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Was I unfair?


Advice

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The party was fighting 3 Vrocks, which were flying 90 feet in the air and began dancing (Dance of Ruin ability). The wizard rolled a 22 on her Knowledge: Planes check to identify them, which gave her one piece of useful knowledge. The player (who knew out of character exactly what the creature was and what the dance did) wanted to be told what the dance was. I ruled that the character could get one offensive ability determined by chance and rolled a die - it came up that the character knew about the Stunning Screech ability, not the Dance of Ruin.

This encounter killed multiple characters, including the wizard, and I've been b%++@ed at for being unfair with the knowledge check and that since the character saw the Vrocks dancing, that's what she should have known. As I see it, a knowledge check determines exactly what the character already knows about the creature, and seeing it do something doesn't influence what the character already knows.

Was this ruling unfair?

Dance of Ruin (Su):

A vrock can dance and chant as a full-round action—at the end of 3 rounds, a crackling wave of energy explodes from the vrock, dealing 5d6 points of electricity damage to all creatures within 100 feet. A DC 17 Reflex save halves this damage. For each additional vrock that joins in the dance, the damage increases by 5d6 and the DC to avoid the effect increases by +1, to a maximum of 20d6 when four or more vrocks are dancing (the DC continues to increase with additional vrocks, but the damage does not). The dance immediately ends and must be started anew if any of the participating vrocks is slain, stunned, or otherwise prevented from dancing. The save DC is Charisma-based.

Stunning Screech (SU):

Once per hour, a vrock can emit a shrill screech. All creatures except demons within a 30-foot-radius spread must succeed on a DC 21 Fortitude save or be stunned for 1 round. The save DC is Constitution-based.


with the information you gave to the Player what the Pcs did?


As a DM, I can't say the check was high enough to guarantee that bit if info. As a player, I would be furious too. The one time I used the Vrock dance the players just went on auto pilot without rolling.


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"What are they doing?"

"Hold on I think I've read something about this..." rolls "Watch out they can screech!"

If that was the context, personally myself and my other groups rotating DMs would have ruled that he knew what the dace was. However, it is your DM style and if you do it with all you knowledge checks then it would be fine.


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No, you were not unfair. Players need to learn that meta-gaming does not always help them. A lot of times, I like to re-skin creatures so that players don't know what they are up against and can't use their meta-game knowledge to their PCs advantage. You were fair, you gave them a chance to identify and the dice determined what happened and gave them knowledge of the Screech instead of the Dance. The player would probably still have been mad if he rolled a 1 on the d20 for knowledge thinking that you should have given it to him anyhow.


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The knowledge check isn't 'what they know' it's 'what they recall'. However, I would have told them about the screech, but that they also have an ominous feeling lingering in the back of his head.

Regardless of what I knew as a player, allowing a bunch of Demons to start dancing, is not something I would have allowed to continue. Just common sense.


So after 3 rounds the party had been damaged enough, the damage was 15d6 (assuming all 3 vrocks joined in) which at best is 90 and is more likely to be 45 on average, they were all within 10 ft radius of the vrocks flying 90ft in the air, with a DC19 reflex to halve, to kill multiple PC's? What the heck was the wizard and ranged guys doing? What level was the party?

I wouldn't necessarily call it unfair, but I would likely rule at my table that the special abilities all counted as 1 thing known, alignment another, DR another, immunities another, etc.

Still though, what would the knowledge check have gained the players if that encounter left them that badly damaged (or killed)(assuming they are 10th level or higher)?


I'm honestly mostly curious about how your wizard only got a 22 on that roll. With maxed ranks, an appropriate level (10-12 at least), and an easily achieved 24 Int (16 base, +2 race, +2 levels, +4 headband), you're already looking at +20-22.

That said, I think I'm with H.P. Makelovecraft and would have given the wizard knowledge of the dance (rolling to recognize the specific ability, not to see if it knew any one ability). But it's your game, and you decided to leave it up to the dice. The dice gods looked upon the wizard, and said "no". If random chance isn't fair, then I really don't know what is.

