Dragon 394 - To Live Defeated: Taking Names, Not Lives

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DnDi_Large.pngDragon 394
To Live Defeated: Taking Names, Not Lives

By Peter Schaefer

Not evey villain the heroes overthrow deserves death.  Some deserve worse.

Talk about this Article here.

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I'm having to adjust to life in a post-crunch world.  Not going well so far.

To this article specifically, I'm a little surprised by the sadistic aspects of torturing a defeated foe.  Not overly shocked, mind you -- these sort of things happen in certain campaigns.  However, players who have their minds set on such tactics usually have no trouble coming up with their own ideas.  As the article didn't offer much guidance on how to implement these mechanically, I'm not sure how much value it offered.
I rather enjoyed that article, and a good reminder that death isn't the only fate for a defeated enemy.

I can definitely see my Paladin of Pelor, who'll be going Grey Guard in a couple of levels, learning to focus the radiance from his Sunblade, burning out the retinas of those he defeats in order to deny them the benefit of his diety's holy light.
Tibis Refugee of many worlds
This article has gone farther to encourage me to quit DDi than anything else.

Many of those were just pure evil and cruelty, which is NOT something that should be encouraged in D&D.  If the little emo btards want to play evil characters, they can slither back to Vampire.
Another day, another three or four entries to my Ignore List.
I'm not really sure what to make of this article.  At first I was disappointed by the lack of crunch.  But when I actually read the article, I feel like it gives characters way more power than I'm comfortable with. Any character can now at-will send everyone they take to 0 hp to hell for eternity, or sever their connection to their deity, or remove all knowledge of them from the world.  This is big, reality-altering stuff here.  It's a cool idea, but it's presented as something all characters can do, so it's basically an official rule that characters can do this now, and since it's a regular Dragon article (not Unearthed Arcana) it's LFR legal.  I kinda like the idea of an infernal warlock sending his enemies to his infernal patron to appease it, but I don't know if this is stuff that all characters should just be able to do all the time.


Many of those were just pure evil and cruelty, which is NOT something that should be encouraged in D&D.  If the little emo btards want to play evil characters, they can slither back to Vampire.



I couldn't agree more.  I get that this sort of things go on in campaigns sometimes, but I don't really need specific rules.  WOTC has a bad habit of pandering to this sort of thing (My initial impression of "Heroes of Shadow" is that it's going to be full of this Book of Vile Darkness garbage) but this wasn't even GOOD pandering.  This is the same road that brought us the Book of Erotic Fantasy and Book of Vile Darkness in previous editions, and, frankly, I hate to see it.
I'm finding it hard not to swear after reading this article.  Even more so than the reflavouring powers one, the only words which come to mind are 'No Effing Ess, Sherlock'.  This is of absolutely no use, because I KNEW THIS ALREADY.  You can leave enemies alive.  When you do, you get to decide what to do with them.  Usually, for my groups, this has involved interrogating them to find out some more about the plot, then turning them over to the authorities if applicable.

Really?  REALLY?!

Fail.
Harrying your Prey, the Easy Way: A Hunter's Handbook - the first of what will hopefully be many CharOp efforts on my part. The Blinker - teleport everywhere. An Eladrin Knight/Eldritch Knight. CB != rules source.
Best article in a long time. Really, congratulations.

I KNEW THIS ALREADY.

Yeah, but many new players (or even old players, look at this thread) don´t.

Any character can now at-will send everyone they take to 0 hp to hell for eternity, or sever their connection to their deity, or remove all knowledge of them from the world.

The articles says the DM can decide that some punishments are not adequate to his campaign.

Something that may be a problem - the article is listed as Dragon 394 on the features page and within the PDF, but the calendar says that it's a Dungeon article, and the URL where's it's found also suggests it should be in Dungeon. Personally, I would say that it's more of a DM-focused article, since almost all of these punishments would require the DM to allow them.


I also have to concur with the folks saying that many of these are excessively cruel. Of the punishments which PCs could perform without DM permission, we have blinding, crippling, isolation, and to the pain, all of which are clearly tortuous. The only remaining one is imprisonment, which I think most players knew of by now.

