SIEGE Check: What's the Downside?

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SIEGE Check: What's the Downside?

Post by alcyone »

This is mainly for new players, but I wonder sometimes if in our zeal we sometimes make the SIEGE system sound chaotic, gonzo and undesirable by simplifying it. Also, we can save ourselves the frustration of a player in our game saying, "I thought you could do anything with a SIEGE check! This game sucks!" when they want to use it to gain an undue advantage. As usual, expect a lot of unstructured rambling:

I often see C&C (and a lot of OSR games) advertised as a game where you can try anything. Further, the reason you can try anything is we have this SIEGE mechanic.

That's kind of true and kind of not. You can try anything in a lot of games that don't have SIEGE. Also, you probably can't try absolutely ANYTHING. A lot of things someone might try are ludicrous and a waste of time. There is no need to assign a difficulty to drinking the ocean or pushing over a castle. Even on a 20, that just isn't going to work in a normal game.

So, you can try most things that a character such as yours could reasonably or slightly unreasonably be expected to accomplish, given their background, training, and environment. There's a lot of leeway here of course. You can run a gonzo C&C game to be sure.

What I sometimes see suggested though, are examples similar to, for instance, a called shot. Sure, C&C has called shots, just make a SIEGE check, someone might say (ignore for a second that CKG has called shots). It might be argued a more sensible way to do it is a to-hit penalty, but you certainly could do it with a SIEGE check. If you do choose to do it that way, though, remember: what's the downside?

That is to say, if you roll to hit, make your roll, and then attempt a SIEGE check for the called shot, what happens when that attempt fails? If you just keep the to-hit roll and you do the damage you would have done without the called shot, there is no downside. When there is no downside, you've basically created a new ability that players will use all of the time. If there is no downside to a called shot, all shots become called shots.

If on the other hand, failing the attempt makes you miss, even if you made your attack roll, that's a downside. For normal things, a missed turn is a pretty big downside, appropriate for most combat maneuvers.

When you are trying to stretch an ability in such a way that even a missed turn is a small price to pay for the significant advantage it would offer, the downside should be greater. Gaining a full extra turn, circumventing a monster's immunity, doing more damage on a spell than the maximum roll would allow, etc. are worth considering harsher consequences for failure. You see this sort of balancing built in already for much smaller things, such as using another class's class ability; you don't add level.

Not adding level, or increasing difficulty is one balancing mechanism, but it works best on a standalone check, such as occurs outside of combat. For combat rolls, one generally doesn't want to replace the attack roll, but instead use it as an 'AND' clause: "IF you hit AND you make a SIEGE check THEN this special effect occurs."

For standalone checks, there should be a downside also. Why not Listen every round? Because standing still in a dungeon is dangerous and raises the possibility of a wandering monster or investigation (not to mention causing buffs to dissipate). And you need to remove your helmet to do it. Why not always be searching for secret doors? Same reason, takes time, more wandering monster checks, probably makes noise. In these cases, success or failure have the same downside, just that success offers an additional reward, and the downside is avoided by not making the attempt.

When deciding whether something should have a downside, here are some criteria:
- Would a smart player want to do this all the time, since the consequences are non-existent? (This isn't necessarily bad, but if it's what you really want, you are now looking at something more like a house rule.)
- Does it replace a core rule? (Replacing an attack with a SIEGE check for example)
- Does it elevate the power level of the character attempting it above the others? (There is some imbalance between classes, that's a given. The issue is, are you encouraging a play style you don't want, where characters are accomplishing everything with a SIEGE check and eschewing their abilities, spells, and meat-and-potatoes attacks? Where if one person is willing to adopt this playstyle, the whole table must?)

Most of the time, acquiescing to the check itself is a good idea. Just consider, should it have a downside?

Note that the preceding is different than a narrative downside. These are important when the issue is about plot: why make a SIEGE check to climb the hill if climbing the hill isn't important to the story? That's another matter to consider, but for me, I keep my checks about difficulty. A difficult hill is always the same SIEGE check to climb. If the CL is less than 0, no check necessary. I find that considering the narrative just makes players wonder why sometimes there is a check and sometimes there isn't.
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Re: SIEGE Check: What's the Downside?

