DM's Toolbox: Consequences
Friday, June 27, 2008A lot of rolls in D&D have a failure outcome that results in "nothing happens." In some cases, this makes sense (you did fail, after all) but sometimes you want another option. Here are a few alternate failure consequences to add to your toolbox for those situations that need them.
Off-Balance: You do half-damage (or 1/2 the effect of a power) but you leave yourself open. You grant combat advantage and take a -2 to attack rolls until the end of your next turn.
Strained: You complete your move or partially complete your stunt (do 1/2 dmg) but it hurts. Take damage equal to the Low damage expression for your level (DMG p. 42). You might also have the option to do full damage with your stunt, but you suffer the Medium damage expression.
Over Doing It: Take 20 on your movement check (jump, balance, acrobatic stunt) but you fall prone at the end of your move and take the Low damage expression for your level.
Lose Your Grip: You do half-damage but you drop your weapon or implement. Or, you do full damage, drop your weapon, and provoke opportunity attacks from all adjacent enemies.
Second Thoughts: You don't lose the use of your failed Encounter or Daily power, but your hesitation leaves you open. You provoke opportunity attacks from adjacent enemies, or grant combat advantage until the start of your next turn, or suffer the Low damage expression (for Encounter powers) or Medium damage expression (for Daily powers).
By default, the DM decides when these alternate consequences might apply. Hippie story gamers might let players choose these failure consequences when they want to.
EDIT: I just watched the D&D4 video podcast (which is pretty well done) in which a group plays a Paragon level encounter. Two of the five players get to do nothing for four of the six combat rounds because of low dice rolls. It's so bad that those two players might as well have stayed home. This is my main pet peeve with D&D. You agree to show up and play the game, but the system can deny you the opportunity to contribute to the session.
Times like that are times for alternate failure consequences like those above. Limited effects with a cost are WAY better than getting to do nothing at all.