"straight" rolls in D&D

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
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.
If you can fix the alignment change, it isn't really a risk, though. Or, it is only as risky as the fix is...
 

Hriston

Explorer
The items on the altar in the Chapel of Evil Chaos from B2 come to mind:

For each character who picks up one of these objects, the DM should have the character roll a saving throw vs. Magic at -2. Any who save successfully will get a “feeling of great evil” about the object, and he or she may voluntarily put it down. If the save fails, the character will rapidly fall under the influence of a demonic spell and within 6 days become a servant of chaos and evil, returning to this chapel to replace the relics, and then staying as a guard forever after. <snip> If the character who has taken them has a dispel magic and then a bless spell cast upon him or her, there is a 60% chance of removing the evil on the first day, 50% on the 2nd, 40% on the 3rd, 30% on the 4th. 20% on the 5th, and 10% on the 6th. Otherwise, nothing will be able to save the character!)​

This isn't class-neutral, as some classes are better at saves vs. magic than others in the editions for which this module was written, but I think the way in which there is a gradually diminishing chance of reversing the effect might have some application.
 

TwoSix

Lover of things you hate
If you can fix the alignment change, it isn't really a risk, though. Or, it is only as risky as the fix is...
Depends on if diverting the narrative and/or expending party resources would be considered a negative in CapnZapp's game. From the overall tenor of his posts, I think it might be, but of course I can't know for sure.
 

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
If you have a sub-plot of removing the alignment change aspect, consider an alternative. Make it an incredibly difficult task. Make it a quadruple deadly encounter if you have to. If the party fails, it's not a TPK, the only long term result is that they missed their one shot to "fix" the item. They can't even destroy it if they wanted to.

At that point they have a dilemma. Continue to use the item risking becoming evil NPCs or never use it again, but that risks the item calling out to a more amenable party. Let them know ahead of time what's going to happen. There's a McGuffin that can be used to destroy the item once they know what's happening but it might, maybe, just possibly be able to change it as well.

As far as LE being allowed in the party, I agree with [MENTION=12731]CapnZapp[/MENTION]. Just because a person is lawful doesn't mean they won't (or shouldn't) sooner or later kill off other PCs. It's just that when they do it they'll let you know that "it's nothing personal".
 

CapnZapp

Adventurer
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.
The completionist in me thanks you! ;)

Or, change the penalty to something that isn't all-or-nothing for the PC.
Maybe I should detail exactly what the original thingamagog says:

1 Ancient Green Dragon Heart: If a humanoid creature’s heart is removed or damaged in some way, the dragon’s heart can be placed in the wound. This saves the creature’s life, and confers the following benefits: The creature’s Strength, Constitution, and Charisma increase by 2, to a maximum of 22. The creature gains one use of the Legendary Resistance trait (once per day, if the creature fails a saving throw, it may choose to succeed instead). The creature gains immunity to poison damage, a flying speed equal to their walking speed, and darkvision out to 120 feet. Additionally, the creature’s alignment becomes Lawful Evil if it wasn’t already, and they may become an NPC under the DM’s control.
http://medievalmelodies.blogspot.com/2017/07/creature-loot-d-is-for-dragons-and-few.html
Pretty phat lewt wouldn't you agree... :)

When I read the first line aloud to the players, it was the first time I read it myself as well. Thinking it was a bit strange and unpractical (isn't a dragon heart larger than the entire torso?), I ruled on the fly it meant the target was subject to a Revivify spell.

Since I'm responding to a completionist :cool:, I should probably add that this particular ancient green had lived for its entire lifespan inside the prison-ziggurat of Mauratal, and gotten the Shadow Dragon template as a result. (In short: the immunity is to necrotic, not poison).

I also reserved the right to not make the alignment change automatic (since I disallowed LE heroes years ago and don't wish to back-pedal that decision just for this). Which leads us to: this thread! :)
 

Tormyr

Adventurer
I think the wish mechanic works well here: a percentage chance that it turns the character lawful evil. Whether that follows the 33% of the wish spell or some other percentage, each time it is used carries a risk. This means that it cannot be mitigated by other class features.

