Drachasor, you are misunderstanding me. We did not "house rule it" at all, and most certainly did not make a specific decision to "make it weaker."
We all read it the same way, which I still think is the most logical way. You cast it in round 1 and every round thereafter you can essentially use your standard action to call a bolt down until the spell expires.
Perhaps the fact that my group is composed almost entirely of programmers, engineers and scientists plays into that reading, but that is how all of us have read the spell from day one. There was no attempt to "change" the spell because that's just how we all thought it worked.
And frankly I see no reason to change that now. The spell is mostly just a nice hedge for the caster to be able to have an option that does damage over multiple rounds from one spell.
Drachasor, I am not suggesting in any fashion that the potential for having two bolts in round two is overpowered.
It's just inconsistent and strikes me as a spell effect a game designer is highly unlikely to have intended.
Just as I consider it just as unlikely that the spell was designed with the idea that in round 2 you get a bolt AND a standard action but in all subsequent rounds you only get one or the other. It's just a weird concept for how the spell would work.
I have designed games and have designed custom spells and consider myself to have a bit of experience in game design. I would never design a spell to work either way described here. Both of them have a spell mechanic that is just weird to me.
The way we've always done it just seems the logical way. You spend a round casting, and then in every round until it runs out, you can either call a bolt or take a standard action. Simple, obvious, consistent. That's what I think was intended.
Heh, reading the spell more closely now I don't now if we've been doing it right, but we have always done it like this.
Round 1 - you cast the spell as a full round action. (No lightning bolt comes)
Now that "immediately on completion of the spell" verbage is making me wonder.
But I seriously doubt it was the intention to to have two lightning bolts in round 2, or to have a lightning bolt hit in round 2 and still have a standard action left. I will be interested if the devs clarify.
Um, wouldn't he notice where the scattershot hit? I know they are tiny, but if flour makes invisible things visible, then he should get a check to notice the bullets floating in midair.
If I were the GM I'd rule that bullets embedded in the body of an invisible creature were also invisible.
I would probably make it more likely that the PC noticed some blood appearing on the floor, but by then the stalker may have moved.
Morph, for whatever it's worth, from your description I would say that you ran the encounter absolutely according to the rules. I can't find anything about your execution that I would fault, in fact I'd say you probably ran it better than I would have.
The question I would be asking myself in your shoes would be whether I was aware of and sensitive to my players' body language and reaction to the encounter.
For example, when you say that the gunslinger hit the target more than once but that you only said "you may have hit him" did the gunslinger react negatively?
I might well have added "on that last shot you heard a satisfying grunt indicating you hit something, but you couldn't identify the exact location."
Something as simple as that can completely turn a player's attitude from "this sucks" to "Alright!"
I tell my players that I use the stats in the bestiary as a guide, not a bible. I modify stats at will. I also reskin regularly and give monsters and NPCs class levels and create my own monsters out of whole cloth.
My players don't even bother to look up monsters in the bestiary. They use knowledge checks and go with what I give them.
Again, this sounds like a group dynamics problem.
You need to sit down with this player and essentially create a social contract that describes how the game will be run. If he won't agree to one that is agreeable to you, then you are incompatible at the game table.
This is not a game problem. This is a social dynamics problem. You have to deal with it that way.
So many times I see a post that is presented as a game problem and when I read it, I see a group dynamics problem.
Your gunslinger player has some expectations about game play that he feels were not met. Have you sat down with him and asked him to explain in detail why he feels the game did not meet his expectations?
From what you've posted we can only make assumptions. If the gunslinger player felt that his abilities were completely negated and all he could do in the fight was run and hide, then he is probably reacting to feeling like the encounter did not give him a chance to contribute. I don't know what level of experience (or maturity for that matter) your gunslinger player has, so have no idea what sort of expectations he might have about how the game works.
As a ranged combat specialist he may have felt especially exposed in an encounter where an invisible opponent was utilizing hit and run tactics which probably made him feel pretty useless and vulnerable.
