Wondrous Item auto-reject advice #20: Item Makes GMing Harder


RPG Superstar™ 2011 General Discussion

Contributor

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

20. Item Makes GMing Harder.

Being a GM is a lot of work. So don't create an item that requires the GM to do even more work, especially difficult work on the spot. Examples of this are:

* Item requires GM to create a riddle, puzzle, or rhyme for the item to work/PC to answer.

* Item requires the GM to make a ruling on something that the rules don't define anywhere (such as "this gives a +2 bonus against mouth-based attacks." Is dragon's breath a mouth-based attack? Is a harpy's song a mouth-based attack? Does this just refer to bite attacks? What about a poisonous bite? Or a vomit attack? Swallow whole?)

* Item allows PCs to view the past of an item, person, or corpse, requiring the GM to spontaneously create a backstory for anything the PCs could find during the adventure.

* Item allows PCs to roll back time, reversing their last round's of actions and making different choices (it's enough of a pain to reverse damage taken and spells spent on one PC, but the GM has to reverse-track that for everything on the battlefield).

When designing your item, ask yourself, "Does this make it harder for the GM to run the game? Does this add more work to the GM's busy job?" If the answer is "yes," you should reconsider your item--or rework it so the player takes the brunt of that extra work (if you do that and it's still a cool item, *then* you may have something interesting...).


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Roleplaying Game Subscriber

I'm so glad this is one of the rules. One of the most irritating things about some spells or skills is not that they 'break' the game, but that they force me to take time away from the session to work out their results. I'll give my PCs undead immunities and at will energy blasts before I give them the ability to see an object's past or somesuch.

The Exchange Contributor, RPG Superstar 2008 Top 6 , Dedicated Voter Season 6

I should make a list of how many of these 20 rules I've broken in my turnovers for Paizo :( Sometimes with spells rather than magic items :)


Russ Taylor wrote:
I should make a list of how many of these 20 rules I've broken in my turnovers for Paizo :( Sometimes with spells rather than magic items :)

I'd love to see that list.

I thought this one was already touched upon, but I do get it- no DM/PC Arms Race Items.

Liberty's Edge Contributor , Star Voter Season 6, Marathon Voter Season 7, Star Voter Season 9

Sean K Reynolds wrote:

* Item allows PCs to roll back time, reversing their last round's of actions and making different choices (it's enough of a pain to reverse damage taken and spells spent on one PC, but the GM has to reverse-track that for everything on the battlefield).

Thanks! That narrows down my decision by one item.

Marathon Voter Season 6, Dedicated Voter Season 7, Star Voter Season 8, Star Voter Season 9

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

What's really embarrassing is that I actually used the words "mouth-based attack" in last years submission. I won't be making that mistake again.

The Exchange RPG Superstar 2010 Top 16

Jerett Schaufele wrote:
What's really embarrassing is that I actually used the words "mouth-based attack" in last years submission. I won't be making that mistake again.

Nope. It's Sean's hope that we all make newer, better mistakes this year.


Sean K Reynolds wrote:


* Item allows PCs to roll back time, reversing their last round's of actions and making different choices (it's enough of a pain to reverse damage taken and spells spent on one PC, but the GM has to reverse-track that for everything on the battlefield).

This one is even more of a trap than it first appears--if it's limited daily like WotC's Amulet of Second Chances, you might say, "I can handle doing this once a day, and they might not even use it every day," but this item makes the workload significantly heavier on the GM even if the PCs never actually use it. As long as they could potentially use it, the GM now needs to track the rollback information round by round for every round of the game, which will take five times as long at least every round for even the speediest and most efficient GM (unless the GM tracks everything via software that can handle this item, but at that point...)

Shadow Lodge

Sean K Reynolds wrote:
* Item allows PCs to view the past of an item, person, or corpse, requiring the GM to spontaneously create a backstory for anything the PCs could find during the adventure.

I'm just curious how different people see this from, say, scrying, or any type of divination for that matter. I find, as a GM, that Commune and its ilk are just as likely as having to make me improve backstories or other obscure fluff.

Shadow Lodge

Sean K Reynolds wrote:


* Item allows PCs to roll back time, reversing their last round's of actions and making different choices (it's enough of a pain to reverse damage taken and spells spent on one PC, but the GM has to reverse-track that for everything on the battlefield).

Well, again, I think this would depend on how much time the object lets you roll back. I mean, an item that lets you roll back a few seconds to say "allows user to force someone to re-roll their last attack" I think would be cool. The GM goes "Ok. The dragon crit." I use my free action magic item that forces time to roll back and the GM has to re-roll the attack. That wouldn't be considered an auto-reject would it? It doesn't require the GM to do a lot of bookkeeping.

Liberty's Edge

Chris Mortika wrote:
Nope. It's Sean's hope that we all make newer, better mistakes this year.

Build a better mouse trap, attract a better mouse;

Design a better idiot trap, attract...

