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[SPELLS and MAGIC] Design Discussion

Fenris

Villager
I really like the idea of the opposed checks with the magic. Perhaps based on caster level plus attribute bonus. Maybe a feat could boost the skill in one school for the check.

And getting rid on spells that iminge on other classes is a great idea. Moving them to skill bonuses is great. Invisibility grants a +10 to Stealth, Knock a +5 to disable device, etc. It makes those multi-class characters and prestige classes suddenly very potent. Say the arcane trickster for the knock example.
 

Wulf Ratbane

Villager
And getting rid on spells that iminge on other classes is a great idea. Moving them to skill bonuses is great. Invisibility grants a +10 to Stealth, Knock a +5 to disable device, etc. It makes those multi-class characters and prestige classes suddenly very potent. Say the arcane trickster for the knock example.
I think this change is pretty much a done deal.
 

BryonD

Villager
I think this change is pretty much a done deal.
As long as the spells still work as advertised, this is cool.
For example, I'm not as keen on the Invisibility example as some of the others.
Invisibility should make you invisible. A bonus to some stealth checks is obvious. But simply changing it to a bonus is off, and it amplifies the problems with merging hide and move silent. Not challenging Stealth as a skill. But when invis helps you be quiet, we have a problem.

Identify and Knock are very good examples.
 

Wulf Ratbane

Villager
I'm not as keen on the Invisibility example as some of the others.

Invisibility should make you invisible. A bonus to some stealth checks is obvious. But simply changing it to a bonus is off, and it amplifies the problems with merging hide and move silent. Not challenging Stealth as a skill. But when invis helps you be quiet, we have a problem.
There is definitely some awkwardness involved in the Hide/MS and Listen/Spot merge.

Passive Perception checks help resolve this somewhat: If an invisible user gets a huge (+20 moving/+40 stationary) bonus to Stealth, he will be "immune" to most passive Perception scores. Unless he does something to warrant an active Perception check (open a door, pick up an object) then the observer doesn't have a chance to spot him.

But it's not impossible. He's got a potential +10 point head start on the observer (who is taking 10 for passive perception) but an observer with a 10 point Perception edge on the invisible wizard can spot him.

I see this as a feature, not a bug-- because it means that the invisible rogue has a meaningful edge on the invisible wizard.

What has really changed is not so much invisibility but rather creating a mechanical framework for passive perception.
 

ValhallaGH

Villager
There is definitely some awkwardness involved in the Hide/MS and Listen/Spot merge.
And nothing drives that home like the Halfling racial traits.
+2 Dex, +4 Stealth (small), +2 Stealth (racial) = +7 Stealth because you're a Halfling, which is +6 more than Elves and +3 more than Gnomes.
Add in Skill focus (+3), Class skill (+3), and you've got a character with Level + 13 + Base Dex for a Stealth modifier; that's a heck of a sneaky fellow. He doesn't even need invisibility most of the time.

I'm not saying it's a bad thing, but it's definitely something that's different and noteworthy.
 

BryonD

Villager
There is definitely some awkwardness involved in the Hide/MS and Listen/Spot merge.
...
I was on the side that wanted the skills to remain separate. But I've pretty much come around on that not because I changed my mind on the mechanics so much as I am forced to admit that so many characters always had the same number of ranks in both Hide and MS, that blending them ends up making no difference.

That said, I strongly think it is the DM's responsibility to keep the practical distinctions in mind. Hiding behind a tree at night and creeping across dried leaves are both Sneak vs. Perception checks now. But the DM should consider modifiers based on the interaction. According to a strict reading of TB the guy trying to quietly creep across the dry leaves gets vastly better at being quiet if he is invisible. Obviously, that is silly. In that case the Sneak vs. Perception check should have no modifier whatsoever resulting from the invisibility. Now, assuming the guard hears you, you are still invisible. He knows he heard something, but he probably doesn't know what. And another check is in order, and for this one the +20 bonus is appropriate.

