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[SPELLS and MAGIC] Design Discussion

BryonD

Villager
It's about unity of mechanics.
What is more important: unity of mechanics or the rules working as the players expect?


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.
This is why I prefer PF to TB.

You and I both know that spiders and monkeys climb in very different ways. It is fine that the default mechanical resolution is the same, but you are now letting the mechanics control the flavor. The opposite must always be true.

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.
Nope, there is a very important difference.

"it need not make climb checks to traverse a vertical or horizontal surface (even upside down)". No checks required.
And honestly, whenever I've had a spider in play, the same system has been in use for them. It appears I have been house ruling that one, but so be it.

You can cause a monkey to fail a climb check. It may be difficult, but it can be done. I suppose some form of Bull Rush type effect could swat a spider off a wall, but it will not fail a climb check.

But the creature conversation is a far tangent anyway. Go up to a non-gamer buddy and ask them what it would be like to climb like a spider and also ask them what it would be like to climb like a monkey. You will get different answers.

Quit letting the rules use you.
 

BryonD

Villager
It's about unity of mechanics.
I want to come back to this...

Can I safely presume that you would not allow Spider Climb as a 2nd level spell because the same break in unity exists regardless of balance?

Would you allow it at 3rd level? Again, if balance is out the window, then it still breaks unity of mechanics at 3rd level. And Fly is 3rd level. And we already demonstrated that Fly also messes with silent moving. So Fly disrupts unity of mechanics for BOTH Climb and Stealth. Fly is second up against the wall.
Dimension Door, blam. Teleport, blam. Passwall, blam. Ethereal Jaunt, blam.

We are talking about magic here. Forget the rogue and tell me why in a world where magical forces can summon a giant hand to pick up and squish an Ogre, magical forces are forbidden from allowing someone to walk on walls and ceilings as if it was the floor.

In the real world you can't do this because the forces of magic don't exist. In this scenario it seems you can't do it because the forces of magic feel sorry for rogues.
 

Wulf Ratbane

Villager
What is more important: unity of mechanics or the rules working as the players expect?
They should be one in the same.

This is why I prefer PF to TB.
I know you do. If PF was consistent in the way that it preserves the niche of spellcasters, while ostensibly bringing mechanical balance, I'd understand that more. So your players will complain that spider climb doesn't let you climb like a spider, but no complaint that finger of death doesn't actually kill you, and no comment at all on the fact that flesh to stone works just like it always did.

But back to the point: How did Pathfinder change the RAW for Climbing?

You and I both know that spiders and monkeys climb in very different ways. It is fine that the default mechanical resolution is the same, but you are now letting the mechanics control the flavor.
No, I'm not. If you care to make changes to the RAW to explore the different flavors in which creatures real and fantastic climb, do so. I personally don't see a need for a separate mechanic to describe the way in which spiders, monkeys, oozes, or even snakes may traverse a wall.

If we're going to pick nits then you and I both know there's a distinct difference between the way that 6" spiders crawl across a ceiling and 40-foot spiders crawl across a ceiling-- which is to say, of course, not at all.

Nope, there is a very important difference.

"it need not make climb checks to traverse a vertical or horizontal surface (even upside down)". No checks required.
That is an accurate description of the difference between the spell spider climb and the way that the rules dictate that spiders (and monkeys) actually Climb.

Under the RAW, the spell makes the subject a better climber than a spider.

Does Pathfinder bring that text into the spider description? (My review of the online PF-SRD says no.)

You can cause a monkey to fail a climb check. It may be difficult, but it can be done. I suppose some form of Bull Rush type effect could swat a spider off a wall, but it will not fail a climb check.
Uhh... why not? I guess that's the part I'm not following here. I don't know what rules you're using.

Can I safely presume that you would not allow Spider Climb as a 2nd level spell because the same break in unity exists regardless of balance?
I've not looked at its intended level. That discussion has nothing to do with unity of mechanics. Whatever it is that the spell does (or ends up doing) it will certainly be the case that a character trained in Climbing will be better with the spell than without, and better than an untrained climber without. The untrained climber might be better than the trained character depending on what bonus the spell grants.

I suppose technically this falls under the purview of "fewer absolutes." Rather than have the spells instantly transport the subject to "infinitely good," a point at which all subjects are equal, I would prefer the spells work within the existing d20 system and-- regardless of what crazy bonuses they end up granting-- preserve the skill gap between the trained and untrained.

