"straight" rolls in D&D

CapnZapp

Adventurer
Maybe hard to find a thread title that makes sense, but here's the deal.

My players have found an item (the heart of an ancient green dragon per Medieval Melodies blog, if you're interested) that provides plenty of cool benefits. The original description, however, says you turn Lawful Evil and that this "may" turn you into a NPC under the control of the DM.

Now, I personally use "no evilz" in my campaign. Making an exception here doesn't feel right. Which means that if I follow the suggested rule that makes the item unusable by player characters. Thing is, I don't want to uselessness the item this way. :)

We're gamers at heart so using dice feels natural to us. What I do want is: the cost of donning the item is a risk of becoming evil and thus possibly facing character retirement. I want only those players willing to risk having to switch characters for story reasons to apply for this item. If a player would be upset or angry he or she should simply pass.

Now then: what precedent in the history of D&D is there for this kind of die roll?

Making it a specific skill check or save feels unfair - there's nothing about this item that says it should only be usable to certain characters (except draconic sorcerers I guess). I don't want to pretty much exclude half the group based simply by the class or ability choices they made more than a year ago at level 1.

Instead I'm looking at 5E and seeing how Death saves are equal to all (or mostly all) characters. The risk of Wish turning bad is also a set percentage.

Is there any AD&D or Pathfinder (or any other edition) specific mechanism that would cover what I'm trying to do here.

Fair warning: My inclination is to make it a straight 15% risk. That is, rolling d100 (so no d20-roll abilities come into play) and if you get 86-00 you turn Lawful Evil and one thing is certain: the item and its benefits are lost. So this thread is more of a "let's ask ENWorld so I'm not missing out on something cool" thread.

(I would say "your previous flaws, traits and bonds are replaced" and even "your character is retired" but since the party is level 16 I am leaving this part open. After all, using Wish to reverse the alignment change feels entirely reasonable. Just to take the obvious example - I would not be surprised if crafty players can come up with other spells and effects as well)

My question again: do you recall any "class-neutral" rule or scenario from previous decades of D&D where a similar character-dooming decision is made?
 
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muppetmuppet

Explorer
not keen on your current mechanics but can't think of a good way to do what you want. I await some good replies.


Ok thought a bit more. How about either the change to LE is slow and the failed die roll merely indicates that the artifact is changing the person but there might be ways he can be saved . Either by the rest of the group destroying the artifact or otherwise negating its change.

This seems a lot fairer than you lose your character
 
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Nagol

Unimportant
Maybe hard to find a thread title that makes sense, but here's the deal.

My players have found an item (the heart of an ancient green dragon per Medieval Melodies blog, if you're interested) that provides plenty of cool benefits. The original description, however, says you turn Lawful Evil and that this "may" turn you into a NPC under the control of the DM.

Now, I personally use "no evilz" in my campaign. Making an exception here doesn't feel right. Which means that if I follow the suggested rule that makes the item unusable by player characters. Thing is, I don't want to uselessness the item this way. :)

We're gamers at heart so using dice feels natural to us. What I do want is: the cost of donning the item is a risk of becoming evil and thus possibly facing character retirement. I want only those players willing to risk having to switch characters for story reasons to apply for this item. If a player would be upset or angry he or she should simply pass.

Now then: what precedent in the history of D&D is there for this kind of die roll?

Making it a specific skill check or save feels unfair - there's nothing about this item that says it should only be usable to certain characters (except draconic sorcerers I guess). I don't want to pretty much exclude half the group based simply by the class or ability choices they made more than a year ago at level 1.

Instead I'm looking at 5E and seeing how Death saves are equal to all (or mostly all) characters. The risk of Wish turning bad is also a set percentage.

Is there any AD&D or Pathfinder (or any other edition) specific mechanism that would cover what I'm trying to do here.

Fair warning: My inclination is to make it a straight 15% risk. That is, rolling d100 (so no d20-roll abilities come into play) and if you get 86-00 you turn Lawful Evil and one thing is certain: the item and its benefits are lost. So this thread is more of a "let's ask ENWorld so I'm not missing out on something cool" thread.

(I would say "your previous flaws, traits and bonds are replaced" and even "your character is retired" but since the party is level 16 I am leaving this part open. After all, using Wish to reverse the alignment change feels entirely reasonable. Just to take the obvious example - I would not be surprised if crafty players can come up with other spells and effects as well)

My question again: do you recall any "class-neutral" rule or scenario from previous decades of D&D where a similar character-dooming decision is made?
In 1E, Polymorph Other has a process for the target to lose personality. It was checked daily, so you'd want to tone that down or not depending on if the item's use is discretionary.