Post by Arduin »

Players CAN try anything in my C&C games. Trying and succeeding are two different things. Remember people, There is no saving throw vs. stupidity. THAT is an axiom I introduce to every new player.

I don't engage in story telling but, in refereeing PC actions so, I avoid many of the pitfalls inherent to that new style of "GMing".
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Re: SIEGE Check: What's the Downside?

Post by seskis281 »

I use crits (nat 20's and nat 1's) so often I'll ask "roll and just don't critically fail here." Clumsiness or absent-mindedness can still occasionally ruin even the most automatic of tasks :twisted:

There are plenty of times where no rolls are necessary because the task is simple enough (the "take 20" or "the fighter just bashes the ordinary door enough to break through" examples). Conversely, if it is an impossible task (there's no conceivable math for a character to succeed) I'll still let them roll, but even a nat 20 I would let them know ahead might only extend the "miracle" chance of success... I haven't done it often but I sometimes let miraculous attempts that hit nat 20 then roll a %die and they hit 0 00 then the action "miraculously, unbelievably succeeded," but only within a still believable "laws of this world's physics" - e.g. you're still never gonna be able to lift the 2 masted schooner out of the water no mater what gauntlets, buffs, and rings of water-this-or-that you have. I also use hero points, but likewise you can't burn a hero point to do something that's just completely out of the realm of reasonable chance. On the other hand, the straight fighter might have a miraculous attempt to open a lock they shouldn't have any normal mathematical chance to (the nat 20 plus a 0 00 on %).

As to the "try anything," I do a pretty good job of saying "that applies to any reasonable action, outside of class, etc." You want to try and jump off the moving horse and catch the amulet hanging in the tree? ok, let's use a dex check here....

On the other hand, the dwarf in full plate who wants to insist "try anything" means he/she wants to jump the 60' abyss.... well, he will be informed he won't be able to make that "try" and live no matter what is rolled - if said character insists on trying, well, that's their choice to die :twisted: :)
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Re: SIEGE Check: What's the Downside?

Post by Lurker »

seskis281 wrote:I use crits (nat 20's and nat 1's) so often I'll ask "roll and just don't critically fail here." Clumsiness or absent-mindedness can still occasionally ruin even the most automatic of tasks :twisted:

....


On the other hand, the dwarf in full plate who wants to insist "try anything" means he/she wants to jump the 60' abyss.... well, he will be informed he won't be able to make that "try" and live no matter what is rolled - if said character insists on trying, well, that's their choice to die :twisted: :)

Rgr that & rgr that! Clumsiness, absent mindedness (I'd also add just plain bad luck too)can override ALL of a person's skills at times. Inversly, focus, skill and good luck can pull you through some tight hard spaces.

Too true on the last one too. stupitity , ... what more can be said!
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Re: SIEGE Check: What's the Downside?

Post by Captain_K »

I like the siege engine for most everything that can be tried, but playing Beethoven's 5th on a tube to an unskilled tuba player is just not possible.. stack up all the 20s you want. Hopping on a horse with no experience riding anything is called "holding on for dear life". So I like to have the PCs use obvious class abilities and back story skills. I typically let them review the old 2nd edition PH list of skills and work them into their back story and note them as definitive experiences they have had in life (lets just call them learned skills). But that's it, some detail and if they have specific history with certain things we still resolve success in skilled tasks with the siege engine checks, if you do not have specific skills then your level of ability is reduced and your roll to "pull it off" is harder... noted, class, or historic character back story "skills" are kind of like a prime.
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Re: SIEGE Check: What's the Downside?

Post by alcyone »

I buried the lede a bit; my main point wasn't really about what is and isn't possible, but about having consequences for failure so that players won't turn one time SIEGE checks into a bag of super abilities. But I'll take any discussion on the SIEGE engine :).
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Re: SIEGE Check: What's the Downside?

Post by seskis281 »

Aergraith wrote:I buried the lede a bit; my main point wasn't really about what is and isn't possible, but about having consequences for failure so that players won't turn one time SIEGE checks into a bag of super abilities. But I'll take any discussion on the SIEGE engine :).
Oh THERE are consequences hee hee :twisted:
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Re: SIEGE Check: What's the Downside?

