Tactical Tips For Over-Resting PCs
Roleplaying Tips Newsletter #297
These tips hail from a reader’s request in Issue #295: http://www.roleplayingtips.com/readissue.php?number=295#R2
Numerous folks generously wrote in with their tips and advice. In this week’s issue we feature 10 possible solutions for Diego’s problem. Thanks to everyone who responded! More tips coming in a future edition.
Diego And The Narcoleptics
The Dungeon is not a Static Environment
Once the Bad Guys find out something is killing them off, they will take vigorous actions to defend their home, sometimes forging unusual alliances. Imagine if a high-speed military strike force paused mid-assault for nine hours, and how their enemy would respond during the lull. If the monsters cannot stop the party, they may well flee (with all their treasure and possibly the object of the quest). It should go without saying that those monsters were not defeated, and the XP for them not earned.
The Rope Trick Spell is neat, But it’s not Bulletproof
That window is invisible, but radiates magic, and can be seen by things that see invisible objects. Remember the rules on spellcasters and their rest—at least 9 hours (eight of rest + one of study) for some of them. Also, is the party hauling around a Bag of Holding or Handy Haversack? Are they taking them into the extradimensional space created by the Rope Trick? *insert evil DM laugh here*
OK, so the Whole Party’s Going Wizard on You
Their adversaries will notice this, and the smart ones will take steps to combat it. How are their grapple modifiers? Monks are famous for being good grapplers and having good saving throws, and captured wizards almost always have their spellbooks taken. Rogues have Evasion and can ignore those pesky Fireballs, and anyone knowing the party’s tactics will take steps to neutralize them through the proper buff spells and potions. Perhaps a rock with a Silence spell on it gets thrown into the middle of the group? There’s always Black Tentacles.
The point is, a well balanced party can easily wipe out an unbalanced party if they take advantage of their strengths. Spellcasters are easy targets if they don’t have time to buff themselves, or if they’re caught by surprise. If the Bad Guys get to buff, life gets brutal for your little gang of casters. (Enlarge Person + Bull’s Strength + Bear’s Endurance = one tough Barbarian; Cat’s Grace + Haste = high- speed tumbling/backstabbing Rogue; Cat’s Grace + Prayer + Haste = Ranger-sniper. Then there’s those Full Round spells: Summon Monster, Call Lightning, and so on.)
My favorite ego check is the lowly kobold. Since they can’t stand toe-to-toe with anything, kobolds tend to ambush and harry an invader, letting their traps do the dirty work. A good kobold lair will channel the party into a number of killzones, with no chance of retreat (remember: kobolds have natural mining and trap-making skills). If the party gets to be too much, they’re pushed out of the lair, if possible.
- Traps that split up a party
- Web + Summon (spider) Swarm
- Immobilizing traps + Dire Weasels
- Immobilizing traps + Sneak Attack (including ranged and spell attacks)
- Poison-tipped crossbow bolts
- The ability of all intelligent foes to target a single opponent until he drops
The kobold’s favored class is the Sorcerer, so it’s likely there will be a few casters in the group. They might recognize a Rope Trick (with a good Spellcraft roll), and attempt to Detect Magic to see the window. A Dispel Magic will soon follow (once all the dinner guests, er, troops are gathered/buffed).
Finally, a note regarding Challenge Ratings
CRs are built with a four-person party, of 25 point build, with items in line with the Value Per Level table in the DMG. More characters, more points, or more magic items mean the party should be facing higher CRs. I made this mistake early on, and couldn’t fathom why the six-person, 32 point buy party kept waltzing over my encounters.
The Problem Of Over-Resting
From Dave McKay
I sense the problem might be one of the playing mechanics rather than characters in an interactive world (even in a dungeon).
Focus on Roleplaying, Not Wargaming
It seems Diego’s group is maneuvering in the world by the rules. Try to focus on roleplaying the environment. Make it an environment that changes. My group knows my world reacts back. They have a strong sense of roleplaying and being in-character, and this drives them to accomplish their goals within the game and adventure.