Other possibilities include 1E's "Swords vs. Characters" check for intelligent weapons.
 
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Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
You could run it similar to intelligent items from the DMG where it's a charisma save based on the charisma of the dragon or the bearer is charmed for 12 hours. Of course "charmed" isn't domination in 5E, the item would just have really good ideas and you realize afterwords what happened. You could always start the DC out lower and then after a failed charm go to dominated go to alignment change.

Or make it a fight. Not sure how high a level the party is, but have the item help them a few times. Then during a dream sequence, they get offered a choice. Join the dragon or die. Maybe this happens a few times with the party not getting the benefit of a full rest until they figure out a way to defeat the dragon permanently

Start giving them visions. Do like some TV shows do where you have a short vignette where think the king is really an evil monster they must slay only to realize they had just killed the king and his guards. Have them "wake up" and it was all a dream.

There are those and other ways of having some fun slowly corrupting the bearer of the heart but the real trick is that they need to somehow cleanse or control the heart if you want them to continue using it. So have them do a side quest, but make it a bit risky. If they succeed, great. They have an awesome item. Fail? They become NPCs and a future nemesis. Let your players decide if it's worth the risk.
 

Blue

Orcus on a bad hair day
Permanent character retirement is even more harsh then save-or-die. The 5e way of handling those seems to be to put in place multiple rolls.

How about this:
Requires attunement. Can not be re-attuned while the being it it attuned to lives.
On use, make a death save. On failure, gain 1 permanent Evil Inclinations mark. When you gain the third, you turn LE and your character is retired.

Optional: Gaining a level and the Wish spell each will remove 1 Evil Inclinations mark - once each. (So not each level gained, just the first after gaining the first EI.)

This gives a mounting sense of tension, but also gives a few "safe" uses which they will likely horde. The chance of happening in exactly 3 uses is a bit less than 15%, but a greater chance over a large number of uses.

You could also grant a -2 to saves vs. charm and fear for each EI mark, or some other occasionally-in-play reminder of the dangers of playing with Evil.
 

dnd4vr

Adventurer
My question again: do you recall any "class-neutral" rule or scenario from previous decades of D&D where a similar character-dooming decision is made?
I will see if I can remember the source, but I DO know there was once some cursed artifacts that if the characters took them, each day the possessor had to make a Wisdom check/save DC 15. With each failure, the DC increased by 1. If they had three failures before three successes (similar to Death saves, maybe where they got the idea even...), they become Chaotic Evil and an NPC. If a character becomes evil, it is a greater story line to try to help them.

Also, as a DM, I allow Lawful Evil characters in my games. They have never been a problem really since Lawful Evil will work with the group and can be convinced to even help out if you present it with the right angle. :)
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
You could tweak the item and make it so that instead of making the PC lawful evil, it causes the PC to blank out and commit an evil act under your control. Sort of like how lycanthropy works. That keeps the PC whatever alignment he was, since he's not the once choosing to do evil, but still allows the item to have the detriment it was intended to have.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
That keeps the PC whatever alignment he was, since he's not the once choosing to do evil...
Until they figure out what is going on - because allowing an evil to continue just because it is advantageous to you isn't good.

This makes it kind of a time bomb. They get to use it for a while, but eventually they figure out what it is doing, and at that point, they have a choice.

Really want to be a real jerk about it? If they decide to ditch or destroy the item, it takes a last gasp at self-preservation, asserting control over a PC, who the party must fight to get the item back... :p
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
Until they figure out what is going on - because allowing an evil to continue just because it is advantageous to you isn't good.

This makes it kind of a time bomb. They get to use it for a while, but eventually they figure out what it is doing, and at that point, they have a choice.

Really want to be a real jerk about it? If they decide to ditch or destroy the item, it takes a last gasp at self-preservation, asserting control over a PC, who the party must fight to get the item back... :p
It could. Perhaps, though, they really need the artifact for some other good act. Then it becomes an issue of do the ends justify the means, which can be a great test of character. Perhaps the party thinks they can keep him in check during those episodes. Can they or can't they? Time will tell.

Lots of fun ways it could go. :)
 

5ekyu

Adventurer
If you want it to be class neutral, i would consider for this item adding a seventh attribute - akin to sanity - that only comes unto play in such cases. Use of the item gradually degrades the sanity producing short term or long term problems and eventually the new "better" you emerges dominant.

Past editions and other games use this kind of wear down - cyberpunk and cthulu right off the bat.