Post by Arduin »

Aergraith wrote:I buried the lede a bit; my main point wasn't really about what is and isn't possible, but about having consequences for failure so that players won't turn one time SIEGE checks into a bag of super abilities.
If the GM understand the "Engine" that shouldn't a problem. The detailed explanation in the CKG is very good for those new to the system and don't realize that the setting the difficulty has to do with FIRST contemplating what the rough % chance of success should be for a given task. If a GM determines that there is a zero % chance of success, setting the difficulty number is not hard from there. What happens if a fail happens is easy to figure out if the circumstances are known. "Oh, your dwarf tries to jump across the Grand Canyon?" "He falls 5,000 feet for X dice of damage."
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Re: SIEGE Check: What's the Downside?

Post by Zudrak »

I think there are three categories: Cannot Happen, Cannot Fail, and Roll for It. The first two need no rolls -- either the character can do it (walking down a city street, say) or cannot do it (the dwarf jumping the Grand Canyon example above from Arduin). Things in between, where there can be anywhere from a ghost of a chance of success to a very small chance of failure, is where I have my players roll the dice. The CL's of the PHB & CKG help eyeball what the CL should be in each situation -- repeated for future applications of the same attempts, but adjusted if the PC has levelled, etc. since the same task should be easier the next time unless it was close to being impossible the first time around.

EDIT: The "downside" for me are the target numbers, 12 & 18. I use 10 & 15 instead.
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Re: SIEGE Check: What's the Downside?

Post by serleran »

The SIEGE Engine is not, and was not, intended to resolve all possible actions. Nor should you stick exclusively to the "sample" save categories found in the PHB -- if you (as Castle Keeper) and/or the players can find a reason that, for example, using your Charisma might help find a secret door (maybe the door has a magical knocker and will only communicate with someone it disagrees with?) then use CHA as the save... but, by all things holy, only if its dramatic and important. And... there is not now, nor ever was, a "negative difficulty." That very concept is asinine.

Too often the complaints about the base mechanic are due to improper use which is also, and nearly always, over use. The most important thing to remember about C&C is not how it is played but why.

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Re: SIEGE Check: What's the Downside?

Post by Arduin »

serleran wrote: And... there is not now, nor ever was, a "negative difficulty." That very concept is asinine.
.
phb pg. 164 CHALLENGE CLASS: LESS THAN ZERO

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Re: SIEGE Check: What's the Downside?

Post by ArgoForg »

I know that I-- and a few others besides me-- started out the game so tied to 3.5/PF that SIEGE checks seemed to be the answer to every action. It took a while for me to break myself of that mindset, and now, I tend to use it a lot more sparingly, a lot more in tune with the spirit of how the SIEGE check is probably supposed to be used.

I do have a question, Serl. When you say there is not a "negative difficulty," are you suggesting that there is never a SIEGE check made at a bonus? (For instance, a SIEGE check against WIS with a +2 to the roll?)

I've done that a couple times... once, for example, a party without a ranger was trying to trail a wounded and limping henchman with a couple hour lead through the brush. I had the party fighter who was looking make a SIEGE check against wisdom at a bonus to determine the direction the henchman followed, dropping the standard 18 for a non-prime to a 16 needed for success. True, I could have made it a natural success without a roll, and I already figured the information gathered on a successful check wasn't as complete as a ranger would have gathered, but I could see it working like that on a few-- very few and party-dependent-- situations. Am I wrong in thinking this?
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Re: SIEGE Check: What's the Downside?

Post by serleran »

No, I do not mean there cannot be bonuses to the check. Attributes, for example, give a bonus. Situations or equipment might give a bonus. For example, if you wanted to lift a stone block you might need a Strength check against a difficulty of 4. Using a crowbar is going to give you a +3. That does not change the difficulty -- it was not, and would not become, a negative value if you have more bonuses than the target.

What I am saying, and what should be in the rules (because the contrary is silly), is that there is no such thing as a negative difficulty. If something is so simple as to not be difficult, which is the very definition of the term, than why are you rolling for it? Why is it "difficult" if its -5? Oh well, I gave up on this stupid argument the last time it came up. I will again

Apparently, the rules have such things.... I guess. Whatever. I need more Sharpies.

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Re: SIEGE Check: What's the Downside?

Post by Arduin »

serleran wrote:
Apparently, the rules have such things.... I guess. Whatever. I need more Sharpies.
Yes because there are situations where there is only a 70% chance of failure for a 1st level, non-prime PC rather than an 80% chance of failure. THAT is an example of a legit -2. A 70% chance of failure is large enough to need a roll.

