The Dungeon Survival Handbook Excerpt - Themes

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Themes
Dungeon Survival Handbook Excerpt
By Bart Carroll

Just as race and class help to define who your character is in the world, theme adds an optional third component to refine your story and identity. The themes presented in the Dungeon Survival Handbook: Into the Unknown explain what your character knows about adventuring in dungeons and provide story hooks that you can use to roleplay him or her.

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Wow. Treasure Sense has to be the most useless theme starting power I've ever seen. I mean, at least the Trapsmith's starting power is an off-turn attack that will actually do something really useful when it hits (despite its sub-par accuracy), so it's not a total dud for an Int-primary melee character (i.e. a swordmage or artificer).

I suppose Treasure Sense has some worth if your DM likes throwing cursed items at you... Or at least it would if it wasn't a power bonus. If you really think you might be looking at a cursed item, surely your leader is buffing you with a power bonus to knowledge checks already? And if you don't already suspect the item, you won't be using a daily power that only lasts for an hour (and only with that one item) just on the off-chance that it's cursed (because you have to assume that no other item you find that day will be cursed).

Using it to actually look for an item is really stupid, though. You need to specify what item you're looking for, which means you need to know 100% that "it's around here somewhere". So you're presumably already going to be spending as much time as you need searching for it (i.e. effectively taking 20). Which means this power is only useful if your DM arbitrarily sets the DC for finding an important item so high that you couldn't possibly find it without this power. So it's a power that your DM has to mechanically build his adventure around in order to make it useful?

God, it's like the shade racial power all over again.

"My flying carpet is full of elves."

Your post



If your game consists of combat encounter after combat encounter, I would agree, this theme stinks for that. When I designed it, I wanted to stay true to the nature of the theme, and give players who prefer exploration something to tinker with. I had imagined that a party might learn of a ancient relic, one of great power, and now worked to scour a lost dungeon to find it. In this instance, having a trusted treasure hunter would be a boon. I'm sorry you found it to be stupid. Luckily, there are many, many other themes available for varied play-styles.
Matt James Freelance Game Designer Loremaster.org

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And this is why I think creative people intent on creation should not read internet forums, especially ones concerned with what they create.  You make something you just love, then get told it's crap right out of the gate.

Personally, Matt, I see plenty of use for this theme, provided I have told my players in advance that the game is going to be a common or constant search for treasure.  In fact, I can see a campaign in my mind now where players must fetch items of interest for an impatient patron, or need component parts to craft a single magic item.  Indeed, I can see this being useful, though not a "common" theme.

Then again, I can see at least a few good reasons to take the scholar theme from Dragon too.
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Your post



If your game consists of combat encounter after combat encounter, I would agree, this theme stinks for that. When I designed it, I wanted to stay true to the nature of the theme, and give players who prefer exploration something to tinker with. I had imagined that a party might learn of a ancient relic, one of great power, and now worked to scour a lost dungeon to find it. In this instance, having a trusted treasure hunter would be a boon. I'm sorry you found it to be stupid. Luckily, there are many, many other themes available for varied play-styles.


Did you actually read my post?

I'm all in favour of themes with little or no combat application. I never criticised that as a goal.

The problem is that this power is useless for the very applications you envisage for it. For the reasons I actually described (among others I could see but didn't have the time or inclination to go into).

"My flying carpet is full of elves."

And this is why I think creative people intent on creation should not read internet forums, especially ones concerned with what they create.  You make something you just love, then get told it's crap right out of the gate.


On the contrary, being told that what you created does not actually do what you set out to make it do is always valuable. Anyway, Matt is a professional (and generally very good at his job), so probably has a rather thicker skin than you give him credit for.

Personally, Matt, I see plenty of use for this theme, provided I have told my players in advance that the game is going to be a common or constant search for treasure.  In fact, I can see a campaign in my mind now where players must fetch items of interest for an impatient patron, or need component parts to craft a single magic item.  Indeed, I can see this being useful, though not a "common" theme.


As I said before, to use the power they need to know exactly what they are looking for, as well as know that they are within an hour of it... just to get a small bonus that most leaders could hand out on an encounter, rather than daily, basis.

It can be of some minimal use if the DM goes out of his way to cater his adventure design to it. IMO, this is far too specific a niche to be worthy of a theme.

