Wondrous Item auto-reject advice #13: Item makes you blind and not blind


RPG Superstar™ 2011 General Discussion

Contributor

(Last year I compiled a list of things that would instantly disqualify your item. I'm going to post them one by one as we approach Round 1 of this year's contest.)

13. Your item makes the wearer blind, but then compensates for that by giving the wearer darkvision, blindsense, blindsight, tremorsense, lifesense, or some other ability that makes the blindness irrelevant.

We see at least one item like this every year in Round 1 of RPG Superstar. If an item makes you blind, then gives you an ability that makes that blindness irrelevant, then the blindness isn't a hindrance (and is actually an advantage because it means you're immune to gaze attacks and sight-based illusions). Which means that your item is merely an item that gives the character a powerful sensory ability, and is thus merely utilitarian rather than innovative or cool. Yes, the "blind warrior" theme is cool, but if he's better off with this item than without it, he's not really blind, is he?

If this is the theme of your item, pick another theme--something smarter!

RPG Superstar 2008 Top 32 , Star Voter Season 7

I'm not sure what Sean has planned, so I hope I'm not stepping on a later Auto-reject here, but this is a sub-set of "The Drawback that Isn't".

A heavy stone that gives you ant haul, for instance, sounds like it has a drawback, but doesn't really.


Isn't this basically the way Oracle's Curses are designed? What makes it good design in that case but bad design in this case?

I'm not trying to be argumentative -- I genuinely don't see how/where that line is drawn.

Contributor

Two reasons.

One, an oracle's curse really is a hindrance. The rewards of their curse do not completely override the drawbacks of the curse.

Two, and this is actually another auto-reject category, but you shouldn't give a class ability in a magic item--because it takes away from characters who actually take levels in that class. So you can look at an oracle's curse (both the pos and neg effects) as a class ability in this way.

Three, it's not really innovative or cool to copy a class ability into a magic item.

Sovereign Court

Sean K Reynolds wrote:

Two reasons.

One, an oracle's curse really is a hindrance. The rewards of their curse do not completely override the drawbacks of the curse.

Two, and this is actually another auto-reject category, but you shouldn't give a class ability in a magic item--because it takes away from characters who actually take levels in that class. So you can look at an oracle's curse (both the pos and neg effects) as a class ability in this way.

Three, it's not really innovative or cool to copy a class ability into a magic item.

I'm reminded of a 3.5e blindfold that gives you blindsight. Complete Warrior, I think?


Sean K Reynolds wrote:

Two reasons.

One, an oracle's curse really is a hindrance. The rewards of their curse do not completely override the drawbacks of the curse.

Two, and this is actually another auto-reject category, but you shouldn't give a class ability in a magic item--because it takes away from characters who actually take levels in that class. So you can look at an oracle's curse (both the pos and neg effects) as a class ability in this way.

Three, it's not really innovative or cool to copy a class ability into a magic item.

Well, right. I'm not talking about making Hammer Pants of the Lame Oracle or other class-duplicating items, I'm just trying to understand the line of why Blind Oracles are cool but the Blindfold Of Making You Blind But Giving You Tremorsense 60' isn't. In terms of restrictions vs. benefit they seem similar to me, since Tremorsense doesn't perfectly replace sight even if it's better in many respects.

(I would accept "This works as a class ability but not as an item ability.", if that's what it is.)

Contributor, RPG Superstar 2009, RPG Superstar Judgernaut

My two-cents...

Spoiler:

To me, there are times when this kind of design can work...but not on mechanics alone. That's because an item that takes away something only to replace it with another something that negates the penalty of what it took away...and then gives something extra on top...isn't mechanically Superstar in terms of a designer's thinking or execution. It's not innovative enough.

Now, that said, I think such items can sometimes be redeemed if they have a really strong core idea and some good fluff and technical design to prop them up. However, even then, if such an item made it into the Top 32, I'd probably view them towards the bottom half of the group without a really strong outlook for advancing into later rounds.

As to the earlier question of why the blind vs. blindsense/tremorsense/blindsight give-and-take is acceptable design for the Oracle class, I think it gets back to the notion that some things are acceptable in the sense they might have a place in a book of magic items as "good, but not great"...or in a supplementary rulebook that outlines one element of a new class option. And yet, it still wouldn't be strong enough to qualify as "great enough for RPG Superstar."

