D&D General Wishing Away The Adventure

EzekielRaiden

Follower of the Way
I've seen clever or lucky play make what I thought would be a difficult encounter easy. I've also seen the reverse. Occasionally players will choose option D when I offer options A, B and C. As long as option D is legitimate that's fine. Players do unexpected things all the time, which is why outside of broad outlines and motivations for the actors at play I don't plan much for the long term.

But I don't remember ever seeing a time when a single spell completely bypassed or nerfed an encounter. I guess it's probably happened and I just don't remember it, but at the very best it's been vanishingly rare. I think DMs get both too concerned about people coming up with clever solutions and spend too much time assuming players will do what's expected. Sometimes they do, sometimes they throw a curveball and take you by surprise. But the latter has little to do with wishes or even magic.
For real. I love slugfests and tactical play. My friend loves tricking his way around encounters.

The worst thing that happens is our sometimes DM deciding we made it too easy. Let people be clever and use their toys and make way work of it here and there. Its part of the satisfaction.
I'm all for cleverness from my players. I've probably already regaled you with the tale of the obsidian golem my players defeated by completely outsmarting me.

My issue is that I have seen--have at times personally done--the wishing away of interesting challenges with a spell or two. Murder mysteries eliminated with raise dead (thankfully, the spell Raise Dead in DW works differently, and is thus much more compatible with a murder mystery even when you roll a full success.) Exploration challenges obviated with a teleport, the classic "fly the Ring to Mordor on the Eagles" problem. I mean, 5e straight-up nerfed pretty much all charm-type spells specifically because they were a notorious short-circuit for social stuff.

Again, I don't mind using tools creatively. I just think that, because of D&D's wild-and-wooly early design choices getting ossified as the Eternal Doctrine of Now and Forever, we're saddled with several low-level spells that completely negate a few specific gameplay challenges that would be interesting to solve with more effortful tools/approaches, and a few high-level spells that outright do no-sale entire plotlines. Some simple divination magic + a teleport or two turns an epic struggle into an afternoon's work, and there's...really not much you can do about that other than to take those spells away, whether outright or via nerfing them into something more workable.

In effect, it's the kryptonite problem. In the absence of kryptonite, Superman is invincible. In its presence, Superman is even weaker than an ordinary human. But unlike Superman, who can be challenged in ways that are totally orthogonal to his powers, spells can do literally almost anything, and that all too often means negating entire plotlines by, for example:
  • Reading a target's mind
  • Scrying a location and teleporting (as noted)
  • Disintegrating a dangerous object immediately
  • Reviving the dead
  • Altering reality, even if under limits
  • Creating indefinitely-stable backup clone bodies of VIPs
  • Creating pocket planes to hide things in
  • Nullifying all mental manipulation (and scrying, to boot)
  • Traversing interplanar distances instantly
  • Calling in outsiders to aid
Creating situations that still permit these things to be useful, but which don't make them instant "I win" buttons for large swathes of meaningful conflict, becomes harder and harder. Death, containment, logistics, transportation, communication, surveillance, intrigue, and most other forms of meaningful challenge go out the window, often forcing things into either a DM/player arms race, or rather repetitious stuff that can only be solved with brute force.

It's not a bad thing for players to get some access to powerful tools that can be used in a lot of ways, some of them very creative. It is a problem when those powerful tools become commonplace and largely suck out any potential for meaningful conflict and stakes that aren't "slugging match." When nearly all information is available to them with just a couple spells, and nearly all locations are reachable in a couple more, and nearly all interactions with others can be forced into the shape the players desire them to be...what exactly is left? And they can do that in, at most, the span of 2-3 days. Less, if you have multiple spellcasters cooperating with one another, e.g. one each Bard, Cleric, and Wizard.

This is just one of several reasons why having a genuinely separate Rituals system is so useful. You can have these incredibly powerful tools, and even have those tools find their way into the players' hands--but those Rituals cost resources, some of which may be difficult or even impossible to replace. Being able to scry-and-fry on demand is a problem. Being able to do it once, with planning and preparation, both enables and invites creativity rather than lazy constant use.

"I wish to kill the armored guy who is a sock puppet for the DM's pettiness."
As stated: Adversarial DMing is an unfortunate baked-in element of classic D&D design, and as a result, we live in its frustratingly long shadow.
 

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Mort

Legend
Supporter
Exploration challenges obviated with a teleport, ... Some simple divination magic + a teleport...

It's been mentioned several times how teleport can ruin an exploration challenge, which is confusing to me.

