Wondrous Item auto-reject advice #22: Item makes adventuring safe


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.)

22. Item makes adventuring safe.

Every year we get several item submissions that are essentially "scouting" items, creating a creature, construct, spectral servant, or whatever, that you use to move ahead of you, set off traps, and manipulate doors just in case they're trapped.

You're an adventurer. If you don't have a rogue in your party, just open the damn door! And if you *are* a rogue, have some self-respect and do your job, search for traps and accept the potential consequences of failure!

These sorts of items are just a subset of items that take the risk out of being an adventurer. Adventuring isn't supposed to be safe. You have to take risks to get the treasure.

Another item in this category is items that make you safe while you camp. News flash: Sometimes adventurers get attacked when they camp--deal with it! Adventuring is not a pleasure cruise with great meals and fluffy warm beds. Monsters are going to jump out of the dark and try to eat your face. It's your job to kill those monsters and take their stuff. A "safe camp" item is basically a big cowardly badge that says "I don't want to fight monsters at night, and I'm okay with not getting treasure for those fights."

Don't submit an item that makes adventuring safe. That's not what the game is about.

RPG Superstar 2008 Top 32 , Star Voter Season 7

This also applies to Sean's advice about "Item means you cannot be lost":

The game already contains more than enough "safe camp" abilities, usually in the form of spells like tiny hut, rope trick, or even two teleports (one at night and one in the morning). They are available at appropriate levels if the party is inclinded to use them.

They may all appear differently, but largely accomplish the same purpose and rules effect. Adding more of them, especially that become accessible at lower level, isn't good game design. It isn't letting the game do more things, or more interesting things. It's saying 'I don't want to play this part of the game'.


Cool. Although there were a few items I had in mind that were meant to be used IN camp, not that they necessarily made adventuring safe.

Liberty's Edge

Man, my character got a very rude awakening just this last session via an electric shock from a will-o-wisp.

Scarab Sages RPG Superstar 2013 , Dedicated Voter Season 6, Dedicated Voter Season 7, Dedicated Voter Season 8, Star Voter Season 9 aka Steven T. Helt

I remember one year in the AD&D open. I was an alternate in the finals, my team did not go on but I was picked to fill out a finalist team with missing members.

We palyed a scenario called Seven More Parts by Skip and Penny Williams, and in the last round, a group of beholders is holding on to the last part (of the rod of seven parts.

The team I have joined - they themselves have no idea how they are in the finals. They aren't cooperative with one another, they've had characters die in preceding round. After a few minutes, I don't know why I'm on their team instead of on my own.

After some frustrating encounters we camp, and talk about setting watches, etc. We do what seasoned gamers should do, only poorly. We set some watches, but the guy palying Tenser makes all the decisiosn, including assigning himself to first watch and making us all wait til later the next day after he gets spells and such. I am playing Serten. I take my watch, I have to memorize spells, the other guys don't want to double up on watches, even with the extra time to slep in.

Here's the payoff: with only Achurnar the air genasi dude awake, beholders sneak up on us and put him to sleep. Now, our only sentry is nodding off and three beholders (meaning two DMs) are trying to figure out the most amusing way to torture the Worst Open Finalists in history. Make no mistake, beholders are fun to torture people with. They can do it all. So they start to telekinese our weapons out nto the river. They fire disintegrate at Achurnar until it works. Scratch one descendant of the Wind Dukes of Auqa. The DMs get wind that there's no way this party is surviving this encounter or winnign any prizes, so they wake us up with inflict serious, and stick out their ridiculously long tongues while we stand there, weaponless and magicless.

So, camping sucked. Our ranger (I think) died. We had to swim for weapons. But I'll never forget that scene. It was both fruistrating and great for its memorable misery. I denounce any wondrous item that might deprive others of the same agony. : }

Shadow Lodge

Your link for this auto-reject in your sticky post is not valid. FYI

Shadow Lodge

I actually had a great idea for a wondorous item that would allow the party to use it to see if there were any traps down a corrridor. You see, it was this little red ball. And what would it do, you ask? It BOUNCES!!!! The party just tosses it down a hallway and waits to see what happens.

But I guess I'll just have to go with something else.

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

My two C-bills

Spoiler:
Safer != safe. Any piece of gear makes someone safer (except maybe armor and monks) The line is drawn when it reduces risk vs reducing risk to effectively zero. Secure shelters can be breached, rope tricks can be dispelled, even teleports can be frakked with. The line though is really small. A magic log that turns the fire it's burning in blue when it detects evil in a 30' radius might be fine. One that does it at 400' is stretching it, one that does it at 400' and instantly wakes everyone up is right out.

Likewise, an item that allows a free reroll on disable device might be fine, one that creates a hafling (or other small unloved creature) to set off every trap isn't.

Endgame, think as a DM, if your item says "I'm going to shut down these adventure hooks/encounters" you're likely doing it wrong.

Contributor, RPG Superstar 2009, RPG Superstar Judgernaut

My two-cents...