The bottom line is you need to be innovative for RPG Superstar. And, items that pursue this kind of design aren't quite innovative enough. Obviously, the blindfold that granted blindsight made it into a book of magic items in the past. Just be advised that it wouldn't make it into RPG Superstar. You should set your bar higher than just creating something that might make for good filler in a published compendium of magic items. Shoot for the coolest thing since sliced bread...or the next great wondrous item design that will have everyone talking about how cool it is...and you'll come a lot closer to your target.


--Neil

Contributor

Dire Mongoose wrote:
Well, right. I'm not talking about making Hammer Pants of the Lame Oracle or other class-duplicating items, I'm just trying to understand the line of why Blind Oracles are cool but the Blindfold Of Making You Blind But Giving You Tremorsense 60' isn't. In terms of restrictions vs. benefit they seem similar to me, since Tremorsense doesn't perfectly replace sight even if it's better in many respects.

Because the "blind oracle who can still perceive" is an established historical/mythological archetype.

Because a blind oracle is really blind. She can't see beyond 30 feet. Sure, she can see up to 30 feet as if she had darkvision, but she can't see at all beyond that. Even at higher levels, when she gains additional senses, she's still utterly blind beyond that. And she can't get rid of that blindness. So it's really a drawback for the character, and it's something you can work into her personality or background.

Whereas, with tremorsense black goggles, you take off the item when you don't need it, and use it only when you do (like when fighting an invisible foe). Or with black goggles of blindsight, where the wearer is able to function as well as a sighted person, and then some. At no time is having blindsight a disadvantage to you. In fact, a blindsight item that makes you visually blind is better for you than a blindsight item that doesn't make you blind, because (1) you can see just as well either way, and (2) being actually blind protects you against sight-based effects. It's presenting blindness as if it were a penalty (which it is for 95% of encounters), but giving you a bonus that negates that penalty and leaving the 5% where it's actually helpful to you, and odds are the designer has discounted the item's cost "because it makes you blind, and that's a disadvantage." So a blindness-tremorsense or a blindness-blindsense item is just a gimmick, and not something you could use as a hook for cool roleplaying, because you can just take it off when it's inconvenient for you.


Sean K Reynolds wrote:
It's presenting blindness as if it were a penalty (which it is for 95% of encounters), but giving you a bonus that negates that penalty and leaving the 5% where it's actually helpful to you, and odds are the designer has discounted the item's cost "because it makes you blind, and that's a disadvantage.

Aha. So if someone were to write, for example, the googles-of-tremorsense-that-also-blind-you, and if for some reason when you took them off you still remained blind for a full week thereafter, that wouldn't fall into this category for you?

I wouldn't write that exact item, (or that exact way of making a drawback a drawback, probably) but one of the things I was considering tossing out did have a drawback to it (although the drawback wasn't the central gimmick) and I'm trying to make sure I understand where the "lame line" is, so to speak. If I'm understanding you correctly, it's not that having an item with a drawback that's situationally or quasi negated by the powers of the item is lame so much as when you add on top of that that even when the drawback really is a drawback it's easily circumvented?

Contributor

Dire Mongoose wrote:
If I'm understanding you correctly, it's not that having an item with a drawback that's situationally or quasi negated by the powers of the item is lame so much as when you add on top of that that even when the drawback really is a drawback it's easily circumvented?

Correct.

Items with drawbacks aren't a problem. Items with drawbacks which aren't drawbacks are a problem.

(And the blind-but-not-blind item has been done many times.)

RPG Superstar 2010 Top 32 aka Hydro

It is a drawback, though. Not being able to see beyond the range of your new sense (tremmorsense 30, darkvision 60, whatever) is a drawback, as you showed us with the Oracle. The only time when the blindness isn't a drawback is if the new sense has unlimited range.


A caster that can't use scrolls. I think this is the worst curse.

Contributor

Nicolas Quimby wrote:
It is a drawback, though. Not being able to see beyond the range of your new sense (tremmorsense 30, darkvision 60, whatever) is a drawback, as you showed us with the Oracle. The only time when the blindness isn't a drawback is if the new sense has unlimited range.

(Pardon my bad quotes and hasty typos in my prev post.)

