Page 1243 - Master of Unlocking

6th Jul 2019, 6:00 AM in School Raze
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Master of Unlocking
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Author Notes:

Newbiespud 6th Jul 2019, 6:00 AM edit delete
When dealing with the common houserule of "Natural 20 on a skill check = spectacular success (or fringe benefit out of a truly hopeless situation)", the difference between novice DMs and experienced DMs can be seen in how they handle a Nat 20 that could horribly derail or devastate things. Ideally, you let the player get "the cool thing they want" without completely capitulating to the full consequences of their impossible actions.

Any stories about inconvenient Nat 20s that resulted in something clever?

Notice: Guest comic submissions are open! Guidelines here. Deadline: January 27th, 2023.



TheStratovarian 6th Jul 2019, 6:35 AM edit delete reply
I think my favorite wasnt the one nat 20.

It was the Three nat 20's in a row...

What? Dont give me that look.

I was playing a zebra witch. (Pathfinder.)

And we were exploring this frozen wood. We came across this stone set, and being the ever curious sort. I asked about it, the dm, having this for something later, said i'd need a very good roll, given the rarity of this.

Rolling the 1st, everyone loses it, gm goes gosh dangit (other word), and explains it. Now me being me, asked a bit more on when we could use it potentially, and he asked for a second roll on my knowledges.

And theres the 2nd one. Everyone again, is just losing it, the gm, goes quiet for a few seconds, before joining in. And finally, i go ask a nearby fellow whom was shocked at my pc having that kind of knowledge, a good bit about him. And finally ends up with him asking if he could join later to watch such a conflux (It was a moongate, and he a local druid.)

And the third, we could all hear the gm throwing up his hands and just walking away briefly at the third of them.

Ive one or two others, but thats the most prominent. (You want interesting times, ask me to roll %)
Archeo Lumiere 6th Jul 2019, 8:23 AM edit delete reply
Roll % and tell us one of the no doubt hundred stories you have about rolling %!
Some Bob 6th Jul 2019, 9:35 AM edit delete reply
Our DM had a policy where in combat, three 20's in a row (crit threat, confirm, confirm again) was always an instant kill. This was awkward when our monk was attempting to apply nonlethal damage so that we could question a mook later. It went something like, "You attempt to apply a nerve pinch to his neck, end up crushing his vertebra instead."
aylatrigger 6th Jul 2019, 11:39 PM edit delete reply
I remember back in 2nd edition playing with the instant kill rule with 2 nat 20's for an attack.

...And of course our fighter did 2 weapons with 4 natural 20's against a dragon on the first attack.
He always was extremely lucky with dice. ...Like my brother is lucky with cards (never let him go in blind in poker).
Malkyn 6th Jul 2019, 6:37 AM edit delete reply
I personally found Nat 20s too troublesome to do the automatic success thing with. Same with Nat 1s and auto-failure. However, in the spirit of recognizing that they are the highest and lowest possible results, I apply a +10 and a -10 modifier, respectively. I think the exceptional success/critical failure bit works best with a system that's bell-curved, like 3d6, instead of a d20 where all sides have an even chance of happening.
T 6th Jul 2019, 2:31 PM edit delete reply
The system should have been use two D10 and add them instead of a single D20. This way you get a bell-curve and the player get the average result most of the times instead of constantly swinging between 20s and 1s.
terrycloth 8th Jul 2019, 10:26 AM edit delete reply
3d6 is better -- it has the same average as 1d20 and is an actual bell curve (2d10 is sort of a triangle shape and the average is 11).
RuBoo 27th Nov 2019, 8:26 PM edit delete reply
Triangle, bell, same diff, they're both idiophone percussion instruments. Whatever "idiophone" means...
Digo Dragon 6th Jul 2019, 7:12 AM edit delete reply
Digo Dragon
I had a character with a horse animal companion. One night the party was ambushed by a cult and my horse died early in the fight. It was a pretty cheap shot because I had set up alarms around camp that should have alerted us to the cult, but the GM shrugged it off. He asked what I would do with my dead horse, so just to annoy him I said that I pray to the horse goddess Luna for a miracle.

The GM was not a MLP fan and was quite annoyed at my statement, but he humored me and said to roll percentile dice. I had a 2% chance of getting the goddess' attention and a free reincarnation for my horse. A agreed and rolled the dice.

I got a 100%.

The GM grumbled and said to roll on the reincarnation table. My horse turned into a human, and got several druid levels to be on par with the party average level. I've never seen a GM eat his words so hard. XD
Borg 6th Jul 2019, 9:25 AM edit delete reply
That'll teach him to doubt the power of the two true goddesses.
XScarredHeart 6th Jul 2019, 11:00 AM edit delete reply
Praise be to Malanya!
RuBoo 27th Nov 2019, 8:37 PM edit delete reply
Luna is a benevolent deity, truly. Celestia moreso, but come on, who doesn't prefer Luna, huh?
Prism Smasher 3rd Sep 2021, 2:06 PM edit delete reply
*slowly raises hoof*
CrowMagnon 6th Jul 2019, 9:31 AM edit delete reply
When I was playing an alchemist, my DM had a thing where a confirmed crit with bombs would have some sort of extra random magical effect.