Then again, I can see at least a few good reasons to take the scholar theme from Dragon too.


There's absolutely nothing wrong with the Scholar theme. The Scholar theme actually works and does what it is designed to do. Well, except for the strange wording on the default power, but that's a very minor issue...

"My flying carpet is full of elves."

I really like the ideas behind the Treasure Hunter theme.  I'm not sure how useful the starting power would be in most games, that is something that I would need to see in game.  The 2nd lvl utility power is something I want for my artificier.  Atleast twice in the current dungeon that power would have saved so much effort I can't even make it into a joke.  Overall really looking forward to the book as a whole.

Also the side table for Efficient Treasure Collection is what all new players, worried about ripping those oh so nice tapectries from the walls down, need.
Your post



If your game consists of combat encounter after combat encounter, I would agree, this theme stinks for that. When I designed it, I wanted to stay true to the nature of the theme, and give players who prefer exploration something to tinker with. I had imagined that a party might learn of a ancient relic, one of great power, and now worked to scour a lost dungeon to find it. In this instance, having a trusted treasure hunter would be a boon. I'm sorry you found it to be stupid. Luckily, there are many, many other themes available for varied play-styles.


Did you actually read my post?

I'm all in favour of themes with little or no combat application. I never criticised that as a goal.

The problem is that this power is useless for the very applications you envisage for it. For the reasons I actually described (among others I could see but didn't have the time or inclination to go into).



Yep, reread it just to make sure. It sounds like this theme isn't for you. I maintain that it isn't useless as you suggest. It sounds like it isn't something that clicks with your style of play, or preference. 
Matt James Freelance Game Designer Loremaster.org

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As a DM who runs a LOT of story and RP heavy dungeon crawls, I can totally appreciate "Treasure Sense". I can see this working well in one of my campaigns and really gives a lot of flavor to the treasure hunter character.

As an example, in the last crawl I ran, the heroes had to go back to town to research some bits of lore they found in the dungeon that would help them find the artefact. The party split up to cover more ground and I ran the research as a skill challenge. In this situation, the treasure hunter would benefit greatly from the use of "treasure sense".

I think the power would have worked better if it was either an encounter power or lasted longer than one hour. This would make it more useful for an extended adventuring day. But that's easy enough to houserule if I think it's an issue.

Overall, I like the theme and appreciate that WotC is trying to add more out of combat abilities to 4e.
Yep, reread it just to make sure. It sounds like this theme isn't for you. I maintain that it isn't useless as you suggest. It sounds like it isn't something that clicks with your style of play, or preference. 



It may also be a case of you being too close to the material as the author.

If your game consists of combat encounter after combat encounter, I would agree, this theme stinks for that. When I designed it, I wanted to stay true to the nature of the theme, and give players who prefer exploration something to tinker with. I had imagined that a party might learn of a ancient relic, one of great power, and now worked to scour a lost dungeon to find it. In this instance, having a trusted treasure hunter would be a boon. I'm sorry you found it to be stupid. Luckily, there are many, many other themes available for varied play-styles.



Even for a group that relies heavily on research and exploration, the starting feature is subpar. If the clock is ticking at all, then the bonuses from the power will be over long before you actually reach the "dungeon" portion of the adventure where a Thievery check might apply. Time passes between when you start cracking the books, when you move to the location where the item is, and when you are actively trying to find the item on site. One hour is simply too short to be of real use (in fact, if you are in the "research phase," your hour will probably run out before you are done looking through the books). The power would have been useful if it lasted to your next extended rest. The limitation on the target being a single specific item, and not just being a generic magic item finder, is restrictive enough.

That being said, I love the rest of the Theme, and would conceivably take the Theme just for the Utility powers.

Wow. Treasure Sense has to be the most useless theme starting power I've ever seen. I mean, at least the Trapsmith's starting power is an off-turn attack that will actually do something really useful when it hits (despite its sub-par accuracy), so it's not a total dud for an Int-primary melee character (i.e. a swordmage or artificer).

I suppose Treasure Sense has some worth if your DM likes throwing cursed items at you... Or at least it would if it wasn't a power bonus. If you really think you might be looking at a cursed item, surely your leader is buffing you with a power bonus to knowledge checks already? And if you don't already suspect the item, you won't be using a daily power that only lasts for an hour (and only with that one item) just on the off-chance that it's cursed (because you have to assume that no other item you find that day will be cursed).

