ever present risk of death after every wound will dominate concerns of play.

I maintain that the text of Planeshift is poorly thought out and has inadvertently introduced the same sort of incoherence where it is working against it's own design.

Both how a spell is written in another game entirely (D&D 3.Xe)...
The way the spell worked in 1e, 2e, and 3e is introduced not as evidence that the spell is objectively incoherent, which as I said need only depend on an internal comparison, but that the change was an unforced error brought about by a writer who wrote the spell prior to (and without playtesting) and not in response to the needs of the game. The comparison remains valid (since the problem doesn't exist in earlier editions). At best the new version trades one convenience in scenario design for an annoyance in another. It seems entirely possible to create a version of the spell for 5e that had the convenience but not the annoyance.

and as compared to another spell entirely are not important in my view and not evidence of some objective problem with the spell as written.
Comparison between two things in a rule set is an entirely valid perspective, and my strong suspicion is that outside the context of this argument you would accept it as common sense and entirely realize it's importance. As a hypothetical, imagine a home brew class was introduced for play and it was strictly superior not only to an existing class, but several existing classes. It would be entirely fair to compare the new strictly superior class to existing classes and say, "This is massively more powerful than existing options, and entirely deprecates several classes. I don't think it would be helpful to the game to introduce this class as written."

This appears to presume that the spell solves all possible problems...
No, I don't appear to presume that at all. This is you engaged in whatever argument you are resurrecting from your past.

It's really no different than a DM crafting a difficult combat challenge with trolls only to see it trivialized by a party well-armed with fire magic and alchemist fire.
Ok, yeah, I'm beginning to get the gist of which pet peeves you are importing to this discussion.
 
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iserith

Magic Wordsmith
Oh, I get it now. You're not having a conversation with me. I was wondering. I've stumbled into some pet peeve of yours and now you are busy engaging in some tired old but still heated debate you've had before.

A design is incoherent if the design direction from one set of rules works against some other element of the design. To give a hypothetical, suppose a homebrew version of D&D increased all the hit points of all characters by a factor of 10, but then at the same time an additional house rule was introduced so that whenever a character took hit point damage the character had to make a fortitude save with a DC equal to the damage taken or die. These two rules end up working against each other. The increased hit points now almost never matter, because the ever present risk of death after every wound will dominate concerns of play.

I maintain that the text of Planeshift is poorly thought out and has inadvertently introduced the same sort of incoherence where it is working against it's own design.

The way the spell worked in 1e, 2e, and 3e is introduced not as evidence that the spell is objectively incoherent, which as I said need only depend on an internal comparison, but that the change was an unforced error brought about by a writer who wrote the spell prior to (and without playtesting) and not in response to the needs of the game. The comparison remains valid (since the problem doesn't exist in earlier editions). At best the new version trades one convenience in scenario design for an annoyance in another. It seems entirely possible to create a version of the spell for 5e that had the convenience by not the annoyance.

Comparison between two things in a rule set is an entirely valid perspective, and my strong suspicion is that outside the context of this argument you would accept it as common sense and entirely realize it's importance. As a hypothetical, imagine a home brew class was introduced for play and it was strictly superior not only to an existing class, but several existing classes. It would be entirely fair to compare the new strictly superior class to existing classes and say, "This is massively more powerful than existing options, and entirely deprecates several classes. I don't think it would be helpful to the game to introduce this class as written."

No, I don't appear to presume that at all. This is you engaged in whatever argument you are resurrecting from your past.

Ok, yeah, I'm beginning to get the gist of which pet peeves you are importing to this discussion.
I have no pet peeves in this regard, so you have me wrong there. I also don't believe you've demonstrated what is incoherent about the spell as written. Your objection seems to be rooted, essentially, in the ability to skip over "exploration," which is similar to the common complaints about flying and teleporting I've seen in other discussions. But if your objection is something other than that, do go on.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
I really think it may help to step out of the edition you're playing and examine this from the perspective the edition under discussion. It looks like you're operating off some bad assumptions and information that does not pertain to D&D 5e's version of the spell.
Edition don't matter - the OP hit similar problems with the 5e version that I had with the 1e version.

