Rise of the Runelords - [GoodOmens]

Adjusted Passive Abilities

Rules

Having looked at some of the future work that has been done with PROJECT FIGHT CLUB I have been thinking about how certain elements of 4th Edition interact with the narrative. How Passive Perception and Incite interact with the narrative have been bugging me recently, mostly because it doesn’t interact with the narrative, it provides a character with information that can only be supplied by the DM, and often can bypass interesting interaction within the scenery.

I have an idea about PP and PI, and would actually like to push this revision forward to all skills (at least as a test drive). I want to see what you guys think.

There will no longer be a PASSIVE benefit to passive perception or incite. Instead what I purpose is that when a player asks for details about narrative elements may opt to use their passive rating as a “take 10” type of situation, the benefit is that they don’t have to roll. Because this will apply to all skills, this will have an added benefit, when using a passive ability with a skill that has a downside for failure (usually failing the DC by 5 or more) that extreme failure condition is doubled (fail by more than 10, for example).

Secondary aspects to this rule:
Description: By adding specific narrative to a passive skill may provide either a +2 bonus to the total, or an automatic success.
Heroic Risk: Adventurers and Heroes are empowered by risk, but how much risk. When a character makes a skill check they may opt to either roll that skill (thus the chance of risk/reward is greater) or use their passive ability. However once the decision is made they may not choose to reverse the choice. If a player chooses to roll they may not fall back on their passive ability for that situation. On the flip side, a passive ability check will never be more than a good success.

Thoughts?

Comments

Can you give us a little more on how you’d like Perception and Insight to interact with narrative? At the risk of sounding obvious, with those skills in particular, almost everything in the game universe is information that can only be supplied by the DM. This is an especially inconvenient truth when the DM forgets to describe something, (a rare but impassable obstacle.)

Plainly PP was created to save time and frustration. Perceptive adventurers, (and elves pretending to be adventurers, in our case,) are always on the lookout for traps and similar occupational hazards. For this purpose PP must stay, lest the game require us to slip back into the Pavlovian “Check for traps and secret doors.” mantra. It is a skill used so often that personally I would prefer in future editions that it not be classified as a skill at all.

So I hope I’m right in understanding that what you propose is a risk-reward adjustment to the normal Take 10 option. Sounds good, but, Heroic Risk only really makes sense for certain skills, and they are not the skills that I associate with a success beyond ‘good.’ Let’s explore this in a way that demonstrates maturity and a deep understanding of narrative prose:

See Von.
See Von Jump.
Jump, Von, Jump!

Von’s passive Athletics would be pretty boss, and probably boss enough to overcome any jumping-related problem the party comes across with no fear of catastrophic dwarven failure. However, the prospect of Heroic Risk poses a problem. The lure of the possibility of a success greater than good, (which Von can achieve without rolling,) must be substantial. More substantial than just sticking the landing and needing to fail twice as hard to qualify for ‘extreme failure’.

Jumping is ACTIONY, even when you’ve got no knees to speak of. What about a skill that isn’t so actiony, has a definite lure for the possibility of Great Success, but NO extreme failure?
For Knowledge skills, or at least Monster Knowledge checks, we have lost a part of your equation. Luciano probably knows quite a bit about Displacer Beasts. Absolute worst-case scenario, he’s read the CliffsNotes, because badly failing a Monster Knowledge check has no extreme failure conditions that I am aware of, aside from knowing fuck-all about the illusory squidcat that’s about to bite you, and in that case how much do you actually have to know? The point I was trying to make is that I don’t associate the concept of Heroic Risk with trying really hard to remember something, and using our respective passives reveals that most of us have an encyclopedic knowledge of at least one thing. (Except Von, who only knows about hammers and armor. He would know plenty about ale by now, except that the same vast palate experience that makes him knowledgeable also addles his memory in the process. Oh cruel irony!)

This discussion should be ongoing. NDAs of all shapes and colors may make things tricky, but I feel we have made progress.

Adjusted Passive Abilities
 

While I’m not necessarily able to weigh in with the same wordplay and energy that Isaac’s shown. I can say that I do see issues with giving us a “take 10” mechanic for our abilities. For someone who’s stacked a particular skill, let’s say something social, like diplomacy or bluff then they won’t be challenged pretty much ever if they have a roll of 10 as an option. Because at level 6 the hard dc for a skill is what… 23-25? And without focusing more heavily on a skill someone can have a 13-14 modifier which would then guarantee success on something that’s supposed to be difficult.

