Nerfing rules in game

prosfilaes

Adventurer
I was a little frustrated my last game session when my DM nerfed two spells in one sessions, both of which had been used as is earlier sessions.

The first, Ray of Stupidity, wouldn't have been a big deal alone. A second level spell being able to drop a purple worm (by dropping its int below one) is a bit excessive, and he ruled into line with Ray of Enfeeblement (which won't drop the attribute below one).

The second was more frustrating. I used See Invisibility to find an invisible sorcerer and Glitterdust to make him visible. So he changed Glitterdust to make it only affect an area instead of what's in the area, because he wasn't going to let Glitterdust nerf Greater Invisibility and let the (now blind) sorcerer go precisely outside the area covered by the Glitterdust.

As a DM, would you have handled it differently? Do you nerf things on the fly? I think I would have been a lot less frustrated if it had been let stand in game and he had nerfed it afterwards.
 

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Pentius

First Post
I'd have probably let the Glitterdust thing slide.

If I do any nerfing of stuff, or even on occasion if we get a rule wrong and it lets the players breeze through a combat, I wait until the end of the session to look it up and change it/apply nerfs. It keeps the game going, and in general, one or two easy combats aren't a big deal.
 

JamesonCourage

Adventurer
If I feel there's a glaring mistake, I will. I think I would have with Ray of Stupidity, for example. Though of course I'd let my players know before they cast the spell. I wouldn't have nerfed Glitterdust like that. The blinding is much more powerful than the visibility, in my mind, and a player using two turns to find the enemy and root him out seems like great teamwork, which I like to see.

So, yes, I do nerf things on the fly, but only if they seem like they're missing a line that they should have, or if they're too overtly powerful, or if they are being abused mechanically (players are pursuing RAW when it's obvious that RAI intended for something else), etc.

I often say, "if you use it, so can I" and that stops a lot of stuff from showing up. I think that's really a good sign of whether or not the players think something's fair. If it's not fair for me to use it, it's not fair for them to use it. If they don't mind me using a particular tactic against them, then it's cool if they use it, too.

Just my group. I know some groups (or individuals) prefer a "wait until after the session" style, but I don't. I'm big on consistency and internal consistency, and I hate retconning. I can also rule pretty quickly, so that helps. I might debate something for five minutes before I'm good, but it's usually about fifteen seconds. Though if someone does point something out later to change my mind, I'm going to say, "well, I guess we missed that, so I'm changing it" and dealing with the inconsistency. I don't like the inconsistency, but I don't want to cheat the player, either. As always, play what you like :)
 

arscott

First Post
That's a pretty reasonable call for ray of stupidity. But I'm not sure why the DM would rule that way about glitterdust. If he doesn't want you countering invisibility, then he shouldn't let you take that spell in the first place.

If the invisibility was supposed to be a retreating tactic, then I understand the impulse. But if he expected to continue putting the hurt on with that wizard, I definitely would have cried foul. (And if it is an escape tactic, he should look into dimension door instead).
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
I don't have the text of Ray of Stupidity handy, but dropping a purple worm with one low-level spell does sound like a bit much. I might have made the same call if it came up in play in my game.

As for Glitterdust, you used *two* spells (first See Invisible, then Glitterdust) to foil one. That seems reasonable to me. And, honestly, that's specifically what Glitterdust is for! I don't think that was the right call.

If I see something seriously wrong in play, I will occasionally nerf (or pump) an effect. I don't find I have to do so often, though.
 

OnlineDM

Adventurer
If my players come up with a cool tactic that makes a combat way easier than expected, I applaud them. It's fun for them to stomp the crap out of the bad guys from time to time.

If I think it's going to be problematic in the future, I might say after the combat, "Okay, that was fun this once. But in the future, here's how that tactic is going to be ruled at the table..."
 

Wycen

Explorer
I once ran a high level game where the party included a wizard and sorcerer. The sorcerer player continually tries to get more out of the rules than they say while also annoying me by casting Dispel Magic on my buffed up bad guys. I apparently made one nerf he did not like because he stopped showing up after that. In this case, I was wrong it turned out, because I reread the Dispel Magic rules after the game, and I did feel a bit bad, but in the long run not gaming with him was a better outcome, at least with me as the DM.
 

prosfilaes

Adventurer
I don't have the text of Ray of Stupidity handy, but dropping a purple worm with one low-level spell does sound like a bit much. I might have made the same call if it came up in play in my game.