Another way to do this: as a magical item, it fits into the chest cavity of the creature the same way other magic items can resize. Once in the creature, it functions as a sentient item, tempting the PC toward the lawful evil path. Any time the PC uses the legendary resistance, roll a d20. Also roll a d20 with disadvantage if they ever give in to the lawful evil suggestions of the sentient heart. They turn lawful evil on a 1.
 

CapnZapp

Adventurer
Depends on if diverting the narrative and/or expending party resources would be considered a negative in CapnZapp's game. From the overall tenor of his posts, I think it might be, but of course I can't know for sure.
A bit too many double negatives there for me to follow, but I think I should say: yes :p

Diverting the narrative isn't a cost that makes my players avoid power-ups. My players are generally fine with the story taking whatever path, as long as it gives them opportunities to excel in combat.

The sure-fire way to make my players avoid something, on the other hand, is if it represents personal failure on some level, with the ultimate cost being permanent penalties (fewer hit points, lower attack bonuses, etc).

Even "your character is dead/retired" is preferable to having to keep playing a character below maximum efficiency. There is a reason players dreaded "level drain"...

So a "cost" of "as penance you must slay three dragons" is considered a straight reward.

A cost that says "this item carries a 15% risk of permanent, non-removable, -1 proficiency bonus" would be avoided like the plague.

Since I know this, I don't want to offer narrative costs, and I don't want to slap permanent penalties onto characters either. Losing the character seems like cutting directly to the case and offering a compromise.

Before we ended the session it seems there were three players interested: the barbarian, monk and rogue. The paladin abstained because that character is so clearly anti darkness/evil/undeath. The druid abstained simply because none of the three ability scores were among his desired trio (Dex, Int, Wis) and because he already got flight. The sorcerer was on the edge (or gave an unclear answer).
 

CapnZapp

Adventurer
If you have a sub-plot of removing the alignment change aspect, consider an alternative. Make it an incredibly difficult task. Make it a quadruple deadly encounter if you have to. If the party fails, it's not a TPK, the only long term result is that they missed their one shot to "fix" the item. They can't even destroy it if they wanted to.

At that point they have a dilemma. Continue to use the item risking becoming evil NPCs or never use it again, but that risks the item calling out to a more amenable party. Let them know ahead of time what's going to happen. There's a McGuffin that can be used to destroy the item once they know what's happening but it might, maybe, just possibly be able to change it as well.
That is a definite path. Only I am repeatedly accused for making combat very deadly as is :cool: so I will probably not choose this one here...

As far as LE being allowed in the party, I agree with [MENTION=12731]CapnZapp[/MENTION]. Just because a person is lawful doesn't mean they won't (or shouldn't) sooner or later kill off other PCs. It's just that when they do it they'll let you know that "it's nothing personal".
To be clear: I don't mind any other DM allowing LE characters.

I would probably not create a LE character myself, seeing that everything I would want to do with a selfish or immoral or cold character I can do equally well with a Neutral character. That I am not "legally evil" is not a problem since I would never act against my team anyway. If a curse etc forced my alignment to LE (and the DM was cool with that) I would keep on playing, assuming the DM either a) doesn't care, b) allows my alignment to drift back out of evil or c) at the very least doesn't try to force me to take actions against my team to confirm my new alignment. If the character was compelled to act against his team in ways I could not (or was not allowed to) prevent I would simply ask the DM to make him or her a NPC and roll up a new character voluntarily.

Characters betraying their parties "for reasons" is not how our particular group like to spend our limited play time, so that was not a concern. My reason was simply selfish - to avoid having to deal with "edgy" characters. ;)
 

77IM

Explorer!!!
I treat alignment as purely descriptive, not prescriptive: your alignment is based on your actions, it doesn't determine your actions. You can write whatever you want on your character sheet, but if you do a lot of lawful evil things, at some point the cosmos is going to treat you as Lawful Evil. In this approach, you also can't become Lawful Evil unless you do a lot of lawful evil things.

So at my table, the item wouldn't make a character Lawful Evil, it would force the character to commit specific lawful evil acts. If they keep it, and keep doing lawful evil things, they'll eventually turn Lawful Evil. Just like any other character would, whether they are cursed by an item or not.
 

