D&D 4e Questions

Heather from The Things They Still Carry has a few questions remaining from her first D&D 4e games. Here they are:

I spent some time flipping through some of the Core set today as well as reading some of the DM Guide for the Keep adventure. My reading answered some questions and presented more. There are currently 3 that stand out in my mind.

  1. Healing Skill – I think I understand now that one use of healing skill is First Aid. I assume that First Aid applies some kind of healing to an adjacent ally. How does this work? Does it use the other players healing surge if the check is successful? Or is there a die roll to determine the number of hit points added to the hurt ally? If so, which die? I assume this can be done while in combat as a standard action? Is there a limit to the number of times assuming the person succeeds in the check? Also, how is the DC for a healing skill determined?
  2. Perception Check – This is a question specifically regarding the Keep adventure (potential spoiler). The kolbolds ambush the players at some point in the adventure. The DM Guide calls for you to ask the players to make a Perception Check with a DC of 25. I understand that you want the DC to be hard and 25 counts as hard but I’m looking at the premade characters and unless I just do not understand how the perception check works, it seems only 1 can possibly pass the check and that is only with a roll of 20. My understanding of the perception check is that the players have to meet or beat the DC. So, in this case, they would have to make a 25 or better by rolling a d20 and adding their perception modifier. One character in the premade characters has a perception check bonus of +5. If he rolled perfect, he would not be surprised but no one else in the party stands a chance. Am I missing something? Am I misinterpreting something? I agree it should be hard (otherwise there is no point in an ambush) but this seems just about impossible (for 4 premade PC people it is impossible).
  3. Fortitude, Will and Reflex Defense – I understand that say an enemy makes a magic attack against a PC that instead of AC it might attack reflex. The enemy has to roll the d20 higher than the reflex defense figure of the PC it is trying to attack. Maybe this was a table rule specific to this particular DM (like the critical failures where I kept hitting myself in the damned head) but there were many times when I was asked to roll a d20. Supposing my Fortitude Defense was 12, I had to roll under 12 in order to be saved from damage. There was once I rolled in order to determine whether I took full or half damage. Is this a save roll? If it is a save roll am I mistaken in thinking that by 4e rules you just have to roll better than a 10 to be saved? My interpretation of the rules thus far have made it seem that the defense figures appear to be different versions of AC for different attacks and the save roll seems to be unrelated to the defense in this edition.

I started answering in her blog but then I thought we’d all be better served by some cross-blog pollination and allow all readers to take a stab at these questions and maybe add their own to the mix.

Here’s my stab at them!

Healing/first aid

You can use healing as a standard action so another PC can use his Second Wind ability (i.e spend a healing surge and heal 1/4 HP) without using a standard action herself.

Do note that if the character to be healed has already used the second wind ability, you can’t do it again.

This is mostly used when someone goes KO before having used second wind. Since a KO character can’t take action, the healing skill allows to use Second wind since it’s a conscious character that takes the action.

You can also use healing to stabilize a dying character (stop him from making death saving throws) but her HP don’t change.

Finally, you can use healing to grant another PC a saving throw. Usually a Saving throw (rolling a d20 and playing 10 or more to end a negative effect on your PC) occurs at the end of each PCs turn. A Healing skill check allows the healer to grant a saving throw to a PC during the healer’s turn.

Ambush mechanics

As written, the 1st kobold ambush doesn’t give players the occasion to detect the ambush, its planned to show combat to players and since it’s a rather easy fight (compared to let’s say the hobgoblin one in the Game Day adventure), players aren’t put in deadly danger by not having access to a surprise round… do note that the kobolds also do not surprise the PCs so it’s a ‘fair trade’.

But to answer your question specifically, refer to pages 186 (Perception) and 188 (Stealth) of the players handbook. According to skill description I’d say that an ambush against unwary PCs (i.e. when PCs aren’t walking at a crawl pace checking every rocks and leaf) is played out by the ambushers rolling their stealth skills (one per ambusher) and you compare the roll against the PC with the highest passive Perception skill (i.e. 10+Perception Skill).

Success by each ambusher grants it a surprise round against the party. I assume here that the high perception PC will inform the whole party (as a free action) about each ambusher he spotted.

There are other ways to play it. For instance, to make this even faster, compare passive stealth of each ambusher vs passive perception of most perceptive PC.

The 4 defenses vs saving throws

Ack Heather, your DM was either incompetent and/or one that likes to impose his own house rules on people.

The only time you take half damage from an effect is when the DM attacks one of your 4 defenses (AC, Reflex, Will or Fortitude as required) and there is a ‘Miss’ entry in the power that says 1/2 damage.

Players never have to play against any of their own defenses. A saving throw only occurs at the end on your turn (see healing for exception) when you try to end a negative effect that calls for a saving throw (Sleep, slow, weakened, debuffs… etc) as described in the power that ‘granted’ the effect.

As you rightly assumed, you roll a d20 and make the saving throw on a roll of 10 or more (i.e. a flat 55% success)

There you go. If you have more questions, don’t hesitate to ask them here. I find that answering questions while away from the table is a great way to search the rules with a specific goal in mind and then remember them because of the time one takes to formulate the answer.

Anyone else has a question or want to clarify/challenge my answers? Let’s open this discussion and make this an unofficial FAQ until WotC chimes in.

Have a great week!


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Comments

  1. Concerning the ambush I had the impression that you made only one roll for the ambusher. Taking the worst bonus against the perception of the best.

  2. @Yan: It’s one way of doing it (and may be the default one for all I know… I’m still in the first third of the DMG), but if you do and the ambushers win, each gets a surprise round against the PCs… that can hurt a lot!

  3. Here’s one: how much damage does dousing yourself in flaming oil do? We had a playtest session last Saturday, and I wanted to do that with my tiefling; we can’t find any rules at all for flaming oil, which is unusual – all other editions had it, and with tiefling fire resistance I doubt I’m the first to think of this – so I assume we just missed it.

  4. Chatty – <3

    Okay, what you said about healing makes sense. I somehow always end up playing a healing class (even when classes are chosen at random for a tabletop game apparently) but most of my experience with it is video games. The premade cleric could use Healing Word 2x per encounter and Healing Strike 1x (vs video game healing which is until you run out of mana but you could potentially stop casting stuff and regain a little mana and keep healing). Things looked somewhat grim at one point and I guess I felt a little limited on my healing abilities. Of course, this may have been just due to the build.