Spoiler:

Items like these fall into the category of one-upping the arms race between GMs and players...and that's not a Superstar design. When you create an item that completely nerfs the dangers of camping, the GM is then compelled to create another item that bypasses that defense in some way...all so he can keep that plot option available to him. And then another item comes along that's just as poorly designed that counters whatever trick the GM created...and so on...and so on. It's a never-ending cycle that doesn't actually enhance the game. And what's the goal of Superstar items? To create the next really awesome wondrous item that everyone will talk about, specifically because of how it enhances the game.

So be smart. Don't submit an item that eliminates the dangers of adventuring. PCs need to be put in danger so they can become heroes...i.e., those who become legendary because of how they handle themselves in difficult situations. No one is going to sit around and reminisce about the time the super-safe, never-get-surprised-again campfire item saw them safely through Mordor with nary an encounter they weren't fully forewarned of...and therefore, prepared to handle. No. Far more likely, they'll talk about the time when the guy on watch failed his Perception check and nearly got mugged by some wildebeast before anyone woke up to save his blind-and-deaf butt. Those are stories that PCs and players will carry with them for ages. Don't deny them the opportunity to experience that kind of stuff by putting "safety pin" items into the game for every little boo-boo possibility.

This is RPG Superstar! Man up! And bring something way more awesome than that!


--Neil

Liberty's Edge Dedicated Voter Season 6

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

All this being said, and I agree with all of it... to a point.

It is really, really hard (I know this from experience as both a player and a GM, very recently in the 3 alternating campaigns two of my friends and I are running) to foil a 15th level party in camp.

Most camp "surprise" encounters are probably going to be lower level.

RPG Superstar 2009 Top 16, 2012 Top 32 , Marathon Voter Season 6, Marathon Voter Season 7, Marathon Voter Season 8, Marathon Voter Season 9 aka Epic Meepo

Sphen86 wrote:
I actually had a great idea for a wondorous item that would allow the party to use it to see if there were any traps down a corrridor. You see, it was this little red ball. And what would it do, you ask? It BOUNCES!!!! The party just tosses it down a hallway and waits to see what happens.

Do not taunt Happy Fun Ball.

Contributor, RPG Superstar 2009, RPG Superstar Judgernaut

Andrew Christian wrote:
Most camp "surprise" encounters are probably going to be lower level.

And, oddly enough, most "safe camping" wondrous items are priced for low-level adventurers. So, the point still stands.

Grand Lodge

This reminds me of the paladin and his squire in one of my games.

The whole party walks along a monster infested road until they reach a place where they need to turn westwards into swamp land. The paladin has the glorious idea to leave his steed and the squire behind. It's only a few hours back to town - but what can happen to the lone squire (level 1) and the warhorse.
To give some warning I even had some NPC appear and give warnings 'It isn't safe here ...'.
Well - with great diplomacy the paladin pisses off the NPC. So the NPC thinks - well - if you know better ...

Next night I roll random encounters twice - once for the party - once for the squire and the warhorse.

The group of 5 stirges had a feast that night. The Squire survived as the stirges were filled up with all the blood they got from the warhorse. The paladin wasn't pleased ...

There is already something like a safe camping device in my campaign. It's called - go back to town and pay for a decent inn !!!

Thod

Liberty's Edge Dedicated Voter Season 6

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Neil Spicer wrote:
Andrew Christian wrote:
Most camp "surprise" encounters are probably going to be lower level.
And, oddly enough, most "safe camping" wondrous items are priced for low-level adventurers. So, the point still stands.

No doubt. I agree. I was just making a tangential point.

Contributor, RPG Superstar 2009, RPG Superstar Judgernaut

Well, as long as we're exploring tangents, I'll also point out that items such as these are actually what I call "niche" items. By that, I mean they're items that will only see use in a very specific, narrow case of an overall game. How often does the GM roleplay out camping scenes? In an entire adventure, it might have important relevance once or twice...unless your GM is just being relentless with the wandering encounters at night.

Thus, it's an item that won't see use all that often. Aside from the very real impact that should have on the "art" of pricing it (i.e., most players will want to spend their PCs' coin on something they'll use far more often)...it's also just not very Superstar to submit an item that's only going to see the light of day in a game during very specific, "niche" situations. Far better to submit something with more mojo than that.

Now, that said, there are times when an idea has far more mojo going for it that even if it does land more in a "niche" situation for most games, it's still Superstar-worthy. I think the charts of the shadow voyage were probably a good example of that. They were really only useful on a ship to speed its journey across the waves by evoking a shadow walk-like effect. It also had some really cool mojo in its descriptive text. It was a Superstar idea, done very well. And it convinced the judges to give that designer a shot and see what they'd bring in Round Two.

Sometimes, you can get away with that kind of thing. However, if I'm submitting for RPG Superstar, I might want to think bigger than a very specific "niche" circumstance like that for my item...thereby widening its appeal...and guaranteeing it will see much more use in actual game-play.

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


Neil Spicer wrote:

My two-cents...