Also, the players probably should have known the vrocks were up to something and wouldn't just start randomly dancing in the air for no reason -- I'd say that's enough reason in itself to either get the hell out of Dodge, or try to stop them from dancing.

Pendin Fust wrote:
So after 3 rounds the party had been damaged enough, the damage was 15d6 (assuming all 3 vrocks joined in) which at best is 90 and is more likely to be 45 on average, they were all within 10 ft radius of the vrocks flying 90ft in the air, with a DC19 reflex to halve, to kill multiple PC's? What the heck was the wizard and ranged guys doing? What level was the party?

alientude mentioned that they died to the encounter, not the dance itself. I suspect it was just massive initial damage combined with a relatively tough fight (vrocks can do a fair bit of harm).


Sounds fair to me, Alientude. You gave them an opportunity to get useful, life-saving information. That didn't prevent them from dispersing or otherwise do anything to save their lives anyway. Bad stuff happens to good people all the time.

It's hard, but you were fair. People will respect hard-but-fair. Stick to your guns.

Once the players cool down, tell them you'll "make them a deal", wherein the PC's survive the encounter, but have been captured (loss of stuff and freedom). They get to fight their way out if they can.


When you roll your skill check you get one line of info ie attack, Saves, Defenses, senses, movement, special qualities. But all of them in that group. And if beat the DC by 5 or every increment of 5 then an other line. The whole line not just part of it. And I let the players ask me what line. They know what there PC would know better than me the GM.

So if was me I would say yes. Cause you did not give the whole line.

Do you always randomize the info or was this the first time?

And if player wanted to pissy about it they could ask to make the check 3 times one for each Vrock.


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The knowledge check needed to identify a monster's abilities and weaknesses is 10 + the Cr of the creature in this case a Cr 9 so the DC was 19 for abilites and weaknesses which is up to interpretation, but the plural forms of those words are used. So you were wrong there.

More importantly I would like to know the levels of the characters in the party, that would convey a greater sense of whether or not you were in the wrong.


pipedreamsam wrote:
The knowledge check needed to identify a monster's abilities and weaknesses is 10 + the Cr of the creature in this case a Cr 9 so the DC was 19 for abilites and weaknesses which is up to interpretation, but the plural forms of those words are used. So you were wrong there.

Less wrong than you might think.

PFSRD wrote:
A successful check allows you to remember a bit of useful information about that monster. For every 5 points by which your check result exceeds the DC, you recall another piece of useful information.

It says that it gives "a bit," not several. And for every 5, you get another. I'd say he ruled that part just fine (how he determined which ability the wizard knew is more up for debate -- and, I think, up for personal GM ruling).


The party was 8th level, and 3 Vrocks is a CR 12 encounter. Yes, it's very, very tough, but they knew going in that this was supposed to be a brutal campaign (I gave them warning, and the book - don't want to spoil anything, so no names - warns that characters will die).

I disagree with people saying that "a bit of useful information" means getting an entire section (ie Defensive Abilities, Offensive Abilities, etc). This group has always ruled that each bit is one thing - ie DR, or an immunity, or one special ability, etc.


It's pretty much their fault. When things that are messing with you take time out of messing with you to dance you better get the F out of there. Don't just stand there looking at them like wow, thats a pretty dance their doing. I'm sure happy their not charging me. You run like crazy shooting arrows as you do. In fact you should probably do this anytime you encounter anything that you don't get a good knowledge check on, just to be sure.


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I agree with H.P. Makelovecraft, in the context to which the player was making the knowledge check for (trying to figure out what the dance was via monster lore while they danced) the successful check should have netted him the proper info.


@Two Face Fair enough...I was assuming a higher level party with that encounter.

But heck yeah, I'd get out of there or at least try something to interrupt if I started seeing a dance.