    I wasn’t referring to the first ambush (sorry spoilers!) but a later one. If there is a DC wouldn’t that be what the perception check had to beat?

    Is there ever a time you would want to roll below your, say fortitude, defense? I started to think maybe this was just his particular gaming style but I wanted to be sure. I think one of the things I’m going to have the most trouble with will be letting go of the desire to be a rules lawyer myself and going with Rule of Fun or Rule of Cool.

    PS. Thanks for the pollination Chatty!

    Heathers last blog post..D&D Nerdery – Questions

  5. Felonius says:

    @Gazza: It does 5 points on-going fire damage, with a saving throw to end, or it ends at the end of the encounter automatically (technically burns out during any short or long break). You can make a Dex Vs Reflex attack as a standard action to deal 5 points of fire damage. If someone grabs you, you can make immediate reaction (Dex Vs Ref) to deal 5 points of fire damage. (This is just my call… Other people, I’m sure, would decide differently)

    @Heather: There should usually be plenty of healing to go around, as the classes are capable of taking care of themselves (to some degree). The cleric (or warlord) shouldn’t be the only source of healing as a result. Of course, the cleric also has an At Will power that grants temporary HPs (or a saving throw), which can certainly keep a party going.

    Also, there’s not really ever any reason (that I’ve yet seen) that you should be trying to roll anything against your own defenses, Fortitude or otherwise. They represent target numbers, like AC, for an attack to try to hit. There are saving throws, but, as Chatty said, they’re “10 or higher” type rolls. There are occasional modifiers (Dwarfs add 5 to saves against poison) but you’re still trying for 10 or more, and the Defenses (Fort, Ref, Will, AC), don’t factor into it at all.

  6. Is it possible that the ‘roll below..’ thing was the DM letting the player roll the monster’s attack? I have seen that done before in 3rd ed.

  7. @Felonius: That is how i understood it too. I guess that was just a DM decision that if I were to DM I could handle differently. For a minute there I was sitting here thinking boy, if this edition was meant to be easier for noobs, I must be like a super noob – but alas it was just DM tinkering (which is okay, as long as I can recognize it for what it is).

    @Gail: I don’t think so because it was being used to determine whether or not the PC took half or full damage. It seemed to me that the roll below was being used like a saving throw. I guess it could be that he was using the defense figures as the DC?

  8. Felonius says:

    @Gail: I’ve heard of it being done, but (I hate to criticize other DMs styles, but here goes) I think that when starting a new system, it’s best to keep to the RAW (rules at written) for at least a little bit before starting to house rule, especially as it sounds like he (or she?) didn’t seem to specify that a house rule was being put into play.

    Also, I get the impression that it was only Ref, Fort, and Will, and not AC, there-by creating an inconsistent system. It was also typically handled by the DM creating an “AC DC” (10 + the creatures Attack bonus), and letting the player roll and add all applicable bonuses (instead of adding a flat “10” as normal for 3.x AC).

    I also think that this would better because it keeps with the “higher is better” concept that pervades the rest of the game (instead of having one spot where lower is better, and having be the only exception), and, even outside of D&D, people frequently feel that “higher is better”, so it keeps with the natural assumptions of the human psyche, and makes it easier for noobs.

    @Heather: See Gail’s comment. People *did* do this in 3.x, as it gave the players more of a feeling of control over the combat. Of course, it was usually handled different, and discussed before hand… I hope that it didn’t completely kill your enthusiasm for 4e. I think 4e has a lot of “fun” potential, if people give it a chance, and don’t up with a “Rules Monger” who thinks that every needs to play by their rules.

    (Looks like Heather added to her comment after I started? Or did I just not read the whole thing?) There are a few abilities in there that are “half on miss” (I can’t think of any at the moment, mostly because I’m working on wrapping up my 3.x campaign, so that’s where my mind last was), so it’s possible that he was doing something along those lines…

    Like I said, *I* prefer to keep a consistent process (higher = better), and I would generally think anything where it’s “This one thing is different” is “bad”. Was he giving you values to add to the rolls, or just saying “Roll below your defense”? Or maybe “Take a -6 penalty to defense X, and then roll below it”? I don’t like the idea either way, but, then, I wasn’t the one running that particular table. ;-)

    (Sorry I keep going off on your blog Chatty… It’s my lunch break, and I figured I could help ;-) )

  9. Alrighty

    1) As Chatty said, exactly.

    2) Check the DMG on page 42. DC 25 is a Hard check for a level 10-12 party, and DC 20 is a Hard check for levels 1-3. More to the point, check page 186 in the PHB. The base DC for a “well-hidden” thing is DC 25. That said, I would usually just use DC 20. You can do the whole opposed stealth/perception checks as Chatty suggests, but I’d just go with the following:

    Non-stealthy monster (ie: Ogres): Easy check.
    Moderately stealthy (ie: Bugbears): Moderate.
    Very stealthy monster (ie: Kobolds): Hard.

    3) What chatty said, but blunter:
    Your DM was an idiot. When you’re teaching people a new rules system (and it’s not in your personal game), you DO NOT EVER include house rules. Fuck!

  10. “When you’re teaching people a new rules system (and it’s not in your personal game), you DO NOT EVER include house rules.”

    Yeah, exactly! My DM for Game Day was awesome. Though I already knew all the rules and my group was pretty 4e savvy, he made sure that he explained every rule he was using the first time as he went. The game was supposed to be a 4e introduction, not an excuse for DM power-tripping…

    Dave T. Games last blog post..The new age has begun…

  11. It is _possible_ that the DM running the demo game was also new to the rules, and assumed that Reflex, Fortitude, and Willpower were saving throws… I’m not so sure everyone should be so quick to pounce on the poor guy.

    The game had only been available in advance of the WWDDGD for, what, 24-hours?

    I’ve been playing or DMing 3.x since it launched and Pelor knows I still get even simple rules confused. Heck, in my 3.x game just yesterday the Sorcerer used a spell I’d never heard of…. from the PHB!

    He made an honest oopsie, point it out before the next game, and play on.

  12. @Gazza: Haven’t read the DMG throughly but I noticed the absence of burning oil. I like Felonius’ take on it, especially the ‘it can be extinguished by chance’ bit.

    But hey! I thought you weren’t a D&D player! Not that I mind!

