Mailbag – Teamwork Tips and Munchkin Item Tips

Roleplaying Tips Newsletter #0592

A Brief Word From Johnn

Another potpourri style email for you today, with a couple of standalone tips, and then reactions to a recent tip request about handling munchkin magic items.

My group games again Thursday. We’re playing the Shattered Star Adventure Path for Pathfinder.

Last session the PCs were hired to find a missing Pathfinder agent. They started following up various leads and ended up getting into a brawl with a Sczarni sorcerer and his bodyguards.

Because things get chaotic at the table with six players, and an Adventure Path is more linear than what we’re used to, I started writing down quests and clues on index cards and clipping them to the outside of my GM screen.

So far it’s worked great. When a debate erupts about what to do next, we can just check the cards to get faster group consensus. And the cards remind everyone about what hooks have been dangled.

It should be a great game. One doesn’t want to make a sorcerer angry, and I think he’s got a giant can of Payback to crack open!

Mailbag – Teamwork Tips and Munchkin Item Tips

Help Players Work Together With Teamwork Bonuses

From Johnn Four

One of my players, Dwayne, also GMs his own group. He and I were chatting before last session of my game and he had an awesome tip.

For his new group, which is a mix of new and experienced players, he gave each PC a level of rogue.

In Pathfinder, rogues who work together for flanking and whatnot get bonuses.

By giving every character rogue abilities he provided incentive for players to work together and become a team.

You can do this too. Look through your game rules for teamwork type abilities, and give them to all the PCs. If your game doesn’t have these options, make up some house rules.

This is a wonderful way to help new groups bond faster and learn to play better.

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Cool Way For Player Contribution

From Stephen McAllister

I have thought about ways to allow players to shape or expand the core battle maps DMs create.

I am going to use 4×6 inch (16×24 squares) stickies with grid paper. And when players successfully use a dungeoneering or nature skill, depending on the locale, they get a stickie they can place to shape the battlefield to their advantage or to the group’s advantage.

This would be set on one of the four sides of the initial map the DM has created.

This is in line with a more improvisational take on gaming. A downside is it could slow play down. So, I think I will set a time limit on how long players have until their piece needs to be played.

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Pathfinder Inserts For The World’s Greatest Screen

From Jerry K.

I just wanted to say I’ve been using the World’s Greatest Screen for a couple of years now and it really is pretty fantastic.

The ability to swap out the sheets for individual games makes GMing all that much easier, and the added bonus of being able to write on the screen with wet erase makes it easy to keep temporary notes within quick eye shot.

Lastly, it’s sturdy and the four panels allow for a steadiness you don’t find in three panel, cardboard screens.

Anyway, I thought I would share the screen inserts I created. Feel free to pass these along, or not, as you see fit: GMScreen-Inserts

As always, thanks for the awesome content.

Readers Respond: Over-Powerful Magic Items

The Demon In The Sword

From Nick Maggs

I’ve been a long time reader of the roleplaying tips column and enjoyed the various suggestions and tips over the years.

The last instalment regarding the over-powered magic item hit the spot. So I thought I’d share a bit of campaign history.

Many years ago I handed out a magic sword to a player. It did twice the normal amount of damage for its type and it was well over-the-top for the campaign at the time. I soon realised I’d given out too much, too soon. So I had to deal with it.

However, rather than taking the weapon away I did the opposite. I increased the power. By saying a magic word (found after suspiciously easy research) the wielder of the blade was able to unleash immense power – in this case immolating his foes.

Of course, there was a cost.

The more the character used the blade, the better it became (warping through armour, vorpal abilities, etc.). But the cost to the wielder also went up.

In no time it was draining the wielder – eating away his life. He lost weight, then height, and then started to age. He tried to throw away the sword. It would have none of that – teleporting to his hand in place of any other weapon.

More research followed. The curse was diabolical. A demon trapped inside. But it seemed the demon wanted out and wanted the “hero” to be its servant.

So being a good hero the wielder of the blade did a little more research. There seemed to be two different ways of dealing with the sword. The easy way and the hard way. (I had two ideas for campaign directions at this point and thought I’d let the player make a choice.)

The group chose the easy way. A quest followed. And after many trials and tribulations, the hero (well, by then an anti-hero) was freed from the sword.

Unfortunately, this also released the demon from its prison (and summoned a second to boot – but that’s another story). Oops!

25 years later my group is still dealing with some of the fallout from this! It’s made for some great campaigns and a great history (nearly 300 years in the game world).

So, rather than take away the campaign destroying magic item, my advice is to run with it. Make it so the character desperately wants to get rid of the item (like Frodo and the Ring, for example) but at the same time wants to keep the damned thing.

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Negative Consequences

From Chris Wilkes

Another suggestion for Jack: He should consider what happens when the character hits something with ‘negative life’, such as a wraith. Throw some wraiths at them, and watch them all sweat over the negative level drains.

Then rule the life-link sword (to steal a Magic:TG term) causes the “invincible” wielder to lose the same number of hit points from his life total as they just did in damage to the wraith, as its negative energy floods into them.

Sort of like anti-matter and matter colliding.

Just a thought, but it’s what I would do.

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Absorb Foe Traits While Sucking Up Party Resources

From Mark of the Pixie

For [the life stealing sword] I would say the stolen HP are from that creature type, and the action brings some of the creature’s quirks with it. You then “heal” back to yourself at normal healing rates.

So if you fight giants with it, you may get bigger. But you also start to shift thinking and alignment.

If you fight a vampire you may get hunger for blood.

If you fight giant insects you may get a chitinous exoskeleton.

Mostly this would be minor inconveniences, as teammates can heal the afflicted up to get rid of the effects.

The more HP they have stolen, though, the stronger the effect. I’d use a simple percentage. If you are 10% fire elemental, then you have a 10% chance of bursting into flame.

But if the PC is ever in the situation where they have replaced 100% of their HP with “monster HP” then they have actually died and been replaced by an NPC monster.

This adds a risk to the sword, but also keeps the party churning through healing spells and potions and such.

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Wield A Tough Villain

From Jeremy Brown

The life stealing sword might not work on undead, constructs, or if you’re truly evil, certain alien aberrations or outsiders. I’d exclude elementals as well. Probably the easiest is if the monster type eats and breathes the sword works on it.

Then run a villain who depends entirely on these types of servants.

While this “shuts down” the player, it demonstrates the sword isn’t all powerful. Further, dispel magic can suppress an item for a few rounds (at least, I know in prior versions of the game it did) and an anti-magic field definitely would.

These are all viable tactics for villains who know the powers of the weapon.

Also, a life drinking sword sounds awfully evil. Perhaps evil creatures are drawn to it and want to steal it or take it away for themselves by force.

And there’s always barter. Offer the player another item equally cool, but less combat breaking.

Finally, there’s always the point of, “Look, this is breaking game balance and I have options, but they might be deadly or dangerous to the whole group and might piss everyone off. Would you be willing to take a change to this weapon to make it less damaging?”

I’ve had to do this to two feats used in my current game. I’ve also had to make rulings about a third feat.

My essential point here is, “Anything your PC can do, my NPCs can do as well, and they’re often higher level and more dangerous than you.”

Ask the PC to imagine a six-armed demon swinging six such swords and they’ll get the picture.