Yes, even if it is largely negligible in most circumstances.

It should be easier to bull rush the spider climbing wizard off the wall than it is to do the same thing to the rogue who has a +15 head start on climbing.

Clear?

Would you allow it at 3rd level? Again, if balance is out the window, then it still breaks unity of mechanics at 3rd level. And Fly is 3rd level. And we already demonstrated that Fly also messes with silent moving. So Fly disrupts unity of mechanics for BOTH Climb and Stealth. Fly is second up against the wall.
Dimension Door, blam. Teleport, blam. Passwall, blam. Ethereal Jaunt, blam.
Dude. Deep breath. You're ranting.

I don't have a nerf agenda. If the necessary baseline is that wizards are really really good with their spells, my goal is that rogues would be really really really good with spells.
 
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BryonD

Villager
They should be one in the same.
But in this case you are putting unity of mechanics above Spider Climb working the way it is expected to work.
I know you do. If PF was consistent in the way that it preserves the niche of spellcasters, while ostensibly bringing mechanical balance, I'd understand that more. So your players will complain that spider climb doesn't let you climb like a spider, but no complaint that finger of death doesn't actually kill you, and no comment at all on the fact that flesh to stone works just like it always did.
I dislike that Finger of Death went from “Kills you” to “probably kills you”, but I have a much stronger dislike for Spider Climb going from “lets you walk walls in a manner consistent with real world spiders (completely regardless of how RAW handles spider movement)” to “makes you a bit better at climbing in a normal human way”. One is a nerf that I don’t think is needed, the other is a destruction of the very flavor of the spell.
You know I really think the PF rule for regeneration is beyond horrid. My point is not that no example of PF is bad to me. My point is that, as an overall philosophy, PF seeks to make the rules catch the spirit of the intent. TB tends to be much more authoritarian about mechanics and will sacrifice the spirit of the flavor if that spirit runs at odds with a mechanical element elsewhere.
But back to the point: How did Pathfinder change the RAW for Climbing?
Don’t know that it did off hand. Don’t see the relevance.
No, I'm not. If you care to make changes to the RAW to explore the different flavors in which creatures real and fantastic climb, do so. I personally don't see a need for a separate mechanic to describe the way in which spiders, monkeys, oozes, or even snakes may traverse a wall.
If we're going to pick nits then you and I both know there's a distinct difference between the way that 6" spiders crawl across a ceiling and 40-foot spiders crawl across a ceiling-- which is to say, of course, not at all.
That is an accurate description of the difference between the spell spider climb and the way that the rules dictate that spiders (and monkeys) actually Climb.
Here is where I am failing to express myself. I may or may not care whether spiders and monkeys climb walls in the same manner by RAW. But, while I did bring up monkeys, I never brought up the RAW of their modes of movement as an issue. When I mentioned spiders and monkeys, I was talking about actual spiders and monkeys and the commonly understood nature of their movement.
The name of the spell spider climb is not a reference to the D20 climb mechanic of spiders. Spider Climb is named such because it lets a character move in a manner that models the movement of real world spiders.
Spiders can hang upside down and stick to the surfaces. Monkeys grab on. It may be fine that for monsters the difference is waved off. But for the spell it is very important that it function as the name would lead someone who has never heard of D20 mechanics to presume.
Under the RAW, the spell makes the subject a better climber than a spider.