If it's the lower level (5th) teleportation circle - you can ONLY get to very specific places AND you have to know their coordinates. So it might be a bit of a time saver, but it certainly won't circumvent actual exploration (which kind of implies not knowing EXACTLY where something is).

If it's the higher level (7th) actual teleport, if you don't have an exact idea where you're going, getting off target is pretty likely. Which again means it won't circumvent the exploration challenge - it might actually make it more difficult depending on roll.

Even with divination magic - you're still unlikely to get right to where you need to be. And you've expended a divination spell AND teleport.

Teleport, IMO, is a nice way to "shrink" the world for high(er) level PCs, make it easier to avoid the large amounts of travel of earlier levels. But I haven't seen it trivialize exploration challenges, not even combined with divination.
 

It's been mentioned several times how teleport can ruin an exploration challenge, which is confusing to me.

If it's the lower level (5th) teleportation circle - you can ONLY get to very specific places AND you have to know their coordinates. So it might be a bit of a time saver, but it certainly won't circumvent actual exploration (which kind of implies not knowing EXACTLY where something is).

If it's the higher level (7th) actual teleport, if you don't have an exact idea where you're going, getting off target is pretty likely. Which again means it won't circumvent the exploration challenge - it might actually make it more difficult depending on roll.

Even with divination magic - you're still unlikely to get right to where you need to be. And you've expended a divination spell AND teleport.

Teleport, IMO, is a nice way to "shrink" the world for high(er) level PCs, make it easier to avoid the large amounts of travel of earlier levels. But I haven't seen it trivialize exploration challenges, not even combined with divination.
It still allows completely bypassing most travel, making actually cool things like magical mounts and flying ships undesirable. And waiting one day to get your spells back is nothing, as you definitely skipped way longer travel time already. BTW, plane shift is effectively more reliable teleport if even if you were not actually wanting to go to another plane. You just need to cast it twice to get reliably to any location on your home plane.
 

Mort

Legend
Supporter
It still allows completely bypassing most travel, making actually cool things like magical mounts and flying ships undesirable. And waiting one day to get your spells back is nothing, as you definitely skipped way longer travel time already. BTW, plane shift is effectively more reliable teleport if even if you were not actually wanting to go to another plane. You just need to cast it twice to get reliably to any location on your home plane.

But again, only if you know where you are going. If you don't those magical mounts, flying ships etc. - still very useful.

And even if you do know where you are going, it drains a fairly high level resource. a PC will get 1 7th level spell, using it to get somewhere, means you don't have it WHEN you get there.

Assuming PCs aren't completely allowed to control the pace of play (something essential in ANY high level game IMO) that's a big enough cost to consider not teleporting in, unless you HAVE to for some reason.
 
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EzekielRaiden

Follower of the Way
It still allows completely bypassing most travel, making actually cool things like magical mounts and flying ships undesirable. And waiting one day to get your spells back is nothing, as you definitely skipped way longer travel time already. BTW, plane shift is effectively more reliable teleport if even if you were not actually wanting to go to another plane. You just need to cast it twice to get reliably to any location on your home plane.
Or, classic thing: Rescue plot.

Cast scrying. You instantly know exactly where the victim is, as the target of scrying can intentionally fail the save. You can then spend ten minutes carefully examining the area, followed by casting teleport. You are by definition "very familiar" with the location, having just spent ten minutes memorizing details about it directly with your own senses: "a place you have carefully studied."

It also works if it's a big bad you've already met/fought and have some kind of physical connection to (e.g., a statue, portrait, or drawing of them, or even better a possession of theirs) or especially if you have an actual sympathetic link like a lock of hair or one of their nail clippings (though that is, naturally, harder to get.) It even explicitly mentions the use of scrying in order to teleport somewhere in the spell text of teleport (by way of saying that, if you had viewed an illusion, it could interfere with your efforts.)

So...yeah. Tracking down a lost ally? Completely obviated by two spells. Three, I guess, if you want to then escape the same way.

But again, only if you know where you are going. If you don't those magical mounts, flying ships etc. - still very useful.

And even if you do know where you are going, it drains a fairly high level resource. a PC will get 1 7th level spell, using it to get somewhere, means you don't have it WHEN you get there.

Assuming PCs aren't completely allowed to control the pace of play (something IMO essential in ANY high level game IMO) that's a big enough cost to consider not teleporting in, unless you HAVE to for some reason.
Scrying and other divination magic is quite good at getting you to know where you're going quickly.

I was already presuming high-level characters. That was the point of the thread; high-level characters break open the math of the game. All you need is two casters that can cast teleport, one of whom can also cast scrying. Bard, Sorcerer, or Wizard can all cast either one, as can Arcana Clerics. Wizard is naturally best (as it is at most spellcasting things), but the other options are also valid.
 

