Explosive Runes is overpowered


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One problem with the Explosive Runes spell is that it violates the games own rules for magical traps. It has no expensive material component, yet it creates a magical trap that would normally cost 1,400 gp for the spell alone.

A simple fix would be to limit the spell's duration to one day. So that if you wanted a permanent trap, you'd have to use the regular trap rules.

This would at least limit stockpiles of Explosive Runes to the caster's available spell slots or impose a gold piece cost if they wanted a lasting supply.

This issue was brought to my attention when it was illustrated how a cache of prepared Explosive Runes could one-shot anything, including Cthulhu!


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Here is my solution, instead

An Alternative:
EXPLOSIVE RUNES

Scarab Sages

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Pathfinder Adventure Path, Rulebook Subscriber

Thats like putting in immovable rod into the stomach of tarrasque, or setting off an instant fortress inside a monster. It's a cheese tactic and should be frowned upon by everyone.


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sorry

if my PC setting off a tree feather token inside some big bad that swallowed him is wrong, then I do not want to be right

I will turn my frown upside down

also j/k not sorry at all


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Lamontius wrote:

sorry

if my PC setting off a tree feather token inside some big bad that swallowed him is wrong, then I do not want to be right

I will turn my frown upside down

also j/k not sorry at all

And if your PC walks into a room wallpapered with hundreds of Explosive Runes? Is that also okay?


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sure man that sounds like a rad adventure
does that happen to you a lot, JoeJ


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JoeJ wrote:


And if your PC walks into a room wallpapered with hundreds of Explosive Runes? Is that also okay?

pfft, I'm blind bring it on.


Simple. Read the spell: "The explosive runes detonate when read..." Not when viewed. Nor does it say you can put multiple castings on one object or that the damage stacks.


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I saw that other thread, but I guess I still don't get how people are using explosive runes as boss killers. Sure, it's force damage without a save, but how is it reasoned that if you put 1000 tags of explosive runes down in proximity they all go off at once? Looking at a wall of writing and reading a single passage are two very different things. Don't tell me that anyone who has sat through a boring lecture has at one point stared at a power point slide and not actually read a single sentence on that slide. While there have been people who can look at a page and read the whole thing at once, most of us need to go line-by-line.

So I can't see that a mass of ER tags would detonate at once. More like you read one to a few, and then are rudely interrupted by an explosion. Which would destroy the other objects that you have explosive runes on. Nothing in the description of that spell leads to me to believe that one explosion triggers a chain reaction. The runes need to be read or triggered via dispel failure.

So there's my reasoning. So, very sincerely, what am I missing? Why do people talk as if they are land mines when they use this spell.

Dr Ninja'd


@DrDeth - Its merely the chaining of a bunch of them all at once, being set off by Greater Dispel. If something fails the dispel, then it goes off. And since GD is radial, they all fail, and all go off.
@Flaming Duck - Greater Dispel hits everything in a fairly large radius

For instance, 1000 of them on sheets of paper in a duffel bag = nuke


Pathfinder Rulebook, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

You fill a book with Explosive Runes. One per page. Then, you toss it and cast Greater Dispel Magic. Choose to fail. Kaboom

Dark Archive

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Xethik wrote:
You fill a book with Explosive Runes. One per page. Then, you toss it and cast Greater Dispel Magic. Choose to fail. Kaboom

This trick comes up a lot, but the reality is that the "touched object" is the book, not the page in the book. Thus, you only get one rune.


Psyren wrote:
Xethik wrote:
You fill a book with Explosive Runes. One per page. Then, you toss it and cast Greater Dispel Magic. Choose to fail. Kaboom
This trick comes up a lot, but the reality is that the "touched object" is the book, not the page in the book. Thus, you only get one rune.

Hence my example. Azren's trick used a summoned monster to set them all off, as well (he was the OP's source for the trick).