I'd talk with him and allow him to express his concerns so that he gets it off his chest. I'd let him know that there might have been other options he could have utilized in the combat, and that over the course of the campaign he is likely to find his options limited in the future. Those might be times for another character in the party to shine. I would make sure he got a chance to shine in an upcoming encounter.
It sounds like you just need to sit down and have a conversation with him that shows him you are listening, you understand and you want the game to be fun for him.
Just to address the whole idea of playing monsters or enemy NPCs as being tactically aware and capable...
Consider that the audience for this discussion is primarily composed of long-time, in some cases hard-core gamers. The knowledge and interest in combat tactics among this audience is light-years beyond the "average human". Not because gamers are smarter, but because we have dealt with tactical simulations for years, and many of us, if not most of us, actually play these games at least in part because we have an interest in combat tactics.
Add to that the understanding that we gamers, here in 2013, in a technologically advanced society, have opportunities to learn the history of tactics both in an organized environment and on our own. Concepts like attacking the enemy's flank, or battlefield control or utilizing terrain are deeply ingrained in our thought processes.
The average human being is not like that. This can be demonstrated through a study of the history of combat. There is a reason that raw recruits are considered to be at high risk of being defeated by battle-hardened soldiers. Soldiers learn about tactics by watching their buddies die beside them. That's a hard lesson that sticks.
I could provide so many examples of major battles involving battle-hardened troops who have received extensive training doing the least tactically advantageous things imaginable. If anyone has studied major battles, like Gettysburg for example, you will find an amazing assortment of battlefield ineptitude, even from armies that are acknowledged to be among the most accomplished and celebrated in history.
The question of what sort of tactics a typical goblin war party would employ is one that should be addressed primarily from the perspective of what the history of those goblins are. Is this some random raiding party that is just out to do a little pillaging and terrorizing? Or is it a war party that has been involved in a ten year frontier war with the local non-goblins? If it's just a random war party, they should not employ tactics at all, really. They should probably be played as over-confident, relying on brute force and terror and probably significantly disorganized and undisciplined.
Add to that the racial tendencies of goblins and there should be a fairly high probability that some of the goblins might be more interested in looting the spoils than in continuing the fight.
The idea that random goblins would use the sort of tactics that a modern day RPG gamer would employ is not very realistic. It is far more likely that they would just rush in, try to overpower the enemy and do so with little coordination or consideration of their own tactical weaknesses.
Weird question: male gamers role-playing female characters...how do you handle speaking "in character?"
Again, the idea that the potential for character death increases the immersive potential of the game is an opinion that I share. But that's because that's how I like to play, and it helps me to view my character as realistic.
But again, that's just my own preferred playstyle. I have learned over the years that other people have a different idea of what makes the game worth investing the effort into immersion. Because it is effort. I know many players who are LESS likely to immerse themselves into their characters if they think one mistake or one lucky crit is going to mean rolling up a new character. The emotional cost might be too high for them. Or they may just hate creating characters. Or they just may really like their current character.
Which play style is dominant? I dunno. I just know that they coexist, along with other playstyles that might be a mix of these two or might be something totally different.
I used to run much grittier encounters. PC death was fairly routine. You had to track arrows, food, amount of rope, whatever. The group I played with 30 years ago loved that. They demanded it.
My current group does not. They prefer a looser, more relaxed gaming style.
And you know what? I seem to enjoy them both.
Magic in the place of technology does not mean that magic is the same thing as technology. There's an interesting intellectual exercise that you can pursue to contemplate what a society would look like if the PF rules were the real physical laws of the universe. The end result will be different for every individual who takes that journey, but in my case I did not come up with a world where there were golem factories.
The difference in general for me was what systems refer to as "scalability." Making magic items can't be automated. It can be made more efficient, but my world doesn't have magic factories in large part because it's not technology, it's magic. You can't just stamp out magic wand components and then assemble them by the thousands on an assembly line.
