Recent Chat Activity (Main Lobby)
Join Chat

Loading Chat Log...

Prefer not to see ads? Become a Community Supporter.
View RSS Feed

Hey I Can Chan

High-level Play, Part 1

Rate this Entry
I've players who're unfamiliar with the latter half (levels 10+) of Dungeons and Dragons 3.5. That's okay. But a raft of rulings are needed when a dude casts the scrying spell and then casts the teleport spell to murder folks in their sleep. This is long 'cause I try to cover all the bases.

High-level Play
At about level 9 the Dungeons and Dragons 3.5 game changes significantly in that it assumes Team Antagonist has questions and that Team Protagonist has answers. Some of Team Antagonistís questions are hard and weird, though, and the answers not readily apparent. Here are some of Team Antagonistís questions.

Can You Escape?
Team Antagonist gets some very scary puzzle monsters. These arenít just Big Sacks of Hit Points; theyíre Big Sacks of Bizarre Powers and Hit Points that, until you figure out how to fight them, you lose. If you fight something to the death itís not guaranteed itíll be to the death of the monster, so you need a way to easily, quickly, and safely flee. This doesnít make you a coward; this makes you smart. Every [homebrew] PC can cast the spells freedom of movement at level 9 and contingency at level 12, so even if you set up your contingency spell to actually be the freedom of movement spell (which is totally cool if youíve no better options), you should always have a contingency spell running that will rescue you when things go south.

If you canít do it yourself, you should acquire a method of short-range teleportation. I suggest at least one anklet of translocation (Magic Items Compendium 71) (1,400 gp; 0 lbs.).

Can You Stop Spies?
Team Antagonist likes using divination spells to determine Team Protagonistís location and plans.

Boo.

Team Protagonist likes using divination spells to determine Team Antagonistís location and plans.

Yay.

Therefore you need to know how divination spells work no matter whose side youíre on.

The scrying subschool includes the spells arcane eye [div] (Playerís Handbook 200), clairaudience/clairvoyance [div] (Playerís Handbook 209-10) (even when used through a scrying beacon (Magic Item Compendium 104) (750 gp; 0 lbs.)), eye of power [div] (Spell Compendium 87), eye of stone [div] (Races of Stone 162), flowsight [div] (Stormwrack 117), greater scrying [div] (Playerís Handbook 275), listening coin [div] (Spell Compendium 133), portal view [div] (Underdark 60), scry location [div] (Complete Scoundrel 102), scrying [div] (Playerís Handbook 274-5), and spymasterís coin [div] (Complete Scoundrel 104). Spells like gem tracer [div] (Dragons of FaerŻn 116), sacred guardian [div] (Book of Exalted Deeds 106), and soul link [necro] (Fiendish Codex I: Hordes of the Abyss 96) activate a scrying effect; while these spells arenít in the scrying subschool the scrying effect they create is.

The scrying subschool is a big deal because its spells can determine teleport destinations. Most other divination spells canít, but exceptions exist, which Iíll address later.

To stop scrying subschool spells youíll want toÖ

Be Everywhere and Nowhere
The scrying and greater scrying spells do not answer questions. This is implied by the spells but not stated, so Iím stating it. When the spell says ďsome creatureĒ it means a specific creature with a name or thatís been encountered. If a caster walks into a room and finds the king dead and then casts scrying targeting ďthe kingís murderer,Ē the DM will do the mental gymnastics that has the caster using the scrying spell on the dwarf who mined the ore from which the blacksmith forged the dagger that the shopkeeper bought wholesale and sold to the assassins guild armorer who gave it to the rogue who, with that dagger, murdered the king, and I can make the caster think some poor, starving dwarf miner six cities away killed the king. Thatís me being a jerk because the casterís loopholing a spell. However, if the caster sees the murderer flee or the murderer leaves behind his ear, ďthe kingís murdererĒ becomes instead ďthat dude I saw flee from the kingís bedchamberĒ or ďthe dude whoís the rest of this earĒ and thatís a valid, the-DMís-not-going-to-screw-with-it target of the scrying and greater scrying spells.

