Things I don't like about the 4E DMG - part 1 of 1000

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Lizard

Explorer
"Well, you can't use it when it would really be disruptful" is what the excerpt seems to be saying.

Define "disruptful" as a way which differs from "useful". As I read it, the advice is saying, "Only allow scrying if you NEED them to scry to move the plot forward; otherwise, ban it."

On the 4e rules forum, there is a thread about a level 5 Rogue Daily which some DMs don't like because -- surprise! -- it's very effective at stopping a particular type of monster. Precisely the type of monster it was DESIGNED to be effective against.

In a thread on the preview of the Adventurer's Vault II, a particularly cool-sounding item was deemed "pre-banned" by some DMs because it would "ruin" their encounters.

I simply don't get that attitude or where it came from; I now know -- it was apparently explicitly encouraged in the DMG. (I blooped over all the 'DM advice stuff' -- there's nothing there of use or interest to me. So I missed these little "gems".)


I don't think the advice is so good though. If I'm trying to hide secrets from scrying PCs I'll block the scrying attempt with a Forbiddance spell or perhaps a more powerful ritual/artifact/gubbin of my own devising, or will generally have a good reason for why the PC's attempts failed. "Uhh, you just didn't describe him good" wouldn't fly with my PCs probably, so I'd be like "FOOL! It was only one of Mr. BBEG's MANY DISGUISES!"

The thing is, if I was writing the 4e DMG, my advice on Scrying would be:
"Scrying is very expensive and only lasts a short time. If the players invest in a Scrying ritual, feel free to arrange things so what they see makes the expense worthwhile -- don't show them the bad guy taking a bath or peacfully asleep! Make sure they see him working on an evil plot, or meeting with an advisor they can then track down and interrogate."
 

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chaotix42

First Post
Define "disruptful" as a way which differs from "useful". As I read it, the advice is saying, "Only allow scrying if you NEED them to scry to move the plot forward; otherwise, ban it."

[sblock]If my players had used scrying at several stages of the Age of Worms or Savage Tide adventure path a lot of surprises would have been spoiled. If the PCs had seen Greyhawk's legendary first death knight before he came charging out on his massive steed I'd have been sorely pissed. Thankfully any secrets I had to protect were under the lock & key of numerous abjurations.[/sblock]

Other than that I actually haven't had many problems with scrying hit-n-runs in 3e. When my PCs scryed sometimes I gave them something useful, or something obtuse. I haven't had to deal with scrying in 4e because it's a 24th level ritual! I hope my PCs use it when they eventually get there, because they're hardly using rituals now!

On the 4e rules forum, there is a thread about a level 5 Rogue Daily which some DMs don't like because -- surprise! -- it's very effective at stopping a particular type of monster. Precisely the type of monster it was DESIGNED to be effective against.

In a thread on the preview of the Adventurer's Vault II, a particularly cool-sounding item was deemed "pre-banned" by some DMs because it would "ruin" their encounters.

I simply don't get that attitude or where it came from; I now know -- it was apparently explicitly encouraged in the DMG. (I blooped over all the 'DM advice stuff' -- there's nothing there of use or interest to me. So I missed these little "gems".)

:uhoh: Yah, umm, those DMs = not me. I haven't banned anything yet and good times have been had by all - 6 players and DM. Combat in 4e seems to take longer and we don't get to play as often as some would like though. :erm:

The thing is, if I was writing the 4e DMG, my advice on Scrying would be: "Scrying is very expensive and only lasts a short time. If the players invest in a Scrying ritual, feel free to arrange things so what they see makes the expense worthwhile -- don't show them the bad guy taking a bath or peacfully asleep! Make sure they see him working on an evil plot, or meeting with an advisor they can then track down and interrogate."

Seems pretty sound to me. I also think "no" as an answer has its place too, and there should have been some good examples as to how a DM can go about re-routing the PCs into an area less disruptful to the game. Having the scrying attempt occur when the BBEG is meeting with his previously-unknown contact or advisor is great advice that can lead to numerous adventures!
 

