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Star(fall Damage) #40

Star(fall Damage) #40 published on 11 Comments on Star(fall Damage) #40

I want to add to this my “Three Step” rule, because I tend to have the environment have the occasionally lethal challenge in it. (I say “my,” but I’ve been playing this game for ages and consuming content on how to DM it for just as long; I almost certainly read or heard this somewhere else, but the original source is far receded into the fog of time for me.)

The three step rule is easy. In it, players fail three times to reach the really bad consequences, but succeed once to proceed. I don’t use it for everything – just where the stakes are much, much higher than normal. I do it for two reasons — it mitigates “save or suck” mechanics, like turning to stone, but it also ramps up the excitement of tense moments.

For example, suppose an ogre shoves a rogue over the edge of a cliff. Suddenly we’re making dex saving throws, but those dex saving throws are really death saves in disguise, because I know, as the DM, that the fall is too high to reasonably survive.

Our rogue fails the first dex save. He falls over the edge of the cliff and the ogre laughs. But! He was just quick enough and just wily enough to grab out to the cliff’s edge with one hand. (For the best effect, ask the player if they have a reaction. They tend to do their best thinking when their entire character sheet is on the line.)

He’s now prone, mechanically speaking, but the way we’re expressing in the game narrative is that he’s hanging onto the edge of the cliff by one hand. He can make a new dex save at the start of his turn. If he succeeds, he pulls himself up. If he fails, his hand slips and (for example) he lands painfully on a small outcropping of unstable rock. He’s one check away from getting himself out of the situation, but also one failed save away from taking all that gygaxian fall damage. In the meantime, the ogre and the rest of the party are doing stuff — possibly saving him or dropping rocks on his head.

However the next bit plays out, it’s far more memorable than simply vanishing over the edge of a cliff and splatting on the rocks below, and the death (if it happens) feels more fair, even though you actually stacked the deck in the players’ favor.

You can use this in a lot of places, and can use it to create consequences with more gradation in them than life or death. Failed stealth check that seems like the only outcome would be to wake up a dragon? The player’s character crunches the rocks and the dragon stirs to yawn — repeat the check. Fail again? The dragon starts looking around suspiciously. What do you do? Fail a third time? Initiative! Save? The dragon is awake and alert now, but doesn’t see you.

So next time you’re dealing with a save or suck mechanic, consider dividing it into three saves next time. Three saves to fail, one check to recover.

Smote Like Sheep

Smote Like Sheep published on 16 Comments on Smote Like Sheep

We do not have the energy to survive that eternal election and still create a full comic. There were a lot of disappointments, but the worst offender is gone, and a slow decline into despotism is, at the very least, delayed.

Fascism is the enemy. Or maybe you call it authoritarianism. If you swim around in far-right waters, you might call it communism (but this is an artifact of propaganda and the deliberate misuse of words). The enemy is concentration camps, nationalized racial supremacy, and last-in, first-out hegemonic hierarchies. Whatever your term for those things is, we have taken a step in fighting it this month, and I am proud of my and my friends’ contributions to the cause. Anti-fascists will not agree on things. A lot of us do not like Joe Biden. But Joe Biden is not a fascist, and enough of us banded together to recognize that fact that we have deposed an actual fascist via peaceful means.

Fascism – authoritarianism – hegemonic hierarchies with extremist positions against minority groups – this phenomenon was not born with Donald John Trump and while it lost an election, it is far, far from dead. One might say, if one were attempting to be clever, that a specter is haunting America. And trying further to be clever, one could say that Americans banded together in a holy alliance to exorcise this specter. I do not think that would be a terribly clever thing to write, though. The analogy, assuming it ends exactly there with no further analysis, is apt, however.

Do not take this post as a me scolding you for being happy. Jesus Christ, please go celebrate. There is a reason that the free world is acting like the USA has overthrown a dictator, and that is because they recognize the extraordinary circumstances and willpower that were required to do what we have done this November. They recognize that if Donald John Trump had ended a 2nd presidential term in good health, he would have sought a 3rd and the rules, as far as he has ever been concerned, would not have applied to him.

So dance in the streets. There is one less cave troll terrorizing our gentle fantasy village. But for the love of freedom, do not put away your dice.