However, magic is pretty good at duplicating or even superseding some of what technology does for us. Lighting up cities after dark. Bringing fresh water and removing waste. Providing mass transit. Providing entertainment. Making food cheap. Distributing food.
For a society to gain great quality of life and productivity enhancement does not mean every home ends up with dozens of powerful magic items. It means the magic items perform the critical social needs that allow a society to be more productive.
I think the result is a fascinating world where wonders abound, but magic is still not something that has become so commonplace that people are tossing their magical doodads in the trash.
Just my $.02
Captain, it is a common assumption by PF and D&D players that the game world is comparable to middle ages earth.
But the actual rules don't support that notion. The rules create and describe a unique culture that accepts magic much as we today accept technology. It has been demonstrated many times on these boards that a typical commoner could make and save enough gold over time to purchase minor magic items if you follow the rules for professions such as blacksmith, farmer, etc.
In a very real way in the PF world there HAS been a revolution, but not a technological one. The revolution was a magical one.
My own campaign world takes this to further logical destinations. The richest city in my campaign world operates in many ways very much like the richest cities in our own world, but with magic taking the place of technology. It is only the poorest parts of the world that would be comparable to our middle ages, much as that is actually true of the real world.
It is true that a typical farmer might not buy an everburning torch. But they most certainly would balance the value of a stone-avoiding plow against a new barn. Especially since that plow could provide them with enough profit to buy a new barn eventually and have both.
Tinalles, The concept that it is not meaningful unless there is a risk of PC death is one that I hear often, and it is frankly an idea that I find myself biased towards.
But I also acknowledge that it's not actually a fact, it's only an opinion. (One that I tend to share, as I said above.)
The reality is that the game is generally biased towards PC success regardless of any individual encounter outcome, so the expectation is that the PCs will win. What makes the player's actions meaningful is really not so much THAT they win, but more HOW they win. Sure, we know that a typical level 2 adventuring party should defeat the goblin war party, but we don't just roll a die and say ""you win." We give the players an opportunity to decide how they will approach the encounter and allow the scenario to play out according to the framework provided by the rules. Doing so allows players to immerse themselves in the fantasy situation and role play their actions as they decide, hopefully making solid enough decisions not to turn an expected victory into an ignominious loss.
There is plenty of fun to be had even if the actual risk of death is minimal or even non existent.
Deciding that the game is more fun if the chance of death is higher is strictly a flavor decision, not a game dynamics one. It's similar to the question of how "gritty" a game should be.
LazarX, that's an excellent summary of the situation in the feudal middle ages system.
I do think you should add:
4. Those who trade. As you point out, the growth (in size and influence) of the merchant class throughout the middle ages is the driving force behind the renaissance. And the merchant class was a distinct economic category separate from the ones you've listed, I think.
I concur with those who say that the GM should not be in the business of punishing players. Every now and then I take an opportunity as the GM to provide a "lesson" to the players, but that is in an educational and growth sense, not a "you should know better" sense.
I also am not fond of random encounters. If I feel the area is one where an encounter might happen, I try to work it into the story.
In general, I would use some of these situations as story elements. I don't like the mechanics of 4e skill challenges, but I like the concept.
Bottom line is figure out how to make it fun.
Master, one of them, yes. The other, I think, is the ever escalating divide in power between casting and martial classes.
The irony is that the first problem (christmas tree) was almost certainly created as a way to address the second problem (martials don't get any cool toys).
I understand that, and I've stopped fighting it. If a rules system comes out that my group wants to play that does provide that "rare and precious" feel to magic items, I'll probably move to it. For now we'll keep on treating magic items as the commodity they are expected to be in default Pathfinder rules.
Master, that's how 4e does it too, and it "works" great, but it still makes the "magic" feel mundane.
The real problem is the need for all that magical bling in the first place. This is greatly exacerbated by the need for the bling to be delivered in tiers of power over the course of the PC's career. It's a fundamental issue of game design, and it's not going away.
The history of writing is actually a highly controversial area of debate and disagreement.