I'm a pretty lenient GM so I give some more info than might be called for (i.e. the "bit" I would have given all the abilities) but again, I'm pretty lenient. Your PC's were forewarned of the brutality. I'd say you were pretty fair.


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The bit of info they know doesn't have to be random. It can be if they're not trying to figure out a specific thing, but that wasn't the case.

If a player were trying to identify a fresco pertaining to some obscure religious sect, you wouldn't reward their successful check with the feast days of Gorumites.

Andoran

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What information is learned is not clearly defined and varies from group to group. What's most important from this experience isn't what information that was delivered, but rather the fact that you and your players have a difference of opinion on how that information is available.

Some groups give questions. Others give a standard sequence, whatever it might be. Others give random info or at GM discretion. Don' beat yourself up about it, but get on the same page as your players for the style of game that all you want to experience, or whatever serves as a compromise in the absence of total agreement.


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I personally don't believe Vrocks should be able to do Dance of Ruin while flying.

Dance of Ruin (Su)

A vrock can dance and chant as a full-round action—at the end of 3 rounds, a crackling wave of energy explodes from the vrock, dealing 5d6 points of electricity damage to all creatures within 100 feet.


Jon Otaguro 428 wrote:

I personally don't believe Vrocks should be able to do Dance of Ruin while flying.

Dance of Ruin (Su)

A vrock can dance and chant as a full-round action—at the end of 3 rounds, a crackling wave of energy explodes from the vrock, dealing 5d6 points of electricity damage to all creatures within 100 feet.

Why not, is there something preventing you from dancing in the air?


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Vrocks are average flyers. As such they can't hover. Would you allow movement while doing an action that requires a full round action?

Cheliax

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alientude wrote:

The party was 8th level, and 3 Vrocks is a CR 12 encounter. Yes, it's very, very tough, but they knew going in that this was supposed to be a brutal campaign (I gave them warning, and the book - don't want to spoil anything, so no names - warns that characters will die).

So basically, in context, in an encounter thats +4 to their level you didnt give them the piece of useful information that MIGHT have given them a chance to stay alive, and your complaining that yoru players are b@#t$@ing at you?

No offense, but I think you deserve it. Knowing its a tough AND brutal campaign, you could have thrown them a bone and lifeline.

I was with you in the first post, but knowing the rest I think you're wrong.

Cheliax

ub3r_n3rd wrote:
No, you were not unfair. Players need to learn that meta-gaming does not always help them. A lot of times, I like to re-skin creatures so that players don't know what they are up against and can't use their meta-game knowledge to their PCs advantage. You were fair, you gave them a chance to identify and the dice determined what happened and gave them knowledge of the Screech instead of the Dance. The player would probably still have been mad if he rolled a 1 on the d20 for knowledge thinking that you should have given it to him anyhow.

I agree with this 100%

If you play with veteran players you almost have to change up powers and abilities... sometimes its very hard to sep Player vs Character knowledge.


The player was asking specifically about the dance, so I'd say yeah he made the check you should have told him as opposed to something not really related to what he was inquiring about.

Andoran

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Pathfinder Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Campaign Setting, Companion, Modules, Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Jon Otaguro 428 wrote:
Vrocks are average flyers. As such they can't hover. Would you allow movement while doing an action that requires a full round action?

Bingo. Encounter was run incorrectly, and set up to screw the PCs. Unfair, and not by the rules either.


True... If they can't hover, they can't dance.

Have the Vrocks rolled all the according fly checks to not fall down because they haven't moved?


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

What were the PCs doing? I probably would have let them know about the dance personally, but even if I didn't I would expect the PCs to assume it was not a good thing. Even without a Planes check it should have been obvious that the dance was causing some sort of energy build up, and the Vrocks were up to no good.

Andoran

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Jon Otaguro 428 wrote:
Vrocks are average flyers. As such they can't hover. Would you allow movement while doing an action that requires a full round action?