Ok, everyone understood that what the articles says is '0 pvs =/= death. Be creative.', right?
And those are just sugestion, you can create your own.
Crippling that murderer is too cruel? Your paladin touchs him and makes the criminal feel guilty for all his crimes. The murderer lives, but he will never want to kill someone again.
That´s the idea.
I liked the ideas, though I wish these were rituals or martial practices, instead of just freebies.
The Good:

-Reminding players to think outside the box is a good thing. I like the concept of this article.

-Some of these are quite creative and interesting approaches, allowing for interesting story development.

The Bad:

Ok, let's start with the core problems with the article itself - too open-ended, not enough guidance.

-Number one, you absolutely need to have a much bigger "AT DM DISCRETION" tag on this article. As others have noted, otherwise we'll have people trying this stuff out in LFR and elsewhere with the absolute expectation that they can do any or all of this, cause its "in the rules".

-Number two, I dislike how little guidance is given on what characters some of these punishments are appropriate for. You don't need to put in absolute requirements... but maybe just have some of these tagged as 'Paragon' or 'Epic' punishments, so every 1st level wizard doesn't think they can permanently polymorph defeated foes into their pet mice? Sure, a DM can let that happen if they want to - but again, these article is positively irresponsible in how it sets up player's expectations to be shattered. Add some tier suggestions, maybe tag some of them as appropriate for arcane/primal casters, etc - some of that is covered in the flavor text, but not enough.

-Number three, some of these results are way too rigid in the text. The author here is doing too much of sharing his own stories, and not giving enough room for players and DMs to invent their own. Somewhat ironic in such an imagination-driven article. Again, you're setting up players for disappointment - let's take the blindness condition. That's a powerful and potent fate to place upon someone. And when the DM sees a good opportunity for the blind villain to still work at schemes behind the scenes, the player will be pissed, pointing to this article and how it claims "He lives out the rest of his days sightlessly, begging at street corners and eating filth to survive."

Give suggestions, not absolutes. Suggest possible outcomes of such fates and story paths for the DM to take with it. Putting in these absolutes, especially ones so extreme, is going to leave many players frustrated with the disconnect between how this article portrays things, and how their DM actually handles things.

The Ugly

-Hey, look, another article without any mechanical player content. There seems some confusion over whether this is Dungeon or Dragon, so I'll give it a bit of a pass... but it also seems aimed mroe at players than DMs, so it seems to have been designed as a Dragon article, and that's rather frustrating. Look, having a couple articles each month focused at pure fluff or gaming advice is all well and good. Having an entire month of such articles is really not cool. And, honestly, if this was actually written as a DM article instead of a player article, I think that would have helped avoid most of the basic problems above.

-Torture. Some of these are truly disturbing fates. I don't get easily discomforted, but reading this articles was a genuinely unpleasant experience at times. Now, that's fair, and there is room for games that allow these sorts of things - but, again, give some guidance! Some of these should be noted as evil acts, or at least some hint given to players that arranging the eternal torture of someone is not a good act. And the description and themes behind some of these, such as Blindness, Crippled, Isolated, Malicious Polymorph... I can see these stirring up all the wrong sorts of ideas in some player's minds. It can be ok in some campaigns, but tossing this out willy-nilly is, again, completely irresponsible of the author and Dragon magazine.
I think the article is a great springboard for ideas.  Not the popular opinion apparently ;) but I'm getting more and more used to the fact that I'm a bit 'out of touch' with the majority when it comes to this sorta thing.

I'm talking about things like
I like print but digital is the thing now days; anti-heroes (in D&D) aren't *cool* (since when? ;)); I enjoy fluff most but crunch is apparently where it be; that sorta thing.  I'm just not with it anymore.  Got it ;).


That all aside, yes, I enjoy the article and hope to see more like it in the future.  I will say this though, it should be an Unearthed Arcana article.

/\ Art



/\ Art
This new way more fluff than crunch direction that the Dungeon/Dragon editors are taking may be a good direction for the game to help slow bloat (there's no preventing it entirely), but it's a very, very poor method of separating me from my cash.