    @ Heather: Luv you back! But Mike on your side scares me with all his “colon+P” :) See Graham’s take on a Kobold ambush… As others have chimed in, you don’t play against your own defense, unless some power forces you to attack yourself… and I have yet to see one…

    @ Felonius: Nice tiefling torch call! I like it! Feel free to chat it up on the blog… the comments are there for that. If Michael Philips and Graham can comment duel through a night, feel free to gab as much as you feel like!

    @Graham: Yup, your take on the ambush is simpler like that… works with the whole philosophy that climbing a wall are now written as DC25/4 squares of movement in the adventures I’ve seen so far.

    @Graham and Dave on the “Showing the RAW” issue : Amen!

  13. It’s quite possible Ish, although all DMs we had at the store had had read the rules and or the Quick Start from Keep before the books came out.

    It’s the use of Fumbles , which were at best a Variant in D&D 3.5, that rubbed me the wrong way…

    And the rolling under the defense is so against the philosophy of both 3e and 4e that I got a big cognitive dissonance when I read Heather’s tale…

    Both together gave me a gut feeling that the DM knew what he was doing… I may be wrong.

  14. From what I gathered (and people who DMed can correct me), but the adventure books contained all the rules needed to run the game. In fact, my DM was an “Amazon orphan” who didn’t even have his books, but was able to run it from the adventure, and got most (but not quite all) the rules correct.

    Dave T. Games last blog post..The new age has begun…

  15. I’m a bit weirded out by there not being a mention of flaming oil anywhere in the rules. That strikes me as an odd omission, given my players’ penchant for throwing around flasks of oil in whatever edition we happen to be playing.

    I like the suggestions proposed here for it, and it may just be an example of “here are the basic rules, when situations come up beyond these just wing it in the framework we’ve given you”, which is fine. But flaming oil just strikes me as one of those things that comes up frequently enough to at least get a mention. (Or maybe it’s just something about me that attracts the latent pyros to my table – since every group I’ve played with since middle school has had at least one person who had an unnatural love for the molotov cocktail technique…)

  16. The overall lack of equipment other than armor, weapons, and magic loot was one of the few things I disliked about the 4e PHB.

    Flaming oil, holy water, ladders, 10′ poles, signet rings, musical instruments, canvas, nails, fishing hooks… These are things I’ve purchased for every character since time began. (I’m an old fart.) Now I can’t…

    Ok, I can, but the DM needs to adjucate a price instead of having a nice simple shopping list.

  17. Felonius says:

    @Dave: Most of the rules were present, and as long as your party was pretty willing to go the way the adventure was laid out, you were fine. There were a few things that went differently at different tables, due to people reading things differently. A couple of examples: When I ran it, the hobgoblins dumped over one sarcophagus, and then both ran to back position, while one of the other groups somehow coaxed the hobgoblins out to fight them in the middle of the room… One DM had the BBEG on a floating platform (same DC to get up, same Skill, completely different impression on the players). One DM had the trap “safe” after the BBEG was defeated, I left it in place. So, DM interpretation came into a lot of places (the adventure wasn’t explicit about the trap, but seemed pretty clear to me on the others… I also gave the BBEG keys for the chains holding his prisoners…)

    Things I didn’t see: How effective is “ghost sound” at making someone believe that a sound is what sounds like? One of my players tried to use Ghost Sound to make it sound like someone was in the sarcophagus (the hobgoblin was pretty sure, since he’d put the oil there himself…), so I made it an Int Vs Will attack, but there really wasn’t anything in the ability itself…

    I also may have missed them, but I don’t remember seeing the Bull Rush rules in the quick start book (the dwarf fighter climbed up to the BBEG to push him off). Fortunately, I had picked up a PHB as a table copy (my Amazon copies are likely waiting at home for me by now) for my Sunday group, so I had those available.

    On the bright side, most things that were missing were very easy to make a call on. Bull Rush is pretty much what I would have expected it to be (Str vs Fort, Push one square on success, shift into vacated square). I don’t think I would have wanted to even guess at Grab rules, only because I’d try to hard to make them fit with my 3.x grapple concept, which really doesn’t fit a lot of the 4e mentality. (IMNSHO)

    @Jer: I was a bit surprised when I first heard that there were no Alchemical rules at all. I’d imagine that they’re saving any kind of “flaming flasks” for Greek Fire or Alchemical Fire or whatever it may be when the Adventurer’s Trove comes out, and trying to keep lantern oil mostly for lanterns (Stranger to me is the fact that you can buy a lantern, but not oil?), and flaming effects for either large quantities, or as part of some alchemical something. Just a guess, of course.

  18. Like it or not, D&D 4e will come out in a gazillion books… I’m sure alchemicals, including flaming oil, will come in a future book.

    Heck, anyone noticed that all classes with potential minions were either changed (Ranger) or pulled out of the Core (Druids, Summons, Illusionists, leadership feats)?

    I predict a ‘minions’ flavoured PHB soon.

  19. Felonius says:

    @Chatty: Alchemicals have already been confirmed (one of the Gamer Radio Zeros) as being in the Adventurer’s Trove (later this year, I forget the date). It’ll have the items, and Rituals for making them.

    I… Semi-doubt a minion based class. Only because the most valuable commodity in D&D is an “action”, and those with minions get bonus actions. Unless they start making it where it’s a standard action to attack with the minion (Wizard 1st level Daily “Flaming Sphere” for an idea about what I’m thinking), it would unbalance a class to have twice as many actions, even if half those actions are only half as effective or whatever. And even Flaming Sphere is a daily. Plus minions create extra tactical advantage in the Flankers department. I think with all the focus on class balance that we’ll likely never see a minion (or critter) based class.

  20. @Felonius –

    re: Ghost Sound — A Bluff check should cover all of these situations. The spell itself has no intrinsic ability to fool people. If they might not believe the sound, make a Bluff check.

    re: Bull Rush — p65 of the Adventure Book has the rules, I believe.

    @all

    re: Alchemical Items — It’s been reported these (along with rules for making them, I believe) will show up in the Adventurer’s Vault.

  21. “you don’t play against your own defense, unless some power forces you to attack yourself… and I have yet to see one…”

    Check out the rogue. It’s got a few powers that can make someone hit themselves.

  22. @James: Duly Noted.

  23. Hey Chatty, never said I didn’t play – if it’s the only game at the table, and all that. :)

    But in all fairness it wasn’t awful. I’m not sure I buy all the hype, but it DOES occur to me that there is precious little need to actually buy the DMG – assuming, of course, that you’re a veteran rather than a beginner. A mate of mine has confirmed he’s going to run a campaign, so I’ve duly created an Eladrin Warlord.