Using it to actually look for an item is really stupid, though. You need to specify what item you're looking for, which means you need to know 100% that "it's around here somewhere". So you're presumably already going to be spending as much time as you need searching for it (i.e. effectively taking 20). Which means this power is only useful if your DM arbitrarily sets the DC for finding an important item so high that you couldn't possibly find it without this power. So it's a power that your DM has to mechanically build his adventure around in order to make it useful?

God, it's like the shade racial power all over again.



I wouldnt call it useless, overall I liked the theme at worst I would say that one specific item is too narrow/specific a target. If you want an example of what you have to do to get worthless mechanics you would have to go as far as the Binder class.

I like that some non combat themes are seeing daylight, it is a pity that they share the same limited resource as combat based themes. This is the same problem as feats. How differant would our characters look if combat and non combat limited resources used seperate pools?
Yep, reread it just to make sure. It sounds like this theme isn't for you. I maintain that it isn't useless as you suggest. It sounds like it isn't something that clicks with your style of play, or preference. 



It may also be a case of you being too close to the material as the author.

Or not, as others posting support of Treasure Sense would suggest.

Indiana Jones.  That's what I think of when I think about Treasure Sense and the Treasure Hunter in general.  Indy never gave up when he "felt" an artifact was near.  Indy has a lot in common with D&D adventuring and dungeon delving, in case some people haven't noticed.

Celebrate our differences.

Or not, as others posting support of Treasure Sense would suggest.

Indiana Jones.  That's what I think of when I think about Treasure Sense and the Treasure Hunter in general.  Indy never gave up when he "felt" an artifact was near.  Indy has a lot in common with D&D adventuring and dungeon delving, in case some people haven't noticed.



Absolutely. Indy is exactly the feel that this should be evoking.

Except movie time and real time do not advance at the same rate. Let's take the first scene from Indiana Jones. We don't know how long they have been trekking through that jungle, but if Indy activated this ability to help them narrow down which part of the jungle related to the ancient map that he was following, then the duration of the power would have ended by the time Indy actually got to the tomb.

The time still passes, even if we skip ahead to the good parts. An adventuring day is still a day, we just gloss over things like how far the party had to walk, how long it takes to search a room or how long it take to read a book.

I love this theme.  I've been looking forward to this book since it's been announced.  Great job!

I hope taking this stuff from 4E to DnDNext will be relatively simple.
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I've already told my players to houserule treasure sense to an encounter power. Simple fix. Love the theme. I'm running the Undermountain adventure this summer and one of my players has already decided to use the theme. Should be fun.
I've already told my players to houserule treasure sense to an encounter power. Simple fix. Love the theme. I'm running the Undermountain adventure this summer and one of my players has already decided to use the theme. Should be fun.



Excellent. Let us know how it goes.
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For me the problems with the themes are:

1. The starting feature really has to be errata'd to last until the next extended rest.  1 item, 1 hour, really?  That's way too short a time frame, even for Indiana Jones standards, don't you think?

2. Just like Linguist, Jack of All Trades and most other non-combat features of D&D 4E, the entire theme occupies a potential combat slot.  So choosing between a minor action attack (Sohei Flurry) and Treasure Hunter is... well, not a really difficult choice to make for most.

3.  Probably the biggest problem of all is in p.223 of the Player's Handbook:

Most of the time, you can determine the properties and powers of a magic item during a short rest. In the course of handling the item for a few minutes, you discover what the item is and what it does. You can identify one magic item per short rest.

Some magic items might be a bit harder to identify, such as cursed or nonstandard items, or powerful magical artifacts. Your DM might ask for an Arcana check to determine their properties, or you might even need to go on a special quest to find a ritual to identify or to unlock the powers of a unique item.


 

Not only does this section blatantly allow auto-identification of most items, but because most items are automatically identified -- yeah you can play this straight and say that players don't get to identify more than one magic item per short rest, but nothing really prevents PCs from taking multiple short rests if they have the time to spare for it -- I have yet to see a D&D 4E table that runs a game where acquired magic items aren't immediately identified.

