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Should stubborn wrongheadedness be rewarded?

Grymbok

Licensed to Ill
Validated User
I'm terrible at thread titles, so don't worry about that too much, I'll try to better explain here what I'm talking about.

I'm currently running a weekly D&D 3.5e game in Ptolus. The party are running through the Banewarrens adventure, and have come to the Baneheart. This is (spoilers I guess, though not significant ones) a 2,500ft tall hollow shaft, which they're on the inside of. It has doors every now and again going up the inside walls, but - and this is the important bit - no stairs, ladders, or other means to ascend. The reason for the lack of stairs being that the previous owner was a powerful mage who could get around without them, and so never installed any.

Anyway - by and large, the party can't fly, and they spent a good hour or so (real time) last week trying to find the means to ascend. By which I mean they were looking for a hidden lift, or invisible staircase, or something similar. They were absolutely dogged in their determination that such a thing must exist.

At the time I ruled that none did (because in the text of the published adventure, none does). And so they've now (I think) accepted this and are moving on to the question of how to ascend the sheer walls. Certainly I hope they're not going to start the next session by recommencing that search...

However thinking on it afterwards it occurs to me that this situation really bogged down play, and then had an anti-climatic outcome (i.e. they gave up). So I'm wondering if maybe I should have just caved in and said that they found something, on the basis that they were all so convinced that they would. Ultimately it's not important to the story - it's just supposed to be a bit of a challenge for them to ascend.

It's weird - I think that the fact that the adventure is essentially just one large dungeon is making me not think in story terms the way I usually do when GMing. But that's by the by. I was just curious what other people's thoughts are about situations where players convince themselves of something which is "wrong" according to your pre-planning. Is it best to just let them be right to get things moving again? If so, how do you avoid the slippery slope which leads to the players always being right and always winning?
 

macd21

Registered User
Validated User
I'm terrible at thread titles, so don't worry about that too much, I'll try to better explain here what I'm talking about.

I'm currently running a weekly D&D 3.5e game in Ptolus. The party are running through the Banewarrens adventure, and have come to the Baneheart. This is (spoilers I guess, though not significant ones) a 2,500ft tall hollow shaft, which they're on the inside of. It has doors every now and again going up the inside walls, but - and this is the important bit - no stairs, ladders, or other means to ascend. The reason for the lack of stairs being that the previous owner was a powerful mage who could get around without them, and so never installed any.

Anyway - by and large, the party can't fly, and they spent a good hour or so (real time) last week trying to find the means to ascend. By which I mean they were looking for a hidden lift, or invisible staircase, or something similar. They were absolutely dogged in their determination that such a thing must exist.

At the time I ruled that none did (because in the text of the published adventure, none does). And so they've now (I think) accepted this and are moving on to the question of how to ascend the sheer walls. Certainly I hope they're not going to start the next session by recommencing that search...

However thinking on it afterwards it occurs to me that this situation really bogged down play, and then had an anti-climatic outcome (i.e. they gave up). So I'm wondering if maybe I should have just caved in and said that they found something, on the basis that they were all so convinced that they would. Ultimately it's not important to the story - it's just supposed to be a bit of a challenge for them to ascend.

It's weird - I think that the fact that the adventure is essentially just one large dungeon is making me not think in story terms the way I usually do when GMing. But that's by the by. I was just curious what other people's thoughts are about situations where players convince themselves of something which is "wrong" according to your pre-planning. Is it best to just let them be right to get things moving again? If so, how do you avoid the slippery slope which leads to the players always being right and always winning?

I think in this case, after about 15 minutes of them coming up with different possibilities, I'd skip ahead: "Ok, look, you spend three hours looking for invisible lifts, hidden stairs, extendable ramps etc etc. If there is something there, you can't find it. Move on."

I don't think I've ever changed a scenario just to reward players as you suggest above, but that's just me. I know other GMs do.
 