  24. Actually, GAZZA, the DMG has tons of stuff in it that’s useful, even for experienced GMs. It has the DMing advice, of course, but it has a fair amount of rules info as well, on things like disease, mounts, appropriate skill check DCs, skill challenges, and lots more.

    The DMG is indeed a required book.

  25. Interesting. We never even opened it, except to check to see if it had the rules for flaming oil. :)

  26. @Felonius

    Absolutely agree. Houserules are just going to confuse new players. If the DM absolutely must houserule, then make it clear that it’s a deviation from RAW.
    I also wonder how effectively one can create houserules for a system that’s less than a week old. Fumbles = ick!

  27. Wish I had the books in my hand…but yeah, why the houserule on the first session (especially on game day)?!

    Questing GMs last blog post..Worldwide Dungeons & Dragons Game Day

  28. Gah!

    Revision to my previous post answering Heather’s questions!

    re: Skill check DCs.

    Under the same chart I referenced before, we have a footnote. Add 5 to the listed DCs for skill checks. So a hard DC is 25 at level 1.

    That said, after considering it, it isn’t that bad. If I’m trained in Perception, with a 14 Wisdom, I have +7 and can hit it on an 18. The rolls I need for Easy/Medium/Hard are 8/13/18.

    That’s not all that bad. If nobody in the group is trained in perception, a Hard check appropriate to your level should probably be out of reach.

  29. Oh, and re: Flaming Oil

    The same chart on p42 has “Improvised Damage” listed by level as well.

    Flaming Oil would likely be a low or medium damage which makes an attack each round, so 1d6+3 or 1d10+3. I would also say 1d6+3, and ongoing 2 fire damage, would make a good medium damage.

  30. The page on which this chart is found is one of the best parts of the DMG. It’s the ‘what to do when you must wing a rule’

    Awesome!

  31. The kobold slingers in Keep on the Shadowfell have some special sling bullets that set you on fire when they hit. I don’t know their stats, but I do know it’s ongoing 2 (save ends) once you’re smacked. They’d probably make a good model for flaming oil, acid, holy water, and similar grenade-like weapons.

  32. @Graham: I am a moron. Bonafide. Premade characters can be such a pain in the rump. Okay, the premade characters in that particular adventure…there is a chart for their skills. I assume the chart is for Level 1. So say the um fighter…has a perception modifier of +2. It would be 10 + 2 for a total of 12 to add to whatever his roll is correct? That would make tons more sense than what I was thinking. In my defense I think I had 4 hours sleep. I forgot to add the 10 because they were premade characters and sometimes it’s difficult to easily tell which numbers have already been added in to their little sheets. If you add the 10, the one character who had decent perception would have a 15. He would only have to roll a 10 to pass the check. That would make much more sense.

    I think I’m cleared up on those issues now – who wants to tackle 3d fighting/movement? I read that last night and was like huh? I really need someone to do a Video DMG so I can see this stuff in action – it would make a lot more sense to me.

    Heathers last blog post..D&D Nerdery – Kick Em When They’re Down

  33. Felonius says:

    @Heather: Unfortunately, the “10 + whatever” is just for passive, ie: what do your players see when they don’t say “We’re looking.”? The concept is that you aren’t spending a *lot* of attention looking for things, but you’re sort of constantly “taking 10’s”, because it’s assumed that the party is at least slightly on alert. In the case of the Fighter example you cited, he would likely automatically notice anything in the order of a DC 12, and if asked to make a roll, is technically capable of noticing as high as a 22. Generally, you’ll want at least one person in the party trained in Perception (+5 for being trained), and having an Elf in the party always helps with that (+1 for any ally within 5 squares). Of course, the Elf gets +2 to their own… An Elf trained in Perception is starting off with at least +8 (18 passive), with the +2 to Wisdom contributing another +1 to the skill. Give them a decent wisdom score, and they’re doin’ a-ok. Fighters aren’t typically noted as being the most observant of individuals anyway ;-).

    All that being said, I don’t think a DC 25 to notice an ambush as way out of line. It’s well within roll range for at least one party member, and the theory is that the ambushers have had a chance to hunker down and prepare. Perhaps if I were DMing I would allow one person noticing it to count for the whole party, as they could get a free action to warn everyone… I’ll see how I feel about it when I get that far, though. I’m a couple weeks from starting 4e with my group. (probably early July…)

    I’ve only glanced at the rules for 3d combat… what’s the question? I’ll help if I can, but I’m sure plenty of other people here will gladly jump in.

    I really like seeing the discussion because I feel like it helps me realize (a) what’s important (b) where to find things and (c) what I may have interpreted incorrectly.

  34. What Felonius said.

  35. Arg! Well I thought I had it but now I’m back to Moron status. I’m a relatively intelligent person I swear! Sure, my Master’s is in Literature not math but @#$@. Okay 10 only passive checks. That’s right. Perception check would be half the level (which is zip at Level 1) – not 10.

    Okay – let’s look at the Halfling Rogue premade character (since he seems to be the only one trained in perception). He has +5 modifier on the Skills Chart. He has no wisdom modifier. So I assume the +5 is purely for being trained in perception? That said, he gets to add 5 to his roll. I do not see any skill bonuses etc. So wouldn’t that mean he would have to roll a 20 to detect the ambush, as was my first assumption?

    I don’t see any elves in this premade group so they are SOL about that bonus but I do have a question there as well – would the +1 to allies include the elf? Is he his own ally?

    PS. I did not have a specific question about the 3d stuff it just generally made me say huh? I’ll look back over it later.

    We could start a whole new blog dedicated to answering Heather’s stupid questions :D

    Heathers last blog post..D&D Nerdery – Kick Em When They’re Down

  36. Felonius says:

    @Heather: I don’t doubt your intelligence, and I doubt anyone else here does. You have a few things working against you, including DMs who imposed their own rules on you at probably about the worst possible time.

    The elf isn’t included for two reasons. (1) You’re not considered your own ally and (2) I wasn’t fully description with my description of the ability. The bonus is only granted to “non-Elf allies”.