By the time of the Dead Sea Scrolls, writing had become sophisticated enough to have evolved into specific languages. The Rosetta Stone is essentially a royal decree that was transcribed in three languages, so by the time it was written languages had been in use long enough to have evolved independently into separate systems.
The oldest examples of writing that I know of are generally untranslatable clay or stone tablets with markings on them that have no reference we can use to definitively translate them. Many archaeologists and historians consider them to be 'proto-writing' as opposed to true written languages.
Since we can really only definitively identify something as "true writing" if we have some reference to translate them, that restricts our examples to fragments that contain something written down in a recognizable script.
And those go back around 6,000 years or so, and as I said, most of those tend to be merchant records.
Examples of full-blown writing beyond simple lists tend to be things recovered in temples or royal palaces and are usually religious texts or royal decrees. Those are generally examples of a mature writing system, meaning the language and the writing of it had likely been in use for generations before being put on a temple wall.
I play a witch with a con of 10. He's been as survivable as a wizard so far. Far more survivable than the wizards I used to run in 2e.
Now he hides a lot. He spent an entire encounter essentially hiding behind a log one time. He used his hexes from there so he contributed, but he was under cover.
But that's what you do if you're a squishy spellcaster with limited magical ability and no real martial options.
I sort of enjoy it, frankly.
I think there is some lack of understanding of my "hyper-awesome sword of awesomeness" example.
My point is that people seem to think that a GM can overcome the ever-escalating Christmas tree effect with some brilliant expository effort where they can ramp up the players' appreciation of receipt of a magic item through brilliant narration.
If you are playing the game the way the developers expect you to be playing the game, by level 9 or 10 your players will have each received somewhere in the range of 15-20 magic items. If there are four players that's 60-100 "brilliant narrative descriptions". Roughly 1/3 to 1/2 of those will be "brilliant narrative descriptions" of items that are intended to replace EXISTING items that had previously been "brilliantly narratively described" but are now obsolete and pointless.
If you think the 45th time the GM says "Your eyes go wide in appreciation of the hyper-awesomeness of the awesomosity of the awe-inspiring bauble in front of you" your players aren't going to roll their eyes, you are fooling yourself.
This is precisely why people complain that magic items can't be "rare and precious" in the default application of the rules. Because you can't call something "rare and precious" when they rain down like acorns from the oak trees. Especially when it becomes something of a chore for the player to dispose of the obsolete items they were supposed to view as "rare and precious" until they are suddenly old and tired.
The folks here who complain about magic marts are right about that. They just assign the blame to the wrong thing.
I figured that would probably be less than clear...
"Creating content" for me means working on my campaign story, plot, NPCs, maps, politics, economics, etc.
"Creating stuff" for me means working on terrain, miniatures, accessories or tools for the game. "Stuff" means real, physical things that I use in the game. Content is more the intellectual property, if that helps.
The line can get a little blurred where maps meet terrain and NPCs meet miniatures....
I do want to thank all the folks who have participated in this thread. I think it's been a generally positive and informative discussion. I think I've learned a few things about my own gaming, as well as what games would be like if run by the participants of this thread anyway.
I've always been pretty comfortable in my own skin whatever I'm doing, and I will continue to GM the way that I think makes for the most enjoyment over the longest time for my players.
I've generally found over the years that taking any extreme position tends to reduce my options in dealing with situations, so I'll continue to follow a middle ground between the views on each extreme presented here.
Good luck to all with your gaming!
"You find this exquisitely balanced and finely engraved blade with glowing runes on the hilt that seem to pulsate with awesome power (it's a +1 sword just so you can mark your sheet.)"
Three levels later... "You find a new sword that.. uh... has pulsating... no wait, the blade crackles with raw magic power and as you hold it you recognize it has MORE awesomeness than your current sword (it's a +2 shockig sword)"
Two levels later: "You find a hyper-awesome sword of ... uh awesomeness..."
It seems that the subtlety of this situation is escaping people.
