Page 1003 - Bewitching Hour

23rd Dec 2017, 6:00 AM
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Bewitching Hour
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Author Notes:

Newbiespud 23rd Dec 2017, 6:00 AM edit delete
Newbiespud
Artist: ChrisTheS

Combat in TRPGs sometimes feels like a zero-sum game. If the DM is having fun and being successful with it, the players are probably not having a lot of fun. If the players are having fun, the DM is probably being hampered.

Which is why I love, love, love minions. Plenty of targets for the players to feel good using their big crazy stuff on, without the DM feeling like all their tactical options are getting locked down.

...Except when the minions also apply debilitating status effects every round. Then we're back to "the DM's having fun but you aren't." It's a delicate balancing act.

Got the other half of this week's Tales of New Dunhaven for ya!
Session 12-2 - The Third Act Job, Part 2: Libsyn YouTube

And since there won't be an update until we're on the other side of it – Happy Holidays!

33 Comments:

BackSet 23rd Dec 2017, 6:53 AM edit delete reply
BackSet
First! Haha!
Adser 23rd Dec 2017, 6:56 AM edit delete reply
Hey Spud, you may have forgotten to close that first link.
Digo Dragon 23rd Dec 2017, 7:48 AM edit delete reply
Digo Dragon
Probably got caught in Twi's teleport. ;)
Newbiespud 23rd Dec 2017, 9:05 AM edit delete reply
Newbiespud
Why did I put an equals sign in the close bracket...? Muscle memory, I guess.
Twilight Sparkle 23rd Dec 2017, 7:06 AM edit delete reply
From all of us at Equestria, Have a happy Hearth's Warming
Mykin 23rd Dec 2017, 8:44 AM edit delete reply
Mykin
Happy Hearth's Warming to you too and everyone else!
Tempest_Fennac 23rd Dec 2017, 7:18 AM edit delete reply
As both a player or a DM I find combat isn't fun if it's 1-sided eitherway regardless of which side I'm on (I was running one 3.5 D&D game for a friend which went from the 2 characters we were using getting obliterated constantly to rolling over most allegedly CR-appropriate fights once we upgraded our stats and started using 2 characters each despite the party hardly being optimised, which was annoying due to fights lacking any sort of challenge at that point).
The Old One 23rd Dec 2017, 9:58 AM edit delete reply
Minions (and second wind, and skill challenges) were some of the best things to come out of 4th. Just good enough to threaten players, easy to mow down in droves, and disposable as hell. For all of 4th eds flaws, that was a really good idea.

I use them in pathfinder as a gm (take the standard template, give them 1hp per hit die, cut the xp to 1/4, watch them burn)
Tempest_Fennac 23rd Dec 2017, 11:31 AM edit delete reply
I'll admit that doesn't appeal to me (having people who drop dead at the slightest hint of taking damage just seems hard to justify; I tend to prefer enemies to be reasonably competent on their own, which may be part of the reason why my fights can be more deadly than I intend them to be).
Anvildude 23rd Dec 2017, 12:23 PM edit delete reply
My take on Minions is that they're not necessarily dying, per se, but that they're not brave or strong enough to continue fighting.

So some of them die easily (such as if they're, you know, cleaved by a barbarian or something), some are 'knocked out' due to shock from their injuries, and some get hit and just say 'nope' and abandon their place and run. Or cower in place.

It also gives a nice alignment barometer when you have a few un-killed enemies at the end of the combat, that don't want to fight. How do your players deal with them?
Draxynnic 24th Dec 2017, 12:39 AM edit delete reply
Additionally, if I recall correctly, 4E had the concept that hit points didn't actually represent injuries (at least not substantial ones) until you were bloodied, and until then they essentially represent someone getting worn out until they're not able to properly dodge, block, or deflect the next big hit.

The minion concept, I think, is essentially turning that abstraction around. An orc warrior that is a minion for a level 10 party, for instance, may be the same orc warrior that is a significant opponent for a level 1 party - however, while they're no longer tracked by hit points, it likely has enhanced defences. So while for a level 1 party the game rules track the orc slowly being worn down by near misses and minor injuries, for a level 10 party against whom the orc is classified as a minion, it's just a matter of tracking the blow that strikes them down. So where, with regular opponents, a lot of "hits" aren't necessarily causing actual injuries, for minions this gets turned around: a long of "misses" can actually represent that the minion is receiving minor injuries that aren't actually enough to disable them (at least not yet). For instance, if we imagine that our hypothetical orc warriors have defences such that they would be hit on a 15+ as a minion or on a 5+ as a regular opponent, one could take the approach that the orc warriors on average take three hits to take down, and most of the 'misses' are actually contributing to that. It's just easier on the GM not to have to track hit points for a dozen minor enemies.