Now, in part I like the idea of giving us a small bonus for narrating and/or describing some of the factors involved to show enthusiasm and effort being rewarded. That sounds great. Though perhaps the “take 10” element should be reserved for non-pressing matters. Like setting up camp, or working over a period of time at something. Such as Von head butting a wall impudent enough to be in the way.

Though to reiterate a point Isaac has made. There’s really not much a failure can produce that will harm us in regards to knowledge checks or certain skills. Unless of course you want to rule that an “extreme failure” has us given decidedly wrong information. i.e. “It’s a displacer beast! Quick, hold still. Their eyesight is based on movement!” Which of course translates into anyone following this advice being much easier to hit or something along those lines.

Adjusted Passive Abilities
 

The intent her is just as you both have written.

When I say that PP and PI don’t interact with the narrative, I mean that its an ability that in theory requires no effort on the players side to utilize. I like the idea of good automatic success, but I want players to interact with that automatic success. The passives don’t require the player to even state “I examine this room for traps/loot/goblin-ninjas” which is what this hack is fixing. You wand good information, you have to tell me what good information you want, and how you get it.

See Von Jump indeed! You could (and should) you this rule to jump incredible distances. The fun comes when your jumps aren’t incredible enough and you need to roll to get that extra 5/10 feet! Overall, Von’s successes or failure in jumping isn’t always dramatic, and the times it is will often require a roll to get just a little bit more.

Monster Knowledge checks are another example of excellent uses I envision for this passive ability check. You get free information, but is it enough information? The progressive DC system for monster knowledge (15/20/25 + 5 per tier) is a great way to judge need for Heroic Risk; have a +11 bonus in the skill but REALLY want to know all it’s resistances, immunity and vulnerabilities, time to roll. Additionally getting a hit that a monster is rare or strange (a flag that the DC’s might be higher than normal) ramps up some of that table tension.

Adjusted Passive Abilities
 

You tell me one situation in which our party, or any like it, would not be examining rooms for traps, loot, or goblin ninjas. That’s what it boils down to. Greedy murder hobos should be assumed to be on the alert for signs of profit, pain, or baddies. It’s when we’re looking for something specific that I can see narrative taking center stage. However, this is sort of the D&D equivalent of a quick-time-event. Press button to continue story; but you must find the button first. Then fifteen minutes of a rousing game of “Warmer… warmer… you’re ice cold, warmer…”

As far as Von’s mighty leaping abilities are concerned I think we chose the wrong aspect to center on. I have decided after some thought that Heroic Risk is a mechanic for characters who aren’t trained in the skill being used, hence the reduced margin of extreme failure. The fun might come for Von when his jumps aren’t incredible enough, but if Von’s jumps aren’t incredible enough, the rest of the party is in serious trouble. That is, unless Von is mitigating the risk of death by long fall/lava/flash flood by taking a rope with him or something. This is still an improvement though, over the initial 4E mindset of using an untrained skill only in the most dire circumstances. Presumably this is why Group Checks were introduced, but those aren’t particularly narratively satisfying either.

Your progressive DC system for monster knowledge is admittedly different from the one I’m looking at, which is using the by-level DC chart substituting the monster’s level for the party’s, with the Moderate DC as the baseline for success, the Hard netting you resistances, vulnerabilities, and descriptions of powers. Personally I like this way of doing things. Paired with an increased DC for rare or unusual monsters, players aren’t aware of a target number that only changes sharply by tier. Extra incentive for Heroic Effort if we don’t know the odds of baseline versus great success, BUT players who have really stacked up their knowledge skills should not be punished for doing so. You might miss the Hard DC by 1 with your passive, but if you don’t, taking 10 shouldn’t force you to recall any less than if you had rolled.

Adjusted Passive Abilities
 

The intent here is less of a “Hot, Cold” and more of an interactive experience (role-playing if you will). What regular passives encouraged were a kind of GM playing GM. The GM constructs obstacles, and then tells the character that their player notices X obstacle. A player doesn’t need to make any input with the GM or interact with the setting at all. What I desire to attain through this modification is to have all of the players interacting with the scenery and story more, and allowing us, as a table, to bypass the un-needed skill checks that might hinder such an endeavor.
Pushing that idea forward, to all skills I think also allows for us to speed up combat some, or at least focus more on the more dynamic aspects of the combat engine. We may find that this modification doesn’t do what we (I) want, and I could see that this modification be taken out of combat, and used exclusively during narrative scenes. We will see.

I had forgotten the overhaul to the Monster Knowledge DC system. You are correct. But the example still stands and is even enhanced as you said.

Adjusted Passive Abilities
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