    Honestly, I haven’t been a huge fan of any of the pregen characters for anything I’ve seen. Not that they should be min/maxed, but it just seems like they’re unnaturally weak for an established party. Since the books will have been out for a month by the time I play, I’m going to be allowing my players to create their own characters for KotS. Among other things, 3 levels of playing a character concept that isn’t yours can be a bit chafing. For a one off, 5 room dungeon, it’s not as bad, but for a full module, it seems a bit much to me.

    That aside… I glanced at your blog a little bit ago, and I will try to find some time to respond over there in a little while, to the best of my abilities, unless Chatty happens to grab your part II and start a conversation over here. The short answer to the disease & extended rest question is: You have to wait 14 hours between extended rests.

    And none of your questions have been stupid. D&D can be a weird concept to get your head around sometimes.

  37. @Heather: It’s easier understanding something with this kind of exchange anyway… I’m sure plenty of lurkers are silently glad you asked… ;-)

  38. @Felonius: I’m starting to agree – ready to play characters are evil. I thought that since I would be teaching my group the new rules, at the same time that I am still trying to teach myself, it might be helpful to start with the ready to play guys.

    How do you guys make your characters? I saw in the PHB 3 Methods used: Standard Array, Customizing and Random Roll. What do you use and why?

    Heathers last blog post..D&D Nerdery – Kick Em When They’re Down

  39. Felonius says:

    @Yan: Thanks for backing me up. And I think we need to tell those Lurkers to stop making Heather feel so alone.

    @Heather: Character construction, stat wise, depends on the context for me. For my current 3.5 setting I’m going with a “non-standard” array. I gave them a little boost to the array. A “standard array” means that you know what the power level of the game is (in my case: a little higher than normal), and you know everyone is working on the same page. Basically, you know exactly what to expect. With a point-buy (one of my least favorites, but your mileage may vary, plus it’s typically RPGA standard), every has a little more control over their own stats (which is nice), but you’re still all, arguably, working from the same power level, much like the Standard Array method. My favorite, however, is letting the players roll. I think it’s just more fun. I’ve seen a few methods… I usually go with 4d6 drop the lowest for each stat, you pick which stat, and you can do it 3 times and pick your favorite of those. I had one DM who did 4d6 drop the lowest for each stat, but you reroll any 1’s before dropping the lowest. The numbers come out a little higher on average.

    Really, if you ask 8 DMs how they do stats, you’ll probably get at least 5, if not 8, different answers…

    You’ll settle into a style you like… Of the ones in the PHB, which do you like the sound of the most? (2nd edition had… six different methods, and I’ve heard of at least one more beyond the ones I’ve seen in published materials…)

  40. I suggest you start with the Roll 4 d6 keep 3 and assign to the stat of your choice.

    From there, move to your favorite choice. I prefer the standard array or point buy.

  41. Heh. Once again, “What Felonius said, 100%.”

    As for 3d stuff… well, it’s a tricky beast. For 3d in D&D, you tend to need to be pretty good at visualisation.

    I am good at visualisation, yet even I don’t use full 3d combat. I keep everything flattened to the battlemat for the most part, and just record altitude for flying creatures (and people on top of obstacles).

    This is, actually, what the DMG recommends. You have your ground level, and you have creatures above (flying) and/or below it (burrowing). The vast majority of the action is on the ground.

    If everyone is flying, then you define the altitude they are at as “ground”. This is, once again, where most of the action takes place, though creatures can fly above and below it.

    It can get complex, but it’s something you learn. Any specific questions you have on a read-through, let us know.

  42. Reverend Mike says:

    Lurker here…also, adamant(ine) rules lawyer…definitely not alone…trying to understand a new system, even for experienced gamers, can be difficult sometimes…especially when running KotS w/o the new corebooks…oh, what fun those first two ambushes were…

    4d6, keep 3 is my favorite way to do it…occasionally, our group uses hero scores, where you reroll ones and twos resulting in the lowest possible score being a 9…

    Also, has anyone read the new flying rules in the DMG regarding flying up and down…it scared me at first, not realizing that it was additional movement cost rather than any movement cost…oh, what a world that could be…

  43. Felonius says:

    @Reverend Mike:

    Looks like we dragged a lurker out of the shadows ;-).

    I always find it interesting when I see another scheme I’d not see before… I’d never seen the “reroll ones and twos”, and even the “reroll ones” was new to me as of a year ago. The other one I recently saw (heard, actually) and alluded to in my last comment is simple, but time consuming (and I probably wouldn’t recommend it): Roll d6’s ad naseum, take any series of 18 that you like, and assign them, in order, three rolls to a stat… The person who told me about this method said that his friends would spend all night rolling, just hoping for that string of 18 6’s.

  44. OK, I have a serious question here – what exactly is the appeal of random rolls for ability scores?

    D&D is virtually unique amongst modern games in even offering this as an option. Especially in 4th edition, where ability scores are more important (no more “+6 enhancement bonus” items), I would have thought that it was unpardonably unfair to have one player start off better than another for no other reason than the cruelty of the dice.

    Is it because it’s more “realistic”? Is it perceived to be more fun to have to play what the dice deal you? Is it a sort of “gambler’s fallacy” whereby you think you’ll end up with a better character than the point buy system would give you? I’m at a loss to see the appeal – my group was using some non-random variant in 1st edition, before they ever even existed officially; we’ve always found it highly distasteful. What are we missing?

  45. Felonius says:

    @Gazza: I honestly think a lot of it is the, as you call it, “gambler’s fallacy”. I gave my players an *extremely* generous array (18,16,16,14,12,10) for the current campaign because I wanted to be able to throw things a little tougher at them. At least two of them, within my ear shot, said “I’ve rolled better than that.”

    Players, I think, like to “ride the edge” sometimes, and hope they can get a really good stat scores from rolling. Also, I know some of my players, from when we played in other groups, found point buy to be “too much work”. I’ve also noticed that some people pretty much just go with something pretty standard even when they are using point buy, so you end up with something vaguely like a standard array anyway.

    I think it depends a lot on the group, and a lot on what you intend to do… Some players abuse “dump stats” (ostensibly Charisma is 3.x), but this’ll happen with standard arrays and point buys, too.

    To each their own, but I’m about 90% certain, based on my players’ attitude towards what I gave them (and I’m sure there are at least 5 DMs out there saying “That’s good… he was too generous with them…”), I’ll be having them roll when we start 4e.

  46. @GAZZA –

    Chatty turned the floor over to me for this one, and I think I can explain it pretty well.