Contributor

Varthanna wrote:
Sean K Reynolds wrote:
* Item allows PCs to view the past of an item, person, or corpse, requiring the GM to spontaneously create a backstory for anything the PCs could find during the adventure.
I'm just curious how different people see this from, say, scrying, or any type of divination for that matter. I find, as a GM, that Commune and its ilk are just as likely as having to make me improve backstories or other obscure fluff.

Because there is a difference between "what is the life story of this 100-year-old corpse we just found" and "what is our nemesis doing right now."

Also, commune costs 500gp; if your PCs want to spend that to ask questions about a random dead body they just found, let them ask away.

Contributor

Lachlan Rocksoul wrote:
Sean K Reynolds wrote:


* Item allows PCs to roll back time, reversing their last round's of actions and making different choices (it's enough of a pain to reverse damage taken and spells spent on one PC, but the GM has to reverse-track that for everything on the battlefield).
Well, again, I think this would depend on how much time the object lets you roll back. I mean, an item that lets you roll back a few seconds to say "allows user to force someone to re-roll their last attack" I think would be cool. The GM goes "Ok. The dragon crit." I use my free action magic item that forces time to roll back and the GM has to re-roll the attack. That wouldn't be considered an auto-reject would it? It doesn't require the GM to do a lot of bookkeeping.

See boldface text.

Shadow Lodge

Sean K Reynolds wrote:
Lachlan Rocksoul wrote:
Sean K Reynolds wrote:


* Item allows PCs to roll back time, reversing their last round's of actions and making different choices (it's enough of a pain to reverse damage taken and spells spent on one PC, but the GM has to reverse-track that for everything on the battlefield).
Well, again, I think this would depend on how much time the object lets you roll back. I mean, an item that lets you roll back a few seconds to say "allows user to force someone to re-roll their last attack" I think would be cool. The GM goes "Ok. The dragon crit." I use my free action magic item that forces time to roll back and the GM has to re-roll the attack. That wouldn't be considered an auto-reject would it? It doesn't require the GM to do a lot of bookkeeping.
See boldface text.

Well, to each their own.

Shadow Lodge

Sean K Reynolds wrote:


Also, commune costs 500gp; if your PCs want to spend that to ask questions about a random dead body they just found, let them ask away.

True, true. Forgot about the price. I'm used to it being used by oracles and imp familiars without paying anything. Anyways, I was also thinking of things like Blood Biography, Create Treasure Map, Legend Lore, etc. Headaches, all of them!

Contributor, RPG Superstar 2009, RPG Superstar Judgernaut

My two-cents...

Spoiler:

We play this game to have fun. Part of the fun is wrapped up in cool magic items, not just for the players, but also the ones the GM gets to assign the villains and NPCs...as well as the ones he has to adjudicate in the course of actual game-play. It stops being fun if an item's use bogs everything down. So, the Superstar designer should recognize that, consider it when he or she crafts a new wondrous item submission, and then bring something that makes the game more fun rather than less fun.

Personally, I think a lot of people get caught by this auto-reject category because of a couple reasons:

1) They're thinking with a player's mindset and how cool it would be if their character had this item and all the cool things they'd be able to accomplish with it in-game. Meanwhile, they forget to put on their GM's hat and assess the game-breaking potential or the headache it creates on managing or running an encounter that involves the use of such an item.

2) They're thinking as a GM, but more from a storytelling GM's perspective than a rules-lawyer. Yes, sometimes it's useful to adopt the rules-lawyer mindset, especially when designing new items for the game. You need to consider all the impacts it might have on actual game-play and the intermixing of its abilities with other feats, class abilities, and spells in the game. Is it going to bring everything to a screeching halt because it takes up too much time at the table...or because it ruins every encounter setup?

Consider those two perspectives as you design your item and make sure you don't have blinders on with regards to its actual in-game use. Don't let the coolness of an idea pull you away from an honest assessment, both as a player and a GM.


--Neil

RPG Superstar 2008 Top 32 , Star Voter Season 7

Lachlan Rocksoul wrote:
Well, again, I think this would depend on how much time the object lets you roll back. I mean, an item that lets you roll back a few seconds to say "allows user to force someone to re-roll their last attack" I think would be cool. The GM goes "Ok. The dragon crit." I use my free action magic item that forces time to roll back and the GM has to re-roll the attack. That wouldn't be considered an auto-reject would it? It doesn't require the GM to do a lot of bookkeeping.

This type of ability already exists, in the Luck domain and things of that nature. The difference is they are almost never flavored as actually rolling back time.

Shadow Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Lachlan Rocksoul wrote:


Well, again, I think this would depend on how much time the object lets you roll back. I mean, an item that lets you roll back a few seconds to say "allows user to force someone to re-roll their last attack" I think would be cool. The GM goes "Ok. The dragon crit." I use my free action magic item that forces time to roll back and the GM has to re-roll the attack. That wouldn't be considered an auto-reject would it? It doesn't require the GM to do a lot of bookkeeping.