Wonka

First Post
Are there really going to be 999 more posts that take a fairly well written and argued OP and try to derail the entire thread with endless streams of "IBTL!" (god, I wish people got banned for that), "edition wars! woot!", catcalls for the moderators (there are buttons and such if you want to report something), etc... until they heat up the blood of everyone else in the thread enough to succeed in their goal of locking the thread? Cause that's what annoys the crap out of me.

Thing is, I dont think its a fairly well written argument. Its ranting and raving, while he has a point there, he, IMO, completely takes any weight his point might carry and flushes it down the toilet by spewing out hateful and needless insults to Wyatt. If hateful speech is well written, all the scathing followups are just as well written.
 

catsclaw227

First Post
On the 4e rules forum, there is a thread about a level 5 Rogue Daily which some DMs don't like because -- surprise! -- it's very effective at stopping a particular type of monster. Precisely the type of monster it was DESIGNED to be effective against.

In a thread on the preview of the Adventurer's Vault II, a particularly cool-sounding item was deemed "pre-banned" by some DMs because it would "ruin" their encounters.

I simply don't get that attitude or where it came from; I now know -- it was apparently explicitly encouraged in the DMG. (I blooped over all the 'DM advice stuff' -- there's nothing there of use or interest to me. So I missed these little "gems".)
Yea, I am not one of those DMs either.

I wouldn't say that this attitude you are talking about was explicitly encouraged in the DMG. As stated before, it was a very poorly worded suggestion or simply one instance of bad advice among loads of good advice.

The "DM advice stuff" in the 4e DMG is pretty darn good and I am an experienced DM.

The thing is, if I was writing the 4e DMG, my advice on Scrying would be:
"Scrying is very expensive and only lasts a short time. If the players invest in a Scrying ritual, feel free to arrange things so what they see makes the expense worthwhile -- don't show them the bad guy taking a bath or peacfully asleep! Make sure they see him working on an evil plot, or meeting with an advisor they can then track down and interrogate."
This is good advice.

I don't let scrying become as much of a crutch as it was experienced by others in 3.x, but I wouldn't outright screw anyone with it. I have always played (since 1e) that scrying and teleport are rare, tough and, in the case of teleport, potentially dangerous.
 

pogre

Legend
I was really put off by the OP's title and his approach to starting the thread, but at the heart of the complaint I agree.

Now, I have to admit his approach was effective and ingenious. If he had stated calmly that the section he quoted seemed like bad advice for cutting out the players' legs - most would have passed the thread by.

I think the OP has a future in call-in radio!
 

Cryptos

First Post
It does seem to fly in the face of the other major advice to come out of the DMG: the "Yes, but..." principle.

If one is determined to prevent a scrying effort, that would be as in "Yes, but when you view the fae prince in his domicile, it allows him to channel his power through the scrying window and he hits the party with a wave of pure arcane forces" or "Yes, but it's pitch dark where he is... he must be able to see in the dark, but you can't, so all you see is blackness..."

Such things are much, much more palatable than telling the player, "you didn't do it right" if things aren't going according to the DM's plan.

Although the presentation of the original post could have used a little work, I have to agree that this is not one of the 4e DMG's finer points.

I'm also actually kind of amazed that DMs worry about this... maybe it comes from the amount of time I've spent on Mage, where every one of the characters is like a walking, talking magical tricorder with information-providing spells that come as easily as breathing. In that light, my own advice in terms of handling rituals or spells that provide information: If your entire plot hinges on the players not finding out one thing, you don't really have a plot, just an easily unraveled series of encounters. Try harder. Don't get hung up on what the players don't know, shouldn't know, or can find out but rather on what happens when they DO find out.
 
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malraux

First Post
Lizard, the 4e DMG also advises DMs to use the "just say yes" philosophy, so it probably has both elements. I also think that now that scry has been moved up to a very high level, its unfair to advise DMs to nerf it if they weren't prepared. The point of epic play is to use lots of power.
 

SHARK

First Post
Greetings!

*Wicked Laugh*:)

I *love it* when my players use various scrying spells. Of course, I've modified them. Using them is always risky, unpredictable, and dangerous.

