Dragon 389 - Save My Game: Campaign Expansion and Contraction

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DnDi_Large.png   Dragon 389
Save My Game
Campaign Expansion and Contraction

By Stephen Radney-MacFarland

This month on Save My Game, Stephen discusses… lesser known tools on the Character Builder and how they can help you say No or Yes to your players from the get-go.

Nobody took him up on his No-Challenge, so instead he goes straight into answering questions.  I know at least on my end, some of those answers were helpful!

Talk about this Save My Game column here.

Before posting, why not ask yourself, What Would Wrecan Say?

IMAGE(http://images.onesite.com/community.wizards.com/user/marandahir/thumb/9ac5d970f3a59330212c73baffe4c556.png?v=90000)

A great man once said "If WotC put out boxes full of free money there'd still be people complaining about how it's folded." – Boraxe

Hmm, I think SRM made a bad call with the response to the "Four Freakin' Hours" e-mail. Sure, Paragon and Epic fights may take longer than Heroic, but four hours is still waaaay beyond normal. Something is definitely amiss with that group, and I think by just handwaving that higher level combats take longer, it may be sending the wrong message.

And worse than that, I think the suggested fix (deal min damage on a miss) is a bad one - it requires yet another bit of math to figure out. Which some players might do beforehand, but doesn't sound like that is the case for everyone at this table.

The first question I'd ask is how many players we're talking. This doesn't sound like a small group. Beyond that - the suggestion to use average damage isn't bad, and one thing to keep in mind is that most groups that reduce monster hp also boost monster damage. That would keep combats fast and furious without removing the challenge.
I agree with MrMyth in that 4 hours seems way too long.  I am getting very close to my group moving into Paragon so I can't say from experence but it just seems too much.  Typically in a 4 hour evening my group of 4 or 5 gets throught leveling up/character changes, dinner, technical glitches (one fellow Skypes in) and two encounters.

Another tip that I am sure will clash with the purests is using a dice roller application.  If math is slowing your group down, use the dice roll for characters who roll more than 1 die.
My group was playing LFR modules, and by the time we hit paragon, we were still doing a standard paragon LFR module in 3 hours or so.  I know paragon fights can take longer, but it's not that much longer, once you get the rhythm of things.

"Nice assumptions. Completely wrong assumptions, but by jove if being incorrect stopped people from making idiotic statements, we wouldn't have modern internet subculture." Kerrus
Practical gameplay runs by neither RAW or RAI, but rather "A Compromise Between The Gist Of The Rule As I Recall Getting The Impression Of It That One Time I Read It And What Jerry Says He Remembers, Whatever, We'll Look It Up Later If Any Of Us Still Give A Damn." Erachima

This is a terrible article.

He didn't answer the question to Help With Hazards.  Buy another book?  Subtle.  The question was - and one I wonder myself - how do you create traps and hazards based on level.  The examples are cool, but they form no patterns.  They did a great job describing how to turn out level appropriate monsters of different roles, DMG X should have something similar for traps and hazards.

His response to why Paragon and Epic combat takes longer is because you roll more dice?  Wow.  If only... it's not even worth the sarcasm.

And for Tackling the Cheater, call them a "jerk".  The gaming insight is staggering.  I saved the sarcasm for this paragraph.

Do I have any more sarcasm... I am really surprised no one replied to his question from last month.

Seriously, this is what passes for Save My Game?
hmm... I think we all need to take a chill pill... 

ok, yes... the cheater IS being a jerk... but I would like to ask the one who put forth the question... how is the player changing feats and powers using the Character Builder? I've not seen the option of actually modifying the rules text... sure, you can edit the short help text on the sheet, but that doesn't dictate how the rules say it works... remember, if the short text is different than the actual description you should use the longer description...