Does Pathfinder bring that text into the spider description? (My review of the online PF-SRD says no.)
No. But that only means that by RAW 3.5 and RAW PF spiders can not walk on walls the same way they can walk on floors. The ability to take 10 allows them to effectively do this in many circumstances, but it is not truly the same thing if push comes to shove. Again, for a monster is probably just doesn’t make a big difference.
Uhh... why not? I guess that's the part I'm not following here. I don't know what rules you're using.
As I admitted before, I’ve been house ruling this. I honestly didn’t realize I was house ruling it until this conversation. I have always just assumed that spiders in D&D functioned like spiders in real life (at least the wall walking part), and I’ve also run them this way.
But before you jump in an claim that this house rule is the problem, I’ll point out that it irrelevant. Rather than using the climb rules, in effect I have always run spiders as if they had the spell Spider Climb as an extraordinary ability. I have run the spell Spider Climb correctly as presented in RAW. As you pointed out, this is better than spiders by RAW. But, it also does a much better job of capturing the intent of walking like a spider. Which is the goal.
I am defending RAW Spider Climb here against your proposed house rule.
I've not looked at its intended level. That discussion has nothing to do with unity of mechanics. Whatever it is that the spell does (or ends up doing) it will certainly be the case that a character trained in Climbing will be better with the spell than without, and better than an untrained climber without. The untrained climber might be better than the trained character depending on what bonus the spell grants.
If the spell makes walking on a wall no different than walking on the floor, then what does Climb have to do with it? He is not climbing, he is walking on the wall.
The rogue is still better at climbing if that comes into question. But it isn’t very likely to matter.
I suppose technically this falls under the purview of "fewer absolutes." Rather than have the spells instantly transport the subject to "infinitely good," a point at which all subjects are equal, I would prefer the spells work within the existing d20 system and-- regardless of what crazy bonuses they end up granting-- preserve the skill gap between the trained and untrained.
Ok, then you do want to nerf the spell. I disagree, but I won’t argue preference. I would urge you to rename the spell so it doesn’t fail to live up to its name.
It should be easier to bull rush the spider climbing wizard off the wall than it is to do the same thing to the rogue who has a +15 head start on climbing.
Agreed. Though Climb has nothing to do with it. The Rogue simply has a better CMD.
Dude. Deep breath. You're ranting.
Apologies. Trying to make a point. But ranting or not, Fly is more “infinitely good” than Spider Climb for climbing and has the same unity of mechanics issues, if not more.
I don't have a nerf agenda. If the necessary baseline is that wizards are really really good with their spells, my goal is that rogues would be really really really good with spells.
Again, I agree with the core idea. But it must be carefully considered case by case. I like Spider Climb as it is by RAW now. In the Spider Climb case this core idea is inapplicable. It may appear applicable on simple inspection, but looking at what the spell really does shows that it is not.

A rogue and a wizard are walking down a street.
A rogue and a wizard are both under the effect of spider climb and walking along a wall.
In both cases the rogue is much better at climb. In the second case the difference in climb is no more relevant than the first. In neither case are either of them making climb checks. A evil sorcerer throws an antimagic area on them and the rogue grabs hold and watches his wizard buddy plummet.
 
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Wulf Ratbane

Villager
I think your house ruling is off. I take the text that they don't have to make checks to mean that they don't normally have to make checks, as is the case with all natural movement modes. But in extraordinary circumstances-- like taking damage-- even creatures with a natural movement mode must check. Hence the bonus, as opposed to text to the effect that they always succeed at checks. If that was the intent, such wording would have been more clear and concise than the current racial mod plus Take 10 construction.

And the further stipulation, of course, that the spell should definitely grant ceiling movement which is normally not allowed by the Climb rules.

I also had no idea about the spiders' RAW movement until this thread. What seems to be missing is a high DC for smooth/ceiling movement, plus perhaps a n exception for spiders (and the spell) that let's them ignore penalties for that kind of movement.
 

BryonD

Villager
I think your house ruling is off. I take the text that they don't have to make checks to mean that they don't normally have to make checks, as is the case with all natural movement modes. But in extraordinary circumstances-- like taking damage-- even creatures with a natural movement mode must check. Hence the bonus, as opposed to text to the effect that they always succeed at checks.
I can agree to this. If you can agree that for simply spider climbing a wall, Climb is meaningless then we are good.

I will completely accept that it is very reasonable that taking damage can (and should) still force a check for spiders as well as spider climbing wizards and rogues. And, clearly, the rogue will almost always be better at making that check.

It is worth pointing out that while the PF text includes the skill bonus, it is not present in the 3.5 text.
 

Wulf Ratbane

Villager
I can agree to this. If you can agree that for simply spider climbing a wall, Climb is meaningless then we are good.
We went to a great deal of trouble to grok natural movement modes, the racial bonus, the Take 10 rule, and then unify the movement skill mechanics.

Climb is functionally meaningless for creatures with a natural movement mode in ordinary circumstances, just as walking across an open field doesn't require a Balance check for land creatures.

In a similar fashion Stealth is meaningless for an invisible PC moving past a guard in otherwise normal circumstances.

A guard with a VERY high Perception, scent, tremorsense and the like turn it into an extraordinary circumstance.

In both cases a trained rogue is the better choice for spell target.