I suppose the argument may be that two rolls defeats the purpose of merging the skills. But, to me, this circumstance needs the two rolls to provide a quality resolution. In some circumstances under old D&D there would be cases in which sneaking across a room would require both a hide and move silent in order to remain undetected. I'm fine with just using one master roll for those type scenarios. But this is different.

For hiding behind the tree, yeah the rogue is better than the wizard, but the +40 bonus makes the rogue's +55 not really meaningfully better than the wizard's +42 unless you have some really intense Spot checks coming. and that makes sense. You are standing still and invisible. This qualifies as hard to spot.

The bottom line is, just because you only have Sneak and Perception as skills, you don't get away from situations that demand Hide/Move Silently/Spot/Listen. You just use a simplified system for establishing the modifiers for the check.

Back on the real topic: Fenris said
Moving them to skill bonuses is great. Invisibility grants a +10 to Stealth,...
Maybe I'm reading to much into that. But taken literally he is saying Invisibility should "move" from where it is now, to a simple mechanical skill modifier. To that idea, I am strongly opposed. Invisibility should first and foremost make the target invisible. Adding in a clear guideline for modifying skills (Stealth) as appropriate makes total sense. But only as a supplement to the main rule.

If you just go with modifiers, then you get into silly situation that compare to 3.5 Darkness. You have a spell that doesn't do what it says. I honestly found Darkness to be a perfectly sound and defensible 2nd level spell. It just had the wrong name.

If you want a spell that gives a Stealth modifier, that sounds cool. Call it Rouge's Obscurement and stat it up.
 

Wulf Ratbane

Villager
Let me pose a problem to you, to get a bit of insight.

The party has access to a wizard with both fly and invisibility. They also have a rogue with really good Hide and Move Silently scores. Based on those resources, who is the best choice to sneak past the following guards:

a) a human guard

b) a dog

c) a hellhound

d) a dragon

e) a black pudding.

Phrase your answer in terms of d20 mechanics, RAW. I am interested in how you adjudicate this as a DM.
 

booboo

Villager
Maybe I'm reading to much into that. But taken literally he is saying Invisibility should "move" from where it is now, to a simple mechanical skill modifier. To that idea, I am strongly opposed. Invisibility should first and foremost make the target invisible. Adding in a clear guideline for modifying skills (Stealth) as appropriate makes total sense. But only as a supplement to the main rule.
doesn't sound like a bad idea to me.
makes more sense to me than a save.
 

ValhallaGH

Villager
The party has access to a wizard with both fly and invisibility. They also have a rogue with really good Hide and Move Silently scores. Based on those resources, who is the best choice to sneak past the following guards:
Should be the best choice:
a) a human guard
Rogue. He doesn't rely on magic effects, allowing him to avoid any Detect Magic alarms, enchantments, items, or anti-magic zones. This means he only has to worry about a human guard, one who almost certainly doesn't have the ability to catch the rogue as long as the rogue is patient (i.e. not taking movement penalties).
Wizard. Scent, in D&D, is extremely powerful and only defeated by distance or covering scents. The rogue can't beat that, without a great handle animal check (undefined) or a covering scent that would give away the fact that something was there, so this one goes to the wizard.
c) a hellhound
Wizard. Again, the scent. At least this time the Wizard's knowledge of the planes and magic may provide further assistance.
d) a dragon
Neither (Rogue). A sufficiently powerful dragon will have all sorts of wards up to detect magic and break enchantments; combined with the dragon's own amazing senses neither one has a worthwhile chance. Of the two, the Rogue is the least magic-dependent, giving him an edge but probably not enough of one.
e) a black pudding.
Neither (Wizard). The nature of Blindsight (of an undefined type) makes it impossible to sneak past without violating physics. The Wizard could pass by becoming ethereal, but that's unlisted.
Phrase your answer in terms of d20 mechanics, RAW. I am interested in how you adjudicate this as a DM.
Wizard, always the wizard. Invisibility does not allow a spot check at less than 30 feet, fly removes (most of) the need for Move Silently checks (I require them, usually at a +10 to +20 bonus, since flapping cloth can be a dead giveaway), and there are generally a couple other options to draw upon when needed. I'd prefer it to be a fairer split, but mobile Total Concealment and not touching a surface makes it danged difficult for anyone else to compete.
 