This makes names important and explains why PCs tell people who ask that theyíre The Fist, The Dragon, The Martyr, The Returner, The Hood, The Veteran, The Thief, or whatever. Itís the same reason Batman licenses his suit to Halloween costume shops; a scrying and greater scrying spell targeting random folks who call themselves or who think they are Batman gets you 7 minutes (or 13 hours) of a fat, grunting weirdo in a Batman costume leering over pictures of Catwoman. However, a scrying or greater scrying spell targeting ďthe Batman I saw here last nightĒ or ďthe Batman who owns this batarangĒ gets that Batman. And a scrying or greater scrying spell targeting Bruce Wayne absolutely gets Bruce Wayne.

Corner-case, mostly class feature-y things check this, too. If a target has a different identity to such a degree that the target believes heís someone else with a different name, a scrying or greater scrying spell targeting the original name fails outright. In my universes class features granting other identities do this automatically (e.g. Complete Adventurerís spymaster, Epic Level Handbookís epic infiltrator). The spell that does this is programmed amnesia [ench] (Spell Compendium 162-3), which a wizard will gladly cast for 2,030 gp, butóO, crap!óread that spell and make damn sure heís friendly! Iíve not decided if the spell feeblemind [ench] (Playerís Handbook 229-30) or any other spell reducing Int below 3 renders the target nameless (I donít know if a lizard knows its name), butÖ umÖ probably? Go ahead and experiment with that.

By the way, I use the metagame mystical definition of name here, as in the name unique to a creature that encapsulates his identity. This is found in the Name section of your character sheet. No, you canít leave this section blank, fill this section illegibly, make your name unpronounceable by impatient and short-lived humans, or have your name be an emotional, sensory, or theoretical concept (e.g. the trust in the heart of the cards, the scent of fresh dew on a beholderís eyelash, πís last 10 digits, the strange shiver after pissing).

Live Somewhere Appropriate
Thin sheets of lead block all scrying subschool spells, most detect-type divinations, and the spells locate object [div] (Playerís Handbook 249) and locate creature [div] (Playerís Handbook 249). PCs probably wonít have noticed, but a lot of structures incorporate this safeguard, and sometimes thatís bullshit, but most important (i.e. above CR 6) Dungeons and Dragons 3.5 folks understand the value of a thin sheet of lead, so thoseíre just there, and a house even 10 years old means thin sheets of lead are in the exterior walls, ceilings, and floors by default. Most actual, for reals, a-wizard-did-it (or a-bard-did-it as the lyre of building (Dungeon Masterís Guide 261) is the bomb) dungeons have the same defenses, so finding a nice dungeon, clearing it of monsters, and living there is a thing (which, by the way, is exactly what The Gnome was supposed to do). That happens andóbam!ó the entire scrying subschool just got punched in the junk.

However, adventures available to characters perpetually camped in conquered dungeons are limited. So, yeah, itís not enough to just turtle. The campaign ends. Some NPCs turtle because high-level play is hard, and other NPCs opt for retirementóDungeons and Dragons 3.5 barbarians, fighters, monks, rangers, paladins, and many rogues just canít play the game beyond level 6. Thatís why high-level encounters often feature bards, clerics, druids, sorcerers, wizards, and other spellcasters: they have the resources to deal with Team Antagonistís shenanigans or be Team Antagonist.

Anyway, if thereís a trip that needs taking, a town that needs visiting, alley business that needs conducting, or a natural anything that needs exploring, portable defenses against the scrying subschool are a necessity.

Avoid Being the Target
The spell nondetection [abjur] (Playerís Handbook 257) is a lousy counter to divination spells because of its fragility. Those casting divinations are usually higher level than those who donít want the divinations cast on them, so casters just force their way through nondetection spells with bigger, fatter caster level checks. However, if itís the only thing available or if itís available at ridiculous, it works fine. For an individual a wand of extended nondetection (12th) (16,000 gp; 0lbs.) [nondetection is a 2nd-level spell for the Telflammar Shadowlord, but you should check my numbers for all of these things anyway] is probably a career-spanning investment, and for a group a staff of chained extended reach nondetection (15th) (47,800; 4 lbs.) does the job on 15 people per charge.

Constant nondetection can be gotten from an amulet of proof against detection and location (Dungeon Masterís Guide 247) (8th) (35,000 gp; 0 lbs.) or a hat of anonymity (Magic Item Compendium 109) (7th) (12,500; 1 lb.), but these have such low caster levels as to be nearly meaningless.