I grudgingly concede that, "You can't fail this check even on a 1" makes the roll "meaningless" in such circumstances.

WHEN you have to check and the DCs involved aren't meaningless-- the underlying mechanic matters because it defines meaningful.
 
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booboo

Villager
as a GM I like unified rules systems, the more special circumstances rules you have the slower my games run. also this creates sets of rules and modifiers that work counter to each other, often cause arguments during rules deliberations.
 

ValhallaGH

Villager
Spider Climb is named such because it lets a character move in a manner that models the movement of Spider-Man from Marvel Comics.
Fixed that for you. :D
... that only means that by RAW 3.5 and RAW PF spiders can not walk on walls the same way they can walk on floors.
Very true. Most spiders only have a +11 climb skill, so taking 10 only allows them to walk on walls with a Climb DC of 21 or less. Rereading the descriptions of the various wall types, that's not nearly enough. Which is a flaw in the design of both the environment, the spider, and how climb speeds work.
Possible fixes include a larger bonus, a higher automatic DC than 0, or other combination of factors.
SRD said:
Monstrous spiders have a ... +8 racial bonus on Climb checks. A monstrous spider can always choose to take 10 on Climb checks, even if rushed or threatened. Monstrous spiders use either their Strength or Dexterity modifier for Climb checks, whichever is higher.
 

BryonD

Villager
Fixed that for you. :D
I still prefer my version. but I have no doubt that your imagery is quite common.


Very true. Most spiders only have a +11 climb skill, so taking 10 only allows them to walk on walls with a Climb DC of 21 or less. Rereading the descriptions of the various wall types, that's not nearly enough. Which is a flaw in the design of both the environment, the spider, and how climb speeds work.
Possible fixes include a larger bonus, a higher automatic DC than 0, or other combination of factors.
I think this is where I step in and speak up for DMing skills.
While I was clearly going too far on both spiders and spider climb regarding things like taking damage, I don't see it as reasonable to demand that a gaming system get hung up on every little detail. IMO, a good DM would never roll for a spider running across a wall, much less bother to checks skills and DCs, and far far less ever conclude that the spider rolled a 1 and just fell off the wall.
So rather than ribbing the authors of 3E for not having the math right here, I'll applaud them for spending their time on other things.
 

BryonD

Villager
We went to a great deal of trouble to grok
I think it was worth it.
In particular, when you get both sides grudgingly conceding key points, then you have probably improved the understanding (or even the grokking*) all around.



* - My spell check says "grokking" has two "k"s . Color me amused that it cares.
 

Wulf Ratbane

Villager
Very true. Most spiders only have a +11 climb skill, so taking 10 only allows them to walk on walls with a Climb DC of 21 or less. Rereading the descriptions of the various wall types, that's not nearly enough. Which is a flaw in the design of both the environment, the spider, and how climb speeds work.
Possible fixes include a larger bonus, a higher automatic DC than 0, or other combination of factors.
So rather than ribbing the authors of 3E for not having the math right here, I'll applaud them for spending their time on other things.
I would wager that most DMs would be surprised to discover that the rules don't actually allow spiders to walk on walls (or ceilings).

Frankly I am a little disgusted to discover this, because knowing this earlier would certainly have influenced the way the Climb skill was printed. For example, a simple fix would be to allow spiders to ignore Climb check modifiers; then set the DCs for different kinds of walls appropriately so that spiders could walk on walls (and ceilings) that other climbers could not.
 

Wulf Ratbane

Villager
Quick comment regarding "meaningless" checks.

I don't think there's a problem with a 3rd level, invisible wizard or rogue having an invulnerable edge on any spotter, such that the modifiers involved make the roll equally meaningless for either the rogue or the wizard, regardless of who is the spell target.

But at mid to high levels, as other sorts of abilities and modifiers start to pile up on the spotter's side of the equation, I certainly think it's a worthwhile goal to reward the skilled character for his investment in Stealth. The invisibility (or spider climb) certainly provides a huge magical edge, but it will certainly matter whether the invisible sneaker is a wizard relying solely on invisibility or a rogue enjoying both invisibility and a huge skill bonus.
 