They may very well see whatever it is they seek...and regret it--as a pack of Glabrezu appear, and carry them off screaming into some blasphemous plane of hellfire and damnation!;)

Semper Fidelis,

SHARK
 

Sir Brennen

Legend
I dunno...I remember back when 4E was announced. There was a distinct "roleplaying has sucked for too long/we are going to change roleplaying forever!" vibe resonating out of WotC at that time.
There was a distinct "the previous edition's mechanics had some (severe) problems/we are going to do a fresh (aka "cool") take on the mechanics". I never got a sense they were out to change roleplaying, which the example of White Wolf clearly did have a strong opinion presented in their books. Two completely different things.

The problem isn't the subject, nor the OP, it's the people posting antagonistic crap in response.
The OP did have some pretty harsh personal comments leveled at the designer, so I don't see anyone casting the first stone.

While I agree that by RAW, the statement in the DMG was poorly worded, I am guessing that the spirit of the advice was to simply tell a DM that if their plot path with 15 hours of work will be hijacked by a ritual, it's OK to have it not work as expected.

A new DM could become very flustered by this and may well see the long, hard work on their campaign dashed, not by the ritual, but by DM inexperience with planning these things. It's OK to keep your train on the tracks, but learn from it and try to better foresee something like this in the future.
This. PCs change the storyline and screw with the villains via "brilliant ideas" as Rel says, fine. Reward them for their ingenuity. Perhaps the DM might engineer an escape for the villain, though his plan is in ruins, to allow the campaign story to continue, though altered by the PC's victory.

However, simply using the Observe Creature ritual as written isn't in the ballpark of "brilliant idea". If the DM discovers that he's been caught with his pants down for not taking into account something the party has access to among the dozens (and dozens) of other resources the PCs have at that level, it's OK if he does a little side-stepping to prevent the campaign from becoming completely derailed. A little. When absolutely necessary. This much I agree with the spirit of the DMG advice.

Also, it should be pointed out that the OP left out the next sentence in the section he quoted, which contained some more useful advice:
"Also, remember that high-level villains have access to the same rituals that the characters do, including wards they can use to protect themselves from scrying attempts."​

However, I also think that the example is pretty flawed. One, the wording of the suggestion to prevent the ritual from throwing a monkeywrench into the plot is a bit ambiguous. My reading is not that is says "tell the player he did it wrong", though one might interpret it that way. Rather, it says the DM can make the decision that the description wasn't specific enough. He doesn't have to tell the player this, just make a mental note of it.

With Observe Creature, there are so many ways the DM could legitimately cause the ritual to fail, that if he keeps mum about those reasons, he can not only save his plot, but gets to gleefully watch the players self destruct into fits of paranoia. "What? Did we not get the description right? Maybe Zorg shape-changed or took over someone else's body. Is he dead? Nah. Is he? Maybe he's on another plane. That massive golem he was working on, did he place his consciousness into it? Maybe he got someone to cast Forbiddance for him. We have to find the ritualist and kill them so they don't maintain the ritual! Let's go!"

However, if the DM does block this ritual, he should ask himself why this is true in-game. This can be a springboard for ideas. Was the target actually on another plane when the PCs tried to scry him? Why was he there? Was Forbiddance the cause? Who did the villain ally himself with to get that cast? Perhaps the description was off. Why? Ah! The villain got an old 1st Edition Girdle of Femininity/Masculinity and put it on! What a reveal that will be when the PCs meet him/her again!

The main problem I have with the DMG example is... how plot wrecking can Observe Creature be? It's is already a bit of magic with DM control completely built in. And it only lasts 30 seconds, max. Not necessarily alot going to be learned in that amount of time.

In movies and books, scrying magic always seems to catch the target at the exact moment they're doing something incredibly important to the plot. How likely is that? They might just as easily be seen sitting on the crapper reading the newspaper. Okay, that might be a bit cruel to the PCs after they just dropped 20 grand to cast the ritual. But what the PCs see is completely in the DM's control. He can dole out any scene he wants, preferably giving the PCs something for their effort, but maybe something easily misinterpreted, important but not immediately clear why it is, or some information which the PCs can act on, but not spoil the whole plot. And really, most other rituals have the same sort of narrative controls built in where needed.