The spell mind blank [abjur] (Playerís Handbook 253) is what everyone wants, though. In addition to flat-out stopping divinations (including the ridiculous discern location spell), it blocks everything mind-affecting. The mind blank spell just straight-up gives magical spycraft the finger. For an individual a staff of extended mind blank (17th) (57,375 gp; 4 lbs.) works for several months. If only the anti-scrying portion of mind blank is needed the ioun stone (black and white ellipsoid) (Dragon #319 64) (60,000 gp; 0 lbs.) works forever. Every other way to get even close to mind blank is priced at over 100,000 gp, so pre-epic no one gets those; while itís possible thereíre so many other things on which to spend that kind of gp.

If planning a very short adventuring career, a wizard can be paid 1,530 gp every other day to cast an extended mind blank spell on somebody.

Kill Spies for Even Trying to Spy
A dead caster canít finish using the scrying and greater scrying spells.

The spelltouched feat Live My Nightmare (Unearthed Arcana 94) is awesome for the paranoid. The feat sends an effect like the spell phantasmal killer [illus] (Playerís Handbook 260) at anyone who targets the featís possessor with a divination spell or effect. Things just got real, even with the effectís unoptimized, Charisma-based save DC.

A charge from a staff of extended psychic poison [abjur] (Book of Vile Darkness 101) (13th) (24,675 gp; 0 lbs.) lasts more than a day, and if an enemy caster within 50 ft. targets the creature affected by the psychic poison spell with a divination or mind-affecting spell, the enemy caster makes a Willpower saving throw; failure means beefy ability damage. (Note: The psychic poison spell doesnít list the saving throw, and no one seems to have noticed. Ever.)

Next: More on scrying and other divinations.

Submit "High-level Play, Part 1" to Digg Submit "High-level Play, Part 1" to del.icio.us Submit "High-level Play, Part 1" to StumbleUpon Submit "High-level Play, Part 1" to Google

Comments

  1. nijineko's Avatar
    i'm curious as to what ruling(s), let alone a raft thereof, are thought to be necessary for the scrying and teleporting mentioned in the opening remarks?
  2. Hey I Can Chan's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by nijineko
    i'm curious as to what ruling(s), let alone a raft thereof, are thought to be necessary for the scrying and teleporting mentioned in the opening remarks?
    The rulings necessary are largely ones of targeting and defense. Both scrying effects and teleport effects are vague on what's required to use them and stop them being used versus a creature or destination, respectively.

    For example, the scrying spell says that "[y]ou can see and hear some creature, which may be at any distance" but gives only a little help on identifying that creature. What if you've met him but don't know his name? Does the spell target based on physicality, emotional bond, weak psychic links, cinematic voodoo connection? What if you've met the target but he was in disguise? What if you've met the target, know his name, but he now goes by something else or is in disguise now? What if you're familiar with him but he's now the subject of a baleful polymorph spell? Does he still possess enough of himself to count as himself if he's currently the subject of a feeblemind spell?

    For example, you want to use the teleport spell to get to the warlord's tent. What if the tent's been moved and set up elsewhere? What if the warlord's bought a new tent but he's still inside? What if the tent's folded up and being transported in the belly of a flying whale? What if the warlord owns thousands of tents? Is it the warlord's tent if the warlord retired and his son takes over? Is it the warlord's tent after the warlord and his horde are assassinated by evil flumph monks?

    These are real things in high-level play (fine, maybe not the evil flumphs) that the game doesn't address that the DM's gotta rule on.

    Seriously, one can say, "Who gives a crap? Let's just play!" and be done, but a consistent world is more immersive and, ultimately, easier to DM. For example, when the player says, "I cast scrying on the king," and the DM just rolls the king's Will save, that one roll establishes a lot of precedents.

    1. Kings are identifiable without being specifically named.
    2. The scrying spell reads the caster's mind, determining caster intent.
    3. Body doubles, disguises, simulacrums, and so on are no help against scrying.
    4. Kings occupy structures weak against scrying.
    5. If the royal architects' structures are weak against scrying then most will be weak against scrying.
    6. Kings don't have personal defenses against scrying.
    7. Royal wizards don't defend kings against scrying.