The absolute best execution of this in the campaign was when we were at the top of a tower, fighting a powerful anti-paladin werewolf. I playfully channeled a bit from The Fifth Elephant by throwing a bomb while shouting "Fetch!"

This was BEFORE rolling the natural 20, so it was all the more awesome and hilarious that when the crit happened. So the way the DM described what happened next is that the bomb went flying straight into the werewolf's mouth, but it didn't explode right away. Instead, it started shooting off with propulsive force like a firework, lifting the werewolf off his feet and launching him off the roof of the tower, THEN exploded, sending what was left of him tumbling down to splat on the ground far below.
Mr. Guy 6th Jul 2019, 9:32 AM edit delete reply
I tend to run non-d20 systems when I'm DMing, but I did run a lengthy 5th ed campaign. I never had that situation because if it was something I didn't think was reasonable even at a 20, I wouldn't even let them roll for it. This included such gems as 'suplex the golem' from our sorceror, 'intimidate the magic shop owner into giving me whatever I want for free' from the fighter, and 'convince my god that I'm right and he's wrong' from the cleric.

I did let the rogue attempt to 'wall kick my way up the elevator shaft' with the promise that only a nat 20 would do it, but he failed hard.
FanOfMostEverything 6th Jul 2019, 1:35 PM edit delete reply
"Convincing my god that I'm right" is clearly a roleplaying challenge. If the player wins, the logical course of action is for the two to trade places. Congrats, you're now playing the god, who is now a cleric of your former character. Also, all of your former worshipers may be experiencing some crises of faith. Have fun with that!
Steeevee 6th Jul 2019, 1:39 PM edit delete reply
Grand Line 3.5

meeting Sanji.

on a side note Im changing my name to ShadowStar
BloomingMiracle 6th Jul 2019, 3:07 PM edit delete reply
One time, as I recall, I got a ridiculously good roll and the DM just shut me down. I don't remember my precise number (wasn't a nat 20, but the total result + math exceeded 20 as a number) but it was incredibly discouraging to say "I roll to appear friendly" and get that kind of response.

This guy was an officially sanctioned "Wizards of the Coast" DM or something, too. You'd think they'd have some guys who could "Okay, and" their players.
Guest 7th Jul 2019, 8:48 AM edit delete reply
I personally hate this houserule.

But then there is the even worse version where some DMs decide you can succeed "too well" with a Nat 20
Guest 8th Jul 2019, 11:43 AM edit delete reply
It's more fun if they're specific with it, IMO. For example, I remember one GM with a personal rule that every Nat 1 involved dirt in some way. Gives you a better idea of "well, the worst that could happen is X," instead of entirely random bullshit.
Cygnia 7th Jul 2019, 9:14 AM edit delete reply
I just like the running joke that RD will never get to pick a lock... :D
Talyn 7th Jul 2019, 10:58 AM edit delete reply
I had a Star Wars moment where we had to disable a Lambda-class shuttle that was powering up to get away. Other party members were peppering it with blaster cannon fire, and my character [a scoundrel] happened to have a lightsaber on his person. I told the GM my character didn't have the technical knowledge to aim for anything particular, so I was going to walk roughly underneath the engines, thrust the lightsaber upwards, and wiggle it around. He nodded, told me to roll a d20.


Massive shower of sparks. Next round... same thing.

Same roll.

Third round. Third 20.

Lambda finally lifts off. Promptly cartwheels onto its side without deploying its wings, begins spark-filled doing donuts on the landing pad until the disoriented pilot managed to emergency shut down the engines.
Talyn 7th Jul 2019, 10:59 AM edit delete reply
*doing spark-filled donuts
Erin Palette 7th Jul 2019, 2:30 PM edit delete reply
Erin Palette
Gather 'round, children, and hearken to the tale of Sunder Wallbane.

My PCs were exploring a dungeon and ran headlong into a nasty hobgoblin pincer ambush that ripped them a new one. Despite taking heavy damage, the PCs managed to kill the chieftain and his cleric consort and many of the remaining hobgoblins, and so the surviving hobbos fled to an inner room and bars the doors. The PCs, bloody and low on hit points and completely out of magic, retired to their own secure room to rest for the night.