But again, only if you know where you are going. If you don't those magical mounts, flying ships etc. - still very useful.
I mean of course you need to know where you are going. Do the characters often just blindly and aimlessly wander around in your games? There is no point getting mounts or ships if you teleport at some point anyway and have to leave them behind.

And even if you do know where you are going, it drains a fairly high level resource. a PC will get 1 7th level spell, using it to get somewhere, means you don't have it WHEN you get there.

Assuming PCs aren't completely allowed to control the pace of play (something IMO essential in ANY high level game IMO) that's a big enough cost to consider not teleporting in, unless you HAVE to for some reason.
One spell slot is trivial compared to all the possible dangers and challenges bypassed. And you don't need to teleport in middle of the enemy stronghold unless you want to. You just skip the travel and teleport a safe distance away and rest, probably using some of the various invincible bunkers the spells let you to conjure.
 

Mort

Legend
Supporter
Or, classic thing: Rescue plot.

Cast scrying. You instantly know exactly where the victim is, as the target of scrying can intentionally fail the save. You can then spend ten minutes carefully examining the area, followed by casting teleport. You are by definition "very familiar" with the location, having just spent ten minutes memorizing details about it directly with your own senses: "a place you have carefully studied."

It also works if it's a big bad you've already met/fought and have some kind of physical connection to (e.g., a statue, portrait, or drawing of them, or even better a possession of theirs) or especially if you have an actual sympathetic link like a lock of hair or one of their nail clippings (though that is, naturally, harder to get.) It even explicitly mentions the use of scrying in order to teleport somewhere in the spell text of teleport (by way of saying that, if you had viewed an illusion, it could interfere with your efforts.)

So...yeah. Tracking down a lost ally? Completely obviated by two spells. Three, I guess, if you want to then escape the same way.


Scrying and other divination magic is quite good at getting you to know where you're going quickly.

I was already presuming high-level characters. That was the point of the thread; high-level characters break open the math of the game. All you need is two casters that can cast teleport, one of whom can also cast scrying. Bard, Sorcerer, or Wizard can all cast either one, as can Arcana Clerics. Wizard is naturally best (as it is at most spellcasting things), but the other options are also valid.

Presumably the kidnappers know they're messing with high level individuals (and if not, what happens next, well happens next).

There are ways to foil scrying - cast non-detection on the area you're kidnap victim is in - for example. Standard, no - but when dealing with an archmage? yeah, probably.
 

Presumably the kidnappers know they're messing with high level individuals (and if not, what happens next, well happens next).

There are ways to foil scrying - cast non-detection on the area you're kidnap victim is in - for example. Standard, no - but when dealing with an archmage? yeah, probably.
I really am not fan of this sort of magical countermeasures game. It requires any high level treat to have access to counter magic, and as GM can just decide that they do, this basically results GM making up excuses why you cant use your powers. I much rather just remove the problematic spells, so that whatever spells the players get to choose they actually can use.
 

EzekielRaiden

Follower of the Way
Presumably the kidnappers know they're messing with high level individuals (and if not, what happens next, well happens next).

There are ways to foil scrying - cast non-detection on the area you're kidnap victim is in - for example. Standard, no - but when dealing with an archmage? yeah, probably.
Then we are exactly where I said: at the Superman and kryptonite problem. Superman uses his superpowers and instantly wins. The bad guys use kryptonite and Superman instantly loses. Superman gets his lead-lined spacesuit and instantly wins. The bad guys throw acid on his lead-lined suit, and Superman instantly loses. Etc., etc., etc.

Is that kind of DM-player arms race actually fun? Is that what people want? Or, as I've said, is that not a demonstration of the perverse incentives and adversarial DMing practices that have been baked into D&D since its inception?

There are better ways. Ones used by many games, not just D&D.
 

Mort

Legend
Supporter
I mean of course you need to know where you are going. Do the characters often just blindly and aimlessly wander around in your games? There is no point getting mounts or ships if you teleport at some point anyway and have to leave them behind.


One spell slot is trivial compared to all the possible dangers and challenges bypassed. And you don't need to teleport in middle of the enemy stronghold unless you want to. You just skip the travel and teleport a safe distance away and rest, probably using some of the various invincible bunkers the spells let you to conjure.

Which is why I said not allowing the party to always dictate the pace of play is essential. They teleport, rest and then bust in on the BBEG who has had 8 extra HOURS to prepare or, more likely, has moved.

The key is to make sure the PCs see teleport as a convenience not as a game buster.
 

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