BryonD

Villager
I'd prefer it to be a fairer split, but mobile Total Concealment and not touching a surface makes it danged difficult for anyone else to compete.
I pretty much agree.

I think the issue at hand though deals with Listen and Spot checks, so examples that invalidate that condition are rather off topic.

I do agree that magic can trump skills in general.

An even more simple example would be: You need to climb a tower, who is better a rogue with high climb or a wizard with spider climb?

I still want hide and move silent to interact correctly with spot / listen. Rolling these two pairs into a single Stealth/Perception pair is perfectly fine, but doesn't change the case by case.

Magic trumping skills does not bother me in the least.
Skills should function properly regardless of the presence or lack of magic.
 

Wulf Ratbane

Villager
Magic trumping skills does not bother me in the least.

Skills should function properly regardless of the presence or lack of magic.
I'd prefer that the invisible rogue is better at Stealth than the invisible wizard, the rogue with Spider Climb is better than the wizard at Climb, and the rogue with knock (somehow, roll with me here) is better than the wizard at opening locks.

Ditto for detect traps, detect secret doors, etc.

I'm not looking to decrease the utility of magic in any case, but rather would prefer it to have an additive effect to the raw skill of the beneficiary.

I certainly don't have a philosophical problem with the wizard casting his spells on the rogue with the sure knowledge that the rogue is going to be even better with the wizard's help.

That's just flat-out at odds with the current philosophy that the wizard should be able to tell the rogue to sit down and shut up because he can do everything better.
 

BryonD

Villager
As a core design philosophy I am 100% with you. But it must be applied in a thoughtful, case-by-case manner.

Invisibility is not about sneaking. Invisibility is about not being reflective of light in the visible spectrum. Maybe that sounds like a quibble. But it is important. The rogue is better than the wizard at sneaking. Invisibility has no impact on that. But, if the wizard is invisibility, he can not be seen, sneaking or not. Does that give the wizard a huge advantage in sneaking? Yes.

The second any action merits a Sneak check, the rogue will be better. So your criteria is met. The rogue is better. Just walking up to a guard should require silence. The rogue is better. Now, you added fly in to the mix. This STILL doesn't make the wizard better at sneak. But it does make sneak irrelevant to the attempt at moving up to the human guard. This does not bother me.

Does Spider Climb harm your game? If spider climb provided a +10 to climb checks, would your game be better? As it stands, with spider climb you don't fall. So if you made it a skill check the difference would be moot until some point in time at which a wizard player botches a roll and falls. So your spider climbing wizard just fell. You have firmly established the superiority of the rogue in this application. But I don't see that you have increased fun.

Knock I can actually see as a good choice. When the spell is cast upon a locked item, any lock, even magical, may potentially be unlocked and the caster (or secondary target if you rather) gains a +10 to Disable Device. That works for me. Find Traps as a skill bonus is reality already.

I don't accept the "sit down and shut up" position. Spells are limited resources. I find the wizards are better than rogues position to be just as unfounded in actual play as the wizards are better than fighters.

When sneaking is not required, the issue is moot. When sneaking is required, either: frequently it is true that multiple instances of sneaking are in order in a relatively short time, thus demanding multiple castings; or things go sideways and the wizard better have those spells ready for resolving the problem. Even when just one "sneak" event is in order, having the rogue use his infinite supply of sneak is usually the better option. And, a flying invisible rogue getting into a good position is also frequently a better option than sending the wizard on recon because the rogue is better equipped to get in and get back out.
 
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BryonD

Villager
What chance should a mook guard have of detecting an invisible flying wizard? (assume the wiz has Dex 10 and 0 ranks in stealth)

What is the basis for your answer?
 

booboo

Villager
I'd prefer that the invisible rogue is better at Stealth than the invisible wizard, the rogue with Spider Climb is better than the wizard at Climb, and the rogue with knock (somehow, roll with me here) is better than the wizard at opening locks.