My group tends to press forward in the adventure/session to accomplish their mission. They will exhaust magical resources and yet continue on more cautiously. Once they are too badly hurt or exhausted, they will retreat to a relatively safe area, within or outside of the adventure site. Things still happen. The enemy re-groups. They react to the party’s previous intrusion and learn from the last encounter. When the party returns, the situation might be more dangerous, the enemy better prepared.
The quest goal might have gone out of reach (usually to be pursued in a new adventure within the campaign). Diego mentions a solution of time limit. My players usually have that developed within character (and that is rooted in their gaming experience). Perhaps develop more of a situational limit rather than time.
Have Players Make Ability and Save Checks
As appropriate to give them a sense of how their characters are reacting. In one recent session, the party holed up in an abandoned chamber to rest. I had them make checks because the place was not ideal to rest in. One character suffered temporary ability damage and the results from the resting were not satisfactory (less healing and only some spell/magic recovered). There was also a random encounter. The party knows they risk less than satisfactory results if the chance resting up “in situ” but that it does cost time, provisions, and money should they wish to retreat to more civilized areas.
The GM is the Final Authority in The Game Environment
My players respect my decisions on mechanics as applied in the game environment. In my latest campaign, I took an idea from Roleplaying Tips and published a Players Reference that I emailed and printed out for my group. It outlines how I am applying certain rules, game resources, conduct, house rules, metagaming, and so on. This reduced many instances of player knowledge of game mechanics directing the flow of play. Some of my decisions have been unpopular with some or even all the players, but in the end they respect my rulings and it gives them a sense of grounding so they can expect consistency from my style and campaign.
Intelligent and Dynamic Antagonists
From Duncan Rice
Create Intelligent and Dynamic Antagonists
Ask yourself, “What is the enemy doing during this time?” A band of creatures with low intelligence might be gaining new recruits or setting traps and barricades along entrances and pathways the party has taken in the past. A moderately intelligent opponent might send out a hunting party to find or ambush the players. A wiser foe, such as a high level magic user, will set up wards and memorize spells to counter the PCs. Perhaps he will hire someone with skills that counter the group’s attack style.
While the party is resting, opponents do not sit idly by and wait for the next assault. The enemy is aware of his losses and what caused them. The enemy can use the time the party spends resting to learn about them and anticipate their next move. Give the party a hint of what is going on. Have a battle cleaned up, the wounded and dead carried away, or a threatening goblin message scrawled on the wall. Keep in mind that while it is not the GM’s task to play “against” the party, the enemy can still plan, improvise, prepare, and improve their defenses.
Hit the Party at Home
While the party is taking their time resting, what is happening at their base? An alert enemy might send troops to gather information about the party. They might be able to gain information by scrying. Is there a piece of information that can be used, in a fun way, against the party? If the party continues to dawdle, the next foray will be to capture family members, terrorize homes, find or create secret ways into the party’s keep or inn, or perhaps plant an assassin close to the party’s base.
This would be dull if the party knows nothing about it, though. Perhaps a message comes to inform them. They must either hurry up and finish the adventure or return to deal with the situation at home. The second option gives the enemy even more time to rest and prepare.
From Mike Miller
- To a basilisk, it seems like a nice place to sleep
- Have the exit walled up, or collapse the corridor
- Place an explosive ward on the room
- The exit can only be opened from the inside within the first hour
- The exit opens into another room after the first hour
Combat Over Resting
From Robert E. Jones
Use Smaller Encounters
A lot of the problem of over- resting comes from a desire to make each fight very challenging. A challenging fight leaves players with spells exhausted and low on hit points, so they’re naturally inclined to rest. Once a GM has set this pattern, players will rest even if they have substantial resources left because they’re afraid the next encounter will finish them off.
A good solution is to throw in a few easy encounters. These can be little booby traps that only do a few points of damage, simple obstacles that only take a single spell to bypass, or monsters that are clearly outclassed by the party.
Small encounters give the players a chance to show off. They also make things easy on the GM because no one expects a lot of treasure out of them. These little fights shouldn’t scare players into a need to rest and the GM can gradually play around with the number and power of monsters to throw in. Just remember to keep the stakes low–don’t let the whole adventure rest on a couple of kobolds; they’ll let you down every time!