Creating a character that fits into a campaign well is as different from creating an undead-blasting specialist as creating a well built general character is from creating a number crunching juggernaut.
Which is exactly the point here.
GM: "Hey, this campaign is going to have undead in it"
Is completely different than:
Eldon, I need to temper my quirky sense of humor sometimes. I tend to be a bit too tongue in cheek for my own good.
I don't really try to play "duck out of water" characters, it is important for characters to be competent so that the party as a whole can be successful. I just don't feel a compelling need to be OVERLY competent, which I see a lot of people striving for.
My halfling bard detective has been quite useful so far in Carrion Crown. As someone else pointed out, there's a lot going on besides fighting undead. Sure he's not real great against undead, but he's been very good at research, investigation, diplomacy and influencing the townsfolk. I've had a great time playing him.
If he were dead weight or even worse, an actual liability, I wouldn't enjoy that. He's an archer bard and so provides some useful ranged attack potential when the rest of the party is mostly melee or spellcaster.
If I were playing an undead-slaying beast I doubt I'd be having half as much fun. What's the challenge in killing endless waves of undead if that's what you were specifically designed to do? I'd get bored.
Carrion Crown, like all other APs I'm aware of, has a players' guide. We used the players guide. I don't recall if the players' guide has any specific warning about undead, but it certainly implied that undead would be encountered.
With all the discussion of Carrion Crown online and from other gamers our group interacts with, we were all very well aware of the nature of the adventure.
We all individually chose to build and play characters that we wanted to play. It just so happened that none of them have any special undead-combat abilities. If one of our group had built an undead-blasting specialist, nobody would have cared. I certainly wouldn't have objected and would probably have said something like "that's going to certainly be useful."
So I really don't care if someone wants to use their knowledge of the adventure path to create a character tailored to tackle that adventure.
I probably wouldn't do it. I never have, and don't have any real desire to. But then I like being perverse and proving the conventional wisdom wrong. That's why I'm playing a halfling bard with a chip on his shoulder in Carrion Crown. But I wouldn't accuse someone of being a power gaming munchkin if they did craft a character tailor made to be the most effective character possible against an adventure path.
I might suspect it....
As with most things, there is more than one way to view what is and isn't appropriate metagaming.
It should be clear to any objective, clear-thinking person that building a specific undead-blasting character to play in Carrion Crown is meta gaming.
Not all meta gaming is bad. But some is. The boundary between what is good and bad metagaming is a shifty boundary that changes with different perspectives and experience with the game.
While I would not make an issue of it if the subject came up, I tend to think the folks arguing against crafting specific builds tailored to deal with a particular adventure path have a point. It is "stacking the deck" in your favor, using player knowledge that is then contrived to be character knowledge to avoid accusations of power gaming.
I'm in carrion crown right now. I'm playing a detective bard. No one in our group deliberately built an undead focused character. We have a half-orc barbarian, a half-orc cleric, a human evocation specialist wizard, a gnome inquisitor and my halfling detective bard.
So far we are doing fine. If we had an undead blasting specialist, the game would be way too easy I think. I'm glad we don't have one.
@Mark - I consider death to be when a character has reached or exceeded -con hit points, or has been hit with a death effect that supersedes hit point damage.
It is an unusual meaningful fight in my campaigns where someone doesn't go into negative hit points at least once in the fight.
In our last big fight one of the PCs went down and was looking to get hit again, so the party paladin used his ability to channel positive energy to heal the whole party (it was the only healing he had left) which saved the PC, but also healed up an enemy NPC that had gone down earlier.
The party I am running now has only recently reached levels that spells such as "raise dead" are a potential means to recover a dead party member. That may well factor into future combat decisions for me. But so far it has not.
My group has a mixed bag of players, some like tactics, some don't care about them. When I am a player I tend to become the tactical leader of the party unless I am playing a character that is deliberately uninterested in tactics.