Ditto for detect traps, detect secret doors, etc.
yes it seems that every body has to roll for everything they want to do but so often magic users atomistically succeeds
 

ValhallaGH

Villager
As a core design philosophy I am 100% with you. But it must be applied in a thoughtful, case-by-case manner.
As annoying as it may be (that's a lot of work), BryonD is correct here.
But, if the wizard is invisibility, he can not be seen, sneaking or not. Does that give the wizard a huge advantage in sneaking? Yes.
However, not being seen and not being detected are wildly different animals. Myth, legend, and fiction are filled with examples of people detecting the presence and approximate location of invisible beings. The methods vary, and it is never frequent, but the precedent seems to provide a guideline for us to follow.
Oddly, I actually like the OGL invisibility rules. Under those, invisible characters are (excepting serious noise on their part, or counter-magic on the defender's part) undetectable further than 30 feet away. Within 30 feet, it is a DC 20 / 30 Spot/Perception check to note that a creature is nearby, and a 30 / 40 to note exactly where it is; this allows even a commoner to locate a (lazy) invisible creature.* When forced to actually hide, being invisible provides a massive bonus (+20 to +40) to checks; enough to counter the "hiding while attacking" penalties. So far, so good.

My issue is that not enough people understand them and use them correctly.
Does Spider Climb harm your game? If spider climb provided a +10 to climb checks, would your game be better? ... But I don't see that you have increased fun.
Why not have Spider Climb only provide a Climb Speed? That gives a +8 to Climb, take 10 under stress, normal defense while climbing, and lets you move at the indicated speed as long as you succeed at climbing. Now the Rogue with spider climb is better at climbing than the Wizard with spider climb, though both are pretty freaking awesome (Str 8 Wizard still has a 17 Climb that lets him traverse many surfaces). Then slap a DC on perfectly smooth, flat, vertical surfaces (around 60, maybe more, trying to retain that "impossible! Unless you're epic" feel) and you're rocking out.
Of course, you've decreased the Wizard's fun some, since now he can't climb on most dungeon surfaces (removing the "I'm Spider-Man!" effect) without actually knowing how to climb.

Knock I can actually see as a good choice. When the spell is cast upon a locked item, any lock, even magical, may potentially be unlocked and the caster (or secondary target if you rather) gains a +10 to Disable Device. That works for me.
Me too.


*Concealment is way too effing good. All my military training emphasized the value of cover over concealment, because cover will actually stop bullets while concealment just means the other guy is trying to get lucky. Cover means that lucky (or aimed) shots will still miss because they can't punch through the cover.
OGL concealment is the best damn thing ever. 20-50% immunity to all attacks, including critical hits. Only total cover can compete, and that's only if it doesn't allow the attackers to target you (directly or indirectly).
This is bad from an immersion standpoint (which I've already hit upon) but more importantly from a fun standpoint; I've lost track of how many confirmed critical hits I've seen miss because of concealment. In every case, everyone at the table (even me, the rat bastard DM that enjoys killing PCs because it means I'm winning [bad habit, and one I'm breaking, but it's still true]) thought that was weak-sauce.
An alternative rule would be very welcome.
 

Wulf Ratbane

Villager
Concealment doesn't prevent critical hits but it does negate sneak attack.
You misread him.

If the attack misses due to concealment, it's prevented. Even if the attack was a crit.

(We don't notice that in our games because we roll for miss chance before rolling the attack.)
 

BryonD

Villager
However, not being seen and not being detected are wildly different animals. Myth, legend, and fiction are filled with examples of people detecting the presence and approximate location of invisible beings. The methods vary, and it is never frequent, but the precedent seems to provide a guideline for us to follow.
Oddly, I actually like the OGL invisibility rules. Under those, invisible characters are (excepting serious noise on their part, or counter-magic on the defender's part) undetectable further than 30 feet away. Within 30 feet, it is a DC 20 / 30 Spot/Perception check to note that a creature is nearby, and a 30 / 40 to note exactly where it is; this allows even a commoner to locate a (lazy) invisible creature.* When forced to actually hide, being invisible provides a massive bonus (+20 to +40) to checks; enough to counter the "hiding while attacking" penalties. So far, so good.