    Why do people like to roll? Simply put, rolling is fun. Point buy can feel very mechanical, and is just less fun for some people. Additionally, it can lead to situations like the last character who joined my game. He decided his Warlock was going to have 3s in every stat, except Dex and Cha. Yeah, I vetoed that.

    But here’s the thing.

    Ability scores are not more important in 4e. In fact, they’re far less important in 4e than in 3e.

    Don’t believe me? Let’s take two characters. Both are human Rogues, going down the charismatic Trickster Rogue path.

    Rogue 1 has rolled all 16’s.

    Rogue 2 has rolled 3 16’s, and 3 8’s.

    Horribly unbalanced characters, right? Well, let’s look.

    Rogue 1 has 16’s in everything, and boosts his Dex to 18. Rogue 2 places his 16’s in Dex, Con, and Cha, also boosting his Dex to 18. Str, Int, and Wis are all 8.

    Let’s compare stats.

    At the same level, Both characters have the exact same AC and Defenses. Both have the same attack bonus and damage on all of their Dex- and Cha-based powers (aka all of the ones they take). Both characters have the same hit points and healing surges.

    There are a couple things different. Rogue 1 has a higher attack bonus and damage on his melee basic attacks. Rogue 1 also has a higher bonus on Str/Int/Wis-based skills. And he has a higher carrying capacity.

    That’s it. That’s all. Despite the radical power difference, 4e has managed to mitigate most of it.

    The one big thing that Rogue 2 will suffer from is reduced choice. Feats and such can sometimes require minimum ability scores, and these feats are no longer available to him. Note, however, that this doesn’t make him weaker, just more narrowly defined.

    Now, of course, this isn’t the whole truth. A player who rolls all poor rolls will still be at a disadvantage. But the difference between moderate and high rolls has been narrowed.

  47. Still, Rogue 1 will have a LASTING advantage over Rogue 2 for 30 levels.

    Random rolls back in Basic D&D were 3d6 for each ability in order. That was changed in 1st edition AD&D (yes, I know that technically this order is historically inaccurate – bear with me) to a bunch of other techniques (4d6 best 3, any order; 3d6 6 times for each attribute in order; 3d6 12 times, pick best 6, any order; generate 12 characters with 3d6 6 times in order and pick one to play). While that was perhaps the most egregious example (barring “method V” in Unearthed Arcana), virtually all random roll games do something more than 3d6 in order. Now why is that? I submit that it’s because of three reasons. Firstly, 3d6 in order is less likely to offer high rolls. But that’s minor – you could address that by making it 3d6+X, or something similar. The second, more important reason, is that 3d6 demonstrates higher variability and greater likelihood of low rolls than 4d6-best-3 does. And finally, most importantly of all, the ability to assign the rolls in any order gives you more of a choice. Point buy systems are intended to maximise this choice – you wouldn’t want to randomly roll what class and race you had to play, or what spell you had to use on a round to round basis. The reason spells like Hold Person and Dominate are not fun against PCs is because it robs the player of control – something which given your views on the Pendragon traits I would have thought you would recognise as a fundamental problem with random ability score generation.

    There are 2 main reasons I say that 4th edition makes this more important rather than less. Firstly, there are no more stat boosting magical items, which means that Rogue 2 can’t hope to get a few +2s to bring his 8s up to more respectable 10s. Secondly – and more importantly – all classes now have dependence on multiple ability scores. In 3rd edition a wizard could, in a pinch, get by with a high Int and 8s for everything else. That situation no longer exists for anyone.

    But more to the point – why should the player of Rogue 1 get ANY unearned advantage over the player of Rogue 2? Certainly there are some players that prefer to play weaker characters, but few of them would choose to “suicide” a randomly rolled character that happened to be a lot better than average. And for those few who WOULD – the players that actively WANT to play a suboptimal character (whether for the challenge, or some emo-induced parthos) – they can just choose not to spend all of their points in a point buy system.

    Sure, rolling is fun. That’s why we roll to hit, and roll for damage, and roll saving throws. But the thing is, we get lots of rolls to hit and damage. Barring a death effect (which 4th edition has expunged), we’ll probably get lots of saving throw rolls. We only get _1_ chance to roll ability scores. Roll a 1 to hit? No problem; next round you might roll a 20. Roll a 3 Strength? Too bad mate, that’s your lot.

    And again, of course the GM can step in and say “Oh, what, a 3 in everything? Nah, that’s too weak, not really fair – go ahead and try again.” But surely that begs the question – if you’re not going to abide by the results of a random roll, then why bother with the pretence in the first place? Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that there’s no place for fudging rolls (for GMs at least – for players, we call that “cheating”), but I’ve watched some GMs roll several times on a random treasure table until they got something that they liked, or roll several times for a random encounter, and so on. Just pick it for crying out loud – the dice are a tool, not a master.

  48. @Gazza: “Roll a 1 to hit? No problem; next round you might roll a 20.” Unless you are playing with Fumbles, in which case Roll a 1 get axe to forehead!

    Heathers last blog post..D&D Nerdery – Kick Em When They’re Down

  49. Still, Rogue 1 will have a LASTING advantage over Rogue 2 for 30 levels.

    Yes, but a minor one, which doesn’t affect his effectiveness as a character.

    Firstly, there are no more stat boosting magical items, which means that Rogue 2 can’t hope to get a few +2s to bring his 8s up to more respectable 10s.

    Not a valid argument, since Rogue 1 will have those same boosters. But my argument is that in 4e, those boosters are completely unnecessary, and wouldn’t increase the effectiveness of the character even if they were available.

    all classes now have dependence on multiple ability scores. In 3rd edition a wizard could, in a pinch, get by with a high Int and 8s for everything else. That situation no longer exists for anyone.

    The wizard would be horrible crippled in 3e with those scores. He’s crippled in 4e as well.

    In 3e, a Wizard needed Int, Dex (for touch attacks and AC), and Con (so he didn’t die i one hit).

    In 4e, a Wizard doesn’t need Dex (as Int can substitute for all purposes). Con is less necessary than in 3e, and Str can be substituted in a pinch. In any case, Wis can be taken instead of the now-unnecessary Dex, giving a good Will defense as well. But even with just Int and Con at decent levels, he’s no weaker than the Int/Dex/Con 3e wizard, yet needs fewer scores.

    But more to the point – why should the player of Rogue 1 get ANY unearned advantage over the player of Rogue 2?

    And here’s where you’re missing my point.