Which tells me the same fixes would work too.
 

Aebir-Toril

std::cout << "Hi" << '\n';
Ok, yeah, I'm beginning to get the gist of which pet peeves you are importing to this discussion.
Oh, and I see that you, as always, are completely impartial, an arbiter of truth and logic, in fact, whose will cannot be faulted.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
Edition don't matter - the OP hit similar problems with the 5e version that I had with the 1e version.

Which tells me the same fixes would work too.
Problems that in my view stem from not designing scenarios that take into account the characters' abilities. The same reason you don't present a normal climbing challenge for a group of aarakocra PCs - they will likely skip right over that content you spent time designing. (Or, okay, present it, but expect to shelf that prep for future use in another campaign.)

It really has nothing to do with the spell as I see it. Like many things, there's an underlying issue here.
 

Salthorae

Imperial Mountain Dew Taster
I appreciate all the discussion, but the material component requirements of the spell and the vagary of the exact arrival point seem to adequately constrain the players options to more reasonable levels than I was originally thinking at the time.
Nice try, but the wheels are in motion :p

Glad that the material component was a good key for you to work with.
 

Celebrim

Legend
@iserith: So let's start with what seems to be the fundamental basis of your objection, the claim that this is no different than a party acquiring the ability to fly and the OP has simply failed to engage in proper encounter design. Now, flight can put severe constraints on encounter design and there is a point beyond which all encounters have to assume that the party can fly if they are to provide credible challenge. But the first access a party is like to get to flight is the flight spell at 3rd level, which only has a 10 minute duration. So the constraints that puts on encounter design is rather weak. There is a point beyond which wilderness exploration no longer presents a credible challenge to a party with access to magic because they will have magical protection against the elements, magical portable shelters, the ability to conjure food and drink, magical transportation or even teleportation, and as such none of the challenges normally associated with survival in the wild are really relevant. But, again, that point is at a relatively high level, and there is a ton of space in which to design wilderness adventures with survival challenge components where magic might provide some help but doesn't provide a ready solution to every problem.

However, there is a categorical difference between the design constraint on scenarios and encounters that the 5e version of Planeshift imposes and something like the 3rd level flight spell, and that is that the Planeshift spell is likely the first means of reaching the planes the players are likely to have. So there isn't really any room below it. There is no space here between accessing the planes and nigh perfect mastery of access to the planes. This is a reliable, precise, mass means of transportation that makes no demands on the party. It whisks you reliably to where you want to go without even having knowledge of the destination. That's a totally different issue than a PC can fly for 10 minutes if he concentrates. It's more akin to a design where the 3rd level spell conjured a flying carpet for the party to use for 24 hours, resulting in reliable mass flight the first time flight as a resource was likely encountered.

This isn't a problem just for DM's playing 'gotcha' like a DM that wants to insist the players can't use fire against trolls. This isn't just a problem for a novice DM who designs a murder mystery without paying attention to the divination techniques available to the party members, or who is struggling to keep shopkeepers from being robbed by PC's because he failed to imagine a society where magic is prevalent and been in long existence and the PC's use of basic illusions and invisibility is something he can't handle. If my opinion was based on any of those sort of things, you'd expect my opinions on fire use by parties against trolls to be very different than they are.

Certainly you could make an argument that such things are a problem that DMs shouldn't have to deal with and that spells like invisibility or flight or persistently misleveled for historical reasons considering the profound impact those abilities can have. But no such argument is necessary for what I'm talking about.

A reliable precise means of mass instantaneous transportation provides severe constraints on encounter design that goes beyond just needing to deal with flight or create food and water. It's not just exploration that potentially goes away - even though exploration on the outer planes is often a good next step in wilderness exploration once the challenges of more mundane exploration go away and this blocks it. The new design of the spell also challenges investigation challenges since the PC needs no special familiarity with the new location at all.

And this is incoherent because the 5e designers otherwise went out of there way to address this as a problem, making changes to the game which are obviously designed to prevent instantaneous transport spells from easily wrecking scenarios.

