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House Rules: Terrain Powers!

September 11, 2010 Leave a comment

The Dungeon Master’s Guide II introduces Terrain Powers (page 62-63) to formalize what DMs have been improvising for years. It provides a standard template for using terrain for tactical advantage. The problem? No one uses them since to do so you typically have to sacrifice an attack – and that is just too expensive a consideration for most players.

Over at Sly Flourish and Penny Arcade, a house rule has been proposed to increase the characters’ tactical use of terrain during combat. The proposal? Make it a minor action to activate terrain effects or to make active skill checks. Now characters can flip over a table, topple a statue, or swing on a chandelier and still have a standard action to launch an attack. I like it! Let’s look at a few examples…

Terrain Power – Distract Foe:
Set-up: The fighter, Gorn, is somberly drinking ale when a rowdy brawl breaks out. He begins his turn next to a flagon (which has a terrain power of Distract Foe).
Minor: Gorn throws his flagon at the nearest assailant, activating the Distraction terrain power. If he makes a successful ranged attack roll, he negates that foe’s possibility of performing an attack of opportunity this round. Note that this minor attack only applies a condition and does no damage.
Move: Gorn then freely moves past the distracted foe to engage the brawler just beyond him.
Standard: Gorn finishes his turn by punching the brawler square in the face.

Terrain Power – Improvised Cover:
Set-up: Across the room, the wizard Bayne is sitting at a table sipping ale. He notes the outbreak and decides a little melee cover is in order.
Move: Bayne stands up.
Minor: Bayne flips the table on its side, giving him cover from the escalating brawl.
Standard: Kneeling behind the table, Bayne peeks over the edge to fire off a Magic Missile at Gorn’s distracted foe.

Terrain Power – Unmolested Movement:
Set-up: From the loft upstairs, the rogue Falon needs to make a fast break across the room to line up his backstab – and notices the iron chandelier (terrain power of unmolested movement).
Move: Falon jumps from the banister to the chandlier 10′ away.
Minor: Falon makes an acrobatics check to grab and swing on the chandelier. If successful, he’ll complete the swing and drop behind his foe while immune to all attacks of opportunity.
Standard: Falon, though unarmed, executes a vicious kidney punch to his flanked foe.
As always, remember that whatever is good for the players is good for the DM. After explaining the house rule, introduce them to it first hand!Kick that flaming brazier over at their feet and let the good times roll!

For more info…

http://slyflourish.com/on-environmental-powers/
http://slyflourish.com/harrowing-halls-terrain-effects/
http://www.penny-arcade.com/2010/6/23/
http://www.enworld.org/forum/general-rpg-discussion/278976-interesting-house-rule-gabe-pennyarcade.html
http://www.gamecrafters.net/archives/654

Random Encounters: A Treasure to Ignore

September 3, 2010 Leave a comment

The players come across a chest sitting undefended in a corridor. Always hungry for treasure, they quickly glance over the flimsy chest only to find that other than being tenuously guarded with a rusty lock it is otherwise unremarkable.

But there is something devious here – the chest is really a very simple alarm that alerts denizens deeper in the dungeon to intruders. How? The chest has no bottom – it is simply an overturned wooden box perched over a privy sized hole in the floor. Suspended within the box and above the hole is a clay pot with a stone inside. Perpetual light is cast on the stone, but the clay pot masks this fact. If the players are unsuccessful in a series of skill checks, the chest simply collapses dropping the clay pot into the lower levels to shatter and shed light there as an alarm.

So how do they defeat this alarm?

  • Do nothing. Ignoring the chest is an easy way to keep the baddies from knowing you’re coming. Yeah, but we know that ain’t gonna happen.
  • Unlocking the chest is actually the trigger for it to collapse. So a successful unlock attempt or bashing it is an automatic failure.
  • Perception Check: A perceptive character may discern the following.
    • The lock on the chest is all but useless. It would take little to no effort to open or break it.
    • The chest appears to be too flimsy to protect anything inside.
    • The top of the chest is actually nailed to the sides.
    • The chest appears to have no bottom.
  • Thievery: By carefully supporting and rigging the sides and top (NOT unlocking and opening it), it can be defeated while in position above the hole. Describe this as slipping something underneath the entact chest to cover the hole  (and the party gains a handy continual light source).
  • Arcana/Detect Magic: Senses the faint aura of magic from the lighted stone within the chest.
  • Acrobatics: Carefully lifting the chest and moving it from over the hole, defeats the alarm.
  • Insight/History: Discerns the true nature of the chest after it has been triggered or disarmed.

By the way, if you like the look of that treasure chest you can purchase one of your own! Stop over at eM-4 miniatures and pick one up!

http://www.em4miniatures.com/acatalog/TRINKET_BOXES.html