Ok, how to deal with this person... in short, just say NO... a longer one would be, if a player in my group is disrupting the rules I use as a DM and changing them to fit him personally I would talk to the player (depending on his personality if I'd do it in private or in front of the group), and tell him he will have to fix his character so it fits into the rules framework I'm using for that particular game...
...he says he doesn't want to ruin the friendship, but he also has to think of the other players at the table, he will lose those players if he doesn't reign it in with the cheating player...

on the topic of saying NO... I learned to say NO to the players when I was DM'ing Hackmaster and Earthdawn when I was younger... I like to have a firm grip on what goes on in the games I DM...

 
I would like to recommend to the DM that's having trouble with the 4 hour encounters.  When I first started DMing 4th Ed, I found most encounters were taking too long. We ran a number of Dungeon Delves and they all took the same amount of time no matter what level we were playing.

I found one of the major problems to be preparedness. If I'm not prepared the encounters can go way longer than you expect. The same goes for the players. You can solve that problem for yourself easily enough.  For your players - I would recommend slowing down the pace of your game. How quickly have they gotten to 15th level? Have they been there long?  Give them a chance to get used to their power before they get new powers.

For the Cheating Player - I doubt the guy is actually trying to be a jerk. If you have a jerk in your game kick him out, but in all likelihood he's just trying to look cool in front of the other players. As a new player, most people assume that the game is about the character. Rather than having a group of RPGA members tell him he's being a jerk, let him learn by example. Have more roleplaying encounters for the other players to lead by example. Let him see that he'll look cool by joining in rather than by the combat option.  Remember - all player want to have fun and look cool. Make him look cool for other reasons and he'll naturally gravitate towards them. 

Hope my experience is helpful!!

Sorry you didn't like the article.

The reason that I suggested Dungeon Master's Guide 2 is that it has the full rules on how you create traps (pages 64 to 66) along with a top ten list of things to avoid in your trap creation. What I should have mentioned is that the section is a virtual reprint of Matt Sernett's wonderful article Trapped! found in Dragon 366 (with some tweaks and updates done in the development and editing process…but still pretty much the same article). That section of the book or the article should give you the rhyme and reason of the trap and hazard numbers by level.  

As for the speeding up paragon and epic level play question, this poster's game is running really, really, really slow. I took from the rest of his post (I will often edit down the posts in the articles for brevity) that he was already doing most if not all of the typical table management tricks so I went with something drastic.


Take a look and watch how people roll dice...especially in D&D. They rarely pick them up and throw. They think about what dice they need. Shift through a pile. Finally find the ones they want, and shake them for up to 20 seconds. Then they tally and sometimes tally again. Then they will adjust for this bonus or this miscount or whatever. Doing all of that before the game will absolutely speed it up. I've seen players take up to a minute to figure out their damage. Let's assume most take almost 30 seconds on average (and I think I’m being charitable here. Six players, that's three minutes a round you can shave. That’s pretty significant.

I've actually covered other ways to save time on the table. Check out Marking Marked and Other 4E-isms and the Let Players Manage Themselves group of 3 articles.

As for the Tackling the Cheater, it comes from here if you want to read the whole post. I stand by it. The DM continues to be diligent and pointing out problems. He's talked to this person a number of times, and it seems obvious that the player in question doesn't care that he is "sucking the fun from the rest of the party." I think this poster tried everything else. When one person is holding up the rest of the group from having a good time, sometimes you should confront him in a strong manner or let him go. It should a last resort after exhausting every other sort of discourse. If reasonable approaches don’t work, it seems obvious that the problem player is playing a game and it is not really D&D.

This is a terrible article.

He didn't answer the question to Help With Hazards.  Buy another book?  Subtle.  The question was - and one I wonder myself - how do you create traps and hazards based on level.  The examples are cool, but they form no patterns.  They did a great job describing how to turn out level appropriate monsters of different roles, DMG X should have something similar for traps and hazards.

His response to why Paragon and Epic combat takes longer is because you roll more dice?  Wow.  If only... it's not even worth the sarcasm.

And for Tackling the Cheater, call them a "jerk".  The gaming insight is staggering.  I saved the sarcasm for this paragraph.

Do I have any more sarcasm... I am really surprised no one replied to his question from last month.

Seriously, this is what passes for Save My Game?



