Ralph Melton (ralphmelton) wrote,
Ralph Melton

D&D Sep-25-2002: Death, Where is thy Sting?

I am beating myself up about last night's D&D session.
Probably beating myself up to excess, but it is my way. I fudged too late, in the wrong places, and and I feel chagrined and ashamed.

Extremely dedicated readers may wish to reread my foreshadowing post as a windup for this discussion.

So the monster that they faced was a tendriculos. I liked the idea of a huge menacing plant-thing that would underscore the way the world itself is turning wrong. But the tendriculos is so flawed that I feel a need to make an itemized rant about its flaws at the end of the entry.

But I used it, even with its flaws, because I figured the PCs could handle it. And I was trying to play it straight, without weakening it, because I didn't think it would be necessary. I made one change: I made it rooted, so that it couldn't move around.

The party started by laying fireballs into it, reasonably enough. But then after it was softened up a bit, Turok stepped near (I'm not sure that Kevin realized that Turok was within range of the tendriculos)... and the tendriculos managed to bite him. And its grapple bonus was so incredibly high (+23) that there was no way for Turok to prevent it from grabbing him in its mouth, and no way for Turok to prevent it from swallowing him. And then in its stomach, Turok was paralyzed with nothing to do but get digested. Once they had the tendriculos unconscious, Liandra went to cut Turok out, but got to him one round too late.

I should have fudged there, really. If I had left out the paralyzation, it would still have had a great sense of peril, and there would have been excitement with Turok trying to cut his way out. Or if I had let Liandra get to him with 22 points of damage instead of 25, she could have gotten him out just in time. Either of those would have been much better.

But as it is, Turok was dead. Dead from a battle I had stuck in just to spice things up, not because it mattered to the plot.

I created an opportunity for them to get him reincarnated. (In this, the pendulum swung the other way--paying someone to cast reincarnate costs only 280gp. By comparison, a suit of plate armor costs 1500gp. Oy vey!) I let him roll the dice for his new incarnation... he came back as an owl. In case there was any doubt, owls do not make mighy fighters.

Kevin was looking ready to give up the character. I didn't want that--I like Turok's history, and I like Turok's contribution to the ongoing story.

So I waffled. And I waffled visibly, which all the GM advice books say should not be done, for good reason. I fear that my visible waffling has undermined the effectiveness of the gaming story. Blah.

I let Kevin reroll. It came up 'human', and that was too boring, so we let him reroll again, and he ended up as a halfling. (We came up with a good story about someone shouting "No!" as the owl body formed, and having it be replaced by another form--but some of the growth had been missed.

As a halfling, he's pretty challenged to use his bastard sword. Dani came up with a good solution for carrying it around, that used resources (the glove of storing) that the party already had. But Kevin still seemed to feel that it doesn't make sense for a three-foot halfling to use a sword bigger than he is--and I can see his point. Which is a shame.

If I were Kevin, I'd be feeling pretty detached from the character... all this random dorky stuff happening to a cool character, in a way that doesn't fit well with the general concept of the character.

So, bleah and bleah and bleah. I let the D&D rules overpower me, instead of taking control of them. Bleah.

I feel a certain temptation to give up the game as broken. But I'm not going to do that. One of the things I'm most proud of about this campaign is that it's still running. I've never managed to keep a game alive this long before, and I really want to see it through to the end.

I also feel a temptation to give in to the D&D-ness of the game, abandon my attempts to create rising tension and emotional investment in the story, and just make it a game of roaming around beating up on monsters and taking their candy, buying powerful magic items in every town, and treating death as a minor inconvenience. ("You seem to be stone dead. Best have that looked at soon.") I'm not going to do this either, for a couple of reasons:
1. It would be another way of giving up.
2. It would waste a lot of the build-up and plot development that I've been trying to build over this year.
3. And an ironic reason: if I were to do that, it would make this a much more open-ended game, and make it much less certain that the game would come to a satisfying end. :)

So I'm going to press on, and I'll wrestle the rules into submission to my whims. Somehow.

But I don't plan to run another campaign in D&D. The rules are getting in my way too often, and the game support is not supporting me as much as I want.

The promised list of flaws about the tendriculos:

  • It makes no sense to me that this was a CR 6 monster. The PCs had to burn almost all their spells to get by, and even then it was far from dead.
  • It definitely falls into the 'save or die' trap for a 6th-level human, since it's so hard to avoid the grapple. I wish I had realized this.
  • So it regenerates damage at an astonishing rate, including slashing and fire damage, but it doesn't regenerate damage from acid and bludgeoning weapons? I can understand the acid, but I've totally failed to rationalize the bludgeoning thing.
  • So it can fit two hill giants inside its stomach, but a human with a bastard sword can't get enough play to cut its way out? (I would have let Turok cut his way out with the bastard sword.)
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