    ...And on and on. I mean, sure, you can pick apart each of these points individually for this specific example, or confront me with a different example that yields different answers ("What if the target's not a king but an archmage or guildmaster of thieves?"), but answering consistently--being able to say, for example, "High-level characters live in lead-lined buildings"--means not having to explain why PCs could totally scry on the king last week but can't scry on the the Bardic College's dean this week.

    It's better to be aware of how effects like scrying and teleport (and coming back from the dead and illusions--these are forthcoming) impact to the game world at level 1 before they become issues, and in a high-level game they totally are issues and mandate consistency in the campaign's (and maybe even the game's) design stages.

    Those are the rulings that are needed. Effects like scrying, teleport, dead-raising, and illusions can make a brilliant campaign crash and burn if the DM doesn't address them.
  3. nijineko's Avatar
    The rulings necessary are largely ones of targeting and defense. Both scrying effects and teleport effects are vague on what's required to use them and stop them being used versusa creature or destination, respectively.

    For example, the scrying spell says that "[y]ou can see and hear some creature, which may be at any distance" but gives only a little help on identifying that creature. What if you've met him but don't know his name? Does the spell target based on physicality, emotional bond, weak psychic links, cinematic voodoo connection? What if you've met the target but he was in disguise? What if you've met the target, know his name, but he now goes by something else or is in disguise now? What if you're familiar with him but he's now the subject of a baleful polymorph spell? Does he still possess enough of himself to count as himself if he's currently the subject of a feeblemind spell?
    i think the spell is quite clear on how it targets: it uses the knowledge and connection charts listed in the spell. the players describe who they are attempting to target, the dm decides where that falls in those two charts.

    there are no special extra rulings outside of what is implicitly required by the spell rules itself, though i admit that the fact that the spell requires specific rulings in context of the spell usage and the general system itself does not provide much input on the matter, may be termed an extra ruling from some points of view.

    i do not hold the view that just because a spell requires additional adjudication, that they do not provide answers.

    to address your specific examples:

    if you have met but don't know name = firsthand knowledge. as described in the divination spells section: "Divination spells enable you to learn secrets long forgotten, to predict the future, to find hidden things, and to foil deceptive spells." therefore, knowing the name is irrelevant.

    how the spell targets = irrelevant to determining results, but may be useful for the dm to decide if things work a specific way in their game world that may change how the spell works away from player expectations. which is a homebrew change, not a failure in the spell to address answers.

    met but was in disguise = first hand knowledge. as described in the divination spells section: "Divination spells enable you to learn secrets long forgotten, to predict the future, to find hidden things, and to foil deceptive spells." and "Lead sheeting or magical protection blocks a scrying spell, and you sense that the spell is so blocked." disguises do not block divination, only lead and/or magical protections. this is more a failure on the dm's part to take the proper view into account, as a society where magic is known would automatically take this factor into account when deciding to disguise themselves and interact with someone.

    met, know name, but in disguise or changed name = firsthand knowledge, and see the above entry.

    familiar but baleful poly or feeblemind = familiar, as neither of those spells block or protect against divinations.


    you see, the rules are all there, already in place, and answered. it is more a matter of a given dm not thinking out the implications and taking into account the full effects of both the rules, and a society where magic is known and common (the default setting for d&d). no "extra" rulings on "unanswered" items at all.

    (please note, that there ARE some things left unanswered in the rules, i do not argue that. however, scrying and teleportation are not among them.)


    For example, you want to use the teleport spell to get to the warlord's tent. What if the tent's been moved and set up elsewhere? What if the warlord's bought a new tent but he's still inside? What if the tent's folded up and being transported in the belly of a flying whale? What if the warlord owns thousands of tents? Is it the warlord's tent if the warlord retired and his son takes over? Is it the warlord's tent after the warlord and his horde are assassinated by evil flumph monks?
    to address your teleport questions:

    teleport to relocated tent = per the spell, it does not matter where the tent is so long as it is within range, and they can visualize their destination as per the spell description. since the spell keys to destination, in all of your following examples, if they focus on where the location-as-destination of where the tent last was, as opposed to the tent-itself-as-destination, then that is where they will go. up to the player description in that case.

    teleport to new tent = since this spell uses a destination, if they visualize the tent the warlord last possessed, that is where they will go. as per the spell description, they must have viewed the tent at least once, otherwise they automatically get the false destination result.

    teleport to stored tent = it is still the tent they are visualizing, even if it is stored... the party might be in for quite a shock when they show up, however.

    warlord's tents and other variants = in all of these cases, the destination is the important key. if they visualize a specific tent, then that is where they will go. the fact of ownership is actually irrelevant to the rules in the spell. trying to teleport to a destination they have never seen, will auto-false destination them.

    teleport is really an open-and-shut spell, very easy to adjudicate.