CapnZapp

Adventurer
I think the wish mechanic works well here: a percentage chance that it turns the character lawful evil. Whether that follows the 33% of the wish spell or some other percentage, each time it is used carries a risk. This means that it cannot be mitigated by other class features.
I obviously think this is well said :cool:

Another way to do this: as a magical item, it fits into the chest cavity of the creature the same way other magic items can resize. Once in the creature, it functions as a sentient item, tempting the PC toward the lawful evil path. Any time the PC uses the legendary resistance, roll a d20. Also roll a d20 with disadvantage if they ever give in to the lawful evil suggestions of the sentient heart. They turn lawful evil on a 1.
Something like this is straight-up better, offering better story potential.

But.

The campaign is on its last legs. Once they defeat/circumvent Lord Quomec they will level up to 17.

So I will probably save this "over time" mechanism for an item that happens at level 2 or 5.

PS. Please note that if you tie it to the legendary save, one pragmatic way of looking at it is: congrats you've just created an awesome item that just happens to not offer any legendary save ;) What I mean by that is the times a character absolutely positively must succeed at a save are relatively rare. It's not like for a monster, where it happens all the time.
 

77IM

Explorer!!!
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?
Several editions of Star Wars RPGs feature the idea of "Dark Side Points." Doing evil things or drawing on the power of the Dark Side gets you points, and when you have enough points, you become an NPC. Other games have similar features (e.g. Fading Suns' urge and hubris ratings).

So if you really want to implement this forced-alignment-conversion thing, I would do something similar, and track points. When the character has enough points, they turn into an NPC. The closest analog in 5E that I can think of is the Loyalty system in the DMG. The progressive madness rules in Out of the Abyss may also be worth looking at.
 

CapnZapp

Adventurer
I treat alignment as purely descriptive, not prescriptive: your alignment is based on your actions, it doesn't determine your actions. You can write whatever you want on your character sheet, but if you do a lot of lawful evil things, at some point the cosmos is going to treat you as Lawful Evil. In this approach, you also can't become Lawful Evil unless you do a lot of lawful evil things.

So at my table, the item wouldn't make a character Lawful Evil, it would force the character to commit specific lawful evil acts. If they keep it, and keep doing lawful evil things, they'll eventually turn Lawful Evil. Just like any other character would, whether they are cursed by an item or not.
That is certainly one way of running it.

Obviously this can't come as a surprise to the players.

Out of curiosity: could you give an example from practical play when you have forced a player of yours to take or not take a particular action? Or does this apply only to Evil? (Which is obviously fine. It would mean you share some of my disposition though)
 

77IM

Explorer!!!
Two things about wish to keep in mind if you go with a flat percentage:
1. The players know the percentage in wish and the consequences are well understood too.
2. Failing is bad but doesn't retire your character.

Would your players activate an item that had a 15% chance of killing their character permanently? Mine would only do that in like the last encounter of the campaign, and only if it made a huge difference.
 

77IM

Explorer!!!
Out of curiosity: could you give an example from practical play when you have forced a player of yours to take or not take a particular action?
Only under magical compulsion.

Usually when my PCs turn evil it is entirely voluntary. ;}
 

CapnZapp

Adventurer
Several editions of Star Wars RPGs feature the idea of "Dark Side Points." Doing evil things or drawing on the power of the Dark Side gets you points, and when you have enough points, you become an NPC. Other games have similar features (e.g. Fading Suns' urge and hubris ratings).

So if you really want to implement this forced-alignment-conversion thing, I would do something similar, and track points. When the character has enough points, they turn into an NPC. The closest analog in 5E that I can think of is the Loyalty system in the DMG. The progressive madness rules in Out of the Abyss may also be worth looking at.
The good suggestions keep rolling in. *thumbs up*

As I have hinted above, however, in this particular case I'm looking for something with an immediate on-off effect. Not because other options are bad, but because players might bet on the fact the campaign ends before they have to pay any real price.

But this is a good thread for future reference.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Pretty phat lewt wouldn't you agree... :)
It is quite impressive. I am not sure I would introduce that level of power to one PC and not have it carry some major long-term detriment, rather than a one-time risk. But that's me.