My issue is that not enough people understand them and use them correctly.
This I accept. I'll even one up you and offer that DC 10 + Stealth / 20+ Stealth and 20+Stealth / 30+ Stealth could very reasonably replace 20/30 and 30/40.

Why not have Spider Climb only provide a Climb Speed? That gives a +8 to Climb, take 10 under stress, normal defense while climbing, and lets you move at the indicated speed as long as you succeed at climbing. Now the Rogue with spider climb is better at climbing than the Wizard with spider climb, though both are pretty freaking awesome (Str 8 Wizard still has a 17 Climb that lets him traverse many surfaces). Then slap a DC on perfectly smooth, flat, vertical surfaces (around 60, maybe more, trying to retain that "impossible! Unless you're epic" feel) and you're rocking out.
Of course, you've decreased the Wizard's fun some, since now he can't climb on most dungeon surfaces (removing the "I'm Spider-Man!" effect) without actually knowing how to climb.
You are now designing a wizard spell for the rogue's sake. You should design spells for the spell's quality's sake.
Is Spider Climb a broken spell? Does it need to be nerfed? (cause you just nerfed it) If it does need to be nerfed, then rename it. Because you just repeated the Darkness mistake. You have a spell called Spider Climb that fails to allow someone to climb like a spider. So you now have a spell called Monkey Climb, or somesuch, and it works as you describe. Fine. Do I as a player ever bother to take this spell or do I throw it on the once every four or five years of play utility stack?

Now, if you do declare it is broken as is and make this change, then my first move will be to introduce you to a new spell. It is called Spider Climb. It is a L2 wizard spell. Do you think my spell is broken? I'm going to go out on a limb here and guess no. So, my second level spell is balanced, if not notably weak, and it still has the exact same impact on the rogue.

So nerfing a spell doesn't solve the problem.

*Concealment is way too effing good. All my military training emphasized the value of cover over concealment, because cover will actually stop bullets while concealment just means the other guy is trying to get lucky. Cover means that lucky (or aimed) shots will still miss because they can't punch through the cover.
OGL concealment is the best damn thing ever. 20-50% immunity to all attacks, including critical hits. Only total cover can compete, and that's only if it doesn't allow the attackers to target you (directly or indirectly).
This is bad from an immersion standpoint (which I've already hit upon) but more importantly from a fun standpoint; I've lost track of how many confirmed critical hits I've seen miss because of concealment. In every case, everyone at the table (even me, the rat bastard DM that enjoys killing PCs because it means I'm winning [bad habit, and one I'm breaking, but it's still true]) thought that was weak-sauce.
An alternative rule would be very welcome.
Alternative rule: Roll for concealment first. Only if a valid attack is established does the attack proceed. You will never see another crit nullified ever again.

Your own example supports that concealment produces the attacking hoping to get lucky scenario.
How many times in your games has anyone ever scored a critical hit against a target with full cover? I'm betting it has a better track record than concealment does at warding off crits.

Now it may be partly the rules and partly lazy dming (I'm speaking for myself here) in that cover, and primarily partial cover, gets short-changed in regard to armor class bonus. If plate armor can get up to +10 an AC, then being 75% behind a brick wall should be in that ballpark. But I'll be the first to admit that it is way to easy in the heat of dice-rolling to just agree that line of sight exists and then treat the attack as normal. Give some +7 AC bonuses and not only will you get a lot more misses, cover will really cut down on crits.
 

Wulf Ratbane

Villager
Is Spider Climb a broken spell? Does it need to be nerfed?
It's about unity of mechanics.

You have a spell called Spider Climb that fails to allow someone to climb like a spider. So you now have a spell called Monkey Climb, or somesuch, and it works as you describe.
Actually, spiders and monkeys use the exact same rules for climbing, RAW. There's no functional, mechanical difference between the ways that spiders and monkeys scamper up a blank wall.

The spell also already works as Valhalla described, and pretty much as I intended. (Haven't read it in a while.) It's already better cast on a rogue than a wizard.
 

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