    These are real things in high-level play (fine, maybe not the evil flumphs) that the game doesn't address that the DM's gotta rule on.
    the game does specifically address each of these items, see above.

    Seriously, one can say, "Who gives a crap? Let's just play!" and be done, but a consistent world is more immersive and, ultimately, easier to DM. For example, when the player says, "I cast scrying on the king," and the DM just rolls the king's Will save, that one roll establishes a lot of precedents.

    1. Kings are identifiable without being specifically named.
    2. The scrying spell reads the caster's mind, determining caster intent.
    3. Body doubles, disguises, simulacrums, and so on are no help against scrying.
    4. Kings occupy structures weak against scrying.
    5. If the royal architects' structures are weak against scrying then most will be weak against scrying.
    6. Kings don't have personal defenses against scrying.
    7. Royal wizards don't defend kings against scrying.
    i will address these by number.

    1 = according to the rules, yes. but see familiarity and connection tables.
    2 = no, it doesn't. see the familiarity and connection tables.
    3 = unless those effects specifically state that they block, interfere, or confuse divination / scrying spells, you are correct, they are of no use against scrying. i would suspect that the DM or adventure designer is failing to get into character of the society that would result from the existence and use of magic.
    4 = no. again, failure on the part of assumptions of either the DM, or the designer of the adventure. in a society where magic is known and common, there is no possibility that major figures in politics, commerce, industry, religion, and magic would fail to take scrying into account. this, again, assumes that one is using the default d&d setting, and not postulating a low-magic environment. see also the SBG.
    5 = no. again, false assumption and/or failure on the DM or adventure's designer.
    6 = no. again, false assumption or failure on the DM or adventure designer's part. the rules take this into account. that's why there are defenses against scrying.
    7 = again, false assumption / failure on DM or adventure designer's part.

    in all cases, there are simple methods for defending against scrying. any individual who grew up in a society where magic is known, and scrying is known, that occupies an important position would have rooms defending against scrying. maybe not the public throne room, but there absolutely will be private meeting areas where the real strategies and politics are discussed that are defended.

    ...And on and on. I mean, sure, you can pick apart each of these points individually for this specific example, or confront me with a different example that yields different answers ("What if the target's not a king but an archmage or guildmaster of thieves?"), but answering consistently--being able to say, for example, "High-level characters live in lead-lined buildings"--means not having to explain why PCs could totally scry on the king last week but can't scry on the the Bardic College's dean this week.
    all addressed in my examples above.

    ...snip...Those are the rulings that are needed. Effects like scrying, teleport, dead-raising, and illusions can make a brilliant campaign crash and burn if the DM doesn't address them.
    as i said before, no extra rulings needed. all the rules needed for teleportation and scrying are clear and plainly given in the spell descriptions, and supported by the generic magic entry for each type of magic listed.

    in each case, as well as those of illusions and raising the dead, it is a failure on the dm's part and/or the designer of a specific adventure part, to realistically take into account a society that uses and defends against magic as a matter of course.

    it may be a conceptually helpful analogue, to think of magical scrying as hacking in the real world. most generic people without resources or inclination to educate themselves will not bother, but anyone in a position of power or paranoia, will certainly make efforts to do so.
  4. nijineko's Avatar
    the same goes for teleportation, as well as illusions and raising from the dead.
  5. Hey I Can Chan's Avatar
    Are you disagreeing? Is there something I've misread? I mean, sure, you can totally say, "In my game a caster has firsthand knowledge of everyone he's ever met in the campaign for the purposes of scrying spells," and that's valid because that's what the book says, but if, based on flavor text, you have scrying penetrate disguises, spying on people who have been turned into bunnies, and looking into the lives of the feebleminded and thoroughly mindraped, that's where our opinions differ.