So, unless merely seeing the target to confirm their existence is the goal, and that confirmation will wreck the DM's plans, Observe Creature was just a bad example for the point the DMG was trying to get across, though it could have served as a nice one for discussing any of the things I mentioned above.

Define "disruptful" as a way which differs from "useful".
Useful may not always be disruptive, but disruptive usually means something that's so useful it's unbalanced, renders encounters unchallenging or could possibly circumvent large portions of an adventure the DM has spent a lot of time creating. 1st level PCs might find the magical equivalent of a neutron bomb "useful".

Lizard said:
On the 4e rules forum, there is a thread about a level 5 Rogue Daily which some DMs don't like because -- surprise! -- it's very effective at stopping a particular type of monster. Precisely the type of monster it was DESIGNED to be effective against.

In a thread on the preview of the Adventurer's Vault II, a particularly cool-sounding item was deemed "pre-banned" by some DMs because it would "ruin" their encounters.
Pre-banning is a bit silly, especially for a playtest article. Wait until the final published version is seen, at least. But if some DMs have judged something to be potentially

I simply don't get that attitude or where it came from; I now know -- it was apparently explicitly encouraged in the DMG.

There's nothing that says just because something is published in a D&D book, especially a supplement which comes out after I've started a campaign, that I have to alter my encounters and possibly storyline to have it in the game. I see nothing that says I, as a DM, have to not only memorize every power, feat, magic item and ritual all my players' characters have, but also be familiar with all the potential uses and abuses of these things beyond their obvious intent, and if I'm not, it's all my fault and I have to suck it up, challenging encounters, campaign and story be damned. And if a DM is aware of the potential for abuse, I don't see where he has to allow the mechanic in question if he doesn't want it.

I, for one, don't get that attitude or where it comes from. If I don't want something in my game, I don't have to have it in my game. (This is not to say banning should be done without some discussion with the players as to why you're doing it, especially if it affects existing characters.)

Plus, the OP citation of the DMG has nothing to do with banning. It's about existing rituals in play. The crux of the paragraph is this: "Don't give the characters less than they are entitled to, but don't let them short-circuit your whole adventure by using a ritual."
 
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gizmo33

First Post
Thing is, I dont think its a fairly well written argument. Its ranting and raving, while he has a point there, he, IMO, completely takes any weight his point might carry and flushes it down the toilet by spewing out hateful and needless insults to Wyatt. If hateful speech is well written, all the scathing followups are just as well written.

The thing is, it's really one one sentence in the entire post that has anything to do with Wyatt. The rest of the post is a critique of the idea he was putting forth in the quoted paragraph.

One paragraph - again, having nothing to do with Wyatt personally - was an analagous situation that, I thought, spelled out exactly what my issue was. In spite of that some of you seemed to have missed a key point (and some didn't.) That is the player was told that the reason his spell didn't work was that he didn't correctly specify the target. It's not that the DM doesn't have a right to decide at the last minute that the spell doesn't work, it's blaming it on the player that I found objectionable. But I already said all of this. Apparently this is insulting - so I must be doing it again.

Or cutting through the hyperbole, I can only find one place that I think could be construed as personal simply because it uses his name. I didn't say Wyatt wasn't acting like an adult, or anything like it. In fact, my statement assumed implicitly that he was an adult by the fact that I say OTHER adults. What I should have said instead of "adult" should have probably been "peer" - because that's what I was getting at.

I'm having to guess at what in particular you find insulting. I would not be surprised, given the lack of specificity, that the "insults" are really just the fact that I don't like part of the 4E DMG, and that fact somehow gets translated into something of significance in terms of a possible heresy. I really don't know. I'm either with you or against you I suppose.

In fact, I find nothing "needless" about the stuff that I said in this regard. What I meant by the "adult" statement I meant literally. It was hard for me to imagine a group of Wyatt's peers accepting that they were not competent enough in the English language and the philosophy of running a DnD game in order to be treated like this. In fact, my gut instinct is that he HASN'T actually done this in his games, and was writing this off the cuff. It's "hard for me to imagine" because it's not possible - that's really what I meant. I don't think Wyatt could make a practice of what he's describing here and not be called on it.
 

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