Furthermore, it can allow for some emergent storytelling. The minion that gets hit and goes down the first time the PCs look in their general direction? That was the raw recruit that's never seen action before and fainted at the sight of his own blood. The minion who the PCs just can't manage to land a hit on due to poor dice rolling? It's not that the PCs are fumbling - that minion was a grizzled veteran, the best fighter of the warband, dodging and parrying the PC's attacks almost as an equal and refusing to go down despite receiving dozens of minor injuries. Thus, if properly played up by the GM on the fly, the system can actually allow for the illusion of a wider range of skill levels among the minion group then you'd get if you just had a bunch of orcs with 30hp each that are almost impossible for the PCs to miss.
Tempest_Fennac 24th Dec 2017, 6:09 AM edit delete reply
Those points all make sense, Anvil and Drax. My only real exposure to 4E was one game which didn't last very long (I didn't enjoy it much either admittedly; the DM didn't seem interested in really RPing), so I'd forgotten about HPs being more abstract in that.
Archone 25th Dec 2017, 4:07 AM edit delete reply
Personally I lean towards a theory that appears to have been adopted by the makers of the show "RWBY." Namely, that in a magical world people are going to use magic. It's simply part of their universe, their laws of physics... therefore, they're going to use magic the same way that people in our world use gravity and leverage and chemistry.

So why is a Bard's performance providing bonuses? Because the Bard is literally weaving magic with their performance. Why does a Monk punch so hard? Because they're channeling magic into their fists for "touch range spells," as it were.

So what else would HP be, but a force field protecting the body against harm? A fighter would be especially capable at creating their own shields. Again, just like in RWBY where the characters get knocked around and hit with swords and bullets and explosions with no visible effect... until their auras falter, at which point they start experiencing puncture wounds and start losing limbs.
Jobany 24th Dec 2017, 7:04 AM edit delete reply
Yeah, as a DM I occasionally have to fudge attack rolls to not kill chars outright. I had one player get pissed because they couldn't see my rolls. I was trying to make combat fun and not a total TPK
Tempest_Fennac 24th Dec 2017, 11:35 AM edit delete reply
I'll admit I prefer to have rolls being made public (I only play over the internet but I tend to think it's not fun without a risk of failure, even though I prefer to capture PCs if it makes sense for that to happen if everyone gets KOed).
ROARthorin 24th Dec 2017, 7:32 PM edit delete reply
I have had the opposite problem. Where my players asked me, as a GM, to stop rolling where visible because I was rolling to well. I only was rolling well when I rolled publicly and didn't have to fudge numbers. The wierd way "dice luck" works sometimes.
Digo Dragon 23rd Dec 2017, 7:51 AM edit delete reply
Digo Dragon
I am one of those DMs that have a lot of fun watching the players take down my boss encounters. For the balance is making the boss a credible threat, but giving the PCs the right opportunities to turn the tables around with their powers. I have it go back and forth a few rounds and then see to it that the players squeak out a victory and feel accomplished against something really challenging.

Oddly, this is also what parenting is like.
WuseMajor 23rd Dec 2017, 9:12 PM edit delete reply
Yeah. DMing shouldn't be adversarial in nature. You're together there to tell a fun story about the PCs. When someone decides they want to "beat" another person at the table, problems occur that no system can solve.
Draxynnic 24th Dec 2017, 12:15 AM edit delete reply
That's pretty much my attitude as well. Sure, it's disappointing when the enemy doesn't get to use some trick or another that you were looking forward to using, but as long as you're not lowballing the encounters that usually involves one or more players getting a good payoff for their own tactics, so it's a net win. There's always the next encounter.

If it's a good fight but the bad guy goes down, that's (usually) what you're aiming for. Besides, if the players pull something off that allows them to take out the encounter before the tactics and abilities you planned out had a chance to come into play, you can always put them back in your idea folder for later.
Dragonflight 24th Dec 2017, 5:04 AM edit delete reply
I love setting up situations for the players to tackle. That said, sometimes they ace a big threat I was working on, and then I have to (quietly) remind myself that the story is more important than any boss monster, and to just move along.

Still, sometimes you throw something you weren't expecting to be a real threat at them, and suddenly, they're stuck and scratching their heads in consternation.