Use Wilderness or Town Adventures
Town adventures can make resting interesting because you never quite know when you are safe or not–town fighting is usually pretty sneaky. It also crimps the magic user’s style due to prejudice against magic, or because of notoriety or collateral damage issues. Wilderness adventures give resting a different problem–if you spend all your time resting you never get out of the wilderness! Imagine the players’ collective frustration if they’ve had to rest three times (three full days) after traveling only halfway to the dungeon they want to loot!
Combined with small encounters (from above), the players will certainly decide to move forward, even without all their spells ready.
Dilemma of Resting Characters
From Dave Lowry
- Have the adventures in a city where large castings of spells would be very bad. Fireballs injuring civilians would bring the City Guard, and they may have orders to prevent disruptive spellcasting.
- Tracking spell component supplies and their use hampers repeated spell casting.
- Religious PCs might feel their god’s displeasure at being used as a spell battery.
- Track provisions. Don’t let the PCs learn Create Food And Water. Priests that do this should demand tribute to their god.
- Give the PCs people they are responsible to protect, such as a diplomat, so there’s more than eight people in the party. Rope Trick can only hold eight people. That way, some party members are left outside for wandering monsters to eat. Remember, pulling the rope up into the pocket counts as an additional creature. If they don’t pull the rope up, monsters can climb up.
- Send the PCs to the Astral Plane where time passes at a different speed. For example, 100 years must pass for each day of rest. This only ages them a day, but can you imagine not doing anything for that time? Magicians would go mad!
- World based effects where casting time is slowly increased. For example, magic is being used up in the world, so casting times are now doubled. At the rate the party continues on, casting times will extend tenfold. If they’re part of a Mages Guild, they will find out about this and be encouraged to spread the word to decrease people casting spells with such fervor. This might also give rise to an apocalyptic religious cult who roam the land looking for magicians they can slay.
Chat With Your Group
From Lord Damian
Simply state that resting by using Rope Trick is only good for healing; it will not count as rest to restore spells because the extradimesional space is too jarring to allow it. Perhaps there is a disagreement among the gods causing a disharmony in the fabric of reality. If the players have a problem with it, tell them you felt their use of the spell was abusive. Also, if they continue to play in this manner, start reducing their experience points. They gain no knowledge from being unchallenged.
Interrupt Their Plans
From Ted O.
Keep The Clock Ticking
While the PCs waste time, the bad guys are advancing their plans. Perhaps every night that passes without the PCs around to defend the country, foes kidnap and kill yet another highly visible and important NPC. The Mayor/King/whoever will become upset with the PCs for allowing this carnage to go on. In desperation, the NPC might even hire another band of adventurers who, unbeknownst to him, are overly-competitive, and seek out the PC group for elimination before proceeding. (Extra story points if the PCs kill group #2, but then they have to contend with the Mayor.)
There are different kinds of time pressure. There’s the classic “world will end in 3 days, if you don’t…”, and:
- Every hour another hostage dies.
- The bad guys send for reinforcements that are expected to arrive in 2 hours.
- One of the party was bitten by a suspected lycanthrope and needs medicine in three days.
- Others are busy looting this dungeon, so the PCs keep coming across emptied hoards (just a few stray coins and mundane items remaining–clear signs of ransacking).
- The bad guys move the hostages/loot/key items to a secret location.
PCs Resting Too Often
Keep in Mind That Resting Takes Time
In first edition D&D, things like timekeeping was stressed more than in later versions, but timekeeping remains an important aspect of any long term game. If the PCs are resting and regaining hit points and spells, so too are the monsters resting and regaining the same!
Remember to reset your monsters every time the PCs take a break. If the PCs have already engaged the monsters before resting, unless they are extremely stupid, the monsters might have spent their resting time preparing more appropriate actions for the PCs.