This is why it is imperative that a GM understand what is under the hood of the system. Otherwise...
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Re: SIEGE Check: What's the Downside?

Post by Zudrak »

Arduin wrote:
serleran wrote:
Apparently, the rules have such things.... I guess. Whatever. I need more Sharpies.
Yes because there are situations where there is only a 70% chance of failure for a 1st level, non-prime PC rather than an 80% chance of failure. THAT is an example of a legit -2. A 70% chance of failure is large enough to need a roll.

This is why it is imperative that a GM understand what is under the hood of the system. Otherwise...
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Re: SIEGE Check: What's the Downside?

Post by serleran »

Arduin wrote:
serleran wrote:
Apparently, the rules have such things.... I guess. Whatever. I need more Sharpies.
Yes because there are situations where there is only a 70% chance of failure for a 1st level, non-prime PC rather than an 80% chance of failure. THAT is an example of a legit -2. A 70% chance of failure is large enough to need a roll.

This is why it is imperative that a GM understand what is under the hood of the system. Otherwise...
And this is exactly why I stopped arguing it.

The difficulty should not be negative. The difficulty should be 1 (or at best 0, which is still a logical pile of BS), with a situation adjustment to modify to the "perceived" difficulty to -2. And, it hearkens, again, to whether a roll is even warranted in the first place. Why is the check being made? Because there's a 70% of failure? Or because it is a save to resist a poison or it means the party gets through a secret door? Or, just because the Castle Keeper wants to see a roll?

I know the system better than you might think; I practically invented it. Or, I did if using playtest versions 1-4...

But, please, continue to play as you like. As will I.

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Re: SIEGE Check: What's the Downside?

Post by Arduin »

serleran wrote:
The difficulty should not be negative. The difficulty should be 1 (or at best 0, which is still a logical pile of BS), with a situation adjustment to modify to the "perceived" difficulty to -2. .

Not as how the Siege Engine rules are written. Making it more complex by more line item entries just adds needles writing.

Actually, using 0 or negative numbers IS logical per the Engine. A single difficulty listed rather than needless verbosity to explain what could be accomplished by a single number... :shock:

BTW, you didn't invent the concept of difficulty engines modified by a number for situational conditions. The Siege Engine is about as simple as it gets. Simply saying something is "illogical" without a logical explanation is in itself, illogical. ;)

Of course we'll all continue to play as we like. I happen to be playing as per RAW.
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Re: SIEGE Check: What's the Downside?

Post by Fizz »

Aergraith wrote:There is no need to assign a difficulty to drinking the ocean
Sure, he starts drinking. For every half-liter of water drank he must make a Con save with a cumulative -1 penalty. A failed save means he suffers Con damage. Reaching Con 0 means he dies. Now if the character can make it through the whole ocean, more power to him. Heh.
or pushing over a castle.
Sure he can, he just has to do it brick-by-brick. Con checks for every hour of work to prevent exhaustion. Heh.

I don't prohibit what characters can attempt. I wouldn't ever say "you can't try that". But that doesn't mean they can be successful. I mean, there is nothing prevent me in real life, from pushing on my house to tip it over. Is it going to happen? Not likely. This is the difference one has to make.

As an aside, quantum mechanics says that anything is technically possible with a non-zero probability. A single sheet of paper has a non-zero chance of deflecting a cannon ball. But of course, that non-zero number is really freaking close to 0, so we never see it occur in real life- we'd need thousands of more lifetimes of the universe of constantly trying just to have decent odds.

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Re: SIEGE Check: What's the Downside?

Post by Fiffergrund »

Fizz wrote:I don't prohibit what characters can attempt. I wouldn't ever say "you can't try that".
Oh, I do. Ever since the "Swim Up the Waterfall" DC in 3.0. Quantum mechanics notwithstanding. :)

Besides, once I open the door to "anything is possible," I also open the door to "roll for everything." I can't really imagine a more ponderous and tedious game experience - one I fled from back in 2004.
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Re: SIEGE Check: What's the Downside?