This evening is a great example of that. I'm running the Carrion Crown arc from Pathfinder. With a few tweaks. It's notable because I don't run modules that often, preferring a more off-the-cuff approach. But this has been a nice change of pace for the group.

One of the encounters is a water-filled room with a basilisk the local Dr. Frankenstein has alchemically altered to be a transparent, aquatic basilisk. And since it's aquatic, it hides under the water.

The party realizes they're being hit with petrification magic early, but they all save, and back out of the room. One of them tries Invisibility Purge to force the creature back into visibility. Thing is, it has no effect on supernatural and natural abilities. And this particular basilisk isn't magically invisible. it's just *transparent.* And they keep failing Perception checks against its Stealth to see it.

Eventually the mage figures it out (and barely squeaks out a save after several buffing spells cast ahead of time,) and throws down a thick wall of fog across the waterline. They manage to defeat the threat, even though they can't actually see or hurt it. Full XP for a creative and effective solution.

But boy was it fun watching a mid-range party stumble around in confusion trying to figure out what the heck I'd just thrown at them... :)
emmerlaus 23rd Dec 2017, 8:23 AM edit delete reply
emmerlaus
When will their be a posting again? I think I missed the date for Newbiespud glorious return :(

(and yes, glorious. Any person who survive a holiday season with his family alive should be considered a hero LOL)
Newbiespud 23rd Dec 2017, 9:46 AM edit delete reply
Newbiespud
I just meant the next regularly scheduled page is on the day after Christmas.
ChrisTheS 23rd Dec 2017, 8:41 AM edit delete reply
Full-res shots [url="http://fav.me/dbxkyrp"]here.[/url]
ChrisTheS 23rd Dec 2017, 8:42 AM edit delete reply
Dang. Thought I'd figured out how hyperlinks worked here :(
Newbiespud 23rd Dec 2017, 9:06 AM edit delete reply
Newbiespud
Very close. Just take out the quotation marks.
We love you 23rd Dec 2017, 10:12 AM edit delete reply
Merry Christmas!
offroader 23rd Dec 2017, 1:41 PM edit delete reply
I just noticed the LOOK OF PURE HORROR on the face of ninja in the last panel... Nice job.
FrostyTheDragon 23rd Dec 2017, 4:03 PM edit delete reply
Minions, huh? Unfortunately, I have the kind of group that is precisely against the notion of minions or anything close to it. They feel it cheapens the experience. (It makes anything large-scale very difficult to do right.)

I think the closest I've come to getting them to accept minions in combat was something from a few sessions ago. The party was exploring a prison in hostile territory, trying to save some of their allies before they fell under mind control. Events in the campaign to that point led the villains to expect such a rescue and the most vile of them (NOT the BBEG, but still a fairly major villain) was handling prison surveillance at the time the party was there. So when he sees the party infiltrating, he waits until they're about halfway into the prison and not only opens the cells to let over 90% of the prisoners out, but also uses his insanity ability to direct all of them against the party, surrounding them in a tiny hallway. The prisoners were basically meant to occupy and lock down the party while the villain, safe in another room, used his psionics against the party.

Now, the party in this campaign is very much against killing anyone outright and the nature of their abilities and the campaign means unorthodox solutions are a guarantee. Their answer to all of this was to cause a fire and incapacitate the prisoners via smoke inhalation. (The party used a makeshift gas mask - made with the help of the stretching powers of one of them, as I recall - to prevent themselves from passing out due to this.) When the villain took that moment to flee, the party dragged the prisoners away and got to treating them. They would later take said prisoners, and several lesser villains in that particular scenario, to get proper medical treatment.

In short, at no point was the major villain actually a viable target during the encounter. (That waits for a later and much more cathartic battle.) The "minions" were actually the center stage of the fight - which is not usually my understanding when I hear the phrase 'minions' in tabletop RPGs.
Rhino_Man 24th Dec 2017, 3:07 AM edit delete reply
Never piss off a wizard.
BackSet 24th Dec 2017, 7:14 AM edit delete reply
BackSet
Right so, I'm kind of new to this webcomic (just finished bingeing yesterday) so I have a question: what is the usual update schedule?
Godzfirefly 24th Dec 2017, 8:07 AM edit delete reply
Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday
Broken Gear 24th Dec 2017, 7:22 AM edit delete reply
Beware of creative wizards.
Captain Snark 25th Dec 2017, 10:20 PM edit delete reply
"You thought it was Fluttershy's turn, but it was me, Dio!"

"Wait... what?"