Sure they can. Any flier can hover with a DC 15 fly check. Average flyers just have a +0 bonus to their checks. Since Vrocks have a +12 fly it's not a difficult roll to make.

Edit to add: By the way the feat Hover just makes it unnecessary to make the DC 15 check. It also allows the monster to kick up debris to create concealment which is often overlooked.


um, why cant they hover?

it's a DC 15 fly check

they have a +12 to fly.

*Edit* Damn Ninjas are verywhere.....

As an added note, if the PCs stand around and watch 3 vrocks dance around DIRECTLY ABOVE THEM for 3 rounds and do not think it a good idea to leave..... well then thats not the GM's fault.


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

Hover is only a DC15 fly skill check. Vrock have a +12 Fly skill. They need to roll a 3 of greater any round to be able to dance while airborn.

Statistically, they would have easily made all 3 rolls, tho its possible there could have been a bad luck oen that could have changed the encounter. For the sake of the battle however, i'd say that it was likely to have been a successful tactic.


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Firstly: DM making a mistake about whether they can fly or not doesn't equate to "out to screw the players" anymore than a player who misreads a spell is out to "screw the DM". Mistakes happen.

Secondly: On to the topic.
If the PC said "I want to make a roll to see what they are dancing for"
and you said "they have a screech ability" I would call that to be a mistake on your part.

However

If the PC's see 3 Vrocks dancing and the Pc rolls to see what the creatures are- then its really their problem for not being specific. I say this as a player. I don't generally DM. Assuming the Dm told the players that the guys were dancing then its up to the PC's to decide to ask if they know what its about. Its not up to the DM to volunteer information. And, if that group already has its rules setup such so that the DM gives a small piece of info with a successful check then they *knew* that one roll wouldn't be enough for an outsider.

Asking what a creature is and asking whether you can identify the ritual or ability they are currently using are two different things. Folks need to be specific if they want specific information.

-S


One of the changes from 3.5. However, I as a player would still want 9 rolls (3 per vrock). At 10% failure per roll, that's a fair chance they would fail.


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Since there's been a good bit of disagreement, I went ahead and clarified the rules of how knowledge checks will work in my game and offered the party a retcon on the battle. Thanks for the opinions, folks.

As for the people assuming facts not in evidence, assume all you want. Also, I never knew a dance required somebody staying in one spot.


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Pathfinder Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

I'd have given them the dance of ruin info since that's what the demons were doing rather than the screech. Telling them about the screech is like looking at a cook making scrambled eggs and remembering that I could have corn flakes for breakfast.


GM tip # 34: "Reskin anything unusual that the characters would not likely have encountered before to avoid metagaming by players who have memorized every rulebook."

As for what the knowledge check would have revealed... by RAW it is random. I might have given a circumstance bonus on the check since they were dancing. Maybe that would have given more info on the dance itself.

But I would not have gone out of my way to warn the PCs about a potential monster ability that their characters would have no way of knowing about. Just not my style.


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Adamantine Dragon wrote:


But I would not have gone out of my way to warn the PCs about a potential monster ability that their characters would have no way of knowing about. Just not my style.

A character having actually studied planes and planar creatures is essentially saying that yes they have a way to know about it, with a roll to back it up.


chaoseffect wrote:
Adamantine Dragon wrote:


But I would not have gone out of my way to warn the PCs about a potential monster ability that their characters would have no way of knowing about. Just not my style.
A character having actually studied planes and planar creatures is essentially saying that yes they have a way to know about it, with a roll to back it up.

And the roll is to determine what they remembered. Which in this case was the screech, not the dance. Ergo they had no guarantee to know about the dance. As I said, I'd have given a circumstance modifier. Maybe that would have been enough. If not I'd not sweat it.


alientude wrote:
As for the people assuming facts not in evidence, assume all you want. Also, I never knew a dance required somebody staying in one spot.

While I am in the camp that you were right there is one thing about this.

the dance is a full round action, so they could at most take a 5' step each round.