Post by Fizz »

serleran wrote:What I am saying, and what should be in the rules (because the contrary is silly), is that there is no such thing as a negative difficulty. If something is so simple as to not be difficult, which is the very definition of the term, than why are you rolling for it? Why is it "difficult" if its -5? Oh well, I gave up on this stupid argument the last time it came up. I will again
Well, the numbers are all relative. Where you define the 0-point doesn't matter so long as all the other numbers around it are defined with it consistently. So 0 CL doesn't have to mean "no difficulty". Any number is only meaningful in relation to another number.

CL 0 means a character with a prime attribute and no bonus has a 60% chance of failure. Or 50% if you assume 1st level bonus and a +1 from attribute. If you don't allow negative CL's, then you're saying anything with less than a 50% chance of failure is automatic for a 1st level character. But less than 50% is still significant, imho. Consider, if a character has a 70% chance of doing something, would you make him roll it?

Remember that CL gets added to CB to produce CC. So you could say that CC is more of the real meaure of absolute difficulty. Ie, a CC of 0 means "no difficulty". But to have CC=0 that means CL must be negative. (Though even CC=0 is still relative in actuality.)

Now if that's your game, go for it. But i agree with Arduin about this.


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Re: SIEGE Check: What's the Downside?

Post by Fizz »

Fiffergrund wrote:
Fizz wrote:I don't prohibit what characters can attempt. I wouldn't ever say "you can't try that".
Oh, I do. Ever since the "Swim Up the Waterfall" DC in 3.0. Quantum mechanics notwithstanding. :)

Besides, once I open the door to "anything is possible," I also open the door to "roll for everything." I can't really imagine a more ponderous and tedious game experience - one I fled from back in 2004.
Very true. And i'd push against that too. My point was just that there are ways of having both- allowing for the attempts of anything while keeping the impossible impossible.

Now if a character starts abusing it to do ridiculous things and bog down game flow, he may find himself with a catastrophic side effect. "As you swim up the waterfall you breathe a huge gulp of water... save vs drowning at -20". That ought to do it. Heh.

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Re: SIEGE Check: What's the Downside?

Post by Fiffergrund »

Oh, regarding "negative difficulty":

The way I've played from day 1 is that any roll that, modified, is less than the base target number is automatically a failure. That way, the player always knows where they stand if they miss that base number.

I use a +6 prime modifier, so targets are always 18. If the player misses the 18, they know they've failed. If they hit 18, they know they have a chance, depending on the CL. Nice and simple.

I don't like opening the door to a modified 16 being a possible success. I'd rather give them an additional bonus on the front end and leave the 18 target as static. It's always 18, at minimum. I never have to explain otherwise.

Also, if the player beats an 18 and still fails the check, the player instantly knows this is due to the CL. A player failing with a 16 has no idea if it was the CL, or just a bad roll.

YMMV of course. The math is identical, it's the feel of play that I prefer.
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Re: SIEGE Check: What's the Downside?

Post by Arduin »

Fiffergrund wrote:
Fizz wrote:I don't prohibit what characters can attempt. I wouldn't ever say "you can't try that".
Oh, I do. Ever since the "Swim Up the Waterfall" DC in 3.0. Quantum mechanics notwithstanding. :)
OMG! I forgot about that one. Truly stupid.
Fiffergrund wrote:Besides, once I open the door to "anything is possible," I also open the door to "roll for everything." I can't really imagine a more ponderous and tedious game experience - one I fled from back in 2004.
For sure. I don't tell players that anything is possible. Just that anything can be attempted. No need for ridiculous dice rolling.
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Re: SIEGE Check: What's the Downside?

Post by serleran »

Anything is possible with the right conditions. Swim up a waterfall? Sure, might want some powerful magic though, like some gauntlets of swimming and diving (or whatever those were) or hell, just fake it and fly.

Of course, that wouldn't truly be "swimming" though so I guess it might not be possible... unaided.

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Re: SIEGE Check: What's the Downside?

Post by Fiffergrund »

serleran wrote:Anything is possible with the right conditions. Swim up a waterfall? Sure, might want some powerful magic though, like some gauntlets of swimming and diving (or whatever those were) or hell, just fake it and fly.

Of course, that wouldn't truly be "swimming" though so I guess it might not be possible... unaided.

Yeah, I forgot the "unaided" part. :) Magic is a great thing, if you can get some of it.

My favorite word in these types of discussions is "verisimilitude."

