The thing that frustrates me in my simulated or not-simulated (which ever part of the aisle you're on) game is what sort of repercussions can a DM reasonably inject upon the characters when they foil a BBEG's plans?
mentioned this exact thing upthread.
The guide we have in the DMG is CR and level-appropriate encounter challenges.
That very idea though, I feel, flies in the face of a simulated reality.
What is worse is when you inject house rules, like we have done, that messes the entire maths of the game even further.
So what are my options really?
This is a mental stumbling block for me as all I ever do feels like a self-regulated table jerk. Illusionism essentially.
The PCs kill some bad guys at location #1. What does that mean for location #2 and the bad guys head-office? How fast is the bad-guy recruitment? How many bad guys were there to begin with? The PCs gain the support of xyz - how does that affect the final scenario with BBEG + forces?
Essentially I have to create mini-games/contests/possiblities within the game i.e. if A happens then b+d = the square root of more algebra.
But who says one cannot change that during play or during the actual encounter when you see things are not challenging enough or too challenging? I mean how often have we justified adding an extra 50 or 100 hit points onto the BBEG in the middle of combat to make it more exciting or thrown in a Legendary Action? I mean I got tired with the monsters in 5e as they became too easy so I started using monsters from Level Up. But even then I might still make a change here or there in combat. I do not necessarily do that all the time, but that ability to do it exists and no one would know. And it feels wishy-washy.
The other day the PCs fought in a 19-round combat, in which the environment changed at the will of the BBEG while he was shape-changing into any creature he desired that usually suited the environment. It essentially took place in his lair, a dimensional dream plane. It was a truly glorious session that ONLY consisted of those 19 combat rounds - yeah it was THAT epic. The players absolutely loved it. I put much effort into the challenges.
But what was to stop me from having the BBEG creating a 500-foot fall into a lake of lava? Nothing really. So why didn't the BBEG do it in any of those 19 rounds of combat, especially towards the end when things were getting dangerous for him?
In the last round of combat the shapechanger had turned into a marilith and in the fiction I actually narrated it attacked the PC in a co-ordinated synchronised manner and then I made the hit rolls. I had no idea of the PC's hit point at that stage. In normal circumstances, the PC would be dead, (unconscious + follow up attacks = auto death saves) but instead I allowed him to be revitalised with a healing spell. Ofc, there needed to be some kind of consequence and so I ruled the PC secretly suffers from trauma (madness affliction) which upsets his long rest. Furthermore, should the PC encounter mariliths and serpentine creatures they would suffer a dragon fear
-like effect. I ruled anything less than a Wish
would not permanently cure the malady, except for an extended Skill Challenge which also requires Downtime between successful checks. This is all for the PC to discover.
Now all of this is me deciding on things - but all I'm really doing, I feel, is some mass illusion exercise.
I'm curating an enjoyable immersive simulated experience for the players - they're loving it, and certainly some of their ideas and strategies reflect some player skill, but there is also a large element of DM decides where the line is - and if I'm honest, that line has a lot of bias.
Maybe I'm over thinking things. I don't know.
But I refuse to believe @innerdude
and I are the only ones that have experienced this.
That is why I can understand @loverdrive
's argument despite my efforts to challenge it.
if you have time, I'd be interested to know your thoughts on this. I know it is quite a ramble. Sorry.