In the case of these example items, (1) it's only a drawback as long as the item is worn, and (2) in most encounters, a 60 ft. range is as good as infinite range, therefore it isn't a drawback. 1+2 means "I only wear this item in an enclosed space," which means it's a negligible drawback.

Yes, an item that makes you blind and only gives you 15 feet or even 30 feet of perception or whatever is an annoyance because you can't actually see past that range, and means a PC would only use the item when the benefit outweighed that limitation (i.e, fighting an invisible creature). Or you'd give it to a PC who only uses melee attacks, and he'd just charge in the direction of battle noise or where his friends told him to, bypass the blindness restriction, and enjoy the full benefits of the item. After all, their circumstances are really no different than a human in the dark with a candle or torch--if attacked, he moves toward the source of the attack, bringing his zone-of-perception with him until he's able to perceive his foes. The fixed range of a light source is not a disadvantage.

I feel that we're debating semantics and getting off topic here, which is: this item has been done many times before, and presenting it again in the competition isn't going to get you anywhere. And the generalized statement holds true: a removable item with a disadvantage doesn't really have a disadvantage.

Contributor, RPG Superstar 2009, RPG Superstar Judgernaut

Nicolas Quimby wrote:
The only time when the blindness isn't a drawback is if the new sense has unlimited range.

Not to belabor the point, but I completely agree with Sean, here. The drawback isn't a drawback in this case, because it's circumstantial...meaning, the PC can choose when and where to allow that "drawback" to be a factor...which means, he can really choose the times when to wear the item so that the "drawback" isn't really a drawback, at all. The example with the torch in darkness that has a limited range lines up perfectly with the tremorsense blindfold. You put it on when you're in a confined area to begin with...and you keep moving in the direction the attacks are coming from until you're within your "sight" range. Thus, the "blindness" isn't really a drawback.

Bottom line: It's just not Superstar. If your item creates a situation where its supposed to have a drawback, but that "drawback" isn't really a hindrance when the PC chooses to use it certain situations or ways, it's just not an item with an innovative design. It's far more "meh" than "wow"...so the advice here is to avoid making that type of item. Because, honestly, including such a drawback in an item should have a consistent effect if you want it to add to the uniqueness of your design. It should be "featured" as part of what makes your item interesting and cool...not something that can be circumvented because of situational decisions by the PCs on when and where they use it.

To me, the key to making such an item work, lies with ensuring it has a legitimate trade-off...i.e., it gives you something good while penalizing you with something bad. And the penalty is always a penalty. You do that, along with some other cool stuff, and your trade-off item could well be interesting enough to make the Top 32.

Hope that helps,
--Neil

RPG Superstar 2010 Top 32 aka Hydro

Sean K Reynolds wrote:
And the generalized statement holds true: a removable item with a disadvantage doesn't really have a disadvantage.

This is true of all items with drawbacks. Haven't you said that items having drawbacks is okay?

I think that part of the fun of drawbacks is finding ways around them, which is why I think they're okay on items. It makes it so that the item isn't something that you just leave on and which becomes part of your character; instead, using it or not using it becomes a meaningful choice, and choices are fun.

I don't expect you to share my opinion here, but I'm confused as to your own stance; you've said that items with drawbacks aren't a problem as long as they are "really drawbacks", but also that the fact that it is an item (and can be removed) makes it "not really a drawback". Wouldn't this mean that all items, baring those which can somehow be permanently grafted or installed, can't have "real drawbacks"?

Contributor, RPG Superstar 2009, RPG Superstar Judgernaut

Nicolas Quimby wrote:
...Wouldn't this mean that all items, baring those which can somehow be permanently grafted or installed, can't have "real drawbacks"?

Nope. Think of it this way, Nicolas. If there were such a thing as a tremorsense blindfold, it would only give a PC a disadvantage if it were donned in a large, open space...or in a circumstance where actual sight would be really important (like reading something or keeping watch for reinforcements, etc.). Most players will realize that's not the optimum place or time to use it. Thus, they would hold it until they were in a confined place, where their range of sight wouldn't matter as much (i.e., tremorsense would be enough to get by with for the entire combat). Or, they'd always use it when going up against creatures with gaze attacks. Or, they'd always use it when fighting invisible opponents.