Our combats tend to be pretty fast paced when I GM. I use a few tricks to keep combat moving, such as the "you're on deck" reminder and a rule that if you aren't ready when your initiative comes up, you automatically are considered to be withholding your action until the end of the next player's turn.
The things that tend to hold up combat for us are simple things like counting damage dice, or remembering that some effect is in play that we overlooked as the player was choosing what to do. That happens more times than I care to admit.
But for the most part our combat is pretty smooth and we get through most fights in four or five rounds.
Some of our combats are more cinematic than others. We can get excited about the events unfolding. It's funny, when we finish gaming and I'm wrapping up, my wife will sometimes comment how much fun we seemed to be having and I won't even recall all the laughing and shouting until she reminds me.
As a player, I hate in when I know that "the fix is in." So as a DM, I don't fudge, unless I think that I've made a mistake. The players are free to bite off more than they can chew, and if they are losing they had better have a way out. If they end up winning a tough battle, good for them! They'll get lots of XP and they may get a rich treasure - plus the satisfaction of knowing that they won fair and square.
Corathon, but they didn't win "fair and square". They won a carefully crafted battle designed entirely to suit them according to their abilities and equipment.
The "won fair and square" thing is an illusion from start to finish. Thinking that the illusion is superior because you don't fudge during the encounter is just another illusion. The "fix" was in when the encounter was created.
I seem to be somewhat in the middle of the extremes being presented on this thread. Which isn't surprising since I frequently find myself in the middle on many issues, game or non-game related.
I try to keep in mind one overriding thought as I GM, and that thought is "I want my players to get a chance to feel freaking awesome tonight."
Really, that's the main goal. There are a lot of secondary goals, like verisimilitude, in game consistency, proper rules adjudication, good story telling...
But in the end I believe that the reason my players are even playing the game is so they can feel awesome at least once each session.
The trick is to make my players feel awesome without overtly creating contrived scenarios that tend to make them feel like the awesome is not coming from them. That's a hard row to hoe. If you make things too easy, the awesome doesn't feel genuine. If you make things too hard, or too frequent, the awesome can feel more like stress and lead to mental fatigue.
While I can't claim to be successful in my pursuit of providing opportunities for awesomeness, I do know that a TPK of the party because I made an error in my encounter design is the opposite of awesome.
Mark, I have a similar situation. I've had players come back to the table after a long lapse between sessions quite sincerely asking "OK, who am I again?"
One of my players is really only interested in getting away from his house for an evening.
We typically spend at least half an hour each session getting the group back up to speed. And I publish campaign notes on my blog that they can read whenever they want.
Kirth, much like mpl, I think you are making things too binary. There are distinctions in GMing between "hard-ass" and "softball". Not being a complete hard-ass does not mean you are softballing.
In my mind there's some subtlety here. I am feeling that while I still run a highly challenging campaign, there is a real possibility that I have become too reluctant to kill off PCs, and as a result the players have become less effective as an adventuring party. If I had killed off a PC a month or so ago, perhaps when they hit the wizard encounter they would have been more cautious and effective and I wouldn't have been in a position to TPK them so easily.
The longer this thread goes, the more I am feeling like I have been too soft as a GM for too long. I haven't killed a PC in months. And the last best chance I had to do a TPK, I totally wussed out and downgraded an NPC instead of just letting it happen.
I'm probably losing my cachet as a hard-ass GM. It's probably time to do something to remind my group that I am one.
I don't "fudge dice". But that's mostly because I want to respect the die's randomness as providing its own story element.
The wizard example above is really the only example I can think of where I flat out modified an existing NPC's power level on the fly.
There are lots of ways to nudge the threat level of an encounter as the GM. The most common situation that comes up is probably the opportunity an NPC or monster might have to coup de grace a helpless PC. I know that many players feel that opting to perform the coup de grace is frequently considered a "dick move" by the GM. But it's clearly an option that is on the table.
Similarly, most monsters or NPCs have multiple attack options. GMs can easily adjust the encounter by choosing less optimal attacks or less optimal spells to use against the party. Then there are tactical options that can be used or not used.