Again, consider the changes around teleport. Not only did teleport move up to 7th level, giving DMs more space to design encounters that couldn't be bypassed by teleport, but 'Teleport Without Error' went away entirely. The new teleport isn't reliable and can't teleport to an unknown location. You need some degree of familiarity just to get there even with repeated tries. Attempts to go to an unknown location reasonably go very badly. You need at the very least an accurate description of the location you are attempting to go to.

But Planeshift at the same level has no such restriction. It is reliable and doesn't require an accurate description and is precise to the level of per the description at least delivering you to the general area. So the alterations to how Teleport works are undone by the alterations to how Planeshift works. That's incoherent.

Some indication that what the designers were trying to achieve is eliminate reliable mass pin point instantaneous transportation can be found in the built in ambiguity of the spell. Namely, the spell specifically calls out that the DM by fiat may block pinpoint transportation if such transportation wouldn't make for a fun scenario. But the designer seems to think it sufficient for the purposes of the spell that the DM will be able to place the party in the starting location of his choice - essentially at the entrance of the dungeon. As the OP points out though, this call out doesn't handle the problem of a hidden or secret destination. Teleport is blocked from working in that situation, but Planeshift allows this restriction to be bypassed.

I understand the intention of the DM fiat callout. Planeshift in its utility mode has always been a defacto DM tool for simultaneously allowing access to the planes and controlling it. The DM has always had the option to fudge the 'miss' roll and locate the players in a position best suited for the needs of the scenario. Removing the random factor and empowering the GM to make a ruling is I think intended to empower the GM to do this without fudging. But, if that's really the intention, why leave open the ability to Planeshift to completely unknown locations? The designer could have called out that Planeshift was only semi-reliable and if shifting to an unknown location, it was highly likely that the party would not land within eyeshot of the destination or have a clear idea where it was located.

But then, I suppose that would make too obvious that this spell running on GM fiat was really a GM tool and could be used in an adversarial way? Point is that the design is weird and stands in contrast to the designs applied elsewhere in the addition. It creates problems without really providing much in the way of a solution. The only real benefit is that a GM might not feel hidebound to force the party to land 300 miles away when such a journey doesn't suit the pacing of the game, but again, if that's the case, just go ahead and say, "Party lands at a destination the GM feels is appropriate." or use some sort of random distance depending on the familiarity that the party has with the destination in parallel to and complementing the implementation of Teleport.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
@Celebrim I'm trying to distill out from your lengthy post the relevant points that underpin your assertion that D&D 5e's planeshift spell is "incoherent."

The best I can tell from your post is that because the teleport spell sometimes has an element of randomness in it, so too should plane shift, since they are the same level. Then there's some seeming discomfort on your part about how much of an increase in utility this is relative to, say, a much lower level spell like fly.

If that is the case, I think you've failed to show why this is incoherent objectively. This just appears to be a subjective opinion based on some unrevealed presuppositions. Which is fine, of course, but perhaps not your goal.
 

Celebrim

Legend
@iserith: Distilled down, I'm saying that Planeshift runs contrary to the evident design goals of 5e because it allows pinpoint instantaneous travel that does not require exacting knowledge. Thus, it is incoherent because nothing else in the system allows that and the changes to the system indicate that the designers were attempting to elimenate pinpoint instantaneous travel without GM gated exacting knowledge because of the well known difficulties that this caused GMs in preparing scenarios.
 

Aebir-Toril

std::cout << "Hi" << '\n';
@iserith: Distilled down, I'm saying that Planeshift runs contrary to the evident design goals of 5e because it allows pinpoint instantaneous travel that does not require exacting knowledge. Thus, it is incoherent because nothing else in the system allows that and the changes to the system indicate that the designers were attempting to elimenate pinpoint instantaneous travel without GM gated exacting knowledge because of the well known difficulties that this caused GMs in preparing scenarios.
Evidence please. In what way is this the clear perspective of the developers?
 

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
In my world travelling the planes is not that easy unless you're a god. Plane shift merely lets you open a door (which may or may not be a physical door), in most cases you need a key to open the door to get to the plane you are targeting. Once you open the door, you find yourself in a hallway with multiple doors on that plane.