The dance does not say they can move, or how far they move, IMO (and RAW) is that they have to stay put.

If you let them move and do it then yeah there was a problem.

Unfair? No

Making a mistake? Sadly yes.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game, Tales Subscriber

Well. I don't think it was unfair. There has been good discussion on several points of the encounter, so I will just move on to this point:

Remember the point of the game is to have fun. If this has decreased the fun for you and your players by a large amount, then consider using some DM fiat when you get together next time.

Have one of the PCs 'wake up' at very low hit points to find the others unconscious and in need of immediate aid. The Vrocks could have flown off having assumed they defeated the group and watched them all drop. Save the characters/save the game. This won't work for all groups, but you could give it a try.


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Less than 50/50 odds for one of the three vrocks to fail the hover check for the Fly skill: No biggie.

22 Knowledge (planes) checks turned up one bit out of, oh, call it at *least* 8 applicable bits of possible information: Spot on.

Numbskulls picking their noses for THREE FULL ROUNDS while the ogre-sized demon-chickens clucked and hopped and flapped wings and (presumably) spritzed anyone at point-blank range with spores: PC deaths well-earned, if any.

BWMC'ing rights belong to the GM on this one, *not* the players.


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

In terms of making sense of how knowledge checks work, I would imagine the least deadly ability, the more likely someone would know about it, given that more people would have survived it to pass the knowledge on. I know in some published adventures, you are told what bit of info to pass on about the monsters that appear, and it is generally the most dangerous things that require the highest knowledge roll. Also, as a level one bard, I would have a +9 to the relevant info check, meaning that there is a 65% chance I would have rolled just as high on the check. (+1 rank, 3 trained, 5 from the stat (18+2 racial modifier) or something like that. If there was a wizard, and they optimized there stats even slightly, it would make the knowledge check somewhat the same, and by level 8, that is still +16 to the roll, meaning they rolled a 6 <_<. Unlucky at best, poor knowledge skill at worst.


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alientude wrote:
The player (who knew out of character exactly what the creature was and what the dance did) wanted to be told what the dance was. I ruled that the character could get one offensive ability determined by chance and rolled a die - it came up that the character knew about the Stunning Screech ability, not the Dance of Ruin.

Is that always your rule? Whenever a player knows something and is rolling to see if their character knows it, is that your ruling (that it is random)? Or, sometimes, do you allow them to roll for the specific knowledge that the player is asking about.

If it is the former, then you were fair.
If it was the later, then you were inconsistent, and that is unfair.

But, in neither case were you kind. +4 CR above party level and you've denied the characters knowledge at least one player had. That was . . . unkind.

A few people have called the players unwise for staying under the vrocks. But look at it from a player point of view:

PC WIZ: Well, gang, I guess we don't know they're doing their Dance of Ruin.
PC TANK: DM probably won't let us do anything to get away because he'll rule we're taking actions based on knowledge our characters don't have. He'll probably make us stay under the vrocks now.
PC ROG: Yeah, guess we should just stay put and try to take 'em out from here.

These were probably internally arrived at and not actually verbalized, but I can easily see players thinking that. And we were encouraged to assume all we wanted; so I have.

Shadow Lodge

blope wrote:


Remember the point of the game is to have fun. If this has decreased the fun for you and your players by a large amount, then consider using some DM fiat when you get together next time.

This is something that I entirely believe in. Fun isn't rolling over every fight, but neither is it fun to be rolled over on every fight. Not claiming that you are doing one or the other.

Personally, I just can't see demons dancing up in the sky without making any effort with only an Avg. flight speed, but that's me.

If the PC's can't tell that something like that is bad and to either kill or run-away well they deserve the pain and suffering! Would probably not TPK to keep the game going but I would make them suffer.