It also didn't help that in addition to not having any crunch, this article was kind of mean-spirited and horrid. Nice way to encourage PCs not to kill every villain, by encouraging them to do even worse.

This is kind of completely horrifying and awful.


Some of this stuff is the kind of thing the bad guy does to random townspeople in bad fantasy novels to show how eeeeevil and bad he is. I mean, I know the whole dark brooding morally grey anti-hero thing is these days, but some of this stuff goes way past that.


Ew. This is never getting used in any game I run, that's for sure. I don't run games catering to torture-happy anti-heroes one step away from being villains themselves. :P


This is also kind of really insulting to disabled people. I mean, yes, D&D is pseudo-medieval, but wtf. Apparently blind people are incapable of doing anything but eating filth or something, etc.

It's spelled Corellon Larethian, not Correlon, Correllon, Correlllon, Corellion, Correlian or any other way of getting it wrong. I'm a total grognard and I still play 4E.
General displeasure with the article, in the same vein as the above posters. 
Strangely, the article has moved on the calendar from today to next Wednesday, but remains on the front page.

And add me to the chorus of "these are not things to recommend to a heroic party".
What is this complete [b]crap[/b]? What happened to Totems of the Far Realm - which was supposed to be delayed until midday and is now completely gone from the calendar. This article was not interesting, worthwhile or offered something that should be in Dragon whatsoever. It's also yet another completely devoid of content/crunch article.
Personally, I though the article was a good start, but the there could have been more torture.  Some of the suggestions were really creative... they really got my juices flowing.  My 3:00 apointment is in for a real treat today!  I especially appreciate the fact that it was posted in the so-called season of peace and good-will!

I can see some of this getting used in my regular Saturday game with Adolf, Atilla, Nixon, and Liz Bathory, but we'll have to dial the evil up just a smidge.


Keep this kind of thing coming, it's exactly what D&D needs!  It's been way too long since I've gotten to take credit for D&D... I miss the old days.
Pleased to meet you... hope you guessed my name.
This is a new low, even by Dragon's standards.
Actually, the thing that REALLY baffles me is how trite filth like this is getting chosen to be published, and yet articles I've heard about being submitted by some of the char-op guys - really smart guys with oodles of game knowledge and good ideas - are getting rejected. My faith in the judgement of the Dragon editors is at an all-time low.
Yeah, teaching people to think outside the box is bad.
And creative ways on how to deal with your enemies (like sealing a demon) is something that you never see in heroic stories. Suuuuure.
Yeah, teaching people to think outside the box is bad.

These are the sorts of things I saw players doing back when I first started DMing back when I was 14 or so. You know, immature and stupid come to mind.

SAW: The D&D Campaign Setting
Totally immature. Like a bunch of duelist movies, where a duelist cuts another in a way that makes him feel ashamed and give up. Or old westerners, where the heroes shoot enemies hands, so they would drop their weapons and run. Or any movie where the enemy is trapped, banished or dealt with in any other way than killing.
There are lot of different legends, movies, stories, books where the heroes don´t kill their enemies, dealing with them some other way. That´s what this articles is about.
Did you actually bother reading the article at all Kimble?

Things like this:

Eternal Torment
Many of the options a hero can choose from serve as a form of torture for the villain, but none as purely as this: constant, flaming physical pain. You teleport the enemy into the heart of a volcano but regenerate its body as it burns. You banish the enemy to the clutches of your god or one of his other enemies who will torture him for what seems like (or actually is) eternity. You strike a series of pressure points that set the enemy’s nerves afire without cessation. Unending pain lacks the art of some of the other punishments, but it can be both fitting and satisfying.

I'd expect from something that was a bad reject from the (already terrible) book of vile darkness, not from a player orientated article in Dragon.

I mean we had great fun with that sort of nonsense when we were fourteen years old back in the day. I think I've grown beyond that now. Noting that this is nothing more than purely vindictive and you fail to see the difference. Binding the enemy into the lamp in traditional fantasy (for an example) was because that was the only way to defeat them. Doing this is solely and no other reason than being vindictive as possible. It's exactly the complete opposite of heroic in any manner, nor is it reserved for enemies that are logically going to need to be defeated in this manner. Your goblin warchief is just as subject to this as anything else (especially as they don't give indications of tier or anything else either).