Dark Archive

LeesusFreak wrote:
Psyren wrote:
Xethik wrote:
You fill a book with Explosive Runes. One per page. Then, you toss it and cast Greater Dispel Magic. Choose to fail. Kaboom
This trick comes up a lot, but the reality is that the "touched object" is the book, not the page in the book. Thus, you only get one rune.
Hence my example. Azren's trick used a summoned monster to set them all off, as well (he was the OP's source for the trick).

The duffel bag would block line of effect from the burst to the papers inside. (And even if it did somehow get in, the papers on top would block it to the papers underneath etc.)


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The simple answer is tell your players no when they try to use this trick. Explain, calmly, that it trivializes things and you will not allow it to be used in such a manner.

There all sorts of mechanical restriciton you could try to put into place about how it functions so that you don't have a suitcase nuke. But at the end of the day, if you talk to your players about it they will either understand and accept or they will whine about it. If they whine and refuse to accept your decision then tell them they can find another game, or tell the group they can find another game master.

Simple as that.


By the numbers: since you want the Greater Dispel to fail, you'll be casting it at the lowest possible CL, which for sorcerer or wizard is 11. The caster check at that level is 1D20+11 vs. a DC of 11+CL of the runes, so Explosive Runes has to be cast with a CL of at least 21 to guarantee detonation. Below that, there's a 5% chance per level below 21 that the runes simply be dispelled and the trap ruined.

Shadow Lodge

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Simply cast it on a thousand sheets of paper, and then use Craft[Bookbinding] to form them into a book. Then make sure to target the Dispel AoE so it hits the book along the side opposite the spine, technically hitting all of the pages in the book.

Dark Archive

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You also can't choose to fail your dispel check in this way anyway. "You automatically succeed to dispel any spell you cast yourself." It is not optional - you succeed and the runes are gone.


Psyren wrote:
LeesusFreak wrote:
Psyren wrote:
Xethik wrote:
You fill a book with Explosive Runes. One per page. Then, you toss it and cast Greater Dispel Magic. Choose to fail. Kaboom
This trick comes up a lot, but the reality is that the "touched object" is the book, not the page in the book. Thus, you only get one rune.
Hence my example. Azren's trick used a summoned monster to set them all off, as well (he was the OP's source for the trick).
The duffel bag would block line of effect from the burst to the papers inside. (And even if it did somehow get in, the papers on top would block it to the papers underneath etc.)

Alright, then, here's three examples:

A) Unzip the bag
B) Timestop -> dump out bag -> summon monster to cast Greater Dispel on any of them.
C) Use your imagination, it really isn't that difficult


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Aha! Thanks LeesusFreak! I guess I missed that in the other thread. Although, I question the wisdom of walking around with a bag (non-dimensional space or otherwise) that you are slowly filling with bombs. At 10 (maybe more) a day that's still maybe a month or two to make a nuke. This is also assuming you don't go out and bulk order those runes.

"Ahem...yes, I'd like to place an order for 500 sheets of explosive runes. When? By the end of the week is fine. Also, a high caster level, if possible. Because, otherwise the greater dispel will work! Why? Oh, my Aunt left me a house in Varisia. There's a lot of rats, you see. A LOT of rats. No no, there's no need to check with your boss. What I do with 500 tags of explosive runes is my own business!"

And because, at those levels, someone is paying attention to the PC's... I would love to be the enemy scry-spy that delivered that info to the BBEG. My promotion would be in the bag!


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Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens Subscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber

I fail to understand how you can "not" read something thrust in your face. It's pretty much automatic on sight, particularly when it is unexpected.

Xethik wrote:
You fill a book with Explosive Runes. One per page. Then, you toss it and cast Greater Dispel Magic. Choose to fail. Kaboom

My wizards have been doing things like this for years.

archmagi1 wrote:
Thats like putting in immovable rod into the stomach of tarrasque, or setting off an instant fortress inside a monster. It's a cheese tactic and should be frowned upon by everyone.

