Nothing To See Here


It’s the perfect hook. One of the characters works at a bar, and there’s a dead body in the parking lot. At a glance: alcohol poisoning. It isn’t difficult to believe with the number of nights she’s seen him there when she arrived, and kicked him out at closing.  All the same, she calls her Adamantine Arrow cabal mate to examine the body. He’s a Moros Mage, so he can get a bead on the cause of death with a simple covert spell called “Forensic Gaze” without the need for her to use Post-Cognition and actually watch the poor guy die. Just to be sure.

When her cabal mate arrives he thinks she’s just being paranoid. After all, these things happen at bars sometimes, and this guy clearly has a history. That doesn’t mean he isn’t going to humor her by casting the spell. He breaks out the dice and calculates his dice pool, all the while suspecting nothing.

And then I tell him that there’s a -3 dice modifier to his role.

Nope, nothing to see here!

This is why I hate, and I do mean HATE (all caps – no holds barred – can not stand!) negative dice modifiers to rolls. Give me a contested roll that gives me a dice pool against, give me an increase to the number of successes needed to ascertain certain information, but once you whip out a negative dice modifier there is no way the players are going to buy into the perfectly logical explanation that presents itself at first glance.

Furthermore, it makes even less sense on attack rolls! OK, I can expect my players to not overly meta-game and accept it if they know something strange is afoot at the Circle K but their character doesn’t. I’m a lucky Story Teller like that. Of course, once I tell them how many defense dice to pull out of their attack pool they start using that information to figure out all sorts of other things about their opponent. They may not be trying to do it, but rest assured that somewhere in their devious little plot-wrecking brains they ARE doing it. It’s what they do. It’s ALL they do!

What’s a GM to do? #sigh

Mages Make Me Cry

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Posted on June 10, 2011, in Gaming, Mage Awakening, MtAw, RPG, White Wolf, WoD, World of Darkness and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. Contested rolls, taking successes off after the fact make more sense, or needing more successes to achieve something just makes more sense. As a GM it allows you to play things a little closer to the chest, and then you can feed incorrect info to the players if they screw up and they’ll never get an inkling that you did this BECAUSE they screwed up. They’ll think they did fine, and that the info’s legit and watching players suffer the consequences of their actions with bad information is more fun. . . like when your PCs put to sleep a member of their Changeling motley because they plan to shove his ex-keeper (who he seems to get along with, because he’s a little too friendly) into an oven, only to later have him wake up try to crawl out said oven to go home because it’s a hedge gate that links directly to the mortal world. And then the rioting begins.

    That being said, I think negative modifiers for visible physical problems makes SENSE, and this include defense. If you’re shooting someone who is hiding behind a wall, it’s going to be harder to take the shot and the PC and player knows it going in—negative modifier. Defense is for hand-to-hand combat and if the guy is better at you in fighting, well, you are going to have a harder time getting the drop on him. Yes, if affects how players treat combat, but to some extent that’s what would actually happen in a live combat—if you realize that big guy is likely to pound you into a pulp, you think up a better plan than “CHARGE!” Hopefully. Maybe. Ok, so not always.

    When I run White Wolf, I tend to jack up the number of successes needed, rather than take dice away. I think it’s just a style thing. The books say “do it this way” but the books are so poorly edited they don’t even follow their own rules sometimes 😛

  2. I’d have no problem with increasing successes instead. although, you’d still have to share magical info for those with counterspell, etc.

  3. HA! Yeah – there’s a better plan than “CHARGE!”? I haven’t seen one yet. 😉

    The pity is when it isn’t so cut and dry. Sometimes you’re fighting a spirit, and people are telling me what rank it is based upon its defense. That should be more difficult to tell than that. Spirits are completely alien to humans. And sure, maybe you could take one look at the Hulk and think “maybe I should run away” (not that a PC ever would of course), but the martial arts guru who isn’t showing off their prowess should be more difficult to read.

    Folks with counterspell probably have Mage Sight, and that’s what Mage Sight is for so I’m entirely in favor of that. The Hunter fighting that Mage though might not realize that there is a spell boosting the Mage’s defense.

    As so many things in WoD, it’s a bit… wibbley-wobbley. Of course, that’s part of what I love about WoD, so call me crazy. (because face it, I know you do anyway!)

  4. I certainly do. (Call you crazy, that is.)
    (Don’t kill me, please.)

    Anyway, I think in general that, with somebody like a martial arts guru, you should be able to tell when your normally-awesome roundhouse kick gets nowhere near hitting him. You do still need to take a swing.

    The main problem is that, when we have six or twelve characters going up against a single enemy, players get to process the information from other PCs’ actions too quickly. The two werewolves who went before us couldn’t hit him? Okay, we won’t try physically attacking him, even if that was what our characters were planning to do a split second beforehand, because we’ve got much longer to think about what we want to do. We can treat it like a turn-based strategy game which can be paused for a long time. (Of course, if you try to fix this too much, the same level of encounter we’ve been having recently will slaughter us in a way that isn’t even fun for you.)

    • Don’t worry. Slaughtering you is always fun for me!!

      Absolutely, when your perfectly executed roundhouse kick misses the target completely the GM needs to describe the situation in a way that makes it clear your opponent has defensive mojo goin’ on. The problem is exactly as you describe it.

      It really is difficult to challenge a cabal of Mages who tag-team in a pack of Werewolves. Having to give up the defensive capabilities of everything just makes it harder. #sigh

      (Still deciding whether or not to let you live…)

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