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Verisimili ... erature%29
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Re: SIEGE Check: What's the Downside?

Post by Aramis »

Fiffergrund wrote:
My favorite word in these types of discussions is "verisimilitude."

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Verisimili ... erature%29
Mine is callipygian

As for the OPs excellent suggestion, what was meant is options need a downside. The SIEGE engine allows people to add a cherry on top of their sundae, but if they fail the SIEGE, don't let the vanilla action occur without a hitch. Else, every action will have a cherry on top. For example, if someone wants to try a SIEGE check to specialise an attack, if the SIEGE fails, the whole attack fails. Maximise a spell? Fail the check and the whole spell fails, not just the maximisation.

Excellent tip from Aergraith (who, I have been told, prefers his callipygian daydreams to have verisimilitude to them)

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Re: SIEGE Check: What's the Downside?

Post by Arduin »

Aramis wrote: As for the OPs excellent suggestion, what was meant is options need a downside.
You mean that there are GM's that don't play that way? That WOULD be strange indeed. We've done it that way forever (even before C&C).
Old age and treachery will overcome youth and skill

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alcyone
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Re: SIEGE Check: What's the Downside?

Post by alcyone »

Aramis wrote:
Fiffergrund wrote:
My favorite word in these types of discussions is "verisimilitude."

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Verisimili ... erature%29
Mine is callipygian

As for the OPs excellent suggestion, what was meant is options need a downside. The SIEGE engine allows people to add a cherry on top of their sundae, but if they fail the SIEGE, don't let the vanilla action occur without a hitch. Else, every action will have a cherry on top. For example, if someone wants to try a SIEGE check to specialise an attack, if the SIEGE fails, the whole attack fails. Maximise a spell? Fail the check and the whole spell fails, not just the maximisation.

Excellent tip from Aergraith (who, I have been told, prefers his callipygian daydreams to have verisimilitude to them)
I should have just asked you to start the thread in the first place.
My C&C stuff: www.rpggrognard.com

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seskis281
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Re: SIEGE Check: What's the Downside?

Post by seskis281 »

Aergraith wrote:
Aramis wrote:
Fiffergrund wrote:
My favorite word in these types of discussions is "verisimilitude."

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Verisimili ... erature%29
Mine is callipygian

As for the OPs excellent suggestion, what was meant is options need a downside. The SIEGE engine allows people to add a cherry on top of their sundae, but if they fail the SIEGE, don't let the vanilla action occur without a hitch. Else, every action will have a cherry on top. For example, if someone wants to try a SIEGE check to specialise an attack, if the SIEGE fails, the whole attack fails. Maximise a spell? Fail the check and the whole spell fails, not just the maximisation.

Excellent tip from Aergraith (who, I have been told, prefers his callipygian daydreams to have verisimilitude to them)
I should have just asked you to start the thread in the first place.
Answer: yes.

Me as CK: What do you want to try?

Player: As I attack the Orc I want to do so by jumping from the stair landing I'm on, catch the hanging candelabra and swing downward so I am attacking as I come down next to him!

Me: Ok, let me have you roll a dex check... hmm, you've had a good bit of experience in fights in the campaign, so add levels to this one....

Player: I rolled a 5 - adding my 7 levels and my +1 dex mod I got a 13!

Me: Prime? (not that it would matter, my ad hoc CR was a 4 for this particular try and with the locale and room dynamics for a prime target of 17).

Player: No.

Me: You fly completely past the target, swing over the room and slam yourself into the wall, sliding down behind the battle. You take no damage except for your pride and your turn is over.

** If they fail with a nat 1, they likely slammed themselves into the wall for 1d6 damage and need a CON no level save to not knock themselves out for 1d4+1 rounds.

You know,

Stuff like that :twisted:
John "Sir Seskis" Wright

Dreamer of Ilshara
Lands of Ilshara: http://johnwright281.tripod.com

serleran
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Re: SIEGE Check: What's the Downside?

Post by serleran »

Depends on the action, for me. Target archery, for example.... hitting the bullseye might require a 17, but missing the bullseye does not mean you missed the whole target. I use increments, in that case. So, if you missed by 5, you might hit the third ring. Of course, this might likely be resolved as an attack but it can (perhaps with throwing darts, not war darts) be done as a simple Dex check.

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