The article is a bad reject from the book of vile darkness and doesn't even do as good a job as that book. That's certainly not a complement in any manner.
Yes, Kimble, but here's the thing: people can come up with this on their own. Hell, my eladrin swordmage has been forcing people to sign enchanted confessions in their own blood for nearly a year before this article came out, as well as binding and/or maiming the more dangerous foes. What many people can't come up with is properly playtested and easily accessible mechanical content that is considered official everywhere and can be moved from one tabletop to another without problems unless the DM already has houserules in place.

Pretty much anybody can write flavor text, and they should be encouraged to do so: writing it yourself makes it more a part of your character and your story, and it just seems like cribbing to take someone else's story and/or moves and use it as your own. Not everyone can write mechanics, and that is was many people need to make their character work properly. If you can envision it, you can make it real, but without the proper mechanics you'll have a hard time doing so. 

The original core books said that this was our game too. It doesn't feel like that anymore.

Did you actually bother reading the article at all Kimble?

Yes, I did. But these are only ideas for important moments. They´re not 'use this with every minor enemy you face'. Or 'you can only use this list'.
What the author wants, is to tell people 'hey, there are many ways to deal with your enemies. Think about that'.
4e tries to create an epic, big god dawn heroes, experience. So when you finally kill the Big Bad, you don´t have to say 'oh, he just falls to the ground'. You can say 'I send him to my god, so he´ll be forever locked away, paying for his crimes'.

Yes, Kimble, but here's the thing: people can come up with this on their own.

And I agree with you. But many people don´t even know they can. This articles is for those new players(and even some old ones) that don´t know that.
And I agree with you. But many people don´t even know they can. This articles is for those new players(and even some old ones) that don´t know that.

If we could come up with better things than this easily when we were 14, I don't think this is much of an issue. Coincidentally, 14 is exactly when we would have had the maturity and need for coming up with things like this.

I mean, one of my current campaigns has an antagonist that needs to be rebound within a pillar of magically enchanted rock to be defeated. The thing is it's designed for the story and makes sense within it: It's not just something that has to be done for the sheer sake of being purely vindictive and nothing further. There is an actual point behind it. I didn't need an article full of pure tripe to come up with that either.
If we could come up with better things than this easily when we were 14, I don't think this is much of an issue. Coincidentally, 14 is exactly when we would have had the maturity and need for coming up with things like this.


First, I really don´t see how an article about using your imagination to make a better story is immature. Second, questioning someones maturity doesn´t seem mature to me.

I mean, one of my current campaigns has an antagonist that needs to be rebound within a pillar of magically enchanted rock to be defeated. The thing is it's designed for the story and makes sense within it: It's not just something that has to be done for the sheer sake of being purely vindictive and nothing further. There is an actual point behind it. I didn't need an article full of pure tripe to come up with that either.

Again, you don´t. But many players can´t see beyond the '0 hp = dead'. This article helps this kind of player.
First, I really don´t see how an article about using your imagination to make a better story is immature.

None of this IMO, makes for a "better" story. That's kind of the problem I have with your argument here. As an article about being purely vindictive and immature, yeah it certainly succeeds. Making a better story? It gets a gigantic "F" for failing right there. This is in the players section of the magazine, so it's certainly not meant to be story specific but instead a way of basically being a bunch of chaotic stupid villains.
Did you actually bother reading the article at all Kimble?

Yes, I did. But these are only ideas for important moments. They´re not 'use this with every minor enemy you face'. Or 'you can only use this list'.
What the author wants, is to tell people 'hey, there are many ways to deal with your enemies. Think about that'.



The problem is, he said the second part, but not the first. That's my fear, here - rather than inspiring people to think outside the box, we're going to see just as many players suddenly expecting that things have to work just like this article says, because now it is in the rules. And subjecting enemies to really gruesome fates, and then getting frustrating when the DM doesn't run it exactly like this article says.