If the PCs are Simply Resting After Every Battle
Bake sure you track food and water. How long can the PCs stay in the dungeon without eating and drinking? Simplify this if you want by checking off three meals and one waterskin per day per PC, without detailing each meal. Or, you can try to get the PCs to tell you exactly what they are eating and drinking. Either way, eventually food and drink will run out if they are resting after every battle.
From Aaron P.
As GM you Have Control Over What Spells the Characters Can Learn
If you think Rope Trick is too powerful, either raise its level or disallow it. That’s a bit heavy handed and should only be used as a last resort and after discussing the issue with the players, but it is an option.
Create Magical Trap
That only go off when extra- dimensional magic is used (Rope Trick, Dimension Door, Summon Monster, Teleport, Ethereal Jaunt, Blink). This makes it something that doesn’t only penalize this one tactic, and could be the genesis for an interesting antagonist who is paranoid of extra dimensional threats that he believes want to eat his soul, or who’s been ambushed more than once by a party teleporting into his keep and summoning hordes of beasts. * Sometimes, the characters should be able to use whatever spells or abilities they have. You shouldn’t always nullify their keen new spell. However, almost every ability in D&Dh as some counter, and common tricks like this one would be well known to intelligent antagonists, and intelligent enemies should prepare contingency plans to use against this tactic.
A Brief Word From Leslie
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Tips From Roleplaying Tips Game Masters
Have a roleplaying tip you’d like to share? E-mail it to [email protected] – thanks!
My Approach To Role Playing
From Kaspar Lundsby
I believe that role playing must be fun for all people involved!
This means that, as a player, I tweak my characters so they are useful to the group. I don’t create overly secretive, rebellious, or solitary PCs, as such characters tend to prefer to act on their own without involving the other participants in the group.
As GM, I do my best to involve all characters in the activities of a session, mainly by providing each character with an opportunity to shine at least once per session. I also try to have only useful characters in my group. This is done by attempting to have my players conform with my approach to role playing, and by requiring that characters be well-rounded. The best way to get such characters is by having them begin their existence as character concepts only, and then fleshing things out with the player. During this fleshing out process, I ensure characters will turn out to be useful.
Another important aspect of making sure it’s fun for everyone is to have all players on the same page with regards to what is possible and what is not in the setting, to what the atmosphere is like, and similar aspects of role playing. This is best achieved by discussing these aspects with the players before a situation that violates the commonly agreed code of conduct. This is also the reason I write so much in advance–to give potential players an idea of what and how I think.
This is from an old post in my forum (#1604), and explains my approach to campaign design:
I’m currently in the process of designing/planning a new low fantasy campaign. What I’ve done so far is to plan the introductory (get to know each other) first part, the next couple of major parts, and an outline of the following parts of the campaign. So far, I have no idea about how many such planned parts the campaign will consist of, nor where the campaign ends, and I’m not very interested in that either. I just want the campaign to flow along naturally.
Each campaign part consists of a number of scenes. Each scene contains a location, possibly a number of participants, and a standard flow of actions–actions that will take place if the characters don’t act, and sometimes even if they do act. Some scenes will have pre-determined outcomes, while others will be wide open. For the scenes with undetermined outcomes, I will often have ideas for probable outcomes (preparation), but everything is still left to the players.
What the players have their characters do between the scenes is up to them. This leaves the players with possibilities to act if they want, while maintaining the flow of a campaign to lead those who want that. It is my intent to introduce plot hooks to the next couple of adventures during the initial adventure.
To sum up, what I design for a campaign is a set of scenes– locations, participants, and situations—that can be linked together in many possible ways. I usually plan the scenes linearly, but I leave enough flexibility in them to allow me to shuffle them as needed.
An analogy of my approach is a wide road with a number of tunnels through mountains. The characters have to pass through the tunnels to get to their goal. Each scene I create is such a tunnel, but apart from passing through the tunnels, players are free to drive on the road as they please. Even though I have no direct control of the players’ actions when they’re between two tunnels, I do my best to place road signs (plot hooks) that lead to the next tunnel. This is especially so when the characters have a low visibility range (they don’t know more than the immediate consequences of their actions, and they don’t know exactly where they’re going).