Stephen Radney-MacFarland Pathfinder RPG Designer
Stephen, one more bit of stock advice for "combat takes too long" that I haven't seen is "Stop nerfing things!".  I don't know if it's the case for this particular reader, but it's something I've seen.  If PC damage expressions are knocked down to MM1-level monster damage expressions; combat is going to take forever and table management won't help any.  Give out some Iron Armbands or something...

But ... for most of the other delays you're talking about, the occassional random snide comment will work, IMHO, as well as average damage.  "Just roll the dice already".  I also suggest being reasonably flexible with adding on more damage that was forgotten at the time.

"Nice assumptions. Completely wrong assumptions, but by jove if being incorrect stopped people from making idiotic statements, we wouldn't have modern internet subculture." Kerrus
Practical gameplay runs by neither RAW or RAI, but rather "A Compromise Between The Gist Of The Rule As I Recall Getting The Impression Of It That One Time I Read It And What Jerry Says He Remembers, Whatever, We'll Look It Up Later If Any Of Us Still Give A Damn." Erachima

Actually, I have a big problem with time spent in encounters.  And it's not the damage rolling – we have set dice macros, since we use the Gametable program to host our games over the internet on.

So every time I hear advice for saving time, my ears prick up.  What it comes down to for me, I guess, is that my players don't like to plan their attacks ahead of time, because they believe that how the round progresses before their turn comes up again will change it drastically enough that their early decision will be null and void due to tactical positionings.  This is a very tactical group, but reactionarily tactical – doing the best thing they can do given the circumstances when their turn comes up.  So then they spend five minutes mulling over what power to use, as if they were playing Chess!

I can't be the only one with this problem.

Before posting, why not ask yourself, What Would Wrecan Say?

IMAGE(http://images.onesite.com/community.wizards.com/user/marandahir/thumb/9ac5d970f3a59330212c73baffe4c556.png?v=90000)

A great man once said "If WotC put out boxes full of free money there'd still be people complaining about how it's folded." – Boraxe

Marandahir: I find that to be much more prevalent with online games. I have a real problem with this in my online group. One player a notorious hemhawer. He's constantly worried about what the best optimal choice is for actions during his round and becomes paralyzed with all his options. 

He's not even a min-maxer, and will oftentimes make what I consider tactical blunders (Such as insisting that his cleric spend every single action spending every healing resource he has, not realized that healing is a limited resource and pre-emptive healing (killing monsters before they do damage) isn't.)

But, though he's the most notable, he's not the only one. I think it has to do with that lack of immediate visual feedback with the other players. At the table, you can read body language, and that will spur you to make decisions faster (even if the other players are only innocently looking at you, patiently waiting for their turn, you still have that visual clue of their eyes on you subconsciously hurrying your actions.)
Online DnD combats do actually end up feeling a lot more like chess, as each player without realizing it takes much longer to come to a final conclusion about his actions on that turn, even if the decision was the relatively quick "how do I modify my previously planned-for set of actions on the fly to compensate for what just happened before my turn?"
Planes Wanderer
I read this article when it came out and 2 things lept out at me:

1) If you want us to contact you best to put a means to do that in the article.

2) Many of the supposed customisation features that the article mentions work "technically".

The simplest way to explain this is to talk about deities.

Adding a custom deity is simple (once on the right screen), 1 click, type the name, choose deity and click ok.

The problem is that hasn't added a deity, it has added a name to the list of deities that a player can select and thus basically useless. You cannot assign that deity domains, assign it a deity flavoured chanel divinity feat, modify the Chosen ED to have an option for it and so on. Adding a deity is far more than just "Oh here is god name X"

It is far easier to tell the players "Anyar is the same as Pelor mechanically, so if you want to follow her, just put Pelor in as your diety for your cleric." At least then all the mechanics actually work.

Similar issues happen with Races, Classes, Powers, and Feats. You can put idiot text in, smart text that works with the builder is just not possible.

For groups that use the builder as a central tool this lack of flexibility is a strong reason for not homebrewing their game as SRM is suggesting.

I know I would if I could.
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