The article needed more advice and guidance. It needed more focus on getting people to tell their own stories, and to use these when cinematically appropriate, and to work on coming up with these ideas with their DM. Not to just give a list of horrible fates and say, "Go wild!"
None of this IMO, makes for a "better" story. That's kind of the problem I have with your argument here. As an article about being purely vindictive and immature, yeah it certainly succeeds. Making a better story? It gets a gigantic "F" for failing right there. This is in the players section of the magazine, so it's certainly not meant to be story specific but instead a way of basically being a bunch of chaotic stupid villains.

Wait, what? If it´s story specific, it can´t be something for the players? Really? Then I start to see the problem.
Nowadays, many games try to help players interact and change the story. This article (and the other one, about customizing powers) deal with this kind of thing. If the player has an idea of 'how to finish the Big Bad', why can´t he use it? Why can´t he say 'Hey, instead of killing my father´s murderer, can´t I cut his hand in a way that he´ll never use a sword again?'? Or the PC monk saying 'Hey, instead of killing my Brotherhood´s traitor, can´t I break his chi? So he never uses his powers again?'.
You can always just say 'I kill him'. But there are many other ways to make the story better.

The article needed more advice and guidance. It needed more focus on getting people to tell their own stories, and to use these when cinematically appropriate, and to work on coming up with these ideas with their DM. Not to just give a list of horrible fates and say, "Go wild!"

I´m pretty sure the articles says the GM can decide that some fates are not possible/acceptable. And I agree with you that 'more focus, more advice, more guidance' would be good.
If the player has an idea of 'how to finish the Big Bad', why can´t he use it?

If my campaigns villain was a woman and a player came to me with the idea of subjecting said villain to female genital mutilation: Should I listen to them or think about finding someone new to play with? Because only one of those options is something that would pop into my mind. I'll give you a hint, it's not the one that has anything to do with "making the story better" (because it doesn't) and has a distinct feeling of making the game better. Notably with the removal of someone.


You can always just say 'I kill him'. But there are many other ways to make the story better.

How is any of the nonsense in the article "making the story better". You are repeatedly claiming this while failing to back your point up in any manner, I'd like to point out.
Here's the thing, Kimble; this article really isn't about thinking outside the box so much as giving suggestions for a new, rather more immature and mean-spirited box to think inside. An article full of suggestions on how to be vindictive and cruel isn't really helping anyone to be more creative. And others are right - most people already thought of this stuff when we were 14; and the ones who didn't - well, they were better off.

"Better story" doesn't even remotely factor into this, because I saw not a single thing in that article that made me think their inclusion would make a better a story.

What would have been better? An article filled with mechanical ways to permanently deal with villains without killing them - banishment or binding rituals, magic items to use to imprison, etc. Ya know, crunchy bits that everyone can use, rather than things that anyone with a psychotic streak could think up on their own.
If my campaigns villain was a woman and a player came to me with the idea of subjecting said villain to female genital mutilation: Should I listen to them or think about finding someone new to play with? Because only one of those options is something that would pop into my mind. I'll give you a hint, it's not the one that has anything to do with "making the story better" (because it doesn't) and has a distinct feeling of making the game better. Notably with the removal of someone.
and
How is any of the nonsense in the article "making the story better". You are repeatedly claiming this while failing to back your point up in any manner, I'd like to point out.

What? Implying that I´m talking about about female genital mutilation? Come on, you can do better than trying to blame me for things I didn´t said.
I gave you a bunch of different ideas about how to use this article to make better stories. From westerners to simple campaign situations.
Want to disagree with me? Ok, no problem. It´s your game. If it´s fun, than your doing it right.
But don´t point the finger and try to accuse me, implying that i think that 'female genital mutilation' is a good story element. I never did that.

What would have been better? An article filled with mechanical ways to permanently deal with villains without killing them - banishment or binding rituals, magic items to use to imprison, etc. Ya know, crunchy bits that everyone can use, rather than things that anyone with a psychotic streak could think up on their own.