If he was specially trying to remember 1 detail or about something specific, my suggestion is increase the DC and that's all he gets, nothing else; I'm not sure at a 22 I would have given him any information on the Vrock as the base would be at least a 19, possible exceptions would be if he made frequent use of "Summon Monster" spells or had some kind of connection or focus on demons.


Party level 9 of 4 characters @ 15 point buy vs. CR 12 = +3 over. APL increases with higher ability score arrays, higher-than-WBL, 'superior' races, etc.


Turin the Mad wrote:
Party level 9 of 4 characters @ 15 point buy vs. CR 12 = +3 over.

Correct.

alientude wrote:
The party was 8th level, and 3 Vrocks is a CR 12 encounter.

But the party was 8th level, not 9th. We don't know how many were in the party. I stick with it being +4 over.

Taldor

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If you weren't operating in the context of working with the players to make the game fun then if you were unfair or not isn't really important. People who are angry and complaining after a game weren't enjoying themselves and that defeats the entire purpose of playing.

From a rules aspect under Knowledge Skills you'll see it says, "A successful check allows you to remember a bit of useful information about that monster." My emphasis. Not a random bit of information, a useful bit of information. It's like you told them Vrocks had a higher risk of heart disease or a fondness for walnuts, the information was in not useful at that stage of things.

If you want to run a game that is GM vs. Players, may I suggest trying out something like Descent: Journeys in the Dark? That sounds like it fits your play style more from what little I've seen and lot I've assumed.


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Morgen wrote:


If you want to run a game that is GM vs. Players, may I suggest trying out something like Descent: Journeys in the Dark? That sounds like it fits your play style more from what little I've seen and lot I've assumed.

Totally uncalled for. Did you not see my response in which I clarified the rules for the party and offered to retcon the combat?

For those wondering, the party is 5 characters (one of whom, the bard, was not there that day but his character was allowed to Inspire Courage and cast Haste for important combats) with WBL and 20 point buy.

Taldor

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No, I saw the part that said:

alientude wrote:
The party was 8th level, and 3 Vrocks is a CR 12 encounter. Yes, it's very, very tough, but they knew going in that this was supposed to be a brutal campaign (I gave them warning, and the book - don't want to spoil anything, so no names - warns that characters will die).

Your post something like this and I make that assumption. My suggestion was made for someone whose guaranteeing that characters will be killed. If you don't feel that description fit you and you don't want a more competitive style of game then my suggestion isn't for you.

I've played under enough people who took glee at killing player characters to know that there are games out there that they'll find a lot more fun to play and try to suggest them for them.


Well, assume all you want. I'm sure you're familiar with the expression about it.


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I would consider that not fair in any game that I have run or played in. Of course your game is obviously different which is not necessarily bad.

When the wizard gets a 22 knowledge and is asking a specific question, what rational is there for giving him something which is pointedly not answering the question besides an overabundance of adherence to RAW.

Even in the face of player knowledge, I would not call the wizard asking "why are the demonic vulture people dancing?" meta. In any case, players being meta does not imply they need to be punished as so many people on these boards seem to think.

Mykull wrote:

A few people have called the players unwise for staying under the vrocks. But look at it from a player point of view:

PC WIZ: Well, gang, I guess we don't know they're doing their Dance of Ruin.
PC TANK: DM probably won't let us do anything to get away because he'll rule we're taking actions based on knowledge our characters don't have. He'll probably make us stay under the vrocks now.
PC ROG: Yeah, guess we should just stay put and try to take 'em out from here.

These were probably internally arrived at and not actually verbalized, but I can easily see players thinking that. And we were encouraged to assume all we wanted; so I have.

Are there a great number of DMs who would force the players to stay under the vrocks if they did not explicitly have the information about the Dance of Ruin from a knowledge check? There is no situation where that is appropriate behavior from a DM. I would think that when the wizard who is deeply schooled in information about outsiders cannot remember what the demons are doing it is even more of a reason to GTFO than if you know what they are doing. Of course when the demons start dancing it does not take a knowledge check to know you should probably leave.

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