But also this gets you an elegant hook/bait, as you can have certain abikities of rhe item manifest for lower sanity scores. The more you give in the more you get back.
 

CapnZapp

Adventurer
In 1E, Polymorph Other has a process for the target to lose personality. It was checked daily, so you'd want to tone that down or not depending on if the item's use is discretionary.

Other possibilities include 1E's "Swords vs. Characters" check for intelligent weapons.
I will have to check it out!
 

CapnZapp

Adventurer
You could run it similar to intelligent items from the DMG where it's a charisma save
If I intended the item for the Sorcerer (Bard, Paladin etc) then yes, absolutely.

But in this case I'm looking for class-neutral challenges.

Visions and quests: thank you.
 

CapnZapp

Adventurer
So have them do a side quest, but make it a bit risky. If they succeed, great. They have an awesome item. Fail? They become NPCs and a future nemesis. Let your players decide if it's worth the risk.
That sounds great, except that players very seldom fail things.

Failing a die roll, absolutely.

But failing what effectively is a scenario? What would that mean, if it isn't up to chance. That the party loses a combat? Suddenly the problem becomes avoiding a TPK.

I'm sure there are players that understand and appreciate losses and failure. Not mine though. Not making individual die rolls, yes. But otherwise you can bet they will use every trick available to them to not fail or die trying.

Long-winded reply just to say the suggestion is fine, but possibly not for my players...
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
For completeness, there's the option of nerfing the item to the point where having a risk of losing your character is no longer called for to balance it.

Or, change the penalty to something that isn't all-or-nothing for the PC. Like, "you get to use the item, but to the general public you get disadvantage on all Charisma based checks..." or the like.
 

CapnZapp

Adventurer
Permanent character retirement is even more harsh then save-or-die. The 5e way of handling those seems to be to put in place multiple rolls.

How about this:
Requires attunement. Can not be re-attuned while the being it it attuned to lives.
On use, make a death save. On failure, gain 1 permanent Evil Inclinations mark. When you gain the third, you turn LE and your character is retired.

Optional: Gaining a level and the Wish spell each will remove 1 Evil Inclinations mark - once each. (So not each level gained, just the first after gaining the first EI.)

This gives a mounting sense of tension, but also gives a few "safe" uses which they will likely horde. The chance of happening in exactly 3 uses is a bit less than 15%, but a greater chance over a large number of uses.

You could also grant a -2 to saves vs. charm and fear for each EI mark, or some other occasionally-in-play reminder of the dangers of playing with Evil.
I like your gamist thinking.

Do be aware that death saves are subject to several possible modifications, of which my players are likely aware of more than I myself know of.

Of course if the failure probability after intense min-maxing is around 15% then the joke's on them. (In that case I bow to your superior DnD playing skills!)
 

CapnZapp

Adventurer
I will see if I can remember the source, but I DO know there was once some cursed artifacts that if the characters took them, each day the possessor had to make a Wisdom check/save DC 15. With each failure, the DC increased by 1. If they had three failures before three successes (similar to Death saves, maybe where they got the idea even...), they become Chaotic Evil and an NPC. If a character becomes evil, it is a greater story line to try to help them.

Also, as a DM, I allow Lawful Evil characters in my games. They have never been a problem really since Lawful Evil will work with the group and can be convinced to even help out if you present it with the right angle. :)
Yes I am aware the AL allows LE and that this is not out of the ordinary. In my case however, I'm not too keen on retreating from my ruling from years ago.

Again, since this item is (nearly) equally useful for all characters, I want to avoid challenges some classes find much easier than others (Clerics and Druids in your case).

If the item was meant for only some classes, a specific ability save makes much more sense. Divine casters all have it easy; arcane casters all have it rough. In both cases the chosen mechanism doesn't play favorites, given the intended audience.

But if "every sort of hero" is that audience, as in this case, I would like to avoid keying the challenge to any given ability score (skill, save etc).
 

TwoSix

Lover of things you hate
As a power-gamer, I wouldn't just be measuring the possibility of character loss; I'd also be looking at the power level delta between my established character and a replacement character. (I could do a lot with a fresh 15th-16th level character!)

If your character replacement rules are generous, feel free to make the risk large. If character replacement is problematic, you need to make the risk smaller and/or demonstrate that fixing the alignment change is a possible avenue to get the players to jump on the item and take on the risk.
 

ART!

Explorer
Limiting the use of magic items to characters of certain classes or alignments is totally a thing D&D does, if that's helpful.
 

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