The next morning (having not been attacked during the night by counterattacking hobgoblins, which was a fear of theirs) the PCs return to the site of the ambush to see if they can get through the door and into the rest of the dungeon. The resident trapsmith takes a looks and declares that not only are the doors barricaded, but they are probably trapped as well, and so getting past them will be a long and probably risky undertaking. She further observes (because I am feeding her this info) that it would probably take as much effort, and be safer besides, if they just tunneled through the stone wall and bypass the traps entirely.

I suggested this for the following reasons:
1) They're an all-dwarf party, so tunneling is completely reasonable to them.
2) There's a PC, Perga, who has a heavy pick and the Profession: Miner skill.
3) I like making odd suggestions and seeing what the party will do with them. This has given me hours of amusement, and if a GM can't laugh at her players, she's not properly enjoying her role.

The party decides that this is actually a great course of action, and decide to have Perga (who is actually a Gunslinger -- this will become hilarious later) do his thing. I immediately start looking up rules for hardness and hit points of dungeon walls, and calculating how many wandering monsters will come investigate the sound of metal on stone. After I'm all set up, giggling to myself at the wickedness of my plan, I have Perga roll his Miner skill.

He rolls a natural 20.

Since this is technically an attack, I have him roll to confirm a critical hit. He does. He rolls another natural 20. He rolls again, and gets a 17. I look at the Break DC of the wall and see that it's 35. I look at the critical multiplier of the heavy pick and see that it's x4.

I think about this for a moment, then decide "Oh, why the hell not. This is a game about magic and epic adventures, and two nat 20s in a row is 1 in 400 odds. Also, it moves the plot forward, and it amuses me." The entire PC party is on the edge of their seats as I describe what happens next:

Perga carefully sets Matilda, his musket, to the side. He looks thoughtfully at the wall, as if to say "Where should I hit?" His decision made, he carefully draws an X on the wall.

He takes his pick out of his pack, spits on his hands, and takes a few swings, limbering up like a professional baseball player. "Right, the power of the swing comes from the hips... remember the follow through..." Then he hauls back and, with a mighty swing, the pick whistles through the air and buries itself deeply into the stone.

It doesn't want to come free. He wiggles it, and there's a cracking sound as a fracture races out from the point of impact. Then another. Then another. Then the entire wall crackles as fissures spiderweb outward from where the pick hit, all while Perga is trying to pry his pick loose. Straining with all his might, he gives the pick one last pull, this time with a bit of a twist to pop the head free by prying out some masonry with it.

The bit of masonry is pried out. The head pops free. And with its departure, all 20 feet of the cracked wall collapses with a roar into rubble, leaving a massive hole into the room.

Perga looks at the wall. Looks at his pick. Wall. Pick. Wall. "Huh," he says. "Never seen that happen before."

Later that evening during post-game wrap-up, I tell Perga's player "Give that pick an epic name, because you managed to infuse it with a little bit of legend." He chose the name "Sunder".

I told him "Congratulations. You have a Pick of Wall Slaying."

Sunder Wallbane
(Heavy Pick)
Sunder has +2 to hit against structures, and does an additional 2d6 damage to them. Against all other foes, it is considered a magical weapon but has no additional properties.

Further commentary from the GM:
Technically, magical items first need to be masterwork quality, but you live in a magical world and you double-critted, and it moved the plot along, and it amused me, and the rest of the party will be talking about this for years, so yeah, it's magical. Epic actions can turn mundane items into relics in my game.

Given that you critted and one-shotted a wall, it seems fitting that Sunder be a "slaying" weapon, and what it slays is walls. Well, structures I guess, because floors are just horizontal walls and ceilings are lifted horizontal walls and roofs are slanted walls. Don't get cute by trying to use it on non-wall things like rock outcroppings or canyons or hills, because that gets into a semantic argument like "Well, that golem is made of stone, and walls are made of stone, so etc." No. Sunder kills man-made structures because non-dwarf engineering is feeble. The benefit of this is that so long as it's constructed and not natural, you can slay it.

This is all hilarious to me because it's the first magical weapon the party has, and it's a melee weapon, and it's in the possession of a Gunslinger who shoots things at range. I do expect that it will get more use as a tool than a weapon, because while it's merely an adequate weapon it's an amazing tool, doing 3d6+2+strength against fabricated structures.

I also love my idea that magical weapons can be spontaneously created through epic deeds. It avoids the soulless "You find or buy a weapon" issue because Sunder now has history with the PC group. They aren't going to want to part with it, because it's sentimental to them. Instead, they're going to use it, and its legend will continue to grow. In the same way that ancestral katana were said to have inside them the souls of the ancestors who wielded them, so too will the deeds of Perga Ironfoot increase the power of Sunder Wallbane. With more epic uses and epic successes, I can see it growing into a magical weapon of legend.

I look forward to seeing what the rest of my players can do.
Guest 8th Jul 2019, 10:42 AM edit delete reply
Coincidentaly, breaking normal chains bare-handed has a suggested DC of 20, in 5e.