How is it a cheese tactic? It requires (1) the purchase of a very expensive magical item, (2) for you to get swallowed by a monster powerful enough to eat you in the first place, (3) for you to be able to access the stored magical item, and (4) for you to be able to speak well enough to activate the item's command word while you are fighting getting digested alive.


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Pathfinder Rulebook, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Yeah, using a summoned or gated monster is the norm from what I've seen. Gated is particularly iffy.

Even without this trick, the spell is silly. I don't like stockpiling offensive spells or traps without things like scrolls.

Dark Archive

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LeesusFreak wrote:


A) Unzip the bag

Bursts don't go around corners.

LeesusFreak wrote:
B) Timestop -> dump out bag -> summon monster to cast Greater Dispel on any of them.

How do they fall out of the bag while time is stopped?

LeesusFreak wrote:


C) Use your imagination, it really isn't that difficult

Irony!


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From Kirthfinder, here is one way to deal with the Explosive Runes issue, and other glyph type spells:

Quote:

ACTIVE OR LATENT SPELLS

Active or latent spells that are permanent or last until discharged (such as explosive runes, glyph of warding, fire trap, secret page, symbol of death, etc.) count against your personal numen (Wealth by level to purchase magic items). In general, the cost is as per a magic trap (spell level x caster level x 50 gp, plus the spell’s listed material component cost, if any). The numen is replaced when the spell is no longer potent, due to discharge, dispelling, or whatever. Some examples:

3rd level explosive runes x CL 6th x 50 gp = 900 numen each.

For an 8 HD simulacrum: (6th level simulacrum spell x CL 11th x 50 gp) + (8 x 500 gp) = 7,300 numen.


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The more I think on it the more I'm inclined to say that any spell with a default duration of 'permanent until discharged' should be limited to only one at a time.

You cast the spell a second time, you are considered to have dismissed the first spell.

Grand Lodge

Also rember the ranges are small. They assume you are with in 5' to read the item and at 10' you get a save for 1/2 damage.


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With all this discussion, I think it is hard to see this as a thing PCs can do (or at least something they can do more than 1-2 times an entire campaign).

No, when looking at explosive runes, I see the plot of an action movie

"In a world of magic, there are those that would choose to terrorize the common man with their power. When the mad wizard Simon Gruber spreads leaflets with explosive runes all over Gildhelm, there is only knight that can stop him- John McClane. But will he be able to stop Gruber's deadly traps in time to realize the true evil scheme behind them?"

....why yes, yes I did borrow heavily upon the plot of Die Hard With a Vengeance.

Anyway, dumping a bunch of runed papers into a town seems like a horrifically effective tactic. Most kids over the age f 7 would be able to read them, and when they are first dropped from the sky, there will be enough schmuck bait to get a few dozen explosions as people examine the occurrence.

Add the confusion born from those explosions that keep people from initially realize what is happening, then have dozens of people wandering around blind because they want to avoid blowing up (and at least a few of them will routine open their eyes because we are a species that relies on sight), and the the messy clean up since the town has to then clean up all of the unexploded rune papers... which means you have to go look for them.

Overall, a rather effective strategy for depopulating a town for a given time span really. I wouldn't use it as my main strategy, obviously. It would either be a terror attack to ruin morale (I guess there might be a war or something) or it would be a distraction while you attacked something else more directly (temples hiding powerful artifacts or the king's throne room, for example)

Dark Archive

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And the illiterate dude is the only one who can save the town! Ha! Take that intellectual snobs!

I'm also amused that anybody would click on a thread that has 'explosive runes' right there in the title. Good grief, we have the survival instinct of lemmings! We'd be the chuckleheads in the horror movie reading aloud from the copy of the Necronomicon...


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EvilPaladin wrote:
Simply cast it on a thousand sheets of paper, and then use Craft[Bookbinding] to form them into a book. Then make sure to target the Dispel AoE so it hits the book along the side opposite the spine, technically hitting all of the pages in the book.

It's either one item or many items. There's nothing that sez it can be cast multiple times on one item.