Therefore, the point is that the item doesn't carry a drawback for the times when it would be used. If, instead, you created an item that incurred a drawback of some kind in every situation, all the time, whenever it's donned, wielded, or used...then that would be a true drawback item. The other one isn't so much, because there are circumstances where the drawback wouldn't really be a drawback. And the players would decide their PCs never use it when the drawback would truly come into play. Meanwhile, a designer likely priced the item as if the drawback applied in every situation...when, clearly, it would not.

Thus, you have a drawback item that doesn't really inflict a full-fledged drawback. And that's why it's not an RPG Superstar design. And, therefore, worthy of an auto-reject...

But that's just my two-cents,
--Neil

P.S. If this is only further confusing you or belaboring the point, I'd suggest letting it go. Others may or may not get the distinction. But just be advised that if your item treads this path, you need to be extra careful and make sure your drawback item truly has a drawback.

RPG Superstar 2010 Top 32 aka Hydro

If I understand correctly, what you're saying is that the best drawbacks can't be 'gamed' or avoided, and should always apply no matter how smart the players is. The distinction is between items which have a drawback when they are used, verses items that are mostly used when they don't have a drawback. Is this right? I still take issue with calling that 'not a drawback', because the fact that you can't always use it IS a drawback, but I think I understand the distinction.

For the record I do understand that the item in question is simply not considered innovative and hope I'm not coming across as hostile or nit-picky. But this also touches on some broader and more interesting issues of drawbacks in game design, and I honest-to-god enjoy hearing in detail what Sean and yourself have to say about that sort of thing. I don't really want to argue with your or try to change your mind, I just appreciate understanding what your position is and why you hold it. :)

Contributor, RPG Superstar 2009, RPG Superstar Judgernaut

Nicolas Quimby wrote:
If I understand correctly, what you're saying is that the best drawbacks can't be 'gamed' or avoided, and should always apply no matter how smart the player is. The distinction is between items which have a drawback when they are used, verses items that are mostly used when they don't have a drawback. Is this right? I still take issue with calling that 'not a drawback', because the fact that you can't always use it IS a drawback, but I think I understand the distinction.

Yes. That is my position in a nutshell.

And, though I understand what you're implying about the item not always being able to be used still being a drawback, I don't view it quite the same way. That's because, in essence, that becomes a viability problem as it pertains to PCs and how they choose to spend their gold. Who would ever buy such an item? Or spend money on making one? Given a choice of virtually anything else to spend their money on, I suspect they'd skip this thing entirely. For instance, in the case of the tremorsense blindfold, they might as well purchase a scroll of polymorph and take the shape of something which already has tremorsense, you know?

So, basically, that's really a further indication of a poorly-designed item...or, at least, an item that's not fully thought through. Furthermore, injecting an item like that into the game which will only ever see use when its drawback isn't a drawback, means you should have just said it granted the ability without any drawback. As in the case of the tremorsense blindfold, the "drawback" is superfulous enough that it shouldn't even be there, because it's almost never going to come into play. So, make an item that gives tremorsense and let the PC choose to close his eyes or leave them open if he wants to...

Bottom line: That's what makes this item an auto-reject for RPG Superstar. The folks who make the Top 32 need to be conscious of these holes in their design. Not everyone's going to be perfect, of course. But if you can eliminate this type of problem, it'll serve you well. That's because someone who produces an item with a real drawback (in addition to something else cool), will automatically win out over someone who produces an item with a non-drawback. Make sense?

Nicolas Quimby wrote:
For the record, I...hope I'm not coming across as hostile or nit-picky. But this also touches on some broader and more interesting issues of drawbacks in game design, and I honest-to-god enjoy hearing in detail what Sean and yourself have to say about that sort of thing. I don't really want to argue with your or try to change your mind, I just appreciate understanding what your position is and why you hold it. :)

No problem. You've asked a lot of refining questions on several of these threads so far. And, hopefully, somewhere in the give-and-take, you've helped ask the questions whose answers will help a lot more folks who submit this year. It's my hope that the contest sees another quantum leap in quality as a result.

My two-cents,
--Neil

RPG Superstar 2010 Top 32 aka Hydro

Neil Spicer wrote:
And, injecting an item into the game that's only ever going to see use when its drawback isn't a drawback, means you should have just said it was a pair of goggles that let see normally and have tremorsense. The "drawback" is superfulous enough, it shouldn't even be there, because it's almost never going to come into play.