    My point is not that the player should get an unearned bonus.

    My point is that in 4e, Rogue 1 has virtually no bonus over Rogue 2, despite the horribly asymmetrical stats.

    In other words, people like rolling. In previous editions it had the potential to create horrible unbalanced characters. In 4e, this potential is minimised, making rolling stats a viable choice once again.

  50. Graham:
    It looks to me like your position is self defeating. If there is no benefit or drawback to having poor stats, then what is the point of random ability generation? You can pick up the standard array and get going much quicker (and from a statistical perspective that’s a much better choice in any case). If the argument is “you can roll in 4e because it doesn’t really matter what your stats are” then to me that looks very much equivalent to “there’s no point in rolling”.

    For what it’s worth, though, I don’t agree with this premise. As you yourself recognise the player of Rogue 2 faces more restrictions and less choice in terms of feats and so forth than Rogue 1 – not because he’s done anything wrong, but because he happened to roll badly. How is this better than a Pendragon character with a 16 in Valorous being forced to act bravely rather than run away? It’s all about restricted choice – and in the Pendragon case (which you were fairly strongly opposed to, as is your right) this lack of choice comes about because of previous choices made by the player (and is hence completely avoidable should they so wish). In the Rogue 2 case it’s completely out of the player’s hands – he has had his choices restricted through no fault of his own, in a completely arbitrary fashion.

    The appeal of point buying systems over random roll systems is that it gives you more choice about what sort of character you want to play. This appeal is apparently sufficiently common that I am unaware of any modern game other than D&D that offers random generation as an option, and even in D&D it looks pretty clearly a “backward compatibility” option (they take pains to point out that such characters are not RPGA legal, for example).

    Which is not by any means to decry people that prefer to roll, of course. I just don’t find the argument “it’s fun to roll” to be very convincing – it seems to be dependent on that roll having achieved better than average results rather than lower than average. The majority of players I’ve met that randomly roll poor stats (and poor has a widely varied meaning, but will almost universally include “not as good as him”) will either whine to the GM for a reroll, or else suicide the character. Certainly there are exceptions. But players that want to play suboptimal characters are not barred from doing so with nonrandom generation (though in my experience few people willingly choose to nonrandomly create such characters – YMMV).

    It’s not the randomness AS SUCH that bothers me. You could construct a character generation system based on “Life Paths”, where all options were mechanically equivalent, and randomly choose between them. I could see that sort of thing being a lot of fun. The issue I have with random rolls for character generation is that you stand a significant chance of being ripped off arbitrarily right at the start of the game, with no options available to avoid this chance. Many people think, subconsciously or otherwise, that when THEY roll 3d6 they’ll get an 18 more than once in two hundred and sixteen attempts – this sort of feeling is not uncommon, and it leads to people building cities in the desert. But ability generation isn’t supposed to be about gambling, is it? Surely the idea, 99 times out of 100, is to come up with each player having roughly equal opportunities in the game – or at least any inequality to be due to player choice rather than arbitrary decisions?

  51. If the argument is “you can roll in 4e because it doesn’t really matter what your stats are” then to me that looks very much equivalent to “there’s no point in rolling”.

    That is, indeed, the other way to look at it. But when players prefer to roll, it’s the wrong way to look at it. From their side, rolling is intrinsically good, and so it needs to be seen that there are fewer problems with it than in 3e.

    How is this better than a Pendragon character with a 16 in Valorous being forced to act bravely rather than run away?

    Seriously? Alright. Having poor stats in one stat restricts player choices, outside of the game. Pendragon restricts character choices and character actions inside the game.

    I understand the appeal of point buy systems. In fact, I used point buy for my current game. A number of problems occurred because of it. I’m not yet sure what I’ll use for my first 4e game.

    it seems to be dependent on that roll having achieved better than average results rather than lower than average.

    Surprisingly, it’s not. So long as the character still have moderate stats, most players are fine with it. And it’s the moderate->good spectrum that is narrowed.

    In any case, your question was “why do people bother with rolling”. The answer is, simply, “because it’s fun”. There’s really little more to it than that.

  52. Felonius says:

    @Gazza:

    “Firstly, there are no more stat boosting magical items, which means that Rogue 2 can’t hope to get a few +2s to bring his 8s up to more respectable 10s.” How many of *your* players use stat-boosting items to boost their lowest stats? I know my players prefer to bump up their already high stats, rather than worry about their lows (despite the law of diminishing returns). I’m assuming that this is based on the fact that their currently high stats are high “for a reason”, and they’ve already decided that their low stats are not as important.

    “(they take pains to point out that such characters are not RPGA legal, for example)” They do this because RPGA requires a higher level of inherent balance. If a player comes to the table at an RPGA event and has all 18’s, it’s suspect, and now you need a reason to say “I’m sorry, that’s allowed.” Point buy, as I pointed out, is inherently balanced. For something like RPGA, this is a must. For something like a table game, this is an option. Illegal in RPGA has nothing to do with it being an “outdated system”.

  53. In my point of view it depends a lot on the kind of game you’re running.

    You’re running a silly game with high mortality rate: rolling is fun because you know this character will probably die anyway might as well enhance the silliness with some truly random stats.

    You’re running a year long campaign: Rolling your stats loses a lot of its appeal since you’ll be stuck with whatever you rolled for a long time.

    Then again some people are mystical about dice rolling and truly believe they have a control over the statistical randomness of a die.

    Ask anyone about their D20 results and you’ll see. ;)

  54. Heh, I’d let my players roll if they want to because they are going to average about 4 tenths of a point lower than the standard array’s average (12.24 vs 12.67)
    Graham has it on the button by the way. Players like it because it is fun. (not everything in the game is about optimal)

    Michael Phillipss last blog post..Firefoxing

  55. Yan-
    Gods above.
    Gamers are, as a species, very very bad at statistics, and rather quite full of magical thinking about dice. I DMed a quasi-public game at my FLGS for about 6 months, and the longer term players were almost all astonished that I didn’t switch dice whenever I got a run of low values.

    Michael Phillipss last blog post..Firefoxing

  56. @ Yan, Mike Phillips and all unbelievers

    If electrons change their behaviors when observed why not dice? Anyone that believes that dice are truly random deserve to be deported to a dreary land where it rains all the time.

    Whenever my dice falls off the table and someone shouts ‘no good’ it always rolls in the upper range!

    Statistics… pfa! It’s just clever lying!