Radijs

Fhtagn-didley
Validated User
I would not have caved. After their first take 20, I assume they where eventually taking 20 I would have said 'there are no secret doors or elevators or anything like that. But you found a few bricks where the mortar crumbles away quite easily.'
With my party that would mean they'd break out the pitons and the climbing gear right away.
 

hong

Big glowy smiley-thing
Yeah, after a certain point I'd just have said "you figure out that this guy was a wizard, he didn't need stairs to move around".

That said, I'm not really a huge fan of D&Disms like buildings that deliberately go against commonsense expectations just because the game allows you to have superpowers. What next, the tower had no toilets because he could disintegrate his turds?
 

Grymbok

Licensed to Ill
Validated User
One of the players pointed out the wizard thing but got ignored by the others. I then spoke to another one of the players after the session, represented to him the wizard argument, and had to spend ages convincing him of its merits. Which was odd.

There's actually a more complex reason for the lack of stairs (the tower didn't start out that tall) but I didn't want to get too much into Banewarrens spoilers :)

Taking 20 didn't come up yet because most of what they've been doing is trying to open magically sealed doors and trying to make a table fly. But yes, I probably should have just stepped in and said there's no easy way up. I'm not sure why my mind skipped over that idea to suggesting they should just find one to make them move on!
 

Mirkady

Registered User
Validated User
I think you already have your answer, however...
thinking on it afterwards it occurs to me that this situation really bogged down play, and then had an anti-climatic outcome (i.e. they gave up).
I'd question this assumption - that is a bad thing that they faced a challenge that, in the end, defeated them and forced them to give up.

These sorts of challenges are, actually, a good thing. Any good story will contain scenes where the hero or heroine is faced by a challenge that they struggle with and which in the end defeats them and forces the character to take a different path or look at things from a new perspective to achieve their aim. It is a vital part of what makes a story as opposed to a collection of incidents.

Now, clearly, things might have gone a bit too long in your game - once it becomes boring its not good - but allowing your players to batter their heads against a metaphorical brick wall once in a while can be no bad thing. It forces them to think and be inventive. The very worst thing to do though would be to simply give in and provide an easy way out once you'd already ruled that there would be no hidden staircase. It would be a cop out. Worst still it would remove a proper sense of achievement from the players when they do successfully figure out a strategy to solve the problem.
 

Mirkady

Registered User
Validated User
What next, the tower had no toilets because he could disintegrate his turds?
I've seen enough badly designed fantasy buildings to know that no such explanation is often required for a lack of heating, sleeping or cooking facilities very often...
 

simontmn

Registered User
Validated User
Yeah, after a certain point I'd just have said "you figure out that this guy was a wizard, he didn't need stairs to move around".
Yeah, tell them that as soon as you or the players are getting bored, and move on. If necessary phrase it to them OOC so there's no doubt.

It's fine for PCs to not get what they want, eg in LOTR the PCs are unable to cross over the mountains so they go via Moria instead.
 

tesuji

Retired User
well as a player in a dnd world, i would have trouble buying the premise and it would break my suspension of disbelief.

the notion that an experienced character would base "i wanna go downstairs for a snack in the middle of the night" on "do i have a teleport ready" or to not have bolt holes etc that weren't dependent on 4th level and up spells being available, or allowing himself to literally trap himself on his own bedroom if someone gets a dim anchor or anti magic shell etc... is all a bit far fetched just to provide a gimmicky desing dungeon.

so yeah as player i would hope the gm would let us make a few rolls, tell us "you search well and find none" so we could indeed leave this silly place and go find adventure.

you know, adventure, heroism, stuff of glory as opposed to "six characters looking for stairs: episode 4 "

really, is the "not-all-that-great stair quest" the session you want people talking about from your campaign?

"and then the paladin raise his vorpal sword and declared loudly "does anyone know where the stairs are?""

for many challenge = fun
for most frustrate != fun
 
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