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Yes, that's when the true primitive barbarian shows up to the heavy synth-riffs.

"Read and Die, Hero!

"Zug no read."

~~~Moneyshot~~~


Psyren wrote:
stuff

Are you seriously challenging me on this? You must be loads of fun at parties. Have you forgotten the most important rule here? You've missed the -entire- point of the thread. Scenarios where this plays out really aren't that hard to imagine.

Anywho, quadratic wizards are gods. It really boils down to that one simple concept.


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Oh no! SPELL X is broken because I can do a zillion damage with it at a high level, in narrow circumstances, after I cast the spell a thousand times in addition to casting several other spells!

THE GAME HAS BEEN CHANGED...
FOREVER...


Set wrote:

And the illiterate dude is the only one who can save the town! Ha! Take that intellectual snobs!

I'm also amused that anybody would click on a thread that has 'explosive runes' right there in the title. Good grief, we have the survival instinct of lemmings! We'd be the chuckleheads in the horror movie reading aloud from the copy of the Necronomicon...

Yeah, in retrospect, I should have gone with Arnold Schwarzenegger in Conan... but then again, that is hardly a setting with magic on the level of high grade explosives, and Conan was not exactly an idiot either.

Still, yes, I had to really resist using a barbarian in my scenario.


Uh Psyren just because you are moving faster then everything else, doesn't mean gravity stop working. If you really insist that they won't fall, then you simply have to reach in and toss them out yourself. Once the Time Stop ends they will then begin to fall normally and be nice and spread out for Greater Dispel. And for those are wondering, yes you use multiple individual runes each on its own object.


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Apart from the need to be very high level to make this work, the biggest check on it I see without adding house rules is that NPCs can do it too, and there isn't much chance of a wizard getting to 20th level without making some very powerful enemies along the way.

Which probably explains why wizards traditionally live in towers out in the wilderness - because nobody else wants to be anywhere near them.

Grand Lodge

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Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber
Inviktus wrote:

One problem with the Explosive Runes spell is that it violates the games own rules for magical traps. It has no expensive material component, yet it creates a magical trap that would normally cost 1,400 gp for the spell alone.

It doesn't violate the rules for traps... because technically it's... not a trap. It's a placed spell, like a Symbol or Glpyh.


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I see the biggest check against this as a DM is the fact that it can be done to your players as well.

Oh, you've got ten thousand Simulacrum backups just in case? That's peachy, so does your opponent. Since he does, he/she/it is perfectly fine with doing insane things, like using a Quickened Wish to transmute all of your Simulacrums into pieces of paper with Explosive Runes on them, and then using another Wish to teleport them to your current location, and enact the failure of a Greater Dispel Magic on them.


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Or, to put it another way: Look at your player when they try to game the system in such a way, and calmly state that, in a world such as the one you're playing in, there are quite a few INSANELY POWERFUL AND INTELLIGENT god-like beings yet this tactic doesn't seem to be commonplace, and then ask them why they think that is.

Hint: Mutually Assured Destruction.


lemeres wrote:
*Explosive Runes leaflet terror attack*

And now I have an idea for an Eberron campaign.


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Explosive Runes are proof that Goblins are properly paranoid about reading.


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So in otherwords, don't do cheese or else you'll teach the DM that cheese is okay! Don't escalate until you want every second of every game will be decisions that either progress whats going on or TPK, You don't want to be Scryed and Fried by some dudes when you're trying to nap your spells back. You don't want to be confronted with magical nukes with no saves. You don't want to confront the evil wizard with infinite wishes.


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If people really want to play at that level, and for some reason want to do it with Pathfinder rather than a straight superhero RPG, then my advice for the GM is:

1. Ignore CR. It's completely unable to measure the challenge factor of creatures at that level. Just make your best judgment call about what is a fair challenge and go with it.

2. Expect that the PCs will most often be fighting the same enemies repeatedly. Neither side has much chance of permanently killing the other, so it comes down to each trying to interfere as much as they can in the others' plans.