BryonD

Villager
But at mid to high levels, as other sorts of abilities and modifiers start to pile up on the spotter's side of the equation, I certainly think it's a worthwhile goal to reward the skilled character for his investment in Stealth. The invisibility (or spider climb) certainly provides a huge magical edge, but it will certainly matter whether the invisible sneaker is a wizard relying solely on invisibility or a rogue enjoying both invisibility and a huge skill bonus.
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.
It is easy to create scenarios for still needing some stealth with invisibility.
For simply moving on a surface via spider climb, that should be be constant. Though getting hit by a goblin's arrow should be less an impediment than getting hit by a storm giant's arrow. I don't think that any damage results in a surface DC check is as good as perhaps: any damages results in a climb check with DC = surface +1 per 3 points damage.
 

Rabulias

Adventurer
I would wager that most DMs would be surprised to discover that the rules don't actually allow spiders to walk on walls (or ceilings).
I sure was.:confused:

What about other insects/arachnids: Ants, Centipedes, Beetles, Flies, Cockroaches, Wasps, etc.? I have been allowing them effective spider-climbing ability as well, based on real-world critters; many of them don't have Climb skill in RAW! :eek:

Spiders should have the best deal on climbing, but should other creepy crawlers get a similar benefit?
 

BryonD

Villager
Part of the problem here is that vermin don't get skill points, so you are stuck with hand waved racial bonuses.
I'm not so sure that this problem merits a detailed solution, a hand wave probably gets the job done just fine. But it can have some odd implications.

And, I suspect that hardly anyone even bothers to consider it. These creatures just walk on walls as needed, no rule required.
 

Wulf Ratbane

Villager
I sure was.
Welcome to our forums-- stick around!

Spiders should have the best deal on climbing, but should other creepy crawlers get a similar benefit?
Part of the problem here is that vermin don't get skill points, so you are stuck with hand waved racial bonuses.
There's nothing wrong with racial bonuses as an effective way to grant skills to a type of creature. I never consider myself "stuck with" a racial bonus.

The problem isn't really racial bonuses per se; you could more appropriately blame it on the connection between INT and skill points-- so that non- and animal-intelligence creatures that are obviously highly skilled at some tasks (stealth, perception, climbing, swimming) fall behind in this humano-centric mechanic.

I'm not so sure that this problem merits a detailed solution, a hand wave probably gets the job done just fine.
Until you try to knock them off the wall; then you have intersections with the PC mechanics and some sort of... unity of mechanics... would be appreciated.
 

BryonD

Villager
There's nothing wrong with racial bonuses as an effective way to grant skills to a type of creature. I never consider myself "stuck with" a racial bonus.
If you only have one option, then you are "stuck" with that option. As I said, I don't think it is a problem that merits a solution.

The problem isn't really racial bonuses per se; you could more appropriately blame it on the connection between INT and skill points-- so that non- and animal-intelligence creatures that are obviously highly skilled at some tasks (stealth, perception, climbing, swimming) fall behind in this humano-centric mechanic.
That is what I'm saying. Adding a racial bonus to a monkey is still fine, but you also have some skill points to work with. It is the no skill points for no INT that makes you "stuck" with assigning a value. Maybe animals and vermin should use Wis for skills the way undead have commonly been adapted to use CHR for HP. Again, probably not a worthwhile change, but it covers the disconnect.


Until you try to knock them off the wall; then you have intersections with the PC mechanics and some sort of... unity of mechanics... would be appreciated.
And in this case I strongly agree that the term "unity of mechanics" applies quite well. This is quite unlike the case of comparing Spider Climb to a rogue's skill.
 

ValhallaGH

Villager
Maybe skill points gained should be disconnected from INT altogether. I know it causes at least as much frustration among players as it does designers.
The problem becomes mechanical support for Intelligence without the skill points per level angle. This gets tricky, and is something I'm still working on (though some of Celebrim's house rules may fix this; I still need to get him to send me copies). The RP side is already covered but requires a DM and players that enforce that sort of thing.


As for vermin (and other monster types), if you want to give them skill points to work with, simply give them 2 (or 4 or however many) skill points per hit die. Without attaching INT to their gain (it's not 2 + Int, it's just 2) you increase their skills per level dramatically by removing that intelligence penalty.

(I'm reminded of the first KOTOR video game. If you played a warrior class [Soldier or Jedi Guardian] you gained 0 + Int skill points per level, minimum 1. Unless you really wanted those extra skill points, you were better off going with a 10 Int because then you could put your ability points where they were useful instead of wasting them on a 12 or 13.)
 

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