** spoiler omitted **
--Neil

I find it fascinating that you would personally consider such an item to be an arms-racer. Niche, certainly, but arms race? I dunno on that one.

Contributor, RPG Superstar 2009, RPG Superstar Judgernaut

Freehold DM wrote:
I find it fascinating that you would personally consider such an item to be an arms-racer. Niche, certainly, but arms race? I dunno on that one.

And I find it somewhat fascinating that you would focus on that particular element of my two-cents moreso than the crux of my advice, which centered on making sure you submit something to enhance the game, rather than eliminate certain challenges from it. ;-)


Neil Spicer wrote:
Freehold DM wrote:
I find it fascinating that you would personally consider such an item to be an arms-racer. Niche, certainly, but arms race? I dunno on that one.
And I find it somewhat fascinating that you would focus on that particular element of my two-cents moreso than the crux of my advice, which centered on making sure you submit something to enhance the game, rather than eliminate certain challenges from it. ;-)

Oh no, I plan to bring something that will enhance, not blanden(is that even a word?). I'm just interested in what some people consider arms-race items and what others don't. A holdover from my 2nd ed days.

The Exchange RPG Superstar 2010 Top 16

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Neil,

I like to turn all of these "don't do this" threads into positive advice, and this particular thread is a golden example.

As you say, a Superstar item enhances the game play, rather than removes a chunk of it. So, my advice would be to look at the game and ask yourself What areas of game-play are currently off-limits, either my designers' intent or practicality? and then design an item that opens up that game space.

Example 1: In Golarion, Drow culture is magic-powerful, paranoid, and xenophobic. The magic in "Second Darkness" that allows a serface party of PCs to infiltrate the Drow homelands opens up a new area of gameplay.

Example 2:

Spoiler:
In 2nd Edition AD&D, level-draining undead were a much more serious threat than they have become in subsequent editions: a touch of a vampire dropped your character two levels, no saving throw, and if you earned enough experience to rise in level before getting back to town for a restorative spell, those levels were gone permanently. It was my experience that good DMs avoided level-draining undead because a single encounter could leave the party unbalanced. If there had been a magic item that ameliorated the harsh penalties of level drain, that would have opened up the prospect of more encounters with wights and their ilk.

Contributor

Lachlan Rocksoul wrote:
Your link for this auto-reject in your sticky post is not valid. FYI

Fixed, thanks! :)


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

I'm not to sure about this one shouldn't a true superstar item have to make sense from a campaign point of view. So a wizard would have to want to make it either for himself or for profit. As it is people who explore dungeons and camp in dangerous places that buy most of this stuff and they enjoy not wasting their loot on resurrections (or actually being dead dead in the event of a tpk) it seems to me that stuff that makes adventuring safe is exactly what they would want. Even as a rogue I'd prefer to have a summoned critter or a +1 10' pole of force to stick into the small hole in the wall as opposed to my hand regardless of my skill at finding traps because it just might not be my day.

Contributor, RPG Superstar 2009, RPG Superstar Judgernaut

Shortstraw wrote:
I'm not to sure about this one shouldn't a true superstar item have to make sense from a campaign point of view.

No. A true Superstar item needs to make sense from a game point of view. Eliminating the dangerous elements of the game so that camping is never threatened by the chance of wandering monsters or ambushes takes away an element of storytelling within the game that serves no good purpose. That doesn't mean that such an item couldn't have been made by some wizard in a particular campaign world who never wanted to be surprised again. Or something for a rogue so that every trap would always be found and bypassed. But passing off such an item as your defining submission for RPG Superstar? Yeah, that's not going to make the Top 32. Sorry.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Most items of that sort that I have seen REDUCE the risk of being affected not remove it entirely. So I suppose what I was getting at was what degree of added "safety" is too much. For example the instant fortress is one of the cooler items and it doesn't make camping completely safe it just makes a lot safer. Where to draw the line?

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

Shortstraw wrote:
Most items of that sort that I have seen REDUCE the risk of being affected not remove it entirely. So I suppose what I was getting at was what degree of added "safety" is too much. For example the instant fortress is one of the cooler items and it doesn't make camping completely safe it just makes a lot safer. Where to draw the line?

<Zen Master>When you discover that, grasshopper, you will have discovered Superstar enlightenment</Zen Master>


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

I do understand what Sean was getting at with the rule and invincible characters (or characters that ignore a particular threat) do make a game terribly boring I was just hoping for a clear line with "Not a Problem" on one side and "Not a Chance" on the other.

Contributor, RPG Superstar 2009, RPG Superstar Judgernaut

Shortstraw wrote:
Most items of that sort that I have seen REDUCE the risk of being affected not remove it entirely.

That's a very good point. In fact, Sean highlighted something along those lines in advice thread #18 (the one about items that made it so you can never get lost). He's not talking about items that eliminate SOME of the risk in certain situations. He's talking about items that REMOVE the risk ENTIRELY. And yes, there have been plenty of items submitted that do that. Hence, this advice is an attempt to warn folks away from that kind of design.

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