3. Don't forget that intelligent monsters can have levels in PC classes too. Imagine what you can do with a 17th level pit fiend wizard!


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ShadowFighter88 wrote:
lemeres wrote:
*Explosive Runes leaflet terror attack*
And now I have an idea for an Eberron campaign.

You must admit, it certainly has quite the flair, no?

Imagine, the start of a campaign

"You all walk into an inn....when suddenly you hear explosions outside and the sounds of screaming towns people!"

And then you go straight to Private Ryan levels of mayhem. A first session where the players literally have to survive in a scenario where a stiff breeze could kill the all.

Getting out of there requires them to both not look where they are going....and to detect where other people are in case some random towns person looked and set off the trap. A chaotic, crowded minefield where you own eyes as well as your own allies are your worst enemies. Now that is a challenge.

And it is a way to make some very, very quick motivations to take down this terrorist organization. Besides the challenge presented to the players, it also gets across the idea 'these monsters do not play fair' when they are blasting out hundreds of spells from creatures way above the appropriate CR. It just screams 'cruel over kill' through indiscriminate attacks against innocent people. The fact that the players are also way out of their league can help build empathy with the normally faceless commoner NPCs.


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lemeres wrote:
ShadowFighter88 wrote:
lemeres wrote:
*Explosive Runes leaflet terror attack*
And now I have an idea for an Eberron campaign.

You must admit, it certainly has quite the flair, no?

Imagine, the start of a campaign

"You all walk into an inn....when suddenly you hear explosions outside and the sounds of screaming towns people!"

And then you go straight to Private Ryan levels of mayhem. A first session where the players literally have to survive in a scenario where a stiff breeze could kill the all.

Getting out of there requires them to both not look where they are going....and to detect where other people are in case some random towns person looked and set off the trap. A chaotic, crowded minefield where you own eyes as well as your own allies are your worst enemies. Now that is a challenge.

And it is a way to make some very, very quick motivations to take down this terrorist organization. Besides the challenge presented to the players, it also gets across the idea 'these monsters do not play fair' when they are blasting out hundreds of spells from creatures way above the appropriate CR. It just screams 'cruel over kill' through indiscriminate attacks against innocent people. The fact that the players are also way out of their league can help build empathy with the normally faceless commoner NPCs.

Consider this idea stolen. :)


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Inviktus wrote:

The more I think on it the more I'm inclined to say that any spell with a default duration of 'permanent until discharged' should be limited to only one at a time.

You cast the spell a second time, you are considered to have dismissed the first spell.

Just make the spell 'freeze' the spell slot it was cast with until set off. If you wanted to limit the behavior; as long as the explosive rune was waiting to be set off, that would be one spell slot that could not be utilized.


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RDM42 wrote:
Inviktus wrote:

The more I think on it the more I'm inclined to say that any spell with a default duration of 'permanent until discharged' should be limited to only one at a time.

You cast the spell a second time, you are considered to have dismissed the first spell.

Just make the spell 'freeze' the spell slot it was cast with until set off. If you wanted to limit the behavior; as long as the explosive rune was waiting to be set off, that would be one spell slot that could not be utilized.

You can also end the campaign before the PCs get high enough level to make the Greater Dispel Magic reliably fail.


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Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber
JoeJ wrote:
RDM42 wrote:
Inviktus wrote:

The more I think on it the more I'm inclined to say that any spell with a default duration of 'permanent until discharged' should be limited to only one at a time.

You cast the spell a second time, you are considered to have dismissed the first spell.

Just make the spell 'freeze' the spell slot it was cast with until set off. If you wanted to limit the behavior; as long as the explosive rune was waiting to be set off, that would be one spell slot that could not be utilized.

You can also end the campaign before the PCs get high enough level to make the Greater Dispel Magic reliably fail.