In my opinion, your problem is that the article should have rules to deal with that. More than the 'horrible things' it describes. No problem, I´m not criticizing. It would be cool to see an article about binding rituals.
I realised this in the first encounter of the first game I ever played, when the DM said 'do you want to deal non-lethal damage and leave this guy alive?'  At that point I said 'yes' then thought about what I'd do with him afterwards.  Everything else is role playing, and it's FAR better to come up, as I've opined many times before, with your own stories than be force-fed someone else's.  It's a useful reminder, but it's didn't need three pages of suggestions of various calibres and tastes, it needed the first page or so, and the notes about the DM needing to be involved.

I don't deny that it's a useful thing for new players to be aware of.  But all that takes is for their first DM to say 'hey, you left him alive, what do you want to do with him?' and then let the players' imaginations do the rest.
Harrying your Prey, the Easy Way: A Hunter's Handbook - the first of what will hopefully be many CharOp efforts on my part. The Blinker - teleport everywhere. An Eladrin Knight/Eldritch Knight. CB != rules source.
Aside from the really disturbing fetishic options (the flavourtext for baleful polymorph is all kinds of eww), I quite enjoyed this article and the options it prevents. Four out of five stars from me.
Oh Content, where art thou?
What? Implying that I´m talking about about female genital mutilation? Come on, you can do better than trying to blame me for things I didn´t said.

I never claimed you said that, I merely asked you if you thought it would make the story better. Interesting back down from moments ago defending this article for similar kinds of crap. For example the article advocates mutilating a FEMALE villains looks for example to make her coherts lose confidence in her. How is that not just one step away from the genital mutilation? Where is the difference here in what you're trying to defend and what the article is advocating Kimble? Where is the difference here Kimble: explain it to me.

Also, what I pointed out wasn't what you said in any manner and neither did I claim that. But it is something that someone actually seriously proposed to me in an actual game in the past. Do you think I was wrong for standing my ground, then telling them they were being stupid and it wouldn't improve the game (story or otherwise) in the least?

I gave you a bunch of different ideas about how to use this article to make better stories. From westerners to simple campaign situations.

And I don't need them. Because I've read all the same things you have and don't need something this banal and purely vindictive in Dragon to know any of that.

Your examples though were good and filled with sound logic based on other genera. This article was purely vindictive immature tripe. Perhaps you can see the difference?
But don´t point the finger and try to accuse me, implying that i think that 'female genital mutilation' is a good story element. I never did that.

And yet the article advocates the mutilation of a female characters looks to make her cohorts look upon her in distain.

Again, did you read the articcle you are defending Kimble?
I don't deny that it's a useful thing for new players to be aware of.  But all that takes is for their first DM to say 'hey, you left him alive, what do you want to do with him?' and then let the players' imaginations do the rest.

But not every GM is an experienced player. So many gaming groups will not have this 'old, smart guy' to tell then 'hey, have some cool idea about this?'. This article helps this kind of players. And it´s not so bad to have a more 'newbie-friendly' article.

For example the article advocates mutilating a FEMALE villains looks for example to make her coherts lose confidence in her.


Actually, thats english grammar. You use 'she' instead of 'he'. And it doesn´t says 'mutilate genitalia' as, again, your implying.

Also, what I pointed out wasn't what you said in any manner and neither did I claim that. But it is something that someone actually seriously proposed to me in an actual game in the past. Do you think I was wrong for standing my ground, then telling them they were being stupid and it wouldn't improve the game (story or otherwise) in the least?


No. As the articles says, some things are not adequate for some characters. The problem is, in your mind, a player having an idea about how to change a story equals 'something horrible and gore'. That´s not it. Player´s can have all kinds of great ideas, and this kind of mechanic is there only to help then use it.
-Oh, but I always allowed that kind of thing!
Ok, so the article is not for you. Doesn´t mean other people don´t need it.

Perhaps you can see the difference?

As I said before, there are some things that could be better explained ("And I agree with you that 'more focus, more advice, more guidance' would be good."). With that, I agree.

But not every GM is an experienced player. So many gaming groups will not have this 'old, smart guy' to tell then 'hey, have some cool idea about this?'. This article helps this kind of players. And it´s not so bad to have a more 'newbie-friendly' article.

This argument is absolute nonsense. It really is.