FWIW, I've seen more than one item of this type in the "Critique my Item" threads and the judges' comments were usually along the lines of the item was "too gamist" or "a little munchkin-y." I get the impression you would need a really cool premise to get an item like that to rise above being a "get out of jail free" card.

The Exchange RPG Superstar 2010 Top 16

Ross Byers wrote:
... they are almost never flavored as actually rolling back time.

Never give up. Never surrender. Activate the Omega 13.

Scarab Sages

Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Campaign Setting, Cards, Companion, Maps, Modules, Roleplaying Game Subscriber; Pathfinder Comics Subscriber
Chris Mortika wrote:
Never give up. Never surrender. Activate the Omega 13.

The fish oil?

Marathon Voter Season 6, Star Voter Season 7

Paizo Charter Superscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber
Snorter wrote:
Chris Mortika wrote:
Never give up. Never surrender. Activate the Omega 13.
The fish oil?

Yes. Activate the fish oil.

Of course, that brings us back to the bodily function auto-reject ...

Shadow Lodge

I thought something smelled fishy around here :P


Snorter,

I think it's a Galaxy Quest quote, pertaining to time travel.


Hassan Ahmed wrote:

Snorter,

I think it's a Galaxy Quest quote, pertaining to time travel.

I thought it was a Mass Effect quote, pertaining Mass-Relays, but then it would have been the Omega 4.

Liberty's Edge Dedicated Voter Season 6

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Azmahel wrote:
Hassan Ahmed wrote:

Snorter,

I think it's a Galaxy Quest quote, pertaining to time travel.

I thought it was a Mass Effect quote, pertaining Mass-Relays, but then it would have been the Omega 4.

off topic:
Mass Effect 2 rocked. Just finished it yesterday with complete survival (which once I went on the final mission turned out to be easier than I expected based on the tense lead up). All the hard choices were the ones made leading up to the final mission. Now I can't wait until Mass Effect 3! Now I'm gonna go replay Dragon Age: Origins/Awakenings with a new character with all the new downloadable content for the first time.

Sean K Reynolds wrote:
...

If an item that mekes GMing harder is auto-rejected, does an item that makes GMing easier (or opens new posibilities for storytellign) have an edge towards making the cut.


The Grandfather wrote:
Sean K Reynolds wrote:
...
If an item that mekes GMing harder is auto-rejected, does an item that makes GMing easier (or opens new posibilities for storytellign) have an edge towards making the cut.

Most of these item might fall into the Homecampaign item category, but those that don't proobably have something great about them.


Also, possibly a plot device.

RPG Superstar 2013 Top 32 , Dedicated Voter Season 6, Star Voter Season 7 aka Standback

Azmahel wrote:
The Grandfather wrote:
If an item that mekes GMing harder is auto-rejected, does an item that makes GMing easier (or opens new posibilities for storytellign) have an edge towards making the cut.
Most of these item might fall into the Homecampaign item category, but those that don't probably have something great about them.

+1.

"Opens new possibilities for storytelling" could be taken to mean "serves as the base for a really cool story arch I've written," but the cool arch wouldn't make it into the item description.

On the other hand, there are items with a significant story/drama-oriented goal, and as long as these are flexible enough to be used in a variety of situations, these can be great additions to the game.

Oddly enough, Paranoia springs to mind. Usually at the start of a mission, you get tons of allegedly cool stuff from R&D. None of it works, at least not as it's supposed to. Players use it anyway. What's going on here? Simple - the purpose of the R&D tech in the game isn't to do what the tech is supposed to do. It's to give the players triggers to generate chaos, even to get their own characters in trouble - and that's a storytelling device. And item descriptions are usually about the trouble that using the device will cause. That's kind of cool.

For PFRP, of course, you'd probably need something a bit... different... but that's an interesting goal to aim for.


Standback wrote:

"Opens new possibilities for storytelling" could be taken to mean "serves as the base for a really cool story arch I've written," but the cool arch wouldn't make it into the item description.

On the other hand, there are items with a significant story/drama-oriented goal, and as long as these are flexible enough to be used in a variety of situations, these can be great additions to the game.

Oddly enough, Paranoia springs to mind. Usually at the start of a mission, you get tons of allegedly cool stuff from R&D. None of it works, at least not as it's supposed to. Players use it anyway. What's going on here? Simple - the purpose of the R&D tech in the game isn't to do what the tech is supposed to do. It's to give the players triggers to generate chaos, even to get their own characters in trouble - and that's a storytelling device. And item descriptions are usually about the trouble that using the device will cause. That's kind of cool.

For PFRP, of course, you'd probably need something a bit... different... but that's an interesting goal to aim for.

I had something along the lines of the later in mind when I asked :)

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