Is it the opinion of the "impartial GM" advocates here that choosing a less optimal attack, spell, or tactical option is just as bad as modifying the power level of an NPC? Does that sort of GM play their NPCs and monsters as lethally as they possibly can? Including all coup de grace opportunities?
Kirth Gersen wrote:
Kirth, I have made it clear that in this case my GM prep failed. I admit it, with humility and a certain amount of damage to my pride as a GM. But there it is. I created a too powerful wizard for my players to succeed against.
Having admitted and acknowledged that, what is better for the group overall once I, as the GM, realize in game that I made a game prep mistake? Is it better for the group overall for me to say "oh well, that sucks" and TPK the group exactly by the book than it is for me to make an easy and reasonable power adjustment to tweak the encounter back to its intended purpose?
You say that the GM should be "impartial". What exactly does that mean? Are you impartial when you are doing your game prep? Or do you construct your encounters to be appropriate to the party you are hosting?
I am not impartial as a GM. I admit it. I am a player advocate as a GM. Pure and simple. I want the players to feel challenged and sometimes have a little fear of god put into them, but that's because I think that makes for a better story.
But impartial? Not even close.
Shin, PCs die in my campaigns. They also sometimes run away and hide.
If my goal was to create a challenging encounter that might push the party to their limits, I am accepting the risk that a PC could die. Maybe two, but two dead PCs better be major boss fight.
I agree that an RPG is different than a book or movie. In my mind an RPG is at its best when it feels like a collaborative story telling session where the players have the ability and opportunity to make the story their own. I work hard to give them that opportunity.
In my mind if I make a mistake and create an encounter that is clearly going to TPK the party, running that encounter to its inevitable conclusion just because "that's what I wrote down a month ago" is far more of a GM controlling the story than it is for me to adjust the encounter to it's intended threat level and allow the players to continue to add to the story.
What I find interesting is that in our group I am considered the "hard-ass" GM because I DO kill PCs on occasion. But that's because I try to provide some very challenging situations, which can sometimes walk a fine line between just powerful enough, and too powerful. All I'm trying to do is keep as close to that line as possible to create the most thrilling and exciting environment for the players.
It can be exciting and fun for the players to get through an encounter with a PC killed off. It is almost never exciting and fun for the players to suffer a total party kill. At least that's been my experience. It's part of my job to do what I can to avoid a TPK, while still making the game feel dangerous and exciting. Or that's how I see it.
Kirth, why do you feel it is important for the GM to be held to the same standards as the players when it comes to running an encounter? Is it because you feel that if the GM adjusts something on the fly, but the characters can't that is somehow an unfair advantage that the GM is taking advantage of?
If I viewed my role as GM to be creating "fair fights" and running them "by the book" so that they could be audited after the fact for accuracy and appropriateness, I might agree with your approach.
But I don't view my GM role that way. My role as the GM is not to "fight fair" but to create an environment for the PCs to shine and give the players a few hours of fun by immersing them in an imaginary environment where they can be what they can't be in real life. As has been said up-thread, to me it is the story that is important, not the mechanics.
I'm really not interested in proving how well I followed the game rules to run an encounter. The rules are there to provide a framework for the story, and that's how I treat them.
Keep in mind that making adjustments as I have described in this thread is a rare thing for me. The wizard encounter is the first time I had to make that sort of adjustment in months. All of the other encounters in the caverns went as I expected them to, and needed no adjustment. So we are talking about edge cases here, not every encounter. Or at least in my case that is.
I acknowledge that I am not perfect and make mistakes. Fixing mistakes on the fly is, I think, an important skill for a GM to have. For me to TPK a party because of a mistake I made and then claim "my hands were tied dudes, look, here's the wizard's specs, it's not my fault you couldn't beat him" seems to me to be the antithesis of good story telling.
I'm not in competition with the players. I am providing a stage for them to shine.