Ray of Stupidity - ray, no saving throw, do 1d4+1 Int damage. Unlike Ray of Enfeeblement, it does not stop at 1, so it will RAW drop any unintelligent creature. I would have had no problem with him nerfing that, except (a) it had come up before, and it really should have been nerfed then and (b) it was two spells in one game, both of which had been used before.
 

prosfilaes

Adventurer
also annoying me by casting Dispel Magic on my buffed up bad guys. I apparently made one nerf he did not like because he stopped showing up after that. In this case, I was wrong it turned out, because I reread the Dispel Magic rules after the game,

I think that's part of the reason the Glitterdust nerf annoyed me so much, because it felt like it was done to protect the NPC, not because the spell was a problem. Why should you get annoyed by a caster using Dispel Magic; that's exactly what the spell is there for.
 

Wycen

Explorer
Why should you get annoyed by a caster using Dispel Magic; that's exactly what the spell is there for.

Yes. I think maybe that's a forked thread topic, maybe not. For me, I'm probably playing down the annoyance aspect of this particular gamers gaming style. Perhaps if I had stated "Look I'm not putting up with your Bizarro World rules interpretations" he'd have been fine and continued playing. But having seen the other DM put up with it, I probably felt like I needed to put the hammer down as the DM. And he didn't like it. Oh well.

But something I'm barely remembering which could be a forked topic, was that Dispel Magic changed the pre-determined(?) stats for the bad guys. And I did not want the game to grind to a halt while I recalculated stats for what was now 6 different duergar. I probably could have just made it up on the fly, but coulda woulda shoulda.

But I know that while I love spells like Righteous Might, I do not generally cast spells like Bestow Curse because they usually appear in combat and that forces the DM to stop the game while the new stats are calculated. Anybody else not like casting those spells for the same reason?
 

was that Dispel Magic changed the pre-determined(?) stats for the bad guys. And I did not want the game to grind to a halt while I recalculated stats for what was now 6 different duergar. I probably could have just made it up on the fly, but coulda woulda shoulda.
Yea, I had a GM that use to love haveing NPC clerics or wizards buff up, then come in. He threatened to ban Dispel magic when I used it and turned off some (but not all) buffs and items based on d20 rolls. It took long enough for my turn for one player to go down the street, order pizza, bring it back, and start eating it, before the DM was done... then the fight was over in 5 mins not even...
 

slwoyach

First Post
I nerf stuff all the time but that ruling on glitterdust is ridiculous, that's the whole point of the spell. Might as well just delete the spell from existence, it's worthless now.
 

Jhaelen

First Post
As a DM, would you have handled it differently? Do you nerf things on the fly? I think I would have been a lot less frustrated if it had been let stand in game and he had nerfed it afterwards.
Yes, no, and I agree :)

Identifying and nerfing or banning problematic spells should ideally happen before play starts. If I as the DM have been surprised by a spell that turns out to be more powerful than I thought, I'd definitely let it work. If I feel it's unbalancingly powerful I'd afterwards discuss with the group if they think we should do something about it or not.

If the consensus is that it shouldn't be nerfed or banned, I simply take it into account when planning future encounters. The latter is something I need to do anyway:
Characters get more powerful all the time, it's the whole point of an advancement system.
Nerfing pcs willy-nilly, so my puny opponent's don't get crushed by them is very bad style.
 


Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
I would have had no problem with him nerfing that, except (a) it had come up before, and it really should have been nerfed then and (b) it was two spells in one game, both of which had been used before.

For some folks, it takes perspective of earlier events to bring them to see the problem in full. So, I'd cut him some slack on (a).

I see (b) as a non-issue. He didn't get to choose what spells you cast, so he didn't get to choose when the ruling was required.

And, honestly, I think your (a) and (b) are in conflict. He let something slide earlier in (a), and you didn't like that. But apparently, not letting it slide in (b) is not acceptable. He can't put it off for later, and he can't do it now? The only other time to do it would be in the past, and I doubt he's got a TARDIS handy.
 

Zelda Themelin

First Post
My opinion

nerf a: sure, doesn't often come up, but when it does it's bit annoying so nerfing not a bad thing

nerf b: not ok, looks more like npc-protection rather than honest ruling of problematic spell, if these kinda rulings would be common I would quit the game
 

Elf Witch

First Post
While I can see the ray of stupidity if it had never been used before being nerfed at the table. But if it has been used before and the DM knew how it worked sorry suck it up and let the purple worm die.

Then after the game talk with your players about changing how it works.

The glitterdust incident was just poor DMing an it sounded like sour grapes on the DMs part because you found a way to use your spells to take out his NPC. As a player I would get really annoyed over it.

As for people saying that a player using dispel magic makes the combat take longer to run to me that is a sign of not properly prepping for the encounter. If you know your players have access to dispel magic then plan that they might use it and write up the stats for the NPC both buffed and not buffed.

As a DM you should know what spells your players have access to and plan according as a player it is really irritating to be told after you have already taken a spell that no you can't use it because it makes the DMs job harder.
 

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