I have control of the scenes that drive the campaign forward, whereas I leave the rest to the players. I am aware, though, that I’m probably a bit of a control freak, in that I don’t want to gather a group of players for my campaign yet. I want to have a bit more control of the later part of the campaign—to know all the motives and motivations for the main NPCs.
You can probably guess I don’t use published campaign material. What I do with such material is mine it for good ideas or scenes I can use in my own campaigns.
Women In Gaming
From Jae Walker
I’ve introduced dozens of women to gaming, and am currently president of our local RPG club. About 1/3 of our members are female. Women, like men, are complex and don’t fit into easy pigeonholes. I’ve run all female games, and I’ve run (and played in) games where I was the only female. My current home campaign (Chill, contemporary horror) has two female players and three male.
I would agree, in general, that I’ve had my best results with women in socially-oriented games. I also think the whole gaming environment, including the materials, is at best indifferent to women, and frequently hostile to them. Why take up a hobby where people like you are pretty much not even present except as objects of lust? On the other hand, when women see other women participating and leading, they feel more comfortable about joining in.
To make gaming more appealing to women, treat them like people first. That’s good advice for any players (cf Robin’s Laws of Good Gamemastering). Find out what interests them and consider including those elements in your game. I’ve had great results with contemporary horror because it’s easy to ground in things people already know.
In general, less emphasis on detailed rules and more emphasis on story are more comfortable for women, especially novice gamers. (I say that knowing one of my female friends is a rules-oriented wargamer, and another just wants to kill things and take their stuff! Women can’t be pigeonholed any more than men.) I suspect that helps explain why LARPs are so popular–the rules are streamlined, and there’s lots of social interaction.
Show all novice gamers courtesy and consideration. D&D, the most common entry vector to table-top roleplaying, can be pretty intimidating. Don’t snort at their ignorance or snarl at them if they don’t immediately grasp the tactical ins and outs of the game.
If you want women in your games, make your games a welcoming place.
Mapping saved me a big headache. I always wanted to include the freedom my RPG deserved, bounded only by imagination, but at best I only ever came up with offering quest A, B, or C. Even then, I often had to throw them into the players’ laps, to avoid them aimlessly asking each other, “So what will we do?” To be fair, this is my fault, not theirs. But then along came mapping.
The local newspaper printing office sells rolls of print paper (low quality, big roll) for a very good price. Mine told me I could take freely as much as I could carry! Got the roll, tore off a chunk, drew a map in 3B pencil, put in all the little flourishes of a medieval map, drawing a little picture for everything (including waves for water) instead of symbols. Then I had a trader bump into the PCs and say, “You look new to these parts! Can I interest you in….” Now the players have a map of the whole island.
When the time arises, I can physically hand the players a map (perhaps tea/coffee stained browned and crinkly), with the whole thing drawn in. I read an article about it being good fun to give the players props. And now, they can choose to roam the town, pick up quests from their normal haunts, find new ones, or just see what they can find if they trek to the Cliffs of The Gray Dusk. That’s the freedom I’m talking about.
It gets better though. The players say, “Let’s march to the canyon marked Monarchs Mouth tomorrow morning.”
“Well, that’s a three-day march,” I say, giving me plenty of time to think of something funky to put there, if I haven’t already. It also entitles me to let the normal quest-giver wizard/barkeep/mayor say, “No, sorry, nothing for you today”, which I like doing for realism and to prevent monotony. Plus, the map maker is always a new face to meet, and a place to spend gold. Lastly, this map is presented as drawn by an NPC. If it turns out to be incorrect, if there happens to be a mountain, river, or three-mile-wide pit of nothingness where the map said there shouldn’t be, I’m not to blame, the NPC is. Was it because I forgot, or did the NPC do it intentionally? Is it just a low quality map, or has north been skewed to north east subtly? Really, it’s because my writing leans that way, but to the players the map-maker must have wanted them to end up in Ballevourne for some reason—how intriguing. NPCs can physically mark where they are talking about, or point at least, and when I get better at it, perhaps there will be secret meanings hidden in the overly flowery decorations drawn in.