Here is perhaps a relevant example from the game I am currently running.
The party was sent off on a mission to acquire a specific item that has crucial information about how to resolve the current apocalyptic crisis. This particular mission required them to be sent through my world's version of the "Underdark" to find a secret location and from there to find the item and return with it.
The trip through the underground caverns took the party through a series of encounter, including some Drow, some lizard people (custom creatures of my own design), a fungal realm (again custom creatures of my own design), and a few other encounters. They had to search for clues in the caverns to locate the secret hideout, and then once they found it, they had to either talk their way into retrieving the necessary item, or fight for it.
The "fight for it" encounter is the one I mentioned up-thread where the wizard I had created as the current resident of the secret lair turned out to be too strong, and would have almost certainly TPK'd the party.
I accept full and total responsibility for the wizard having been created incorrectly in the first place. But now, after literally months of real time and weeks of game time, the party was now faced with a TPK that would quite literally have resulted in having to start over from scratch. Had I run the encounter as originally designed, it would have been "game over". I recognized the problem in the first round when the wizard's first spell more or less temporarily disabled half the party.
So, if I were to follow what I understand to be mpl's approach, I would have been committed to TPKing the party and pretty much wiping out months of game progress due to a single miscalculation on my part. By readjusting the wizard's power on the spot, the encounter became what I had originally envisioned it to be, which was a significant sub-boss fight that pushed the party to their limits, but that they could win.
In my mind by adjusting the wizard's power on the spot I was able to have the game continue, give the party a suitable challenge and avoid the potential for ruining five people's fun for weeks.
Am I to understand that in the same situation the "proper" response would have been to say "Oh well, I messed up, but that's the way the cookie crumbles?"
Interesting. What you describe here sounds more like how I view my gaming than what I understood mpl to be saying. I took mpl to be saying that she didn't have a "goblin encounter" she had an entire goblin lair and how the PCs interacted with the goblin lair was entirely organic and logical based on how the goblin lair was laid out. That implied that if there was an opportunity for the PCs to encounter some ogres, then there was an ogre society in the game and the PCs interacted organically with them, and that would extend to the entire world.
When I run a campaign I work very hard to make it internally consistent. I don't just throw in a group of ogres from out of the blue, if I add some ogres to the game, that will be done in such a way that the ogre's presence "makes sense" to my view of how my world works. But that doesn't mean I have an entire ogre society worked out, I just have the ogres I need for the encounter. As these things happen I update my world's documentation so that if I add ogres to an area, ogres will remain in that area unless they are driven out.
The difference in what you describe and what I am saying seems to be that once you have added the elements of an encounter you don't modify them for the benefit of the players.
But let's pursue that. Let's say that you have laid out an area of your world and decide that there is a family of ogres the party is likely to encounter at some later date in the campaign. But as you play the campaign you realize that the party has been optimized more than you had originally expected and they are just waltzing through your prepared content. Would you then go back and add another ogre to the ogre party, or add some minions or mooks to the ogre encounter so that when the party gets there, it's not a walk in the park? Or do you just write the ogre encounter off as an already created encounter and therefore it's just what it is?
If you DO adjust the encounter at that point, do you see that adjustment as being qualitatively different from adjusting the encounter as the encounter itself is engaged?
Well, mpl, you must have far more time for your GM activities than I do, and I spend a LOT of time on my GM activities. Your approach here implies that you can't have a group of ogres unless you have worked out the entire ogre ecology, otherwise you just have an arbitrary number of ogres somewhere in the world for the players to encounter. You cant have a random manticore flyby unless you have the entire manticore family defined and laid out.
It simply isn't realistic for me to create entire lizard folk societies just so I can have a lizard folk encounter for my players.
So I create actual encounters and do my best to make them a challenge for my players. And sometimes that means I will adjust them as I discover more about the players' abilities and desires.
I'd love to roam around in your worlds so I could explore this concept of never creating an encounter and having the whole world laid out organically for me. Maybe some day I'll get to do so.