You could also just. . . idk, use Explosive Runes as intended to protect things and you know, play the game like a role playing game instead of looking for the cheat codes.


lemeres wrote:
ShadowFighter88 wrote:
lemeres wrote:
*Explosive Runes leaflet terror attack*
And now I have an idea for an Eberron campaign.

You must admit, it certainly has quite the flair, no?

Imagine, the start of a campaign

"You all walk into an inn....when suddenly you hear explosions outside and the sounds of screaming towns people!"

And then you go straight to Private Ryan levels of mayhem. A first session where the players literally have to survive in a scenario where a stiff breeze could kill the all.

Getting out of there requires them to both not look where they are going....and to detect where other people are in case some random towns person looked and set off the trap. A chaotic, crowded minefield where you own eyes as well as your own allies are your worst enemies. Now that is a challenge.

And it is a way to make some very, very quick motivations to take down this terrorist organization. Besides the challenge presented to the players, it also gets across the idea 'these monsters do not play fair' when they are blasting out hundreds of spells from creatures way above the appropriate CR. It just screams 'cruel over kill' through indiscriminate attacks against innocent people. The fact that the players are also way out of their league can help build empathy with the normally faceless commoner NPCs.

It's actually a real help - I've had this idea for an Eberron campaign for years that I've never had a chance to run (and probably won't because I suck at GMing, but I could always release it online for others to run) but one bit that's always stumped me was how to bring the Lord of Blades in as an antagonist late in the campaign, but a leaflet attack should work great and can be a potential avenue to have multiple nations work together to deal with the LoB.


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Nathanael Love wrote:
JoeJ wrote:
RDM42 wrote:
Inviktus wrote:

The more I think on it the more I'm inclined to say that any spell with a default duration of 'permanent until discharged' should be limited to only one at a time.

You cast the spell a second time, you are considered to have dismissed the first spell.

Just make the spell 'freeze' the spell slot it was cast with until set off. If you wanted to limit the behavior; as long as the explosive rune was waiting to be set off, that would be one spell slot that could not be utilized.

You can also end the campaign before the PCs get high enough level to make the Greater Dispel Magic reliably fail.

You could also just. . . idk, use Explosive Runes as intended to protect things and you know, play the game like a role playing game instead of looking for the cheat codes.

I see nothing in the spell that suggests it is purely to defend things. In fact there's lots of way to use offensively, including have summoned monsters read them directly in front of your target. Magic is *supposed* be used creatively... that's the whole point of a TTRPG vs. a video game.


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Since we have a lotta folks talking about this spell, maybe y'all can help me out: See, I still don't understand Explosive Runes.

I mean, with sharp eyes I can read from pretty far away, especially if the runes are big. And what if I'm illiterate? Can I score a picture of a pair of t@+# on a coin so even the illiterate barbarian recognizes what it is (not to mention picks it up, because gold) and goes off? Do the runes have to be words and do they have to be in a language?

An adult (let's say black) dragon has a +24 perception, he should be able to read pretty small writing from outside the blast radius, no?

I mean I like 'em. If I had a party that was psychologically capable of running from stuff I'd probably have about 50 in a bag like caltrops to cover any hasty retreats. But I don't even know how they WORK as anything but an FU to the guy who chooses to open books. Quite frankly that insults my sensibilities as a modern American surrounded by far too much "culture of the dumb" and glorification of proud ignorance. I get enough of that in reality, I don't want it in my fantasy thank you very much.

As for erase/dispel tricks, well, good farkin' luck. Erase has to be touched, so you're casting it one at a time, and area dispels have already been listed as to their problems. If you're dropping Time Stops and scattering rune bits and summoning other critters which have to make (and fail) a dispel check you're hoping a WHOLE lotta things go right. One properly-placed illusion or the Big Bad managing to read from a distance and you end up losing or getting hoisted by your own explosive petard.

That's LONG before we get into the minutiae of playing mutually-assured destruction games or escalating power-creep builds.

And yes, the terror-bombing is dark genius. Definitely the right kind of "complete monster" evil for a dark campaign.

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