When I read the first line aloud to the players, it was the first time I read it myself as well.
And I think that's where your real problem is. The players now know that's the text.

For real effect, this should have been positioned like the "Head of Vecna": to use this item, someone has to shove a sword through your fraggin' heart!!!1!! They should not have been sure this wasn't a hoax, or that they'd survive the attempt, or exactly what the powers gained should be. And it probably should have been described as a dusty, flaky, shriveled old heart-raisin that's been steeped in a slightly sticky resin. The point should have been that only a crazy and power-mad character should have been willing to try it at all - the alignment change is then kind of superfluous. :p

Oh, wait. Here we go. That is the text.... but it is metaphorical! It is referring to a person who has had their true love reject them, or taken from them, so that they are in desperation and despair, a broken person with nobody and nothing to lose, and the alignment change is then merely a last step of their descent to villain-hood.

Then, all the people who are merely power-mad stab themselves in the heart, but since they are the sorts incapable of feeling true love, they just bleed and die, as their hearts cannot be broken.

Thinking it was a bit strange and unpractical (isn't a dragon heart larger than the entire torso?)
Or... play it that way. The PC now has this giant semi-undead heart permanently sticking out of their chest cavity that can never really close again. Good luck finding a romantic partner that isn't crazier than you are.... :p
 

CapnZapp

Adventurer
Two things about wish to keep in mind if you go with a flat percentage:
1. The players know the percentage in wish and the consequences are well understood too.
2. Failing is bad but doesn't retire your character.

Would your players activate an item that had a 15% chance of killing their character permanently? Mine would only do that in like the last encounter of the campaign, and only if it made a huge difference.
Noted.

The idea isn't for the character to be killed though. To have a 15% "you must retire and replace your character" consequence is mainly meant to cut directly to the point, since most crunch penalties will eventually mean that anyway. Call it cynical and I call it expedient :)


But I'll bite - okay so what could be an interesting consequence of failing? What would correspond to never being able to cast Wish again?

You can never take flight? Vulnerability to <s>poison</s>necrotic? It is hard to find a consequence that does not meaningfully gimp the character in regular play, yet means definite pain that cannot be trivialized.

Getting your traits/bonds/etc replaced with entries from some lawful evil dragony table (if one exists) would be kind of cool. Maybe I need to check up on the various DnD indexes there is...
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
But I'll bite - okay so what could be an interesting consequence of failing? What would correspond to never being able to cast Wish again?
Being considered undead and draconic with respect to powers, abilities, and spells? Dragon-slaying swords hurt you more, and you can be turned by a cleric, are only healed by "cause wounds" spells, and such?

Having every dracolich on planet now want to eat you, because this will bring them back to their full physical glory, without all that tedious mucking about with being actually living?
 

vincegetorix

Jewel of the North
In Adventure in Middle-Earth some items from the hoard of evil creatures have a set chance on being tainted(1 in 6 for less creatures, up to 3 in 6 for the hoard of dragons or Nazguls). Upon gaining the item, you gain a set number shadow points nd some more shadow points if the character fails a flat DC 15 roll. If your number of shadow points is higher than your Wis score, you become Miserable (dis. on all attack and social checks). The first time you fail a check while Miserable, you suffer a bout of madness, more or less the effect of Confusion (see Boromir at then end of Fellowship). Once you suffered X bout of madness you become an NPC (4 in AiME, but you could decide on another number, or just skip the bout of madness and say the character goes evil after the shadow point score goes higher than the PC's Wis score.

Hope this may help with your search
 

77IM

Explorer!!!
Another idea for a staged roll-out is that each time they use the item there is a chance that they "move one step closer to Lawful Evil." This would mean that Chaotic Good characters can hold out the longest, first becoming NG, then N, then LN, then LE. A character who's already LN should probably not be handling this magic item. This does make some characters more resistant to the item, but it's not based on class or ability score or save modifer; it's based purely on alignment, which kinda makes sense to me in this context.

I'm pretty sure I've seen the language "move one step closer to <alignment>" used for various magical effects (like items and planar properties) over the years but an example doesn't come to mind. But I don't think I'm making it up (I don't think I could make it up).
 

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