    :)

  57. Oh I will be the first to admit that most game dice aren’t random, but it has nothing to do with observer effects (which don’t work on macro scales) or mystical dice luck storage principles. It is due to poor tolerances in the construction of the dice and it will be specific to a given die.

    Whenever my dice falls off the table and someone shouts ‘no good’ it always rolls in the upper range!
    Oh there’s an observer effect going on here, but not the one that you are thinking of. It is, instead, the result of the incredibly bad job our brains do of sealing with statistical occurences. We are really bad at determining if something is likely or not, and we tend to filter out events that don’t match with our (already skewed) preconceptions, so the half of the time that the dice off the table landed on 1 – 10, well, those are the ones you aren’t remembering.

    And I like Seattle.

    Michael Phillipss last blog post..Firefoxing

  58. Liar! I reject your so called facts and substitute them with the far more confortable fantasy construct that run my life!

    Begone foul fiend of stats and science!

    Were I the Evil Overlord, I’d incinerate you on the spot! Of course, not that you passed the Minion test… that gives you free clone coverage.

  59. About random rolls: I prefer randomness that is voluntary and does not lead to significant balance issues. That way the players who don’t have a clear character concept ready can just roll and see if that inspires something, yet not be horribly subpar (or at all, depending on how the system is designed).

    About randomness; If dice animism works, one should do it, and if it doesn’t there’s no harm in doing it. Proving that dice animism does not work is next to impossible. Hence one should practice it. (Refuting this argument is left as an exercise for the reader. See also the similar argument about believing in God.)

    Tommis last blog post..Process of play

  60. Hum,
    The major flaws in the Pascal’s wager family of pro-god arguments are, I think, not particularly transferable to the case of dice animism. Animism is definitely a binary proposition, while gods are not. (That and there are ethical side arguments based on the value of belief to forestall punishment that don’t really apply for dice.)

    Hum, also, in a general sense, there is a great deal of harm that can come from an animistic approach to non-animistic situations. It will tend to skew your (already bad just because you are a human) sense of likelihood, which if constrained to the game table (and possibly the craps table) won’t do too much harm, but if it expands to cover other instances of chance in your daily life, it could be exceptionally bad.

    I direct you here: http://cectic.com/137.html as a specific case of the general problem with “if ~x, how does the belief x cause harm”

    Michael Phillipss last blog post..RE: W3C

  61. Michael: The similarity is in that it is a bit hard to tell if the rituals improve or degrade the performance of the dice.

    Tommis last blog post..Process of play

  62. Tommi
    I think that in the case of dice, it is actually pretty easy to determine the effectiveness or lack thereof of rituals. I mean, you know exactly what the probability curve should be, you can establish a die specific curve in a control situation (eg roll the die a couple tens of thousands of times without any rituals, record the results, do an expected vs actual analysis) and then you repeat using your rituals. Dice are fairly simple systems vs the sort of thing that you test with a “does prayer work” experiment and your sample time for a given roll is very short. (Tens of thousands is probably way overkill, but any skew on a given die should pop right out of the noise, and any apparent trend that is actually just probability rearing its ugly head should get buried in the mass of data.)

    Michael Phillipss last blog post..RE: W3C

  63. I have to ask this Micheal, what is your academic background and current profession?

  64. Profession: Writer/Currently Looking for a Job that pays in money on a regular basis/has health care.
    Academic background:
    BA Biology, minors history, philosophy (focus epistemology), Japanese, most of a Chemistry minor (I realized that I didn’t need the minor and I didn’t want to take a 5 hour lab class at 8am my senior year, and it also conflicted with the last class for my Japanese minor, which I actually enjoyed.)
    One year master’s work Multidisciplinary program, forest ecology, minors philosophy and botany at a school where there was a distinct aspect of training in advocacy in the forestry department.

    Since then, personal study, seldom in depth, of whatever catches my interest/looks useful for what ever I’m working on writing. Recently that has been social justice/civil liberties/security issues.

    Most of my work experience has been in educational venues, tutoring and working as a substitute teacher here and there.

    Michael Phillipss last blog post..RE: W3C

  65. So you’re basically a real life bard! Jack of all trades, master of none.

  66. Yeah, pretty much.
    I like “synthetic generalist” myself, but I’m not going to quibble.

    Michael Phillipss last blog post..RE: W3C

  67. Felonius says:

    Without starting a giant war about religion (I really don’t think that this is the place for it..), I’m going to mention that there is a website which shows that you can at least prove that prayer doesn’t work. The simple solution, according to them, is to try praying to a milk jug. As long as you remain consistent with your “justifications” of when it does it doesn’t work (ie: If you don’t get what you prayed for, “it wasn’t in the milk jugs will.”), you should notice the same level of success…

    That’s all I’m going to say on that matter. Religion and politics are dangerous topics on any web site, and I know that Chatty is trying to keep the jerk factor to a minimum (ie: completely absent).

    @Michael Phillips: You should refer to yourself as a “modern Renaissance man” (or modern Michaelangelo…)

  68. Felonius
    Well, it sounds nice, but that is really a word for a dead era. That’s why I use synthetic generalist. Take someone like Da Vinci. He knew, not the sum total of western knowledge at the time, but pretty close. When he was doing his work, it was possible to be a specialist in everything at once. These days, single fields have more to study than every technical field combined in his era. The Renaissance era generalist was a very different beast than a modern generalist. Thus my preference for “synthetic generalist.” It isn’t that I can work in a lot of fields at a professional level, but that I can work with specialists in assorted fields to develop composite works that combine their specialties.

    Michael Phillipss last blog post..RE: W3C

  69. Felonius says:

    Michael Phillips,

    I agree that there is a difference between being a generalist during the time of the Renaissance and being a generalist in the modern age. However, I don’t think that the fact that you can’t have same depth (or, more accurately, knowledge to the current professional level) as you could then, the phrase “Renaissance Man” has come to have its own meaning beyond what it would truly mean (as phrases in common use tend to do).

    However, I won’t quibble further with your adopted title… (I always wanted to be a “Freelance Intellectual… Saw it in a book once, and I really liked it…)

  70. Michael;

    I know. I actually tested if two different-looking kinds of dice were balanced against each other. (They were remarkably so.) The trick is that to spot small differences the number of tests grows large. Also: Maybe the rituals don’t work when testing, but only in actual play when you really, really want them to work (or numerous other explanations).

    Tommis last blog post..Process of play

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