Well, actually... a lot of people like circumstantial drawbacks because they create interesting decisions ("we're above ground, but there might be invisible enemies. Do I wear it?"). This is a prominent element of the "Spike" profile in Magic the Gathering- "Spike" is the one who likes drawbacks because he views them as a challenge, especially when he can find ways around them. I think a lot of D&D players are like this too. But that's a matter of what is and isn't 'fun' in games, which is very subjective (I often question the MTG psychographics myself).

Contributor

If the item itself mostly negates the drawback of the item, then it's not a drawback.

Imagine an item that made you bleed more easily; every hit gave you bleed 5. And the item also gives you fast healing 5. That's not a drawback (it compensates for the bleed).

Or an item that gave you the cold subtype but also gave you fire resistance 30. The FR mostly compensates for the fire vulnerability.

A cursed ring of sustenance that has the "wearer must eat and drink 10x as normal" effectively has no drawback.

An item that requires you to worship a particular deity doesn't have a drawback if you already worship that deity.

A magic sword that only activates if you use it to kill a living creature doesn't really have a drawback. Especially in the hands of an adventurer.

If the item's drawback looks like it was built by a minmaxer so the drawback is easily bypassed or irrelevant, it's not really a drawback.

RPG Superstar 2010 Top 32 aka Hydro

Oh yea, those are definitely bad (zero real drawbacks/zero real choices). And "Makes you blind, but gives unlimited blindsight" would definitely belong on that list too.

If the blindsight were limited in range I don't think it would be exactly the same, but I think I see what you mean in that the differences (i.e the times when it does have a real drawback) aren't very noteworthy and that it still belongs in roughly the same boat. Is that about right?

Contributor

Yep.

Lantern Lodge

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Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Maps, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

All in good fun for Sean.

Spoiler:
Sean K Reynolds wrote:
Three, it's not really innovative or cool to copy a class ability into a magic item.

But it's totally cool to run away and get married in Vegas. :P ;) .....Just in case anyone didn't know they should throw some congrats your way. XD

-will

Liberty's Edge

How about a ring that makes you blind, but....get this.....

Spoiler:
you can see by way of flatulence. When your gaseous emanations bounce off of other things, you can "see" them much like a bat's sonar!

Hell I'm gonna make this up anyhow.

RPG Superstar 2010 Top 32 aka Hydro

Meet: THE OL-FACTOR!!

He's just like Daredevil, except that he sees by flatulocation!

The Exchange

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Modules, Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Heathansson wrote:

How about a ring that makes you blind, but....get this.....

** spoiler omitted **

Hell I'm gonna make this up anyhow.

Heathy, don't just give your best ideas away!

Contributor, RPG Superstar 2009, RPG Superstar Judgernaut

I "smell" a gag item.

What? Somebody had to say it!

Sovereign Court RPG Superstar 2009 Top 32, 2010 Top 8 , Star Voter Season 6

Neil Spicer wrote:

I "smell" a gag item.

What? Somebody had to say it!

Was thinking I gag on a smelly item.


Neil Spicer wrote:

I "smell" a gag item.

What? Somebody had to say it!

I don't remember eating that.


Aubrey the Malformed wrote:
Heathansson wrote:

How about a ring that makes you blind, but....get this.....

** spoiler omitted **

Hell I'm gonna make this up anyhow.

Heathy, don't just give your best ideas away!

How bout the monkey with cymbals?

RPG Superstar 2010 Top 32, 2011 Top 4 , Marathon Voter Season 6, Marathon Voter Season 7, Marathon Voter Season 8, Marathon Voter Season 9 aka DankeSean

Spanky the Leprechaun wrote:
Aubrey the Malformed wrote:
Heathansson wrote:

How about a ring that makes you blind, but....get this.....

** spoiler omitted **

Hell I'm gonna make this up anyhow.

Heathy, don't just give your best ideas away!
How bout the monkey with cymbals?

..what kinda idjit would submit something like THAT?


...woah....


that's awesome.

Spoiler:
I had to close the whole thing last year due to buzzkill/irritation.


I wholeheartedly agree with this one. It also makes life hell for the DM. I would file this under "No DM/PC Arms Race" items.

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