All of which is my way of saying: if the rule doesn't work for you make up something that does. I've used a variation of the above for multiple editions now. Sometimes the best answer is a house rule.
 

Mort

Community Supporter
Not getting into any of the developer intent issues, I do sympathize with @Celebrim

It's odd that casting plane shift is, in many cases (as in no permanent circle or associated object) just more accurate than teleport. Heck if you're just talking about a description - it's not even close. Plane shift will get you in the general area every time, while teleport has a 73% chance of being way off.
 

Uller

Adventurer
@iserith:
Point is that the design is weird and stands in contrast to the designs applied elsewhere in the addition. It creates problems without really providing much in the way of a solution. The only real benefit is that a GM might not feel hidebound to force the party to land 300 miles away when such a journey doesn't suit the pacing of the game, but again, if that's the case, just go ahead and say, "Party lands at a destination the GM feels is appropriate." or use some sort of random distance depending on the familiarity that the party has with the destination in parallel to and complementing the implementation of Teleport.
I agree that it could have neen worded better, but I think you overstate the brokenness of it.

If you want accurate interplanar travel you need to use Gate. If you want accurate travel within your own plane you need teleport. Even then, you need very specific knowledge to get exactly where you want to go.

With plane shift you can get in yhe general area of a place you want to go but the text gives a lot of leeway to the DM. First off...how hard or easy is it to acquire the material components? The DM can just handwave it away, subtract 250gp from the PC's wealth and move on. Or ot could require actually finding a rod that is attuned to the place they wish to go. I would rule that the only way to manufacture such a rode is to do it on the target plane...so of the DM has in mind some adventures for the party to find a "secret" location and they insted come up with this crazy plan...okay...here are the costs in time and money to acquire the material components and here are the risks...cheif among the risks is the party has no control iver where they land and no way to make that landing safer or more accurate unless they can learn the sigil sequence for a teleportation circle...failing that, they can land 100 miles away or in a sealed room in the dungeons of their destination...whatever seems interesting to me (I would base this on the alignment of the target plane and that of the PC casting the spell...if they are opposed, the spell lands them in a very bad place).

It seems to me that if the party decides to use plane shift to attempt to casually juant around the multiverse, there are plenty of obstacles and interesting problems the DM can put in their way.

As for using it to find a secret location on the plane they are on...that seems to me to present its own set of interesting problems...once they get there, how do they know where they are in the world? Sure...they can take this risky trip through another plane but once at their destination they still don't know for certain where that place is...now they can scry or teleport for repeat trips but the actual location of the destination is still not known without some other
@iserith: Distilled down, I'm saying that Planeshift runs contrary to the evident design goals of 5e because it allows pinpoint instantaneous travel that does not require exacting knowledge.
I think you are giving the spell more power than it has. The text implies you cannot use it to get to a specific location...only general, and even then the DM has a lot of options available on how accurate he wants it to be.

First you have to have a component "attuned" to the target plane. There are no rules I am aware of on what that means so the DM can rule anywhere from handwaving it away and charging the PC 250 gp to requiring time and checks to manufacture one to requiring quests to get such an item. This is not trivial. I would rule that to "attune" the rod to a plane you must be on the target plane. So these things would not be easily available and would be jealously guarded.

Once you have the rod, you can get in the vicinity of your target. But the DM has all sorts of leeway on where you arrive...you could be 100 miles away. You could be in a sealed room in the dungeons below your target. I would choose a location based on the alignment of the caster and the target plane...the more in opposition they are, the more dangerous and less advantageous the arrival point will be. Once there, you have no knowledge of where you actually are...just you are on the target plane and somewhere in the vicinity of the place you named. So without further investigation you cannot just teleport home and tell the world where the place is actually located.

Is there a spell that can serve as a GPS device?

The only way to be more accurate is to have knowledge of a teleportation circle at the target location.

Planeshift is not Gate and if the players try to use it like it is Gate the DM has tools to prevent that if he wants.

Considering what my players have been willing to do to make sure Teleport is reliable, I can't imagine they would even consider Planeshift to get into any hostile location if there is some other reasonable way presented to them.

But YMMV.
 

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