    In my game you've not met Bruce Wayne if you've met Batman. You've not met fluffy bunny, even if fluffy bunny was formerly Mrs. Potter and is now the cruel victim of a baleful polymorph spell. You've not met the half-orc who has no concept of his own identity because he's been reduced to the intelligence of lizard via the spell feeblemind even though you met Krusk at a dinner party when you were level 2.

    In your games, those might be perfectly valid scrying subjects and still count as met, and that's okay.

    But the game doesn't tell us that either interpretation is correct.

    there are no special extra rulings outside of what is implicitly required by the spell rules itself, though i admit that the fact that the spell requires specific rulings in context of the spell usage and the general system itself does not provide much input on the matter, may be termed an extra ruling from some points of view.

    i do not hold the view that just because a spell requires additional adjudication, that they do not provide answers.
    That quotation actually says, "Rules that you're not seeing are implied, and you've wasted your time on this exercise." That's offensive. You've said, "Your rulings are wrong because I am a better reader than you. My rulings are better because I am more capable of seeing deeply into the text than you are."

    And then you offer your own rulings.

    If you've a specific point that isn't an interpretation and is instead addressed by the rules as written, I would appreciate further comments along that line. I'm struggling, however, to stay polite when told, "You don't need to make these interpretations when you can just use what's written in the books," and then seeing you spend 500+ words making your own interpretations of what's written in the books. Have you considered writing your own blog on the same subjects or starting a new topic in the forums? I'd be happy to discuss specific points there.
  6. nijineko's Avatar
    the rulings i'm offering are exactly what is written in the books, and i'm pointing out that the answers to all the possibles you've postulated are in the books, rules as written.

    what you are doing is adding rules or interpretations thereof to the game. which is fine IF THAT IS WHAT YOUR ARTICLE SAYS IT IS ABOUT, which it does not.

    unless i am mistaken in my reading of your article, which is entirely possible, you have stated that d&d is basically broken or fails to address certain basic issues and why, and are offering your solutions to things you see as broken or unaddressed.

    whereas i am pointing out that the rules do cover exactly what you claim they don't and sought to prove it to you with examples of the rules as written.

    now, you don't have to like the rules, you don't have to uses the rules as written in your games, and you certainly don't have to play any way other than how you wish to.

    i am not seeking to offer offense, though you are certainly free to choose to be offended if you really want to.

    but i'm also not going to sit back and let someone yet again claim that a rule does not address an issue which is explicitly covered in said rules text. (regardless if either of us agree with or like the result in question.)

    if it makes you feel any better, i rather prefer your interpretation of the rules over the rules as written. i do think it is somewhat of a failure of the designer that they either failed to take into consideration, or just decided the way they did (whichever it was), such aspects of scrying, teleportation, and so on and so forth as you describe in your articles.

    but please do not claim that the subject is not addressed, because it is.
  7. Hey I Can Chan's Avatar
    the rulings i'm offering are exactly what is written in the books, and i'm pointing out that the answers to all the possibles you've postulated are in the books, rules as written.
    If that's true, then what does this mean: "You must have some clear idea of the location and layout of the destination."

    If you say anything other than, "It means exactly what it says," you're interpreting. And if you know exactly what that means, you had to have written it.

    That's because while clear idea is clarified further on in the text, the differences between "location," "layout," and "destination" are all ones you're bringing to the table.

    For example, If location is place, in what orientation to and what distance from that place? If location is object, in what orientation to and what distance from that object? If location is longitude and latitude are mobile locations (i.e. ships) impossible destinations? If location is the amount of space the caster occupies (usually a single 5 ft. square) is what's around that 5 ft. square is suddenly unimportant and what happens when he teleports with others? If location is visual observation from a single point in space of a particular area at a particular distance and orientation then, well, isn't that a lot to cram into one word, and isn't shipboard teleportation still impossible?

    And if you answer even one of those questions you're interpreting because the rules don't say jack about it.

    Seriously, stop saying my rulings aren't needed and that they're all there in the book and then making your own rulings. That's silly.

    Bring this to the forums, and we'll link to that conversation here.
  8. nijineko's Avatar
    and i need to reread the spell! silly me, scrying can't target objects at all, only creatures apparently. =P