For games that heavily utilize the second paragraph of the said page, the Treasure Sense power is [almost] a boon.  Almost, because of the fact that the daily utility is only worth 1 hour, which, when considering the distances you'd have to run in order to find/aquire materials even within the local districts of a regular-sized city.
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Not only does this section blatantly allow auto-identification of most items, but because most items are automatically identified -- yeah you can play this straight and say that players don't get to identify more than one magic item per short rest, but nothing really prevents PCs from taking multiple short rests if they have the time to spare for it -- I have yet to see a D&D 4E table that runs a game where acquired magic items aren't immediately identified.




You should play at my table. PC's can only immediately identify common items. Uncommon items require an arcana check to ID, while an unkown rare item can have a variety of effects. Sometimes they're so powerful they announce their presence while other times the players have to do extended research to figure things out. Sometimes they have to use it for a while to determine exactly how it works. It really depends on story which is the most important thing in my game.

Automatically knowing everything about every object you find? yawn.....

And remember, the players handbook says most of the time. Not all of the time. The rule as stated is not rock solid and is clearly left to the purview of the DM to determine. In the kind of game where players are choosing the treasure hunter theme (most likely because they know they will be hunting valuable treasure), I would argue the DM should feel free to make the players work a little harder to figure out those rare items they are finding.
Not only does this section blatantly allow auto-identification of most items, but because most items are automatically identified -- yeah you can play this straight and say that players don't get to identify more than one magic item per short rest, but nothing really prevents PCs from taking multiple short rests if they have the time to spare for it -- I have yet to see a D&D 4E table that runs a game where acquired magic items aren't immediately identified.




You should play at my table. PC's can only immediately identify common items. Uncommon items require an arcana check to ID, while an unkown rare item can have a variety of effects. Sometimes they're so powerful they announce their presence while other times the players have to do extended research to figure things out. Sometimes they have to use it for a while to determine exactly how it works. It really depends on story which is the most important thing in my game.

Automatically knowing everything about every object you find? yawn.....

And remember, the players handbook says most of the time. Not all of the time. The rule as stated is not rock solid and is clearly left to the purview of the DM to determine. In the kind of game where players are choosing the treasure hunter theme (most likely because they know they will be hunting valuable treasure), I would argue the DM should feel free to make the players work a little harder to figure out those rare items they are finding.


That is certainly true, but again because
1. Rarity was only introduced shortly before Essentials came in
2. Majority obviously don't play the same way as on your table (otherwise the theme's initial power wouldn't have such had bad reception)

that's why it has far less value than most, if not all other themes.

Personally I would love to have that work that way -- removing the Identify Item spell and reducing it to an Arcana check for the most part is needless bookkeeping removed -- and I do have a similar plan for my games (except I would assume that the group would take 20 on their Arcana check, or pay someone to make an Arcana check, and given the world is set in Eberron, there's little need for me to go for "make an Arcana check" for most things).  But again, most groups blatantly ignore the second paragraph, which is why it is problematic.

And by the way, I don't know if you're taking me out of context, or what not, but for the benefit of the doubt I would like to point out to you that I did mention the following:


For games that heavily utilize the second paragraph of the said page, the Treasure Sense power is [almost] a boon.  Almost, because of the fact that the daily utility is only worth 1 hour, which, when considering the distances you'd have to run in order to find/aquire materials even within the local districts of a regular-sized city.



Yes on your table the Treasure Hunter theme is awesome.  But only if it takes 1 hour to go around and learn more about the item.  The way *I* see it is that even if you dedicate an entire hour running around a city and learning all that you can learn, it'd be no better than studying an entire year's lessons in 1 hour for an exam, except in this exam the consequences might include the destruction of your team, if not the entire universe as you know it (or maybe just being trolled by the DM or what not), just for equipping a cursed magic item or what not.

Again, if it runs well on your table, cool.  For most though...
1. It doesn't work outright
2. Assuming it does work, most of the time 1 hour in-game of inquiries isn't enough, because unless there is only one expert on the item, that one hour would certainly involve going around and talking to people, and unless you're the Flash or you use teleportation galore, we're looking at easily 30-45 minutes of walking, running or riding.   Like I said, it should be a whole day ability (until next extended rest), although as an encounter power it's good too.
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